Team Notes Week 6 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 10 October 2018
As ESPN.com's Josh Weinfuss put it, "In one play Sunday afternoon, the Arizona Cardinals showed just what their offense could look like with Josh Rosen at quarterback.
"It might take a while to get there, however. ..."
On the Cardinals' first offensive play of the game, Rosen took the snap from under center at his own 25. The pocket was wide open, giving him time to wait on fellow rookie, wide receiver Christian Kirk, to kick into high gear. In the meantime, veteran receiver Larry Fitzgerald ran a deep crossing route, pulling a safety with him. Kirk made a double move on the cornerback defending him to get the separation he needed, and his legs did the rest.
Rosen launched a throw to Kirk that traveled 53 yards in the air and resulted in a 75-yard touchdown to put Arizona up one early in the game. The Cardinals would go on to win 28-18 at the San Francisco 49ers for their first victory of the season.
According to Weinfuss, the play was installed Friday. When the idea of taking a shot early was brought up, Rosen loved it.
It was the type of toss Rosen became known for at UCLA and one that showed off his arm, which often was described as NFL-ready leading into April's draft. It was the type of throw the Cardinals were missing from Sam Bradford during the first few weeks of the season.
It also was the type of throw that could spark an offense that is in desperate need of stimulation.
"It shows a lot of the potential of our offense," Rosen said. "We're not really clicking on all cylinders, but I think it shows what happens when we are. I think we can be unbelievably dangerous, especially the way our defense is built and how we've got some unbelievable guys in the secondary, and we've got some real good pass-rushers.
"So, if we can get up in a game and make a team have to throw the ball, I think teams can be in a lot of trouble. We just have to continue to get better and better."
Under Rosen's guidance for the past two games, the offense has been steadily ticking upward. It has produced the two highest scoring games of the season thus far.
And maybe most importantly, Arizona won Sunday.
But as Weinfuss added, there's plenty the Cardinals' offense needs to work on. It's still quite unproductive. It is ranked 30th in points and last in yards and time of possession. Against the Niners, the Cardinals had the ball for 19:49 -- less than one third of the game. Arizona's defense scored one touchdown Sunday, and the turnovers it created led to two other TDs.
Arizona's running game has been stagnant. It has 323 yards through five games this season; 11 NFL players have more yards individually.
But that touchdown pass Sunday could be a preview of what is possible with Rosen at quarterback.
Head coach Steve Wilks said the goal of that pass was just to be aggressive and "stay ahead of the sticks." It showed how the Cardinals could stay ahead of the curve.
"I think we were just trying to get a spark in any way possible and just trying to get the offense rolling," Rosen said. "We haven't been scoring as many points as we wanted to. So, I think we took a really good first step."
The Cardinals could take a while to get to the next step, and possibly the step after that.
Rosen said he's still trying to "break in the offense."
Since he didn't get a lot of first-team reps in training camp, these games are his chance to work out the kinks, on the fly, in living color.
But he's getting there. They're getting there.
"It's a long season," Rosen said. "We've got a long ways to go. Even if we didn't play as well as we wanted to, at least we had more points than the other team."
As Weinfuss summed up, "The Cards have to start somewhere. ..."
Other notes of interest. ... Fitzgerald was limited to a pair of catches for 35 yards. One of the catches came right before the half in the middle of the field when the 49ers were guarding the sideline.
Rosen downplayed the lack of action for Fitzgerald, pointing out he would have had better numbers if certain throws were accurate. One bootleg, in particular, which would have been a big gain if not for an overthrow.
"For the most part, he was pretty involved," Rosen said. "I just missed him here and there."
As noted above, even when Fitzgerald wasn't catching the ball, he played a pivotal role offensively (like drawing the safety help on Kirk's long touchdown, which opened up the deep part of the field).
"You can see those dreads from anywhere," Rosen said. "He's an asset on the field whether he's got the ball or not. You've got to pay him a whole lot of attention. It frees up a lot of other guys."
The Cardinals are following up their first win of the season by adding a veteran piece to their receiving corps. Wide receiver Kendall Wright agreed to a one-year deal with the team. Cornerback Deatrick Nichols was waived in a corresponding move.
Wright worked out for the team recently and visited with a few other clubs since being released by the Vikings at the end of the summer. Wright, who was a 2012 first-round pick, had 59 catches for 614 yards and a touchdown with the Bears last season and spent the first five years of his career with the Titans.
Arizona's receivers are ranked 30th in receptions (41), yards (467), yards after catch (135), touchdowns (two), receiving first downs (18) and targets (72).
Kirk leads Arizona with 19 catches for 234 yards through five games. Fitzgerald has 176 yards on 17 catches. Arizona's next three leading receivers are Johnson, tight end Ricky Seals-Jones and running back Chase Edmonds.
The Cardinals' offense ranks last in the NFL in yards per game, rushing yards per game, first downs per game and average time of possession and 31st in yards per play, rushing yards per play, passing yards per game, passing yards per play, third-down percentage and points per game.
QBs: Kyler Murray, Brett Hundley, Drew Anderson
RBs: Kenyan Drake, Chase Edmonds, D.J. Foster, Eno Benjamin
WRs: DeAndre Hopkins, Christian Kirk, Larry Fitzgerald, Andy Isabella, Trent Sherfield, KeeSean Johnson, Hakeem Butler
TEs: Maxx Williams, Darrell Daniels, Dan Arnold
Atlanta FalconsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 10 October 2018
As ESPN.com's Vaughn McClure noted, the Falcons obviously weren't trying to freeze out their best player, but it happened.
Julio Jones, the guy who entered Sunday's action leading the NFL with 502 receiving yards and tied for fourth in the league with 46 targets, didn't catch his first pass of Sunday's 41-17 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers until the 13:44 mark of the fourth quarter. Jones finished with five catches for 62 yards and no touchdowns on nine targets, but there's no doubt the Falcons wanted to get him involved earlier.
"Yeah, definitely not by design," Falcons coach Dan Quinn said. "Just have to make sure he gets as many touches as we can in the game. He's one of our best and most explosive players so every game, we want him involved."
Matt Ryan echoed Quinn's words.
"Obviously, we want to get him involved," Ryan said. "I missed one for him earlier in the game on his back hip; then one was tipped when we had a shallow cross. ... They made a pretty concerted effort to take him out and that created opportunities elsewhere.
"We will find ways to continue to get him the ball, regardless of coverage. ... For sure, we want to get him the ball throughout: first quarter, second quarter, third quarter, anytime of the game."
The Falcons certainly don't want to establish a habit of Jones not catching passes until the fourth quarter, unless they're scoring touchdown after touchdown with rookie Calvin Ridley or other targets in the process. Such wasn't the case against the Steelers, although Mohamed Sanu did score on a 43-yard pass play down the middle.
The Steelers commended Joe Haden for following Jones for most of the day, though Jones did not acknowledge that Haden was shadowing him. Then again, Jones rarely gets caught up in matchups.
Offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian often talks about making sure Jones get his chances regardless of the situation. You have to wonder if that first drive to start the second half against the Steelers, when the Falcons trailed might have had a different outcome had Jones gotten his hands on the ball. Instead, the biggest play of that drive was Ryan's 10-yard scramble on third-and-8 before the Falcons eventually had to punt.
The last time Jones didn't have a reception in the first half of a game was in 2016 against Denver in Week 5. According to ESPN Stats and Information, Sunday marked the third time in his career that Jones had been held without a catch through three quarters. It also occurred during his rookie season in 2011 against the Minnesota Vikings and in 2012 against the Carolina Panthers.
Jones explained what happened against the Steelers from his vantage point.
"It's never frustrating, first off," Jones said. "They had a good game plan for me, a lot of two-man, things like that. Discouraged Matt earlier on in the game that two guys were going to be on me throughout the whole game."
Jones was asked how he stayed into the game while not catching a pass through the first three quarters on four targets.
"For me, it doesn't matter," Jones said. "I'm the type of guy, I never look at the scoreboard. Until it's 0-0, zero on the clock, I'm going to play. That's what happened today. They had a good scheme."
Jones scoffed at the notion it's hard for him to get into a rhythm when he catches the ball so late in a game.
"This is my eighth year now," Jones said. "I've been doing this in college, high school. It's no rhythm for me. They just had a scheme put together. That's all it was. ... I'm not a rhythm player."
While it might not frustrate Jones, it's getting tough on fantasy owners. That said, few players produce at his level of sustained periods of time. The valleys are few relative to the peaks. ...
Whatever the case, as McClure summed up, the Falcons need Jones to be dominant to salvage this season after a 1-4 start and dropping three in a row, with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (2-2) coming to Atlanta next. It's the Falcons' last NFC South home game, with the final three division contests all on the road, including Thanksgiving night at New Orleans (3-1). ...
They also need to improve their pass protection.
Ryan, who was under duress for much of the game, understandably failed to find any sort of rhythm. While the Falcons" signal caller completed 26 of 38 for 285 yards and a touchdown, the offense converted just six of 14 third-down attempts (43 percent) and made just one of three fourth-down attempts (33 percent).
The fact that he didn't not return to Sunday's loss to the Steelers after losing a fumble on a sack by linebacker T.J. Watt in the fourth quarter did not raise much of an eyebrow because Atlanta was down 41-17 after L.J. Fort fell on the ball for a Pittsburgh touchdown.
There was word that Ryan was headed for X-rays after the game, however, and that did raise some concern that absorbing six sacks and 11 hits might have left Ryan in less than prime physical condition.
Quinn confirmed that Ryan went for X-rays of his foot following Sunday's blowout loss at Pittsburgh. Quinn said Ryan is "100 percent good to go" this week against Tampa Bay.
Quinn did not say which foot Ryan injured.
Ryan, an 11-year veteran and the 2016 NFL MVP, has been sacked 16 times, tied for third-most in the league. He was sacked 24 times last year.
Ryan had not been sacked six times in a game since the 2014 season finale against Carolina.
Ryan was 26-of-38 for 285 yards and a touchdown in Sunday's loss.
He wasn't the only one on offense who couldn't find his groove, either. Running back Devonta Freeman, back after missing three games with a knee injury, ran it only eight times for 32 yards. Tevin Coleman had seven carries for 15 yards. As a team, the Falcons had 62 total yards rushing on 19 attempts.
By the way, we should expect Ito Smith to continue getting about a 20 percent share of the workload -- as he did against the Steelers -- as the Falcons try to find out if he can be a suitable replacement when Coleman hits free agency after the season (assuming they don't get a trade offer they can't refuse before then).
But if the Falcons can't protect Ryan, they won't be able to turn things around.
By the way, the first injury report of the week comes out on Wednesday when the Falcons resume practice and get ready for a home matchup with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
QBs: Matt Ryan, Matt Schaub, Kurt Benkert
RBs: Todd Gurley, Brian Hill, Qadree Ollison, Ito Smith
WRs: Julio Jones, Calvin Ridley, Russell Gage, Laquon Treadwell, Christian Blake, Olamide Zaccheaus
TEs: Hayden Hurst, Jaeden Graham, Carson Meier
Baltimore RavensCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 10 October 2018
As Jamison Hensley noted, through the first quarter of the season, the Ravens were historically perfect in the red zone and putting up points more consistently than any other team in the NFL.
Then, something strange happened when the Ravens hit the road: They lost their way to the end zone.
Baltimore's 12-9 overtime loss to the Cleveland Browns extended the Ravens' touchdown drought to 123 minutes, 3 seconds.
It's a rut that has included poor throws from Joe Flacco, debatable play-calling, ill-timed turnovers and a dozen punts.
The last time Baltimore crossed the goal line was midway through the first quarter of the Sept. 30 game in Pittsburgh. Since that Alex Collins 3-yard touchdown catch, the Ravens have gone seven quarters and one overtime period without reaching the end zone.
How has this happened?
"I'll take a look at it and figure it out," head coach John Harbaugh said. "That's a big, giant huge question that can't be answered that simple."
According to the team's official website, receiver Michael Crabtree, who dropped several key passes, sat in front of his locker for some time with his head down before addressing the media. Flacco was obviously disappointed, having to answer questions about what went wrong.
The Ravens have not scored a touchdown since the first quarter of their Week 4 game against Pittsburgh -- seven straight quarters, plus Sunday's overtime. After starting the season 13-for-13 in the red zone, they have scored just one touchdown on their last seven trips.
To win consistently, the Ravens will have to play better offensively than they have done recently.
The Ravens hoped they had moved beyond a performance like this with the additions of wide receivers Crabtree, John Brown and Willie Snead, along with their deep corps of tight ends (which included Hayden Hurst for the first time as the rookie returned from August foot surgery to make his NFL debut). Flacco was off to one of the hottest starts of his career.
What went wrong in this game?
Give the Cleveland secondary credit for containing Flacco's favorite weapons, particularly wide receiver Brown, who had been one of the NFL's top deep threats during the first four weeks of the season.
Flacco completed just four of 14 targets to Brown, as he was held to 58 yards receiving. Browns first-round rookie cornerback Denzel Ward was excellent in coverage, as was the rest of Cleveland's secondary. The Browns kept a safety in deep coverage shading toward Brown, determined not to let him make a big play.
"When you're making plays, you've got to expect things like that to happen," said Brown of Cleveland's defensive scheme. "I knew that was going to be part of the plan, to take the deep ball away from me. They did a good job with it. Sometimes you have to accept that, and just open it up for your teammates."
With Brown not a factor in the deep passing game, Flacco was forced to go elsewhere, and the results were not productive. Crabtree had five catches for 68 yards, but his dropped passes have become an issue. Crabtree dropped two passes in the first half that killed drives. Then, with a minute left in regulation, Crabtree could not control a pass in the end zone that would have given Baltimore a go-ahead touchdown.
It would have been a difficult catch by Crabtree on a blistering pass over the middle by Flacco. However, Crabtree managed to get both hands on the ball, and it was the kind of catch he has made before. This time, he didn't make it, forcing the Ravens to settle for a Tucker field goal that forced overtime.
The players and coaching staff have plenty to look at before their Week 6 game in Tennessee. No touchdowns in the last seven-plus quarters is an offensive trend the Ravens must change as quickly as possible.
"It's on us," said Moore. "We should have won this game. We just didn't finish."
For what it's worth, the only Ravens player to accept direct responsibility for the offensive struggles was Crabtree. As noted above, he dropped passes in each of the first two drives and had a potential winning touchdown pass bounce off his hands in the final minute of regulation.
"Put this game one me," Crabtree said.
His six drops this season are the most in the NFL. He said the problem is concentration, and he will get this fixed even if he has to catch 2,000 balls a week at practice.
"I'm a team player," Crabtree said. "I know you guys know that. Letting them down, you know what I'm saying, that kind of hurt me. I have to go back to the drawing board, man, and get my s--- together."
Crabtree finished with six catches for 66 yards, which is a season-best in a disappointing season. But drops have been an issue with Crabtree throughout his career. Since being the No. 10 overall pick in the 2009 draft, Crabtree has 56 dropped passes. Only Brandon Marshall has more over that span with 64.
Asked how to handle a receiver who is dropping passes, Harbaugh said, "These guys are pros. These guys are the best players in the world, so they go to work on that every day. Michael will work on that."
Of course, there was plenty of blame to pass around after Baltimore's first loss in Cleveland since 2013.
Flacco completed 29 of 56 passes for 298 yards, but he also threw an interception and the Browns sacked him twice. Flacco's longest completion was for 28 yards, and the explosiveness the offense showed in earlier games was gone.
The Ravens handed the ball off to their running backs on 24 percent of their plays (20 of 84 plays) despite Collins and Javorius Allen averaging 4.6 yards per carry.
Collins (167 snaps) is the starter, but Allen (194 snaps) has been on the field more, as he was Sunday against the Browns. Collins had 27 snaps in Cleveland to Allen's 50. Collins did head to the sideline for an extended period in the third quarter as he was seen by trainers.
Harbaugh said both backs would continue to split the running back duties, with the goal being not to overwork either back. Collins gained 59 yards on 12 carries Sunday while Allen ran eight times for 34 yards and caught six passes (eight targets) for 44 yards.
"That's just the way the game went," Harbaugh said. "I'd like to get De'Lance [Turner] out there a little more. A fresh running back is a good thing. I think running backs taking 40, 50 snaps is not necessarily a good thing. You talk about the balance … you put the ball in one guy's hand for 35 plays, I don't know if that's balance. We need to spread the load, and you want fresh guys out there playing hard."
Meanwhile, Allen fumbled for the first time since his 2015 rookie season. He had gone over 300 touches without putting the ball on the ground.
Turnovers hurt in general. They're magnified in the red zone.
Flacco threw an interception in the red zone for the first time since the end of the 2016 season, an unfortunate play that epitomized how badly things have gone for Baltimore. At the Browns' 2-yard line, Flacco was trying to move to the next play and intended to throw the ball at the feet of tight end Nick Boyle. Instead, the pass got tipped and picked off.
"We've got to play Ravens football," Allen said. "I feel like we can't play down to nobody's level."
For what it's worth, this scoring drought is nowhere close to the longest in team history. In their 2000 Super Bowl season, the Ravens went five games without breaking the goal line.
Baltimore will look to end this current end zone dilemma Sunday against the Titans and Dean Pees, Tennessee's defensive coordinator who served in that same role with the Ravens from 2012-2017. The Titans have allowed the third-fewest touchdowns (seven) through the first five games of the season.
"I don't think it's frustrating," Allen said of the touchdown-less stretch. "We've got too many weapons on our team not to score."
The Ravens (3-2) fell one game back on the Cincinnati Bengals (4-1) in the AFC North.
QBs: Lamar Jackson, Robert Griffin III, Trace McSorley
RBs: Mark Ingram, J.K. Dobbins, Gus Edwards, Justice Hill
WRs: Marquise Brown, Miles Boykin, Willie Snead, Devin Duvernay, Jaleel Scott, De'Anthony Thomas, Chris Moore, James Proche
TEs: Mark Andrews, Nick Boyle
Buffalo BillsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 10 October 2018
As ESPN.com's Mike Rodak reminded readers, when the Bills dealt Tyrod Taylor and later traded up to select Josh Allen with the No. 7 pick, their goal was to develop a passer who could raise the team to greater heights than Taylor was able to achieve with his arm.
Although the Bills (2-3) escaped with a much-needed, 13-12 win over the Tennessee Titans on Sunday, their path to victory with Allen followed the same sort of conservative approach that once protected Taylor's weaknesses from being exposed.
Rodak went on to note that four games into Allen's career as the Bills' starter, that strategy should come with at least some level of concern. Instead of expanding the offense as Allen grows into his role, the Bills retreated into the protective shell of a ground-and-pound game plan.
In the few instances when Allen poked out his head to take a chance, the results were lacking.
Buffalo ran the ball 43 times and attempted only 20 passes (including a desperation heave by holder Corey Bojorquez during a botched fake field-goal attempt), tied with a Redskins win in Week 3 for the fewest passes thrown by a team this season.
Sunday's game had the feel of Taylor's 2015-17 tenure in Buffalo. He was under center for six of the 38 NFL games during that span in which 20 or fewer passes were attempted. Much like how Allen scored on a 14-yard scramble on Sunday, Taylor made impressive plays with his legs and won all six of those games in which the Bills attempted 20 or fewer passes.
However, the evidence that Taylor could win when the game was on his shoulders was lacking. He was a statistically poor passer when attempting to come from behind in close games, situations that often exposed his accuracy issues and produced his few interceptions.
Allen is supposed to be something bigger and better for Buffalo. His off-the-charts arm strength should make defenses cover every blade of grass on the field. Expecting Allen to be that sort of prolific passer immediately in his career is certainly unrealistic, but he could have come up bigger in the limited moments Sunday when the Bills gave him a chance to showcase his arm.
Offensive coordinator Brian Daboll scripted a flea-flicker to Allen on Buffalo's first offensive play, but Allen's pass sailed over tight coverage on wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin and had little chance of success. Allen's best throw came on a 12-yard dart to tight end Charles Clay in the second quarter, but he later fired a laser to Benjamin's feet on third-and-10 in the third quarter.
"There were a couple of throws I wish I could have back that would've made it a lot easier [to win]," Allen said, noting his miss to Benjamin.
When the Bills trailed 12-10 and needed to drive for a game-winning field goal late in the fourth quarter, Daboll told Allen that the team would lean on its offensive line. Allen attempted only two passes for a total of minus-4 air yards.
Allen was also intercepted earlier in the fourth quarter on a pass that was on target and should have been caught by wide receiver Andre Holmes. He finished with 82 passing yards and a 42.0 passer rating. His leading receiver was running back LeSean McCoy, who had 23 yards, and Allen's longest gain came on a 13-yard pass to McCoy that was caught at the line of scrimmage.
There seemed to be an effort by the Bills to reel in Allen after he turned the ball over three times and was sacked seven times in a shutout loss to the Packers last week. Allen recklessly launched a pass that resulted in an interception in that game, two weeks after inexplicably tossing a pick to the Los Angeles Chargers while being wrapped up by defenders.
"You stress it at practice that every play is not going to be an 80-yard bomb," Daboll said Monday.
Added Allen on Wednesday: "I have to be better. I have to understand and respect the league, getting the ball from my hands, whether throwing it away or finding my checkdown and just allowing us to live another play."
The Bills' method for making Allen better on Sunday was to keep the ball out of his hands, which is a fair strategy for dealing with a rookie quarterback. That was good enough for the victory over the Titans, as Buffalo, which entered the game allowing a staggering 21 sacks through four games, gave up only one on Sunday.
But what happens when the Bills decide to open up their offense or are forced to do so? Allen's performance through four games should raise questions.
Head coach Sean McDermott indicated Sunday that the team will continue to lean on its running game in upcoming road games at Houston and Indianapolis.
"I just think it's establishing the offensive line and the line of scrimmage," McDermott said. "Without giving away too much strategy for next week, I'm just going to leave it at that."
Eventually, the Bills will need Allen to win games that Buffalo is not able to control with the running game and defense.
Until that happens, fantasy owners could start getting full value from McCoy.
After 29 touches in the first three games he played, the veteran halfback was a whole lot busier against the Titans.
"No, that was not by accident. He's one of our better players," said McDermott. "I thought (Daboll) did a good job of calling the game, in particular in key situations. We moved the chains. Time of possession was 34 minutes to their 26. Anytime you can do that you give yourself a chance to win the game."
On the team's first scoring drive, McCoy matched his carry total in the entire game at Green Bay the week before with five carries.
By halftime McCoy had logged 13 carries for 41 yards. Though he averaged just 3.2 yards per carry, the Bills stuck with the run game to stay in manageable down and distance and for the most part it worked.
Six of the Bills nine possessions went for seven plays or more as they had just one three and out in the game.
"They told me they'd give me the ball this game, and that was kind of the main focus," said McCoy. "Get the offensive line going. Running the ball, throwing the ball to me. Using Chris (Ivory) in there in different packages. Making the game a lot easier for Josh, easy reads, running the ball and doing some play action games on the perimeter because he can run. That was kind of the game plan. The game plan was nice."
McCoy went up and over 100 all-purpose yards for the 74th time in his career with a total of 108 against the Titans (85 rushing, 23 receiving). It ties him with Adrian Peterson for the active career lead.
By game's end McCoy had almost as many touches against the Titans (26) as he had all season (29).
"That's how it's supposed to be," said McCoy chuckling after the game.
Fantasy owners would agree; and it sounds like that's the plan moving forward. ...
Unless they trade him.
WIVB in Buffalo sports direction Josh Reed reports the Eagles have reached out to the Bills about a possible trade for McCoy, who spent the first six seasons of his career with the Eagles and is the franchise all-time leading rusher.
I'll obviously be watching for more on that in coming days, and so will the Bills.
Asked on Wednesday about the subject of trade talks regarding McCoy, McDermott told reporter, "We get calls all the time."
McCoy is signed through 2019, and the Eagles currently need an upgrade at the position. McCoy wasn’t happy about being traded away from the team that drafted him in 2009, and he’d quite possibly welcome a chance to finish his career in the place it started.
The window for 2018 trades closes in 20 days. If McCoy were to be traded, Chris Ivory would become the top option on the current depth chart.
And finally. ... As ESPN's Chris Mortensen first reported, the Bills were prepared to sign veteran quarterback Derek Anderson to provide Allen with an experienced mentor -- and they consummated that deal on Tuesday.
