Team Notes week 11 2021
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 16 November 2021
Life without Kyler Murray -- and DeAndre Hopkins -- felt like it wasn't all that bad for a week, when the Cardinals played a game to perfection.
Sunday their absence weighed heavy. And the Cards' performance was the opposite of perfect.
Little went right in a disappointing 34-10 loss to the Carolina Panthers at State Farm Stadium.
"That team outcoached us, outplayed us, and played and coached with more of a sense of urgency," head coach Kliff Kingsbury said.
Now the Cardinals are in an awkward spot with one more game -- in Seattle -- before a much-needed bye.
Murray's ankle was not ready to go yet on Sunday. The urgency might ramp up before playing the Seahawks.
As Kevin Parrish Jr. of the team's official website reminded readers, ahead of Sunday's game, Colt McCoy and the Cardinals' offense were high in spirit.
They were fresh off an incredible performance last week in San Francisco. They felt they had a great week of practice. But it clearly didn't manifest itself Sunday.
McCoy completed 55 percent of his passes for 107 yards and an interception. To make matters worse, McCoy now joins Murray on the Cardinals' injury list.
Chris Streveler took over the offense after McCoy left in the third quarter.
Streveler completed 6-of-9 passes for 36 yards in his first work since the season finale in Los Angeles last year.
Meanwhile, with the looming divisional matchup this week, the answer of Murray's health still was unclear after the game.
"He wasn't ready," Kingsbury said. "He's progressing, but he was not ready to play today."
Pressed further, Kingsbury said "it's going to be close" for Murray this week.
That said, a source with knowledge of the situation told Profootballtalk.com's Mike Florio that Murray is "making good progress" as he recovers from the ankle injury.
Another source told Florio there's a good chance Murray will play in Week 11.
It all depends on whether Murray continues to make progress.
The other question is that, with the team's bye coming in Week 12, it could make sense to give Murray another week off, allowing him to have three more weeks off until the Cardinals return to one of their former homes to face the Bears.
"We have the bye coming up, and hopefully, that gives him more time to recover and hit that home stretch," Kingsbury said. "If he can play Sunday, he will play, but we want to be smart with him."
An MVP candidate, Murray leads the league with a 72.7 percent completion rate. He's thrown for 2,276 yards with 17 touchdowns and seven interceptions. He's also rushed for 147 yards and three touchdowns this season.
Indeed, Sunday's lopsided score showed how much the offense misses Murray's presence.
The Panthers have an elite defense, especially against the pass, where they rank No.1 in the league. But it was hard not to wonder about having an MVP-caliber quarterback, who instead was on the sidelines wearing a sweatshirt, the extent of his involvement listening to the play calls over the radio.
Kingsbury said the team will not rush Murray back.
"We're going to be smart and make sure he's 100 percent, or close enough to where he can do his thing," Kingsbury said. "Like I said, he's got to be able to move and make plays and do what he does."
The Cardinals are thinking big picture when it comes to Murray. This season's strong start warrants a potential playoff run, and they want their franchise quarterback to be healthy -- and at his best when that time comes.
The Cardinals can only hope McCoy's injury is nothing significant heading into the week if Murray must miss a third consecutive game. McCoy said the injury occurred after getting sacked on a play and worsened during the game.
"It just got a little tight," McCoy said. "I got hit a couple of times and started to feel it. Then it got to the point where I needed to get it checked out. But all the tests are still ongoing back there."
Ian Rapoport of NFL Media reports that McCoy has been diagnosed with a pectoral strain.
If Murray is not ready to return, and McCoy is not healthy enough to start come Sunday, Streveler would be the guy.
"I thought he made some nice plays," Kingsbury said of the third-stringer. "He had a couple plays he'd like to have back too, but he definitely progressed from last year."
For the record, Murray and McCoy were on the field for the start of Wednesday's practice. Hopkins was not.
Murray told reporters at a subsequent press conference that he feels “pretty close” to being ready to get back into the starting lineup.
In another injury note. ... As the Cardinals began their comeback from Sunday's loss, they made a couple of small roster moves Monday, including the release of running back Tavien Feaster.
That could indicate that running back Jonathan Ward, who missed Sunday's game with a concussion, is close to being ready to return as a backup to James Conner and Eno Benjamin. Edmonds was put on IR on Saturday and cannot return until the Monday night game against the Rams on Dec. 13.
I'll obviously be following up on the quarterback situation and Hopkins in coming days; watch the Late-Breaking Updates section for more. ...
Beyond that, Kingsbury expressed optimism that the team's starting guards, Justin Pugh (calf) and Max Garcia (Achilles), will be available to play Sunday in Seattle.
Other notes of interest. ... Conner ran for his 11th touchdown of the season, providing Arizona's only trip to the end zone on Sunday. Conner has run for more touchdowns this season than he did for the Steelers in the previous two years combined.
QBs: Kyler Murray, Colt McCoy, Trace McSorley
RBs: James Conner, Darrel Williams, Jonathan Ward, Eno Benjamin
WRs: A.J. Green, Marquise Brown, Antoine Wesley, Rondale Moore, Andy Isabella, DeAndre Hopkins
TEs: Zach Ertz, Darrell Daniels, Maxx Williams
Atlanta FalconsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 16 November 2021
Arthur Smith pulled quarterback Matt Ryan early in the fourth quarter of Sunday's game at Dallas. While the Falcons quarterback wasn't at his best, he wasn't pulled for poor play.
The Falcons head coach thought it was time for a line change.
Josh Rosen entered the game. Wayne Gallman started regularly toting the rock with Cordarrelle Patterson on the sideline. Frank Darby and others who don't play much got some snaps.
That decision came from a cost-benefit analysis, weighing the infinitesimal odds of coming back to the beat the Cowboys versus being as fresh as relatively possible to play the Patriots on Thursday night. Option B was the obvious choice.
It was an appropriate time to look toward the future.
"We realized there were not enough possessions left in the game to go win," Smith said after a 43-3 loss in Dallas. "We knew we had to get ready to go play on Thursday, so that's why a lot of those decisions were made."
As Scott Bair of the team's official website notes, Thursday Night Football is an unavoidable challenge that's difficult to prepare for even under ideal circumstances. Just getting the body and mind ready for another fight takes some time. Three days between games is normally pushing it.
The Falcons openly welcome the challenge after what happened in Texas.
It'll force them to compartmentalize the recent past and focus on a game against New England at Mercedes-Benz Stadium that's nearly upon us.
"I feel like it's a good time to play on Thursday night," defensive tackle Grady Jarrett said. "We'll be able to get back on the field fast and try to get back to .500 and position ourselves for postseason play. We have to focus on the right now and flush this one. We can't let it beat us twice."
That's as essential as anything the Falcons do all season. The Patriots are rolling. Anything less than their best will result in two games lost in a five-day span. Moving forward can't happen if the Falcons are mentally stuck in Dallas, unable to let go of a game where almost nothing went right.
That's why the Falcons should crumple up this box score and launch a turnaround, fade-away jumper into the waste basket. It's not relevant to what must happen next. The result's just a plus-one in the loss column, nothing more, if the Falcons can quarantine it fast enough.
Ryan says to resist the urge, however, to pull up the game tape, slide left on the iPad and hit delete.
This game, as 'ugly' as it was -- that's how Ryan described it -- still contains coachable moments.
"You definitely take a look at what we did today and the corrections that we have to make," Ryan said. "I always think there are good learning opportunities from days like today. They're wasted if you don't learn from them. I'll look at it and make sure we're making the corrections we need to make."
That'll happen fast. Ryan also said he'll peek at Patriots tape on the plane home from Dallas, an act he would've done following a win or loss. Getting the full squad to do so will be key for the Falcons, who have entered a true crossroads moment.
An excellent response to this loss, resulting in quality play against New England on short rest, will keep the Falcons right in the thick of things the NFC.
A loss would create the wrong kind of distance, something these Falcons don't want after their recent success.
All that said, ESPN.com's Michael Rothstein contends that while the Falcons might be in playoff contention, calling them contenders for anything substantial this season would be fallacy following the Falcons' worst loss since a 56-10 drubbing by Kansas City in 2004.
Atlanta faced its toughest opponent since Week 2 on Sunday in Dallas and responded poorly.
Sometimes these games are aberrations, but considering the Falcons' lack of depth and clear defensive holes, it's reality for them. The Falcons might be in conversation for a playoff bid, but even if that somehow happens, don't expect much if they get there.
Of course, much of their success is due to Patterson.
So it's concerning that a day removed from enduring their worst loss of the season, the Falcons could find themselves without one of its best players on a short week.
NFL Network's Tom Pelissero reported Monday that Atlanta is not optimistic about Patterson's status for Thursday Night Football against New England as he continues to undergo testing for a sprained ankle.
The injury, which Patterson suffered in the first quarter in Dallas, could sideline one of the season's breakout talents for a couple of weeks, Pelissero added.
Patterson returned in the second quarter against Dallas but did not play in the second half. He compiled four rushes for 25 yards and one catch for 14 yards prior to his exit.
Patterson has been enjoying the best season of his nine-year career as a running back/receiver hybrid in Smith's offense. Through nine games played, the explosive 30-year-old had accumulated career highs in receiving yards (473), rushing yards (303) and rushing TDs (5).
As NFL.com suggests, facing a Patriots defense fresh off a dominant showing versus the Browns, the 4-5 Falcons will miss every bit of Patterson's game-wrecking ability as they look to stay afloat in a tight NFC South race. Missing TNF will also rob Patterson of the chance to show out against the team with which he won Super Bowl LIII in 2019.
The good news?
There's still a chance.
The Falcons don’t plan on making a decision about Patterson's status for Thursday night's game against the Patriots until just before the game gets underway.
Smith said on Wednesday that Patterson will be a game-time decision due to the ankle injury he picked up in last Sunday’s game against the Cowboys. Patterson has been listed as a limited participant in practice this week. He is officially listed as questionable.
The Falcons ruled out tight end Hayden Hurst (ankle), linebacker Daren Bates (groin), and defensive back Kendall Sheffield (hamstring).
Safety Jaylinn Hawkins (ankle) is questionable after being active but not playing against the Cowboys.
Stay tuned. ... I'll be following up on Patterson via Late-Breaking Update in advance of Thursday night's kickoff. ...
For what it's worth. ... Gallman could be in line for more playing time behind Patterson after carrying 15 times for 55 yards, with a caveat that much of his production came in garbage time. Mike Davis had only four carries for 18 yards and dropped the only pass that was thrown his way. ...
Other notes of interest. ... Tight end Kyle Pitts had a long list of admirers heading into this year's draft and his play as a rookie for the Falcons has backed up much of the hype that surrounded him earlier this year.
Patriots head coach Bill Belichick made it clear that he's a fan of Pitts on Monday.
During an appearance of WEEI, Belichick said that he's sure Pitts will "break all the tight end rookie receiving records" and that he will present a challenge for the Patriots defense on Thursday night.
"Everything is a problem," Belichick said. "This guy, I thought last year in the draft, just watching him, he's phenomenal. He's big. He's fast. He's got great hands and adjusts to the ball. Makes tough catches. Savvy route-runner, can get open. Very hard to match up against. I was reading through some of the Atlanta comments and you hear them comparing him to a cross between Tony Gonzalez and Julio Jones, and I'd say that's about right. That's what it looks like. This guy is one of the superstars of the NFL already."
Pitts couldn't do anything to keep the Falcons from getting blown out by the Cowboys on Sunday, but that isn't going to make the Patriots overlook him this week.
And finally... As Rothstein asked this week, what can Atlanta do at receiver?
It's likely a longer-term question at this point, but it's clear the team's receiver depth is lacking with Calvin Ridley on the non-football-injury list with an unknown return date. Atlanta's receivers were particularly poor against Dallas. None had a catch until the second half. Russell Gage, the team's top receiver in theory, was targeted three times over the first three quarters and did not record a reception.
It's the second time in three weeks he hasn't caught a pass in meaningful snaps for the Falcons.
QBs: Marcus Mariota, Josh Rosen, Feleipe Franks
RBs: Cordarrelle Patterson, Qadree Ollison, Damien Williams
WRs: Damiere Byrd, Olamide Zaccheaus, Bryan Edwards, Frank Darby, Auden Tate, Christian Blake, Chris Rowland, Calvin Ridley
TEs: Kyle Pitts, Anthony Firkser
Baltimore RavensCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 16 November 2021
Head coach John Harbaugh repeatedly took blame for Baltimore's poor performance Thursday night in Miami that led to a 22-10 loss to the Dolphins.
"Outcoached us, outplayed us," Harbaugh said, via The Athletic. "Bottom line is, this falls squarely on me as the head coach. We were not prepared the way we needed to be prepared. Our schemes weren't up to snuff. And we weren't prepared to execute the way we needed to. So that's it. Not on one player. Our players played their hearts out. ... We just weren't ready, and that's on me."
The Ravens offense played its worst game of the year, putting up a season-low 10 points and 304 yards. Unable to handle the Dolphins' repeated blitzes, the Baltimore offense generated just seven first downs on nine possessions (no more than one on any drive) from the second quarter until midway through the fourth when the Ravens trailed by double-digits.
Coming off an 89-play overtime win in Week 9, the Ravens lacked juice on a short week. At points amid the struggles, quarterback Lamar Jackson was seen yelling on the sideline.
"I was hot," Jackson said. "We weren't scoring any points. We were putting our defense out there. They played a great game. The Dolphins had their great plays on offense, but I feel our defense played lights out, man. We just weren't getting it done on offense. So that's why I was mad. If you were on offense, you would be mad, too."
The Dolphins brought waves of pressure, utilizing Cover-0 (all-out blitzes) with safeties Jevon Holland (21 blitzes) and Brandon Jones (17) coming after Jackson. Cover-0 is usually an all-or-nothing proposition for defenses, a big sack or a long gain. Most defenses use it sparingly. Brian Flores' club kept dialing it up Thursday night.
The Ravens never could find an answer.
"(Cover) Zero is like one of those things where you have to make them pay, you know?" tight end Mark Andrews said. "I don't think early on we did that enough. That's one of the things, you make them pay early on, they kind of get out of there."
According to Next Gen Stats, Holland and Jones blitzed more times than any DB in a game since 2016 (when Next Gen Stats began tracking data). Holland, the No. 36 overall pick in the 2021 draft, was a stud all game, generating four QB pressures and a sack on 21 pass rushes (19.0 pressure percentage).
It's not as though Jackson hasn't seen blitzes before. The Dolphins blitzed on 51.1 percent of Jackson's dropbacks, the third-highest rate in Jackson's career.
On Thursday night, however, he couldn't find an answer until it was too late. Jackson generated just 111 passing yards through three quarters as the Ravens trailed 6-3. He finished 26-of-43 for 238 yards, one TD, one INT and a 73.8 passer rating. Baltimore never did make Miami pay for hits blitzes, as Jackson recorded a 37.5 passer rating on passes of 10-plus air yards.
The Ravens' three points through three quarters marked the lowest point total in Jackson's career as a starter. In previous games, Baltimore has overcome poor starts to roar back for a win. The Dolphins didn't let them Thursday.
"Every week. It's ridiculous," Jackson said of the slow starts. "I don't understand it either."
Harbaugh again pointed to himself and his staff as the reason for the slow starts and the inability to find the gas pedal against Miami.
"It's hard to win on Thursday night, but we've done it before and we've been successful," Harbaugh said. "We just played poorly and it's because of our coaching. I didn't do a good job getting these guys ready."
So is this offense in trouble?
According to ESPN.com's Jamison Hensley, there should be some concern. The Ravens have gone from leading the NFL in scoring in Jackson's first two full seasons as a starter (31.2 points) to getting held to 17 points or fewer in two of the past three games. But Jackson is one of the most dangerous playmakers in the league. If he can get hot again, the Ravens should put up points again.
One thing is clear: The Ravens need to better protect Jackson. He was under duress a career-high 20 times against the blitz-happy Dolphins. When Jackson has been pressured 14 or more times in a game, Baltimore is 0-3. The offensive line is never going to be at full strength because Pro Bowl left tackle Ronnie Stanley (ankle) is out for the season.
But the pass protection should improve when left guard Ben Cleveland and right tackle Patrick Mekari return off injured reserve.
The good news is the long turnaround following Thursday night games. It gives the Ravens more time to prepare for their next game, although it's on the road again Nov. 21 against the Chicago Bears.
Other notes of interest. ... The Ravens were held to 94 yards rushing against the Dolphins and produced just 115 yards rushing in their Week 7 loss to the Bengals. Running back Ty'Son Williams wasn't a factor in either game, with no carries against the Dolphins and just two carries for 10 yards against Cincinnati.
As the team's official website notes, Williams' playing time has decreased dramatically since Week 1, when he started and rushed nine times for 65 yards and a touchdown, and Week 2, when he carried the ball a season-high 13 times for 77 yards against the Chiefs. He has not carried the ball more than five times in any game since, though he leads Baltimore's running backs in average yards per carry (5.5). While Latavius Murray (ankle) has missed the last three games, Devonta Freeman and Le'Veon Bell have been the primary ballcarriers at running back.
Harbaugh was asked what Williams must do to earn more playing time. He played six snaps on special teams for the first time this season against the Dolphins.
"Every player just has to contribute and perform and produce when they're out there, and that goes for any player," Harbaugh said. "So, if you're a running back, you need to run hard, you need to break tackles, you need to get yards, you need to pass protect, you need to run the right route out of the backfield, catch the ball and get up [the] field.
"If you're in the rotation, special teams sure would help you. Get out there and run down kicks, get on the punt team, get on the punt return team, because that's how you got on there when you're the third back, in that case. So, I'm not talking about one player; it's anybody in that spot, or it's anybody at any position. You've got to produce. ..."
Marquise Brown caught only six passes for 37 yards on 13 targets against the Dolphins. Miami's strategy of crowding the line of scrimmage created an opportunity for Baltimore's receivers, and aside from Rashod Bateman nobody took much advantage.
Sammy Watkins returned after missing three games with injury issues. His only catch of the night ended in a fumble that the Dolphins ran back for a touchdown.
Meanwhile, I'll be watching for more on the status of Murray, who was on the practice field Wednesday, as the week progresses. It's also worth noting Jackson was sent home with illness and he didn't practice today; according to Hensley, the illness is not COVID-related.
Check the Late-Breaking Updates section for more on both players in coming days. ...
But we might have received an indication where that's going on Tuesday when the Ravens decided to move on from Bell.
The running back posted a goodbye message to social media on Tuesday, which was followed by multiple reports of his release from the club.
"This hurts, but it's been a blessing to be here to say the least, I've enjoyed every second of this short period [and] gotta whole new meaning of what this city is like [and] it's a great place to be," Bell posted to Twitter. "I appreciate Eric [DeCosta] [and] John Harbaugh for the opportunity to be called [a] Raven."
The Ravens signed Bell after a string of injuries to their running backs room. He appeared in five games this season, amassing 83 yards on 31 carries with a pair of touchdowns. While Bell played 42 percent of the offensive snaps in Baltimore's loss to Miami last Thursday, he had only three carries for 1 yard.
Bell's most productive performance was the week before, when he had 48 yards on 11 carries in Baltimore's win over Minnesota.
Bell's release could be a harbinger of Murray's potential return for the Week 11 contest against the Bears.
QBs: Lamar Jackson, Tyler Huntley
RBs: Devonta Freeman, Mike Davis, Latavius Murray, Ty'Son Williams
WRs: Rashod Bateman, Devin Duvernay, Tylan Wallace, James Proche, Miles Boykin
TEs: Mark Andrews, Josh Oliver, Eric Tomlinson, Nick Boyle
Buffalo BillsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 16 November 2021
Sean McDermott promised adjustments after his Buffalo Bills failed to score a touchdown in a 9-6 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars last week.
The response from his team was a six-touchdown explosion. The Bills scored a season-high 45 points and amassed nearly 500 total yards in a beatdown of the New York Jets. The Bills got healthier, which helped, but McDermott said there were a number of factors that led to the resurgence.
"I thought Brian Daboll called a great game. I really did," he said. "(He) changed the look enough and changed the profile of the offense, and I thought that was well executed and good to get stuff going there. (The offense) gives us tons of energy."
As UpstateNewYork.com's Matt Parrino noted, the Bills activated running back Matt Breida for the first time since Week 2.
In two games to start the season he touched the ball four times and was stashed away once Zack Moss got back into the lineup. Daboll unleashed Breida on Sunday and he made the most of his opportunities, scoring two touchdowns on six touches. McDermott said Breida gave the team a spark.
Josh Allen connected with Breida on a 15-yard touchdown in the first quarter and said his game-breaking speed is a factor that makes teams have to worry about him.
"He's able to make one cut and go. You see it in the passing game too," Allen said. "First drive, saw what I saw, darted up field, and we were on the same page there. This is a guy that hasn't had many opportunities throughout the year, but he made the most of it today. It was good to see."
The Bills' three backs, led by Devin Singletary's seven carries for 43 yards, ran the ball 17 times one week after toting the rock just nine times against the Jaguars. Daboll brought in backup interior lineman Ryan Bates on a handful of plays as a tackle eligible to give the Jets different looks. Buffalo was determined to switch things up.
Center Mitch Morse complemented Breida, who he says comes in and works hard even when he's not playing.
"He's a fantastic teammate and he runs hard," Morse said. "We see that in practice and we see that in the preseason and we see that in games."
On Breida's touchdown run, rookie right tackle Spencer Brown cleared the path for the 26-year-old to find the end zone. Brown got out in space and sought out any Jets defender he could find. He plowed the first guy he hit over and that took another defensive back out of the play, opening up the hole for Breida.
McDermott said he sensed an intensity and energy from Brown, which helped set the tone.
"We ran the ball I thought effectively, in particular in the second half, mostly in the third quarter. He's a young player, let's not put him in the Hall of Fame yet, okay, please, help me with that," McDermott joked. "He is a young player that has to continue to learn what it takes to play in this league and he knows that and that humble and hungry approach is real and we need to carry that forward next week."
Morse said there's obviously plays Brown will want back, but it's impossible not to see what he can do and how good of a player he could be.
"He's just so full of youthful vigor. Spencer Brown is gonna be a special football player," he said. "The guy didn't play football last year. He's stepping in to a pretty big position, and I've thought he's played admirably. He's got poise beyond his years as a rookie. ... But we feel very comfortable with who we have as an offensive line. And Spencer Brown being back in the lineup helps."
Allen added that having Brown back adds toughness and it helped a lot, especially in the run game. McDermott said getting production from the run game makes things work better on offense, which couldn't be stopped in the air, either.
"Just ask an offensive lineman what (running well) does, right? It's good for all of us," he said. "It's good for the entire football team. It was fun to watch, it really was. ... It was a good game plan by the offensive staff and Brian and then Brian went and called a heck of a game."
Thanks to that stronger rushing attack, Allen compiled 305 passing yards on play-action passes, the second-highest total of the Next Gen Stats era, behind Jared Goff (326, Week 4 of 2018).
The end result was a dominant performance.
Allen connected with his receivers downfield, especially Stefon Diggs, who had his first game of the season with 100 receiving yards and a receiving TD. Gabriel Davis also went over 100 yards, giving the Bills two 100-plus receivers in the same game for the first time this season.
Allen went 9-of-13 for 271 yards, two touchdowns and an interception on throws more than 10 yards downfield. He went 21-of-28 for the day, a much-improved performance from his loss against Jacksonville.
As Associated Press sports writer John Wawrow notes, the caveat is the Bills' success came against a two-win opponent with an injury-depleted secondary, and an offense run by Mike White, who doubled his interception total from his previous three NFL appearance to eight on Sunday.
And the Bills can talk all they want about how they heard the noise, but didn't press the panic button after losing to Jacksonville. The fact remains, the Bills still lost to Jacksonville in much the same fashion they lost to Pittsburgh in the season opener and at Tennessee last month.
