Team Notes week 5 2023

By Bob Harris
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Directly from the desk of FlashUpdate Editor Bob Harris. The good; the bad; and yes. ... 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. ...

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Arizona Cardinals

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 3 October 2023

As's Dwain McFarland put it, "What Josh Dobbs is doing with this Cardinals offense in terrifying matchups might be one of the most impressive things of the 2023 season so far."

Against the Cowboys in Week 3, Dobbs posted as 120 passer rating (and 85.5 QBR); on Sunday against the 49ers, he posted 102.2 rating (80.9 QBR).

He's now fifth in the NFL in designed rush attempts for QBs at 17 percent and he's yet to throw an interception.

On Sunday, even though the 49ers pulled away in the fourth quarter to beat Arizona, 35-16,'s Josh Weinfuss reports that Dobbs changed the dynamics of the Cardinals' offense.

He ran 12 times for 48 yards on a mix of designed runs and scrambles, including four on that third-quarter drive that pulled the Cardinals within one score.

The 49ers couldn't just pin their ears back and rush the pocket. They also couldn't just stack the box and dare the Cardinals to throw.

They had to respect both.

"It gives us a different dynamic with how we can move the ball," wide receiver Zach Pascal said. "When you touch the ball every down as a quarterback and you can throw it and make plays on your feet, it just brings a different dynamic, brings more of a threat to the defense that they actually got to cover you too."

If this seems familiar for the Cardinals, that's because it is. Injured Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray does the same thing when he's healthy. And Arizona saw over the last four years how effective Murray was at creating plays with his feet but also changing how a defense defends, left tackle D.J. Humphries said.

While Murray rehabs his right knee after ACL surgery in January, Dobbs will continue to run the Cardinals' offense as he knows how -- which includes rushing himself. It's part of the fabric of Dobbs' game, and Cardinals offensive coordinator Drew Petzing is taking advantage of it.

Dobbs had a 23-yard rushing touchdown in Week 2 in a loss to the New York Giants and a 44-yard run -- the longest by a quarterback this season -- last week in a win over the Dallas Cowboys.

He has the second-most rushing yards and fourth-most rushes among quarterbacks this season. His 47 rushing yards after first contact are second in the league, and his 11 rushing first downs are third in the NFL.

After Sunday's game, head coach Jonathan Gannon said Dobbs' ability to make plays on the ground Sunday was "huge" for Arizona.

"You saw it, I mean, a couple times out of the pocket he extended a few plays, I know on the one fourth down he ran for it -- bang, bang, got it," Gannon said. "Those are huge plays in the ball game, so he is doing a good job."

On Sunday, Dobbs' running kept San Francisco on its toes.

"They're a simple defense, but they have really good players and they execute at a high level," Dobbs said. "So, coming into the game, we had to execute at a higher level, which we didn't do, obviously, given the result of the game, but being able to use different aspects of my game to add to the offense, I do think it helps keep the defense on their heels, sprinkle it in, and so we'll continue to work that in throughout our offense."

Dobbs, whose four starts are the most of his career in a single season, has led a Cardinals offense that's becoming tougher to prepare for by the week.

He also has gotten the chance to show what has been hidden for the last six years on the bench.

"Obviously, I wanna win when I step on the field, but to go out and play my game, I enjoy it," Dobbs said.

So. ... Are the Cardinals what their 1-3 record says they are?

The truth is, Arizona hasn't been as bad as its record suggests. The Cardinals kept Sunday's game against arguably the best team in the league close until the fourth quarter. They beat the Cowboys, and they should've won their first two games against the Commanders and Giants. The schemes on both sides of the ball are creative and productive.

The defensive front has been getting consistent push up.

They may see their fortunes swing soon, however, with games against the Bengals, Rams and Seahawks the next two weeks. The Bengals, who are reeling and trying to play a quarterback in Joe Burrow who is clearly struggling with his calf issue, come to State Farm Stadium this week.

The way the Cardinals are playing, that'll be one to watch. ...

Other notes of interest. ... With his first two touchdowns in the scorebook, rookie wide receiver Michael Wilson had his best game as a pro. He set up his first TD -- from 16 yards -- with a 33-yard grab the play before, and his second score from eight yards out looked like it might just be an announcement that the Cardinals could pull off upset No. 2 in two weeks.

It wasn't, of course.

But Wilson playing well? According to Darren Urban of the team's official website, that's meaningful.

Wilson didn't have a lot of on-field highlights when he was at Stanford. He was injured all the time. But he's healthy now, and has already turned into an important component of the Cardinals' offense (including his blocking in the run game.)

Marquise Brown hurt his thumb in practice last Thursday and then went out and had his best game of the season (7 for 96). He's quietly looking good too as this offense comes together.

In fact, Brown ranks 15th in the NFL in target share for WRs at 27 percent. McFarland notes that Hollywood did the same thing last year in games without DeAndre Hopkins.

"Against all odds in this Cardinals offense," McFarland added, "[Brown] is performing like a low-end WR2 with 14.5 points per game and the schedule improves."

James Conner only had 11 carries but it was for 52 yards, and only two second-half carries. Tough to run much when you are playing from behind. But he ran hard and effectively when he had the ball, and the Cardinals still ran for 105 yards, basically double what the 49ers had been giving up on the ground (53 a game). ...

Finally. ... Murray did not come off the physically unable to perform list when he became eligible Monday and still is considered weeks away from playing, league sources told ESPN's Adam Schefter.

Murray has not practiced since tearing an ACL in December against the New England Patriots.

The former No. 1 overall draft selection wants and plans to return this season, but he slowly is ramping up his comeback in an attempt to rejoin the Cardinals, sources told Schefter.

"It just doesn't feel like [Murray's return] is imminent," a Cardinals source told Schefter.

But if and when Murray is ready, Dobbs' time as the Cardinals' starter would be likely to come to an end.

Gannon indicated earlier this month that the Cardinals would be cautious with Murray's return, saying that he is "not in a hurry" to activate the Heisman Trophy winner as soon as he is eligible.

"[We would] love to have him out there," Gannon said on Sept. 22. "He's itching to be back, but we'll take that one day at a time."

The Cardinals can keep Murray on PUP as long as they want. The three-week window for the 53-man roster starts whenever he comes off, whether it be Monday or Dec. 1.

Murray isn't the only one eligible in those parameters. Three other players can now be activated at any point to return to practice and potentially the active roster: Cornerback Garrett Williams (knee), linebacker Myjai Sanders (hand) and offensive lineman Dennis Daley (ankle).

QBs: Kyler Murray, Desmond Ridder, Clayton Tune
RBs: James Conner, Michael Carter, Emari Demercado
WRs: Zay Jones, Michael Wilson, Rondale Moore, Greg Dortch, Zach Pascal
TEs: Trey McBride, Geoff Swaim

Atlanta Falcons

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 3 October 2023

As's Kevin Patra reminded readers, in the last three NFL drafts, the Falcons selected tight end Kyle Pitts No. 4 overall, receiver Drake London No. 8 overall and running back Bijan Robinson No. 8 overall. With such high-end talent on the field, you'd think the Falcons would boast a dynamic, explosive offense. So far, in 2023, that's simply not been the case.

In the past two weeks, Atlanta has been held to fewer than 10 points in each contest. Week 3 in Detroit, the Falcons lost, 20-6. Sunday in London, they fell to the Jaguars, 23-7.

Robinson has been a highlight reel and was again Sunday, generating 137 scrimmage yards on 19 touches, but the rest of the operation has been as dull a traffic jam.

After suggesting during training camp that the Falcons' offense would be "entertaining," head coach Arthur Smith knows it's on him to turn things around.

"We have to do a better job, and it starts with me jump-starting the offense early," Smith said after Sunday's loss, via the team's official website. "We put ourselves in the hole again, and we can't turn the ball over. ... You're going to make life harder on yourself."

Second-year quarterback Desmond Ridder has disappointed through the first four weeks, averaging 186 passing yards per game and rarely testing downfield.

On Sunday, he had two pass attempts beyond 20 yards, neither completed.

The book on Ridder entering 2023 was that he might not be a high-end passer like Sunday's counterpart Trevor Lawrence, but he was a steady force who made smart decisions and didn't turn the ball over.

That wasn't the case in London. Ridder threw back-to-back interceptions in the second quarter, including a pick-six that got the Falcons into a 17-0 hole. The QB then gave up a sack-fumble on the final possession to seal the loss.

"I did a terrible job of taking care of the ball," Ridder said.

It marked the first multi-turnover game of Ridder's career, who has fewer than 250 passing yards in all eight career starts. Despite the inefficient offense, Smith never considered benching Ridder for veteran gunslinger Taylor Heinicke.

"Those are tough lessons for a young quarterback," Smith said of the interceptions. "(You) find out about yourself when you go back out there. In the second half, he was able to push the ball down the field a little bit. I thought he operated cleaner in the pocket and we were able to get some looks, and he was not risk-averse after that, which a lot of times that happens."

The lessons will continue.

Smith said at his Monday press conference that Ridder will remain in that role when they host the Texans next weekend.

It's not a surprise that the Falcons will stick with Ridder. They committed to the 2022 third-round pick as the starter early in the offseason and were clear that they signed Heinicke to back Ridder up rather than compete with him. Going the other way now would be an admission that they should have handled things differently this offseason, but questions about the team's offensive direction will only get louder if Ridder's back-to-back duds are sign of things to come.

Remember, there's some history behind this.

Last year, Smith resisted a QB change during Marcus Mariota's struggles until it was too late. It's too soon to completely abandon the second-year QB, but Ridder's play has been frustrating for a team that expected to compete for the NFC South title. The last two weeks have looked eerily similar to last year's offensive struggles, in which Pitts and London go absent from the offense for long stretches.

London suggested after the game that it's on the players to turn things around.

"Maybe ourselves," he said when asked what's holding the Falcons back. "After this one, we have to look ourselves in the mirror and figure some things out. We have talented players in this locker room. We just have to go out and make plays."

Maybe that starts with the pass catchers. Maybe it's the QB play. Or maybe it's on the head coach and play-caller. Whatever the issue, averaging 6.5 points per game over two contests isn't going to entertain anyone and this week, the Falcons (2-2) return stateside to host the Houston Texans (2-2) inside Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

The Texans are coming off a 30-6 home win to the Pittsburgh Steelers. ...

Meanwhile, with another 137 yards from scrimmage Sunday (105 rushing, 32 receiving), Robinson now has 452 in his first four NFL games -- more than that of any other Falcons player, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. The previous mark was 445 yards from William Andrews in 1979.

Robinson is now at 318 yards rushing on the season, which also makes him the second rookie running back in franchise history to break 300 so quickly. Again, Williams is the only other to do so with 351 in 1979.

Robinson has become the focal point of Atlanta's offense.

According to's Nathan Jahnke, Robinson played 72.7 percent of offensive snaps over the Falcons' first three drives in Week 1. That grew to 76.0 percent in Week 2, 77.8 percent in Week 3 and 83.3 percent in this game.

This was the first time Robinson doubled Tyler Allgeier's rushing attempt total.

Cordarrelle Patterson was active for the first time, but he was a factor only on special teams rather than impacting Robinson's playing time. ...

Beyond that, seeing former Atlanta wide receiver Calvin Ridley now playing for Jacksonville, and producing a 30-yard touchdown reception, only served to highlight the Falcons' glaring need for a big-play threat at the position. London had three catches, including a 15-yarder for Atlanta's only touchdown.

Tight end Jonnu Smith accounted for almost half of the team's 191 receiving yards as he had six catches for 95 yards.

Other than Smith, no player had a catch for longer than 15 yards.

QBs: Taylor Heinicke, Logan Woodside, Kirk Cousins
RBs: Bijan Robinson, Tyler Allgeier, Cordarrelle Patterson
WRs: Drake London, Darnell Mooney, Mack Hollins, KhaDarel Hodge, Van Jefferson, Scott Miller, Jared Bernhardt, Josh Ali
TEs: Kyle Pitts, MyCole Pruitt, John FitzPatrick

Baltimore Ravens

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 3 October 2023

As the Associated Press noted, Baltimore was missing two receivers and its starting left tackle, later joined on the sideline by the starting right tackle. Its thin secondary was further depleted when two more defensive backs got hurt.

The Ravens were undermanned against the NFL's top-ranked defense with receivers Odell Beckham Jr. and Rashod Bateman both out.

None of that mattered to Lamar Jackson.

Baltimore's electrifying quarterback ran for two touchdowns, threw for two more and made Cleveland's rebuilt defense look broken while leading the Ravens to a 28-3 win on Sunday over the Browns.

Jackson scored untouched on runs of 10 yards and 2 yards, and he threaded a 7-yard scoring pass to tight end Mark Andrews with 11 seconds left before halftime as the Ravens (3-1) opened a 21-3 lead.

Jackson put an exclamation point on the blowout in the fourth quarter with an 18-yard TD pass to Andrews, sending the few diehard Cleveland fans who hung around hoping for a comeback toward the exits.

"Lamar is who he is because of who he is. He's going to bring his full skillset to every game," said head coach John Harbaugh, who notched his 150th career win. "That's what he's going to do. That's what he does. That's why he is who he is."

All week, talk circled around the Ravens facing the Browns' No. 1-ranked defense and if they'd find ways to eliminate the drag. It's safe to say they accomplished such goals, as they found the end zone four times, including two long drives in the second quarter.

"They had an eight-play, 93-yard touchdown drive that ended with Jackson's 2-yard touchdown run," the Athletic's Jeff Zrebiec wrote. "They then had a 10-play, 74-yard scoring drive, which culminated with Jackson's gorgeous 7-yard touchdown over three defenders to a leaping Andrews in the back of the end zone. Otherwise, the Ravens offense played good complementary football. That's all they needed to do with how much their defense was controlling the game."

Walker noted the change in demeanor of the offense after they struggled with three and outs in the first quarter before overwhelming the Browns defense.

Jackson's performance earned him NBC Sports' Peter King's vote for offensive player of the week.

"In the first three games of the season, Cleveland's defense was state of the art, allowing one touchdown in 12 quarters," King wrote. "Jackson accounted for three in the first half Sunday: TD runs of 10 and two yards, then a brilliant throw in the back right corner of the end zone, put so high that only Andrews could catch it."

Jackson finished 15 of 19 for 187 yards passing, added 27 yards rushing and made several spectacular plays, none bigger than his first TD throw to Andrews -- over several defenders -- in the back corner of the end zone.

Jackson has scored two rushing touchdowns in each of the past two games to become the eighth quarterback since the 1970 merger to record multiple touchdown runs in consecutive games.

"With Lamar, when that first play breaks down, then you have that second play he makes," said Justice Hill, who had 33 yards on three carries. "It's just a special thing to watch."

So will Ravens run away with the AFC North title?

According to's Jamison Hensley, it's starting to look that way. The Ravens, who now sit alone atop the AFC North, have a 54 percent chance of winning the division, according to ESPN's Football Power Index.

If Baltimore wins in Pittsburgh this Sunday, the Ravens will sweep all of their AFC North road games for the first time since 2019.

One concern?

Baltimore's offensive line, which committed four penalties in the first half; in addition, right tackle Morgan Moses left the game with a shoulder injury. This is just more bad news for Baltimore, which hasn't had left tackle Ronnie Stanley (knee) for the past three games. ...

Other notes of interest. ... Rookie wide receiver Zay Flowers played all but one snap of the 58 offensive snaps. With Beckham (ankle) and Bateman (hamstring) sidelined, Flowers carried a heavy load against a good Browns secondary and finished with three catches for 56 yards.

Coming back from a foot injury, Hill played just seven snaps. He was productive in that action, however, with three carries for 33 yards and a catch and run of 55 yards that was called back on a holding penalty. Gus Edwards got 40 offensive snaps and Melvin Gordon III had 11.

QBs: Lamar Jackson, Josh Johnson
RBs: Derrick Henry, Justice Hill, Melvin Gordon, Keaton Mitchell
WRs: Zay Flowers, Rashod Bateman, Nelson Agholor, Tylan Wallace
TEs: Isaiah Likely, Charlie Kolar, Mark Andrews

Buffalo Bills

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 3 October 2023

Stefon Diggs was so elusive on Sunday, the Bills' star receiver even came away with two full cups of beer while celebrating the second of his three touchdown catches.

"Yeah, I owe somebody $18," Diggs joked following a 48-20 win in which the Bills brought the Miami Dolphins unbeaten start to an emphatic end.

As bar tabs go, Diggs' celebration -- in which he sprayed a group of people in the corner of the end zone -- was the price both fans and the Dolphins had to pay for running into a Bills juggernaut that scored on eight of its first nine possessions (not including a kneel down before halftime).

In the aftermath, it's fair to ask if the Bills are the best team in the AFC.

According to's Alaina Getzenberg, there's a pretty good case for Buffalo.

The Dolphins came in widely considered to be the class of the AFC, especially after putting up 70 points last week. After back-and-forth scores to start the game, the Bills controlled all three phases and limited the high-powered Dolphins offense to six points after giving up two touchdowns to start the game.

The Bills' offense was balanced and quarterback Josh Allen looked unstoppable, completing 21 of 25 passes (84 percent) for 320 yards, four touchdowns (along with one rushing score), in addition to the first perfect passer rating of his career. It was Allen's 10th career outing with four TD passes.

Since throwing three interceptions and one TD pass and getting sacked five times for 19 yards in the opener, Allen in his last three outings has thrown eight touchdown passes and one interception, scored two TDs rushing and has been sacked four times for 17 yards.

Diggs provided the most electric play of the first half with a 55-yard touchdown. He caught Allen's pass at Miami's 40, broke two tackles along the sideline and scampered into the end zone.

Diggs finished with six catches for 120 yards to enjoy his fourth career three-TD game and third with Buffalo.

Although the Dolphins finished with 393 yards of offense, Buffalo held Miami to 3 of 10 on third down and 0 for 3 on fourth down. The Bills also forced two turnovers and sacked Tua Tagovailoa four times. The Dolphins had allowed just one sack in their first three games.

The Bills suffered one major setback when cornerback Tre'Davious White was carted off in the third quarter with what the team said was an Achilles tendon injury. White pulled up while covering Tyreek Hill and was unable to put any weight on his right leg.

Head coach Sean McDermott grew emotional discussing White's injury.

"I love him. I mean, to see him on that field, the way he was hurting, is hard. It's hard to watch," McDermott said of White, who at one point flung his helmet in frustration. "I know that he will rebound. He's just too tough."

Buffalo (3-1) never trailed and finished with 414 yards of offense. The three-time AFC East champion Bills have won three straight since a season-opening loss at the New York Jets.

Next up, the Bills leave for London on Thursday in advance of Sunday's "home" game against Jacksonville at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium. The Bills are 0-1 in London, losing 34-31 to the Jaguars in 2015.

Also of interest. ... James Cook rushed 12 times for 29 yards and a touchdown and brought in his only target for a 48-yard gain on Sunday.

As notes, Cook had his roughest day on the ground on the season from an efficiency perspective, but he partly made up for it by finally finding the end zone in 2023 on a one-yard run late in the first quarter that survived a replay review. That 48-yard grab also was instrumental in an early third-quarter drive that culminated in a Tyler Bass 33-yard field goal that extended Buffalo's lead to 34-20.

Cook continues to contribute explosive plays each week, but he could have another uphill battle for rushing yards in a Week 5 matchup against the Jaguars in London. ...

Worth noting. ... Cook was in on only 39.7 percent of the Bills' snaps this weekend -- a season-low for the team's RB1. Part of that was Damien Harris playing most of the fourth-quarter snaps, but another part was Latavius Murray often taking the passing down work.'s Nathan Jahnke notes that Murray played every third-and-long snap in the first three quarters. While we sometimes see a change in third-down back when a player is needed for pass protection, Murray either ran a route or ran the ball on each of those plays.

Cook should continue to see double-digit carries each game, but his targets have declined in each game, and they might remain low going forward.

Cook has been a top fantasy back through the first four weeks of the season, but pass-catching has always been baked into his ceiling. A continued decline in targets could have a negative impact on him in games like we saw in Week 4, where he was held to just 29 rushing yards on 12 carries. ...

According to Associated Press sports writer John Wawrow, the Bills still need secondary receiving threat. While the Allen-to-Stefon Diggs connection is humming, with the receiver leading Buffalo with 31 catches for 399 yards and four TDs, the next players on the list are rookie tight end Dalton Kincaid with 15 catches and receiver Gabe Davis (220 yards).

Diggs has more than 40 percent of Buffalo's receiving yards.

That said, Kincaid played one more offensive snap than Dawson Knox, marking the first time the rookie played more snaps in a game.

He finished the game with the second-most receptions for Buffalo at four. He gained 27 yards.

Kincaid still might not be the best person to start in fantasy football, but he's still off to one of the best starts for a rookie tight end in recent memory.

His 15 receptions are tied for third-most by a rookie tight end over the first four weeks of the season in the last decade. We would be celebrating his start a lot more if it wasn't for Sam LaPorta who leads that group with 22.

On the injury front. ... Khalil Shakir reportedly suffered a head injury around halftime, but he was able to return for the second half and played significantly in the fourth quarter. CB Christian Benford returned, but was limited to special teams coverage, after hurting his right shoulder in in the second quarter. ... S Jordan Poyer (knee) did not play.

Von Miller says he wants to play vs Jags but has to see how padded practice goes on Wednesday.

Miller has been out since last season with a torn ACL and is expected to return to practice this week.

"Hopefully I look amazing and everybody will give me the green light to go play in the game," Miller said. "If I was a betting man I'd say you'll see Von Miller in London."

Finally. ... With Poyer out, safety Damar Hamlin appeared in his first game since going into cardiac arrest and needing to be resuscitated on the field during a game at Cincinnati on Jan. 2. Hamlin was a healthy inactive through the first three weeks of the season, and was mostly limited to special teams against Miami.

