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Team Notes week 8 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 24 October 2018
Less than 12 hours after head coach Steve Wilks said it was "premature" to talk about changes following the 45-10 loss to the Denver Broncos on Thursday night, Arizona made a move.
The Cards fired offensive coordinator Mike McCoy.
With McCoy out, quarterbacks coach Byron Leftwich is the new OC and play-caller.
As NFL.com noted, McCoy's seat was scorching hot even before Thursday night's turnover-filled dud. The Cardinals own one of the worst offenses in the league, highlighted by an unimaginative, stale, droning scheme. In a league of high-flying creative attacks, McCoy was stuck in a dreary past.
Friday's firing marks the third time in the past 22 months an NFL team has jettisoned McCoy. Last season the Broncos canned the offensive coordinator after just 10 games. This time around the veteran play-caller couldn't even make it to the mid-way point of the season. After a flailing four years in San Diego ended in his termination, and two brief unsuccessful stints to reignite his career as an OC, McCoy shouldn't be on the radar of another young defensive-minded coach looking for a coordinator.
Under McCoy, the offense was ranked last in 15 categories heading into Week 4 and had gotten slightly better.
That's a relative term.
The Cardinals generated a measly 13.1 points per game (31st in the NFL), 156.1 passing yards per game (31st) and are dead last in total yards per game at 220.7 and rushing yards per game at 64.6.
Not all of Arizona's offensive problems are on McCoy. The offensive line continues to be a sieve, and rookie quarterback Josh Rosen has struggled through bouts of turnover-prone play, including Thursday night's five-turnover disaster.
But the complete offensive ineptitude, lack of preparedness, and an inability to put the talent that is on the roster in spots to make plays falls on McCoy.
The most frustrating aspect of McCoy's scheme was the inability to utilize running back David Johnson's dual-threat ability. Instead of getting the running back in space, to the edge, and exploit his matchups in the passing attack, McCoy used DJ as a between-the-tackles battering ram and little else. The Cardinals' 452 rushing yards is their second-fewest through seven games in the Super Bowl era, per NFL Research.
Compare the running back's 2016 usage (Bruce Arians) to his 2018 numbers (McCoy):
Johnson 2016: 23.6 touches per game; 132.4 scrimmage YPG; 5.7 scrimmage yards per touch.
Johnson 2018: 18 touches per game; 71.6 scrimmage YPG; 4.0 scrimmage yards per touch.
A play-caller that can't utilize the talents of his best players is not long to keep his job.
The hope in Arizona is that a change can breathe life into a floundering offense. Making the change this week is sensible. The Cards have 10 days for Leftwich to prepare for the San Francisco 49ers. Arizona then has a bye in Week 9 for the new OC to install more of his plan.
After a 1-6 start, handing the reins to Leftwich won't be a cure-all for a team that still lacks depth, has offensive line issues, and needs its rookie QB to protect the ball better. However, it was a needed move.
Leftwich begins the play-caller portion of his career 16 months after earning high praise from former Cardinals coach Bruce Arians who praised the former quarterback a future NFL coach in June 2017. The new OC is now charged with helping guide Rosen past the rough portions of his rookie season and putting the signal-caller in advantageous situations.
The first of those moves should be to get back to the Arians' style of utilizing Johnson in ideal matchups to take pressure off Rosen.
Meanwhile, Rosen has a sprained left toe.
The rookie QB went down holding his left foot late in the fourth quarter of last Thursday's loss. After the game, Rosen said he was "OK."
The QB was put in a walking boot after the game to relieve the pressure from his foot, Wilks said.
Reporters taking in the open portion of Monday's practice noted that Rosen is now out of the boot, but he was not on the field. Rosen was wearing a baseball cap instead of a helmet while chatting with Leftwich and general manager Steve Keim on the sideline. That changed Wednesday, when Rosen was on the field with his helmet.
Wilks said that he expects Rosen to play against the 49ers this week. Expect that to be the case barring the unforeseen. Either way, I'll have more via Late-Breaking Update in coming days. ...
And finally. ... After All-Pro cornerback Patrick Peterson asked to be traded by the Oct. 30 trade deadline, he backed off that on Wednesday.
Peterson released a statement indicating that he’s committed to the Cardinals and not demanding a trade.
“I’ve been incredibly frustrated with how the season has gone,” Peterson wrote. “But my energy is 100 percent focused on being part of the solution and helping us turn this around. I’ve never shied away from a challenge before and I’m not starting now. I have always given my all to the Cardinals organization, my teammates and fans. That is what I intend to do for the years to come. I am an Arizona Cardinal, and my focus is on this week’s game.”
The Cardinals have steadfastly insisted that they weren’t going to trade Peterson, and his statement suggests that he realizes that and will accept it. Peterson obviously isn’t happy that the Cardinals are one of the worst teams in the NFL, but he’s committed to making the best of the situation.
QBs: Kyler Murray, Brett Hundley
RBs: David Johnson, Chase Edmonds, T.J. Logan, D.J. Foster
WRs: Larry Fitzgerald, Christian Kirk, KeeSean Johnson, Andy Isabella, Michael Crabtree, Trent Sherfield, Damiere Byrd
TEs: Charles Clay, Maxx Williams
Atlanta FalconsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 24 October 2018
Matt Ryan is putting up MVP-like numbers, even on a team that hasn't lived up to expectations.
Matty Ice turned in another brilliant performance in prime time Monday, throwing for 379 yards and completing his final 18 passes to lead the Atlanta Falcons to their second straight victory, 23-20 over the struggling New York Giants.
"Whatever it takes to win," Ryan said. "That's the mindset we have every week."
Ryan threw a 47-yard touchdown pass to Marvin Hall, Tevin Coleman broke loose on a 30-yard scoring run and the Falcons added another chapter to New York's miserable season, sending the Giants (1-6) to their fourth straight loss.
"I don't feel like we're a 1-6 team," Odell Beckham Jr. said. "That's what our record is, but that's not the feeling in the locker room."
Ryan was the league's MVP in 2016 when he led Atlanta to the Super Bowl. While these Falcons (3-4) haven't played to that level, their quarterback is putting up numbers that measure up to what he did two years ago: a 71.1 percent completion rate, 2,335 yards passing, 15 touchdowns and just two interceptions.
Ryan is only focused on the team's performance.
"To inch our way closer to .500 is a positive for us," he said.
It was also a big night for Giorgio Tavecchio, who was signed during the week to fill in for injured Atlanta kicker Matt Bryant. The native of Milan, Italy, made all three of his field goal attempts, including a 56-yarder that was the longest of his career and helped seal the victory.
"That kick was good from about 65 yards," Ryan said. "He did a great job for us coming in on short notice."
Tavecchio's 56-yard field goal was the longest by a player in his first game with a new team in the last 40 seasons, according to NFL Research.
"For him to go 3-for-3, one from 50 and 56, what a hell of a way to start," head coach Dan Quinn said.
And no one's denying that. In fact, Tavecchio was named NFC Special Teams Player of the Week on Wednesday.
For what it's worth, NFL.com reports it's unclear what the Falcons' plans will be for Tavecchio once Bryant returns from the hamstring injury that sidelined him Monday. If he is released, Tavecchio likely will draw interest in the free-agent market based on his performance against the Giants. ...
Meanwhile, Ryan continues to deal and spread the wealth. A total of 10 different Falcons hauled in catches from Matt Ryan with Julio Jones leading the way with nine catches for 104 yards.
Jones is having a fantastic season so far, catching 53 passes for 812 yards -- a whopping 15.3 yards per catch. But the Falcons' all-world receiver still has yet to taste the end zone in 2018.
Hall had seven career catches for 124 yards and a touchdown coming into Monday night. But against the Giants, Hall finished with just three receptions for 63 yards and hauled in the above-mentioned 47-yard touchdown pass in the second quarter.
The Falcons have had one running back surpass the 100-yard mark one time all season long -- Coleman's 107 yards on 16 carries during a 31-24 win over the Panthers back in Week 2. Against the Giants, Atlanta runners combined for 68 yards on 19 carries with Coleman leading the way with 50 yards on 11 carries, including a 30-yard scoring run midway through the fourth quarter.
The injury bug hits again. Starting right guard Brandon Fusco was hurt in the second quarter with what is being called an ankle injury. While we don't know the severity of Fusco's injury, he didn't return -- and it didn't look good. The Falcons have been hit hard with injuries this season. Keanu Neal (knee) and Ricardo Allen (Achilles) have been lost for the season while Deion Jones (foot) and Devonta Freeman (groin) are in the injured reserve list at the moment.
But wait, there's more. ... Quinn told reporters Tuesday that right guard Brandon Fusco would miss the rest of the season after an ankle injury suffered in Monday night's win over the Giants.
A number of other players have missed games this season, too, including Grady Jarrett, Bryant and Derrick Shelby.
Now, the Falcons enter their bye having played five of seven games at home. They'll have six road games in their final nine, and they're 0-2 as the visitors this year.
QBs: Matt Ryan, Matt Schaub
RBs: Devonta Freeman, Ito Smith, Brian Hill, Qadree Ollison, Kenjon Barner
WRs: Julio Jones, Calvin Ridley, Mohamed Sanu, Justin Hardy, Russell Gage
TEs: Austin Hooper, Luke Stocker, Jaeden Graham
Baltimore RavensCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 24 October 2018
As BaltimoreRavens.com's Garrett Downing reported, Joe Flacco and the offense finished Sunday's game with their best drive of the day. The group took just six plays to march 81 yards for a touchdown, putting the Ravens in position to tie the contest.
A missed extra point kept the game from going to overtime, but as the Ravens dissected their 24-23 loss at him, the offense wasn't interested in pointing the finger at anyone else.
Flacco and several players stressed that they missed some key opportunities to put themselves in better position for the win.
"It would have been great if we weren't in that situation," Flacco said about Baltimore needing the late touchdown to win the game. "We did a lot of things well today, but I just felt like we left a little bit out there at times."
Flacco specifically pointed to the unit's inability to get points on their second-to-last drive. The Ravens turned the ball over on downs on that series when a fourth-down pass hit off the hands of wide receiver Willie Snead. Rookie tight end Hayden Hurst also had a big completion knocked out of his hands that would have put the Ravens inside the red zone two plays earlier.
"I was just trying to get open and saw the ball in the air and I wish I could have that one back and turn my hands the other way," Snead said about the fourth-down play. "It's just one of those plays that I pride myself on making."
Snead, who was playing against his former team, also criticized himself for a drop he had earlier in the game. He finished with a season-low three catches for 23 yards and had a 13-yard run.
"I didn't play my best game today, and I know that," Snead said. "This is a great opportunity to continue to get better and continue to be critical and make sure I do make those plays the next time."
The Ravens knew coming into the game that the offense would need to play at a high level. New Orleans has the NFL's all-time leading passer in quarterback Drew Brees, who had the Saints offense ranked first in the NFL.
The contest didn't turn into a shootout, but the Ravens needed more from their offense down the stretch. After building a 10-point lead late in the third quarter, the offense was unable to get points on their next two series. New Orleans then went on a 17-point run before the Ravens made their last-minute comeback attempt.
The offense did have a tough assignment Sunday, particularly in the trenches.
Starting left guard Alex Lewis (neck) and right tackle James Hurst (back) were both sidelined, meaning that rookies Bradley Bozeman and Orlando Brown Jr. had to step into the starting lineup for the first time. Bozeman was also clearly hobbled by a calf injury for much of the game.
Despite being shorthanded, the line held up well and only allowed Flacco to get sacked once.
"There are no excuses that are going to be made," Yanda said. "The guys step up and you play and the production level is still expected. We expect the guys to go in and play well. This is the NFL and injuries happen. We fought our tails off and just came up short."
Baltimore's defense entered the weekend sitting atop the NFL in a variety of categories. The group has been one of the league's best units throughout the season, and Sunday was the first time they allowed a second-half touchdown all year.
Snead stressed that the Ravens are confident the defense will be able to keep them in most games moving forward, and the responsibility will fall on the offense to deliver more production down the stretch.
"At the end of the day, we have a great defense," Snead said. "Most of those games are going to come down to the offense -- us having possessions, moving the sticks and scoring points.
"That's just me, honestly. I think all of these games are going to be in our hands. The defense is going to take care of us. When it comes down to it, we just have to put up the points."
Meanwhile, Justin Tucker thought he hit the extra point exactly how he wanted and assumed, like everyone else, that he had tied Sunday's game in the final seconds of regulation.
But Tucker's point-after went from going through the middle of the uprights to veering wide right with 24 seconds remaining.
The most accurate field goal kicker in NFL history, Tucker had never missed an extra point in his seven-year NFL career, having made all 222 of them in the regular season. When you include his two years in college at Texas and the NFL postseason, Tucker had been perfect on 316 straight extra points.
"I feel like I cost us the game," Tucker said. "Every single one of my teammates thus far has told me the opposite, and no one play wins or loses a game. But that's a tough thing to grapple with when you're the guy in that situation at the end of the game."
Tucker has repeatedly said over the years that M and T Bank Stadium is the toughest place to kick because of the unpredictable wind patterns. On Sunday, gusts reportedly reached as high as 40 miles per hour.
But Tucker has continually bucked the recent trend of struggling kickers. Since PATs were moved back in 2015, Tucker had been the only NFL kicker who hadn't missed, converting 112 of 112.
"You play long enough, you're going to have a kick that you want back, and tonight was that night for me," Tucker said.
Tucker asked the Ravens' public relations staff to talk at the podium so he could address every question from the media.
"He'll handle it great," head coach John Harbaugh said. "Justin is the best in the business at what he does. He'll be back next week winning games for us. I'm very certain of that."
And finally. ... The Ravens' starting offensive line remains uncertain for their next game against the Carolina Panthers, and it will likely stay that way all week.
Harbaugh did not give an injury update Monday on either Lewis or Hurst, and it remained to be seen if Brown will remain the starting right tackle. The Ravens could move Hurst to left guard, especially if Smith's neck injury keeps him sidelined. Hurst started the entire 2017 season at left guard.
Cornerback Marlon Humphrey (thigh) was inactive Sunday and the Ravens missed his presence. He has been their best cornerback this season, and Jimmy Smith had a tough day in coverage. Harbaugh praised Smith for how he answered questions Sunday about his performance.
QBs: Lamar Jackson, Robert Griffin III, Trace McSorley
RBs: Mark Ingram, Justice Hill, Gus Edwards
WRs: Willie Snead, Chris Moore, Seth Roberts, Marquise Brown, Miles Boykin, Jaleel Scott
TEs: Mark Andrews, Nick Boyle, Hayden Hurst
Buffalo BillsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 24 October 2018
Less than two weeks after being summoned back to the NFL from chasing around his three toddlers on a family vacation, Derek Anderson limped through the Buffalo Bills' locker room Sunday afternoon following a 37-5 loss to the Indianapolis Colts.
Anderson had just told reporters he was a "little banged up" but managed to finish a game in which he was sacked twice, threw three interceptions and lost a fumble.
Amazingly, as ESPN.com's Mike Rodak noted, it was only the Buffalo Bills' third-worst quarterback performance in seven games this season. Anderson's 39.8 passer rating still topped marks of 36.3 by rookie Josh Allen in a 22-0 loss to the Green Bay Packers and 0.0 by benched opening-day starter Nathan Peterman in a 47-3 blowout to the Baltimore Ravens.
On Monday, head coach Sean McDermott confirmed that Anderson will start again this week, when the Patriots visit Buffalo for Monday Night Football.
"Allen remains week to week," said McDermott. "He'll be out this week."
Rodak went on to note that wherever the Bills (2-5) have turned at quarterback this season, misery has followed. At this point, it does not matter who they start. Their ineptitude at the position -- and a lack of consistency at other spots -- has essentially eliminated Buffalo from any sort of realistic postseason contention.
Making the postseason might not have topped the list of priorities for team management, as it swallowed dead salary-cap space this season and attempted to develop a rookie quarterback, but the playoffs remained the stated goal for several veterans in the locker room, especially on defense.
The Bills' defense, which entered the game ranked third in yards allowed per game, surrendered 220 rushing yards and four Andrew Luck touchdown passes in one of its sorriest showings under the defensive-minded McDermott.
"Obviously, that's not ideal for us as a team, to lose Josh and shuffle through three quarterbacks now," linebacker Lorenzo Alexander said. "But at the end of the day, we have to do our job, and we're not holding our bargain up [as a defense] consistently. So we just have to continue to move forward. The offense will continue to work at it."
Even an effort from the defense more in line with its overall performance this season likely would have gone for naught given an offense that has scored only two touchdowns over its past four games.
After road trips to Green Bay, Minneapolis, Houston and Indianapolis over the past five weeks, the Bills will arrive back home to prepare to play the Patriots.
New Era Field's first time hosting "Monday Night Football" since 2008 comes at an inopportune time, with Allen still not ready to return from his elbow sprain, running back LeSean McCoy in the concussion protocol and Anderson limping out of Lucas Oil Stadium.
Now they have to get Anderson ready to go.
"I don't feel [physically] great right now," Anderson said. "I'm not gonna lie to you."
The Bills pulled Anderson, 35, off his couch during Week 6 and gave him $775,000 to mentor a struggling Allen over the remainder of his rookie season.
Now, in a sign of how desperate the Bills have become at quarterback, they need to pray Anderson is healthy enough to lead one of the NFL's worst offenses of the past decade into battle on national television against Tom Brady.
Meanwhile, McCoy fell hard on his helmet after running toward the sideline on a 1-yard rush. He later walked to the sideline under his own power before being evaluated in the sideline medical tent and then in the locker room. McCoy had two carries for 1 yard before being injured.
He was replaced by Chris Ivory, who gained a season-high 21 yards on a second-quarter run.
Ivory ran hard all afternoon often fighting through initial contact for extra yardage. He finished Sunday's game with 81 yards on 16 carries to average 5.1 per rush.
"Chris, I've watched him play from afar," said Anderson of Ivory. "He runs hard. He's got good vision. I handed him a couple of balls and I'm like, 'Where is he going with this one?' And he hits it back side. Those guys did a great job stepping in for LeSean."
Marcus Murphy also chipped in with four carries for 53 yards. Buffalo had 135 yards rushing in the game.
McCoy did travel back from Indianapolis with the team. He will need to be put through a series of test after he returns to baseline status before he can even do football specific activities this week.
Taiwan Jones is also week to week with the neck injury he sustained coming out of the Houston game.
I'll have more on McCoy via Late-Breaking Update as the week progresses.
QBs: Josh Allen, Matt Barkley
RBs: Frank Gore, Devin Singletary, T.J. Yeldon
WRs: John Brown, Cole Beasley, Zay Jones, Robert Foster, Andre Roberts, Isaiah McKenzie
TEs: Tyler Kroft, Dawson Knox, Tommy Sweeney, Lee Smith, Jason Croom
Carolina PanthersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 24 October 2018
Cam Newton loves playing in the no-huddle, hurry-up offense, calling it "our edge."
Tight Greg Olsen believes Newton excels in an upbeat offense.
But head coach Ron Rivera pumped the breaks on the notion that the Panthers should shift to an up-tempo style offense for four quarters after erasing a 17-point fourth quarter deficit Sunday and stunning the defending Super Bowl champion Eagles 21-17.
Rivera said Monday that while he is open to using the no-huddle more in certain situations moving forward, he quickly added "I don't think that is going to drive who we are as an offense."
As Associated Press sports writer Steve Reed noted, offensive coordinator Norv Turner went to the hurry-up offense in the fourth quarter to breathe some life into a listless offense that managed just seven first downs and no points through three quarters. Newton responded big time, completed 16 of 22 passes for 201 yards and two touchdowns in the closing quarter, including the go-ahead score to Olsen with 1:22 left.
Newton has excelled in the no-huddle offense throughout most of his eight-year NFL career, seemingly liking the rhythm of a fast-paced attack.
Many of those have come in the fourth quarter. Newton now has 15 career fourth quarter comebacks, the most of any active QB in the league, including Green Bay's Aaron Rodgers (14).
That's something that hasn't gone unnoticed.
"I think we're really good when we don't huddle," Olsen said. "I think when we got into that tempo, and just stayed on rhythm, stayed ahead of the chains, it allowed us to just kind of settle in a little bit and then we saw guys, all different guys, making plays."
Newton said he feels like it gives the team an edge over the defense.
"And coach always says it, being in a hurry up doesn't mean rush, doesn't mean mayhem, it's just controlled tempo -- and we are in control of that," Newton said.
Newton isn't sure why it all clicked so well on Sunday.
"I have been doing it my whole career, to a degree," Newton said. "But we know in this league, given defensive wrinkles you see, that's what it's all about, making mid-game adjustments."
Rivera said there are plusses and minuses to running the no-huddle offense, but it would be impractical to use it all of the time.
The Panthers host Baltimore and its physical defense on Sunday.
"Circumstances dictate a lot of things that happen more so than anything," Rivera said. "And there have been situations where we have come out and started the game in no-huddle and gone three-and-out, so I just think it is situational. (But) do we need to look at it? Most certainly."
Rivera said the benefit is that it often prevents defenses from substituting players for obvious passing downs. And when it begins to click, Newton seems unstoppable at times.
On the downside, Rivera said the no-huddle can cause unneeded stress on the defense when it's not working.
"If you go three-and-out, three-and-out and three-and-out, your defense is constantly out there," Rivera said. "So it can wear your defense out as well. It is mostly certainly a team thing and situational and by rhythm. I believe Norv has a good handle on it. I think what he did Sunday was right along the lines of trying to create energy. And he did that."
Whatever the case, thanks to the no-huddle and Newton's heroics, the Panthers have renewed life in their season.
They are 4-2 heading into a home game against the Ravens followed by another home game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
It appears the Panthers may indeed be "good" after all.
Maybe even great.
In fact, when Rivera looked at Newton's comeback against the Eagles Sunday, he saw something familiar.
"He'll come up and say, 'Coach, put it in my hands, Coach. Trust me,'" Rivera told Bill Voth of the team's official website. "It goes back to a little something I learned from Michael Jordan when we were in Chicago. Michael used to say, 'Certain guys want the ball when it's crunch-time. Other guys just don't seem to come off the picks the way they're supposed to.' I've told that to Cam, and Cam has always wanted the ball."
As Profootballtalk.com's Darin Gantt noted, Rivera was playing for the Bears when Jordan was dominating the NBA, and even though he hasn't matched that kind of success as an owner in Charlotte, Jordan still casts a long shadow around town.
Gantt added however, the reality is, Newton was playing quite poorly through three quarters, but those problems were long forgotten after he led them to the win.
"He gets overlooked because of his style of play. It's not a prolific style," Rivera said. "He runs the ball extremely well. He's not a pure, pure pocket passer, although there are elements of his game where he plays very well from the pocket. He's good on the move. But again, I think the success he has in the fourth quarter with the comebacks is a lot about his desire wanting to win. ..."
On Wednesday, Newton was named NFC Offensive Player of the Week. ...
Worth noting: For the season, Carolina has 65 fourth-quarter points. Those points were the most scored in the fourth quarter since October of 2016 when the Panthers scored 21 against New Orleans. ...
Also of interest. ... Carolina rushed for 121 net yards, marking the fifth game this season that the Panthers have eclipsed 100 rushing yards. The Panthers are 4-1 when rushing for over 100 yards.
Newton rushed for three first downs against the Eagles, passing Michael Vick's career mark of 343 rushing first downs as the most by a quarterback in NFL history. Newton rushed for 49 yards on seven carries in the game.
Devin Funchess tallied 62 receiving yards on six catches, including an 18-yard touchdown reception in the fourth quarter. It marked the second consecutive week that Funchess has a receiving touchdown. Funchess passed Ted Ginn (2,047) for 8th place in receiving yards in franchise history. He also passed Stephen Davis (120) for 10th place in career points scored.
Olsen scored his first touchdown of the season. It marked his 54th career touchdown, tying Wesley Walls and others for 12th place all-time for receiving touchdowns by a tight end.
Rivera told reporters Monday that X-rays show no structural damage to wide receiver Torrey Smith's knee.
Smith's knee swelled up after he hit the ground hard late in Sunday's game, but it looks like he has avoided a serious injury. He will undergo further tests Monday afternoon to confirm that.