All three outings featured similar issues of an offense being too quarterback dependent, and a defense unable to create takeaways.
Buffalo's six wins have come against opponents who currently have a combined record of 18-39, with the Chiefs (6-4) the only team with four or more victories. The Bills' opponents over the next five weeks have a combined record of 33-25.
Still, as ESPN.com's Alaina Getzenberg suggests, a big win -- even over a weak opponent -- is something this team can build upon heading into Sunday's game against the Colts.
Worth noting. ... The Bills won by 25-plus points for the sixth time since 2020, most in the NFL. ...
For the record. ... Diggs' targets on the season weren't that far off from his record-setting 2020 season, but the Bills top wideout was not targeted early in a good number of Buffalo's games. Against the Jets, Allen threw to Diggs on the first play from scrimmage, and though it fell incomplete, the Bills QB would target Diggs seven more times in the first half alone.
Allen did not connect on two of his first three passes to Diggs, but it didn't dissuade the Bills quarterback from looking for him often through the first two quarters.
"We haven't given him that much opportunity to be involved in our offense," said Allen. "I know throughout the year he's had a few games where he's eclipsed 100 (yards). But the point of emphasis this week was let's get him the ball as early and often as possible."
With 88 receiving yards at the break, Allen went right back to Diggs on the first play from scrimmage in the second half connecting on a 23-yard pass play that kick started a touchdown drive on the first possession of the third quarter.
Of the 28 pass attempts that Allen threw in the game, 13 went to Diggs, who delivered with eight receptions for a career single-game high of 162 yards and the above-mentioned touchdown. Three of his receptions accounted for three of the team's six longest plays from scrimmage on the day.
It was also Diggs' second 100-yard receiving day on the year. No other Bills wideout had more than three targets on those 28 throws by Allen.
"He's an elite receiver for a reason," said McDermott. ...
On the injury front. ... Cole Beasley (ribs) was not practicing Wednesday. He's been dealing with this issue -- and playing through it -- since last month. I'll follow up on his progress via Late-Breaking Update in coming days. ...
And finally. ... The Bills will have their backup quarterback for their Week 11 matchup with the Colts.
Buffalo announced on Monday that the team has activated Mitchell Trubisky off the reserve/COVID-19 list.
Trubisky has missed the last two games while on the COVID-19 list. Davis Webb has served as the backup to Allen for the last two games.
Webb played four snaps in Sunday’s victory over the Jets.
In his first season for the Bills, Trubisky has appeared in three games in mop-up duty. He's completed two passes for 9 yards and rushed for 27 yards with a touchdown.
The Bills also released receiver Austin Proehl from their practice squad.
QBs: Josh Allen, Case Keenum
RBs: Duke Johnson, Devin Singletary, Zack Moss, Taiwan Jones
WRs: Stefon Diggs, Jamison Crowder, Gabriel Davis, Isaiah McKenzie, Tavon Austin, Emmanuel Sanders, Jake Kumerow
TEs: Dawson Knox, O.J. Howard, Tommy Sweeney
Carolina PanthersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 16 November 2021
It took all of one play for Cam Newton to make a booming announcement to the football world: "I'm back!"
As NFL.com's Adam Maya noted, the former MVP repeated that roar after rushing for a 2-yard touchdown on his first snap of the 2021 season. His second snap resulted in a passing touchdown as the Panthers cruised to a 34-10 win Sunday.
Carolina now sits at 5-5 in the thick of the NFC playoff race.
Newton entered the game during the Panthers' opening possession, which began deep in Cardinals territory following a fumble. On second-and-goal from the 2-yard line, Newton took a direct snap and delivered a stiff arm to Zaven Collins before breaking outside and barreling over Isaiah Simmons for the first-quarter score.
Newton took his helmet off, which drew a 15-yard unsportsmanlike penalty, and yelled "I'm back!" at the stands in into the TV camera.
"I'll put it like this: this time last week, I was eating a bowl of cereal. You feel me? So, I told coach [Matt] Rhule it would never happen again," Newton said. "So, that just puts things into perspective. After going to church, being with my children and really not even watching football; it was just about maximizing the person I need to be and so for that it was just all a rush of emotions. But yet I know a lot of people in the media, the titles of the newspapers, the blogs, they want to make it about me and it's not about me and I keep sayin' this. This was an impeccable team win."
The Panthers, thanks in part to Newton, were back in the end zone moments later. After a pair of Christian McCaffrey runs advanced the offense again to the Arizona 2-yard line, Newton re-entered on first-and-goal and rolled to his right before firing a strike to Robby Anderson to give the Panthers a quick 14-0 lead.
Newton finished the game 3 of 4 passing for 8 yards with the aforementioned touchdown and added 14 yards on the ground. He totaled eight snaps, but multiple teammates spoke to the energy he brought to the game Sunday.
"God is real, that's facts, and I'm just a vessel of Him and He's working in on my life. I was teasing some people about what's going on, you can't even make up a lie this good, you know what I'm sayin'?" Newton told FOX Sports' Sara Walsh after the game. “And I'm just happy to be back, I'm just happy to be a contributor to a team that's already good, we're just trying to get over the hump. It's good to be .500 and we got our work cut out for us."
Later asked how much of the Panthers' playbook he knew Sunday, Newton respond "two touchdowns' worth."
The quarterback rejoined the team in the wake of Sam Darnold suffering a shoulder injury that forced the incumbent starter to injured reserve. Newton didn't sign with Carolina until Thursday night, so he had limited time to digest the playbook. He knew about 15 plays going into the game and Newton played 12 percent (9 of 75) of the offensive plays and P.J. Walker got the start for the Panthers.
Rhule hasn't officially named a starting quarterback, but said Monday that Newton will get the majority of reps this week in practice.
"If he's ready to start, great. If he's not quite ready to do everything then P.J. Walker is available," Rhule said Monday.
But Rhule made it clear after Carolina's after Sunday's win: “We brought Cam here to play, there's no doubt about that."
Walker knew his time as a starter would be brief.
"I understand what's going on," said Walker, 2-0 as an NFL starter. "I understand the game. I understand the business of it."
Newton's triumphant return came on the same field in which he made his NFL debut 10 years ago. The then-No. 1 overall pick announced his NFL arrival with 422 passing yards and three TDs.
Meanwhile, McCaffrey returned to dominant form.
In his second game back since an extended injury absence, the Panthers' star running back looked much more explosive than he did a week ago against the New England Patriots. The Cardinals couldn't contain him on the perimeter -- a common failure for any defense when McCaffrey's fully healthy -- and had few answers for his rushes between the tackles as well.
McCaffrey finished with 161 total yards on 23 touches (13 carries, 10 catches) despite sitting the fourth quarter of a blowout. It's worth noting that McCaffrey had 12 rushes for 85 yards versus seven or more defenders in box (for a 7.1 yard average per carry). Sunday was McCaffrey's 11th game with at least 10 receptions, the most of any running back in NFL history.
McCaffrey's mere presence in the backfield opens up so many things for his teammates as defenses are forced to account for him every play. Conversely, the threat Newton brings as a runner opens the offense for McCaffrey.
And as Associated Press sports writer Steve Reed notes, the Panthers are doing a nice job of keeping running backs Chuba Hubbard and Ameer Abdullah in the mix to take some of the workload off McCaffrey and prevent another injury.
McCaffrey played 59 percent of Carolina's plays against Arizona. He appeared to be stretching out his hamstring in the fourth quarter, but Rhule said the 2019 All-Pro was not injured.
Rhule's challenge going forward will be to balance the need to make him the centerpiece of the offense with the countervailing need to make sure he's not worn down.
Bigger picture. ... If the season ended today, the Panthers (5-5) would be the NFC's third wild- card team.
Carolina is in the NFC playoff and division race, and not just because Newton is back and McCaffrey is healthy.
As ESPN.com's David Newton notes, the league's No. 2 defense is also getting healthy. The other three teams in the South lost on Sunday, leaving the Panthers half a game behind the Saints for second and 1 ½ behind the Bucs for first. Mix all that with the energy Newton brings and this season that appeared lost has hope.
"We're .500 right now," Newton said. "We lost games that, going back and watching film, that we should have won. It's still keeping that microscope to the details and making sure every opportunity that we get, we maximize in a positive way. ..."
The next three weeks the Panthers and their potent defense will face QBs Taylor Heinicke, Tua Tagovailoa and Matt Ryan. This is a chance for the Panthers to make some hay and position themselves for the playoffs before a brutal closing stretch that includes two games against Tampa Bay and one each against Buffalo and New Orleans. ...
Other notes of interest. ... Zane Gonzalez was perfect on Sunday and brought home NFC Special Teams Player of the Week. Gonzalez made good on all four of his field goal tries in Arizona, converting from 44, 48, 49 and 27 yards. He tacked on two extra points in as many tries.
Gonzalez has made 16 straight field goal attempts. ...
And finally. ... The Panthers spent three draft picks on Darnold and gave him every opportunity to become the team's franchise quarterback, but it's clear he wasn't the right guy for the job. He's expected to miss four to six weeks with a shoulder injury and could be done for the season. With Newton in the fold, there's no reason to believe Darnold will ever be the team's starter again.
The bad news for the Panthers is they're stuck with a pretty expensive backup next season after picking up the fifth-year option on Darnold's contract that will pay him $18.85 million in 2022.
QBs: Sam Darnold, P.J. Walker
RBs: Chuba Hubbard, D'Onta Foreman, Christian McCaffrey
WRs: D.J. Moore, Robbie Anderson, Shi Smith, Rashard Higgins, Brandon Zylstra, Alex Erickson, Terrace Marshall Jr.
TEs: Ian Thomas, Tommy Tremble, Colin Thompson
Chicago BearsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 16 November 2021
As Associated Press sports writer Andrew Seligman suggested, here is nothing more important for the future of the Chicago Bears than the development of quarterback Justin Fields.
No one has to explain that to head coach Matt Nagy.
"When you go up and draft a quarterback as high as we did, I totally understand the significance in seeing growth with the future," Nagy said. "You want to be able to see that."
The recent strides by Fields are one positive in a difficult stretch. The Bears (3-6) stumbled into their bye with four straight losses, and the heat on Nagy and general manager Ryan Pace in Chicago is intensifying again.
A big chunk of the fans might be more concerned about the prized rookie's growth than whether the team wins. But Nagy sees no reason why they can't have it both ways.
"We understand what our goal is as a team, right?" Nagy said. "And Justin's a big part of that. And that's winning, so that we can win and see growth with him."
Fields had his best game in a 29-27 loss at Pittsburgh on Monday Night Football in Week 9.
The former Ohio State star threw for a career-high 291 yards and helped Chicago grab a short-lived lead in the closing minutes after trailing by 14 through three quarters.
That came on the heels of a promising performance against San Francisco. Fields had a dazzling touchdown run and a neat scoring pass to a diving Jesse James in end zone.
Plays like those, plus the poise he is showing are just what the Bears envisioned when they traded up nine spots with the New York Giants to draft him with the No. 11 overall pick.
"Just keep going," Fields said. "Don't change. Don't think. Just keep working, keep working like it's Week one, just don't get complacent and keep working."
The Bears have plenty of work to do.
They haven't won since beating Detroit and Las Vegas in back-to-back weeks, and the schedule is about to take a tough turn.
Three of the next four games are against teams currently in first place, starting with Baltimore at Soldier Field this Sunday. Chicago plays at struggling Detroit on Thanksgiving, but then hosts Arizona and visits Green Bay.
There could be some decisions to make down the stretch when it comes to going with young players or sticking with veterans. But Nagy insisted his own job security won't factor into that.
Rookie offensive lineman Teven Jenkins appears to be inching toward a return after having surgery in mid-August for a back injury that prevented him from participating in any training camp practices. The second-round pick from Oklahoma State worked out before the game at Pittsburgh and he returned to practice Monday for the first time since offseason workouts.
The second-round pick from Oklahoma State had been sidelined with a back injury that required surgery Aug. 18. The Bears now have 21 days to activate Jenkins from injured reserve.
"We'll have to really get him in here and see where he's at," said Nagy. "It's been a while since Teven's put the pads on, so we'll start there. That will be exciting for us to see where he's at. I know he's really anxious and excited to get out there."
Jenkins was in line to open the season as the starting left tackle even though he played more at right tackle in college. His injury led to the Bears signing 39-year-old Jason Peters -- a two-time All-Pro left tackle.
"You keep it super simple and you say winning is good, right?" Nagy said. "That's what you want. However we get to that point with whoever it is, that's where your assistant coaches, myself, your coordinators, you all have got to talk through that and say OK, where are we at, and who's best for us at that spot and then let's roll."
Chicago is hardly rolling.
Seligman reminded readers the Bears opted to stick with Pace and Nagy rather than make sweeping changes after last season. The team's struggles this year have fueled more speculation about their futures.
After all, the Bears haven't won a playoff game since the 2010 season. Chicago is 45-60 since Pace was hired in 2015. Nagy has a 31-26 record in four seasons, but the Bears are 19-22 the past three.
The offense he was brought in to fix remains a sore spot despite the promising signs from Fields.
Chicago ranks 31st in the NFL in yards per game and has not finished higher than 21st during Nagy's tenure. Though they're tied for sixth in rushing, the Bears are last in passing and 30th in scoring.
The defense has been shaky in recent weeks after performing reasonably well in the early going. The Monsters of the Midway rank 13th overall and 23rd against the run.
A foot injury has kept star pass rusher Khalil Mack out the past two weeks after the three-time All-Pro had six sacks in the first seven games. Defensive tackle Akiem Hicks missed two games because of a groin injury and is dealing with an ankle problem, limiting one of the Bears' most disruptive linemen.
"Khalil is at a point right now where he's just continuing to push," Nagy said. "Every day matters to get closer and closer. Our training staff and our doctors are doing everything we can, so we'll just have to figure it out and see as the week progresses how he is."
In other injury news, veteran safety Deon Bush also returned to practice Monday for the first time since hurting his quad Oct. 17 in a loss to the Packers. The sixth-year pro has missed the last three games. Like Jenkins, the Bears will now have 21 days to activate him from injured reserve.
Other notes of interest. ... As Fields grows, tight end Cole Kmet grows with him.
According to Chicago Sun-Times staffer Mark Potash, it's not a coincidence.
Kmet, the 2020 second-round pick from Notre Dame, has become more and more of a go-to target for Fields. He had six receptions for a career-high 87 yards (14.5 average) against the Steelers on Monday night.
In his last four games, the 6-6, 260-pound Kmet has 18 receptions for 203 yards (11.3 average). Modest numbers for most big-offense tight ends, but a big sign of progress for the Bears' offense. Kmet also had a key block on a 21-yard run by David Montgomery against Pittsburgh.
Kmet already has more receiving yards in nine games (28-284, 10.1 average) than he had in 16 games as a rookie (28-243, 8.7 average, two touchdowns).
"He's taken that next step," Nagy said. "He's at a point where I think you're starting to see some more targets go his way. He's making big catches. He's a big-body guy. He's a physical tight end, doing great in the run game. I love where he's at. I love his mentality, and I think he's going to keep growing."
Kmet's previous high in yardage came against the Packers in Week 6 -- four receptions for 49 yards. Kmet's 87 yards were the third-most by a tight end in Week 9 -- behind the 49ers' George Kittle (6-101, one touchdown) and the Raiders' Darren Waller (7-92).
We'll see if Kmet can pick up where he left off when the Bears come off the bye this week against a Baltimore defense that's not been especially effective in stopping tight ends.
QBs: Justin Fields, Trevor Siemian
RBs: David Montgomery, Khalil Herbert, Tarik Cohen, Darrynton Evans
WRs: Darnell Mooney, Byron Pringle, Equanimeous St. Brown, Dante Pettis, Tajae Sharpe
TEs: Cole Kmet, Ryan Griffin, Jimmy Graham, Jesper Horsted, Jesse James, J.P. Holtz
Cincinnati BengalsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 16 November 2021
As Associated Press sports writer Mitch Stacey notes, D.J. Reader knows maturity and resilience matter when it comes to winning games down the stretch in a long, arduous NFL season.
The veteran defensive tackle -- like every other Bengals player performing self-analysis during the team's off week -- is still trying to figure out how Cincinnati managed to follow a solid 5-2 start with two particularly bad losses.
The more important question is whether this team has developed enough in head coach Zac Taylor's third season to be ready for the consistently high level of playmaking required in the second half of the schedule to get to the playoffs -- and make an impact.
"I don't know that I would say it's just growing pains and chalk it up to that," Reader said of the inconsistency. "You don't want to be passive and think it's just that. I think it's just more so everyone needs to understand that week to week, you have to bring your lunch pail and you got to be ready for whatever the assignment is, and you have to go out there and play. Week to week, anybody can beat anybody in this league."
Reader said he thinks it's a matter of instilling in younger players the importance of every single practice, every single week, every single game, every single play.
"I think it's very tough for young guys to understand," he said. "Especially coming from college, you might just be beating teams every week and you might just be able to out-athlete those guys every week."
In the NFL, he added, "you have to go out there and earn those wins."
Cincinnati (5-4) has already topped its victory total in each of the first two years of Taylor's tenure. The Bengals have beaten AFC North rivals Pittsburgh (5-3) and Baltimore (6-2), but were smashed by the Cleveland Browns (5-4) 41-16 last week. The division is up for grabs, and the Bengals are in it -- a rare situation for a team that has finished last for three straight seasons.
Second-year quarterback Joe Burrow is among the league leaders in touchdown passes with 20, but his 11 interceptions tie him with Carolina's Sam Darnold for most in the league. Rookie receiver Ja'Marr Chase has the makings of a superstar but wasn't a factor in the last two losses and has dropped potential touchdown passes.
Rookies have been pressed into service on the offensive line with varied results.
Reader and the others have talked up the Bengals' exceptional locker room culture and the fact that even the younger players are holding themselves accountable, looking inward and not pointing fingers when the team stumbles.
"To be honest, it's all about the mentality that we've got up in here," said running back Joe Mixon, one of the team captains. "We know the players that we have, we know the talent that we've got, and sometimes you can get carried away with everything being so big, and you just forget about the little things. And that's kind of what it came down to" in the Browns loss heading into the bye.
That debacle came on the heels of a baffling 34-31 loss to the then-1-5 New York Jets.
"Two losses can sometimes feel like 10," Taylor said. "But we've got a mature enough team to handle it right and push us through this little bit of adversity, go on the road (after the break) and get a win and set ourselves back on the direction that felt like we were in a couple weeks ago."
The Bengals will have to traverse a rugged road to make the playoffs for the first time since 2015. Cincinnati faces Las Vegas next, on Nov. 21, before returning home to play the Steelers, winners of four straight. The Bengals host Baltimore after Christmas and finish the season at Cleveland on Jan. 9. Mixed in are matchups with the Chargers and the Chiefs, both battling the Raiders for NFC West supremacy.
Meanwhile, Burrow is every bit as good as he was before he tore the ACL and MCL ligaments in his left knee at Washington Nov. 22.
In fact, Associated Press sports writer Arnie Stapleton contends that in some respects, Burrow's even better.
Burrow has thrown for almost 2,500 yards with 20 touchdowns while bumping his completion rate to 68.2 percent and his yards per completion to 12.8.
"I don't really think I see a big difference, because we really feel like he was playing good football there at the end of his time last year," Taylor said. "I think he only difference is he has nine more games of experience."
Well, here's one big contrast: Burrow has been reunited with former LSU wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase, the fifth pick in the '21 draft.
Chase, who blamed his preseason drops on getting accustomed to the size and color differences between footballs used in college and pro, is the leading contender at the halfway point of the season to be voted the NFL's Offensive Rookie of the Year.
The fifth overall draft pick has 44 receptions for a whopping 835 yards and seven touchdowns.
Chase leads the league with six catches that gained at least 40 yards, ranks third in receiving yards and is tied for fourth in receiving touchdowns. His start is even more impressive considering the LSU star opted out of the 2020 college season amid the coronavirus pandemic.
"It's rare for guys to come in and make an impact like he has at the wide receiver spot this early," offensive coordinator Brian Callahan said. "The skill of the (defensive backs) and the technique and the timing is so different than college. Whether he's just naturally got it or his time away helped him, who knows? But he showed up ready to roll, and once he got his feet under him, he really hasn't looked back."
Chase has slowed down recently, though.
After torching Baltimore for 201 yards and a score in a Week 7 romp, he's been held to nine catches for 81 yards and a touchdown the last two games against the New York Jets and Cleveland. Not coincidentally, the Bengals (5-4) lost both.
"I would say it's nothing crazy defensively people are doing with Ja'Marr," Callahan said. "They're just aware of him now. He's having a good year. They're trying to stay on top of him and not get beat deep. But I would say the coverage specialties haven't really shown up yet. We've played some good corners, too, that's part of it. But the defense is trying to keep a roof on the passing game."
It's safe to assume the coaching staff spent some time over the bye working on ways to get Chase back on track.
QBs: Joe Burrow, Brandon Allen
RBs: Joe Mixon, Samaje Perine, Chris Evans
WRs: Ja'Marr Chase, Tee Higgins, Tyler Boyd, Mike Thomas, Stanley Morgan Jr.
TEs: Hayden Hurst, Drew Sample
Cleveland BrownsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 16 November 2021
Baker Mayfield dragged himself to the postgame podium Sunday, limping on yet another injury -- a knee contusion -- he'll need to get treated along with his damaged left shoulder and sore left foot for him to keep playing.
Though tough, Cleveland's quarterback can't take much more punishment.
The Browns are just as banged up, and their issues seem more than physical.
An X-ray on the team might reveal some cracks that may not heal in time to salvage this season, which is in jeopardy of turning into one of the most disappointing in the franchise's history.
A demoralizing 45-7 loss to the New England Patriots returned the Browns (5-5) to last place in the AFC North and was the latest example of Cleveland's wild inconsistency and perhaps some deeper foundational troubles.
"We just did not do a good enough job in any area -- playing, coaching or you name it," head coach Kevin Stefanski said Monday. "No one feels good about how yesterday went."
From play to play, week to week, there's no telling which Browns team will show up -- the one which destroyed the Cincinnati Bengals just eight days ago, or the one that Bill Belichick made look silly.
There are problems everywhere, some fixable in the short term, others that could take more time.
Stefanski's game planning and play calling have been erratic. Slowed by the injuries, Mayfield isn't playing like a franchise QB nearly often enough and the Browns aren't scoring (17 points or fewer in five of the past seven games).
And a rebuilt defense that seemingly turned the corner a week ago, was dissected by Belichick and his rookie quarterback, Mac Jones.
Making matters worse, star end Myles Garrett seemed to call out embattled coordinator Joe Woods after the game when he said the defense didn't make any adjustments on the sideline or field.
Stefanski chalked up Garrett's sentiments to "frustration" and said he spoke to the NFL's sacks leader about his startling comments.
"You give up 45 and you score seven, we just did not have a good enough plan. We did not make enough adjustments and we did not play well enough," Stefanski said. "It is all the above when you get beat."
Of course, it didn't help the Browns were again without dynamic running backs Nick Chubb (COVID-19) and Kareem Hunt (calf) and that injured starting right tackle Jack Conklin's replacement, Blake Hance, had a rough day.
But every team is dealing with injuries, and those don't excuse missed tackles, pre-snap penalties, dropped passes or blown assignments.
With seven games left, the Browns have lost their margin for error.
"We're in the playoffs now," linebacker Anthony Walker Jr. said. "You want to be a playoff team? Your playoff just started earlier. So we're a playoff team right now and we've got to play every game like it's a playoff game, take every day like we're preparing for a playoff game, and then we'll see where the chips fall after that.