QBs: Josh Allen
RBs: James Cook, Latavius Murray, Ty Johnson
WRs: Khalil Shakir, Curtis Samuel, Trent Sherfield, Deonte Harty
TEs: Dalton Kincaid, Dawson Knox, Quintin Morris

Carolina Panthers

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 3 October 2023

As Augusta Stone of the team's official website notes, the Panthers are struggling to protect rookie quarterback Bryce Young. They're struggling to make plays in critical moments. They're struggling to run the football. They're struggling to communicate. They're struggling to mitigate mistakes.

That's how you end up 0-4.

Young hasn't dealt with much adversity during his football career. He lost only four games as the starter at Alabama in 2021 and 2022. But as's David Newton points out, in college, he was surrounded by an offensive line that could protect him, a running game that took the pressure off him and receivers who are now starring for other NFL teams.

At Carolina, Young has a line that on Sunday couldn't keep Minnesota's second-half blitzes off him, resulting in five sacks from a team that had only six in their first three games.

He is playing with a running game that has been almost nonexistent since Week 1, averaging 2.7 yards a carry Sunday against a defense ranked 19th in the league against the rush.

He is playing with a group of receivers who have struggled to get separation, even against a Minnesota defense ranked 25th against the pass.

"It's hard for him to get going and get a rhythm with everything going all out of control," running back Miles Sanders said of Young. "It's kind of hectic for him, for any rookie quarterback.

"Honest, we're not playing good football right now."

But Young isn't blaming everyone else. He blames only himself, and he knows were it not for a few of his plays in the second half, the outcome might have been different.

One came with 3:58 left in the third quarter when a blitzing Harrison Smith forced the quarterback to lose a fumble that was returned 51 yards for a touchdown.

"That is a huge, huge, huge swing of the game," Young said. "That's stuff we talk about. That's no one else but me."

The other came with just over eight minutes remaining, when a sack for a 9-yard loss took Carolina out of field goal range.

Young slammed the football on the ground in frustration after the second, one of the few times his emotion has shown.

"Just frustrated at myself," Young said. "Definitely stuff that I want back, but at the same time, I have to do a better job ... of keeping that stone face regardless. Just mad at myself for stuff."

The frustration is mounting throughout the locker room for a team that had high hopes of being a factor in the NFC South and now hopes to be only the second of 164 NFL teams to start 0-4 and make the playoffs.

The San Diego Chargers did it in 1992, winning 11 of their final 12 games.

"I guess at a certain point and time, you gotta man up," outside linebacker Brian Burns said. "That time is well overdue. So I don't have much to say. I want actions to speak."

But for Young, the pressure to succeed is greater because of the expectations that come from being the No. 1 overall draft pick and a quarterback. It doesn't help that the second overall pick, C.J. Stroud, is off to an impressive start for the Houston Texans.

Stroud had 306 yards passing and two touchdowns in Sunday's 30-6 dismantling of the Pittsburgh Steelers. He's thrown for 1,212 yards and six touchdowns with no interceptions in four games for a passer rating of 100.6.

Young has thrown for 503 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions in three starts, missing a Week 3 loss to the Seattle Seahawks with a sprained right ankle. He has led Carolina to only two scores, has completed one pass of 20-plus yards, and his Total QBR of 27.8 ranks last in the NFL among qualified quarterbacks.

"I know it's a tough situation," wide receiver D.J. Chark Jr. said. "He's our leader, so he takes it even harder than most just because the spotlight is always on him."

Head coach Frank Reich understands and almost goes out of his way not to criticize Young even when things go poorly.

"You know, Bryce is progressing," Reich said. "He is getting better. I am excited about that. [But] we are not here just because we drafted a quarterback No. 1. We're not just sitting here saying we'll just build to the future. We are here to win right now."

Young knows that, which may explain his look after the game.

"People are down," Young said. "I'm going to try to pick people up. It's all a collective group. Obviously, this is not where we wanted to be."

"There's no pointing fingers at anybody but everybody. It's not just one person. This is everybody that has to do with this. It's the whole offense. And it's something we've got to change quick, or it's going to be the tale of this year."

When can the Panthers realistically expect to win a game?

With road games against Detroit and Miami up next, an Oct. 29 home game against the Houston Texans might be it -- but even that has to be in question with Stroud outplaying Young. ...

Other notes of interest. ... The stock has been plummeting since a decent effort in Week 1, but it has gotten to the point where it's almost nonexistent and the offense is one-dimensional; Carolina averaged only 2.7 yards per attempt Sunday, including 1.5 yards by Sanders.

That might explain why Chuba Hubbard received more playing time and gained more yards on equal opportunities.

Both players touched the ball 16 times, with Hubbard gaining 54 yards to Sanders' 32.

Sanders didn't practice much this week with a groin injury and was questionable coming into the game.

As's Nathan Jahnke noted, Sanders seemed to have his usual role in the first half of the game but in the second half, Hubbard took over. Chances are Sanders would have been more efficient without the injury and would have seen more playing time in the second half in that scenario.

Still, Hubbard is still a solid waiver wire target in case this injury lingers on, as Hubbard is capable of an every-down role.

The Panthers are looking for help at wide receiver: There were reports before the game that Carolina might be looking to trade for a wide receiver.

The article noted Adam Thielen and Chark as the Panthers' top two targets, which means Jonathan Mingo would likely become a backup if they trade for someone.

Mingo missed this game due to a concussion, resulting in Terrace Marshall Jr. taking over as the third wide receiver.

Marshall caught nine passes for 56 yards.

Given the trade interest and Marshall leading the team in targets, it's possible we see Marshall continue to see playing time over Mingo even when Mingo is available again. It might be a good time to sell high on someone like Thielen as well, as it's possible a new wide receiver could take targets away from the veteran.

That said, Thielen continues to prove that he still has it at age 33. The two-time Pro Bowl selection leads the Panthers with 27 catches for 287 yards and two touchdowns through four games. Thielen fought through an ankle injury on Sunday and caught seven passes for 76 yards against his former team and was open for an easy touchdown after a double move on Carolina's final drive.

Thielen clearly needs help from his fellow wide receivers and isn't getting it.

After the game, Reich praised Thielen for his toughness.

"I think he rolled up his ankle," Reich said. "What a competitor that guy is. Man, what a competitor. I mean that guy, I have so much respect for that guy. He is the best."

Also worth noting. ... Hayden Hurst was held to one reception for the second straight game and continues to be rotated out a lot more often than he was during his time with the Bengals.

QBs: Bryce Young, Andy Dalton
RBs: Chuba Hubbard, Miles Sanders, Raheem Blackshear
WRs: Adam Thielen, Diontae Johnson, Jonathan Mingo, D.J. Chark, Terrace Marshall Jr., Laviska Shenault, Ihmir Smith-Marsette, Mike Strachan
TEs: Tommy Tremble, Stephen Sullivan, Ian Thomas, Hayden Hurst

Chicago Bears

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 3 October 2023

As Larry Mayer of the team's official website reported, a strong performance by Justin Fields wasn't enough in a 31-28 loss to the Broncos Sunday at Soldier Field.

Fields established career highs with 335 yards, four touchdowns and a 132.7 passer rating in a game that the Bears led 28-7 late in the third quarter. But Denver staged a furious rally, scoring the game's final 24 points in a stunning 31-28 victory.

With the loss, the Bears fell to 0-4.

Fields connected on his first 16 passes—setting a Bears record for consecutive completions—and 23 of 24 through three quarters, with his only incompletion coming on a Hail Mary on the final play of the first half.

"We were in a rhythm," Fields said. "Luke [Getsy] was dialing it up. Guys were protecting up front and the receivers were getting open. So we were definitely in a rhythm. But at the end of the day, we lost the game, so it really doesn't matter."

Fields threw three TD passes on three straight possession in the second quarter— two to Kmet and one to D.J. Moore -- to give the Bears a 21-7 halftime lead. Fields' fourth TD pass to Khalil Herbert, a 2-yarder, made it 28-7 late in the third quarter.

Moore, who notched his second 100-yard game as a Bear and the 17th of his career, led the Bears with eight receptions for 131 yards, Kmet caught seven passes for 85 yards and Darnell Mooney added four catches for 51 yards. The ground game was led by Herbert, who gained more yards Sunday than in the first three games combined.

Herbert, who came into the game with 93 yards rushing, finished with 103 yards on 18 carries. He also caught a season-high four passes, including a touchdown.

The Bears offense highlighted its playmaking ability with nine explosive plays -- either a pass that gained 20-plus yards or a rush that gained 10-plus yards.

Fields connected with Moore for three of those plays, with completions of 29, 24 and 24 yards. Kmet caught two 22-yard passes and receiver Equanimeous St. Brown hauled in a 21-yard reception. Herbert recorded rushes of 24 and 21 yards and Fields scrambled for a 20-yard gain.

"You saw timing," said head coach Matt Eberflus. "You saw that the receivers were in-phase with everybody. It was just a really good flow to it, and you could feel that. You could feel that during the course of the day, and excited about the running game."

How do the Bears recover from such a gut-wrenching loss?

Offensive coordinator Luke Getsy injected a heavy dose of play-action into the game plan and got Moore, Kmet and Mooney involved often. But all the goodwill the Bears built up dissipated in the second half. The defense allowed Russell Wilson to cook on third down.

The Bears faced the worst defense in the NFL and could not close the door in a game that they should have won.

Eberflus, who calls the defense, has to answer why his unit allowed the Broncos to erase Chicago's three-touchdown lead and his decision-making in critical moments, such as not attempting a field goal late in the game on fourth-and-1 from the Broncos' 18-yard line with the score tied.

Having a short turnaround before traveling to Washington to take on the Commanders on Thursday Night Football won't make things any easier for Chicago. ...

Meanwhile, wide receiver Chase Claypool will not be with the team ahead of its Week 5 matchup in Washington, Eberflus said on Monday.

"He's not going to be in the building this particular week on this short week," Eberflus said when asked whether Claypool would be active for the Bears' Thursday night game against the Commanders.

Claypool was a healthy scratch the loss to Denver. The wide receiver was not at Soldier Field on Sunday and was told not to attend the game, according to a team spokesperson.

As's Courtney Cronin reports, following the loss, Eberflus told reporters that it was Claypool's choice whether to attend the game as an inactive player or stay home. The coach said he wanted to "correct the record" Monday and offered an explanation for why his information was different from the team's.

"At the podium yesterday, obviously after an emotional game, I was not clear on what transpired there," Eberflus said. "We did ask Chase to stay home during that time. We felt it was in the best interest of the team. We always base our inactives based on meetings, based on practice, based on walk-throughs during the course of the week. And we made him inactive for that point."

Eberflus also said Sunday that he expected Claypool to be back with the team at Halas Hall on Monday.

Claypool expressed frustration with his role in the Bears' offense Friday. When asked whether he feels he has been put in the best position to showcase his skill set, the wide receiver paused for seven seconds before uttering, "No."

Eberflus was asked whether he felt Claypool fit the Bears' culture based on his comments. While he did not directly answer that question, the Bears coach said the team would monitor the situation with the wide receiver going forward.

"[General manager] Ryan [Poles] makes all transactions and does all things of that nature and we'll see where it goes from there," Eberflus said.

The Bears sent the No. 32 overall pick to Pittsburgh last November in exchange for Claypool, who is in the final year of his rookie contract. In the 10 games he's played in Chicago, Claypool has struggled to establish a high-volume role for himself, having caught 18 passes for 191 yards and one touchdown.

Whether he remains on the team for the rest of this season or leaves in free agency after the season, he appears to need a fresh start, and the Bears appear to have thrown away the pick they traded for him. ...

On the injury front. ... The Bears turned in their second injury report of the week on Tuesday and it looked exactly like the first one.

Safety Eddie Jackson (foot) and cornerback Jaylon Johnson (hamstring) were listed as out for the second day in a row. It's just an estimation since the team only held a walkthrough, but both players were out on Sunday and it seems unlikely they'll be back to face the Commanders on a short week.

With Jackson and Johnson ailing and two other defensive backs on injured reserve, the Bears signed safety Duron Harmon off of Baltimore's practice squad.

Claypool was also listed as out of practice for the second straight day, as you would expect. Guard Teven Jenkins (calf) remained in the full participation category after being designated to return from injured reserve on Monday.

QBs: Tyson Bagent, Nathan Peterman
RBs: Khalil Herbert, D'Andre Swift, Roschon Johnson, Travis Homer, Khari Blasingame
WRs: D.J. Moore, Keenan Allen, Tyler Scott, Trent Taylor, Velus Jones Jr., Equanimeous St. Brown
TEs: Gerald Everett, Cole Kmet, Robert Tonyan, Marcedes Lewis, Jake Tonges

Cincinnati Bengals

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 3 October 2023

As Associated Press sports writer Teresa M. Walker notes, Joe Burrow keeps playing, yet the NFL's highest-paid player with the lightning quick release clearly isn't himself.

Blame the right calf strained back in training camp. The challenge for the Bengals is that they go as their quarterback goes.

Burrow threw for just 165 yards Sunday, and the Bengals had to settle for a field goal the one time they got close to the Tennessee end zone as Cincinnati lost 27-3 to the Titans.

"This was unacceptable," head coach Zac Taylor said. "And I've got the confidence that we've got everything we need in this locker room to get right and get back on track next week. Disappointing this is not the expectation we had going into this game."

Cincinnati won the coin toss and drove down the field with Burrow completing his first four passes, playing from the shotgun and making quick tosses. Then he got lucky Titans safety Amani Hooker didn't pick him off on second-and-goal.

The Bengals got to the Titans 3 and had to settle for a field goal from Evan McPherson. They never got that close again in dropping to 1-3.

Burrow didn't complete a pass longer than 17 yards, both short tosses that receivers helped with yards after the catches.

"We weren't able to find it, weren't able to complete balls down the field, weren't able to really do anything," Burrow said. "So, we've got a lot to get fixed."

Cincinnati finished last season 12-4 winning the AFC North despite an 0-2 start. That team rebounded by winning its next two. With a chance to repeat that start Sunday, the Bengals were outgained 400-211 and let Tennessee play keep-away holding the ball for more than 34 minutes.

They also lost starting cornerback Cam Taylor-Britt to a concussion, and wide receiver Tee Higgins never returned from a rib injury after catching two passes for 19 yards.

"Whenever Tee's not out there, we're not as good of a football team," Burrow said.

Wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase did what he could to help his longtime teammate going back to their national championship win at LSU. Chase caught seven of nine passes for 73 yards.

"It's probably my first time seeing him through an injury like this besides, you know, that knee," Chase said of Burrow's torn ACL in 2020 as a rookie. "But being on the team with him, this is the first time like that. So, he's just going through a little adversity, and he's going to be back and better in no time."

For now, opposing defenses know Burrow won't be scrambling around much or able to escape the pocket He ran three times for a net of 1 yard. That allows upcoming opponents to keep focusing on defending against the pass.

Two-time All-Pro Titans safety Kevin Byard said they made sure to take away Burrow's options and especially know where Chase was at all times. Tennessee sacked Burrow three times and stripped him of the ball once.

The Bengals got lucky on one would-be turnover by Burrow with replay ruling his arm was going forward when hit and stripped by Titans linebacker Azeez Al-Shaair.

Burrow was asked about battling his instincts given he's not fully healthy.

"It's hard to say," Burrow said. "Playing the way I'm playing, you've just got to get better in practice, continue to stack days, get better every day."

He remains confident that the Bengals still can be a playoff team.

"That's so far in the future we've just got to worry about tomorrow, and getting better tomorrow at this point," Burrow said.

For what it's worth, Taylor told reporters on Monday that Burrow will start and play this week against the Cardinals.

In addition, Higgins told reporters on Monday that he's not anticipating being sidelined for long.

Via Kelsey Conway of the Cincinnati Enquirer, Higgins said that he landed wrong and fractured one rib and not multiple ribs.

He also has not ruled out playing against Arizona, saying he's "hopeful" to play.

But if he's not available for this week, then he plans to return for the Week 6 game against Seattle at home.

Through four games this year, Higgins has 12 catches for 120 yards with two touchdowns. All of the Bengals' offensive statistics are down, but Higgins is averaging half of the yards he did per game last year. And his receptions are down from 4.6 per game to 3.0.

So are the Bengals broken?

As's Ben Baby suggested, based on four games, that certainly appears to be the case. All the conditions were set for the Bengals to have a big offensive day -- great weather, a porous Titans pass defense and Burrow being a full participant at practice Thursday and Friday.

And yet the offense couldn't muster anything outside of one good drive to start the game. That left the defense on the field, and the Titans rolled, scoring 27 unanswered points.

After Sunday's game, the Bengals are averaging 12.3 points per game, 31st in the NFL.

As NBC Sports' Kyle Dvorchak notes, they are 28th in EPA per dropback. Burrow ranks dead last in the NFL in touchdown rate (1.3 percent) and yards per attempt (4.8).

The obvious concern is that Burrow's calf issue is limiting him to dink-and-dunk throws. He is at career lows in target depth and time to throw.

Burrow acknowledges the Bengals "have a lot to get fixed."

"I would say whenever you're 1-3, you're going to be frustrated," Burrow said in his press conference. "You're going to be angry. You're going to be wanting to win games. And we haven't been. We're not going to let anything like that come between us. That's how you end up having a bad season.

"We've had a bad start. We've had a bad first quarter, so we got three more quarters of the year to get through and go from there."

Burrow added that he wouldn't say the team's start is puzzling.

"We just haven't executed the way we needed to win these games," Burrow said. "So, as soon as we fix that, we're going to start winning games. Like I said, we just got to keep chucking away every day in practice and continue to get better. Come back next week."

Burrow is right. The Bengals have to fix a litany of issues if they hope to be a playoff team and heading into Arizona, where the Cardinals are a much tougher opponent than expected.

I'll have more on Higgins and his injured rib via Late-Breaking Update as the week progresses. ...

One last note here. ... McPherson has hit 7 of 9 field-goal tries. Against the Titans and in the opening-week loss to the Browns, a field goal by McPherson put the only Cincinnati points on the board.

QBs: Jake Browning, Joe Burrow
RBs: Zack Moss, Chase Brown, Chris Evans, Trayveon Williams
WRs: Ja'Marr Chase, Tee Higgins, Trenton Irwin, Andrei Iosivas, Charlie Jones
TEs: Irv Smith Jr., Mike Gesicki, Tanner Hudson, Drew Sample, Mitchell Wilcox

Cleveland Browns

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 3 October 2023

Deshaun Watson was inactive for Sunday's 28-3 loss to the Ravens with a right shoulder injury.

Watson threw briefly on the field Sunday during pregame in front of Browns officials before the decision was made to make him inactive.

Head coach Kevin Stefanski said after the game that he expects Watson to return for Cleveland's next game in two weeks against the San Francisco 49ers.

The Browns have a bye this weekend.

"I think obviously having the bye helps." Stefanski said.

The coach added that Watson has no structural damage or torn ligaments in the shoulder.

Asked if Watson was medically cleared to play against the Ravens, Stefanski answered, "Yes."

So why didn't Watson play?

Stefanski said Watson didn't believe his injured shoulder was ready.

"He knows his body. He's played through serious pain before. Very, very serious injuries. It wasn't a matter of pain tolerance or anything. He just did not feel like he had his full faculties," Stefanski said.

Stefanski said the Browns' coaches didn't know until pregame warmups whether Watson could play.

"He was hopeful that he would feel good today. He didn't," Stefanski said. "He knows his body. I trust him. He just didn't feel like he could operate at enough of a level to play."

Stefanski had said on Friday that he was "hopeful" that Watson would be able to play. But after trying to warm up during pregame, Watson decided that he wouldn't be able to go.

"We listed him as questionable. He didn't throw all week, and we had to get to the game, that was going to be the first time he was going to throw to see, ultimately, how he felt," Stefanski said.

Without Watson, the Browns offense struggled against the Ravens.

Cleveland's only points, a field goal, came after a 37-yard defensive pass interference call. Rookie Dorian Thompson-Robinson started in place of Watson and completed just 19 of 36 passes for 121 yards. He also threw three interceptions.

The Browns felt so good about Thompson-Robinson and his progress in July that they traded veteran quarterback Joshua Dobbs to Arizona for a fifth-round draft pick in 2024. The move was risky because it meant that if Watson got hurt, Thompson-Robinson would have to step up.

His baptism against the Ravens was brutal.

The 23-year-old, who made 48 starts in college, rarely appeared confident and his stat line didn't fully capture his struggles. Thompson-Robinson threw several passes that were nearly picked off, and the three the Ravens grabbed were balls he forced into tight coverage.

"He battled," Stefanski said. "Listen, I know there's going to be plenty that he can do better. I know plenty that I can put him in a better spot. But the kid battled."

Receiver Amari Cooper thought Thompson-Robinson did his part.

"I don't think we did as much as we could for a young guy," said Cooper, who was called for holding on Cleveland's first play, wiping out a 26-yard run by Jerome Ford. "We've got to be better."

The Browns needed a competent running game to take the pressure off Thompson-Robinson, but totaled just 93 yards on the ground, including 24 from Thompson-Robinson.

Ford ran the ball nine times but only gained 26 yards. Kareem Hunt and Pierre Strong both ran five times each. Strong led the team in rushing yards with 49, most of which came on a 40-yard run.

As's Nathan Jahnke notes, all three running backs received short yardage work last week, which happened again this week, but Hunt led the team in those situations.

Luckily, Ford continued to dominate passing down work. This led to five receptions for 19 yards, but fantasy managers have to be concerned with the overall production. ...

Of course, the Browns' defense didn't do enough, either.

The group came ranked first in the league in every major statistical category but couldn't contain Lamar Jackson as Baltimore's bewildering QB ran for two touchdowns and threw for two scores.

Cleveland lost star running back Nick Chubb to a season-ending injury in Week 2, one week after right tackle Jack Conklin went down with a knee injury. Now, the Browns have to hope Watson recovers or a season that began promisingly could quickly deteriorate.

On a more positive note. ... Tight end David Njoku played despite suffering burns on his face and arm while lighting a fire pit at home on Friday.

He arrived at the stadium wearing a mask to cover his injuries.

Stefanski said there wasn't much to like about Sunday's loss, but he loved what he saw from Njoku.