Smith contributed a massive 35-yard catch on fourth down with only a few minutes remaining to keep alive what wound up being the game-winning drive and finished the game with four catches for 61 yards. Smith, who joined the team as a free agent this offseason, has established himself as the No.2 receiver and main deep threat for Newton.
Thus far he has held off rookie D.J. Moore and second-year man Curtis Samuel to maintain that role, but both young wideouts will see extra snaps if Smith is unable to suit up Week 8.
Smith was held out of Wednesday's practice while Newton was on the list as a limited participant. A right shoulder injury was given as the reason for Newton’s curtailed work as the team started preparations to face the Ravens on Sunday.
Rivera downplayed any concern about the quarterback’s readiness for that or any other games, however. Rivera suggested that giving Newton a little more rest during the week in order to keep him fresh may be a regular occurrence.
“General soreness,” Rivera said. “It’s that time of year where we have to be smart with our guys.”
I'll follow up via Late-Breaking Update as needed.
QBs: Cam Newton, Kyle Allen, Will Grier
RBs: Christian McCaffrey, Reggie Bonnafon, Jordan Scarlett, Elijah Holyfield
WRs: D.J. Moore, Curtis Samuel, Jarius Wright, Chris Hogan, Ray-Ray McCloud, Brandon Zylstra
TEs: Greg Olsen, Ian Thomas, Chris Manhertz
Chicago BearsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 24 October 2018
Mitchell Trubisky's career-best 81-yard rushing performance on Sunday wasn't enough to cover up his obvious shortcomings in Chicago's 38-31 loss to the New England Patriots.
As ESPN.com's Jeff Dickerson suggested, to beat a team the caliber of the perennially playoff-bound Patriots, Trubisky had to be nearly perfect.
To his credit, Trubisky was brilliant when flushed outside the pocket. The second-year quarterback frustrated the New England defense -- and mesmerized the Soldier Field crowd -- with an 8-yard sideline-to-sideline touchdown run that, thanks to Trubisky's athleticism and creativity, covered 70 yards of the field.
Later, Trubisky scrambled for 39 yards to set up another Chicago score.
The passing game, however, was an entirely different story.
Trubisky was off the mark for most of the game. The 2017 second overall draft pick completed just 8 of 20 throws for 92 yards in the first half, averaging only 4.6 yards per attempt, according to ESPN Stats and Information.
The final 30 minutes were just as bad.
At one point, Trubisky was 0-of-10 with two interceptions on tight-window throws, per ESPN Stats and Information.
Trubisky almost had a third interception when he, oddly, underthrew a pass in the end zone to offensive lineman Bradley Sowell, who had reported as an eligible receiver on the play.
Even after a late-fourth-quarter touchdown to tight end Trey Burton and a last-second, 54-yard Hail Mary to Kevin White (which failed to score), Trubisky's numbers were a disappointing 26-of-50 for 333 yards, two touchdowns and two interceptions (69.8 quarterback rating).
A groin injury for wide receiver Allen Robinson certainly didn't help Chicago's situation on offense, but the Bears needed Trubisky to step up -- and for the most part on Sunday, he did not.
But Trubisky wasn't the only culprit, just the most visible.
Chicago's special teams were a train wreck, surrendering a 95-yard kickoff return touchdown and a blocked punt that the Patriots scooped up for a score.
And Chicago's highly touted defense struggled to overcome Khalil Mack's ankle problem. Mack was active on Sunday, but you barely noticed him. Instead of attacking Tom Brady, Mack spent most of the day dropping back in pass coverage -- a clear indication that the star pass-rusher's ankle injury is a major problem.
Mack was credited with only one tackle.
According to Dickerson, there was a different vibe leading up to the game. For the first time in seemingly forever, the Bears were involved in a game that generated national interest.
Dickerson added, "The buildup was great.
"The result, unfortunately, was the same for the Bears. ..."
Meanwhile, head coach Matt Nagy said Sunday that Trubisky's rushing yards didn't count in the run game's ledger.
The quarterback ran six times for 81 yards, the most of any player on either team.
"To me, that's a scramble, and that's him making something happen, that's him growing as a quarterback," Nagy said. "But our run game has to get better."
Jordan Howard ran 12 times for 39 yards and a touchdown. Tarik Cohen ran six times for 14 yards -- though he added eight catches for 69 yards and a score.
Nagy said it wasn't solely fault of the running backs.
"It's everybody," he said. "And we just need to figure out how we can do that, what's best for us identity-wise. And it's not one person."
As Chicago Tribune staffer Brad Biggs noted, Howard has seemingly been erased from the play script at times this season, but when given opportunities against the Patriots, he couldn't get going and the Bears haven't had success with inside zone.
Biggs added, "The Bears aren't moving linemen off the ball when they try to run the ball. Howard has been struggling to get going, but placing the blame solely on his shoulders misses the bigger picture. With the Patriots also bottling up Cohen, it took an element of the offense away. ..."
Also of interest. ... As Chicago Sun-Time staffer Adam Jahns noted, it was the best catch of White's career, and the maligned Bears receiver tried to give it to teammate Taylor Gabriel in a wild flurry.
"There was just nowhere I could go to pitch it," White said.
It was all part of White's desperate attempt to score as time expired on Sunday.
As noted above, White caught the 54-yard Hail Mary from Trubisky at the Patriots' 2-yard line and turned to the 1, only to be met by four Patriots defenders.
Did White think he had a chance to score?
"For a second I did, until I felt a bunch of guys, then I kind of knew it was over," White said. "But I just tried to stretch the ball, and I actually tried to hand it to [Gabriel], but there was no time left."
It was the longest catch in White's injury-plagued career. It also was his second catch in the fourth quarter after not getting targeted once by Trubisky in the first five games.
"It definitely felt good [to get involved]," said White, who also was thrown a jump ball on the goal line in the second quarter. "It was a long time coming, but I just have to stay ready."
But after being used primarily as a blocker this season, making a leaping 54-yard reception still felt "real good," White said.
Finding playing time has been difficult for White, the Bears' 2015 first-round pick, especially after the arrivals of Gabriel, Robinson and Anthony Miller. But special-teams player Josh Bellamy also has had more opportunities than White this season on offense, including four more targets Sunday.
"[The catch] kind of quiets the noise and shows everyone that I'm the same guy, even better; that I can make the big-time plays," White said. "I just got to stay focused and control what I can control."
On Sunday, that was going up and grabbing a Hail Mary from Trubisky, who got his long pass off despite pressure.
"I just tried to fight and get in, tried to change the game, make a big-time play," White said. "If I had a Kyle Long or one of the linemen to push me in, it would have been a different game."
QBs: Mitchell Trubisky, Chase Daniel
RBs: David Montgomery, Tarik Cohen, Mike Davis, Kerrith Whyte Jr.
WRs: Allen Robinson, Anthony Miller, Taylor Gabriel, Riley Ridley, Cordarrelle Patterson, Javon Wims
TEs: Trey Burton, Adam Shaheen, Ben Braunecker, Bradley Sowell
Cincinnati BengalsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 24 October 2018
According to ESPN.com's Katherine Terrell, the Bengals said everything right in the locker room following a 45-10 drubbing to the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday night.
They talked about how there's no time to panic. They said the team would stick together. They mentioned that it still counts as only one loss despite the lopsided score.
"There is a lot of season left and a lot of things out in front of us," Andy Dalton said. "It is just one game. We have another one next week ...
"As much as this one sucks, everything is still right there. We are in a great position. We have to go take advantage of it."
But as Terrell noted, saying it is one thing, actually doing it is another.
The Bengals have dropped two in a row and have some of the best offenses in the league still coming up on the schedule. The Buccaneers, who lead the league in yards per game, are up next, followed by the Saints after the bye week.
The Bengals' defense has given up at least 480 yards in three of its last four games.
But Terrell stressed that Sunday's loss couldn't be put squarely on the shoulders of the defense either.
The offense didn't take advantage of a weak defense and couldn't get the ball to anyone but A.J. Green. The reliable Tyler Boyd was barely a factor against the Chiefs, while John Ross, who came back after missing two games with a groin injury, was practically invisible before leaving again due to the injury.
"We are going to try to get A.J. the ball," Dalton said. "A.J. was doing a good job of getting open. He got open a lot early and they started doubling him. I thought A.J. did some good things tonight."
As the Cincinnati Enquirer noted, the Bengals offense didn't have much beyond Green on Sunday night.
The Bengals had 139 total yards in the first half and 110 of those came via Green receptions. Even against the poor Chiefs defense, you can't be that one-dimensional or else you are doomed. It was a major factor in Dalton’s pick-6 in which he tried to force one in to Green early in the third. All that didn't change how good Green was against pretty much any coverage the Chiefs threw at him. He finished with seven receptions for 117 yards on 14 targets.
Nobody else on the team had more than five targets.
"We got to be together," Green said. "We win together, we lose together. We are a team. We are a family. This NFL season is a long grind, up and down roller coaster. For my part I'm just going to keep leading by example. Back to enjoying, going watch the film, get better, I'm going lead by example. Get back to work on Wednesday, practice hard and on to Tampa."
According to Terrell, the Bengals clearly miss tight end Tyler Eifert, who gave Dalton another reliable target. They are now potentially down three tight ends after Mason Schreck was carted off on Sunday. Tyler Kroft is out with a foot injury for an unknown period of time.
Meanwhile, as Cincinnati Enquirer staffer Fletcher Page noted, the list of viable explanations for the Bengals defensive woes, on record pace for ineptitude through seven games and especially evident in Sunday's loss, is long.
Adjusting to first-year defensive coordinator Teryl Austin. Dealing with injuries. Facing a string of respectable offenses, some world-beating and others pretty good.
All of that has contributed to the mess, but at this point, on pace in mid-October to give up the most yards in a season during the Marvin Lewis era, time is running thin on excuses.
The season is seven games deep and the Bengals defense is just not getting the job done. The unit was embarrassed Sunday at Arrowhead Field, allowing the Chiefs to roll up 551 yards, 33 first downs and 9 conversions on 12 Chiefs' third-down attempts.
More: Analysis: Sunday emphasized Cincinnati Bengals not ready for primetime
The Chiefs never punted -- just the fifth game in Bengals history and first since 2000 that an opponent's punter didn't touch the field. ...
Whatever the case, now that they've fallen to 4-3, the Bengals have lost the sole position they had on top of the AFC North division. As Terrell summed up, it's not a season-ending problem, but it certainly erases the cushion they built after starting 3-1 in September. ...
On the injury front. ... Linebacker Vontaze Burfict left the game in the third quarter with a hip injury and did not return.
As mentioned above, Schreck went off on a cart with a knee injury early in the fourth quarter as the Bengals' tight end room continues it's awful run of luck. Schreck was placed on IR Tuesday and the Bengals promoted tight end Jordan Franks off the practice squad to take Schreck's spot.
Franks signed with the Bengals as a college free agent out of Central Florida this spring. He played all four preseason games and had two receptions for 19 yards and one special teams tackle.
Cincinnati waived him out of the preseason and then signed him back to the practice squad, where he spent the team's first seven games.
Giovani Bernard (knee) was not on the practice field to open the week; Bernard has missed the last three weeks with the injury and seems likely to miss another.
And finally, as noted above, Ross aggravated the groin injury that kept him out the last two weeks and left the game in the fourth quarter. NFL Network's Mike Garafolo reports that Ross is expected to miss a few weeks due to the issue. Cincy has a bye after this week's game against the Buccaneers.
More on Bernard and Ross as developments warrant via Late-Breaking Update in coming days.
QBs: Andy Dalton, Ryan Finley, Jake Dolegala
RBs: Joe Mixon, Giovani Bernard, Trayveon Williams, Samaje Perine
WRs: Tyler Boyd, Damion Willis, John Ross, Alex Erickson, Josh Malone, Auden Tate, A.J. Green, Pharoh Cooper
TEs: Tyler Eifert, C.J. Uzomah, Drew Sample, Cethan Carter
Cleveland BrownsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 24 October 2018
As Cleveland Plain Dealer reporter Mary Kay Cabot noted Sunday, head coach Hue Jackson was furious about the Browns' offensive performance during Sunday's 26-23 overtime loss to the Bucs, and didn't rule out taking the play calling back from offensive coordinator Todd Haley.
Is he concerned about butting heads with his strong-willed OC?
"It's not going to be about butting heads," said Jackson. "I'm the head coach of the football team. I will do what I feel I need to do to get this team where it needs to be."
Pressed further on that issue, he reiterated, "I'm the head coach of the football team, period. Period. There's nothing else that needs to be said. Nothing. I'm the head coach of the football team."
Asked what that might look like next time out, which is Sunday in Haley's old stomping ground in Pittsburgh, he said, "I don't know. I haven't thought through that part of that yet. I'll figure that out as I move forward."
He was asked if Haley us his play caller.
"Yeah, he's the play caller," he said. "Trust me when I say I'm not trying to create any issue here, but I think if the offense is not playing well, and we haven't over a period of time, being a head coach and an offensive guy who's done this, I think I have every right as a head coach to jump in and see if I can help and assist and get this thing to where I think it needs to be, because we need to be better on offense. And if that's my specialty, then I need to be involved more and I will be."
He confirmed that Haley's called all the plays so far this season, but he made no promises that will continue. Haley was the Steelers' offensive coordinator for the previous six seasons.
"Yeah, I mean, I've been respectful," said Jackson. "That's why you bring guys in and you make them the coordinator. Again, there are some things we've got to fix fast to get this thing back to where it needs to be."
He's tired of watching the offense sputter week after week, especially with Baker Mayfield at quarterback.
"I feel like I have to (get more involved). And I want to," said Jackson. "That's what I know, so I'm not going to continue to watch something that I know how to do keep being that way. That's just the truth. I mean, that's nothing against anybody in our building. I just think that's what I do, and I think I need to be a little bit more involved."
The Browns' offense failed to score a first-half point against a Bucs defense that was horrible in the first half all season, surrendering 125 points. The Bucs had also allowed TDs on 15 of 16 trips inside the red zone, and the Browns couldn't score when handed the ball at the Bucs 19 following one of the defense's four takeaways.
The offense is last in the NFL this season in converting takeaways, and the Browns' D just keeps producing them. The four-turnover game pushed their league-high total to 20.
The Browns also went three-and-out twice in OT, and converted only one of the four takeaways into points.
"I've got to figure that out," said Jackson. "I've got to figure that out. I've totally got to figure that out. I've got to jump in head first, all hands, feet, everything and go figure that out. It's just that simple."
That said, as NFL Network's Ian Rapoport pointed out, the offense's second half against the Bucs was one of their best of the season, with five drives, one punt, three TDs and a 118-yard drive including penalties.
In fact, Jackson indicated he may have had something to do with the second-half improvement.
"We made some adjustments," he said. "I think our guys started making some plays. I think the protection was a little better. Baker's getting hit way too much. We have to figure that out. He's getting hit way too much. Ball came out a little quicker. He did run around and make some plays. But we've got to find a way to get this offense up and going in the first half."
Still, the Browns have thrown only seven TD passes this season, which is near the bottom of the league. Against the Bucs, they converted 3-of-14 third downs. In the first half, they were outgained 243 yards to 74.
It should be noted that on Monday, Jackson revisited those comments and explained that he is not actually planning to take back control of the playbook from Haley.
"I never said I would take over the play calling," Jackson said. "I said I needed to help. I have to be careful not to get too frustrated too."
Jackson said that Haley is "very open" to his plan to infuse himself into the offensive staff's work, which is something Haley would have to say if he's going to avoid losing his job or creating a contentious work environment with the guy above him in the team's hierarchy.
We'll see how the new arrangement is working when the Browns travel to Pittsburgh this week, but as Plain Dealer staffer Dan Labbe noted, Jackson taking a larger role in the offense might not fix things, but Haley hasn't exactly inspired confidence as a play caller in the season's first seven games.
The slow starts are disturbing, considering that the team's scripted plays almost never seem to have an impact. ...
In a related note, as Cabot pointed out, the Browns already forced Haley to use Nick Chubb and Duke Johnson more by trading away his workhorse back Carlos Hyde.
Chubb responded with 80 yards on 18 carries and scored on a 1-yard run. ...
Worth noting. ... Antonio Callaway caught 1-of-2 targets for 14 yards against the Buccaneers. The two targets were the fewest Callaway has received in a game since Week 1. He now has three or fewer receptions in every game on the season but one. In Mayfield's four starts, Callaway has just nine catches (on 23 targets) for 99 yards. ...
On the injury front. ... ESPN.com's Pat McManamon reports that Landry had a wrap on his left arm from his wrist past his elbow after the game. As Landry dressed, he did not use his left arm to put on his shirt. Asked if he was okay, Landry pointed out he played the entire game (10 receptions and a touchdown) and said: "It's all good. I'm all right. I'll be all right for Sunday."
Rashard Higgins was not on the practice field Wednesday as he continues to miss time with the knee injury that's sidelined him since Week 5. The initial timetable was a two-to-four week absence. David Njoku was limited by a sore knee; I'll be watching for more on him and Landry in coming days; check the Late-Breaking Updates section for more as the week progresses.
And finally. ... The Browns filled the roster spot that opened up when they traded Hyde to the Jaguars last week.
The team announced that they have promoted tight end Pharaoh Brown from their practice squad. Brown joined the practice squad in Cleveland four weeks ago.
Njoku, Darren Fells, Orson Charles and Seth DeValve are also on the roster at tight end.
The Browns also announced that they have signed former Packers running back Devante Mays to the practice squad and released linebacker James Burgess from injured reserve.
QBs: Baker Mayfield, Drew Stanton, Garrett Gilbert
RBs: Nick Chubb, Dontrell Hilliard, D'Ernest Johnson, Kareem Hunt
WRs: Odell Beckham, Jarvis Landry, Rashard Higgins, Antonio Callaway, Damion Ratley, Taywan Taylor, Derrick Willies
TEs: David Njoku, Demetrius Harris, Ricky Seals-Jones, Pharaoh Brown
Dallas CowboysCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 24 October 2018
The Dallas Cowboys made a bold move for the present Monday, trading a first-round pick for Oakland receiver Amari Cooper in Raiders coach Jon Gruden's latest play for the future.
The Cowboys gave up their top pick in the next draft in hopes of giving quarterback Dak Prescott another weapon just a few months after releasing franchise touchdown catch leader Dez Bryant in a cost-cutting move.
Dallas has struggled to score points while losing all four road games, including 20-17 Sunday at Washington.
And Cowboys receivers haven't made many big plays in their first season without Bryant and retired tight end Jason Witten, the club leader in catches. The Cowboys decided Bryant wasn't worth $12.5 million in 2018 after three subpar seasons since signing a big contract following his only All-Pro year in 2014.
Cooper was the fourth overall draft pick by the Raiders out of Alabama three years ago. He started his career with consecutive 1,000-yard seasons and had two 100-yard games this year, but had just two targets and one catch since the second of those games.
The 24-year-old Cooper -- five years younger than Bryant -- was placed in the concussion protocol after leaving Oakland's last game against Seattle on Oct. 14.
Here's what head coach Jason Garrett had to say about Cooper prior to the Cowboys playing Oakland last December: "Obviously highly regarded coming out and not a surprise to anybody who's studied him that he was going to be this good this quickly," Garrett said (via ESPN.com's Todd Archer). "Really a complete player. Does everything you would ask a receiver to do. Great route runner. Got great speed, quickness, acceleration. Can catch the ball, run after the catch. He's just a really good football player. Well trained at Alabama obviously but transitioned smoothly and doesn't surprise us one bit that he's been the impact player that he's been over the first couple years."
Cooper practiced with his new team for the first time Wednesday.
“It feels great,” Cooper said. “It feels like a fresh start, just like a freshman year in college or something like that. This is a good team. I’m just giving them something to build on I guess you can say. And it’s America’s Team. Who wouldn’t be excited?”
Now, he’s starting over, saying “it feels great to be wanted.”
“When I found out I was going to be a Dallas Cowboys, I just knew I would have to adapt fast,” Cooper said. “I knew everything would happen real fast. I didn’t really have time to think about it, to be honest. Flew here the next day, packed some stuff and was ready for a change.”
Cleared from the above-mentioned concussion, Cooper took his first throws from Dak Prescott on Wednesday. He plans to get some extra work in with his new quarterback this week with the Cowboys on their off week and dive into the playbook.
“I have to stack the days together,” Cooper said. “Obviously learn the system, and just be ready to go out there when my name is called. All the other stuff will come.”
Dallas receivers have just one 100-yard game combined through seven games, by Cole Beasley in a Week 6 win over Jacksonville. The Cowboys are going into their bye week, and the Raiders are returning from their break to face Indianapolis at home Sunday.
In the immediate, Cooper heads a group that suddenly is pretty balanced. The fourth-year wideout joins Allen Hurns, Beasley and rookie Michael Gallup. Hurns weighed in on the trade, telling NFL Network's Jane Slater that Cooper is a "great addition. Dude's a baller."
To make room for Cooper, Brice Butler will be released. He signed in September but did not have a catch and barely played when he was active.
Cooper should also help Dallas create more opportunities in the passing game. According to Next Gen Stats, Cooper's 3.8 average yards of separation per target (fourth-best in the NFL among receivers with 30-plus targets) is a full 1.6 yards higher than the collective average posted by Cowboys receivers, which is the worst in the NFL.
In theory, a receiver with more space should yield more production. Dallas is hoping that's the case in 2018 and beyond. The receiver is under contract through 2019 on a fifth-year rookie option that's scheduled to pay him $13.9 million.
It's not the first time Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones has made a big trade for a former top-10 pick at receiver, and the other two attempts didn't go well.
In 2000, Jones sent two first-round picks to Seattle for Joey Galloway before the first of three straight 5-11 seasons. Galloway, drafted eighth overall by the Seahawks in 1995, didn't have a 1,000-yard season in four years with the Cowboys.
About this time 10 years ago, the Cowboys got Roy Williams from Detroit for three draft picks, including a first-rounder. The former Texas standout's first season with Dallas was his best, with 596 yards receiving and seven touchdowns.
The Cowboys made the playoffs once in two-plus seasons with Williams, in 2009, when they won the franchise's first postseason game since the last of five Super Bowl victories following the 1995 season. Williams was drafted seventh overall by the Lions in 2004.
For what it's worth, the interest in wideouts wasn't only focused on Cooper.
According to ESPN's Dan Graziano, other wideouts the Cowboys were monitoring included Buffalo's Kelvin Benjamin and Miami's DeVante Parker. ...
Meanwhile, the Cowboys were as close as a ball bouncing their way off an upright from sending Sunday's game against the Redskins into overtime, but Brett Maher's miss seemed fitting considering Dallas' struggles on the road.
The Cowboys left FedEx Field like they did their first three road games: with a disheartening loss to the Redskins when Maher's 52-yard attempt hit the left upright as time expired.
The Cowboys' four road losses in 2018 match the total of road losses they had in Prescott's first two seasons. Last Thursday, the Cowboys offense held a meeting to hash out what Prescott called "the elephant in the room."
In the first three road games, the Cowboys scored three touchdowns in 36 possessions. They converted 9 of 38 third-down chances.
Against the Redskins, the Cowboys scored two touchdowns, including a 49-yard scoring pass to Gallup in the second quarter, and converted just 5 of 14 third-down chances.
The running game provided little help, with Elliott picking up just 33 yards and not having one carry of more than 6 yards. Left tackle Tyron Smith was beaten often and was flagged for a holding penalty on the first drive. Right tackle La'el Collins was beaten by Kerrigan for a sack and had a penalty. Williams struggled with the size of Allen for a good chunk of the game. Right guard Zack Martin played the second half with his knee heavily taped.
The passing game showed some promise with Gallup's touchdown catch in the first half, but in the second half the Cowboys did not press the ball down the field and the pass protection broke down. Prescott finished with 273 yards, the first time he had more than 200 yards passing on the road in regulation this season. He had 208 yards in the overtime loss to the Houston Texans.
But none of it was good enough.
Now the Cowboys have a bye week to rest and somehow figure out how incorporate Cooper into the offense and to do anything away from AT&T Stadium.
The good news is they don't go on the road again until Nov. 11.
The bad news is that it will be at Philadelphia's Lincoln Financial Field, where they scored just six points in a meaningless Week 17 win last season during which the Eagles rested most of their starters.
