Team Notes Week 11 2018
NEWS, NOTES, RUMORS AND OTHER GOOD STUFF
Directly from the desk of FlashUpdate Editor Bob Harris. The good; the bad; and yes. ... Even the Bears. There is no better way to jump start your weekend than browsing these always educational -- often irreverent -- team-by-team, Fantasy-specific offerings. ...
Access specific teams by clicking on a team name in the schedule appearing directly to your left or by clicking on a helmet below; return to the helmets by hitting the link labeled "Menu" following each teams notes. ...
Arizona CardinalsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 13 November 2018
According to AZCardinals.com's Kyle Odegard, there isn't much that rattles David Johnson.
The star running back admits, though, that the first seven games of the season weren't easy. Fantasy owners certainly get that.
Johnson's touches were less than ideal during that stretch, and when he was getting the ball, it often wasn't in space.
The promotion of Byron Leftwich to offensive coordinator has seemingly fixed that. Johnson totaled 100 yards from scrimmage in Leftwich's debut last time out against the 49ers, and was even better in Sunday's 26-14 loss to the Chiefs.
Johnson finished with a season-high 98 rushing yards on 21 carries and had seven catches for 85 yards, also season bests. He had both of the team's touchdowns in the contest.
"The first eight weeks were tough, trying to get used to a new type of offense," Johnson said. "It was tough, but the biggest thing is I'm glad we're coming back to the old ways."
Leftwich's goal upon moving into the play caller role was to deploy Johnson like he was used in 2016, when Johnson nearly became the third player in NFL history to finish with 1,000 rushing yards and 1,000 receiving yards in a season.
Johnson didn't surpass 41 yards receiving in the first eight games but more than doubled that in this one. His longest catch came on a vertical route out of the backfield against a linebacker.
He scored a touchdown on a sprint-out in the first quarter as the Chiefs defender couldn't keep up. Quarterback Josh Rosen said he has become more comfortable with Johnson in the passing game over the past few weeks.
"He's repping more of it in practice as it comes into the game plan, so definitely confidence starts to go up," Rosen said.
Johnson had nice production on the ground, continually finding holes and bursting through them. He finished with a 4.7 yards-per-carry average after averaging 3.2 yards per carry on the year heading in.
"We knew we were going to be able to run the football against these guys, and we showed that," head coach Steve Wilks said.
The Cardinals only scored 14 points against Kansas City, and the offense will need to develop more options to become more effective down the stretch. However, at least the best offensive weapon on the team is looking like himself again.
"It felt good," Johnson said. "It made me feel like it was back to the 2016 offense. ..."
It was definitely a step in the right direction. And an encouraging one for fantasy owners hoping Johnson can hit stride in coming weeks, starting with this week's game against a generous Oakland defense in Arizona. ...
Also of interest. ... Larry Fitzgerald passed Terrell Owens for second on the NFL's all-time receiving-yardage list Sunday with a 15-yard catch late in the fourth quarter.
He now has 15,952 yards and counting in 15 seasons. Only Jerry Rice sits ahead of Fitzgerald with 22,895 yards.
It took Fitzgerald a while to hit his milestone on Sunday, though -- he didn't have any catches on three targets in the first half.
Wilks said the Cardinals emphasized looking for Fitzgerald in the second half.
Wide receiver J.J. Nelson, who has played with Fitzgerald since 2015, said he doesn't need to wait to appreciate what Fitzgerald has accomplished. He can do it now, watching him every day, rather than wait for 10, 20, 30 years to see him go into the Hall of Fame or put is career into perspective.
"He's going to be in the Hall of Fame," Nelson said. "Watching my kids grow up and tell them about that I played alongside a guy like Larry, that's an honor. ..."
Rosen was swarmed under time after time Sunday, as the clock ran down and the Cardinals realized their chance to win the game in Kansas City had all but evaporated.
The quarterback shrugged off the pounding -- "I'm fine," he said after the loss to the Chiefs -- but in a season in which the Cardinals are trying to develop the rookie for the future, there is work to do with both pass protection and the offensive line.
"He understands that's the nature of the position," Wilks said Monday of Rosen. "But we don't want this to become habit."
The offensive line is in flux. Left guard Mike Iupati missed Sunday's game with a bad back. Right guard Justin Pugh finally returned after missing two games with a hand injury, only to go down with a left knee injury.
The team announced on Tuesday that Pugh is going to injured reserve.
Pugh, who was signed to a five-year, $45 million contract this offseason to stabilize the line, joins center A.Q. Shipley on IR. Shipley suffered a knee injury in training camp.
The Cardinals also released safety Eddie Pleasant, leaving them with two open roster spots to fill.
Wilks said he is also waiting on the MRI for safety Budda Baker, who is dealing with a knee issue suffered last Sunday. Baker briefly left the game but returned and played 56 of 59 defensive snaps. …
Wide receiver Chad Williams missed Sunday's game with an ankle injury; I'll have more on his status this week via Late-Breaking Update in coming days.
QBs: Josh Rosen, Mike Glennon
RBs: David Johnson, Chase Edmonds, T.J. Logan
WRs: Larry Fitzgerald, Trent Sherfield, Chad Williams, J.J. Nelson
TEs: Jermaine Gresham, Charles Clay, Ricky Seals-Jones, Gabe Holmes, Darrell Daniels
Atlanta FalconsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 13 November 2018
The Falcons have looked like an offensive juggernaut for much of the 2018 season, but they fell far short of their standard, offensively, during Sunday's 28-16 loss to the Cleveland Browns.
Atlanta (4-5) gained 382 yards on offense, short of its 412-yard average coming into the game, and managed just 16 points after averaging nearly 30 this season. What those surface numbers don't show, however, was the imbalance the Falcons had on offense and the lack of explosive plays from a normally explosive unit.
"We thought we would have some opportunities to create some plays in space, and get some explosives, and we didn't do that to the level that we needed to today," said head coach Dan Quinn.
Matt Ryan threw the ball 52 times on Sunday and completed 38 of those attempts, but only two of those passes gained 30 yards or more, and only four of his passes went for 20 yards or more. That's not what this Falcons offense has been for much of this season.
Ryan still turned in another noteworthy performance, completing 73 percent of his passes for 330 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions. But the Browns' defense did a good job limited the overall effectiveness of Atlanta's offense, especially on the ground.
One week after running for 154 yards and averaging 7.7 yards per carry against the Redskins, the Falcons gained just 71 yards on the ground while averaging 3.7 yards per carry on Sunday. The longest run of the game for Atlanta was an 18-yard gain by Tevin Coleman, who finished with 44 yards on 11 carries.
Regardless of what opposing teams do offensively, the Falcons are often equipped to compete in, and win, shootouts. The Browns clearly came into this game with the intention of not allowing the Falcons to beat them with explosive plays and that game plan worked.
Ryan's first six completions were to either a tight end or a running back, a sign of how the Browns were playing the Falcons' offense. Cleveland appeared content to allow short gains or let the Falcons run the ball in exchange for having an extra man back to take away anything deep.
"They played a lot of two-high the whole game, and we just have to go out there and find ways to attack cover two," Falcons receiver Julio Jones said. "We know we're going to see it for the remainder of the season, so it's up to us to go out there and make something happen."
The Falcons did break a record of their own, Sunday, as Jones became the fastest player in NFL history to reach 10,000 career receiving yards, accomplishing that feat in his 104th career game (topping former Detroit Lions star Calvin Johnson, who reached 10,000 in 115 games; both Torry Holt and Antonio Brown hit 10,000 yards in 116 games).
For the record. ... Jones is the second-leading receiver in Falcons history behind Roddy White, who accumulated 10,863 yards in 171 career games.
But while reaching that milestone is an incredible accomplishment for one of the best receivers in league history, it doesn't provide much comfort for the loss.
"I was out here trying to get the win today," Jones, who finished with 107 receiving yards and now has 10,094 for his career, told ESPN.com's Vaughn McClure. "I've been playing OK, but that's not anything that's in my head right now. We've got to find a way to win ball games."
After Sunday the Falcons once again dipped below .500, and the road doesn't get any easier moving forward. Atlanta will need its offense operating at high levels if it is to have any type of memorable run over the final seven games.
For now, the focus for the Falcons is rebounding and getting back to their style of football.
"There are seven games to go, and we are right in the mix," Ryan told the team's official website. "Probably the most important part of being a professional is being able to move on. That includes being able to move on from both positive experiences and negative experiences. Today was disappointing, but we can't begin to start feeling sorry for ourselves or anything like that. We have to get back to work tomorrow to ensure that we play the type of football that we are capable of playing next week. That has to be the mindset.
"That has to be the mindset of our coaching staff and our players. We have to put the work in and try to play better next week."
The Falcons host the Dallas Cowboys this weekend. ...
Worth noting. ... ESPN.com's Mike Clay advised readers this week that Austin Hooper has worked his way into the weekly TE1 mix. Hooper caught 10 of 11 targets for 56 yards and one touchdown against Cleveland. The third-year tight end has eclipsed 40 receiving yards and seven fantasy points in five consecutive games. ...
On the injury front. ... Matt Bryant missed his third-straight game with a hamstring issue and Giorgio Tavecchio continued to fill in. Mohamed Sanu played through his hip issue without any apparent difficult in this one. I'll be watching for more on both players in coming days; watch the Late-Breaking Updates section for more.
Pro Bowl linebacker Deion Jones is eligible to come off of injured reserve and rejoin the active roster this week for the first time since he was placed on IR after suffering a foot injury in Week 1, but the Falcons will continue to proceed methodically in regards to his status.
QBs: Matt Ryan, Matt Schaub
RBs: Tevin Coleman, Brian Hill, Jeremy Langford
WRs: Julio Jones, Mohamed Sanu, Calvin Ridley, Justin Hardy, Marvin Hall, Russell Gage
TEs: Austin Hooper, Logan Paulsen, Eric Saubert
Baltimore RavensCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 13 November 2018
Could an injury to Joe Flacco lead to Lamar Jackson's first start at a critical point in the Baltimore Ravens' season?
The Ravens come off their bye with a question mark at quarterback and no wins since Oct. 14.
Flacco's hip injury has put his status in question for the Ravens' pressure-filled game against the Bengals, a source confirmed to ESPN.com's Jamison Hensley.
One source told ESPN's Adam Schefter that if the Super Bowl were next week, he believes Flacco could play.
But it's not the Super Bowl and circumstances could dictate the issue. If Flacco is sidelined, the Ravens could start Jackson, their rookie first-round pick. Flacco is undergoing tests to determine the severity of the injury, according to multiple reports.
If the Ravens don't believe Jackson is ready to start, another option is Robert Griffin III. Baltimore has carried Griffin on its 53-man roster because of his starting experience.
Flacco injured his hip in the opening series of Sunday's 23-16 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers. He didn't miss any plays and said after the game that the injury didn't affect him.
The Ravens have considered giving entire series to Jackson during games, experience that would go a long way in removing the rookie's enigma label.
It was a tumultuous bye week in Baltimore, where the Ravens (4-5) have lost three straight and questions are swirling about head coach John Harbaugh's job security. A loss to the Bengals would significantly diminish Baltimore's playoff chances.
Flacco's injury adds to the Ravens' increasing drama at quarterback. Harbaugh said this week that he wanted to see more of Jackson on the field, though he indicated he would stick with Flacco as the starter for "right now."
But on Monday, Harbaugh said that Flacco's status against the Bengals is "up in the air" and could be a game-time decision.
As Hensley noted, Harbaugh goes to great lengths to keep injuries in-house, even fining players if they reveal too much on social media.
This time, however, Harbaugh said he's "appreciative" of the reports detailing Flacco's hip injury and the starting quarterback's uncertain availability for Sunday's critical game.
"It makes it tougher for the Bengals to prepare," Harbaugh said. "That's a good thing."
Flacco was not on the practice field Wednesday, but it's worth noting Harbaugh has said the veteran does not need to practice to play.
I'll obviously be following up on this one via Late-Breaking Update in coming days.
For now, it's worth pointing out that Jackson, who has been used in specialty packages, is the only one of the five quarterbacks selected in this year's first round yet to make a start.
All this with Flacco, 33, in the midst of another underwhelming season since winning the Super Bowl six years ago. He has thrown 12 touchdown passes and six interceptions for a 84.2 passer rating, which ranks No. 26 in the NFL.
Durability has been one of Flacco's strengths. He has missed six games in his 11-year career, starting the past 41 games. But Flacco repeatedly has been banged up in recent years, from tearing knee ligaments to herniating a disc to injuring his hip.
The Ravens essentially put Flacco's starting role on notice when they traded up in this year's first round to select Jackson with the No. 32 overall pick. Jackson, the 2016 Heisman Trophy winner, became the only player in FBS history to rush for at least 1,500 yards and pass for at least 3,500 yards in a season.
In the preseason, Jackson looked raw in throwing the ball, completing 50 percent of his passes. In nine games this season, Jackson has primarily run a Wildcat-style offense, throwing 7 of 12 passes for 87 yards and a touchdown while ranking second on the team with 139 yards rushing. His biggest challenges have been improving his accuracy and throwing from the pocket.
The Ravens would be turning to Jackson in the midst of Harbaugh's most pivotal season. Harbaugh's 11-year run could end if Baltimore fails to make the playoffs for a fourth straight season.
This also could be Flacco's final season in Baltimore. The Ravens can create $10.5 million in cap space by cutting him after the season or free up $18.5 million in space by designating him as a post-June 1 cut.
Meanwhile, despite the lack of wins, the Ravens still find themselves in the thick of the playoff hunt, compliments of the bland AFC.
Baltimore (4-5) is one game out of the No. 6 and final postseason spot in the AFC, trailing the Cincinnati Bengals (5-4), Tennessee Titans (5-4) and Miami Dolphins (5-5). The Ravens hold the head-to-head tiebreaker advantage over the Titans and play host to the Bengals on Sunday.
The Ravens have also shown the ability to rebound in November and December. In 2014, Baltimore started 5-4 before winning five of its last seven games to make the playoffs at 10-6. Last year, the Ravens won five of their last seven to finish 9-7 after a 4-5 start.
Could the Ravens have another run in them this year? Baltimore's remaining strength of schedule ranks No. 27, which is the sixth easiest in the league.
The Ravens' biggest remaining challenges are Sunday's home game against the Bengals and road trips to Atlanta (4-5), Kansas City (9-1) and the Los Angeles Chargers (7-2). But Baltimore also has home games left with the Oakland Raiders (1-8), Tampa Bay Buccaneers (3-6) and Cleveland Browns (3-6-1).
Many of the players believe the Ravens have to win six of the last seven games to end their three-year playoff drought. ...
We'll find out about that soon enough.
Harbaugh's future with the team will likely be determined after that.
CBSSports.com’s Jason La Canfora reported over the weekend that the Ravens and John Harbaugh are very likely headed to a "mutual parting of the ways" in 2019, but the former Super Bowl winning head coach is not in any jeopardy of an in-season firing, contrary to some recent speculation.
The odds of Harbaugh being back in Baltimore in 2019 are quite bleak, several sources close to the situation told La Canfora, with next year set to be the final year of his contract. There will not be another one-year extension forthcoming, La Canfora is told (Harbaugh agreed to such a deal prior to last season to avoid a looming "lame duck" season), and with rising general manager Eric DeCosta set to take over for Ozzie Newsome after the season, and the Ravens facing a possible roster overhaul, there is a strong sense that these sides will be moving on amicably.
La Canfora went on to suggest the Ravens, with their future tied strongly to the progress of Jackson, will be looking for an offensive-guru type to develop him; that usually requires giving the head-coaching title to such a candidate, as teams block top talent from making lateral moves at the offensive-coordinator position.
Harbaugh is highly thought of in Baltimore and around the league, and multiple sources scoffed at the notion of him being let go in-season; the staff has no obvious replacements or potential head coaches in waiting, and there is not chaos in the locker room or players tanking or anything close to the kind of dysfunction that leads to those moves.
However, there are also weekly indicators as to why it makes sense for both sides to move on. If that's the case, Harbaugh will be a tremendously hot coaching candidate in the NFL and NCAA. Cleveland and Green Bay are ones to watch among pro teams. ...
A few final items here. ... Fresh legs are something the Ravens need, and Ty Montgomery's addition gives them a new offensive weapon for the season's final seven games. He was inactive Week 9 against the Pittsburgh Steelers, but Montgomery could suit up when the Ravens re-take the field.
Having this bye week to study the playbook, plus this week's practices before the Ravens host the Cincinnati Bengals, should give Montgomery all the time necessary to make his Baltimore debut. ...
Harbaugh is encouraged about the health of the Ravens' offensive line after the bye week.
Left tackle Ronnie Stanley (foot) and right tackle James Hurst (back) both missed the Ravens' last game. Harbaugh hopes Stanley and Hurst will be able to return Sunday against the Cincinnati Bengals, although it was too early Monday to know for sure.
Harbaugh reiterated that Kenneth Dixon is "having issues behind our coaches’ control." He added the team has to wait for league to clear him to practice and he's not gotten clearance issue.
QBs: Lamar Jackson, Joe Flacco, Robert Griffin III
RBs: Gus Edwards, Kenneth Dixon, Javorius Allen, Ty Montgomery
WRs: Michael Crabtree, John Brown, Willie Snead, Chris Moore, Jordan Lasley, Janarion Grant
TEs: Hayden Hurst, Mark Andrews, Nick Boyle, Maxx Williams
Buffalo BillsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 13 November 2018
After Matt Barkley led the Bills to an unexpected 41-10 win Sunday over the New York Jets, head coach Sean McDermott did not immediately commit to a starting quarterback when his team returns from its upcoming bye week.
"Give me some time here," McDermott said. "We'll reassess (Monday) when we get in (and) look at the film."
The reassessment came on schedule and Barkley's stint at starting quarterback of the Buffalo Bills might last just one game.
Following the butt-kicking Barkley and the Bills laid on the New York Jets, McDermott said Monday that rookie Josh Allen would resume starting duties after the team's bye week if healthy.
"If healthy, Josh Allen will start after our bye week. He's been throwing and making progress but we'll take it one day at a time," McDermott said.
Allen has missed the past four games after suffering an elbow injury in Week 6. The No. 7 overall pick got in limited reps at practice last week, but Buffalo rightly allowed the rookie another week of rest before the team's bye. The move back to Allen is about getting reps for the young first-round pick, not a reflection of Barkley, McDermott said.
Coming into the NFL a raw product, Allen needs to gain as much experience as possible heading into his second season.
Still, Barkley's performance would give the Bills a better option over veteran Derek Anderson, who remains in concussion protocol, if Allen isn't ready to face the Jacksonville Jaguars in Week 12.
The other option, Nathan Peterman, is no longer an option.
The Bills announced they waived Peterman on Monday.
Peterman finished 1-3 as the team's starter in two seasons after the Bills made him a fifth-round pick in 2017. He has thrown three career touchdowns and three pick-sixes.
As ESPN.com's Mike Rodak noted, Barkley completed 15-of-25 passes Sunday for 232 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. His 117.4 passer rating was the highest of his career and the best for Buffalo since Tyrod Taylor posted a 126.0 rating in Week 3 of last season.
"I had seen him practice well," McDermott said. "The biggest thing I really appreciated about Matt is that he led the football team. He had good energy during the week. The look in his eye today was a good one. He brought good energy to our offense. He gave the receivers a chance to make plays on the ball and at the end of the day he took care of the football, which we haven't done to this point of late. When you take care of the football, you give yourself a chance to win."
Peterman and Anderson had combined for one touchdown and nine interceptions, including the three returned for touchdowns, in the four games before Barkley started Sunday. The Bills scored a total of 33 points over those four games before scoring 31 by halftime Sunday.
The Bills' 313 yards and four offensive touchdowns in the first half against the Jets were their most since Doug Flutie led Buffalo to 332 first-half yards in a season-ending win in 2000.
Sunday was Barkley's first game since the 2016 finale, when he started his sixth and final game of that season for the Chicago Bears. The Bills signed Barkley on Oct. 31 after he was medically cleared from a knee injury that led to his release in September by the Cincinnati Bengals.
"I knew that I can play in this league," Barkley said. "To get back out there after two years, it was -- I don't want to be cliché by saying it was like riding a bike -- but I've done this for years. I feel like I was made to play football and tonight was just an example of doing what I was made to do."
Barkley completed a 47-yard pass to undrafted rookie wide receiver Robert Foster on the first play of the game and connected with Foster again in the third quarter for 43 yards on third-and-20. Barkley also completed a 7-yard touchdown pass to left tackle Dion Dawkins, who had reported as eligible on the play, in the second quarter. ...
Meanwhile, a day after they waived Peterman, the Bills cut receiver Terrelle Pryor, Adam Schefter of ESPN reported.
He had three targets and no catches against the Jets on Sunday. Pryor had two catches for 17 yards the previous week in his first game after signing a one-year deal with the Bills on Oct. 31.
With Pryor gone, the Bills added a veteran receiver in his place on Wednesday.
It’s a familiar name to Buffalo fans. The Bills announced that they have signed Deonte Thompson to the 53-man roster.
As Profootballtalk.com notes, this will be Thompson’s third stint with the Bills. He signed with the team in December 2014 and stuck with the team until being cut in September 2015. He signed with the Bears and spent parts of the next two seasons in Chicago before returning to Buffalo in October 2017. Thompson signed with the Cowboys this offseason and caught 14 passes in eight games ahead of his release last week.
Thompson posted the best numbers of his career with the Bills last season. He had 27 catches for 430 yards and a touchdown in 11 games with the team. He also had two catches for 23 yards in Buffalo’s playoff loss. ...
Worth noting. ... Chris Ivory (shoulder) was inactive against the Jets and LeSean McCoy was busy and productive, carrying the ball 26 times for 113 yards and two touchdowns. ...
Linebacker Matt Milano left Sunday's early in the fourth quarter after laying a tackle on tight end Jordan Leggett. McDermott confirmed on Monday that the second-year defender suffered a head injury on the play.