"The way he played was unbelievable to me with what he went through. Not just the pass game, the run game, he was the first guy picking his teammates up off the ground, it felt like every single play. He was a warrior," Stefanski said. "It was impressive to watch."

On a mostly ugly day for the Browns' offense, Njoku led the team with six catches for 46 yards.

And he demonstrated his toughness to his coaches and teammates, who undoubtedly were impressed that he was playing through pain for his team. ...

NFL Network's Ian Rapoport reports Myles Garrett's (ankle) injury is minor and he does not expect to miss any time.

As Rotoworld notes, Garrett was spotted in a walking boot after the loss to the Ravens, but with a bye week on tap, he'll have plenty of time to rest up before the team's Week 6 matchup against the 49ers.

Through four games, Garrett has 10 tackles to go with 5.5 sacks, putting him on track for another elite season the rest of the way.

QBs: Jameis Winston, Dorian Thompson-Robinson, Tyler Huntley, Deshaun Watson
RBs: Jerome Ford, D'Onta Foreman, Pierre Strong Jr., Nick Chubb
WRs: Amari Cooper, Elijah Moore, Jerry Jeudy, Cedric Tillman, Marquise Goodwin, David Bell
TEs: David Njoku, Jordan Akins, Harrison Bryant

Dallas Cowboys

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 3 October 2023

According to's Todd Archer, Dak Prescott almost let a cuss word come out of his mouth.

After the Cowboys dominated the New England Patriots 38-3 in Dallas on Sunday, the subject turned to next week's opponent, the San Francisco 49ers.

In each of the past two years, the Cowboys' season has ended with a playoff loss to San Francisco, including a 19-12 loss at Levi's Stadium in the divisional round on Jan. 22. While that defeat is more than eight months old, it still drives Prescott.

"I mean every eff --," Prescott said, catching himself. "Every day. Every day. Every day. Every day."

Owner and general manager Jerry Jones called the win against the Patriots "surreal" and admitted it was hard to believe the Cowboys handed coach Bill Belichick the largest defeat of the future Hall of Fame coach's career.

But even the owner is ready to think about the 49ers.

"There's nothing early about that," Jones said. "Here it is."

One issue, however, remains unresolved: Prescott and company are having trouble turning red zone trips into end zone trips.

As Associated Press sports writer Schuyler Dixon noted, Dallas got a touchdown once in four trips inside the Patriots 20, a meaningless tack-on TD late in their third blowout win in four games.

While it's worth noting that the touchdown that put Dallas ahead for good in the first quarter came from the 20 and didn't technically count as a red zone trip, the messy Prescott-Pollard play was emblematic of the issue.

"We won 38-3 so I'm not going to sit here and harp on that," said Prescott, whose 20-yard TD toss to CeeDee Lamb was his first to a receiver this season. "But that definitely gives us something to work on."

The Cowboys came out of the rout of the Patriots 29th in the NFL in touchdown rate inside the 20 at 36.8 percent.

The inefficiency cost them in their only loss, 28-16 to Arizona, which has lost its other three games. It never mattered much in three blowout victories because of a defense that has allowed just 13 points total in those games while scoring an NFL-best three TDs.

"Just got to keep working," said coach Mike McCarthy, who took over the play-calling this season. "This is a good place to be when you're winning by a significant margin of victory, and you still feel like you have lot of work to do. I like where we are."

The upside for the Cowboys: Rookie kicker Brandon Aubrey still hasn't missed amid all the stalls in the red zone. The 28-year-old is 13 of 13, becoming the eighth kicker in NFL history with at least that many makes in a perfect start to a career. The record is 18.

Meanwhile, the mental hurdle of facing the unbeaten 49ers (4-0) is substantial for the Cowboys.

As Archer noted, since walking out of Levi's Stadium last January, the Cowboys' driving force has been to find a way to beat San Francisco. They added veteran pieces in cornerback Stephon Gilmore and wide receiver Brandin Cooks in trades. They added a big defensive tackle in Mazi Smith in the first round, in part, to slow the running games of the 49ers and Philadelphia Eagles.

"I'd like to think we're able to stop the run -- which that, in and of itself, would be meaningful -- and then hopefully we can do a good job of not turning that ball over," Jones said. "We've worked in both areas in the offseason. We've tried to strengthen our run defense and we've tried to work on turnovers and [not] giving the other team the ball.

"That materially beat us last time when we played them. If we could have eliminated our turnovers and we could have stopped the run, I think we might have been in that Super Bowl. That's a big statement, by the way. I almost say that tongue in cheek."

In San Francisco's 23-17 wild-card win on Jan. 16, 2022, in Dallas, the Niners ran the ball 38 times for 169 yards and two touchdowns. Prescott was intercepted once and the game ended when the Cowboys were unable to spike the ball in time for a final play after the quarterback ran 17 yards.

In their 19-12 win last January, the Niners ran the ball 32 times for 113 yards and a touchdown. Prescott was intercepted twice, including one at the San Francisco 12 when the score was tied in the second quarter.

Beating the 49ers would not erase the ill feelings the Cowboys have had the past two Januarys, but it would help validate the Cowboys even more than the three wins by a combined 108-13 against the New York Giants and Jets and Patriots.

It just so happens that San Francisco and Philadelphia are the last two unbeaten teams in the NFL. The 3-1 Cowboys will have two chances against the Eagles (Nov. 5 and Dec. 10) in the NFC East race, but now their focus -- their only focus -- is on facing the 4-0 Niners on Sunday Night Football.

Other notes of interest. ... Edge rusher Micah Parsons briefly left Sunday's game, missing five plays while being checked in the sideline medical tent. He returned and played all but 11 plays, leaving when the game turned into a rout.

Head coach Mike McCarthy said Monday that Parsons had his knee and ankle examined but is OK.

"I'm not of high concern with it," McCarthy said.

Parsons might get limited work in Wednesday's practice.

Jones said after the game that Parsons is fine, and Parsons himself expressed no concern.

"We checked that real quick and got satisfied it was not a serious matter," Jones said.

The health of the offensive line improved after three starters were missing in the loss to the Cardinals. Six-time All-Pro RG Zack Martin (ankle) and C Tyler Biadasz (hamstring) returned against New England.

Now Dallas waits for LT Tyron Smith to come back from a knee injury. He was active but didn't play against Arizona and was inactive against the Patriots.

Rico Dowdle exited the blowout victory with a hip injury that immediately saw him ruled out. Initial X-rays were negative, but Dowdle was/is also set to undergo an MRI on Monday. The initial prognosis appears to carry a positive tone, albeit a cautious one, from the team's front office.

"We're more optimistic than we were yesterday," Executive Vice President and Director of Player Personnel Stephen Jones told 105.3FM the Fan on Monday. "We were worried he re-injured that hip, but I think he does have a hip contusion -- it feels like -- but hopefully not as severe as the one he had [before]."

The depth at running back will be tested if Dowdle can't go. Undersized rookie sixth-round pick Deuce Vaughn had just 9 yards on eight carries.

The bright spot for Dallas was undrafted rookie fullback Hunter Luepke helping the Cowboys feel better about the red zone with a 3-yard touchdown run late in the game.

If Dowdle does miss time, the Cowboys have the services of Malik Davis waiting on the team's practice squad.

I'll have more on Dowdle via Late-Breaking Update as the week progresses. ...

One last note here. ... Jake Ferguson set career highs in both receptions (7) and receiving yards (77).

Part of the reason for his success is that Peyton Hendershot was inactive with an ankle injury. Hendershot's injury still didn't make Ferguson an every-down tight end, as Luke Schoonmaker took some snaps from Ferguson in 11 personnel. The rookie also remained the primary tight end in 21 personnel.

The bigger reason Ferguson didn't see a massive increase in snaps is that the Cowboys largely used backups in the fourth quarter, which meant Ferguson didn't play any snaps late in the game.

Still, Schoonmaker didn't help himself by failing to hand on to one of Prescott's better throws of the game in the end zone on the opening possession. It would have been a red zone TD. Schoonmaker was targeted three times without a catch.

QBs: Dak Prescott, Cooper Rush, Trey Lance
RBs: Ezekiel Elliott, Rico Dowdle, Deuce Vaughn, Hunter Luepke
WRs: CeeDee Lamb, Brandin Cooks, Michael Gallup, Jalen Tolbert, KaVontae Turpin, Jalen Brooks
TEs: Jake Ferguson, Luke Schoonmaker, Peyton Hendershot

Denver Broncos

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 3 October 2023

As head coach Sean Payton has tried to figure out how to best fit running back Jaleel McLaughlin and wide receiver Marvin Mims Jr. into the team's offense, the two rookies are making a strong case for playing time.

In the Broncos' 31-28 comeback victory over the Chicago Bears in Soldier Field Sunday, Mims' 48-yard reception in the closing minutes put the Broncos in position for kicker Wil Lutz’s 51-yard game-winner while McLaughlin led the team in rushing with 72 yards on seven carries with a receiving touchdown. It helped the Broncos to their first victory this season.

"(Mims' catch) was a great play, a big play for us, obviously it helped us win the game," Russell Wilson said. "And (McLaughlin) was spectacular."

Payton has taken more of a slow-and-steady approach with Mims and McLaughlin thus far, even as the team's offense lacked explosiveness at times in an 0-3 start. Mims was selected by the Broncos in the second round of April's draft -- the team's first pick since they didn't have a first-rounder. McLaughlin made the team out of training camp as an undrafted rookie.

Mims now has five of the Broncos' seven receptions of at least 30 yards despite fewer snaps than most of the team's other receivers. McLaughlin's 31-yard run Sunday was the longest run play this season and the Broncos' only rushing play of more than 16 yards through four games.

McLaughlin, who scored on an 18-yard catch-and-run screen pass for the Broncos' first touchdown of the game and now has two touchdowns in his 17 total touches this season, may now be forced to play far more given Javonte Williams left Sunday's game in the first half with a hip injury and did not return. Williams was scheduled for an MRI exam Monday.

"Seeing Javonte go down was tough," Wilson said. "But the spirit of (McLaughlin) is what's amazing, his confidence, he just believes how great he can be. He works at it every day."

McLaughlin added seven carries Sunday, but his 13 total are third on the team behind Williams' 38 and Samaje Perine's 18. McLaughlin is the team's fastest running back -- he ran a 4.46 hand-timed 40-yard dash at Youngstown State's pro day last March -- and his short-area quickness has sent more than one defender grasping at the open space he left behind. But at 5-9, 183 pounds, Payton has been cautious about when the rookie is in the lineup.

"The trick is -- he's done a ton of good things -- but, man, there's some things I don't want to get caught with a mismatch and it happened in the first half when he's blocking a bigger linebacker," Payton said. "So, you're having to manage that relative to when he's in and when he's not. He was outstanding. (He is) hard to tackle, good in space, made the screen for a touchdown."

For his part, Mims has been the Broncos' big-play receiver in the early going. He leads the team by a wide margin with a 26.9 yards-per-catch average. He has the team's longest touchdown catch (60 yards) and five of his nine receptions have been on the 30 or more yards variety, including Sunday's game-changer.

On the 48-yarder, Payton said he purposely put Mims and Jerry Jeudy in the formation in a specific way to force the Bears' defense, with three rookies getting playing time in the secondary, to pick its poison.

"They were playing some young guys," Payton said. "We put Jeudy inside to kind of keep the safeties on their landmarks and Russ made a real good throw to Marvin."

"Those guys, we're going to need them," said wide receiver Courtland Sutton, who caught his third touchdown pass of the season in the win. "Everybody understood the severity, the urgency of this game."

For what it's worth. ... notes that Jeudy is still getting rotated out more than most fantasy managers would like. He was still showing up limited in practice reports due to his knee injury, which probably contributed to his playing time. The Broncos also used a lot of 13 and 22 personnel where Jeudy wasn't on the field, which also contributed.

Wilson threw for 223 yards. The nine-time Pro Bowler completed 21 of 28 passes. His 133.5 passer rating Sunday was his best as a Bronco.

He now has nine touchdown passes and two interceptions through four games. Last year, it took until Week 14 for him to throw his ninth TD pass.

With the offense gaining momentum, what can the Broncos do to repair a defense that has surrendered 98 points over the past two weeks?

As's Jeff Legwold put it, "Let's be clear: Win or no win, this Broncos defense doesn't pressure opposing quarterbacks enough or control the line of scrimmage enough, and there are too many missed tackles."

Legwold went on to suggest the scheme is to blame for some of that, but the Broncos' best players also are not doing enough -- barring a three-sack day from Nik Bonitto. Roster help isn't on the way, but the fact that Justin Fields finished the first half 16-of-17 for 231 yards and three TDs isn't just a who's-on-the-headset problem -- it's an effort and production problem, too.

Still, defensive coordinator Vance Joseph hasn't had enough answers, especially when the team is in the nickel and with little production from the defensive front and too many missed tackles and blown assignments, Joseph will continue to feel the heat from the fans and likely his boss.

Now, as Associated Press sports writer Arnie Melendrez Stapleton put it, "After surviving the Basement Battle and avoiding an 0-4 start," the Broncos host the Jets (1-3) on Sunday in a showdown spiced up by Payton calling the coaching job Hackett and his staff did in Denver last year one of the worst in NFL history. ...

Worth noting. ... Williams was playing his usual role as the early down back to start the game with Perine taking passing situations.

McLaughlin took over as the early down back in Williams' absence, but didn't fully take over Williams' role as Perine was the short-yardage back. McLaughlin is 5-foot-9 and 187 pounds while Perine is 5-foot-11 and 236 pounds, so it's unsurprising Perine would be used in short-yardage situations.

McLaughlin is definitely a waiver wire target if Williams ends up missing playing time, but it wouldn't be surprising if Perine is the one who ends up as a potential fantasy starter depending on the matchup.

I'll have more on Williams via Late-Breaking Update as the week progresses.

QBs: Zach Wilson, Jarrett Stidham
RBs: Javonte Williams, Jaleel McLaughlin, Samaje Perine
WRs: Courtland Sutton, Marvin Mims Jr., Lil'Jordan Humphrey, Brandon Johnson
TEs: Adam Trautman, Chris Manhertz, Greg Dulcich

Detroit Lions

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 3 October 2023

According to's Eric Woodyard, Jared Goff wasn't overly excited after exiting Lambeau Field with a 34-20 win over the Green Bay Packers on Thursday night.

"It's what we expect to do," he said. "We have a good team."

But having confidence in the Lions franchise, after witnessing years of defeat, is still taking some time for people to adjust to. Goff isn't one of those people, and neither are his teammates.

"Send us anywhere and we'll be ready," said Goff, who passed for 201 yards with a touchdown and interception. "And that's the way we're built."

Through Week 4, the Lions are 3-1, with two of those wins coming on iconic stages: Lambeau and Kansas City's Arrowhead Stadium in the season opener.

Goff is 5-1 in his career against the Packers. Now in his third season in Detroit, he has led the Lions to six consecutive victories against NFC North division opponents, tying their longest streak in the Super Bowl Era (1995 and 1983).

"We have that confidence," he said. "Like I said, send us anywhere. Line us up against anyone, and we feel like we can go in there and beat them, and that's a good feeling to have. Is it always gonna happen? I don't know, but we feel like we can. We have that confidence in ourselves, in our coaches and each other. We're working together really well right now."

From 1971-2014, the Lions were 5-27-1 at Lambeau Field, including the playoffs, but with their latest victory, the Lions are 5-4 at Lambeau Field since 2015.

When asked if the Lions are now the team to beat in the North, Packers quarterback Jordan Love said, "Yeah, for sure."

"Credit to them, they played really good tonight," Love said. "I think it was us and them going into this game, but obviously we haven't played the Vikings yet. But every time we play a North opponent, it's a huge game going forward to the end of the year. But yeah, it's a game that we'll be looking forward to next time we play them. Gotta go just be better, go win."

Goff credited the recent changing of the tide to the players around him and their hunger to keep improving.

By halftime Thursday night, the Lions held a 24-point lead, tied for their largest lead on the road in any game in franchise history. Even when the Packers trimmed the deficit to 10 at the start of the fourth quarter, the Lions were able to seal the win with a late touchdown by running back David Montgomery and a second interception by cornerback Jerry Jacobs.

"We definitely keep the horse binders on," said Montgomery, who rushed for 121 yards and three touchdowns. "Like, we're not big on listening to everything or everybody else around us. It's us in the building, and we're out to prove ourselves right."

He added: "We're not trying to prove nobody wrong, we're trying to be the best versions of ourselves that we can be every day, and we know if we all come to play the way that we play and we play together, the sky is the limit for us. We believe that."

The Lions moved into first place in the NFC North as they look to win the division for the first time since 1993, when it was the NFC Central.

Head coach Dan Campbell said he is reminding his players that they still have a lot of football left.

"Look we have our own standards, our own goals of what we want to do and certainly one of those is winning the division. You have to win your division games, and if you can get them on the road that goes a long way," Campbell said. "So, we knew that and this is important. It's not the end all be all, but it is important.

"So to be able to get a division win, it is also a conference win, that's two wins in a row. Puts us 3-1 at the quarter. I am really, really happy with where we are at. I'm proud of the guys, the staff, everybody. I mean that was outstanding. You know, to be able to snap back on a short week with that type of performance was really good."

Detroit's offense has 1,545 total yards through four games.

There are still questions about the defense, but if the offense can keep putting up almost 400 yards a week, the Lions will be in good shape.

Looking ahead, the team planned to stay focused during a weekend off so there isn't a letdown before hosting the Panthers on Oct. 8. ...

Meanwhile, the Lions got a surprising boost on Friday when the NFL revised its gambling policy.

As part of the deal, big-threat wide receiver Jameson Williams had his suspension commuted -- he could play as soon as next Sunday against the Panthers.

On Monday, Campbell said the team will see how the practice week unfolds before making any plans for what Williams' role might be in that game.

"If he does play, he can't play 60 plays," Campbell said, via Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press. "That's not smart. So we can't do that to him. So we'll see where it goes. It's all about improvement, no different than the rest of the team. Every week we just got to get a little bit better. He just needs to get a little bit better and we'll take it from there."

Campbell said that he wants Williams to focus on "polishing all the little things" in his return to action and not to worry about trying to make up for lost time because the team is not about one guy "carrying the load" on offense.

That may be the case, but Williams' big-play ability made him a first-round pick in 2022 and it would be a nice wrinkle to add to the Lions offense.

I'll be watching for more on how the team will integrate the second-year man in coming days; watch the Late-Breaking Updates section for more. ...

Also of interest. ... First-round pick Jahmyr Gibbs has gotten off to a slow start, with 179 rushing yards and 70 receiving yards on 14 catches. Gibbs was expected to be a receiving weapon out of the backfield, but his longest reception went for 10 yards.

"It hasn't quite happened for him yet, but we're not panicking," Campbell said. "He's going to be just fine."

On the injury front. ... Campbell didn't have any updates on tackle Taylor Decker or safety Brian Branch, who both have ankle injuries.

QBs: Jared Goff, Teddy Bridgewater
RBs: David Montgomery, Jahmyr Gibbs, Craig Reynolds, Zonovan Knight
WRs: Amon-Ra St. Brown, Josh Reynolds, Kalif Raymond, Jameson Williams, Donovan Peoples-Jones, Antoine Green
TEs: Sam LaPorta, Brock Wright, James Mitchell

Green Bay Packers

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 3 October 2023

According to's Michael David Smith, head coach Matt LaFleur was not in a cheery mood after last Thursday night's 34-20 loss to the Lions.

Asked what caused the Packers' struggles in the first half, LaFleur suggested that just about everything went wrong, and he didn't appreciate the question.

"We sucked," LaFleur said. "We got our ass kicked. If I knew, it wouldn't have happened. That's a BS question."

As LaFleur got more questions about what went wrong, his answer didn't change.

"They whooped us. They manhandled us. Again, if I knew the answer to that, it wouldn't have happened," LaFleur said.

The Lions led 27-3 at halftime, and LaFleur called that "humiliating."

"Give Detroit a lot of credit. They came in and whooped us pretty good," LaFleur said. "They manhandled us, really, in every phase."

Indeed, as Associated Press sports writer Steve Megargee noted, Jordan Love spent much of the night running for his life.

On the infrequent occasions that Love handed the ball off, Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon had nowhere to run.

The pressure is on an injury-riddled offensive line as the Green Bay Packers attempt to bounce back from a 34-20 home loss to the NFC North-leading Detroit Lions. LaFleur isn't ruling out lineup changes as he tries to find a combination that works.

"I think everything's open," LaFleur said Friday.

Green Bay entered the season believing the left side of its line was one of its biggest strengths with David Bakhtiari at tackle and Elgton Jenkins at guard, but both have been injured for much of the season.

The Packers placed Bakhtiari on injured reserve Thursday. When LaFleur was asked after Thursday's game whether Bakhtiari would be back this season, the coach declined to comment. Jenkins has missed two straight games with a sprained medial collateral ligament.

Bakhtiari tore the ACL in his left knee on Dec. 31, 2020, and has struggled to stay on the field since. He played in one game in 2021 and 11 games last season, missing three due to the knee injury and three more while recovering from an appendectomy. Bakhtiari started and played well in a season-opening victory at Chicago but had a setback afterward.

With Bakhtiari and Jenkins out, the Packers have been using Rasheed Walker at left tackle and Royce Newman at left guard. Walker is a 2022 seventh-round pick who didn't play a single offensive snap as a rookie. Newman made 16 starts as a rookie in 2021 but had fallen out of favor since.

Green Bay's injury-riddled line didn't stand a chance against Detroit's formidable front.

Love was sacked five times, four in the first half as the Lions built a 27-3 lead. The Packers had 12 carries for 27 yards, in part because they continually put themselves in obvious passing situations. Green Bay faced third-and-19 and third-and-16 during its first two series.

Bakhtiari and Jenkins aren't the only linemen dealing with ailments.

Right tackle Zach Tom played through a knee injury he suffered four days earlier in Green Bay's win over New Orleans. Right guard Jon Runyan Jr. sprained an ankle early in the game but played through it. Neither player was as effective as usual.