As the Cowboys enter their bye week, they are scheduled to have two brief practices on Wednesday and Thursday and then have four days off before they get begin their preparation for the Tennessee Titans on Nov. 5.
On the injury front. ... Garrett said starting tight end Geoff Swaim hurt his knee Sunday at Washington and is getting an MRI Tuesday. Swaim won't practice this week. Garrett is hopeful it's more of a short-term injury than a long-term one. But the Cowboys won't know for sure until the MRI is back.
QBs: Dak Prescott, Cooper Rush
RBs: Ezekiel Elliott, Tony Pollard, Alfred Morris
WRs: Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup, Randall Cobb, Tavon Austin, Devin Smith
TEs: Jason Witten, Blake Jarwin, Dalton Schultz
Denver BroncosCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 24 October 2018
The Broncos staved off immediate staff changes by pounding the Cardinals in Arizona on Thursday night, but the club remains at a difficult crossroads with a potential rebuild ahead, and other NFL teams have begun reaching out about acquiring some of their veteran talent.
Denver (3-4) was coming off a four-game tailspin before Thursday's win, Case Keenum has struggled at quarterback, head coach Vance Joseph is coaching for his future and the Broncos' next five games are all against potential/likely playoff teams (the Chiefs, Texans, Steelers, Chargers and Bengals). John Elway has made clear the magnitude of the situation, and the Broncos do not appear to be close to contending in the AFC West.
Given all of that, rival executives are poring over Denver's roster and eyeing up possible trades ahead of the deadline (which comes a week from Tuesday).
Even before the season began, there were strong rumblings of the Broncos trading a veteran receiver like Emmanuel Sanders, 31, or Demaryius Thomas, 30, and league sources said several teams have interest in Sanders, who is much more productive and has a much lower contract; his trade value is significantly higher.
Teams have also been exploring the availability of Denver's corners, with Bradley Roby a pending free agent, although, at age 26, someone young enough to possibly fit into the Broncos' future even with a rebuild in order. Corner Chris Harris is 29 and signed to a team-friendly deal through 2019; he is being coveted by other teams, league sources said.
Given the uphill climb facing this team, and Keenum's age (30) and limited prior success as a permanent starter (save for an outstanding run with the Vikings in 2017), sources continue to indicate the Broncos intended to look at young quarterback Chad Kelly at some point in the second half of the season, needing to assess that position prior to the 2019 draft, and it's difficult to see the team holding on to all of these veteran players given the tenor of their season.
Of course, Kelly won't be getting that shot after he was released on Wednesday (details below).
Elway stands in a position to recoup a bevy of draft picks to kick-start a reboot if he chooses to go that route, and he will have no shortage of teams calling him between now and the deadline.
Meanwhile, Thomas said Monday he would like to stay in the only locker room he has known in his nine-year NFL career, but has heard talk of a potential trade "the whole season."
Thomas, who is second on the team in receptions with 33 and tied for the team lead in receiving touchdowns with three, said he has seen the report the Broncos are listening to trade offers from several teams. After a tough start to the season when Thomas had five drops in the first two games, he has had just one in the last five games.
"It's football, man, it's a business," Thomas said Monday. "That's what happens. It's happened before (in the league), I never thought it would happen to me, but I'm like everybody else.
"Been hearing the whole season. ... (Maybe) some of what it is, is true, (that) my time is coming up, I don't know."
ESPN's Adam Schefter reported Sunday that a "handful of teams" had reached out to the Broncos about Thomas and that the Broncos were listening to offers for the 30-year-old. Thomas was a first-round pick by the Broncos in the 2010 draft and is the team's longest-tenured player.
The NFL's deadline for trades is Oct. 30.
"I love to be here," Thomas said. "I'm going to do what I've got to do to be ready ... I love to be here, I've been here my whole career."
Thomas has 33 receptions for 372 yards and is tied for the team lead in receiving touchdowns with Sanders with three. Thomas also has the second-longest reception this season for the Broncos - a 45-yarder in last Thursday night's win over the Arizona Cardinals.
The Broncos are preparing to play AFC West leading Kansas City Sunday in Arrowhead Stadium. Thomas said Monday that game is what is on his mind right now.
"I play for these guys in this locker room, and the organization of course, but these guys in the locker room," Thomas said. "Don't think about it and just go on about my business, I can control what I can control, that's all I do, every day in and out ... the rest will pan out for itself."
Thomas is third in the franchise's history with 662 career receptions, is second in the franchise's history in receiving yards at 9,025 yards and second in receiving touchdowns (60).
Thomas' current contract, which he signed in 2015, is set to run through the 2019 season. He counts $12.033 million against the salary cap this season and is scheduled to count $17.533 million against the cap next season.
According to 9News.com's Mike Klis, trading away Thomas right now is not good timing given the MCL sprain to No. 4 receiver DaeSean Hamilton, who was wearing a brace on the injured knee Monday and could need some recovery time.
In addition, Klis believes with the Browns, 49ers and Raiders left on schedule, the 3-4 Broncos are not done. ...
Along those lines, with 46 receptions in seven games, Sanders needs just one more to equal his total last season, when the Broncos often struggled in the passing game with three different starting quarterbacks while Sanders missed four games with an ankle injury.
"It feels good, man," Sanders said. "I work my butt off. ... I do everything necessary for me to be successful and it feels good to see all that hard work pay off."
Sanders reportedly tweaked his ankle late against the Cardinals, but Joseph told reporters the veteran wideout would be "fine."
Also worth noting. ... Sanders, who became the first Bronco since John Elway to throw and catch a touchdown in the same game in last Thursday's win over the Cardinals, was named AFC Offensive Player of the Week for his efforts on Wednesday.
Royce Freeman suffered a high-ankle sprain last Thursday night and had an MRI. According to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport, there was early optimism regarding the injury and it's no guarantee that he misses time. If he does, expect a short absence. On Monday, Joseph was still characterizing Freeman as "day to day."
"He's been here all weekend getting treatment," Joseph said of Freeman, "so we'll see how he feels as the week moves along."
I'll have more on Freeman, who was not on the practice field to open the week Wednesday, and Sanders via Late-Breaking Update as the week progresses. ...
And finally. ... As noted above, Kelly was released on Wednesday after another run in with the law.
Kelly was charged early Tuesday morning with first-degree criminal trespassing in Englewood, Colorado, according to local police. He was taken to the county jail.
Police say Kelly went into a residence without permission, was chased out of the residence, and was later pursued by police.
The 24-year-old Kelly has a history of off-field issues, which is one of the reasons he lasted until the final pick of the 2017 NFL draft. He was kicked off the team at Clemson in April of 2014, and eight months later he was arrested after a bar fight in Buffalo, where his uncle Jim Kelly was a Hall of Fame quarterback. He later transferred to East Mississippi Community College and then transferred to Ole Miss.
According to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport, Elway met with Kelly following his arrest. Elway was extremely angry with the player (not the Western-themed party that Von Miller throws every year where many community members attend and which was the genesis of Kelly's incident)..
Kevin Hogan will move up to No. 2 on the depth chart behind Keenum.
QBs: Joe Flacco, Brandon Allen
RBs: Phillip Lindsay, Royce Freeman, Devontae Booker, Theo Riddick
WRs: Emmanuel Sanders, Courtland Sutton, Daesean Hamilton, River Cracraft, Juwann Winfree, Tim Patrick
TEs: Noah Fant, Jeff Heuerman, Troy Fumagalli, Jake Butt
Detroit LionsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 24 October 2018
As ESPN.com's Michael Rothstein noted, in the Lions' 32-21 victory over Miami, something big seemed possible for Kerryon Johnson on every play. Give him a sliver of space and he can make something happen. Give him more room and better blocks and even bigger things can happen.
"In my mind, that's great. That means I know what those guys up front are doing and I know our game plan is going to stay true to itself," Johnson said. "So, it definitely gives me confidence, gives them confidence. The crowd energy goes up, our energy goes and then the key is to carry it through four quarters, which we did."
They ran left, right and up the middle. They ran for short gains, medium gains and a 71-yard gain that Johnson said was his longest run since high school.
Eight different Lions receivers caught a pass, but none of them had more than 50 receiving yards. They didn't need to, as the team rushed for 248 yards on the ground in Miami, Detroit's best total since Nov. 23, 1997.
Barry Sanders rushed for 216 yards that day (in another game in which Detroit won by scoring 32 points) in an era when Detroit was known more for its running than its passing. That's not quite happening here with these Lions, even though Johnson's 158-yard game was the most for a Lions back since Jahvid Best had 163 on Oct. 10, 2011.
Four weeks ago against the New England Patriots, Johnson snapped the team's four-year drought of 100-yard rushers, and he was even better Sunday.
His emergence offers Detroit a different type of offensive structure, particularly when the Lions start fast. Johnson gained 106 of his yards in the first half.
"It allows us to be more dynamic," running back Ameer Abdullah said. "Because now, obviously, you got a running back coming in who has 100 yards like that, they are going to focus on him. Then you can bring in a LeGarrette [Blount] or you can bring in me -- they are bouncing around like, 'How the heck are we going to stop all these guys?'"
Rothstein reminded readers this all started in April, when the Lions convened for the first time under new coach Matt Patricia. He craved balance and physicality. A consistent, respectable run game, which the Lions never had under previous coach Jim Caldwell, makes play-action more effective. It keeps teams from dropping too many players into coverage against the Lions' talented receivers.
It allows Detroit to manage the clock -- and the potential outcomes, because a strong run game can wear down a defense. It is something the Lions hadn't had in half a decade.
"It changes everything," receiver Marvin Jones said. "Obviously, when you can run the ball, you control. And that's the big thing. That's what we did. You look at all of our wins -- we've been able to do that and control the ball. That's how it was today.
"We ran it whenever we wanted to, at will; and if we needed a play in the passing game, we threw it and made the play. To have that control is great and it's a tribute to the line, the work that they put out throughout the week."
According to Rothstein, every Lions player mentioned the line after Sunday's victory.
General manager Bob Quinn invested so much in the line over the past three years since his hiring in January 2016: two first-round picks (left tackle Taylor Decker and left guard Ragnow), two highly-touted free agents (right guard T.J. Lang, right tackle Rick Wagner) and a third-round pick who has become dependable (center Graham Glasgow).
He spent this offseason changing the running backs, signing Blount and trading up in the second round to select Johnson. Both moves have worked.
But in Johnson, the Lions have found a stabilizer and difference-maker in the run game. And it has led to more success and a confidence that the entire offense can be dynamic, because if Detroit can run, there are possibilities to do almost anything.
Just ask tight end Michael Roberts, who pulled in a pair of touchdown passes in Miami.
Based off Sunday, Roberts became more of a receiving option in the Lions' passing game than any other tight end this season. He was a 6-4 reliable red zone target with a knack for the end zone -- 16 touchdowns on 45 receptions his final year with the Toledo Rockets -- but as a rookie he did little.
He often played behind the since-departed Eric Ebron and Darren Fells, so the opportunity didn't exist.
The possibility for his future, though, is part of the reason the Lions felt they could afford to cut Ebron in the offseason, even if Roberts hadn't reached his capabilities. Training camp wasn't great, either. He dealt with an ankle injury and was shaky enough to appear closer to the roster fringe than any sort of tangible breakout.
Then the regular season started. Progress came. He had a touchdown in Week 2 -- the same game where a knee injury he suffered sidelined him for the next three games until Sunday. Despite playing in half of Detroit's games, Roberts has almost as many receiving yards (63) as the other Detroit tight ends combined (67).
And his size and quickness at 260 pounds make him a different type of tight end than the others on Detroit's roster.
He's agile. He's relatively fast. And he has the body and hands to become a potential difference-maker.
"It adds another guy in the middle that they have to try and take care of," Jones said. "We have so many guys out there in terms of running and pass-catching that they have to try and check. When we have him like that, going out there, making those big plays, that's big.
"It's really, we just have to continue to do what we do, go out there and work every day and we know what we can be when we turn it up like that, and we just have to keep doing it."
Sunday was a strong example of what Detroit's offense is capable of.
Also of interest. ... Leading by eight points and facing a 3rd and 9 at the Miami 33-yard line with 2:07 left in the game, the Lions handed the ball off to Johnson and played for the field goal. That's how much confidence Patricia had in veteran kicker Matt Prater.
And as the team's official website noted, "Why shouldn't he? Prater has been one of the best clutch kickers in the league for years now."
After a lengthy break for the two-minute warning, Prater calmly stepped up and nailed the 50-yarder to put the final touches on Detroit's victory.
Prater was a perfect 4-for-4 kicking field goals Sunday, hitting from 29, 28, 35 and 50 yards. He also made all three of his extra point attempts.
"He's obviously outstanding at what he does, and he's one of the best in the league and [I] fully trust him to tell me where he's at and what he feels he can execute," Patricia said of Prater.
"We're just going to go out and take that and go from there. Obviously huge play for us in the game with him, and at the end there, obviously, that's a big one and helps us out. Proud of him for being able to go out and execute that."
In the current climate of kicking in the NFL, the Lions are in a good spot to have a good one in Prater around.
On the injury front. ... Theo Riddick, who missed last week's game with a knee injury, was not on the field to open the week on Wednesday. Golden Tate (ankle) and Abdullah (ankle) were limited; I'll have more on both via Late-Breaking Update in coming days. ...
DE Ziggy Ansah hasn't played since injuring his shoulder Week 1. He's been a limited participant in practice the last couple weeks, but hasn't been able to play on Sundays. The Lions listed him as questionable to play on Friday's injury report, but ruled him out Saturday.
"Here's what I'm going to say about the Ziggy conversation so I can answer all those questions up front," Patricia said Monday. "Ziggy's doing everything he can day-by-day to get out there and play. When he's ready to go, he's certainly someone that we think can help us win, and that's the bottom line."
And finally. ... The Giants are sending defensive tackle Damon Harrison to the Detroit Lions in exchange for a fifth-round draft pick.
As Profootballtalk.com notes, the Lions have used A'Shawn Robinson, Ricky Jean Francois and Sylvester Williams on the interior of their defensive line this season and currently rank 30th in the league against the run. They’re hoping Harrison will help them improve on that front and improve their chances of challenging for a playoff spot in the NFC in the process.
QBs: Matthew Stafford, Tom Savage, David Fales
RBs: Kerryon Johnson, C.J. Anderson, Ty Johnson, J.D. McKissic
WRs: Kenny Golladay, Marvin Jones, Danny Amendola, Jermaine Kearse, Brandon Powell, Chris Lacy, Travis Fulgham
TEs: T.J. Hockenson, Jesse James, Logan Thomas
Green Bay PackersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 24 October 2018
According to ESPN.com's Rob Demovsky, money hasn't changed Davante Adams.
If you didn't know Adams signed a four-year, $58 million contract extension last December, you'd have no idea he's the eighth-highest paid receiver in the NFL. There's nothing entitled about Adams' approach.
And not on the field, where his play hasn't dipped a bit since his payday.
Through six games and with the Packers on their bye, Adams ranks tied for the NFL lead in touchdown catches (six) and third in receptions (47). He's fresh off a 10-catch, 132-yard, two touchdown game in Monday night's comeback win over the 49ers -- his fifth career 10-plus catch game (which ranks third in team history). Since the start of the 2016 season, no one in the NFL has more touchdown catches than Adams' 28. Pittsburgh's Antonio Brown, with 27, is the only other player with more than 23 in that stretch. In that same span, Adams has a touchdown in 22 of the 36 games in which he has played, most in the NFL and three more than the next-best (Brown).
And he has done it mostly against top cornerbacks: Darius Slay one week, Richard Sherman the next.
"When you guys ask questions about personnel, 'How's Richard Sherman? How's this person? How's that person?' I want to say those people are good, but at the end of the day, I feel like with where I'm at with my game and my confidence in my game and my natural ability, me tying into this offense and [Aaron Rodgers], I feel like a guy can be [dominant]," Adams said recently.
It's no wonder that Rodgers pinpointed Adams, along with tight end Jimmy Graham, as someone who needed the ball in his hands more when the quarterback expressed his frustration with the offense earlier this season.
To be sure, the Packers were in a pass-happy mode against the 49ers, but Adams, Graham and emerging rookie Marquez Valdes-Scantling all topped the 100-yard receiving mark against San Francisco.
What's more, it was Adams' who drew an illegal contact penalty on Sherman in the final minutes to keep the game-winning drive alive. The penalty wiped out a third-down sack.
"I was going to come to him; I was looking actually at the release on the backside first and then was going to obviously come to Davante," Rodgers said. "He was the hot hand. I mean, he rolls out of bed he's the hot hand, he's a talented guy. Tonight was how we need to play moving forward. Sixteen targets for Davante, I think nine for Jimmy. That's where we want to be."
Receivers in Green Bay might not get the credit sometimes; that usually goes to Rodgers. But over his years, the Packers have had dynamic route-runners (see Greg Jennings and James Jones) and receivers with exceptional body control (see Jordy Nelson). Adams fits into a different skill set.
"His releases," Rodgers said when asked what makes Adams successful. "He catches the ball really well. Obviously, he's a tough release matchup, because he's able to mix up his releases. ... He's a tough cover because he can run and threaten you down the field. He's obviously a start-and-stop guy. He's just so tough to guard at the line of scrimmage. You can't press him, because he can beat you outside and get on top, or he can stick you outside and beat you inside and run away from you."
It wasn't always as easy as Adams has made it seem.
He had moments during his rookie season that excited everyone -- the six-catch, 121-yard game against New England, the seven-catch, 117-yard playoff game against Dallas. Then, in 2015, when they needed him most after Nelson's preseason knee injury wiped him out for the year, he regressed in part due to an ankle injury that limited what he does best. He simply couldn't push off on that ankle and beat people at the line of scrimmage.
Yet Adams didn't hide from his disappointing second year, prompting teammate David Bakhtiari to say this past summer: "He could have went one of two ways. He could've been a s--tbird -- just a talent who couldn't pick it up -- or he could go the other direction. And he decided, 'I'm not going to let you guys or anyone else write my story.'"
Meanwhile, as ESPN.com's Ben Fawkes noted, Rodgers has overcome a lot of obstacles in his career, and still plays with a chip on his shoulder from falling to No. 24 in the 2005 NFL draft.
He'll have some more motivation Sunday at the Los Angeles Rams, courtesy of Las Vegas oddsmakers.
The SuperBook at the Westgate Las Vegas opened the Green Bay Packers as 8.5-point underdogs in Week 8.
If the line stands, it would represent the largest total by which Rodgers has been an underdog in his career, per ESPN Stats and Information data, and biggest since the Packers were 8-point underdogs to the Seattle Seahawks in 2014. Green Bay was an underdog to the Arizona Cardinals by 7 in 2015, to the New York Jets by 6 in 2010 and to the Atlanta Falcons by 5.5 in 2016. All but the Jets game came in the playoffs.
That 2010 meeting with the Jets was the previous biggest regular-season spread as an underdog for Rodgers; the Packers visited New York as 6-point underdogs and won (and covered) 9-0 in Week 8.
The Rams are undefeated (7-0) and have been favored by at least 6.5 points in every game so far this season, going 4-2-1 against the spread.
The 3-2-1 Packers, off in Week 7 for their bye, will enter the game as underdogs for the third time this season.
Head coach Mike McCarthy said the Packers are traveling to L.A. on Friday afternoon in advance of Sunday's game. That's a day earlier than usual. The team will practice in California on Saturday.
"We've got three weeks of heavy travel so we're trying to take advantage coming off the bye week," McCarthy said.
The Packers are hoping that Rodgers, who has been playing through a painful left knee injury sustained in the Sept. 9 regular-season opener, is the healthiest he's been since the injury, and his improved mobility could mean more options for McCarthy as an offensive play-caller.
That said, Rodgers did not practice Tuesday; he hopes to return Wednesday when the Packers work in pads.
Rodgers injured his knee in the season opener but has not missed a start. He has used two different knee braces since, one bigger and bulkier than the other.
He remains hopeful of playing without a knee brace Sunday in Los Angeles. But the knee will have to be fully healed to do that, and Rodgers admitted Tuesday it was too early in the week to know.
McCarthy said if Rodgers' knee is significantly better, he'll be able to line up under center more often, which should lead to more carries for the running backs and more effective play-action passing.
"When you throw the football, especially the normal down-and-distance, you want to be higher in action-pass than you are in drop-back," McCarthy said.
"The drop-back component of throwing the football has been the strength, but the action-pass is where you want to do a better job, especially (with) the run game. The run game needs attempts. That's really the biggest thing that came out of the self-scout."
Randall Cobb and Geronimo Allison, both of whom were held out against the 49ers in Week 6 to give their injured hamstrings more time to fully heal, were on the field Tuesday, as expected.
I'll be following up on all three via Late-Breaking Update as developments warrant. ...
One last note here. ... McCarthy also said he doesn't anticipate Jake Kumerow or Trevor Davis to return to practice this week. Both are in injured reserve and are now eligible to open their window to practice. Once an IR player returns to practice, that counts as one of the two IR-designated to return spots.
QBs: Aaron Rodgers, DeShone Kizer, Tim Boyle
RBs: Aaron Jones, Jamaal Williams, Dexter Williams
WRs: Davante Adams, Geronimo Allison, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Jake Kumerow, Trevor Davis, Darrius Shepherd
TEs: Jimmy Graham, Marcedes Lewis, Jace Sternberger, Robert Tonyan
Houston TexansCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 24 October 2018
After the Texans' 0-3 start, head coach Bill O'Brien preached the ultimate football cliché: That if his players took it one game at a time and continued to show improvement, the team would be where it wanted to be by the end of the season.
It's only Week 7, but the Texans have certainly taken that to heart. On Sunday against the Jacksonville Jaguars, Houston played its most complete game of the season, a 20-7 victory. The Texans finally played complementary football and dominated an opposing team for the majority of the game.
Houston was in last place in the AFC South after three games, but after its victory in Jacksonville -- its fourth in a row -- the Texans have sole possession of first place in the division.
The Texans are just the sixth team in the Super Bowl era to win four consecutive games after starting 0-3, according to ESPN Stats & Information research. Only one of those teams, the 1998 Buffalo Bills, made the playoffs.
So how have they done it?
During the winning streak, the Texans defense has looked much better, especially in the past three weeks, when Houston has allowed just 36 total points. It allowed 74 points during its 0-3 start.
The Texans defense has gotten a strong pass rush for most of the season -- led by J.J. Watt and Jadeveon Clowney -- but in the past four games, the secondary has shown a lot of improvement as well. In the past two weeks, the Texans have forced three lost fumbles and have intercepted three passes, including one for a pick-six.
And against the Jaguars, the Texans were finally able to have success on the ground. On Sunday, Houston (4-3) relied heavily in the first half on the running game, something that had not been successful during this winning streak and something O'Brien has said the team needs to get better at to take some pressure off of quarterback Deshaun Watson.
"We always have to try to establish the running game. I'm not sure if there's any team in the league that can just go out there and throw," O'Brien said Friday. "I think being balanced and making sure that you're doing the best job you can to mix it up is how you want to start the game and hopefully go throughout the game like that."
Houston did that early, as running back Lamar Miller ran for 75 yards in the first half, the most before halftime by a Texans running back since Week 1 of the 2016 season. He finished the game with 100 yards on 22 carries and a touchdown.
Watson did his part to take advantage of the success on the ground, playing through injuries to his ribs and lung. He completed 12 of 24 passes for 139 yards and a touchdown and did not throw an interception for the first time this season.
After he took a hit on a drive early in the second quarter, Watson did four push-ups before getting back up for the next play.
"Everyone was asking if I was good," Watson said. "So, you know, I had to do some push-ups to let them know I'm a tough dude. I have some muscle on me where I can take those hits."
The quarterback said he feels "a lot better" than he did a week ago after the Texans beat the Bills, and that he feels confident being out there because he has been cleared to play by Houston's medical staff.
"Health has always been my first priority," Watson said. "If it's something that is going to make it worse, or if I'm not cleared by the doctors, then, you know, I won't step on the field.
"But once I get cleared and I'm able to play and I'm confident, you know, I just kind of battle through it. Like I've said before, this is bigger than me and, you know, I'm a competitor. I love this team so much -- and what I've been through previously and what we've been to leading up to this point, you know, I want to be out on the field with them and try to win."
