Team Notes week 4 2023

By Bob Harris
Bob Harris<


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 26 September 2023

Josh Dobbs walked through the Cardinals' locker room at State Farm Stadium clutching the game ball he was given after leading Arizona to a 28-16 upset win over the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday.

He placed it on the podium for his postgame news conference alongside the phones and recorders catching his every word. Dobbs wasn't letting that ball out of his sight. To the sixth-year journeyman signal-caller, that oblong spheroid was a physical reminder of where he came from and where he was Sunday afternoon: celebrating his first career win.

"It was a tremendous full-circle moment because it feels like yesterday, man, I was getting ready for my first start on Thursday night against the Dallas Cowboys [last season with the Tennessee Titans]," Dobbs said. "So, yeah, it was a great full-circle moment and so it was good to take a moment to enjoy it."

As's Josh Weinfuss pointed out, Sunday wasn't a first just for Dobbs. It was also head coach Jonathan Gannon's first career win and it was the Cardinals' first win of the season after giving up halftime leads in their first two games. Gannon, as he has done throughout his tenure in Arizona, showed little emotion as he downplayed his first head-coaching victory.

"I mean, hopefully one of many," he said, "but back to the drawing board tomorrow."

The Cardinals entered Sunday's game 11-point underdogs to the Cowboys, according to Caesars Sportsbook. Beating the spread and upsetting a team that many around the league predict will make the playoffs "felt good," said linebacker Kyzir White, who sealed the win with an end zone interception with three minutes left.

"Especially when you hear everybody saying, we're going to go 0-and-16," he added. "To get a win against the Cowboys, a great team like that, feel good."

Arizona scored 20 points in the first half for the second straight game, going up 21-10 at halftime. Dobbs set the pace from the second play from scrimmage when he tore off a 44-yard run, which eventually led to a field goal.

"It was a great play," Dobbs said. "I stayed true to my reads, take what the defense gives me. They gave me a pull read and then it was great to make a play, really ignite the offense and the team anytime you're going against a really good defense."

The Cardinals scored on all five of their possessions in the first half, including the final one, a 62-yard field goal from kicker Matt Prater as time expired. It was the longest field goal of the season in the NFL. Prater couldn't see the low flying kick and didn't know it cleared through the goal posts until the officials under the uprights put their hands up.

"Anytime you're back that far and you hope it stays straight, you basically just try to swing to try to get it there," Prater said. "Fortunately, it went straight."

The Cardinals scored on their first four possessions of a game for the first time since in Cleveland Oct. 17, 2021, the infamous game in which Kliff Kingsbury was diagnosed with Covid on Friday and the Cardinals had to go without their head coach.

Arizona jumped out to a 15-3 lead after wide receiver Rondale Moore scored on a 45-yard outside zone run that ended in a foot race to the end zone between him and four Cowboys. The Cowboys threatened to find the end zone throughout the second half, but the Cardinals did something they couldn't do last week, when they surrendered leads of 20-0 and 28-7 in a loss to the New York Giants:

They got stops when they needed them.

"We had some red zone stops and, I'm over it now, but how we lost the game Week 2, you can't do that," Gannon said. "And our guys understood, hey, we have to play cleaner and even if they go down the field, they can't go down the field fast, so that was a point of emphasis for our guys and they competed and made plays."

Now that they have a win, can the Cardinals keep this up?

"In short, yes," Weinfuss wrote. "It might not happen every week, but the Cardinals have shown they are capable of putting together productive first halves, outscoring opponents by 34 points in the first two quarters. On Sunday, they put together their first complete game of the season.

The Cardinals have another tough game this week on the road against the undefeated 49ers. It's another chance for the Cardinals to show how much they've grown over the season's first month.

They follow up Sunday with games against the Bengals, Rams and Seahawks. If Arizona can repeat what it showed against Dallas, they could pull out a few more unexpected wins. ...

Other notes of interest. ... James Conner had 98 yards rushing (and 7.0 yards a carry) and it basically got overlooked with everything else going on. Conner had several long gains on the day, with four of his runs going for 10 or more yards. His lone score came on a 10-yard run in the first quarter, but Conner was utilized often to keep the Cardinals' offense on schedule.

As Darren Urban of the team's official website noted, Moore is dangerous with the ball in his hands. So the Cardinals did something different Sunday, using him as a straight running back for the first time. He took the handoff on an outside zone play -- there was no trickery involved -- and he streaked to the end zone.

"I was hoping he wouldn't get caught by the linebacker because he wouldn't have been able to live that one down," Dobbs joked, although no one was going to get the speedy Moore.

Arizona was dominant running the ball in the first half, rushing for 182 yards -- the most in a half in the NFL this season. But after halftime, the Cardinals managed just 41 more yards despite holding a lead for the entire second half -- a situation in which the Cardinals should've spent burning the clock on the ground. ...

The Cardinals have 469 rushing yards for the Cardinals through three games. That's the most for the team in its first three games of the season since 1988. ...

Marquise Brown caught 5-of-7 targets for 61 yards and one touchdown against Dallas. As Rotoworld pointed out, Brown was once again the preferred target of Dobbs, as his seven targets led the team on the day. Nearly all of Browns' receptions went for double-digit gains, with his longest coming on a 23-yard play in the third quarter.

Moore also caught 4-of-6 targets for eight yards, but Michael Wilson -- a third-round pick out of Stanford -- looks as if he could become a legit big-play threat. He had two catches for 86 yards against the Cowboys, including a 69-yard catch in the fourth quarter that set up the final touchdown. As Associated Press sports writer David Brandt suggests, at 6-2 and 213 pounds, Wilson gives Arizona some much-needed size in the receiving group.

TE Zach Ertz didn't play poorly, but had a quiet game with two catches for 6 yards. He was one of the team's top options in the passing game through the first two weeks.

Prater now has 1,702 points in his NFL career, in part because he crushed a 62-yard field goal right before the half, tying his own franchise record. It was a low line drive and replay showed he even kicked it with the laces facing him -- usually a death knell for a longer kick.

"Anytime you're back that far, you hope it stays straight," Prater said. "You basically swing to try and get it there. Fortunately it went straight. When I first hit it I didn't think it was going to get there because it didn't feel good off my foot. I couldn't even see it go over until the refs put their hands up, and I was like, 'Oh, sh--t. Oh, yeah.'"

That 62-yard field goal was the 72nd of his career from 50 yards or more, extending his NFL record. Sebastian Janikowski is second with 58. ...

On the injury front. ... DL Zaven Collins (eye) left in the second half of the Cowboys game and didn't return. Said Gannon: "I think he's checking out OK."... Baker (hamstring) has to miss at least the next three games while on injured reserve. ... Kyler Murray (knee) has at least one more game on the PUP list before he is eligible to return.

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 26 September 2023

As's Michael Rothstein framed it: "Another week, the same refrain -- the Atlanta Falcons' offense, with six first-round picks, couldn't move the ball."

At least not early on, which is now beginning to be a real problem.

The Falcons averaged 24.5 points in season-opening wins against Carolina and Green Bay, thanks to 352 yards passing for Desmond Ridder and 303 yards from running backs Bijan Robinson and Tyler Allgeier.

Rothstein went on to explain the difference between Sunday and the first two weeks is that this time, there was no settling down.

There was no second-half comeback because any time Atlanta showed a modicum of offensive success, it followed with failure.

The Falcons averaged 2.2 yards per run, 3.1 yards per pass and 2.8 yards per play. Of the Falcons' 12 drives Sunday, only four lasted more than four plays. Punter Bradley Pinion, with 295 yards punting, had more yards kicking than the Falcons' 183 total offensive yards.

"We didn't have a spark," Allgeier said. "We just needed to get things going. We just needed to get a rhythm."

Rhythm, or the lack thereof, has been a common theme in Atlanta's offense the first three weeks. If it happens once or twice, you can write it off. Three games in a row and it could be a concern.

It's been something Ridder has spoken about often. He did so again Sunday after what seemed to be his worst start since taking over the quarterback job last December, completing 21 of 38 passes for 201 yards, no touchdowns and no interceptions. The Falcons couldn't move the ball. They couldn't handle Detroit's continuous pressure, including seven sacks, and they seemed like they were slow to adjust when the Lions took Atlanta's typically potent run game away.

"We just weren't able to get anything going," Ridder said. "That's something we struggled with earlier, especially in the, we'll say, in the first half of games throughout the season and that's something that, obviously, we've got to work on to improve."

Robinson said he feels like the offense is trying to continue to understand each other. They are all still young, at least at the skill positions. Robinson had 60 yards from scrimmage, the lowest of his first three games, part of a day where no Falcon had more than Kyle Pitts' 41 yards receiving or Robinson's 33 yards rushing.

According to Associated Press sports writer Charles Odum, a lack of explosive plays again hurt the passing game. Pitts and Jonnu Smith each had five catches but combined for only 78 yards. Drake London, the 2022 No. 8 overall pick and projected top wide receiver, had two catches for 31 yards.

London's 28-yard reception was a highlight for Ridder and a too-rare example of the duo's big-play potential.

The Falcons recognize their issues, and their head coach, Arthur Smith, has shown an ability to adjust throughout games.

But for the first time this season, Atlanta struggled to run and the 44 rushing yards Sunday were the second-lowest of Smith's tenure, ahead of only a 25-0 loss to the New England Patriots in 2021 where Atlanta ran for 40 yards. Atlanta took losses six times on first downs Sunday. Five other times, the Falcons gained no yards. Only four times did the Falcons gain more than five yards on a first down.

"That's pretty much the story of the game, was too many negative plays on early downs," Smith said. "Which led to a lot of ugly offensive football. But, as ugly as that did feel, we had our chances even late to try to do something with it and we didn't."

Shutting down the run had been Detroit's plan all along. Lions corner Brian Branch said they took Atlanta out of its game plan toward the end of the first half because the Lions knew the Falcons lived off the run and "it got them out their rhythm."

"That was the main emphasis. A big emphasis," Branch said. "Coach was on our ass every day. Dan [Campbell], [defensive coordinator Aaron Glenn], [linebackers coach Kelvin Sheppard], the defensive coaches.

"They enforced that, stopping the run was going to be key that game."

After seeing how Detroit handled Atlanta's offensive game plan, Rothstein suggest that might be the first main inflection point of the Falcons' season.

With first-round picks in Robinson, London and Pitts at skill positions and Kaleb McGary, Jake Matthews and Chris Lindstrom on the offensive line, the offense should be better.

And so much of it might come with figuring out a way to be more productive from the start. If Atlanta can do that, it might open up more of its offense.

"We know what this team is supposed to look like," Ridder said. "What we're supposed to be and through three weeks, we haven't even skimmed the surface of what we're supposed to be."

Things won't get easier this week with a trip to England complicating preparations for Sunday's game against the Jaguars. ...

Also of interest. ... The Lions sacked Ridder seven times. That's more takedowns than Ridder had in the Falcons' first two games combined. It's two fewer than he sustained through last season's four starts.

Before Sunday, the most Ridder had ever been sacked in a single game had been four times. The pressure led to accuracy problems -- including missing London on a key fourth-down conversation attempt. ...

Sacks negated 62 of his 201 passing yards. Therefore, Atlanta had 139 net yards passing. ...

Is there hope for the receiving assets here?

NBC Sports' Kyle Dvorchak notes that Pitts leads all tight ends in air yards share and is third in target share. Dvorchak was quick to add: "The only problem is that the Falcons are 26th in pass attempts per game and PFF has deemed just 56 percent of his targets as catchable. ..."

Atlanta's most recent touchdown on the road came from Cordarrelle Patterson on Dec. 18, 2022 -- almost nine quarters ago.

On a more positive note. ... Robinson now has 102 yards receiving through three career games, making him the first Falcons rookie running back to hit 100-yard milestone that quickly in franchise history.

On the injury front. ... Patterson (thigh) was inactive after being listed as questionable. CB Jeff Okudah (foot) returned from an injury to make his Atlanta debut against the team that drafted and traded him.

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 26 September 2023

As staff writer Clifton Brown reported, the Ravens made costly mistakes in Week 3 and paid dearly for it.

Turnovers, missed opportunities, troubles on special teams and with clock management were part of a 22-19 overtime loss to the Indianapolis Colts (2-1) that left the Ravens (2-1) frustrated by their first loss of the season.

"We had plenty of opportunities to put the game away, especially when our defense was doing a great job stopping those guys," said Lamar Jackson, who had 101 yards rushing yards and two rushing touchdowns. "We had great field position [and] we didn't move the ball at all. That ticked me off. It ticked all of us."

Ryan Mink of the team's website added: "more games are lost than won in the NFL. The Ravens lost this game."

Four straight offensive drives in the first half ended with fumbles.

They bungled the end of regulation with a chance to milk the clock.

Their offense, given two golden opportunities to win the game in overtime, choked.

The Ravens came into this game limping with seven key starters ruled out, and they lost a couple more key players during the game in running back Gus Edwards (concussion protocol) and outside linebacker David Ojabo (ankle), putting those two position groups on life support.

Still, the Ravens had enough to win.

They had a quarterback the Colts struggled to wrangle and a defense that, for the most part, put up another strong performance -- certainly good enough to win. When Gardner Minshew stepped out of the back of the end zone with just more than two minutes left, giving the Ravens a three-point lead and the ball in their hands, the stadium was rocking. The game seemed over.

The Ravens fumbled it away, literally at the start and figuratively down the stretch.

Mink went on to suggest Jackson is going to run less in Todd Monken's new offense, but they'll do whatever it takes to win a given game.

With a wet ball and short-handed running back corps, Monken left the ball in Jackson's hands.

The plan generally worked, as Jackson ran for two touchdowns for the first time since Week 2 of the 2021 season and topped 100 rushing yards for the first time since Week 3 of last year. He often dodged and weaved through the Colts defense.

Besides that, however, the offense was lacking punches. They took no shots down the field to the wide receivers. Jackson threw for just 202 yards. Zay Flowers led the receivers with a whopping eight catches on 10 targets, but he got just 48 yards on those grabs.

The Ravens dinked and dunked down the field, a strategy that theoretically should be lower risk, except Baltimore fumbled four times.

Even though Jackson's legs were the Ravens' best weapon, he didn't run the ball once in overtime when the Ravens probably only needed to get one first down (maybe not even) twice. That would seem to raise a red flag except for the fact that the strategy should have worked.

Flowers was wide open on a critical third-and-6 on the first drive in overtime, but Jackson's throw was behind him, perhaps because he thought Flowers was going to stop his route or because Jackson just missed him. Then tight end Isaiah Likely had the ball in his stomach on a third-and-3 catch that would've easily put Tucker in range, but he dropped. The play calls worked. The execution did not.

Like clockwork, the Ravens have had one of the best special teams units in the league year in and year out. Yet Baltimore entered this game ranked last in the NFL in DVOA -- foreign territory.

A week after allowing a punt return for a touchdown, the Ravens were again outplayed on special teams.

With four field goals from beyond 50 yards, including the game winner, Matt Gay outshined the G.O.A.T, Justin Tucker, whose chance to win it from 61 yards out at the end of regulation fell just short. It's extremely rare for Tucker to be outshined by another kicker.

Worse than that, the Ravens committed a costly error by fair catching a free kick near the end of regulation that Flowers should have returned to bleed enough time off the clock to get to the two-minute warning. Instead, the Ravens essentially gave the Colts a free timeout before their game-tying field goal late in the fourth quarter.

Head coach John Harbaugh said the Ravens originally thought the two-minute warning had already passed, and when officials added more time to the clock following the safety, they weren't able to get the change of plans communicated to Flowers in time.

The special teams unit made some good plays too, but we're not used to seeing the Ravens' special teams unit be so inconsistent, and that needs to change. ...

The Ravens have back-to-back AFC North road games in Cleveland and Pittsburgh next.

Then it's off to London. It's a tough stretch, and this loss will leave them hungry for a rebound.

"It was one of those games that you look back on at the end of the year, and you thought it made you better," tight end Mark Andrews said. ...

Other notes of interest. ... While team's don't use injuries as excuses, there comes a point where they can be at least a partial explanation.

"The Ravens played extremely well in Cincinnati a week earlier despite missing a number of key starters. However, when you're missing as many as nine starters, injuries are bound to have some impact," the Athletic's Zrebiec wrote. "The Ravens' offensive line, in particular, struggled at times without left tackle Ronnie Stanley and center Tyler Linderbaum against a very good Colts front. Already thin at edge rusher without Odafe Oweh and with Tyus Bowser on the non-football injury list, the Ravens then lost David Ojabo to an ankle injury on the first defensive series. The Ravens have shown flashes of being a good football team, but they need to get some guys healthy."

Russell Street Report's Rob Shields also felt the team was hampered due to injury.

"The injuries on this team are crippling right now and more guys got hurt today," Shields wrote. "Not having [Edwards] to run out the clock was just another injury issue that occurred today. No team can overcome these issues week in and week out and it's not likely many of these key guys are back next week either. This team needs to figure out how to keep guys healthy and they need this offense to get on the same page. It's only one loss but this is a win you needed in the big picture of things and you are now looking at back to back road division games with several guys hurt."

In addition to Edwards' concussion, Rashod Bateman finished the game standing on the sideline without his helmet. He said his hamstring tightened up on him. Receiver Tylan Wallace was also slowed by a hamstring issue that was serious enough to land him on injured reserve on Tuesday.

The team was also without Justice Hill (toe) and Odell Beckham Jr. (ankle) against the Colts. The injuries continue to pile up. They need to get some players back, badly.

I'll have more on Hill, Edwards, Beckham, Bateman and the rest via Late-Breaking Update in coming days.

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 26 September 2023

As Patrick Warren of the team's official website reported, the Buffalo Bills improved to 2-1 after a commanding victory over Washington in a road game that saw the defense secure five takeaways and the offense total almost 400 total yards.

All week, the Bills offense was reminded of the elite talent of the Washington Commanders defensive front. Featuring four former first-round picks, Washington had already tallied 10 sacks and 16 tackles for loss in just two games.

The Bills offensive line held the Commanders to zero sacks and just one hit on quarterback Josh Allen in the Bills' 37-3 win at FedEx Field.

They also provided lanes for the Bills rushers to attack, with the Bills totaling 168 yards and two touchdowns on the ground. Fourteen of the Bills' 33 carries gained five or more yards.

"Great plan, great execution of the plan. Very proud of those guys," head coach Sean McDermott said of the offensive line. "I mean they work hard and they don't always get mentioned … at halftime, those guys really took over the game. We have to continue to play good physical football, fundamentally sound football on both sides."

Allen and the Bills' offense delivered very balanced game, with 32 passing attempts and 33 rushing attempts. Allen gave the offensive line credit for their ability to protect for a wide range of play calls.

"They played fantastic," Allen said. "Obviously that's a fantastic front that we faced, all four of those guys can absolutely go. It was a good test for us and I'm glad things went obviously the way that they went but just utilizing our game plan, getting to move the pocket stuff, switching up where we're throwing the football, trying to stay two dimensional, I thought Coach Dorsey did a good job of that tonight."

Behind the offensive line's strong performance stood Allen, who completed 20 of his 32 passing attempts for 218 yards and a touchdown, while also throwing an interception on a deep pass intended for Gabe Davis. Allen added 46 yards and a touchdown on the ground.

Allen's performance didn't provide the video game box score that fans know he is capable of producing, but it was a sign of a more conservative approach that has led Buffalo to scoring 75 combined points in their last two games.

Allen took off three times in the Bills' win and did a good job at avoiding contact from opposing defenders. As one of the premier mobile quarterbacks in the league -- and one of the most physically imposing athletes -- Allen said he has made a concerted effort to protect his body while on the run.

"I was proud of him for doing that," McDermott said. "It showed discipline, and I think there's some plays he wants back today and then he made some incredible plays as well."

Allen went 5-for-12 for a touchdown and an interception when throwing 15 yards or deeper, finding much of his success from allowing his receivers to run after the catch on shorter throws. However, he still benefited from throwing it deep, as his lone touchdown pass came on a 35-yard bomb to Davis.

"Josh understands that I want him to be him," McDermott said. "So we're not asking him to change who he is, it's incorporating the discipline that you need to incorporate into the game. … I've been real proud of some of the things he's done, the majority of what he's done, in the last two games."

Allen said that the defense's elite showing helped him and the offense play more conservatively and focus on winning the game.