"They said that's basically what happens in basketball when you come down and land on someone," Runyan said. "It's just like a really bad rolled ankle."

The 2-2 Packers are now a game behind the Lions in the NFC North, and they have some time to regroup with an extra-long work week before their next game on Monday night against the Raiders.

In fact, the Packers will play just one game over a 23-day span.

They have a bye after the game at Las Vegas. They play at Denver on Oct. 22 and won't return to Lambeau Field until they host Minnesota on Oct. 29....

Other notes of interest. ... Megargee believes one positive element of the Packers' first-half breakdowns in their last two games is they've shown an ability to rally. They outscored the Lions 17-7 in the second half Thursday after scoring 18 unanswered points in the final 11 minutes to erase a 17-point deficit against the Saints.

Romeo Doubs had nine catches for 95 yards, both career highs. ...

Anders Carlson made field goals from 34 and 50 yards. The rookie sixth-round pick is 9 of 9 on extra points and 5 of 5 on field goals, including two from 50 yards or more.

For what it's worth. ... Bakhtiari's future -- for both this season and beyond -- has never been more in doubt, and LaFleur did not give much reason for optimism on Monday.

Less than a week after Bakhtiari was placed on injured reserve and underwent surgery, the fourth on his left knee in less than three years, LaFleur would not say whether Bakhtiari will play for the Packers again this season -- or ever. "Yeah, I'll let Dave comment on that," LaFleur said. "I know he wanted to talk to you guys later on. I'll let him talk about his timeline."

The 32-year-old five-time All-Pro played only one game this season, the opener against the Bears, before problems with the knee recurred. After missing the Week 2 game at Atlanta, Bakhtiari said he had not strongly considered retirement at any point during his recovery attempts. However, that was before this latest surgery.

"He put in so much hard work to try and get back," offensive coordinator Adam Stenavich said Monday. "You just feel for him for all the things he's been through."

Bakhtiari has played in just 13 games since the start of the 2021 regular season after he blew out his left knee in practice on Dec. 31, 2020. The Packers treated him with kid gloves this past summer during training camp, giving him days off whenever he needed them. He played in the season opener without having practiced in the week leading up to the game. ...

Finally. ... As the Packers work through their mini-bye (plus one day), they've worked out a trio of running backs.

Per, Green Bay gave Monday tryouts to James Robinson, Clint Ratkovich and Christian Young.

Robinson, undrafted in 2020, had a 1,000-yard rushing season in Jacksonville as a rookie. He was traded last October to the Jets. Not tendered as a restricted free agent, Robinson signed with the Patriots in March.

They released him in June. He landed with the Giants for training camp and the preseason before being released in late August.

He has had workouts with the Colts and Ravens while he waits for his next opportunity.

QBs: Jordan Love, Sean Clifford
RBs: Josh Jacobs, A.J. Dillon, Patrick Taylor
WRs: Jayden Reed, Romeo Doubs, Christian Watson, Dontayvion Wicks, Samori Toure, Malik Heath
TEs: Tucker Kraft, Ben Sims, Josiah Deguara, Luke Musgrave

Houston Texans

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 3 October 2023

As's Kevin Patra reminded readers, it had been 644 days.

The Texans entered Sunday's contest against the Pittsburgh Steelers having not won a home contest in 644 days.

You can zero that number out.

Behind C.J. Stroud's latest sensational performance, the Texans walloped Pittsburgh, 30-6, for their first home win since Dec. 26, 2021.

"I've been thinking about this for a long time," Stroud said after the win. "Y'all deserve to feel special. Y'all deserve to root the Texans on. Not winning since 2021, I think it was around Christmas, that is not flying for anybody in this building. I want them to know we're fighting our tails off every day to make sure y'all walk around with Texans gear pride, y'all walk around with that swag that we walk around with when we get a W."

It's a young season, but the bitterness of the last few seasons in Houston has been wiped away under DeMeco Ryans. To a man, Texans players said the new coach preached the importance of breaking the streak of home futility.

"DeMeco came in and he put up a date," tight end Dalton Schultz said. "It's the last time that the Texans won a game at home. At the forefront of the week, we were honed in on just being able to win at home. There's always room for improvement, but that was a great team win and we needed that one."

Stroud has led the early season turnaround that has the Texans in the thick of an AFC South race, with every division club sitting at 2-2.

Sunday, the No. 2 overall pick completed 16 of 30 passes for 306 yards with two touchdowns and no picks. It's his third consecutive game with 250-plus passing yards, two-plus pass TDs and zero INTs -- the longest streak by any rookie since at least 1970. He joined Gardner Minshew (2019) as the only players with 30-plus pass attempts and zero interceptions in each of their first four career starts.

Stroud became the first player in NFL history with 1,200-plus pass yards and zero INTs over the first four career games (Dak Prescott is the only other player since 1970 with 1,000-plus pass yards and 0 INTs), per NFL Research. Stroud's 1,212 yards passed Andrew Luck for second-most all-time in a player's first four career games, behind only Cam Newton's 1,386 yards (Newton had a 5-5 TD-INT ratio).

Stroud also has the third-most passing attempts (151) by a rookie without an interception to start his career, behind Prescott (176) and Miami Dolphins' Tua Tagovailoa (152).

The former Ohio State standout has thrown for over 300 yards twice so far and is the first rookie quarterback to do so since Cincinnati's Joe Burrow and the Chargers' Justin Herbert in 2020. Stroud also became the first Texans' quarterback to throw for 200 yards or more in his first four career games.

Stroud accomplished these feats while missing multiple starters on the offensive line as center Juice Scruggs, left guard Kenyon Green and right tackle Tytus Howard have yet to play in the regular season. And left tackle Laremy Tunsil missed the last three games. Even Tunsil's backup, Josh Jones, missed the Week 4 matchup.

But wait. There's more.

Left guard Kendrick Green suffered a torn meniscus in his right knee against the Steelers and is expected to be out indefinitely, per's DJ Bien-Aime.

Kendrick Green started three games for the Texans after there were injuries to the left side of the starting unit.

Still, Stroud excels.

"We already know you had that 'it' factor with him since we drafted him, man," wide receiver Nico Collins said. "It's a reason why he has that [captain's] 'C' on his chest. The dude can ball. It shows on Sundays. We're gonna keep climbing, keep running together man and keep shocking the world."

If Stroud continues on the trajectory indicated by his first four NFL starts, the Texans won't have to worry about 600-day home droughts any longer.

In fact, if he continues on this trajectory, it's reasonable to believe the Texans will compete for the AFC South title.

Every team in the division is 2-2. The Texans beat the Jacksonville Jaguars, the betting favorites to win the division, in Week 3. The division is wide open, and the Texans, on paper, seem to have a favorable schedule. This week, they travel to Atlanta to take on the Falcons. ...

Other notes of interest. ... Collins had seven catches for 168 yards and two touchdowns after having 34 yards last week. Conversely, after a dominant performance against the Jaguars, Tank Dell posted one catch for 16 yards on three targets as Collins became the main contributor.

Robert Woods had a season-low 26 yards on three receptions. ...

Collins is in his third NFL season after being drafted by the Texans in the third round in 2021 out of Michigan. But he has never had a quarterback like he does now in Stroud. Collins played in 24 games over his first two seasons and never posted a 100-yard game. He already has two this season. ...

Schultz caught his first touchdown with the team on a fourth quarter on a pass from Devin Singletary, but his usage is concerning, especially if the Texans keep winning.

He's played in 69 percent of the Texans' offensive snaps when they are playing from behind and 54.4 percent of snaps when they have a lead.

Backup Brevin Jordan has generally graded better as a receiver this season and is slowly but surely playing more, so these trends could get worse instead of better. ...

Second-year RB Dameon Pierce had his best game of the season Sunday after struggling in the first three games. He had 81 of Houston's season-high 139 yards rushing after entering the game with just 100 yards rushing combined through the first three games.

"It was awesome to see him just continuing to press forward," Ryans said. "When he got the ball, he had a 'I will not be denied' mentality, and it showed."

QBs: C.J. Stroud, Case Keenum, Davis Mills
RBs: Joe Mixon, Dameon Pierce, Mike Boone, Dare Ogunbowale
WRs: Nico Collins, Stefon Diggs, Noah Brown, Robert Woods, John Metchie III, Xavier Hutchinson, Tank Dell
TEs: Dalton Schultz, Brevin Jordan

Indianapolis Colts

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 3 October 2023

All-Pro running back Jonathan Taylor is expected to return to the Indianapolis Colts practice field Wednesday.

How soon he'll start suiting up on Sundays -- and how motivated he'll be -- remains unclear.

Less than 24 hours after losing to the Rams in overtime, coach Shane Steichen told reporters the 2021 NFL rushing champ was about to be activated from the physically unable to perform list this week while painting a far different picture about Taylor and his relationship with the Colts than the one that emerged last summer.

"He'll be out there with us Wednesday, had a great conversation with him," Steichen said. "He's super excited to be back with his teammates and we look forward to having him."

Taylor could play as soon as Sunday's game against the Titans, Steichen added.

As's Stephen Holder reminded readers, Taylor has been on the reserve-PUP list since Week 1, prohibiting him from playing or practicing with the Colts for the first four weeks of the season. Taylor can practice and be evaluated by the Colts for up to 21 days before he is required to be activated to the 53-man roster.

Steichen said he had a productive conversation with Taylor, who has been in a bitter dispute with the team over the lack of a contract extension and had previously demanded a trade.

"He's super excited to be back with his teammates, and I look forward to having him," Steichen said.

When asked whether there was a chance Taylor could play Sunday against the Tennessee Titans, Steichen said, "Could be, yes."

Taylor hasn't played or practiced with the Colts since Dec. 17, when he reinjured his right ankle and was placed on injured reserve. He was sidelined during the Colts' offseason program and complained of lingering pain in his ankle when he reported to training camp in July.

Taylor has been working out with the team's rehab staff ever since, and those workouts have intensified of late.

"He's in good shape," Steichen said. "Conditioning-wise, obviously putting on the pads and practicing is a different deal. I know it's been a long time since he's played football, so we'll see how practice goes this week, see where he is at physically from putting the pads on, and we'll go from there."

Holder went on note the significant level of acrimony between the parties in recent months -- Taylor had previously been asked to leave the facility after his morning rehab sessions and has not attended any of the team's home or road games -- cast doubt on whether things could be rectified. But Steichen expressed optimism on that front.

"The conversations I've had with him have been great through this whole deal," Steichen said. "I'll keep those private, but he's in a good spot, obviously. I had a conversation with him the other day, talked to him today. He's excited to get back with his teammates."

Taylor never rescinded his trade request and is still miffed at the team's resistance to extending his contract, which expires after the current season. Whether the door remains open to either outcome -- a new deal or a trade -- remains unclear. Taylor has not addressed reporters since June, when he first indicated he was unhappy about his contract status.

But the Colts appear to be operating like a team that expects the 2021 rushing leader to back in the lineup soon, sharing the backfield with promising rookie quarterback Anthony Richardson.

"He's been working his tail off with the rehab process," Steichen said of Taylor. "He's feeling good." He added, "We'll see where he's at. If he feels good, then we'll rotate him in."

Steichen, in his first season with the Colts, has never had Taylor in the lineup under his direction. But he has watched film of Taylor and knows what he's potentially getting with his return.

"He's a big-time player," Steichen said. "He is explosive. He can hit the home runs when he sees the hole. That explosive breakaway speed, great vision, power -- obviously one of the top backs in this league, without a doubt."

If he's healthy, and happy, the Colts offense could look completely different with Taylor.

Zack Moss has played well in his three starts and offers a solid change-up option to the speedy 2021 NFL rushing champ.

Indy also has the dual-threat Richardson, who now holds the distinction of being the first Super Bowl era quarterback with four TD runs in his first three games.

Speaking of Richardson. ... When will he take the next step toward consistency?

The rookie QB showed the best and worst of his game, missing some easy reads for potential big plays and throwing errantly to some open receivers. But Richardson was splendid in parts of the second half, leading a comeback from a 23-0 deficit with his running ability and with some impressive and confident throws.

He completed 6 of 11 attempts for 118 yards and two touchdowns in the second half and ran for another score.

Richardson and the Colts seem to be ahead of schedule. But to stay there, they'll have to figure out how to best use the Taylor-Moss combination coupled with Richardson's running ability to help open up throws down the field. When that happens, the Colts will be able to take another significant step.

Also worth noting. ... As Associated Press sports writer Michael Marot suggested, whatever Steichen is doing at halftime seems to be working. The Colts have rallied twice in two weeks to force overtime, winning at Baltimore before losing Sunday. Richardson also has looked more comfortable in the final two quarters in Weeks 1 and 4. ...

On the injury front. ... Starting CB Dallis Flowers suffered a torn Achilles tendon and will miss the rest of this season, Steichen said. DE Kwity Paye entered the concussion protocol after showing symptoms following the game where he joins three-time Pro Bowl center Ryan Kelly and left tackle Bernhard Raimann. Kelly and Raimann did not play Sunday. Steichen did not mention WR Alec Pierce, who was evaluated for a concussion during the fourth quarter.

Through four regular-season games, the Colts have had five players enter the concussion protocol -- Richardson, Kelly, Raimann, TE Drew Ogletree and Paye.

Now that he's recovered from his Week 1 concussion, Ogletree is working his way back into Richardson's reads. Ogletree caught three of the four passes thrown his way, finished with a team-best 48 yards and the first TD of his career Sunday.

Stay tuned. I'll have more on Taylor via Late-Breaking Update -- likely on a daily basis -- as Sunday's game with the Titans draws nearer.

Finally. ... The Colts announced they have signed wide receiver Amari Rodgers to the 53-player roster from the practice squad.

They placed Flowers on injured reserve in a corresponding move.

Rodgers has spent time on the team's active roster and practice squad this season. He was elevated to the active roster for Week 4 and played four offensive snaps but had no statistics.

The Colts originally signed him as a free agent on Aug. 2.

He has played 33 career games in his time with the Colts (2023), Texans (2022) and Packers (2021-22) and has totaled 20 receptions for 249 yards and one touchdown. Rodgers has also totaled three carries for 18 yards, 40 punt returns for 305 yards (7.6 average) and 17 kickoff returns for 321 yards (18.9 average).

The team also announced they signed cornerback Darren Hall to the practice squad.

QBs: Joe Flacco, Sam Ehlinger, Kellen Mond, Anthony Richardson
RBs: Jonathan Taylor, Trey Sermon, Evan Hull
WRs: Michael Pittman Jr., Josh Downs, Alec Pierce, Isaiah McKenzie, D.J. Montgomery
TEs: Mo Alie-Cox, Kylen Granson, Will Mallory, Andrew Ogletree, Jelani Woods

Jacksonville Jaguars

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 3 October 2023

As's Michael DiRocco reported it, Trevor Lawrence dodged a free rusher by sliding left, took a big step to his right and released the ball as he got hammered in the chest by Falcons linebacker Kaden Elliss.

Thirty yards downfield, receiver Calvin Ridley stood all by himself in the end zone while cornerback A.J. Terrell sprinted to close the gap.

But the throw got there first, and Ridley plucked it out of the air for a touchdown, giving the Jaguars a seven-point first-quarter lead in their eventual 23-7 victory over the Atlanta Falcons in front of 85,716 fans at Wembley Stadium in London.

It was the third touchdown the Jaguars have scored in their last three games, and the first they've scored in the first half.

The Jaguars offense isn't humming along the way it did at the end of last season, but they made big plays against the Falcons that showed progress.

They showed growth with a key fourth-down conversion on the lone touchdown drive, a 65-yard, seven-plus-minute drive into the fourth quarter that ended with a field goal, and a 74-yard, four-minute drive late in the fourth quarter that ended with another field goal. It sometimes wasn't pretty, but it was effective -- which a continued evolution after the two previous weeks.

"The offense did some good things today," head coach Doug Pederson said. "Picked up some big third downs in the second half. Obviously those last two drives, the ball was at the 10-yard line. You go down and get a field goal, ball at the six-yard line, go down and get three and then finished the game the same way.

"There's still some things we've got to work on and clean up, but obviously much better today by the offense."

The Jaguars (2-2) totaled only 300 yards, had another sub-40 percent day on third downs (five of 14, 36 percent) and averaged only 3.3 yards per carry. But after the previous two games against the Kansas City Chiefs and Houston Texans -- in which the offense scored two touchdowns at home -- it looked better.

"It's a step in the right direction, and it started early on this week," said receiver Christian Kirk, who had a team-high eight catches for 84 yards. "We kind of talked about it, just our sense of urgency and our execution and discipline throughout the week of practice. You kind of felt that we were going to get back on track with where we needed to be and just to go out there and be ourselves, and I thought we did that.

"We have a long way to go to be a really good offense. There's still some mistakes and some things that we didn't do as well today, but we were able to make enough plays to go out there and get enough points to get a win."

The Jaguars lost two players from last year's offense -- right tackle Jawaan Taylor and No. 3 receiver Marvin Jones Jr. -- but they added Ridley and first-round pick Anton Harrison (to replace Taylor). Offensive coordinator Press Taylor handled playcalling in the second half of games in 2022 (Pederson did the first) and took over playcalling full time in 2023.

So, there's no logical reason for the unit to regress. But that's what has happened over the season's first month.

They entered Sunday's game ranked 16th in total offense, 21st in points and 29th in third-down conversion rate -- and that's after putting up 404 yards in Week 3 against Houston and 31 points in Week 1 against Indianapolis.

The offensive line has struggled, ranking 26th in pass block win rate and 29th in run block win rate over the first three games. Pass-catchers dropped a league-high eight passes, and Lawrence's 49.7 total QBR is lower than last season (56.1 QBR).

Lawrence completed 23-of-30 passes for 207 yards and the touchdown for a 78.1 QBR against the Falcons. He also ran for 42 yards on eight carries.

He did get sacked twice, but there were no dropped passes.

There were a few missed opportunities -- including Kirk wide open in the end zone on a fourth down and Kirk breaking free for a potential big gain, but Lawrence couldn't get the ball to him because of pressure or moving to the opposite side of the field.

"There's always going to be things that you can do better for all of us each week," Lawrence said.

The good news?

The Jaguars have help on the way for their stalled ground game and short-yardage woes.

Veteran left tackle Cam Robinson will return to practice Wednesday following a four-game suspension for violating the NFL's policy on performance-enhancers. Since it will be Robinson's first on-field work in nearly six weeks, the Jaguars would prefer to ease him back into the starting lineup.

But given the team's offensive struggles, Pederson surely will be tempted to get Robinson on the field when the Jaguars play their second consecutive game in London on Sunday.

The Jaguars got league approval for Robinson to travel overseas before he was moved off the reserve/suspended list Monday.

"We're definitely going to incorporate him into the (rotation), get him out there, see where he's at physically from a football standpoint," Pederson said Monday. "I know he's in really good shape. He was in the meetings the last couple of weeks. Mentally, I think he's in a really good spot.

"Now it's just a matter of where he is football-wise. We'll see come Wednesday. We definitely want to get him in there, get him in the mix and see how it all kind of shakes out all week."

The Jaguars could use Robinson sooner rather than later. Trevor Etienne ran 20 times for 55 yards against the Falcons, who stopped six of nine third down attempts that needed 5 yards or fewer. Jacksonville came up short on third-and-1 and third-and-2.

And that was after Pederson benched left guard Ben Bartch in favor of veteran backup Tyler Shatley and started using guard Blake Hance as a sixth offensive lineman in short-yardage situations.

Robinson's return could prompt another change, with 6-foot-7 left tackle Walker Little potentially sliding to left guard and giving Jacksonville more size inside.

"I think he can definitely boost us," Pederson said of Robinson. "He's a bigger body, power, physical guy in the run game. And we know. We obviously recognize that we need to be better in those third-and-1, fourth-and-1 situations and must stay on the field. He can definitely help us there."

The Jaguars also need to clean up Lawrence's protection. Although he fared well against the Falcons, Lawrence has been sacked eight times in four games and scrambled eight times for a season-high 42 yards against the Falcons.

That effort will start on Sunday, when the Bills "host" the Jaguars in London. ...

On the injury front. .. Zay Jones missed his second straight game with a knee injury, while Jamal Agnew was ruled inactive after suffering a quad injury late in the week.

Tim Jones and sixth-round rookie Parker Washington were expected to rotate in and out as the third wide receiver, but Washington suffered a knee injury early in the first quarter and didn't return. Jacob Harris was called up from the practice squad and became the fourth wide receiver.

Washington "probably will be out this week," Pederson said. Agnew (thigh) is expected to practice in a limited capacity Wednesday.

QBs: Trevor Lawrence, Mac Jones, C.J. Beathard, Nathan Rourke
RBs: Travis Etienne Jr., Tank Bigsby, D'Ernest Johnson
WRs: Gabe Davis, Parker Washington, Tim Jones, Jamal Agnew, Christian Kirk
TEs: Evan Engram, Brenton Strange, Luke Farrell, Elijah Cooks

Kansas City Chiefs

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 3 October 2023

As Associated Press sports writer Dave Skretta put it, "The Kansas City Chiefs beat the Jets in spite of themselves on Sunday night in New York. ..."

Patrick Mahomes was at his worst (until he was at his best). Penalties continued to be a problem, including one that resulted in a momentum-swinging safety.

The Chiefs had 200 yards in the first quarter Sunday night, their fourth-best offensive output in a first quarter since 1991.

Problem was they managed just 201 yards the entire rest of the game.

Wide receivers were incapable of getting open, a persistent problem through the first four weeks of the season. And what had been their strength -- their defense, of all things -- struggled against, of all people, Zach Wilson, the Jets quarterback whom many fans wanted to see benched a week ago.

Perhaps that is the mark of a championship team, though: The Chiefs overcame all that for a 23-20 victory.

Or perhaps it is a sign of a championship team that has a whole lot to fix.

"It's football. It's the NFL. Not everything is going to be easy," said Mahomes, who threw for just 203 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions. "You have to find a way to win different ways and I've learned that over my career."