Anderson served as the backup during Cam Newton's first seven years with the Carolina Panthers, where McDermott and Bills general manager Brandon Beane once worked.
The Bills' original plan after trading Taylor to the Browns and drafting Allen with the No. 7 overall selection was to have AJ McCarron on the roster, along with second-year quarterback Nathan Peterman. That plan fell apart, however, when McCarron was injured in the preseason and later traded to the Raiders. After Peterman flopped in his Week 1 start against the Ravens, the Bills have been among a handful of teams evaluating other quarterbacks to provide more experience at the position.
One of those quarterbacks is former Steelers backup Landry Jones, but experience and familiarity with McDermott and Beane tilted in Anderson's favor, sources said.
Anderson, 35, is a 12-year veteran who spent the past seven seasons with Carolina. He was a Pro Bowler with the Browns in 2007, when he passed for 3,787 yards and 29 touchdowns.
QBs: Josh Allen, Matt Barkley, Jake Fromm, Davis Webb
RBs: Devin Singletary, Zack Moss, T.J. Yeldon, Taiwan Jones
WRs: Stefon Diggs, John Brown, Cole Beasley, Gabriel Davis, Isaiah McKenzie, Duke Williams, Andre Roberts, Robert Foster, Isaiah Hodgins
TEs: Dawson Knox, Tyler Kroft, Lee Smith, Tommy Sweeney, Jason Croom
Carolina PanthersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 10 October 2018
As Panthers.com's Max Henson suggested, the most impressive part about the first three games of Cam Newton's 2018 season was his improved decision making.
Entering Sunday's game against the New York Giants, the Panthers quarterback had thrown only one interception (a ball that bounced off running back's C.J. Anderson's hands) with a 99.7 passer rating.
"If we can continue to be real good (taking care of the ball), we'll give ourselves a chance to win every week," offensive coordinator Norv Turner said earlier in the week.
The Panthers didn't protect the ball against the Giants in the second half, and it nearly cost them.
Newton was picked off twice -- both passes intended for rookie tight end Ian Thomas. Newton also nearly lost a fumble that fortunately went out of bounds.
"It was such a sub-par game as far as production on my part," said Newton, who completed 21-of-35 passes (after completing eight of his first nine) for 237 yards with two touchdowns and two picks for a 75.5 rating. "But you're going to have games like this."
The first interception occurred on second-and-20 from the New York 26 yard-line late in the third quarter. Newton double-clutched and tried to hit Thomas down the seam, but safety Curtis Riley was all over it.
The next interception took place on third-and-8 from the New York 43-yard line. Carolina was leading 27-16 at the time, and the Panthers were in prime position to salt the game away with another scoring drive.
Instead, another miscue gave the Giants life.
Newton again tried to connect with Thomas, but the rookie stopped running when it appeared Newton was looking to lead him. Cornerback Janoris Jenkins was the beneficiary, hauling in the pick and returning it 29 yards to the Carolina 34. The Giants found the end zone two plays later.
"A couple decisions I know he would like to have back," head coach Ron Rivera said. "One of the interceptions was not his fault -- a little miscommunication in terms of the route that was run."
Newton, however, took full responsibility.
"It was a lack of focus," Newton said. "I've got to be better."
In the end, Newton did engineer what goes down as his 16th career game-winning drive.
Trailing 31-30 with 1:08 on the clock and the ball at his own 25-yard line, Newton completed a 20-yard pass to rookie wide receiver DJ Moore. Then, two carries for 10 yards from Christian McCaffrey was all kicker Graham Gano needed to take care of the rest.
"A wise man once told me that a great quarterback is only as good as his kicker," said Newton, who jumped on the pile of teammates mobbing Gano after he made the game-winning 63-yard kick. "Graham put the whole team on his back today. Well, on his toe today.
"Gano made a lot of wrongs right today. ..."
For the record, Gano, who was 3-for-3 on field goal attempts already, trotted onto the field with six seconds remaining. The uprights were officially 63 yards away.
It was such a far kick, Gano got himself set on the other side of the field -- the Giants" 43-yard line to be exact.
"Knowing Graham, if were lining up to kick it I know we've got a shot," guard Trai Turner said. "Let's block this up, and let the chips fall where they may."
The snap from the left hash was perfect. The hold was clean and precise. Gano put his boot through it confidently.
"You could just see the confidence exuding from Graham going into that kick," punter and holder Michael Palardy said. "I knew it was good, 100 percent I knew it. I could tell by the way it came out of my fingers and the sound that it made. This is good."
Gano has never been short on confidence. And the Panthers have always known about his leg strength.
But still, 63 yards in the final seconds?
"I just have no words for it," Gano said. "That was madness. That's the only word I can use to explain it."
The boot tied Saints kicker Tom Dempsey for the longest game-winner in NFL history. It was only the sixth ever successful attempt from that distance, and it earned Gano NFC Special Teams Player of the Week honors.
Meanwhile, Sunday's win is even bigger when you look ahead.
Carolina will get Pro Bowl outside linebacker Thomas Davis back from a four-game suspension and Pro Bowl tight end Greg Olsen is on target to return from a foot injury.
Thomas will bring more speed and energy to the defense. Olsen will give Newton his favorite target after a two-interception performance that kept this one in jeopardy until the end.
For what it's worth, Olsen says he's most likely going to need a second surgery for his Jones fracture. But he hopes foot will hold up until after the season. He was on the practice field Wednesday, working on a limited basis; I'll be following up on his status via Late-Breaking Update as the week progresses. ...
Outside of left tackle Matt Kalil, who practiced fully on Wednesday and is set to return from injured reserve after eight games, the Panthers will be as healthy for this key stretch that includes four of the next six games on the road as they could have hoped.
Getting second-year wide receiver Curtis Samuel back on Sunday, after he sat out the first three games following a procedure for an irregular heartbeat, also was big. The second effort he gave on a 25-yard touchdown catch in the first quarter showed he is more than a speedster.
"He may not understand his threshold of greatness," Newton said of Samuel, whom he calls "Cupid."
"Today you saw it," the QB added. "He's such a fun, exuberant player. We have to get the ball in his hands as much as possible."
Upon returning to practice just six days before the Giants game, the second-fastest player at the 2017 NFL Combine said he felt faster than ever. Maybe it was the weight lifted from what he's had to battle back from, but whatever it was, his speed and also his physicality were on full display on his touchdown.
While this team isn't as complete as it was in 2015 during a run to Super Bowl 50, it has more than enough pieces to be a factor in the tough NFC. Adding Pro Bowl safety Eric Reid last week during the bye shows just how close management believes this team is to being a contender.
That the Panthers scored 33 points on a day when Newton was far from his best, aside from eight rushes for 29 hard-earned yards and a clutch 17-yard completion on fourth-and-1 that led to another late field goal, speaks volumes.
And it helps to have a clutch kicker in Gano. ...
For the record, Gano has now made 36 consecutive field goals at home, dating back to the 2016 season.
Newton ran for 29 yards on the ground, bringing him to 4,485 career rushing yards, the most ever by a quarterback with a single franchise (Randall Cunningham -- 4,482 with Philadelphia).
QBs: Teddy Bridgewater, Will Grier, Phillip Walker
RBs: Christian McCaffrey, Reggie Bonnafon, Jordan Scarlett, Mike Davis
WRs: D.J. Moore, Robby Anderson, Curtis Samuel, Pharoh Cooper, Brandon Zylstra, Keith Kirkwood
TEs: Ian Thomas, Chris Manhertz, Temarrick Hemingway
Chicago BearsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 10 October 2018
Head coach Matt Nagy insisted Jordan Howard remains a big part of Chicago's offense and the star running back was adamant he wasn't frustrated despite a limited role in the most recent victory.
"This is not going to be an offense where it's just one person and it goes through one person," Nagy said Monday. "I don't necessarily believe in that. It's great when you have everybody fulfilling different roles and it's hard for the defense when you do that."
The Bears (3-1) own sole possession of the NFC North lead for the first time since late in the 2013 season, with three straight wins. Coming off a bye, they hope to keep rolling when they visit Miami on Sunday.
As Associated Press sports writer Andrew Seligman noted, Chicago matched its longest win streak since a 3-0 start in 2013 with a 48-10 romp over Tampa Bay two weeks ago. Mitchell Trubisky broke out with six touchdown passes -- one shy of the NFL record. Tarik Cohen added a career-high 121 yards receiving to go with 53 rushing, and the Bears came away with their most lopsided victory in six years.
As good as that sounds for Chicago, something else stood out: Howard's small role.
He carried 11 times for 25 yards and was in on 33 of 61 plays. Howard didn't talk to reporters after that game, and players were not available to the media until Monday.
"No, I wasn't frustrated," Howard said. "I was happy. We won. You see how much we won by. So there's not really nothing to complain about."
With more than 2,600 yards rushing since the Bears took him in the fifth round in 2016, Howard has been one of general manager Ryan Pace's most successful draft picks. He ran for 1,122 yards last season after finishing second in the NFL with 1,313 as a rookie.
But there were also questions how he would fit in Nagy's system after struggling in the passing game his first two seasons. Howard's name came up in offseason trade rumors, and Bears-related photos disappeared from his Instagram account at one point, though he insisted there was nothing to it and wouldn't acknowledge removing the pictures.
Howard has shown improvement catching the ball but hasn't found a rhythm running it. With 203 yards on 64 attempts, he is averaging 3.2 per attempt. That's well below his career average of 4.5 yards.
Howard has run the ball 15 times or less in three of the four games and hasn't rushed for more than 82 yards this season.
"Jordan understands what we're trying to do as a team," Nagy said. "And he also understands, and we've talked, that he has a major part of this offense. He has a big-time role. But if it's an advantage to us to go a different direction for that game or for that play or that series, we're going to do that."
It's hard to argue with what the Bears did against Tampa Bay. They saw an opening against a banged-up secondary and got huge games from Trubisky and Cohen, even if it meant a light day for Howard.
"The majority of the games, he gets more workload than I do," Cohen said. "He understands some games are different. We felt like their secondary was banged-up, so that's what happened, we're gonna attack them."
That's something they probably couldn't have done last season. But the Bears brought in more play-making pass catchers and hired an offense-minded coach after firing John Fox.
They have more options now and don't necessarily need to rely on the run as much.
"If we want to put him in the game and use him for a certain advantage, we'll do that and that could be first, second or third down," Nagy said. "There's other times where it doesn't fit that way. It just so happened this past game that ... Tarik got more plays in regards to getting the ball to him, and he was productive. But that has nothing to do with what Jordan Howard is doing. Jordan Howard is a big part of this offense."
Also of interest. ... The Bears hope rookie receiver Anthony Miller returns to action Sunday against the Dolphins. Miller has been sidelined the last two weeks after dislocating his left shoulder during the Sept. 23 win over the Cardinals. Miller was on the field Monday when the team reported back to Halas Hall for its first practice after the off week.
According to Chicago Tribune staffer Dan Wiederer, in the stretching and warm-up period that was open to the media, Miller was involved with the team.
Nagy declined to elaborate on the extent of Miller's participation, and the rookie was not allowed to talk with reporters following practice.
Still, the Bears seem to feel good about Miller's recovery, and Nagy acknowledged that the young receiver likely will have to become comfortable playing with a harness device on his left shoulder in the near future.
"I don't think (it'll be) too much of a challenge," Nagy said. "The biggest issue would probably be extending his arms into the air to try to reach and it would prevent him from that.
"But there's the balance of making sure that he's safe and healthy enough to do that with the brace. So he'll be fine. He's pretty tough."
The Bears are waiting until Wednesday for more clarity on Prince Amukamara's recovery from a hamstring injury. Amukamara also suffered his setback against the Cardinals and may need another week to be ready for game action.
The Bears officially placed outside linebacker Sam Acho on injured reserve Monday with a torn left pectoral muscle. The team filled the empty roster spot by signing offensive lineman Bryan Witzmann. Witzmann, a depth piece up front, has been in the NFL since 2015 and has spent time with five other teams. He was released by the Vikings last week and also has history with Nagy, having played for the Chiefs in 2016.
And finally. ... The Bears went through their standard off week self-scouting procedures last week. But Nagy admitted that, with only four games in the books, he didn't stumble upon any eye-opening revelations about his team.
"Not as much as you'd normally find if you had a bye another four weeks down the road," the Bears coach said. "The library of tendencies isn't as high as what you might normally think (it would be). So you kind of have a feel and idea of what you think you're going to see.
"We didn't go too crazy with the self-scout part of things just because of that. We went more into how we can prepare for Miami. And then what are the minor things, if any, that we feel like we need to change that are game plan-specific. ... I think we're in a good place right now."
QBs: Mitchell Trubisky, Nick Foles
RBs: David Montgomery, Tarik Cohen, Ryan Nall
WRs: Allen Robinson, Anthony Miller, Ted Ginn, Cordarrelle Patterson, Darnell Mooney, Javon Wims, Riley Ridley, Alex Wesley
TEs: Jimmy Graham, Adam Shaheen, Cole Kmet, Ben Braunecker, J.P. Holtz, Eric Saubert, Jesper Horsted
Cincinnati BengalsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 10 October 2018
As Profootballtalk.com's Charean Williams reported, "It was a tale of two halves in Cincinnati. ..."
The Dolphins dominated the first half, taking a 17-0 halftime lead. But it was all Cincinnati in the second half as the Bengals have become this season's comeback kids.
The Bengals scored 27 unanswered points, including two defensive touchdowns to rally for a 27-17 victory.
They moved to 4-1, while handing the Dolphins their second consecutive defeat after three victories to open the season.
According to ESPN.com's Katherine Terrell, there's no easy way to explain how the Bengals can look their worst and still come out on top. The players themselves probably couldn't describe how or why the Bengals have saved their best for last in almost every game this year.
"The one thing they do is just keep playing, and you can't take that away from them," said head coach Marvin Lewis. "They just keep playing. They just trust each other. 'Just settle it down, do your thing, get your eyes where they belong and run with your feet and your brain.' But obviously, they made plays down the stretch when it counted.
First there was Andy Dalton's desperation heave toward the end zone that looked like it was heading straight for an interception. As Dalton was falling to his knees, he threw the ball toward the end zone, where running back Joe Mixon, who was standing just short of the goal line, adjusted to haul the pass in and run for an 18-yard score.
Then things got weird.
Bengals defensive end Michael Johnson just missed sacking Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill on the next drive. Seconds later, nose tackle Andrew Billings did get to Tannehill. The ball bounced off the helmet of a Dolphins player and into Johnson's waiting arms. He ran it in for the game-tying score.
Carlos Dunlap and Sam Hubbard put the icing on the cake later that quarter when Dunlap forced a Tannehill fumble and the rookie Hubbard ran it in for another touchdown.
As Terrell suggested, there's something about the 2018 Bengals that just feels different.
Sunday's win marked the second time in Bengals history they outscored a team by 24 points in the fourth quarter, according to ESPN Stats and Information. The Bengals are now 4-128 in franchise history when down 14-plus points entering the fourth quarter.
The good news?
Mixon didn't look the worse for wear in his first game back from arthroscopic knee surgery. He had 22 carries and 25 touches, just one off his career highs set in Cleveland last year.
"I feel great," Mixon said. "The only thing that hurts are my feet. ..."
So much for Lewis' comments last week suggesting Mark Walton would play a greater role with Giovani Bernard out in Mixon's first game back.
Walton caught 2-of-3 passes for three yards and didn't get a carry.
In case you missed it, Bernard will miss two to four weeks with a sprained knee. Expect Mixon to continue being very busy going forward. ...
Wide receiver A.J. Green's last catch of the day, a nice 15-yard hookup over the middle that put the Bengals inside the Miami 10 on the go-ahead TD drive, gave him a 100-yard day (112 on six catches), the 32nd of his career that gives him the Bengals record and is the first of Chad Johnson's all-time records he'll break by the time he's done.
"It was just another option route," Green said. "It's hard to double me when I'm in the slot."
Mixon should get some of that. He accounted for 50 of the 62 yards on three runs in that drive and rung up 74 yards on 12 carries in the second half. Plus, when he caught his first NFL touchdown on the first play of the fourth quarter that cut the lead to 17-10, he felt the pendulum swing.
"The crowd was going crazy. I felt like I was in a dream," said Mixon, who thought that was the turning point.
It was Dalton's best throw of the day even though the 18-yarder floated behind Mixon at the goal line and he had to come get it, catch it and then step over the goal line. Considering end Charles Harris was bearing down unblocked and unabated, it was a rope.
"I felt like if I could just get it out there, he could come down with it," Dalton said. "As soon as I let it go, I got hit, and I wanted to make sure I got it there. ..."
The Bengals announced that they cut RB Thomas Rawls Tuesday. He had been with the team three weeks and played in one game, without getting a carry. Cincinnati has needed help at running back with the injuries to Mixon and Bernard. ...
John Ross, who sat out last week with a groin injury, returned to a limited practice Wednesday; I'll be following up on his progress via Late-Breaking Update in coming days. ...
One last note here. ... The Bengals worked out free agent TE Clive Walford, a source told NFL Network's Ian Rapoport. But the team signed TE Matt Lengel off of the Texans practice squad Wednesday. This makes sense with Tyler Eifert's (ankle) season over. C.J. Uzomah and Tyler Kroft are the top two tight ends currently on the roster.
Kroft left Sunday's game against the Dolphins early with a foot injury; Uzomah caught two passes against Miami.
QBs: Joe Burrow, Ryan Finley, Jake Dolegala
RBs: Joe Mixon, Giovani Bernard, Trayveon Williams, Rodney Anderson
WRs: A.J. Green, Tyler Boyd, Tee Higgins, John Ross, Auden Tate, Damion Willis, Alex Erickson, Mike Thomas, Stanley Morgan Jr.
TEs: C.J. Uzomah, Drew Sample, Cethan Carter, Mason Schreck
Cleveland BrownsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 10 October 2018
As ESPN.com's Pat McManamon framed it, "The Cleveland Browns are a team that scored 42 points and lost, and then scored 12 and won.
"If that sounds imperfect, it's because it is.
"But for these Cleveland Browns, any win is a good win, and any close win is a better win. A team trying to change its culture, belief system and misery index needed it -- and maybe can use a 12-9 overtime victory to propel it forward. ..."
"It is good to see the other side of it," said rookie quarterback Baker Mayfield, who threw for 342 yards in his second NFL start, the second-highest passing yardage in a game by a rookie in Browns history.
Along the way, Mayfield displayed some of the late magic he performed routinely for Oklahoma and Greg Joseph lined a 37-yard field goal that may have been deflected through the uprights with two seconds left in overtime to give Cleveland its second win, this one over the divisional rival Ravens.
By beating one of the AFC's perennial playoff teams, the Browns showed more evidence that they're on the rise and that Mayfield, the No. 1 overall pick who has an energized a city desperate for football success, might be the quarterback to restore a team that went just 1-31 in the past two seasons.
"There is just something about this young man," Browns coach Hue Jackson said of Mayfield, who passed for 324 yards and a TD in winning his second career start. "He has a feel to him. He does not blink at situations or opportunities."
Mayfield didn't bat an eye against the league's second-ranked defense -- one that has been notoriously hard on rookie quarterbacks.
Backed up near his goal line late in OT after an 11-yard loss on first down, Mayfield went to work.
He scrambled for 13 yards on second down and then bought time in the pocket before firing a pass to undrafted rookie Derrick Willies, who worked his way down the sideline for 39 yards. After Duke Johnson picked up 24 yards on three running plays, Joseph, another rookie cast-off signed after Week 2, kicked a field goal that never got more than 12 feet off the ground as the Browns snapped an 18-game winless streak in the AFC North.
Mayfield was afraid to watch Joseph's kick. It was the only time he showed any fear.
The Ravens were impressed.
"Baker is one of those guys, he's a playmaker," Baltimore safety Tony Jefferson said. "He has that 'it' factor to him. We were talking a little trash on the field. You have to respect a guy like that, especially a rookie who's coming into a defense like ours."
It was the second straight week the Browns went to overtime, and Mayfield joked that he hopes all his starts aren't as nerve-wracking.
But unlike a week ago in Oakland, where the Browns blew a 14-point lead and had two questionable calls by the officials ago against them, they finished the job and won for the first time in 37 Sunday games.
"It's huge for confidence," Mayfield said. "I think that we have been in this situation a lot. No, it has not gone our way. We had one tie and two losses. It is good to see the other side of it. Once we get into the situation, we have been there before but able to come out with it. Just keep pushing. We were frustrated that we did not score as many times as we wanted, but we never gave up.
"Our guys believed in it."
"Baker is a different breed," running back Carlos Hyde said. "He is not like most other quarterbacks, and he is a big-time competitor. He is just nonstop and always comes back out slinging the ball."
But this win was more than Mayfield.
Cleveland cornerback Denzel Ward had an outstanding game, including an interception at the goal line (on a pass tipped by end Emmanuel Ogbah), a blocked field goal and three passes defensed. Myles Garrett had another half a sack, giving him five in five games. Hyde rand for 63 more yards and is on pace for 1,100 rushing yards. The defense has forced 15 turnovers in five games. And the Ravens failed to get in the end zone after starting the game averaging 30.8 points.
The Browns have not arrived after this win; there is much room to grow. But there are signs pointing to reasons to believe.
Losing, though, generates negativity. At some point, these Browns had to win a close game to feel good about themselves and what they are doing.
Something has to propel the Browns toward what for so long seemed like an unreachable world of success.
If it's a three-point victory that by Mayfield's admission wasn't pretty, so be it. The Browns will take it. ...
Also of interest. ... Rashard Higgins has a sprained medial collateral ligament in his knee and his availability will be judged on a week-to-week basis, head coach Hue Jackson said Monday.
Higgins will not need surgery, Jackson said.
Higgins will be re-evaluated after two weeks, which means he may miss the team's next two games at home against the Chargers and at Tampa Bay.
Jackson was noncommittal about adding a free agent like Rashard Matthews, who worked out for the Browns on Monday after being recently released by the Titans. Jackson said "it's just hard to find those guys at this time to come in and contribute."
Jackson did say he believes in the reserve receivers on the roster. Derrick Willies took over when Higgins was injured, and had three catches for 61 yards -- including a 39-yarder that set up the game-winning field goal. Rookie Damion Ratley and veteran Rod Streater are the other two receivers on the roster.
Higgins had taken on increased responsibility against the Ravens after rookie Antonio Callaway had his snaps cut, in part due to a knee he tweaked in the Browns loss in Oakland. Higgins was having a good game, with three receptions for 66 yards, including a 19-yard reception for the game's only touchdown. Higgins' 16 receptions are third on the Browns, his 244 yards second.
Jarvis Landry leads the team in both categories with 29 catches for 381 yards. ...
And finally. ... The Browns made a change at the bottom of their roster on Tuesday. The team announced that they promoted running back Dontrell Hilliard from the practice squad. Defensive back Jerimiah McKinnon was waived in a corresponding move. Hilliard signed with the Browns as an undrafted free agent this offseason and joined the practice squad after failing to make the 53-man roster. He had 32 carries for 82 yards and two catches for 28 yards during the preseason.
Hyde, Johnson and Nick Chubb are also on hand at running back, so as Profootballtalk.com suggests, Hilliard's likely going to have to find playing time on special teams.
QBs: Baker Mayfield, Case Keenum, Garrett Gilbert, Kevin Davidson
RBs: Nick Chubb, Kareem Hunt, Dontrell Hilliard, D'Ernest Johnson
WRs: Odell Beckham, Jarvis Landry, Taywan Taylor, Donovan Peoples-Jones, KhaDarel Hodge, Damion Ratley, Rashard Higgins
TEs: Austin Hooper, David Njoku, Pharaoh Brown, Stephen Carlson, Harrison Bryant
Dallas CowboysCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 10 October 2018
Jason Garrett had a chance to make a statement about himself and his belief in the Dallas Cowboys' offense Sunday night.
Facing fourth-and-1 from the Houston Texans' 42 on the first possession of overtime, the Cowboys coach played it safe when the opportunity to be bold was staring at him in the face.
Garrett punted, trusting in a defense that held strong for most of the night.
The Cowboys never got the ball back and are now 2-3.