Though Watson was cleared to play in the game, he did take a 12-hour bus ride from Houston to Jacksonville instead of flying with the team to protect his bruised lung and injured ribs from the air pressure. He was accompanied by strength and conditioning coach Luke Richesson and assistant trainer Uriah Myrie and said after Sunday's win that he watched film as they made their way to Florida.
"It was smooth," Watson told the Houston Chronicle. "We just kind of hung out. I was cool with it. Whatever it took for me to be here with my teammates and do what I do."
Watson was sacked once and hit five times, both of which were lower than the averages for the first six weeks of the season. That left Watson feeling "a lot better" when all was said and done in Jacksonville.
Watson's teammates spoke about how impressed they have been with Watson and the way he has been able to play despite the injuries. Wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins called his quarterback "a warrior."
Added outside linebacker Jadeveon Clowney: "When the quarterback can put that stuff on his back and carry the load, it makes it easier for everybody else around him. ... He steps up for us week in and week out."
Watson said his injuries didn't really affect his game, but he was able to run a little more this week instead of "just sitting in the pocket and throwing it away, or just taking a sack" like he did against the Bills.
"Aside from that, everything was pretty normal," Watson said.
Watson, who has been sacked 26 times and hit 71 times this season, took just one sack and five hits on Sunday against the Jaguars' talented defense. While protecting Watson is always a priority, Texans left tackle Julién Davenport said the offensive line knew going into this game that it had to be as focused as possible on keeping Watson upright because of his injuries. That will continue to be a focus, as the Texans have a short week before they play the Miami Dolphins on Thursday night.
"We talked about it as a group, the O-line," Davenport said. "We've got to do everything we can to protect this guy. Him having to take a bus down here to just play a football game shows how tough he is, first of all. And just shows that we have to keep him upright. That's the main focus every week."
Meanwhile, it's fair to say the first three games of their winning streak could have gone either way -- victories in Week 4 against the Indianapolis Colts and Week 5 against the Dallas Cowboys came in overtime by a field goal -- the Texans were able to beat the Jaguars comfortably. Week 7 marked the first game the Texans have won this season by more than a touchdown.
There's certainly still plenty of season left -- and the Texans hold only a one-game lead in the division -- but Houston has a favorable schedule the rest of the way.
According to ESPN's Football Power Index, entering the game, Houston had the second-easiest schedule remaining.
If the Texans can continue to play complete games like they did Sunday against the Jaguars, Houston should be able to take advantage of the schedule the rest of the way. ..
On the injury front. ... Following tests on Monday, Keke Coutee's hamstring injury is not considered a serious one, a source told NFL Network's Ian Rapoport.
Coutee told reporters he's probably out Thursday against the Dolphins, but he may not be out much more than that.
QBs: Deshaun Watson, AJ McCarron
RBs: Duke Johnson, Carlos Hyde, Buddy Howell, Taiwan Jones
WRs: DeAndre Hopkins, Will Fuller, Keke Coutee, Kenny Stills, DeAndre Carter
TEs: Jordan Thomas, Jordan Akins, Darren Fells, Kahale Warring, Jerell Adams
Indianapolis ColtsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 24 October 2018
As ESPN.com's Mike Wells reported, "It looked like a simple fundamental play often taught in youth football.
"A fake handoff to the running back to get the linebacker to commit to the line of scrimmage, which in turn opens up the field for a pass play. ..."
It was that play when Andrew Luck faked a handoff to running back Marlon Mack, which caused the Bills linebacker to come up in case Mack had the ball. Luck, surveying the field, found an open Erik Swoope down the middle for a 17-yard touchdown.
That play call is routine for many teams in the NFL.
But as Wells suggested, the same can't be said when it comes to the Colts, because for so long -- especially during Luck's seven seasons -- they've been starving for a respectable running game.
For this afternoon, at least, the Colts were a dominant running team in their 37-5 victory against the Bills. The Colts rushed for 220 yards and had 156 yards passing.
Having more running yards than passing yard has been a foreign concept for the organization since Luck arrived. The 220 yards is the most Indianapolis has rushed for since gaining 205 yards against Tennessee on Dec. 18, 2011.
"It gives you a feeling of physical power, dominance," Colts coach Frank Reich said. "They certainly showed that against a really, really good [Buffalo] defense. This defense was ranked top 10 in every category. A hard defense to run the ball against. The O-line did a great job."
How unique was Sunday's performance by the Colts on the ground?
They've only had four games when a player has rushed for at least 100 yards in Luck's 77 games. Vick Ballard during Luck's rookie season in 2012. Frank Gore did it twice in 2016. And Mack seemed to find every crease and corner to rush for 126 yards on just 19 carries Sunday.
"It's a joy to watch, it's fun," Luck said. "To have a guy over 100 yards and have those positive, productive runs early, especially. First drive three-and-out and second drive, three-and-out as well. They were positive runs in those drives. Then it felt like the damn burst open at some point. It makes the quarterback's job simpler and easier."
Reich gives Luck plenty of control of the offense. The quarterback could have easily suggested to his coach that they throw more against a vulnerable secondary.
Luck often came to the sideline and suggested to his coach to "keep running it, keep running it."
It's not an ego thing for Luck.
The Colts couldn't be stopped on the ground, and Luck wanted to continue pounding the ball down Buffalo's throat. That's easy to do when the offensive line is dominating the line of scrimmage against a team that entered Sunday eighth in the NFL in rushing yards allowed at 92.5 yards a game.
The Colts had nine rushes of at least 10 yards, including six of at least 15 on Sunday after entering the game with just 10 plays of at least 10 yards rushing in the first six games. It's easy to have big plays when guard Quenton Nelson, the No. 6 pick in the draft, is pulling and laying into Bills linebacker Matt Milano to give Mack an edge to run for 15 yards.
"It was awesome," Nelson said. "We had a great time out there. I think this week was really the first week we executed the game plan. We've had a great game plan each week in the run game, and this week [center] Ryan (Kelly) made great calls to make sure we were on the same page and executing and getting to right spots."
A consistent running game of Mack, Nyheim Hines (47 yards) and Jordan Wilkins (46 yards) will ease Luck's workload by not having him attempt 121 passes over a two-game stretch like he did in Weeks 4 and 5. It's also easier to manage third downs when the running game is working, because the Colts are less predictable in short-yardage situations.
"It's great, because Andrew is not keeping the ball in his hands," tight end Eric Ebron told Wells. "When you have the defensive ends and tackles that they have and to be able to impose the will in the running game, it helps everyone. It opens up the pass game, keeps Andrew up, keeps everyone healthy. And we're not out there running 95,000 yards on routes to make things happen."
Remember, Luck continues to make his mark this season.
Against the Bills, his smart decision-making added to a game when he had one of the most effortless, impressive performances of his career. Luck was 17-of-23 for 156 yards, four touchdowns and wasn't sacked for the second straight week before giving way to Jacoby Brissett late in the game.
The 156 yards passing were a season low for Luck because the Colts rushed for 220 yards. His four touchdown passes were for a total of 52 yards.
Luck has 20 touchdown passes after throwing four in Week 7. That is the second-most through the first 7 games of a season in Colts history behind Peyton Manning's 22 in 2004. Luck's 15 touchdown passes over the past four games are the most by any quarterback in a four-game stretch this season and the most he's had over a four-game stretch in his career, according to ESPN Stats and Information.
"He's just loving the game," receiver T.Y. Hilton said. "He's been out so long. He missed it. Sometimes you take things away, you appreciate it more -- that's [what] he's doing. Appreciates the game more and playing it the right way. ..."
Worth noting this week, Adam Vinatieri's quest to become the NFL's career scoring leader could be put on hold because of a groin injury.
He reinjured his kicking leg Sunday when he two missed extra points. It was the first time in Vinatieri's 23-year career he missed multiple extra points in a game.
Reich acknowledged Monday that Vinatieri had an MRI on his right leg and was uncertain if Vinatieri would play next weekend in Oakland. He also said the Colts will try out kickers this week before making a decision on Vinatieri. Kai Forbath, Cairo Santos and Taylor Bertolet were on the list of kickers visiting Indy Tuesday. The workouts were advance work in case a kicker is needed. The team still hopes that won't be the case.
The Colts have a bye week after the Oakland game.
Vinatieri scored five points against Buffalo to move within five of surpassing Morten Andersen's total of 2,544 points.
Beyond that, Reich on Monday did not have any concrete updates on two players who suffered injuries during Sunday's game against the Bills and did not return.
Those players are defensive tackle Jihad Ward (ankle) and Swoope (knee).
There's a chance the team could see the return of another player this week who has been sidelined for the past five weeks.
Tight end Jack Doyle, who has been out since suffering a hip injury Week 2 against the Washington Redskins, continues progressing in his recovery.
In fact, Doyle was slated to practice Wednesday and Reich didn't rule him out from playing at Oakland this weekend. Ryan Grant, who missed last week's game with an ankle injury, was not practicing Wednesday.
Mack (ankle) was limited.
I'll be following up via Late-Breaking Update in coming days.
QBs: Jacoby Brissett, Brian Hoyer, Chad Kelly
RBs: Marlon Mack, Nyheim Hines, Jordan Wilkins, Jonathan Williams
WRs: T.Y. Hilton, Parris Campbell, Chester Rogers, Zach Pascal, Deon Cain, Devin Funchess
TEs: Eric Ebron, Jack Doyle, Mo Alie-Cox, Hale Hentges
Jacksonville JaguarsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 24 October 2018
The Jaguars are sticking with Blake Bortles as the team's starting quarterback.
Head coach Doug Marrone made the announcement Monday, one day after benching Bortles early in the third quarter of a 20-7 loss to Houston.
Marrone says he "spoke to both quarterbacks this afternoon and told them Blake will be our team's starting quarterback. I believe this gives us the best opportunity to win."
Bortles was benched early in the second half against Houston after his second lost fumble.
Marrone said after the game the job was open.
But Marrone, after re-watching the game numerous times Sunday night and again Monday, said Monday afternoon he made up his mind as to who would start, but didn't want to announce it until he told the team.
Roughly 90 minutes later, Bortles was announced as the starter.
Marrone also said earlier Monday that this wasn't a long-term decision, and he's treating quarterback the same way he would any other spot: Bortles has the job until it's clear that his performance is hurting the team without being attributed to other factors.
Marrone also said he doesn't believe in splitting first-team reps and that Bortles would take every rep with the starters Wednesday.
"I think once you put a person out there no matter what position, quarterback or anything, you're trusting in that confidence that that player is going to get it done," Marrone said. "Then I think it's a matter of performance and basically what the situations call for at the time. So I think it's hard to go head and say short [term], long [term], whatever it may be.
"Whatever decision comes forward with who's playing at any position, then obviously that player will be working on Wednesday taking the starting snaps. I don't believe in splitting reps. The only time I believe in that is when injuries come involved. I think that it's very difficult to ask for the full potential and the accountability when you're splitting things. It's too tough in this league to do that."
Nonetheless, a source told ESPN's Adam Schefter that Kessler will see some first-team reps in practice and Bortles will be on "a short leash" against the Eagles.
And it's understandable given the recent level of play.
Bortles had completed 6 of 12 passes for 61 yards against the Texans at the time he was benched, and Marrone said he did it because of the turnovers and to get a spark out of the team. Bortles lost a fumble on the third offensive play of the game, which led to a Houston field goal, and lost another on the third play of the second half. The Texans scored on a 10-yard pass from Deshaun Watson to DeAndre Hopkins two plays later for a 20-0 lead.
At that point, the Jaguars (3-4) had committed nine turnovers in a little more than 10 quarters. Bortles had eight, including four interceptions and a fumble in a Week 5 loss at Kansas City. Since he entered the league in 2014, Bortles has committed more turnovers than any player. He has 90 (72 interceptions), which is 10 more than the closest player: Eli Manning's 80.
The Jaguars are last in the NFL in turnover ratio (minus-12) after leading the league in the category last season. Bortles has 11 turnovers in seven games, but Marrone said not all are the 26-year-old's fault.
"It's a No. 1 priority [to take care of the ball]," Marrone said. "We are not even giving ourselves a chance right now."
This is the second time that Bortles, the third overall pick in 2014, has been benched. He had a five-interception practice early in training camp in 2017 and didn't play well in the first two weeks of the preseason. Marrone benched him and opened up the competition between Bortles and Chad Henne in the third preseason game. Bortles won the job back and went on to have the best season of his career: 21 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. He had averaged 21 turnovers per season in his first three but cut that number to 16 in 2017.
In February, the Jaguars signed Bortles to a three-year, $54 million contract extension that includes $26.5 million guaranteed. It includes a $21 million cap hit and a dead-money figure of $16.5 million in 2019.
In other personnel news, the team released running back Jamaal Charles and promoted rookie linebacker Nick DeLuca from the practice squad to the active roster.
The Jaguars signed the 31-year-old Charles on Oct. 9 because the team has no idea when running back Leonard Fournette will be able to return from a right hamstring injury and backup T.J. Yeldon has been dealing with a minor ankle injury. Charles didn't give the Jaguars much in two games (7 yards on six carries and two catches for 7 yards), and the team traded a fifth-round pick to Cleveland last Friday for running back Carlos Hyde.
Marrone said Monday that Fournette is among a group of injured players the team is trying to get back in time for Sunday's game.
But that seems unlikely.
Fournette is expected to be out through Jacksonville's Nov. 4 bye due to his lingering right hamstring injury and will miss games Sunday against the Texans and next week in London against the Eagles, sources told ESPN.
The Jaguars' trade for Hyde indicates a level of uncertainty over their starting running back's health, as well as where he will fit in when he does return.
Fournette hasn't completed a full game this season, and his injury issues are a major reason the Jaguars Hyde.
The Jaguars want to use a power running game, but they have been unable to count on Fournette and decided they couldn't wait around for him to get healthy.
Yeldon's contract expires after this season, and he is scheduled to become a free agent this winter, which could leave Jacksonville down another back. The Jaguars already are without backup running back Corey Grant, who is out for the season with a foot injury.
Hyde had rushed for 382 yards and five touchdowns this season with Cleveland. He just barely missed the 1,000-yard rushing mark in each of the past two seasons with the 49ers.
I'll be following up on the running back situation via Late-Breaking Update in coming days, but expect a pretty heavy dose of Hyde this week assuming Fournette is not ready. ...
I'll also be watching for more on tight end James O'Shaughnessy, who missed last week's game with a hip injury and who remained sidelined for Wednesday's practice. ...
One last note here. ... Tempers flared in the post-game locker room after the team's third consecutive loss. No punches were thrown but players were yelling at each other and at one point -- when the locker room doors were opened prematurely to allow the media to enter -- defensive end Calais Campbell was seen restraining defensive end Yannick Ngakoue and players could clearly be heard shouting.
It's a clear sign that the Jaguars' recent struggles run deeper than just injuries, poor quarterback play, a supposed elite defense that suddenly can't stop the run, and turnovers.
"You all walk in here, you all see how it is in here, you all see how we vibe with each other, you all see how we vibe towards the coaches," cornerback Jalen Ramsey said. "You all see how it is. It is no secret what's going on here right now. Ain't nobody going to say it because we can't, but it ain't no secret what's going on and it ain't right, right now.
"It is what it is."
And it is what it isn't. Right now, it isn't going well. At all.
They tried to smooth out the rough spots with a players-only meeting on Monday.
"That's not out of the norm," Marrone said, via the team's website. "That's everyone trying to find what their role is and being together and pulling in the same direction. That's what I expect from this team. We've done that before. There's a lot of frustration. The faster you can get everyone back on the same page, especially with a day off tomorrow for the players … we want everyone in the same mindset and the same mind frame. That was my goal today of when we come back and go. We as coaches have to get our butts to work and get our guys in the best situation."
As Profootballtalk.com's Josh Alper suggested, Jaguars players seemed split on how quickly they'd be able to work out their differences, but the sooner the better for a team that has failed to live up to expectations so far this season.
QBs: Gardner Minshew, Josh Dobbs, Phillip Walker, Nick Foles
RBs: Leonard Fournette, Ryquell Armstead, Devine Ozigbo, Tyler Ervin
WRs: Dede Westbrook, Marqise Lee, Keelan Cole, Chris Conley, D.J. Chark, CJ Board
TEs: Geoff Swaim, Seth DeValve, Josh Oliver, James O'Shaughnessy, Ben Koyack
Kansas City ChiefsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 24 October 2018
Patrick Mahomes through eight games has been like no other -- at least when it comes to touchdown passes.
Mahomes threw four scoring passes in Sunday night's 45-10 win over the Cincinnati Bengals at Arrowhead Stadium. That gives him 22 touchdown passes in the first eight games of his career, breaking the NFL record of 21 set by Kurt Warner.
"You think you're going to have success, but I didn't expect this much," Mahomes said. "But at the same time, I knew the weapons we had, and I knew if I just ran [the offense] and did what Coach [Andy] Reid wanted me to do that there was a chance we could be really, really good."
Mahomes is closing in on the Chiefs' single-season record for touchdowns. Len Dawson threw 30 touchdown passes in 1964, and Mahomes has nine games to catch him.
"We have a lot of season left. ... We're going to try to get a couple more and keep doing what we're doing," Reid said.
Mahomes threw four touchdown passes this season in games against the Chargers and Patriots. He had six scoring throws in a game against the Steelers.
Mahomes, the Chiefs' first-round draft pick in 2017, said he has never had as much fun playing football as he's having this season.
"To be able to learn every day from Coach Reid, to be able to get out here with all these guys ... we literally have fun every single day," he said. "We love coming to work, I guess you would say, and just getting to play this game that we've loved since we were little kids and winning a lot of football games."
Mahomes threw three touchdown passes in the first half as the Chiefs built a 24-7 lead. He had scoring throws of 6 and 15 yards to Kareem Hunt and 17 yards to Demetrius Harris.
Mahomes' 22nd touchdown pass came in the fourth quarter. Tyreek Hill caught the 3-yard throw.
Mahomes failed to throw a touchdown pass in two of his eight career games: Last season against the Broncos and this season against the Jaguars. ...
Meanwhile, as ESPN.com's Adam Teicher notes, Hunt struck a deal with Mahomes early in the season, when the Chiefs were piling up the touchdown passes.
"I told him, you do all the cute stuff and I'll handle the dirty work," Hunt said.
Hunt was rewarded on Sunday night for all of his work picking up tough yards early in the season. He scored three touchdowns, two on passes from Mahomes, in the Chiefs' 45-10 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals at Arrowhead Stadium.
Hunt also rushed for 86 yards and caught passes worth 55 more. He provided the night's most spectacular play in the first quarter when he broke several attempted tackles and then leaped over safety Jessie Bates for a 21-yard run.
The play set up Kansas City's first touchdown, which was scored by Hunt on a 6-yard catch.
"It was just one of those runs you've got to get the team going," said Hunt, who added he had hurdled defenders before in high school and college. "I'm never going to give up on a play. I'm going to fight for every half-inch."
The play was a run/pass option for Mahomes, who initially regretted giving the ball to Hunt.
"I probably made the wrong read," Mahomes said. "I handed it to him and it should have been a tackle for a loss and then he broke a tackle and jumped over a dude.
"You see guys jump over guys but they kind of buildup. They kind of know it. He had just broken a tackle and I feel like he had just started to run and he just out of instinct jumped over him. ... It was a pretty sweet thing."
Hunt, who led the NFL in rushing last season as a rookie, was largely left out of the Chiefs' early-season offensive party. He rushed for 168 yards and caught only one pass in Kansas City's first three games.
He still had three TDs in those three games, a testament to his penchant for getting the tough yards.
Hunt has 374 yards and 14 receptions in the last four games.
"He just takes this offense to the next level," Mahomes said. "He truly is a special player who I believe doesn't get as much hype as I think he should. As he keeps rolling, the hype will come."
As Mahomes said, Hunt has been in the shadows this season of Kansas City's other productive skill players, namely Mahomes, Tyreek Hill and Travis Kelce. But his contributions are noticed in the Chiefs' locker room and by coach Andy Reid.
"Kareem is playing as well as any running back in the National Football League," Reid said. "He's punishing [defenders] right now."
"He's a bull, man," said Harris. "He's a real-life bull. ..."
One last note here. ... The Bengals came into Sunday night's game boasting the league's No. 6 scoring offense, averaging 29.0 points per game. They hadn't been held under 21 points in any game up until Sunday night.
They finished with 10 points and just 237 yards of total offense, including having just 100 in the second half, and 54 of those actually came on the final drive after starting quarterback Andy Dalton had already been pulled from the game.
It was everyone making plays for the Chiefs' defense, which was once again without key players like Justin Houston, Eric Berry and Daniel Sorensen, stepping up to the challenge.
QBs: Patrick Mahomes, Matt Moore, Chad Henne
RBs: Damien Williams, Darwin Thompson, Darrel Williams, LeSean McCoy
WRs: Sammy Watkins, Mecole Hardman, Demarcus Robinson, Gehrig Dieter, Tyreek Hill
TEs: Travis Kelce, Blake Bell, Deon Yelder
Los Angeles ChargersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 24 October 2018
Hours before kickoff, Melvin Gordon jogged across the Wembley Stadium turf in London, before pulling up, frustrated. His routine was cut short. He wouldn't see the field after that.
Two days earlier, the Chargers running back had left the team's only practice in London with a limp. At the time, the team seemed to think nothing of it. They wondered if he'd been dehydrated from the international flight. But then, on Saturday night, Gordon was added late to the injury report and deemed questionable.
By Sunday morning, his status was suddenly in doubt. And by the end of pregame warm-ups, the league's third-leading rusher, who trails only Todd Gurley in total touchdowns, was ruled out for Sunday's eventual 20-19 victory over the Titans.
Heading into the game, the Wisconsin product was third in the NFL and leads the AFC with 466 rushing yards.
The fourth-year running back has rushed for more than 100 yards in two of the past three games, including 132 yards on 18 carries and three touchdowns in a Week 6 win over Cleveland.
Gordon played a full 16-game season for the first time last year, finishing with 342 touches in 2017, fourth in the NFL. Gordon finished without a touchdown his rookie season, but since the start of the 2016 season, he has 33 scores. Only Gurley (36) has more.
As Orange County Register staffer Ryan Kartje noted, from the beginning, Gordon's absence was felt. His between-the-tackles role was delegated to all-purpose back Austin Ekeler, who struggled to find much room up the middle, ultimately rushing for just 42 yards on 11 carries.
"Any time you don't have your horse in there, it's not going to be the same," head coach Anthony Lynn said.
Without him, the Chargers struggled to string together long drives. They had just two lasting more than six plays and trailed the Titans by more than 10 minutes in time of possession. Eventually, they abandoned the run game altogether, as Ekeler received just four carries after the half.
"I felt like I had to protect him today," Lynn said of the decision to sit Gordon. "I don't want this to be a lingering thing. I want to get him back for Seattle (on Nov. 4). He's got a bye week off. He can get healthy, and hopefully we'll have a full-speed Melvin back in a couple weeks."
As noted above, a hallmark of the Chargers' offense has been controlling the clock with lengthy possessions.
Sunday proved to be the exact opposite. The Bolts got on the board early with a 75-yard touchdown strike to Tyrell Williams on their first snap of the game. They also cashed in on their opening drive of the second half when Philip Rivers found Mike Williams for a 55-yard touchdown.
In the process, Rivers became only the third quarterback this year with at least two touchdown passes over 50 yards (Patrick Mahomes and Ryan Fitzpatrick).
However, as a result, the offense had their fewest snaps in quite some time, running only 44 plays.
A part of that was the Titans' mission as they executed a safe, conservative game plan on offense to help keep the ball out of Rivers' hands.
One week following a dynamic outing against the Browns, Tyrell Williams had a near identical performance. He caught three passes for 118 yards and two touchdowns last week against the Browns, and on Sunday, carved up the Titans for exactly 118 yards again on four receptions and one TD.
Add it all up and the fourth-year wideout has caught seven passes his past two games for 136 yards and three touchdowns.
Meanwhile, as Rivers searched for an open receiver in the red zone, midway through Sunday's fourth quarter, Keenan Allen broke free in the corner of the end zone. But Rivers didn't see him.