"Matt is in the protocol, concussion protocol," McDermott said.
Milano joins Anderson in the concussion protocol.
Taron Johnson also picked up an ailment in the contest, re-aggravating a nagging shoulder injury.
And finally. ... In the surprise blowout win over the Jets on Sunday, Stephen Hauschka made all seven of his kicks. Hauschka knocked in five extra points and two field goals, including a season-high 54-yarder. The 33-year-old veteran is in the middle of a career year and hasn't missed a field goal attempt since Week 1.
On Wednesday, he was named AFC Special Teams Player of the Week, his fourth such honor and his first since Week 4 of 2017.
QBs: Josh Allen, Matt Barkley, Derek Anderson
RBs: LeSean McCoy, Keith Ford, Chris Ivory, Taiwan Jones
WRs: Zay Jones, Robert Foster, Isaiah McKenzie, Victor Bolden, Brandon Reilly, Deonte Thompson, Ray-Ray McCloud
TEs: Jason Croom, Logan Thomas
Carolina PanthersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 13 November 2018
The Panthers were forced to choke down some "humble pie" during Thursday's 52-21 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers, but the team is characterizing the performance as more of an anomaly than a worrying trend.
"At the end of the day this s--- happens," head coach Ron Rivera said. "I'm going to put it just like that. Let's be honest about it. It happens. This is my 30th year in the NFL. I've seen games like this. I've been a part of games like this on both sides.
"If you get over it and start preparing for the next game you give yourself a chance to get ready to win the next game."
The Steelers' dominance on offense en route to delivering the Panthers' largest margin of defeat since 2016 was surprising since Carolina entered the game with the NFL's 12th-ranked defense. However, the Panthers haven't been their normal selves over the last seven quarters. After jumping out to a 35-7 lead against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last week, Carolina allowed them back in the game by giving up 28 points.
Against the Steelers, Carolina surrendered 457 total yards (319 passing, 138 rushing) in allowing 52 points, which tied for the most points given up in franchise history. Carolina's struggles in the secondary played a big part in the blowout loss. According to Pro Football Focus, the Panthers starting cornerbacks allowed 10 receptions on 10 targets for 174 passing yards, two touchdowns and 158.3 passer rating in coverage against the Steelers.
While that goes against the Panthers' defensive track record, the team realizes they need to use Thursday's loss as a learning experience.
"We also can't pretend it didn't happen," Panthers tight end Greg Olsen said. "It did. It happened for a reason. It happened because there are things we need to get better at. If we don't get better when we play good teams it'll happen again.
"We've got to correct this s---. This stuff just doesn't all of a sudden go away. We've to address a lot of things and get better. If you don't, it lingers and you're in trouble."
As for Cam Newton, he was the first to admit the Panthers "got whooped," but he isn't letting the loss question his abilities.
"You're asking my confidence level? Confidence, me?" Newton said. "It starts with the inner self, and I have ultimate confidence in myself, knowing I put in a lot of work to make sure that come game day ... I'm ready to rock and roll."
As Panthers.com's Max Henson noted, it's not like Newton played poorly. He completed 23-of-29 passes for 193 yards and two touchdowns with the one costly interception for a 103.0 passer rating. It's his sixth game of the season with a passer rating over 100 (he had five all of last year).
But on this night, that wasn't close to enough to compete with Big Ben and the high-octane Steelers.
"It was a learning experience for a lot of guys," Newton said. "If we expect to be as good as we expect to be, we have to find ways to win games like this in hostile environments."
Newton said after Carolina's Week 6 loss at Washington that his days of sobbing are over, and he sounded like a veteran who has some scars from lopsided losses.
That's the reality of the NFL, and as the leader of a 6-3 football team that just had its three-game win streak snapped, Newton will have to put those lessons to use after taking this one on the chin.
"I've been playing in this league long enough to understand that you need to fight through games like this," Newton said. "You are going to have these types of games in the league, but it's going to be about how we rebound.
"We'll bounce back from this."
Assuming they do bounce back, it will happen without C.J. Anderson.
As Profootballtalk.com's Darin Gantt reminded readers, when the Panthers signed Anderson this offseason, he seemed like a perfect complement to Christian McCaffrey.
Instead, McCaffrey has become an every down player, so the Panthers let Anderson go Monday.
Via the team's official website, the Panthers released the former Broncos running back, who had over 1,000 yards last year.
"When we signed C.J. in the spring he saw a bigger role than he has had, and honestly, at the time so did we," general manager Marty Hurney said. "But [McCaffrey] has taken so much of the offense and so much of the plays, we just made the decision that this was the best thing for all parties involved."
Rivera was first asked Tuesday about the team's decision to release Anderson, he mentioned that they wanted to "give an honest look" to reserve Cameron Artis-Payne.
Later in the press conference, Rivera acknowledged what seems apparent to anyone with two eyes and a box score, saying "you could feel" Anderson's frustration with his barely existent role in the Panthers offense.
Anderson will have to pass through waivers before he can pick another team of his choosing, where there might be a bigger role (ESPN.com's David Newton suggested New England and Philadelphia as possible destinations).
McCaffrey has played 96.35 percent of the Panthers snaps this year (554), while Anderson has logged just 9.39 percent (54 snaps). He has just 24 carries for 104 yards.
Of course, McCaffrey's 1,018 yards from scrimmage makes it easy to justify, as long as he's healthy.
The Panthers signed running back Travaris Cadet to fill the roster spot opened when they cut Anderson.
Cadet, 29, has 118 career catches for 959 yards and seven touchdowns in stints with the Saints and Bills, adding 180 rushing yards on 49 carries. Cadet also has 63 career kickoff returns, averaging 24.3 yards per return.
On the injury front. ... Torrey Smith, who has missed the last two games with a knee injury, did not practice Tuesday. ...
And finally. ... The Panthers' actual bye was in Week 4, the earliest on the NFL schedule. Now a mini-bye created by playing on Thursday night has arrived, a good time for players to recharge their batteries for the stretch run.
"First of all it gives them an opportunity to rest their bodies; I would like to think that we have more than seven weeks left," Rivera said, referencing his hope that the Panthers will advance to the playoffs for the fifth time in six season. "And it gives them a chance to really, truly get away from it, to do some other things and then come back and energized and refocused so we can get rolling and see what happens.
"We've got a stretch coming up where we've got to play well. We've got Detroit coming up. They're a good football team. Going forward, we have an opportunity to play well and win some football games."
Three of the next four games for the Panthers, still sitting in playoff position at 6-3, are on the road, but there's a good chance they'll be favored in all four games. The best record of the quartet belongs to the Seahawks at 4-4, and they're the one team in the stretch that has to come to Charlotte.
After those four games against Detroit, Tampa Bay, Seattle and Cleveland, the Panthers wrap up the schedule with three games against their fiercest division rivals, hosting the Saints and Falcons before wrapping up the regular season in New Orleans.
QBs: Kyle Allen, Garrett Gilbert, Cam Newton
RBs: Christian McCaffrey, Cameron Artis-Payne, Travaris Cadet
WRs: Devin Funchess, D.J. Moore, Curtis Samuel, Torrey Smith, Jarius Wright, Damiere Byrd
TEs: Ian Thomas, Chris Manhertz
Chicago BearsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 13 November 2018
As ESPN.com's Jeff Dickerson suggested, Mitchell Trubisky picked the right time to heat up.
Playing the first of three straight games against NFC North opponents, Trubisky had arguably the second-best performance of his young career in Chicago's 34-22 victory over the Detroit Lions on Sunday.
It will be difficult for Trubisky to ever top the six-touchdown game he had in Week 4, but the second-year quarterback was nearly perfect at halftime, completing 14-of-16 pass attempts for 209 yards and two touchdowns (158.3 passer rating).
Trubisky finished the game with a career-high 355 passing yards, three touchdowns, a rushing TD and zero interceptions for his first career win over an NFC North team.
On Wednesday, he was named NFC Offensive Player of the Week forhis effort."
"It would probably be one of my best games," Trubisky said. "Just felt really comfortable out there, thought the O-line played fantastic today and we got open on the outsides and it was just me doing my job, sitting back there and getting the ball to the playmakers. So I just felt really comfortable today. I put the ball where it needed to go and it's all a credit to my teammates and the work we put in in practice."
The final score doesn't tell the whole story. The Lions made it respectable partly because Bears kicker Cody Parkey missed four kicks -- two field goals and two extra-point attempts -- doinking all four off the uprights.
Trubisky has endured periodic lapses in accuracy during the season, but he was dialed-in from the opening drive. Even when forced to throw off schedule, Trubisky's passes found the mark, including balls to wide receivers Allen Robinson (six catches for 133 yards and two TDs in his first game back from injury) and rookie Anthony Miller (five catches for 122 yards and a touchdown).
Trubisky is set up for success. In addition to Robinson, Trubisky has formed on-field bonds with Trey Burton, Tarik Cohen, Taylor Gabriel and Miller.
And head coach Matt Nagy's play calling kept Detroit's defense totally off-balance. The Bears, operating entirely out of a no-huddle offense, took only 3:38 to drive 75 yards and score on the game's opening possession.
Now it's up to Trubisky to routinely perform at this level.
An NFC North title depends on it.
At 6-3, Chicago is in prime position to distance itself from the rest of the division. The Bears host the Vikings Sunday night, and then have a quick turnaround and play the Lions again on Thanksgiving in Detroit.
The division likely will come down to the Bears and Vikings, but Chicago has the luxury of still facing the Giants and Niners. Minnesota isn't so fortunate. The Vikings have upcoming trips to New England and Seattle in consecutive weeks.
But ultimately, the Bears' fortunes rest with their young quarterback.
The bar was raised again on Sunday.
"Individually, I thought Mitch probably had his best game of the season, without a doubt," Nagy said. "He was on fire, he was efficient, threw the ball with conviction, his eyes were great, really super proud of him for coming out here and playing that way. He played confident and I like that. But it's not one person, just like when someone doesn't play well. The line gave him time, the wide receivers ran awesome routes, the backs protected and collectively we got off to a good start in that first half. And then it was a little different in the second half, but that's a part of, that's just how the flow goes."
The Bears' defense -- minus the two games versus Miami and New England -- brings it every week. Khalil Mack sacked Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford two times in his first game following a two-week layoff. As a team, the Bears had six sacks and three takeaways.
Behind that superior defense, the Bears will be a tough team for anyone to beat when Trubisky is on. ...
Meanwhile, in response to those who view Trubisky as this year's version of the 2017 Jared Goff with the Bears duplicating the Rams' blueprint last season, ESPN.com's Dan Graziano concedes there's little doubt that Nagy, who helped Andy Reid work wonders with Alex Smith (and develop Patrick Mahomes in the background) last year in Kansas City, has been a breath of fresh air for Trubisky.
And much like Sean McVay and the Rams did last year with Goff in his second season, Nagy and the Bears are doing a good job of surrounding Trubisky with playmakers and finding plays that put him in position to succeed.
But Graziano went on to suggest he's like to see Trubisky lead the Bears past the Vikings (or anyone!) before suggesting he's this year's Jared Goff or that the Bears are this year's Rams.
All six of Chicago's victories this year have come against teams that currently have losing records. ...
Also of interest. ... The Bears aren't going to bring in other kickers this week, but they may make their kicker practice in another place.
After Parkey bounced four kicks off the uprights in a win over the Lions, Nagy expressed confidence in his kicker, but acknowledged they may let him get his mid-week work in Solider Field as opposed to their normal practice facility.
"If that's something that we decide to do, then we'll get it done," Nagy said, via Colleen Kane of the Chicago Tribune. Nagy added that when he talks to his kicker, he's "not going to sugarcoat anything."
Parkey is 13-for-18 on field goals and 30-for-32 on extra points this year. He had only missed once at Soldier Field prior to Sunday's personal game of horse.
"If I'm spending time with him, he's in trouble," Nagy said. "He doesn't want to spend time with me. We'll talk and I'll make sure that we understand. He understands it was tough. He gets it. He's not a child. He understands the magnitude of it. If you overdo it, you beat it down, you just make it worse."
As Profootballtalk.com noted, the Bears gave Parkey a four-year, $15 million contract this offseason, so they have a vested interest in helping him get back to form. And getting him used to the way the winds work could help him become more comfortable in his new home.
QBs: Mitchell Trubisky, Chase Daniel, Tyler Bray
RBs: Jordan Howard, Tarik Cohen, Benny Cunningham
WRs: Allen Robinson, Anthony Miller, Taylor Gabriel, Kevin White, Josh Bellamy, Javon Wims
TEs: Trey Burton, Adam Shaheen, Ben Braunecker, Daniel Brown
Cincinnati BengalsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 13 November 2018
The Cincinnati Bengals fired defensive coordinator Teryl Austin hours after they allowed 51 points in a loss to the Saints on Sunday.
Allowing opponents to rack up at least 500 yards of offense in three straight games has shown there's a divide between the Bengals and the NFL's elite.
Austin, 53, was in his first season with the team, and the unit looked shockingly bad at times. Not only did it fall to last in almost every defensive category, but it is also approaching historically bad levels. The team is on pace to break the 2012 Saints' record for most yards allowed in a season and is also the first team in the Super Bowl era to give up at least 500 yards in three straight games.
The Bengals were down several defensive starters against the Saints, but their problems started well before many of those players were lost. It was clear that New Orleans could have scored more than 51 points had it chosen to, but it pulled some of its starters in the fourth quarter.
Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis paused several seconds before answering questions about the scheme and the possibility of coaching changes during Sunday night's news conference.
"Again, it's hard to speak for today, we talked about the other things," Lewis said Sunday. "We need to play better. We need to get off the field on third down. I looked up there at halftime and they were 6-for-6."
Asked if it was a schematic issue or simply breakdowns by players, Lewis again paused before replying:
"It's. ... Again, I'm not gonna get into any observations right now," he said at the time.
Lewis declined to discuss any changes at the time, but Monday's firing spoke loudly enough.
Lewis will be assuming the Bengals' defensive coordinator responsibilities, a source has told ESPN's Adam Schefter.
This is the second straight season the Bengals have fired a coordinator during the season. Prior to last season, the Bengals had never fired a coordinator during the season in the history of the franchise.
They fired offensive coordinator Ken Zampese just two games into last season after the players, including star wideout A.J. Green, appeared to be growing increasingly frustrated after failing to score a touchdown in either game. Zampese had been with the team since 2003 as quarterbacks coach before being promoted to offensive coordinator.
Sitting at 5-4, the Bengals are still in the thick of the playoff hunt in a middling AFC -- despite three losses in four games, Cincy still clings to the No. 6 seed.
For the record, in addition to becoming the first team in the Super Bowl era to allow at least 500 yards in three straight games, the Bengals are last in the league in total defense and passing defense and rank 31st in run defense and scoring defense. They allow an average of 454.6 yards per game and are on pace to break the Saints' 2012 record for most yards allowed in a season.
The Bengals would have to allow an average of 421.6 yards per game to break that mark, and it's easy to see it happening considering Cincinnati has allowed at least 480 yards in five of its past six games.
Even with Lewis taking over, ESPN.com's Katherine Terrell reminded readers there's not a magic fix waiting on the roster to save them. While they are playing without Nick Vigil, Carl Lawson, Darqueze Dennard and Vontaze Burfict, the problems on defense date back to the Falcons game on Sept. 30 when most of those players were on the field.
That said, Burfict and Dennard were back on the practice field Wednesday.
Still, fantasy owners who have come to rely on the team's offense needing to keep pace with opposing defenses shouldn't fret; this likely isn't changing soon. ...
Meanwhile, it appears likely that Green will be out until at least December with his toe injury, sources told ESPN's Adam Schefter -- although Lewis said after Green skipped Wednesday's practice that his star receiver hasn’t been officially ruled out against the Ravens just yet.
“Hopefully we get him out there on Sunday,” Lewis said, via Jamison Hensley of ESPN.com.
Green avoided surgery on the toe he injured against the Buccaneers in Week 8, just prior to the Bengals' bye week. While the initial prediction was that he would be out at least two games, an early December return would have him missing three -- including last Sunday's game against the Saints and versus the Ravens this week and the Browns in Week 12.
Green leads the Bengals with 687 receiving yards and six receiving touchdowns. Sunday's game against the Saints marked the first game Green has missed since he suffered a torn hamstring in 2016.
His absence was notable in the loss to New Orleans.
John Ross was the most-heavily targeted receiver on the team, getting six passes thrown his way. The second-year man caught two of them for 39 yards and a touchdown.
Tyler Boyd pulled in three of four targets for 65 yards, C.J. Uzomah caught three of four targets for 23 yards and Giovani Bernard pulled in two of three targets for 30 yards in Green's absence.
Bernard also rushed two times for six yards. Joe Mixon carried the ball 11 times for 61 yards while catching two passes for 24 yards in what was a miserable outing on both sides of the ball.
Looking closer, ESPN's Mike Clay noted that Ross was on the field for 22 of 27 pass plays. Boyd (26 routes) remained the team's top wideout, with Cody Core (13) running ahead of Alex Erickson (eight) and Auden Tate (four).
Clay added: "Only Boyd (WR2) and Ross (flex) are on the fantasy radar while Green is sidelined."
In addition to Green, wide receiver Josh Malone (hamstring) and tight end Tyler Kroft (foot) were also among those not participating in Wednesday'sw practice.
I'll follow up via Late-Breaking Update as needed, but don't get too excited about Green at this point. ...
And finally this week. ... Former Browns head coach Hue Jackson didn't waste any time in finding a new job.
He is returning to Cincinnati to re-join Lewis' staff, as Ian Rapoport of NFL Network first reported.
Lewis officially confirmed Jackson's move to his staff as a Special Assistant to the Head Coach on Tuesday: "I have a great comfort level with Hue and his ability to assist me with the day-to-day responsibilities on defense."
Lewis hired Jackson as his secondary coach/special teams assistant in 2012, a year after the Raiders fired Jackson. In 2013, Jackson coached the Bengals' running backs before earning a promotion to offensive coordinator in 2014-15.
Jackson also coached for Lewis in 2004-06 as the receivers coach.
The Bengals host the Browns on Nov. 25 and travel to Cleveland on Dec. 23.
QBs: Jeff Driskel, Tom Savage
RBs: Joe Mixon, Giovani Bernard, Mark Walton
WRs: John Ross, Cody Core, Josh Malone, Tyler Boyd
TEs: C.J. Uzomah, Tyler Kroft, Tyler Eifert, Mason Schreck
Cleveland BrownsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 13 November 2018
As ESPN.com's Pat McManamon framed it, "This was the game the Cleveland Browns dreamed of back in April when they made quarterback Baker Mayfield and running back Nick Chubb first- and second-round picks in the NFL draft.
"The two rookies led the Browns to their most impressive win of the season on Sunday, ending a four-game losing streak."
No doubt. ... Mayfield completed his first 13 passes and threw for three touchdowns, and Chubb scored on the longest run in team history as the Browns decisively beat Atlanta 28-16.
"It definitely helps the team spirit and gets the momentum going into the bye week," Chubb said. "Just build on it and keep going."
In the big picture, the Browns are 3-6-1, but they played their best game of the season and head to their bye week feeling much better about themselves. Since Gregg Williams took over as interim coach, the Browns have lost to a Kansas City team that has lost only to New England and bounced back to beat the Falcons -- rather handily.
Mayfield did not miss a throw in the first half, which he finished with a perfect passer rating. He threw touchdown passes of 28 yards (on the run) to Rashard Higgins, 13 yards to Chubb and 9 yards to Duke Johnson Jr.
"When I woke up this morning, I was feeling pretty dangerous," Mayfield said with a smirk, tongue evidently firmly in cheek.
Mayfield finished 17 of 20 for 216 yards. His QB rating for the game: 151.3. He became just the second Brown in the Super Bowl era to complete 85 percent of his passes with at least 20 attempts. The other was Vinny Testaverde in 1993.
Chubb then showed why the Browns traded Carlos Hyde, as he ran through a hole, avoided a tackle and scored from 92 yards. That run broke the previous Browns record of 90 yards set by Hall of Famer Bobby Mitchell in 1959, and it was the longest run by a rookie in NFL history.
"It definitely is very special just being in this place with so much history and so many great running backs," Chubb said. "To be part of breaking records, it is a great feeling."
Chubb now has touchdown runs of 92, 63 and 41 yards this season, making him the first player since Doug Martin in 2012 with at least three rushing touchdowns of 40 or more yards in his first 10 games. Chubb finished the game with 176 yards on 20 carries.
"It is always great to win no matter what it takes," Chubb said after the game. "I am willing to do anything they ask me to do and I was. Not getting many carries, I still took advantage of the ones I got just to help this team anyway I could. That is still [the same]. Now, I am getting more carries, and I am going to make the most out of all of them."
As NFL.com's Herbie Teope notes, patience has certainly paid off for Chubb in the past two games after the firings of head coach Hue Jackson and offensive coordinator Todd Haley.
From Weeks 1-8 with Jackson and Haley, Chubb totaled 52 carries for 318 yards and three touchdowns on 109 offensive snaps, an average of 13.9 snaps per game. He added 10 yards receiving on two catches in that span.
Against the Falcons, Chubb rushed for 118 yards against stacked boxes, which signals eight-plus defenders near the line of scrimmage, and he is averaging a healthy 8.2 yards per carry against stacked boxes this season, according to Next Gen Stats.
And on Sunday, Chubb became the third Browns rookie since 1950 with 200-plus total yards from scrimmage yards and two touchdowns in a game, joining Ernest Byner (Week 16, 1984) and Pro Football Hall of Famer Jim Brown (Week 9, 1957).
With the second half of the season to look forward to, the Browns should feel confident their rookie running back is hitting his stride.