All they could do was watch hopelessly as Ka'imi Fairbairn's 36-yard field goal gave the Texans a 19-16 win in front of the largest crowd to see a game at NRG Stadium, set up by a 49-yard catch and run by DeAndre Hopkins.
"We were being outplayed there, not out-efforted, but we were outplayed," owner and general manager Jerry Jones said. "But it's time for risk at that particular time. That's not second-guessing, but we were taking some risk, too, at certain points in the game."
As ESPN.com's Todd Archer pointed out, the differences between Jones and Garrett are stark.
Jones made his money as a risk-taker, drilling for oil in spots that many believed to be barren. Since owning the Cowboys, Jones has taken risks to great benefit (Charles Haley, Deion Sanders) and great loss (Joey Galloway, Roy Williams).
Garrett is more willing to play the percentages and is more averse to taking risk.
On Sunday, he had a chance to be bold and lead the Cowboys to a win in a game that never should have been that close.
He chose not to in this case, but Garrett has been bold before.
In his lone playoff victory in 2014, he went for it on fourth-and-6 from the Detroit Lions' 42 with six minutes to play and down by three points. Tony Romo hit Jason Witten for a 21-yard gain and six plays later Romo hit Terrance Williams for the game-winning touchdown pass.
You don't even have to go back to 2014 and the Lions. You can go back just one week ago against the Lions.
In the third quarter of the Week 4 win, Garrett elected to go for it on fourth-and-1 from the Detroit 3. Ezekiel Elliott picked up 2 yards. He fumbled, but Blake Jarwin recovered the ball. On the next play, Prescott threw a touchdown pass to Geoff Swaim for a touchdown and a 20-10 lead.
Why did he go for it?
"Just to be aggressive and make it a two-score game and a tremendous belief in our offensive line and our runner against their defense in that situation," Garrett said the day after the win over the Lions. "There's a lot of talk about analytics and when you go for it, when you don't go for it. Sometimes what's missed from that equation is the fact that it's a game played by grown men, and it starts with that. When you have a belief in the guys up front, and you can hand the ball to 21 and you feel good about that, that's really where the decision-making process starts. And we certainly feel great about those guys. That doesn't mean we're going to go for it every time in those situations, but in that situation we felt like that was the right thing to do."
Since Elliott joined the Cowboys, they're 18-for-19 on fourth-and-1 or shorter.
If that's how Garrett felt a week earlier, then clearly he did not feel the same confidence in the group against Houston.
"Yeah, it was a long 1," Garrett said. "We had a third-and-2 (actually 1), and we didn't make much on it and just felt like at that point in the game, the way our defense was playing, the idea was to pin them down there. Chris [Jones] did a great job with the punt. They got the ball on the 10-yard line, and hopefully you make a stop and you win the game coming back the other way with a game-winning field goal."
Quarterback Dak Prescott wanted to go for it, "but in that case you don't question the coach's decision on defense." Elliott agreed with Garrett. "Obviously you would like a chance to go for it on fourth-and-1, but I don't know if that was the best decision right there," Elliott said.
The Texans had seven second-half possessions and had as many turnovers (two) as scores (two field goals), but then Hopkins broke free and the game changed, with the moment to be bold long gone.
"Any decision he makes, he makes, and we just got to hold it down and we didn't," defensive lineman Tyrone Crawford said. ...
Other notes of interest. ... Allen Hurns, who signed with the Cowboys to be their "No. 1" wide receiver is of the belief both he and his crew are better than their numbers. "For sure, (the plays) are there," Hurns said in the locker room after the loss against the Texans.
Asked him if criticism of the Cowboys" wide receivers given the statistical production was valid, from either fans or media, Hurns said, "They don't understand it. If you just go by stat lines, of course you can say that. If you are really watching film, you can't say that.
"If you want to go back and watch film, it comes down to the majority of snaps. Of course, it's not going to be every snap you are going to win across the board. Are you creating separation? We left some plays out here. I'm not saying were always perfect and were always open. I'm not. That's not the case. I feel like the majority of the snaps we are creating separation.
"If I'm not open, (Cole Beasley) is open and it rotates. It's not always like all three receivers are not getting open."
As Dallas Morning News staffer Mac Engel suggested we can take that however we want, but there is no doubt some thinly veiled criticism at Prescott, even if it's unintentional because it is valid. The wide receivers can't be the only ones to blame for the passing game, but their numbers are horrific.
Hurns has eight receptions for 84 yards this season. He caught his first touchdown with the team on Sunday night. Tavon Austin has been too erratic. He has six receptions for 125 yards and two touchdowns. His dropped pass on Sunday night led to an interception.
Michael Gallup, the rookie third round pick who looked so good in preseason, is now being exposed as a baby in the NFL. He has six receptions for 82 yards. He had an awful game Sunday night.
Deonte Thompson has 11 receptions for 102 yards.
Beasley leads the team with 17 receptions for 193 yards. Seven of his catches came in the Week 1 loss at Carolina.
Swaim, who caught three passes for 55 yards against the Texans, was the Cowboys' leading receiver this week. ...
One last note here. ... Jones does not expect LB Sean Lee (hamstring) to play this week.
QBs: Dak Prescott, Andy Dalton, Clayton Thorson, Ben DiNucci
RBs: Ezekiel Elliott, Tony Pollard, Jordan Chunn, Rico Dowdle, Sewo Olonilua
WRs: Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup, CeeDee Lamb, Cedrick Wilson, Devin Smith, Tevin Jones, Ventell Bryant, Lance Lenoir, Tavon Austin, Noah Brown
TEs: Blake Jarwin, Dalton Schultz, Blake Bell
Denver BroncosCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 10 October 2018
According to ESPN.com's Jeff Legwold, as distasteful as it might be for the Denver Broncos, they've been in this place before.
Right in this exact situation, when things seems to be teetering.
Sunday's rather dismal effort -- a 34-16 loss to the New York Jets -- was the Broncos' third consecutive loss after a 2-0 start. Last season, it was a 3-1 start before all the dominoes fell over in what became a zombie walk through an eight-game losing streak and a 5-11 finish.
And in six days, the Broncos will face the Los Angeles Rams at home.
"We're not going to fall for the noise," said Broncos coach Vance Joseph at MetLife Stadium. "... We can't surrender to this. That's what the public thinks. We have no excuses. We've got to bounce back. We can't surrender to the noise out there; it's early in the season ... we've got plenty of time, we've got a big game on Sunday, and I feel good about it."
After Sunday's loss, in an attempt to describe the current rinse-and-repeat cycle, Broncos defensive end Derek Wolfe said, "Something -- something much deeper is happening here that I can't even really understand." That will be put to the test once again this week again, as the Rams have one of the league's highest-octane offenses and a defense that makes life difficult for opposing quarterbacks.
That's two rather significant items the Broncos have struggled against this season, even when the opponent doesn't fit the profile. The Jets came into Sunday's game with the league's 29th-rated offense, and they pushed the Broncos all over the field, rushing for 323 yards.
The Broncos also saw quarterback Case Keenum consistently harassed, as he was sacked four times and threw his seventh interception of the season. (Keenum threw seven picks all of last season for the Minnesota Vikings.)
"We have to do better, and we will do better," Keenum said. "I've got to be better."
He does, as does the rest of the offense when the game is still in the balance.
But the biggest concern with the Rams looming is the Broncos' defensive meltdown in New Jersey. The Jets gained 512 yards on offense. New York's rushing total was the fifth highest for an opponent in a single game in Denver's franchise history. And the Jets averaged 8.4 yards every time they ran a play.
In their three-game losing streak, the Broncos are trending the wrong way, given that they have now surrendered 342, 446 and 512 yards, and those three opponents (Baltimore Ravens, Kansas City Chiefs and the Jets) have gone 21-of-44 on third down. It's a conversion rate (47.7 percent) that would have been almost unheard in the heyday of 2015.
Joseph was asked after Sunday's loss if he felt the need to make any adjustments with his defensive coaching staff. Joe Woods is in his second season of calling plays on defense. And Joseph, like his players, says the ability to dig out of trouble is still to be found in the locker room and in the coaches' offices.
"I think were sound schematically," Joseph said, "but again, it always starts with coaching. We have to coach better so they can play better, but we pay our players to play also. So, it's not just coaching; it's all of us involved.
"It starts with me, and we have to coach and play better."
Asked again Monday about potential changes to the starting lineup and play-calling responsibilities, said he was still evaluating how to move forward.
"Everything's being considered," Joseph said. "It's all being considered. We're still watching tape and figuring out what's the best course of action. It's all being considered."
After the Broncos" 11th loss in their last 12 road games, though, it's clear something needs to change. So while Joseph wasn't ready to share specifics Monday, he vowed the Broncos would play differently on Sunday against the Rams.
"We're not going to play how we played yesterday," Joseph said. "We're not going to do that. So something's got to change. You don't play that brand of football and keep it all the same. I won't share what we're going to change, but there's going to be changes."
Joseph said he still believes his team will be able to turn their season around and ensure that these three losses don't spiral into another streak like the eight-game skid that plagued last season.
But before the Broncos can look ahead to the Rams, Joseph wants his team to look inward and rediscover the identity it showed during the first four weeks of the season.
"We have to fix ourselves first before we can talk about beating the Rams," Joseph said. "We have to go back to the drawing board and fix our football team here. … I believe in our football team. But right now, we've got to play a better brand of football. We did not play good yesterday. Obviously, the Kansas City game we did some good stuff, but we didn't make enough plays toward the end. [We] didn't play with great detail in critical moments and the Baltimore game, we felt the same way. But yesterday felt different because of the grit that we have played with.
"I didn't see the same grit. So we have to get back to that first. Fixing the Broncos first."
That must happen quickly if the Broncos are going to rebound from a 2-3 start to compete for a playoff berth.
"We have to get it fixed now," Joseph said. "It can't linger. ..."
For what it's worth, Denver's run game came out roaring, as rookies Phillip Lindsay and Royce Freeman combined for 51 yards on eight carries in the opening period. The Broncos ran on eight of their 14 first-quarter snaps, with 37.5 percent of their runs moving the chains.
After that, success was hard to find. The Broncos' next 11 runs went for 7 yards, as Lindsay and Freeman were consistently met in the backfield and at the line of scrimmage. With the ground game neutralized, the Broncos' offense sputtered, as the Broncos punted on seven of eight possessions from late in the first quarter through the end of the third quarter.
On the injury front. ... Joseph said both Adam Jones (hamstring) and Garett Bolles (ankle) will be day to day as the Broncos approach their Week 6 game against the Rams.
Tackle Jared Veldheer may miss his second consecutive game with a bone bruise.
"He's probably a week away from actually playing again for us," Joseph said.
QBs: Drew Lock, Jeff Driskel, Brett Rypien, Riley Neal
RBs: Melvin Gordon, Phillip Lindsay, Royce Freeman, Khalfani Muhammad, Levante Bellamy
WRs: Courtland Sutton, Jerry Jeudy, K.J. Hamler, Tim Patrick, Daesean Hamilton, Tyrie Cleveland, Fred Brown, Juwann Winfree, Diontae Spencer
TEs: Noah Fant, Jeff Heuerman, Albert Okwuegbunam, Jake Butt, Troy Fumagalli, Nick Vannett
Detroit LionsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 10 October 2018
Marvin Jones says now he wasn't concerned. His team had beaten Green Bay, 31-23, and now they are off on a bye this week -- which likely had something to do with the upbeat nature of the Lions' locker room.
But for the veterans in Detroit, it was something else, too.
They've been here before.
Two years ago. Same situation, going 1-3 after the first four weeks of the season and everything seeming like it was about to fall apart around them.
"We know internally. We know we have a chance. We know what type of team we are," Jones said. "Just because we were 1-3, that didn't really mean anything. We went 1-3 and went to the playoffs in '16. There's still a lot of football left.
"And our focus is just winning games. We're doing that and we just have to keep it going."
The 2016 experience -- which ended in a wild-card loss in Seattle during Jones' first season in Detroit -- kept things from becoming panicky. It allowed Detroit to do what it did Sunday, thoroughly handling Green Bay in the first half before holding on to win at the end.
It wasn't the prettiest way to win and wasn't as dominating a performance as the Lions' win over the New England Patriots, but against a division team and a quarterback they are all-too-familiar with, it was enough.
Meanwhile, Kenny Golladay is making quite an impression on his fellow receivers in Detroit.
The second-year wideout had four catches for 98 yards and a touchdown in the win over Green Bay. He also had a touchdown called back because of a penalty.
Golladay has given Detroit another strong receiving threat along with Golden Tate and Jones -- and at this point, it's hard to tell who the defense should be most concerned with.
"Having Kenny play the way he's been playing since he came on the team has been huge. He's opened it up for everybody," Tate said. "Now we have a bunch of guys who can make plays."
The Lions drafted Golladay in the third round last year out of Northern Illinois, and he got off to quite a start, catching two touchdown passes in his first game.
However, he missed five games with hamstring issues and finished the season with only 28 catches.
Still, the potential was there, and this year the 6-4 Golladay has nearly matched that reception total already. He has 27 catches for 428 yards. On the Lions, only Tate is ahead of him in those categories.
"He's killing it," Jones said. "He's doing a great job, and it's fun to see."
Golladay has been productive this season, and he's also been consistent. He caught seven passes for 114 yards in the season opener against the Jets and was one of the very few bright spots for Detroit in that loss. He's had at least four receptions in all five games.
Both Tate and Jones had more than 1,000 yards receiving last season.
But it's hard not to notice Golladay's physical ability and wonder if Detroit's passing game could be even better as he becomes a bigger part of it.
"He's obviously a big kid, physical kid, can run, wants to be a really good player," quarterback Matthew Stafford said after the game against Green Bay.
From a fantasy perspective, this could get tricky.
Some games, Tate will have a huge outing. Other times, it'll be Jones. Afternoons like Sunday meant Golladay, whom Stafford threw to in the first half almost as much as every other receiver combined.
"All three of us, everybody complements each other," Jones said. "You know what I'm saying? Just like we always say, some games that's how it's going to be. Just the fact that we have all of us out there with the ability to make those plays, it's a great thing."
According to ESPN.com's Michael Rothstein, a lot of Golladay's progression has to do with Stafford. They rarely had time to truly develop a rapport last season. Golladay came in as a rookie then missed time. Stafford downplayed Golladay's emergence a little bit -- pointing out Tate's eight-catch, 132-yard performance against Dallas the week prior.
Stafford said it more had to do with matchups, and that's the thing with Golladay. Few defenses have a cornerback who can properly handle his combination of size, speed and hops.
Golladay and rookie running back Kerryon Johnson are a glimpse into the future of the Lions' offense.
"We're both young, both talented players but neither one of us could do it without the other guys on the field, so those guys help us make plays," Johnson said. "We return the favor by making those plays, capitalizing on those opportunities and it's all a team thing.
"It all comes together. I think it says we could be pretty good."
In the present and the future, for one of the rare times for the Lions, that seems to be true. ...
Worth noting. ... Johnson's 24-yard run early in the fourth quarter down to the Green Bay 8-yard line was one of the pivotal plays that set up Detroit's last touchdown in their 31-23 victory over the Green Bay Packers Sunday afternoon. Unfortunately, as Johnson got pushed out of bounds, he looked to take an awkward step as his foot kind of got stuck in the turf.
He limped back to the sideline and never returned with what the Lions officially called an ankle injury.
Johnson rushed 12 times for 70 yards (5.8 average) against the Packers to continue his fine play. He is averaging 5.7 yards per rushing attempt through five games. He has 50 attempts for 286 yards and a score on the season, and has also caught 13 passes for another 68 yards.
Johnson was taped by trainers on the sideline after suffering the injury, and was trying to test it out by running up and down the sideline. He didn't have his helmet for Detroit's next offensive possession, and never returned to the game.
The bye week gives Johnson a chance to get some extra rest, but the ankle will be something to monitor before their Oct. 21 game in Miami.
"I think I scared myself way more than actual damage was done. But we got a bye week, heal up, be out here next week," Johnson said.
Could he have gone back if needed?
"Yeah, I think I could've," he said. "If I can walk, I can run. That's just the mindset I've always tried to play with. If I needed to, I think I could have."
QBs: Matthew Stafford, Chase Daniel, David Blough
RBs: Kerryon Johnson, D'Andre Swift, Bo Scarbrough, Ty Johnson, Jason Huntley, Tra Carson, Wes Hills
WRs: Kenny Golladay, Marvin Jones, Danny Amendola, Chris Lacy, Travis Fulgham, Geronimo Allison, Marvin Hall
TEs: T.J. Hockenson, Jesse James, Isaac Nauta
Green Bay PackersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 10 October 2018
As ESPN.com's Rob Demovsky reported it, "He didn't blame "the plan" or take veiled shots at his coach. He didn't call out his young receivers as he's wont to do.
"It was Aaron Rodgers at his introspective best.
"And it might be exactly what he needed to stop a season that is in danger of whirl pooling down the drain. ..."
If the Green Bay Packers were listening, they heard their best -- and most important -- player accept his share of the responsibility not only for Sunday's 31-23 loss at Detroit but the surprising 2-2-1 start to a season that began with legitimate Super Bowl expectations in large part because of the healthy return of said quarterback.
Of his two lost fumbles in the first half on strip sacks, he said: "Just bad plays by me."
Of another slow start -- the third in five games this season -- he said: "I was a little off. I missed a couple I usually hit."
And when asked if he's concerned about where the Packers stand after five games, he said: "I'm going to say I'm aware of where were at and we have to play better, myself included. I have to start faster like we've done over the years."
By the numbers, Rodgers" game against the Lions would look more than acceptable: 442 yards passing, a 61.5 percent completion rate, three touchdowns and no interceptions. But too much of that came after the Packers were down 24-0 at halftime. In fact, 68 percent of Rodgers" passing yards came in the second half. Before that, he turned it over twice on the sack-fumble plays (the first time he's lost two fumbles in a game since 2015). He already has lost three fumbles in five games this season.
Likewise, his season totals seem attractive enough: 10 touchdowns, one interception, a 63.0 percent completion rate and 1,572 yards.
But for the third time this season, Rodgers faced near-record deficits.
The 24-23 victory over the Bears in Week 1 tied the largest comeback win of Rodgers" career, from down 20-0. The 24-point differential at Detroit was the largest Packers halftime deficit since the 2006 season -- two years before Rodgers became the starter. They also trailed 28-10 in the Week 3 loss at Washington.
"Maybe if we can get going as an offense I can start faster, play a little better early on and give us a little momentum," Rodgers said. "We've been down in some of these games and you kind of get back into it, and we had a chance. We were down 11, had a chance to be sitting there on the 1-yard line to pull within a score and [Davante Adams], I'm sure would like to have that one back. But we have to make the plays throughout the game, not just in crunch time.
"And I've got to play better from the start. And I expect to and I will and we've got to give our defense, you know, some more help. Short fields and special-teams gaffes, were not playing great in any of the three phases for an entire game. But hopefully we'll figure that out at some point and look forward to next Monday getting back on the right track."
Rodgers struck a far different tone than a week earlier, when he ripped the offense, calling it "terrible," and said the only way to get playmakers such as Adams and Jimmy Graham more involved was by the game plan. His comments after the 22-0 win over the Bills were unilaterally viewed as criticism of head coach Mike McCarthy, who did not jab back at Rodgers during any of his news conferences last week.
McCarthy also refused to single out Rodgers for his turnovers against the Lions.
"I don't think it's a problem for him," McCarthy said. "I think it's something as a football team is a daily focus, that's what we work on every day. I'm not happy with our turnover ratio. Any time you coach in this league for a long period, there are common threads that run through your success as a football team. Ours has clearly been the turnover ratio, that has not been the case right now."
Rodgers played without two of his top three receivers: Randall Cobb (hamstring) and Geronimo Allison (concussion/hamstring). And his No. 1 receiver, Adams, played despite a midweek calf injury. Adams, though he dropped what would have been a 32-yard completion to the Lions" 1-yard line with the game at 31-20 in the fourth quarter, was otherwise productive, with nine catches for 140 yards and a touchdown.
"We're obviously close," Adams said. "We put up points. I don't even know what Aaron threw for, but it's about scoring and touchdowns. That's what matters most. We're obviously right there. It's about putting it in and not waiting until the last minute."
Rodgers even did his best to build the confidence of rookie receivers Marquez Valdes-Scantling, who caught seven passes for 68 yards and his first career touchdown, and the previously seldom-used Equanimeous St. Brown, who had a 54-yard catch on the final drive as part of a three-catch, 89-yard day.
"We put a lot on them this week," Rodgers said. "I thought they were prepared, I thought they were ready to play. There's some things to clean up for sure. I think overall you've got to say that MVS played really nicely, and EQ made a couple plays that he needed to make for us. Obviously he showed his ability on that last [drive] with 20 seconds left in the game. He takes a little seam route and almost scores. He has big-play potential, and I was proud of both those guys the way they played. Obviously we found a way to get Jimmy and Davante involved. Just didn't do enough in the first half."
Meanwhile, Mason Crosby got so desperate that he even tried a change of footwear during his disastrous kicking day.
The Packers' longtime kicker switched cleats after he missed his third field goal of the first half in Sunday's. He went on to miss two more kicks -- another field goal and an extra point -- before he finally booted one through: a 41-yarder with 2 seconds left in the game.
"Something had to go," Crosby said of the cleats. "I kind of made an adjustment and -- I have three or four pairs broken in every game so it's not unusual for me to do that. But I felt like I needed something to try to spur on the next one."
Still, he became the first NFL kicker to miss four field goals and an extra point in a game since the Raiders' Cole Ford in 1997, according to ESPN Stats and Information research.
"Well, obviously shocked; it's never happened to me," Crosby said. "That's never happened to me. It doesn't happen. So I'm going to evaluate it but I'm going to [chalk] it up to something that is an anomaly in life that I've never even been a part of. So I'm going to evaluate the details like I do every week and move on. Because that one for me is something that I've never been a part of and hope to never be part of again."
Crosby, the Packers' career scoring leader and a 12th-year veteran, made 10 of 11 field goals entering Sunday's game. The only miss was a 52-yarder that would have won the Week 2 game against the Vikings that ended in a tie.
The Packers stuck with him during a slump in 2012, when he made a league-low 63.6 percent of his field goals. In the five seasons that followed, he made 85 percent of his field goals.
"I think he's one of the greatest kickers of all time," Rodgers said. "I've always said he and Robbie Gould, what they do in the elements over the years is some of the finest kicking that I've seen in my time. Obviously he's disappointed. I don't think he expected this.
"We have a ton of faith in him. He's done it for a long time, made some big kicks for us over the years. They've got to clean the operation up: snap, hold and he's got to make them."
McCarthy don't appear to be exploring any other kicking options.
"He's got to make those kicks," the coach said on Monday. "He's a proven highly successful kicker, and I believe in him but he's got to make those kicks. It's a different game at halftime (if he makes those three first-half) kicks. ..."
For what it's worth, the Packers have an extra day to prepare for the next contest, Monday night in San Francisco, and they're going to use it to physically recover and mentally dial in.
McCarthy said on Monday the team will have its usual three practices -- pushed back one day each to Thursday, Friday and Sunday -- with the extra day Wednesday serving as game-plan installation in the classroom.
"Our focus is going to be more on the details of this next game plan, and we'll use the extra time to treat the things a lot of guys are fighting," McCarthy said.
"We'll spend more time in the mental department. We are physically beat up."
Ideally, the extra prep time will lead to a faster start against the 49ers, as the Packers have been bogged down by poor starts in three of their first five games.
McCarthy isn't as zeroed in on that specifically as the other issues that have contributed to the slow starts -- namely, poor ball security and penalties.
The Packers were minus-three in turnovers in Detroit during Sunday's 31-23 loss. Those plus a number of penalties on special teams contributed to a massive field-position differential that played into Detroit's 24-0 halftime lead and Green Bay's struggles to get back into the game.
"We were minus-300-plus yards in field position. That's extremely difficult on everybody," McCarthy said. "We're minus-one (in turnovers) as a football team. That's not part of our DNA. In the games we did win, we were minus-two in both of those wins.
"The common thread I'm focused on is taking care of the football. Slow start, fast finish, loose in the middle -- it's irrelevant if you don't take care of the football. There are going to be negative statistics that come off of that."