"At the end of the day, still having that attack mindset and every time we touch the ball, we want to score," Allen said. "But it makes it that much easier, you're not trying to force things as much when you know you have a defense you can rely on and it's okay to punt the ball away and they put us in some great situations today."

Allen also hinted at additional reasons behind his intentions of sliding instead of battling for extra yards.

"There's a few people on this team that owe me some money for sliding, so there's a little bit of incentive there," Allen said.


As's Alaina Getzenberg suggested, there's not much to nitpick in a performance that saw backup quarterback Kyle Allen enter the game with over eight minutes to play, but the Bills started the game 0-for-2 in red zone offense and could have pulled away even sooner had they scored touchdowns. Instead, they settled for 36- and 32-yard field goals on those possessions. --

Next up, the Bills host unbeaten Miami Sunday, fresh off the Dolphins scoring 70 points.

As Associated Press sports writer John Wawrow notes, with the New York Jets (1-2) struggling minus Aaron Rodgers, and the offensively challenged Patriots limping to a 1-2 start, the Dolphins-Bills outing on Sunday represents an enticing early season division showdown.

The Dolphins (3-0) enter Monday leading the NFL in points scored, total yards, yards rushing and passing.

The Bills (2-1) are second in scoring despite a season-opening dud of a 22-16 loss at the Jets.

The difference might come down to defense, where the Bills appear to have an edge.

Through three outings, Buffalo has allowed just two touchdowns, 41 first downs and allowed an average of 253 yards per outing, with opponents converting just 9 of 29 of third-down opportunities.

The pass rush has been effective even with Von Miller sidelined for at least one more game while recovering from a torn right knee ligament.

Their veteran secondary is healthy after Tre'Davious White and Micah Hyde missed most of last season with injuries. And linebackers Matt Milano and Terrel Bernard have combined for four interceptions and a fumble recovery.

Pressure might be the key.

Buffalo's defense made sure that Sam Howell's day was anything but easy, pressuring him on 67.6 percent of plays while blitzing on just 16.2 percent. The pressure helped result in seven sacks, four interceptions (including an AJ Epenesa pick-six) and just three points for Washington. The Commanders' offense came into the day scoring the second-most points per game (27.5) but tied for the second-most sacks allowed (10), so the Bills' ability to continue this success against better lines and other quarterbacks will be significant.

The Dolphins will obviously be a big test. ...

Other notes of interest. ... James Cook rushed 15 times for 98 yards while catching 2-of-3 targets for an additional 14 yards. As Rotoworld notes, Cook looked great against a strong Commanders' defensive front. He was making defenders miss in the backfield and hitting the hole hard when he got to the line of scrimmage.

On his second-to-last run of the day, he broke off a 36-yarder but was dragged down at the two-yard line, costing himself a 100-yard day and a touchdown. Even though he didn't score, he did get a few red-zone opportunities and remains an extremely high upside option in this Buffalo offense.

Meanwhile, Latavius Murray rushed five times for 15 yards and a touchdown to go with a six-yard reception. Damien Harris rushed five times for 15 yards. ...

Allen has 39 career rushing touchdowns after scoring on a 10-yard run. He ranks fourth on the NFL list among quarterbacks, one behind Jack Kemp and four behind Steve Young. Cam Newton leads the list with 75. ...

Stefon Diggs caught 8-of-12 targets for 111 yards while Davis caught 1-of-4 targets for 35 yards and a touchdown. ...

Tyler Bass made field goals from 54, 36 and 32 yards Sunday and hit all three of his extra point attempts. Bass has now made two field goals from over 50 yards and is seven-for-seven on the season. Bass, who is in his fourth year with Buffalo, has a career field goal percentage of 86.1 percent and is 9-for-14 on field goal attempts from 50 or more yards out.

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 26 September 2023

Frank Reich has coached long enough to know his rebuilding and injury-depleted Carolina Panthers had a narrow margin for error while playing at Seattle.

After Carolina committed 13 penalties, had no running game and couldn't get stops in the second half, it's safe to say Reich's team didn't follow his formula for victory.

"I don't think anybody feels like we've been outmanned in any game," Reich said. "We just have beat ourselves. Just have to continue to get better."

Beyond that, the way the Panthers' run game has gradually withered across their first three games has taken Reich aback.

Even though its offense saw its best passing game of the season off the arm of veteran quarterback Andy Dalton, Carolina lost behind a one-dimensional showing in a 37-27 decision against Seattle on Sunday at Lumen Field.

For perspective, the Panthers went from putting up 154 rushing yards at Atlanta to 100 against New Orleans (34 of those on Bryce Young scrambles) and a paltry 44 yards on the ground at Seattle.

"It really is surprising to me," Reich said when asked what caused the drop-off from Week 1 to Week 3. "We know for us to be the offense and the team we want to be, we need to have more balance in the offense. And so we have to continue to work on that."

Dalton's 361 yards on 34-of-58 passing (a career-high number of attempts for him in his 163rd career start) with two touchdowns and a season-long 47-yard touchdown pass to D.J. Chark Jr. weren't enough. Mostly because they only ran it 14 times.

Dalton's performance marked improvements for a Panthers' passing attack that had been less-than-explosive through the first two weeks, connecting on five plays of 20 yards or more and moving the ball efficiently, guiding Carolina to a season-high 27 points.

Associated Press sports writer Steve Reed notes that veteran wide receiver Adam Thielen had great chemistry with Dalton. The veteran duo -- they have 24 years of combined NFL experience -- hooked up 11 times for 145 yards and a touchdown. Thielen showed he's still an above-average route runner with good burst in his best game with the Panthers.

Chark, who missed the season opener with a hamstring injury and was on a snap count in Week 2, gave the Panthers a boost in the passing game on Sunday. He caught four passes for 86 yards, including a 47-yard TD reception from Dalton.

Chark insists better days are ahead for the Panthers. "We have the talent. It's just we haven't did it together as a group yet," Chark said. "I feel like once we do it and we get that feeling, it'll be contagious."

A total of 10 different Panthers players caught a pass, including seldom-targeted tight ends Tommy Tremble and Ian Thomas.

He played in place of an injured Young, recovering from an ankle injury that ruled him out for this week and questionable for the game ahead at Minnesota.

"You don't come into Seattle and throw 58 times and win very many games," Reich said. "That was not the formula that we wanted. The run game was nonexistent, so we've got to continue to work on that.

"I did think that Andy handled the pass game pretty well, made a lot of good throws. We made some plays in the pass game. I thought, given 58 attempts, and there are times the protection broke down, but it wasn't horrible. Have to look at the tape, but in many ways, I thought Andy was pretty solid. I thought Andy did a lot of good things today."

No, it wasn't a winning formula, as the Panthers threw so much because they were often playing from behind -- in points, and in yardage, as they caused backups with seven false start penalties on offense in front of a loud Seahawks crowd.

"It's hard to play when you're one-dimensional," Dalton said. "And I feel like that's what we did today. We really couldn't get the run game going. And I think part of the stuff too is some of those penalties and different things that set you back, and now you feel like you have to throw the ball.

"So there are some things that I'm going to look back on and things that I wish I could have done a little bit better in the pass game. But like I said, when you're one-dimensional, it makes it tough."

Running back Miles Sanders rushed for 24 yards on nine attempts at Seattle. He blamed himself for some of the problems and said people in the locker room were encouraged by Reich to look within themselves after Sunday's loss.

"It's a lot of self-inflicted wounds that's happening to us," Sanders said. "We can't win games in this league doing that. I'm not into pointing fingers. We all know -- we the offense -- this is three weeks in a row we haven't played up to our standards. Just like coach said, there has to be some soul-searching going on. And we've got to fix it. It's as simple as that. It's not simple, but that's what has to go on."

The Panthers weren't trailing Seattle for the whole game, but Dalton could tell he was throwing the ball more when they were down, especially toward the end. It's a factor of playing from behind and being unable to run the ball, and they're going back to the drawing board to figure it out.

"Especially when you get into the end of the game, and you're going to be throwing the ball every down, trying to claw your way back in it; I think that kind of inflates the number (of attempts) there too," Dalton said. "But we have to find a way to be balanced. We've got to find a way to run the ball better than we did. We didn't run it good enough today."

Meanwhile,'s David Newton reports that Reich reminded his 0-3 team in the locker room following Sunday's loss that his 2018 Indianapolis Colts started 1-5 and made the playoffs.

They even won a playoff game.

Thielen reminded reporters that he was part of a 2016 Minnesota Vikings team that started 5-0 and didn't make the playoffs.

Didn't even finish in the top two of its division.

As Newton went on to suggest, this sounded a little like damage control for a team that in the second half looked like the NFL's version of the "Bad News Bears" with an offense that had five of its eight false starts and a defense that surrendered 25 of its 37 points.

But the message from both was it's way too early to give up on the season.

Reich even assured there is "belief in the locker room" and there will be no finger-pointing.

"Listen, we're three games into this," Carolina's first-year coach said. "Everybody understands the kind of guys we've got in there. Everybody takes ownership. Everybody understands it's a long season.

"There's no guarantees on anything. We know we can be a good team. ... All you worry about is the next team."

As noted above, the next team is Minnesota, also 0-3 after Sunday's 28-24 loss to the previously winless Los Angeles Chargers. There's a fair chance the Panthers will have Young. And to be clear, Reich reiterated Young will be the starter when healthy no matter how well Dalton plays.

But asked on Monday if Young (ankle) will be ready for Sunday, Reich replied: "I don't know yet."

In addition, rookie wide receiver Jonathan Mingo left with a concussion.

I'll have more on Mingo and on Young's progress via Late-Breaking Update in coming days. ...

Other notes of interest. ... Mingo's concussion mixed up the receiver rotation, but Chark and Thielen playing 74 and 73 snaps, respectively, show you how key they are to the entire offense.

The Sanders-Chuba Hubbard splits weren't that far out of line with previous weeks, but you can tell the usage in the run game wasn't there because blocking tight end Thomas only had 13 snaps on offense, and tight end/fullback Giovanni Ricci didn't have any.

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 26 September 2023

As's Courtney Cronin reports, a turbulent week filled with off-field distractions for the Bears culminated in one of the most lopsided losses in recent franchise history.

The Bears suffered a 41-10 defeat against the reigning Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs to extend their losing streak to 13, the longest active streak in the NFL.

"We just got our ass kicked," tight end Cole Kmet said. "That's probably No. 1. I can't think of a game I've had in a long time that looked like that."

Chicago is off to its first 0-3 start since 2016 and has given up 106 points, its second-most allowed through three games in team history. After the sudden resignation of former defensive coordinator Alan Williams last Wednesday, the same day quarterback Justin Fields pointed to coaching as the reason he felt he played "robotic" in a Week 2 loss at Tampa Bay, the Bears are again searching for answers to halt an early-season skid.

"I would just say that everybody's got to take a hard look at what they're doing, in terms of the schemes we're running, what we're doing," coach Matt Eberflus said. "We're charged with putting our players in the best position to execute, and that's what the coach does. And develop the players at the same time. We just got to do a better job. It's also on the players because it is a partnership, both of us together. The execution part on the field is always player and coach."

Fields was unable to accomplish his goal of playing more freely against the Chiefs. He completed 11 of 22 passes for 99 yards, 1 touchdown, 1 interception and a 58.7 passer rating. It took Chicago nine possessions to score its first points of the game -- a 21-yard field goal from Cairo Santos with 13:36 to play in the fourth quarter.

The Bears had to settle for the field goal after Fields was injured on the previously play, appeared woozy and had to be guided toward the Chicago sideline by wide receiver D.J. Moore.

Fields came back in the game later in the fourth quarter with his team trailing by 38 points, a decision Eberflus made once the quarterback was given the go-ahead by Bears trainers.

"He was cleared, right? He came out," Eberflus said. "We were going for it on fourth down there, but he came out so I decided to kick the field goal, right? And then he was cleared, and he was ready to go."

Fields' sole touchdown pass came late in the game to Moore, the wide receiver's first as a member of the Bears. It was Fields' second TD pass of the season.

The third-year quarterback said he remains optimistic that the Bears can turn their season around. He used the Detroit Lions' strong finish in 2022 that had them on the brink of the playoffs after a 1-6 start as an example of the type of path Chicago could follow.

"All we need is one to get this thing going," Fields said.

Asked how he aims to mentally reset after a trying week that resulted in a 31-point loss, Fields looked holistically at his struggles in this three-game stretch to provide perspective on moving forward.

"I'm looking at it like the big picture, life in general to be honest with you," Fields said. "I think this past week has had me kind of look at it like: What are the important things in life? Because you know when things are going good, you feel me, not, say, whatever.

"I think these past couple of weeks have made me appreciate the little things in life like being able to play this game. Every opportunity I get to go out there and play, I'm going to have fun. I'm going to play my hardest and, you know, just thank God for giving me the ability to play. So, no matter what the scoreboard is, I'm going to keep doing the same mindset and just pushing to keep moving forward."

Chicago allowed two-time NFL MVP Patrick Mahomes to complete 24 of 33 passes for 272 yards and three touchdowns for a 127.3 passer rating. Eberflus kept the door open to making adjustments to his defensive staff in the coming days as the team looks to move past Williams' departure.

Chicago hosts Denver -- who is also 0-3 -- in Week 4. But after one of the worst losses in franchise history, it's hard to see things getting back on track any time soon. In fact, in a sign of just how bad things are for them, the Bears are home underdogs against Denver.

The Broncos -- coming of a 70-20 loss at Miami in which they gave up the most points by an NFL team since 1966 -- opened as 1 1/2-point favorites, according to FanDuel Sportsbook. ...

Asked if Roschon Johnson's role expand following his performance against the Chiefs,'s Courtney Cronin noted it's been trending that way for a few weeks after Johnson was the lone bright spot on offense during the Bears' season-opening loss to Green Bay.

Since then, Chicago has split its backfield responsibilities between Johnson and Khalil Herbert, with D'Onta Forman inactive in Weeks 2 and 3. Johnson had eight carries for 38 yards and two receptions for 11 yards in a blowout loss to the Chiefs. Most of his rushing production didn't come until the second half with the Bears trailing 41-0.

Johnson has steadily added to his workload these first three games and will continue to earn more touches as Chicago's offense searches for any answer to get on track. ...

On the injury front. ... Starting safety Eddie Jackson was inactive with a foot injury and cornerback Josh Blackwell was dealing with a hamstring injury, all before cornerback Tyrique Stevenson had to be evaluated for a concussion; he later was deemed to have an illness and did not return. Defensive backs Jaquan Brisker and Jaylon Johnson also were hobbled during the game.

In addition to Jackson, other Bears inactives included quarterback Tyson Bagent, receiver Equanimeous St. Brown and running back D'Onta Foreman.

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 26 September 2023

As's Grant Gordon framed it, "Taking the field against a team he once battled for a Lombardi Trophy, Joe Burrow came away victorious this time around.

"However, the calf-strained quarterback hardly resembled the all-star gunslinger of past autumns and postseason ascents. ..."

Burrow gutted it out on Monday and captained his Cincinnati Bengals to win No. 1, but he hardly looked like his usual phenomenal self in a 19-16 win over the Los Angeles Rams. Nonetheless, the reward of victory was worth the risk of injury.

"There is risk to go out there and potentially re-injure it, but there's also a risk to go out there and be 0-3," Burrow said after the game, "so I wanted to be out there for my guys, and I was confident I was going to be able to do what I needed to do to get the win."

Burrow, who played the Rams for the first time since they defeated his Bengals in Super Bowl LVI, was questionable coming into the evening after aggravating his calf injury in Week 2. For the most part, Burrow looked stiff, uneasy and uncomfortable, and always quick with his release when any pressure came his way.

As it's been through a 1-2 start, the Bengals offense largely sputtered and injured calf or not, Burrow shouldered the load, completing 26 of 49 passes for no touchdowns, an interception and a 59.8 rating.

For many a pundit, conventional wisdom pointed to the Bengals resting their franchise quarterback, allowing his pesky calf to heal up in order to avoid a potential long-term ailment. That wasn't the move for the Bengals and Burrow, though.

Said head coach Zac Taylor: "We were in a good shape the last couple days. We felt like we knew where this was headed, so we were in a good spot."

Said Burrow: "Went through a workout today, felt good enough to play. Felt good out there."

Burrow certainly didn't look great, or to the exceptional standard he's set.

Nonetheless, he came out a victor on two fronts despite sub-par play.

Burrow won a game for the first time with a sub-80 passer rating. He also came away unscathed -- or at least no more scathed than he was prior to facing Aaron Donald and the Rams, who sacked him twice and racked up six QB hits.

"I feel good," Burrow said. "We didn't have any setbacks today, but still day to day, and I've learned through this process that you can have one at any time. So, it was good to get through this one, and that means it'll be stronger for next week, so hopefully, I can have a full week of practice to prepare for next week."

Thus, though all's well that ended well on Monday, Burrow's health will once again be the prevailing storyline heading into a Week 4 matchup on the road against the Tennessee Titans. Another quandary will be if an injured Burrow can produce after three sub-par games.

Burrow has two games with a sub-60 passer rating this season. He had no such games in his career previously. He's thrown just two touchdowns in three games with as many interceptions.

His play was clearly altered by his calf, and he admitted as much.

"I was pretty cautious with extending plays," he said. "I was quick to throw the ball away. But we were able to get the job done."

Burrow and the Bengals got the job done on Monday. As for Week 4 and beyond, that remains to be seen because Monday changed nothing in Cincinnati's approach to its QB1 and his calf going forward.

Monday was Monday, tomorrow's a new day, and the day-by-day approach will continue.

"I'm in here saying day to day because that's what we're doing," Taylor said. "You just never fully know, and you just want honest responses from him, which he gave, and you talk to the doctors, and everyone gets on the same page and feels good about it, and he goes out there and delivers a performance like he did."

That aid, Ja'Marr Chase entered Week 3 wanting the football more. He got it -- even if it wasn't the deep shots.

Entering Week 3, Chase had 10 catches for 70 receiving yards combined in the first two weeks. He more than doubled those numbers in Monday night's 19-16 win over the L.A. Rams. Chase set a career-high with 12 catches, going for 141 yards.

"Coming into this game, I was going to feed my guy," Burrow said on Monday night. "He was due for one. I knew he was going to have a big game. Just the way he was talking all week, he was excited to play this one. He showed up big for us. He showed why he's one of the best."

"All I can do is make him look good," Chase said of Burrow. "That's the best I can do, make him look good. He helps me look good. We make each other look good. Just being there for him. That's all I can do is be there for him."

The most explosive play of the game came on one of the few times Burrow moved out of the pocket, faking a toss, rolling right and finding Chase for 43 yards on a double move.

But the play that might have shown the Chase-Burrow combo was really rounding back into form came on a third-quarter third-and-10 when Burrow put a ball perfectly behind Chase, who reached back to snag it for a first down. If Burrow leads the WR there, at best, the pass is broken up and more likely an INT. The QB put it in the only window he could and trusted Chase would make the play. The Bengals scored their only TD of the game four plays later.

"Joe changed the play. That was a good audible by Joe," Chase said. "He threw a back shoulder so I didn't get hit. He was helping me not collide from the safety coming down. That's a good ball."

Chase also praised Burrow's toughness.

"I told him again after the game, you got b-lls. I don't want you to play. That just shows Joe is hardheaded, but he's a football player, man," Chase told Geoff Hobson of the team's website. "You can't knock him being tough like that. There aren't too many quarterbacks tough like that."

Asked how far Burrow is from being his usual self, Chase replied: "I think this is him. He just proved it tonight playing hurt, too. He's Joe Cool, Joe Brrr. Whatever you want. He's that guy."

While Chase excelled, Tee Higgins had a poor showing.

Higgins had just two catches on eight targets for 21 yards and said in a social media post that he needs to be better next week.

Joe Mixon rushed 19 times for 65 yards and a touchdown, adding five yards on his lone reception.

As Rotoworld notes, Mixon continued to play heavy snaps and handled all but two running back opportunities. His first touchdown of the year masked his continued low efficiency but salvaged his fantasy day, providing the first starter-worthy fantasy week this season.

Mixon's efficiency and upside could improve as the offense improves, after the Bengals have managed just 46 points scored through three weeks.

Still, fantasy managers might want to check their available options with the stout run defense of the Titans on deck for Week 4.

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 26 September 2023

Coming off one of the worst performances since joining the Cleveland Browns, quarterback Deshaun Watson bounced back with his best yet.