"I feel more comfortable," Chubb said. "My eyes are getting better. I am seeing everything up front at first, but the game is still fast in every one we play. Just a great defense and great players on the other side of the ball and it is always tough, but I am always up for the challenge."
Fantasy owners should keep that in mind when setting their lineups following this week's bye. ...
Defensively, the Browns held the Falcons in check and limited Matt Ryan's damage. He began the game averaging 335.6 yards passing and finished Sunday's game with 330, but he needed 52 passes to get them.
Williams now has as many wins in two games as Hue Jackson had in his first two seasons, and the team can go into the bye without the weight and drudgery of a losing streak.
For a team building toward 2019 -- the Browns can't afford to lose more than once if they have any hopes of this postseason -- every win matters. And this one matters to this team in a big way.
If the Browns keep playing this way the final six games, they will have something tangible to build on as they point toward their next fresh start.
"We have to build on it," Mayfield said. "Like I said earlier in the week, we have to find the positives. We had a lot of positives this week. It is going to be about how we handle that -- not realizing or thinking that we made it, because we haven't. We have a long way to go, but there are a lot of things that we did well. ..."
Williams planned to give players off Tuesday if they beat Atlanta, but after the game said he "threw them a bone" and gave them Monday off as well. The team is off all week prior to the bye, aside from rehab, treatment and individual discussions (some via Skype).
QBs: Baker Mayfield, Tyrod Taylor, Drew Stanton
RBs: Nick Chubb, Duke Johnson
WRs: Jarvis Landry, Antonio Callaway, Rashard Higgins, Breshad Perriman, Damion Ratley, Derrick Willies
TEs: David Njoku, Darren Fells, Randall Telfer, Seth DeValve
Dallas CowboysCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 13 November 2018
The Dallas Cowboys knew their backs were against the wall. A loss to the Eagles would have all but ended their season. A blowout could have gotten everyone fired.
Instead of wilting, the Cowboys rode Ezekiel Elliott and a good defense to a road victory in Philly that pulled Dallas one step away from the endless abyss. For at least one week, the Cowboys kept their playoff hopes from going comatose.
Owner Jerry Jones cooed about how his team responded to adversity.
"This is particularly rewarding," Jones said of the win, via the Dallas Morning News. "We were being laid to bare. This past week and really building up to this past week, we were being really operated on and looked to see what's there. These guys, these players, and frankly Jason [Garrett] and these coaches, when we really cut really deep in this surgery they came out of here and looked like it's not terminal.
"Seriously. I'll be real clear about that.
"The criticism and the things that have been pointed to this week, throughout, whether it be the coach, whether it be the quarterback, whether it be any other part of this team, is not terminal. I've looked in the wound, and I like what I see."
As NFL.com's Kevin Patra suggested, if you are of anti-Garrett sentiment, that quote can only be viewed as Jones searching for a reason to keep a coach most of the fan base has long since soured on.
On the other hand, it's a positive that the coaching staff coaxed an inspired performance. Yes, it wasn't flawless, with Dak Prescott struggling for spurts. But the Cowboys leaned on their workhorse Elliott, and earned a needed road win. Desperate times can show a team's true colors.
It's a week-to-week league, so while Jones is flying high now, and giving Garrett votes of confidence, we'll check back in four weeks after the Cowboys have gone through matchups against Atlanta, division-leading Washington, NFC-leading New Orleans, and the Eagles again.
In general, as ESPN.com's Todd Archer noted, the storylines entering Sunday's game weren't exactly positive.
In addition to the coach's job security, there was plenty of chatter surrounding a quarterback struggling to make plays, an offensive coordinator perhaps on his last chance and a defense left wobbly after its previous game.
All in all, it added up to a season on the line. And all involved responded well.
Prescott threw two touchdown passes in a road game for the first time this season. Elliott rushed for more than 150 yards against the NFL's second-best run defense and scored twice.
Coordinator Scott Linehan managed the offense as well as it has been managed all year and the defense did just enough, with Leighton Vander Esch book-ending a first-quarter interception with a huge fourth-quarter tackle, which preceded Jeff Heath's fourth-down stop of Zach Ertz with 1:09 to play.
The 27 points were the most they have scored in a road game this season. The previous high was 17. They converted 8 of 16 third-down chances. In the first four road games, they converted 14 of 52.
"I don't know that I learned anything new [about his team]," Garrett said. "You try to build a team of guys who love football, who are mentally tough, and I think those things get revealed when you have to go through some adversity over the course of the season.
"I thought they did a great job coming back after [the Cowboys' 28-14 loss to Tennessee the previous week], just getting back to work, not blinking. Just going back to work and understanding the importance of what this next opponent is and playing 60 minutes. Thought we did a better job of that in this game than we have in the last few games. Dealing with the adversities of the game and keep playing. Dealing with the successes of the game and keep playing."
As Archer acknowledged, at times early in the game, Prescott was bad. He held on to the ball too long, which resulted in sacks -- including a 13-yard sack in the second quarter.
At times, Prescott was brilliant: At the end of the first half, he connected on five passes for 79 yards and sneaked in from a yard out with 19 seconds left for the Cowboys' first touchdown.
Elliott ran behind a line that had a new left guard (Xavier Su'a-Filo for an injured Connor Williams) and was without Pro Bowl right guard Zack Martin for a few series because of a knee injury.
Prescott completed a season-best 72 percent of his passes. He threw for 270 yards, his second-highest total of the year. He found new receiver Amari Cooper six times for 75 yards.
When the Cowboys needed Prescott most, he responded. On Dallas' final drive of the first half, he completed all five of his passes for 79 yards before his quarterback sneak for a touchdown with 19 seconds to play. After the Eagles tied the game at 20-20, he completed 3 of 4 passes for 64 yards that set up Elliott's winning touchdown.
"He's resilient, man," Cooper said of Prescott. "He never gets down on himself, never gets down on the team. He's always believing we can go out there and overcome any circumstance. And you need that, especially in a quarterback. That's something that I really admire."
Elliott was asked if beating the Eagles saved the season.
"I think we did," said the running back, who finished with 151 rushing yards and two touchdowns, including a TD catch.
In reality, the victory has saved the Cowboys' season for a week.
At 4-5, they remain in the NFC East chase, two games behind the Washington Redskins. A loss would have kept them alive only in a mathematical sense.
Now they have to show they can win back-to-back games. They'll try to get that done against the Falcons in Atlanta on Sunday. ...
On the injury front. ... Even though Garrett praised the work of Su'a-Filo at left guard in Sunday's win, he was not ready to commit to starting the veteran at left guard this week with Connor Williams coming off knee surgery. Garrett said, Su'a-Filo "did a good job with his opportunity," and Williams will be day to day during the practice week.
More importantly, Garrett said the Cowboys received "some favorable reports," on the status of Martin's left knee. He's not sure Martin will practice to start the week but the indications are he will play against Atlanta.
Beyond that, Geoff Swaim returned to play without any apparent issue coming off a knee sprain while Tavon Austin continued to miss time with a groin injury. The former Ram hasn't played since Week 6.
QBs: Dak Prescott, Cooper Rush, Mike White
RBs: Ezekiel Elliott, Rod Smith
WRs: Amari Cooper, Cole Beasley, Michael Gallup, Noah Brown, Tavon Austin
TEs: Blake Jarwin, Dalton Schultz, Rico Gathers, Geoff Swaim
Denver BroncosCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 13 November 2018
The Denver Broncos reached their bye week wanting to find rest for injured players and answers for ways to restart after a 3-6 beginning to the season.
But according to ESPN.com's Jeff Legwold, after sifting through what has gone right and gone wrong leading up to their bye, what they really, really want to find is six more points each week. One answer the Broncos' search has revealed is that how they start games has affected how they finish.
"I think getting off to a better start and playing with a lead for this football team is key and finding six more points a game," head coach Vance Joseph said. "It's really obvious when you watch our tape why we haven't scored six more points a game."
The Broncos' starting point for all of that is essentially the first impression they've made each week. They have scored only eight first-quarter touchdowns in their nine games combined, and just six of those have been by the offense -- Denver's defense scored twice in the first quarter of the victory over the Arizona Cardinals.
In fact, in the four games since the team's Oct. 7 loss to the New York Jets, the Broncos' offense has put together two combined first-quarter touchdown drives. In short, the team's script of plays isn't working, and it has forced Denver to consistently play from behind.
"I think the mindset is where you start," Broncos quarterback Case Keenum said. "Making sure that we go into games wanting to control it from the start. Try to hit the ground running. Run our best plays that we love right off the bat."
There have been very few such opportunities indeed. The Broncos have held the lead just 30.6 percent of the time this season overall, and in four of their losses they had the lead for less than a quarter.
They have opened just two games with touchdowns on their first possession; it hasn't been any better after halftime, as they have managed just one touchdown drive on their opening possession of the second half, with none since Week 2.
"As an offense, we haven't put the pressure on [the opponent's] offense to score points," Keenum said. "I think offensively, we can do a better job of putting teams in tough spots coming into our stadium to play."
That does speak some to the Broncos' preparation on offense, given that they do script their opening series of plays for each half. Joseph said part of the to-do list this past week involved a hard look at what has gone right and wrong on offense, including how the Broncos have used their various personnel groupings.
They have been dominant at times running the ball -- they are tied for the league lead with the Chargers and Panthers at 5.2 yards per carry -- but are 16th in rushing attempts. And with two of the league's sack leaders on defense -- linebackers Von Miller and Bradley Chubb have combined for 17 sacks -- the Broncos are built to do what they haven't done much to this point: play with the lead.
"When our defense can rush the passer that's when we're at our best," cornerback Chris Harris Jr. said. "We hold the coverage, they rush, that's when we do what we do best.
"There's been very few games where we've been up by two scores, controlling the game and letting Von, Chubb and those guys ... just rush the passer. We've been in that stadium when it feels like every play, you're just waiting for a sack [by the Broncos' defense]."
Legwold went on to note the Broncos could have opportunity to make it right given that, over their final seven games, they don't face a defense that is currently among the league's top 10 scoring defenses. And they will face four teams -- Cincinnati, San Francisco, Cleveland and Oakland -- that are currently ranked 24th or lower in scoring defense.
That's no lost on Joseph.
"Even after watching our cutups from the first part of the season, you can get excited about our football team," Joseph said. "We're doing some good things. ... It seems like every game, we're chasing. ... We have to start better and we have to find six more points a game. We do that, we can win a lot of these games that we've got remaining. I think our football team has to get out of chase mode and get into lead position, so we can rush and cover."
And that run of lower-end defenses shouldn't be lost on fantasy owners.
The Broncos' biggest problem is getting out of their own way. They consistently play out of three-wide receiver sets on offense when they can't protect the passer and their penalties routinely stymie their efforts and negate their biggest plays.
The Broncos need to fix the mistakes and stop the self-inflicted wounds.
Beyond that, running back Phillip Lindsay has done so much of the heavy lifting in the season's first half and has been one of the bright spots for a team that hasn't played close to even its own preseason expectations.
After nine games Lindsay leads the team in rushing, is tied for fifth in catches and has been used as a punt and kickoff returner.
On the injury front. ... Joseph said Monday he believed running back Royce Freeman (ankle), safety Darian Stewart (neck/stingers), wide receiver DaeSean Hamilton (knee) and cornerback Bradley Roby should all practice this week. "Practice is always important ... they should be back working Wednesday."
Freeman, Stewart, Hamilton have each missed the last two games while Roby missed the Week 9 loss to the Houston Texans. ...
Freeman, who was on the practice field Wednesday, seems all but certain to return against the Chargers this week, but I'll be following his progress closely in coming days; watch the Late-Breaking Updates section for more. ...
And finally. ... On Monday, the Broncos announced they signed center Gino Gradkowski to take Matt Paradis' roster spot. They placed Paradis on injured reserve in a corresponding move.
Paradis fractured his right fibula against Houston.
He is the team's second starting offensive lineman to end the season on IR. Left guard Ron Leary tore his Achilles against the Rams on Oct. 14.
Gradkowski is a seventh-year player who has appeared in 53 career games with 20 starts. He has played for Baltimore (2012-14), Atlanta (2015) and Carolina (2016).
He most recently completed in training camps with the Jets (2018) and Panthers (2017).
He spent the 2015 offseason and training camp with Denver after being acquired in a trade with the Ravens, who made him a fourth-round pick in 2012.
QBs: Case Keenum, Kevin Hogan
RBs: Royce Freeman, Devontae Booker, Phillip Lindsay
WRs: Courtland Sutton, Daesean Hamilton, Tim Patrick, Andre Holmes, Jordan Taylor, Jordan Leslie, Carlos Henderson
TEs: Matt LaCosse
Detroit LionsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 13 November 2018
As ESPN.com's Michael Rothstein put it, "What happened on the field Sunday was largely who the Detroit Lions have been the past three weeks.
"Outplayed and outworked on the field every Sunday. Each game, culminating in the Lions' 34-22 loss to the Chicago Bears on Sunday, has looked worse than the last. ..."
"Obviously, not a good game," head coach Matt Patricia said.
Rothstein reminded readers that Patricia has said approximations of that the past three weeks after three straight losses to teams that are playoff contenders in the NFC, all by double digits. At this point, the frustration is noticeable. So is the reality of the Lions' situation.
The Lions last led a game with 14:15 left in the second quarter against Seattle, when a Tyler Lockett touchdown catch tied the score in a game the Seahawks eventually won. That was on Oct. 28, almost three full games ago.
Rothstein added, "There's little reason at this point to expect things will change soon, either."
Certainly not when Detroit has Carolina, the Bears and then the Los Angeles Rams as its next three opponents. Yes, those are all at home, but Detroit's current run of poor play has encompassed home and the road. All the losses have looked the same. Uncompetitive.
"We just ain't getting the job done," running back LeGarrette Blount said. "Whatever it looks like, whatever it is, whatever we're doing wrong, we just got to fix it. We're not getting the job done. We haven't got the job done six times this year.
"It's something that we got to fix. We got to have a sense of urgency to figure out what's going on."
According to Rothstein, what's going on is the Lions are poor in every facet.
The offense was lackluster and unproductive, gaining most of their yards and scoring almost all their points with the game out of reach. Matthew Stafford was sacked six times a week after the Vikings brought him down 10 times and has appeared to regress.
The defense allowed Chicago quarterback Mitchell Trubisky to have a perfect passer rating in the first half and he essentially tore apart the Lions secondary, which was missing starter Darius Slay, all day long. Detroit did a better job stopping the run (2.5 yards per carry) but Trubisky had so much time to throw the Lions' defensive backs had no chance.
"I guess we're just not preparing like we used to," defensive end Romeo Okwara said. "Definitely give the other team credit. Came out and outplayed us. And we just got to do a better job."
In clarifying about preparation, Okwara said the defense isn't making plays and that it is on the players, not the coaches.
But the coaching was equally bad.
If it were a one- or two-week thing, you could say it's a rookie coach learning his way. But four of Detroit's six losses have been by 12 or more points.
Some personnel decisions didn't make sense. Nick Bellore got his first career carry on a third-and-1 trailing 13-0 and went nowhere, leading to a punt. Ezekiel Ansah, now in his second game back, appears to be a part-time player. The Lions used him almost exclusively on third downs and in obvious passing situations despite him being their best and highest-paid edge lineman.
Even Patricia's ability to challenge calls Sunday were failures: He lost both of them.
The front office is at fault, too. General manager Bob Quinn, who hasn't spoken to the media since the NFL draft, sat in the back of the press box Sunday and was stone-faced most of the day. Of course, what else would his reaction be after seeing the product the team he assembled put on the field with the coach he hired fall flat fast. Again.
It all looks like the week before. And the week before that.
"They were just more ready to go than we were," Patricia said. "Can't say we were or we weren't [ready to go]. I thought we were. They just did a better job than execution."
Patricia has said that many times this season, but things are getting worse with no break in the schedule in sight.
Worth noting: Patricia, asked about possible staff changes on Monday, replied: "Not doing anything right now." Patricia added he has "a lot of confidence" with everyone when it comes to play calling on offense, defense and special teams. ...
Meanwhile, adding to the woes. ... The Lions left Chicago with more than just their pride hurt.
There were a few injuries to some key players that will have to be monitored this week. Most important of which will be the knee injury suffered by wide receiver Marvin Jones.
Jones suffered the injury late in the third quarter attempting to make a catch down the right sideline over Bears cornerback Kyle Fuller. He did not return to the contest.
ESPN's Adam Schefter reported on Monday that the injury is a bone bruise but that his ACL and MCL are intact, which is good news for Detroit.
Schefter is reporting that Jones is "day-to-day."
It's still a blow to the Lions if Jones misses any time considering the team traded away Golden Tate a little under two weeks ago. So Detroit has now gone from one of the top receiving trios in the league to Kenny Golladay, veteran TJ Jones and either recently-signed Bruce Ellington or undrafted free agent Brandon Powell as their top three/four receivers if Jones is out.
That's a much less experienced crew for Stafford to roll with.
For the record, Jones leads all Lions receivers with five touchdowns on the year. He's caught 35 passes for 508 yards for an average of 14.5 yards per attempt.
The Lions were already short at tight end heading into the game with Luke Willson inactive because of a shoulder injury. They then lost second-year tight end Michael Roberts in the second half when he injured his left shoulder after making a short catch.
Defensive tackle A'Shawn Robinson, tight end Levine Toilolo, Golladay and running back Kerryon Johnson also left the game because of injury before returning.
Stay tuned; I'll be following up on all the walking wounded in coming days via Late-Breaking Update.
One I won't be following up on. ... Right guard T.J. Lang may have played his last game in Detroit.
The team announced Wednesday it is placing him on injured reserve.
He started six games in his second season with the Lions, playing 282 snaps. He played only one full game while dealing with brain, back, neck and hip injuries.
Lang, 31, consulted with specialists before returning from a concussion in October.
The Lions promoted cornerback Mike Ford from the practice squad.
QBs: Matthew Stafford, Matt Cassel
RBs: LeGarrette Blount, Theo Riddick, Zach Zenner
WRs: Kenny Golladay, Bruce Ellington, TJ Jones, Brandon Powell
TEs: Luke Willson, Levine Toilolo
Green Bay PackersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 13 November 2018
As ESPN.com's Rob Demovsky put it, "Aaron Jones needed this.
"And the Green Bay Packers need Aaron Jones. ..."
Add fantasy owners with Jones on their rosters to the list of those having needs satisfied this past weekend.
Indeed, Jones made his best case yet that the offense must run through his hands and feet.
And, as Demovsky added, "If the Packers' coaching staff doesn't realize that this season is now Jones-or-bust, then perhaps they never will."
The speedy Jones rushed for a career-high 145 yards (on just 15 carries), including a 67-yard blur that was the Packers' longest run in more than five years. His first career two-rushing-touchdown day paved the way to Sunday's 31-12 win over the Miami Dolphins at Lambeau Field. In all, he accounted for 172 yards from scrimmage.
Better still, Jones played three times as many snaps as Jamaal Williams.
With seven games left in a 4-4-1 season, Jones is the Packers' best chance.
Demovsky reminded readers, there were points in Brett Favre's career when he had a special running back. There was Ahman Green's 1,883-yard season in 2003 -- still the Packers' single-season rushing record -- that was part of a five-year run of 1,000-yard seasons by the franchise's rushing leader.
Even Rodgers had a pair of multiple 1,000-yard rushers -- Ryan Grant with back-to-back 1,200-yard seasons (2008 and 2009) and Eddie Lacy with consecutive 1,100-yard seasons (2013 and 2014).
Jones -- because of his two-game suspension to start the season and head coach Mike McCarthy's reluctance to make him the primary back until Week 9 (and not until after GM Brian Gutekunst shipped off Ty Montgomery in a trade, thus ending the three-back committee that also included Williams) -- won't come anywhere close to those Green or Grant numbers.
He had only 350 rushing yards this season before Sunday, but his 6.03-yard average led the NFL. Almost inexplicably, he had not carried more than 14 times in a game, and that season high came the previous week at New England, where he fumbled in the fourth quarter.
But it doesn't mean he can't carry the Packers back into playoff contention.
What other options do they have?
Davante Adams, of course, has proven himself as one of the NFL's top receivers, but defenses have been all over him. Still, he caught a pair of touchdowns -- giving him nine for the season and 30 since the start of the 2016 season -- but caught just four passes for 57 yards.
Rodgers doesn't have enough weapons outside of Adams and rookie Marquez Valdes-Scantling (six catches for 44 yards) or reliable enough protection to be as pass-happy as he was in the first half of the season.
And it's a team that still makes too many mistakes, most of them on special teams: a fumbled punt return by Tramon Williams, a blocked JK Scott punt and a Dolphins fake punt that was so obvious on fourth-and-1 in a 16-point game late in the third quarter.
To be sure, if McCarthy had not committed to Jones against the Dolphins, a team that brought the NFL's 28th-ranked run defense to Lambeau Field, then he'd have some explaining to do. That Jones finished with only 15 carries was partially a product of the Packers resting him late in the fourth quarter.
By halftime, Jones already had the Packers' first 100-yard rushing game of the season on just eight carries. On his 67-yard run, he hit a maximum speed of 21.33 mph -- the fastest top speed by a Packers ball carrier in the last three seasons, according to NFL Next Gen Stats.
As Demovsky summed up: "McCarthy must give Jones more than a cursory chance on Thursday night at Seattle, where the Packers will try to win their first road game of the season. ..."
Matt Patricia on possible staff changes: "Not doing anything right now." Said he has "a lot of confidence" with everyone when it comes to play calling on offense, defense and special teams.
On the injury front. ... The Packers flew to Seattle Tuesday night, but they didn’t take their whole roster with them.
As Demovsky first reported, the Packers left for Seattle last night without four players.
Wide receiver Randall Cobb, safety Kentrell Brice, cornerback Kevin King, and linebacker Nick Perry did not make the trip so they could stay on their rehab schedules at home.