"But at the end of the day, no more talking. Let's go play ball. And we'll see where that leaves us."
Where it should leave them is continuing to lean heavily on the rushing attack.
Thrust into the starting lineup again, D'Ernest Johnson ran for 99 yards on 19 carries. The 25-year-old backup has shown his value to the Browns, and is putting together a nice resume if things don't work out for him long term in Cleveland.
Stefanski did not have an update on star Chubb, who was one of three Browns running backs (along with Demetric Felton and John Kelly) to spend the week on reserve/COVID.
Chubb is vaccinated, so the expectation is he'll return to action this week.
The timing is great given the matchup and given the fact that Hunt has yet to be designated to return from injured reserve.
Stefanski said rookie wide receiver Anthony Schwartz and cornerback A.J. Green remain in concussion protocol after getting hurt Sunday.
For what it's worth, Zac Jackson of The Athletic noted that Mayfield was still limping as he made his way from the facility to the media session and the quarterback called himself “pretty sore” once he did get to the microphone. He said “I’ll be good,” but noted the cumulative effect of adding the knee injury to the left shoulder and foot injuries he was already dealing with this year.
“Probably the most beat up I’ve been. Multiple things, not just one,” Mayfield said.
Mayfield said he didn’t know if he will practice on Wednesday, but the plan remains for him to get the start against the Lions at this point in the week.
I'll have more on Mayfield, Chubb and the rest via Late-Breaking Update in coming days. ...
Other notes of interest. ... Jarvis Landry caught 4-of-5 targets for 26 yards against the Patriots. Donovan Peoples-Jones caught 1-of-5.
Even playing from behind in a blowout loss, the Browns' passing attack was limited the five targets apiece for the top-two wideouts tied for second-most on the team behind Johnson's eight.
For Peoples-Jones, Sunday's outing conjured images of Odell Beckham Jr.'s tenure in Cleveland as Mayfield failed to connect with an apparently-open DPJ on more than one occasion. Still, with 12 catches (on 19 targets) for 273 yards over the past four games, Peoples-Jones offers some upside -- especially this week with a favorable matchup against the Lions.
Of some concern, the Akron Beacon-Journal's Nate Ulrich reported that Peoples-Jones exited Wednesday's practice after he came up limping following a route; again, I'll be following up on all the injury issues here as the week progresses. ...
For what it's worth, Austin Hooper, who caught 4-of-5 targets for 25 yards and a touchdown, was the other receiving asset to get five targets.
But with just 24 catches (on 35 targets) for 208 yards and two touchdowns on the season, Hooper has clearly fallen short of the expectations that came with his big-money signing as a free agent last offseason. From a fantasy perspective, having three tight ends in the mix -- Hooper, David Njoku and Harrison Bryant -- makes it hard for any of them to stand out.
QBs: Jacoby Brissett, Baker Mayfield, Kyle Lauletta, Deshaun Watson
RBs: Nick Chubb, Kareem Hunt, D'Ernest Johnson, Demetric Felton, John Kelly
WRs: Amari Cooper, Donovan Peoples-Jones, Jakeem Grant, Anthony Schwartz
TEs: David Njoku, Harrison Bryant, Miller Forristall, Stephen Carlson
Dallas CowboysCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 16 November 2021
As Profootballtalk.com's Charean Williams put it, "So much for the Broncos delivering a blueprint to the rest of the league on how to stop the Cowboys offense."
In fact, the Cowboys had 431 yards and scored 43 points in their 43-3 blowout beatdown of the Falcons on Sunday.
They scored touchdowns on five of their first eight possessions before Dak Prescott and many of the starters departed the game early.
Broncos coach Vic Fangio patted himself on the back last week for his defensive game plan that held the Cowboys to 290 yards and 16 points. The Cowboys reacted as one would expect, and it didn't work for the Falcons on Sunday.
"They tried that early," Prescott said of the Falcons. "As I said last week, the reason I wanted it is because we didn't play a good game. If they think that is the recipe for success against us, then good luck to them. We know what we're capable of, and I think last week was something we needed in a sense of just refocusing, recentering and realizing this is the NFL and it's tough. You've got to earn it each and every day of practice and you've got to come out on Sunday's and earn it again."
In truth, last week probably had more to do with Prescott's lack of practice time after his right calf injury kept him out a game as well as CeeDee Lamb's ankle injury and Amari Cooper's hamstring injury.
Whatever, the Cowboys weren't the same team this week as they were last week.
Prescott went 24-of-31 for 296 yards and two touchdowns. Lamb caught six passes for 94 yards and two touchdowns, and Cooper had four receptions for 51 yards.
"Resilient team. A team that is very aware of what we're capable of," Prescott said. "I don't want to say. ... Last week just wasn't us, and everybody in that locker room knows that. It left a bad taste in our mouth. I think it was taste that we needed to understand how tough this game is, but tonight just shows that when we focus in, take it one play at a time, our minds are where our feet are, we're capable of doing some great things.
"So we just got to continue to focus on that and take it play by play, game by game, and we'll continue to get better and hopefully have a lot more performances like this."
It was a big win that lends some momentum as what Associated Press sports writer Schuyler Dixon characterized as the traditional "three games in 12 days" has started for the Cowboys.
After visiting the resurgent Chiefs, Dallas plays the Raiders at home on Thanksgiving.
The two upcoming games, followed by a game against the New Orleans Saints, will determine how legitimate the Cowboys are as a Super Bowl contender.
At 7-2, they appear like they will be right in the mix, especially with such a dominating performance against the Falcons, but if they can win all three, the Cowboys will be in the hunt for home-field advantage in December. Playing Patrick Mahomes and Derek Carr in a span of five days will be a challenge, and it's never easy to win in New Orleans.
As ESPN's Todd Archer notes, the Cowboys close the year with five of their last eight games away from home, so grabbing at least two wins out of the next three would be a good thing. ...
On the injury front. ... It sounds like the Cowboys avoided any significant injuries Sunday, including Lamb's arm contusion that limited his snap count against the Falcons.
"I think CeeDee's going to be fine," head coach Mike McCarthy said. "I don't have an exact (report) on if he's going to practice Wednesday, but I fully anticipate he'll be available."
Lamb didn't play most of the second half, but the Cowboys' huge lead probably was a factor in that decision.
Prescott ended up with a gash on his right cheek because a helmeted Lamb head-butted his helmetless quarterback on the sideline after one of Lamb's two receiving TDs.
Prescott completed the scoring against the Falcons by running through linebacker Mykal Walker at the goal line and was asked about the punishment he invited on a play not far from where his gruesome season-ending ankle injury happened last year.
"The hardest hit was CeeDee on the sideline," Prescott responded. "I'll be fine."
Beyond that, the questions continue to be about who's coming back rather than who's out.
Receiver Michael Gallup returned from a calf strain that had sidelined since the opener and had a 23-yard catch on fourth-and-3 to set up a touchdown. DT Trysten Hill (2020 torn knee ligament) played for the first time this season. Next up, Lawrence and DT Neville Gallimore. But it might be after the Thanksgiving game for both.
A few final notes. ... While his stats weren't as gaudy this week, Ezekiel Elliott still had a couple of second-quarter touchdowns. But according to the team's official website biggest thing they did was set the tone, especially by electing to take the ball to start the game.
"We knew going into the game we had to start fast, we knew we had to make up for last week," Elliott said. "We want the ball; we want to hit them in the mouth first. We wanted to go score first and that's what we did."
Zeke called his day "solid" although he acknowledged the lost fumble, his first of the season.
"That's something I've been doing well on this year," said Elliott, who lost five fumbles in 2020. "Definitely gotta lock back in on my ball security. Their defense came out, they played good against the run. A lot of movement, they were pretty disruptive. We went out there and hit our plays."
Elliott had 41 rushing yards on 14 carries (2.9 yard average) with two touchdowns. He caught three passes for 15 yards. And he also had one pass for four yards - his first attempt of his career.
Tony Pollard helped cover for Elliott's low rushing total with 98 total yards (42 rushing, 56 receiving). ...
According to Dallas Morning News staffer Michael Gehlken, the Cowboys expect Greg Zuerlein (COVID-19) to return against Chiefs. Even so, they are keeping kicker Lirim Hajrullahu close by. He was one of four practice-squad players whom team protected this week. Other NFL clubs also cannot sign DE Bradlee Anae, TE Ian Bunting or CB Deante Burton. ...
One last note here. ... Prescott now has 16 touchdown passes against the blitz this season, most in the NFL.
QBs: Dak Prescott, Cooper Rush, Will Grier
RBs: Ezekiel Elliott, Tony Pollard, Corey Clement, Ito Smith
WRs: CeeDee Lamb, James Washington, Simi Fehoko, Noah Brown, Michael Gallup
TEs: Dalton Schultz, Sean McKeon
Denver BroncosCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 16 November 2021
As Associated Press sports writer Arnie Stapleton framed it: "For a guy who wouldn't put himself in harm's way or Darius Slay's path, Teddy Bridgewater sure didn't have any problem falling on the sword.
"Or was he pushed?"
Head coach Vic Fangio called out Bridgewater in a team meeting Monday for being a bystander instead of a barrier on Slay's 83-yard fumble return for a touchdown Sunday.
It was the decisive play in Denver's 30-13 loss to Philadelphia that sent the Broncos skidding into their bye at 5-5 instead of tied atop the AFC West with the resurgent Chiefs.
"I'd like to see Teddy at least make a play at the guy," Fangio said.
Bridgewater explained after the game he was trying to steer Slay away from the sideline so that one of his teammates could make the tackle. Only, Bridgewater was the last line of defense without any of the Broncos' speedy receivers on the field in the three-tight end formation on fourth-and-1 when Melvin Gordon fumbled the football.
All three tight ends came close to tackling Slay but once he swept past Bridgewater at the Eagles 45-yard line, he was in the clear.
Bridgewater bristled when asked after the game if he'd made a business decision not to attempt the tackle.
As Stapleton notes, the quarterback was roasted on social media both for his matador defense and for his awkward defense of that decision to let Slay sweep past him untouched.
When he met with reporters Monday, Bridgewater said the things he should have said after the game to curb the onslaught of criticism.
"We watched it today as a team. Coach (Fangio) pointed out that my effort had to be better there. I totally agree," Bridgewater said. "That's not the type of tape that I want to put out there."
Because it made him look like he wasn't a team player, that he didn't love the game like he professes and that he wasn't willing to do everything he could to win.
"It's one of those situations where you get (mad) after you watch it because you know how much this game means to you," Bridgewater said. "Guys are out there trying to make a play. You feel like you have a little help running toward the sideline and you try to force a cut back. In real time, it feels like everything is happening fast—let's force a cutback. But when you slow it down, it's like, 'Man, just give more effort.'
"You watch it and you walk away from it (mad) at yourself. Credit Slay -- he made a great play also. It's one of those deals where we have guys that were trying to make the tackle. I just needed to lay it all out for the guys in that moment."
The Broncos were about 20 yards away from tying the game when Gordon gained two yards on fourth-and-1 from the Eagles 23. But linebacker Davion Taylor punched the ball out of Gordon's hands and Slay scooped up Gordon's 20th career fumble.
Bridgewater said he was waiting for the officials to blow the play dead and rule that Gordon was down. "Then there wasn't a whistle. It kind of caught me by surprise," Bridgewater said.
"But at the same time, I'm right there (with an) opportunity to just dive, sacrifice and do whatever I can to help the team in that moment. I failed and I own up to it. It's unacceptable as a football player and as a member of his team.
"You play this game and you lay it all on the line every week. That's one of those moments where I just have to accept the fact that I didn't give everything I had in me on that play," Bridgewater said. "I understand that there's going to be some backlash that comes with it. I'm a grown man. I'm a professional athlete. I understand that's what comes with it.
"But it doesn't define who we are as a football team," Bridgewater added. "It doesn't define me as a man and as a football player."
Bridgewater had a devastating knee injury early in his career, so many fans would understand if he was simply trying to avoid an injury. But Bridgewater said that wasn't the case at all.
"You watch throughout the course of the game and there are times where I'm trying to extend the play in the pocket. I'm not thinking about my body or trying to hold back or anything," he said.
Bridgewater added that he's actually glad Fangio didn't let the whole thing slide.
"It was great that Coach called it out in the team meeting," Bridgewater said. "We talk about holding each other accountable. That's a moment right there where I'm not going to sink in my chair or feel bad that Coach called me out. I take full ownership in what happened."
Still, it was one of the toughest film reviews he's ever endured.
"Especially when you slow it down," Bridgewater said. "Like I said, in real time, everything is happening fast. You have the sideline to your advantage to force a cutback. Then when you slow it down with a clicker and a remote in your hand, it's just like, 'Man, this is bad.'"
Bridgewater said he actually began to realize his mistake while replaying the game in his head Sunday night, and Monday's film session only confirmed his regrets.
"Hopefully, I never have to be put in that situation again," Bridgewater said. "If I am, I'll make sure that I lay it all on the line. I won't be the talk of social media or the internet or whatever.
"Hopefully we can just put this behind and move forward."
Indeed, the plan going forward is to regroup over the bye, get over the COVID-19 outbreak that began with QB2 Drew Lock a week ago and now includes four players, a coach and a practice squad member, and make a push for the playoffs or the entire coaching staff could be looking for work come January.
For the record, Fangio squashed any thought about a possible quarterback change and said he did not agree with the sentiment that Bridgewater should be benched for a lack of effort.
"Teddy's our quarterback moving forward," Fangio said.
And with Bridgewater, the Broncos will try to make the most of the five division games that still remain on the slate.
"We get this bye week, we get some time to just reflect, embrace the good, accept the bad, embrace the bad and just move forward," Bridgewater said. "We can't let Sunday's performance linger. We can't let that determine the outcome of the rest of the season."
One last note here. ... Gordon, who had a 1-yard score in the second quarter, scored his 50th career touchdown. Since 2015, only Derrick Henry (65) and Ezekiel Elliott (53) have more.
The above-mentioned fumble, gave Gordon 20 of those on his career, 15 of which the opponent recovered. Only Adrian Peterson (48) and Ezekiel Elliott (22) have more among active running backs.
QBs: Russell Wilson, Josh Johnson
RBs: Javonte Williams, Melvin Gordon, Mike Boone
WRs: Jerry Jeudy, Courtland Sutton, Tim Patrick, Diontae Spencer, K.J. Hamler
TEs: Albert Okwuegbunam, Eric Saubert, Andrew Beck
Detroit LionsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 16 November 2021
The Lions went into Sunday's game against the Steelers determined to run the ball in soggy conditions, and those plans were amplified when starting quarterback Jared Goff suffered a strained oblique late in the first quarter, Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press reports.
Goff said he injured his side on an underthrown deep pass to Kalif Raymond one play after Julian Okwara intercepted Steelers starter Mason Rudolph.
Goff had minus-1 yard passing in the first quarter and was 11 for 20 for 54 yards passing in regulation.
He finished 14 of 25 for 114 yards as the Lions and Steelers tied on a rainy day at Heinz Field, 16-16.
"I don't want to sit up here and say I was hurt and whatever and make excuses," Goff said. "It was bothering me, but I felt like I could compete and throw fine, and I felt like I did. I don't feel like it was a hindrance at any point."
Goff appeared uncomfortable at times on the sideline and in the huddle, often throwing between breaks in the action.
On Monday, head coach Dan Campbell said he never seriously considered pulling Goff and putting in backup quarterback David Blough after consulting with Goff, quarterbacks coach Mark Brunell and the Lions medical staff about the injury.
"If I felt like there was no way that he could function then I would (have taken him out), Campbell said. "But I didn't feel that way yesterday."
Acquired as part of January's trade of Matthew Stafford for three draft picks, Goff is having his worst season since his rookie year.
He has one touchdown pass in the Lions' past five games, 10 turnovers on the season and the Lions rank 29th in the NFL in scoring offense.
Campbell has consistently said the Lions' offensive problems run deeper than Goff. But when he gave Goff a vote of confidence as his starter earlier after an ugly 34-11 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals in October, he said Goff was "going to need to put a little bit of weight on his shoulders" and "step up and make some throws and do some things."
In the three games since, Goff has completed 64.2 percent of his passes for 604 yards with one touchdown and two interceptions.
"It's hard to say that he shouldn't be the guy right now," Campbell insisted Monday. "It's hard to say that, man. Because, ah man, there again, every time we tried to throw it in dropback just about, our protection breaks down. And so, until we can do things right around him.
"Now, yeah, there's throws we want to see that he needs to make. There was a dart that we threw to (Raymond) that he should make and he's pissed off about it, too."
Campbell also said Monday he wasn't changing his starting quarterback, sticking with Goff despite his struggles. Now comes word, though, that the Lions might have to start Blough out of necessity in Week 11.
That's because the oblique injury could keep him out against the Browns, Tom Pelissero of NFL Media reports.
Campbell told reporters on Wednesday that Goff is day to day and would not practice Wednesday. Tim Boyle will take first-team reps for the Lions at QB.
The Lions, of course, have a quick turnaround after Sunday, playing a Thanksgiving Day game against the Bears.
In his first season with the Lions, Goff has completed 66.1 percent of his passes for 2,109 yards with eight touchdowns and six interceptions.
He's also fumbled seven times, losing four.
It's worth noting that after the Lions lost to the Eagles 44-6 before the bye, Campbell watched the tape of the offense three times. He then decided to commit more of his time to the offense.
On Sunday, for the first time this season, Campbell donned the headset and communicated the play calls to Goff.
Offensive coordinator Anthony Lynn had called the plays in the team's first eight games.
Campbell tried to downplay the reduced role for Lynn.
"One of the things was: Why not change it up a little bit here?" Campbell said, via Justin Rogers of the Detroit News. "I wanted to be able to talk to (Goff) in game. Sometimes I think you're able to get in the flow of the game when you're the guy who's calling it. It just helps to know exactly where to go.
"Honestly, I don't think it's a big deal. There were still things I was giving to A-Lynn when he was calling. It's just now I took the green dot (headset with direct line to the quarterback) basically to Goff, so I could communicate to him. I'll still grab some (play) calls from them. I'll use my own calls. It was a joint effort by all those guys."
Campbell admitted during an interview with Sports Illustrated last week that he had called only eight to 10 offensive plays this season. As an assistant coach, or even as interim head coach for the Dolphins in 2015, Campbell never called plays.
The Lions had 306 yards with a season-best 229 rushing yards.
"It was really good," Goff said. "I thought he did a great job and had a good feel for wanting to come back to something that we had done previously and kind of wanted to mix it up. I think he'll only learn and continue to get better from here."
The Lions put up all those rushing yards without leading rusher Jamaal Williams, who missed the Steelers game with a thigh injury. D'Andre Swift, the other half of Detroit's two-headed running game, carried 33 times for 130 yards, and two backups played a huge role.
Jermar Jefferson and Godwin Igwebuike had 97 yards and both touchdowns on just five carries. Jefferson scored on a 28-yard run, but injured his ankle in the process. Igwebuike stepped up from his normal role as a kick returner to carry twice for 56 yards, including a 42-yard touchdown.
Of great interest to fantasy managers, Swift's 22 rushes for 82 yards versus Pittsburgh's stacked box were the most rushes against a stacked box since Adrian Peterson's 23 in Week 9, 2017.
It was a trued feature-back workload and production.
The question is whether the Swift can build off this breakout game?
ESPN.com's Eric Woodyard believes the answer is "Yes. This performance can absolutely become a confidence booster for Swift. ..."
Beyond Goff's issue, Campbell said the Lions avoided serious injury against the Steelers, though Jefferson could miss time with the above-mentioned ankle injury.
"He got rolled up yesterday, obviously, on the touchdown so we'll see where he's at. I don't think it's as bad as we thought it was going to be, but that doesn't mean that this isn't going to be a week or so or something."
As noted above the Lions play the Browns this week, then host the Chicago Bears on Thanksgiving.
I'll have more on Goff, Swift, who was limited by a sore shoulder in Wednesday's practice, Williams and Jefferson via Late-Breaking Update in coming days. ...
Other notes of interest. ... For the first time this season, tight end T.J. Hockenson failed to catch a single pass in a game.
He came into the contest leading Detroit in receptions and receiving yards, but he was targeted just once and failed to haul it in. The last time Hockenson failed to catch a pass in a game was Week 12 of his rookie season in 2019 against Washington.
He was targeted twice in that game without a catch.
Hockenson played 67 snaps, the most of any Lion on offense except for Goff and the five starters on the offensive line who played all 71.
He has 16 catches in the first two games, then only eight in the next three. He came back from that to catch 24 passes in the last three games before the bye.
That put him at 48 catches (for 448 yards), with a 100-catch season within reasonable range. And that's where he remains after Sunday. ...
Ryan Santoso was kicking in place of Austin Seibert, who went on injured reserve with a hip injury.
Santoso made a 20-yard field goal and an extra point in the first half, but he missed an extra point after the Lions had scored a TD on the first possession of the second half.
The miss gave the Lions a 16-10 lead instead of 17-10 had he made the extra point.
That missed extra point would loom larger by the minute as the Steelers made two field goals in the second half to make it 16-16.
Santoso had a chance to win it for the Lions but missed badly on a 48-yard field goal attempt with 4:03 left in overtime.
"Everything that puts a black eye on it is the field goal," Campbell said at his Monday press conference. "The extra point and the field goal."
The rainy conditions and the snap and hold had no bearing on either kick, Campbell said. Both were wide right.
"No. The procedure was good," he said. "The snap and hold was good. They did a good job with the procedure."
"We're going to bring some guys in -- work them out," Campbell said. "See who the best man for the job is."
First though, just to make sure they had some motivation to make a change, the Lions released Santoso from the practice squad.
The Lions also waived wide receiver Geronimo Allison.
One last note here. ... Prior to Sunday, the last NFL game to end in a tie took place Week 3, 2020 between the Eagles and Bengals (23-23).
QBs: Jared Goff, Tim Boyle, David Blough
RBs: D'Andre Swift, Jamaal Williams, Craig Reynolds, Jermar Jefferson, Godwin Igwebuike
WRs: Amon-Ra St. Brown, Josh Reynolds, Kalif Raymond, KhaDarel Hodge, Trinity Benson, Tom Kennedy, Quintez Cephus, D.J. Chark
TEs: Brock Wright, Garrett Griffin, Jared Pinkney, T.J. Hockenson
Green Bay PackersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 16 November 2021
As NFL.com's Michael Baca reported, Aaron Rodgers was emotional upon his return to the football field on Sunday.
After missing Week 9 following a positive test for COVID-19, the Packers quarterback returned to Lambeau Field and helped get Green Bay back in the win column with a 17-0 victory over the Seattle Seahawks.
"A lot of emotions, for sure," Rodgers said after the game. "Good to be back with the guys, good to be back at home, good to be back on the field, really. Most emotions from the whole night was probably walking off the field after the game. Definitely got me a little misty heading off. So, that was good to feel all those emotions and good to be back with the guys."
Rodgers has gone through a fair share of regular-season games over the course of his 17-year career, but why so "misty" after game in the middle of November?
"You know I just don't take these things for granted," he said. "Walking off the field, as a winner, it was fun beating that squad -- we've had some battles over the years -- but just walking out with Preston [Smith], who I have so much love and appreciation for. And then hearing that type of response from the crowd was a little extra special tonight."
Rodgers completed 23 of 37 passes for 292 yards with no touchdowns and an interception. The 37-year-old didn't have his best outing in what was a defensive duel with the wind howling and the temperature nearing a freeze.
Of course, Rodgers had to prepare for the Seahawks while away from his team. The Packers QB wasn't activated from the reserve/COVID-19 list until Saturday after going through a mandatory 10-day quarantine. Rodgers called it a "difficult" 10 days away from the team and admitted it was troublesome to have to prep for a game without being in the same room or on the practice field at all with his teammates.