As's Jake Trotter reports, in Sunday's 27-3 win over the Tennessee Titans, Watson completed 27 of 33 passes for 263 yards and two touchdowns. The 82 percent completion rate was the second best of his career, according to ESPN Stats and Information research.

"Just responding," Watson said. "It's a work in progress. We're not the only ones dealing with it. Every team is dealing with it. ... We're just working through it and finding our stride."

In last Monday's 26-22 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers, Watson had three turnovers. Alex Highsmith sacked Watson in the fourth quarter to force a fumble, and T.J. Watt scooped it up and raced in for the game-winning touchdown. Watson also threw a pick-six on the first snap of the game on a pass that bounced off the hands of tight end Harrison Bryant.

Coming into the Tennessee game, Watson had the highest off-target (overthrows or underthrows) rate (27 percent) in the NFL.

On Sunday, he was 19-of-21 passing targeting wide receivers, a career record. That included a 43-yard touchdown throw to Amari Cooper. Before that toss, Watson previously was 2 of 14 on throws 25 yards or more downfield, according to ESPN Stats and Information research.

"I thought he took completions, obviously took the shots when they were there, made plays with his feet," head coach Kevin Stefanski said. "I thought he was outstanding today."

Watson went 700 days without playing a game. He sat out the 2021 season after requesting a trade from the Houston Texans. He was then suspended 11 games last year for violating the NFL's personal conduct policy after more than two dozen women accused him of sexual assault and inappropriate conduct during massages.

Browns star defensive end Myles Garrett said he knew the offense would rebound Sunday. And he noted it was only a matter of time before Watson rediscovered his "groove" again.

"He's only getting better and better," Garrett said. "He's only getting more chemistry with his guys. He's adjusting to the pace of the game again."

Granted, it was against Tennessee's suspect secondary, but Watson looked like the three-time Pro Bowler who led the NFL in passing three years ago.

As Associated Press sports writer Tom Withers suggests, this was what the Browns hoped for when they made their controversial trade for Watson 18 months ago, signing him to a fully guaranteed $230 million contract and waiting for him to serve an 11-game suspension for alleged sexual misconduct.

For the first time since Watson came back last season, there were no questions about his rust or long layoffs. There was no chatter about a lack of communication, his comfort with Stefanski's offense or the elements.

No excuses. Watson's ninth start with Cleveland was nearly perfect.

Now, he hopes to duplicate it.

The Browns are expecting this -- or close to it -- every week from Watson, who in addition to making numerous pinpoint throws and spreading the ball around, showed toughness by staying in after taking a blow to the neck.

Meanwhile, Cooper has been on a tear through the first three games this season. He had his best performance thus far when he caught seven passes for 116 yards and scored the aforementioned touchdown against the Titans' aggressive defense Sunday.

During the week heading into Sunday's game, Cooper mentioned how he was prepared to face CB Sean Murphy-Bunting and CB Kristian Fulton, who are aggressive cornerbacks that go after the ball. He also noted that aggressive corners don't faze him.

"Generally, if a corner is aggressive and loves to play with his hands at the line of scrimmage, you notice their feet aren't that good," Cooper said. "Because they don't really trust their feet and have to play that way. If you have good feet as a wide receiver, you want to pick on a guy who doesn't have good feet."

Cooper's foreshadowing came to fruition Sunday when he forced two defensive holding calls and two defensive pass interference calls. Both Bunting and Fulton had two of each.

In the second quarter, officials did not call holding when Cooper looked to be held awkwardly in the end zone.

"It was 100 percent pass interference," Cooper said. "He grabbed me and pulled me like he was running towards Deshaun (Watson). I thought Deshaun fumbled the ball or something because he grabbed me and pulled me this way. I was so confused, and it was weird. I should've kept running, though."

Cooper played a fantastic game Sunday that could've statically looked better. One call came in the second quarter when he caught a 25-yard pass and was heading up the sidelines for a touchdown. As he made a juke move on the Titans' safety to get him off balance, the referee called Cooper out of bounds.

Replay showed Cooper did not appear to step out of bounds, so Stefanski called time out, hoping to challenge. Due to the referee calling the play dead, the Browns couldn't challenge the play.

"I got robbed out of a touchdown," Cooper said of the play. "The safety was cooked. I was 100 percent scoring after I made my move. I knew I didn't step out of bounds. I'm not sure why they called me out."

Cooper mentioned that the referee who made the wrong call apologized to Stefanski but not him. ...

One issue?

In his first career start, Jerome Ford rushed for 18 yards on 10 carries and one touchdown, averaging 1.8 yards per carry. He also had 33 receiving yards and one touchdown. Watson threw a deep pass to Ford for 19 yards for the touchdown in the second quarter. Then, in the third quarter, Ford rushed for three yards into the end zone.

The Titans have a stout front, and Ford and Kareem Hunt both made plays, but it's clear Cleveland's rushing attack won't have the same devastating effect minus injured All-Pro running back Nick Chubb.

They rushed for a total of 78 yards on Sunday.

Ford said without Chubb in the locker room, seeing him prepare for a game and talking to him and RB coach "Stump" Mitchell, gave pregame a bit of a different vibe.

"Usually it's me, Coach Stump, him talking," Ford said. "You see him standing right next to you and know that Nick is ready to go. So not having him here is hard. Nick is the guy. ..."

Elijah Moore caught 9-of-9 targets for 49 yards as the Browns keep working to involved him, but they're not getting much juice from the squeeze. Averaging 8.5 yards per catch and yet to eclipse 50 yards receiving, Moore continues to be a fantasy outlier. ...

Heading into Sunday's game in Cleveland against division rival Baltimore, the team is likely to continue relying on their elite defense.

Heading into Sunday's game, the Browns knew one of their biggest points of emphasis would be in stopping the run and limiting RB Derrick Henry. In the first two weeks of the season, Henry rushed for 143 yards on 40 carries. And they were able to do just that. Henry finished with just 20 rushing yards on 11 carries, averaging 1.8 yards per carry.

But it wasn't just Henry. They had to apply pressure on QB Ryan Tannehill, and the Browns were also able to do just that. They sacked Tannehill five times on Sunday, with Garrett leading the way with 3.5 sacks.

The Browns defensive performances through the first three weeks of the season have been consistent and showcased their potential as a unit. Through three games, the Browns have now allowed just a single field goal from the red zone. This is looking like a complete, top-five defense with no apparent weakness.

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 26 September 2023

As's Todd Archer reminded readers, in a 30-10 Week 2 win against the New York Jets, the Dallas Cowboys went 2-of-6 in the red zone offensively. It was a footnote in an otherwise dominant performance.

One of the major reasons the Cowboys lost to the Arizona Cardinals 28-16 on Sunday was their defensive effort. The run defense was obliterated (222 yards) and the Cardinals were able to hang plays of 69, 45, 44, 26, 23 and 20 yards on a defense that had given up points in just one of their first eight quarters.

But once again, the red-zone failures on offense -- one touchdown in five trips -- stand out.

Just ask Dak Prescott.

"You look at this loss, we moved the ball up and down the field and just couldn't score," the quarterback said. "So that's your reason for this loss."

Last season, the Cowboys scored touchdowns on 40 of 56 red-zone drives (71 percent). The only time they were worse than 50 percent was against the Los Angeles Rams when they went 0-for-2 with backup quarterback Cooper Rush as the starter. And they still won 22-10.

With a new playcaller in head coach Mike McCarthy, the red-zone work has been slow to come around.

"We're not executing the way we'd like to," McCarthy said.

In the first two weeks, Prescott completed 9 of 15 red zone passes for 36 yards and two touchdowns.

Against the Cardinals in the red zone, he completed just 2 of 9 passes for 25 yards with a touchdown -- a 15-yard screen pass to Rico Dowdle -- and an interception, which came in the end zone with three minutes left to seal the defeat. The Cardinals flooded the red zone with their coverage, according to McCarthy, which is why he was running the ball so much.

One trip in the third quarter ended on downs when Prescott scrambled free but could not find an open receiver in the end zone. Prescott dropped a snap on one play, which contributed to a holding penalty. Through three games, Prescott has yet to throw a touchdown pass to a wide receiver.

Earlier on the drive that ended in Prescott's first interception of the season, the officials picked up a pass interference flag after a fade throw to Michael Gallup. Five plays later, four of which were runs, Prescott was picked off.

"He didn't play the ball," Gallup said of the defender. "He never turned around."

But relying on fade throws in the red zone is a risky strategy.

"We've got to do better," Prescott said. "Just as a team, as a unit, myself. Got to make some throws. Maybe use my feet more. Honestly, that's an area that we haven't been good in the last two weeks. Even in the win last week, that was the sore spot in the win … We've all got to get back to the drawing board. Starts with me. Making some throws and making some plays with my feet and trying to get it done."

Whether it starts with McCarthy or Prescott, the Cowboys need it to end in a touchdown, especially when their defense is having an off game, which they did against the Cardinals.

The New England Patriots, the Cowboys' Week 4 opponent, have allowed three touchdowns on five red zone trips to the Philadelphia Eagles, Miami Dolphins and Jets. But the Jets were so poor on offense, they did not even have a trip inside New England's 20-yard line.

When the Cowboys last faced the Patriots in 2021 -- an overtime win for Dallas -- they were 2-of-5 in the red zone. Scoring touchdowns against a Bill Belichick-coached defense is always difficult. At 1-2, the Patriots have not given up more than 25 points in a game. They limited a Dolphins offense that scored 70 against the Denver Broncos Sunday to 24 points.

The Cowboys need to get better in a hurry.

"There is a quick fix," said wide receiver CeeDee Lamb, who caught the game-winning touchdown pass in 2021.

What's that?

"Got to get in the end zone," he said. "That's the quick fix. ..."

Worth noting. ... Dallas also played without three starters on the offensive line because of injuries, including six-time All-Pro right guard Zack Martin after he injured an ankle against the Jets. ...

Other notes of interest. ... Tony Pollard rushed 23 times for 122 yards against the Cardinals. He had several big gains but saw Dowdle utilized in the red zone, particularly on a 15-yard touchdown reception in the second quarter.

While Pollard and Dowdle split work in the passing game, Pollard operated as the clear lead back, as Dowdle managed just four rush attempts on the day. ...

Gallup finished with six catches for 92 yards, which is his best game since Thanksgiving 2021, when he had 105 yards. He also drew a pass interference penalty. In a game in which little went right, there was not much else to choose from. ...

Finally. ... Brandon Aubrey continues to be a bright spot for the special teams. He made all three of his field goals, making him 10-for-10 on field goals this year. He's the first rookie kicker in Cowboys franchise history to make his first 10 career field goal attempts. Aubrey is the fifth kicker in NFL history to make 10 field goals in his first three career games.

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 26 September 2023

Head coach Sean Payton said he watched the film of the 70-20 loss at Miami and it was worse than he remembered.

Denver gave up nearly 800 yards of total offense, including 350 yards rushing, and were overpowered by the Dolphins on both sides of the ball. Now they're 0-3 for the second time in four seasons with few positives to take away from Sunday's output.

"It's a tough film to watch," Payton said Monday, adding that he considered not showing the team the replay. "We'd be remiss if we didn't. As unpleasant as it's going to be, we've got to get these things cleaned up."

The Dolphins finished two points shy of the NFL's regular-season record set in 1966 when Washington scored 72 points against the Giants, and they likely would have broken that record if head coach Mike McDaniel had elected to kick a chip-shot field goal instead of kneeling on the ball in the final minute.

McDaniel said after the game that he didn't feel it was necessary to go for the field goal.

"That doesn't have a bearing on the overall season outcome," McDaniel said. "The message that I thought it would send wasn't really in line with how I view things. ... That's not really what I'm about."

It was Denver's most lopsided loss since the NFL and AFL merged in 1970. The Broncos lost 59-14 to the Raiders on Oct. 24, 2010, with Josh McDaniels as coach.

"We knew we were playing a real good offense," said Payton, only in his third game as Denver's coach, "but we've got to look closely at what we were doing. When somebody runs the ball up and down the field like those guys did, and throws it up and down the field, it's not acceptable."

The Dolphins scored at least 14 points in all four quarters, with 30 first downs, 350 rushing yards and 376 passing yards.

"It was a tough day," Payton said. "Today's not going to be fun. It probably won't be fun anytime soon until we start winning some games."

"One of the things we preach about finding tough, smart players -- it's not just for three hours on game day."

Russell Wilson completed 23 of 38 passes for 306 yards and an interception. He had a 12-yard TD pass to Courtland Sutton on Denver's second possession, but the Broncos' offense was largely stagnant. Sutton lost two fumbles.

Denver finished with 363 total yards, converting on just 3 of 12 third-down attempts.

Said Sutton: "There's losing, and there's getting your butt handed to you. We definitely got our butt handed to us."

"From a leadership standpoint, I think the biggest thing we have to do is learn everything that we can from the film," said Wilson, who had never started his career 0-3. "Learn what we did well. Learn what we didn't do so well."

The Broncos had two touchdowns wiped away by penalties in the second quarter. Receiver Brandon Jones was called for offensive pass interference to wipe away a 7-yard TD catch by Sutton, then Jones was flagged for an illegal shift that erased Jerry Jeudy's 6-yard TD catch.

Only the Green Bay Packers (27) have been penalized more than the Broncos at 26.

"I think the best thing we can do is come back on Monday and have the best film session we can have," Wilson said, "have the best work ethic we can have. Everybody is giving their all, but there is more that we can do and we'll make sure we do that."

Receiver Marvin Mims Jr. scored on a 99-yard kick return in the fourth, which made it 63-20.

Payton said he was impressed with special teams and felt the Broncos can build on that one bright spot. There weren't many others.

"There's a handful of things that jump out at you," Payton said Monday. "Three offensive turnovers all lead to touchdowns -- that's 21 points. Typically speaking, when you see a score that high, the one thing that has to exist is turnovers. We did a poor job of setting the edge on defense. We struggled taking away some of the things we knew he [Dolphins QB Tua Tagovailoa] likes to throw. Offensively, we had two touchdowns called back due to penalties."

Broncos defensive coordinator Vance Joseph has taken heavy public criticism, but Payton said that he's not planning changes to his coaching staff and that, if he does, he won't share the details on a conference call.

"No. 1, attention to detail to what we're doing in practice has to improve," Payton said. "This is one of those weeks, where you take a butt-whipping like that, where you find out a lot about everyone."

The Broncos next play at Chicago on Sunday in what is now as important a trip as the team has had in years. Denver still has two games with the Kansas City Chiefs as well as one against the Green Bay Packers looming before its Week 9 bye.

A few final items here. ... Sutton caught 8-of-11 targets for 95 yards and a touchdown but lost two drive-killing fumbles. Jeudy caught 5-of-7 targets for 81 yards.'s Jeff Legwold notes the Broncos have still offered little to explain why Mims' snap count remains so low on a team that so obviously needs his explosiveness. The rookie played on 15-of-62 snaps. He had 113 yards on two receptions against the Commanders, and Sunday he had 73 yards on three receptions -- and five targets -- and was repeatedly standing on the sideline when the Broncos were in a three-wide look. ...

Javonte Williams had 11 rushes for 42 yards, adding two catches for 23 yards.

Williams again led the Denver backfield in carries, ripping off a few impressive runs before the game devolved into a blowout win for Miami. As Rotoworld suggests, it appears the third-year man -- who tore his ACL last fall -- is not on a snap count, but until he distances himself from the Samaje Perine and Jaleel McLaughlin and sees more involvement in the passing offense, relying on Williams for consistent production is a risk.

That said, he'll play an awful Bears run defense this weekend.

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 26 September 2023

As Associated Press sports writer Larry Lage reported, Jared Goff faked a handoff, dropped back and lofted a pass to a stunningly open Sam LaPorta.

Goff's tiebreaking 45-yard touchdown pass to LaPorta early in the second quarter sent Detroit to a 20-6 victory over Atlanta Falcons on Sunday in a rebound performance for the Lions.

"We had that play written up all week," Goff said.

Atlanta, somehow, seemed to miss LaPorta on the scouting report.

The former Iowa star, drafted No. 34 overall, was the first NFL tight end to catch five passes in each of his first two games. He surpassed that production with eight receptions for 84 yards and his first score against the Falcons.

LaPorta has 18 catches, the most by an NFL tight end through three games. The previous record was 17 receptions for Keith Jackson in 1988 for Philadelphia at the start of his three-time All-Pro career.

"He's a stud," Goff said. "He has a great feel for the game. Great hands, obviously, and great speed.

"The sky is the limit and hopefully I'll play with him for a long time."

Goff was 22 of 33 for 243 yards with a touchdown and an interception. He also had a 3-yard designed run for a score that fooled the Falcons on third down, giving Detroit a 20-3 lead early in the fourth quarter.

The Lions (2-1) earned a much-needed win after following a hype-fueling victory at Kansas City with a deflating loss at home to Seattle, disappointing fired-up fans desperate for a winner.

"We let them down last week so we wanted to make sure we got one for them," Goff said.

Amon-Ra St. Brown finished with nine receptions for 102 yards and rookie running back Jahmyr Gibbs ran 17 times for 80 yards, surpassing the 59 yards he had on the ground through the first two games. Wide receiver Kalif Raymond had four catches on six targets for 55 yards in the first half. He did not get another target.

Detroit has scored 20-or-more points in 12 straight games dating back to last year. They can tie the team record of 13 straight games set in 1995 by scoring at least 20 points Thursday night in Green Bay.

This will be Detroit's third prime-time game in its last five regular-season contests. They beat the Packers to finish last season and the Chiefs to start this one, so maybe they enjoy the extra exposure.

On the injury front. ... Head coach Dan Campbell told reporters on Tuesday that he's "starting to feel pretty good" about running back David Montgomery and left tackle Taylor Decker playing against the Packers on Thursday night.

Tuesday’s injury report estimate doesn't feature a setback for either player.

For the second day in a row, Montgomery (thigh) and Decker (ankle) are both listed as limited participants. The Lions didn't have a full practice with the short week, so their participation levels are estimates.

Most of the Lions' injury report remained the same as Monday. Guard Jonah Jackson (thigh), safety Kerby Joseph (hip), and cornerback Emmanuel Moseley (knee/hamstring) all remained limited participants.

But fullback Jason Cabinda was downgraded from limited to a non-participant.

Offensive tackle Matt Nelson (ankle) and guard Halapoulivaati Vaitai (knee) stayed at DNP.

Center Frank Ragnow (toe/veteran rest) was upgraded to a full participant.

I'll have more on Montgomery's status via Late-Breaking Update in advance of Thursday night's kickoff. ...

Last year, the Lions averaged 170 yards rushing in their first three games, scoring five touchdowns. They haven't been terrible this season, but that average is down to 113 yards and they only have three rushing TDs.

With Montgomery (thigh) likely to miss a second straight game, the Lions could use some big-play mojo. Gibbs might offer that. He hasn't established himself as a receiving threat, but the rookie gained almost half of his 80 yards rushing on two consecutive caries in the fourth quarter. Gibbs gained 12 yards on a run up the middle and 21 on a run around left end. ...

One last item here. ... The pass rush posted a single sack in the first two weeks but looked much sharper versus Atlanta.

In the first quarter, Detroit wasted little time, as linebacker Derrick Barnes and defensive lineman Benito Jones registered back-to-back sacks. The Lions would end with seven total sacks on Atlanta quarterback Desmond Ridder, with two by Aidan Hutchinson in addition to Charles Harris, Alim McNeill and rookie Jack Campbell registering hits.

They'll need another big lift from the defense when they head to Lambeau Field Thursday night.

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 26 September 2023

As Associated Press sports writer Steve Megargee reported, Jordan Love celebrated his first career start at Lambeau Field by producing the type of comeback his four-time MVP predecessor orchestrated so often.

Love rallied Green Bay from a 17-point fourth-quarter deficit after New Orleans lost quarterback Derek Carr to a shoulder injury, and the Packers stunned New Orleans 18-17 on Sunday.

"It's always about how the game ends," said Love, who went 22 of 44 for 259 yards with one touchdown pass, a TD run and an interception. "It felt great at the end. That's all I can say."

This was Love's fourth start overall and first at home. The 2020 first-round pick spent the last three seasons backing up Aaron Rodgers, who's now with the New York Jets and is out for the season with a torn Achilles tendon.

The Packers (2-1) scored 18 points in the final 11 minutes to win their 11th consecutive home opener, the NFL's longest active streak. They took the lead on Love's 8-yard pass to Romeo Doubs in the right corner of the end zone with 2:56 left.