Instead, he threw a bullet to Mike Williams. The pass fell incomplete, and Allen had a bit of a meltdown.
In a rage, Allen kicked one of the end zone pylons, before taking his anger to the sideline, where he had to be restrained by teammates as he screamed at Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers. Afterwards, Allen characterized the spat with his quarterback as "just brothers fighting".
"I want the ball," Allen said. "He wants me to get the ball, so he's telling me why I didn't get it and I'm mad. It's just things you got to go through. We talked about it."
Rivers joined his top wideout in brushing off the fourth-quarter altercation.
"There's no problem there," Rivers said. "It's an emotional game, and that won't be the last argument that any of us have on the sideline. I wasn't worried about it after two seconds. But I know we'll be hearing a lot about it here on this plane. They'll be giving us a hard time for sure, and that's OK. ..."
Offensive tackle Joe Barksdale returned on Sunday after missing all but one game this season with a knee injury. Barksdale started in his usual spot on the right side, but was replaced early on by reserve tackle Sam Tevi, who filled in during his absence.
Barksdale refused comment after the game.
Slot wideout Travis Benjamin also returned on Sunday, with similarly muted results. After missing four games with a foot injury, Benjamin had one catch for 13 yards against the Titans.
Defensive end Joey Bosa, who has missed the first seven games this season with a bone bruise in his left foot, is likely to make his season debut Nov. 4 against the Seattle Seahawks, league sources told ESPN's Adam Schefter.
Barring any setbacks -- and Bosa had one just before the start of the regular season -- there is a belief that he finally will be able to play after next week's bye.
For the past two weeks, he has been running and looking as if he is regaining his form, according to sources.
Once Bosa returns, the Chargers' defense will be even more formidable than it has been. The Chargers have been waiting to team Bosa -- the third overall pick in the 2016 NFL draft -- with linebacker Melvin Ingram and this year's first-round pick, Derwin James.
QBs: Philip Rivers, Tyrod Taylor, Easton Stick
RBs: Austin Ekeler, Justin Jackson, Detrez Newsome, Melvin Gordon, Troymaine Pope
WRs: Keenan Allen, Mike Williams, Travis Benjamin, Dontrelle Inman, Geremy Davis
TEs: Virgil Green, Sean Culkin, Hunter Henry
Los Angeles RamsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 24 October 2018
As ESPN.com's Lindsey Thiry noted, the Rams scored 39 points against the San Francisco 49ers to remain undefeated this season.
But even as Jared Goff passed for two touchdowns, including one to Todd Gurley -- who also rushed for two more -- they wanted to hang a bigger number on the 49ers.
"So many plays out there that I can even think of right now that we kind of just left on the field," Goff said after the game. "And could've had a little more."
Even with the top-ranked offense in the NFL going into Week 7, the Rams went into Sunday's game ranked 12th in red zone efficiency, scoring on 56.7 percent of their trips inside their opponents' 20-yard line.
Against the 49ers, they were four of seven in the red zone, hovering around their average at 57 percent.
"We started off slow," head coach Sean McVay said about the offense. "Again, those are things that, I think it starts with me. I really do mean that."
The Rams' offense couldn't find its rhythm in the first quarter, but was aided by the defense's ability to create turnovers and more opportunities. And part of the offense's inefficiency was a direct result of 49ers defense, which initially presented a few looks that the Rams previously had not seen on tape.
"Early on they did a nice job with some different things," McVay said. "They played a couple of defensive structures. We had a couple of things, whether it was the run or the pass, that I can do a better job of."
In the first quarter, the offense stalled in its second series at the 49ers' 17-yard line. Goff attempted a short pass to Gurley, but it bounced off his hands, resulting in a rare drop by the defending NFL Offensive Player of the Year. Then early in the second quarter, a puzzling play call resulted in a second stalled drive in the red zone. Seldom-used tight end Gerald Everett went in motion and took a shovel pass from Goff before he was dropped for a five-yard loss on a perfect read by defensive lineman Ronald Blair III.
And the final red zone stall came in the third quarter, when Gurley was brought down in the backfield for a two-yard loss on third-and-2 at the 49ers' 13-yard line.
The Rams' offense ranks third in the NFL in scoring, averaging 33.6 points per game, and doesn't expect perfection. But their offense has the tools and playmakers to deliver more consistently inside the 20.
"Offensively, there were a lot of things we can do better, which is good," said Goff, who completed 18 of 24 passes for 202 yards. "Good to score 39 points and have your defense play like that and say that after a game like that. A lot of things that we can clean up and do better and that we'll always try to work on throughout the week."
Even as the Rams were unable to convert on each of their trips to the red zone, they were happy to rely on the return of Pro Bowl kicker Greg Zuerlein, who has been sidelined since Week 2 because of a groin injury.
"Getting Greg back was huge," Goff said. "It kind of takes a little of the uncertainty out of it when you get inside of a certain number for him. He's so good."
Zuerlein connected on each of his three field goal attempts from 35, 37 and 33 yards.
But even with Zuerlein's return, Goff and McVay would like to score touchdowns, and not settle for field goals.
And they'll likely need to Sunday, when they return home after a three-game road trip to host Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers at the L.A. Memorial Coliseum.
"We're not the only team that has some issues down there," Goff said. "We want to finish drives in the end zone, of course, but we scored 39 points. We'll continue to look at it and work at it. I know Sean's going to be hard on himself. I'm going to be hard on myself. I want to be better down there. Continue to finish with touchdowns."
Maybe so, but that's what those who want to be the best do ...
Also worth noting. ... NFL.com's Around the NFL Staff highlighted just how good Gurley has been this season, following his three-touchdown performance against the 49ers.
Gurley is currently on pace to break the league's touchdown record.
"It was the 10th consecutive regular season game in which TGIII has tallied a TD and his third game this season in which he's scored at least three touchdowns. Gurley is on pace for 32 total TDs on the season, one more than the record set by then-Chargers running back LaDainian Tomlinson in 2006. In an era flush with dual-threat, pass-catching backs, Gurley has stood out over the past two seasons as the most consistent and dominant, and that extends to his end zone prowess."
McVay updated Cooper Kupp's status in his Monday press conference, saying it's still unclear whether or not Kupp will play this weekend against the Packers.
The coach subsequently characterized the second-year man as "doubtful" on Wednesday.
McVay was pleased with the play of wide receivers Josh Reynolds and Nick Williams in Kupp's absence. Williams, who was signed by the Rams early last week, made two catches totaling 17 yards against the Niners.
McVay said that Williams' role against the Packers depends on the game plan.
And finally. ... McVay settled on 'relentless' when scrambling to think of an adjective to describe defensive tackle Aaron Donald.
Donald finished one of his career-best games on Sunday with 4.0 sacks, 9 tackles, 5 quarterback hits, 6 tackles for loss, a forced fumble, and a fumble recovery.
McVay said that although he knew Donald had a good day, it wasn't until he reviewed the film of No. 99's plays that he realized just how excellent Donald was on Sunday.
And, McVay said, that's why Donald is "the man."
QBs: Jared Goff, Blake Bortles
RBs: Todd Gurley, Darrell Henderson, Malcolm Brown
WRs: Brandin Cooks, Robert Woods, Cooper Kupp, Josh Reynolds, JoJo Natson, Mike Thomas, Nsimba Webster
TEs: Gerald Everett, Tyler Higbee, Johnny Mundt
Miami DolphinsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 24 October 2018
As ESPN.com's Cameron Wolfe reported it, "Brocktober will continue for the third consecutive game. ..."
Head coach Adam Gase said Monday that Brock Osweiler will start at quarterback Thursday at Houston, and Ryan Tannehill will miss his third game. Tannehill is dealing with a shoulder injury that has prevented him from throwing.
Gase said Tannehill is in a "good spot" and the Dolphins (4-3) plan for him to throw this week; he added that there's no guarantee it would be a real football, and it could be a Nerf football.
Miami still expects that Tannehill won't need surgery, that he will return this season and he will be the starter when he does.
Osweiler gets a chance to play the Texans for the first time since they traded him to the Cleveland Browns last summer. He confirmed he hasn't talked with Texans coach Bill O'Brien since the deal, but Osweiler sidestepped questions about his relationship with O'Brien and his Texans tenure.
Miami will be without its two top receivers -- Albert Wilson and Kenny Stills -- Thursday, and likely longer.
Wilson traveled Monday to see a specialist, and it was reported on Tuesday that while he'll avoid surgery the Dolphins placed him on injured reserve Wednesday. They promoted Leonte Carroo from the practice squad to fill Wilson's roster spot.
On a positive note, Gase said he hadn't heard anything to indicate that Wilson's injury would be career-ending and that the speedy receiver was in good spirits when they talked after the game.
Stills has a groin injury and is still being evaluated. It's possible he could be out beyond Thursday.
That means the Dolphins will have to go back to DeVante Parker, who was in the news Sunday after being a surprise inactive Sunday, with his agent Jimmy Gould calling Gase "incompetent" and accusing the coach of lying when he said Parker wasn't "completely healthy."
"I find the decision to make DeVante inactive today by Coach Gaze (sic) incompetent and insulting," Gould said in a statement. "It's also just not true and I am sick of hearing him say my player is not healthy. This is the third game this year that DeVante should have played in when you include the Jets and [New England]. DeVante is healthy and with injuries and [the Dolphins'] 6.1 [YPC], DeVante could have and should have been allowed to contribute.
"What a horrific decision by Coach Gaze (sic) and he needs to take a very long look in the mirror and make himself inactive."
Gase confirmed again it was a coaches' decision to keep Parker out of the lineup Sunday in favor of having players like rookie running back Kalen Ballage active, adding that he expects Parker to play Thursday.
"We don't have any more receivers so I'm sure he's going to play," Gase said.
As far as Gould's comments, Gase said they "don't really bother me."
For what it's worth, Parker told reporters Monday that he didn't authorize his agent to make that statement and doesn't agree with it.
"I can't control what people saying," Parker told Adam Beasley of the Miami Herald. "He's a grown man. He says what he said. I can't control what he says. I didn't feel that way about coach. That's his own opinion."
Parker said he's not going to fire Gould, but he does wish his agent wouldn't have inflamed the situation.
Gase said he talked with Parker briefly Monday morning and it's safe to assume the attrition will work in the former first-round pick's favor Thursday night.
Remember, Gase pressed running back Kenyan Drake into duty as a wideout with a quick tutorial during Sunday's game.
"We were telling Kenyan, 'Run straight, turn left,'" Gase said. "We were trying to get creative. It'll be interesting to see how we do it this week."
The Dolphins need all of their inventiveness -- and some reinforcements -- to address a void difficult to fill.
One or two receivers from the practice squad will likely be promoted with Leonte Carroo, Isaiah Ford or Malcolm Lewis the candidates to be moved up to the active roster.
"I'm sure a lot of people are probably counting us out with all these injuries and new guys we're going to be playing," Osweiler said. "But that's what makes this fun. It's going to be an us-against-the-world mentality, and we're going to have fun with it."
Another receiver, Danny Amendola, was limited in practice Monday and Tuesday because of a shoulder injury. Even Osweiler was on the injury report with a sore back, but Gase said that issue wasn't serious.
In fact, both were removed from the team's final injury report on Wednesday.
The 32-21 loss to Detroit knocked Miami out of first place in the AFC East, and the defense looked like a cellar-dweller, allowing 248 yards rushing and forcing only one punt all afternoon.
But that performance was overshadowed by the injuries at receiver, particularly the deflating loss of Wilson.
He leads the Dolphins with 391 yards receiving on 26 receptions, including touchdowns of 75, 74 and 43 yards, and a 52-yard touchdown pass. He was on the verge of another long score when hurt while being tripped up in the open field.
Meanwhile, a few Dolphins teammates are still showing support for Parker even after though the receiver's "will he play, won't he play" dance has disrupted their offensive flow and preparation.
"DeVante is ready to go and 100 percent," fellow wideout Jakeem Grant said. "And once he gets going and once he starts playing, he's going to pick up from where he left off making better plays, more plays."
Last season, Parker had 57 catches for 670 yards and he occasionally flashes the brilliance that has made the Dolphins reluctant to give him away.
The trade deadline is October 30th, but Miami's receivers issues could linger beyond that and Dolphins might not have another choice but to sweep feelings under the rug and hope to get strong play out of Parker on Thursday and possibly beyond.
QBs: Ryan Fitzpatrick, Josh Rosen
RBs: Kenyan Drake, Kalen Ballage, Myles Gaskin, Patrick Laird
WRs: DeVante Parker, Albert Wilson, Preston Williams, Jakeem Grant, Allen Hurns
TEs: Mike Gesicki, Nick O'Leary, Durham Smythe, Chris Myarick
Minnesota VikingsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 24 October 2018
The Vikings left their second trip to the East Coast in three weeks with a win, defeating the New York Jets 37-17 on Sunday to claim sole possession of first place in the NFC North. But as ESPN.com's Courtney Cronin notes, the victory took them surviving their own inability to execute offensively at points on the way to a third straight win.
Both teams turned in ugly offensive performances in the first half. The Kirk Cousins who dominated on the road in places like Green Bay, Los Angeles and Philadelphia, showcasing the highest level of his individual game in pressure situations, cooled off quickly upon leading the Vikings down the field on the game's opening drive, when he hit Adam Thielen for a 34-yard touchdown and a 7-0 lead.
Minnesota failed to convert a single third down in the first two quarters, going 0-for-8 in such situations, and often was stuck with tough down-and-distances. Cousins faced a third-and-21, third-and-14 and two third-and-11s in the first half as plays sometimes appeared slow to develop on early downs.
The Vikings' first third-down conversion didn't come until 10:32 in the third quarter, when Cousins hit Thielen over the middle for a 13-yard gain.
Cousins finished 25-of-40 passing for 241 yards and two touchdowns.
Throughout most of the game, the Vikings' offense struggled to capitalize on the favorable field position earned by its special teams. After Cousins was sacked for a 13-yard loss that put the Vikings at their own 1-yard line in the first quarter, Matt Wile booted a 68-yard punt. It was Wile's best outing of the season, averaging 47.8 yards per punt, which was aided in part by the wind gusts at MetLife Stadium, and he landed four punts inside the 20-yard line.
While Minnesota's offense struggled to convert on third down, its defense continued its recent dominance, etching a streak of 20 straight third-down stops that dated back to the end of the Eagles game in Week 5. Facing a rookie quarterback for the second straight week, the Vikings' defense held Sam Darnold to 17-of-42 passing for 206 yards, a touchdown and a 34.4 passer rating.
It wasn't until the second half that the Vikings' offense was finally able to take advantage of the boost the defense provided. Harrison Smith, Holton Hill (on his first play filling in for an injured Xavier Rhodes) and Trae Waynes each picked off a Darnold pass, setting up the offense to extend the lead. On those three instances, the Vikings settled for two field goals by kicker Dan Bailey and Cousins connected with Aldrick Robinson for a 34-yard touchdown and a 34-17 lead.
Minnesota's running game had trouble following up its explosive performance against Arizona, but choosing to not abandon the ground attack proved beneficial. Latavius Murray notched his second straight game with two rushing touchdowns, and the Vikings finished with 89 yards on the ground as the running game broke through late.
With the win and the Chicago Bears' 38-31 loss to the New England Patriots, the 4-2-1 Vikings sit alone in first place in the NFC North. The 3-2-1 Green Bay Packers are on a bye this week.
Worth noting. ... Thielen rewrote the NFL record books midway through the fourth quarter against the Jets, becoming the first player in the Super Bowl era to record 100 yards receiving in each of his team's first seven games.
As noted above, Thielen sparked the Vikings' scoring attack on Minnesota's first drive, capping off a four-play 68 yard drive with that 34-yard catch for a touchdown. The reception was Thielen's deepest of the season, according to ESPN Stats and Information. He had only been targeted 30 or more yards down field one other time in 2018.
Minnesota's opening-drive touchdown marked Thielen's fourth straight game with a receiving touchdown. The last Vikings player with a longer streak within a season was Randy Moss in 2004.
Thielen's second catch of the day, a 6-yard gain, gave him 60 receptions on the season. According to Elias, the NFL record for most receptions through a team's first seven games is 62 by Keenan Allen in 2015.
Thielen could have reached his record-setting day sooner had Minnesota not failed to capitalize on the favorable field position earned by the boot of punter Matt Wile. The Vikings were 0-for-8 on third down in the first half. The Vikings receiver eclipsed the century mark with 7:06 to play in the game by catching a 21-yard pass from Cousins.
The late Charley Hennigan is the only other player to achieve the feat, doing so for the Houston Oilers -- then in the American Football League -- in 1961. ...
Dalvin Cook was inactive with a hamstring injury and his status for this week remains uncertain. According to Cronin, multiple league sources have indicated a belief that Cook will miss the Vikings' next two games against the Saints and Lions and remain sidelined through Minnesota's bye week, which is Week 10.
I'll have more on his status via Late-Breaking Update in coming days. ...
For now, it's worth noting Murray's touchdown runs were of the double-digit variety as he scored from 11 and 38 yards out.
In a related note. ... The Minneapolis Star-Tribune notes the Vikings have leaned on multiple tight-end sets over the past three weeks, providing extra help for tackles Rashod Hill and Brian O'Neill with Riley Reiff out, and as such, they have asked Kyle Rudolph to contribute more as a blocker than a receiver.
Rudolph and fellow tight end David Morgan cleared space on Murray's touchdown run last week against Arizona, and on Sunday,
Rudolph had only one catch on four targets, gaining 16 yards in the first quarter before Cousins fired high for him on a pair of end-zone targets in the second half. ...
One last injury note here. ... Head coach Mike Zimmer told reporters after the game that cornerback Xavier Rhodes suffered an ankle sprain against the Jets. Rhodes had to be carried off the field and the severity of the injury remains unclear, but his status bears watching with Drew Brees and the Saints heading to Minnesota this weekend.
And finally. ... Defensive end Everson Griffen is set to resume team activities on Wednesday after missing nearly a month as he battled a serious mental-health related issue.
Griffen played in the first two games of the season, but the situation became unmanageable when he was ruled out prior to Minnesota's Week 3 game against the Bills.
The same week, the Vikings sent Griffen and his agent a letter stating that he was not allowed to return to the team facility until he underwent a mental-health evaluation.
"We have been in communication with Everson's medical professionals throughout this process and have relied on his recommendations regarding the appropriate next steps for Everson," Vikings general manager Rick Spielman said in a statement. "We are excited to welcome Everson back to the Vikings and to see him around teammates, coaches, and staff -- people who care deeply about his well-being. Our focus will continue to be on providing an on-going support system for Everson and his family."
QBs: Kirk Cousins, Sean Mannion
RBs: Dalvin Cook, Alexander Mattison, Mike Boone, Ameer Abdullah
WRs: Adam Thielen, Josh Doctson, Stefon Diggs, Chad Beebe, Olabisi Johnson
TEs: Kyle Rudolph, Irv Smith Jr., Brandon Dillon, Tyler Conklin
New England PatriotsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 24 October 2018
Running back Sony Michel underwent an MRI on his left knee Monday and it revealed no structural damage, a source told ESPN's Adam Schefter.
This is a best-case scenario for Michel and the Patriots after he was helped to the sideline and then carted to the locker room early in the second quarter of the team's 38-31 win over the Chicago Bears on Sunday.
Michel, who had elevated to a top spot on the depth chart alongside "passing back" James White, will be considered week-to-week, the source told Schefter.
The Patriots, who visit the Buffalo Bills on Monday Night Football on Oct. 29, have just two other running backs on their 53-man roster: White and Kenjon Barner.
In his standard day-after-game conference call, head coach Bill Belichick said he didn't have anything to add about Michel's status, noting that the team will update its injury report the next time it is required to do so later this week.
During his weekly interview on sports radio WEEI, Belichick said the team will explore the possibility of adding a running back.
White was already one of the top producers in New England's fourth-ranked scoring offense, but he could be in for an even bigger role if Michel is inactive for any games.
In addition to his eight catches for 57 yards and two touchdowns, White carried the ball a season-high 11 times on the ground for 40 yards in the Patriots victory against Chicago.
With last-place Buffalo coming up Monday night, the Patriots probably won't need to extend White too much in terms of additional carries this week, but Belichick voiced his confidence in White's capability to take on a larger role as needed.
"We'll have to take it week by week, see how it goes, what type of game plan. ... Who's available on our side and how we want to distribute that" Belichick said. "We don't want to overload him, but at the same time, he's certainly capable of doing a significant amount for our football team in a lot of different ways."
Barner also recorded a season-high in carries Sunday, logging 10 rushes for 36 yards.
He would figure to see an increased workload as well as long as Michel misses time, especially on the ground.
In terms of adding another body, a few players make sense, starting with practice squad back Kenneth Farrow. Undrafted out of Houston, Farrow spent his rookie season with the Chargers in 2017 and signed with New England late in training camp.
In the free agent market, former Patriot Mike Gillislee is an interesting possibility. Gillislee was cut by the Pats at the end of the preseason and signed with the Saints, but was released earlier this month.
At 5-foot-11, 210 pounds, Gillislee would fill a need for a bigger back to handle goal line carries and other power run situations. His familiarity with the team would allow him to step in right away.
"We'll take a look at that over the next day or two and try to figure it out so when we start practicing for Buffalo, we'll be ready to go," Belichick said. "We'll look at our options and see what we feel like the best thing is [and] see how long we think Sony might be out. ..."
Meanwhile, Rob Gronkowski did not make the trip to Chicago. The All-Pro tight end was suffering from back spasms. According to Boston Herald staffer Karen Guregian, there was a considerable effort made to try and alleviate the problem and get the tight end well enough to play. It just didn't happen.
This shouldn't be a major problem going forward.
Back spasms aren't fun, but Guregian's source indicated he should be fine with rest. Given the fact Gronkowski has undergone three back surgeries in the past, it's always a concern when something occurs.
It's likely he'll be able to play Monday night in Buffalo, but it's still a bit of a wait-and-see proposition depending how his back continues to respond.
For the record, neither Gronk nor Michel were on the practice field Wednesday, although Thursday is the team's first official practice. Whatever the case, I'll be following up on both situations via Late-Breaking Update all week. ...
Also of interest. ... According to ESPN.com's Mike Reiss, wide receiver Josh Gordon's immersion into the Patriots' culture and offensive attack has been one of the team's most compelling storylines, and it reached a new level in Sunday's 38-31 victory over the Chicago Bears.
Three plays highlighted how the Tom Brady-to-Gordon connection has become such a key part of the attack, and they could be summed up this way:
The clutch, all-or-nothing grab.
In a back-and-forth game that featured many twists -- with the Patriots' inability to slow down Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky as a rusher being a primary issue in the first 35 minutes of action, and then a rally-to-the-ball tackle needed on a final Hail Mary attempt to close things out -- Gordon played a big role in helping restore order at various points.
Reiss started with the game-breaker.
Gordon's 55-yard catch-and-run in the fourth quarter set up the Patriots' final touchdown two plays later, giving them a two-touchdown cushion. On a day in which the Patriots didn't play their best (three turnovers) but relied on two special-teams touchdowns, they needed all the breathing room they could get.
It turned out Gordon (four catches, 100 yards) needed some help as well, as he was so exhausted after the play that he came to the sideline for a two-play break.
And not to be overlooked before that was Gordon's clutch, all-or-nothing 19-yard catch on fourth-and-1 in the second quarter. He crashed to the ground upon making the grab up the right sideline, causing his helmet to fly off. Five plays later, the Patriots scored a touchdown to go ahead 21-17.
In the first quarter, Gordon also delivered a momentum-stopping 20-yard catch after a 7-0 lead had turned into a 10-7 deficit and Soldier Field was rocking.
Those chunk plays were hard to come by early in the season, but Gordon -- who has decisively become a top-two option in the team's offense -- gives the Patriots (5-2) a better chance to make them. As Brady has said, big-time players step up to make plays when the team needs them most, and it was telling that Gordon was involved in so many of them Sunday.
As it relates to the big-picture snapshot at receiver, with the Patriots next set to visit the Buffalo Bills on Monday, Oct. 29, consider that Gordon is now playing in all two-, three- and four-receiver sets for the team, with Chris Hogan and Phillip Dorsett seeing their playing time reduced as a result.