The Chiefs (3-1) certainly proved that last season.

You see, the perception is the Chiefs have won seven consecutive AFC West titles, hosted five straight AFC title games and been to three Super Bowls in the past four years because they are a high-scoring juggernaut that simply mows over the opposition.

The reality is Andy Reid's group simply finds ways to win. They went 14-3 last season by winning half those games by six points or fewer, and they trailed the Eagles 24-14 at halftime of the Super Bowl before rallying for a 35-31 victory.

In this game, the Jets couldn't solve Mahomes as a runner, which is why the Chiefs escaped MetLife Stadium with a victory.

Mahomes rushed for 51 yards -- including 32 on the game's final drive, which saw the Chiefs kill the last 7½ minutes of game clock. His 25-yard run on third-and-23 was the big play of the drive. He also had a 9-yard run on third-and-8 with 2 minutes remaining and could have scored, but he went down intentionally at the Jets' 2-yard line so the Chiefs could maintain possession and run out the clock.

Mahomes has had bigger rushing games for the Chiefs but perhaps none as impactful.

His late-game scrambling helped make up for his two first-half interceptions, which helped the Jets pull into a tie after an early 17-0 deficit.

Mahomes will never be confused as a runner with, say, the Baltimore Ravens' Lamar Jackson. But he joked that he doesn't get enough respect for that part of his game.

"I've told a lot of people I'm faster than people think," Mahomes said. "I don't run pretty, so people think I'm slow, but I move a little bit better than people think.

"Maybe one day I'll get a spy. That's my goal. If I get a spy, I'll know I made it."

With his only touchdown of the game, a 34-yarder to tight end Noah Gray in the first quarter, Mahomes also became the fastest to 200 NFL touchdown passes, reaching the milestone in his 84th game to break Dan Marino's NFL record. Marino threw his 200th TD pass in his 89th NFL game with Miami in 1989.

"It means a ton -- the people that are on the list, the quarterbacks that came before me. You just got to keep going, the game has changed," Mahomes said. "I think someone will pass me before too long, so you just got to go out there and keep playing.

"The one thing that doesn't change is Super Bowls, so I'm going to try to keep getting those."

Next up, the Chiefs complete a two-game road swing next Sunday against the Vikings, whom they've beaten three of the past four times they have played. Minnesota (1-3) defeated winless Carolina on Sunday for its first win of the season. ...

Other notes of interest. ... Isiah Pacheco ran 20 times for 115 yards, and while a big chunk came on a 48-yard touchdown run, many were the tough, got-to-have-them variety in crucial situations. He has proven to be the ideal running back for Reid's offense.

The entire Kansas City wide receiver group has been an abject disappointment. Their inability to get open, let along produce big plays, has repeatedly hamstrung drives. Kadarius Toney had the only two catches by any wideouts in the first 40-plus minutes in New York, and the group finished with seven catches for 65 yards in all.

On the injury front. ... Nick Bolton missed his second game with a sprained ankle. The linebacker's ability to get the defense into the proper alignment was sorely missing Sunday night, along with his uncanny ability to fill gaps and track down pass plays in the flat.

QBs: Patrick Mahomes, Blaine Gabbert, Carson Wentz
RBs: Isiah Pacheco, Clyde Edwards-Helaire
WRs: Marquise Brown, Rashee Rice, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Justin Watson, Kadarius Toney, Richie James, Justyn Ross, Skyy Moore, Mecole Hardman
TEs: Travis Kelce, Noah Gray, Blake Bell, Jody Fortson

Las Vegas Raiders

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 3 October 2023

The Raiders lost another one-score game, falling to the Los Angeles Chargers 24-17 on Sunday, and their record in such games fell to 5-11 since the start of the 2022 season. They are 1-3 overall this season, riding a three-game losing streak, with two such defeats.

A play here. A play there, said All-Pro Raiders running back Josh Jacobs, and the narrative would be different. Completely different.

According to's Paul Gutierrez, frustration is mounting.

"It's undisciplined football, and this league is too competitive," Jacobs said. "It's too competitive and it's too many guys that's good out there to not do the little things right every play. Until we figure that out, this is going to be what it is.

"It's frustrating, man. And I mean, I feel like every day I go in there and work my ass off. So, eventually something's got to give."

Jacobs was not referring to any specific play, but one stood out.

With about nine minutes to go in the second quarter and the Raiders trailing 10-7, defensive lineman Jerry Tillery blasted Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert on the sideline after he had given himself up and had one foot out of bounds on a 3-yard scramble. Tillery, a former first-round draft pick of the Chargers who was claimed off waivers by Las Vegas last November, was not only flagged for unnecessary roughness, but he was also thrown out of the game as angry Chargers players surrounded him on the sidelines.

Said head coach Josh McDaniels: "They said [the ejection decision] came from New York, so it is what it is in that regard. All I saw was what I saw in real time. Then, I looked up and got to see it [on the replay]. It was a little bit of a different angle. Again, I didn't get total clarification on what it was. I didn't think he hit him in the head, but I didn't know that, so they made the call."

By the end of the game, the Raiders had nine penalties for 80 yards.

"The best thing we can do is coach the right technique and fundamentals, and when each man is faced with one of those situations in the game, they've got to try to make a good decision for the team. Some of those are very close. They're bang-bang plays, and that's what the officials get paid to call, so we'll try to work hard at eliminating them."

Adding to the Raiders problems, they started a rookie at quarterback in fourth-round draft pick Aidan O'Connell, with starter Jimmy Garoppolo in concussion protocol.

In his NFL debut, O'Connell was sacked seven times, fumbled three times, lost two of the fumbles and was picked off at the Chargers' 2-yard line by Asante Samuel Jr. as the Raiders drove for the potential tying score with 2:33 to play. O'Connell, who was aiming for Jakobi Meyers on the pick, completed 24 of 39 passes for 238 yards.

As Gutierrez notes, Garoppolo will have an extra day to recover as the Raiders next play on "Monday Night Football" at home against All-Pro receiver Davante Adams' former team, the Green Bay Packers.

After four games, Adams said Las Vegas lacks urgency.

"It's just the hurting yourself thing," said Adams, who suffered a right shoulder injury in the first half and finished with eight catches for 75 yards, all in the second half.

"Obviously, we've got the plays and we show flashes of being able to do it. We'll go march down and have a good drive, or Aidan will throw a dime on third down, fourth down, whatever it is, and then it's just one play at the end. We did all that work and we're down at 3-yard line ... about to tie the game and we have another hiccup.

"I mean, it's both sides of the ball. I just feel like we're not maximizing it, and everybody can definitely tap into another gear and we just got to do that before it gets to a point where it's a must-win every game. It's about everybody doing their part."

Jacobs said being close does not necessarily give the Raiders hope.

"Nah, man, that makes it worse, man, because that just means five to six plays, you do them right, that's the difference in the outcome of the game," Jacobs said. "But at the same time, you're tired of saying, 'Five or six plays is the difference in the outcome of the game.'"

As Associated Press sports writer Mark Anderson reminded readers, drama is nothing new for this organization, which has long prided itself on its outlaw image. That was fine 20 or so years ago when the franchise was often a Super Bowl contender, and collecting three Vince Lombardi Trophies helped justify that approach.

But the Raiders have made the playoffs only twice since 2003, and the negative headlines suggest an organization in extreme dysfunction. McDaniels had hoped to change the tenor and bring the Patriots' success with him from when he was the offensive coordinator in New England.

A quarter of the way through his second season in Las Vegas, however, McDaniels is 7-14 and has made decisions inside the 10-yard line during the past two games that have backfired.

The Raiders likely will play in front of another hostile crowd at home Monday night when the Packers pack out Allegiant Stadium. Especially if the Raiders lose in a standalone game and whoever is playing quarterback has to go to a silent count, it will be another sign of how far the organization has fallen. ...

Other notes of interest. ... According to Anderson, Las Vegas' early success shows McDaniels' game plans are strong when the first handful of plays are scripted. The Raiders are second in the NFL with 6.92 yards per play over their first two drives in each game and fifth with 3.88 points per drive.

But as well as the Raiders have played early, they haven't done nearly as well when going off script and having to adjust. They are 30th with 4.35 yards per play after the opening two drives and last with 1.0 points per drive.

In addition, the offensive line is struggling. O'Connell was under constant pressure by Los Angeles, getting sacked seven times, including six by former Raider Khalil Mack. The Raiders have given up 11 sacks over the past two games after not allowing any in the first two.

Did O'Connell do enough to start again if Garoppolo can't go this week?

Gutierrez believes that's the case. Even with the slow internal clock, throws behind receivers and seven sacks, O'Connell got better as the game went on as he finished with 238 passing yards in completing 24 of his 39 attempts while also sneaking in for a 1-yard TD.

But he lost two fumbles that resulted in Chargers scores and threw an interception to Asante Samuel Jr. with 2:38 left inside the Chargers' 5-yard line as the Raiders were driving for a potential game-tying score.

A healthy Garoppolo still gives the Raiders their best shot at success, and he will have an extra day to recover from his concussion before the Raiders next play on Monday night at home against the Packers.

I'll have more on Garoppolo -- and Adams, who left Sunday's game briefly with a shoulder injury -- as the week progresses; watch the Late-Breaking Updates section for more. ...


Sure. ... The Raiders found ways to get Jacobs more involved on Sunday. The All-Pro running back has had a hard time running the ball thus far -- he entered Sunday averaging 2.4 yards per carry -- but was more involved in the passing game vs. the Chargers, catching eight passes for a career-high 81 yards. He also added 58 yards on the ground, including his first TD of the season.

QBs: Aidan O'Connell, Gardner Minshew, Brian Hoyer
RBs: Alexander Mattison, Zamir White, Ameer Abdullah, Brandon Bolden
WRs: Davante Adams, Jakobi Meyers, Tre Tucker, Hunter Renfrow, DeAndre Carter, Kristian Wilkerson
TEs: Michael Mayer, Austin Hooper, Jesper Horsted

Los Angeles Chargers

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 3 October 2023

Brandon Staley and the Los Angeles Chargers coaching staff go into the bye week with many things to assess.

According to Associated Press sports writer Joe Reedy, one of their biggest concerns should be not giving teams chances to come back.

The Bolts' 24-17 win over the Las Vegas Raiders on Sunday marked the third straight week they had a double-digit lead at one point, but had the game eventually go down to the wire.

After squandering a two-touchdown lead and losing in overtime at Tennessee in Week 2, the Chargers have won their past two.

One-score games though have become the norm with the Chargers. Since Staley became coach in 2021, they lead the league with 26 and have gone 14-12.

"All of these games in the NFL are close. This isn't college football where Georgia is playing UAB or Austin Peay," Staley said on Monday. "I don't know why it's such a surprise that all of these games are close. That's just the way the NFL is. You have to be ready to play them as they come. When it gets tight, you have to execute down the stretch, which is what we did."

The difference though in the past two games is that the defense has come up with the big play when it was needed.

Last week at Minnesota, Kenneth Murray got an interception at the goal line to preserve a 28-24 victory. On Sunday, Asante Samuel got the game-saving interception, which allowed the Chargers to run out the clock.

If the Chargers have any hopes of getting to the postseason for the second straight season, they will need to finally find a way to put together a solid second half.

During Staley's tenure, they have outscored teams by 122 points, the fifth-highest margin in the league.

After halftime, they have been outscored by 94 points, which is 28th in scoring differential.

Staley said focusing on improvements in executing during the third quarter and beginning of the fourth will be a priority moving forward.

Justin Herbert and the offense didn't score any second-half points and went three-and-out on two of their first four drives after halftime.

But Herbert connected with Joshua Palmer for a 51-yard completion late in the game despite fracturing the middle finger on his left non-throwing hand after throwing an interception in the third quarter.

The good news?

Herbert would be listed as probable and would play this Sunday if the Chargers weren't on a bye this week, a team spokesperson said.

Staley called Herbert a "tough customer," on Monday. He said to expect that Herbert would not take the majority of his snaps from under center, and that they are going to "change it up as much as we can."

Herbert said the injury resulted from his finger getting stuck in a helmet. Herbert sat on the field after the play and then headed to the medical tent with an athletic trainer who covered Herbert's hand with a towel.

When Herbert returned to the field for the Chargers' next possession, his left hand was wrapped in a bandage, and he had a splint on his finger. He later put on a glove, and he was still wearing the splint after the game.

For all but one snap for the remainder of the game, the offense operated from the shotgun and pistol formation, instead of under center, to make handling the ball easy for Herbert. The injury didn't appear to bother Herbert much Sunday. The QB joked after the game that the injury was "just a flesh wound" but admitted that the pain level was pretty low and that he felt fine.

Herbert is tied for second in the league in completions (103), fifth in passer rating (106.3) and tied for seventh with seven touchdown passes.

Whatever the case, the bye week comes at a perfect time for the Chargers who were also without three of their best players in running back Austin Ekeler, outside linebacker Joey Bosa and safety Derwin James Jr. on Sunday. They will play the Dallas Cowboys in Week 6.

Herbert's status was the only one updated on Monday. TE Donald Parham suffered a wrist injury during the second quarter, but there were no updates on his condition.

"I think what's top of our list is just rest," Staley said, "and making sure we get a fresh group going into Dallas that's hungry. And you know that that's ready to go play a quality game against a quality team."

This is the first time since 2009 the Chargers have had their bye week after four games. They will have the week off before reporting back on Oct. 10 to begin preparations for their Oct. 16 Monday night game against the Dallas Cowboys.

A few final notes. ... While fantasy managers haven't been impressed with Ekeler's replacement, Joshua Kelley, it's worth noting the Chargers rushed for 133 yards after contact against the Raiders. They are eighth in the league with 385 yards post contact after being fifth worst in the league in that category last season.

The Chargers, Eagles and 49ers are the only teams this season with multiple games of more than 130 yards after contact.

Kelley had 55 of his 65 yards against the Raiders after contact. ...

With Mike Williams out for the season with a torn left ACL, rookie fourth-round pick Derius Davis saw his snaps increase on Sunday and made the most of them. Davis, who came into the game with two catches for eight yards on the season, had 67 total yards on Sunday, including a 51-yard rush on the game's opening drive.

Herbert set career lows in completions (13) and yards (167) in the victory while also throwing an interception. As's Kris Rhim noted, Herbert did score two rushing touchdowns, but the Chargers won't always be able to win with this type of passing performance.

QBs: Easton Stick, Justin Herbert
RBs: Gus Edwards, Joshua Kelley, Isaiah Spiller, Elijah Dotson, J.K. Dobbins
WRs: Josh Palmer, Quentin Johnston, Jalen Guyton, Derius Davis
TEs: Donald Parham, Stone Smartt

Los Angeles Rams

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 3 October 2023

According Associated Press sports writer Dan Greenspan, as long as Matthew Stafford is on the field, the Los Angeles Rams have shown they can compete.

It was all the more evident when Stafford overcame a hard landing on his hip early in the fourth quarter to direct a 29-23 overtime win against the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday.

"Obviously, you want him to be healthy, but something about him, he always plays with a pretty good edge when he's got something to work through too," Rams coach Sean McVay said Monday.

Stafford sustained a hip contusion. McVay expects his quarterback to be available to play this week.

"He is a stud and, obviously, we saw him gut through that yesterday. Definitely took a good shot there, but we feel like he should be good to go," McVay said.

McVay said Stafford had further testing after sustaining a "good deep bruise." Those evaluations did not indicate anything that might keep Stafford out of practice or threaten his status against the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday.

"He's nice and sore today, but I feel like he'll continue to make progress throughout the week," McVay said.

The Rams (2-2) have a good sense of what Stafford is capable of when playing through injury. He dealt with tendinitis in his right elbow during their Super Bowl-winning 2021 season.

McVay said there is an art to playing at less than perfect health, something Stafford has mastered after 15 years in the NFL.

"Once you get about four weeks into the season, a lot of these guys that are playing every single snap, you never quite feel perfect," McVay said. "And they kind of learn how to be able to play through it, and it's certainly something that you don't take for granted. But I've seen him operate at a pretty high level when he's got something that he's working through."

After an injury-plagued 2022 campaign that saw him deal with concussions and a spinal cord contusion that ultimately ended his year prematurely, Stafford is currently directing the second-best passing offense in football despite not having his best wide receiver available. He has consistently made enough plays to keep a retooled team with a young defense in position to hang around.

Stafford has thrown for 1,229 yards through four games, although his touchdown-to-interception ratio is not nearly as impressive, with three scoring passes and five picks.

That production should only improve with the impending return of wide receiver Cooper Kupp from a hamstring injury sustained in training camp. Kupp is set to return to practice this week and can be activated off injured reserve.

McVay is excited to see what putting Kupp on the field alongside standout rookie Puka Nacua can do for both of them and the passing attack as a whole.

"There's certain skill sets that each guy possesses," McVay said. "Some of which are similar and some which can be reflected in some different ways, but I think you'll see that come to life and we've got to figure that out ourselves too."

Nacua has been on the injury report each week since the season opener with an oblique injury, although he was a full participant in practice twice last week after his participation was estimated as "limited" Wednesday because the Rams held a walk-through.

Tyler Higbee was questionable going in Sunday's win due to an Achilles injury; he caught 5-of-11 targets for 64 yards against the Colts.

Stay tuned. I'll obviously be following up on Stafford, Kupp, Nacua and Higbee closely as the week progresses; expect daily reports in the Late-Breaking Updates section. ...

After playing three of their first four games on the road, the Rams will gladly enjoy a two-game homestand that starts against Philadelphia on Sunday. Facing an offense that is averaging 29.5 points per game, the young Los Angeles defense will have to be more consistent to give themselves a chance against one of the most complete attacks in football.

Other notes of interest. ... Nacua continued the remarkable start to his NFL career, catching a 22-yard touchdown pass in overtime for the win and cap off a nine-catch, 163-yard outing. Nacua has 39 receptions for 501 yards through his first four games, breaking records previously held by Anquan Boldin.

He also became the sixth player in league history to get 400 yards in his first four games. Bolden (464) also had the most.

When Nacua was asked whether he thinks he can sustain this pace and high workload, he said: "Shoot, if they keep asking me to do it."

"I'm just trying to do my job," Nacua said. "So whenever No. 9 throws the ball my way, I'm super happy because I know he's making my job as easy as it could be. But trying to take care of my body. I'm grateful for the people in the training room and the staff we got here. Sleep is my No. 1 friend now. Going to bed as early as I can. 9, 9:30. 9:30, the latest."

Although Nacua's performance has been one of the biggest surprises of the season around the NFL, Rams receiver Van Jefferson said he knew the rookie would be "really good" after seeing him during the offseason.

"He's so detailed about everything," Jefferson said. "You just knew coming into OTAs and training camp, how he's going to be really good. He went in the fifth round? I'm like, 'Shoot, he should have been a first-round pick.'

"He's a great player, man. He's a great kid. I'm so happy for him. He's going to keep breaking records. His first touchdown is a game winner. How crazy is that?"

What will Kupp's eventual return mean for Nacua?

According to's Sarah Barshop, there's no doubt this Rams offense will be better with Kupp, but with the emergence of Nacua, the unit may have the balance at receiver it was missing last season. Before Kupp was hurt in Week 10, he had a 31 percent target share and was clearly Stafford's first option.

But even with Kupp's return, don't expect the Rams to go away from Nacua. ...

Kyren Williams had the first 100-yard rushing game of his career, running for 103 yards on 25 carries. Williams' five rushing touchdowns (he has six total) are the most by a Rams player through four games since Marshall Faulk had five in 2000.

Finally. .. With former Rams kicker Matt Gay on the other sideline, Brett Maher missed two field goals on Sunday. It marked his first two misses under 50 yards this season.

QBs: Matthew Stafford, Jimmy Garoppolo, Stetson Bennett
RBs: Kyren Williams, Royce Freeman, Zach Evans, Ronnie Rivers
WRs: Cooper Kupp, Puka Nacua, Tutu Atwell, Ben Skowronek, Demarcus Robinson
TEs: Tyler Higbee, Brycen Hopkins, Colby Parkinson, Hunter Long, Davis Allen

Miami Dolphins

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 3 October 2023

As's Marcel Louis-Jacques framed it: "The sky is not falling for the Miami Dolphins after a 48-20 loss to the Buffalo Bills on Sunday. ..."

Head coach Mike McDaniel wants his team to embrace adversity, and his players have adopted that mentality.

Wide receiver Tyreek Hill said that as disappointing as the blowout loss was, it could serve as a learning experience moving forward.

"We still got a young team, man," Hill said. "And obviously, I mean you never want to lose a game in the NFL, but we kind of needed this -- early adversity is always good and we definitely can learn from it and stick together as a team moving forward."

Miami entered Sunday as the AFC's lone undefeated team after scoring 70 points with 726 yards of offense in Week 3. Both teams scored on their first two offensive drives Sunday, flashing potential for an offensive shootout. After the Dolphins tied the game with 12:52 remaining in the first half, however, the Bills outscored them 34-6 the rest of the way.

The loss was the Dolphins' ninth in their past 10 meetings with Buffalo, the lone win coming in Week 3 of last season.

McDaniel said that, ultimately, the Bills made adjustments after the first two drives and Miami did not keep up.

Adding to the frustrations of Sunday's loss, Dolphins left tackle Terron Armstead left the game with a knee injury in the second quarter and did not return. Armstead will miss the team's Week 5 game against the New York Giants because of the injury McDaniel said Monday.

Armstead "will play again this season" despite the unclear return date, McDaniel said.

Without center Connor Williams, who was out with a groin injury, and with Armstead leaving early, Miami's offensive line gave up four sacks after only allowing one in the first three games.

Tua Tagovailoa completed 25 of 35 passes for 285 yards, 1 touchdown and 1 interception, with a second TD called back after an ineligible man downfield penalty in the fourth quarter. He was pressured a season-high 14 times and sacked four times after being sacked only once in Miami's previous three games.

Hill was limited to 58 yards and three catches. He entered Sunday averaging more than 100 yards receiving per game.