Love's teammates said he maintained his composure even when the Packers were scoreless heading into the final period.

"If you look at the cameras, just watching him in the huddle, pre-snap or what not, his poise is amazing," Doubs said. "And that's one trait that I continue to emphasize on him because any other quarterback in that situation would lose his mind."

Green Bay became the third team in the past 30 years to win after being shut out 17-0 or worse through three quarters. The others were Carolina against Philadelphia on Oct. 21, 2018, and Tennessee against the New York Giants on Nov. 26, 2006.

The Packers were missing five key contributors: cornerback Jaire Alexander (back), running back Aaron Jones (hamstring), wide receiver Christian Watson (hamstring), left tackle David Bakhtiari (knee) and left guard Elgton Jenkins (knee). Bakhtiari and Jones were missing their second straight games, while Watson has yet to play this season.

"I've never been a part of a win like this," head coach Matt LaFleur said. "The guys in the locker room, they believe. They believe in one another. And they continued to battle."

New Orleans led 17-0 when Derek Carr left with a shoulder injury in the third quarter after getting hit on one of Rashan Gary's three sacks.

At first, it didn't appear the Packers would capitalize.

On the opening play of the fourth quarter, Love couldn't connect with Patrick Taylor on a fourth-and-2 pass from the Saints 13-yard line. The Packers still trailed 17-0 and had wasted numerous trips into Saints territory.

"Nobody batted an eye," Love said. "Nobody flinched. We knew there was still time left and still opportunity."

Love then sparked a rally against a secondary missing injured cornerback Paulson Adebo and suspended safety Marcus Maye.

Anders Carlson's 38-yard field goal with 11 minutes left began Green Bay's comeback.

On the Packers' next possession, Love faked a handoff to Taylor on a read option before making a move past Demario Davis and reaching the end zone on fourth-and-goal from the 1. Love connected with Samori Toure on a 2-point conversion to make it 17-11 with 6:58 remaining.

The Packers forced a three-and-out and took over at their 20 with 5:23 left. A 24-yard scramble by Love and a 30-yard diving catch by Jayden Reed set up the go-ahead touchdown.

Now the Packers have a short turnaround before hosting the Lions on Thursday night.

Can anybody get healthy and can all the mistakes get cleaned up on a short week?

Watson said on Tuesday that the plan is for him to make his regular season debut against the Lions this Thursday and the team's injury report for Tuesday provides more evidence that he's moving in that direction.

Watson, who has a hamstring injury, is listed as a limited participant after being listed as a non-participant on Monday. Both listings are estimations because the Packers didn't hold an actual practice on Monday and only did a walkthrough on Tuesday.

Alexander is also moving in the right direction. Alexander missed last Sunday with a back injury and made the same positive step on the injury report as Watson.

Edge rusher Rashan Gary (knee), Jones (hamstring), offensive line Zach Tom (knee), and cornerback Carrington Valentine (biceps) were also listed as limited. Safety Zayne Anderson (hamstring), Bakhtiari, linebacker De'Vondre Campbell (ankle), and Jenkins did not practice. Campbell was the only one of that quartet to play in Week 3.

And though it sounds as if Jones, like Watson, has a good shot to return against the Lions. LaFleur was making no promises in the health department, but Doubs told reporters that Jones will also return this week.

I'll have more on all the injured Packers via Late-Breaking Update early Thursday and as needed -- right up through the inactive announcement. ...

The Packers' ground attack isn't the same without Jones. Green Bay is averaging 3.4 yards per carry. ...

As for cleaning up the miscues, particularly the 11 penalties for 90 yards and several blown opportunities in the passing game? The comeback was incredibly uplifting, but most important piece to focus on is why the Packers were in such a bad spot in the first place.

"Everything," LaFleur said of what needs fixing. "There's a lot to correct."

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 26 September 2023

The Houston Texans earned the first win of the C.J. Stroud era on Sunday, shellacking division rival Jacksonville, 37-17, on the road.

As's Kevin Patra noted, at the dawn of his NFL career, Stroud has looked the part of a franchise quarterback through three games.

"The best thing that happened to the Houston Texans franchise was us beating the Indianapolis Colts last game, last year," tight end Brevin Jordan said Sunday, via ESPN's DJ Bien-Aime. "We drafted the right guy. Man, he's a leader. He's a phenomenal player and a phenomenal guy with God-given talent. Dude, he's unbelievable."

It's hard to argue with Jordan after Stroud shined on a day the two other first-round rookie QBs missed due to injury. Still, there is a long way to go before making any definitive statement on the careers of Stroud, Bryce Young and Anthony Richardson.

In three games, Stroud has posted 906 passing yards, third-most by a rookie QB in their first three career games since 1970 -- Cam Newton (1,012), Justin Herbert (931). He's added four touchdowns and zero interceptions. His 121 pass attempts without an interception are the most through a player's first three career starts (Warren Moon with 103).

The production from Week 3 came after Stroud's historic Week 2 performance against the Colts when he threw for 384 yards, second most by a player age-21 or younger since the merger (1970), trailing only Matthew Stafford (422 yards) in 2009.

It was the highest mark of any player in Week 2. Stroud also had the second-most passing yards by a Texans rookie in franchise history, behind only Deshaun Watson (402 yards) in 2017.

"I have great guys around me," Stroud said. "Nothing I can do without those guys up front battling, the receiver running the right route at the right depth, [offensive coordinator Bobby Slowik] calling the right plays at the right time."

Sunday, Stroud proved poised in the pocket, made the right read repeatedly, avoided pressure and displayed pinpoint accuracy.

He finished 20-of-30 for 280 yards with two touchdowns and wasn't sacked after taking 11 the first two weeks. The rookie shined against pressure, completing 8 of 12 passes for 115 yards and a TD for a 125.3 passer rating versus pressure. Stroud burned the blitz by dropping a pretty 68-yard bomb to Tank Dell for the game-sealing TD.

"Everything starts with the quarterback," head coach DeMeco Ryans. "We have a good one who's done really good things. He's improved every week. That's what I really like and admire about C.J., he's dialed in to improving every week. He's not satisfied. He's been a leader for us for the offensive unit, and it's impressive to see a young man go out and continue to get better each week and lead that group."

Through three weeks, Stroud has shown splendid improvement and the ability to function despite less-than-ideal blocking and next to no run support. The key for the rookie is how he responds as defenses get more tape on his tendencies and start taking things away.

While Stroud has transformed the team's passing game, the Texans have struggled to run the ball. Houston ranks 29th in the league by averaging just 70 yards rushing a game.

Dameon Pierce ran for 939 yards in 13 games as a rookie, but has struggled to build on that this season. The 2022 fourth-round pick has managed just 100 yards rushing in three games. Pierce is averaging a paltry 2.5 yards a carry this year after averaging 4.3 yards last season.

The Texans look to build on the momentum from this big win when they host Pittsburgh on Sunday where they'll try for their first home victory since Dec. 26, 2021. ...

Other notes of interest. ... Dell, a third-round pick from the University of Houston, had a breakout game Sunday. He set a franchise record for yards receiving by a rookie with 145, passing Andre Johnson, who had a 122-yard game in 2003.

Dell ranks 11th in the NFL with 251 yards receiving through three games, which also passes Johnson (249) for most yards receiving by a Texans rookie in his first three games. He's proven to be a deep threat and had 46-yard reception to set up Houston's first TD Sunday before scoring on a 68-yard reception that sealed the victory in the fourth quarter.

Fellow wideout Nico Collins had only 34 yards on two catches with a drop after a career-high 146 yards last week. ...

One last note here. ... Houston's injury-riddled offensive line didn't allow a sack Sunday after giving up an NFL-high 11 sacks through the first two games.

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 26 September 2023

As Associated Press sports writer Michael Marot reported, running back Zack Moss just wanted a chance to prove himself in the NFL.

Now he's taking full advantage of it.

After missing most of the preseason and Indy's season opener with a broken forearm, Moss returned last week and took all but one Colts offensive snap at Houston. His encore performance at Baltimore was even more impressive -- 30 carries for 122 yards in Indy's 22-19 overtime win.

Suddenly, the Colts have another solid workhorse back.

Indeed, Moss's 30 carries were the most for a running back in a single game this year.

"Probably college," Moss said when asked about his last 30-carry day. "I knew I was going to have to run the ball (because of the wet conditions) and that was going to be big for us to have a chance to win the game. But I couldn't do anything without the guys up in front of me."

The Colts (2-1) have won two straight largely because of Moss, who was acquired last year in a midseason deal that sent speedy back Nyheim Hines to Buffalo.

At the time, it looked like a minor move.

But with 2021 NFL rushing champ Jonathan Taylor on the physically unable to perform list following offseason ankle surgery -- and in the midst of a contract dispute -- Moss has emerged as the top alternative.

Indy used three running backs in a Week 1 loss to defending AFC South champion Jacksonville, getting a combined 16 carries for 25 yards.

Moss took over the next week, running 18 times for 88 yards and a touchdown in the win at Houston. On Sunday, he helped keep Indy close by posting career highs in carries and yards while also catching two passes for 23 yards, including the third TD reception of his career.

Without Moss, the Colts wouldn't be leading the division.

"It was incredible," head coach Shane Steichen said. "Obviously, he popped the big one there at the end where he cut it back to get us in (field goal) range. Then he had one on our sideline where there were about two or three guys around him where it looked like a minus-yardage play, and then he slipped through those guys."

Taylor could be activated in two weeks, and when he rejoins the team, Steichen will face one big question: How to use the two fourth-year backs together?

Meanwhile, as's Stephen Holder reports, when Matt Gay became perhaps the centerpiece of the Colts' free agent class in March, the signing caused barely a ripple amid the spring's flurry of NFL transactions.

But, for Indianapolis, its acquisition of Gay is beginning to look like one of the offseason's savvier moves.

The fifth-year kicker Sunday became the first player in NFL history to convert four field goals of 50 yards or longer in a single game, his 53-yard conversion in overtime catapulting the Colts to victory.

Gay said it was in a rare zone Sunday, making five kicks in all -- three from 53 yards and two others from 31 and 54 yards each.

Gay was "really just in that blackout mode where I wasn't thinking too much," he said.

"When I'm not thinking about anything, and I'm just back there kicking, it means I'm fluid," Gay said.

The Colts needed every bit of Gay's big leg Sunday as they were playing without starting quarterback Anthony Richardson. The fourth overall pick in the 2023 draft missed the game with a concussion he sustained last week against the Houston Texans, and the Colts' offense was much more limited with backup Gardner Minshew under center.

Gay's historic day came on an afternoon he shared the field with an all-time great, Ravens kicker Justin Tucker.

It was Tucker's missed field goal from 61 yards at the end of regulation that afforded Gay the opportunity to later make the winner.

"He's arguably the greatest of all time and I have nothing but respect for what he's done and the success he's had," Gay said of Tucker.

As for Minshew. ... The backup quarterback has been a consummate pro since replacing Richardson in the second quarter at Houston. Aside from stepping out of the end zone for a safety at Baltimore, he's avoided the kinds of mistakes that usually make teams sputter. And he's helped the Colts win twice.

While Indy's offense has found capable replacements for Richardson and Taylor, the defense has been better than advertised. The Colts finished Sunday among the top five in sacks (12) and takeaways (four). If the defense continues playing this way and the offense takes care of the ball, Indy could have a quicker turnaround than anybody anticipated.

They'll work to demonstrate continued improvement Sunday against the Rams.

Worth noting. ... Indy's 27.7 point per game scoring average this season is a marked improvement over last year when it tied for the second-lowest average (17.0 points) in the league. The Colts have topped 20 points in all three games, matching their total from 2022 -- and something they never did in consecutive games. ...

While Michael Pittman Jr. is the clear-cut WR1 in Indy, Josh Downs is quickly locking up the WR2 role.

Per's Dwain McFarland, Downs enjoyed 84 percent route participation, a 29 percent target share, a 21 percent air yard share and scored 13 fantasy points. He's worth stashing on the end of your bench as a WR5 with room to grow. ...

On the injury front. ... Richardson and three-time Pro Bowl center Ryan Kelly both missed the game (concussion protocol) and it won't be known until later this week whether either will be cleared. That said, Richardson, who remains in the protocol, is clearly making progress. He was scheduled to take part in Wednesday's practice.

In addition, Moss' big game came despite a lower-body injury he played with throughout the second half.

I'll have more on all three via Late-Breaking Update in coming days.

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 26 September 2023

The Jacksonville Jaguars are struggling.'s Michael DiRocco notes that in the last two weeks, an offense that was considered to be one of the league's best on paper has scored two touchdowns, a pass rush that showed improvement in Week 1 has disappeared and the special teams gave up a kickoff return for a touchdown after kicker Brandon McManus missed a field goal and had another blocked.

Turnovers, penalties, dropped passes and mental errors have all been on display in back-to-back losses, especially in Sunday's 37-17 home loss to the Houston Texans (1-2), and it all has to be fixed soon or the Jaguars (1-2) are going to have a hard time making back-to-back playoff appearances for the first time this century.

"It's frustrating that this is a team that has played together a lot, has won a lot of big games, played great down the stretch of last season, and to not click so far, it's definitely frustrating," quarterback Trevor Lawrence said. "We have the right guys and the locker room is tight. We believe in one another. That's not going to change. And we're going to get through, we're going to get over it."

The Jaguars' issues go beyond just not clicking on offense.

Sure, the Jaguars had four sacks in the season opener against Indianapolis, but two of Josh Allen's three came chasing Colts rookie quarterback Anthony Richardson out of bounds. They sacked Kansas City quarterback Patrick Mahomes once in Week 2, but hit Texans quarterback C.J. Stroud four times and didn't sack him on Sunday despite the fact the Texans were starting four backup offensive linemen.

Allen and Travon Walker are both former first-round picks but neither has become the elite rusher the Jaguars hoped.

"We have to do better," head coach Doug Pederson said. "It starts up front. It starts with the offensive line on offense, starts with the defensive line on defense. It starts right there."

The offense returned nine starters from last season's unit that ranked 10th in yards and points per game. They added receiver Calvin Ridley and drafted right tackle Anton Harrison in the first round, yet after three weeks they're converting on 30 percent of third downs and have scored 26 points in the last two weeks.

Ridley caught eight passes for 101 yards and a touchdown in the opener but has caught five passes for 72 yards in the last two games. He dropped two potential touchdown passes and had two false start penalties against the Texans on Sunday.

Receiver/returner Jamal Agnew has lost fumbles in back-to-back games, Lawrence has thrown three touchdown passes and two interceptions (one off a tipped pass) in three games, and McManus missed a 48-yard field goal and had a 51-yard attempt blocked against the Texans.

The Jaguars also gave up an 85-yard kickoff return to the Texans' Andrew Beck, the first time a fullback has returned a kickoff for a touchdown since Jacksonville's Derrick Wimbush in 2005.

"It's not even making a play, really. We have guys that can make plays all over the place," tight end Evan Engram said. "It's just the little things that we're just shooting ourselves in the foot. We got hands to the face [penalty to wipe out a big gain], we got a lot of dropped balls today, myself included. We got a fumble off a big gain, the kick return on a fullback. We're just not playing complementary football.

"We know we've got guys that can make plays. But we're not playing complementary football in a consistent way."

Jacksonville will become the first NFL team to play multiple games across the pond in the same season when it hosts Atlanta (2-1) in a "home game" at Wembley Stadium on Sunday and then will change hotels before playing as the visiting team against Buffalo (2-1) at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium on Oct 8. Then they host to the Indianapolis Colts (Oct. 15), before then playing back-to-back road games at New Orleans (Oct. 19) and Pittsburgh (Oct. 29) before reaching their bye week.

If the Jaguars' woes continue, preseason expectations of winning the AFC South might not be met.

Meanwhile, it's fair to ask -- as DiRocco did: "Did last season's five-game winning streak that led to the division title and improbable comeback over the Los Angeles Chargers in the playoffs provide some false hope that the franchise is a legitimate contender?"

The last three quarterbacks the Jaguars beat in the regular season were Zach Wilson, Davis Mills and Josh Dobbs, and Tennessee lost six games in a row leading to the Week 18 AFC South title game in Jacksonville.

"I wish I had a crystal ball, honestly. That would probably answer a lot of questions," Pederson said. "It's just really hard to put a finger on it. Coaches need to coach, players need to play, leaders need to lead. That part of it starts with me. We've got ourselves in a little bit of a pickle here and we got to work it out.

"Listen, by no means do you panic. It's early. There's a lot of ball ahead of us. I know we've got the right men in that room and in that locker room to figure this out."

According to Associated Press sports writer Mark Long, offense is still the main concern for Pederson.

The Jaguars, who began the season talking about averaging 30 points a game, have scored a combined 26 in consecutive losses. They were also 5 of 13 on third down, raising their conversion rate to 29.7 percent for the season. They now rank 29th, still a significant issue for an offense that finished ninth in the NFL in that category a year ago and returned nine of 11 starters on that side of the ball.

Running back Travis Etienne Jr., however, was one of the few bright spots. He accounted for 138 total yards, including a season-high 88 yards rushing.

In addition, Engram set a season high with seven catches for 67 yards and now leads the team with 18 catches this season. He's been the most consistent pass-catcher through three games and has outperformed WR Ridley. ...

On the injury front. ... Rookie right tackle Anton Harrison is dealing with an ankle injury. Cole Van Lanen would replace him in the lineup if he's unable to play in London. Receiver Zay Jones missed the loss to Houston with a knee injury; Pederson told reporters on Wednesday that Jones is a "longshot" to play against the Falcons.

That said, I'll follow up on Jones as needed heading into Sunday's early-morning London kickoff.

LB Devin Lloyd won’t travel to London and will miss the next two weeks. He had surgery to put two screws into his thumb yesterday and the team hopes he returns against the Colts.

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 26 September 2023

Patrick Mahomes became the fastest NFL quarterback to reach 25,000 career passing yards, and he got there on Sunday in a fitting manner.

The Chiefs signal-caller went over the milestone on one of his longest passes of the day, a 37-yard throw to Marquez Valdes-Scantling in the third quarter of Kansas City's 41-10 win over the Chicago Bears at Arrowhead Stadium.

"It really is cool," Mahomes said. "Doing it at Arrowhead. ... It's a tremendous honor to be a part of this organization and be able to do stuff like that at this stadium. It'll be stuff I remember the rest of my life."

As's Adam Teicher notes, Mahomes needed 83 games to get to 25,000 yards. Matthew Stafford had been the fastest QB to 25,000 yards, needing 90 games to do it. Mahomes for a couple of moments late in the first half appeared he might not get to the milestone on Sunday. He had an ankle rolled on by Bears defensive lineman Yannick Ngakoue and briefly was hobbled by the injury.

Mahomes stayed in the game until finishing his only drive of the second half with a 3-yard touchdown pass to Travis Kelce. That play put the Chiefs ahead 41-0, and Mahomes said he didn't exit the game because of the injury. He suffered a high ankle sprain in last year's divisional round playoff win over the Jacksonville Jaguars, though he played in the AFC Championship Game and the Super Bowl.

"I would've been fine to play the rest of the game," he said. "If anything, it kind of scared me more just being that ankle.

"We taped it up and then I was able to go."

The Chiefs for the first time this season resembled the team that led the NFL in scoring last year. They had 312 yards in the first half and led 34-0.

Mahomes finished 24-of-33 passing for 272 yards and three touchdowns.

As Associated Press sports writer Dave Skretta suggested, the Chiefs may never have a true No. 1 wide receiver this season, but they're making up for it by spreading the ball around. They once again had at least 10 players catch a pass against Chicago, including five by rookie wideout Rashee Rice.

Did anyone have a better day in Kansas City than Kelce?

The All-Pro tight end caught seven passes for 69 yards and a touchdown, then was spotted leaving Arrowhead Stadium with pop megastar Taylor Swift -- in a convertible, no less.

In addition, the running backs, who scored four touchdowns, including two by Jerick McKinnon were noteworthy. The backs didn't score a touchdown in either of the first two games.

McKinnon now has 11 touchdown catches in just 33 games with the Chiefs. That's the fourth-most touchdown receptions by a running back in franchise history.

"It always feels good to get the whole offense going," he said. "The first two weeks, we just have been out of rhythm. We haven't got drives and sustained drives going, and so just to not have those killer penalties and to get the offense moving in the right direction, then all the other stuff kind of comes with it. So I was proud of the guys today. Still little things here and there we can tweak, but it was a step in the right direction."