"Not ideal, for sure," Rodgers said. "Being on Zoom all week. The best thing for me to be prepared is to be able to repeat the plays in practice and then the walk-throughs -- you're hearing them two, three or four times and it becomes kind of second nature' you can almost finish the sentence from Matt [LaFleur]. Today, like I told pregame, it was going to be more Ron Burgundy-ish -- where sometimes I just gotta repeat exactly what is being said verbatim. Kind of feel my way through some of the plan. But I felt Matt did a nice job of limiting the long play-calls early in the game. There was a lot of running plays and not a lot of cans or adjustments on them, so I think that made me settle in a little bit. But yeah -- not ideal for sure. It will be nice to go through a full week next week."
The aftermath of Rodgers' positive case brought with it a review into the Packers' COVID-19 protocols implementation, which resulted in the franchise getting fined $300,000 and Rodgers incurring a $14,650 fine due to attending a Halloween party. Unvaccinated players are prohibited from team gatherings outside the team facility.
Rodgers said it was "special" and "meaningful" that so many people from the organization reached out to him over the course of his time away from the team. Sunday's win over the Seahawks doesn't exactly end Rodgers' story on the season, but it's one that brought some new perspective for the Packers QB.
"I feel pretty good for the most part," Rodgers said when asked how he felt physically after the game. "I'd say I played fairly solid. Obviously I had that one bad decision in the red zone and probably missed a couple throws. ... My wind was good. I got stepped on in the second quarter and it kind of bothered me a little bit but, wind-wise I felt pretty good."
All very positive.
But there are concerns as an offense that produced an NFL-leading 31.8 points per game a year ago isn't approaching those heights this season.
Adding to the concern, the offense likely will be missing 2020 Pro Bowl running back Aaron Jones at least for the next game or two because of a mild sprain of his medial collateral ligament that caused him to leave the Seahawks game early.
"I don't think it's going to be long term, but we'll just monitor it on a daily basis and see how fast he can heal up, because he's certainly a guy you want out on the field," head coach Matt LaFleur said Monday.
Jones had to exit Sunday's 17-0 win over the Seahawks in the fourth quarter with the injury. To that point, he had seven carries for 25 yards and four receptions for 61 yards.
In his fifth season, Jones has 541 yards rushing with three touchdowns plus 37 receptions for 298 yards and four touchdowns this season.
With Jones sidelined, second-year back A.J. Dillon will likely receive the bulk of the carries. He had 66 yards and a pair of rushing touchdowns in Sunday's win along with two receptions for 62 yards.
In 10 games this season, Dillon has 421 yards rushing and 196 yards receiving.
Beyond that, Green Bay ranks 19th out of 32 teams in scoring with 21.6 points per game. The Packers had totaled seven points in a seven-quarter stretch before Dillon scored two fourth-quarter touchdowns Sunday.
They're averaging 5.5 yards per play, down from 6.3 last season, and rank 17th in the league in that category after placing second a year ago.
Last year, they ranked fifth in yards per game (389). This year, they're down to 20th (339.4).
Also on the injury front for the offense. ... When the Packers activated Rodgers from the COVID-19 reserve list on Saturday, they also added him to their injury report for Sunday's game against the Seahawks.
A toe injury was given as the reason for Rodgers' addition, but he was not given an injury designation and played the whole way. During a Tuesday appearance on The Pat McAfee Show, Rodgers declined to say how he hurt his toe while he was away from the team last week but said it wasn't an issue for him on Sunday and he doesn't expect it to be one in the future either.
Beyond that, Green Bay is missing center Josh Myers and tight end Robert Tonyan because of knee issues, with Tonyan's injury knocking him out for the entire season. David Bakhtiari still hasn't played since tearing the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee Dec. 31, though the 2020 All-Pro left tackle is getting closer to making his season debut.
"I do think that there's a lot more out there for our offense, and I know we expect more out of the offense, there's no question," LaFleur said after Sunday's game. "So, hopefully, we come back and we're hungry and we attack it when we get back to practice on Wednesday."
Fortunately, as Associated Press sports writer Steve Megargee noted, a franchise that has benefited from Hall of Fame-caliber quarterback play for most of the past three decades, first with Brett Favre and now with Rodgers, is getting more production from its defense than its offense.
"We're making a statement," linebacker Krys Barnes said Sunday after the victory over Seattle. "I think the defense is playing at an elite level."
That's continued even as the Packers have faced three of the league's top quarterbacks in Arizona's Kyler Murray, Kansas City's Patrick Mahomes and Seattle's Russell Wilson over the past three weeks. They won 24-21 at Arizona, lost 13-7 at Kansas City without Rodgers, and handed Seattle its first shutout loss since 2011.
Green Bay ranks third in the league in yards allowed per play (5.1), yards allowed per game (309.9) and points allowed per game (18.0) under new defensive coordinator Joe Barry. Last year, the Packers were 17th in yards allowed per play (5.6), ninth in yards allowed per game (334.0) and 13th in points allowed per game (23.1).
Better still, the Packers haven't allowed a single point over their past six quarters, which represents their longest such streak since 2010. The previous time they gave up fewer points through the first 10 games of a season was in their 2010 championship run. The previous time they allowed fewer yards through their first 10 games was in 2009.
Now, especially with Jones out, the Packers need to get Rodgers back up to full speed.
Green Bay has only one touchdown pass over its past two games -- a 20-yarder from Jordan Love to Allen Lazard with less than five minutes left in the loss to the Chiefs.
Next up, the Packers get a chance to extend their 3½-game lead in the NFC North when they visit the second-place Minnesota Vikings on Sunday.
Green Bay has a franchise-record seven consecutive victories in road division games. ...
A few final notes of interest. ... The kicking unit's struggles continue. Mason Crosby missed a 42-yard field goal before hitting a 27-yarder. Since making a franchise-record 27 straight field-goal attempts, Crosby has gone 5 of 12.
Blake Bortles was released from the practice squad Monday as quarterback Kurt Benkert was activated from the practice squad reserve/COVID-19 list.
Also. ... With Jones ailing, the Packers worked out veteran running back Kerryon Johnson, per the transaction wire.
QBs: Aaron Rodgers, Kurt Benkert, Jordan Love
RBs: Aaron Jones, A.J. Dillon, Kylin Hill
WRs: Allen Lazard, Sammy Watkins, Amari Rodgers, Malik Taylor, Randall Cobb
TEs: Marcedes Lewis, Josiah Deguara, Robert Tonyan
Houston TexansCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 16 November 2021
As Associated Press sports writer Kristie Rieken reminded readers, when the Texans drafted Deshaun Watson in the first round in 2017, it seemed they finally found their franchise quarterback after years of woes at the position.
Fast forward to 2021 with Watson sitting out amid a trade request and 22 lawsuits alleging sexual harassment or assault and the Texans are back to square one.
As they come off their Week 10 bye, they have the second-worst record in the league after winning just one of their first nine games -- with five of their eight losses coming by 15 points or more.
It seems unlikely Watson will play another down for the Texans, but the sides remain in limbo after he wasn't traded before last week's deadline.
Now the soonest he could be dealt is March 16, leaving the issue hanging over the team for at least the next few months.
General manager Nick Caserio was a longtime executive with the Patriots who is in his first year in Houston. He has talked often about building a winning culture through accountability and character. But the question is how the Texans can achieve that goal with the uncertainty over Watson's future taking the focus away from anything else going on with this team?
"I don't want to speak for anybody else, but it really hasn't been a distraction for me, and our team has done a great job of focusing on the things that they can control as well," Caserio said. "Quite frankly, it's probably more of a distraction away from here. It doesn't really affect anything we are doing on a day-to-day basis."
Tyrod Taylor opened the season filling in for Watson and led Houston to a win over the Jaguars in the opener. But he was injured in the first half of Week 2 against Cleveland and rookie Davis Mills took over. The third-round pick looked overmatched from the start and the Texans lost to the Browns before dropping the next six games with Mills as a starter.
The Texans hoped Taylor's return from a hamstring injury last week would help them end their skid, but instead a three-interception debacle led to a loss to Miami.
Houston's eight-game losing streak is the team's longest since dropping the final 14 games of the 2013 season. The Texans have had some bad teams in their short history, but this might be the worst, often not even looking competitive as the losses have piled.
Head coach David Culley, who is in his first season as a head coach after decades as an NFL assistant, has remained upbeat as the losses have mounted. He lauded the players for continuing to play hard in such a disappointing season, but he knows things must improve after the break and took responsibility for Houston's struggles.
"I'm frustrated that this team doesn't play as consistent as we need them to play to have success and win football games," he said. "That's on us as coaches. We haven't done as good a job as we need to do to do that."
Despite Taylor's bad performance against the Dolphins, Culley said he's sticking with the veteran when the team resumes play. He believes last week's game was an anomaly for the 11-year pro and said he gives Houston its best chance to win moving forward.
As Rieken went on to point out, while it appears Taylor will be Houston's quarterback for the rest of this season, he isn't likely to be part of the team's future after joining the Texans on a one-year contract this offseason. Mills also doesn't seem to be a viable option to lead the team in years to come after his failure this season.
Perhaps the only good news for the Texans is that they seem destined to get one of the top five picks in next year's draft, where they could find a quarterback to replace Watson. It will be a big selection for Houston after the team hasn't had a first-round pick since 2019 after trading away their selections in the opening round in the last two years.
Nonetheless, Culley insists the Texans are working hard to be competitive each week and are not throwing in the towel in hopes of gaining a higher draft pick.
Culley said his staff worked most of last week evaluating everything about the team while the players got a break. As they resume play Sunday at the AFC South-leading Tennessee Titans, Culley said the two biggest things they're focused on are eliminating turnovers and penalties.
"There's going to be a relentless effort from me and on down to our staff to make sure that we do a much better job of doing that, because those are the two things that are keeping us from doing what we need to do," he said.
Houston's 17 turnovers are tied for fifth most in the league and the team's 552 yards of penalties are the 12th most. With just one win, the Texans trail only the winless Lions for the worst record in the NFL.
Culley believes the Texans could have won three more games before the bye if they'd simply done a better job of limiting penalties and turnovers, though those are far from their only issues.
Houston ranks last in total offense (280.1), 31st in yards rushing (75.8), 29th in yards passing (204.3) and is last by scoring just 14.2 points a game. But the problems aren't just limited to offense as the defense is 30th in yards allowed a game (385.9), 31st in yards rushing (136.9) and 29th by allowing 28.7 points a game.
Culley, who spent decades as an NFL assistant before landing this job, is confident that Taylor and the rest of the team will play better after the break.
Fantasy managers probably shouldn't share in that confidence.
QBs: Davis Mills, Kevin Hogan, Kyle Allen
RBs: Dare Ogunbowale, Rex Burkhead, David Johnson, Marlon Mack, Royce Freeman, Scottie Phillips
WRs: Brandin Cooks, Nico Collins, Phillip Dorsett, Chris Conley, Chris Moore, Danny Amendola, Davion Davis, Jordan Veasy
TEs: Brevin Jordan, Jordan Akins, Pharaoh Brown, Jeff Driskel
Indianapolis ColtsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 16 November 2021
As ESPN.com's Tom Carpenter suggested, the days of playing the Houston Texans, Jacksonville Jaguars, San Francisco 49ers, Miami Dolphins and New York Jets are basically gone for the Indianapolis Colts.
What's significant of those teams?
Those are the teams the Colts have their five victories against to help turn their 1-4 start this season into their current 5-5 record.
Those teams also all have losing records.
Catching the Tennessee Titans to win the AFC South and get an automatic playoff spot is becoming more and more a distant memory as each week passes. That's because the Titans are three games ahead in the division, have already beaten the Colts twice and are showing no signs of slowing down, despite losing Derrick Henry for the season after Week 8.
Earning a wild-card playoff berth is still a possibility for the Colts, though. The first step is for them to handle their business by winning games and then by getting help from other teams. There are seven teams all within a game of each other for the final two playoff spots in the AFC.
The Colts have not beaten a team that had a winning record at the time of the game since they took down the Las Vegas Raiders on Dec. 13, 2020. That's eight straight losses against playoff teams for the Colts.
Indianapolis' next two games are Sunday at the Buffalo Bills, in a rematch of last season's wild-card playoff game, and then at home against Tom Brady and the Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers the following weekend. The Colts have lost four straight to the Bills in Buffalo, and they have not beaten a Brady-led team since the 2009 season.
"This is big -- especially the first one," head coach Frank Reich said about Sunday's game against the Bills. "There's a lot of good teams in the AFC, but no one's just taken over. So why can't it be us? Why can't the Indianapolis Colts take over right now?
"So, if we're going do it, we gotta prove it this weekend in Buffalo against a very good football team. That'll be fun."
It will be more fun if Carson Wentz is on point.
As Profootballtalk.com's Josh Alper noted this week, Wentz has shown a willingness to do just about anything from throwing left-handed to trying a shovel pass under pressure in order to make a play and that habit can sometimes backfire on him.
One example of that came late in their Week 8 loss to the Titans when Wentz's lefty throw from his own end zone was returned for a touchdown by Titans corner Elijah Molden. He avoided those outcomes against the Jaguars this past Sunday, but still flashed the improvisations that add the risk of turnovers to his game.
Reich would prefer Wentz only used his right arm to throw the ball, but noted that Wentz has only turned the ball over six times this season while applauding the "conscious effort" the quarterback has made to be more careful with the ball than he was in Philadelphia.
"You've got to put some parameters, some guidelines on him, but at the end of the day, you've got to trust the player and his instincts," Reich said, via Joel A. Erickson of the Indianapolis Star. "It doesn't mean you can't coach him, it doesn't mean you can't tell him what you like and what you don't like, but he still has to feel like you believe in him."
Wentz has played turnover-free football the last two weeks.
Both of those things make it easier to believe in Wentz's stewardship of the offense heading into this Sunday's game against the Bills.
Also making things easier?
Jonathan Taylor. The second-year running back has become the key to Indy's offense.
Taylor had 21 carries for 116 yards and a touchdown in the win over the Jaguars. He also caught 6-of-8 targets for another 10 yards. Taylor has four 100-yard rushing games and 10 total touchdowns over the last seven games. He's tied with the injured Derrick Henry for the league lead in yards rushing (937).
And if he has another game with 100 yards from scrimmage and a TD against the Bills, he'll tie LaDainian Tomlinson and Lydell Mitchell for the longest such streak in the Super Bowl era (eight).
His production hasn't just been the key to the Colts' success, he's dragging fantasy teams into the winners' circle as well. ...
Other notes of interest. ... Michael Pittman caught 5-of-5 targets for 71 yards against the Jaguars. Although he didn't score in this one, Pittman has five touchdowns over the last six games while emerging as the alpha receiver in this offense. He remains that heading into a tough matchup this week.
Meanwhile, injuries have limited e 32-year-old, four-time Pro Bowl receiver T.Y. Hilton to three games. He returned Sunday after clearing the concussion protocol but had only one reception for 5 yards. Hilton has caught half of his 14 targets this season for 101 yards and no touchdowns.
On the injury front. ... All-Pro left guard Quenton Nelson and two-time All-Pro linebacker Darius Leonard left the game briefly with what appeared to be ankle injuries. But both finished the game and Reich said he expected Nelson would play at Buffalo. Reich said he had not yet spoken with Leonard.
And finally. ... The Colts are sticking with kicker Michael Badgley for now. He's earned the job.
Team will keep Rodrigo Blankenship on IR while he continues to build strength in that hip, but he could kick now, Reich told reporters Wednesday.
QBs: Matt Ryan, Nick Foles, Sam Ehlinger
RBs: Jonathan Taylor, Nyheim Hines, Deon Jackson
WRs: Michael Pittman Jr., T.Y. Hilton, Ashton Dulin, Parris Campbell
TEs: Jack Doyle, Mo Alie-Cox, Kylen Granson
Jacksonville JaguarsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 16 November 2021
The Jacksonville Jaguars couldn't complete the comeback bid Sunday in Indianapolis, falling 23-17 after facing a 17-0 first-quarter deficit.
But as NFL.com's Kevin Patra notes, the 2-7 Jags have played better of late, winning two of their last four games -- including a massive upset over Buffalo -- and almost stealing a road win against a division foe.
"There's a lot of positivity," coach Urban Meyer said Monday, via the team's official website. "We're not far off. I refuse to believe we're far off."
The Jags defense has been the main reason for optimism in Jacksonville in recent weeks. Josh Allen has been a demon, including nine pressures Sunday, and the back end has been much better of late, led by Shaquill Griffin.
The offense, however, remains a work in progress. Trevor Lawrence continues his up-and-down season, missing more throws than you'd hope from the No. 1 overall pick, and he fumbled away the ball with a chance to take the lead late Sunday. However, it's hard to fault the rookie QB, given the line in front of him and the receivers he's throwing to each week.
It's not great when a former full-time return man (Jamal Agnew) is the best wideout at earning separation from corners. As a result, Lawrence has been forced to make a ton of tight and low-percentage throws.
With eight games left -- including bouts against the one-win Texans and two-win Jets -- Meyer believes his team will continue to develop.
"It's a bunch of street fighters," Meyer said. "We have whatever games left, and we're going to go try to win this one (Sunday against San Francisco). The hardest thing is that this one stung because I thought our guys put us in position to win that game."
Added Meyer: "There were a lot of encouraging things. Most importantly, the team is growing."
After a brutally rocky start to the season, the Jags are at least playing with more pep. The question is whether a team lacking talent will continue to battle as we head past Thanksgiving.
Indeed, as ESPN.com's Mike DiRocco put it, "This deep into the season, the Jaguars' offense is what it is: A unit that needs everything to go perfectly for it to function."
Rarely does that happen, which is why the Jaguars are averaging just 17 points per game.
Jacksonville's biggest issue on offense is a lack of playmakers. Running back James Robinson doesn't have breakaway speed, and the team's top three receivers are 31-year-old Marvin Jones Jr., converted cornerback Agnew and second-year pro Laviska Shenault Jr., who's more apt at running over defenders than by them.
Drops have been a problem all season.
Agnew had two Sunday, and Robinson, Shenault and Dan Arnold each had one. Arnold and fellow tight end Chris Manhertz also were flagged for half of the team's eight penalties.
"A position had four penalties, what is that?" Meyer said. "That's not the quarterback, but it's cumulative and he's the quarterback. When the offense is playing great, it's because their quarterback and everyone around them is playing great. When they struggle, everyone around them struggles."
There's no help on the way, either. The Jaguars didn't put in a waiver claim on DeSean Jackson or Odell Beckham Jr.
The Jaguars have to seriously upgrade their playmakers, and that can't happen until the offseason, so expect more of the same.
That said. ... Agnew reached 21.62 MPH on his 66-yard rushing TD (fourth-fastest in NFL on a rush this season). In addition, Agnew is the first player in the Super Bowl era with a rushing touchdown, receiving touchdown, kick return touchdown and a field-goal return touchdown in a single season, and the second player in NFL history to accomplish that feat since HOF Timmy Brown in 1962. ...
Meanwhile, Associated Press sports writer Mark Long reminded readers Lawrence has never endured anything close to this. The No. 1 overall draft pick is going through a stretch of offensive dysfunction that's left him looking little like a generational quarterback.
Lawrence has completed 54.8 percent of his passes for 518 yards, with one touchdown, one interception and a key fumble in his last three games. The Jaguars remain last in the league in third-down conversions (30.3 percent), with that number dropping after moving the chains 11 times in 42 attempts the last three weeks.
Jacksonville's defense has been solid enough to give Lawrence chances to win the last two games. He missed several opportunities to put away Buffalo last week -- the defense ultimately handled it -- and fumbled trying to mount a winning drive in Indianapolis on Sunday.
"That just stings when you end the game that way," Lawrence said. "I'm disappointed in myself, frustrated, but I know how far we've come. ... We have a locker room full of guys, coaches and players, that believe, and we're on the right track.
"But this one hurts just because I'm frustrated with myself. I had a chance to go win the game and have to do that. I had no doubt we were going to win the game. The whole offense believed it. Just have to finish."
The Jaguars have winnable home games the next two weeks against San Francisco and Atlanta. Jacksonville has lost 13 consecutive games to NFC teams. The Jags' last victory against someone from the other conference came in the 2018 season opener against the New York Giants.
A pair of wins would go a long way in establishing some momentum. ...
Other notes of interest. ... The Jaguars made a move at receiver on Tuesday, waiving Tyron Johnson.
Jacksonville claimed Johnson off waivers at the start of the regular season from the Chargers. He appeared in five games for the Jaguars, making a pair of receptions for 16 yards. He had not been active for a game since the Week 8 loss to the Seahawks, in which he caught a 10-yard pass.
Johnson has bounced around since entering the league as an undrafted free agent in 2019. He's had two stints with the Texans and also spent time with the Bills, Panthers and Chargers.
He caught 20 passes for 398 yards with three touchdowns for Los Angeles last year. ...
Matthew Wright missed an extra point and a 51-yard field goal in a six-point game. He also failed to get any of his kickoffs to the end zone for the second straight week.
Wright is clearly not Jacksonville's long-term solution at kicker. Since hitting two 50-plus-yard field goals in the final minutes to beat Miami in London, Wright has missed an extra point and two field goals. He also has failed to get a touchback on nine kickoffs.
He missed three times -- all left -- in a span of minutes last week against Buffalo, although only one officially counted. He missed from 42, then from 47 after a penalty and again from 42 after another penalty. ...
On the injury front. ... Robinson was held out of Wednesday's practice with knee issue to go with the heel injury he played through last week; according to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport, the knee issue seems minor and the absence mostly precautionary. Carlos Hyde (shoulder) was limited Wednesday.
I'll follow up on both as needed via Late-Breaking Update in coming days. ...
The Jaguars designated offensive lineman Brandon Linder and tight end James O'Shaughnessy to return to practice.
QBs: Trevor Lawrence, C.J. Beathard
RBs: Ryquell Armstead, Devine Ozigbo, B.J. Emmons, James Robinson
WRs: Marvin Jones, Christian Kirk, Laquon Treadwell, Zay Jones, Laviska Shenault, Jamal Agnew
TEs: James O'Shaughnessy, Evan Engram, Chris Manhertz, Luke Farrell, Dan Arnold
Kansas City ChiefsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 16 November 2021
The Chiefs have not been terribly impressive this season, but Sunday night saw them put up a performance that's a bit closer to what we've grown accustomed to seeing from them in recent years.
Patrick Mahomes threw for 406 yards and five touchdown passes as the Chiefs moved into first place in the AFC West with a 41-14 road win over the Raiders.
On Wednesday, Mahomes was named AFC Offensive Player of the Week.
THe Chiefs scored on seven of their 10 possessions, but head coach Andy Reid pushed back at suggestions that the team is all the way back to where they want to be as a result of their Week 10 victory.
"It's a good one to get against a talented football team," Reid said, via Jordan Foote of SI.com. "We've got so much room to improve still, and we have a little bit of season left to do that. So, we're going to keep chopping away at this thing and making ourselves the best we can be as it goes on."
Reid went on to say that the Chiefs and the rest of the teams in the league are only "as good as your next game," but it's a nice change for the Chiefs' last game to be as impressive as the one they played on Sunday night and it's a good bet that the rest of the league is now on guard against the back-to-back AFC champs rounding into form.
According to Foote, the importance of the win cannot be understated, as it gives the Chiefs sole possession of first place within the division. It also takes them from being on the outside looking in at the conference playoff picture to being the AFC's No. 4 seed. According to Reid, his team still has room to get better over the next several weeks.
"It's a good one to get against a talented football team," Reid said. "We've got so much room to improve still, and we have a little bit of season left to do that. So, we're going to keep chopping away at this thing and making ourselves the best we can be as it goes on."