That is a big change from Gordon's first two games with the team, when he played 18 snaps apiece. Last week against the Chiefs, he was on for 63. Against the Bears, he played 61.
Gordon's role continues to grow, as does his impact on the team.
QBs: Tom Brady, Jarrett Stidham
RBs: Sony Michel, James White, Rex Burkhead, Damien Harris, Brandon Bolden, James Develin
WRs: Julian Edelman, Antonio Brown, Josh Gordon, Phillip Dorsett, Jakobi Meyers, Gunner Olszewski
TEs: Matt LaCosse, Ryan Izzo, Ben Watson
New Orleans SaintsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 24 October 2018
As ESPN.com's Mike Triplett suggested, it's hard to say which type of win is more impressive: The New Orleans Saints' 43-19 rout of the Washington Redskins at home on Monday Night Football two weeks ago, when the offense was firing on all cylinders.
Or, their comeback from a 17-7 deficit in the fourth quarter on Sunday for a 24-23 road win against the Baltimore Ravens and the NFL's No. 1-ranked defense.
Triplett went on to write, "But the type of team that can win both of those games? Well that's a bona fide Super Bowl contender -- and that's the 5-1 Saints right now after their fifth consecutive victory."
"It's nice to run away with them every now and then. But you just know that it's the NFL, and a lot of games end like this," Drew Brees said. "Listen, the more ways you can find a win, the more confidence you build, the more momentum you feel like you have.
"And then there's no situation you can encounter where you feel like you can't win. So, these are huge games to build the identity of your team."
A lot of Saints players and head coach Sean Payton talked Sunday night about the importance of winning "these types" of games.
But in truth, the Saints have never really won a game quite like this before.
According to ESPN Stats and Information, the Saints were just 2-121 all-time on the road when entering the fourth quarter down by double digits.
But those other two victories (at Miami during the 2009 Super Bowl season and at Tampa Bay in 2014) didn't come against the NFL's No. 1-ranked defense in both points allowed and yards allowed.
A Ravens defense that hadn't allowed a second-half touchdown all season before allowing two to the Saints in the fourth quarter on Sunday.
"We were aware of all that," Mark Ingram said, as fellow running back Alvin Kamara chimed in that "we had all the analytics" during their trademark joint interview after the game.
"We knew it was gonna be a dirty game, and we just kept wearing on 'em, wearing on 'em," said Ingram, who credited the Saints' offensive line for winning a physical battle -- and who gave his vote to Sunday's win as the Saints' most impressive and important one of the season.
"You gotta have that road win. You wanna be great, you have to be a road warrior, man," Ingram said. "If you want to win championships, you have to be a road warrior."
It won't get any easier.
Up next for the Saints is a Sunday night road game at Minnesota -- where they lost twice last season, in Week 1 and in the divisional round of the playoffs. Then they get to come home in Week 9 and host the undefeated Los Angeles Rams.
Entering this week, the Saints had the NFL's toughest remaining schedule in terms of opponents' winning percentage. But they sure looked like a team that's up for the challenge on Sunday.
"There's an old saying, 'It doesn't have to be aesthetically pleasing to be effective,'" said Payton, who praised Brees' efficient performance (22 of 30 for 212 yards, two touchdowns and zero interceptions) as being "spot-on" under the circumstances.
"I think you build that [composure] throughout the course of the season," Payton said of the way his team never wavered, even after falling behind 17-7 in the third quarter. "It's generally done with demonstrated achievements in a series, and we begin to play the next one a little bit better. And hopefully we can."
Payton came into Sunday's game with a mindset that you could either describe as aggressive or smartly conservative -- starting with a whopping 20-play drive that included four fourth-down conversion attempts. They converted the first three, including a fake punt, but they fell short on their fourth try inside Baltimore's 5-yard line.
Regardless, Brees said that drive set the tone that the Saints were going to be patient and keep chipping away all day. They converted a fourth fourth-down attempt in the fourth quarter on their way to Brees' go-ahead TD pass to receiver Michael Thomas.
According to ESPN Stats and information, the Saints' four fourth-down conversions are tied for the most in a game since at least 1991.
Meanwhile, Brees, who now has 501 career touchdown passes, became the fourth quarterback in league history to join the 500 Club along with Peyton Manning (539), Hall of Famer Brett Favre (508) and Tom Brady (504). With the win against the Ravens, Brees also became the third quarterback in league history to defeat all 32 teams, a feat previously accomplished by Manning and Favre.
Brees threw a 1-yard touchdown pass to tight end Benjamin Watson in the second quarter against the Baltimore Ravens to become the fourth quarterback in NFL history to have 500 career touchdown passes.
Sunday proved the third time this season Brees entered his name in the record books as one of the NFL's all-time prolific passers.
Brees became the league's all-time career passing leader in Week 5 and the all-time career completions leader in Week 3.
Since throwing his first touchdown pass to tight end Freddie Jones in 2001 as a member of the San Diego Chargers, Brees has added numerous exploits on his career worthy of the Hall of Fame.
He is the only quarterback in NFL history to pass for 5,000 yards in a single season five times and stands alone as the league's most accurate career passer with a 67.1 completion percentage, among other achievements. He also officially recorded a win over every franchise in the NFL with New Orleans' 24-23 win over Baltimore on Sunday.
The 39-year-old Brees' charge up the league's passing leaderboard isn't finished with 10 regular season games to go and potentially beyond. ...
While he fumbled at the Ravens' 6-yard line, Saints backup quarterback Taysom Hill continues to prove he is 100 percent a football player, not a gadget player. The Saints look to utilize Hill in a variety of offensive packages, including lining up as a tight end to block.
All Hill does is produce, either taking snaps and running or getting down the field on special teams. Against the Ravens, Hill gained 35 yards rushing on six carries and produced two tackles while covering kicks. Hill has the full trust of Payton. And it's a virtual certainty Payton, one of the league's brightest offensive-minded coaches, will continue to seek ways to use him. ...
The New York Giants are trading Eli Apple to New Orleans. New Orleans is sending a 2019 fourth-round pick and a 2020 seventh-round pick in return.
The trade ends Apple's tumultuous tenure in New York, who made the 6-1 corner the No. 10 overall pick in 2016. After a solid rookie season, however, things turned rocky, and trade rumors swirled since the 2017 offseason.
The Saints have been searching for an upgrade at corner to pair with Marshon Lattimore. Ken Crawley, who has started opposite the reigning Defensive Rookie of the Year, has been getting picked out liberally (PFF rated Crawley the No. 105 CB).
Perhaps a change of scenery can help Apple realize his talent both on and off the field.
QBs: Drew Brees, Teddy Bridgewater, Taysom Hill
RBs: Alvin Kamara, Latavius Murray, Javorius Allen, Dwayne Washington
WRs: Michael Thomas, Ted Ginn, Tre'quan Smith, Keith Kirkwood, Austin Carr, Deonte Harris, Emmanuel Butler
TEs: Jared Cook, Josh Hill
New York GiantsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 24 October 2018
There appears to be no remedy for the New York Giants' inability to score points. Not a few extra days to prepare. Not reshuffling the offensive line. Not the Atlanta Falcons' leaky and decimated defense. Not even the brilliance of rookie running back Saquon Barkley or a prime-time stage to prove wrong everyone who had them buried.
Even an aggressive approach from head coach Pat Shurmur didn't help.
As NFL.com's Kevin Patra suggested, there are plenty of opportunities to criticize Shurmur for Monday night's 23-20 loss to the Atlanta Falcons, from the early-game play-calling, to his red-zone offense unable to take advantage of a porous defense, to his clock management. The choice to go for two after pulling within eight points, however, was a move backed up by the math.
"I just felt like, we'd discussed internally the math on that," Shurmur told ESPN's Jordan Raanan. "I felt like we had a good play, and I liked our two-point play selections, and we just didn't quite get it done."
With the Giants trailing 20-6 with under five minutes remaining, Barkley scored a touchdown that pulled New York within 20-12. Shurmur then followed the math, going for two points that would have cut the lead to six points. The try failed. That doesn't mean the process was wrong.
"You increase your chances by 50 percent if you go for it and make it there, so that's what you do," Shurmur said. "Because then if you score a touchdown, we just kick the extra point and win. I felt good about the two-point play. You guys saw that, I think we got the ball in there, right? And we just didn't connect on it."
As we saw with Doug Pederson earlier this month, analytics back up the decision to go for two early, if you're playing to win. Via ESPN's Seth Wilder, the basics of the situation are boiled down to: going for two gives a team a 46 percent chance to win the game; kicking the extra point gives a team a 91 percent chance to tie.
Going for two while down eight is playing to win, not tie.
The Falcons nailing a 56-yard field goal to go up 11 on the following drive made the decision irrelevant, but New York converting their second two-point try later to pull back within three points late showed the value of attempting the two-pointer early.
The biggest critics of Shurmur's decision will point to his offense's ineptitude all night in the red zone, which tells them the coach should have known his two-point play-call would fail. If we're going to use that sort of reductive reasoning, why would the 1-6 Giants ever even take the field?
The Giants' best player, Odell Beckham, liked his coach's decision to go for two.
"I like the call. I love being aggressive," Beckham said. "I don't know if I could be a coach. I'm going for it on fourth. We're going for two. That's why I'm not a coach. I like the call. I'm always going to ride with him. I just wish I could have come up with it."
As more and more coaches embrace analytical approaches that suggest sound aggressive decision-making, the conflict between old-school and new-school are sure to butt heads again soon. It would help the analytics folks if their argument ended up on the winning side in some of these higher-profile situations. ...
Meanwhile, New York Newsday’s Tom Rock reports that Saquon Barkley was upset about the loss, and also about his role in it.
"Honestly, personally, I didn't play a good game," the rookie running back said after Monday night's game. "First half, second half, I wasn't the player that I usually am. I have to continue to grow there, continue to develop."
He wound up with 94 yards from scrimmage, the first game of his career that he's been held to fewer than 100 (and coming up one game shy of tying the record for consecutive games with at least 100 to start an NFL career, which was set last year by Kareem Hunt of the Chiefs). He had 43 rushing yards and a touchdown on 14 carries and caught a team-high nine passes for 51 yards. He also ran for a two-point conversion with five seconds left in the game.
"It wasn't up to my standards," Barkley said. "I feel like I didn't break enough tackles. The whole game was off all around. I could have done better. I was falling. I just wasn't myself."
Barkley wasn't given much to work with in terms of blocking in the running game. As far as the passing went, he likely would have reached 100 overall if not for a botched play early in the fourth quarter. On third-and-2 from the Giants' 33, Eli Manning dropped back and had time to look downfield but instead swung a short pass out to his right for Barkley.
The only people in front of him were Atlanta defenders. The Giants had run a screen with no screen for a loss of 8 yards, which resulted in a punt.
The Giants thought the Falcons were in man coverage instead of the zone they were in on the play.
"It's frustrating," Barkley said. "It was frustrating in general."
Looking for positives?
The Giants gained a season-high 433 yards -- one more than they had in the loss at Carolina on Oct. 7, and their highest total since they finished with 504 yards vs. Philadelphia on Dec. 17, 2017.
The Giants' 372 net passing yards was also the second-highest total of the season; they threw for 382 yards against the Panthers.
Manning completed 27 of 38 passes for 399 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions for a passer rating of 113.8. The 399 yards was the 10th-highest total of his career and his highest since he threw for 424 yards against Philadelphia last Dec. 17.
It was Manning's second 300-yard game of the season (326 at Carolina) and the 47th of his career. The Giants are 19-28 in regular-season games in which Manning throws for at least 300 yards.
Beckham caught eight passes for 143 yards, including a 51-yarder and a one-yard touchdown with five seconds remaining, and Sterling Shepard added five receptions for 167 yards, including a game-long 58-yarder.
This was the first game in which the Giants had two receivers gain at least 100 yards apiece since Dec. 28, 2014, when Beckham finished with 185 yards and a touchdown on 12 catches, and Reuben Randle had 158 yards on six receptions.
Beckham's fourth 100-yard game this season set a Giants franchise record; it was his 23rd game with at least 100 receiving yards. Beckham had been tied with Amani Toomer. Beckham has played in 54 regular-season games. Toomer played in 190.
Beckham's 143 yards increased his career total to 5,073, in his 54th game. He is the second-fastest player to reach 5,000 receiving yards in NFL history, and the fastest in the 53-season Super Bowl era. Atlanta's Julio Jones held the previous Super Bowl era record at 56 games.
One last stat here: The Giants have now lost 21 straight games when trailing in the fourth quarter, per ESPN Stats and Information. It's the longest active streak in the NFL.
And a few final items. ... The Giants are trading Eli Apple to New Orleans. The Saint are sending a 2019 fourth-round pick and a 2020 seventh-round pick in return.
The trade ends Apple's tumultuous tenure in New York. Big Blue made the 6-foot-1 corner the No. 10 overall pick in 2016. After a solid rookie season, however, things turned rocky, and trade rumors swirled since the 2017 offseason. Last December, safety Landon Collins went so far as to call Apple a "cancer."
Also, according to multiple reports, the Giants are trading defensive tackle Damon Harrison to the Lions. A fifth-round pick will come back to the Giants in exchange for the man known as Snacks.
QBs: Eli Manning, Daniel Jones, Alex Tanney
RBs: Saquon Barkley, Wayne Gallman, Elijhaa Penny, Paul Perkins
WRs: Sterling Shepard, Cody Latimer, Russell Shepard, Cody Core, Darius Slayton, Golden Tate, TJ Jones, Bennie Fowler
TEs: Evan Engram, Rhett Ellison, Garrett Dickerson
New York JetsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 24 October 2018
As ESPN.com's Rich Cimini framed it, "Some day, Sam Darnold might be a better quarterback than Kirk Cousins. Some day, the New York Jets may look back at their ill-fated pursuit of Cousins and call it the best rejection they've ever received.
"Some day. But not Sunday. ..."
Struggling with the blustery conditions at MetLife Stadium, Darnold was outplayed by the Minnesota Vikings' $84 million quarterback in a 37-17 loss that snapped the Jets' two-game winning streak. It was Darnold's worst game as a pro, as he completed only 17 of 42 passes for 206 yards, with three interceptions and a touchdown for a 34.4 passer rating. He completed four straight passes on a first-quarter touchdown drive, and that was pretty much it.
In the second and third quarters, Darnold was 2-of-13 for minus-1 yard. Not a misprint.
The Jets rookie, coming off his best game, learned a hard lesson in NFL quarterbacking. He had no answers for the Vikings (4-2-1), a formidable defensive team with the ability to pressure and lock down wide receivers with man-to-man coverage. It can be a deadly combination for an inexperienced quarterback. He completed only two passes to his wide receivers through three quarters, rather stunning in today's NFL. Jermaine Kearse, who had nine receptions last week, was held without a catch.
This was a back-to-reality game for Darnold and the Jets (3-4), who simply weren't good enough to beat an alleged Super Bowl contender. Make no mistake, the Vikings weren't great -- and Cousins was only pedestrian -- but that was good enough to beat the Jets, who hurt themselves with dropped passes (Isaiah Crowell and Eric Tomlinson) and a number of gaffes on special teams. Eventually, the defense collapsed, too.
Mostly, it was bad offense.
In fairness to Darnold, he played without wide receiver Quincy Enunwa (ankle). He also lost running back Bilal Powell (neck) in the second quarter. The situation wasn't ideal. This also was Darnold's first taste of Northeastern weather. Before Sunday, Darnold -- raised and schooled in the Los Angeles area -- had played in only one game in which the temperature was below 50 degrees -- a 45-degree game in Utah in 2016.
To become a championship-caliber quarterback, Darnold will have to learn how to handle the nasty winds of MetLife. One interception, though, came with the wind at his back -- a poor throw to Robby Anderson that hit cornerback Xavier Rhodes in the hands. He couldn't handle it, but safety Harrison Smith made the interception in the third quarter. In the fourth quarter, Darnold missed Andre Roberts over the middle (a possible miscommunication) and it was picked off by Holton Hill. The last interception wasn't Darnold's fault; it went off the hands of Charone Peake.
For Darnold to be successful, he needs a running game -- and there was none (only 71 yards on 24 carries). The Jets are 0-4 when Darnold attempts more than 30 passes in a game, so it's not hard to figure out the formula. They had it for only a few minutes. The Jets compiled 86 yards on their first touchdown drive, then managed only 113 yards on their next 12 possessions.
The Jets tried to make Cousins their quarterback in free agency, offering a fully guaranteed $90 million deal, but they were spurned even though they offered more than the Vikings. They wound up drafting Darnold, who will be very good in time.
This time, the team with the win-now quarterback won. Easily.
While it might have been difficult from outside the locker room to see progress being made by the offense, it was also hard inside the room to see that progress as well, said rookie tight end Chris Herndon.
Asked about the one touchdown reception he had, in the first quarter, and the one taken away by a booth replay review in the fourth, Herndon replied:
"They kind of played out just how we practiced them. But it's hard to really think about those after a loss because that just means our performance wasn't good enough. So it's time to move on and get ready for next week."
Yet Herndon, despite his down demeanor after the defeat, has reason to feel upbeat about the tight ends' role in the Jets' offense and specifically his increased prominence. For the second game in a row, he caught a TD pass from Darnold. And had his second TD gone in the books, he would've become the first Jets rookie TE to catch two TD passes in a game.
However, the replay review overturned the call on the field, saying his foot was out of bounds when he reached the ball inside the pylon. So instead of an 18-yard score, Herndon's 17-yard reception set up Darnold's 1-foot TD sneak. And that was one of his career-high four receptions on the day, for 42 yards.
"Every single game, I feel like Chris is getting better," Darnold said. "It's awesome to see him compete every day in practice, and then when he comes out here in the game, it looks just like practice, which is awesome."
Herndon's role could continue to evolve in the offense since Enunwa was out and the team released Terrelle Pryor (groin) Saturday because, head coach Todd Bowles said, "We needed an extra receiver."
"It's a little adversity," Herndon said of the wideout injuries, "but one thing about it is the season keeps going. You can't complain and make a bunch of excuses. You've just got to work with what you have and just go out and do the best you can. ... We're going to take care of our bodies and just use this week to get better and get prepared for Chicago."
Even with Herndon making progress, the Jets' receiving corps needed help.
Without Enunwa and Pryor, they were down to Kearse, Anderson and a trio of journeymen/special-teamers. On Sunday, the entire unit made only seven receptions on 21 targets.
So an addition was in order.
Veteran free agent wide receiver Rishard Matthews said last week that he didn't think he'd sign with a team before the end of the 2018 season. Matthews' prediction was way off. We haven't even reached the end of the month and Matthews has found a new place to ply his trade.
Adam Schefter of ESPN first report that Matthews is signing with the Jets. Matthews worked out for the team just before sharing his read on his market.
Matthews opened the year with the Titans, but asked for and received his release in September.
He had three catches for 11 yards before his release and had 118 catches for 1,740 yards and 13 touchdowns over his two full seasons in Tennessee.
According to Cimini, the team was interested in Amari Cooper before the Raiders dealt the former first-round pick to Dallas on Monday. Once Cooper was moved, Denver's Demaryius Thomas became the biggest name on the trading block. He was a terrific player from 2012 to 2016, when he had Peyton Manning throwing to him, but his numbers have dropped to the pedestrian level.
In the end, sticking with the current cast along with a player like Rishard -- who didn't require an additional outlay of draft capital -- might turn out to be the best approach, assuming Enunwa will be back in a few weeks. If he can return after the bye, he'll have six games to finish out the season. In addition, if they re-sign a healthy Pryor, they'll be back to five deep.
In the meantime, they can live with Anderson, who was held out of Wednesday's practice due to a sore ankle, Kearse and Rishard while rotating Roberts, Peake and Deontay Burnett in backup roles. ...
On the injury front. ... Powell was placed on injured reserve on Wednesday, essentially ending his 2018 seaosn.
Trenton Cannon will continue to serve as the change of pace to Crowell with Powell out of the picture, but it's worth noting running back Elijah McGuire returned to practice last Wednesday as the team designated him as one of their two candidates to return from injured reserve this season.
McGuire was placed on injured reserve after the 53-man roster was set due to a foot injury that kept him out of all four of the team's preseason games. Players eligible to return from injured reserve must miss a minimum of eight weeks, but can return to practice after six.
McGuire rushed for 315 yards and a touchdown on 88 carries as a rookie with the Jets last season. He also caught 17 passes for 177 yards and a touchdown.
QBs: Sam Darnold, Trevor Siemian
RBs: Le'Veon Bell, Ty Montgomery, Trenton Cannon, Bilal Powell
WRs: Robby Anderson, Jamison Crowder, Josh Bellamy, Demaryius Thomas, Tim White, Greg Dortch, Braxton Berrios
TEs: Trevon Wesco, Daniel Brown, Chris Herndon
Oakland RaidersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 24 October 2018
Soon after Jon Gruden arrived for his second stint as Oakland Raiders coach last winter he called Amari Cooper a "focal point" of the offense and pointed to Khalil Mack as a reason why he came back to coaching.
Less than two months into his first season back in Oakland, both former Pro Bowlers are gone.
The Raiders returned from the bye week Monday and immediately made another big trade, dealing Cooper to the Dallas Cowboys for a 2019 first-round pick. That trade follows the one made just over a week before the start of the season that sent Mack to Chicago for a package that included a pair of first-round picks.
Now a team that won 12 games less than two years ago and was viewed as an up-and-coming franchise with core young players such as Mack, Cooper and quarterback is in full-fledged rebuild mode after a 1-5 start to the season.
"It's disappointing. Real disappointing," general manager Reggie McKenzie said. "It was starting to get that way last year when we somewhat took a nosedive, but I understand the NFL, the system will not allow you to keep them all."
The Raiders have three first-round picks for the first time since 1988, when they took Hall of Famer Tim Brown, five-time Pro Bowler Terry McDaniel and Scott Davis.
They have plenty of holes on the roster as evidenced by the early season struggles and will now look to rebuild through the draft.
"We're building this thing in concert together, I'm talking about me and [Gruden]," general manager Reggie McKenzie said. "We're doing this thing together. When we make a deal, I think these picks are going to help this team tremendously, bottom line. It's something I saw as a great opportunity. We're not tanking this season. These guys will have to step up and continue to work to win some ballgames. That will always be the case."
The deal came while the Raiders were on the practice field Monday and left his teammates surprised. But they later said it's just part of the business of football and wished Cooper well in Dallas.
"We still have to come in here and perform on Sunday with whoever we got," running back Jalen Richard said. "Just focus in on the Colts and let everybody upstairs handle what they have to handle."
The deal is the latest move to raise questions about the relationship between McKenzie and Gruden. McKenzie was kept on as general manager after owner Mark Davis fired Jack Del Rio last offseason and lured Gruden back to coaching after several unsuccessful attempts.
While McKenzie kept his title as general manager, Gruden was given a 10-year contract worth up to $100 million, making him the clear top dog in the organization. McKenzie tried to downplay that even after the team dealt away two of his recent first-round picks and Gruden has been unwilling to give significant playing time to 2016 and '17 first-rounders Karl Joseph and Gareon Conley.
"Gruden and I, we work together very well. Let's make no mistakes about it," McKenzie said. "Him pushing me out, that's not happening. Me, not being able to work with Gruden, that's furthest from the truth. OK? We work really well together. We're in each other's offices all the time. Talking about players, who's up, who's down. Who I would like to see play more. Practice squad guys. About moving this guy. Claiming this guy. Trading. Guys calling me about trading this guy, 'Here's what I think, what do you think?'"
While trading Mack depleted an already suspect defense lacking consistent pass rush, Associated Press sports writer Josh Dubow notes the move to cut ties with Cooper is more nuanced.
He looked to be on his way to stardom after being picked fourth overall out of Alabama in 2015.
Cooper was the third receiver to start his career with back-to-back seasons with 1,000 yards receiving and 70 catches, following Odell Beckham Jr. and Marques Colston, but has been unable to build on that success the past two years.
He has just 70 catches for 960 yards since the start of 2016 as his inconsistency has become a bigger problem. Cooper has been held under 30 yards receiving in 13 of his past 26 games. Cooper has 3,183 yards and 19 touchdowns in three-plus seasons.