In addition, Mahomes defended offensive tackle Jawaan Taylor, who was called twice for lining up off the line of scrimmage. The Bears declined one of the penalties, but the other cost the Chiefs a long touchdown pass.

Taylor was penalized five times in last week's game against the Jaguars.

"It's wild to me," Mahomes said. "When you go back and look [at the penalty calls] and both [Chiefs' tackles] are in the exact same spot, I don't understand it. It's hard because he's playing great football and he's getting these penalties thrown on him, and I know it's hard to officiate. But I watch a lot of tape, and he's no deeper than any other tackle in the league.

"There are other guys that are even further back than he is, so it's crazy to see, and hopefully it kind of calms down as the season goes on. He's making adjustments, and it seems like even with his adjustments they're not good enough."

The Chiefs briefly removed Taylor from the game, as they did against the Jaguars. But coach Andy Reid said this time it was because of injury. He said Taylor had been hit in the mouth.

Is it all good for the Chiefs on offense now?

It's tempting to say it is, with the Chiefs scoring on seven straight possessions. But as impressive as it was against the Bears, let's wait until they do it against an opponent that isn't in such disarray. The Bears entered the game next to last in the league in scoring defense. The Chiefs visit another reeling opponent Sunday night in the New York Jets, but how they fare against a touch Jets defense this week will be worth watching. ...

Justin Watson leads the Chiefs in receiving yards (158).

According to NBC Sports' Kyle Dvorchak, the Chiefs' top two receivers by total routes -- Skyy Moore and Marquez Valdes-Scantling -- are averaging 1.0 and 1.3 yards per route run this year. Rice, who is fourth on the team in routes, is averaging 2.77 YPRR.

Watson, third in routes, is at 2.48. Given all that, Dvorchak contends no Chiefs wide receiver is playable given their mismatches of efficiency and volume. ...

On the injury front. ... Mahomes started hobbling and hopping around late in the first half, generally making everyone nervous regarding the possibility he had suffered an injury to his knee or ankle or something in his lower extremity. Multiple sources tell's Mike Florio that Mahomes is fine.

He was removed from the game in the second half, but only because the game was in hand. There's no injury to Mahomes. Which is very good news for the Chiefs and for the NFL, which needs to keep as many of its star players as healthy as possible.

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 26 September 2023

Jimmy Garoppolo is in the NFL's concussion protocol after taking several hits in Sunday night's 23-18 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers, putting his availability for this week's game at the Los Angeles Chargers in question.

Head coach Josh McDaniels said Monday he was not sure when Garoppolo suffered the concussion and had yet to talk to the quarterback. And while Garoppolo never left the game because of a head injury, he did take a hit to the helmet from Steelers safety Minkah Fitzpatrick that ended with Garoppolo's head bouncing off the grass with less than seven minutes to play.

Garoppolo, though, threw a touchdown pass to Davante Adams two snaps later and then converted a 2-point conversion pass and never left the game or was examined for a concussion during it.

"I'm not even sure what hit or if it was just an accumulation of [hits], I have no idea," McDaniels said. "There was never a conversation about that, so I'm not sure, exactly, and I haven't seen him yet this morning, so I'm not exactly sure when it took place, or if it was just a culmination of things."

As's Paul Gutierrez notes, Garoppolo took several hits and was sacked four times as he completed 28 of 44 pass attempts for 324 yards and two TDs with three interceptions. He leads the NFL with six INTs.

Garoppolo was scheduled to speak at the podium following the game before it was announced he would not attend, as he was being evaluated for a concussion after he had been in the locker room.

If Garoppolo, who was signed to a three-year, $72.75 million free agent contract this offseason by Las Vegas to replace nine-year starter Derek Carr, cannot play at the Chargers, the Raiders will have to start either 15th-year veteran Brian Hoyer or rookie Aidan O'Connell, who has yet to be active for a regular-season game.

"We'll prepare for everybody," McDaniels said. "Obviously, that would change things relative to Aidan, also, if Jimmy was not able to progress through the protocol to be able to play. So, we'll have to manage that situation best we can as it progresses through the week."

Asked if there might be more value in playing a rookie for the big picture than a veteran if Garoppolo could not go, McDaniels shrugged.

"We'll try to do the right thing for the team this week, for sure," McDaniels said. "No matter what it is, whatever that ultimately ends up being. We're not going to use this like it would be a preseason game, you know what I mean? So, if the best thing for the team would be to do something down that road, then we would discuss that and consider it. But we haven't begun those conversations yet. We will, obviously, today."

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

Sunday will be the Raiders' second AFC West game on Sunday. Both teams are 1-2, so this game has plenty of urgency to it. ...

Meanwhile, Adams had a big Sunday night on the field and he made sure he had a big voice about the team's direction after the game.

Adams' 13 catches for 172 yards and two touchdowns weren't enough to keep the Raiders from losing. The loss dropped them to 1-2 on the season and 7-13 since Adams joined the team in a 2022 trade.

The wideout made it clear that he wants to see those results change as soon as possible and said that the time for the team stops talking about what they need to do differently. Adams said it is time to start "putting it into action" and that he wants to see that happen immediately.

"It's not my mentality to sit here and try to take all season and figure it out," Adams said, via Vincent Bonsignore of the Las Vegas Review-Journal. "You use these early games like this to establish an identity. We're not doing things the right way to establish a winning culture. ... We've got to go out there and do it. That's the theme of this year -- doing it. Not just talking about it and figuring out what we need to do. We did all that last year. This year we gotta be about it."

The Raiders talked a lot about the process of building a consistent winner after hiring McDaniels and general manager Dave Ziegler last season, but they also traded for Adams and signed edge rusher Chandler Jones in moves that signaled an intent to try to win right away.

They haven't done that and Adams' comments suggest that not everyone in the locker room is sold on the path that the Raiders are following this year either.

For the record, Sunday night was Adams' third game with at least 10 catches, 100 receiving yards and a receiving TD for the Raiders. He fell one short of his career high for catches in a game and the receiving yardage was his sixth highest. ...

Jakobi Meyers caught 7-of-12 targets for 85 yards against the Steelers, meaning Meyers and Adams combined to account for 32 targets on 44 pass attempts against the Steelers. That's a 73 percent combined target share. As Rotoworld notes, the two combined for a similarly massive portion of the available targets in Week 1, the only other game this season where the two were both healthy. ...

Other notes of interest. ... Gutierrez believes it's fair to ask if the offense last with this offensive line.

The Raiders have yet to control the line of scrimmage through three games this season and it has shown, especially in the running game, or lack thereof. A year after clearing enough holes for Josh Jacobs to lead the league in rushing, the O-line, which has a new right guard in Greg Van Roten, is getting bullied and Jacobs is getting hit before reaching the line of scrimmage.

It's also allowing defenders to get in Garoppolo's lap before he can get set to throw downfield.

Jacobs rushed for a season-high 62 yards on 17 carries, adding 18 yards on three receptions. A favorable matchup against a Chargers defense that has been gashed to start the season offers some optimism. ...

Finally. ... Trailing by eight points and facing fourth-and-4 at the Pittsburgh Steelers' 8-yard line with 2:25 to play, McDaniels sent out his field goal team.

Less than a minute earlier, Las Vegas kicker Daniel Carlson had converted a 48-yarder only for it to be negated by a Steelers penalty, putting the Raiders closer to the end zone.

"You have two choices there," McDaniels said after the loss. "You try to make it a five-point game [with the field goal], where you have an opportunity to win it with the touchdown if you get the ball back. Or you try to go for it there. And then if you happen to convert then you've got to make the two-point conversion."

According to ESPN analytics, going for it would have given the Raiders a 15.8 percent win probability, compared to 10.2 percent by kicking the field goal.

With three timeouts remaining, plus the 2-minute warning, McDaniels had faith that his defense could get the ball back with enough time to drive for a winning score.

Instead, the Steelers started at their own 25-yard line, got a first down and, by the time Las Vegas got the ball back, there were just 12 seconds on the clock, all of the Raiders' timeouts were burned and they were on their own 15-yard line.

A Garoppolo interception -- his third of the game -- ended the night.

Asked if not going for it was a sign of a lack of confidence in the offense, McDaniels shook his head.

"You're going to need another possession anyway, you know what I mean?" he said. "So, it is not a lack of confidence."

Worth noting: No team has attempted what the Raiders did Sunday night since the 2-point conversion went into effect in 1994, according to OptaSTATS. Las Vegas became the first team to try a field goal in the final three minutes of regulation when trailing by exactly eight points with fewer than 5 yards to gain for a first down or touchdown. ...

Jacobs said he supported the decision to kick the field goal, while Adams would only say he did not want to be seen as second-guessing anyone.

"I agree with what Coach did," said Jacobs. "The defense was starting to play good at the end of the game. We could have got the ball back with time to score."

Said Adams: "I don't like getting into that. That's not a good look for me. I'm a receiver."

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 26 September 2023

Receiver Mike Williams suffered a season-ending left ACL tear in L.A.'s 28-24 victory over the Minnesota Vikings on Sunday, the team announced Monday.

Williams is expected to be ready for training camp next season, a source told ESPN's Adam Schefter.

"It's the toughest kind of news. You know, Mike's one of my favorites," head coach Brandon Staley said. "He's one of our most important players and he's a guy who not only is one of our best players, but he sets the example I think from a team-building culture standpoint in terms of how you want to work.

"We're going to make sure that this group plays to his standard and that's our responsibility now."

Williams has been one of the Chargers' top targets since he entered the league in 2017. In March 2022, the Chargers rewarded Williams with a three-year, $60 million contract.

Williams left Sunday's game against the Vikings in the third quarter on a medical cart. He caught a pass in the third quarter and went to make a juke move to get by Vikings safety Harrison Smith. But Williams planted his left leg, fell, and was tackled from behind.

Williams was having his best game of the season with seven catches for 121 yards and one touchdown before the injury.

This injury comes after Williams returned this year from a back fracture he suffered on a hit he took in the final three minutes of the Chargers' regular-season finale against the Denver Broncos.

The Chargers have added a wide receiver to their 53-man roster in the wake of Williams' torn ACL. Simi Fehoko announced on social media that he signed with the Chargers and the team later confirmed the move after placing Williams on injured reserve.

Fehoko was on the Steelers practice squad.

Fehoko was a 2021 fifth-round pick by the Cowboys and he appeared in 10 games for the team over the last two seasons. He had three catches for 24 yards in those appearances and wound up in Pittsburgh after being cut by Dallas in late August.

Jalen Guyton is on the physically unable to perform list and will become eligible to be activated after Week 4.

From a fantasy perspective Williams' absence should increase snaps and targets for rookie first-round receiver Quentin Johnston, who has just five receptions for 26 yards through three games, although Josh Palmer and tight end Gerald Everett rose up last year when injuries at wideout became an issue. ...

Also, Keenan Allen is there. The veteran showed us what he's capable of on any given Sunday.

In his eleventh season, Allen had arguably the best game of his career.

The list of records and milestones is lengthy: He became the first NFL player to register 15 receptions and throw a passing touchdown in a game, his 18 catches (for 215 yards with a touchdown) were the most in a single contest in Chargers history and his 9,689 career receiving yards are tops for a Chargers wideout.

Allen also now has the most games with 15 catches in NFL history with three, breaking a tie with four other players.

The Vikings thwarted the Chargers' rushing attack, limiting them to just 30 total rushing yards on 15 carries. So the Chargers leaned on their passing, and the ball almost always went to Allen. The Vikings' secondary didn't have any answers.

"Everybody on the field can know where the ball is going, but somebody has got to make a play," Allen said. "You can point at it and say, 'Oh, he's going here' and do all of this, but you still have to go stop it."

"He is a quarterback's best friend," Justin Herbert said of Allen. "To be able to get the ball out to him quickly, for him to make plays, he makes my job so much easier."

Vikings defensive coordinator Brian Flores came into this game blitzing on 58 percent of snaps, which was first in the NFL, according to Next Gen Stats.

Flores had a similar approach when he was the head coach for the Miami Dolphins from 2019 to 2021. Herbert played the Fins as a rookie. Allen remembered that 2020 tilt and how the Chargers' offense "didn't know what to do" or "who to be looking at."

Herbert had his third-lowest quarterback rating of that season (86.3) and was sacked twice in the Chargers' 21-29 loss.

But the paradigm shifted on Sunday. The Vikings blitzed on 81.3 percent of Herbert's dropbacks, plays in which he completed 32-for-38 of his passes for 307 yards and a touchdown. The blitz often left Allen facing single coverage, and he created at least three yards of separation on 13 of his 18 receptions, according to Next Gen Stats.

"Today, we had their number on every play," Allen said. "[Herbert] was in there; he was settled down, not getting rattled at all. Every time he came to the sidelines, we had more answers and more answers."

That includes Allen's "redemption" play.

As's Kris Rhim reminded readers, it was two years ago, against the Kansas City Chiefs in 2021, that Allen botched a trick play that had him throwing the ball after a lateral. Williams was wide open down the right sideline, but Allen threw the ball short. He threw his arms in the air in angst and frustration at the time.

Fast forward to Sunday's game when the Chargers dialed up the exact same play in the third quarter. Allen, who already had over 100 receiving yards by that point, drew almost the entire Vikings' defense when he caught the lateral pass -- and this time hit Williams for a 49-yard score.

"It was atonement," Staley deadpanned after the game. "Keenan really throws a good football, but we've been working on that play. I'm excited for Keenan because it capped one of those maestro performances for him. ..."

The Chargers host the Raiders Sunday. They have split their season series with the Raiders the last three years. The last time they got a sweep was 2018. ...

In addition to Williams being done for the year, the Chargers have more immediate injury issues.

S Derwin James' status going into the week is questionable after he suffered a hamstring injury in the third quarter. RB Austin Ekeler and LB Eric Kendricks have been sidelined the last two weeks with ankle and hamstring injuries, respectively.

Ekeler hasn't practiced since he suffered his injury in the Chargers' Week 1 loss to the Miami Dolphins. This is the third time he has missed back-to-back games in his career. The most recent came in the 2020 season when he missed six straight because of a hamstring strain.

His status this week seems equally uncertain at this point.

"He's working hard to get back," Staley said of Ekeler late last week. "We'll see how it goes here in the next few weeks."

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

Also of interest. ... Last year, Chargers receiver Keenan Allen objected loudly on social media to a failed decision by Staley to go for it on fourth and one.

On Sunday, Allen was supportive of the move.

Leading 28-24 with less than two minutes to play and the ball on their own 24, the Chargers faced fourth and one. Staley decided to go for it. Allen supported the move, even though it didn't work out.

"I think everybody in the huddle was wanting to go for it," Allen told PFT by phone after the win. "We were pretty much in the huddle just saying, 'Dog, like, just quarterback sneak it. And you know just let [Herbert] go and get it."

Allen ultimately agreed with the decision to hand the ball off, given that "they had the gaps all filled up so it would have been tough for the QB sneak."

What about the Eagles' approach to short yards, where they line players up behind the quarterback and push?

"I actually thought about that one," Allen said. "Once we didn't get it. I was like, damn, we should probably put that in."

As Associated Press sports writer Joe Reedy notes, Staley has his legion of critics when it comes to fourth-down calls, especially late in games.

The third-year coach is at least consistent in his beliefs and trusts the math when he makes those decisions.

"It's your job as a head coach to make sure your team knows you have belief in them. I think we came here to win," Staley said after Sunday's 28-24 win at Minnesota. "It was a tough road game against a team that made the playoffs, so we were trying to go win the game, and I make no apologies for that."

It marked the second straight season in which the Chargers escaped with a road win after Staley's decision to go for it on fourth down late in his own territory came up short.

On Sunday, the Chargers had an expected win probability of 84.2 percent by going for it, compared to 77.8 percent if they punted. For a coaching staff that relies heavily on analytics, any time there is that much of a difference, they are going to go for it.

The shortfall was the play call. Kelley had a 44.6 percent chance of getting the first down. Kelley had just 12 yards on 11 carries, with five going for no gain or negative yards.

"If I would have been affected, we wouldn't have gone for it. We would have punted it. It was fourth down and less than a yard," Staley said when asked if he was worried about second-guessing. "We were protecting four points, not three."

During last year's game against the Browns, the Chargers had a 9.4 percent better win probability by going for it. The probability of converting on a pass by Herbert was 57 percent, but his throw on a slant route to Mike Williams was broken up by Martin Emerson.

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 26 September 2023

As's Kevin Patra pointed out, NFL coaches preach red-zone and third-down execution as vital to success. The Los Angeles Rams failed those tests in Monday night's 19-16 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals.

L.A. went 1 of 11 on third downs (9 percent), missing its first 10 tries at the key down before converting on the final play from scrimmage. The Rams also went 1 of 4 in the red zone, settling for early field goals that allowed the Bengals to stay in the contest as their offense found its footing.

"There (were) just a lot of self-inflicted wounds," McVay said Monday, via the Associated Press.

Penalties, bad sacks from Matthew Stafford, dropped passes. You name it, the Rams likely committed it on third downs and in the red zone.

On the Rams' opening drive, Tutu Atwell appeared to score a touchdown but upon replay review, was ruled out of bounds at the 2-yard-line. Stafford was sacked on the next play, and ultimately, the Rams would settle for a field goal.

The early red-zone failure set the tone for the rest of the game.

"I think the biggest thing for us tonight was missed opportunities early in the game in the red zone," Stafford said. "If we can come away with some sevens there it's probably a little bit of a different game later on."

The Bengals, dealing with Joe Burrow's calf injury, looked little like the dive-bombing threat we've become used to seeing early in the contest. Had the Rams gotten off to a good start and gone up double digits, it might have forced Cincy to play differently. Instead, the repeated failures and mistakes allowed the Bengals to hang around until they rounded into form.

"It did feel like we were in striking distance," McVay said. "I thought the defense kept us in the game the whole night, and I thought it was really unfortunate, especially early on where we had to settle for field goals where we had some of the looks and some of the opportunities to be able to execute and we just weren't able to get it done."

Stafford finished 18 of 33 for 269 yards with a TD and two interceptions while getting sacked six times. He went 1 of 7 for 1 yard (TD) with two sacks in the red zone on Monday night. Early in the contest, the QB was slinging lasers, but as the O-line injuries mounted, so did the pressure.

By the end, it looked a lot like the version of the Rams offense we saw last year before Stafford got injured.

Of course, Cooper Kupp’s absence was painfully apparent in this loss.

Fifth-round pick Puka Nacua has been a nice story for these Rams through the first three weeks of the season, but against a defense that wasn't afraid to get after Stafford, it became very clear how badly the Rams miss Kupp.

Nacua caught five of his seven targets, but wasn't able to make the kind of impact that propelled his name into headlines around the football world through the first two weeks.

Kyren Williams still has what's Nick Shook characterized as "a communication issue between his brain and hands," and while Atwell made a handful of plays, he was too often the target of desperate Stafford heaves that fell incomplete.

These Rams need more talent, and with their most dangerous weapon sidelined, they're simply not explosive enough to compete when their offensive line doesn't give Stafford -- who is healthy and has looked good to this point, by the way -- enough time to work. The running game, which mustered just 71 yards on the night, didn't help.

So can the Rams' offense right the ship before Kupp returns?

As's Sarah Barshop notes, the Rams have at least one more game before Kupp (hamstring) is eligible to return from his IR stint. If the Rams can turn it around against the Colts, they'll likely do it by relying on Nacua and Atwell.

For the record, the Colts haven't had Jonathan Taylor in any of their first three games of the season, and they also missed Anthony Richardson last week due to a concussion. Still, the Colts head into this Week 4 matchup with the better record. They're also favored to beat the Rams in Indianapolis on Sunday afternoon when these two teams square off.

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 26 September 2023

According to's Marcel Louis-Jacques, the video boards at Hard Rock Stadium remained illuminated for roughly 90 minutes after the Dolphins' win Sunday over the Denver Broncos -- as if to prove the final score was not a mirage.

The Dolphins set a franchise record for points in a single game in the 70-20 drubbing, becoming the first team in NFL history to score 70 points and compile 700 yards of offense in the same game.

For perspective, there are two teams -- the New York Jets (675) and the Tennessee Titans (720) -- who have fewer yards of offense in three games combined than the Dolphins had in Week 3 (726).

But the Dolphins don't have much time to admire their stats.

Miami will face its biggest litmus test of the season when it travels to the Buffalo Bills on Sunday to face a defense that just recorded seven sacks, four interceptions, a fumble recovery and a defensive touchdown in a 37-3 rout of the Washington Commanders.