As Profootballtalk.com's Darin Gantt suggested, modern air travel is such that any of the four could ostensibly make it there in time for Thursday’s game, and the Packers won’t issue a final injury report until later Wednesday. But it seems unlikely that any of those players would go in a short week if the Packers aren’t even going to buy a plane ticket for them.
Cobb missed last week’s game after suffering a setback in practice during his recovery from a hamstring injury.
Another absence will keep Equanimeous St. Brown in three-wide sets along with Adams and Valdes-Scantling. ...
I'll have more on Cobb and Graham via Late-Breaking Update in advance of Thursday night's kickoff. ...
And finally. ... The Packers have a roster spot open, and the expectation is returner Trevor Davis will fill it.
Davis has spent the season on injured reserve with a hamstring injury. He returned to practice last week and is eligible to play Thursday against Seattle.
"I think I can make a big impact but at the end of the day, you've got to just go out there and let the plays come to you," Davis said Monday. "I can't go out there trying to chase plays because I lost half of my season. But at the end of the day, plays will come. I can't go out there trying to make plays because I'm trying to make up for plays that I missed."
His return comes not a moment too soon for the Packers.
They traded Montgomery after his fumble on a kickoff against the Rams denied Rodgers a chance for a comeback win, and Tramon Williams lost a fumble on a punt return Sunday against the Dolphins.
Davis averaged 12.2 yards on 33 punt returns in his first two seasons and 22.7 yards on 34 kickoff returns.
QBs: Aaron Rodgers, DeShone Kizer
RBs: Jamaal Williams, Kapri Bibbs
WRs: Davante Adams, Randall Cobb, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Equanimeous St. Brown, J'mon Moore, Jake Kumerow, Trevor Davis
TEs: Jimmy Graham, Marcedes Lewis, Lance Kendricks
Houston TexansCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 13 November 2018
As USA Today’s Mark Lane noted last week, Texans running backs Lamar Miller and Alfred Blue have produced 822 rushing yards and three touchdowns on 219 carries this season. They have also caught 24 passes for 199 yards and a touchdown this season.
Though the production from the running backs could be better, it begs the question of how D'Onta Foreman could fit in with the scheme.
"I think it's a combination of things," running backs coach Danny Barrett said Monday at NRG Stadium. "For his size, he has good speed. I think he runs with great pad level as well, which is always leaning forward -- falling forward I should say. It complements what we do on offense with the other two guys as well."
Foreman came off the physically unable to perform list due to rehabilitation from a torn Achilles that cut his rookie season short on Wednesday. Head coach Bill O'Brien announced on Wednesday that Foreman returned to practice. The club will have 21 days to either place him on the active roster or place him on injured reserve.
At 6-3 and atop the AFC South, Houston is more concerned about the players who are available rather than players who might be able to return and help.
"Right now, we've got the one-two punch," said Barrett. "Hopefully he gets back and we get a three-headed monster. I look at the success Philly had last year in their backfield. They used three, four guys in the backfield."
In 2017, Eagles running backs LeGarrette Blount, Corey Clement, Jay Ajayi, Wendell Smallwood, Darren Sproles, and Kenjon Barner combined for 2,283 rushing and receiving yards and 13 touchdowns en route to a Super Bowl LII victory over the New England Patriots.
"When you get to this time of season, you're going to need all of your guys," Barrett explained. "We're looking forward to, at some point, him coming back to join us and helping us build on the success that we've already been able to accomplish."
The sooner Foreman can come back, the fresher legs the Texans will have in a critical part of their schedule -- although O'Brian sounded noncommittal when asked about the second-year man on Monday.
"He had a good year last year, but that was a long time ago," O'Brien said. "Let's just see where he's at. ..."
I'll be watching for more on that in coming days. Meanwhile, one player who appears to be on track to make a more immediate contribution is Keke Coutee.
Coutee has not been available for the Texans since Week 7 at Jacksonville when he caught one pass for 3 yards. His hamstring injury, which has plagued him since training camp, summarily ended his afternoon in the 20-7 win and cost him the next two wins versus the Miami Dolphins and Denver Broncos.
The rookie wideout has 21 catches for 196 yards and a touchdown through four games on the season, one of which he started. While Coutee has shown flashes of what the Texans scouting staff saw that influenced the front office to take him with a fourth-round pick from Texas Tech, the element of Coutee's short time in the NFL that has made an impression on receiver coach John Perry is how quickly he has adapted to the game despite missing vital practice time.
Perry continues to believe in the youngster's ability to fight through the lost playing time and practice availability.
Said Perry: "He's very diligent about doing those things, so that part of it is the most impressive thing because certainly his skill set is something that we've always been impressed with right through the draft process. We're seeing those things, but his professionalism has been great."
O'Brien, quarterbacks coach Sean Ryan and the rest of the offensive brain trust have been able to hold things together with a lack of availability from playmakers such as Coutee, but when he can return to the offense, it will help ease the burden on newcomer Demaryius Thomas (acquired via trade two weeks ago after Will Fuller suffered a season-ending torn ACL) and No. 1 receiver DeAndre Hopkins.
Coutee spent the bye week rehabilitating the hamstring and the youngster believes he made enough progress to feels like there's a "strong possibility" he'll return Sunday against Washington.
"It helped me a lot," Coutee said. "I was here the whole week getting treatment, getting my body right. It's getting better We'll see how I feel at the end of the week. Right now, I'm feeling good."
"I think Keke's trending upward," O'Brien said. "I think Keke's headed in the right direction. ..."
Coutee was officially listed as a limited participant in Wednesday's practice; I'll be following up via Late-Breaking Update as needed. ...
Beyond all that, in case you missed it, the Texans finished the first half of the season with a 6-3 record.
In case you missed it, Houston dug itself into a hole with an 0-3 start, quickly falling into last place in the AFC South. But thanks to an improved offense and a much easier schedule, the Texans have gone from worst to first.
Deshaun Watson, who was on a historic pace in his abbreviated rookie season, didn't pick up where he left off. However, after some early struggles, he appears to have gotten this offense into a rhythm. Houston has ripped off six consecutive victories and put itself in a good position for the final seven games of the season.
So what's the biggest factor in the Texans making a deep playoff run?
As ESPN.com's Sarah Barshop notes, the Texans have had a defense this good before -- they were ranked No. 1 in the NFL in 2016 -- but now they feel they finally have their franchise quarterback.
Watson hasn't been consistent -- in part due to an offensive line that has struggled to keep him upright -- but he has shown improvement as the season has progressed. If the Texans are to stay at the top of the AFC South and make a playoff run, Watson will need to quickly develop chemistry with Thomas.
Beyond Watkins, Hopkins is clearly the difference-maker for the offense. The sixth-year receiver is averaging 99.3 receiving yards per game, which ranks fourth in the NFL. His seven receiving touchdowns are tied for second. Having Thomas starting opposite him should keep defenses from focusing on Hopkins, who will be leaned on in the final seven games.
QBs: Deshaun Watson, Brandon Weeden
RBs: Lamar Miller, Alfred Blue, D'Onta Foreman
WRs: DeAndre Hopkins, Demaryius Thomas, Keke Coutee, DeAndre Carter
TEs: Ryan Griffin, Jordan Akins, Jordan Thomas
Indianapolis ColtsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 13 November 2018
As NFL.com's Kevin Patra put it, "The Indianapolis Colts are finally seeing the fruits of a clean Andrew Luck. ..."
No doubt. And fantasy owners who invested a later-than-usual pick in Luck are also enjoying the yield.
The quarterback is on a torrid pace, tossing three touchdowns in six consecutive games, the fourth-longest streak since 1950, behind only Tom Brady (10), Peyton Manning (8) and Dan Marino (7), per NFL Research.
Luck's success, as the Colts pushed themselves into the AFC playoff picture, is a confluence of factors. He's finally healthy for the first time in years. Coach Frank Reich has constructed an offense that gets the ball out quick and takes advantage of Luck's skills. The run game has finally arrived. And the offensive line that was once a liability has become one of the best units in football.
"The line is doing a heck of a job," Luck said after Sunday's 29-26 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars, via the Indy Star. "They're largely responsible for anything positive in this offense. They're doing a great job."
Per usual, Luck is underselling.
The Colts' offensive line has been out-of-this-world good. Luck hasn't been sacked in four games, tying a franchise record. The sackless streak is the fifth-longest in NFL history.
Last season, Jacksonville took on its "Sacksonville" moniker in part because of how badly they whipped the Colts' offensive line, taking down then-quarterback Jacoby Brissett 10 times.
Sunday, the Jags got a goose-egg in the sack column. They hit Luck just twice in the entire contest.
"We were a different team back then, that's for sure," Colts center Ryan Kelly said of the difference between last year and this year. "Not to speak on it too much, but it was a different offense. We weren't really -- let's just say I don't think [opponents] feared our run game the way they do now. That helps out a lot. It's a hell of a lot easier to pass block when they know you're running game is pretty good. That's probably the biggest thing."
Yes, the offense is different, but the line's play has a big hand in why it's succeeded.
One factor is the line group of Anthony Castonzo, Quenton Nelson, Kelly, Mark Glowinski and Braden Smith have now played together for four straight games, a streak that hadn't happened for the Indy o-line in five years.
"Playing together so consistently is huge," Castonzo said. "It's so important to understand how each other plays."
Health has been a big factor in the consistency, and there is a case to be made that rookie Quenton Nelson has been the most impactful high draft pick on his team's playoff chances.
"We're a really tight group," Nelson added. "We got great guys in the room. It's a special group. We've got great coaches, and we've been coming together and improving each week. We definitely have some things we can clean up, but we'll do that Monday. ... We've strung together a few good games here, and we're really happy and proud of that, and we're going to try and continue it as best we can."
The next challenge is Tennessee, which held New England to 10 points and more than 100 yards below its season average in total yards Sunday. ...
Meanwhile, as if Eric Ebron needed to add anything else to his 2018 resume. ... The Colts' offense owned the first half of Sunday's game against the Jaguars, but it was Ebron that helped establish a 16-point first-half lead by scoring three touchdowns -- two receiving and also his second career rushing touchdown -- all within the first two quarters.
The fifth-year tight end is now tied for the league lead in receiving touchdowns with 10. He leads all NFL tight ends, and has for the better part of the season.
"He's just an explosive playmaker, so, (I'm) happy for him," Colts head coach Frank Reich told reporters after the game. "Big-time game for Eric."
Ebron scored his first touchdown on the opening drive of the game. From their own 47-yard line, Luck took the shotgun snap and found Ebron wide open down the right side of the field. Ebron had one man to beat as he withstood Jaguars safety Tashaun Gipson's tackle attempt, diving into the end zone for a 53-yard score.
After punting on their next drive, Ebron would score on the Colts' following two drives. On the first, he took a jet sweep handoff from Luck and sprinted toward the front left pylon to put the Colts up, 14-7.
"That little jet sweep thing was a little wrinkle you put in just for a guy like that," Reich said of the play. "I mean, you don't put that in for anybody, but you put it in for someone like Ebron."
On their next drive, the Colts marched down the field into Jacksonville's red zone. From the Jaguars' 12-yard line, Luck took the snap, quickly scanned the field and found Ebron heading unnoticed into Jacksonville's end zone, Luck lofting a perfect pass into Ebron's waiting arms for his third score of the game.
According to ESPN Stats and Information, Ebron joins New Orleans Saints running back Alvin Kamara as the only players this season to have both a rushing and receiving touchdown in the first quarter of a game.
Ebron is also only the second tight end in NFL history with two receiving touchdowns and a rushing touchdown in the same game since the New England Patriots' Rob Gronkowski did it in 2011.
Ebron got all his production in on just 21 snaps Sunday; he was actually out-snapped by Jack Doyle who got 48 snaps and Mo Alie-Cox, who got 23 snaps.
Also worth noting. ... Luck is now the third quarterback (Peyton Manning, Tom Brady) in NFL history to have six consecutive games with at least three touchdown passes in a single season. He's also thrown at least one touchdown pass in 32 straight games which is the longest active streak in the NFL.
Jordan Wilkins had a 53-yard rush on his lone attempt. It is the longest run by a Colt since December of 2011 when Donald Brown had an 80-yard touchdown run and the longest of Wilkins' career.
For the record, although he cooled down a bit, Marlon Mack, with 33 snaps (59 percent) still got the bulk of the playing time with Nyheim Hines getting 20 snaps (36 percent) and Wilkins five (9 percent).
QBs: Andrew Luck, Jacoby Brissett
RBs: Marlon Mack, Jordan Wilkins, Nyheim Hines
WRs: T.Y. Hilton, Dontrelle Inman, Ryan Grant, Chester Rogers, Zach Pascal
TEs: Eric Ebron, Mo Alie-Cox, Ryan Hewitt
Jacksonville JaguarsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 13 November 2018
As Associated Press sports writer Mark Long framed it, "They ran him often, and he ran hard.
"If that wasn't enough for a Jaguars victory Sunday, it was enough for second-year running back Leonard Fournette to feel good about his health. ..."
"I'm good," Fournette said following the Jaguars' loss to the Colts Sunday. "I felt good with it."
Fantasy owners were okay with it, too.
Fournette, who missed the final four games before a Week 9 bye week last Sunday, returned on Sunday from the hamstring injury that bothered him throughout the first half of the season.
Fournette, who missed six of the Jaguars' last seven games, played an entire game Sunday for the first time this season, having left in the first half of both a Week 1 victory over the New York Giants and a Week 4 victory over the New York Jets.
Sunday's results: 109 total yards -- rushing and receiving -- for Fournette and two touchdowns along with 415 total yards for the Jaguars' offense. The offense registered 13 first-half points Sunday after scoring six first-half points during a four-game losing streak in October.
"I just think we played the way we want to play," Jaguars Head Coach Doug Marrone said of Fournette's return. "I think it's helpful. I think we'll get better at it. ... The more that we're together and working and playing in this type of style, it's obviously a style that we've game planned for, worked hard to do.
"I think that it, obviously, helps us. We saw that today to a certain extent."
Fournette, the No. 4 overall selection in the 2017 NFL Draft from Louisiana State University, rushed for 53 yards on 22 carries and caught five passes for 56 yards Sunday. He ran for a one-yard first-half touchdown and caught a one-yard pass for a second-half touchdown, marking the first time in 16 regular-season NFL games he has caught a touchdown and ran for a touchdown.
Fournette's 109 yards receiving/rushing came on 29 total touches -- a heavy load in his first full game of the season.
"I wasn't really worrying about that," he said. "I was just looking for a way to win."
For what it's worth, Fournette told listeners during a Tuesday visit with the FootballDiehards on SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio, that we should expect the heavy workload to continue.
That makes sense. The 26 points Sunday were the Jaguars' most since a 31-12 Week 4 victory over the New York Jets on September 30.
After not scoring a first-half touchdown in four games in October, the Jaguars scored a pair of first-half touchdowns Sunday -- an 80-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Blake Bortles to wide receiver Donte Moncrief and Fournette's one-yard run.
"Anytime he's going to play and be on the field, guys are going to prepare to stop him after the year that he had last year and the stuff he put on tape," Bortles said of Fournette, who rushed for 1,040 yards and nine touchdowns as a rookie last season.
Still, the bigger picture isn't one the Jaguars expected to be looking at.
As ESPN.com's Michael DiRocco wrote, "It's hard to believe that the Jaguars are in this situation after being a few plays away from the Super Bowl in January: Fielding questions about making sure players don't check out."
After Sunday's loss, the Jaguars' fifth in a row, that's where the franchise stands. They head into Sunday's home game against the Steelers last in the AFC South, winless in three division games, and at this point a .500 record might be a stretch.
It's a huge disappointment for a team that had high expectations -- some of which were self-imposed -- and instead of entering the final two months of the season thinking about playoff seeding they're spending time denying that their season is pretty much over. ...
And finally. ... The Jaguars signed tight end Ben Koyack to the 53-player roster, the club announced Monday. To make room, the Jaguars released tight end David Grinnage.
Koyack appeared in 30 games with the Jaguars during the 2016-17 seasons after spending the 2015 campaign on the club's practice squad.
He has 24 career catches for 199 yards and a touchdown.
Koyack played all three postseason games last year for Jacksonville, catching the game-winning touchdown pass in the third quarter of the wild-card round.
The Jaguars also announced that center Brandon Linder will have season-ending surgery on his right knee. He will be placed on injured reserve.
QBs: Blake Bortles, Cody Kessler
RBs: Leonard Fournette, David Williams, Carlos Hyde, T.J. Yeldon
WRs: Dede Westbrook, Keelan Cole, Donte Moncrief, D.J. Chark, Rashad Greene
TEs: James O'Shaughnessy, Ben Koyack, Niles Paul
Kansas City ChiefsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 13 November 2018
As ESPN.com's Adam Teicher reported Sunday, Andy Reid has seen along with the rest of the world Pat Mahomes' strong work on game days and like everyone else, he's impressed that the Kansas City Chiefs' first-year starting quarterback has 31 touchdown passes in 10 games.
But it was the quarterback's work on the other six days of the week that earned the praise of his coach after Mahomes threw two touchdown passes on Sunday to move to 31 and break Len Dawson's team record of 30 set in 1964.
"He's had a heck of a year," Reid said after the Chiefs' 26-14 victory over the Arizona Cardinals at Arrowhead Stadium that raised their record to 9-1. "He's playing his heart out. I love the back side of that, the preparation and how he goes about his business there day in and day out. ... He comes out every day and he's bringing energy and he makes sure he has his things in order when he does that. He's got a lot on his plate as far as responsibility goes to run the offense and he takes care of that.
"He's in a position where he can make everybody better around him and he's doing that."
Mahomes' two touchdown passes came in the first half, both to Tyreek Hill.
"That's something I do on Madden, for real," said Hill when asked to put 31 TD passes in 10 games in perspective. "That's crazy. For him to come in and do that, that's amazing. A lot of people doubted him: 'He wasn't going to do this, he wasn't going to do that.' He's showing a lot of people up right now and I'm proud of him.
"Pat is a tremendous quarterback, a tremendous leader. So for a guy like him to get that record, it means a lot."
Dawson set his record during the Chiefs' old AFL days. None of their quarterbacks since has seriously threatened his mark.
Elvis Grbac had 28 in 2000. Trent Green in 2004 and Matt Cassel in 2010 got to 27.
But the Chiefs, at long last, have a new touchdown pass king and Mahomes' teammates, including running back Kareem Hunt, celebrated him.
"We needed all 31 of those touchdowns," Hunt said, "and we got them."
Beyond that, Hunt, who came into Sunday's game having amassed 553 yards from scrimmage over the previous four games, along with the fact that he also had eight touchdowns over that stretch—both of which ranked second in the league, had another solid performance on Sunday.
Hunt finished with 96 yards of total offense on 18 total touches. He had several tough runs and catches in key situations that kept the chains moving for the offense.
Still, Spencer Ware found the end zone for the first time in a while. In fact, Ware ran it in from three yards out to get his first touchdown since Week 13 of the 2016 season.
"Like a monkey off my back," Ware explained of his touchdown after the game.
Hill led all pass-catchers with 10 targets and seven receptions for 117 yards, and with his two scores on the day, the third-year wideout now has nine touchdowns receiving on the season, which is more in just 10 games this season than he did in all of 2017 (7).
It's his third game of the year with 100-plus yards receiving, and in each of those other games, Hill also had multiple touchdowns.
Perhaps the best news of the day was when Andy Reid told reporters after the game that there were no new injuries to report.
Besides Justin Houston, the Chiefs also saw the return of veteran safety Daniel Sorensen, who recently came off injured reserve after suffering a leg injury at training camp.
Better still, Sammy Watkins, who didn't play against the Cardinals because of a foot injury, could return this week.
Reid said on Monday that there's a "pretty good chance" that Watkins will be able to play against the Rams in Mexico City next Monday night. The Chiefs will have a bye after that game, so Watkins will have plenty of time to heal up if he doesn't get the green light to play.
If Watkins does play, he'll get a chance to go up against the team he played for during the 2017 season. Watkins went to L.A. just before the start of the season in a trade with the Bills and then left for Kansas City as a free agent this offseason.
Reid gave linebacker Anthony Hitchens the same odds of playing this week. Hitchens was active on Sunday, but didn't play with injured ribs. ...
Speaking of odds. ... The people who set them were expecting fireworks in Mexico City -- we'll see if they're still expecting them with the game moving to Los Angeles.
The SuperBook at Westgate Las Vegas on Sunday opened the Chiefs-Rams over/under at 64, which, if it holds, would be the highest since at least 1986, according to ESPN Stats and Information.
The previous highest over/under total in ESPN's NFL database was 62 in a November 2009 game between the St. Louis Rams and San Francisco 49ers. The Rams won 34-24.
The Chiefs are second in the NFL in scoring, averaging 35.3 points per game. Kansas City improved to 9-1 with a 26-14 win over the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday.
The Rams (9-1) also have been putting up points in bunches, averaging 33.5 points after Sunday's 36-31 win over the Seattle Seahawks.
This will be the third straight season the NFL has played a regular-season game in Mexico City. The previous two games in Mexico City have averaged 44 points.
The Rams opened as 1-point favorites over the Chiefs at the SuperBook. The line had ticked up to L.A. -1.5 Sunday night.
But the game is now being moved from Mexico City to Los Angeles due to poor field conditions in Estadio Azteca, the league confirmed. ...
And finally. ... Mahomes skipped his postgame news conference on Sunday after his girlfriend's stepfather died while at the game against the Cardinals in Arrowhead Stadium.
Mahomes' girlfriend, Brittany Matthews, reported on her Instagram account that her stepfather had died.
"We're sorry to hear about what took place yesterday," Reid said Monday. "Our prayers and blessings are with the family. I've talked to Patrick and they're doing well for the circumstance that took place."
Reid said he doesn't expect the tragedy to affect Mahomes' preparation for Week 11, noting that the quarterback was at the team facility Monday.