Foote went on to acknowledge that Reid's right: There are undoubtedly some areas in which the Chiefs can improve.
The offense can stand to be even more efficient and limiting penalties and turnovers will remain paramount. Execution-wise, though, this was the best Kansas City has been all year. Reid knows it and in what's been a crazy 2021 season for just about every NFL team, the focus needs to quickly snap back to what's ahead.
"In this league, you're just as good as your next game," Reid said. "We're seeing this every Sunday, on Thursdays and Monday nights. The parity in this league is ridiculous, so you have to stay on your game and you have to continue to work to get better. Eliminate some of the mistakes that we had tonight. You've got to keep that going -- and enjoy it, because they're hard to get -- but just know where you're at and what this league is all about right now."
Looking forward, the Chiefs will play the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday.
After that, they have a Week 12 bye before squaring off with the Denver Broncos. At 6-4, the team has rattled off three wins in a row and is beginning to look like the Chiefs of old. That's a welcome sight for Reid and if he has anything to say or do about it, his squad will only look more terrifying from here on out. ...
Adding to that. ... It sounds like the offense will get a key contributor back in time for the matchup with the Cowboys.
Reid told reporters in his Monday press conference that running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire is close to returning from his sprained MCL.
"I think he has a better shot [to play] this week. Pretty good chance," Reid said, via Sam McDowell of the Kansas City Star.
Edwards-Helaire has been out since suffering the injury in Kansas City's Week 5 loss to Buffalo. He's recorded 365 yards from scrimmage -- 304 rushing, 61 receiving -- with a pair of receiving touchdowns in 2021.
As a rookie last year, Edwards-Helaire accounted for 1,100 yards from scrimmage and five total touchdowns in 13 games.
I'll have more on that situation via Late-Breaking Update in coming days. ...
Other notes of interest. ... Mahomes recorded his 30th game with 300 or more passing yards, breaking a tie with HOFer Kurt Warner for the most such games in a player's first five NFL seasons. Mahomes finished with 406 passing yards and five touchdowns, which was the third time he's passed for 400 or more yards and thrown for five or more touchdowns in his career. Since Mahomes was drafted in 2017, the rest of the NFL's quarterbacks have combined for four such games with Tom Brady, Jared Goff, Aaron Rodgers and Deshaun Watson each tallying one.
According to Next Gen Stats, Mahomes became the only player this season with 360-plus passing yards and four-plus passing TDs when not under pressure in a game. ...
Tight end Travis Kelce had struggled to get open against double- and triple-teams this season. But he found plenty of space to run free in Las Vegas, catching eight passes for 119 yards and helping the Chiefs build an early lead.
Las Vegas coach Rich Bisaccia wasn't happy about it.
Bisaccia said after the game that Kelce always seems to play well against the Raiders, and they just weren't able to do much about it.
"He had a big day. He's been a pain in the Raiders' side for a long time. Credit to them, he was in position to make a lot of plays today," Bisaccia said.
Kelce has six career 100-yard games against the Raiders. He has indeed been a major pain for them. ...
While the passing game was on point against the Raiders, the receiver Mahomes never targeted with any of his 50 passes was Josh Gordon.
As Profootballtalk.com's Myles Simmons notes, Gordon has now started three games for Kansas City. He even played 43 percent of the team's offensive snaps in Sunday's contest. But Gordon hasn't made a catch since his 11-yard reception in his Chiefs debut back in Week 5.
To this point, he hasn't even had more than one target in any of his six games.
On Monday, Reid said Gordon is being plenty productive without the ball and eventually, targets will come his way.
"So, Josh, his time is going to come as far as the production in the pass game," Reid said in his press conference. "Right now, he's attracting attention, which is opening up other people, which is a positive thing. His blocking has been tremendous in the run game. He plays extremely hard. He's got himself in the last week or two here in really good football shape. He's been out of this thing for a couple years, so that's easier said than done and I sure like what we saw in practice last week.
"I just keep telling him to be patient, it's going to happen, just keep doing what you're doing, this thing will pop for you. So, his time will come."
Gordon was reinstated from his latest suspension earlier this season. He hadn't played since Week 15 of the 2019 season with Seattle. ...
On the injury front. ... Defensive back Charvarius Ward and linebacker Willie Gay Jr. dealt with a stomach illness Sunday night. They put right tackle Mike Remmers (knee) on injured reserve before the Raiders game but did not make a corresponding move, which could mean offensive lineman Kyle Long gets activated from the PUP list this week.
QBs: Patrick Mahomes, Chad Henne
RBs: Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Jerick McKinnon, Derrick Gore, Ronald Jones
WRs: Mecole Hardman, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Marcus Kemp, JuJu Smith-Schuster
TEs: Travis Kelce, Noah Gray, Blake Bell
Las Vegas RaidersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 16 November 2021
How dire did things get for the Las Vegas Raiders' reshuffled wide receiver corps in Sunday night's 41-14 blowout loss to the Kansas City Chiefs?
As ESPN.com's Paul Gutierrez reported it, "Even when the newest member made a headline-grabbing catch, he followed it with a head-scratching decision, one that shifted the momentum of what had been a relatively competitive game into a laugher. ..."
Gutierrez went on to acknowledge that DeSean Jackson's first catch as a Raider was impressive, the 14th-year vet taking the top off the defense with his "preternatural speed" only to come back and haul in Derek Carr's slightly underthrown pass for a 40-yard gain.
But for some reason Jackson, who beat Chiefs safety Tyrann Mathieu and caught the ball in stride near the right hashmark while running toward that sideline, stopped. And with cornerback Rashad Fenton bearing down on him, Jackson spun back toward the middle of the field, 2 yards shy of where he had caught the ball.
Fenton then corralled Jackson and punched the ball out, and a pursuing Mathieu scooped it up.
So instead of the Raiders potentially pulling to within 24-21 midway through the third quarter, the Chiefs turned the takeaway into a field goal and a 27-14 lead.
"He's played a lot of football," interim coach Rich Bisaccia said of Jackson. "He did a great job getting open. I though Derek did a great job getting him the ball and, you know, it came out. It's not the turning point, maybe in the whole game, but certainly it was a little bit of a momentum swing back to them.
"So I said something to him just about, 'Just keep battling.' He's been through those things before. So we're looking forward to him hopefully having a bigger role as we get going here."
It was Jackson's first lost fumble on a reception since 2010.
Jackson signed with the Raiders on Nov. 8, after Henry Ruggs III was cut following his arrest in the wake of his car crash that resulted in the death of a 23-year-old woman and her dog.
And while Jackson, who had the one catch for 38 yards, was not made available to the media after the game, his teammates took up for him.
"With what the coaches asked him to do and what to learn and things like that, I thought he did a great job," Carr said of Jackson. "It's hard to just come in and pick up this whole offense in a short amount of time, just a couple of days, but I thought he picked it up mentally and did a great job. He did a great job on that deep ball.
"He's just trying to make a play; I don't fault him."
Carr said Jackson's speed kept the Chiefs honest, that they were "set back" in the defense, opening up intermediate routes for the likes of fellow receivers Zay Jones, Bryan Edwards and Hunter Renfrow.
And, Gutierrez pointed out, it was Edwards, draft classmates with Ruggs, who showed up after being shut out last week at the New York Giants.
Edwards had 88 yards receiving, including a 37-yard TD catch, on three receptions. Renfrow had a team-high seven catches for 46 yards, with a 6-yard TD catch.
On the season, Renfrow is the Raiders' leading receiver with 52 catches for 494 yards and four touchdown receptions, while Edwards has 21 catches for 434 yards and two scores. Jones has eight receptions for 157 yards and a TD.
Not the most explosive wide receivers corps in the league, but it can get yards in chunks when utilized properly. And the addition of Jackson should help clear things out underneath in the same manner Ruggs did.
So long as his miscue doesn't mess up his game.
"We just told him, 'We're going to get it back,'" Edwards said of his advice to Jackson after his fumble. "That's what everybody's attitude is when something bad happens. We don't turn against each other. We kind of embrace each other.
"I mean, he made a really nice catch. Just got to finish it."
And there it is. The Raiders receivers are their biggest supporters as well as their greatest critics. And for them to continue to mature, gain and, yes, regain the trust of Carr, they need to make plays.
It was Renfrow who spoke in almost a reverential tone of Jackson as the new veteran leader of the unit last week, saying he grew up watching Jackson.
After one game as his teammate?
"To come out, to get us going. ... To come off the street, basically, and learn a new offense, it was awesome to see him make that catch," Renfrow said. "Yeah, there's some negatives to it but, I think, focusing on the positives, that was a heck of a play to get his eyes around. Derek threw it on line.
"But yup, I think he would definitely want to have that one back, and we would too, for sure. ..."
Jackson and the Raiders will get a shot to get back on track when they host Cincinnati, which comes off a bye, on Sunday. ...
Other notes of interest. ... Darren Waller had four receptions (seven targets) for 24 yards against the Chiefs.
As CBSSports.com notes, this was Waller's worst fantasy performance through eight starts this season. The Chiefs were clearly shading extra coverage the tight end's way, especially once the game script forced the Raiders to become one-dimensional. Jackson could help take the pressure off of Waller as the veteran gets more integrated into the offensive gameplan.
Worth noting: The Bengals currently allow the 10th-fewest fantasy points to opposing tight ends. ...
It was also a quiet night for Josh Jacobs, who rushed seven times for 16 yards and caught all five targets for 20 more yards.
The good news for Las Vegas' starting back is that the Bengals are on tap for Week 11. Cincinnati's defense has surrendered 20.6 fantasy points per game to opposing backs. ...
Jacobs lost his fullback on Sunday night.
Alec Ingold suffered a torn ACL and is out for the season, Tom Pelissero of NFL Network reports.
The one silver lining is that there's no other ligament damage, which increases the likelihood that Ingold will fully recover in time for the start of the 2022 season.
Ingold's leg twisted awkwardly while he was covering a punt and he had to be carted to the locker room.
The 25-year-old Ingold is in his third season with the Raiders and is the team's special teams captain and the only fullback on their roster.
Tight end Foster Moreau could see work at fullback with Ingold out. ...
Third-down back Jalen Richard injured his ribs on a kick return in the second half and is day to day.
QBs: Derek Carr, Nick Mullens
RBs: Josh Jacobs, Brandon Bolden, Ameer Abdullah, Peyton Barber, Jalen Richard, Kenyan Drake
WRs: Hunter Renfrow, Davante Adams, DeSean Jackson, Demarcus Robinson, Keelan Cole, Dillon Stoner, Mack Hollins
TEs: Darren Waller, Foster Moreau, Jacob Hollister, Nick Bowers, Daniel Helm, Derek Carrier, Matt Bushman
Los Angeles ChargersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 16 November 2021
In case you missed it, Justin Herbert and the Los Angeles Chargers' offense was operating at a high level the first five weeks of the season as they got off to a 4-1 start.
Opposing defenses have caught up to the scheme of first-year coordinator Joe Lombardi, though.
As Associated Press sports writer Joe Reedy noted, Sunday's 27-20 loss to Minnesota was Los Angeles' third in the last four games and dropped it out of the AFC West lead.
Head coach Brandon Staley, also in his first season, said a combination of protection schemes and defenses taking away the deep part of the field have been at the forefront of the Chargers' recent struggles.
"There are a lot of plays that are being called to access the deep part of the field. But when you play against a quarterback that's as gifted as he is, and against skill position groupings like ours, you're going to try and force him to drive the field," Staley said.
Herbert was 17 of 35 on passes with yardage of 16 or more the first five games, but he is 10 of 20 the past four. Staley isn't concerned with Herbert's air yards as much as he is the offense's drop-off in big plays. The Chargers had 43 explosive plays (runs of 12 yards or more, pass plays longer than 16 yards) early in the season, and that has decreased to 24 the past four games.
Besides taking away the deep part of the field, defenses have limited yards after the catch.
"We really have to be strategic in terms of creating the explosive plays," Staley said. "We need to create more explosions from the run-and-catch game or from misdirection. And then find ways in the drop-back game to access the intermediate part of the field. We need to be patient that way and always look for creative ways to get those big plays."
The good news?
The pieces are still in place.
Keenan Allen had eight catches against the Vikings, marking the 12th time in his career he has had at least eight receptions in back-to-back games. It was his third straight game with double-digit targets (11).
He's tied with Green Bay's Davante Adams for third in the NFL with 65 receptions. Allen is also second in the AFC with 93 targets.
Allen needs 11 receptions over the next two games to match Antonio Brown for fastest player to 700 receptions (111 games).
Allen went over 8,000 career receiving yards Sunday, joining Hall of Famers Lance Alworth and Charlie Joiner as the only Chargers wide receivers to do so.
Herbert threw his 50th career touchdown pass, becoming the fourth-youngest player in league history to reach that feat.
Herbert's 50th passing score was to running back Austin Ekeler, who on the same play became the youngest running back in the common draft era to score 20 receiving touchdowns.
After 40 career touchdowns at Missouri, rookie running back Larry Rountree III scored his first career NFL touchdown on a one-yard rush in the second quarter. It was Los Angeles' eighth rushing score of the season -- the first by a running back not named Ekeler.
Dustin Hopkins has made all five of his field-goal attempts and has a touchback on nine of 16 kickoffs in his three games since being signed by the Chargers. Hopkins had two field goals against the Vikings, including a 46-yarder. He has made both of his attempts from 40 yards or more; previous kicker Tristan Vizcaino was 1 of 2. Vizcaino made the roster at the start of the season due to a strong leg, but only had a touchback on 13 of 31 kickoffs.
So there's plenty of meat on the fantasy bone here -- if Lombardi can get things cooking. ESPN.com's Shelley Smith contends that getting into a more consistent playcalling rhythm and additional help from his skill-position players would help Herbert break his current pattern. ...
The Chargers host Pittsburgh in a crucial Sunday night game when it comes to both team's postseason hopes. The Steelers are in possession of the first AFC wild card after their tie against the Lions left them at 5-3-1. The Chargers are one of the three AFC teams at 5-4, but currently hold the final playoff spot on tiebreakers.
Other notes of interest. ... Mike Williams had 31 catches for 471 yards and six touchdowns in the first five games of the season, but his production has tailed off in the last four contests.
Williams has 10 catches for 137 yards and no scores during a stretch that has seen the Chargers go 1-3. Williams had swelling in his knee heading into the first of those four games -- a 34-6 loss to the Ravens -- and Brandon Staley was asked if that contributed to Williams' diminished numbers.
"The knee is not an issue. It's a non-factor," Staley said, via Gilbert Manzano of the Los Angeles Daily News.
The Chargers were 4-1 during Williams' hot start to the season and finding a way to get him going again would likely help the Chargers push their way back up the ladder in the AFC playoff race.
On the injury front. ... Cornerback Michael Davis (hamstring) is expected to return to practice this week after missing the past two games. Linebacker Drue Tranquill remains in COVID-19 protocols.
ON Tuesday, defensive end Joey Bosa and defensive tackle Jerry Tillery were placed on the COVID-19 reserve list. Vaccinated players who tested positive can return in under 10 days if they're asymptomatic and receive two negative tests 24 hours apart. Unvaccinated players are out 10 days for testing positive and five days if they were close contacts to someone who did.
Bosa has 28 tackles, 5.5 sacks and three forced fumbles this season. Tillery has 30 tackles and 2.5 sacks while playing 81 percent of the team's defensive snaps.
Tranquill was the only other Chargers player on the COVID-19 reserve list prior to Tuesday.
QBs: Justin Herbert, Chase Daniel, Easton Stick
RBs: Austin Ekeler, Justin Jackson, Joshua Kelley, Larry Rountree III
WRs: Keenan Allen, Mike Williams, Jalen Guyton, Josh Palmer, DeAndre Carter, K.J. Hill, Josh Reed, Maurice Ffrench
TEs: Gerald Everett, Stephen Anderson, Tre' McKitty, Donald Parham
Los Angeles RamsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 16 November 2021
Head coach Sean McVay stood at a podium in the bowels of Levi's Stadium, clearly frustrated after the Los Angeles Rams fell for a fifth consecutive time to the San Francisco 49ers, plunging themselves into a two-game losing streak.
"I choose to believe these last couple of weeks are not who we are," McVay said. "I refuse to believe that, even though you're only as good as your last game."
Over the offseason, the Rams traded for quarterback Matthew Stafford in an undeniable effort to make a Super Bowl LVI run. More recently over the past two weeks, they doubled down on building a title contender when they completed a blockbuster trade for All-Pro outside linebacker Von Miller, then signed three-time Pro Bowl receiver Odell Beckham Jr.
However, after a 31-10 loss to the 49ers on Monday Night Football, the Rams find themselves amid their first two-game losing streak of the season and appear to be a team in regression rather than one gearing up for a deep playoff run.
"It was a humbling night for us as a team," McVay said. "And a great opportunity for us to be able to take a deep breath, step away, look at the things we need to correct."
For a second consecutive game, Stafford threw back-to-back interceptions in the first quarter. The 49ers converted both takeaways into touchdowns for an early 14-0 lead that they did not relinquish with the Rams unable to keep pace.
As ESPN.com's Lindsey Thiry notes, it wasn't just the offense that faltered.
The Rams' defense could not get off the field as it allowed the 49ers to go 8-of-14 on third down and lost the time of possession battle, 39:03 to 20:57.
With the loss, the Rams fell to 7-3 and blew an opportunity to gain traction in the NFC West on the division-leading Arizona Cardinals, who a day earlier suffered their second loss of the season and fell to 8-2.
They'll now go into a Week 11 bye with what they can only hope will be enough time to solve the issues that have recently plagued them on offense, defense and special teams.
"We'll spend some time thinking about it, reflecting on the first 10 games of the year and some of the good stuff, some of the bad, how I can be better to help lead this team," said Stafford, who completed 26 of 41 passes for 243 yards and a touchdown with two interceptions. "Definitely want to get away for a little bit mentally and just try to come back recharged and ready to go."
Awaiting on the other side of the open date will be Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers (8-2), whom the Rams must face at Lambeau Field.
"We'll look inwardly, we're going to figure this thing out," McVay said. "And we're going to come back freaking swinging. I promise you that these last seven games of the regular season."
Both Miller and Beckham made their Rams debut in the loss.
"It's definitely not fun losing, but I had fun tonight," said Miller, who was acquired ahead of the trade deadline earlier this month but was inactive last week as he continued to recover from an ankle sprain. "Losing is not what you want to do, but I'm excited to be here, excited to rush with [Aaron Donald]. I'm excited to see what we can do moving forward."
Beckham, who agreed to terms on a free-agent deal only four days earlier, played 15 snaps, including four after the first half.
He caught two passes for 18 yards and was targeted on a third throw, but Stafford's pass instead fell into the hands of safety Jimmie Ward because of an apparent route miscommunication between Beckham and Stafford.
"It just wasn't our night," said Beckham, who is expected to take on a significant role following the bye after receiver Robert Woods suffered a torn left ACL in practice last week that will sideline him for the season. "There is no way around it. It just wasn't our night in all three phases of the game."
Miller, who was coming back from a sprained left ankle that had kept him out of action since Oct. 21, played 45 of 68 defensive snaps. He had three tackles, including a tackle for loss.
"I think Von did a nice job. You could see him kind of feeling his way around, and he made some plays, and you could definitely feel his presence," McVay said Tuesday when asked how the team's two new stars had played in their debuts. "I think for Odell to even be able to get out there and line up is a real credit to him. We didn't even have one full-speed practice with him.
"So, these next 12 days will be really important to get him implemented, get him up to speed, and figure out a plan of attack to maximize our offensive players, and to play better than the way that we have these last couple of weeks. That's where my focus and concentration will be over the next few days. ..."
Worth noting. ... McVay made a curious decision when he called for a fake field goal on fourth-and-8 from the 17 with 18 seconds left in the first half.
Holder Johnny Hekker completed a 2-yard pass to Kendall Blanton that was well short of the first down.
On the injury front. ... Darrell Henderson left in first quarter to be evaluated for a concussion but returned late in the first half.
QBs: Matthew Stafford, John Wolford, Bryce Perkins
RBs: Cam Akers, Jake Funk, Darrell Henderson, Javian Hawkins
WRs: Cooper Kupp, Allen Robinson, Van Jefferson, Ben Skowronek, Tutu Atwell, Landen Akers
TEs: Tyler Higbee, Kendall Blanton, Brycen Hopkins, Jacob Harris
Miami DolphinsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 16 November 2021
As NFL.com's Nick Shook noted, Tua Tagovailoa's entry into Miami's stunning win over Baltimore last Thursday night wasn't a one-off.
Tagovailoa will start for the Dolphins in Week 11, head coach Brian Flores told reporters Monday.
Tagovailoa dressed and was available in case of emergency for the Dolphins, who played Week 9 without the second-year passer due to a finger injury. Jacoby Brissett again started in place of Tagovailoa on the short week, but a knee injury knocked him out of the action early in the third quarter.
Emergency arrived, prompting the insertion of Tagovailoa. The quarterback completed 8 of 13 passes for 158 yards in relief of Brissett, helping put the Dolphins in position to extend their lead over the Ravens and capping the evening's shocking result with a touchdown run from a yard out.
Tagovailoa has had a tumultuous second NFL season that has included two separate injuries costing him multiple games, as well as persistent rumors of Miami working on a deal for Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson. In less than two full seasons, Tagovailoa has been subjected to enough criticism and uncertainty to fill five years, if not more, and yet he remains at the ready to battle through another ailment.
Meanwhile, Associated Press sports writer Tim Reynolds believes Robert Hunt's touchdown that wasn't against Baltimore is emblematic of what it takes for the Dolphins to win games right now - all-out effort is what will be required, with Hunt's play certain to be the official example for the foreseeable future.
"That speaks to the type of player Rob is," Flores said Friday. "I think we have a lot of players like that. Effort is not an issue. I think our guys give great effort, with desire to work together and play for one another. I think that showed in that play."
The Dolphins returned to work Monday, the first mini-break for the team this season. They're still well out of the playoff picture, but just found a way to win two games in a five-day span immediately following a seven-game losing streak.
And Hunt's play - he wasn't an eligible receiver but caught a screen pass that was intended for Myles Gaskin anyway, noting afterward that he "screwed up the whole play" - added a moment of much-needed joy to a season when happy times have been in short supply.
A 6-6, 327-pound man got hit so hard by two Baltimore defenders that he flipped into the air, hitting the grass with the top of his helmet to begin the landing. And he still had the wherewithal to reach the ball over the goal line for a score that only would have counted if the officiating crew, the Ravens and those reviewing plays at the league office all simultaneously forgot the rules of football.
"I think he tried to be an athlete," Tagovailoa said. "Obviously, he tried to make a play. It's illegal in the NFL, I think in college, in any football. You can't do that, but props to him for trying to make a play."
For the record, Hunt knew better than to get too excited about the play.
"I haven't even talked to Flo about it," Hunt said. "I'm sure he will say it's a penalty, so. ... "
"It was a penalty," Flores said.
One win doesn't cure all the Dolphins' ails, but Thursday showed what might be possible.
The defense set the tone and wouldn't stop harassing Baltimore quarterback Lamar Jackson until the end. The Dolphins hadn't had a 50-yard play from their offense all season; they had two on Thursday, one pass from Brissett, one pass from Tagovailoa. Xavien Howard had a defensive touchdown, forcing a fumble then taking it in for a score.
Ways were found to win. And that's what counts.
"It's been a long time coming," Hunt said. "I think we've been in a lot of games that I say I think we should have came out with, but it didn't fall our way. Thank God the last two have, and we're going to try to keep it rolling, this thing going in a positive direction."
Remember, five turnovers against Houston shouldn't have led to a win. Scoring one offensive touchdown against Baltimore shouldn't have given the Dolphins a victory, either. Somehow, they went 2-0 in those games. A week ago at this time, Miami was 1-7. A couple of ugly wins since are making plenty of things look better.