Finally. ... Cobb (hamstring) is hoping to return to action in Week 6 against the 49ers, Stacey Dales of NFL Network reports.
Via CBSSports.com, Cobb told Dales that he "really wanted to play" Sunday against the Lions, but his injury simply did not allow him to. Cobb did not practice at all leading up to the Lions game, so he will likely have to get in some work on the practice field in order to return to action in Week 6.
I'll have more via Late-Breaking Update in coming days.
QBs: Aaron Rodgers, Jordan Love, Tim Boyle, Manny Wilkins
RBs: Aaron Jones, A.J. Dillon, Jamaal Williams, Dexter Williams, Tyler Ervin, John Crockett
WRs: Davante Adams, Allen Lazard, Devin Funchess, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Jake Kumerow, Darrius Shepherd, Equanimeous St. Brown
TEs: Jace Sternberger, Marcedes Lewis, Josiah Deguara, Robert Tonyan
Houston TexansCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 10 October 2018
According to ESPN.com's Sarah Barshop, DeAndre Hopkins knows how tough and competitive his quarterback can be.
But when he sees Deshaun Watson take hit after hit when he's running the ball, he has just one message for him.
"[I'm] in the huddle telling him to get down," Hopkins said. "I need [Watson]. That's what I tell him, honestly. Don't take those hits unless you -- have to.
"But he's a warrior. He wants to get in the end zone every time the ball is in his hands."
Watson ran the ball 10 times for 40 yards in the Houston Texans' 19-16 overtime victory against the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday night, often attempting to get every extra yard he could instead of sliding to protect himself.
According to ESPN Stats and Information, Watson was hit four times outside of the pocket against the Cowboys, and those are often the most physical shots he absorbs. He also took four hits on the run in Week 4 against the Colts. Along with the hits while on the run, Watson has been hit a startling 55 times in five games and has been sacked 18 times this season.
Watson said he tries "to do what's best for the team," while running the ball or when he's trying to extend a play, but when he gets an opportunity to score, he's going to do "whatever it takes" get in the end zone.
"I know sometimes what's best for the team is protecting myself, but when we are down there at the goal line and I'm trying to get in the end zone, that's my mentality," Watson said. "Regardless of what I have to do, if it's three dudes like it was tonight multiple times, I'm going to try to fight my ass off to get in the end zone.
"I'm built to take those hits. I'm going to give all my will and all my guts to try to get the ball in the end zone."
Watson was slow to get up after the Texans' final drive in regulation and was checked out by the training staff on the bench during the Cowboys' drive in overtime. But when Houston's offense ran back onto the field with the chance to win the game in the extra period, Watson was back on the field with his teammates.
"I was fine," Watson said. "I was going to finish the game regardless."
Though it might be hard to change Watson's mindset while he's on the run -- and the Texans don't necessarily want to rid their young quarterback of one of the skills that has led to his success - head coach Bill O'Brien said it's something he and the coaching staff think about.
"We've got to do a better job of making sure that he doesn't take as many [hits]," O'Brien said. "At the same time, it's a fine line because that's part of his game. That's the way he plays the game. He enjoys that part of the game, to be honest with you.
"I think it's something that we continue to coach and, obviously, it's something we don't want an abundance of him getting hit, but sometimes it does happen."
As Profootballtalk.com suggested, O'Brien, as the offensive play caller, has quite a bit of say over which kinds of plays the Texans are running.
There are other factors at play, including the offensive line's ability to protect Watson and Watson's own decisions, and all will likely need some tweaking if Watson's going to start taking fewer hits.
For the record, Watson is officially considered day to day with an unspecified chest injury, but he disagrees.
Watson told reporters on Wednesday he will “for sure” be in the lineup against the Bills this Sunday.
“I feel good. I feel great,” Watson said, via Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle.
We’ll see what the injury report says over the next few days (watch the Late-Breaking Updates section for more), but it seems like it will be a surprise if Watson is anywhere but on the field for Houston’s first offensive snap on Sunday. ...
Meanwhile, for the second week in a row, the Texans pulled off an overtime victory despite struggling in the red zone.
In the week leading up to the game, O'Brien was clear that while his offense has moved the ball well, the team needs to improve in the red zone if it wants to have any continued success this season.
"Yards don't mean anything," O'Brien said Wednesday. "It's all about touchdowns."
The Texans continued to show a weakness in the red zone in Sunday night's victory. Although they finished with 462 total net yards, they were 1-of-6 in the red zone, including a failed fourth-down conversion at the end of the second quarter. On that drive, Houston had first-and-goal on the Dallas 9. Watson threw two incompletions before finding Hopkins just shy of the goal line.
Houston went for it on fourth down, but Watson was sacked for a loss of a yard, and the Texans failed to score.
"It's bad," O'Brien said of the Texans' struggles in the red zone. "We have to get better. We tried everything down there, nothing really worked. We have to go back as a coaching staff and look at it, players, everybody.
"We all have to look at it and see what we can do to be better, because we are moving the ball. We moved the ball pretty well, but when we got down in there, we have to score touchdowns."
Only the Titans have won a game with a worse red zone efficiency this season than the 17 percent the Texans had on Sunday night.
Hopkins said he can't pinpoint why the offense has struggled there, but says "the short field" makes the red zone "the hardest place to score in the NFL."
The Texans missed a healthy Will Fuller against the Cowboys, especially in the red zone. Although he caught two passes for 15 yards, he was targeted only three times after he was limited in practice all week with a hamstring injury. Prior to Sunday, Fuller had caught at least one touchdown in every game he had played with Watson, and he had 10 in seven games.
Instead, Watson relied heavily on Hopkins (nine catches for 151 yards), running back Alfred Blue (eight catches for 73 yards) and tight end Ryan Griffin (six catches for 65 yards) against the Cowboys.
In seven games last season, Watson was 15-of-27 on passing plays in the red zone, with 13 touchdowns and two interceptions.
"If we are in the red zone, that's a must score," Watson said. "We are kicking too many field goals, and that starts with me. We will correct those mistakes."
Earlier in the season, O'Brien said, "We've got to do a better job in the red area. That's coaching and playing. We've all got to do a better job. That's been a big emphasis for us."
Even with a victory Sunday night, that message has not changed. ...
Meanwhile, as the Sporting News noted, the Texans pulled a strange move on Sunday night that frustrated many fantasy football owners. Despite Lamar Miller being active for the team's game against the Cowboys, he didn't play. Instead, Blue handled a majority of the workload and totaled 119 scrimmage yards on 28 touches. He wasn't great between the tackles, but the volume opportunities are going to be there for him if Miller is out.
Miller was dealing with a chest injury, and O'Brien told reporters the veteran will return this week. That said, I'll remind you that D'Onta Foreman, coming off a torn Achilles' from last season, is eligible to come off the PUP list in Week 7.
As for this week, Miller to Wilson he will definitely play against the Bills.
I'll have more on Watson, Miller and likely Fuller, Hopkins and Coutee -- all of whom were limited in Wednesday's practice -- via Late-Breaking Update in coming days.
QBs: Deshaun Watson, AJ McCarron
RBs: David Johnson, Duke Johnson, Buddy Howell
WRs: Brandin Cooks, Will Fuller, Randall Cobb, Isaiah Coulter, Kenny Stills, DeAndre Carter, Keke Coutee
TEs: Darren Fells, Jordan Akins, Jordan Thomas, Kahale Warring
Indianapolis ColtsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 10 October 2018
As ESPN.com's Mike Wells noted, the 10-day break in between games for the Colts goes beyond quarterback Andrew Luck needing to rest his right arm after attempting 121 passes during a two-game span.
Luck isn't injured. His arm is probably just a little tired after his two-game attempt total is the second most in NFL history.
The break is for Anthony Castonzo. Marlon Mack. Jack Doyle. T.Y. Hilton. Kenny Moore. Nate Hairston. Denico Autry. Matthias Farley. And there's also Darius Leonard and several other injured Colts.
There's no getting around it: The Colts are an injured, depleted roster and these 10 days are the best thing that could happen for them.
"Couple of extra days rest probably comes at a good time for us," head coach Frank Reich said.
Reich isn't backing himself into the corner on which players will be back for the Oct. 14 game at the New York Jets. He said they'll probably get only "one or two guys back."
It doesn't matter how many players the Colts get back, they just know they need some healthy bodies -- preferably several key ones -- after they had only 40 of a possible 46 players available by the end of their 38-24 loss to the New England Patriots on Thursday.
"It's always tough to play on a short week, but you turn it around and you end up with a gap," Colts linebacker Najee Goode said. "It's always good to take some time to reflect. It's going to be good to regroup and work on all the little things we didn't get the time to do in short week. The thing is consistency. We have to be consistent."
These aren't just any players on the roster the Colts are missing. They were without 10 offensive and defensive starters by the time they recorded their third straight loss and fourth overall. The players have the weekend off before returning to the facility early next week.
Castonzo, who has yet to play a snap this season, dressed but was only going to play in an emergency Thursday. Leonard and Hairston tested out their injured ankles in warm-ups before it was determined that they wouldn't play. Those three players might have the best chance of playing in Week 5.
The break probably won't be enough for Hilton, as there's some concern his hamstring injury, which happened in Week 4, could linger (more on that below).
"We need it," tight end Eric Ebron said. "We need it bad in fact. Hope these days will helps us get healthier so we can start getting some W's in the win column. Everyone knows no matter how hard we fought, but doesn't matter what we lose by. If you lose by three every single game, your record still says 1-4. So you're 1-4."
Injury excuses aren't flying out of the mouths of players the same way Luck is flinging the ball down the field. The opposite is happening. They're playing with the players they have available while taking their lumps and having Luck try to strap the offense on his broad shoulders to carry them.
The reality, though, is that the Colts can't expect to get by with inexperienced players, especially at receiver, if they truly believe they can turn around the team's worst start since the 2011 season.
"I wish there was a secret answer," center Ryan Kelly said. "A lot of it is self-inflicted s---. Shoot yourself in the foot, penalties, stuff like that. I wish I could tell people something they've never heard before. Our 1-4 record is not where you want to be. Wish there could [be] a magical pill that you could take and everything would be OK. That's not the case. So it's up to us to get things turned around."
Of course, Luck made his thoughts perfectly clear after another loss last week.
He expects the Colts to clean things up.
Whether it's missed throws, dropped passes, penalties or turnovers, just about every glaring flaw that could strike has and it's left the Colts in a major early season bind.
"Basically what he's talking about is we've got to stop making self-inflicted mistakes, the penalties, things that we can control, ball-handling and things like that," running back Robert Turbin said Monday.
"If we can execute, obviously it's not going to be perfect, but we'd definitely like to execute more times than not and definitely not beat ourselves when we're out there on the football field."
Until the Colts start making more plays -- and fewer mistakes -- the results aren't likely to change.
Other injury notes. ... Doyle suffered a hip injury the Colts" Week 2 victory against the Redskins and has missed the team's three games since. Reich classified Doyle's injury as more "week-to-week" at the time it occurred.
Hilton initially suffered a chest injury last Sunday against the Texans, and was able to return. But he later suffered a hamstring injury and didn't return, and it kept him out of practice and the Patriots game this week, snapping a consecutive starts streak of 42 games.
Reich said he hoped to have a more clear status for Hilton as the week progresses, but on Wednesday the coach characterized both Hilton and Doyle as still being "week to week."
Wells added to that on Wednesday, when he reported that Hilton and Doyle are not expected to play against the Jets.
Mack has been battling a hamstring injury since the team's preseason opener against the Seattle Seahawks on Aug. 9. He was able to make his 2018 debut Week 2 against the Redskins, getting the start at running back, but has since re-aggravated his injury.
Mack has been able to practice, albeit in a limited role, the last couple weeks, and Reich hopes to get him back soon.
"I think because of the setback we had, I think after going through that it's pretty critical that the player is just all-in and there is no hesitation and no doubt in his mind," Reich said of Mack, who was working fully on Wednesday.
Ebron, however, was held out Wednesday to rest shin, quad, ankle and knee injuries.
I'll obviously continue following up on all the walking wounded via Late-Breaking Update as the week progresses.
QBs: Philip Rivers, Jacoby Brissett, Jacob Eason, Chad Kelly
RBs: Marlon Mack, Jonathan Taylor, Nyheim Hines, Jordan Wilkins
WRs: T.Y. Hilton, Michael Pittman Jr., Zach Pascal, Dezmon Patmon, Marcus Johnson, Daurice Fountain, Ashton Dulin, Chad Williams
TEs: Jack Doyle, Trey Burton, Matt Lengel, Xavier Grimble, Mo Alie-Cox
Jacksonville JaguarsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 10 October 2018
It was an awful day for the Jacksonville Jaguars' offense and quarterback Blake Bortles in a 30-14 loss at Kansas City on Sunday.
"A debacle," ESPN.com's Mike DiRocco wrote. "An embarrassment. A ridiculous humbling at the hands of what statistically was, coming into the game, the NFL"s worst defense.
Here's what's even worse: There might not be any immediate answers.
Leonard Fournette's injured hamstring has the second-year running back out indefinitely (he has already been officially ruled out again this week). Backup running back Corey Grant left the game with a left foot injury, leaving the Jaguars with just two healthy running backs -- T.J. Yeldon and Brandon Wilds, who has played in seven NFL games and has 14 career carries.
Fournette has missed three games this season because of a strained right hamstring, leaving Yeldon to handle the bulk of the workload.
While the Jaguars signed rookie David Williams off Denver's practice squad, former Kansas City Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles was also added to the roster Tuesday to help during Fournette's absence.
The 31-year-old Charles worked out for the team Tuesday morning and signed a one-year contract in the afternoon. Another former Chief, Charcandrick West, also worked out for the team.
Charles should be able to pick up the offense quickly and make an immediate contribution Sunday at Dallas while playing behind Yeldon.
Charles spent nine years in Kansas City and played 14 games with Denver last season. He has 7,556 yards rushing and 44 touchdowns, plus 2,586 yards receiving and 20 more scores.
The Jaguars waived Wilds after signing Williams and Charles.
Meanwhile, the Jaguars are on their third left tackle after Josh Wells left the game with a groin injury and did not return. He was replacing starter Cam Robinson, who is out for the year with a knee injury. Josh Walker, who first played tackle in a game in the preseason finale, is now the starter if Wells is out for any length of time.
And the Jaguars are placing tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins and Grant on injured reserve.
Head coach Doug Marrone says Seferian-Jenkins will have core muscle surgery but could return later in the season. Grant will miss the rest of the year with a foot injury.
Seferian-Jenkins has 11 receptions for 90 yards and a touchdown. Grant has 13 carries for 40 yards to go along with nine receptions for 67 yards.
The #Jaguars are elevating TE David Grinnage to the active roster from the practice squad due to Seferian-Jenkins" injury.
So now the Jaguars are faced with a road trip to Dallas, a home game against Houston and their annual game in London -- against defending Super Bowl champion Philadelphia -- with a questionable offense led by a quarterback who hadn't played this poorly in two years.
Sunday should have been a big day for the offense because the Chiefs' defense was among the worst in the NFL.
Coming into the game, Kansas City ranked last in yards allowed per game, 31st in pass defense, 28th in rush defense, and 25th in scoring.
Bortles finished with a career-high 430 passing yards, a touchdown pass and a touchdown run, but the majority of that came after the Chiefs led 20-0. He committed five turnovers, including four interceptions. Two came in the end zone and the other just shy of the goal line, which wiped out potential scoring chances. Another was returned for a touchdown. That came on an attempted screen pass to Yeldon and he threw the ball right into defensive lineman Chris Jones" hands.
Bortles' other turnover? A fumble one play after Jaguars safety Tashaun Gipson intercepted Patrick Mahomes. That was the first interception by the Jaguars' secondary this season.
Bortles had three interceptions coming into Sunday's game and never had more than three turnovers in one game until Sunday.
He wasn't helped by the offensive-line play, particularly right tackle Jermey Parnell, who really struggled against the speed of Chiefs end Dee Ford. Walker struggled after replacing Wells, too, but as the third-team left tackle, that's expected.
"We had a little bit of bad fortune," Bortles said. "We have a tipped pick in the end zone. We had a screen get picked. ... Then we had some strip sacks. It is stuff we have to try to eliminate. It is a group effort. We all have to lock in and be better."
Offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett didn't have a great day, either.
Trailing 10-0 midway through the second quarter, the Jaguars faced third-and-goal from the Kansas City 3-yard line. Hackett called a pass play with an empty backfield despite the fact that the Jaguars had gashed the Chiefs' defense on the ground for 51 yards on that drive, and Bortles threw a fade to Donte Moncrief that fell incomplete.
Marrone elected to go for it on fourth down instead of kicking a field goal, and Bortles threw incomplete.
The Jaguars' offense hadn't looked that bad since 2016, which was the worst season of Bortles" career.
The last time the Jaguars failed to score in the first half came in Week 8 of that year against Tennessee, a game they lost 36-22. Offensive coordinator Greg Olson was fired after that game.
Hackett took over, and the following week in Kansas City, the Jaguars ran for 205 yards but turned the ball over four times. One of those was a fumble at the goal line by running back Chris Ivory. That was the last time the Jaguars turned the ball over in the red zone -- until Sunday, a span of 28 games.
"It felt a lot like some games we have had in the past," Bortles said. "Moved the ball. There were some good things done and then there were the turnovers. You can't turn the ball over. I can't throw four picks. It is hard to win when you turn the ball over."
The offense was even worse on Sunday than it was in 2016, and there are few signs it's going to be much better any time soon.
"Offensively, we did not execute," Marrone said. "We had a poor showing in the red zone. We had turnovers and the game got out of hand. We have to play better. We have to coach better, play better, and we have to go back and get this team back on track starting with me."
Also of interest. ... With Seferian-Jenkins out, it's worth noting Niles Paul caught 7-of-9 targets for 65 yards against the Chiefs.
Beyond that, Moncrief had six catches (on 15 target) for 76 yards to lead the team in receiving. Keelan Cole caught four (of 10 targets) for 70 yards and Dede Westbrook pulled in three (of five targets) for 55 yards.
QBs: Gardner Minshew, Josh Dobbs, Mike Glennon, Jake Luton
RBs: Leonard Fournette, Chris Thompson, Ryquell Armstead, Devine Ozigbo, Jeremy McNichols, James Robinson
WRs: D.J. Chark, Dede Westbrook, Laviska Shenault, Collin Johnson, Chris Conley, CJ Board, Keelan Cole, Michael Walker
TEs: Tyler Eifert, Josh Oliver, Tyler Davis, James O'Shaughnessy, Charles Jones
Kansas City ChiefsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 10 October 2018
As ESPN.com's Adam Teicher suggested, even as they were piling up points at an NFL-leading rate, it was natural to wonder whether the Kansas City Chiefs were legitimate Super Bowl contenders because of a defense that allowed points almost as fast.
The Chiefs might have answered the question on Sunday against the Jacksonville Jaguars at Arrowhead Stadium. If the 5-0 Chiefs continue to play on defense the way they did against the Jaguars, anything seems possible.
"The sky's the limit if we play all phases of the game like that," tight end Travis Kelce said after the Chiefs beat Jacksonville 30-14 more because of what they did without the ball than any muscle they showed with it. "It's a special thing when you get a whole group of guys that come together for one goal. It's special and sure as [heck] fun."
The Chiefs forced Jacksonville quarterback Blake Bortles into five turnovers, four interceptions and a fumble. They also sacked him five times.
The Jaguars finished with 502 yards, but 212 came in the fourth quarter, when a victory was out of their reach. They didn't score until late in the third quarter and their final touchdown came when the Chiefs held a safe advantage.
"The effort was great," said lineman Chris Jones, who scored a 20-yard touchdown after intercepting a screen pass and making some nifty moves on his way to the end zone.
He was also one of two defensive players who were ejected from the game. He took a swing at a Jacksonville player after a point-after touchdown try. Linebacker Dee Ford was tossed for accumulating two penalties, one for unsportsmanlike conduct and the other for taunting.
"The intensity was great. We got a little chirpy. We've got to hold our aggression in. But the intensity and the effort and the toughness that the defense played with, I'm just proud of my guys," Jones added. "It's all about getting better every week. We can't [live] off this game. We can enjoy it, but we've got to get better."
The Chiefs weren't as dominant offensively as they had been in the season's first four games. Patrick Mahomes failed to throw a touchdown pass for the first time this season. He also threw his first two interceptions of the season.
But it didn't matter. The Chiefs didn't have to score on almost every possession to either stay in the lead, as in the season's first three games, or come from behind, as they had to do in last week's victory over the Denver Broncos.
"They really stepped up," Mahomes said of the defense. "They played really well. It was a lot of confidence-building that the defense can step up like that and win games. … It shows that we can win with every phase.
"It shows what kind of team we are. We can win games with everybody on this team. It's not just the offense, not just the defense, not just the special teams. … We believe that."
But from a fantasy perspective, it's the offense we're most interested in.
They've already scored 175 points to set the franchise record for the five-game mark, while Mahomes threw for 313 yards against Jacksonville to give him a franchise-best 1,513 yards through Week 5.
Mahomes has four straight 300-yard passing games, becoming the first QB in NFL history with four in his first six career games.
Overall, he's 112-of-176 for 1,513 yards, with 14 touchdowns and two interceptions this season, as he has decisively taken the reins from veteran Alex Smith, who was traded to the Washington Redskins in January.
He will try to set the franchise record with five consecutive games when the Chiefs head to New England for a Sunday night showdown this week.
And he'll try to lead the team to a 6-0 start.
Of course, this isn't new for the Chiefs. This season is the third 5-0 under Reid and second in a row. But while last year's team followed with six losses in a seven-game stretch, there are reasons to believe this year's team will follow a different path through the middle portion of the schedule.
"We learned a lot from what happened after our 5-0 start last year," wide receiver Chris Conley said. "We know that we can't be excited about being 5-0. We have to be looking forward to the next game. We have to know that it's a long season and you have to build if you want to win."
It helps that this year the Chiefs appear to be a more complete team.
"Last year we had a great team and we won a lot of games," Mahomes said. "This year we're just trying to learn from last year, the little drought we had, and just try to make it a procession.
"NFL seasons are long," he said, "and there's going to be ups and downs. But you kind of just grind out every single day and try to get better, and you hope you can limit the downs and maximize the ups."
For what it's worth, Mahomes' blazing hot start has caught the attention of many around the NFL, with Patriots coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady the latest to take notice.
"He's got a great arm, a fabulous arm, can throw the ball out of the stadium," Belichick said Monday morning. Asked what has impressed him about Mahomes, Belichick said, "Pretty much everything."
"He gets the ball to all of his receivers quick, quick release, sees things quickly, can extend plays. ... Makes good decisions, accurate, gets the ball out on time."
"I haven't studied him much, just some highlights which everyone sees, and obviously incredibly impressive," Brady said Monday. "He's very talented. He's got what seems to be a lot of great tools to work with."
Also of interest. ... Mahomes found Kelce five times for 100 yards in the game, marking the All-Pro tight ends third 100-yard game of the season and his 13th since the beginning of the 2016 campaign -- tied with Falcons" wide receiver Julio Jones and Steelers" wide receiver Antonio Brown for the most in the NFL in that span.
Additionally, it was the best performance by a tight end against Jacksonville all season. ...
Wide receiver Sammy Watkins, who was listed as questionable entering the game with a hamstring injury, played 60 offensive snaps (86 percent). Watkins caught a team-high six passes for 78 yards.
Tailback Kareem Hunt played a season-high 74 percent of Kansas City's offensive snaps (52), rushing for 87 yards and a touchdown.
Finally. ... As Profootballtalk.com notes, a report this week indicated that linebacker Justin Houston could miss multiple weeks with a hamstring injury and the team’s recent roster moves support the idea that they’ll be without him for a while.
Reid didn’t confirm that on Wednesday, but he didn’t do much to deny that the Chiefs are looking at life without Houston. Reid said it will be “a stretch” for Houston to be in the lineup against the Patriots on Sunday night.
Reid also said that “there’s a chance” linebacker Tanoh Kpassagnon will be able to play through an ankle injury. The Chiefs signed linebackers Frank Zombo and Nate Orchard this week to fill out the group.