Mahomes isn't expected to miss any playing time either, though Reid said, "If he has to, that's not a big deal."
QBs: Patrick Mahomes, Chad Henne, Matthew McGloin
RBs: Damien Williams, Spencer Ware, Charcandrick West, Anthony Sherman
WRs: Tyreek Hill, Sammy Watkins, Kelvin Benjamin, Chris Conley, Demarcus Robinson, Gehrig Dieter, Marcus Kemp
TEs: Travis Kelce, Demetrius Harris
Los Angeles ChargersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 13 November 2018
Riding a five-game winning streak and favored to win by double digits, head coach Anthony Lynn had to guard against complacency ahead of his team's game with the Oakland Raiders on Sunday.
"They have an understanding that we start over every week," Lynn said earlier in the week. "What we did last week really doesn't matter."
Well, for at least a quarter the Chargers appeared to be reading their press clippings. The Bolts looked lethargic early, allowing a 42-yard gain on a fake punt by punter Johnny Townsend. They trailed 3-0 with 2:51 left in the opening quarter after a Daniel Carlson 42-yard field goal.
But after a sluggish start, the Chargers finally got going, scoring 17 straight points in defeating the Raiders 20-6 on Sunday at Oakland-Alameda County Stadium for the team's sixth straight win.
The Chargers improved to 7-2 on the year, the team's best record at this point of the season since 2006. The Bolts' six-game winning streak is the team's longest since 2009, when the Bolts won 11 straight to finish out the year.
With the New England Patriots losing 34-10 to the Tennessee Titans earlier in the day, the Chargers have become one of the power players in the AFC, along with the Kansas City Chiefs (9-1) and the Pittsburgh Steelers (6-2-1).
As ESPN.com's Eric D. Williams noted, the Chargers will get a chance to play both of those teams later this year, traveling to play the Steelers on Dec. 2 and to play the Chiefs on Dec. 13 for a Thursday night game.
After a shaky opening quarter, Philip Rivers led the Chargers on a nine-play, 81-yard drive capped by an 11-yard touchdown pass to Keenan Allen, giving the Chargers a 10-3 lead going into halftime.
The Chargers got the ball again to open the second half, with Rivers hitting Melvin Gordon in the flat and the Wisconsin product taking it 66 yards for his 11th touchdown of the season.
Rivers finished 18-of-26 passing for 223 yards, with two touchdown passes and his fourth interception of the year. Gordon finished with 165 yards from scrimmage.
The game was played with a haze of smoke surrounding the stadium from the deadly Camp Fire wildfire just a few hours north of the facility. The Raiders handed out masks to fans who wanted them to help deal with the unhealthy air conditions.
While much of the attention this season has been on Rams running back Todd Gurley, Gordon has quietly put together an impressive span of production that has been done just once in the past decade.
Gordon totaled 165 yards (93 rushing) and a touchdown in Sunday's win to become just the second player since 2007 to post a five-game streak of 120-plus total yards from scrimmage and touchdown. Former Kansas City Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles previously accomplished the feat in 2013.
"Wow," Gordon said when informed of his achievement, via the Chargers' official website. "That's what's up!"
Football is a team sport, of course, so the individual achievement takes a back seat to team goals.
Still, the Chargers' success over the past month is tied to Gordon.
The Chargers have certainly benefited from the big plays like the above-mentioned touchdown from Gordon, who now has 1,033 total yards (672 rushing) and 11 touchdowns (seven rushing) on the season.
Indeed, as Lynn explained, those types of plays aren't designed to end up in the end zone.
"It was a huge play because they brought blitz-zero and Philip knows exactly what to do with the ball," Lynn said, "He got it to Melvin on a checkdown, and it turned into a big play. Checkdowns are not designed for that, but it's what we did. I thought Melvin did an outstanding job on that play."
So, while the Rams will continue to be darlings in the No. 2 media market in the country, it might be time for the rest of the media to take immediate notice of Gordon and the Chargers.
Teams like the hot Chargers don't win six consecutive games on accident, and Gordon's five-game streak of 120-plus yards from scrimmage and a touchdown happens because he's pretty darn good.
Gordon has rendered his teammates speechless numerous times throughout the year, so they weren't surprised to see him go off once again. Overall, they couldn't be more thankful to have him on their side, knowing he's been instrumental to the team's success
"I've always known him as a hard runner that runs through tackles, but the way he catches the ball out of the backfield is unbelievable," Mike Pouncey said. "And it gives our offense so much stuff that we can throw at different teams; because both of our backs can catch the ball out of the backfield. It's awesome to have him as a running back. He makes us look good. And he made a lot of plays for our offense today."
While Gordon is crushing it, Austin Ekeler has been quiet.
During his past three games, Ekeler has been limited to 18 carries for 82 yards and six catches for 39 yards. He hasn't scored a touchdown since Week 5 and as ESPN's Mike Clay suggested, he's now no more than a handcuff and shaky flex pick. ...
A few final notes here. ... The Chargers will have to try to keep their winning streak going without the help of linebacker Denzel Perryman.
Perryman left Sunday's victory over the Raiders early with a knee injury and Ian Rapoport of NFL Network reports that he sustained an injury to his LCL. Rapoport adds that Perryman needs to have hamstring surgery as well and will miss the rest of the season as a result.
The Chargers essentially confirmed this by placing Perryman on IR Tuesday afternoon.
On a more positive note, Lynn told reporters on Wednesday that star pass-rusher Joey Bosa is going to practice today in a limited capacity. He may need some time to get in football shape. But very positive news.
QBs: Philip Rivers, Geno Smith
RBs: Melvin Gordon, Austin Ekeler, Justin Jackson, Detrez Newsome
WRs: Keenan Allen, Mike Williams, Tyrell Williams, Travis Benjamin, Geremy Davis, Dylan Cantrell
TEs: Antonio Gates, Hunter Henry, Virgil Green
Los Angeles RamsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 13 November 2018
As the team's official website reported, wide receiver Cooper Kupp has suffered a season-ending knee injury, head coach Sean McVay confirmed on Monday morning.
Kupp went down with the non-contact injury on a deep route early in the fourth quarter of Sunday's 36-31 victory over the Seahawks. He was able to walk off the field, but with heavy trainer assistance.
"It's a huge loss for our football team, he's such an important part of what we do and a great football player, a great person, and it's tough, but fortunately we've got guys that are ready to step up," McVay said.
"He's been a valuable piece of our team that we'll miss," Jared Goff said. "And like a lot of us, he's been through a lot this week. And he's a tough guy, [from] a tough family. And I know he'll come out stronger through it all."
A second-year receiver out of Eastern Washington, Kupp has been a heavy contributor to the Rams' offense since he was selected in the third round of last year's draft. He set a franchise rookie record with 62 receptions in 2017, also leading the team with 869 yards receiving.
This season, Kupp played an even heavier role in the offense with Los Angeles utilizing almost exclusively three wide receiver sets. He put up a career high nine receptions for 162 yards and two touchdowns in the Week 4 victory over the Vikings.
But injuries also plagued Kupp this season. He suffered a concussion during Los Angeles' Week 5 victory over Seattle. After recovering from that, he suffered a knee injury against Denver the following week. Kupp missed the Week 7 and Week 8 victories over San Francisco and Green Bay, respectively, before coming back to play in New Orleans in Week 9. He made five receptions for 89 yards with a touchdown in that contest.
Kupp's 2018 will end after a day where he reached 100 receptions in his young career. Kupp will finish the season with 40 receptions for 566 yards. He also currently leads the team with six touchdown receptions.
Robert Woods is expected to play a larger role in the slot and Josh Reynolds is expected to return to the starting lineup. He started in place of Kupp when he was sidelined because of the earlier knee sprain.
Worth noting, Woods reached a single-season career high in receiving yards on Sunday.
Woods' four receptions for 89 yards against the Seahawks brings his 2018 total to 832 yards receiving, which is a career high.
His previous best season receiving came last season, when Woods totaled 781 yards in just 12 games.
In addition, the Rams scored a pair of touchdowns using its tight ends against the Seahawks.
Second-year tight end Gerald Everett caught just the second touchdown pass to a tight end for the Rams this season. Everett's first-quarter touchdown was his first of the season, and third of his young career.
Starting tight end Tyler Higbee then caught a 10-yard touchdown pass from Goff to open the fourth quarter and put the Rams ahead 26-21 with a failed two-point conversion attempt.
Higbee entered Sunday's game with just eight receptions for 110 yards and one touchdown on the year.
Still, as ESPN.com's Alden Gonzalez noted, Kupp is a huge loss for a Rams receiver group that is already without Pharoh Cooper and Mike Thomas. The Rams easily led the NFL in snaps with three-receiver sets these last two years.
Also, Gonzalez is among those expecting increased roles for Higbee and Everett with Kupp out. ...
More to the point, ESPN's Mike Clay noted that with Kupp out in Weeks 7-8, Woods handled 14 targets on 64 routes, Cooks was at 13 targets on 65 routes and Reynolds (who scored twice in Week 8) managed six targets on 47 routes. Moving forward, Clay views Woods and Cooks as fringe WR1 options. Reynolds needs to be added and is on the flex radar. Everett has enjoyed a 10 percent target share since Week 5, and he also will benefit -- although it's hard to consider him a front-line fantasy player.
That said, the Rams designated Cooper to return from injured reserve Tuesday. The All-Pro will begin practicing this week.
Cooper went on injured reserve after undergoing surgery on the ankle he injured in the season opener against the Raiders.
“He’s good,” McVay told reporters Monday, via Myles Simmons of the team website. “My understanding is, he looks physically good. He’s moving around. He would physically be able to play right now.
“In terms of if we decide to activate him back, those are a couple things that we have to talk through with [general manager] Les [Snead], his staff, our coaching staff.”
Last season, Cooper led the league with 27.4 yards per kick return and finished second in punt return average at 12.5. ...
Running back Todd Gurley was once again a bright spot for the Rams offense, adding 160 yards of total offense against the Seahawks.
Gurley found the end zone one time in Week 10, extending his streak to 13 consecutive regular-season games with a touchdown.
Gurley extended his franchise-record touchdown streak on a 17-yard run late in the second quarter.
Gurley's 120 yards rushing against the Seahawks is his fifth game in 2018 tallying at least 100 yards. Gurley rushed for north of 100 yards six times in 2017. ...
One last note here. ... Monday night's game is being moved from Mexico City to Los Angeles due to poor field conditions in Estadio Azteca, the league confirmed on Tuesday.
That means it's back to Los Angeles for the Rams, who have been training for altitude in Colorado Springs.
QBs: Jared Goff, Sean Mannion, Brandon Allen
RBs: Todd Gurley, C.J. Anderson, John Kelly, Justin Davis
WRs: Brandin Cooks, Robert Woods, Josh Reynolds, JoJo Natson, KhaDarel Hodge
TEs: Tyler Higbee, Gerald Everett, Johnny Mundt
Miami DolphinsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 13 November 2018
As Associated Press sports writer Steven Wine reported, "Frank Gore walked slowly through the Dolphins locker room Monday, a slight hunch in his posture and a slight limp in his gait, which made him look like the 35-year-old running back he is.
"And he's among the healthy ones. ..."
The Dolphins (5-5) hobbled into their bye week thankful for the timing of the break. Head coach Adam Gase gave his players the rest of the week off, and said if his team had a game Sunday, finding 46 healthy players to fill the active roster would be a challenge.
"I don't even know if we'd have enough," Gase said.
"The bye week," gimpy left tackle Laremy Tunsil said, "came at the perfect time."
For one thing, the bye buys quarterback Ryan Tannehill an extra week to continue his recovery from an injured capsule in his throwing shoulder.
After a period of rest he began a throwing program Sunday.
Via Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald, head coach Adam Gase said Tannehill was able to throw without pain before Sunday's game.
"That was the start of their throwing progression after so many off," Gase said. "It seemed like it went well. It's not like he's out there throwing 60-yard throws. They have a progression of how they want to do it. They said it was a good first step and he felt good. So that's a positive."
Tannehill has missed the last five games with the injury. The best case scenario would be him returning against the Colts on Nov. 25, but first he'd have to get through some practices, which resume next Monday.
"Right now, they're trying to get to where every day, we're not getting him saying, 'I'm having pain,'" Gase said. "It's the progression of when we hit Wednesday [Nov. 21], hopefully, we can get it where they are saying, 'Let him practice. This is where you need to keep the throws at.' Or they just say, 'Let him go. He'll be all right.' I am waiting for those directives from those guys. If we can get through this week and he feels great every day, then we got a shot [for the Colts game]."
For now, he's on a strict pitch count, with the athletic training staff keeping the number and distance of throws well-regulated, as they hope to get him back for what could still be a playoff push.
"If we can get through this week and he feels great every day, then we've got a shot," Gase said of a possible Week 12 return.
That said, Wine believes the odds seem against it. He reminded readers that Tannehill was shut down after an earlier throwing program produced little progress, and missed his fifth game in a row Sunday when Miami was beaten at Green Bay.
I'll continue to watch for more and report back via Late-Breaking Update as developments warrant during the bye week.
Meanwhile, Brock Osweiler fell to 2-3 replacing Tannehill. Osweiler completed 23 of 37 passes for 213 yards with no touchdowns and the one interception. Danny Amendola had the most productive receiving day with seven catches for 72 yards.
Still, the Dolphins lost for the fifth time in seven games, their injury list grew longer.
Sidelined were cornerback Bobby McCain (concussion) and receivers DeVante Parker (shoulder) and Jakeem Grant (calf). Both receivers underwent MRIs on Monday, and their injuries are not believed to be season enders.
In fact, NFL Network's Ian Rapoport reported Monday afternoon that Grant did not tear his Achilles against the Packers, as was originally feared. Grant had been dealing with an injury in that area, and when he bounced off the field without putting any weight on his left leg, it didn't look good.
He's still expected to miss some time, but if he didn't suffer the big injury, it's better than it looked.
Parker has a sprained AC joint in his shoulder and is considered week-to-week, a source told NFL Network's Tom Pelissero. No surgery needed, but the news obviously isn't great.
Beyond that, by the final whistle in Green Bay, Miami was without five former first-round draft picks. That included starting tackles Tunsil and Ja'Wuan James, who both missed the game with knee injuries. There's a good chance they'll return against Indy.
Given the way the Dolphins' season is trending, it's surprising the Colts game could be pivotal in the AFC wild-card race.
"We're still in the hunt," receiver Kenny Stills said. "We need to get healthy."
Or healthier, at least.
Last week the Dolphins had 18 players on their injury report. But not Gore, the ageless veteran who ran for 90 yards in 13 carries Sunday. He became the first player to rush for 500 yards in 14 consecutive seasons, and hasn't missed a game since 2011.
In the Dolphins' locker room, that makes him an outlier. ...
According to ESPN's Adam Schefter, the Dolphins signed former Cowboys and Raiders wideout Brice Butler on Wednesday. ...
Worth noting. ... Kicker Jason Sanders tied the Dolphins rookie record with four field goals, Leonte Carroo recovered a fumble on a punt return and gained 14 yards on a run off a fake punt, and Brandon Bolden partially blocked a punt to highlight the day on special teams.
Sanders' field goals came from 35, 27, 47 and 40 yards and accounted for all the Dolphins scoring. He tied the rookie record first set by Dan Carpenter in 2008.
The Dolphins will return to action Nov. 25 against the Indianapolis Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium.
QBs: Ryan Tannehill, Brock Osweiler, David Fales, Luke Falk
RBs: Kenyan Drake, Kalen Ballage, Brandon Bolden, Senorise Perry
WRs: Kenny Stills, Danny Amendola, DeVante Parker, Leonte Carroo, Isaiah Ford, Brice Butler
TEs: Mike Gesicki, Durham Smythe, Nick O'Leary, A.J. Derby, MarQueis Gray
Minnesota VikingsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 13 November 2018
According to ESPN.com's Courtney Cronin, Dalvin Cook admitted he was nervous when testing out his hamstring ahead of the game against the Detroit Lions after not seeing the field since Week 4. After all, the Minnesota Vikings running back had gone through a similar on-field workout three weeks before only to discover his body wasn't responding the way he had hoped hours before kickoff against the Cardinals.
Not long after, Cook showed no signs of trepidation while breaking off the longest rush of his career, sprinting 70 yards down the visiting team's sideline on an inside zone run where he reached speeds of 22.07 mph, according to NFL Next Gen Stats. Stopped five yards shy of the end zone, it looked like Cook was finally able to put the nagging injury that has hampered his comeback story to bed.
"He actually said that he was thinking about his hamstring and only kept it in fourth gear," head coach Mike Zimmer said. "Hopefully there's another gear in there somewhere."
Cronin went on to note that Cook's return gives Minnesota hope that its offense will be able to routinely incorporate an explosive element it has been without. With more time to get back to full health over the bye week, the Vikings will finally be able to utilize their running back tandem beginning in Week 11 in ways they haven't been able to this season.
And fantasy owners with Cook on their rosters might finally get some return on their investment.
But has Latavius Murray earned more of a role going forward after successfully covering for Cook during the second-year man's absence?
Minnesota showed glimpses of what might be coming against the Lions with both Cook and Murray on the field. On the fourth play of the Vikings' first drive, Cook motioned out to the slot while Murray was lined up in the backfield. Cook caught a 4-yard pass from Kirk Cousins that nearly broke the game open.
"There was one other run that I thought he was going to pop that he just got tripped on," head coach Mike Zimmer said. "He has got a chance to hit home runs. I think it was really good for him to get out there and get some game-time action. When you haven't played in six weeks and you haven't practiced all that much I think he will continue to get better. See some of the cuts a little bit better as he gets going."
The screen game is an area the Vikings' offense could benefit most from Cook's return given they haven't been as active in utilizing running back screens in his absence. Minnesota has gained 141 passing yards on screen plays this season, according to ESPN Stats and Information. Of those 141 yards, 22 have been when a running back was targeted.
According to ESPN's data, those 22 yards, which rank 31st in the NFL, belong to Cook alone.
While Murray has 18 catches for 132 yards in nine games, none has come off screen plays. Minnesota hasn't been able to generate much in the screen game from the rest of its running back group, either.
In limited action this season, Cook showed that's still an area where he can be a difference-maker, catching a 24-yard slant in Green Bay and totaling four catches for 20 yards against the Lions.
"He's dynamic with the football in his hands," Cousins said. "We're going to try to find ways to get him the football. It could be a toss, it could be a handoff, it could be a draw, it could be a screen. And then even third downs. When he's out there on third down, I think you could go back and watch the all-22, watch the tape and see that he's probably a potential target there to move the chains and get us a first down on third down as well. That's something also we can go back and look at."
In his return, Cook exceeded his expected pitch count by logging 28 plays and finished as the team's leading rusher with 10 carries for 89 yards.
A healthy Cook will allow offensive coordinator John DeFilippo flexibility with elements of his playbook he hasn't been able to dial up just yet. How Minnesota will choose to execute the roles between Cook and Murray will begin to unfold in Chicago this Sunday, but given the depths of their different skill sets, there's reason to believe both backs can make important contributions on a regular basis.
Murray has 20 rushing touchdowns in goal-to-go situations since the start of 2016, the second most in the NFL behind Todd Gurley. That may be an area the Vikings' offense would benefit most from having Murray in the game.
And with a healthy Cook back in action, Minnesota will finally be able to lean on its rushing tandem.
Also of interest. ... Cousins and his skill players have been quick to point out that stats, no matter how good they look on paper, don't tell the whole story.
Offensively, the line has been a constant work in progress and hindered production on the ground until Murray broke through in Week 5 with the team's first rushing TD of the season. Those issues have forced the Vikings to rely on their passing attack, which is one of the best in the league. It's no coincidence that Cousins and Adam Thielen are on pace for record-setting seasons based on how aggressive the Vikings have been through the air, which is something expected to remain a constant throughout the second half.
Thielen is setting team and league records every week and has been the most consistent part of the Vikings' attack with a record eight consecutive 100-yard receiving games to start the season. Leading the league in receiving and on pace to break the single-season record for receptions, Thielen is a major part of what Minnesota does offensively, and DeFilippo keeps finding new, creative ways to get the ball to him.
Thielen's ability in the slot has dismantled defenses all season.
As Cronin put it, "When Thielen has the chance to show what he can do with his footwork and route running when facing man coverage, it's usually game over for his opponent. ..."
Cousins' ability to maneuver at times and get rid of the ball quickly has helped the Vikings rise above tough situations when the O-line has come up short, but he also has struggled with pocket awareness and trying to save himself from incurring negative plays. Many will place the blame on Cousins in those instances, and some of that is a fair assessment, but overcoming issues with the offensive line is an ongoing process.
As for Stefon Diggs. ... Appearing on NFL Network insider Ian Rapoport's RapSheet and Friends podcast, the wideout (who practiced Monday with the team after sitting out the Week 9 tilt against Detroit with a rib injury), said: "I know I will play" this week. ...
Diggs was on the practice field Wednesday; I'll follow up via Late-Breaking Update in coming days. ...
As ESPN's Mike Clay noted this week, Kyle Rudolph sits 11th in fantasy points among tight ends this season, but he hasn't posted a weekly finish better than 12th since Week 3. In fact, he has finished 18th or worse in each of the past four weeks. Opportunity is not the issue. What is? An 0-for-5 hit rate on end zone targets.
Clay went on to point out that Rudolph is actually tied for the league lead in end zone targets during the four weeks and is the only player with three-plus who hasn't scored at least once. Expect back-end TE1 numbers from Rudolph moving forward. ...
And finally. ... In case you missed it last week, the Vikings signed former Lions running back Ameer Abdullah and waived running back Roc Thomas last week. Thomas was added back to the practice squad after clearing waivers.