Despite standing at 3-7, Miami is riding high following its upset victory. The Dolphins will look to make it three straight wins when they travel to New Jersey to face the Jets on Sunday.
The Jets have allowed 175 points in their four games since the bye, which Rich Cimini of ESPN.com notes is the second-most allowed by any team over a four-game span since the NFL/AFL merger. The 2004 Titans allowed 177 points over a similarly foul stretch.
During this stretch, the Jets have allowed at least 45 points three times.
There have only been seven cases of teams scoring 45 points in a game all season and they are the first team to do so three times in a four-game stretch since the 1966 Giants.
Worth noting. ... The Dolphins' next four games are against the Jets, Carolina, the New York Giants and then the Jets again.
None of those teams currently possesses a winning record. A late-season surge isn't outside the realm of reasonable possibility for Miami. ...
Other notes of interest. ... Tagovailoa's career passer rating in the fourth quarter ranks fourth in the NFL dating back to 1994 (104.7), a figure he improved on Thursday night. His 12 fourth-quarter touchdowns (rushing and passing) on 139 plays gives him the highest percentage of scoring plays in the game's final quarter over the same time period.
According to the team's official website, the second-year quarterback completed three-of-five passes for 93 yards -- a cool 18.6 yards per pass including the biggest offensive series of the game.
The Dolphins took over at their own 25-yard-line following a 99-yard touchdown drive by Baltimore. With 4:25 left in the game and three timeouts in the bank for the Ravens, the Miami offense needed to put together a drive, and they did. It took six plays to push the lead back to two scores, including a 64-yard pass to Albert Wilson and the finisher -- a 1-yard touchdown plunge on a quarterback keeper.
It was the fourth time this season Tagovailoa engineered a drive in the final quarter in which he helped: to give Miami a lead (Atlanta and Jacksonville), stretch the advantage to two scores (Baltimore), or killed the clock (New England). ...
The Dolphins' wide receiver position has been a battle of attrition all season. With DeVante Parker and Will Fuller on the injured reserve, Miami desperately needed their replacements to fill the production void, and boy did they.
Wilson caught the aforementioned 64-yard pass while Isaiah Ford's 52-yard reception from Brissett at the end of the first half helped Miami establish a lead at the break, one they would not relinquish. With four catches apiece, Wilson led the team with 87 receiving yards and Ford right behind him with 84.
It was the first time that two players threw 50-yard completions for Miami in the same game since 2018. ...
To be clear, this wasn't entirely his fault. But tight end Mike Gesicki was the intended receiver seven times Thursday and made no catches. That was the first time a player was targeted so often but made no catches in an NFL game since Parker had the same numbers on Sept. 15, 2019 in a 43-0 loss to New England.
On the injury front. ... Fuller (broken finger) is getting closer to return but it likely won't be this week, per Flores. Defensive back Jason McCourty (foot) will not return this season, Flores added; McCourty was placed on injured reserve Oct. 25 after getting hurt against the Falcons in Week 7.
The Dolphins didn't start Tagovailoa in part, Flores said, because they didn't want his finger to get worse. He then promptly smacked it on a Ravens defender early in his stint Thursday night. If Miami is going to make any sort of run, it needs to know who is playing quarterback.
"Tua is our quarterback," Flores repeated Friday.
For what it's worth, Flores told reporters in his Wednesday press conference that Tagovailoa will take most of the practice reps and he reiterated Tua, who was officially limited Wednesday, will start against the Jets.
“I expect Tua to be ready,” Flores said, via Travis Wingfield of the team’s website.
Flores also told reporters on Wednesday that Brissett should be healthy to be Tagovailoa’s backup in Week 11.
I'll follow up via Late-Breaking Update as developments warrant.
QBs: Tua Tagovailoa, Teddy Bridgewater, Reid Sinnett
RBs: Sony Michel, Chase Edmonds, Phillip Lindsay, Myles Gaskin, Salvon Ahmed, Malcolm Brown, Raheem Mostert
WRs: Jaylen Waddle, Tyreek Hill, Cedrick Wilson, Trent Sherfield, Albert Wilson, Preston Williams, Isaiah Ford
TEs: Mike Gesicki, Durham Smythe, Adam Shaheen, Hunter Long
Minnesota VikingsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 16 November 2021
As ESPN.com's Courtney Cronin framed it: "Ten weeks into the season, the Minnesota Vikings (4-5) finally figured out what it's going to take to stay in the race for the No. 7 seed in the NFC playoffs.
"It didn't come in the form of some grand epiphany that coach Mike Zimmer had during recent back-to-back losses to the Dallas Cowboys and Baltimore Ravens. The Vikings have long known their path towards the postseason comes by way of the offense being capable of sustaining drives and scoring points.
"To do that, Minnesota's best skill players need opportunities to make explosive plays -- something that fell by the wayside in recent weeks. ..."
Zimmer saw the frustration mount in star receiver Justin Jefferson after he was targeted just nine times in the two games prior to Sunday, posting five catches. The coach has rarely called out the Vikings offense for being too conservative, but Zimmer knew keeping the season alive was dependent on Jefferson getting more involved.
So, in his weekly sit down with quarterback Kirk Cousins, the Vikings coach challenged his quarterback to be more aggressive. According to Cronin, Zimmer told Cousins to make a concerted effort to get Jefferson, Adam Thielen and Dalvin Cook the ball.
He threw in some hints about what he felt was holding the offense back and the ways to fix it. He didn't want to see any more five-yard checkdowns when Minnesota faced a second-and-18. He wanted Cousins to take the type of chances he'd often shied away from -- the crux of why his average pass entering Week 10 traveled 6.8 yards down field, the third shortest mark in the NFL.
"I do think that sometimes he needs to be aggressive with the football, and I thought he was [Sunday], especially in the second half," Zimmer said. "He's gotta trust everybody, and if he has to hum a couple in there and they get tipped or something, so be it. That's why we're a team."
That push from the head coach put Cousins in a position to lead Minnesota to a 27-20 win over the Los Angeles Chargers, keeping the Vikings squarely in the hunt for one of the final spots in the playoffs while currently ranked eighth in the NFC standings.
Zimmer's vote of confidence in Cousins' ability to target his playmakers resulted in a monster day for Jefferson, who caught nine passes on 11 targets for 143 yards. It was the type of performance the receiver had long been capable of but wasn't in position to do so consistently.
After catching an early 50-yard touchdown in Baltimore, Jefferson became an afterthought. Against the Cowboys, he caught two passes for 21 yards.
"I feel like any receiver would be a little frustrated, just wanting to be a big part of the offense," Jefferson said. "Wanting to make big plays. I really didn't get that many opportunities in the last games. This game stressed giving me the ball, giving me the opportunity to go up and make a play. And definitely grateful for that and making those plays."
Jefferson was the security blanket Cousins needed to reignite a dormant passing attack. The quarterback was 5-of-6 for 114 yards when targeting Jefferson on throws traveling more than 10 yards downfield, according to ESPN Stats and Information. When targeting his other receivers on those throws, Cousins was just 1-of-6 for 18 yards.
Cousins went 25-of-37 for 294 yards and threw two short touchdowns to tight end Tyler Conklin. The same two-deep safety looks that made the quarterback shy away from higher-risk throws in previous weeks didn't deter him against the Chargers. He launched 22 percent of his passes into tight windows on Sunday, his second highest rate of the season.
Like Jefferson, the catches Thielen (5 receptions, 65 yards) made allowed for Minnesota to keep its foot on the gas until the very end. An 18-yard gain on a third-and-20 ball Thielen caught over the middle of the field put the Vikings offense in position to win the game late in the fourth quarter.
Minnesota went 2-for-2 on fourth down with a run by Cook on fourth-and-2 following Thielen's catch that let the Vikings kneel out the clock.
Being in a close game late in the fourth was familiar territory for Minnesota, but Zimmer wanted to start changing the narrative. Heading into the game, the Vikings led the league in games decided by one score with seven, and they were 2-5 in those games, and 1-2 in overtime.
"When it got in the fourth quarter, I knew we'd been there before a few times, so I was just trying to figure out a way how we're gonna win the game," Zimmer said. "I told (offensive coordinator) Klint (Kubiak), 'Be aggressive here. Try to go score.'"
By following a fairly obvious -- yet often challenging -- concept of letting their best players dictate the outcome of the game, the Vikings find themselves just a half game back of Carolina for the seventh seed, a team they already beat this season.
And, as Cronin summed up, "Unlocking the strength of their offense comes at a perfect time for the Vikings," with Aaron Rodgers and the division-leading Packers arriving this week at U.S. Bank Stadium, where the Vikings are only 5-9 in their past 14 regular-season games.
Rodgers is 15-9-1 as the starter in his career against Minnesota, but Green Bay's defense will present Cousins plenty of challenges with the third-best average scoring allowance in the NFL. ...
For the record. ... Cousins owns the best TD-INT ratio in the NFL this season (18-2), which stands as the best TD-INT ratio in a season in Vikings history (minimum 200 pass attempts) and also includes a perfect 12-0 ratio in five road games this season.
Also worth noting. ... The special teams units that failed the Vikings so frequently last year and made several noticeable mistakes in the first half of this season have turned it around.
Dede Westbrook had a 45-yard punt return Sunday, the second longest in the NFL this season. With 69 yards on three attempts, Westbrook matched Minnesota's punt return yardage total for the entire 2020 season. Greg Joseph is also 6 for 6 on field goals and 8 for 8 on extra points over the past three games.
On the injury front. ... Between injuries and quarantines, the Vikings were down seven starters (five on defense) Sunday from the lineup they began training camp with.
They've been expecting cornerback Patrick Peterson (hamstring) to return this week and he was designated as such on Wednesday. Linebacker Anthony Barr (knee) is dealing with more of a wear-and-tear injury and could be return against Green Bay.
Zimmer said on Monday he's hopeful both will return.
The Vikings got two players back from the COVID-19 reserve list, but another player was added place.
Safety Harrison Smith and center Garrett Bradbury have been activated from the list. Safety Josh Metellus has been added to the list, which also includes Smith, linebacker Ryan Connelly, and defensive end Kenny Willekes.
Mason Cole started in place of Bradbury and Zimmer said there's a chance the Vikings will stick with him after seeing how things play out in practice this week.
QBs: Kirk Cousins, Sean Mannion, Kellen Mond
RBs: Dalvin Cook, Alexander Mattison, Kene Nwangwu, Wayne Gallman
WRs: Justin Jefferson, K.J. Osborn, Ihmir Smith-Marsette, Dede Westbrook, Adam Thielen
TEs: Chris Herndon, Brandon Dillon, Ben Ellefson, Irv Smith Jr., Johnny Mundt
New England PatriotsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 16 November 2021
As NFL.com's Kevin Patra notes, the Patriots are on a four-game winning streak in which they've outscored their opponents by a score of 150-50.
Sunday's 45-7 beatdown of the Cleveland Browns displayed Patriots dominance in every facet. From a grinding running game to Mac Jones making clutch throws to a defense that plays as if on a string.
Jones noted Monday on WEEI that the Patriots feel like they've struck the right balance ahead of Thursday's game at Atlanta.
"We're confident and we know what the formula is for winning the game," he said. "We just have to continue to do that. We can't be satisfied with where we're at. We're not where we want to be and we're going to continue to work every day and this week is a quick week. We've got to be ready to go for the game Thursday."
As ESPN.com's Mike Reiss notes, Jones looked like a seasoned veteran with his best performance of the season, sparking possibilities of a team that could make a legitimate postseason run. Most promising for the Patriots is that Jones had been grinding through a couple of so-so games the previous two weeks, sparking some questions if he had possibly hit a rookie wall.
He smashed through it against the Browns, finishing Sunday 19-of-23 passing for 198 yards, three TDs, zero INTs and a 142.1 passer rating.
Jones became the first Patriots rookie quarterback with three or more passing touchdowns in a game since Drew Bledsoe did so in 1993 -- fifth rookie all-time to do so. Jones is also the first Patriots rookie quarterback to throw three passing touchdowns and go without an interception in the franchise's history.
The rookie generated career highs in completion percentage (82.6), pass TDs (3) and passer rating (142.1).
Despite not having leading rusher Damien Harris (concussion), New England still had one of its most efficient offensive efforts of the season, scoring on all four of its possessions in the first half. It also had three 90-yard touchdown drives, the only time that's happened during Bill Belichick's tenure as coach.
Defensively, the Patriots were just as locked in on their way to holding Cleveland scoreless over the final three quarters.
Meanwhile, Jones noted that as the season has moved along, he's becoming more vocal and taking control of the offense.
"Yeah, I think everybody is as the season goes along," Jones said. "Everyone just finds their role and for me, just being more vocal. I think we're all on the same page, which is good. That's just a weekly thing that we have to strive for is getting on the same page for the game plan and putting on a good show on Sunday and putting points on the board."
The 6-4 Patriots currently sit in the No. 6 seed in the AFC ahead of Thursday Night Football against the Falcons. But New England is just a half-game behind the Bills for the AFC East lead with two games remaining against Buffalo down the stretch.
The Patriots have proven they can consistently run the ball, and with Jones and the passing game finding its groove, the offense looked the best it has all season. ...
Worth noting. ... The Patriots struggled to score touchdowns in the red zone during their first six games, getting into the end zone on just 9 of 19 opportunities. They've picked things up dramatically during their win streak, scoring TDs on 9 of their past 11 trips inside the 20-yard line. ...
Also of interest. ... Thrust into a feature back role with Harris on the shelf, Rhamondre Stevenson ran wild. The rookie picked up 100 yards on 20 carries and found the end zone twice.
Stevenson has a distinct running style that he thinks is a product of casting a wide net.
"I think what makes it unique is: I like a lot of different running backs," Stevenson said. "I like guys that are even 5-8 and then I like the bigger backs too. So I just really try to take bits and pieces from everybody's game and just implement them into my own."
So how would he describe it?
"I just think my running style is versatile, I would say," Stevenson replied. "What I'm thinking when I have the ball is just that I can never let the first person tackle me. Just get as much positive yards as possible, nothing negative. ..."
Jakobi Meyers caught a short pass from backup quarterback Brian Hoyer late in the win over the Browns and dove into the end zone for the first touchdown of his three-year career.
Teammates swarmed the 2019 undrafted free agent who entered Week 10 with 1,522 career receiving yards, the most by any player with zero TD catches in NFL history.
"It felt amazing," Meyers told NFL Network's Mike Giardi after the game. "Just the fact that everybody came down and celebrated with me that was special. I really appreciated it."
The TD came in Meyers' 39th regular-season game and on his 135th career catch. The Pats' top target seemed snake-bitten when it came to the end zone, having multiple touchdowns overturned by penalty.
Meyers' teammates were thrilled the streak of futility is finally over.
"It was the highlight of the game," fellow receiver Kendrick Bourne said, via the Boston Herald. "He's been working so hard. He works hard every day, and he deserves it. I told him he might go on a touchdown streak now."
A week after not having a pass thrown his way, receiver Nelson Agholor was targeted four times and had just two catches for 21 yards. He signed a two-year, $20 million free agent deal in the offseason and was supposed to give the offense a boost at the position. But he hasn't caught more than three passes in a game since the season opener.
On the injury front. ... Harris was cleared from the concussion protocol and removed from the injury report on Thursday. He will play.
I'll have more on the likely division of workload in the backfield in advance of Thursday's game. But just as it's fair to assume Stevenson has earned a bigger role, there was a reason Harris was the starter prior to the injury. Expect him to be back in that role until we hear otherwise.
Watch the Late-Breaking Updates section for more on the situation -- and on other injury issues.
Wide receiver Gunner Olszewski also suffered a concussion in that game and joined Harris in getting on the field Tuesday and also in being cleared Wednesday.
Nick Folk (left knee), Jonnu Smith (shoulder) and N'Keal Harry (knee) are all listed as questionable.
I'll have more on their status in the 90 minutes leading up to kickoff -- again, via Late-Breaking Update.
QBs: Mac Jones, Brian Hoyer, Jarrett Stidham
RBs: Damien Harris, Rhamondre Stevenson, J.J. Taylor, James White
WRs: Kendrick Bourne, DeVante Parker, Jakobi Meyers, Nelson Agholor, Kristian Wilkerson, N'Keal Harry, Lil'Jordan Humphrey, Ty Montgomery
TEs: Hunter Henry, Jonnu Smith, Devin Asiasi
New Orleans SaintsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 16 November 2021
By all accounts, head coach Sean Payton and his players are bitter and encouraged in equal measure about New Orleans' latest loss.
The Saints were fuming over questionable officiating that likely affected the outcome, but they were pleased that even with some key players missing and a pivotal call going against them, they nearly upended the Tennessee Titans, who share the NFL's best record.
"It's gut-wrenching, if you want to know truthfully," Payton said Monday after reviewing video of the 23-21 setback. "There's so much that goes into the week. It's always difficult when you lose and then when you lose in a fashion where -- it is what it is -- that's even more difficult, more difficult to accept."
The Saints have been flagged 19 times for 139 yards combined in their past two losses, each decided by two points.
The Saints (5-4) entered the road game against surging Tennessee without top offensive player Alvin Kamara (knee) and starting left tackle Terron Armstead (knee/shoulder).
Still, they had their most productive game of the season passing (287 net yards) while nearly ending a Titans winning streak that now stands at six games.
The disputed officiating decision came when Saints safety Marcus Williams intercepted Ryan Tannehill in the end zone, only to have that play wiped out by a roughing-the-passer penalty against linebacker Kaden Ellis. Ellis appeared to be pulling up and trying to avoid a big hit on Tannehill, and analysts on the network broadcast did not agree with the penalty after viewing replays.
Tennessee capitalized, taking a one-touchdown lead shortly before the half.
"It is just tough to see that," Saints linebacker Pete Werner said after watching video of the play Monday. "Everyone executed really well on that play."
Ellis "did well and he did his job," Werner concluded. "If that play would've been reversed, it would've been a different game."
But, as Associated Press sports writer Brett Martel, the Saints also tripped themselves up.
Brian Johnson missed two extra points. Trevor Siemian took consecutive sacks after the Saints -- who were out of timeouts -- had a first down on the Tennessee 35 with minute left in the second quarter. That wiped out a field goal opportunity. Deonte Harris fumbled a kickoff return to start the second half, setting up a Tennessee TD.
And when the Saints lined up for a tying 2-point conversion with 1:20 left, tight end Adam Trautman committed a false start penalty, moving the play back 5 yards before it ultimately failed.
"Obviously, the swing in the first half with the interception that was negated was significant," Payton said. "But we felt, going into the second half, we just wanted this game to be within our reach -- and quite honestly, it should have been.
"We did a number of things well. I was encouraged with how we fought in the second half," Payton continued. "We had some opportunities at the end and we weren't able to capitalize."
The Saints look to snap their two-game ski when they visit the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday. New Orleans hasn't lost three straight since opening the 2016 season 0-3.
One major question this week: Do the Saints stick with Siemian at quarterback?
According to ESPN.com's Mike Triplett, once again, Siemian's fourth-quarter performance was probably impressive enough to keep him in the role. He struggled at times, especially when he took sacks that knocked them out of field goal range before halftime.
But his pass catchers also continued to let him down with drops.
Still, the Saints need to consider every option they can to add juice to this offense - and Taysom Hill is an obvious solution that they have to consider.
Other notes of interest. ... Nobody in the history of the New Orleans Saints has rushed for more yards than Mark Ingram.
The veteran halfback became Saints' all-time leading rusher in a 23-21 loss to the Tennessee Titans Sunday, when he picked up 47 yards on 14 carries, giving the former Heisman Trophy winner from Alabama 6,143 yards with New Orleans.
He entered the game needing 20 yards to break Deuce McAllister's franchise record.
Ingram also added to his franchise record for career rushing touchdowns by scoring once, giving him a total of 51 during his Saints' career.
Ingram is in his second stint with the Saints.
He was New Orleans' first-round pick (28th overall) in the 2011 NFL draft and spent eight seasons with the Saints before signing with Baltimore as a free agent in 2019. After being released by the Raves, he signed with Houston in March before being traded back to New Orleans last month.
In 10 games with Houston and New Orleans this season, he has rushed for 411 yards and two touchdowns while catching 18 passes for 131 yards.
For his career, Ingram has rushed for 7,735 yards and 64 TDs while catching 278 passes for 2,056 yards and another 10 TDs.
As noted above, Ingram's workload against the Titans came with Kamara sidelined by what's been characterized as an MCL injury.
The good news is Kamara was back participating in the early portion of practice open to media Wednesday.
Elsewhere on the injury front. ... Receiver Ty Montgomery, who also plays running back, appeared to dislocate a finger. The Saints placed defensive back C.J. Gardner-Johnson and rookie defensive end Payton Turner on injured reserve late last week, meaning they'll miss at least three games each.
I'll have more on Kamara as developments warrant via Late-Breaking Update in coming days; but early indications are he won't play against the Eagles. ...
In a semi-related note. ... Running back Tony Jones Jr. was designated to return from IR on Wednesday. ...
Receiver Tre'Quan Smith, in his third game back from a calf injury that sidelined him for the first six games, had four catches for 44 yards and a touchdown.
"I feel like I've been getting better each week -- just with the little things basically making all my plays," Smith said. "Basically, I feel like I'm getting very comfortable back to where I was before I was injured. ..."
Johnson's two missed extra points were costly, and Payton was not inclined to cite any mitigating circumstances after reviewing video.
"The first one we hit fat; we hit the ground with our foot," Payton said. "The second one, we pulled it."
Given the misses, it should come as no surprise the Saints are adding another kicking option to the organization in the wake of that performance.
The agent for Brett Maher told Triplett that his client will be signing with the Saints' practice squad. Maher signed with the Saints in August and was released off of their injured reserve list 11 days later.
Maher was 49-of-66 on field goals and 68-of-69 on extra points in 29 games for the Cowboys in 2018 and 2019.
Johnson has made all eight field goals he's tried in four games with the Saints, but he's now missed 3-of-8 extra point attempts.
QBs: Taysom Hill, Andy Dalton, Ian Book, Jameis Winston
RBs: Alvin Kamara, Mark Ingram, Tony Jones Jr., Dwayne Washington
WRs: Jarvis Landry, Marquez Callaway, Tre'quan Smith, Michael Thomas, Deonte Harris
TEs: Adam Trautman, Nick Vannett, Juwan Johnson
New York GiantsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 16 November 2021
As Associated Press sports writer Tom Canavan notes, a couple of days before the New York Giants play, Daniel Jones and offensive coordinator Jason Garrett grab the list of plays for the upcoming game and go through the call sheet.
It's a meeting that lets the quarterback tell Garrett what plays make him comfortable and what don't.
"I let him know based on the week of practice, based on film study, obviously, what you like going into the game," Jones said Tuesday, a day before the Giants (3-6) headed into their bye week.
New York has eight games left in the new 17-game regular season, and making the playoffs for the first time since 2016 seems iffy, and all of the Giants, not just Jones, need to reach a comfort level.
There is a bit of hope. Believe it or not, the Giants are 1 1/2 games out of a wild-card spot in the NFC, where most of the team have sub-.500 records.
The defense, which was supposed to carry New York this season, has found its groove, giving up 39 points in winning two of the last three games after having major struggles. The offense is the weak link. The line lost left guard Shane Lemieux to a knee injury after one game, center Nick Gates to a broken leg in the second. Left tackle Andrew Thomas, the best lineman, has missed four games with foot and ankle injuries.
Thomas was designated to return from IR on Wednesday.
The skill players have been hit harder. Jones has only had star running back Saquon Barkley, receivers Kenny Golladay, Sterling Shepard, Kadarius Toney and Darius Slayton and tight end Evan Engram for one game -- a loss to Atlanta.