The Chiefs also updated the conditions of two players they placed on injured reserve. Right guard Laurent Duvernay-Tardif has torn ligaments in his ankle in addition to a fractured fibula while safety Armani Watts has a core muscle injury. Both players will have surgery.
QBs: Patrick Mahomes, Chad Henne, Jordan Ta'amu, Kyle Shurmur
RBs: Damien Williams, Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Darwin Thompson, DeAndre Washington, Elijah McGuire, Darrel Williams
WRs: Tyreek Hill, Sammy Watkins, Mecole Hardman, Demarcus Robinson, Byron Pringle, Gehrig Dieter, Kalija Lipscomb
TEs: Travis Kelce, Deon Yelder, Nick Keizer, Ricky Seals-Jones
Los Angeles ChargersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 10 October 2018
Philip Rivers threw for 339 yards and two touchdowns, leading the Los Angeles Chargers to a 26-10 victory over the Oakland Raiders on Sunday.
It is the 59th 300-yard passing game of Rivers' 15-year career and his eighth against the Raiders. He completed 22 of 27 passes and had a passer rating of 143.4.
"It wasn't an eight-catch, 150-yard day for anybody, but you look up and there's 330 yards passing and a lot of guys touched the ball," Rivers said. "It was efficient. We ran it well enough and we didn't turn it over. When you do that you have a good chance for a win."
Melvin Gordon had 120 yards from scrimmage (58 rushing, 62 receiving). His 1-yard run during the second quarter gave Los Angeles (3-2) a 17-3 lead at halftime.
The Chargers' defense had three sacks and forced two turnovers which resulted in 13 points. Oakland's Marshawn Lynch came into the game fourth in the league in rushing but was held to 31 yards on nine carries.
Also worth noting, opposing defenses are learning that Austin Ekeler is just as effective a running back as Gordon.
The second-year running back scored his third touchdown of the season on a 44-yard swing pass from Rivers.
"He's got some juice now. He can really run," Rivers said. "I think he's one of those, you don't realize how fast he is running until you have to chase him, which I never have, but I've seen a lot of guys do it. That was impressive."
Ekeler, signed as an undrafted free agent in 2017, made two Oakland defenders miss at the Raiders 40, got a block from Keenan Allen and then went up the left sideline, putting the Chargers ahead for good.
"Moves into open space, that's how you can make your money in this league as a running back," Ekeler said. "That's where I think I excel and what I'm going to keep doing, winning one-on-ones."
Ekeler has 410 yards from scrimmage, with 207 coming via receptions. He has six touchdowns in his career and is three away from tying Dan Reeves for most TD catches by an undrafted player in his first two years in the league. Reeves had nine with Dallas 1965-66.
"You wish we would have signed him. He's running hard, he's making people miss," Raiders coach Jon Gruden said. "He has the flexibility to line up in the backfield or in the slot. He's a sharp customer who knows how to play the game."
Ekeler and Gordon are averaging 201 yards from scrimmage for the Chargers. Gordon is third among NFL running backs at 119 yards per game, and Ekeler is 12th at 82.
Gordon had 120 yards from scrimmage against the Raiders (58 rushing, 62 receiving), including a 1-yard touchdown run in the second quarter to put the Chargers up 17-3.
Rivers said the overall effort by all the players on the field is representative of how the Chargers are playing, and the play was a big momentum swing in the game.
"I think so because we weren't really playing that great on offense," Rivers said. "We were playing OK. The first drive, it was better -- we didn't go three-and-out and we finished with three points -- but we weren't playing great. We had some third downs where we weren't great, and then that kind of sparked the whole deal."
Other notes of interest. ... The Chargers signed punter Donnie Jones last Tuesday to also be the holder on field goals and extra points, thinking that it would help solve Caleb Sturgis' struggles. If the results of one game are any indication, it hasn't.
Sturgis made two field goals, but he also missed his fourth extra point of the season and was wide left on a 48-yard attempt on the last play of the first half.
The sixth-year kicker has missed four extra points this season, equaling the amount he had over three seasons in Philadelphia from 2015-17.
"The extra point did bother me a little bit, but we'll figure out what happened there," said Chargers coach Anthony Lynn when asked about Sturgis' struggles. "He's been kicking with a lot of confidence, so I'm not concerned about it. ..."
And finally. ... The Chargers announced Alex Spanos passed away Tuesday morning. He was 95.
Spanos was an active owner in the NFL, serving on many committees including the Expansion and Realignment Committee in 1991. He was influential in bringing Super Bowl XXXII (1998) and XXXVII (2003) to San Diego.
He was adamant in helping make the Chargers a respected franchise and led the team to a Super Bowl XXIX appearance in 1994.
Spanos' son, Dean, served as President of the Chargers since early in 1994 and remains controlling owner and chairman of the board. In 2015, Alex Spanos' grandsons, A.G. and John, took over day-to-day operation of the family-owned team.
QBs: Tyrod Taylor, Justin Herbert, Easton Stick
RBs: Austin Ekeler, Joshua Kelley, Justin Jackson, Detrez Newsome, Troymaine Pope
WRs: Keenan Allen, Mike Williams, Joe Reed, Andre Patton, K.J. Hill, Jason Moore, Darius Jennings
TEs: Hunter Henry, Virgil Green, Lance Kendricks, Stephen Anderson
Los Angeles RamsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 10 October 2018
The way the schedule fell for the Los Angeles Rams gave them every opportunity to be perfect through the first quarter of the season.
The real test for the Rams started on Sunday. They passed by overcoming more adversity than they could have expected.
"The toughness and the resolve of this football team was certainly tested today and guys delivered in a big way," Rams coach Sean McVay said.
The Rams escaped from Seattle with a 33-31 win over the Seahawks on Sunday that kept Los Angeles as one of two unbeaten teams in the league. Los Angeles moved to 5-0 by leaning heavily on Todd Gurley and Jared Goff, making a key defensive stand in the fourth quarter and a gutsy fourth-down call to clinch the victory.
It was the kind of victory the Rams needed. They were down two of their top offensive stars after Brandin Cooks and Cooper Kupp suffered concussions. They trailed in the fourth quarter and watched Goff respond. And they prevailed in a venue that's been exceedingly difficult for road teams recent years.
"You need to know when these games come around, can you finish. That's what we did today," Gurley said. "Tough environment. Doesn't matter which team it is. You've just got to be able to close out those close games."
Gurley rushed for three touchdowns, Goff passed for 321 yards and a score, and the Los Angeles Rams remained unbeaten by holding off the Seattle Seahawks 33-31 on Sunday.
Playing without their top two receivers due to concussions suffered late in the first half, the Rams leaned heavily on Goff, Gurley and wide receiver Robert Woods to escape Seattle and improve to 5-0.
Gurley scored on a 2-yard run in the first quarter, and added TDs of 2 and 5 yards in the second half. Gurley's third rushing TD on the second play of the fourth quarter pulled the Rams within 31-30. But new kicker Cairo Santos hooked the extra point attempt and Seattle maintained a one-point lead.
Santos atoned for the miss with a 39-yard field goal with 6:05 remaining to give the Rams a 33-31 lead, capping a 61-yard drive that took 4 1/2 minutes.
Gurley had runs of 12, 2 and 7 yards, but was stuffed on third-and-1 at the 42 with 1:39 left. The Rams initially trotted out punter Johnny Hekker, but after Seattle used its final timeout, Los Angeles put the offense back on the field. Goff plowed forward on fourth down to clinch it.
With Cooks and Kupp sidelined, the Rams turned to the likes of Josh Reynolds, Tyler Higbee and Gerald Everett to make up for the absences.
And, of course, a whole lot of Gurley on the ground. Gurley finished with 77 yards rushing on 22 carries. He became the first player with a touchdown in eight consecutive regular-season games since Jamaal Charles back in 2014.
Woods had five catches for 92 yards.
The good news is head coach Sean McVay left open the possibility on Monday that Cooks and Kupp could clear concussion protocol in time to play against the Denver Broncos.
"They felt good today," McVay told reporters at the Rams' training facility. "They didn't have any symptoms or anything like that, so we'll go through the standing operating procedure and if everything checks out with our guys and with the doctors that are part of that process then we are hopeful to get these guys this week."
Cooks suffered a concussion in the second quarter after he caught an 18-yard pass that he went on to fumble when he was hit by safety Tedric Thompson. The play was nullified by a defensive holding penalty. The collision between Cooks and Thompson appeared to be helmet-to-helmet, but no flag was thrown.
McVay said he would seek clarification from the league about the play.
"I don't think there was any malicious intent on it," McVay said. "But there are things that are always geared toward the safety of the players and any of those head-to-head contact collisions are things that we want to try to avoid and that's something that they made a big point of."
McVay said that Kupp suffered the concussion in the two-minute drill to end the first half when he split two defenders for an 11-yard reception and appeared to hit his head on the ground when he was tackled by linebacker Barkevious Mingo. Kupp played the ensuing five snaps to end the half.
"To his credit, he was able to communicate to us that he wasn't feeling quite normal," McVay said.
Kupp finished with six catches for 90 yards and a touchdown. Cooks did not have a reception.
In addition to Reynolds, undrafted rookie KhaDarel Hodge was asked to pick up the pace with Cooks and Kupp out. Reynolds, a fourth-round pick, had two catches for 39 yards and rushed for 10 yards on one carry. Hodge, had one catch for 14 yards. Higbee caught two passes for 26 yards and Everett pulled in all three of his targets for 25 yards.
Both Cooks and Kupp participated in the walkthrough portion of practice Wednesday; I'll have more on their status via Late-Breaking Update as the week progresses. ...
Also of interest. ... Cairo Santos, signed last week to fill in for All-Pro Greg Zuerlein, atoned for a shanked extra point with a field goal to lift the Rams to victory.
The Rams are, however, awaiting the return of Greg Zuerlein, who averaged 11 points per game last season and is recovering from a groin injury suffered during pregame warmups of a Week 2 victory over the Arizona Cardinals.
Prior to working out and signing Santos, the Rams released Sam Ficken, who missed 2 of 3 field goal attempts in two games, and McVay said there was a possibility that Zuerlein would be ready to play against the Seahawks.
However, the Rams opted to sign Santos to ensure Zuerlein would not be rushed in his return. It is uncertain how long Santos, who has made 92 of 109 career field-goal attempts, will remain with the team, but McVay said on Wednesday that Zuerlein is "probably" another week away from returning from a groin injury.
Said Santos, who also kicked a 19-yard field goal in the second quarter: "This team is so special in the way that everybody had my back. I didn't see a look in anybody's face of disbelief in me."
QBs: Jared Goff, Bryce Perkins
RBs: Darrell Henderson, Cam Akers, Malcolm Brown, John Kelly
WRs: Cooper Kupp, Van Jefferson, Robert Woods, Josh Reynolds, Nsimba Webster, Greg Dortch
TEs: Tyler Higbee, Gerald Everett, Brycen Hopkins, Johnny Mundt
Miami DolphinsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 10 October 2018
With three offensive linemen hurt, Miami Dolphins quarterback Ryan Tannehill was feeling the heat Monday.
From his critics, that is.
Tannehill took a pounding in the Dolphins' latest defeat Sunday at Cincinnati, and then caught plenty of blame for his team's second ugly loss in a row. Head coach Adam Gase, ever loyal to Tannehill, mounted a modest defense by noting problems with pass protection.
"I don't think he was horrible," Gase said. "When a (teammate) gets beat so fast he can't defend himself unless he's Houdini, not many guys are getting away."
The Dolphins are 3-2 and tied with New England for the AFC East lead, but it hardly feels that way. In the past two weeks they've lost at the Patriots 38-7 and blown a 17-point lead at Cincinnati , leaving Gase forced to address the question of whether Tannehill remains his starting quarterback (the answer was yes).
Tannehill took responsibility for the Dolphins' collapse Sunday, when they were outscored 27-0 by the Bengals in the final 21 minutes left and lost 27-17. His ill-advised pass under pressure was intercepted and returned for a touchdown, and a strip sack produced Cincinnati's final score.
"It all started with the turnovers," Tannehill said. "That's on me."
In Tannehill's defense, he was hit 11 times in the second half. Protection by Miami's injury-riddled line disappeared after left tackle Laremy Tunsil was sidelined with a concussion.
This season's offensive line was expected to be the best Tannehill has played behind, but instead the perennial problem of poor pass protection persists. The Dolphins lost left guard Josh Sitton and center Daniel Kilgore to earlier season-ending injuries.
"Anytime starters go down, it's hard," Tannehill said.
When Miami was 3-0, Tannehill had a quarterback rating of 121.8. But in the past two games it's 54.0, with one touchdown pass, four turnovers and five sacks. He has struggled mostly on third down and late in the game, a career-long pattern.
No letup in pass pressure is likely this week, when the Dolphins face the Chicago Bears (3-1) and Pro Bowl end Khalil Mack, who has at least one sack and at least one forced fumble in every game.
How will the Dolphins slow Mack down?
"You're not going to slow him down," Gase said.
Sam Young flopped as Tunsil's replacement in Cincinnati. Bengals coach Marvin Lewis said the Dolphins missed Tunsil, especially because they left Young in one-on-one situations.
"It makes a difference when you lose a tackle at this level of football," Lewis said. "And they didn't seem to want to help the guy when they left the guy out there. Our guys did a nice job. We had blood in the water, and we went after it."
Gase said he'll re-evaluate the line this week and make "a couple of decisions" regarding who plays where.
"We'll figure it out," Gase said. "That's what we do. They're not going to stop the season. We're going to play next week no matter how many guys we've got."
On a slightly positive note, via Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald, Tunsil was back at practice Wednesday despite his presence in the concussion protocol. This likely means that he’s been cleared to practice. The next question is whether he’ll be cleared to play.
The Dolphins definitely will need him, given the potency of the Bears’ front seven, lead by Khalil Mack.
But as ESPN.com's Cameron Wolfe suggested, there doesn't appear to be an easy fix to the team's biggest problem: The Dolphins' offense has yet to figure out its identity, and in turn, it has done more harm than good.
Over the last two games, Tannehill has led the Dolphins to 10 offensive points in his 21 drives. That won't win you games against many teams in this league.
Yes, injuries have piled up tremendously and made it an uphill challenge for Tannehill to overcome. But every NFL team has injuries, even significant ones, and the really good teams find ways to survive them.
That might be where we find our answer. The Dolphins aren't a really good team yet, and it's hard to trust that they'll become one this year. ...
Looking for positives?
Kenyan Drake rushed six times for 46 yards and caught seven of 11 targets for 69 yards and a touchdown against the Bengals. As CBSSports.com noted, Drake opened the scoring halfway through the second quarter with a 22-yard touchdown catch and was Miami's most productive receiving option across the board.
The 24-year-old running back also looked explosive on the ground, but he got just six rushing attempts to Frank Gore's 13.
Expect Gore to cut into Drake's production significantly once again when Miami hosts the Bears in Week 6, but Drake's touchdown might have reminded Gase he has an explosive, big-play threat in the backfield. ...
Also of interest. ... According to The Athletic's Mike Lombardi, DeVante Parker, whose time in Miami has been marred by injuries, might be the next player sent packing by Gase. The Dolphins have talked to several teams about trading Parker as they have been frustrated with him.
Parker was inactive on Sunday due to a quadriceps injury that also sidelined him the week before. He's appeared in just one game this season after recovering from a broken finger suffered in August.
He opened this week by working on a limited basis Wednesday.
QBs: Tua Tagovailoa, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Josh Rosen, Jake Rudock
RBs: Jordan Howard, Matt Breida, Kalen Ballage, Myles Gaskin, Patrick Laird, De'Lance Turner
WRs: DeVante Parker, Preston Williams, Albert Wilson, Allen Hurns, Malcolm Perry, Isaiah Ford, Mack Hollins
TEs: Mike Gesicki, Durham Smythe, Michael Roberts
Minnesota VikingsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 10 October 2018
According to ESPN.com's Courtney Cronin, the idea of offensive balance was never lost on offensive coordinator John DeFilippo. After the run game fell stagnant from Weeks 2-4, DeFilippo had to change up his approach to establishing a ground attack against his former team without Dalvin Cook (hamstring) and with an offensive line that has struggled to run block.
"There is no one in this building that wants to run the ball more than I do," DeFilippo said last week. "Because it takes a lot of pressure off of me to not have to have the perfect protection, to not have to call the perfect route against the coverage that you deem you think you are going to get. The quarterback is in duress at times where if you run the football with efficiency, obviously it is a lot easier on the play caller, it's easier on some of the players."
DeFilippo got to scratch that itch against the Eagles, who came into Week 5 as the league's No. 1 rushing defense by holding teams to 63.8 yards per game.
His plan for Philly held similarities to the one he had for the Rams: Favoring outside matchups more than having his personnel try to bang their heads against a stout front-four featuring the likes of Fletcher Cox, Brandon Graham, Michael Bennett (in for Derek Barnett) and Destiny Vaeao (in for Haloti Ngata).
At the end of the first half, the Vikings had their highest rushing total (58 yards) since Week 2. Philadelphia allowed a season-high 77 yards rushing to a team still trying to find its footing in the ground game.
That rushing total won't cause many heads to turn, but given that Minnesota's running backs gained a league-low 182 yards from scrimmage in the first four weeks, including just 14 rushing yards against Buffalo, the type of performance the run game turned in against Philadelphia is noteworthy, if not for its immense production but the strategy behind it.
"We knew it wasn't going to be easy to just come in here and run the football," quarterback Kirk Cousins said. "In some cases you have to be smart and not play into their hand by running the ball. I do think when we picked our spots, we were pretty efficient and had the runs when we needed them."
DeFilippo decided that the best way to mitigate the Eagles' pass rush was by getting around it, forcing runs outside designed to attack the perimeter and utilizing quick screens to generate early production.
Stefon Diggs picked up 18 yards off three short passes from Cousins on the Vikings' opening drive, a concept the receiver said "kept them on their toes." The receiver also accounted for the longest run of the day, taking a 20-yard handoff from Cousins parallel to the Vikings' sideline.
Without Cook, Latavius Murray stepped into a headlining role. His biggest impact was felt when the Vikings aimed to hold off a late Eagles push in the fourth quarter. Once Minnesota got the ball with 9:17 to play up 20-14, Murray accounted for 27 of the drive's 55 yards, helping burn off nearly seven minutes of game clock in the process. Cousins also went back to the short passes that sparked the offense early on, targeting Diggs, Adam Thielen and Kyle Rudolph on gains that set up Dan Bailey's game-sealing 52-yard field goal.
Cousins once again posted terrific numbers in the face of constant pressure, completing 30 of 37 passes for 301 yards and a touchdown. The high-octane performances Cousins has strung together in his first five games has him ranked second in Vikings history, just shy of the 1,766 passing yards Daunte Culpepper posted in Minnesota first five games in 2004.
DeFilippo's intentions in Philly were clear: The Vikings are going to continue to rely on Cousins heavily and support him with the run when they can. Minnesota is still towards the bottom in rushing, up one spot to 31st, but showed it can better achieve that balance and take pressure off Cousins.
That philosophy is rooted in DeFilippo's approach to continually get the ball to his best players. Cousins was 17-of-21 for 207 yards and a touchdown targeting both Diggs and Thielen on Sunday. He has completed 70 percent of his passes to that duo this season for 991 yards, six touchdowns and zero interceptions, per ESPN Stats and Information.
Thielen registered his fifth straight game of 100 yards receiving, becoming the first player in the Super Bowl era to achieve that feat. The play that made him cross over that threshold was a mark of the Vikings' offensive coordinator playing to the strengths of his offense, a notion that earned him one of two game balls from head coach Mike Zimmer (the other went to nose tackle Linval Joseph).
Meanwhile, it's now clear more than ever that Thielen is one of the NFL"s best wide receivers.
The Vikings wide receiver has the stats and spot in the record book to back it up. Five games into the 2018 season, he looks better than ever.
"I think his deal is all heart. Number one, he's got the biggest heart there is," said Zimmer. "Number two, he's always talking about how he can get better.
"He comes up to me during the week and said, 'I'm doing this, I just need to run, I need to do this," and I said, 'Well, I'll remind you." Even the long one he caught, he said, 'Man, I'm faster than that. I should have scored on that one," Zimmer added. "But that's the kind of guy he is. The onside kick went to him, and I told him, 'Catch it the first time next time, would ya?" But he's a great competitor."
For what it's worth, Thielen and Diggs combined for 108 yards after the catch Sunday, their second-most as teammates, according to ESPN Stats and Information data.
Also worth noting, Cousins, who completed 35 passes in Week 2, 40 passes in Week 3 and 36 passes in Week 4, is the first player in NFL history to complete at least 30 passes in four consecutive games. ?
For the year, Cousins has completed 161 of 226 passes (71.2 percent) for 1,688 yards (7.5 per attempt). He has 11 touchdowns and two interceptions, and a passer rating of 109.6.
He's on pace to throw for 5,401 yards for the season. ...
Bailey had an up-and-down day but, as noted above, delivered when it mattered most with a 52-yard kick with just under three minutes remaining in the fourth quarter to give Minnesota a nine-point lead. Bailey made three of his five field goal tries on the day, and punter Matt Wile averaged 39 yards on two punts.
One last note here. ... While Cook appears to be getting closer to making his return, it's not clear he'll do that against the Cardinals this week. So stay tuned. I'll have more on his status via Late-Breaking Update in coming days.
QBs: Kirk Cousins, Sean Mannion, Nate Stanley
RBs: Dalvin Cook, Alexander Mattison, Mike Boone, Ameer Abdullah
WRs: Adam Thielen, Justin Jefferson, Tajae Sharpe, K.J. Osborn, Olabisi Johnson, Chad Beebe, Davion Davis
TEs: Kyle Rudolph, Irv Smith Jr., Brandon Dillon, Tyler Conklin
New England PatriotsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 10 October 2018
As ESPN.com's Mike Reiss noted, when the Patriots arrived on the field for the start of last Thursday night's game against the Indianapolis Colts, wide receiver Julian Edelman broke out into a full sprint and raced from one end zone to the other. He jumped into the air, spun, and pumped his right fist in excitement as Gillette Stadium erupted.
That spark carried on to the field as Edelman's return from a torn ACL, which cost him the entire 2017 season, and then a four-game NFL suspension to open this year. It helped ignite the Patriots' offense.
For three quarters, at least, it was a glimpse of how lethal the Patriots' attack can be.
No, the Patriots didn't finish off the Colts with the decisiveness they would have liked in a 38-24 victory, a result that was closer than it should have been if not for sloppy ball-security in the third quarter. But some flashes of brilliance in the first half and fourth quarter highlight the fireworks that could be coming in one of the most exciting games of the NFL season when the Kansas City Chiefs come to town Oct. 14.
The return of Edelman, who played 50 of 71 offensive snaps (including penalties), was a big part of it because it allowed the Patriots to play at a faster pace in a plan that featured a majority of three-receiver packages.
The Patriots didn't have the personnel through the first quarter of the season to turn to three-receiver packages with an up-tempo approach. But with Edelman joining Chris Hogan (64 snaps) and Phillip Dorsett (43), that was the primary combination against the Colts, with newcomer Josh Gordon (20) and gadget option Cordarrelle Patterson (8) sprinkled into the mix.
That the first pass of the game went to Edelman, for nine yards, wasn't a coincidence.
"That was great. We wanted to get him involved," quarterback Tom Brady acknowledged. "Just good to have him out there. We all want it to be perfect every time we go out, but I was really happy to be out there with him. He's a great player, and obviously, the more great players you have out there, the better we're going to move the ball and score points."
The way the Patriots moved it at times in the first half, and then in the fourth quarter, was how they will need to play against Kansas City. If they duplicate their poor third quarter, in which they had two interceptions because of poor ball-security from receivers, they might not be able to recover against a more talented team.
"We scored 38, which is great, but we have more in us this week," Brady said, adding that the team has a 93 percent chance of winning when it doesn't turn the ball over. "Last week, we scored 38 and I think we had more in us. So we've got a lot of room to grow, and we need to make improvements in a short period of time. … We play a great team in Kansas City coming up, a huge game."
As for Edelman, his fiery entrance was a result of letting out emotion from not having played a regular-season game in 405 days. Not that he was counting.