"I still think he is a first-round player," McKenzie said. "That's why I had to get a first-round pick. Now, has he been inconsistent? Absolutely. Absolutely. But has he shown greatness? Absolutely. The consistency is something that I am sure he has worked on and this guy is still a young player, you know. I think he is going to do well down in Dallas. ..."
For what it's worth, NFL Network's Michael Silver reported the Philadelphia Eagles were also bidding for Cooper, offering a second-round selection for the receiver last week. In the end, Cowboys VP Stephen Jones dialed McKenzie and made him an offer he couldn't refuse.
"He wanted the player, and he gave me the pick," McKenzie said. "That's what it came down to."
Also of interest. ... The Raiders placed Marshawn Lynch on IR with a groin injury. He will be eligible to return for the Christmas Eve game against Denver.
But will we see him in a Raiders' uniform again?
As ESPN.com's Paul Gutierrez suggested, if the Raiders continue their downward trajectory, who knows if Oakland's prodigal son would even want to play in Silver and Black again -- especially after the team traded away Cooper and Mack. Plus, Lynch told Las Vegas media he did not see himself playing in Southern Nevada when the Raiders relocate there in 2020.
Lynch's two-year contract is up after this season; it pays him a fully guaranteed $2.5 million in base salary after he restructured it this offseason. He has been the Raiders' most productive and dependable player in Gruden's offense -- even if Gruden has twice looked elsewhere at the goal line.
Lynch leads Oakland with 376 yards rushing, a 4.2 yards-per-carry average and three touchdowns, and he still was running hard with the Raiders trailing Seattle 27-0 in the fourth quarter when he was apparently injured.
Lynch was trying to pull his right leg out of the grasp of Seahawks cornerback Shaquill Griffin when linebacker Austin Calitro leveled Lynch, who landed awkwardly and stayed on the Wembley Stadium pitch for a moment before gingerly jogging off the field.
With Lynch out, veteran Doug Martin figures to become Oakland's No. 1 back.
But Martin has not been nearly as effective as the Raiders had hoped as a change-of-pace back. Lynch has avoided 25 tackles this season through Week 6, ranking fourth among all NFL running backs, per Pro Football Focus. Martin, though, was averaging just 0.07 forced missed tackles per touch after averaging a league-low 0.06 forced missed tackles per touch last year.
But the way Gruden saw things a few weeks ago, Martin was simply biding his time as Lynch excelled.
"We've got a good back over there, Martin, who's ready to roll," Gruden said at the time. "And Doug can't get on the field."
He will now, after rushing for 99 yards on 27 carries and averaging 16.5 yards per game on the ground with three first downs this season.
Martin had a good game at the Miami Dolphins in Week 3, rushing for 43 yards on nine carries in the Raiders' 28-20 loss. Martin's 3.7 yards per carry average is his best since he averaged 4.9 yards for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2015.
"I came into a new system this year, so OTAs, being in camp until now, I've gotten accustomed to the offensive line and doing camp with pads and practice," Martin said during the preseason. "So, I definitely feel like I'm where I need to be."
So too should Richard, used primarily as the third-down and pass-catching back, and possibly DeAndre Washington, who underwent a knee scope in the preseason and has yet to be activated for a game.
And if you're wondering about undrafted rookie Chris Warren, who led Oakland in preseason rushing, he is not eligible to play this season since he was placed on IR before the team's initial 53-man roster was announced on Sept. 1. ...
On Tuesday, the Raiders released kicker Matthew McCrane and signed kicker Daniel Carlson. The Vikings drafted him in fifth round of this year's draft before waiving him earlier in season. ...
And finally. ... As if there wasn't enough drama swirling around the Raiders, Marcus Thompson II of TheAthletic.com reports that Derek Carr currently has a "fractured relationship" with his teammates.
The reportedly fractured relationship between Carr and his teammates is rooted in a loss of confidence in the quarterback, as exacerbated by game film from the London contest against the Seahawks that "showed what looked like him crying after being sacked and injuring his arm."
"They saw his face," Thompson writes. "They heard his whimper. They witnessed him explain on the sidelines. They assuredly watched it again in film session. It's hard to see how Carr can lead this team again."
It was indeed curious, to say the least, to see video of what appeared to be Carr crying in the melting-face way that a kid would cry after falling off his bike.
If Thompson's report is accurate, Carr's teammates regard it as something worse than curious.
For what it's worth, Carr took to Twitter to respond to critics and to say he's not ready to give up on his career in Black and Silver.
"I'm a Raider. It's not a 'popular' thing to be a Raider right now, but I am and I love it. I love the struggle of trying to fight back for our city when not a lot of people believe in us. People can try all they want to tear us apart, but it's not happening to the real ones."
Carr's comment wasn't his first Tuesday responding to critics. The quarterback first replied to his brother, Darren Carr, who was defending Derek -- in particular Derek's toughness.
"Hit 16 times in that game (against the Seahawks). Broken Pinky Finger (Throwing Hand). Sprained Thumb (Throwing Hand). Knee Sprain MCL Grade 2. High Ankle Sprain Grade 3. Concussion Grade 1. Chest/Ribs Bruised. 3 Broken Bones in his Back. Broken Fibula Bone in Leg... 2 Missed Games (because they made him)"
Fair points all.
And as Profootballtalk.com's Mike Florio suggests, this doesn't mean the Raiders will move on from Carr, but whether and to what extent the locker room believes in Carr could be a factor in Gruden's ultimate assessment as to whether Carr should or shouldn't be the quarterback in 2019.
Remember: Carr's contract pays out an average of $19.6 million over the next four years, which could make him tradeable. If not, the Raiders will have to decide by the third day of the 2019 waiver period whether to keep Carr and pay him a guaranteed salary of $19.9 million next year or cut him and find another quarterback.
With rumors swirling about the possibility, Gruden told reporters on Wednesday, “I don’t see us making any more trades. Certainly, I don’t see us trading our quarterback.”
Whatever the case, it's interesting times in Oakland.
QBs: Derek Carr, Mike Glennon, Nathan Peterman, Cody Kessler
RBs: Josh Jacobs, Jalen Richard, DeAndre Washington, Doug Martin
WRs: Tyrell Williams, Hunter Renfrow, J.J. Nelson, Ryan Grant, Dwayne Harris
TEs: Darren Waller, Derek Carrier, Foster Moreau
Philadelphia EaglesCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 24 October 2018
Head coach Doug Pederson pushed back on questions about his decision-making during a fourth-quarter meltdown against the Carolina Panthers Sunday, while expressing confidence that his team has what it takes to turn the season around.
Pederson called it "crazy" that he was being asked about whether he should have dialed up more running plays in the fourth quarter after going up 17-0, or if the defense should have blitzed more to try to halt a Carolina offense that caught fire down the stretch.
"Now you're getting into game plan stuff, you're getting into scheme, and you guys aren't in there watching the tape like we are for 18 hours a day and putting the game plans together," he said. "It's easy to sit in a press box and say, 'Hey, they should run the ball.' Come down and stand on the sidelines with me and make decisions. ... Until you're down there with me on the sideline making in-game decisions, then, I guess you can ask all you want."
As ESPN.com's Tim McManus suggested, it's hard for the coach to say there is no pressure after telling his team to "embrace the target" that comes with success since the offseason.
The Eagles went up 17-0 late in the third quarter before watching their lead evaporate. They ran the ball once compared to 13 pass plays in the fourth quarter, which resulted in an eight-yard gain by Wendell Smallwood. The ground game was otherwise largely ineffective Sunday, gaining 58 yards on 24 carries (2.4 average). Philly has been short-handed in the backfield for much of the season with injuries sidelining Jay Ajayi (back, ACL) and Darren Sproles (hamstring), leaving Smallwood and Corey Clement to shoulder much of the load.
"Let me ask you to block 700-pound men sometime. It's not because of lack of effort, it's not because of scheme. They get paid over there ... Carolina, to make plays on us. And when it breaks down, it breaks down," Pederson said.
"It's not that I lose confidence in the run game, it's not that at all. I've got a lot of confidence in the run game. I've got a lot of confidence in that O-line room. Those guys are good, really good, and they're talented, and the backs are talented. It's still an aggressive mentality when I run and it's still an aggressive mentality when I throw. We're always going to maintain that aggressiveness. And I have no lack of confidence whatsoever in our run game."
The Eagles have struggled to close out games this season. They also coughed up a 17-3 lead to the Tennessee Titans in Week 4.
Sunday marked the 155th time in franchise history that the Eagles entered the fourth quarter with a 17-point lead. It was just the third time that they ended up losing in such a situation.
The Super Bowl champs are 3-4 entering Sunday's London game against the Jacksonville Jaguars. Despite the struggles over the first portion of the season, Pederson remains optimistic about his group. "Listen, I've got so much confidence in this football team, you don't understand. We're losing games by just a couple of plays," he said.
"I've got so much confidence in this football team and this coaching staff that we're going to get this fixed."
For three quarters, the Eagles' offense relied on Alshon Jeffery and Zach Ertz to make plays and keep it on the field.
For three quarters, that worked.
"I am very disappointed," Ertz said. "It is not the ending of the game that I envisioned. We have to keep our foot on the gas and can't have mental mistakes. Little things at the end of the game come back to bite you. Even little mistakes that you are doing at the beginning of the game come back to bite you. Tough, tough loss and no other way to put it."
Ertz finished with nine receptions for 138 yards, the third-highest yardage total of his career. Jeffery had 88 yards on seven receptions and a touchdown.
The Eagles threw for 284 yards and the offense was supplement by just 58 yards rushing. Ertz and Jeffery totaled 226 yards themselves. Carson Wentz threw passes to six targets -- two wide receivers, two tight ends, and two running backs the whole game.
Ertz and Jeffery were targeted 21 times. The four other players with receptions? A combined 16 times. When the plays to Ertz and Jeffery stopped working as well in the fourth quarter, the Eagles had no answer.
"I would have to look back at the film and see if there was much change," Ertz said. "They kind of played man on the third down to Alshon. Those guys were making plays all day too like Alshon, (tight end Dallas) Goedert played extremely well, so (Wentz) is going to throw the ball to whoever is open. It is what it is."
Jeffery was at his most electric in the first half. He converted a fourth-and-5 situation at the Carolina 25-yard line with a toe-tap catch on the sideline. It kept the drive alive and led to a field goal attempt.
On the next possession, Jeffery shook off two defenders for a 20-yard catch in the red zone. Two plays later, he caught an 11-yard touchdown. On the drive after that, he hauled in an impressive 29-yard reception on the sideline in smothering coverage.
But one play that stood out to head coach Doug Pederson came with 2:28 to play on the Eagles' drive before the Panthers took the lead. On third-and-10 at the Eagles' 25, Wentz fired toward Jeffery just shy of midfield. Panthers cornerback James Bradberry forced an incompletion and the Eagles punted. Pederson noted it as poor execution on an important chance.
"We had an opportunity on the third down," Pederson said. "Alshon was wide open, and 24 (Bradberry) just came back and got a hand in there late and knocked the ball away. Otherwise, we're on the field at that point too."
Seven of Ertz's nine receptions were for more than 10 yards. He made the Eagles' only third-down conversion in the fourth quarter outside of the pass interference penalty against Jeffery.
Ertz and Jeffery made plays to carry the offense for most of the game. Their stats show an impressive game. But when it mattered most, the individual efforts weren't enough to get the win.
"I just tried to make the most of it when my number was called and I thought we were pretty efficient. That's the key stat that I look at, the efficiency," Ertz said. "It was all for not. It really doesn't matter. I would take zero catches for 0 yards and win the game."
Wentz finished the game 30-of-37 for 310 yards and two touchdowns but the offense couldn't get more than two first downs in the fourth quarters and lost out on opportunities to put the victory on ice.
Now they'll all regroup and face the struggling Jaguars in London. That can't hurt.
On the injury front. ... Sproles, who last played Week 1, continues to miss time with his injured hamstring; he was not on the practice field Wednesday.
QBs: Carson Wentz, Nate Sudfeld, Clayton Thorson
RBs: Miles Sanders, Jordan Howard, Darren Sproles, Corey Clement
WRs: Alshon Jeffery, DeSean Jackson, Nelson Agholor, JJ Arcega-Whiteside, Mack Hollins
TEs: Zach Ertz, Dallas Goedert
Pittsburgh SteelersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 24 October 2018
Le'Veon Bell did not report to the Steelers' facilities on Monday despite plans to use Weeks 7 and 8 to make his return to the team. The Steelers still have not heard anything from Bell and don't know when he will return, sources tell ESPN.com's Jeremy Fowler.
The lone certainty?
Bell was not on the practice field nor inside the locker room as the team reconvened after the bye week.
Center Maurkice Pouncey said nothing surprises him with the now-two-month storyline.
"I'm enjoying the ride just like you guys. I want to see how it plays out," Pouncey said. "I'm waiting to see just like everyone else. No bets are out there, trust me. I think we're just enjoying the process, see how it plays out, and hopefully the best for him."
Defensive tackle Cam Heyward insisted that the storyline hasn't worried the locker room.
"It's everybody else. In our locker room, we're not even worried about it. It's unfair for me to even talk about him, and he'll have to answer his questions when he wants to," Heyward said. "But we're not talking about it right now. We've got Cleveland Browns football, and if he joins along the way, so be it. But it's not fair to everybody in this locker room, and Le'Veon himself, for us to keep talking about it."
Bell, who forfeits $855,000 for each week he fails to sign his $14.5 million franchise tag, told Fowler on Oct. 1 that he would play football this year and did not expect to be traded.
Fowler also reported that Bell expected to return during the Week 7-8 time frame. That window ends with Sunday's game against the Browns in Heinz Field. Bell wanted to utilize the extra practice week during that two-week stretch, and it's possible his plans have changed.
Bell must report by Nov. 13 -- the Tuesday of Week 11 -- in order to play this season. Bell also said the team had planned on placing the transition tag on him during the offseason and he bought a loss-of-value insurance policy to protect him this year.
Bell is missing games to preserve his health for a long-term contract in Pittsburgh or elsewhere.
ESPN's Adam Schefter reported Sunday that some sources around the league believe Bell will wait until after the Oct. 30 trade deadline to return to work because he does not want to be traded. Indeed, NFL Network's Ian Rapoport believes Bell will turn up one minute after the 4 p.m. eastern trade deadline next Tuesday.
Bell must be signed to facilitate a trade. He told ESPN earlier this month that he would consider trade offers if a team is serious about signing him long-term and about winning championships.
Several Steelers players have said they couldn't "care less" when Bell shows but will embrace him upon his return and don't expect any major adjustments.
Bell must take a physical with the team before practicing.
"I haven't talked to him. Nobody has," guard Ramon Foster said. "We're in a wait-and-see situation like you guys."
Foster said he "salutes" Bell's business fight but wouldn't get into different scenarios Bell might be thinking.
Bell's replacement, James Conner, entered the bye week with 453 rushing yards and seven rushing touchdowns, both ranking among the league's top five before Sunday.
Pouncey was hesitant when asked if the team was now "used to" playing without Bell, though.
"I don't wanna say that -- 'cause he's been a great player, he's done a lot of great things -- but it's always the next man up, man," Pouncey said. "We always live by that code here, being a Steeler; and he's doing a great job with it. He's excelling at a high rate, and guys on the team are loving it."
Meanwhile, the Steelers had the opportunity to watch the rest of the AFC North falter, one by one. First, the Browns lost in overtime in Tampa. Then Baltimore fell at home to New Orleans when Justin Tucker missed the first extra point of his career. Then Cincinnati was bum rushed by Kansas City.
And just like that, the Steelers (3-2-1) were back atop the division with a chance in a way to start over seven weeks into the season.
Pittsburgh is well-rested heading into a visit from the Browns on Sunday, a rematch of a 21-21 tie in Week 1 that felt an awful lot like a loss to the Steelers, who led by 14 going into the fourth quarter only to see it slip away.
Another setback a week later at home to the Chiefs , the continuing melodrama surrounding wide receiver Antonio Brown and the extended absence of All-Pro running back Le'Veon Bell had Pittsburgh teetering.
Not so much anymore.
Brown is tied for the league lead in receiving touchdowns and while Bell's exact arrival date remains uncertain, the Steelers have survived thanks in large part to the rapid development of Conner.
QBs: Ben Roethlisberger, Mason Rudolph
RBs: James Conner, Jaylen Samuels, Benny Snell
WRs: JuJu Smith-Schuster, Donte Moncrief, James Washington, Diontae Johnson, Ryan Switzer
TEs: Vance McDonald, Xavier Grimble, Zach Gentry
San Francisco 49ersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 24 October 2018
As ESPN.com's Nick Wagoner noted Monday, the 49ers didn't do much to give themselves a chance against the heavily favored Rams on Sunday. To be sure, the Rams are the better, healthier, more star-studded team and their undefeated record should tell you all you needed to know about the expected outcome against the Niners.
But given an opportunity to pull off an NFL-shaking upset, the 1-6 Niners turned the ball over four times, coming up with zero takeaways and falling into an early hole that eventually became a 39-10 blowout loss at Levi's Stadium.
"It's inexcusable," head coach Kyle Shanahan said. "It's impossible to win in this league when you turn the ball over like we are and we don't get any [takeaways]. We had four today, 4-0, and I think it was 24 points off turnovers. … In order for us to be able to play in a football game, we have to tighten up with the ball and get the ball.
"We have to fix the turnovers. Once we fix the turnovers then we have a chance to start playing football."
The 49ers never had much of a chance in Sunday's loss, as they wasted little time giving the Rams' potent offense prime field position. Two of the offense's first three possessions resulted in a C.J. Beathard fumble that gave the Rams the ball at San Francisco's 44 and another from running back Matt Breida that gave it to the Rams at the Niners' 21. Those giveaways resulted in an early 10-0 hole from which the 49ers could not recover.
Later, Beathard threw two interceptions, both of which also resulted in Rams' touchdowns. Four turnovers, 24 Rams points, ball game over.
"It's extremely frustrating because we know we're a lot better team than that and we have just got to get it stopped," Breida said. "We're doing nothing but hurting ourselves and I feel like we're the reason why we're losing these games, so the sooner we get that corrected, I feel like we'll be in a lot better direction."
Meanwhile, the defense was again struggling to get takeaways. The Niners haven't come up with a takeaway since the opening moments of a Week 4 loss to the Los Angeles Chargers.
The Niners have turned the ball over 14 times since without getting a takeaway of their own. That lack of production has come despite a consistent emphasis from coordinator Robert Saleh in practice.
Injuries and other issues aside, the Niners' whopping minus-15 turnover margin through the first seven weeks is the single biggest issue the team just can't seem to overcome.
For an injury-ravaged Niners team, finding victories figured to be hard enough without quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo but this team definitely doesn't have the weapons to cancel out such mistakes in its current state.
While it's easy to put the blame on Beathard -- who has thrown an interception in eight straight starts, the longest streak by a starting 49ers QB since Steve DeBerg in 1979, according to Elias Sports Bureau research, and has at least one giveaway in every game in which he has played substantial snaps -- the Niners' problems run much deeper. Which is why Shanahan said after the game he intends to stick with Beathard moving forward.
"If it was just one thing, you'd say one thing. if it was just one guy, you'd say one guy," Shanahan said. "But it's an accumulation of a number of things.
"We need to get better. The better you get, the less you turn it over. We talk about the ball and work on going after balls as much as you possibly can. You don't stop. You don't wait for it. You keep preaching those same things and you expect it to get better the more you work at it and if it doesn't, then you've got to find people who do take care of it."
Meanwhile, just when it appeared the 49ers were at their healthiest since the season opener, several players exited with injuries, starting with Breida aggravating his left-ankle sprain on his first carry.
Breida fumbled on his next run, and he finished with five carries for 15 yards while giving way to Raheem Mostert and Alfred Morris. Both Shanahan and Breida said they'll evaluate whether the second-year running back should sit out this Sunday's game at Arizona to allow his ankle more time to recover from that initial sprain on Oct. 7.
"It's something we have to look into hard," Shanahan said.
"I want to play every down, hurt or not," Breida said. "I need to learn if I'm hurt whether to take time needed to get healthy."
Mostert responded well in his second straight game with increased use, rushing for a team-high 59 yards (17 carries) and making a career-high four receptions (19 yards). Morris had nine carries for just 25 yards.
The 49ers had six receiver in uniform, officially. Their contributions were minimal. Marquise Goodwin caught 2 of 5 targets for 24 yards, Trent Taylor caught 1 of 3 for 6 yards and Pierre Garcon was 1-of-1 for 5 yards. Kendrick Bourne didn't catch his lone target while Richie James and Victor Bolden weren't targeted.
"They were mixing it up a lot, with no rhyme or reason, and they did a good job with that," Beathard said of the Rams pass coverage.
Instead, Beathard tried getting rid of the ball quicker, so aside from Kittle's big day (5 catches, 8 targets, 98 yards, 1 TD), the next leading receivers were Mostert (four catches, 19 yards) and fullback Kyle Juszczyk (two catches, 18 yards). Dante Pettis missed his third straight game with a knee injury.
Breida and Garcon (knee) were among the 49ers sitting out of Wednesday's practice.
Stay tuned. I'll have more on Breida and the team's plan at wideout in coming days; watch the Late-Breaking Updates section for all the latest.
On last note here. ... The 49ers placed FS Adrian Colbert on injured reserve with a high ankle sprain. Shanahan said Colbert unlikely to return this season. QB Tom Savage, who was released late last week, was re-signed to take Colbert's place on the roster.
QBs: Jimmy Garoppolo, Nick Mullens, C.J. Beathard
RBs: Matt Breida, Raheem Mostert, Tevin Coleman
WRs: Dante Pettis, Deebo Samuel, Marquise Goodwin, Jalen Hurd, Trent Taylor, Kendrick Bourne, Richie James
TEs: George Kittle, Kaden Smith, Levine Toilolo, Ross Dwelley
Seattle SeahawksCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 24 October 2018
As has been the case for much of this season, Seattle Seahawks receivers found time for a little extra "practice" while preparing for their Week 7 game against the Oakland Raiders.
While practicing at the Grove, the resort that housed the Seahawks from Thursday through game day in London, Seattle's receivers used breaks in the action to come up with a new touchdown celebration they'd use if and when one of them got into the end zone.
A week earlier, that group broke out a "double Dutch" celebration with two receivers swinging imaginary jump rope and two jumping in the middle. Against the Raiders, the receivers took their celebration game up a notch, reenacting a scene from the 2002 movie Drumline.
Of course, as Seahawks.com's John Boyle noted, for Seattle's receivers to have their fun in the end zone, they have to get there, and they've been doing that quite a bit lately.
In last the win over the Raiders at Wembley Stadium, Jaron Brown kicked off the scoring with a 5-yard touchdown catch in the first quarter, then David Moore scored his third touchdown in the past two games, while Tyler Lockett added his team-leading fifth touchdown.
Showing how balanced Seattle's receiver group has been, none of those three players who found the end zone led the Seahawks in catches or receiving yards, with Doug Baldwin taking those honors with six catches for 91 yards. Baldwin could have had a long touchdown catch of his own, but Russell Wilson just missed hitting him with a deep ball in the third quarter.
"I think a lot of our receivers are doing a lot of great things as well," Wilson said. "So it's exciting to have the plethora of receivers that we have and the talent that we have, and the skill positions making plays across the board.
"Baldwin really came alive (against the Raiders) in a big way. I think that we were able to really look for him and find ways to get him the football. He's an electric one, one of the best receivers in the National Football League. Lockett's been doing it all year. Everybody's making plays consistently, and that's the exciting thing, you know. Moore scored a touchdown, scramble play, how he spun out and got open and all that. So his awareness is tremendous."
With the Seahawks getting back to the balanced approach Carroll prefers, there won't always be chances for everyone to get as many targets or catches as they'd like, which is why they see it as important to revel in each other's success, knowing that one receiver getting the job done reflects well on the entire position group.
"We go out there and have fun," Lockett said. "We don't care about who gets the credit. We don't care about how many yards somebody gets or how many touchdowns somebody gets. As soon as you see somebody score, we've got a touchdown celebration for it every single week. Just to be able to enjoy it. The more you enjoy it, the more you realize your plays are going to come."
Baldwin, who has been with the Seahawks since 2011, including during some run-heavy seasons during Marshawn Lynch's prime, learned from Sidney Rice the importance of getting the job done every week, even if sometimes that means showing you won on a particular play by getting open, even if the ball didn't find you.