Tagovailoa said there were "a lot of communication errors" on offense for which he took responsibility.

"I've got to be better with that aspect of the game for our guys and not put the guys into those situations, and that's really what the game turned out to be," he said. "It was really stopping ourselves on first down, guys not knowing where to go because of formational issues with what was communicated in the huddle and things like that. So it's on my part to be better for those guys in the locker room."

Meanwhile, Miami's players are already prepared to put this loss behind them.

"I would say the message from [McDaniel] was don't blink," Tagovailoa said. "There's a lot of football left, continue to look at the guy next to you, continue to trust him, continue to keep playing and remember what you play for. It's tough when you lose and you lose like this, but we're not going to blink. We're going to continue to do what we do. We're going to go back in.

"We're going to work on the things that need to be fixed and need to be corrected. I can promise you one thing -- we'll definitely be better from this."

"We are 3-1 and we play the New York Football Giants next. Right?" McDaniel said. "So, that's where we're at. I think it would be a failure on anybody's part on our football team to look at it more than that or less than that."

The Dolphins will play Buffalo at home in Week 18 to close the regular season. For now, they travel back to south Florida to host the Giants and Carolina Panthers over the next two weeks. ...

Other notes of interest. ... Rookie running back De'Von Achane continues to make plays. He scored Miami's first two touchdowns on runs of 3 and 10 yards and finished with 101 yards on eight carries. Achane, who had four touchdowns in Week 3, is only the fourth rookie since the AFL-NFL merger in 1970 to have at least six touchdowns in a two-game span.

He's making a case to take over as the starting running back.

As's Nathan Jahnke noted, Raheem Mostert had a slight lead in snaps played in the first quarter -- 8-6. The two broke even in the second quarter at 10-10. Achane took a slight lead in the third quarter at 12-9, and Achane dominated the fourth quarter 11-2.

Salvon Ahmed only played in four snaps in the middle of the fourth quarter on third- or fourth-and-17-plus yards to go.'

Jahnke went on to suggest Mostert might remain the technical starter going forward as some teams prefer giving their veteran back the first snap of the game, but Achane is the one who is a must-start going forward while it will be much harder to start Mostert now.

Also. ... Jeff Wilson Jr. is eligible to return from injured reserve this week and could factor into the backfield. Based on how well Achane is playing, it shouldn't be at his expense. This was also Mostert's one poor performance this season, so Wilson might be limited to a few snaps per game.

QBs: Tua Tagovailoa, Mike White, Skylar Thompson
RBs: Raheem Mostert, De'Von Achane, Jeff Wilson, Salvon Ahmed, Christopher Brooks
WRs: Tyreek Hill, Jaylen Waddle, Odell Beckham, Braxton Berrios, Cedrick Wilson, Chase Claypool, River Cracraft
TEs: Durham Smythe, Jonnu Smith, Julian Hill, Tyler Kroft

Minnesota Vikings

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 3 October 2023

As Associated Press sports writer Dave Campbell suggested, for all the firepower the Vikings possess on offense, the straightest path to their first victory was always going to travel through the defense.

The maligned group delivered when the Vikings needed it, fueling a comeback at Carolina that removed the team from the dreaded winless list.

"It's a huge thing for team building when the defense says, 'You know what? I've got your back,' and they go out there and made some critical plays," head coach Kevin O'Connell said after the 21-13 victory.

The highlights, even against a winless and rebuilding Panthers club starting a rookie quarterback, were impressive. Harrison Smith had 14 tackles and three of the five sacks of Bryce Young that resulted in 55 lost yards, including a forced fumble that D.J. Wonnum returned 51 yards late in the third quarter to give the Vikings (1-3) their first lead.

They allowed the Panthers 232 net yards on 68 plays, a paltry average of 3.4 yards per play, and forced punts on five of nine possessions. The Vikings didn't surrender an offensive touchdown, even with two different goal-to-go situations. The timing of Smith's strip-sack and Wonnum's scoop-and-score was also just right, after the Vikings punted on their first drive of the second half and the Panthers had converted six first downs and drained more than six minutes off the clock on their previous possession.

"They just stayed the course and kept playing," said an appreciative quarterback Kirk Cousins, who threw two interceptions, including one that was returned for a 99-yard touchdown in the first quarter.

The defense will face a stiffer test this Sunday against Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs, but the Vikings finally have something to build on after being dismantled the previous two games by the Philadelphia Eagles and the Los Angeles Chargers.

"Everyone was executing our jobs," Smith said.

The performance against the Panthers was a morale booster, too, though the Vikings have leaned on a strong leadership core from last year's NFC North champions to keep from collapsing after opening with three close losses.

"We've had to take our medicine and just keep going back to work, and that's what I want to compliment you guys on, all right?" O'Connell said in his postgame locker room speech to the players. "You have found a way to eliminate the noise, block it all out and make it about your brothers."

Meanwhile, the running game was even more productive than the week before with 135 yards on 23 attempts. Newcomer Cam Akers provided a valuable change of pace from Alexander Mattison. The Vikings have risen to 10th in the NFL in yards per rush (4.58) despite ranking fifth-to-last in rushing yards per game.

"I just want to make my presence felt," Akers said. "It can be blocking, running or just catching the ball in the backfield. It means a lot to be able to give the team a boost or a spark."

The pass protection can still be better. Cousins was sacked twice on 21 dropbacks and his second interception was the result of a fierce rush.

The Panthers were credited with four quarterback hits.

Cousins still leads the league in touchdown passes (11) and is sixth in passer rating (104.4), but an otherwise strong body of work in the first quarter of the season was blemished by a rookie-like throw to the well-covered K.J. Osborn in the flat that was late and inside. The interception return by Sam Franklin Jr. gave the Panthers the lead.

Cousins went 12 for 19 for 139 yards, tied for the fourth fewest completions he's had in six seasons with the Vikings. He threw two interceptions, including his third goal-line pick of the season, and also dropped a snap on what would have been a quarterback sneak.

Next up, the defending champion Chiefs make their first visit to U.S. Bank Stadium this week. There's an apparent reprieve on Oct. 15 at Chicago against the winless Bears, but right after that is a Monday night visit by the unbeaten San Francisco 49ers on Oct. 23. ...

Other notes of interest. ... Detroit Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson got off to a mostly pedestrian start in 2012, the season in which he set the NFL record for receiving yards with 1,964.

He topped 100 yards in two of his first four games, and he had 423 yards total.

We'll be tracking wide receivers ahead of Johnson's pace after four, eight and 12 games, along with what each would need to do to reach the coveted single-season mark.

After four games, four wide receivers are ahead of Johnson's pace: Justin Jefferson, Puka Nacua, Tyreek Hill and Nico Collins.

Jefferson is in his fourth season after being drafted in the first round by Minnesota. He posted his best yardage season in 2022, going for 1,809 yards on 128 receptions. Jefferson has improved by about 200 yards in each of his three seasons.

The LSU product has three games this season in which he has had at least 149 receiving yards. ...

According to, Jordan Addison continues to play exclusively in 11 personnel, and Minnesota used a lot less 11 personnel in this game than the last two weeks, which is why Addison didn't play much.

On the injury front. ... C Garrett Bradbury (back) missed a third straight game but ought to have an inside track to play against the Chiefs. O'Connell said he was "really close to trying to give it a go." Backup S Lewis Cine (hamstring), who was inactive against the Panthers, could practice this week on a limited basis.

QBs: Nick Mullens, Jaren Hall, Sam Darnold
RBs: Aaron Jones, Ty Chandler, C.J. Ham, Kene Nwangwu, Cam Akers
WRs: Justin Jefferson, Jordan Addison, K.J. Osborn, Brandon Powell, Jalen Nailor
TEs: Josh Oliver, Johnny Mundt, Nick Muse, T.J. Hockenson

New England Patriots

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 3 October 2023

As's Mike Reiss reported, in the midst of the worst loss of his head-coaching career, head coach Bill Belichick pulled starting quarterback Mac Jones with 3:41 remaining in the third quarter, saying it wasn't a benching and that Jones remains the team's No. 1 option.

"I didn't think there was any point of leaving him in the game," Belichick said after his New England Patriots were blown out by the Cowboys, 38-3, in Dallas.

The Patriots (1-3) host the Saints (2-2) on Sunday and Belichick said the plan is for Jones to start despite a disastrous performance against the Cowboys that included an interception returned for a touchdown, another interception thrown while backpedaling and one lost fumble returned for a touchdown.

Jones, the 2021 first-round pick out of Alabama, finished 12-of-21 for 150 yards, with the three turnovers.

"Definitely disappointed in myself. I feel like I can play a lot better," Jones said. "I put a lot into it and I feel really bad. I let my team down, let the coaches down, the whole organization, everybody -- the fans. I have to put a better product out there to beat good teams."

The Patriots have scored 55 points this season, their fewest through four games since the 2000 season -- Belichick's first season as coach -- when they had 51. While there had been pockets of offensive promise through their first three games, and even in the first quarter Sunday, things imploded for Jones over a 17-minute stretch from the early part of the second quarter into the team's first drive of the second half.

"I feel like I made progress this year so far. Just not today. Definitely took a bunch of steps back," Jones said.

The slide began when Jones didn't convert a sneak on fourth-and-1. On the next drive, he held the ball loosely as he scrambled away from pressure before getting hit from behind and losing the ball, which was returned by linebacker Leighton Vander Esch for an 11-yard touchdown. After a three-and-out, the next drive ended when Jones threw a dangerous pass across the field and cornerback DaRon Bland returned it 54 yards for a score. And on the first drive of the second half, Jones was moving backward as he floated up a pass that Bland easily picked off.

"For me, just not good enough. It wasn't my day. You can't turn the ball over like that and beat good teams," Jones said. "I think it will be a good test for me to try to stay focused on what I can control, and that's playing better. Hopefully there's better days ahead. Just bury it, try to learn from it, and move on -- don't make it turn into another loss."

Teammates were rallying behind Jones, who is 93-of-146 for 898 yards, with five touchdowns and four interceptions, on the season.

"That's my guy. I'm going to support him. I think everybody will," veteran tight end Hunter Henry said. "None of us are happy. We all have to be better."

Added center David Andrews: "I think we all have some confidence issues after a performance like that. It's a team game. It's all of us that have to look in the mirror. It's not just his fault."

As Jones left the interview room Sunday night, he shared an embrace with defensive lineman Deatrich Wise Jr.

"I'm very confident in Mac," Wise said. "Mac is a worker, he's a competitor, he tries to make plays. Sometimes when you try to make plays, it doesn't always go your way. He's been here three years and he's made some great plays in his career.

"This game is one of those games that just happens, but we're still behind him. We'll still be behind him tomorrow, and the day after that. I believe in him 100 percent."

During an appearance on WEEI Monday, Jones was asked whether he feels he has the support of the organization moving forward.

"I think, for me, I just gotta go out there and win some games," Jones said. "And that's what it all comes down to is going out there and doing my part. I'm working hard. I know I can do it. I have to believe in myself. And I didn't really give them a lot to believe in the other night, but I will show that I can do it. And that comes from hard work and trusting myself and trusting them."

If the Patriots don't start winning some more games, there will inevitably be changes to how they do business and one of them could deal with the quarterback position. The next opportunity to win one comes against the Saints this weekend and the sooner the better for all involved in New England. ...

Other notes of interest. ... There was talk before the game of Ezekiel Elliott getting more playing time, particularly against his former team. His percentage of offensive snaps saw a very slight increase, but Rhamondre Stevenson still ran the ball more than twice as often.

Meanwhile, JuJu Smith-Schuster fell under 50 percent of offensive snaps for the first time with New England.

As's Nathan Jahnke noted, Smith-Schuster caught just one of his targets for 14 yards. It's his second straight game with just one reception.

He typically hasn't played as much as other wide receivers in 11 personnel this season. His percentage of snaps fell further this week, as he played only five of a possible 20 snaps.

He was also rotated out in 12 and 13 personnel, sharing time with DeVante Parker and Kendrick Bourne in those personnel groupings.

Jahnke believes the wide receiver rotation could become even more complicated this week, as Tyquan Thornton is eligible to return from injured reserve.

Smith-Schuster won't compete with Thornton for snaps in 11 personnel, but Thornton could take snaps from him in 12 or 13 personnel. ...

Finally. ... The Patriots will be without a vital member of the defense as pass rusher Matthew Judon will have surgery Wednesday to repair a biceps injury he suffered in Sunday's loss to the Cowboys. He is expected to be out at least two months, NFL Network's Tom Pelissero reported Tuesday, per a source informed of the situation.

Pelissero added that the team will know more about whether Judon can return this season after surgery.

A two-month timetable would put Judon's return around Week 14 at the earliest. It's a massive loss for New England's defense, which has already been riddled with injuries. A four-time Pro Bowler, Judon leads the Patriots with 4.0 sacks, nine QB hits (no one else has more than three) and five tackles for loss.

QBs: Bailey Zappe, Jacoby Brissett
RBs: Rhamondre Stevenson, Antonio Gibson, JaMycal Hasty
WRs: DeVante Parker, Demario Douglas, JuJu Smith-Schuster, Tyquan Thornton, Kayshon Boutte, Matt Slater, Kendrick Bourne
TEs: Hunter Henry, Pharaoh Brown

New Orleans Saints

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 3 October 2023

As's Josh Alper Saints running back Alvin Kamara caught 13 passes in his first action of the 2023 season, but his return from suspension did not result in a win.

The Buccaneers trampled over the Saints 26-9 and the production Kamara had on those 13 catches helped to tell the story of the loss.

Kamara had just 33 yards on his receptions and his 84 overall yards from scrimmage accounted for a good percentage of the 197 yards that the Saints mustered overall.

The Saints were 25th in points scored coming into the game and Kamara said after the loss that it is time to have "tough conversations" about what's needed to spark more production when the team has the ball.

"It's been two years since we had that offense that was rolling. Now we're kind of in this rut of," Kamara said, via John Sigler of "It is what it is right now. What you see. Like I said, we've got to have some conversations about something. Because I don't like losing."

Of course, it should be noted that Derek Carr suited up Sunday despite suffering an AC joint injury to his throwing shoulder in Week 3 that kept the quarterback out of practice early last week.

The results looked like a player dealing with an injury, as Carr finished with 127 yards on 23-of-37 passing for a measly 3.4 yard per attempt average, took two sacks, and lost a fourth-quarter fumble.

Carr, however, dismissed the notion that injury was the reason for the Saints' inefficient offense.

"That's no excuse for us playing the way we did today," Carr said. "Whatever it is that I have to do, I'll do it. I just don't want the shoulder to be an excuse for the way that we executed."

Carr attempted to stretch the field but came up empty each time. All five of his 20-plus air-yard attempts fell incomplete, including a 52.55-air-yard bomb to Chris Olave that Antoine Winfield Jr. broke up. Carr completed just two passes of 10-plus air yards, per Next Gen Stats, and 13 of his 23 completions came behind the line of scrimmage.

Olave had caught at least three passes for at least 40 yards in each of his first 18 NFL games. In this game, he was held to one catch for 4 yards.

Through four games, the Saints' offense has four total touchdowns.

"It's a concern," head coach Dennis Allen said. "As a staff we've got to do a better job of figuring out what we're going to be able to do, what we can do well, and we've got to be able to go out and execute those things because right now we're not scoring enough points and we know that."

If Carr's shoulder can't take the blame for New Orleans' decrepit scoring output, it's got more systemic issues.

That's why's Kevin Patra thinks Kamara's two-year comment is significant: That's when Pete Carmichael took over play-calling after Sean Payton stepped away.

Since then, the Saints have been an eyesore offensively, unable to generate consistency and struggling to involve their playmakers (i.e., Olave catching one pass for 4 yards Sunday). The offensive line has been a sieve thus far, allowing 15 sacks in 2023.

These were issues signing Carr was supposed to help solve. His deep-ball propensity, theoretically, should have opened up the offense. Instead, it's the same amalgam of bad plays we saw last season with Andy Dalton largely under center.

In four games, the Saints have yet to score more than 20 points and are averaging 15.5 points per game, their fewest PPG in Weeks 1-4 since 2007 (12.7).

Despite the struggles, Allen does not sound inclined to make staff alterations for now.

"No, we won't make any coaching changes," Allen said Monday. "I've never seen that to be the right answer, particularly when we're four games into the season. And yet, we have to be better. I understand everyone's frustration because everyone in the building feels it."

The good news for the Saints (2-2) is that two victories to start the season provided a buffer for them to figure things out.

"We definitely do have a lot of weapons, but it's still early in the season for me to be like, 'Oh, the weapons haven't been used,' or whatever it might be," said receiver Michael Thomas, who has 22 catches for 219 yards without a touchdown this season. "As a whole, we just have to get better."

The Saints make a Week 5 trip to New England, where they have a chance to right the ship against a team that's struggling even more than they are. ...

Other notes of interest. ... Rookie kicker Blake Grupe hit all three of his field-goal attempts on Sunday, one week after a potentially confidence-shaking, late-game miss. He's 9 of 10 on field goals and has scored 32 of his team's 62 points.

On the injury front. ... While Carr continues to rehabilitate his shoulder, the Saints are also hoping to see improvement in the conditions of tight ends Juwan Johnson (calf) and Foster Moreau (ankle), cornerback Paulson Adebo (hamstring), and guards Cesar Ruiz (concussion) and Andrus Peat (concussion).'s Nathan Jahnke notes, Johnson didn't play an offensive snap, as he was quickly ruled out for the game due to his injury.

Johnson wasn't on the injury report and was on the 46-man active roster rather than being a game day inactive, so chances are he was injured in pre-game warmups within an hour and a half of the game, giving reason as to why it wasn't reported until the start of the game.

He was originally ruled questionable within the first few minutes of the game but was later ruled out.

With Johnson sidelined and Moreau missing a second-straight game with an ankle injury, Jimmy Graham and Taysom Hill were the remaining tight ends.

Graham was the primary tight end, but he never received a target.

Hill played a career-high 11 snaps as an outside receiver as New Orleans often put three wide receivers on one side, with Hill or Graham on the other.

Hill still played 10 snaps at quarterback and two in the backfield.

This is a situation to avoid even if Johnson and Moreau miss time but will be even more of a mess once either one, or both, is back.

More on all the above via Late-Breaking Update as the week progresses.

QBs: Derek Carr, Jake Haener
RBs: Alvin Kamara, Jamaal Williams, Kendre Miller
WRs: Chris Olave, Rashid Shaheed, A.T. Perry, Keith Kirkwood, Lynn Bowden, Michael Thomas
TEs: Juwan Johnson, Taysom Hill, Foster Moreau, Jimmy Graham

New York Giants

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 3 October 2023

As's Jordan Raanan reported, the Giants had a miserable evening Monday night, but perhaps the worst moment was when quarterback Daniel Jones threw an interception that was returned 97 yards for a touchdown by Seattle rookie cornerback Devon Witherspoon.

Afterwards, head coach Brian Daboll was seen on camera sending a firm message to his quarterback, first as Jones walked off the field and again on the bench.

Daboll eventually flipped the tablet away in disgust.

"I was trying to show him, kind of, see what he thought, and then tell him what I saw," Daboll said calmly after the 24-3 loss at MetLife Stadium.

The Giants (1-3) were at Seattle's five-yard line at the time and threatening to make it a one-score game with 1:19 remaining in the third quarter. But Jones fired the ball left to Parris Campbell near the hashmark and it hit Witherspoon in the chest.

Daboll wouldn't get into specifics on the play. But when asked what he wanted Jones to do, his answer was blunt.

"Obviously not throw an interception," Daboll said.

Jones called the throw a "terrible decision and awful mistake" that he can't afford making. It all but put the game away and left the Giants without a touchdown in either of their first two home games. New York has now been outscored 64-3 in its two home games this season. Only the 1975 Chargers scored fewer points in the Super Bowl era (0) in their first two home games. Witherspoon seemed to know what was coming on the crucial play.

"Just running the coverage," he said. "We saw the play that we had seen on film [in that] formation. He ran basically a return route so I jumped it, he threw the ball and just tried to get to the ball. That was really my whole mindset."

As for Daboll getting upset with his quarterback on the sideline, it's not something completely unique. It was something that happened last year in the team's opener when Jones threw a bad interception against the Tennessee Titans. It seemed to turn things around.

It now happened again in Week 4 of Daboll's second season as well.

"I think we're all frustrated," Jones said. "I know I've got to play better and I'm going to work as hard as I possibly can to do that."

The Giants play on the road Sunday against the Miami Dolphins (3-1).

The costly interception was hardly the Giants' only costly miscue. Jones threw two interceptions in the contest and lost a fumble deep in his own territory that also turned into a touchdown several plays later. He now has seven turnovers in four games this season.

Seattle tied a franchise record with 11 sacks, but one of those was recorded against Campbell on a trick play where he was going to throw a pass.

The mistake-prone Giants were flagged for six special teams penalties against Seattle.

Whatever could go wrong, did.

It has been an awful start to the season for Jones and the Giants. He has thrown more interceptions in the first four games (6) than he did all of last year (5).

"I mean obviously I didn't play well enough," Jones said. "It was unacceptable and I let the team down, so I've got to fix it. I've got to work hard to get it right and I'm going to do that."

As's Nick Shook acknowledged, Jones once again has very little (if any) time to operate.

He was under constant pressure, threw two ugly interceptions, and in a flashback to the difficult times of previous years, fumbled after being hit from behind. The best thing he did all night was make plays with his legs.

"Otherwise," Shook wrote, "It was little more than a pointless, blister-causing trudge through waist-deep mud."

This Giants offense is lifeless, especially without Saquon Barkley, and there's little reason to believe it's going to suddenly improve.

Last year's feel-good journey from the cellar to the playoffs feels as if it happened a century ago, and the only detail that could possibly make it worse is the fact the Giants just extended Jones at a rate of $40 million per year.

It looks worse with each passing week, even if it isn't entirely his fault.

For the record, part of the problem for the Giants is that star left tackle Andrew Thomas has missed the past three games with a hamstring injury and the line had had four different starting combinations in four games. Only rookie center John Michael Schmitz and right tackle Evan Neal have started all four games at the same position.