"That's something that gets me fired up and you get to share it with the people that come out and support you, get them riled up," he said. "I remember when I tore my ACL, during the rehab, you're sitting there and can't wait to run out of that tunnel. So it was great to get to be able to play with the fellas, awesome to get the team win. Obviously, we could do a lot better, but any time you go ahead and beat a team in the conference, it's always great, especially the Colts. We'll leave it at that."
And now, with a still-evolving offense that looked potent at times, they set their sights on the Chiefs.
Meanwhile, as NFL.com's Herbie Teope noted, Rob Gronkowski enjoyed a good outing against the Colts.
Gronkowski totaled six catches for 75 yards on seven targets, his most productive game since Week 1.
While having Edelman back on the field after a four-game suspension provided a spark, Gronkowski said the emergence of rookie running back Sony Michel helped set up the passing game.
"The offensive line is doing a great job, but the way [Michel] is running the ball just helps the play-action out hugely," Gronkowski said on the Thursday Night Football postgame show. "I caught a couple play-action passes today and it's all because of that reason. The way he runs the ball, the linebackers have to respect it, so it's huge to be part of this offense."
Michel rushed for 98 yards and a touchdown against the Colts, and has come on the past two games, totaling 210 yards rushing and two touchdowns on 43 carries in that span.
With Michel helping to establish the run and backfield mate James White contributing as a receiver, the Patriots unleashed a balanced offensive attack in the two-game winning streak to improve to 3-2 on the season.
"Oh, it's huge," Gronkowski said. "Just to be able to have Sony out there; James White, I mean, just a phenomenal athlete in the run and pass game."
The Patriots' ability to establish the ground game has contributed to the win-loss column. In the three wins, the Patriots totaled 394 yards rushing, averaging 131.3 yards per game. Conversely, the Patriots amassed 171 total yards in the two losses, averaging 85.5 yards per game.
Meanwhile, the Patriots effectively put the rest of the league on notice they are back after a sluggish two-game stretch in Weeks 2-3.
Defenses can no longer afford to focus solely on Gronkowski, who frequently faced double teams through the first quarter of the season.
"Instead," Teope wrote, "Opponents must now account for Michel's rise, White's ability to hurt teams as a receiver out of the backfield, Edelman's triumphant return and the incorporation of wide receiver Josh Gordon, who caught a touchdown Thursday night.
"Oh, that Brady guy is also pretty good. ..."
That said, Brady has committed seven turnovers through five games, an unusually high rate for him. Consider: During the 2016 and 2017 regular seasons, Brady was responsible for only 13 turnovers in 28 games.
If the Pats can clean up the uncharacteristic miscues, they should be on track to excel.
"I think were still figuring out what were good at," Brady said early this week. "At this point we haven't had everyone together for that long. Now that Josh is on the team and all of the receivers are really contributing. The tight ends are contributing. The backs, Sony missed all of training camp. It's just kind of figuring out where we go from here and that's a good opportunity for us. We're five games into the year and we have a lot of football left. I think we all believe our best football is ahead of us."
Also of interest. ... The Patriots announced Monday that they re-signed RB Kenjon Barner. Barner, 29, is in his third stint on the New England 53-man roster. He was most recently released from the team on Oct. 4, 2018.
As the Boston Herald notes, there was buzz that the Patriots would bring back Mike Gillislee, who was released by the Saints over the weekend, but the team opted for Barner.
He's the third running back on the active roster behind Michel and White.
Of course, the Pats could still add Gillislee. For most of last season, they rostered four running backs and special-teamer Brandon Bolden. It's a position that is especially prone to injury, and the Pats have been mindful to carry extra depth.
QBs: Jarrett Stidham, Brian Hoyer, Cam Newton, Brian Lewerke, J'Mar Smith
RBs: Sony Michel, James White, Rex Burkhead, Brandon Bolden, Damien Harris
WRs: Julian Edelman, N'Keal Harry, Mohamed Sanu, Marqise Lee, Damiere Byrd, Jakobi Meyers, Gunner Olszewski
TEs: Matt LaCosse, Ryan Izzo, Devin Asiasi, Dalton Keene
New Orleans SaintsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 10 October 2018
As the Associated Press reported it, "Before Drew Brees could blow kisses to the adoring Superdome crowd, before he could embrace his wife and children on the sideline, the Saints' 39-year-old quarterback had to shred one of the NFL's top pass defenses with ruthless efficiency.
"And so he did. ..."
Brees passed Peyton Manning to become the NFL's all-time leader in yards passing with a 62-yard touchdown to rookie Tre'Quan Smith on Monday night that sent New Orleans on its way to a lopsided 43-19 victory over the mistake-prone Washington Redskins.
"It's hard for me to reflect too much right now just because my career's not done. There are still goals to be accomplished. There are still challenges to be met. And so I'm still very focused on that," Brees said. "And yet, when something like this happens, there are so many people who are responsible for that, that are a part of that, that makes me happy. It makes me proud and it makes me extremely grateful -- extremely grateful for the opportunity to play this game, to play it as long as I've played it, to have wound up here in New Orleans.
"It's just been an unbelievable journey."
Brees entered the game needing 201 yards to eclipse Peyton Manning's previous mark of 71,940 yards. He had 250 yards and two touchdowns by halftime and finished 26 of 29 for 363 yards and three touchdowns. He has yet to throw an interception this season. He did, however, make his eighth career reception on his own deflected pass, and pushed across the line of scrimmage to add an extra yard to his career total.
"He throws for 5,000 yards just like he's sleeping at night, and it's crazy to see that," Redskins cornerback Josh Norman said. "He's at the top of them all right now -- and he's not done yet."
Smith, a third-round draft choice last spring, caught two touchdown passes from the 18th-year pro. Brees also hit Smith for a 35-yard score down the right sideline early in the third quarter.
When Saints began one of their last first-half possessions on their own 38, Brees needed just 35 yards to break the record. On the first play of the drive, Brees launched a pass toward the right sideline to the speedy Smith, who was wide open and easily sprinted away from Nicholson's tackle attempt en route to the end zone.
"I knew we were within striking distance" of the record, Brees said. "I didn't know it was going to happen on the first play to Tre'Quan. But I don't think it could have happened in any better fashion than it did. To have then that moment with my teammates on the field, the offensive line, it played out even greater than I ever could have imagined."
Brees' teammates ran toward their quarterback as he jogged behind the play, and a group of them formed a jumping, celebrating mass of black and gold next to the Saints' fleur-de-lis emblem on the 50-yard line.
Brees then removed his helmet, saluted fans and exchanged hugs on the sideline with his wife, Brittany, their four kids and head coach Sean Payton. The ball was handed over to Pro Football Hall of Fame officials.
With the game well in hand after the two-minute warning, Payton subbed Brees out of the game. As Teddy Bridgewater ran onto the field and Brees trotted to the sideline, Brees got one last ovation before fans began chanting: "Who dat say dey gonna beat dem Saints. ..."
Named the NFC Offensive Player of the Week on Wednesday, Brees completed 26 of 29 passes in the against the Reskins. Brees now has a pristine 11:0 TD-INT ratio for the season and is averaging 331 yards per game while completing 77.8 percent of his passes. ...
Also worth noting. ... Running back Mark Ingram, playing in his first game this season after serving a four-game suspension, scored two touchdowns on 2- and 1-yard runs in the first half.
He finished with 53 yards rushing and 20 receiving.
"It's great to have him back," Payton said, stressing the Ingram's presence reduces the physical toll on fellow running back Alvin Kamara. "That combination -- those are two real good running backs."
Of course, QB Taysom Hill rushed five times for 23 yards and scored his first career touchdown on a 1-yard run in the third quarter while Kamara finished the game with six carries for 24 yards. Kamara also caught 3-of-4 targets for 15 yards.
Kamara owners shouldn't panic, but it's going to be interesting to see how the workload is divided against the Ravens in Week 7 following this week's bye. ...
A few final items. ... Josh Hill scored his first touchdown of the season and finished with two receptions for 24 yards and one touchdown. Cameron Meredith finished with five receptions for 71 yards, both season-highs.
Wil Lutz made a 44-yard FG in the fourth quarter and has made at least one FG in each of his last 26 games. ...
In case you missed it, s Monday Night Football feud between Michael Thomas and Josh Norman went from the field to the locker room to Twitter, where the Saints receiver ripped the Redskins cornerback in a back-and-forth that carried well into the early hours of Tuesday morning.
Norman was one of several Redskins players to criticize Thomas after the Saints' victory.
"That guy -- to speak on him, I will not waste my breath," Norman said, when asked about Thomas. "I'm sorry. I will not. He's not worthy of it. He never will be worthy of it."
Thomas, in response to a Washington Post reporter's tweet of Norman's quote, tweeted after the game that he "made that boy check out after the first half," referring to Norman's brief benching in the second half.
Norman, in a tweet that has since been deleted, responded by accusing Thomas of "clout chasing," followed by an emoji of a clown. Norman also stated that Thomas did not have a reception when the two lined up against each other and called Thomas a "blocking decoy."
In a series of subsequent tweets, Thomas called Norman a "Zone Corner" and said "[I'm] going to bully you ever(y) time I see you." Thomas also poked fun at Norman's "cheap ahh suit" and said, "You 30 yrs old dude. Life comes at you fast."
Thomas then called out Norman for deleting his tweets, calling him a "Goof ball con artist."
Dunbar told reporters that Thomas was "pushing" and "hitting" Washington players after the whistle.
"He was just doing little slick s--- after the plays, tapping you and doing little crazy stuff after the play trying to get you going," Dunbar said. "Pushing, hitting, talking -- doing all that."
Dunbar said he thought Thomas' actions were more "corny" than "annoying."
"I don't take disrespect well," Dunbar said. "For you to keep hitting another man and going back to the huddle, who does that? Not hitting after the whistle, but tapping you as he's going back to the huddle. Just little corny stuff."
Thomas set the NFL record for most catches in the first two years of a career (196, from 2017 to 2018) and the most catches through the first three weeks of a season this year (38). He finished with 74 yards on four receptions Monday night. ...
Thomas is typically soft-spoken in interviews, but he isn't afraid to show his bravado on Twitter -- starting with his handle, "CantGuardMike" -- though this is the most that a trash-talking battle has ever escalated with an opponent.
Thomas also seemed more fired up than usual for Monday night's game. He wore a ski mask during pregame introductions and was dancing on the sideline and firing up the crowd as the Saints' rout escalated.
"I'm not a big fan of the ski mask, honestly. I am a big fan of Mike, though, and how he plays," Payton said. "He is an emotional player, he's tough, extremely dedicated, he works his tail off and there isn't a more passionate player. ..."
And finally. ... The Saints' defense lost one of its most important pieces early Monday night when cornerback Marshon Lattimore suffered a concussion. He'll obviously benefit from the bye week.
QBs: Drew Brees, Taysom Hill, Jameis Winston, Tommy Stevens
RBs: Alvin Kamara, Latavius Murray, Ty Montgomery, Dwayne Washington
WRs: Michael Thomas, Emmanuel Sanders, Tre'quan Smith, Deonte Harris, Emmanuel Butler
TEs: Jared Cook, Josh Hill, Adam Trautman
New York GiantsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 10 October 2018
As ESPN.com's Jordan Raanan framed it, "Odell Beckham wants the pressure on him. He's got it now. ..."
The heat remains on the star receiver and quarterback Eli Manning after a crushing 33-31 loss to the Panthers on Sunday. The Giants (1-4) are again in last place in the NFC East heading into their Thursday night matchup with the Philadelphia Eagles. It's a familiar position after last season's 3-13 finish.
The Giants lost on a 63-yard field with one second remaining on Sunday. It capped an eventful weekend that included Beckham addressing the team to clarify comments made earlier this week.
In an interview with ESPN"s Josina Anderson, Beckham said he "didn't know" if Manning was the issue with the offense struggling. The two spoke over the weekend and Manning downplayed the incident after the loss.
"I haven't heard anything," he said after throwing two late touchdowns and two interceptions in the loss. "Odell and I have a great relationship. Our mindset will be everybody stay focused on beating Philadelphia."
Beckham finished with eight catches for 131 yards and a 33-yard touchdown, his first score of the season. It ended a four-game drought. Beckham also threw a 57-yard touchdown pass to Saquon Barkley in the second quarter.
Manning, meanwhile, threw a pair of interceptions and a pair of touchdown passes in the fourth quarter. He went 22-of-36 passing for 326 yards in an uneven performance that was capped by leading a two late scoring drives that put the Giants ahead with just over a minute remaining.
It was Manning's first 300-yard game since he threw for 434 yards against Philadelphia last year, and the 46th of his career. The Giants are 19-27 when Manning throws for at least 300 yards.
"He just kept fighting," head coach Pat Shurmur said. "He's tough. He's competitive. At one point we were ahead 31-30."
It wasn't enough. Beckham and Manning undoubtedly weren't alone with their uneven performances -- the Giants committed an unthinkable amount of unforced errors. But Beckham will be scrutinized after recently signing a $90-plus million contract and continuing to be outspoken. His comments will garner plenty of attention, even if he viewed the end result as a positive.
"I don't regret anything," Beckham said. "I don't regret anything that I said. If it took that for us to come together as a team like we did [Sunday]. I can take that every single time."
An animated Shurmur wanted to put it behind him after the game. That might be easier said than done unless all the Giants" offensive woes are cured. There were at least some positive signs late in the game. The Giants scored 30 points for the first time since Tom Coughlin's final game as head coach in the final Week of the 2015 season. They lost that game as well.
"All right, listen, I'm going to answer all the drama questions right now and I'm going to go back to what I said. I addressed it with Odell. I addressed it with our team," Shurmur said. "I publicly declared that I didn't agree with his comments and I asked anybody that was interested if they wanted clarification [to] go to Odell because he's a big man.
"Now, I'm not going to give the public a pound of flesh on this, alright! That would make me small not strong. And these are the kind of things, in my opinion, when we have the locker room that we have that will help galvanize them because the locker room took care of it and that is all I'm saying on it. Finito. Done. Let's talk football, not drama."
Beckham's game began with a one-handed catch near the sideline on the Giants" second offensive play of the game. It hit a rough patch after that.
Beckham dropped a fourth-and-3 pass from Manning with 50 seconds left in the first quarter. He said him and another receiver kind of ran their routes into each other. It was still a play Beckham has to make, especially given the extra bright spotlight shining in his direction on this day.
Then, forced to return punts because of the Giants" ineffective return game, Beckham made a crucial mistake that cost them seven points. He tried to make a last-second block on the Carolina gunner at the Giants" 2-yard line on a second-quarter punt. The ball bounced off his foot and, after Janoris Jenkins and Eli Apple were unable to corral the muff, ended with the Panthers" Colin Jones recovering the ball in the end zone for a touchdown.
It was the kind of mistake a losing team makes and was a miscue the Giants couldn't afford.
For the record, Beckham addressed the Giants over the weekend about his comments during the above-mentioned interview, saying he was trying to clear the air.
Beckham didn't apologize or take back his comments, and even thinks it had a positive effect on the team.
Several of Beckham's teammates said after the game they didn't think it was necessary for him to address the entire team. They thought it was beneficial.
"One-hundred percent a positive," veteran wide receiver Russell Shepard said. "We played our asses off [Sunday]. It showed. We just didn't finish the game."
Meanwhile, wide receiver Sterling Shepard was upset in the second half as the game appeared to be slipping away. He was seen punching the bench and flipping over a can.
Ironically, it was Beckham who tried to calm Shepard down. ...
We'll see if Beckham turns out to be more of a calming influence or an ongoing distraction in coming days. ...
Worth noting. ... Barkley rushed for 48 yards on 15 carries and gained 81 yards on four receptions. With 129 combined yards, he became the third player in NFL history to begin a career with at least five consecutive games with 100 or more scrimmage yards.
His 57-yard touchdown catch was the longest by a Giants running back since Brandon Jacobs had a 74-yard score vs. Dallas on Dec. 6, 2009. He was the first Giants" back to catch two touchdown passes in a game since Tyrone Wheatley, another first-round draft choice, at Arizona on Nov. 17, 1996.
Barkley was the first Giants player to score two touchdowns in a game since wide receiver Tavarres King (on catches of 13 and 57 yards) vs. Philadelphia last Dec. 17. He was the first Giants running back to score twice since Oct. 10, 2013, when Jacobs had touchdown runs of four yards and one yard.
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, when Beckham connected with Barkley, he became the first Giants wide receiver to complete a pass since the 1970 merger. Beckham threw a pass at Tennessee on Dec. 7, 2014, but it fell incomplete.
Beckham was the second wide receiver to throw a touchdown pass this season. On Sept. 23, Miami's Albert Wilson threw a 42-yard scoring pass to Jakeem Grant vs Oakland. Beckham was the first non-quarterback to complete a pass of at least 57 yards in…three weeks. On Sept. 16, Tennessee safety Kevin Byard threw a 66-yard touchdown pass to Dane Cruikshank out of a punt formation.
Beckham was the first Giants player other than a quarterback to complete a pass of at least 57 yards since Oct. 1, 1967, when running back Ernie Koy threw a 68-yarder to Homer Jones. Beckham was the first Giants player other than a quarterback to throw a touchdown pass since Oct. 27, 1996, when Wheatley tossed a 24-yarder to Chris Calloway.
Beckham was the first Giants player with a touchdown reception and a touchdown pass in the same game since Frank Gifford on Nov. 22, 1959. Gifford had a 33-yard touchdown reception on a pass from Charlie Conerly and threw a 37-yard scoring pass to Alex Webster against the Chicago Cardinals in Minneapolis.
Beckham was the first Giants player with a reception, pass attempt, punt return, and kickoff return in the same game since Armani Toomer showed the same versatility on Sept. 21, 1998 vs. Dallas.
Aldrick Rosas kicked a career-long 53-yard field goal with 20 seconds remaining in the first half (he also added field goals of 42 and 36 yards). His previous long was a 52-yarder at Oakland on Dec. 3, 2017, also on a grass field. It was his fourth field goal of at least 50 yards since becoming the Giants" kicker last season.
The 53-yarder was the longest field goal by a Giants kicker since Josh Brown kicked one from that distance vs. New England on Nov. 15, 2015, and the longest on the road since Brown's 53-yard three-pointer at Tampa Bay on Nov. 8, 2015.
The Giants opened the game with two tight ends, as Scott Simonson joined Rhett Ellison in the starting lineup. It was Simonton's first start for the Giants and second in his 23rd career game. His only previous start was for the Panthers, on Sept 8, 2016 at Denver.
And they'll have to continue relying on Ellison and Simpsonh for another week.
Although Evan Engram appeared to be on pace to return after missing the past two weeks with a knee injury, he was ruled out on Wednesday. Shepard (back) was also ruled out.
Shurmur said Tuesday that the tight end would be "full speed" during the team's initial practice, but he was limited and wearing a brace during that session.
The initial timeframe for a return was two to four weeks.
Meanwhile, Ellison (sore foot) and Rosas (sore quad) are new injuries. Rosas did not practice Tuesday but was removed from the final injury report. Ellison is officially listed as questionable.
I'll continue to follow up in advance of Thursday night's kickoff; watch the Late-Breaking Updates section for more. ...
Beyond those players, although it looked like he was injured on his second touchdown, Barkley didn't need any special treatment this week. According to Raanan, it was just a random back spasm. Nothing more.
In addition, LB Olivier Vernon (ankle) is expected to make his 2018 debut, although Raanan thinks it might be in limited role. ...
One last note here. ... The Giants announced Tuesday morning that they had waived Ereck Flowers, ending the former No. 9 overall pick's tenure with the team.
An offensive tackle who showed some promise earlier in his career, Flowers hasn't developed the way the Giants were hoping he would. This year he was benched after Week 2 and has barely played the last three weeks.
The Giants reportedly tried to trade Flowers but couldn't find any takers. They still owe him his remaining $1.7 million guaranteed base salary for the rest of this season. He'll be available on waivers to any team willing to pay that salary, but it's extremely unlikely any team will claim him.
Tackle Brian Mihalik was signed off the practice squad to replace Flowers on the roster, and kicker Marshall Koehn was added to their practice squad.
QBs: Daniel Jones, Colt McCoy, Alex Tanney, Cooper Rush
RBs: Saquon Barkley, Wayne Gallman, Dion Lewis, Javorius Allen, Elijhaa Penny
WRs: Sterling Shepard, Golden Tate, Darius Slayton, Cody Core, Da'Mari Scott, Corey Coleman
TEs: Evan Engram, Kaden Smith, Levine Toilolo, Eric Tomlinson
New York JetsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 10 October 2018
Two weeks after infuriating his coach with a crude touchdown celebration, and parlaying it into an endorsement deal, New York Jets running back Isaiah Crowell delivered the best rushing day in franchise history.
Crowell rushed for a career-high 219 yards in a 34-16 victory over the Denver Broncos on Sunday at MetLife Stadium, including a 77-yard touchdown that sparked a 21-point explosion in the second quarter. Crowell set the franchise mark on just 15 carries for an NFL-record 14.6 average yards per carry.
This time, there were no attention-grabbing gestures in the end zone. He simply tossed the ball away, stared into the crowd for a moment and celebrated with teammates.
"I didn't want to do anything that would cost my team a penalty," Crowell said after the Jets snapped a three-game losing streak. "I just wanted to drop the ball; that's how I felt at the time. That's usually what I do."
As ESPN.com's Rich Cimini reminded readers, Crowell incurred the wrath of head coach Todd Bowles after wiping his rear end with the ball and firing it into the crowd after scoring his second touchdown in a Week 3 loss to the Cleveland Browns. He was penalized for unsportsmanlike conduct and later fined $13,369 by the league.
That didn't stop him from becoming a pitch man for a company that sells a toilet-paper substitute for men.
"On Sunday," Cimini wrote, "instead of wiping his rear end, Crowell saved the team's butt. The Jets were lifeless and scoreless until his touchdown."
This time, Bowles was complimentary.
"He's a tough guy, he's quicker than you think, he's got very good feet," Bowles said. "He doesn't say much, but his work ethic has been very good."
The previous franchise record was held by Thomas Jones, who ran for 210 yards in a 2009 win over the Buffalo Bills. Led Sunday by Crowell and Bilal Powell (99 yards), the Jets finished with 323, falling short of the team mark of 333, set in 1972 against New England.
As part of that, Crowell averaged 14.6 yards per rush Sunday, the highest average in a game by a player with at least 15 rush attempts in NFL history.
Crowell's touchdown run was the team's longest since 1983, when Bruce Harper ran for a 78-yard score. The offensive line was dominant, opening huge holes in Denver's defense. It was a stunning turnaround, considering the Jets had rushed for only 353 yards in the previous four games combined.
"It means a lot to me," Crowell said of the franchise record, "but I can't take any credit because the holes were wide open. [The line] did their job, and I did what I could do."
On Wednesday, Crowell was named the AFC Offensive Player of the Week.
The Jets' offense snapped out of a three-game slump, amassing 512 total yards and producing a 200-yard rusher and a 100-yard receiver (Robby Anderson) for only the second time in franchise history. Rookie Sam Darnold completed only 10 passes, but three went for touchdowns, including 76- and 35-yard strikes to Anderson.
It was the first time since the famous Joe Namath-Johnny Unitas shootout in 1972 that the Jets had two 75-yard touchdowns on offense in the same game.
"The offensive line, the way they dominated, we're capable of that every single game," said Darnold, who earned his first home win.
Crowell's touchdown came on a "gap" run to the left side. Left tackle Kelvin Beachum and left guard James Carpenter had a key double-team block, with Anderson and wide receiver Terrelle Pryor helping with downfield blocks.
The Jets ran the same running play several times, and the Broncos couldn't stop it.
"We talked about it before the game," Beachum said. "Let's take their 3-technique and put him in the lap of the linebacker. As an offensive line, we were able to do that."
Crowell's touchdown "inspired the offensive line," Bowles said. Naturally, the Jets were happy he didn't incur a celebration penalty.
"Isaiah has been in the end zone before," Beachum said, "and he didn't want to hurt the team."
For what it's worth, Bowles admitted he didn't care for Crowell's endorsement deal with Dude Wipes.