With the AFC East showdown on deck, Louis-Jacques offered three major takeaways from the Dolphins' incredible day, with a look ahead to next week:

Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa completed his first 17 passes of the game, finishing 23-of-26 for 309 yards and four touchdowns. He ranks second in the NFL in passing yards (1,024), passing touchdowns (8) and QBR (77.7) and averages the fourth-most air yards per pass attempt (7.6).

And to think, as a rookie three years ago, Tagovailoa was benched in the fourth quarter against Denver for Ryan Fitzpatrick. Dolphins linebacker Bradley Chubb, who played on that Broncos team in 2020, has noticed the growth in Tagovailoa's game.

"Man since then? That s--t is night and day, to be honest with you," Chubb said. "Just how he carries himself, the confidence he has walking on the field, just every little detail about him.

"I feel like in 2020, we knew if Tua was in the game we [the Broncos] probably had a good chance of winning -- which is crazy, but it's true. ... I mean in 2020 that was the case. Today? F--k no."

Tagovailoa's completion percentage over expectation on Sunday was +14.3 percent, his second-best single-game CPOE as a starter.

In five career games against Buffalo, Tagovailoa has completed just 87-of-149 passes for 999 yards, four touchdowns and four interceptions. He's been injured to some extent during four of those games.

Buffalo's defense made a statement Sunday and is third in total yards allowed per game (253), passing yards per game (142.3) and points per game 11.7. ...

Another major point: Tagovailoa was pressured just three times in 26 dropbacks and was hit once.

Miami's offensive line has allowed one sack in three games and got its best player back from injury with the return of Pro Bowl left tackle Terron Armstead.

This week the Dolphins' offensive line faces a tough assignment against a Bills defense that's won 56.5 percent of its pass rushes -- the third-best mark in the NFL. After their seven-sack outburst against Washington, the Bills are tied for the league lead with 12 sacks to start the season.

One of the best counters to an elite pass rush is a strong run game. Luckily for the Dolphins, they turned in one of the most memorable ground performances in NFL history.

Dolphins running back Raheem Mostert heard all the Dalvin Cook and Jonathan Taylor rumors this offseason. He's responded with a league-leading six rushing touchdowns through three games.

He was dangerous and versatile against the Broncos, rushing for 82 yards and three touchdowns on 13 carries, adding 60 more yards and a touchdown on seven catches.

Not to be outdone, rookie De'Von Achane compiled 233 total yards and four touchdowns, including 203 rushing yards and two scores on 18 carries.

Miami rushed for 350 yards Sunday.

Achane's 203 rushing yards in his second game were the most by any NFL player in the first or second game of his career in the Super Bowl era. He and Mostert are the second pair of teammates in NFL history to score four touchdowns each in the same game.

"We put a lot of that on the O-line. A lot of that run game weight is on our shoulders," Armstead said. "We try to create lanes and get those guys into the third level. That's the goal, and it's on them to make the safeties miss and the corners miss.

"But that again is not just a running back stat. Receivers have to block on the edge. ... It's everybody. It's a full offensive statistic, so everything that we're doing from sacks, rushing, passing. All 11."

So who plays the lead role going forward?

As Louis-Jacques wrote, "Achane's breakout performance was spectacular. But this is still Mostert's backfield. There will likely be enough carries to go around for both players, with the hotter hand edging out the other. But Mostert should still get the first crack at proving he's the hot hand."

Meanwhile, the Bills' defense has been mediocre against the run, ranking 16th in rushing yards allowed per game (110.7), and Mostert has experienced some success against them in the past. He ran for 136 yards on 17 carries in Miami's 32-29 regular-season loss in Buffalo last season, but he missed the teams' wild-card matchup.

According to Associated Press sports writer Alanis Thames, it may sound strange after the offense put up a historic performance during a game that was never in doubt, but coach Mike McDaniel believes his team responds well to adversity.

"We talked at length all offseason just about adversity," McDaniel said, "and sometimes adversity is having a score or two lead because you can let the atmosphere dictate your product. So what I saw from a lot of guys, and specifically when you're talking about that type of production, that's guys really taking it to heart -- that we have one opportunity with this team in 2023, and we're going to make the most of it and be unrelenting with our standards."

The Dolphins maintained those standards throughout Sunday and at 3-0, are the only unbeaten team in the AFC.

They continue to offer a mountain of evidence suggesting the old adage "speed kills" is true.

Miami has the NFL's top six fastest ball carriers this season, according to the league's Next Gen stats. Receiver Tyreek Hill is responsible for three of those six plays, including the fastest of the year. He reached 22.07 mph on one of his nine catches for 157 yards Sunday. Achane ranks second; he was clocked at 21.93 mph and 21.62 mph on two of his 18 carries.

Mostert, who has had consecutive games with multiple touchdowns, is also on the list. He reached 21.62 mph in Week 2.

Another speedster, receiver Jaylen Waddle, remained in the concussion protocol Monday after a helmet-to-helmet hit against New England in Week 2. McDaniel the team expects Waddle to clear the protocol soon.

Elsewhere on the injury front. ... Receiver River Cracraft suffered a shoulder injury. McDaniel said the team is still doing tests to determine how long he will be out. ... LB Jaelan Phillips left with an oblique injury and is day to day. He missed Miami's previous game with a back injury. ... C Connor Williams hurt his groin and is day to day.

I'll have more on Waddle, Cracraft and other pertinent injury issues via Late-Breaking Update in coming days.

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 26 September 2023

As Associated Press sports writer Dave Campbell reported, after Kirk Cousins delivered a must-convert fourth down completion for Minnesota to T.J. Hockenson, the Vikings had the ball at the 6-yard line with 35 seconds remaining when the tight end climbed to his feet.

Instead of a quick spike to stop the clock without any timeouts, head coach Kevin O'Connell tried to relay a quick play to Cousins to keep the Los Angeles Chargers from setting their defense the way they wanted.

Cousins couldn't hear him clearly, because of a choppy connection on the headset and the crowd cheering in anticipation of a dramatic go-ahead touchdown, so the quarterback took an educated guess on the call and frantically told his teammates.

NFL teams encourage crowds to be loud when the defense is on the field and to minimize noise when they are on offense. The crowd of 66,878 at U.S Bank Stadium got excited after the fourth-down conversion, and many could be heard encouraging the Vikings to spike the ball to maximize the number of plays they would get to score from the 6-yard line.

"Sometimes that happens," O'Connell said of the home crowd fan noise. "It's not always noticed when we're in a normal two-minute mode."

O'Connell made clear that he didn't think that the ticking clock impacted the execution of the play. But given how the scene played out, he acknowledged that spiking the ball would have been a better option.

"My expectations are always sky-high for our group," O'Connell said, "so I'm trying to steal one more play. But clearly with that much time going off the clock, even though I don't think ultimately think time was the issue with the game ending the way it did, but certainly. ... That one was purely on me, trying to be too aggressive in that moment. Definitely looking back on it, just wish I would have clocked it. No matter the benefit we had going fast, the value was not received clearly with what that execution looked like in that moment."

In theory, Cousins said, he could have decided to spike the ball on his own. But he said he tries "not to make a habit of" making such unilateral decisions during games.

"I mean I could do anything I want," Cousins said. "I can do the quarterback sneak. I can do whatever I want, but at the same time you also have to deal with the consequences. Against Buffalo last year I snuck it on my own and didn't get in, so until you know the future it's hard to know whether to take the reins or not, but I've done it before."

Whatever the case, when the snap came, only 12 seconds were left. Cousins' hunch about his coach's preference was correct and his throw across the goal line was in the right place to Hockenson's outside shoulder as he boxed out Chargers linebacker Nick Niemann, but the ball deflected off his hands and into the air for Kenneth Murray to intercept it.

Game over. Maybe the season, too.

"You have to score touchdowns in the red zone to win in this league," a dejected Cousins said after a 28-24 defeat to the Chargers on Sunday left the Vikings as one of the NFC's three remaining winless teams.

The Vikings had four possessions inside the 20-yard line that yielded only one touchdown, dropping them to 50 percent for the season (5 for 10) in a tie for 21st in the NFL entering Monday. They ranked eighth in 2022. Cousins is the only passer yet this season who's been picked off more than once in the red zone entering Monday. The Vikings have run 30 plays inside the 20, with 11 incompletions and four negative rushes.

"There were definitely some plays to be had there," O'Connell said on Monday. "We just didn't make a couple of those plays, and I just have to have a couple better calls, especially on some of those sequences where we could possibly either run the football in or find a way to throw it in."

Alexander Mattison was wide open when he dropped a pass at the 12 in the second quarter and might've had enough space to turn and score. Mattison was uncovered again on that same drive when Cousins tried to hit him, but had his elbow pushed back by a pressuring Joey Bosa on third-and-goal, forcing the Vikings to settle for a short field goal.

With 3:40 left, O'Connell sent in the short-yardage group for second-and-goal from the 1. Fullback C.J. Ham followed tight end Johnny Mundt to the left where there was nobody to block, allowing Murray to blast through the hole and drop Mattison for a 2-yard loss. The next two plays were incomplete passes.

The litany of these red zone blues doesn't even include Hockenson's fumble that thwarted a promising opening drive, when his 9-yard catch in traffic at the 17 ended with Chargers safety Alohi Gilman wrestling the ball away on his fall to the turf.

That's how the Vikings are second in the NFL in yards per play (6.21), yet still searching for a victory.

"It's been like that the past three games. It's tough. We're still hurting ourselves and shooting ourselves in the foot," wide receiver Justin Jefferson said. "We have to do better as players by executing the plays."

The good news?

The next two road games for the Vikings are against the two other winless NFC teams, at Carolina this Sunday and at Chicago on Oct. 15. The flip side of their schedule next month is home games against Kansas City and San Francisco, with a trip to Green Bay. Those three opponents are a combined 7-2. ...

Other notes of interest. ... O'Connell delivered an uncharacteristically direct and public ultimatum Monday with his team leading the NFL in turnovers amid that 0-3 start.

"I think that's something we're going to fix one way or the other," O'Connell said in an afternoon news conference. "Either guys are going to [fix] it or we're going to have to put other guys in the game that have ball security."

The Vikings have lost seven fumbles, tied for the second most through three games since 2000, according to ESPN Stats and Information research. Cousins has thrown two interceptions, one at the goal line and a second in the end zone that halted the Vikings' final possession with seven seconds remaining in Sunday's 28-24 loss to the Los Angeles Chargers.

O'Connell reorganized practice last week to address the problem, installing new drills and, he said, acquiring new equipment "off the internet" to simulate contact for ball carriers.

As noted above, Hockenson was stripped of the ball to end the Vikings' first possession against the Chargers. Mattison, meanwhile, had one lost fumble reversed because officials ruled his forward progress had stopped. He lost the ball after another run as well but was determined to be down by contact first.

Mattison lost two fumbles in a Week 2 loss to the Eagles, although one was reversed because of an Eagles penalty.

Those rulings have done little to quell O'Connell's concerns, and the Vikings are planning to get newly acquired tailback Cam Akers involved in at least part of their game plan for Sunday's game at Carolina.

"We need to end every snap with the football in our hands," O'Connell said. "And that's going to be continued urgency and emphasis like it was last week and we're going to continue to do it, and do it differently, and emphasize in different ways until that value is received, because that is a losing formula as we've seen where we're at in the turnover differential. ..."

Despite the issues, the running game finally got going, with 130 yards on 24 attempts and six gains of 10-plus yards after failing to reach double digits on any rushes in their first two games. Mattison had 125 yards from scrimmage on 25 touches.

Depending on how quickly Akers gets up to speed, that might end up being the highlight of Mattison's season.

According to's Kevin Seifert, it's possible that Mattison will continue to play around 75 percent of the Vikings' snaps, as he has to this point, but he might see his share of carries drop from its current clip of 85 percent. O’Connell’s familiarity with Akers when both were with the Rams will give him the opportunity to match his skill set with some of the Vikings' plays. Mattison will continue to get the majority of the running back snaps, but Akers will get some touches, too, starting this weekend at Carolina. ...

Jefferson caught 7-of-13 targets for 149 yards and a touchdown against the Chargers. As Rotoworld notes, Jefferson now has at least seven catches and 149 in all three of his 2023 appearances.

There was a scary moment late in the when Jefferson went down with an apparent leg issue, but it ended up only being cramps. He returned. The Panthers are not going to slow Jefferson down in Week 4.

Meanwhile, as Late Round Fantasy's JJ Zachariason notes, no team in the league has more pass attempts than the Minnesota Vikings.

That's something we saw last year -- the Vikings were third in pass attempts in 2022.

That's huge for the team's pass-catchers. Jefferson will clearly get his, and Hockenson will be a target hog, too.

But Zachariason contends the secondary players like Jordan Addison and K.J. Osborn will benefit as well.

Also worth noting, Addison is still playing behind Osborn. Addison has run 27 fewer routes than Osborn this season despite having four more catches and 84 more receiving yards. Addison's yards per route run is a solid 1.71. Osborn's is at 0.75, a number that would've ranked in the 12th percentile at wide receiver last season.

According to Zachariason, "It's only a matter of time before Addison leapfrogs Osborn as the number-two wideout in this offense. And, when that happens, his numbers should look even better. ..."

Greg Joseph has made all nine extra points, both field goals and landed all but one of his 14 kickoffs in the end zone. ...

Finally. ... The Vikings released RB Myles Gaskin on Tuesday. The former Dolphin is a free agent again after not being able to stick with the Vikings.

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 26 September 2023

While the New England Patriots avoided their first 0-3 start in two decades, Associated Press sports writer Kyle Hightower contends it's not clear whether they can consistently score enough points to contend in the AFC East.

New England played turnover-free in Sunday's 15-10 win over the struggling New York Jets, covering for the deficiencies of an offense that didn't run a single play in the red zone.

Pharaoh Brown had a 58-yard catch-and-run touchdown, Chad Ryland kicked two field goals, and the Patriots' defense contributed a safety in the fourth quarter when Matt Judon sacked Zach Wilson in the end zone. New England's 15 points was its lowest scoring output so far.

Through three weeks under new coordinator Bill O'Brien, the Patriots are ranked 26th in total offense.

Quarterback Mac Jones still saw some progress, especially considering the rainy and windy conditions at MetLife Stadium.

"We're definitely close and thought the play-calling was really good," Jones said. "Coach O'Brien did a great job calling a great game. We've just got to execute better."

The most positive development might have been the Patriots' ability to run the ball against the Jets' stingy defensive line, led by Quinnen Williams. He had seven tackles, but only one of New York's two tackles for a loss.

The Patriots totaled 157 rushing yards, their best output of the season.

"Just good execution and grind it out. It's hard to rip off a bunch of 20-yard runs against these guys," head coach Bill Belichick said. "There were some plays where we gave up some pressure but overall I thought it was a decent day in pass protection. We've just got to convert and get more points than we got."

Ezekiel Elliott led the team with 80 yards rushing on 16 carries. His 14-yard burst in the second quarter was the longest run by a Patriots running back this season. He benefited from an offensive line that was as healthy as it's been over the first three games.

"I think we knew that it was going to be a running game," Elliott said. "So we were just ready to come out and run the ball as much as we needed to."

A more effective deep-passing game would help.

Jones was 0 for 5 on passes that traveled more than 20 yards. He went 1 for 4 on deep balls in Week 2 and 3 for 7 in Week 1.

"Those are statistically the hardest passes to hit. Completion percentage and all that, is true of every team," Belichick said. "But we've got to hit them, we've got to throw them and we need more production out of the deep balls."

Still, the Patriots now have 15 consecutive victories over the Jets, equaling the team record against any opponent. The Patriots also beat Buffalo 15 straight times from 2003 to 2010. New England can extend the streak when it hosts New York in its season finale on Jan. 7.

The Patriots visit Dallas next Sunday in what will be Elliott's first game against his former team. The No. 4 overall pick by the Cowboys in 2016, Elliott ran for 68 touchdowns and more than 8,000 yards over his seven seasons there before being released in March.

As's Mike Reiss notes, Elliott, 28, hasn't talked much about his departure from the Cowboys -- where he played the first seven years of his NFL career -- since signing a one-year contract with the Patriots in mid-August. He touched on the topic Sunday, but chose his words carefully.

"I was definitely disappointed but everything happens for a reason," he said. "God has his plan for us. I'm excited for this next chapter in my life. I'm excited to be a Patriot, I'm excited to go chase a Super Bowl here."

When asked whether he hoped to play his entire career with Dallas, he said: "No one wants to leave the team they're with, but more importantly, I'm very happy with where I'm at."

The Patriots are happy to have him, and they leaned on him Sunday more than they had in the first two games of the season, in which he had a combined 12 carries for 42 yards, five receptions for 14 yards and a fumble.

Although Elliott initially billed Sunday's game in Arlington as "just another game," it won't be.

As's Charean Williams put it, "He wants to remind the Cowboys of the two rushing titles, the 8,262 rushing yards and the three Pro Bowls that he had with them. ..."

Elliott is the backup to Rhamondre Stevenson, but that didn't stop him from carrying the ball in critical situations in Sunday's win.

Should Stevenson investors be worried?

According to Late Round Fantasy's JJ Zachariason, probably not.

Zachariason explained Elliott saw 9 of his 16 rush attempts in the fourth quarter while the Patriots were trying to close out the game. In the end, Stevenson still had 19 routes run to Elliott's 6, and he was on the field for 65 percent of New England's offensive snaps.

That was lower than Weeks 1 and 2, where he was at 74 percent and 72 percent, respectively, but it wasn't far off.

More to the point, Zachariason believes the Patriots schedule moving forward won't be as kind as their matchup against Zach Wilson. They face the Cowboys, Saints, Raiders, Bills, and Dolphins over their next five. If the offense is trailing, that favors Stevenson over Elliott. ...

Receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster had his fewest targets (three), catches (one) and yards (5) this season. He has 10 catches for 66 yards in three games, hardly what the Patriots had hoped for when they signed him to a three-year deal in March. ...

Finally. ... In the first two games, Brown played a total of 14 offensive snaps. He was a bigger part of the plan Sunday, with O'Brien calling on the 3-TE package more regularly, and he delivered the aforementioned 58-yard catch-and-run touchdown on a blown coverage by the Jets.

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 26 September 2023

Derek Carr sprained his right AC joint and is considered week-to-week, coach Dennis Allen said Monday.

Allen did not rule Carr out for Sunday's game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, saying the injury is not as serious as it could've been.

"I think we dodged a bullet there in terms of real significance," Allen said.

Allen said that Carr felt better Monday morning and that he'll continue to be evaluated throughout the week.

"We're not making any decisions today; we're not ruling anything out," Allen said. "We'll see where he's at as the week goes on."

Allen did not specify the grade of the sprain.

"All I can tell you is that he was much better today than he was yesterday," Allen said. "We're going to continue to evaluate him, and when he's healthy enough that he can go out and perform and do the things that he needs to do to give our team a chance to win, then he'll be back in there."

Carr's playing status will likely be determined by his pain tolerance and ability to function.

"So, I can't tell you when that's going to be. People heal at different rates. And there's been players that have played with this injury in one week. There's been players that it takes a couple weeks. So we'll just have to wait and see."

But Allen said the injury won't be made worse by him playing through it.

"I don't think it's a further risk of injury," Allen said. "It's 'can you function and do your job?'"

Through three weeks, Carr has completed 66 percent of his passes for 636 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions.

The Saints play the Buccaneers in Week 4 before taking on the Patriots in Week 5.

Carr was hurt in the third quarter of the Saints' 18-17 loss to the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field on Sunday. The Saints were up 17-0 when he took a sack that caused him to land hard on his shoulder.

He lay on the turf for several minutes as athletic trainers tended to him. He then went to the medical tent on the sideline briefly before leaving the game. Carr went to a local hospital for X-rays but flew back with the team Sunday.

Jameis Winston took over in Carr's absence, completing 10 of 16 passes for 101 yards. He was able to drive the team 47 yards to the Green Bay 34 in the last three minutes of the game, but Saints kicker Blake Grupe missed a potential game-winning field goal.

"I don't think what we were doing really changed at all," Allen said. "I thought Jameis did some good things in the game. We drove ourselves down there and gave ourselves an opportunity and didn't finish."

After the game, Allen said the Saints need to protect better, but he did not attribute the injury to the struggling offensive line.

"I think that was the one play I felt like he kind of hung on to [the ball] too long," Allen said.