Schmitz left in the first half Monday with a shoulder injury, but he said he was fine after the game.

"We take responsibility for those 11 sacks," Neal said. "There is no excuse whatever. We come into work every day and try to put our best foot forward. We're just not playing our best ball. I am confident we are going to turn it around."

Things won't get any easier the next two weeks with road games in Miami and Buffalo. ...

I'll have more on Barkley, who was listed as doubtful for this game and didn't even take the field for pre-game warmups to test his injured ankle before being declared inactive, and on Thomas via Late-Breaking Update in coming days.

In the second game without Barkley, the Giants gained 112 yards on 29 carries, good for an average of 3.9 yards per carry. However, Jones accounted for 66 yards on 10 attempts, while Wan'Dale Robinson, a receiver, added a seven-yard run.

As for the running backs, Matt Breida and Gary Brightwell combined for just 39 yards on 18 rush attempts (2.2 avg.), although they did total six receptions for 58 yards.

The only way to mask some of these deficiencies will be if Barkley returns and Jones plays better against a Dolphins defense ranking 28th in points and 26th in yards allowed this season.. That is the Giants' only hope.

They also will have to find a way to get tight end Darren Waller involved.

Waller, who caught three passes for 21 yards, talked in hushed tones in the postgame locker room about how difficult it was to see himself and his teammates play like that.

"I don't ever take the field expecting to put a performance like that on display, on any team I've been on," Waller said. "Offense is just not good enough in all facets. I don't even have to really say -- it's just not good enough. ... I see the talent, I see the guys we've got, I see the type of vision we had in the spring, the excitement we had on offense, and I just don't know.

"I ain't got a lot of words right now. Sorry."

QBs: Tommy DeVito, Drew Lock, Daniel Jones
RBs: Devin Singletary, Matt Breida, Gary Brightwell, Eric Gray
WRs: Darius Slayton, Wan'Dale Robinson, Jalin Hyatt, Parris Campbell, Isaiah Hodgins, Sterling Shepard
TEs: Darren Waller, Daniel Bellinger, Lawrence Cager, Chris Myarick

New York Jets

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 3 October 2023

As's Rich Cimini reported it, "Embattled quarterback Zach Wilson played the best game of his NFL career on Sunday night at MetLife Stadium, but he lamented the snap that got away. ..."

Wilson fumbled a shotgun snap at midfield with 7:24 remaining in the fourth quarter -- the Jets' final play in their 23-20 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs. Afterward, Wilson spoke briefly to the entire team in the locker room, taking responsibility for the defeat.

"To be driving right there and to drop a snap -- I cannot do that," Wilson told reporters. "I lost us that game, and I can't do that."

Several teammates consoled Wilson, whose faux pas occurred at a critical time -- facing a three-point deficit late -- against the defending Super Bowl champions.

Still, his overall performance was a breakthrough that might have saved his job.

After a week of intense scrutiny, including criticism from Jets legend Joe Namath, Wilson completed a career-high 28 passes on 39 attempts for 245 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions. He posted a career-high 105.2 passer rating. The Jets (1-3) dropped their third straight, but Wilson's efficiency was a spark they needed after losing Aaron Rodgers to a season-ending Achilles tendon injury in Week 1.

"If he plays that way, we're going to win a lot of football games," head coach Robert Saleh said of Wilson, whose profound struggles had created tension in the locker room in recent days, sources said.

The situation prompted Rodgers, who rejoined the team on Saturday after rehabbing for two weeks in California, to deliver an impassioned speech to the squad Saturday night, according to several players. His message: Stick together.

"It's always exciting to see big brother," Wilson said.

Rodgers, on crutches, watched from a private box as his protégé rallied the Jets from 17-0 deficit with touchdown passes to tight end C.J. Uzomah (1 yard) and wide receiver Allen Lazard (10 yards).

The Lazard score, followed by a nifty 2-point run from Wilson, made it 20-20 with 10:40 left in the third quarter. It culminated a flawless drive in which Wilson was 5-for-5 for 75 yards, looking nothing like the quarterback who was so ineffective in losses to the Dallas Cowboys and New England Patriots.

Offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett, conservative in recent weeks, called an aggressive game, relying on Wilson instead of the running game. Emboldened by the show of confidence, Wilson -- drafted No. 2 overall in 2021 -- played more decisively than in any previous start.

"I'm just really happy for him to go out and show that he does belong, that he can play in this league," Saleh said.

Wilson completed passes to 10 different receivers. Before Sunday, he had three games in his career in which he failed to complete 10 passes in total.

"I think me and Hack are growing more trust in each other and what we're able to do as an offense," Wilson said.

The Jets had a chance to pull off a stunning upset. They got the ball back in a tie game and were driving to a go-ahead score midway through the fourth quarter. But on a second-and-9 from the Chiefs' 49, Wilson dropped a simple shotgun snap, and it was recovered by defensive tackle Tershawn Wharton.

Out of the corner of his eye, Wilson saw an unblocked player on his left, ready to blitz. He said he second-guessed himself for not changing the protection. That was his first mistake, he said. Then he drifted a little, anticipating a backside rush -- and just dropped the ball.

"I was making it clear to those guys that I need to be better," he said of his teammates. "I need to be better on the little things and details. That can't happen."

After Saleh spoke to the team in the locker room, Wilson felt compelled to say something in front of the group. That he spoke up and showed accountability was significant. A year ago, he sparked a firestorm by refusing in a postgame news conference to accept any blame after a horrible performance in a loss to the Patriots.

"Zach is a huge competitor, and after the game, he spoke to the team, just trying to take the blame for everything," Lazard said. "That's just the competitor in him and the leader he is. I was just consoling him, saying, 'Hey, we all made mistakes today. You weren't the only one.'"

It's noteworthy the Jets refused to let Wilson take all the blame, not after everything else he did in the game.

"I'm pumped for him, I truly am," Saleh said. "He's resilient. He's gotten dragged through the mud and for him to have tasted a little bit of success, even though we didn't win -- I wish we could have pulled that one out -- but I think he's only going to get better."

That's the key now for Wilson.

As Associated Press sports writer Dennis Waszak Jr. suggested, while it seemed everyone outside the Jets' facility was trying to find a solution at quarterback other than Wilson a week ago, he can begin to change the narrative with another solid performance.

"You've got to back it up and just keep stacking good days after good days after good days and get to game day and get comfortable and be confident in yourself and play," Saleh said. "Just let it rip."

Next up, the Jets head to Denver to face Sean Payton, who said during the summer Hackett's brief tenure with the Broncos last year "might have been one of the worst coaching jobs in the history of the NFL." So, this could be a revenge game of sorts for Hackett.

In addition, Denver's defense has made Justin Fields, Tua Tagovailoa and Justin Fields look very good over the last three weeks. ...

Other notes of interest. ... The run game continues to come up short.

The Jets' backfield was expected to be a strength of the offense, but has sputtered so far -- for several reasons, including New York not being able to do anything in the passing game before Sunday night.

Breece Hall ran for 56 yards on six carries, but 43 of those came on one impressive burst. Dalvin Cook has yet to get going, finishing with just 16 yards on five attempts. They could also get better in hurry next Sunday against Denver's struggling run defense.

As for the division of workload:'s Nathan Jahnke, the Jets continued to use a similar running back rotation to last week, with Hall playing the majority of early down snaps, Cook being his backup and Michael Carter as the third down back. All three received a snap at the goal line. ...

Hackett got tight ends Tyler Conklin, Uzomah and Jeremy Ruckert involved in the passing game, giving Wilson some alternative playmaking options -- particularly on rollouts. Seven of Wilson's 28 completions went to tight ends: Conklin had four for 58 yards, Ruckert two for 26 yards and Uzomah one for a 1-yard TD.

Finally. ... Jahnke also notes that Xavier Gipson emerged as the Jets' fourth wide receiver.

The undrafted rookie from Stephen F. Austin played just one offensive snap over the first three weeks of the season.

He played 11 snaps against the Chiefs. His playing time entirely came from 11 personnel, taking snaps away from Randall Cobb.

Gibson split his time both in the slot and out wide, allowing Garrett Wilson to play much more in the slot this week compared to the previous three weeks.

Wilson has generally played better out wide than in the slot, but his target rate has been much higher in the slot this season. This helped him to season highs in targets (14) and receptions (9).

While Gipson might not produce much fantasy value this season, this change might help Wilson keep his fantasy value if Zach Wilson prefers throwing to Garrett Wilson in the slot.

Jahnke added this is also noteworthy because former Kansas City Chief Mecole Hardman could have seen more playing time in a revenge game, but instead, he was surpassed on the depth chart. This makes Hardman, who played six snaps against his former team, less likely to work out at any point this season.

QBs: Trevor Siemian, Tyrod Taylor, Aaron Rodgers
RBs: Breece Hall, Israel Abanikanda
WRs: Garrett Wilson, Xavier Gipson, Jason Brownlee, Allen Lazard, Randall Cobb, Mike Williams, Charles Irvin
TEs: Tyler Conklin, Jeremy Ruckert, C.J. Uzomah, Kenny Yeboah

Philadelphia Eagles

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 3 October 2023

A.J. Brown and other teammates noticed a more fiery Jalen Hurts in Sunday's 34-31 overtime win against the Commanders, which also marked Hurts' best performance of the season.

"What did I see out of him? That fire. He kind of woke up a little bit," said Brown, one of Hurts' closest friends. "It gave everybody a boost. Most of the time, no matter if the game is on the line, he throws a great ball, he's going to be mellow. But that fire showed today and that desire."

Hurts went 25-of-37 for 319 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions, breathing life into a passing game that ranked 23rd heading into the week (198.7 yards per game).

He had a pair of touchdown passes that traveled 25-plus yards in the air, both of which went to Brown, who finished with nine catches for 175 yards.

Hurts was whistled for intentional grounding in overtime but responded with a 9-yard completion to DeVonta Smith that set up Jake Elliott's game-winning 54-yard field goal.

It was their first OT win since 2019.

"I think it was his best game this year," said head coach Nick Sirianni. "I thought he was clutch."

The Eagles trailed 17-10 at the half thanks in part to a number of untimely penalties that extended Washington drives or halted their own. Left tackle Jordan Mailata said that poor play "lit a fire" under Hurts and center Jason Kelce, who proceeded to rally the team.

"I'm glad I'm with them because they brought me out of a dark first half and it was inspiring," Mailata said. "Even on the field saying, 'Screw whatever happened. What matters is right here, right now and we need to go out here and execute.'"

As's Tim McManus notes, Hurts is now 21-1 in his past 22 regular-season starts. He became the sixth quarterback in the Super Bowl era to win at least 21 games over a 22-start span, joining Patrick Mahomes (2019-2021), Tom Brady (multiple times), Peyton Manning (2008-2009), Joe Montana (1989-1993) and Jim McMahon (1984-1987).

Associated Press sports writer Dan Gelston points out the Eagles were hardly inspiring over a 3-0 start but were quick to remind fans, the media -- anyone who complained -- that 3-0 is still 3-0 no matter how they got there. After gutting out a win over the Commanders, the Eagles feel they ended the first quarter of the season playing like a Super Bowl contender.

"I think a win like this does so much for the spirit of a team because winning is not easy," Hurts said. "Winning is hard. It's hard in this league and it's very hard in this division. In multiple ways, it lights a fire for us to continue to do what we want to do."

As well as he played, Hurts still hasn't busted many long plays open on the ground. But like he said about his passing game, the plays and stats will come. Winning is the main thing.

"I think it is reassuring for us," he said. "I think more so, man, when you feel those moments, they build so much character for you. Just hammering in on that, it builds so much character, and I think that can mold the character of this team to trend forward and continue to grow."

Whatever the case, the Eagles improved to 4-0, with a trip to take on the Los Angeles Rams up next. ...

Other notes of interest. ... The passing game produced six gains of 20-plus yards, a high for the season.

Brown topped 100 yards receiving for the second straight game after failing to hit that mark in the first two games. He also snagged his first two TD catches of the season.

He had nine catches for 131 yards against Tampa Bay and nine catches for 175 yards on Sunday. As Hurts play better, it's no coincidence Brown's numbers have skyrocketed.

Brown was the first Eagle to produce 175-plus receiving yards and two TDs in a game since Jeremy Maclin in 2014 at Arizona. He was the first to hit those marks at home since Kevin Curtis in 2007. Brown became the fifth Eagle since the 1970 merger to have 130-plus receiving yards in back-to-back games, joining Maclin (2014), DeSean Jackson (2009, '10), Mike Quick (1983, '85) and Harold Jackson (1971, '72).

As notes, one piece that hasn't quite found his space yet is tight end Dallas Goedert. Goedert averaged more than four catches and nearly 14 yards per catch in his first two seasons playing for Sirianni, but he has just 13 catches for 88 yards through the first four games this year.

Sirianni said at a Monday press conference that "he's still part of the plan of wanting us to get him the football" and that "a combination of different things" have contributed to the lack of impact as a receiver. He also said Goedert has been a contributor to the run game and that he's confident the "dry spell" will end soon.

"He'll get going," Sirianni said. "I'm certain of that. But we have to do our job as coaches to get him going. But he is still a very big factor in the way our offense is playing right now because of who he is as a blocker and also who he is as a receiver and drawing that attention. ..."

D'Andre Swift rushed 14 times for 56 yards and one touchdown, adding four receptions for 23 additional yards.

As Rotoworld notes, Swift was the clear-cut RB1 for Philly on Sunday, handling 14-of-18 running back carries, while out-targeting Kenneth Gainwell 4-2.

Swift kicked off the Eagles' scoring on the afternoon when he punched in a five-yard touchdown on an opening drive that largely featured him. ...

Meanwhile, all Elliott does is kick long field goals.

Elliott won the game on the aforementioned 54-yarder in OT, adding to his team record for career 50-plus-yard field goals (22). Elliott also made kicks from 41, 47 and 36 yards. The winner was the longest game-winning field goal by an Eagle in overtime since the 1970 merger. Elliott has converted four times from 50-plus yards this season, one shy of his career high (reached in 2017 and 2022).

"I love it when those situations come down to me," Elliott said. "I always have."

Finally. ... The Eagles committed 11 penalties after averaging only five each over the first three games. Brown was hit with a taunting penalty after he scored the go-ahead touchdown in the fourth quarter. The Commanders got an extra 15 yards on their final drive and scored the tying touchdown.

"A.J., obviously, was apologetic about that coming off the field,” Sirianni said. "A lot of emotions in that game. We'll definitely learn from that. It'll be a teaching moment from that."

QBs: Jalen Hurts, Marcus Mariota, Kenny Pickett, Tanner McKee
RBs: Saquon Barkley, Kenneth Gainwell, Boston Scott, Rashaad Penny
WRs: A.J. Brown, DeVonta Smith, Julio Jones, Olamide Zaccheaus, Quez Watkins
TEs: Dallas Goedert, Jack Stoll, Grant Calcaterra, Albert Okwuegbunam

Pittsburgh Steelers

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 3 October 2023

Kenny Pickett has a bone bruise in his left knee and will practice in some capacity Wednesday, head coach Mike Tomlin said.

Tomlin said Pickett's availability for Sunday's game against the Baltimore Ravens will be determined as the week unfolds. The quarterback exited Sunday's 30-6 loss to the Houston Texans in the third quarter after being sacked on fourth-and-1.

"The more functional and more comfortable he is, the more work he'll get and then as we push forward toward the game, the quality of his work will be a determining factor on his availability," Tomlin said Tuesday. "A quarterback is no different than any other position. ... They need the in-helmet perspective on preparation. He knows and understands that he's prepared to practice tomorrow."

If Pickett can't go, quarterback Mitchell Trubisky will start in his place.

After spending the first 20 minutes discussing the team's need to be more physical, Tomlin on Tuesday also acknowledged the coaching shortfalls that contributed to the 24-point loss in Houston and the team's 2-2 start.

"Not good enough," Tomlin said of his evaluation of the coaching. "... Forget win or lose. Whenever we don't play well as a coach, man, you start there."

But of the changes being made, none will directly impact the game day responsibilities of the coaching staff, including heavily criticized offensive coordinator Matt Canada.

Said Tomlin: "Not at this juncture."

Associated Press sports writer Will Graves believes that's going to be an issue.

In fact, Graves argues it's hard to gain ground with an offense where consistency, production and cohesion -- especially in the first half -- are more rumor than fact. Not with a gameplan that might be worth less than the page it's laminated on. Not with an offensive coordinator who, 38 games into his tenure, can't make adjustments on the fly with any sense of regularity.

Pittsburgh's performance in Houston on Sunday didn't look much different than the opener against San Francisco, or that strange Monday night win over Cleveland, or even a somewhat competent victory against the Raiders in Week 3.

Every Thursday, Graves added, Canada stresses the coaching needs to be better. The plan needs to be better. And every Sunday (or Monday) the results look the same. Week after week. And -- as seems to increasingly be the case -- season after season.

The Steelers have started 12 drives in the first quarter across their first four games. Those drives have ended with one touchdown, four first downs, four turnovers and three punts. Take out a 72-yard strike to Calvin Austin III against Las Vegas, and Pittsburgh's other 38 snaps on those first-quarter drives have produced a grand total of 49 yards, or 1.3 yards per play.

A strong second half to 2022 led by a run-heavy attack and Pickett's relationship with Canada led owner Art Rooney II to retain Canada. And during the preseason, it looked as if it was the right call when the first-team offense scored touchdowns on all five possessions Pickett was in the huddle.

"As October begins," Graves summed up, "August looks like a mirage. ..."

Meanwhile, for Pickett, Tomlin said, in addition to monitoring his health, the primary concern is making "fluid decisions."

"I think as plays get extended particularly early in games, it increases the potential for offensive negativity and defensive positivity," Tomlin said. "And so, I think a component of us getting off the more fluid starts is more fluid decision making and things happening more on rhythm. "That'll be a focus for him -- and for us, because it's not just him."

As's Brooke Pryor notes, Pickett is at the top of a lengthy injury list for the Steelers, who are already without receiver Diontae Johnson (hamstring) and defensive lineman Cam Heyward (groin) -- with both players on IR.

The Steelers will also be without left tackle Dan Moore Jr. (knee sprain), which paves way for rookie first-round pick Broderick Jones to make his first NFL start.

Tight end Pat Freiermuth (hamstring) is very doubtful, Tomlin said, while defensive lineman DeMarvin Leal is in concussion protocol. Punter Pressley Harvin (hamstring) and guard James Daniels (groin) both missed Sunday's game and will continue working toward a return.

NFL Network's Tom Pelissero reports that Freiermuth will not play in Week 5 and is hoping to return after Pittsburgh's Week 6 bye. Freiermuth's timeline for recovery is considered two to three weeks, per Pelissero.

Though the Steelers are banged up, Tomlin emphasized a need to increase the physicality in the team's preparation during the week.

"Houston, we thought, were more physical than us and played harder than us and that's something that's got to change immediately," Tomlin said. "... We got to look at what we're doing in an effort to make sure that that doesn't reoccur. And specifically in terms of the structure of preparation, it makes us look at our practice attire the last couple of weeks due to a variety of circumstances."

Part of that, Tomlin said, will be practicing in pads on Wednesday -- something the team hasn't done because of short weeks and West Coast travel.

For what it's worth, the running game seems to be on point -- when they turn to it.

Najee Harris ran for a season-best 71 yards against the Texans, averaging a solid 5.1 yards per carry on his 14 attempts. Harris, who ended up with 15 total touches for 103 scrimmage yards, as its best weapon in the second half.

And yet with Pittsburgh facing fourth-and-1 at the Houston 34 late in the third quarter with the game still in the balance, Canada called for a four-wide receiver set that had Pickett line up in the shotgun with Harris standing to his right.

The result was the momentum-sapping sack that ended with Pickett limping off the field. ...

Next up. ... Pittsburgh has been one of the few teams that's had success against Ravens QB Lamar Jackson. The 2019 MVP is just 2-3 against the Steelers. Jackson's 67.4 quarterback rating when facing Pittsburgh is his lowest against any opponent. If the Steelers want to head into their bye week with any positive vibes, finding a way to beat their rivals is a must. ...

Stay tuned. I'll obviously have more on Pickett, Freiermuth and the rest via Late-Breaking Update in coming days. .....

Also of interest. ... The Steelers waived receiver Dez Fitzpatrick on Monday, the team announced.

Fitzpatrick was with the Steelers during training camp before being waived out of the preseason. He started the season on the Steelers' practice squad before being added to the 53-player roster on Sept. 14 after Johnson injured his hamstring.

He made his Steelers debut Sunday against the Texans, playing three special teams snaps.

The Steelers now have an open spot on their roster.

George Pickens, Austin, Allen Robinson, Gunner Olszewski and Miles Boykin are the remaining receivers on the 53.

QBs: Justin Fields, Russell Wilson, Mason Rudolph, Mitchell Trubisky
RBs: Najee Harris, Jaylen Warren, Anthony McFarland Jr.
WRs: George Pickens, Allen Robinson, Calvin Austin III, Miles Boykin
TEs: Pat Freiermuth, Darnell Washington

San Francisco 49ers

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 3 October 2023

As's Nick Wagoner pointed out this week, the NFL's Most Valuable Player award has been given to a quarterback for each of the past 10 seasons.

It's a fact that wasn't lost in the conversation in the San Francisco 49ers' locker room after their 35-16 win against the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday.

But, after running back Christian McCaffrey piled up 177 yards from scrimmage, scored four times and set a franchise record for most consecutive games with at least one touchdown (13, including playoffs), left tackle Trent Williams was unafraid to say it might be time for that to change.

"Hey, all them streaks come to an end eventually, right?" Williams said. "This might be the year. I can see it."

On Oct. 20, it will have been one year since the Niners acquired McCaffrey from the Carolina Panthers for second, third and fourth-round picks in the 2023 NFL draft and a fifth-round selection in 2024. At the time the Niners landed him, general manager John Lynch referred to him as a "force multiplier," the type of player who can elevate everyone around him.