QBs: Kirk Cousins, Trevor Siemian, Kyle Sloter
RBs: Dalvin Cook, Latavius Murray, Ameer Abdullah
WRs: Adam Thielen, Stefon Diggs, Laquon Treadwell, Aldrick Robinson, Brandon Zylstra, Chad Beebe
TEs: Kyle Rudolph, David Morgan, Tyler Conklin
New England PatriotsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 13 November 2018
As ESPN.com's Mike Reiss pointed out, from the opening kickoff of the game, when they surrendered a 58-yard return, the New England Patriots didn't look like themselves against the Tennessee Titans.
It was a bury-the-football type of game. The Patriots were outplayed on offense, defense and special teams, Bill Belichick was outcoached by his former player Mike Vrabel, and they had multiple players leave the game with injuries. And it might have buried their bigger-picture hopes of earning home-field advantage in the AFC playoffs.
Having entered on a six-game winning streak, the Patriots fall to 7-3, while the team they have been keeping pace with -- the Kansas City Chiefs -- improved to 9-1. The Patriots have the head-to-head tiebreaker over the Chiefs, so they would need to win out, and hope the Chiefs lose at least two games, to earn the top spot.
The odds of that happening aren't favorable.
The Chiefs play the Rams next weekend in Mexico, followed by their bye. Then they finish against the Raiders (away), Ravens (home), Chargers (home), Seahawks (road) and Raiders (home).
Meanwhile, the Patriots limp into their bye, and then face the Jets (road), Vikings (home), Dolphins (road), Steelers (road), Bills (home) and Jets (home).
Of course, after what unfolded Sunday when the Titans whipped the Patriots for a thorough 60 minutes, the top seed is the least of the Patriots' worries. When Belichick pulls quarterback Tom Brady with 7:06 remaining in the fourth quarter in favor of Brian Hoyer, you know things are out of hand.
For the record, Brady suffered through his worst game of the season, completing just 21 of 41 passes for 254 yards and no touchdowns.
It was the second time in three weeks he was held without a touchdown and has just one in that span. At one point with Brady at the helm the Patriots went seven straight drives without registering a single point, which is the longest stretch without points for New England since 2015 in a loss to Philadelphia.
"Winning football takes a lot of things, takes a lot of good performance by a lot of people, and losing football is the exact opposite of that," Brady said. "Not that we do this, but in the NFL it's hard to win and you can't expect just to show up and win. That doesn't give the other team enough credit. Today we just played a bad game, and you see what happens.
"Hopefully there's more urgency as we go forward. Our whole season's ahead of us, and we'll see what we do with it."
The game was a slap in the face to the Patriots, a reminder that if they don't play with energy from the outset, get off blocks more consistently, tackle better, coach better, protect Brady more consistently and -- fill in the blank of any part of the game, really -- they are capable of losing to anyone.
"You'd better learn from a game like this, because the weeks get harder and harder," receiver Julian Edelman said. "You tip your hat to them, but we've got to fix it because this is when you start separating or you start falling behind."
It is also when injuries can start piling up.
The bye week comes at a good time for the team, as starting left tackle Trent Brown (back), tight end Dwayne Allen (knee) and Edelman (ankle) all left the game in the second half and didn't return. Brown and Edelman don't appear to be long-range concerns, but the run of ailments probably contributed to pulling Brady.
Entering the game, Brady said the hope was that the Patriots would empty the tank and go into their bye on a high note.
"Instead," Reiss summed up, "they turned in a forgettable performance, a battered team that looked tired and in need of a break. ..."
Meanwhile, as NFL.com's Nick Shook reminded readers, Josh Gordon has made his career -- no matter how many interruptions it has seen -- on a foundation of having excellent hands.
He can catch passes at all levels of the field and win a jump ball over pretty much any defender, and when combined with his speed and overall athleticism, he makes for one tough cover on a typical Sunday. This is precisely what makes what happened in Sunday's loss to Tennessee (and the initial information disseminated afterward) so unusual.
First, let's set the record straight: No matter what you read, Gordon did not drop eight passes Sunday.
According to Shook, a review of Gordon's 12 targets show only two passes that can be fairly counted as drops, and they both came within the same minute in the first quarter. The first was on a throw attempted by Tom Brady down the sideline, which Gordon timed properly and simply saw it go right through his hands. The second was on a quick slant on third and short, a very catchable pass that again went through Gordon's hands.
Gordon entered the game with a finger injury suffered just a week ago that required popping it back into place. He went with a usual glove early in the game before buddy taping it to a neighboring finger, per the CBS broadcast. It seemed to help, at least somewhat, as Gordon caught two tight-window passes over the middle later in the game.
New England didn't allow the drops to change its game plan, either, feeding the receiver nine times in the first half. After the game, he downplayed any effect the finger injury might have had on his performance.
"My hand's fine," Gordon told reporters after New England's 34-10 defeat, via Boston.com. "Physically, I feel good. Blessed to walk away with it unharmed, so thankful for that."
The true explanation for Gordon's odd 12-target, four-reception stat line, though, was good defense -- both in covering Gordon, and pressuring Brady.
As Shook pointed out, Adoree' Jackson did a remarkable job of blanketing Gordon when the wideout was targeted, shielding him from getting a good shot at a couple of would-be catches, and coming over the shoulder of Gordon for a pass break-up early in the fourth on Gordon's 12th and final target. And more importantly, Tennessee's pass rush harassed Brady all afternoon, throwing him out of rhythm and forcing a healthy amount of passes that fell well short of their intended targets. Three of Gordon's targets were such throws.
"It's tough for me to give a good perspective because I'm not looking back and seeing the defensive line, but I think that's partially due to the reason, due to the fact that I felt a little rush out there," Gordon said.
A sped-up Patriots offense was uncomfortable, producing an unexpected, blowout loss. But Gordon -- who recorded four catches for 81 yards -- shouldn't shoulder much of the blame.
Other notes of interest. ... The offense received a boost from the return of Sony Michel. The rookie running back had been on the shelf since suffering a knee injury on the first play of the second quarter in New England's 38-31 win over Chicago in Week 7. ESPN's Adam Schefter reported earlier in the week that Michel was on track to play against the Titans provided that he had a good week of practice.
He was limited each day and listed as questionable but was able to go. Michel was largely irrelevant, however, as the Patriots fell behind early and he never got untracked. He finished with 11 carries for 31 yards.
The Patriots were once again without Rob Gronkowski, who made the trip to Nashville with his teammates but was not able to go due to ankle and back injuries.
Gronkowski has now missed three of the last four games, but there were some indications that perhaps the team was taking a cautious approach with the All-Pro tight end. With the Patriots set to enjoy the bye, it's possible that Belichick decided to play it safe and offer Gronkowski an extra week to prepare himself for the stretch drive.
While the Patriots expect to get Gronkowski back in the lineup after their bye, it appears they have other injury concerns to sort out at tight end as well.
Mike Giardi of NFL Media reports that Allen does not need surgery, but he's expected to miss a few weeks as a result of the injury.
Jacob Hollister is the only other tight end on the active roster. He's played 43 offensive snaps in the four games he's played this season. ...
Edelman was one of the few bright spots on offense but even that came with an asterisk. He finished with nine catches for 104 yards on 12 targets. He was the only consistent performer on that side of the ball, but as noted above, Edelman limped off the field.
He was taken to the Patriots locker room with an ankle injury, but Schefter reported on Monday the issue is not considered serious and Edelman is not expected miss much, if any, time. Edelman will be monitored, but outlook for now appears positive.
One final note on the passing game: Chris Hogan has been virtually non-existent recently. Last week against the Packers he was targeted twice and failed to register a catch. On Sunday he was only targeted once and again went without a catch. On a day where the passing game struggled, Hogan wasn't able to pick up the slack.
Brady and the Patriots dropped to 14-3 in their game before the bye week. The last time the Patriots had lost in such a situation was back in 2005 in a 28-20 loss at Denver.
And finally. ... The team released RB Kenjon Barner on Tuesday.
QBs: Tom Brady, Brian Hoyer, Danny Etling
RBs: Sony Michel, James White, Rex Burkhead, James Develin
WRs: Julian Edelman, Chris Hogan, Cordarrelle Patterson, Phillip Dorsett
TEs: Rob Gronkowski, Dwayne Allen
New Orleans SaintsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 13 November 2018
The fantasy goodness continues to flow from the offensive well as the Saints (8-1) scored on each of their first nine possessions Sunday in a 51-14 rout of the Cincinnati Bengals -- -- making them just the third team to do so since 2001, according to ESPN Stats and Information.
As ESPN.com's Mike Triplett suggested, the only thing that stopped them was the clock. Backup quarterback Teddy Bridgewater started taking a knee after the two-minute warning.
Apparently the Saints' offense was just getting warmed up during the first half of the 2018 season.
They scored touchdowns in each of their first five possessions Sunday to take a 35-7 halftime lead. And they have now scored a total of 96 points over the past two weeks to leapfrog the Kansas City Chiefs as the top-scoring team in the NFL this season (36.7 points per game).
"We just found our swag, we found our stride," said running back Alvin Kamara, who scored two more touchdowns to bring his season total to 14. "This team is persistent, consistent, we take advantage of opportunity. The schemes that Sean [Payton] and those guys upstairs, the offensive coordinator [Pete Carmichael Jr.] put in place, we execute. We execute and we make sure we handle our business, from top to bottom, no matter who's in.
"Everybody knows their role and plays their role. Nobody's trying to one-up each other."
The Saints have now won eight straight games as they head toward a showdown with the reigning Super Bowl champion Philadelphia Eagles in New Orleans next week.
But they took it up a few notches on Sunday.
Drew Brees was 22 of 25 passing for 265 yards and three touchdowns -- including two to receiver Michael Thomas. Mark Ingram had 162 yards from scrimmage and a touchdown. And Kamara had 102 yards from scrimmage, along with his two TDs.
Ingram, Kamara and Thomas were all throwing up "Xs" in the end zone during the first half as an homage to receiver Dez Bryant, who tore his Achilles tendon Friday just two days after joining the team.
The funny thing is that Payton was concerned about his team getting off to a slow start since this was their first 1 p.m. ET kickoff since Week 3. He made it a big point of emphasis all week.
"Fortunately we were able to do that and kept the momentum going," Payton said.
Payton refused to call this the "perfect game" -- even though it included defensive contributions such as interceptions by safety Marcus Williams and Eli Apple and four sacks.
But when asked the same question, Brees said, "Well, we would take that every time, I think. Especially when you get touchdowns. But we have high expectations for ourselves."
"Obviously the first half really set the tone -- the first drive. It was a good way to establish our presence at the line of scrimmage," Brees said. "I think so far it's our most complete game from start to finish. Just both sides of the ball, really executing well and taking advantage of opportunities."
According to Triplett, the only negative is that standout left tackle Terron Armstead left the game with a shoulder injury in the first half, and is now expected to miss the next three to four weeks. But the team didn't miss a beat when veteran backup Jermon Bushrod entered the game.
Whatever the case, the 35 points was the most the Saints have scored in the first half of a road game since 2003, according to ESPN Stats and Information. But it was the second straight game where they reached 35 before halftime. (They did the same in last week's 45-35 home win against the Los Angeles Rams.)
Triplett added the Saints are getting used to hot starts. They have now scored a touchdown on their opening possession in six of nine games this season.
Brees reached 21 TD passes on the season in the first half -- and 509 for his career, moving him ahead of Brett Favre for second place on the NFL's all-time list (Peyton Manning is first at 539).
Kamara now has nine multi-TD games in his two-year career. Only Todd Gurley has more since the start of the 2017 season. ...
Also of interest. ... The Saints moved quickly to fill the spot previously held by Bryant by signing veteran wide receiver Brandon Marshall on Monday.
Marshall, who previously spent time with the Seattle Seahawks, joins his seventh team on his 13-year career, a span where he totaled 970 catches for 12,351 yards and 83 touchdowns.
In seven games (two starts) with the Seahawks this season, the 34-year-old Marshall produced 11 catches for 136 yards and a touchdown before his release in October.
The Saints signaled last week their desire for a veteran wide receiver opposite Thomas, who leads the team in receiving. And Marshall was among of trio of receivers, which included Bryant, brought in for a workout.
"[Marshall] moved around well," Payton said during his Monday conference call. "He's smart, he's experienced. He's someone, again, that he's been in a number of systems and overall had a good workout. He's got good length and size. He's another big target. We'll see how it goes here this week and what our plans are."
Bryant was expected to fill the void of a dependable No. 2 receiver before going down with the season-ending injury a day after signing a one-year deal.
Now, it's Marshall's turn to help out. ...
And finally. ... Payton confirmed he smashed a fire alarm inside his team's locker room before Sunday's victory at Paul Brown Stadium, saying, "I just needed the noise to stop."
Fire alarms had been going off throughout the stadium for an estimated 10 minutes in the hours leading up to the game.
"Clearly we were having issues with the fire alarm at a time relative to 20 minutes, 30 minutes before we're supposed to be out. And it continued, it had gone on for 10 minutes. And I just needed the noise to stop," Payton said. "And I gladly will take care of the repair cost. And I consider the Brown family (Bengals ownership) and that organization as close allies and people we have a lot of respect for, the same way with Marvin (Lewis). And it was just something that had gone on -- and in order for us as we got ready for the game, I thought that was important."
Payton said it was not a motivational tactic. And he made a sarcastic comment about the damaged alarm, first reported by NOLA.com on Sunday, being a "huge story." The coach also said calling the alarm "destroyed" would be "a little sensationalist."
It's unclear if Payton will face any sort of punishment aside from the repair cost.
The Bengals said in a statement, "We are aware of the situation and have been in touch with the authorities, but have nothing more on it at this time."
QBs: Drew Brees, Teddy Bridgewater, Taysom Hill
RBs: Alvin Kamara, Mark Ingram, Dwayne Washington
WRs: Michael Thomas, Ted Ginn, Tre'quan Smith, Keith Kirkwood, Austin Carr
TEs: Ben Watson, Josh Hill, Dan Arnold
New York GiantsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 13 November 2018
As ESPN.com's Jordan Raanan put it, "Eli Manning has a little something left in the tank. ..."
The embattled quarterback led the game-winning touchdown drive in a 27-23 win over the San Francisco 49ers on Monday night.
Manning hit Sterling Shepard for the decisive score in the final minute. It allowed the Giants to end a five-game skid, and perhaps extended Manning's run as the Giants' starting quarterback, a job he has held since midway through the 2004 season. He was forced to sit out a single game last season.
It was the 36th game-winning drive of Manning's career, but just his second in the past two seasons. He also did it last year against the Kansas City Chiefs.
Only Drew Brees and Ben Roethlisberger (40 each) have had more game-winning drives since 2004.
"It doesn't get old," Manning said. "It's fun. It's fun playing in those games, and having a two-minute drive to win it. Those are the situations you want to be in. You want to have a chance. Obviously, you'd love to have a two-score lead with a little time and run it out or whatnot, but you prepare and practice for those two-minute drives to go win football games.
"To come through is exciting. And the team needs that. The defense needs that, to know that we can do that; offense, we needed that for ourselves, saying, 'Hey, we can win.' If we get close in games, we can go win football games. And we just had to do it."
This one came just in time.
Monday night might have been Manning's last stand. He was struggling. So were the Giants (2-7). As Newark Star-Ledger reporter Ryan Dunleavy said during a pre-game appearance with the FootballDiehards on SiriusXM Fantasy Sports and NFL Radio, had Manning played poorly, his starting job was likely in jeopardy.
Head coach Pat Shurmur would only guarantee publicly that Manning would start against the 49ers. Nothing more.
When asked about his future, Manning said: "I am happy to be playing football."
This kind of performance, especially late in the game, was meaningful for Manning and the Giants. They have heard the buzz throughout a woeful first half of the season.
"It frustrates me when people go at him. I see that from the media, but you wouldn't want a better guy with the ball in his hands," Shepard said. "You saw what he did on that last drive. When we need him, he's going to come through for us."
Then came one more little piece of magic from an aging quarterback who hasn't shown many signs of life the past few seasons. Manning hit Evan Engram down the right sideline for 31 yards with more than two minutes remaining. He later hit Saquon Barkley for 23.
"[Told him] the same thing I always tell him. 'Take me home, 10,'" said wide receiver Odell Beckham, who caught a pair of touchdown passes in the contest.
The game winner came when Manning hit Shepard just past the goal line near the pylon. Shepard made a leaping catch with 53 seconds remaining to put the Giants ahead.
It was a vintage Manning drive reminiscent of the prime of his career.
"After we went and scored, I came back on the sideline and was like, 'Man, you been doing this since I was like 12,'" Barkley said. "That's Eli. When he's in those moments, he's a heck of a player.
"When you're around him you know why. When you're young and you're watching TV you're like, 'Wow. He's just making those plays.' But his craft that he works on. Such a smart player. Such a hard worker -- on and off the field. In these positions he just thrives."
Manning went 6-of-9 for 69 yards on the final drive. It came in his most productive game of the season, and put to rest a long two weeks in which he faced constant questions about his future.
"It's more just getting asked about it," Manning said. "It doesn't bother me what people say, but just having to answer questions about it. You wanna go out there and play football. That's what I wanna do. I wanna be with my team and prepare and practice and go play football. And obviously get wins and feel good about what we're doing."
Manning had eight touchdown passes in his first eight games. He had three on Monday night. A slight glimpse of light appeared, even if only for a second, fresh off the bye week.
Manning finished 19-of-31 passing for 188 yards, including the much-needed game winner.
"It was just time. It was just time," Beckham said. "Like I said, we've been in many close games, so we knew how to lose them, and we each had to find a way to win it, and we did."
Worth noting. ... The Giants entered the game converting just 40 percent of their red zone trips into TDs. They missed a golden opportunity for one late in the first half. On a third down from the 3, the 49ers left Beckham unguarded in the slot but Manning stuck with a run play to Barkley that gained only 1 yard. New York settled for a field goal that tied the game at 10. ...
Beckham accounted for nearly 40 percent of the Giants' receiving yards (and two of the three touchdowns) in San Francisco.
Beckham, however, said after the victory -- just the Giants second of the season -- he left a lot of plays on the field, Kevin Patra of NFL.com reports.
"I'm not disappointed or upset, but I am a little... I felt like I could've done better," Beckham said after the win. "There were routes that I feel like (Richard Sherman) Sherm was jumping on. I was seeing him break and I'm trying to get out of my break because he's already breaking before I am. So there were just some plays that I felt like I left out there that, like I always tell y'all, I never forget them."
Beckham was asked if getting out of the NFL's cellar with a win salvaged the season.
"Salvage? Hmm, we're working on seven more games," he said. "We're working on Tampa. We'll see what happens after that. So I don't know about salvaging. I wasn't joking when I said we've got to win eight games. That's obviously the goal. I don't come here just to line up and lose, right? We come here to win these games. So all we could, like I said, is worry about Tampa."
"It was just time. It was just time. We've been in many close games. We knew how to lose them. We just had to find a way to win and we did."
Next up, the Giants host Tampa Bay on Sunday. It's an opportunity for Manning and the offense to build on this week's momentum.
QBs: Eli Manning, Davis Webb, Kyle Lauletta
RBs: Saquon Barkley, Wayne Gallman
WRs: Odell Beckham, Sterling Shepard, Russell Shepard, Jawill Davis, Bennie Fowler, Corey Coleman, Cody Latimer
TEs: Evan Engram, Rhett Ellison, Jerell Adams
New York JetsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 13 November 2018
Todd Bowles remains coach of the New York Jets despite the team's struggles that included an embarrassing loss to the Buffalo Bills on Sunday.
Bowles' job status appeared extremely shaky after the Jets' 41-10 loss, their fourth consecutive defeat that dropped the team to 3-7. Fans at MetLife Stadium booed the team throughout and chanted for the Jets to fire Bowles.
That sentiment was echoed by many fans on social media and sports radio Monday morning. Several published stories also speculated that the time to make a change would be now with the Jets heading into a bye-week break.
Instead, owner Christopher Johnson opted to not fire Bowles. The two were scheduled to have their usual weekly meeting later Monday, but no change was expected.
Bowles says the Jets are evaluating everything this week, including his staff, the lineup and himself.
"I don't worry about my job," Bowles told reporters after his fourth consecutive loss. "I don't talk about my job. I just try and get to the next game. It's a business when you sign up for it."
It would be out of character for the Jets (3-7) to make an in-season change -- they haven't done it since the 1970s -- but the frustration has reached the highest levels of the organization.
It was etched on Johnson's face as he emerged from the locker room, declining to stop for reporters.
"I'm not going to talk today," he said, not breaking stride.
The lack of energy on the Jets' bench, noted during the CBS telecast, was noticed by the team's hierarchy, which might not bode well for Bowles.
Bowles received a two-year contract extension (though 2020) after a 5-11 finish last season, the first year of a major rebuild. Going into 2018, Johnson said there's no playoff mandate for Bowles, indicating he'd base his evaluation on whether the team is showing progress.
As ESPN.com's Rich Cimini understated: "This isn't progress: In the past four games, the Jets have been outscored 115-43, having lost to backup quarterbacks Brock Osweiler and Matt Barkley."
"We stunk it up as coaches, we stunk it up as players," Bowles said.
With Bowles keeping his job, he could shake up his coaching staff during the bye week. The obvious target would be offensive coordinator Jeremy Bates, whose unit has scored only two touchdowns in its past 39 possessions. If he makes a switch, Bowles could turn to offensive-line coach Rick Dennison, who has coordinator experience.
The downside to firing Bates is that he's the only coach on staff with a quarterback background, and that could hurt Sam Darnold's development.
And make no mistake, upper management will be basing all decisions, in part, on what's best for their quarterback, who didn't play Sunday because of a strained foot. The organization wants to create an environment that will help Darnold succeed once he returns to the lineup, which could be Nov. 25 against the New England Patriots.
Josh McCown, 39, filling in for Darnold, struggled in his first outing in nearly a year. He completed only 17 of 34 passes for 135 yards and two interceptions.
Cimini went on to note, the latest loss was embarrassing on many levels.