The good news? Running back Alvin Kamara returned from his three-game suspension and got to work with the team Monday.

Kamara was suspended for the first three games of the season after he pleaded no contest to breach of the peace in connection with a beating that left a man hospitalized. Kamara acknowledged he was "completely wrong" for his actions, which took place in Las Vegas the day before the 2022 Pro Bowl.

The 2-1 Saints would love to see Kamara come in and make an immediate impact, starting on Sunday with a big divisional game against the Buccaneers.

With Carr expected to miss time, how should we expect the offensive approach to change with Kamara returning and Winston under center?

According to's Katherine Terrell, the Saints said there were no major changes when they went from Carr to Winston in their loss to the Packers; however, they didn't attempt a pass to a running back after Carr targeted RBs five times. That'll likely change once Kamara returns.

The Saints need to shake things up behind a struggling offensive line, and they're only averaging 93.3 rushing yards without Kamara.

Kamara, who has 430 career catches, will likely be involved in the passing game immediately to try to give them a different look and provide a spark.

Also worth noting. ... The offensive line wasn't responsible for the play that injured Carr, but the group hasn't jelled the way the team had hoped. The unit posted a 33.3 percent pass block win rate and a 38.5 percent pass rush win rate against the Packers. Guard Cesar Ruiz left the game early with a concussion, leading to another bad day for the unit.

While nobody should get their hopes up about Carr playing this week, I'll have more on the veteran signal caller and Kamara via Late-Breaking Update in coming days. ...

A few final items. ... Chris Olave caught 8-of-11 targets for 104 yards against the Packers.

As Rotoworld notes, Olave led the Saints in targets on the day and hauled in multiple catches of 20-plus yards. He was instrumental in setting the Saints up for a game-winning field goal attempt, catching back-to-back receptions for 38 yards, setting Grupe for that final failed field-goal attempt.

It was a solid outing for Olave, who has started his season with two 100-yard efforts in three games.

Kendre Miller rushed nine times for 34 yards in the Saints' Week 3 loss to the Packers.

Those hoping for an elite PPR effort from Miller were left sorely disappointed, as he managed just one target to Tony Jones Jr.'s four. Miller was solid on his few rush attempts, with his longest carry coming on a 10-yard gain in the second quarter.

Kamara's return will obviously be a limiting factor going forward.

Finally. ... According to ESPN’s Field Yates, the Saints have released WR Tre'Quan Smith off injured reserve.

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 26 September 2023

As's Kevin Patra suggested, there is starting games slowly. Then there is what the New York Giants have done to open the season.

Big Blue has been down by double digits in each of the three contests to open the 2023 season. In Week 1, they trailed Dallas 26-0 at the break. In Week 2 in Arizona, 20-0. Thursday night in San Francisco, they finally put points on the board, but it was still a 17-6 halftime deficit. Add it up, and New York has trailed 63-6 in the first halves of games thus far.

"Yes, it's not what we're trying to do, so we have to find a way to figure that out," quarterback Daniel Jones said following last Thursday's 30-12 loss to the Niners. "Execute better early in the game, finish in the end zone, take advantage of opportunities, but it comes down to making plays and executing better in those situations."

The -57 scoring margin in the first half through three weeks is the worst of any team since at least 1991, per Josh Dubow of The Associated Press. At least some solace Giants fans can take from that sad start: The 2006 Giants tied for the fifth-worst start in that span with a -51 point differential. That club made the postseason with an 8-8 record.

The Giants' slow first halves are mostly a product of a sluggish offense.

New York is the first team since the 2008 Rams with 100 or fewer total yards in the first half of three straight games to open a season -- 81 yards, Week 1 vs. Dallas; 81 yards, Week 2 at Arizona; 88 yards, Week 3 at San Francisco.

"We didn't create a rhythm," Jones said. "We didn't execute, didn't take advantage of our opportunities. Certainly is a good defense. It's a good team. When you're playing good teams, you can't afford to do that. We didn't play well enough."

Last Thursday's stats were about as lopsided as an NFL game can get. The Giants were outgained 441-150, generated 10 first downs to 26, ran 46 plays to 78 and racked up 29 rush yards to 141 and 121 net passing yards to 300.

The Giants had one drive over 40 total yards (the opening series). The Niners had six. Is it better or worse that New York was so offensively challenged yet only turned the ball over once?

Even with all the glum, it was still an eight-point game entering the fourth quarter despite Big Blue missing Saquon Barkley (ankle), the offensive line being woefully banged up, and key contributors on defense absent.

The job is not going to get easier with Seattle (2-1), Miami (3-0) and Buffalo (2-1) over the next three weeks, especially with all that is going wrong.

So who will be back for Monday night against the Seahawks?

This isn't a deep Giants team. It can't afford to be down four crucial starters (including perhaps their two best players in LT Andrew Thomas and Barkley) like they were against the 49ers. Fortunately for the Giants, Thomas said he has made progress with his hamstring and there is a good chance he returns soon.

Left guard Ben Bredeson (concussion) will benefit from the additional off days as he hopes to return in Week 4, and the left side of the O-line should be back intact.

Barkley is still a question mark. It's not an especially encouraging sign that he told Amazon's Taylor Rooks that he's dealing with a high ankle sprain. Given his history, it might be prudent to wait a few more weeks before getting him back in the fold.

Still, Head coach Brian Daboll called Barkley a quick healer last week and said on Tuesday that the team is going to continue monitoring his condition as they head toward their Monday night date with the Seahawks.

"He's really now I'd say in the day-to-day category. He feels a lot better today, but we'll kinda take that all the way throughout the week and see how he improves," Daboll said, via SNY.

I'll obviously be following up on Barkley via Late-Breaking Update in coming days. ...

A few final notes here. ...'s Jordan Raanan believes the Giants have to find a way to get the ball into rookie wide receiver Jalin Hyatt's hands. There is no way in a game like that he should be on the field to run just 13 routes and not get a touch. Hyatt was the key to the Giants' victory the prior week in Arizona.

But Late Round Fantasy's JJ Zachariason contends Wan'Dale Robinson is a player to watch.

He returned in Week 3 from an ACL injury suffered last season, and picked up right where he left off. The Giants only let him run eight routes, but he saw five targets on those routes.

Zachariason notes that type of targets per route run rate is a continuation of what we witnessed in 2022 during Robinson's limited time as a rookie. Among all wideouts with 100 or more routes run last season, Robinson's rate of seeing targets ranked in the 87th percentile.

"He's a talented player whose role should grow as the season moves forward," Zachariason added.

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 26 September 2023

As Associated Press sports writer Dennis Waszak Jr. suggested, "At this point, most Jets fans would take anyone at quarterback other than Zach Wilson.

"They don't want to hear it's not all his fault or New York has plenty of problems and not just him. ..."

Well, it all might be true for a team that's 1-2 after having Super Bowl aspirations with Aaron Rodgers under center. But the fact is the Jets are sticking with Wilson, the third-year quarterback who was once the future of the franchise but is now the most popular target of frustrated fans.

Even Broadway Joe sounded off Sunday on social media during the Jets' 15-10 loss to the New England Patriots -- their 15th straight against their AFC East foes -- and went even further Monday during an interview on "The Michael Kay Show" on 98.7 ESPN New York.

"I wouldn't keep him," said Joe Namath, who was uncharacteristically agitated. "I've seen enough of Zach Wilson. All right? I've seen enough."

The Pro Football Hall of Famer remains the first and only quarterback to lead the Jets to the Super Bowl -- back in January 1969, when he made good on one of sports' most famous guarantees.

It appears that drought will hit 55 years unless the Jets can turn it around. Even being able to end the NFL's longest active streak without a playoff appearance -- 12 years -- seems in jeopardy.

Namath called Wilson's performance Sunday "disgusting" and "awful." He added: "I don't believe in him. I don't believe he has a future as a good player. I think they made the wrong choice when they drafted him."

Namath also called for changes in the organization, from top to bottom.

Yep, it seems everyone's on notice these days, and that includes head coach Robert Saleh and GM Joe Douglas.

Still, the Jets have given no indication that something is in the works. It sounds like they're going to stick with Wilson.

They are adding some depth, however. Veteran quarterback Trevor Siemian will join the Jets, pending a physical, according to Adam Schefter of ESPN. Siemian previously played for the Jets in 2019.

Siemian most recently spent training camp and the preseason with the Bengals, but didn't make their roster. He has also been with the Bears, Saints, Titans, Vikings and Broncos.

In his NFL career, Siemian has started 30 games and gone 13-17 as a starter, throwing 42 touchdown passes and 28 interceptions.

He joins Wilson and Tim Boyle on the Jets' quarterback depth chart.

Wilson, who has lost both starts since replacing Rodgers in Week 1, will start Sunday night against the Kansas City Chiefs at MetLife Stadium.

"You just don't throw people away, man," Saleh said of Wilson, whom he benched twice last season. Saleh also said, "He's not the reason why we lost [Sunday]."

Wilson, the No. 2 overall draft pick in 2021, heard boos throughout Sunday's loss, as the Jets managed only three points and 61 total yards in their first nine possessions. He finished 18-for-36 for 157 yards, with three sacks (including a safety). The only positive was that he didn't commit any turnovers.

Saleh, whose career record dropped to 12-25, is being criticized for his unabashed loyalty to Wilson, who has a league-low 34.5 QBR from 2021 to 2023. The Jets decided, before trading for Rodgers in April, that Wilson would remain as their QB2. That decision appears to be hurting them.

"I know it's going to go on deaf ears and whatever, but what we see on a day-in and day-out basis is a young man who is much improved from a year ago," Saleh said. "He's much more confident, he's much more accurate, he's got much more command of the huddle. He looks better in the pocket.

"[It] could have been better [Sunday], but he's improved and he's getting better and he's going through his progressions, and when he is hitting his back foot with his timing and rhythm, I mean, he looks fantastic."

It's a small sample size for this season, but Wilson's completion percentage (52.4) and QBR (27.0) are career lows. Saleh said statistics can be misleading, adding that Wilson will continue to start as long as he "continues to show improvement."

The Jets (1-2) built their offense around Rodgers, who went down on the fourth play of the season with a torn Achilles. In a heartbeat, they went from a four-time MVP to a young quarterback with only eight career wins as a starter.

"It's not an excuse, but the reality is, it was built a certain way and now we're trying to adjust on the fly, which is a challenge," Saleh said. "But [it's] a challenge that I think we're going to end up coming up with an answer for."

Saleh risks losing the locker room by riding with Wilson. The frustration was apparent on Sunday, as wide receiver Garrett Wilson and running back Michael Carter barked at coaches during the game. The players made available to the media on Monday -- linebacker C.J. Mosley, cornerback D.J. Reed and wide receiver Randall Cobb -- insisted there would be no fracturing.

"The record doesn't work in his favor, but I know what kind of work he puts in, on and off the field, and you just got to stay the course," Mosley said of Wilson. "He's won games and that says a lot. When he's on time and on target, he's making some of the prettiest throws in the league. He's been getting mentored by great people this offseason and even through this season.

"So, we're just going to stay the course. We're not panicking, we're not doing any of that finger-pointing, none of that stuff."

Meanwhile, the best solution at quarterback continues to heal at home.

During a Tuesday appearance on The Pat McAfee Show, Rodgers was asked about the critical comments Namath and others have shared about Wilson are "too much negativity" over the last couple of weeks. He said Wilson has to "find a way to block some of that out" while acknowledging that's easier said than done given the volume.

Rodgers wasn't without criticism for the unit, however. He said last Sunday's 1loss to the Patriots was a game the Jets have to win and that he doesn't like the "side stuff" he's seen in terms of sideline spats between players. Rodgers said the team needs to "hold our poise" in adverse situations and "be a little better competitors."

"We just need to grow up a little bit on offense," Rodgers said. "Lock in, do our jobs -- everybody -- and not point fingers at each other. . . . It sucks not being there. It's really hard. I miss the guys. I miss the leadership opportunity. I miss ballin', competing. I feel like if I was there some of these things wouldn't be happening."

Rodgers reiterated that he wants to be able to walk before he returns to the team's facility in order to help with some of the things he discussed on the show, but that isn't expected to happen for a few weeks so the team will continue to have to find its way without him on hand.

Worth noting. ... The Jets' offense has become bland and predictable without Rodgers, and it's on coordinator Nathaniel Hackett to fix it. Everything was designed with Rodgers in mind, but Hackett needs to tailor a game plan that better suits Wilson's ability to make plays off schedule -- and allow him to take some chances.

It doesn't get any easier for the Jets.

In fact, it gets even tougher. As noted above, New York will try to bounce back while facing Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs in front of a prime-time audience at home Sunday night.

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 26 September 2023

As's Kevin Patra reported it, "The Eagles steamrolled the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 25-11 on Monday night, gaining 472 total yards, including 201 rushing and racking up 27 first downs.

"Yet, there is something just a fraction off with the offense. ..."

The Eagles stalled at the 14-yard-line on the opening drive of the game, turning it over on downs. They made it to the 18-yard-line on the next drive before settling for a field goal. Philly went 1 of 5 in the red zone, and Jalen Hurts, playing through flu-like symptoms, tossed two interceptions as the passing game continues to ride an early roller coaster.

It's a sign of a monster program that Philly can dismantle opponents despite not playing its best through three weeks.

"It's a growth process. We're not a final product yet," head coach Nick Sirianni said after the game on Monday. "Everybody wants us to be a final product now, but it's a growth. You want to grow every day, so we're not going to be playing our best football until we get going into the season. We still [have] things to work on, and we still [have] growth to do. If you're truly in the mindset of getting better every day -- if you're truly in that mindset of getting better every day, which I know that we are on this team, you're going to continue to rise. You're going to keep getting better."

Good NFL teams spend the early part of a season finding out what that year's collection does best, then congeal down the stretch. The top-flight clubs collect wins along the way.

"Are we playing our best offensive football right now? No, and we shouldn't be yet, and it's a growth," Sirianni added. "All the teams are growing and no one's playing the best football that they should be playing right now. I've been pleased with where we are."

The Eagles are built to dominate the trenches.

Each week, they've owned the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball. Rookie Jalen Carter, Jordan Davis, Josh Sweat, Brandon Graham and the rest of the D-Line destroyed the Bucs on Monday night. Jason Kelce, Lane Johnson, Cam Jurgens, Jordan Mailata and others on the O-line controlled the contest, leading a ridiculous 15-play, 9:22 drive to close the game.

The ability to win with the "big uglies" has covered injury issues in the secondary and a passing attack that hasn't hit its stride yet.

"I think whether we win or lose, I don't think I'll ever be satisfied," Hurts said on Monday. "That's always the mentality. So, there's an eagerness always -- win, lose, or draw -- to get better."

Philly is one of three 3-0 clubs to start the season. And there is room to get better. That should be a scary thought for the rest of the NFC.

Meanwhile, despite A.J Brown and Hurts exchanging words on the sideline in Week 2, this bond continues to be unbreakable.

Hurts' first two targets went to Brown for a total of 44 yards. Although the Eagles were not able to muster up any points during that first drive, the connection was prominent throughout the game. Brown ended the night with nine receptions for 131 yards.

However, Hurts did make sure to spread the love to his other targets, including Dallas Goedert, DeVonta Smith and Olamide Zaccheaus, who got the Eagles their first TD of the game (his first as an Eagle on only his third target with Philly).

It's also fair to wonder who's going to slow down RB D'Andre Swift?

The only ones to do it so far have been the Eagles, who gave him just two touches in the opener against the Patriots.

Since then?

He rushed for a career-high 175 yards versus the Vikings in Week 2 and followed that up by averaging 8.1 yards per carry in a 130-yard rushing effort against the Bucs. Behind this offensive line, Swift has a chance to lead the league in rushing if he stays healthy.

Next up, the Eagles host the Commanders for a divisional game on Sunday.

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 26 September 2023

Mike Tomlin used the word "mojo" as a catchall of sorts when trying to describe what the Pittsburgh Steelers' offense was missing during the first two weeks of the season.

As Associated Press sports writer Will Graves suggested, "there are a few others Pittsburgh's longtime coach could have substituted: Confidence. Rhythm. Swagger. Creativity. Coherent play-calling. (OK, that last one's three words)."

For six plays in the third quarter of Sunday's 23-18 victory over Las Vegas, it all returned -- even the play-calling, maybe especially the play-calling -- offering a glimpse of what the Steelers (2-1) hope can become a regular occurrence over the next three-plus months.

In the span of 3:19, Kenny Pickett and company covered 81 yards in a half-dozen snaps. All of them produced positive yardage. Most of them produced first downs, the last technically coming on a 13-yard touchdown pass from Pickett to tight end Pat Freiermuth that gave the Steelers a 16-point lead and was executed so perfectly rookie tight end Darnell Washington -- running an underneath route -- raised his hands in celebration when Pickett's pass was only halfway to Freiermuth's awaiting hands in the back corner of the end zone.

"There were a lot of different things in that drive that were really positive," Pickett said after throwing multiple touchdown passes in the same game for the first time in his career. "I actually think that's a positive we could take away."

On first down at the Pittsburgh 19, Pickett lined up in the shotgun, faked a handoff then found George Pickens in stride for 17 yards. Jaylen Warren churned for 4 yards then caught a well-designed delayed screen that turned into a 16-yard gain. Pickett connected with Freiermuth -- an afterthought during the first two weeks -- over the middle for 14. Najee Harris found a crease and darted 17 yards. Pickett then followed by rolling to his left and lobbing a pass to a wide-open Freiermuth.

For an offense that entered the game with the fewest first downs in the NFL, for an offensive coordinator that had fans chanting for his dismissal during a game the Steelers were actually winning, for a defense that has a perpetually disruptive force in outside linebacker T.J. Watt, those six plays provided breathing room and a chance to exhale, a rarity for most of the past two-plus seasons.

"We're getting better. We had better," Tomlin said, via the team's website. "Everyone better be getting better, regardless of the outcome of games, obviously, but it's good enough to win the games. But there's some components to get better. The planning component, the coach component, the playing component, and then the adjustment component. We've been dealing with all of those things and everyone does.

"But I just want to be really clear about just everyone's still very much in development, as are we, and I saw some signs there to build upon in the midst of earning a victory."

Now comes the hard part: making it look that fluid on a consistent basis. The Steelers have scored 20-plus points in three straight games just once since Canada replaced Randy Fichtner as offensive coordinator in 2021. In particular, Canada's opening play-calling script again produced next to nothing.

Three of the first four drives ended in punts, the lone exception coming on Calvin Austin III's 72-yard catch-and-run touchdown. Things improved as the game wore on, but the first-half issues need to be sorted out.

Still, the victory over the Raiders provided a welcome chance to exhale. Now Pittsburgh heads into the meat of its schedule hoping what happened in Vegas doesn't stay there.

Pittsburgh travels to Houston (1-2) Sunday looking for its sixth straight road win going back to last season. ...

Also of interest. ... After reports on Sunday morning suggested an increased role for Warren, the change-of-pace back played 28-of-62 snaps against the Raiders.

Warren's 45.2 percent snap share in Sunday's win marked his highest snap share of the season, as the former UDFA continues to slowly work into Harris' workload.

As Rotoworld notes, both Warren and Harris have struggled through the first three weeks as runners, but Warren has proven to be the better fantasy asset thanks to his receiving upside. In PPR leagues, Warren has outscored Harris in every game this season and has 12 receptions for 101 yards on the season.

On a week-to-week basis, both backs are hard to trust for fantasy purposes, but Warren isn't going away and will continue to be a thorn for those who rostered Harris.

On the injury front. ... The Steelers made it out of Sin City relatively healthy. Cornerback Desmond King, signed as a free agent on the eve of the regular season, was active and handled some of the kick return duties while Gunner Olszewski recovered from a concussion.

Finally. ... Charter planes. Pittsburgh's flight home from Las Vegas made an unexpected stop in Kansas City early Monday morning when the plane had an issue that needed to be addressed on the ground. The club eventually switched planes, though, much to defensive end Cam Heyward's chagrin, not one owned by Taylor Swift.

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 26 September 2023

Brock Purdy threw for a regular-season career-high 310 yards in last Thursday night's 30-12 win over the New York Giants.

Despite facing manic blitzes from Wink Martindale's defense, Purdy finished 25-of-37 passing with two touchdowns for a 111.3 passer rating. Despite the numbers, it wasn't exactly a pretty game for the second-year quarterback. He missed a host of throws, particularly early in the contest, and never looked comfortable.