Barkley, who had ACL surgery early last season, has missed four games with an ankle injury. Golladay, who signed a $72 million contract, Shepard and Slayton each have missed three games. Engram missed the first two and Toney, the exciting first-round draft pick, has missed one game and was lost on the opening series of a second.
The rash of injuries has altered those Friday meetings for Jones and Garrett. Some of their discussion is about throwing passes to John Ross, Collin Johnson, Dante Pettis and CJ Board, with the latter two now on injured reserve. Instead of Barkley, the handoffs are going to Devontae Booker and Eli Penny.
The playmakers general manager Dave Gettleman added in the offseason or were in place haven't been making as many plays as expected.
Golladay and Toney have not scored a touchdown. Barkley and Booker share the team lead with three touchdowns each: two running, one receiving.
A positive is that everybody is almost ready to return. The biggest question mark is Shepard with a quad injury.
"There's been flashes of the offense in the previous weeks with everybody healthy -- Washington, Saints, all those guys make a play," said Engram, who has caught touchdown passes the last two games. "I know those guys are working to get back and we definitely are going to be explosive, and try to work and continue to grow and make plays all together."
The Giants are hoping having all the skill players available will open up things.
While Barkley missed a couple of days before the Raiders game because of a positive COVID-19 test, he was back out on the field on Monday.
"He's done a great job as far as leadership, staying active as a captain on the team and active in the captains' meeting," head coach Joe Judge said. "He has a lot of great insight into what's going on in the locker room for me, a lot of pertinent feedback that I need, so he's done a great job as far as that's concerned."
Judge also added that running backs coach Burton Burns and running back Gary Brightwell are back with the team after being sidelined by positive COVID-19 tests. The Giants had a rash of false positive tests in the week leading up to the game against Las Vegas.
"Everyone's had to test, take multiple tests before getting in the building today and that includes every coach, every player, every staff member," Judge said, adding no one has tested positive.
Getting people back is definitely a positive.
"Ideally, you want your playmakers on the field," veteran safety Logan Ryan said. "It gives us the best chance to win when your star players are on the field, and that's what they get paid to do. That will give us a better chance to win, without a doubt."
While saying that, Ryan noted Jones and the backups have been finding way to compete. He also said it has forced the defense to play better.
"We took that upon ourselves in the darkest times to each step up and play a lot better, and I think we've done that," he said.
Still, the return of the skill players is not a cure-all. The O-line has been adjusting on the fly with all the injuries. Jones has been running and dodging pressure much of the season. If he does not have time to throw or the team can't come up with a way to increase his throwing time or get the running game going, all the talent back on the field is not going to help the Giants avoid a fifth straight losing season.
"In this sport at the end of the day, we're at full power with everybody, but only time will tell what will happen in the future," Toney said. "We can't predict nobody else's future."
The Bucs (6-3) are coming off a road loss to Washington, and an angry Tom Brady will be looking for a big bounce back against a Giants defense that is only allowing 13 points per game its last three outings.
I'll be following up on Barkley and any other injury issues that arise coming off the bye via Late-Breaking Update in coming days.
QBs: Jake Fromm, Brian Lewerke, Tyrod Taylor, Daniel Jones, Mike Glennon
RBs: Saquon Barkley, Gary Brightwell, Matt Breida
WRs: Kenny Golladay, Kadarius Toney, John Ross, Darius Slayton, C.J. Board, Sterling Shepard
New York JetsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 16 November 2021
As ESPN.com's Rich Cimini framed it: "For two weeks, quarterback Mike White took the New York Jets and their success-starved fan base on a joy ride, thrilling them with the allure of wild possibilities. The whole thing crashed Sunday with 11:47 remaining in the third quarter, when he tried to throw a 21-point touchdown pass -- a reckless deep ball that was intercepted by the Buffalo Bills.
"White didn't just turn into a pumpkin in the 45-17 loss at MetLife Stadium; he turned into Zach Wilson, which is to say he stepped out of character and made bad decisions with the ball."
In fact, White threw four interceptions in a bubble-bursting performance, none worse than his first-down heave with the Jets trailing 24-3 in the third quarter. That's the one that haunted White after the game, and probably the moment when head coach Robert Saleh realized the Mike White era was over.
So this week, the Jets have a new starting quarterback: Joe Flacco.
Flacco is likely to start on Sunday against the Dolphins, Cimini first reported Wednesday morning.
The move comes as a surprise, but with Wilson not yet healthy enough to play and White coming off a rough game, the Jets hope Flacco can provide some veteran leadership.
The Jets traded for Flacco last month, and now they’re going to see whether he has anything left.
The expectation was Wilson would return to the lineup if his sprained right knee was deemed ready by the medical staff. Predictably, Saleh was noncommittal after the game, suggesting his decision will be based on Wilson's health.
"He's still dealing with stuff," Saleh said. "I know we worked him out pretty hard [Sunday] morning, so we'll see how that went. He's getting better every day, so we'll see where he is at from an injury standpoint again before we make any decisions."
Wilson, three weeks removed from a second-degree PCL sprain, ran sprints and threw a lot of passes during the pregame warm-ups, working up a sweat. They called it a two- to four-week injury, so he should be close. He practiced last week, leading the scout team -- his week to chip off the rust.
Meanwhile, a once possible "soft spot" in the schedule is anything but now. The Jets get Miami at home this week, but the Dolphins (3-7) have won their past two while playing solid defense. Then they're at Houston to take on the Texans (1-8), still far from a gimme.
New York then hosts Philadelphia, which is 4-6 after winning two of its past three.
Worth noting. ... The 45 points given up to the Bills continued an alarming trend for the team's defense.
They have allowed 175 points in their four games since the bye, which Cimini notes is the second-most allowed by any team over a four-game span since the NFL/AFL merger. The 2004 Titans allowed 177 points over a similarly foul stretch.
During this stretch, the Jets have allowed at least 45 points three times. There have only been seven cases of teams scoring 45 points in a game all season and they are the first team to do so three times in a four-game stretch since the 1966 Giants.
The offense didn't help by turning the ball over five times against Buffalo, but Saleh said that the team's defensive product "clearly hasn't been good enough" and there remains much to fix around the Jets in Saleh's first season on the sideline.
Along those lines, Saleh responded to harsh criticism former Jets coach Rex Ryan doled out on ESPN.
"I've never met Rex. I've never had a conversation with Rex. I don't even know him, except for people who know him throughout the league. Obviously, if it's that personal for him, he knows where to find me," Saleh said on the Michael Kay Show.
Ryan ripped into Saleh for the Jets' poor defensive performance and suggested that he was insulted even to be mentioned in the same sentence as Saleh, saying, "Don't ever compare this guy to me, this Robert Saleh to me." Saleh said he wasn't surprised by Ryan's comments.
"I'm not surprised by him. He's always got something to say," Saleh said.
The only way for Saleh to silence criticism is to get his team playing better. ...
Other notes of interest. .. After a two-game hiatus with a hip injury, Corey Davis returned to the lineup and led the wideouts with 65 snaps (84 percent). He also led the team with 5 catches for 93 yards. Jamison Crowder was next with 64 (83 percent), followed by Elijah Moore 43 (56 percent), who caught his fourth touchdown in as many games, Keelan Cole 32 (42 percent), Braxton Berrios 22 (29 percent) and Jeff Smith 10 (13 percent).
Rookie RB Michael Carter led the running backs with 40 snaps (52 percent) and 39 rushing yards. Ty Johnson was next 25 (32 percent) and Tevin Coleman took 17 snaps (22 percent) in his return, while rushing for 29 yards on 4 attempts (7.3 average).
Ryan Griffin led the tight ends with 55 snaps (71 percent), followed by Trevon Wesco 8 (10 percent).
The Jets signed TE Kenny Yeboah and CB Rachad Wildgoose to the active roster, and placed CB Brandin Echols on injured reserve. The team also signed WR Keelan Doss and LB Corey Thompson to the practice squad. Finally, the Green and White placed LB Noah Dawkins on practice squad injured reserve.
QBs: Zach Wilson, Joe Flacco, Mike White
RBs: Michael Carter, Ty Johnson, Austin Walter, Tevin Coleman, Lamical Perine
WRs: Braxton Berrios, Elijah Moore, Denzel Mims, Jeff Smith, Corey Davis
TEs: C.J. Uzomah, Tyler Conklin, Kenny Yeboah, Trevon Wesco
Philadelphia EaglesCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 16 November 2021
As NFL.com's Kevin Patra reminded readers, early in the 2021 campaign, Eagles fans could be heard sarcastically cheering when coach Nick Sirianni finally called a run play.
Now Philly has evolved into a ground-and-pound squad.
Sunday's 30-13 road win over Denver marked the third consecutive game with 175-plus rushing yards for the Eagles (the fourth time Philly has rushed for 175-plus yards in three consecutive games in the Super Bowl era.)
It's not just that the Eagles are running the ball that has helped the offense find its groove. During the first four weeks of the season, the Eagles went over the 100-yard rushing mark three times, but much of that came from Jalen Hurts' penchant for keeping the ball. Now Philly is leading on handoffs to churn out chunk gains.
Jordan Howard has been a revelation, pounding the rock between the tackles. And Boston Scott can run inside or outside, giving the Eagles offense diversity. The duo combined for 164 rushing yards on 23 carries Sunday, a 7.13 average per tote.
The Eagles are averaging 208.7 rushing yards over the past three games.
"We just want to do what we think is best for us to win each football game and that always starts with what you think you do well first," Sirianni said Monday, via The Associated Press. "And then it goes into the team's scheme that you're playing and their players. We've known we've had a good offensive line the whole time. We've always wanted to get the run game going to help Jalen be more successful as a quarterback, because that takes some of the pressure off him."
Hurts had his best half of the season last week in Denver, dicing up the Broncos defense short, long and intermediate. Then the ground game took over, and the QB needed to attempt only three second-half passes -- one completion, one bad INT -- as the blowout ensued.
The evolution of the Eagles offense as the season has gone on speaks well of Sirianni's ability to adjust and adapt at this early stage of his coaching career.
If Hurts continues to mature each week and the ground game keeps racking up big days, the 4-6 Eagles will remain in the playoff hunt in a muddled NFC.
"All I see is improvement every day from him because it starts with the type of person that Jalen is and how much he loves this sport, and how much he loves his teammates and how tough he is. And he doesn't make the same mistake twice," Sirianni said of Hurts. "I just see his arrow completely pointed up."
Hurts' improvement has a wider impact.
As ESPN.com's Tim McManus wrote this week: "Receiver DeVonta Smith has arrived."
Celebrating his 23rd birthday, the reigning Heisman Trophy winner caught four balls for 66 yards with two touchdowns. It was the first multi-touchdown game of his career, and he now has three scores in the last two games. He also became the third Eagles rookie to record 600 receiving yards in his first 10 career games since the merger (DeSean Jackson - 652 in 2008; Charlie Young - 609 in 1973), according to ESPN Stats and Information.
Smith's leaping 36-yard TD grab against former teammate Patrick Surtain II showed the body control and awareness that made him such a standout at Alabama.
His emergence, along with the continued success on the ground, will make things much easier for Hurts over the stretch run.
It'll also make it easier this Sunday, when the Eagles host the Saints.
And the team could add to that.
The Eagles activated the 21-day practice window for running back Miles Sanders.
Sanders remains on IR after suffering an ankle injury in Week 7.
Opening the practice window would allow Sanders to return this week if healthy.
The possibility of getting the dynamic Sanders back would only boost Philly's run game. Sanders generated 300 yards rushing on 63 attempts (4.8 yards per carry) in seven games played in 2021.
The Eagles face the Saints' No. 1-ranked run defense Sunday.
Hurts made his first career start in Week 14, 2020 against the Saints, an Eagles' 24-21 win in which both Hurts (106 rush yards) and Sanders (115 rush yards, 2 TD runs) surpassed the 100-yard rushing mark. In their last 63 games since Week 12, 2017, the Saints have only allowed 100-plus rush yards in a game to two players (Hurts and Sanders).
Elsewhere on the injury front. ... Tight end Dallas Goedert is in concussion protocol after taking a helmet-to-helmet hit by Denver safety Justin Simmons.'
I'll have more on Sanders and Goedert, who did not practice Wednesday, via Late-Breaking Update in coming days.
QBs: Jalen Hurts, Gardner Minshew
RBs: Miles Sanders, Boston Scott, Jordan Howard, Kenneth Gainwell
WRs: DeVonta Smith, A.J. Brown, Jalen Reagor, Zach Pascal, Greg Ward, Quez Watkins, JJ Arcega-Whiteside
TEs: Dallas Goedert, Jack Stoll, Tyree Jackson
Pittsburgh SteelersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 16 November 2021
As NFL.com's Kevin Patra notes, rookie running back Najee Harris has joined the Donovan McNabb Club.
Entry into said club requires a lack of knowledge that NFL overtime can result in a tie game.
Harris said he didn't realize a tie was possible after the Pittsburgh Steelers-Detroit Lions 16-16 struggle-bus matchup ended after 70 minutes of play.
"I didn't even know you could tie in the NFL," Harris said, via ESPN's Brooke Pryor. "In my mind, I was sitting on the bench saying, 'I've got another quarter to go.' But someone came to me and said, 'That's it.' I've never had a tie in my life before."
Following Pat Freiermuth's overtime fumble with eight seconds left that wiped out a chance at a late field goal to end it, Harris said he was preparing for a next offensive drive that never came.
Harris wasn't the only one who apparently wasn't aware ties were possible.
"It's nuts," Lions running back Godwin Igwebuike said. "I'm back there like, 'Yo, how many overtimes can we do?' And they're like, 'Three'... I hear, 'Two, one,' and we were like, 'Yo, whatever's going on, we're about to just put our all into it.'"
Ever since Donovan McNabb famously didn't know overtime games could result in a tie back in 2008, it seems every time a game ends without a victor, at least one player admits he didn't know it was possible.
Clearly, they haven't been paying that close of attention to every game. There has been at least one tie every year since 2018 -- both Detroit and Pittsburgh have tied a game in that span. Since the NFL shortened overtime from 15 minutes to 10 minutes in 2017, five of 62 overtime games have resulted in a tie (8 percent). The last tie came in Week 3, 2020 between the Cincinnati Bengals and Philadelphia Eagles.
"A tie in the NFL always feels like a loss when you get to the locker room because you're not adding one to the win column," Steelers linebacker Joe Schobert said. "It's a half-game. It might make a difference in the end. To let it slip away when you're that close definitely hurts."
The NFL went 23 regular-season weeks without a tie. The non-win was the first tie by Pittsburgh since Week 1, 2018 at Cleveland. And it was the first by Detroit since Week 1, 2019 at Arizona.
The tie snaps the 0-8-1 Lions' 12-game losing streak.
Playing sans Ben Roethlisberger (COVID-19 list), the Steelers also snapped their four-game win streak and remain half a game behind Baltimore in the AFC North.
Meanwhile, the Steelers are heading into this week not knowing whether their most important players on both sides of the ball will be in uniform when they face the Chargers on Sunday Night Football.
Head coach Mike Tomlin said Tuesday that it's too soon to say whether Roethlisberger and outside linebacker T.J. Watt can play Sunday.
Roethlisberger will need to test negative for two straight days before he can be activated to play on Sunday in Los Angeles.
According to NFL Network's Aditi Kinkhabwala, it sounds like as long as Roethlisberger is cleared before the Steelers take off Saturday, and is physically fit enough to play, he will start. Tomlin noted the game plan doesn't change from one QB to the other: "It's not like Mason Rudolph runs 4.4."
Roethlisberger is virtually participating in meetings this week.
"If we get to a point where Ben has an opportunity to get on a moving train, that's exactly what he'll do," Tomlin said.
Until then, Tomlin said the Steelers intend to build their game plan around Rudolph, who completed 30 of 50 passes for 242 yards with a touchdown and an interception on Sunday against Detroit.
"Mason plugged into Ben's plan last week," Tomlin said. "Largely, he functioned the way that we needed to. He gave us a chance to win."
So the plan will be to head west and try to beat the Chargers on the road with a backup quarterback (if necessary) for a third straight time. Michael Vick was the starter when Pittsburgh won in San Diego in 2015 and Devlin Hodges was under center in 2019 when the Steelers knocked off the Chargers in Los Angeles.
Beyond that, Watt suffered knee and hip injuries in Sunday's tie against the Lions. Tomlin indicated that Watt is a uniquely tough player who may be able to play through injuries that would sideline other players.
Tomlin also said that safety Minkah Fitzpatrick is unlikely to be cleared to return from the COVID-19 reserve list in time to play on Sunday.
Tomlin expects second-year wide receiver Chase Claypool to practice this week. And in fact, Claypool, who missed Sunday's game with a foot injury, was able to work on a limited basis Wednesday. Tomlin also expects veteran guard Trai Turner to practice, but he's unsure on the status of veteran cornerback Joe Haden and second-year lineman Kevin Dotson. Turner (ankle), Haden (foot) and Dotson (ankle) were all hurt during Sunday's game.
"We'll give Dotson an opportunity, but we don't know where that leads in terms of his practice participation," Tomlin said. "Same with Joe Haden and his foot injury. I feel confident that Trai Turner is going to be able to show up."
I'll be following up on all involved via Late-Breaking Update in coming days. ...
For what it's worth. ... While Rudolph scuffled after a hot start while filling in for a COVID-19 positive Roethlisberger, Harris served as the engine that makes the offense go. Harris ran for 105 yards on 26 carries and caught four passes for 26 yards.
While Cincinnati wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase and New England quarterback Mac Jones are vying for the lead in the Offensive Rookie of the Year race, Associated Press sports writer Will Graves believes Harris could catch them over the next eight weeks.
He just needs to get the ball.
Fantasy managers are all for that. ...
Also, get him involved in the red zone.
The Steelers had a first-and-goal at the Detroit 5 down six in the third quarter. Harris didn't touch the ball once as three incompletions led to a short field goal.
Wide receiver Ray-Ray McCloud improbably found himself as one of Rudolph's go-to targets. With Claypool out, McCloud caught a career-high nine passes for 63 yards.
QBs: Ben Roethlisberger, Mitchell Trubisky, Mason Rudolph, Dwayne Haskins
RBs: Najee Harris, Benny Snell, Kalen Ballage, Anthony McFarland Jr.
WRs: Diontae Johnson, Chase Claypool, Cody White, Gunner Olszewski
TEs: Pat Freiermuth, Zach Gentry
San Francisco 49ersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 16 November 2021
As Associated Press sports writer Josh Dubow noted, the 49ers turned back the clock in strategy and execution and showed off the formula they might need if they want to contend for the playoffs in the second half of the season.
The Niners once again played like the team that won the NFC in 2019, running the ball 44 times and using a strong defense to beat the Los Angeles Rams 31-10 on Monday night.
"Honestly, it felt like pretty similar to the Super Bowl year," quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo said. "It felt like we ran the ball 30 times every time that year. It's just when we can do that, and be successful on third down, it's a good recipe for us."
Head coach Kyle Shanahan had set the audacious goal of 40 carries in the game for the Niners (4-5), who were coming off an 11-run performance in a 31-17 loss to Arizona that featured the fewest runs in his five years at the helm.
But he felt good about the benchmark after San Francisco ran the ball 12 times on an opening 18-play drive that was capped by a TD pass from Garoppolo to George Kittle that set the tone for the game.
San Francisco ran the ball 40 times in a game four times in the 2019 regular season and then in back-to-back playoffs wins to get to the Super Bowl.
They hadn't been able to do that since as struggles on third down made mounting long drives difficult and the defense struggled to get takeaways.
That contributed to the five losses in six games that sent the Niners back toward the bottom of the NFC standings.
But the win against the Rams vaulted them back into contention, a half-game behind Carolina for the seventh playoff spot in the NFC.
"I said 40 because 40 includes the whole team," Shanahan said. "The defense has to play that way, the (offense) has to play that way, the special teams have to play that way and you have to do good on third down. You have to get turnovers and you can't turn it back, so you steal some possessions that allows you to do it. It was just really cool that the whole team played a way that you could dictate it that way."
The heavy workload took a toll, however.
Elijah Mitchell, who played a major role, may not be available to follow up on that performance against the Jaguars this weekend.
Shanahan told reporters on Tuesday that Mitchell fractured a finger during the victory.
He had a surgical procedure to address the injury and Shanahan said he's hopeful that Mitchell will be able to play through the injury this week.
"You see the toughness and how hard he runs," Shanahan said, "but also the toughness of playing through all the stuff. We usually don't know until after the game, or in this case, until today, because he doesn't complain about much. He just goes to work.
"Some guys play with injuries. But the key to playing with injuries is not letting the injuries make you worse. Even when he's played through some stuff, you don't notice it out there by his play."
Mitchell carried the ball 27 times for 91 yards for the 49ers on Monday night. The sixth-round pick has 116 carries for 560 yards and three touchdowns on the season.
Jeff Wilson carried the ball 10 times as the No. 2 back on Monday and wide receiver Deebo Samuel ran it five times for 36 yards and a touchdown.
The Niners offense has revolved heavily around Samuel all year as he ranks second in the NFL in yards receiving at 979.
But Shanahan unveiled a new wrinkle against the Rams, handing Samuel the ball as a running back out of the backfield on a few occasions. He lined up six times as a back -- nearly matching his total of seven from the first eight games -- and delivered five carries for 36 yards and a TD.
Beyond that, Samuel caught all five of his targets for 97 yards and scooted for the cherry-on-top TD score on fourth down early in the final quarter.
As NFL.com's Kevin Patra put it "Samuel showed his beastly ability," powering through tackles. The 25-year-old generated 58 yards after catch Monday night.
According to Next Gen Stats, he was expected to earn 12 yards after the catch on his five receptions. Deebo earned a whopping 46 yards after catch over expectation.
"That guy, especially when we played the Rams, maybe that's the mindset part, but when we play the Rams, Deebo always comes out ready to roll," Garoppolo said.
While the Niners' offense has ebbed and flowed all season, Samuel has been one of the most consistent players in the NFL. His 50-plus receiving yards in each of the 49ers' first nine games of the season matches only Dwight Clark in 1982 and Clifton McNeil in 1968 in franchise history, per NFL Research.
Samuel is averaging 115.2 scrimmage yards per game this season, third in NFL and most by a WR (had 133 scrimmage yards in Week 10 -- 36 rush, 97 rec).
"I mean, it's a unique talent, just durability of the guy, the route running ability, the mental capacity, just to keep everything in his head that he has to do on a week-to-week basis," Garoppolo said of Samuel. "It's really impressive. I mean, the dude can play multiple positions and he's earned everything he's gotten."
Following Monday night's performance, Samuel, who was named NFC Offensive Player of the Week for the second time in three weeks on Wednesday, has earned more attention for being one of the most unique and productive wideouts in the NFL.
Don't be surprised if Samuel continues to play a major role against the Jaguars in Jacksonville. ...
While Shanahan said there was a chance Mitchell would be able to practice Wednesday as the 49ers begin preparations to face the Jaguars, that wasn't the case.
In addition to Mitchell, Samuel is day to day with a bruised shin; he was slated to practice in some fashion Wednesdays. I'll have more on both players via Late-Breaking Update in coming days. ...
Also on the injury front. ... Rookie offensive tackle Jaylon Moore sustained no structural damage with a knee injury that prevented him from playing after the team's first offensive drive. Moore started at right tackle in place of Mike McGlinchey, who is out for the season with a quadriceps injury.
And in case you missed it, the 49ers placed wide receiver Mohamed Sanu on injured reserve.
Other notes of interest. ... Garoppolo did almost all of his work Monday night over the middle with 13 of his 15 completions coming between the numbers. He was just 2 for 4 for 21 yards throwing outside the numbers, according to Pro Football Focus.