Speaking on the Michael Kay Show on ESPN radio, Bowles said, "It bothers you. If you know about it, you try and talk to them beforehand, but you can't control a player's endorsement off the field and what they do on their day off. It's not like you can suspend him if you don't like their sneaker brand." Bowles added, "You try to discourage him from that. But if they do it without speaking with you, there's really nothing you can do. You can chastise and tell them it was wrong, but then you have to move on. ...
"We understand it wasn't the greatest thing to do. ..."
Meanwhile, Anderson, who had only eight catches and one touchdown in the first four games, was so concerned about his slow start that he approached Darnold last week with the hope of unlocking his big-play ability. Anderson is soft-spoken by nature, but he felt compelled to bring it up.
"I'm starting to open up the communication a little more, about things I'm seeing and letting him know situations where I'm confident," Anderson said in a quiet moment. "I can win with him. It's just growth."
The Jets are a lot better when Anderson is a big part of the offense.
For a variety of reasons, they haven't had much of a vertical passing offense -- protection issues, rookie quarterback, et al. They missed a great shot last week in Jacksonville, where Darnold overthrew Anderson on what would've been an 86-yard touchdown. To his credit, offensive coordinator Jeremy Bates approached the Denver game with an aggressive mindset.
This time, Darnold was money, proving that, yes, he's capable of hitting the home run.
"It's going to be fun to watch us here in the next couple of weeks," he said after a 512-yard day in total offense -- the biggest of the Bowles era.
This was a big step for Darnold, who rebounded from his first three-game losing streak at any level as a starting quarterback. He was far from flawless (four passes were tipped at the line, one resulting in an interception), but he demonstrated aggressiveness, pushing the ball downfield. When a team overplays the run with an eight-man front, as the Broncos did, the Jets should be able to strike downfield.
There's where Anderson comes in.
From the start of training camp, Anderson and Darnold were like strangers on the field, showing no rapport. In camp, Anderson sometimes went days without a big play in practice. It was weird. It wasn't intentional. Darnold developed an affinity for Quincy Enunwa, unwittingly making Anderson an afterthought.
So they talked. They practiced on the side. They worked at it, trying to click. The other day, Anderson vowed to a reporter, "It's going to happen, I can feel it. I'm confident." With the season on the verge of slipping away, they finally turned into BFFs.
"Robby is a great deep-ball guy, and Sam is developing a lot of trust in him that way," Bowles said. "It's good to see it happen."
The Jets will try to keep things humming at home against the Colts Sunday.
The Jets likely will be without two of their top three corners against the Colts -- Trumaine Johnson (quad) and Buster Skrine (concussion).
Skrine hasn't been ruled out, but it's hard to imagine him playing after his fourth concussion in three calendar years. Bowles said, "It's concerning because he's had quite a few of them."
Johnson got hurt last week in practice and is a major question mark. Darryl Roberts probably would replace Johnson in the base, with rookie Parry Nickerson assuming Skrine's role in the slot.
In addition to Johnson and Skrine, Crowell (ankle) and wide receiver Charone Peake (hamstring) sat out practice Wednesday. Wide receiver Terrelle Pryor (groin), defensive back Marcus Maye (ankle/foot) and tight end Neal Sterling (concussion) were limited.
I'll follow up on all involved via Late-Breaking Update as needed in coming days.
QBs: Sam Darnold, David Fales, James Morgan
RBs: Le'Veon Bell, Frank Gore, Bilal Powell, Lamical Perine, Kenneth Dixon, Josh Adams
WRs: Jamison Crowder, Denzel Mims, Breshad Perriman, Braxton Berrios, Josh Doctson, Josh Malone, Vyncint Smith
TEs: Chris Herndon, Ryan Griffin, Daniel Brown, Trevon Wesco
Oakland RaidersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 10 October 2018
As Associated Press sports writer Greg Beacham noted, although Jon Gruden is still settling back into coaching, he watched more than enough football from the broadcast booth over the past decade to know that the only logical thing to do with the ball on the goal line is to give it to Marshawn Lynch.
And no matter what happens, definitely don't call a pass instead.
Just ask Pete Carroll -- or, better yet, don't.
But the Oakland Raiders' new boss deliberately didn't activate Beast Mode with first down on the Chargers' 1 late in the third quarter Sunday while the Raiders (1-4) were desperately trying to cut into a 20-3 deficit.
Gruden called a play-action pass for Derek Carr, who promptly threw an end-zone interception to Los Angeles star Melvin Ingram.
The Chargers also stole the Raiders' momentum, made a 96-yard touchdown drive and cruised to a 26-10 victory over their longtime AFC West rivals, who still haven't figured out how to maximize their opportunities during Gruden's first year back.
"The decision there was to throw it, and if it's not open, to throw it away," Gruden said. "It just didn't work out. We expected to have a wide-open receiver on the play. Obviously that will be second-guessed. Rightfully so. But we should have made that (deliberately incomplete) throw down there, and live to hand the ball off on the next play."
Gruden's brazen defiance of conventional Lynch wisdom dearly cost him and his team -- and he can count his workhorse running back among those second-guessers he mentioned.
Lynch was visibly upset on the sideline, tossing his helmet in the air and yelling loudly to himself while undoubtedly reliving memories of his Seattle Seahawks' final play in the February 2015 Super Bowl.
Carr also realized the folly of what happened. After all, when Lynch joined his hometown Raiders last year, Carr famously said there was "no way we'll be on the 1-yard line and I won't give it to Marshawn."
Gruden took the blame for the call, but also gently chided his quarterback for not executing at the pivotal moment.
"First-and-goal at the 1, faking to Lynch has been a great call for a lot of years," Gruden claimed. "I think (Carr) just presses at some moments."
Carr, who went 24 of 33 for 268 yards and one late touchdown, readily agreed with his new boss' assessment of his predilection for pressing.
"Absolutely. There's no doubt," Carr said. "That's always been a problem of mine. It's not a problem, it's a weakness, is I've always just tried to do too much. It's not always about heart. I just want to win so bad."
Carr also gave the Chargers credit on the interception, noting that his first two options were covered.
"They did a great job, because on film it looked great, to be honest with you," Carr said. "Obviously, Marshawn, we love to give him the ball and stuff like that, but we had seen some things they showed on film, and it was like, 'This should be good.' Obviously they covered it. Didn't work."
The Raiders' offensive failures weren't limited to that one play-call on the Chargers' goal line. Los Angeles outgained Oakland 412 yards to 289, and the Raiders' offense managed only 14 first downs and a mere 41 yards rushing.
After Amari Cooper had eight catches for 128 yards and a touchdown last week against Cleveland, the receiver had one catch for 10 yards on his only target against Los Angeles. Carr defended his inability to get the ball to Cooper, saying the Chargers were keyed on stopping the playmaking pass-catcher.
Carr finished the day throwing for 268 yards on 24-of-33 passing for a 72.7 completion percentage with one touchdown for a passer rating of 94.0.
He has recorded 1,641 passing yards this season, marking the fewest amount of games it's taken him to surpass the 1,500 mark.
And even though Gruden and Carr have only one win together, they still appear to be connecting on the plan to build a long-term foundation for the Raiders.
"We're in such a production-oriented business," Carr said. "We forget the process of things, and if you start getting down during the process, there's never going to be any production. So when it happens like this, you stay the course and you keep going. You come out here and you don't quit on what you've been doing."
Worth noting, the goal-line interception was Carr's league-leading seventh interception, his NFL-worst fifth on first down.
Per ESPN Stats and Information tracking, Carr has thrown three interceptions into the end zone this season, tied for most in the league. He had four such picks in his first four seasons combined.
Then there was this: Since the start of Super Bowl XLIX, teams have now thrown four times at the 1-yard line with Lynch on the field. And with Carr's interceptions, those passes are 0-for-4 with two interceptions.
"That's cute," Lynch said when told the 0-for-4 stat. "That's cute. ..."
Other notes of interest. ... Martavis Bryant set a season best with 91 receiving yards on three receptions (30.3 avg.), which ties for his sixth best performance in his career.
It also marks Bryant's most since totaling 91 yards Week 2 of the 2017 season.
Jared Cook hauled in four receptions for 20 yards to bring his season total to 390 yards, which continues to lead the league among tight ends at the conclusion of today's game.
Cook recorded one reception for a first down, bringing his season total to 19, which leads the NFL among tight ends.
Jalen Richard caught all six of his targets for 53 yards and one touchdown.
QBs: Derek Carr, Marcus Mariota
RBs: Josh Jacobs, Jalen Richard, Rod Smith, Devontae Booker
WRs: Tyrell Williams, Henry Ruggs III, Hunter Renfrow, Lynn Bowden Jr., Zay Jones, Bryan Edwards, Nelson Agholor, Keelan Doss, Marcell Ateman
TEs: Darren Waller, Jason Witten, Foster Moreau, Derek Carrier
Philadelphia EaglesCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 10 October 2018
Jay Ajayi wanted the Philadelphia Eagles to run the ball more and head coach Doug Pederson agreed.
They'll have to do it without their top running back.
The Eagles placed Ajayi on injured reserve Monday because of a knee injury. A person familiar with the situation says Ajayi tore an ACL and will miss the rest of the season. The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because the team hasn't announced the severity of the injury.
Ajayi had 29 yards rushing on eight carries and lost a fumble at the Vikings 5 in a 23-21 loss to Minnesota on Sunday. He was acquired by the Eagles from Miami at the trade deadline last season and helped the team win the Super Bowl.
Pederson ended up calling 35 pass plays to 17 runs despite the backs averaging close to five yards per carry on the ground.
Carson Wentz has been averaging 41 dropbacks per game since returning from multi-ligament knee surgery in Week 3 and has taken his share of punishment. He has been sacked 12 times and absorbed 27 QB hits in three games of work this season.
The offensive line has not been as reliable as expected in pass protection, and there are times when Wentz is holding the ball too long.
"Obviously, you want to eliminate as many as you can, reduce the number of hits," Pederson said. "Active quarterback, you know he's going to move and made some great plays [Sunday] with his legs and found some holes to run and to throw out of."
The Eagles went run-heavy to start the second half against Minnesota and found immediate success, but Ajayi fumbled at the Vikings' 5-yard line to squander the opportunity.
"I love to run the football," Pederson said. "I think our guys are good at it, and we've been successful at it. But at the same time, we can't get behind in football games because sometimes the running game won't allow you to get back fast enough."
In a 26-23 overtime loss at Tennessee in Week 4, the Eagles called runs on only 24 percent of the plays. Only 22 percent of the plays against the Vikings were called runs.
"We've got to figure out how to start games faster, stay on the field longer, and generate points early in football games, because if you go back to our history, the times that we've had success as a football team, we've been able to do that," Pederson said. "We've been able to score on opening drives, get the lead early, which allows for your running game to really take over, play-action pass, all of that. That's one of the ingredients that's missing right now."
Ajayi, in the final season of his rookie contract, had 184 yards rushing, an average of 4.1 yards per carry and three touchdowns this season.
Darren Sproles has missed the past four games with a hamstring injury. Corey Clement hasn't played in the last two because of a quadriceps injury. Wendell Smallwood has 150 yards rushing, an average of 6.0 yards per carry and one TD on the ground and one receiving. Rookie Josh Adams has seven carries.
The Eagles visit the New York Giants on Thursday night.
Meanwhile, Ajayi, acquired in a trade last October with the Dolphins, will end the season with 145 rushing yards. And as he heads toward free agency, he'll likely need to sign a one-year prove-it deal in 2019, before ever cashing in.
Ajayi created a stir two years ago, with back-to-back 200-yard games for Miami. He later fell out of favor with the Dolphins, but he had been a solid late-season contributor for the Eagles.
For the record, Sproles was officially ruled out for this week on Wednesday while Clement has been working his way back this week and was removed from the final injury report. ...
Of course, even before Ajayi was hurt, there were rumors the Eagles were interested in dealing for Steelers running back Le'Veon Bell.
Indeed, the Eagles restructured the contract of Pro Bowl defensive tackle Fletcher Cox on Friday, but ESPN's Adam Schefter and Chris Mortensen report the team wasn't planning to use added salary-cap space to trade for Bell.
"It's 100 percent misleading to think Cox's restructuring was done with Bell in mind," one league source with knowledge of the Eagles' thinking told ESPN.
In addition, WIVB in Buffalo sports direction Josh Reed reports the Eagles have reached out to the Bills about a possible trade for LeSean McCoy, who spent the first six seasons of his career with the Eagles and is the franchise all-time leading rusher.
I'll, of course, continue watching for more (watch the Late-Breaking Updates section for developments).
QBs: Carson Wentz, Nate Sudfeld, Jalen Hurts
RBs: Miles Sanders, Boston Scott, Elijah Holyfield, Michael Warren II
WRs: Alshon Jeffery, Jalen Reagor, John Hightower, DeSean Jackson, JJ Arcega-Whiteside, Marquise Goodwin, Greg Ward, Quez Watkins, Robert Davis
TEs: Zach Ertz, Dallas Goedert, Josh Perkins
Pittsburgh SteelersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 10 October 2018
As Profootballtalk.com's Michael David Smith framed it, "Anyone who thinks the Steelers are in desperate need for holdout running back Le'Veon Bell to return should take a look at Pittsburgh's performance (Sunday)."
The Steelers" offense had no trouble moving the ball, as James Conner ran for 110 yards and two touchdowns, added another 75 yards receiving, and helped Pittsburgh beat the Falcons easily, 41-17.
Antonio Brown also had a big game, catching six passes for 101 yards and two touchdowns.
Indeed, as ESPN.com's Jeremy Fowler noted, fueled by two touchdowns apiece for Conner and Brown, Sunday's win eases the tension surrounding the 2018 season and injects life into a defense that badly needed it.
"The Wi-Fi was lit," said Brown, who during the week compared his connection to Ben Roethlisberger to Wi-Fi that's sometimes poor, sometimes great, but always connected.
The Steelers' offense was dropping back to pass on 73 percent of its downs entering Sunday, one of the highest clips in the league. But against the Falcons' 24th-ranked rushing defense, Pittsburgh controlled the pace with a balanced attack.
Before Roethlisberger's 47-yard touchdown strike to Brown down the sideline with 9:41 to put the game out of reach, the Steelers epitomized balance with 25 rushes and 25 passes.
As Fowler pointed out, when Conner goes off, he really goes off.
He has sandwiched pedestrian numbers through Weeks 2-4 with a combined 377 yards in Weeks 1 and 5, including a tone-setting 72 yards by himself during the opening drive Sunday.
After Conner punctuated that drive with a leaping 1-yard score, he put his hand to his ear to cue a Heinz Field crowd that let him hear it.
"I was trying to set the tone early," said Conner, who finished with 110 rushing yards on 21 attempts and 75 receiving yards on four catches.
Several teammates say Conner's punishing running style enlivened the entire offense.
"I think James was tired of hearing about Le'Veon Bell so much, so he put on a heckuva performance today," Roethlisberger said.
The defense gave Pittsburgh every chance to win with six sacks, more than Matt Ryan took at any point last season.
During the week, several players stressed the urgency and edge found in their practices. Staring down at a potential 1-3-1 start brought that out of them. They knew what was at stake, and only stopping Atlanta's high-powered offense would redirect the conversation.
"Everyone was expecting a shootout. We took it to heart," corner Mike Hilton said. 'We took the challenge and rose up."
After a disastrous first three weeks, the Steelers' defense has gotten incrementally better in the past two. Giving up 26 points to the Baltimore Ravens in Week 4 was respectable, and Sunday they finally put everything together. Atlanta was forgettable on the ground (62 yards on 19 carries), which is exactly what the Steelers want.
Meanwhile, the Roethlisberger-to-Brown connection finished with six catches for 101 yards on 13 targets, but the 9-yard touchdown with 3:42 left in the third was the best sign because of where the catch occurred: the sideline. The duo is at their best when working the sideline with precision and Brown's signature footwork. Brown cut in and flared to the thick white line for the easy catch. Those plays haven't been there for much of the season as Brown averaged 9.4 yards per catch through four games.
"We are always on the same page, always positive," said Brown about his relationship with Roethlisberger. "We know we got to stay together regardless of what's being said. All of my catches, all of my touchdowns are from him, and that's my guy."
Eventually, the long-distance connection presented itself, with Brown beating man coverage and catching the deep pass before the safety arrived. Roethlisberger and Brown collided helmets on the sideline for the celebratory culmination of an inconsistent past five weeks. It marked Brown's first 100-yard game of the season.
"It kind of shows that we're still on the same page," said Roethlisberger of the last touchdown.
If the duo has their way, the renewed timing will create many more. ...
Speaking of duos. ... The Steelers will get a top-10 NFL player in their lineup soon enough. As Fowler suggested, Bell is an elite player regardless of what Conner does. Conner's showing that he can get hot with two big performances through five weeks only deepens the intrigue around the Steelers running back position for Week 8 against Cleveland, Bell's targeted return game.
On the surface, there isn't much downside here. Bell can only help, and Conner can obviously play. But the offense is typically built for one workhorse, and if Conner starts in favor of Bell, an All-Pro will be sitting on the bench to collect $855,000 a week.
But Conner needs to show more after averaging 3.0 yards per carry in Weeks 2-4, even if the Steelers abandoned the run at times during that stretch.
Plus, as Fowler went on to point out, the thought of not using an All-Pro and arguably the best at his position seems silly. The Steelers might ease Bell back, but he'll be on the field. He'll be plenty motivated, too; he told ESPN last week that the Steelers will get "my best," and he knows he's "gotta show people" what he can do.
Navigating this lineup is a good problem for the Steelers, who have seen enough from Conner to believe that he can be the feature back in 2019 if Bell is signed to another team. With three consecutive AFC North games approaching, the Steelers will be handing the ball off.
The weather is changing. So is the lineup.
"It's getting to the point of the season where we have to be a team that holds on to the ball and can run it consistently," guard Ramon Foster said.
In a related note. ... Despite plenty of rumors to the contrary, ESPN's Adam Schefter reports the Eagles "have not pursued a trade" for Bell and "have no plans to do so. ..."
The Steelers are supporting kicker Chris Boswell despite three missed extra points and three missed field goals.
"This guy has delivered for us a lot the last few years," head coach Mike Tomlin said.
And finally. ... Tomlin fired off on NFL officials this week -- and now the NFL has fired back.
The coach has been fined $25,000 for criticizing officials, a person with knowledge of the situation told USA TODAY Sports' Jarrett Bell.
Following Sunday's win, Tomlin called the quality of officiating "a joke" that needs correction. It was unclear whether he was referencing a questionable roughing-the-passer penalty called against Steelers linebacker T.J. Watt, another in a series of cases league-wide flowing from a point of emphasis officials are operating under this season to better protect the quarterback.
“We’ve got to get better as a National Football League,” Tomlin said on Sunday. “Man, these penalties are costing people games and jobs. We’ve got to get them correct. So, I’m pissed.”
On Monday, Tomlin spoke about the issue with Troy Vincent, the league’s executive vice president of football operations. He maintained on Tuesday that he did not expect to draw a fine.
There was some sentiment that Tomlin, a member of the NFL’s competition committee who is very involved with rules changes might escape a fine, given that his initial comments were expressed in the aftermath of a game, when emotions are raw.
Upon further review, though, the NFL ruled that it’s a black-and-white issue – and that Tomlin crossed the line by publicly expressing such frustration.
QBs: Ben Roethlisberger, Devlin Hodges, Mason Rudolph
RBs: James Conner, Benny Snell, Jaylen Samuels, Anthony McFarland Jr., Trey Edmunds, Kerrith Whyte
WRs: JuJu Smith-Schuster, Chase Claypool, Diontae Johnson, Johnny Holton, James Washington, Ryan Switzer, Deon Cain
TEs: Eric Ebron, Vance McDonald, Zach Gentry
San Francisco 49ersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 10 October 2018
As ESPN.com's Nick Wagoner reported, just minutes after spraining his left ankle at the end of the first quarter in Sunday's loss to the Cardinals, running back Matt Breida was up and jogging on the sidelines, just hoping he could return to the game.
It's not just that Breida wanted to play. It's that he felt like he needed to return since injuries have mounted all over the roster. Alas, Breida was just another 49er stuck on the sideline.
"If Breida can't go back in the game, then no one can go back in the game because he works as hard as anyone at that," head coach Kyle Shanahan said. "He's been one of our better players and obviously when he's not in there it's definitely not easier."
Such is life for these banged-up 49ers. This is a team that has already lost starting quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo and running back Jerick McKinnon to season-ending ACL injuries and entered Sunday's game without defensive back Jimmie Ward and receivers Marquise Goodwin and Dante Pettis because of their own ailments.
Even the players who did play Sunday were battling through something as eight of the team's 22 starters had spent at least some time on the injury report over the past two weeks. That included starting cornerback Richard Sherman and 80 percent of the starting offensive line.
To be sure, the 49ers are saying all the right things about the injury bug that they haven't been able to swat away.
"It is just what you have to do," right tackle Mike McGlinchey said. "It is football and guys are going to get banged up. Unfortunately, we have had quite a number of banged up guys in the short five weeks that we have been playing. That is just the mindset that we have had from the top to the bottom starting with (GM) John (Lynch), Kyle, all the way down. That is what we do here. Those are the kind of guys that we have here and that is only going to continue."
While the injury issues have only served to make this season far more difficult, they are also complicating the bigger picture. The 49ers are a team in the second year of what once appeared to be a massive rebuild. The addition of Garoppolo seemed to shorten that curve a bit but removing him from the equation also exposes many of the roster's other warts.
The Niners are still struggling in many of the areas that figured to be problematic even before the season. The pass rush has been almost non-existent save for defensive tackle DeForest Buckner and the secondary -- save cornerback Richard Sherman -- has endured the type of growing pains that seemed likely when the Niners committed to a handful of young, unproven players to man most of its spots.
Beyond that, the Niners are also seeing a receiving corps that is inconsistent when it comes to separating from defenders and is leaning on players with extensive and/or current injury issues to produce.
Digging deeper into the team's depth chart naturally means a decrease in talent but it doesn't mean the Niners should be having some of the self-inflicted issues that have plagued them, either.
"It's not hard," receiver Pierre Garcon said. "We know the plays, we know what to do. At the end of the day, it's run the ball, catch the ball, throw the ball, do the plays the coach calls. It's not overcomplicated. Everybody in here has played football long enough to know how to adjust to anything that happens on the field."
Five games into the season, we know enough about the Niners to know that they still need plenty of work. The sheer amount of injuries they have suffered from week to week has made it hard to know exactly what needs the most attention.
Perhaps the next 11 weeks will bring better health and more opportunities for the Niners to define their needs. Some of those will remain the same, while others could take a backseat to something new.
Along those lines, an MRI revealed Monday that Breida did not suffer the high ankle sprain the team initially feared Sunday night. But Breida's left ankle sprain is still significant enough to possibly keep him out of next Monday night's game against the Green Bay Packers.
"It was positive news, it wasn't a high ankle sprain," Shanahan said. "But it's still definitely a serious sprain. So he'll probably end up being doubtful this week."
Shanahan said Breida will not participate Thursday when the Niners begin their practice week before the Monday Night Football game in Green Bay.
Shanahan said the team worked out four running backs Monday, including Charcandrick West, Matt Dayes, Shane Vereen, Andre Ellington and former 49er Jeremy McNichols. Shanahan said that current practice-squad running back Jeff Wilson will garner consideration for a promotion to the active roster.
NFL Network's Ian Rapoport is told they signed only Dayes to their practice squad. Rapoport believes that's a good sign the team believes Breida’s ankle injury is short-term.
Any addition would serve as a backup to Alfred Morris and Raheem Mostert, the two backs who stepped in for Breida when he suffered the injury.
"We're trying to see how our guys are, how the health of Breida is," Shanahan said. "It was better news than anticipated but it's still not great news. So, we'll see that over the next couple of days. It was good to take a look at some guys today."
Breida, who left the locker room Sunday night wearing a walking boot, entered Week 5 ranked third in the NFL in rushing yards (313) and first in yards per carry (7.63). Before the injury, he was off to a strong start against the Cardinals, with eight carries for 56 yards, and caught a touchdown pass on the Niners' opening drive.
Shanahan acknowledged Monday that Breida's productive first four weeks had positioned him to continue getting the most work among the backs after sharing the load with Morris in the first couple of games.