It was surprising that he set a regular-season career high (332 in Wild Card Round), given the passes he missed.

"It definitely wasn't his best game, but I think Brock played well, definitely wasn't perfect, missed a couple throws, but he also made a couple plays that I didn't think were there," 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said. "So I was definitely happy with him."

The Giants blitzed Purdy on 33 of his 39 dropbacks, per Next Gen Stats -- the 84.6 percent is the highest in the NGS era. With Martindale getting his "teenager-playing-Madden tilt" on, Purdy quickly got rid of the ball, averaging the fastest time to throw of his career (2.34 seconds).

Purdy finished 20-of-31 for 247 yards, two TDs and two sacks versus the blitz. Not too shabby, considering he was often forced to throw off one foot.

Shanahan noted that facing a defensive coordinator like Martindale, especially on a short week, is a tall task for any quarterback.

"Yeah, he missed a couple today and guys made a couple of real good catches also," he said of Purdy. "I thought it was just a huge challenge. One of the biggest ones Brock's been in just the short week to prepare for a scheme like that. Just how much they do, they had six guys on the line of scrimmage throughout the game, half the time they're coming, half the time they're not. There's not a comfortable play throughout a game from a play call standpoint and from the quarterback just because there's a lot of plays that don't work versus that. So, you got to constantly be looking at it and sometimes they do, sometimes they don't, which is a huge challenge for a quarterback. I thought he settled down throughout it as the game went and ended up playing good enough for us to win."

It helps to have playmakers like Deebo Samuel, George Kittle and Christian McCaffrey, who can take short dump-offs to long gains. The 49ers generated 215 of their 310 passing yards after the catch Thursday night.

After the win, Purdy was more focused on the plays he missed than the ones he made.

"I don't really get wrapped up in the stats and stuff," he said. "There's some throws out there that I missed that could've obviously helped us get the lead earlier, quicker and faster. Those are the things that sort of are in my mouth that I have a bad taste from that I want to be better at. So watch the film, keep getting better and we just want to keep winning."

For the third straight week, the Niners put up exactly 30 points in a win. They became the third team in NFL history to start 3-0 with the same number of points scored in each game, per NFL Research, joining the 1936 Pittsburgh Pirates and the 2007 New England Patriots.

"That's why we tried to struggle in the red zone so we could keep 30 three weeks in a row," Shanahan joked Thursday of the anomaly. "I didn't even realize that until after, but I mean, it's great to get 30 three weeks in a row but we felt like we left a lot out there too."

Next up, the 49ers will host the Cardinals on Sunday. ...

On the injury front. ... Samuel hurt his ribs in the game but didn't suffer a break. Shanahan said he was sore Friday and is day to day. ... LBs Dre Greenlaw and Demetrius Flannigan Fowles are both day to day with low ankle sprains. Also, Brandon Aiyuk missed the win over the Giants with a shoulder injury.

I'll have more on Aiyuk and Samuel via Late-Breaking Update in coming days. ...

Meanwhile, with Aiyuk out, Samuel and Kittle took center stage.

Samuel started slowly (one catch in five opening-drive targets) as he and Purdy weren't on the same page. But they connected for passes of 30, 40, 18 and -- on his first receiving touchdown of the season -- 27 yards, racking up 81 of his 129 receiving yards after the catch.

Kittle caught six passes for 49 yards the first two games, but surpassed that against the Giants with seven for 90, bludgeoning New York's defense repeatedly. He also smartly broke up a would-be interception on the first drive.

Both came up huge, powering through tackles all night. ...

This brings up another point: The 49ers gained 215 of their 310 passing yards after the catch (69.4 percent) against the Giants. In fact, Samuel (+613), McCaffrey (+278) and Kittle (+257) all rank in the top two of their position in YACOE since 2021.

By the way, Ronnie Bell, a seventh-round rookie out of Michigan, helped fill in for Aiyuk by catching his first NFL touchdown in the first half and contributing on special teams. ...

Finally, in case you missed it. ... Thursday was McCaffrey's 12th game in a row (including playoffs) scoring a touchdown, which tied Jerry Rice for the longest 49ers streak.

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 26 September 2023

As Associated Press sports writer Pete Carroll has always loved the idea of having two running backs with separate styles to feature in his offense.

Early in his Seattle tenure, it wasn't needed with Marshawn Lynch carrying the load. But as years progressed, finding that one-two punch of styles has remained a want that's been fulfilled at times and elusive at others.

Sunday's 37-27 win over Carolina was the first glimpse of what the next attempt at finding that kind of duo could lead to for the Seahawks.

Kenneth Walker III rushed for 97 yards and two touchdowns, and caught another three passes for 59 yards. Zach Charbonnet, in his first extended work of the season, had nine carries for 46 yards and one punishing run where he sent Carolina safety Sam Franklin Jr. flying backward along the sideline.

It was the kind of mix and balance Carroll would like to see more of moving forward.

"If you mix your guys and feel confident about rotating them some to keep them fresh and to keep them really on their game sometimes you just see that things go one way or the other," Carroll said.

"And I always thought that was a real positive and made us more dynamic in that regard."

Geno Smith had another solid performance in the pass game and DK Metcalf was a force catching the ball with another 100-yard day. But it was Seattle running for 146 yards behind a makeshift offensive line that was the biggest plus moving forward.

For all Smith has shown the past two seasons, the Seahawks offense still operates at its best when the run game is producing.

Seattle had rushed for just 85 and 82 yards in the first two games.

So some credit goes to the work of offensive line coach Andy Dickerson and what Seattle has accomplished the past two weeks while playing with a series of backups. At one point on Sunday, the Seahawks had four reserves playing on the offensive line after left guard Damien Lewis went to the sideline with a hand injury, leaving only center Evan Brown among the regular starters.

Smith has been sacked three times in the past two games while the various combos of backups featuring Stone Forsythe, Jake Curhan, Anthony Bradford and Ben Brown have managed to keep Seattle's offense working.

Third down remains a major concern for Seattle, especially on offense after having to settle for field goals five times against the Panthers. The Seahawks are converting just 30.3 percent of their third-down attempts after going 3 of 13 on Sunday. Smith has completed just 13 of 26 passes and has a passer rating of 58.8 on third downs through three games.

The Seahawks make their only scheduled -- as of now -- Sunday or Monday night appearance of the season next week playing at the New York Giants Monday night.

Seattle has fond memories of MetLife Stadium, winning its only Super Bowl title at the venue. Including the Super Bowl, the Seahawks are 5-0 all time at the stadium, including 3-0 vs. the Giants. ...

After a rough start to the season, K Jason Myers hit fall five of his field goal attempts Sunday to tie a team record for a single game. He connected from- 43, 35, 33, 37 and 39, plus made a pair of PATs. ...

On the injury front. ... Seattle is hopeful to get several players back for next week's game with the Giants.

Cornerback Riq Woolen (chest), left tackle Charles Cross (toe), guard Phil Haynes (calf) and defensive back Coby Bryant (toe) all have a chance to return after missing Sunday's win. Tight end Will Dissly (shoulder) is more unknown. Then there's safety Jamal Adams who should play in his first game in more than a year after suffering a torn quadriceps tendon in the 2022 season opener.

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 26 September 2023

According to Associated Press sports writer Fred Goodall, whether the Buccaneers want to concede it or not, the team's first loss of the season showed there's a sizeable gap between them and the NFL's elite teams.

The offense sputtered and a normally reliable defense struggled, too, in falling to the unbeaten Philadelphia Eagles 25-11 on Monday night.

And while head coach Todd Bowles said he didn't feel the lopsided loss to the defending NFC champions necessarily was a measuring stick of where his team stands, he acknowledged it showed there's clearly lots of room for improvement.

"We played hard and we made some mistakes. The mistakes we didn't make the first two games, we made this game. A lot of it has to do with (the Eagles). Give them credit," Bowles said. "They came in here and they beat us pretty good, and we own that."

The Eagles dominated offensively, running 78 plays to Tampa Bay's 44 and outgaining the Bucs 472 yards to 174.

The Bucs had two interceptions of Jalen Hurts, but also allowed 201 yards rushing after allowing an average of 52 yards per game on the ground in wins over the Minnesota Vikings and Chicago Bears.

"When I left the game, I thought it was a lot worse than it was. I just thought they killed us," Bowles said Tuesday.

"Watching the film this morning, we misfit some things and had some self-inflicted wounds. I thought they schemed up one of our defenses pretty good and got two runs out of it, which was good on their part," the coach added.

"I thought we kind of misfit or ran out of our gaps on certain things, which is encouraging because it can be corrected. But at the same time, you don't want it to happen."

Baker Mayfield threw his first interception since joining the Bucs as Tom Brady's replacement and didn't get the offense in the end zone until his 1-yard TD pass to Mike Evans and a 2-point conversion throw to Chris Godwin trimmed Philadelphia's lead to 14 with more than nine minutes left in the fourth quarter.

The defense didn't give the Bucs a chance to get closer, allowing Hurts to lead a nine-play, 75-yard drive that used the remainder of the clock.

The important thing now, Bowles said, is to not dwell on the loss.

"We won together and we lost together. We won two -- we were OK, 24-hour rule. We lost one, we've got to have a 24-hour rule," the coach said. "We've got a big divisional opponent coming up this week. If we can get to the bye week at 3-1, nobody will be crying about that."

Fantasy managers will be crying about the rushing attack.

The Bucs finished the night with 17 carries for 41 yards, which was a departure from their ground-game efforts in Weeks 1 and 2, by volume at least, if not necessarily by efficiency. The Buccaneers ran 33 times for 73 yards in their season-opening win at Minnesota, then 34 times for 120 yards in their victory against Chicago the following weekend.

Game situations obviously had a lot to do with this. And there was a stark difference in overall offensive volume on Monday night; after running 68 offensive plays in each of their first two games and compiling an average time of possession of 33:18, the Bucs only ran 44 total plays against the Eagles and had the ball for just 21:05 of the 60 minutes.

As Scott Smith of the team's official website suggests, what is a bit more concerning is the team's average output on those carries.

The Bucs averaged 2.2 yards per carry in Week 1, 3.5 in Week 2 and 2.4 on Monday night. Both Bowles and offensive coordinator Dave Canales have explained that this is not always the best indicator of whether or not the run game is producing the desired results; if the Bucs are picking up four or more yards on at least half their carries and rarely losing yards on a handoff, they are often doing enough to support the rest of the offense. That was the case in the Week 1 win over Minnesota.

Still, the coaches can't be pleased with the team's 32nd-ranked average of 2.79 yards per carry so far.

The Buccaneers ranked last in that category last season, too, and in rushing yards per game, and often didn't try to get it going. They called the fewest rushing plays in the NFL, about 23 per game, while Brady broke the NFL record for most pass attempts in a season. The Bucs are determined not to go that route again, and it shows in the play-calling so far.

Tampa Bay is tied for 11th in rushing attempts per game and tied for 24th in pass attempts per game. They are going to continue to pound away, though a different mix of play-calling, particularly on first downs, might lead to a more effective offense.

"I think people load up when they see certain things," said Bowles. "Maybe we start out passing a little more and open it up a little bit later, but we've got to block it better. We've got to continue to grind it. You don't want these guys [pinning] their ears back and trying to come after Baker like that. We've got to do a better job of executing -- it's really that simple."

Second-year back Rachaad White took 14 of the team's 16 handoffs on Monday night (there was also one Mayfield scramble) and often seemed to be playing the patience game, waiting for holes to appear.

That style can certainly work, and White has done it before, but it wasn't effective against the Eagles' extremely talented defensive front.

White and Sean Tucker were hit behind the line of scrimmage on more than 60 percent of their carries on Monday night, according to NFL Next Gen Stats.

Obviously one of those was on a White run that resulted in a safety when he was overwhelmed several yards behind the line.

The Eagles came into Monday's game with the number-one ranked rush defense in the NFL, allowing just 52.0 yards per game, and they are still in the top spot.

The Bucs will try to get their ground game back on track next Sunday in New Orleans, but it won't be easy. The Saints rank 10th in rush defense, allowing 99.7 yards per game. No matter how stiff the challenge, though, the Bucs are going to continue the grind.

Other notes of interest. ... Evans had five catches for 60 yards and a TD against the Eagles. He's the first player in franchise history with 700 receptions. In addition, with three touchdowns in three games, are the Bucs sure they want to let him test free agency in the offseason?

On the injury front. ... CB Carlton Davis III (toe) and rookie DL Calijah Kancey (calf) have missed the past two games. Another defensive starter, CB Jamel Dean, suffered a shoulder injury Monday night. Bowles said it was too soon to speculate on the status of those players for this week.

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 26 September 2023

As Associated Press sports writer Teresa M. Walker suggested, the Tennessee Titans are about to find out just how long the NFL season can be in coming off one of the worst offensive performances in franchise history.

They finished with only 94 yards in losing 27-3 in Cleveland.

That was the lowest total not just since this franchise left Texas for Tennessee in 1997, but the lowest since the then-Houston Oilers were held to 81 by Dallas in 1974.

"You play like that in this league, you coach like that in this league, you get your ass beat," head coach Mike Vrabel said.

The "coach better, play better" approach following losses has become Vrabel's stock answer.

The Titans (1-2) have scored 20 or more points once in their last 10 regular-season games. Subsequently, that one instance -- a 27-24 overtime victory over the Los Angeles Chargers in Week 2 -- is their lone win in that span.

This season, the scoring issues come with a new offensive coordinator. They sit at the bottom of the AFC South after winning this division two of the past three seasons. The Titans won't play their first divisional game until Oct. 8 when they visit Indianapolis.

"That's the thing about this league," wide receiver Chris Moore said. "It's a long season, and you just got to keep going week by week."

"We've got to hold each other accountable," running back Derrick Henry said. "Be a team and play like a team. It's all about how you stick together and make each other better."

Browns defensive end Myles Garrett almost single-handedly wrecked Tennessee's offense. Garrett finished with 3.5 sacks and five QB hits. Tennessee tried to use tight ends or a running back to chip on Garrett, but the pressure made it difficult for that new coordinator, Tim Kelly, to get into a rhythm as a playcaller.

The Titans were constantly in third-and-long situations, setting the scene for Garrett to relentlessly pursue Ryan Tannehill.

Garrett offered up some pointers to left tackle Andre Dillard, whom he beat for three sacks, after the game.

"He told me what he saw and what he liked about my game, what I could have done differently," Dillard said. "It's cool to see things from his perspective."

Still, it's been a long time since a defense corralled Henry quite like the Browns did. His 20 rushing yards are his fewest since Dec. 17, 2017, his second year in the league. Henry entered the game within striking distance of surpassing Earl Campbell on the Titans/Oilers all-time rushing list, but the Browns ensured Campbell's mark stayed safe another week.

Rookie running back Tyjae Spears didn't have all that much more success. He rushed two times for four yards and caught four passes for four yards but struggled to slip tackles and create yardage after the catch.

Vrabel waited for the players outside the locker room after the game. He shook their hands and reminded them that it is still a long season.

This isn't the first time Vrabel's team has been faced with adversity.

"What resonates is we're going to compete just like we have for a lot of years," Vrabel said. "This isn't some kind of motivational speech. We're going to have a great week in practice, get back to work and figure out a way to win a game at home. It's a long season, but we're focused on this week."

What are the answers?

According to's Turron Davenport, the Titans will have to find ways to get the ball out of Tannehill's hands quickly because of the pressure the offensive line has allowed. Tannehill has been sacked 13 times in three games.

Expect to see more tempo on offense and quick passes to DeAndre Hopkins, Treylon Burks, Spears, and Chigoziem Okonkwo.

Henry will likely get more opportunities on screen passes as well.

The key for Tennessee is to avoid third-and-long situations. Being efficient early in drives will set up opportunities to run the ball and find some balance on offense.

In addition, they need to fix the protection, clean up the penalties and find a way to keep the offense on the field.

The Titans host Cincinnati, which is coming off a Monday night game, and won't be back home again until Oct. 29. They visit Indianapolis and then play Baltimore in London on Oct. 15.

Worth noting. ... If you're looking for positives, it has to be special teams.

The Titans allowed only 5 1/2 yards on a pair of punt returns, Mason Kinsey was promoted from the practice squad to replace kick returner Kearis Jackson, who was placed on injured reserve late last week. Kinsey returned one punt 13 yards and fair caught another.

Veteran Nick Folk made his one field-goal attempt, a 44-yarder. He's made all eight field goals attempted this season, tied for third most in the league.

On the injury front. ... RB Julius Chestnut didn't finish the game with an injured hamstring. S Mike Brown was seen in a walking boot after the game. Vrabel said Monday that CB Sean Murphy-Bunting is not in the concussion protocol.

Beyond that, Henry (toe) and Hopkins (ankle) have been dealing with their respective issues during the week before playing through them on Sunday; both bear watching.

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 26 September 2023

Sam Howell's first loss as an NFL starting quarterback came in disastrous fashion.

The Washington Commanders quarterback tossed four interceptions and was sacked a whopping nine times in Sunday's 37-3 home loss to the Buffalo Bills.

The defeat had Howell channeling his inner Annie.

"It starts with me," Howell repeatedly said after Sunday's loss, via The Associated Press. "But the good thing is: The sun'll come up tomorrow."

Howell became the first Washington QB to win his first three career starts since at least 1950. In doing so, he averaged 243.0 passing yards per game with six touchdowns and two interceptions. In rainy elements Sunday, it all came crashing down with Howell throwing for 170 yards and four interceptions.

Behind an offensive line that couldn't handle the waves of pressure from Sean McDermott's defense, Howell's head spun from the onset, leading to an opening-drive INT. He made several poor reads, including an end-zone interception to open the second half when Washington could have made a game of it.

"It was a tough day for all of us. It's not just on him," Commanders receiver Terry McLaurin said. "But I just wanted to let him know that we've got his back. You're going to have tough days at the office -- some uglier than others."

Howell became just the sixth QB in the Super Bowl era with at least four interceptions and nine sacks in a game, per The AP -- the most recent: Warren Moon in 1995.

According to Associated Press sports writer Stephen Whyno, the interceptions are on Howell, and the second-year pro could probably get rid of the ball quicker. But the Commanders' biggest issue coming off a 37-3 loss to Buffalo is their remade offensive line protecting Howell better after giving up an NFL-high 19 sacks through three games -- especially with the fierce front of the Philadelphia Eagles up next.

"Sam's a great quarterback and a tough kid," right tackle Andrew Wylie said. "As an offensive lineman, that's on our unit. We take that personally. We've got to do a better job of keeping him upright and getting him that extra tick."

Maybe a tick or two or even an extra second. Howell showed Week 2 at Denver the kind of throws he could make when given time, and it allowed the Commanders to start the season with two victories.

They could be back even at 2-2 if the defending NFC champion Eagles get to Howell as often as the Bills did.

Or even as much as the Cardinals or Broncos did: Washington's 19 sacks allowed are six more than the next-closest team entering Monday's games.

"You got to learn from it," head coach Ron Rivera said. "That's how it's going to get corrected. If you don't learn from it, it's going to happen again. So, we'll coach it up, we'll try and learn from it and we'll see what happens."

After his worst performance as a pro, this week's talking point is whether Howell can bounce back and make it a blip or whether things will snowball.

As he said, the sun will come out tomorrow. Whether Howell's play rises with it is the question. ...

Meanwhile,'s John Keim suggests it's really hard to single out a positive aspect of this loss, but Brian Robinson Jr. has rushed for a combined 157 yards the past two games, including 70 on 10 carries Sunday. Robinson has been running with vision and power. The Commanders just need to keep games close so he can be more effective. His running ability can help limit the pressure on Howell.

Beyond that, Whyno points out that Antonio Gibson the kick returner is doing his best to give the Commanders good starting field position. He had a 28-yard return against the Bills.

Gibson the runner and receiver is again on the hotseat after losing a second fumble in three games. Washington was still within two scores early in the fourth quarter when Gibson fumbled after making a catch, and the Bills needed just six plays to score another touchdown and put the game out of reach.

With Robinson around and looking more reliable, Gibson's carries and share in the offense could shrink. Robinson's 7-yard per carry average would be nice to keep going if the Commanders don't again fall behind as they have in each of the first three games. ...

On the injury front. ... The Commanders have been largely healthy early, except for tight end Logan Thomas' concussion from a helmet-to-helmet hit on his touchdown in Week 2 at Denver. They hope to have Thomas back Sunday at Philadelphia.

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