That has been evident plenty in McCaffrey's time with the team but never more so than Sunday afternoon. McCaffrey broke Jerry Rice's record on the Niners' first drive, plunging into the end zone from 1 yard out.

"That means a lot," McCaffrey said. "Touchdowns are a lot of fun. Hopefully, we can keep it rolling."

On San Francisco's second possession, McCaffrey took a lateral from quarterback Brock Purdy, made a defender miss, hurdled another and raced to the end zone for an 18-yard score. Williams was standing nearby when McCaffrey made the play and immediately marched over to tell him, "Man, you're a baaaaaad boy."

McCaffrey added a 6-yard touchdown grab from Purdy and a 2-yard scoring run to set a personal best with four touchdowns in a game, tying him for second-most in franchise history in a single game. It was a performance so dominant that Los Angeles Lakers star LeBron James posted on X: "CMC you're ABSOLUTELY RIDICULOUS!!!! MY GOODNESS."

McCaffrey's production hasn't been limited to this Sunday.

Through the first four games, he has amassed a league-leading 600 yards and seven touchdowns from scrimmage (tied for the most in the NFL). He joined Hall of Famers Jim Brown (1963 ad 1958) and Emmitt Smith (1995) as the only players in NFL history with at least 600 scrimmage yards and seven touchdowns in their first four games of the season.

Since McCaffrey became the starter for the Niners on Oct. 30, 2022, he has played in 14 regular-season games. He has 1,748 scrimmage yards in those games (all of which were wins). That number leads the NFL and is the second-most yards from scrimmage during a 14-game winning streak, trailing only Terrell Davis (1,849 in 1997-98), the Hall of Fame Denver Broncos running back who played with McCaffrey's father, Ed, on those teams, for most scrimmage yards by a player during a 14-game win streak.

"I'm not sure on the whole rest of the league right now but I thought he played like [an MVP] last year when he was here," head coach Kyle Shanahan said. "Christian's so awesome, he helps us win every time he's out there, but when you've got a guy who can do everything, you can always have unbelievable stats, but he shares that with a lot of other guys and we do whatever it takes to win. So, that's to me the thing that would make it the hardest for him, just stats and just how it works out."

One other potential obstacle in McCaffrey's MVP pursuit might be his own teammate: Purdy.

While McCaffrey was running through the Cardinals on Sunday, Purdy barely missed through the air, finishing 20-of-21 for 283 yards and a touchdown for a passer rating of 134.6. He added a rushing score.

Purdy made a little history as well, as his 95.2 percent completion rate is the highest in 49ers history and the fourth-highest by any quarterback attempting at least 20 passes in NFL history. Drew Brees' 96.7 percent mark set in 2019 remains the NFL record.

"He was great," Shanahan said. "He was almost perfect. ... Hung in there, made some big throws. A lot of times, that defense, they don't give you the big throws, so you kind of got to pick them apart. He was very efficient at doing that. And when he had his opportunities for the big ones, he saw it right and made the right throws and our guys came down with them."

Purdy, who is closing in on seven months since he had the torn ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow repaired, said he wasn't aware he had missed only one throw until after the clock expired.

When Purdy reflected on his day, he harped on that one that got away, a misfire to McCaffrey in the flat on a third-and-24 from Arizona's 46 with 10:52 left in the third quarter.

"Honestly, I'm still mad about what I missed to Christian," Purdy said. "He broke out. He was open. I should have hit him and then we would've been in field goal range. That is something that I'm going to have to learn from and wish I could've had back."

Purdy hasn't had many of those so far this year. Going into Sunday night's game, Purdy leads the NFL in QBR (84.8), is eighth in passing yards (1,019), second in yards per attempt (9.1), third in completion percentage (72.3 percent) and is one of three starting quarterbacks not to throw an interception.

Beyond that, the Niners are 9-0 in Purdy's regular-season starts, the fourth-most consecutive wins by a quarterback to begin his career in the Super Bowl era.

"I think you can just go down the list of what makes a quarterback good and he checks every box," McCaffrey said. "And then he has all the intangibles, so that would be phenomenal. He brings a kind of swagger and energy every day that is fun to be around. He's quiet but he's very confident. He expressed that in the way he plays."

Worth noting, Brandon Aiyuk returned from a one-game absence to catch 6-of-6 targets for 148 yards against the Cardinals.

As Rotoworld suggests, it probably helps that Deebo Samuel was clearly not 100 percent on Sunday, but Aiyuk and Purdy have a no doubt connection. While Aiyuk didn't find the end zone, he caught passes of 20, 34, 25, 42, 11, and 16 yards on the afternoon. He now has 320 receiving yards on 17 catches through four games.

With Purdy, McCaffrey and Aiyuk making hay, the 49ers won their third game by at least 18 points. Their closest contest was a 30-23 win in Week 2 against the Rams that included a field goal by Los Angeles on the final play to make it a one-score game.

But they are counting on a tougher test this week against Dallas and are excited for the big stage.

Fortunately, the Niners are hitting on all cylinders ahead of their matchup against one of the NFC's leading contenders and the team they knocked out of the playoffs the past two seasons.

On the injury front. ... OL Jon Feliciano is in the concussion protocol after getting hurt in the game. ... RB Elijah Mitchell (knee) and WR Jauan Jennings (shin) are day to day. ... Samuel (knee, ribs) is also day to day after being limited the past week by his injuries.

QBs: Brock Purdy, Josh Dobbs, Brandon Allen
RBs: Christian McCaffrey, Elijah Mitchell, Jordan Mason, Kyle Juszczyk
WRs: Brandon Aiyuk, Deebo Samuel, Jauan Jennings, Ray-Ray McCloud, Ronnie Bell, Danny Gray
TEs: George Kittle, Charlie Woerner, Brayden Willis, Ross Dwelley, Cameron Latu

Seattle Seahawks

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 3 October 2023

Mapping out the Seattle Seahawks schedule before the season began, sitting at 3-1 heading into the bye week appeared the optimal outcome.

And that's precisely where the Seahawks sit, even if the route wandered a bit getting to that mark.

"We're finishing the first quarter of the schedule. So, with a lot of hope and looking toward the future, and developing the young guys, seeing them able to play a role for us just gives us the confidence that we're going to keep getting better," Seattle coach Pete Carroll said. "So, we're not a finished product, we're just getting rolling."

Seattle won its third straight game on Monday night with a 24-3 thumping of the New York Giants.

This season marks the 10-year anniversary of the 2013 Seahawks team that won Super Bowl XLVIII, a feat that seems like longer than a decade ago given all the suspect defense Seattle has played of late. But on Monday night, in the same stadium where they claimed their lone Lombardi Trophy, the Seahawks turned back the clock and delivered a dominant defensive performance reminiscent of that 43-8 trouncing of the Denver Broncos.

Eleven sacks. Three takeaways plus a pair of turnovers on downs. A defensive touchdown. Only a field goal allowed.

Eat your heart out, Legion of Boom.

Devon Witherspoon, the high-flying rookie cornerback whose aggressive style would have fit right in with the LOB, helped turn a close game into a runaway victory for Seattle with a 97-yard pick-six in the third quarter.

Take away a dud performance in the season opener at home against the Los Angeles Rams and the Seahawks have flashed at times the qualities that made them a trendy preseason pick to contend with San Francisco in the NFC West.

"We screwed up the freaking second half of the first game and I haven't forgiven myself for that," head coach Pete Carroll said. "The Rams have done a nice job since then, they've played good football. But we just didn't play the second half like all the rest of these halves. This is the way we are supposed to finish."

The Seahawks are 3-1 despite a long list of injuries, and they appeared to dodge another serious one when Geno Smith briefly left the game after hurting his knee. '

Smith hadn't missed a snap in his first 21 games as the Seahawks' starter until he went down with a knee injury in the second quarter on a sideline tackle. He returned for the start of the second half and finished 13-of-20 for 110 yards and a touchdown. Drew Lock went 2-of-6 for 63 yards in relief, including tight end Noah Fant's 51-yard catch-and-run that set up a Kenneth Walker III touchdown.

Jamal Adams left in the first quarter of his first game in more than a year with a concussion. Right guard Phil Haynes aggravated a calf injury, Jarran Reed injured his shin and left guard Damien Lewis sprained his ankle.

Seattle played without defensive backs Coby Bryant (toe), Artie Burns (hamstring), Tre Brown (concussion) and left tackle Charles Cross (toe).

Teams usually don't like byes in Week 5, but the Seahawks won't complain about that right now.

After the week off, the Seahawks will be at Cincinnati in Week 6.

Other notes of interest. ... According to Associated Press sports writer Tim Booth, offensive line coach Andy Dickerson deserves significant recognition for what he's done piecing together a functioning group the past few weeks. At one point on Monday, Seattle was down four of its five starting offensive linemen from the season opener.

Tackles Charles Cross and Abe Lucas have been out since Week 1. And guards Phil Haynes and Damien Lewis both suffered injuries on Monday, meaning rookies Olu Oluwatimi and Anthony Bradford were called into action.

Using tight ends and running backs to help, the group did their job. Smith was sacked twice, but the Giants had just three QB hits.

Fant's table-setting 51-yard reception included the second-most target separation (15.3 yards) of any completion this season, and saw him gain +26 yards after catch over expected. ...

Jason Myers continues to be shaky in the kicking game. Myers was 1 of 2 on Monday, hitting from 34 yards but missed from 53 yards. Myers already has more misses this season (four) than he had last season when he went 34 of 37. Myers was 10 of 12 from 40 yards or beyond last season; he's 2 of 5 this season. ...

Finally. ... Witherspoon became only the second cornerback since individual sacks were tracked (starting in 1982) to have two-plus sacks and a pick-six in a single game, joining Captain Munnerlyn (Week 15 of 2013).

QBs: Sam Howell, Geno Smith
RBs: Kenneth Walker III, Zach Charbonnet, DeeJay Dallas, Kenny McIntosh
WRs: DK Metcalf, Tyler Lockett, Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Jake Bobo, Cody Thompson, Dareke Young
TEs: Noah Fant, Will Dissly

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 3 October 2023

As Associated Press sports writer Fred Goodall notes, Tampa Bay's quest for a third straight NFC South title is off to a surprisingly strong start.

A 26-9 road victory at New Orleans left Baker Mayfield and the Buccaneers (3-1) alone atop the division heading into a bye week that will give several key players, including star receiver Mike Evans, an opportunity to get healthier.

"Again, it's only the first quarter of the season. 3-1 is good, better than 1-3," head coach Todd Bowles said, reflecting on a solid opening month of the season that few outside the Bucs locker room anticipated following the retirement of Tom Brady.

"We have to get some guys nursed up. We have to scheme some things up, iron some things out," Bowles added. "But we are morphing into kind of a physical team that's hard to beat. We just have to continue that without the mistakes."

Mayfield has been a big part of the early success, proving to be a good fit for a system installed by first-year offensive coordinator Dave Canales while avoiding the type of costly mistakes that hampered the No. 1 overall pick from the 2018 draft in three previous NFL stops.

Through four games, the 28-year-old quarterback has completed nearly 70 percent of his passes for 882 yards, seven touchdowns and just two interceptions.

"Baker is tough. He fits in here. He understands the offense very well," Bowles said. "The guys love to play for him. He works for us."

One of the goals this season has been to try to become more balanced on offense, even if an inconsistent running attack isn't always as productive as Bowles and offensive coordinator Dave Canales would like. The Bucs threw 33 times at New Orleans, with Mayfield going 25 of 32 for 246 yards, three TDs and an interception. They also ran it 33 times, finishing with 114 yards rushing.

"We wanted to be a lot more aggressive. We were trying to take what they gave us," Bowles said. "If they crowded for the run, we threw it. If they tried to take away the pass, we ran it. It was a good balance with that."

The defense rebounded from allowing 201 yards on the ground in a loss to Philadelphia, limiting the Saints to 70 yards rushing on 19 attempts Sunday. The Bucs expected New Orleans to lean on Alvin Kamara in his return from a suspension. The defense was up for that challenge, too, limiting the versatile running back to 51 yards rushing and just 33 yards receiving on 13 receptions.

With Evans leaving in the first half because of a hamstring injury, the team's depth at receiver was tested. While Chris Godwin finishing with eight receptions for 114 yards wasn't a surprise, Mayfield got a lift from second-year TE Cade Otton and young backup WRs Trey Palmer and Deven Thompkins, who all caught TD passes against the Saints.

Jeremy Fowler of ESPN reports that Evans will have an MRI to determine the extent of the injury. Fowler adds that the initial diagnosis is that Evans avoided a serious injury.

Evans and the Bucs are off this week, so he will have extended time to heal up before they return to host the Lions in Week Six. If the MRI comes back clean, there would seem to be a good shot that Evans will be ready to go for that game.

Evans has 20 catches for 337 yards and three touchdowns so far this season.

In addition to Evans, the bye week will give several key players, including cornerback Jamel Dean and rookie defensive lineman Calijah Kancey, an opportunity to rest and get healthier. ...

Worth noting. ... The Bucs were penalized 11 times for 91 yards on Sunday. "They weren't going to play a perfect game. ... But we can get better at that going forward," Bowles said.

The team will not practice at all before reconvening next week to begin preparation to face the Detroit Lions on Oct. 15.

QBs: Baker Mayfield, Kyle Trask
RBs: Rachaad White, Chase Edmonds, Sean Tucker, Ke'Shawn Vaughn
WRs: Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, Trey Palmer, Kaylon Geiger, Deven Thompkins, Rakim Jarrett, Russell Gage
TEs: Cade Otton, Ko Kieft, Payne Durham

Tennessee Titans

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 3 October 2023

The Tennessee Titans have a lot of new players this season. However, Derrick Henry remains the biggest constant for an offense that works best when he runs the ball.

The Titans spent the first month trying to click offensively with a new coordinator and a lot of new players.

It didn't help losing their starting left guard, Peter Skoronski to an appendectomy the day before the second game.

With Henry turning in his best game this season and passing Pro Football Hall of Fame running back Earl Campbell for second on the franchise rushing list, the Titans put together their best offensive performance yet to climb to 2-2.

"A lot of good things to build off of," Henry said after the Titans' 27-3 rout of Cincinnati.

Henry set the franchise record with his 80th rushing TD in the second quarter. He then passed Campbell (8,574 yards rushing) for second all-time early in the third quarter. With 8,620 yards rushing, Henry trails only Eddie George (10,009) for most in team history.

"I was a kid that loved football playing in my grandmother's yard in Yulee, Florida," Henry said of Campbell. "To be mentioned with a name that I've heard so long as a kid, it's a surreal moment for me."

Head coach Mike Vrabel said Henry's important to the franchise. He also had a warning for a fellow Ohio State Buckeye alum in George: "Derrick's coming for him."

That might seem a bit much with Henry in the final year of his current deal and trailing George by 1,389 yards. Henry would have to average 106.8 yards the rest of the season to catch the four-time Pro Bowler.

He also became the seventh player since 1966 with 8,000 yards rushing and 80 rushing TDs within his first eight seasons. He joins Eric Dickerson, Barry Sanders, Emmitt Smith, Shaun Alexander, LaDainian Tomlinson and Adrian Peterson in that group.

Oh, and he tossed a touchdown pass.

According to's Turron Davenport, Henry told himself to "go be Peyton Manning" when he heard Ryan Tannehill relay the play call that led to his 2-yard touchdown pass to rookie tight end Josh Whyle.

Henry lined up in the Wildcat formation and got the snap. He rolled to his right and then delivered a jumping pass to Whyle, who scored his first career touchdown. Henry now has four career passing touchdowns, including one in the playoffs.

"Peyton Manning had to show up again," Henry said of his pass.

The Titans installed the play toward the end of the week. The pass almost didn't happen when the Bengals called a timeout before the play. Tennessee offensive coordinator Tim Kelly decided to stick with the call after the timeout, and the players executed it perfectly.

Along the way, as Associated Press sports writer Teresa M. Walker notes, Kelly finally got to show off some creativity as the Titans had a season-high 400 yards, including 173 yards rushing. An offensive line that had given up 13 sacks through the first three games gave up only three to Cincinnati.

That gave Tannehill time to throw for 240 yards. He found Chris Moore for a 44-yarder and hit DeAndre Hopkins for a 38-yard completion -- their longest connection yet.

According to Walker, the Titans need to figure out how to score touchdowns in the first quarter. They had three TDs combined through the first three games, and they put together a nice drives in the first quarter of this game before having to settle for a field goal from Nick Folk.

Thanks to the veteran kicker acquired by trade, the Titans have three field goals for a grand total of nine points in the first quarter this season.

Next up, the Titans visit Indianapolis (2-2) for their first AFC South game this season Sunday, then pack for a "home" game in London against Baltimore. With their bye Oct. 22, they won't play in Nashville again until Oct. 29 when they host Atlanta. ...

On the injury front. ... Whyle couldn't finish the game with an injured ankle. Vrabel said Monday that Skoronski, the 11th overall draft pick in April, should practice in the next step of his recovery. The Titans also designated WR Kyle Philips (knee) to return to practice while on injured reserve.

Treylon Burks missed this game with a knee issue; his status bears watching in coming days; I'll have more via Late-Breaking Update as the week progresses. ...

Offensive lineman Nicholas Petit-Frere now is available with the NFL shortening his suspension for gambling by two games. He earned the starting right tackle job as a rookie last season, but Vrabel said they need to see where Petit-Frere is physically and hopefully will get a roster exemption for him.

QBs: Will Levis, Malik Willis
RBs: Tony Pollard, Tyjae Spears, Julius Chestnut
WRs: Calvin Ridley, DeAndre Hopkins, Treylon Burks, Nick Westbrook_Ikhine, Tyler Boyd, Kyle Philips, Colton Dowell, Chris Moore
TEs: Chigoziem Okonkwo, Josh Whyle, Trevon Wesco

Washington Commanders

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 3 October 2023

According to's John Keim, the Commanders accomplished part of what they wanted. They recovered from an ugly loss at home last week and matched the Philadelphia Eagles for 60 minutes.

Still, the Commanders lost in overtime, 34-31.

So a game that could lead to better things in the coming weeks only led to frustration Sunday. That's why, at one point in his postgame news conference, head coach Ron Rivera pounded his fist on the podium during one answer. And the frustration was visible on his face.

"There's no moral victories," Rivera said. "When you put yourself in position you've got to capitalize on it."

But if the Commanders (2-2) play like that again Thursday against the Chicago Bears and the foreseeable future they can look back on this game as a building block.

After playing the Bears (1-3), Washington plays at Atlanta (2-2) and the New York Giants (1-2).

They have a chance to make noise. But only if they duplicate this effort -- offensively in particular.

Sunday, they had a quarterback in Sam Howell, making his fifth start, who led two fourth-quarter scoring drives to tie the game, including a 64-yard drive in the final one minute, 43 seconds that ended with a 10-yard strike to receiver Jahan Dotson on the final play of regulation. Howell rebounded from an ugly four-interception game against Buffalo last week to throw for 290 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions.

"That's growth," Rivera said. "That's what we're looking for, make some mistakes and come back and play your ass off."

"He had a great game," running back Antonio Gibson said, "especially with all the critics last week. He acted like none of it fazed him and he showed what he was."

According to Keim, Howell made quicker decisions with the ball, threw it away when in danger -- even though he was still sacked five times. He now has been sacked 24 times. But despite the pressure he took care of the ball and delivered in clutch moments. On the two fourth-quarter drives, Howell completed a combined 12 of 16 passes for 106 yards.

"That's what we believe he's capable of," Rivera said. "We have a lot of confidence in him."

In four games, Howell has flashed enough to create optimism for his future. Still, Rivera wore more frustration after a game than most, partly because of the sudden death ending. But, he said, it's also a sign of what he thinks about this team, especially in Year 4 of his program.

"Some mistakes we made we've got to get past that," he said. "The little things, the details. We have to be [better] with that because if we are, you saw us, we played a very good team and we have a chance. But let's start winning."

Nonetheless, Washington saw what it needed out of its offense.

The Commanders finished with 365 total yards, converted 8-of-17 third downs and surpassed 30 points for the second time this season. The Commanders have not scored 30 or more points three times in a season since 2016.

But Washington's offense can't keep getting Howell sacked. He's on pace to be sacked 102 times.

Beyond all that, Rivera said the Commander have to be better with the details of the game to avoid a duplicate fate in the future.

Howell pointed to his own details as an example. On a deep ball to receiver Terry McLaurin in overtime, Howell said he could have released the ball a little earlier. With McLaurin in man coverage, he could have given him a better chance to catch the ball inbounds. Instead, McLaurin's second foot was an inch or two out of bounds.

"We were really close against a good team," Howell said. "We can play better. ... I don't believe in moral victories."

Next up, the Commanders prepare for Justin Fields and the Bears, who blew a 21-point lead against Denver to fall to 0-4. The Commanders are 7-point favorites on FanDuel Sportsbook and have recent experience facing QBs who can take off and run.

"We have to be disciplined up front," Rivera said. "We've got to be able to keep him contained, keep him in the pocket and not allow him to get outside of it where he is very, very dangerous."

On the injury front. ... There was some positive news on Washington's injury report as the club gets ready to play Chicago on Thursday.

Receiver Curtis Samuel was upgraded from a non-participant on Monday's report to a limited participant on Tuesday.

Samuel is dealing with a quad injury. He has 17 catches for 178 yards plus three carries for 20 yards with a touchdown in 2023.

Cornerback Christian Holmes (back) also was upgraded from a DNP to a limited participant.

Receiver Jahan Dotson (ankle) and running back Chris Rodriguez (illness) remained limited.

I'll have more on Dotson and Samuel via Late-Breaking Update in advance of Thursday night's kickoff.

RBs: Brian Robinson Jr., Austin Ekeler, Chris Rodriguez
WRs: Terry McLaurin, Jahan Dotson, Dyami Brown, Jamison Crowder, Byron Pringle, Mitchell Tinsley
TEs: Logan Thomas, Cole Turner, John Bates