"Really, from the beginning of time, putting wins on film during the game so we can demonstrate what we're capable week in and week out," Baldwin said. "Sidney started that, and that's what I carry over into the room now. We're going to have fun, and really enjoy ourselves, because truth be told, it's hard, it's not easy. We're making sure that we just have fun, and when you have fun, everything else comes easy, and we've been having a lot of fun lately."
While Lockett and Baldwin have been productive for years, what has been particularly encouraging the last two games has been the emergence of Moore, a 2017 seventh-round pick.
Moore was a standout during the preseason, but until recently hadn't made many contributions in regular-regular season games. Moore saw his playing time begin to increase in Week 4, when he had the first two catches of his career in a win over Arizona, then he had his first two touchdown catches in Week 5 before adding two more impressive catches on last Sunday for 47 yards and a touchdown.
Granted it's a pretty small sample size, but Moore is averaging a whopping 17.7 yards per catch this season and has three touchdowns on just seven receptions.
"I have confidence in David because he shows it every day," Wilson said. "We worked hard all off-season. He's shown it all preseason. He's shown it all season so far. He's a joy to be around. He brings great energy. He brings attitude to the game. He's fast as can be. He's strong. He can go up and get the football. You know, you saw him make the play (against the Raiders) where he spun out and kind of went off the field, and he just has a great awareness of the game. All of our receivers across the board are doing that.
"I think that's the difference-maker, to be as young as he is and as talented as he is, he's going to have a bright, bright future ahead of him, and I'm looking forward to that."
Moore's first catch against the Raiders, a 19-yard grab in the back of the end zone, came with a slight scare for the receiver, but it was something he could laugh about after the game. Unlike a typical NFL stadium, Wembley's field is surrounded by electronic advertising boards, which are the norm in soccer. After tapping both feet in the back of the end zone, Moore's momentum carried him right into the board and the photographers behind it. Causing him to flip over it before popping up relatively unscathed.
"It hurt a little bit," Moore said with a chuckle. "When I saw it. I was like, 'Oh shoot, just take, just take it.'… I kind of saw it last second, but didn't think it was that hard until I hit it."
Moore is apparently fine this week and the Seattle Seahawks returned from their bye with two key players back on the field after missing the first six games due to injuries.
The Seahawks welcomed back linebacker K.J. Wright and tight end Ed Dickson to practice Monday as they began preparations for Sunday's game against Detroit.
Wright's return has been a long time coming after he underwent what was deemed minor arthroscopic knee surgery following Seattle's third preseason game in August. The team initially believed Wright would be back within a few weeks, but a setback in his recovery extended the rehab and ultimately led to the starting linebacker missing nearly two months.
"We're not too bad right now," head coach Pete Carroll said. "We're fortunate we're coming out the last few games we've made it through for the most part. Guys felt good coming out of last week and going into the break. It helped us and to get a few guys back, too, it's a nice little boost."
Dickson was placed on the non-football injury list before the start of training camp due to groin and quadriceps injuries and never made it into camp, meaning he had to be a spectator for the first six games of the season. Dickson was likely ready to return a couple of weeks ago, but being on the NFL list required him to miss six games.
Dickson's return will be a big boost to a position that suffered a setback when rookie Will Dissly injured a patellar tendon in the Week 4 victory over Arizona. Carroll said Dickson ramped up the intensity of his workouts in the past couple weeks in the hopes of being able to play this Sunday.
"They've been working really hard so this isn't a big jump for them. That's part of the rehab, particularly for Ed who has had a long time to work at this," Carroll said. "He's been running really hard so he should not feel like it's a big step for him to get back on the practice field and should be able to play extensively on the weekend should he make it through the week."
Also back at practice for Seattle was rookie defensive lineman Rasheem Green, who had missed three games with an ankle injury, and tight end Nick Vannett after he missed the game in London due to a back injury. ...
And finally. ... Carroll said he reassured the team that nothing is expected to change in the wake of owner Paul Allen's death last week. "We're fine. Everything is going to be like we've been doing it We'll carry on with the same intensity and expectations and support and all of that, and that it was our job to carry on in the fashion that Paul wanted us to."
QBs: Russell Wilson, Geno Smith
RBs: Chris Carson, Rashaad Penny, C.J. Prosise, Travis Homer
WRs: Tyler Lockett, DK Metcalf, David Moore, Gary Jennings Jr., Malik Turner, John Ursua
TEs: Nick Vannett, Ed Dickson, Will Dissly
Tampa Bay BuccaneersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 24 October 2018
As Tampa Bay Times staffer Eduardo Encina noted, coming off a season-high 82 rushing yards the previous week, Bucs running back Peyton Barber ran for just 30 yards on 11 carries in Tampa Bay's 26-23 overtime win over the Browns.
Quarterback Jameis Winston was the Bucs leading rusher in the game, compiling 55 yards and a rushing score. Rookie Ronald Jones scored his first NFL touchdown on a two-yard run along the left side in the third quarter while steadily being inserted into more of the team's offensive game plan.
Head coach Dirk Koetter noted Monday that the snaps were spread out evenly between Barber (35 snaps), Jacquizz Rodgers (30) and Jones (29).
"It was just the way it worked out," Koetter said. "Peyton had a touchdown called back. It was the same play that flipped over to the other side that Jones scored on later. There was a penalty on Peyton's [run]. Peyton was in and out of the game a couple times."
Koetter said that Barber, who had one carry in the fourth quarter and overtime "got banged up a couple different times in the game."
"Some of those, he would have been in there more had he not had to come out and he had to go and get checked at least once," Koetter said. "All of our backs did some good things. We do have a lot of weapons on offense."
Asked whether Barber has any physical issue that led to him not seeing many snaps ball late in the game, Koetter said, "We'll be putting that injury report out on Wednesday."
They have not yet released theat, but Barber did not practice Wednesday and Koetter told reporters that Jones "got the majority of everything today."
I'll be watching for more on that and reporting back via Late-Breaking Update. ...
Chris Godwin played 66-of-95 snaps (69 percent) against the Browns.
As Rotoworld.com noted this week, this was his highest snap share since Week 1. It is notable considering Godwin had been splitting time with DeSean Jackson while Adam Humphries dominated slot snaps. Humphries was limited to 57 snaps in this contest, and Jackson played just 43. Despite the playing time, Godwin still finished fourth on the team with six targets. ...
Meanwhile, after kicker Chandler Catanzaro nailed a 59-yard game-winning field goal -- the longest field goal in overtime history -- all he could think about were those who didn't give up on him after he missed what would have been the game-winner moments before.
"They mean a lot," Catanzaro said of teammates who rushed to give him a hero's welcome. "As a kicker, you never want to go in there [and miss] when they set you up so well. ... I'm just so thankful it worked out like it did. God is good."
The previous long was Oakland's Sebastian Janikowski from 57 yards on Oct. 19, 2008.
With 4 seconds to go with the game tied 23-23, Catanzaro saw his 40-yard kick sail wide right. In the second quarter, he also missed an extra point -- all from the same hashmark.
"I was extremely upset with myself. I told the guys earlier, 'This team deserved to win this game,'" Catanzaro said. "They played their tails off all game, and for me to miss a kick like that, it was very frustrating for me, especially after the prep I had this week."
Defensive line coach Brentson Buckner, a fellow Clemson alum who was with Catanzaro when he was with the Arizona Cardinals, said he told him: "Stick with it. You've been here."
Winston told him: "We're gonna give it to you again. Stay in it. Do your thing."
Because of the new NFL overtime rules -- which if the game is tied at the end of the overtime period, it will result in a tie -- Koetter felt he had to pull the trigger. He had also witnessed Catanzaro drill a 61-yarder in practice this week. Catanzaro made a 57-yarder when he was with the New York Jets last season and was 62.5 percent on kicks of 50-plus yards since 2016.
"I knew he had the distance in him," Koetter said. "If we didn't make that one, we weren't getting it back. You either go for the win or hope you tie. The way the game was going, we were going for the win. But I knew he could make it if he hit it."
Browns head coach Hue Jackson said he was surprised to see the Bucs line up for a 59-yard field goal in overtime.
"I said there's no way he was going to make that. He did. So they won," Jackson said.
Defensive back Damarious Randall was expecting to see the punt team.
"I saw the kicker come out and I thought, 'He just missed a -yarder, there's no way he's going to make a 58- or 59-yarder,'" Randall said. "That's just the nature of the game. He just missed a kick and he just made a hell of a kick. Just tip your hat to him. That's a hell of a kick."
Added Baker Mayfield: "I'm thinking if he doesn't make it, we're getting the ball at midfield, we have less than 20 yards until our kicker is in comfortable reaching distance at that. That's a great kick. You don't see that often."
Koetter wasn't happy about Catanzaro's earlier misses, but he was proud of the way teammates supported him.
"No football player in that locker room wants to see another guy struggle," Koetter said. "When he does, they all hurt for him. The guys were happy and they should be. That's what a team does, that's what teammates are for."
Meanwhile, Tampa Bay's struggling defense will be without middle linebacker Kwon Alexander for the remainder of the season.
The fourth-year pro was injured during the first half of Sunday's 26-23 overtime victory over the Cleveland Browns.
A MRI performed Monday confirmed that the 24-year-old, a fourth-round draft pick in 2015, has a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee.
"It's unfortunate," Koetter said. "Kwon was playing so well, and was the heart and soul of our defense."
Koetter said backup linebacker Jack Cichy also suffered a season-ending knee injury against Cleveland and will miss the remainder of the year.
"Our locker room at halftime was extremely emotional," Koetter said. "Kwon came out of the training room right about the time we were getting ready to go back on the field. It was emotional. You could tell guys really care (about him)."
Alexander has started all 46 games he's appeared in during his NFL career. He was a Pro Bowl selection two years ago and was having one of his best games of the season when he took an awkward step while rushing the passer and tumbled to the ground in the final minute of the second quarter.
He walked off the field and to the locker room without help, but he did not play the second half.
"Guys like Kwon mean everything to this team, and I have empathy for him," Winston said.
"Before we left out there for halftime, he was like: 'Never take anything for granted.' He's so right," Winston added. "We see the passion he plays with. We see the heart he puts in the locker room. ... We're going to miss him, and I know he is going to make an amazing comeback."
Losing Alexander and Cichy will severely test a unit that was criticized for its play during a three-game losing streak that followed a 2-0 start.
Cornerback Vernon Hargreaves III and safety Chris Conte were placed on injured reserve in September. First-round draft pick Vita Vea missed most of training camp and the start of the season with a calf problem, and four other players -- tackles Gerald McCoy and Beau Allen, end Vinny Curry and cornerback Brent Grimes -- have missed at least one start because of injuries.
With Tampa Bay sitting at or near the bottom of the league in several key categories, including points allowed, defensive coordinator Mike Smith was fired last week and replaced by linebackers coach Mark Duffner.
The defense was sharper in its first game under Duffner, sacking Baker Mayfield five times and yielding a season-low 305 yards to the offensively challenged Browns.
"You've got to have a next-man-up mentality. Kwon is a key piece to this defense," linebacker Lavonte David said, adding that several reserves stepped up and played well while filling in for McCoy, Curry and Alexander against Cleveland.
"Those guys ... filled the void, and that's what you've got to do," David added. "You never know when your number's going to get called, and their numbers were called (Sunday)."
QBs: Jameis Winston, Blaine Gabbert, Ryan Griffin
RBs: Peyton Barber, Ronald Jones, Dare Ogunbowale
WRs: Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, Breshad Perriman, Justin Watson, Scott Miller, Bobo Wilson
TEs: O.J. Howard, Cameron Brate, Antony Auclair, Tanner Hudson
Tennessee TitansCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 24 October 2018
The Tennessee Titans will not be escaping quickly now that they're back from London and mired in a three-game skid.
First-year head coach Mike Vrabel wants to look closely at what the Titans (3-4) must fix to snap that skid that cost them the lead in the AFC South for a franchise that hasn't won its division since 2008. The Titans also get a little bit more time around their bye with their next game not until Nov. 5 in prime-time at Dallas.
"Losing is never going to feel good," Vrabel said Monday. "I think that they realize that things aren't broken. We just have to fix a few things and finish off a game. We have to try to figure out a way to win a game."
Vrabel gave the Titans the day off Monday after Tennessee arrived back in Nashville in the wee hours from their 20-19 loss to the Los Angeles Chargers in London. The Titans will work Tuesday and Wednesday before getting their break for the bye.
Even with a day to think about his decision to go for the 2-point conversion and the lead with 31 seconds left, Vrabel still isn't second-guessing himself or offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur. Marcus Mariota's pass to Taywan Taylor was incomplete, even though Dion Lewis appeared open to the right side on a day he caught all six passes thrown to him for 64 yards.
Vrabel refused to call that a misread by Mariota.
"We didn't execute the play," Vrabel said. "We didn't score, we didn't get open well enough. We didn't block well enough. Unfortunately, that's not good. That's not good enough."
As the Titans look at themselves, dropped passes remain an issue for an offense that ranks 30th in yards passing and 30th in points scored per game. The Titans rank second in the NFL dropping 6.3 percent of passes overall with the third-most drops on third down, according to NFL Matchup on ESPN.
Taylor dropped a pass earlier in the fourth quarter and caught only one pass for 8 yards. Corey Davis, the fifth overall pick in 2017, caught three for 10 yards. He also dropped a pass on the same drive as Taylor, failing to bring in the ball with one hand.
The Titans rank eighth in the NFL in passing defense, yet giving up long passes remains an issue. They gave up a 75-yard touchdown pass on the Chargers' first offensive play and a 55-yarder for the only TDs allowed by a Tennessee defense that ranks third in fewest points allowed per game.
Cornerback Malcolm Butler, the Titans' big free agent addition in March didn't start and was limited to 29 snaps. Vrabel said there were a lot of problems on the two TD passes allowed and he wants players not trying to do someone else's job.
Tennessee ended a TD drought that spanned 155 minutes, 17 seconds, and the Titans allowed only two sacks after giving up a franchise-worst 11 in being shut out by Baltimore last week. They outgained the Chargers 390-344 and held the ball for more than 35 minutes with a season-high 164 yards rushing.
The schedule doesn't ease after the bye with the trip to Dallas followed by hosting New England in the Titans' lone home game in November followed by division road trips to Indianapolis and Houston.
Vrabel said he doesn't think any of the Titans have done the best they can and everyone needs to practice and prepare better.
"Ultimately, it comes down to our performance on Sunday," Vrabel said.
Meanwhile, as ESPN.com's Turron Davenport notes, red- zone production continues to be an issue for the Titans.
After being shut out last week, the Titans made three trips to the red zone in the first half and came away with only six points total. Their final trip to the red zone in the first half resulted in Mariota throwing his first career red-zone interception after his pass was tipped at the line of scrimmage.
The offense managed to find their way into the end zone for the first time in 10 consecutive quarters when running back Derrick Henry punched it in from the 1-yard line in the third quarter.
Mariota and the offense found a nice rhythm in the second half.
They were able to string together drives and control the time of possession. LaFleur mixed running plays with passing plays, leading to two touchdowns.
But the offense -- especially the red-zone offense -- remains a work in progress.
But there were some positives from this one.
The Titans tallied 23 total first downs—16 on passes and seven on rushing attempts (none on penalties). It was their highest number since accumulating 23 first downs at San Francisco on Dec. 17, 2017.
The Titans totaled 390 yards (226 net passing, 164 rushing), earning their second-highest total of the season through seven games (397 vs. Philadelphia on Sept. 30).
The Titans' 164 rushing yards gave them their highest total since a 198-yard rushing performance against the Houston Texans on Dec. 3, 2017.
Third-year wide receiver Tajae Sharpe led the Titans against the Chargers with seven receptions and 101 receiving yards. He matched his career high for receptions and set a new yardage total. His previous highs were seven catches for 76 yards against the Minnesota Vikings on Sept. 11, 2016.
All seven of Sharpe's receptions resulted in first downs. Five of them converted third downs, including receptions of 16, 18, 19, 16 and six yards.
Lewis (64 receiving yards) and Henry (32 receiving yards) combined for 96 yards in the passing game. It was the team's highest total by a group of running backs since Oct. 26, 2014 against the Houston Texans, when Dexter McCluster (39), Bishop Sankey (25) and Leon Washington (40) accumulated 104 receiving yards.
Against the Chargers, Henry had a 21-yard reception in the first quarter that led to a field goal, and Lewis' 21-yard reception in the third quarter preceded a touchdown.
Lewis led the team with 91 rushing yards on a team-high 13 attempts. His 91 rushing yards were the sixth-most of his career and the most since a 93-yard rushing performance against the New York Jets on Dec. 31, 2017, when he was a member of the New England Patriots.
QBs: Marcus Mariota, Ryan Tannehill
RBs: Derrick Henry, Dion Lewis, David Fluellen, Dalyn Dawkins
WRs: Corey Davis, Adam Humphries, Tajae Sharpe, A.J. Brown, Darius Jennings, Kalif Raymond
TEs: Delanie Walker, Jonnu Smith, MyCole Pruitt, Anthony Firkser
Washington RedskinsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 24 October 2018
With Jonathan Allen and Daron Payne anchoring the defensive line, and Adrian Peterson hardly looking like a 33-year-old, the Washington Redskins have established what sort of team they are. It's quite a drastic shift from who they've been under head coach Jay Gruden until now.
As Associated Press sports writer Howard Fendrich put it, "Their defense stops the run -- gasp! -- and their offense -- get this! -- moves the ball on the ground."
"It starts up front, in the trenches," Gruden said Monday. "Those big guys are doing a great job."
He was talking about Washington's defensive front, but he also might as well have been referring to the offensive line, which is led by left tackle Trent Williams and right guard Brandon Scherff and has been leading the way for Peterson.
So bad against the run for so long, the defense is suddenly stout as can be. It limited the NFL's No. 2 rusher, Ezekiel Elliott, to 34 yards -- his second-lowest output in the league -- in the Redskins' 20-17 victory over the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday. Elliott's longest gain was 6 yards. That came a week after the Redskins limited Christian McCaffrey to 20 yards rushing and the entire Carolina team to 81 during a 23-17 win against the Panthers.
"We're making teams earn every blade of grass they get," Gruden said.
Now comes another test for Washington, which leads the NFC East: rookie sensation Saquon Barkley and the last-place New York Giants next Sunday.
The Redskins are giving up only 87.3 yards on the ground each game, third in the NFL. One key: Washington is one of two clubs to not have allowed a 20-yard run this season. Minnesota is the other.
"It's as much of a mindset as anything," linebacker Ryan Kerrigan said about stopping Elliott and the Cowboys, who had won four games in a row against the Redskins. "We definitely have taken it personally that they've had so much success running the ball against us the past couple of years."
On the other side of the ball, Gruden has embraced the running game much more than in his previous four seasons as a head coach in Washington.
After Peterson's 99 yards on 24 carries against the Cowboys -- the fourth time in six games this season he's topped 95 -- the Redskins are third in the league at 29.5 runs per game and 14th at 119 yards per game.
Those numbers are way up from the full 2017 season, when the team ended up ranked 24th with 25.1 runs per game and 28th with 90.5 yards per game.
Under Gruden, the Redskins have never finished a season averaging more than 26.8 carries or 106 yards per game.
They've also never had Peterson, who was available to any team when the Redskins signed him in the preseason.
"Adrian has been a big lift for us, without a doubt. We are 4-2, and he is big a part of it," Gruden said. "So we just have to keep feeding him."
Peterson's impact on the field clearly can be seen. He's ranked ninth in the NFL with 432 yards rushing, and seven of the backs ahead of Peterson have played seven games -- one more than Washington. In the Redskins' four wins, he's averaged 103 yards rushing.
But ESPN.com's John Keim contends that Peterson's effect extends beyond his numbers.
The Redskins' backs, a tight-knit group before and after Peterson arrived, see it in the meeting rooms and on the practice field.
"It caught a lot of people off guard," running back Chris Thompson said. "It did with me for sure. It caught the trainers off guard. One of them said to me the other day they didn't expect him to be the way he is; he's so easy to work with. You'd think some Hall of Famers may come in like, 'I'm AP; you can't tell me anything.' It was never like that with him."
The quick-footed Thompson has developed into a patient runner. Now Thompson, who constantly analyzes his own game, wonders if sometimes he's too patient after watching Peterson.
"He's seeing everything so quick that he's able to play super fast, and as a group we can learn from that," Thompson said. "There are certain runs where I take my time or I'm real under control, whereas he'll do something full speed and he's hitting holes quicker and I'm taking my time and getting caught."
Redskins running backs coach Randy Jordan said Peterson brought "street cred" to Washington because of his resume. He's now 26 yards from passing Tony Dorsett to become the NFL's ninth all-time leading rusher. Peterson understands what he can offer.
"It all comes with the territory," Peterson said. "You have a guy who has accomplished some great things so far in this league and to see him running extra gassers or in the weight room lifting or practicing 100 miles an hour, it could be motivating. It would be for me if I was on the other side."
It's not as if the other backs didn't already work hard. There's a reason Thompson has become one of the NFL's best third-down backs. But Peterson is on a different level. He's genetically blessed, but his approach maximizes whatever he sees as his gifts.
"The biggest thing is … attention to detail in terms of footwork, his tracks, wanting to know the why," Jordan said. "Young guys want to memorize a play, but they don't want to know the why yet. 'Why this running play? Why the footwork that way?' [Peterson is] asking that, 'OK, if we change our track, maybe that gives us a better angle in the run play.' Those are things you don't think as a young back."
The Redskins hope it helps rookie Derrius Guice, too, as he recovers from knee surgery. Guice has been in Louisiana for a couple weeks, but had been in meetings previously and will be again when he returns. When he's around, he'll see Peterson get corrected in practice just like the other backs -- about his balance or hand placement in a blocking drill.
"That's the thing; he's always been one wanting to get coached," Jordan said. "He says, 'Coach, I still want to get coached. ...'"
Meanwhile, the Redskins need help at wide receiver, and while Gruden allowed a potential trade might bolster the group, the return of rookie Trey Quinn might do the same.
Quinn landed on the injured reserve after the season opener in Arizona when he injured his ankle on a punt return. The IR designation means Quinn must miss eight weeks of action but can return after that period.
"We'll get Trey Quinn back here pretty soon," Gruden said Monday on the Redskins Talk podcast.
Quinn could be back as early as Week 9 against Atlanta, and it sounds like Gruden expects to see him then.
A record setter at SMU and the final pick of the 2018 NFL Draft, Quinn's return could immediately help the Redskins at their inside slot receiver position. Jamison Crowder has missed the last two games for Washington, and reports say he could miss a few more weeks.
Of the trio of injured Redskins skill players, Thompson, Paul Richardson, and Crowder, Gruden said the slot WR has "probably got the furthest to go" before he can return from injury. Last week, Crowder was spotted in the Redskins practice facility riding a scooter and with a boot on his ankle.
With Crowder out an elongated period of time, Quinn could step right in. Both on the smaller side and more quick than fast, Quinn is best suited to play the inside receiver position and can also return punts.
Asked if Quinn is a natural fit to fill in for Crowder, Gruden replied, "exactly right."
Asked if a trade might bolster the team's receiving corps, Gruden said: "I think if you look at our team right now with the injuries to Crowder and obviously the uncertainty with Richardson you might want to add another receiver, but I like what Michael Floyd's done coming in here"
Floyd had one catch for 20 yards in the Redskins win on Sunday over the Cowboys, but he's a physical veteran that has the coach excited. Gruden also complimented what Maurice Harris and Brian Quick have done in the absence of Richardson and Crowder.
I'll have more on Thompson, Richardson and Crowder via Late-Breaking Update as the week progresses.
QBs: Case Keenum, Dwayne Haskins, Colt McCoy
RBs: Adrian Peterson, Chris Thompson, Bryce Love, Wendell Smallwood, Shaun Wilson, Derrius Guice
WRs: Paul Richardson, Trey Quinn, Terry McLaurin, Brian Quick, Jehu Chesson, Kelvin Harmon, Cam Sims, Robert Davis
TEs: Jordan Reed, Vernon Davis, Jeremy Sprinkle, Matt Flanagan