Now, the Niners will turn to Morris as the primary back, with Mostert next in line until Breida is able to return. For the season, Morris has 62 carries for 228 yards and a touchdown to go with six catches for 66 yards.
Shanahan also ruled Pettis out for the game against Green Bay as he continues to deal with a knee injury. ...
Other notes of interest. ... C.J. Beathard threw for 349 yards, two touchdowns and two picks. He also added a 1-yard touchdown run.
San Francisco opened the game with an 8-play, 75-yard touchdown drive that was capped by a 5-yard shovel pass to Breida. Beathard's second touchdown came on 4th-and-goal from the 1-yard line. Beathard rolled to his right and found Trent Taylor at the front pylon.
That score pulled the 49ers to within two points, however, the ensuing two-point conversion attempt was no good.
It felt like a step backward for Beathard and the offense as the group was fairly stagnant for most of the game.
Kyle Juszczyk and George Kittle paced San Francisco's pass catchers.
Kittle had 83 yards and continues to be the 49ers most dangerous target in the passing game. Juszczyk added six receptions for 75 yards (five of his catches resulted in first downs). The fullback has turned into San Francisco's third-down running back. The 49ers wide receivers were quiet again in this one. Taylor posted seven receptions for 61 yards and a score. Garcon had five receptions for 47 yards on 12 targets.
QBs: Jimmy Garoppolo, Nick Mullens, C.J. Beathard
RBs: Raheem Mostert, Tevin Coleman, Jeff Wilson, Jerick McKinnon, Salvon Ahmed
WRs: Deebo Samuel, Brandon Aiyuk, Kendrick Bourne, Dante Pettis, Richie James, Jalen Hurd, Jauan Jennings, Trent Taylor, Travis Benjamin
TEs: George Kittle, Ross Dwelley, Charlie Woerner
Seattle SeahawksCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 10 October 2018
It was right there for the Seattle Seahawks.
Trailing by two with close to five minutes left against the Los Angeles Rams, the Seahawks got into field goal range with another deep completion from Russell Wilson to Tyler Lockett. The connections was one of several things they had working on Sunday as they went toe-to-toe with the NFC's only undefeated team. But a false start followed by a holding penalty in the span of three plays pushed them backwards 15 yards.
The Seahawks ended up punting, and the Rams took over and ran down the clock for 33-31 victory.
So many things had to go right for the Seahawks to pull off an upset, and for the game's first 55 minutes, quite a few did. But on that final drive, Seattle exceeded what little margin for error it had.
The final score was much closer than many expected after the Seahawks entered as seven-point underdogs at home. Defense, another huge day on the ground for Chris Carson and a typically efficient performance from Wilson, who tossed three touchdowns without an interception, kept the Seahawks in it.
But the Rams did to Seattle what they had been doing to opposing defenses throughout their 4-0 start -- beat them with big plays. That included Jared Goff completions to Robert Woods that gained 17 and 20 yards on what turned out to be the game-winning field goal drive.
It's a sign of the changing times in Seattle to even consider looking for positives in a two-point home defeat. But that's where the Seahawks are right now. Trading punches with one of the best teams in the league shows that the distance between them may not be as large as it has looked since the Rams throttled Seattle by 35 points last December.
But that won't make it much easier for the Seahawks to swallow this loss after an upset was within their grasp.
Meanwhile, fantasy owners are just starting to get a handle on which skill players are rising to the top of the pecking orders.
At receiver, Doug Baldwin's return from injury along with David Moore working his way into the rotation has limited the opportunities for Brandon Marshall, while at running back, Carson and Mike Davis have done so well there just haven't been a lot of chances available for Rashaad Penny and C.J. Prosise, though Penny did have a nice game in Arizona, gaining 49 yards on nine carries.
That said, the fact that Penny didn't get a single snap against the Rams is telling.
"It's really obvious," Carroll said Monday on 710 ESPN Seattle when asked about Carson and Davis. "I've always loved Chris and hoped he would look like this way back when. There's the flavor that adds to it that's very reminiscent of what it has been like. The willingness to keep driving his feet to get another yard or two, that's something that's important to us, it's important to the makeup of the team. You see our guys light up and jump up and be affected by his nature. Then Mike's got this suddenness to him, he's creative and he's going for it. He ain't holding anything back. So the one-two of those guys-and we haven't even gotten Rashaad in the mix yet, wait until he gets going-so were in a pretty good spot right now, and were just getting going."
It's worth remembering that there's still a lot of season to go, and unfortunately injuries can happen at any position, so just because a player wasn't on the field a lot on Sunday, that doesn't mean he won't play a big role later in the season.
As for Moore, a 2017 seventh-round pick who spent most of last season on the practice squad, he was a standout this preseason and earned a spot on the 53-man roster, but he didn't see the field a ton in Seattle's first three games.
That began to change in Week 4 at Arizona, with Moore playing 65 percent of the offensive snaps, catching two passes-his first two regular-season catches-for 39 yards.
On Sunday against the Rams, Moore again was third in playing time among receivers behind Baldwin and Lockett playing 52 percent of the snaps, and he had three catches for 38 yards, including the first two touchdowns of his career. So for now, at least, it appears Moore has worked his way ahead of Marshall, who was on the field for just seven of 60 offensive plays, and Jaron Brown on the receiver depth chart, but it's worth remembering that things can change from week to week depending on matchups, health, current form, etc. But yes, as of now it sure looks like Moore has established himself as an important part of Seattle's offense.
"David can make things happen and he certainly did that," Carroll said after the game. "He came through in a big way."
The Seahawks obviously want to get Baldwin going and that will happen soon, but it was still odd to see Baldwin have just one catch in Sunday's game.
As Seahawks.com's John Boyle notes, Baldwin has earned the reputation as one of the game's best receivers, and sometimes teams game plan to take the two-time Pro-Bowler out of the game, but even if the Rams were rolling extra coverage towards Baldwin, there were at least a couple of occasions where Boyle noticed him open-though to be fair, other receivers were open as well and Wilson hit them for big gains.
Baldwin no doubt wants to get the ball more, just as any receiver would, but it's worth noting that even on a day when the ball wasn't coming his way, he was one of the first to celebrate with Lockett and Moore after their touchdowns, and he raved about those two after the game despite his disappointment in the result.
"They've been savages though, they've been beasts," Baldwin said. "I'm just grateful that they had the opportunities, they got their opportunities and they made the best of them."
Now it's on to London for the Seahawks, who will play the Oakland Raiders at Wembley Stadium on Sunday, marking the franchise" first regular-season game outside of North America.
With a long trip ahead of them, the Seahawks start their practice week on Tuesday instead of Wednesday this week.
QBs: Russell Wilson, Geno Smith, Anthony Gordon
RBs: Carlos Hyde, Chris Carson, Rashaad Penny, DeeJay Dallas, Travis Homer, Robert Turbin
WRs: Tyler Lockett, DK Metcalf, Phillip Dorsett, Freddie Swain, David Moore, John Ursua, Malik Turner
TEs: Greg Olsen, Will Dissly, Colby Parkinson, Jacob Hollister, Stephen Sullivan
Tampa Bay BuccaneersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 10 October 2018
As Tampa Bay Times staffer Rick Stroud notes, the best thing that happened in the Bucs' 48-10 loss at Chicago in Week 4 was getting Jameis Winston into the game. Sure, it was garbage time, when the results are often trash. But there were some things to savor about Winston's performance.
Winston had not played a NFL football game of any kind in nearly five weeks due to a league-imposed three-game suspension. The last time he played at regular-season speed was New Year's Eve.
His numbers against the Bears weren't awful. Winston finished 16-of-20 passing for 145 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions, including one in which his arm was hit by Bears linebacker Khalil Mack.
"I had no intentions of making a quarterback change," head coach Dirk Koetter said. "But when we were down 35, five touchdowns at halftime, I thought it was a perfect time to get Jameis in and get him some timing with NFL game speed."
According to Stroud, here's what we learned about Winston from an otherwise meaningless half of football:
He appears to be playing more in control of his emotions. The normally ultra-animated Winston was almost robotic at times, but in a good way. He has worked on knowing the difference between passion and emotion and it shows. Whether it was a good play or a bad one, Winston's expression never really changed in Chicago. He just played the position, and with his talent, that should be enough.
He has great chemistry with Mike Evans, Adam Humphries and Cameron Brate. He should, since he has played three seasons with those receivers. His first three completions, and four of his first five, were to Humphries. The TD went to Brate.
Winston still has work to do to get on the same page with DeSean Jackson. If there's one player sorry to see Ryan Fitzpatrick go back to the bench, it's Jackson. He has 17 receptions for 424 yards and three touchdowns this season. His 24.9 average this year is more than 7 yards per catch higher than his career mark.
He averaged only 14.6 yards per reception last season with Winston under center. It may have been coincidental, but Winston's worst throw last Sunday was a bench route to Jackson that he missed badly.
"I think you see some plays where Jameis looked very sharp in terms of running the offense," Koetter said. "Getting us in and out of the huddle. We ran a fair amount of no huddle when he was in there. Obviously, his scrambling. He didn't forget how to scramble. He made a couple plays in that area. But then at the same time, I think a perfect example is that out route to DeSean, right in front of our bench, where Jameis is going to hit that 99 times out of 100. And he didn't just miss it by a little, he missed it by a lot. And that's something that I think that's one of the benefits of him playing (against the Bears) instead of it possibly happening in Atlanta. Because as much as we try to make practice at game speed, it's not game speed."
Winston is doing a better job of completing the football. His completion percentage of 80 percent in the game is not an accident. Winston has done a much better improving his accuracy and taking what the defense give him. He went 4 of 5 passing for 55 yards on the Bucs" lone TD drive.
Stroud went on to note that nobody competes harder than Winston. Winston did a Houdini act to get out of a sack by Mack and ran for a first down. On one play, he retreated 20 yards before throwing a ball that drew a pass interference penalty. Of course, there's still the downside of Winston holding onto the ball too long.
During one sack, he held the football for more than six seconds.
But the offense isn't the biggest worry as the Bucs get back to work this week.
Coaches evaluated everything about their league-worst defense during the bye week. What they likely found, in addition to only Jason Pierre-Paul playing well on the defensive line, is horrible pass coverage.
The secondary has been hurt by injuries to Vernon Hargreaves and Chris Conte. But the Bucs consistently turned receivers completely loose. Double moves by running backs beat the Bucs linebackers. Cornerbacks went for pump fakes in the flat. There were miscommunications. Safety Justin Evans fell down. Brent Grimes seemed disinterested in tackling and was benched the second half.
"The nice thing about having a bye right now is we've got four games to look at," Koetter said. "We go back and we do a self-scout every year at this time. We study ourselves and we're just giving up way, way too many explosive passes. It's a combination of not getting enough pressure on the quarterback and we're certainly not covering well enough at any level, in the flat, the lower level or the middle level, where Chicago really attacked us."
Of course, from a fantasy perspective, a leaky defense that forces the offense to play keep up isn't necessarily the worst thing possible. ...
Also of interest. ... As ESPN.com's Jenna Laine reported Monday, tight end O.J. Howard is wearing a heavy brace on his left knee but the second-year man was on the practice field Wednesday. Laine added that Howard is walking on it well, however, with no noticeable limp whatsoever. The estimated recovery time for a sprained MCL is 2-4 weeks.
I'll follow up as needed via Late-Breaking Update. ...
Rookies Vita Vea and Ronald Jones made their NFL debut at Chicago and should also be better for it when the Bucs play at Atlanta this week.
Vea missed eight weeks of training camp and preseason. The rust was evident, but he was powerful and pushed the pocket.
"Vita Vea, I would say probably what you would expect, from a guy who hasn't played live football since Jan. 1," Koetter said of Vea. "Plenty of us are not fans of preseason football, but Vita Vea missed all of preseason football. So, I think his power was on display at times, but these are grown men, NFL linemen blocking him, also."
As for Jones, he looked better than he did in the preseason. He rushed 10 times for only 29 yards and dropped a pass. But he had not played in any game in a month.
"I could see Ronald making strides," Koetter said. "He had some really nice blitz pickups. There were a couple of runs where he got more out of them that might have been there. And then there were two runs that I thought he should've stayed behind the double team and he tried to break it off and got a three yard gain when it might have been a six yard gain. And obviously, when he dropped a screen pass, we had blockers out in front of him. A mixed bag, but I think Ronald is improving in the areas we need him to improve on. ..."
And finally. ... As Profootballtalk.com noted, the Buccaneers have moved Ali Marpet around their offensive line the last few seasons and they will be able to keep doing so through the 2023 season.
The team announced on Tuesday that they have reached agreement on a new deal with Marpet. The team did not reveal any financial terms, but said the deal will replace his rookie deal for the current season and then run for five more years.
Marpet has started all four games this season at left guard. He played center during the 2017 season and spent his first two years at right guard, so he's not lacking for a variety of experience along the interior of the offensive line.
Marpet was a 2015 second-round pick and has started all 44 games he's played since entering the NFL. That's made him a fixture up front in Tampa and he's set to remain one for quite a while.
QBs: Tom Brady, Ryan Griffin, Blaine Gabbert
RBs: Ronald Jones, Ke'Shawn Vaughn, Dare Ogunbowale, Raymond Calais, T.J. Logan
WRs: Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, Scott Miller, Tyler Johnson, Justin Watson, Cyril Grayson, Spencer Schnell
TEs: Rob Gronkowski, O.J. Howard, Cameron Brate, Antony Auclair, Tanner Hudson, Jordan Leggett
Tennessee TitansCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 10 October 2018
As ESPN.com's Turron Davenport put it, "Turnover differential is the ultimate neutralizer in the NFL."
The Titans went into Buffalo riding a three-game win streak. Two of their three wins came against the Jaguars and Eagles, teams considered to be legitimate Super Bowl contenders.
The Bills had just been shut out by the Green Bay Packers and seemed like a team spiraling toward a top pick in next spring's draft.
But the Bills beat the Titans at their own game, 13-12, on a last-second field goal. The Bills controlled the ball for seven more minutes and forced three turnovers. It's a formula that worked for Tennessee in its Week
The Bills used a ball-control offense and turned the ball over just once, when Tennessee cornerback Adoree' Jackson tipped a Josh Allen pass to himself for an interception.
"They were a huge role. It was huge, the No. 1 key to the game," Titans coach Mike Vrabel said of the turnovers. "Coming in, we knew that these guys feasted off of it. They were hunting them up, and we didn't do a good enough job of taking care of the football. It's no secret why you lose."
Tennessee (3-2) turned the ball over twice early. The Titans got the ball first, picked up a first down and went to a no-huddle offense to increase the tempo. Marcus Mariota threw a strike to wide receiver Taywan Taylor for a 5-yard gain, but Taylor fumbled, and Bills linebacker Matt Milano recovered.
The sold-out crowd went crazy. Allen scrambled 14 yards for the game's only touchdown on the next drive, and the Titans played from behind for all but the last four minutes of the game.
The next turnover came early in the second quarter. Mariota was looking to get the ball to wideout Nick Williams on a slant with cornerback Taron Johnson in zone coverage. Mariota telegraphed where he was going to throw the ball, but it was delivered to the correct spot. Williams allowed Johnson to step in front of him and pick the pass off.
"We have to do better. We have to coach the route better. We have to execute the route better. That's what happens. They made a play, and we didn't," Vrabel said.
Added Williams: "We were slightly on a different page. I have to do as much as I can to cross that guy's face. They were playing zone defense, and he triggered."
The Titans' third turnover came in the third quarter, when running back Dion Lewis fumbled as he tried to fight for extra yards, with the ball punched out of his arms.
"The guy made a play. We knew all week coming into the game that they were going to try to strip at it. They just got me, made a great play," Lewis said.
Ryan Succop's 50-yard field goal-his fourth field goal of the day-provided the Titans a two-point lead with less than five minutes remaining in the fourth quarter. However, the Bills answered with a 46-yard field goal by Stephen Hauschka as time expired to clinch a 13-12 win.
Succop, accounting for all of Tennessee's points, recorded his 11th career performance with at least four field goals and his second career game with two field goals from 50-plus yards. His 54-yarder tied a career high and tied for the seventh-longest field goal in team history.
Mariota completed 14 of 26 passes for 129 yards. He also threw one interception.
Now Mariota and the Titans must find a way to recover at home next Sunday against Baltimore.
"We left one out there today," Mariota said. "We can't turn the ball over as an offense. The defense played great -- they've played outstanding through the year. We have to do a better job of playing complimentary football.
"It is the nature of the beast, man. This is the business we play. If you are not ready to play, it doesn't matter who you are playing, you are not going to be able to put forth your best effort and (you) ultimately lose the game."
One thing working in their favor, the Titans will look to take advantage of playing at Nissan Stadium, where they have won 12 of their last 14 games. Following their battle with the Ravens, the Titans will have only one home game until Dec. 2.
Also of interest. ... With his 25-yard field goal in the first quarter, Succop reached 100 successful field goals with the Titans. In doing so, he hit the minimum number to qualify in the team record books for career accuracy. Succop, who added three more field goals later in the game, has made 103 of 118 field goal attempts since joining the team in 2014. His 87.3 percent success rate puts him in first place in franchise history, topping the previous record holder, Rob Bironas, who made 85.7 percent of his attempts with the Titans.
Second-year wide receiver Corey Davis led the Titans with four receptions and 49 receiving yards. He has led the team in receiving yards in every game in 2018, and he has led the squad or tied for the team lead in receptions in four out of five contests. ...
On Tuesday, the Titans released Williams and quarterback Austin Davis. Williams rejoined the Titans last month after spending part of the offseason with the team. He had a 38-yard punt return against the Bills on Sunday, but he also had the above-mentioned dropped pass as he headed into the end zone.
The team promoted Cameron Batson from the practice squad for his second tour with the team this season. Batson made the team out of camp this summer, but didn’t get into any games before being waived after the first two weeks of the season. Batson had seven catches for 74 yards this summer and signed with the Titans. He went undrafted out of Texas Tech, where he also returned kicks, this year.
One last note here. ... The Titans have promoted tight end Anthony Firkser from the practice squad to the team's active roster.
To make room on the 53-man roster, the team has waived running back Dalyn Dawkins.
Firkser, a 6-2-inch, 246-pounder out of Harvard, made the team's initial 53-man roster. Firkser played in seven snaps vs. the Texans after being inactive in Week One at Miami. He was waived last month, and signed to the team's practice squad.
Firkser was originally signed as a rookie free agent by the New York Jets following the 2017 NFL Draft and has also spent time on the Kansas City Chiefs practice squad.
QBs: Ryan Tannehill, Logan Woodside
RBs: Derrick Henry, Darrynton Evans, Dalyn Dawkins, David Fluellen
WRs: A.J. Brown, Corey Davis, Adam Humphries, Kalif Raymond
TEs: Jonnu Smith, Anthony Firkser, MyCole Pruitt
Washington RedskinsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 10 October 2018
As ESPN.com's John Keim reported, the Redskins went into their Monday night game against the Saints with good vibes and an upbeat attitude. There was a quiet confidence.
They exited the 43-19 loss to New Orleans in silence, with a much different vibe, one that suggests this week and their next game against Carolina has turned into a crucial one for the franchise.
"Our whole team played poorly," head coach Jay Gruden said. "That's a reflection of myself. I think everybody in that locker room, hopefully, will say that they have to play better. I absolutely understand that coaches on this staff have to coach better."
It's not just about winning and contending in an NFC East that doesn't look quite as tough as everyone thought it would be this season. At 2-2, the Redskins are in first place in the division, but with 12 games left, that's meaningless. It's about letting everyone know what's acceptable. And their showing was anything but, coming off a bye, this is what they produced. It's about continuing patterns for way too long for a starved fan base.
"Win games, get hopes up, suffer ugly loss," Keim added.
Keim went on to suggest it's hard to imagine or remember a worse loss in the Gruden era; not just by margin of victory, but for the team's utter incompetence.
They botched coverages -- this continues a trend that shows no signs of ending -- that led to two pass plays of at least 46 yards. They didn't even throw to their best target, tight end Jordan Reed, until 5 minutes, 27 seconds remained in the third quarter. They committed dumb penalties -- safety Montae Nicholson shoved a Saints player after a Ryan Kerrigan sack that would have forced a punt. Instead, it extended a drive that resulted in a touchdown.
Quarterback Alex Smith was shaky all night, getting hit too often and not looking comfortable when he wasn't being pressured. He missed open targets; he threw short of others. The coaching clearly wasn't good enough, either. On a night when Drew Brees set the all-time record for passing yards, the Redskins were outclassed in every respect.
Meanwhile, cornerback Josh Norman -- the highest paid player at his position -- was benched to open the second half. Norman allowed a touchdown pass of 62 yards late in the first half when he appeared to be playing Cover 2 while the other defensive backs were in Cover 3, which would have had him covering deep. Two weeks ago against Green Bay, Norman did not play a quarters coverage properly, leading to another long score.
Monday, Norman was on the bench for the first series -- only to watch rookie replacement Greg Stroman allow a 35-yard touchdown pass.
"There was an issue there," Gruden said of Norman's play late in the first half.
Norman said, "Coverage, man. We was blowing it all night. ... As a fiery competitor you never want to come off, but whatever. I'll roll with that because that's the chain of command. He's in charge. ... End of the day I respect the head man and I've got to honor that and truly buy into what he wants."
The Redskins finished the first quarter of the season with a 2-2 record. In this league, what looks true one week doesn't always play out that way the next. The Redskins lost 44-16 in 2015 to Carolina only to win the following week -- and eventually capture the NFC East. But it'll be hard to shake the stink from this one; it's probably good the Redskins have a short week.
The Redskins are 14-6-1 after a loss under Gruden. Washington has been resilient under him and that trait must reveal itself once more.
"It's on to the next," Redskins running back Adrian Peterson said. "This game doesn't define our season. We just completed our first quarter of the season 2-2. It's not bad at all. We'll lick our wounds. ... This is part of the NFL. It's all about how you bounce back from adversity. ..."
Meanwhile, Peterson said he suffered a dislocated shoulder but was optimistic he wouldn't miss any time. "It's not going to keep me out," Peterson said. "I came back into the game. It was just a situation where it was sore.
"I just thank God it wasn't worse."
Peterson said he injured his shoulder late in the first half, and he played only two snaps in the second half. He said he got up after running a swing route and felt stiffness in his shoulder. He said he knew something was "seriously wrong."
"I just popped it back in, braced it up at halftime and got back in there," Peterson said.
The Redskins opted to use third-down back Chris Thompson and Kapri Bibbs in Peterson's role as the first- and second-down back. Regardless of what Tuesday's MRI reveals, it wasn't the sort of homecoming Peterson anticipated. He signed with New Orleans in the 2017 offseason and spent four games with the Saints before they traded him to Arizona.
Peterson finished Monday's game with four carries for 6 yards and two catches for 36 more. He did not touch the ball in the second half.
Peterson also injured his knee in the first quarter, causing him to be evaluated by doctors on the sideline.
"It's a blessing both plays wasn't anything that put me on IR," Peterson said.
After an MRI Tuesday, it was reported that Peterson has a strained shoulder and will get a second opinion, but it's not expected to keep him from playing. Regardless, I'll be following up via Late-Breaking Update as the week progresses. ...
A few final notes. ... Bibbs recorded his first career rushing touchdown on a one-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter.
Thompson finished with a team high six receptions for 45 yards (7.5 avg.) and now has hauled in 155 career receptions with the Redskins. Thompson has now passed Kelvin Bryant (154) for the sixth most by a running back in franchise history.
Receiver Jamison Crowder finished with four receptions for 55 yards; Paul Richardson hauled in four receptions for 50 yards; with Josh Doctson out, receiver Maurice Harris made his first career start and recorded his first reception of the season. Harris finished with three receptions for 47 yards.
QBs: Dwayne Haskins, Kyle Allen, Alex Smith
RBs: Derrius Guice, Adrian Peterson, Antonio Gibson, Peyton Barber, J.D. McKissic, Bryce Love
WRs: Terry McLaurin, Steven Sims, Antonio Gandy-Golden, Kelvin Harmon, Trey Quinn, Cody Latimer
TEs: Jeremy Sprinkle, Richard Rodgers, Logan Thomas, Hale Hentges