Facing Barkley, the Bills' fourth starting quarterback, the Jets allowed five touchdowns to a team that had scored only eight in its previous nine games. The Jets got burned on a fake punt, allowed a touchdown pass to an eligible tackle and committed three holding penalties -- on the same play.
As bad as it was -- the Jets were outgained in the first quarter, 186-1 -- the players backed Bowles. His most vocal supporter was safety Jamal Adams.
"T Bowles is not the problem," Adams said. "I'm going to ride T Bowles 'til the end. It doesn't matter. I don't care what the fans say. It's T Bowles, man. I'm supporting my coach through thick and thin."
Bowles was angry after the game, telling the players they played "like s---," several players said. Afterward, he didn't duck accountability, saying, "We didn't coach well in any aspect of the game."
Bowles never shows much emotion, but he looked and sounded defeated after the game.
"We'll take a hard look at everything this week and try to recap and re-evaluate everything that we're doing, and try to put together a win when we get back," he said.
Bottom line? The bye couldn't have come at a better time.
One last note here. ... Bowles said it is too early to know if Darnold will be ready for New England in Week 12. He confirms that Darnold is out of the walking boot.
I'll follow up via Late-Breaking Update this week if/when developments warrant.
QBs: Sam Darnold, Josh McCown
RBs: Elijah McGuire, Trenton Cannon
WRs: Quincy Enunwa, Jermaine Kearse, Robby Anderson, Andre Roberts
TEs: Chris Herndon, Jordan Leggett, Eric Tomlinson
Oakland RaidersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 13 November 2018
Derek Carr rolled to his right, felt pressure from Melvin Ingram and threw the ball at the feet of Jalen Richard when no one was open.
As the Associated Press noted, the problem for the Oakland Raiders was that play came on fourth down.
Far more went into the fifth straight loss for the Raiders than that one botched play in the fourth quarter of a 20-6 loss to the Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday, but it was symbolic of how frustrating things have become for the Raiders.
"We had a play designed for Jalen versus their coverage and they just covered it well," Carr said. "I wish I had a better answer but they did. Stuff happens."
Plenty of bad has happened to the Raiders this season in the first year of Jon Gruden's second stint as coach of the franchise. Star pass rusher Khalil Mack was traded a week before the start of the season, No. 1 receiver Amari Cooper was dealt away last month and the losses keep mounting.
The Raiders (1-8) are off to the third-worst start in franchise history, trailing only the 0-10 mark in Carr's rookie season of 2014 and an 0-13 mark in 1962 -- one year before Al Davis joined the franchise as coach and then owner.
"This will be a year that a lot of us will never forget," Gruden said. "It's painful. It's really hard. It's painful. It's going to be hard to sleep again, hard to get up in the morning."
The stretch the Raiders are currently on is as bad as any they've had in 59 seasons as a professional team. They have lost five straight by at least 14 points for the first time ever and are one 14-point loss shy of tying the single-season record for the most by any team since the merger.
Oakland has been outscored 75-9 in the past nine quarters and was held without a TD in consecutive games for the first time since 2012.
About the only thing left this season is determining whether the Raiders will have the No. 1 pick in next year's draft.
Still, a day after Raiders owner Mark Davis gave him a vote of confidence, calling his hiring as coach the "endgame" for him, Jon Gruden reciprocated the feeling.
In a wide-ranging interview with ESPN after Sunday's loss, Davis accepted blame for the team's poor season.
"I feel Mark's pain," Gruden said Monday in his weekly media conference.
"I talk to Mark after every game and these are unpleasant conversations. It's tough, man, we want to win. We want to win. We also want to do right by this organization and some of these decisions have been really tough but I want to deliver for him and his family, certainly, and this organization and right now it's tough. But it's great to have him support me and I appreciate it. But I feel the same way he does -- I just want to win."
Making things tougher for Gruden to win is the injury bug. Again.
As ESPN.com's Paul Gutierrez notes, receivers Martavis Bryant and Jordy Nelson both suffered knee injuries against the Chargers, with Bryant suffering a PCL injury that may keep him out "for some time," Gruden said, while Nelson's knee is being further evaluated. It was described as a quad injury on Sunday.
"We'll knock on Marcell Ateman's door," Gruden said of the seventh-round rookie receiver. "Perhaps get him an opportunity to step forward. We'll bring in some receivers to work out tomorrow and if we need to make a roster spot, we will."
Gruden praised the play of veteran Brandon LaFell, who caught four passes for 47 yards, and Seth Roberts, who had three catches for 39 yards.
"Hopefully Jordy's O.K.," Gruden said. "If not, Marcell will get a great opportunity against Arizona. ..."
As ESPN's Mike Clay notes, Bryant has been fourth in the pecking order at wide receiver. LaFell, Nelson and Roberts will continue to operate as the top-three receivers, but none is a good fantasy option.
It's worth noting, however, that the team is activating receiver Saeed Blacknall from the practice squad, leaving some question about Nelson's status when the Raiders travel to Arizona to face the Cardinals this weekend.
I'll follow up on Nelson's status via Late-Breaking Update in coming days. ...
For what its' worth, Davis said Gruden had a 10-year contract for a reason.
"Jon's going to be the stability here," Davis said. "Jon's going nowhere. That's just the way it is."
Gruden found solace in that.
"The Oakland Raiders, we've had a lot of change in this organization for the last 15, 20 years, and change is tough," said Gruden, referencing the nine coaches Oakland has employed - Bill Callahan, Norv Turner, Shell, Lane Kiffin, Tom Cable, Hue Jackson, Dennis Allen, Tony Sparano and Jack Del Rio -- since Gruden was traded to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2002.
"Change is tough on everybody. I'll put a big exclamation point on that. I thought there were some really good signs yesterday, some signs that really excited me and I'm really happy to be back and I know we've got a lot to prove and I'm sure we have our critics out there but that's all part of this."
QBs: Derek Carr, AJ McCarron
RBs: Doug Martin, Jalen Richard, DeAndre Washington
WRs: Jordy Nelson, Marcell Ateman, Seth Roberts, Keon Hatcher
TEs: Jared Cook, Derek Carrier, Lee Smith
Philadelphia EaglesCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 13 November 2018
As ESPN.com's Tim McManus noted, Golden Tate trotted onto the field three plays into the opening series Sunday night against the Dallas Cowboys, drawing cheers from a Lincoln Financial Field crowd that gave him a boisterous welcome during pregame introductions just minutes earlier.
Carson Wentz went right to him, flicking a wide receiver screen to Tate on third-and-9 that gained 7 yards, a couple short of the sticks. No conversion there, but it appeared coach Doug Pederson was going to actively try to get the ball in Tate's hands and allow him to create after the catch -- Tate's specialty.
Instead, he was used sparingly.
Tate played just 18 snaps (29 percent) and finished with two catches for 19 yards on four targets in a damaging 27-20 loss to Dallas. He also served as the punt returner and had two returns for 11 yards.
"I guess the short answer would be, yes," said Pederson, when asked if Tate could have handled more and been more involved in the offense. "We had a certain number of plays for him and wanted to get him into the game and just get him some touches. ... As we go, we'll continue to increase the things we do with him."
In case you missed it, Tate was acquired from the Detroit Lions for a third-round pick at the Oct. 30 trade deadline. There is a brand new system to absorb in a short amount of time -- offensive coordinator Mike Groh likened it to learning a new language -- so it is understandable that Tate was not a constant on the field in his first game as an Eagle, even if there was a bye week to help with the transition.
The Eagles, though, don't have the luxury of time to ease him in. As McManus argued, the offense has been mired in a funk for the better part of the 2018 season and is currently ranked 21st in the NFL with 22 points per game, down a full touchdown from last season's average. Their inability to crank it up against the woozy Cowboys dropped them to 4-5 on the season with a trip to New Orleans up next.
"I wasn't sure [if I was going to have a bigger role]," said Tate, who tore the Cowboys up for eight catches, 132 yards and two touchdowns in Week 4 for Detroit. "The flow of the game never really dictated -- they had a light package. Just whenever my name was called or number was called, I was going to go in there and give it my best."
The 30-year-old Tate isn't exactly a long-term project, either. He is in the final year of his contract and is scheduled to be a free agent this offseason. Depending on what kind of market shapes up for him, it might be hard for the cap-strapped Eagles to re-sign him. They gave up a third-round pick for eight games of Tate's services. Seven now.
In a show of creativity, Pederson did dial up a lateral from tight end Zach Ertz to Tate, but overall the usage of Tate in his debut was underwhelming.
With the team running out of chances and the clock on Tate's time here already ticking, that must change, and fast.
"It's not easy getting traded in the middle of the year, trying to learn a new offense," Ertz said. "I think it's almost baby steps at the beginning and then we're going to always increase his role. You can't keep a guy like that off the field. He's a guy that has a much different skill set than a lot of us. He's a guy that can make people miss in space, get a lot of yards after the catch, and that's what we need."
The Eagles (4-5) visit New Orleans (8-1) next. Given the rate at which the Saints are scoring, Philadelphia best get that offense dialed up. ...
On a more positive note. ... The Eagles spread the ball around quite in a bit on offense. A 51-yard bomb to Nelson Agholor set up the latter of their two second-half scores. Completions to wide receivers Jordan Matthews and Alshon Jeffery set up the first one.
Agholor finished with five receptions for 89 yards, while Jeffery added four receptions for 48 yards. Matthews had three receptions for 40 yards and running back Josh Adams led the way on the ground with 47 yards on seven attempts.
In a theme that has become familiar for the Eagles this season, Ertz had an outstanding day in the loss.
In addition to his two touchdown receptions, Ertz totaled 14 receptions for 145 yards. It was his fourth game this season with more than 100 yards and he now ranks third among NFL players in receptions.
As ESPN.com's Tristan Cockcroft noted, Ertz's 40.5 PPR fantasy points set a new personal best, beating his previous high of 38.9 in 2016 Week 17 also accomplished against the Dallas Cowboys. He also extended his positional lead for targets to 100 in nine games. ...
As for the running back rotation. ... As NFL.com's Graham Barfield noted this week, even though he's only played on 24 percent of snaps over the last three weeks, Adams has quickly become the Eagles most effective back. From Weeks 7-10, Adams is tied for the team lead in carries (20) while he easily leads the Eagles backfield in both missed tackles forced and yards after contact per carry, per PFF.
Pederson has noticed Adams' effectiveness, growing his share of the team carries in each game in the Eagles last three contests: 17 percent, 32 percent, 44 percent as Corey Clement and Wendell Smallwood see their shares decreasing.
Philly's three-man committee may turn into a four-man approach if Darren Sproles (hamstring) ever returns (that might not happen for another month), but Adams' increased usage is promising. As Barfield suggested, "Adams remains an RB4 stash ahead of Philadelphia's Week 11 game against New Orleans' front seven that is allowing a minuscule 3.1 YPC (lowest in NFL)."
As for the other side of the ball, it won't help that cornerback Ronald Darby tore his ACL in the second half Sunday night, leaving the defending Super Bowl champions without half their starting secondary. Safety Rodney McLeod sustained a season-ending knee injury in September.
Starting cornerback Jalen Mills and starting nickel cornerback Sidney Jones didn't play against the Cowboys because of injuries so rookie free agent Chandon Sullivan filled in for Darby. Rasul Douglas, Tre Sullivan and Corey Graham were other reserves already playing. Mills isn't expected to return this week, but Jones is a possibility.
And finally. ... Tight end Richard Rodgers will resume practicing with the Eagles this week.
Rodgers has been on injured reserve since early September because of a knee injury he suffered in a preseason game, but the team announced on Tuesday that he has been cleared to get back on the field. As a result, the Eagles have designated Rodgers as one of their two players eligible to return from the list this year.
The announcement opens a three-week window for Rodgers to practice before the deadline to move him to the 53-man roster. He can be activated at any point in that window.
QBs: Nick Foles, Nate Sudfeld, Carson Wentz
RBs: Josh Adams, Wendell Smallwood, Darren Sproles
WRs: Alshon Jeffery, Nelson Agholor, Golden Tate, Jordan Matthews, Mike Wallace, Mack Hollins, Shelton Gibson
TEs: Zach Ertz, Dallas Goedert, Richard Rodgers
Pittsburgh SteelersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 13 November 2018
Le'Veon Bell did not report to the Steelers by Tuesday's deadline, which makes him ineligible to play the rest of this season.
Ten months ago, Bell said he "definitely would consider" sitting out the 2018 season or retiring if the Steelers used the franchise tag on him for a second consecutive season.
The Steelers did use the tag, and Bell did not report by the deadline.
And now he won't play. At all. Until next season.
Steelers general manager Kevin Colbert offered up the following comment: "I want to confirm that Le'Veon Bell did not sign his Franchise Tender today and, as a result, he will not be eligible to play football during the 2018 season."
By sitting out this season, the 26-year-old Bell ostensibly is trying to preserve his value and body. Meanwhile, James Conner (771 yards on 164 carries with 10 touchdowns) has assumed the featured role in Bell's absence. Conner, who averages 4.7 yards per carry, is on pace for close to 300 carries, similar to what Bell had last season.
It is wear and tear that Bell seemingly did not want to absorb as he gets ready to become a free agent.
Despite Steelers owner Art Rooney telling Sirius XM Radio last Thursday that he expected Bell to report by Tuesday, the running back has skipped every chance he has had to report, including during Pittsburgh's recent bye week, when he could have collected $855,000 just for being on the roster.
Bell did not report hours before the Steelers' Thursday night victory over the Carolina Panthers, when he could have collected another $855,000 for playing in the game. He has bypassed the chance to make more than $8.5 million and could make only $6 million more if he were to report by Tuesday.
By not reporting by Tuesday's deadline, Bell also foregoes approximately $200,000 in benefits that come along with a credited NFL season, sources told ESPN's Adam Schefter.
That figure includes benefits from a pension, an annuity, 401K contributions and a health reimbursement account.
"I don't think it even enters his mind," one source familiar with the NFL's benefits package told Schefter. "When you lose a credited and retire, you wish you had it then. But you're not thinking about that now."
But the reason he has been willing to forgo all of this so far is the reason that multiple people do not expect to see Bell this week, or this season, either.
And now, his 2018 season is over. So, certainly, is his time in Pittsburgh. ...
Meanwhile, the Steelers 52-21 pounding of the Panthers last Thursday tied for the most points allowed in Carolina history and showed that the Steelers look ready to make their own history even without Bell.
Carolina last gave up 52 points on Christmas Eve in 2000 against the Oakland Raiders.
As ESPN.com's Jeremy Fowler notes, if Ben Roethlisberger can continue to deliver masterpieces like this against a good defense, the Steelers -- winners of five straight -- might have their best chance at a Super Bowl since the early Mike Tomlin years.
The entire offense feels the good vibes when Roethlisberger "is heaving it like that," guard Ramon Foster said.
Roethlisberger finished 22-of-25 passing for 328 yards, five touchdowns and a perfect passer rating of 158.3, the third such game of his career. He hit every throw, as if tossing into a big net. The Steelers worked the no-huddle offense, Roethlisberger's specialty, on a short week, and the usually stout Panthers looked uneasy throughout.
Roethlisberger didn't need an exotic explanation for his exotic play.
"When you convert third downs and score in the red zone, good things happen," said Roethlisberger, whose offense converted 8 of 11 third downs and 4 of 4 red zone trips. "It always starts up front. You can say what you want about the skill guys, but we're nothing without them up front."
Fowler went on to note this offense hadn't unlocked everything it had this season. The Steelers had connected on three deep balls all season but hit two Thursday, a 75-yard touchdown to JuJu Smith-Schuster and a 53-yard score for Antonio Brown, who made rookie corner Donte Jackson look silly in press coverage.
The Smith-Schuster score was the franchise's longest-ever first play from scrimmage.
When Roethlisberger left the game with 14 minutes, 55 seconds in the fourth quarter, the Steelers had scored points on all seven of their drives that didn't end in a clock runout at halftime.
On Wednesday, Roethlisberger was named AFC Offensive Player of the Week.
On defense, the Steelers (6-2-1) sacked Newton five times and knocked him down many others. A Christian McCaffrey running game that confused the Steelers on the first drive was quickly put in park. The Steelers respected Newton's big-play ability outside of the pocket, and "we wanted to keep him in it," linebacker Jon Bostic said.
This was such a thorough whupping that Eric Reid's helmet shot on Roethlisberger with 1:15 left in the third quarter -- which prompted Reid's ejection -- was an attempt to revive a fight that was dead two hours earlier.
Some were realistic about the onslaught. Tomlin said that "we are probably not that good" but that explosions like this happen sometimes. Center Maurkice Pouncey added, "This is not normal."
Here's the new normal: The Steelers' 177 points over the current five-game winning streak is the biggest output in franchise history over a five-game span, according to Elias Sports Bureau and a once middling red-zone offense hovering around a 50-percent success rate, the Steelers now lead the league at 78.57 percent.
Roethlisberger said after Thursday's win that he and OC Randy Fichtner are working well together. That collaboration is translating inside the 20. ...
Trying to get a handle on the rotation at running back behind Conner, it's worth noting Tomlin told reporters on Tuesday that Jaylen Sanders has his attention.
"I like his arrow, it's continually pointing up," Tomlin said of the rookie running back. "He's met that point of the challenge. ..."
One last note here. ... The Steelers are optimistic that Conner, who entered the concussion protocol last Thursday, will be ready to go against the Jaguars this weekend. I will, of course, follow up as needed via Late-Breaking Update as the week progresses.
QBs: Ben Roethlisberger, Mason Rudolph, Josh Dobbs
RBs: James Conner, Jaylen Samuels, Stevan Ridley
WRs: Antonio Brown, JuJu Smith-Schuster, James Washington, Eli Rogers, Ryan Switzer, Darrius Heyward-Bey
TEs: Vance McDonald, Jesse James, Xavier Grimble
San Francisco 49ersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 13 November 2018
More than a week after Nick Mullens made NFL observers sit up and take notice, his second go-around wasn't nearly as smooth or easy. And it didn't end in a victory.
But ESPN.com's Nick Wagoner believes that, in many ways, Monday's 27-23 loss to the Giants was a much better and more realistic look at what the San Francisco 49ers have in Mullens. That is a tough, resilient quarterback who is unafraid to take some chances but isn't a panacea for this lost 49ers season.
This time around, Mullens didn't set records or find himself in the esteemed company of a series of Hall of Fame quarterbacks. What he did instead was keep the 2-8 Niners in a game in which he faced some real adversity for the first time. He finished 27-of-39 for 250 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions for a passer rating of 73.7.
For the most part, Mullens responded well to those bumps in the road, but it wasn't enough.
"He was the same," head coach Kyle Shanahan said. "He had one early [interception], didn't change, didn't get gun-shy, played his game, and I don't think the picks affected him. He played his game."
The result was the Niners' first home loss on Monday Night Football in their past six such contests.
In starting Monday night, Mullens became the first quarterback since Kansas City's Tyler Palko in 2011 to make his first two NFL starts in prime-time games. Mullens put on a show against the Raiders but faced little resistance. The Giants proved a much feistier challenge, despite, like the Raiders, entering the game with just one win.
After an up-and-down game in which Mullens struggled on deeper throws outside the numbers and the Niners' short passing game was sniffed out before it could get going, Mullens bounced back multiple times from his mistakes and those of his teammates.
Mullens threw a pair of costly interceptions, both of which weren't entirely his fault, though the first one he said he threw too late, and it led to New York's first touchdown.
On the bright side, Mullens didn't back down at the first sign of trouble. As a response to the initial interception, he led the Niners on a 75-yard touchdown drive on the ensuing possession. When he threw his second pick later on a ball that bounced off receiver Marquise Goodwin's hands, he went right back to work and led the Niners to a field goal.
"Nick's a stud," tight end George Kittle said. "He was great. He has a great voice. I love playing with him. I have nothing negative to say about Nick. He's done everything we've asked him and more. He's going to keep doing that. He's going to keep proving people wrong, and he's going to keep slinging it."
In all, it was a solid if unspectacular performance, more in line with what you'd expect from an undrafted quarterback making his second NFL start.
Mullens showed grit but also more warts than he did in Week 9. His NFL debut against the Raiders -- in which he threw for 262 yards with three touchdowns and posted the second-best passer rating by a player in his debut since 1973 -- might have left many dreaming of a finishing flourish similar to what Jimmy Garoppolo had last season. Such a finish to 2018 has been and remains a long shot for Mullens.
But that doesn't mean Mullens doesn't have more to offer, nor should he be denied the chance to show it. After the game, Shanahan said he was "sure" that the QB would start after the bye when the 49ers play the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, though he hadn't yet had time to digest Monday night's performance.
He was a bit more confident after watching the tape.
"I think it's a positive experience," Shanahan said Tuesday. "The guy's played one game in his career. I know statistically that was the best start in NFL history. I mean, I think Nick did some real good things yesterday, too. It was a little bit more of a challenge in some circumstances. ... What I liked about Nick is he never seemed rattled throughout the whole game, continued playing. He was great after the game. He was great watching film with him. I say it's a good experience or step forward because I think he'll get better from each experience he has."
As Wagoner sees it, "With just two starts to his name, Mullens has proved capable of leading the Niners, and he showed no fear in doing so. There's still no need to make sweeping generalizations about his future with the team or in the league. He did enough against the Raiders to earn another start. He did enough against the Giants to get a third, even if it wasn't enough to get a win. ..."
As NFL.com noted, Mullens wasn't gun-shy over the middle, tossing pinpoint lasers to Kendrick Bourne and Goodwin on slants but oft-putting his receivers in compromising positions. Goodwin (69 yards) took two headshots in the span of one minute of game time but miraculously finished the game and played a pivotal role on the final march.
An All-Pro in the making, Kittle continued his breakout season with one of his best showings yet. Kittle reeled in a career-high nine catches on a career-best 10 targets for 83 yards and helped Mullens pick up four first downs. Though he was not targeted in the fourth quarter, NFL.com’s Jeremy Bergman wrote that "Kittle's aggression and versatility on the line of scrimmage provided problematic matchups in New York's secondary all night."
Asked by reporters what he's done to continue this elite run of play, Kittle said he takes notes from Pierre Garcon and "flips a switch."
"When I see someone flat-footed and I get to run over them," Kittle explained, "that makes me very happy."
It was nice to see Matt Breida get off the schneid with his second career 100-yard rushing game.
Breida has been bothered by an ankle injury this season and admitted it hindered him a bit on Monday night, though you couldn't tell. The 23-year-old boasts elite acceleration and hits holes with veteran decisiveness. In a lost season, San Francisco has in Breida and Kittle two fun pieces to play with and two true talents to build around.
One last note here. ... Garcon missed this game with an ongoing knee issue; he'll now have the bye week to get healthy -- or at least healthier.
QBs: Nick Mullens, C.J. Beathard
RBs: Jeff Wilson, Alfred Morris, Kyle Juszczyk, Matt Breida
WRs: Marquise Goodwin, Kendrick Bourne, Trent Taylor, Richie James, Dante Pettis
TEs: George Kittle, Garrett Celek, Cole Hikutini
Seattle SeahawksCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 13 November 2018
As ESPN.com's Brady Henderson, the Seattle Seahawks were right there, as they always seem to be.
They trailed the Los Angeles Rams by five points with 84 seconds remaining and no timeouts, setting the stage for another Russell Wilson comeback. He drove Seattle to L.A.'s 35-yard line with a long pass to Tyler Lockett, then a scramble run. But the Seahawks' hopes of a season-altering victory ended as Wilson's fourth-down pass sailed over Lockett's head, sealing a 36-31 win for the Rams and another close loss for the Seahawks.
No escape from L.A. this time for the Seahawks -- just another close loss and a 4-5 record that puts their playoff hopes in serious jeopardy.
The bigger-picture outlook shouldn't completely overshadow how the Seahawks, for the second time this season, traded punches with perhaps the NFL's best team. They hung with the Rams the same way that they nearly beat them when they played in Seattle, by running the ball often and effectively to the tune of a staggering 273 yards. It was Seattle's first time over 200 rushing yards in a game since Week 13 of the 2016 season, and it was without two of the biggest difference-makers in their run game in running back Chris Carson and right guard D.J. Fluker, who were sidelined.
Mike Davis started in Carson's absence and the Seahawks finally got first-round pick Rashaad Penny involved. Even Wilson, seemingly more reluctant to run this season than in the past, went for 92 yards on the ground.
It became a shootout thanks to Seattle's defense continually letting Jared Goff find open receivers over the middle of the field. Seattle also couldn't cause any turnovers this time around after intercepting Goff twice in the first meeting.
The Seahawks were 10-point underdogs at one point this week, the most points their opponent has been favored by since 2011, Pete Carroll's second season in Seattle and the year before Wilson was drafted. It's encouraging that the Seahawks hung with the Rams again, but getting close isn't going to get it done if Seattle wants to get back to the postseason.
There were few new injuries reported from the Seahawks' 36-31 loss to the Los Angeles Rams, but Seattle head coach Pete Carroll did provide a handful of noteworthy personnel updates on players who are continuing to deal with and play through a variety of setbacks.
Carroll said both Carson and Fluker could have played against the Rams, but with a short week coming up because of Thursday night's Seahawks game against the Green Bay Packers at CenturyLink Field, the decision was made to hold the duo out in hopes of getting them right for Week 11 and beyond.
"He's close," Carroll said of Carson. "He would have been like he was last week, a little bit better probably, but he didn't make it through the game last week, so we've just got to get him healthy. Coming up with a Thursday night game we thought let's see if we can get him right so that he can go Thursday, then there will be 10 days after that game (before the next game). There's a couple guys in that same mode.
"Same thing with D.J.," Carroll added. "He could have played maybe today, but he probably wouldn't have finished, so then where are we for Thursday? So with this game (against the Packers) and then the big break coming up after that, we're trying to take full advantage of that."
Turns out Carson was more than close; the second-year running back was removed from the team's final injury report on Wednesday in advance of Thursday night's kickoff.
Meanwhile, as Seattle Times staff reporter Bob Condotta framed it, "Rashaad Penny went from bust to busting out in about 10 minutes against the Los Angeles Rams on Sunday.
"Okay, so maybe that's overstating it. No player should be judged on just eight NFL games.
"But until Sunday at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, the first half of Penny's rookie season had not gone the way anyone anticipated it would when Seattle surprisingly drafted him in the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft last April, making Penny the second overall tailback selected. ..."
Due in part to a pre-season finger injury, Penny hasn't been a major contributor to the team's resurgent running game so far, with just 146 yards on 42 carries, an average of 3.5, in the first eight games.
But with Carson unable to play due to a hip injury that also held him out of the second half last week, Penny was called on once again.
And this time, as Carroll said, "he looked just like the guy we thought he would look like when we drafted him" in helping spark a Seattle offense that rushed for 273 yards against the Rams.
Penny, who notched the first 100-yard rushing performance of his career and finished with 108 yards on 12 carries, also had a career-high 38-yard run the first time he touched the ball -- his previous long was 15. He followed that with an 18-yarder for a touchdown.
Carroll gave Penny a public vote of confidence this week, knowing that he might be needed due to Carson's situation, and couldn't have seemed more pleased to see that faith fulfilled.
"Today he busted out," Carroll said. "We've been challenging him to get right and to work at the right tempo and find what it's like to be a pro, just teaching a young guy trying to figure it out… I thought today he needed it so badly. He knows he's a great player. He just hasn't been able to demonstrate it."
Penny said he likewise felt the breakthrough was coming, even if it was hard to see last week when he had just 11 yards on four carries against the Chargers.
"I feel like I've grown up the last two to three weeks," Penny said. "I have to say once my opportunity comes, just go all out and ball. ..."
That doesn't mean he'll get another opportunity against the Packers.
"When everybody’s healthy, not everybody’s going to get the ball a lot,” Carroll said this week. “That’s just the way it goes, so we’ll figure that out.
“You’ll see how it comes together. Chris is going to be healthy this week and he’ll be excited to get back out there, too. It’s a good group. It’s a good problem. Not a great problem for the running backs. But it’s good for us. ...”
In a related note. ... Carroll said running back J.D. McKissic, who has been on injured reserve all season after breaking a bone in his foot, won't resume practicing for at least another week.
QBs: Russell Wilson, Brett Hundley, Paxton Lynch
RBs: Chris Carson, Mike Davis, Rashaad Penny, J.D. McKissic, Bo Scarbrough, C.J. Prosise
WRs: Doug Baldwin, Tyler Lockett, David Moore, Jaron Brown
TEs: Nick Vannett, Ed Dickson
Tampa Bay BuccaneersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 13 November 2018
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are sticking with Ryan Fitzpatrick as their No. 1 quarterback.
Head coach Dirk Koetter said Monday that the 14th-year pro, who failed to produce a touchdown in the previous day's 16-3 loss to Washington, will start next Sunday on the road against the New York Giants.
As Associated Press sports writer Fred Goodall noted, the Bucs (3-6) have dropped six of seven games following a 2-0 start, with Fitzpatrick starting four of the losses after leading the team to surprising victories over New Orleans and Philadelphia while Jameis Winston was serving a suspension for violating the NFL's personal conduct policy.
"We're going to go with Fitz this week," Koetter said, adding he still feels Fitzpatrick "gives us the best opportunity" to win and pull out of a tailspin that's jeopardized the prospects of ending a long playoff drought.
Also, struggling kicker Chandler Catanzaro was waived.
Catanzaro was one for three on field goals against the Redskins, missing from 30 and 47 yards. In addition to being 11 of 15 through nine games, the fifth-year pro who signed as a free agent after spending last season with the New York Jets has missed four extra points.
The Bucs signed kicker Cairo Santos to replace Catanzaro, the team announced later Monday.
Santos, who worked out for the team on Oct. 26, becomes the Bucs' 10th kicker since 2009, the most of any team in the league in that span.
Santos spent two games with the Rams this season, making 5 of 6 field goals and 5 of 6 extra points. In his career, Santos has made 132 of 138 extra points and 95 of 113 field goals.
Meanwhile, Winston, banned the first three games of the season, regained his starting job for three games before being benched three weeks ago.
Koetter left open the possibility of switching back to Winston after the Bucs gained 501 yards, but only scored three points against the Redskins. Fitzpatrick threw for 406 yards, but was intercepted twice and lost a fumble.
Washington finished with four takeaways, while Tampa Bay failed to force a turnover for the sixth consecutive game.
"Turnovers are killing us right now. We're minus-19 (in turnover differential), last in the league," Koetter said. "Thirteen turnovers and no takeaways in the last four games. That's by far the No. 1 thing that's hurting our team."
Goodall reminded readers that Winston hasn't played since throwing four interceptions during the first three quarters of a road loss at Cincinnati on Oct. 28. The fourth-year player has thrown 10 picks and lost one fumble in four games since returning from his suspension.
Koetter remains optimistic that the Bucs, who haven't made the playoffs since 2007, can turn themselves around.
Winston, the first overall pick from the 2015 draft, is due to earn $20.9 million next year in the final season of the contract he signed as a rookie.
Koetter said he understands the thinking that the Bucs need to find out exactly what they have in the fourth-year pro.
Nevertheless, he's sticking with Fitzpatrick for now.
"We're barely past the halfway point in the season. There's a lot of football to be played. I don't think it's out of the realm of possibility that we can turn this thing and get on a little bit of a win streak," Koetter said.
"We've got to play better football more consistently across the board," the coach added. "Our defense took a nice step in that direction (Sunday). I still think when we put it together on both sides of the ball we'll be all right."
Fitzpatrick, 2-4 as the starter this season, has 2,199 yards, 17 touchdowns and nine interceptions. He's turned the ball over five times the past two weeks during losses to Carolina and Washington.
After Sunday's game, the 35-year-old shrugged off a question about whether he felt he had done enough to retain the starting job.
"I love playing football. That's not something I concern myself with or care about," said Fitzpatrick, who's played for seven teams over 14 seasons. "If I get a chance to go out there, I try to do my best and play as hard as I can and enjoy myself."
Also. ... As ESPN.com's Jenna Laine noted, Koetter said that against the Redskins, he was the one calling the plays and not offensive coordinator Todd Monken, who had been calling them all season.
"I called the plays today. The whole day," Koetter said.
The past three seasons (two as head coach) Koetter had been the Bucs' offensive play caller. Then this year, he decided to give Monken play calling duties during training camp and the preseason for a different perspective, so he could focus on other areas.
The plan was for Koetter to take it back during the regular season, but Monken had such success, with the offense averaging 448 yards and nearly 28 points per game, that it continued up until Week 10.
Monken was still in the coaches' booth, but Koetter was the one in Fitzpatrick's ear.
"I didn't really notice much of a difference, maybe the cadence of his voice instead of Todd's," said Fitzpatrick.
Koetter added he'd been thinking about taking over offensive play-calling the last few weeks. He decided to against Washington because he felt like they "needed to control the clock a little bit more" and "use our RPOs a little bit more."
A decision has not been made as to who will call plays against the Giants this week.
On the injury front. ... Peyton Barber (ankle/shoulder) and Ronald Jones (hamstring) were limited in Wednesday's practice while Chris Godwin (ankle) didn't practice at all.
More to come on all three via Late-Breaking Update in coming days.
QBs: Jameis Winston, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Ryan Griffin
RBs: Peyton Barber, Jacquizz Rodgers, Ronald Jones
WRs: Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, Adam Humphries, Justin Watson, Freddie Martino, DeSean Jackson
TEs: Cameron Brate, Antony Auclair
Tennessee TitansCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 13 November 2018
As TitansOnline.com’s Jim Wyatt wrote, "See quarterback Marcus Mariota run.
"See quarterback Marcus Mariota throw.
"See Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota catch.
"And see the Titans win. ..."
Mariota did it all in Sunday's dominating performance over the New England Patriots, a 34-10 win at Nissan Stadium. It was part of an all-around game for the suddenly red-hot Titans.
"He is a baller, man," tight end Jonnu Smith said of Mariota. "Marcus, he makes it go. He's a special player, and that is what you should expect from him every week.
"I'm glad we have him on our team for sure."
Mariota completed 16-of-24 passes for 228 yards and two touchdowns in the game, and posted a passer rating of 125.0. He ran for 21 yards on two carries, including a 20-yard sprint.
Late in the contest, Mariota even caught a 21-yard pass from receiver Darius Jennings on a trick play. It was his first catch on a ball thrown by someone other than himself since his rookie season, when he caught a touchdown pass against the Jets.
Who could forget Mariota's touchdown pass to himself in last year's playoff game vs. the Chiefs?
"Marcus made some great throws," head coach Mike Vrabel said. "I think he just really continues to lead us, with his composure. He has some lunatics -- I'm borderline lunatic, (offensive coordinator Matt) LaFleur. And this kid, God love him, he is just as steady as it gets during the week and he prepares.
"And he's really given us a chance to win ball games here lately."
Mariota has now thrown five touchdowns and only one interception in the past three games after throwing just two touchdown passes (and four interceptions) in his first five games of the season.
"I think it's a combination of a lot of different things," Mariota said when asked about the success of the offense in recent weeks. "Guys are getting more and familiar with the system, guys are building confidence. And if you combine all those factors you tend to score points."
Mariota was sharp throughout against the Patriots.
By halftime he'd already completed touchdown passes to Smith and Corey Davis, who had seven catches for 125 yards, including the 23-yard scoring toss.
As the top receiving threat for Tennessee, Davis knew he was going to draw single coverage from Stephon Gilmore, the Patriots' best cornerback.
"I was expecting [Gilmore] to travel with me," Davis said. "The game plan was to attack whoever. It didn't matter who it was. We knew it was going to be a one-on-one matchup and the receivers had to win. Gilmore's a big, physical guy that's really patient and has great feet. I knew I had to be on top of my game and make plays."
Davis opened with a 24-yard reception from Mariota on Tennessee's first play from scrimmage. On the Titans' second series, Davis drew a 16-yard pass interference call against Gilmore, caught a 16-yard pass and capped the drive with the above-mentioned 23-yard TD on a deep fade from Mariota with a nifty over-the-shoulder catch.
Offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur has been moving Davis around the formation to create favorable matchups. As expected, Gilmore traveled with Davis everywhere he went Sunday, and that was the matchup the Titans wanted.
"I'll take my guy over anybody," Mariota said. "Corey did a great job of setting the play up, and he came down with the ball."
ESPN.com's Turron Davenport noted that much has been expected of Davis early in his career because of his draft status. The results haven't been instant, but his performance against the Patriots is an example of the potential that inspired Titans GM Jon Robinson to select him.
Davis has 43 catches for 576 yards and two TDs this season. ...
For what it's worth, Mariota carried over the momentum from a fast start into the second half. Mariota guided one drive after the next, and two of them were capped off with touchdown runs by Derrick Henry.
"It was great to get a win," Mariota said. "It took a lot of hard work from a lot of different people.
"With that being said, it is just another step in the process. We have another big one coming up -- we have a division game on the road -- and we have to get back to work."
Indeed, the Titans play their first of two consecutive divisional road games this week, traveling to Indianapolis to battle the AFC South rival Colts. ...
Meanwhile, as ESPN.com's Turron Davenport reminded readers, Dion Lewis passed off the Titans-Patriots clash as just another part of the schedule in the week leading up to Sunday's meeting, but after his 68 total yards of offense helped Tennessee thrash his old team, the veteran running back didn't pull any punches in assessing his previous situation with New England.
Despite Lewis finishing with 1,110 total yards of offense in 2017, the Patriots allowed him to walk via free agency in the offseason. The Titans took a shot with him, signing Lewis to a four-year contract worth $19.8 million. And on Sunday, he didn't hold back about beating the Patriots.
"Hell yeah, it's personal," the 28-year-old said. "When you go cheap, you get your ass kicked. ..."
On the injury front. ... Running back David Fluellen (knee) was carted off in the first half. Taywan Taylor missed Sunday's game with a foot injury.
Their status for this week is unclear, although Taylor was not practicing Wednesday; I'll be following up via Late-Breaking Update as needed.
Beyond that, some indication of Fluellen's likely status can be drawn from The Titans promoting running back Dalyn Dawkins from the practice squad on Tuesday with fullback Jalston Fowler hitting the waiver wire.
Dawkins played in one game for the Titans earlier this year and saw action on four special teams snaps. He ran 30 times for 89 yards in the preseason.
Fowler was with the Titans in 2015, 2016 and most of 2017. He had stints with the Seahawks and Falcons before returning to Nashville last month.
QBs: Marcus Mariota, Blaine Gabbert
RBs: Derrick Henry, Dion Lewis, David Fluellen
WRs: Corey Davis, Taywan Taylor, Tajae Sharpe, Darius Jennings, Cameron Batson
TEs: Luke Stocker
Washington RedskinsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 13 November 2018
As ESPN.com's John Keim framed it, "The Washington Redskins didn't make mistakes. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers did. Over and over. That, in a nutshell, is why the Redskins won a game in which the numbers would suggest they had no business doing so. ..."
But their 16-3 win over Tampa Bay wasn't about beauty.
Keim went on to explain that when you have three starting offensive linemen sidelined with injuries as well as a starting corner -- and a host of other players -- beauty is in the eye of the beholder. And as far as the Redskins (6-3) are concerned, they just won a damn beauty contest.
It doesn't matter how anyone else perceives the game; a team coming off a loss and playing wounded won a game on the road and maintained its lead in the NFC East. The Redskins were outgained by 215 yards. They were bad on third down -- again. They gave up 398 yards passing.
"That's what it takes to win a game, I really don't care," Redskins coach Jay Gruden said. "I'll save the fantasy football for the guys who play that. We just try to get a win. I told the team last night if we win 6-3 or 50-49 I don't care. We're winning ugly, but I don't know if there is such a thing as winning ugly."
Washington forced four turnovers and benefited from two missed field goals, and just as important, the Redskins never turned it over. Tampa Bay reached the red zone five times ... and scored one field goal.
Washington will have to survive this way for a while -- maybe for the rest of the season. The Redskins will get some players back, notably left tackle Trent Williams. But at this point the Redskins are a team that must turn games into punching matches in order to win.
It's not ideal, and against some teams it'll become difficult to win unless the offense does more. But what Washington showed Sunday is what it showed last year when winning a game at Seattle with a makeshift line: a mindset that responds well in tough situations. They also let it be known they weren't thrilled with how everything unfolded.
"We have to tighten up as a defense," defensive end Jonathan Allen said. "We made the plays when it counted and they didn't. But for us as a defense we want to dominate and we didn't dominate today."
Here's how they got it done:
Alex Smith played a Smith-like game: The Redskins quarterback was careful with the ball, and he used his legs when necessary. On the Redskins' lone touchdown pass, he extended a play in the red zone, sliding to his left to avoid pressure. He then hit receiver Josh Doctson for the 6-yard score.
"Alex did a great job of not making any negative plays," Gruden said. "The touchdown was a great, great play."
Later in the game, the Redskins picked up a first down using a speed option pitch from Smith. It didn't result in anything beyond killing the clock for a couple of more minutes.
Smith didn't do more than what was required of him. He completed 19 of 27 passes for 178 yards and a touchdown.
Smith finished with 178 passing yards for the third time in four games. Equally amazing considering NFL offenses in 2018, the Redskins are 3-0 in those games. They lost to Atlanta in Week 9 when Smith finished with 306 yards as Washington played catch-up. ...
As for the win over Tampa, the Redskins needn't apologize for how the game looked, or that they gave up 501 yards of total offense.
"Put up 1,000 yards," Josh Norman said. "You get a W when you [give up] three points. It really doesn't matter; the only stat that matters is the W. ..."
Of course, as NBCSports.com's Ben Standig suggested, the concern exists on the other side. Washington could barely put up points or move the ball through the air against Tampa's 30th ranked pass defense. The Redskins now rank 26th in scoring offense (19.6) and yards per game (337.4).
The Redskins are obviously shorthanded. We'll see when Williams, Jamison Crowder and Chris Thompson return.
In a related note, Gruden said Crowder will undergo an MRI to make sure "all is on track" with his ankle. Gruden said, "He's not quite 100 percent coming in and out of his cuts. I don't think he's totally comfortable with it. Hopefully by Thursday he has a chance."
Dustin Hopkins made all three field goals he tried against the Buccaneers, but the team is reportedly taking a look at other kickers on Tuesday.
Field Yates of ESPN reports that Hopkins is "a bit banged up" and the team is preparing for the possibility that they'll need to add someone ahead of this week's game against the Texans.
None of the names of other kickers are included in the report. Chandler Catanzaro, who missed two field goals for the Buccaneers last Sunday will be available if he clears waivers after being cut on Monday.
Hopkins is 17-of-19 on field goals and 17-of-17 on extra points this season.
Gruden told reporters on Wednesday that Williams won't play Sunday against Houston and that there's a good Thompson (ribs) also will miss. Neither player was able to practice Wednesday.
I'll be following up via Late-Breaking Update as the week progresses. ...
For what it's worth, the receiving snaps were distributed as follows: Doctson (45), Maurice Harris (38), Michael Floyd (31), Brian Quick (21).
Percentage-wise, Doctson and Harris ticked down in part because the three tight ends each played 45 percent of the snaps in the same game for the first time this season. The need for more run-blocking in light of the offensive line issues likely played a factor in more work for Floyd.
QBs: Josh Johnson, Mark Sanchez, Colt McCoy
RBs: Adrian Peterson, Chris Thompson, Samaje Perine
WRs: Josh Doctson, Jamison Crowder, Maurice Harris, Michael Floyd, Cam Sims, Trey Quinn
TEs: Vernon Davis, Jeremy Sprinkle, Jordan Reed