Garoppolo has been used almost exclusively out of the shotgun the past three weeks, with 96 percent of his drop backs coming from the shotgun, according to NFL NextGen stats.
That compared to a rate of 66 percent for the rest of his career with the Niners. That has taken advantage of his quick release and cut down on play action, but the overall results have been good as he leads the league with a 109.8 passer rating in that span.
Meanwhile, Trey Lance, the third overall pick, was a spectator once again as Garoppolo has seized a grip on the quarterback spot. Lance hasn't even been used in a situational role in three games since returning from a knee injury and hasn't taken a snap since losing his only start on Oct. 10 at Arizona.
On Tuesday, Shanahan was asked it.
“I haven’t made that decision [to not use Lance],” Shanahan told reporters. “The only time I did that really was Chicago week. Then Arizona, the game just didn’t go the way we wanted. Going into this game, we didn’t like a lot of the stuff, just matchup wise in terms of what the Rams did, so still had it it up. But we didn’t see it as changing the defense or giving us too big of an advantage, so that’s why we didn’t go with it.”
Shanahan also spoke more generally about Lance’s progression in his rookie season.
“Trey’s got the whole playbook in his head and he was able to do that in training camp,” Shanahan said. “If you work at it, you’re going to learn it all, but it’s about going through at full speed. It’s about going through it at a game-time tempo and going against the blitzes and all that stuff that can surprise you and knowing when a play is a good play and when it’s a bad play. When you’ve got to get out of something, when you got to get to the number four choice in the progression, as opposed to the one you practiced in the week. So that just comes with experience and he’s getting more and more of it and you can never get too much. ...”
And finally. ... The 49ers are moving on from one of their defensive backs. San Francisco has waived cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick, the team announced on Tuesday.
Kirkpatrick appeared in six games for the 49ers with one start, recording seven total tackles with one tackle for loss. He started the Week Four loss to Seattle, playing all 56 defensive snaps. He was inactive for Monday night's win over the Rams.
The 49ers still have Emmanuel Moseley, Josh Norman, K'Waun Williams, Dontae Johnson, Ambry Thomas, and Demmonodore Lenoir on their 53-man roster at cornerback.
QBs: Jimmy Garoppolo, Trey Lance
RBs: Elijah Mitchell, Jeff Wilson, JaMycal Hasty, Trey Sermon
WRs: Deebo Samuel, Brandon Aiyuk, Ray-Ray McCloud, Malik Turner, Jauan Jennings, Mohamed Sanu, KeeSean Johnson
TEs: George Kittle, Ross Dwelley, Tanner Hudson, Charlie Woerner, Tyler Kroft
Seattle SeahawksCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 16 November 2021
As NFL.com's Kevin Patra pointed out, before 2021, Russell Wilson hadn't missed a single NFL start in his career and hadn't been shut out.
Those streaks are over.
Returning after missing three games due to finger surgery on this throwing hand, Wilson was ineffective Sunday, struggling to make good throws en route to a 17-0 loss to the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field.
Despite suffering the first shutout of his career and completing 20 of 40 passes for a piddling 161 yards and two interceptions for a 39.7 passer rating, Wilson said the issue wasn't with his surgically repaired finger.
"My finger felt fine," Wilson said, via ESPN. "The problem with tonight was I had two bad plays. That's what it really was."
Perhaps it was only two bad plays in Wilson's eyes, but according to ESPN Stats and Information research, Wilson finished the game with 10 off-target incompletions, including eight overthrows. Both were his most since 2019. He averaged only 3.3 air yards on his completions, the fourth lowest of his career and his lowest since 2018. He went 2-of-15 with both of his interceptions on passes thrown 10-plus yards downfield, tied for his most incompletions (13) and his second-worst completion rate (13 percent) on those throws in his career.
Wilson averaged 19.0 air yards on his incompletions Sunday.
Adding to that, Wilson went 0 for 7 with an interception on deep passes (the most deep attempts for Wilson without completion in Next Gen Stats era, since 2016) and just 2-of-15 for 34 yards with two interception on passes of 10-plus air yards (the second game for Wilson with 0 TDs and multiple interceptions on such passes since 2016).
Wilson's 12.9 Total QBR was the sixth lowest of his career.
Wilson's most egregious error of the night was less a physical issue than a mental one.
Trailing 3-0 in scoring range, Wilson threw a bad interception in the end zone. His second INT came on a deep prayer to Tyler Lockett into double coverage.
"You never want to second-guess yourself on those plays because you make so many of them," Wilson said. "But in that kind of game where it was back and forth, back and forth, that's where I can eliminate that mistake and allow us to kick the field goal and make it 3-3 and here we go. Now it's 3-3, a 0-0 game basically and keep playing. Like I said, 100 percent accountability on myself that that happened. Nobody else's fault."
Wilson returned earlier than most traditional rehab timelines suggest, missing just a month after the surgery. Coach Pete Carroll, however, didn't rethink the decision to activate Wilson for Sunday's bout.
"He had a couple bad plays," Carroll said. "I know you're wondering was he ready and all that kind of stuff. He was ready to play. There was nothing else, there was no other information leading to this [that] could tell us any different. He was pumped and got after it and all that and he did nice job today. They're a good defense and we couldn't get enough going on to make the points we needed. They couldn't, either, until they did. It's a big opportunity that we missed out on. It's disappointing. This was a real shot and we could feel it and we knew it, and fortunately we couldn't get the right plays made at the right time to get it done."
Sunday also marked the first time in Wilson's 150 career regular-season starts that the Seahawks have been shut out. It's the first shutout for the Seahawks since a defeat at Pittsburgh in Week 2 of the 2011 season, Pete Carroll's second season with the club -- the late Tarvaris Jackson was the QB.
The double-digit loss pushes the Seahawks to 3-6, two wins behind a potential playoff spot.
If Seattle is to reverse gears and go on a winning streak in the second half of the season, starting with next week's bout against the Cardinals, they'll need more from Wilson. A win over the Cardinals and a manageable upcoming schedule give Seattle a chance to get back into playoff contention.
A loss, and the hole may be too deep for Seattle to overcome.
According to Associated Press sports writer Tim Booth, if Seattle wants to find balance in its offense, it has to give its running backs more than 11 carries. Alex Collins had 10 rushes for 41 yards, Travis Homer got one handoff and the other five runs were by Wilson. Opponents will happily drop into coverage and bring a minimal rush if the Seahawks can't run the ball.
Perhaps Chris Carson could help?
All eyes will be on Carson this week. The starting running back hasn't played since Week 4 because of a neck issue. Carroll sounded ominous on Monday when he said the team would have an update on Carson in a couple of days.
Carroll didn’t have much of an update when he next spoke on Wednesday, but said Carson hasn’t made the progress they hoped he would and he would not practice Wednesday.
Seattle was hopeful Carson would be able to return at the same time as Wilson, but the latest developments don't sound good. ...
The Seahawks released quarterback Jake Luton on Tuesday. ...
And finally. ... DK Metcalf's frustration boiled over Sunday in Green Bay, leading to an ejection with 1:23 left in the game. The disqualification will likely hurt his pocketbook but isn't expected to lead to a missed game.
NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported Monday morning that Metcalf would be evaluated for a likely fine but not a suspension, per a source informed of the decision.
It's the standard procedure for most in-game ejections that aren't habitual issues.
With the Seahawks trailing 17-0 and showing little sign of life on offense all game, Metcalf got into a scuffle with two Packers players and was ejected. The third-year wideout later tried to re-enter the game, walking to the huddle before being shuffled back to the sideline for the final nine plays of the game.
Following the game, Metcalf told reporters his frustration stemmed from being "tired of losing."
The Pro Bowl receiver was held to a season-low 26 yards by the Packers (3 receptions on 8 targets).
QBs: Drew Lock, Geno Smith, Jake Luton
RBs: Rashaad Penny, DeeJay Dallas, Travis Homer, Adrian Peterson, Chris Carson, Alex Collins
WRs: DK Metcalf, Tyler Lockett, Freddie Swain, Marquise Goodwin, Penny Hart, D'Wayne Eskridge
TEs: Noah Fant, Will Dissly, Colby Parkinson
Tampa Bay BuccaneersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 16 November 2021
Moments after the Tampa Bay Buccaneers fell to the Washington Football Team 29-19 on the road Sunday, head coach Bruce Arians said his team -- now 6-3 after two straight losses -- has some "soul-searching to do," and he chided it for penalties and mental errors that continue to be costly.
"It's very disappointing," Arians said. "It's very alarming to watch the energy at every practice and show up with a lack of execution and energy that it takes to win on Sunday. We've got a lot of soul-searching to do."
Against the league's worst pass defense -- a team the Bucs were favored to beat by 10 points and that would lose its star defensive player Chase Young midway through the second quarter -- quarterback Tom Brady completed only three passes of more than 20 yards and was intercepted twice.
The Bucs surrendered 256 passing yards and a touchdown to Washington quarterback Taylor Heinicke, with Antonio Gibson rushing for two more against the league's top-rated run defense. The defense allowed Washington to orchestrate a 19-play touchdown drive that ended all hope of a comeback.
As ESPN.com's Jenna Laine noted, self-inflicted wounds -- particularly penalties -- have been the Buccaneers' Achilles' heel all year.
After an 11-penalty loss at the New Orleans Saints two weeks ago, Arians called on the team's leaders to hold each other accountable, but that hasn't stopped the errors. The Bucs also had three drops, making it 15 for the year, according to ESPN Stats and Information research.
"Energy and passion are very fixable," Arians said. "The penalties -- they've gotta get corrected sooner or later. The first play of the game -- they're shifting and we jump offsides. They don't even run a play and we jump offsides. The stupidity has to go away if we're gonna go anywhere."
Tight end O.J. Howard jumped offside on the very first snap when Washington shifted. A neutral-zone infraction on defensive end William Gholston advanced Washington 5 yards forward just before halftime. A false start on right tackle Tristan Wirfs pushed the Bucs back 5 yards just before halftime.
In the third quarter, a defensive pass interference call on Dee Delaney took Washington from the Tampa Bay 14 to the 1-yard line before a TD by Gibson made it 23-13.
"It has nothing to do with ability," Arians said. "It's about execution and being a smart football team. We're a very dumb football team. And that's a reflection on the coaches."
"We came out there flat-footed for whatever reason," inside linebacker Devin White said. "Everybody wasn't on the same page. Everybody didn't have the same amount of energy. And that's something we preached all week.
"We had a great week of preparation, but it don't mean nothing if we don't execute on Sunday."
Remember, the offense was missing Antonio Brown and Rob Gronkowski.
"It's extremely frustrating," Evans said.
"I know we're a better team than them and we didn't get the job done," Evans added. "That's why you play on Sunday. You gotta go out there and give it your best."
Arians stressed the Bucs have to play smarter and with more "energy and passion" than the past two games.
"It’s baffling to me after the week of practice I watched these guys have, that we could play that poorly. ... We are doing one hell of a job on Monday through Friday, but we are not showing up on Sundays," he said.
As for Brady, it was just the third time in his career that he threw two interceptions in the first half. The first one bounced out of the hands of rookie wide receiver Jaelon Darden. The second came when he overthrew Mike Evans on a slant route, and it wound up in safety Bobby McCain's hands.
"It has nothing to do with the receivers. It was him," Arians said of Brady, who suffered the second-largest road upset in his career and just his second back-to-back defeats as a Buccaneer.
Visibly upset, Brady spoke to the media for only 1 minute, 43 seconds after the loss.
"We just never really played on our terms. We played behind the whole game. They played a good game. They had a good plan," Brady said. "It doesn't matter who you play if you have a bunch of self-inflicted errors too. We've gotta go out and execute the plays that were there."
When asked about his two interceptions, Brady said, "We started with the ball. They came away with it, so ...."
On Monday, Arians began to backpedal.
"Someone asked me what the second interception was, not both of them," Arians told reporters on Monday. "I didn't consider the first one an interception. To me, that's a fumble. In my mind, that wasn't an interception. The other one just sailed over [Evans'] head. I don't even consider that first one a pick."
Again, that's not how the Arians press conference unfolded.
With only two interceptions, there's no ambiguity when it comes to Arians saying, "It had nothing to do with the receivers."
There was only one receiver, one interception. If we are to believe Arians on Monday, not on Sunday.
It's probably not a bad move. The Bucs will try to right themselves at home against the New York Giants on Monday Night Football; Brady will be plenty motivated without additional effort on that front by Arians.
Other notes of interest. ... Despite the offensive struggles lately, Evans remains on track for another big year.
As Associated Press sports writer Fred Goodall noted, Evans is the only player in NFL history to begin a career with seven consecutive seasons with at least 1,000 yards receiving -- and he's on course to make it eight with 41 receptions for 606 yards and nine TDs through nine games. He had two catches for 62 yards and scored his 71st career TD, tying the club record set by Mike Alstott.
On another positive note. ... Brady wasn't sacked Sunday, though Washington was able to get a hit on the quarterback early to set the tone for a difficult day to throw downfield. Arians said that falls on the offensive line.
"I think we have to protect our quarterback better early in the game and maybe we'll take some shots down the field like we normally do when he's protected," Arians said. "But if he's being hit a bunch early, he isn't holding onto it for very long. I don't know one that does."
On the injury front. ... Arians said DT Vita Vea's knee injury suffered in the final minute of Sunday's game doesn't appear to be as bad as the Bucs initially feared. He described it as a bone bruise and a slight MCL sprain. CB Richard Sherman strained a calf muscle before the game will miss at least three weeks after being placed on IR Wednesday.
At this point, there's no reason to believe either Gronkowski or Brown, who did resume running this week, will be return against the Giants. But I'll watch for more and follow up as developments warrant via Late-Breaking Update in coming days.
Cornerback Richard Sherman underwent an MRI which shows a Grade 2 calf strain, NFL Network's Ian Rapoport reports, per a source. Rapoport adds Sherman's injury will take him out a few weeks as Bucs head coach Bruce Arians had said previously.
QBs: Tom Brady, Blaine Gabbert, Kyle Trask
RBs: Leonard Fournette, Ke'Shawn Vaughn, Giovani Bernard
WRs: Russell Gage, Mike Evans, Cyril Grayson, Tyler Johnson, Breshad Perriman, Jaelon Darden, Scott Miller, Chris Godwin
TEs: Cameron Brate
Tennessee TitansCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 16 November 2021
As Associated Press sports writer Teresa M. Walker suggested, the Titans would prefer easier wins that don't come down to a final stand at the goal line or scratching out a victory in overtime.
They also don't flinch in such situations. They're scrappy and tested, used to big moments late in games because they've been in more of them than any other NFL team with head coach Mike Vrabel.
The Titans lead the NFL since the start of the 2019 season playing 14 games decided by three points or fewer and have won 10 after their 23-21 win over New Orleans on Sunday. The Saints and Kansas City are tied for second with seven wins apiece.
Tennessee won the first three games of 2020 by a combined six points and finished off last season with a 41-38 win at Houston. The Titans also had a pair of three-point wins in 2019 after Ryan Tannehill took over as quarterback.
So there's no panic on the Tennessee sideline whether an opponent is driving the field in the fourth quarter in the final minutes or the Titans need to go score some points themselves. They talked on the sideline late against the Saints about being a great team and trying to keep winning.
The Titans have done just that with the NFL's longest active winning streak now at six games. They just joined the 2003 Philadelphia Eagles as the only NFL teams to win five straight against playoff teams from the previous season.
Tennessee not only sits atop the AFC, the Titans are tied with Arizona and Green Bay with an 8-2 record. And now the schedule becomes much easier with only two of the final seven games against teams currently with winning records. The Titans host Houston (1-8) on Sunday.
"Obviously, they aren't handing out Lombardi Trophies just yet, but I feel like going into these tough matches that we play, we can go into these games with a lot of confidence," safety Kevin Byard said. "We're not going to be complacent."
The Titans have demonstrated a remarkable ability to get new players ready to play. The Titans have used an NFL-high 82 players already this season, two off the league mark for a season. One of the newest players, linebacker Dylan Cole, forced a fumble on the opening kickoff of the third quarter that set up a touchdown.
San Francisco in 2020 and Miami in 2019 each used 84 players.
"When you don't panic, there's a tendency for everybody else not to panic," Vrabel said Monday.
Meanwhile, the Titans still are working through their committee approach at running back to replace Derrick Henry. D'Onta Foreman ran for a team-high 30 yards and had a 39-yard catch-and-run to the Saints 9 setting up the clinching field goal. Adrian Peterson had only 21 yards, but he had back-to-back carries in the fourth quarter for 11 yards.
Tannehill had the lone rushing TD, giving him five for the season.
As for the passing game. ... Per Next Gen Stats, Tannehill averaged 6.1 air yards per attempt and an average time to throw of 2.58 seconds, which was slightly improved from 4.3 air YPA and 2.43 TTT in Week 9 at Rams, but notably worse than the 7.9 air yards per attempt, 2.68 seconds time to throw from Weeks 1-8.
He has no deep completions in two games since Henry's injury (0-2 in Week 10).
Part of that could be protection. The offensive line still needs to protect Tannehill better. He's tied with Justin Fields of Chicago for the NFL's most sacked quarterbacks at 29.
ESPN.com's Turron Davenport believes they also need to identify who their go-to player will be down the stretch.
Henry isn't walking through the door this season, and wide receiver Julio Jones is out for at least the next three weeks after being placed on injured reserve. Wide receiver A.J. Brown had a hot streak entering last week's game but finished with only one reception for 16 yards.
The defense can't be counted on to be lights out each time they take the field.
According to Davenport, "Tennessee needs Brown, or someone, to become the player they can rely upon to make a play when it is needed the most."
Whatever the case, the Titans will be looking to survive the next two weeks with a visit from Houston and a trip to New England (6-4).
Then they get a much-needed bye week to rest and heal up for the stretch run. ...
On the injury front. ... Jeremy McNichols (concussion) did not practice Wednesday; I'll follow up via Late-Breaking Update as needed. ...
One last note here. ... The Titans' five-game win streak over playoff teams from last season matches the 2003 Philadelphia Eagles as the only other team to win five consecutive games versus postseason teams from the previous year.
QBs: Ryan Tannehill, Logan Woodside
RBs: Derrick Henry, Dontrell Hilliard, Khari Blasingame, Trenton Cannon, Jordan Wilkins
WRs: Nick Westbrook_Ikhine, Chester Rogers, Racey McMath, Dez Fitzpatrick, Cameron Batson, Robert Woods
TEs: Geoff Swaim, Austin Hooper, MyCole Pruitt
Washington Football TeamCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 16 November 2021
As ESPN.com's John Keim recounted it: "With nearly 11 minutes left in Sunday's game, the Washington Football Team regained possession but the Tampa Bay Buccaneers had stolen the momentum. With a 2-6 team on one sideline and quarterback Tom Brady on the other, this is how it was supposed to go: Tampa Bay, trailing 23-19, would force a punt or a turnover; Brady would lead the Bucs to another score and Washington would suffer a fifth consecutive loss.
"It did not go that way. ..."
Instead, by the time Brady got the ball back, Washington was up 29-19 and only 29 seconds remained.
Keim went on to concede it might not be dubbed The Drive -- that moniker belongs to John Elway and the Denver Broncos. But Washington's 19-play, 80-yard march could be called the best drive of the NFL season, and it's one of the best close-out drives in franchise history.
According to ESPN Stats and Information, it was the longest drive in the NFL this season at 10 minutes, 26 seconds. And it was Washington's longest fourth-quarter drive that resulted in a touchdown since 2001.
"A grown-man drive," Washington receiver DeAndre Carter said after the win.
Said quarterback Taylor Heinicke: "It was huge."
Washington (3-6) might have given its season new life because of that drive.
It was a slow bludgeoning: Only one play gained more than 7 yards and only two went longer than 6. But Washington kept putting itself in position by getting to third-and-short.
The drive symbolized how and why it was able to beat the reigning champs. On the previous series, rookie receiver Dax Milne had fumbled. That led to a 40-yard touchdown pass by Brady (220 yards, two TD passes, two interceptions) to receiver Mike Evans, cutting the Washington lead to four points.
All game long, however, Washington had responded to negative situations.
"To see them resilient during a time like this, that was good," head coach Ron Rivera said of his team. "They earned it. They deserve it."
Washington never trailed, but even when the Buccaneers cut what had been a 13-point deficit to three midway through the third quarter, Washington returned serve by marching 71 yards for a touchdown.
And that is what happened on the final drive. Washington used a mix of runs (11), scrambles (two) and passes (six). It ran the ball up the middle with running back Antonio Gibson; it ran it with third-down back J.D. McKissic and even sent Carter on an end around.
It converted four of five third downs and one fourth down. Receiver Adam Humphries made a diving catch for 5 yards on third-and-4. On the next third down, needing 5 yards, receiver Terry McLaurin ran a slant and was drilled by safety Jordan Whitehead, but he hung on for a 6-yard gain. He lingered on the ground for a second, then bounced up and started banging his chest.
"It was bang, bang," McLaurin said, "but it was far enough away from me that I could pluck the ball with my hand and try to make a play."
Said Heinicke: "He got blasted. I thought he was a little woozy, but for dramatic effect he got up and started banging his chest and the crowd loved that."
Heinicke completed all six of his passes for 45 yards on the final drive, including slants to Gibson and McLaurin under duress -- he was backpedaling on both perfect throws. Heinicke, who was out of football at this time a year ago, outdueled Brady, completing 26 of 32 passes for 256 yards and a touchdown.
Heinicke completed 6 of 8 passes for 110 air yards and a touchdown on attempts of 10-plus air yards.
"These are the games you dream of as a kid," Heinicke said after the game, his voice cracking. "It's a moment I've dreamt of last year when I wasn't playing. I told myself that if I get another chance to play, I'm going to get out there and do something great."
Then came the capper: A fourth-and-1 Gibson run for a touchdown. The thinking was sound: If Washington did not score, Tampa Bay would have 30 seconds, no timeouts and be starting near its own end zone needing a touchdown to win. Rivera also said he liked how confident offensive coordinator Scott Turner was in the playcall, a run by Gibson.
Still, as he watched the offense on the field, Washington safety Bobby McCain said he had one thought: "Better get it."
They did. Gibson had to cut back to his left, but the line had walled off Tampa Bay's defense. A 1-yard run that sealed Washington's most impressive win in Rivera's two seasons. Washington still has a lot of ground to make up if it hopes to get back in the playoff hunt, but this drive helped build confidence and perhaps reveal an identity that had been lacking.
Heinicke said that after a costly turnover, the offense can get down on itself. It had an opportunity to repeat a doomed history Sunday. But, he said, when the players got in the huddle this time they kept telling one another: "This is our game to lose. We're still up four. Let's go end it right now."
Mission accomplished. ...
But the win came at a cost.
Chase Young will not play the rest of this season after injuring his right leg and is scheduled to undergo surgery.
Rivera confirmed the prognosis for Young on Monday in the wake of the reigning Defensive Rookie of the Year going down during the first half of an upset of defending Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay.
Rivera did not reveal whether Young tore the ACL in his right knee and did not specify what the surgery is for. Washington said Sunday that Young left the game with a knee injury, and Rivera said it was possibly an ACL tear.
The 2020 No. 2 pick finishes his second NFL season with 1 1/2 sacks. Rookie Shaka Toney is among the pass rushers who will fill in for Young at Carolina and the rest of the year.
Beyond Young's injury, Associated Press sports writer Stephen Whyno believes the team's red-zone offense is still a bit of a concern after settling for two field goals from new kicker Joey Slye. The offense will still want to work on getting into the end zone consistently beginning Sunday at Carolina.
Beyond Young and the absence of fellow pass rusher Montez Sweat (out with a broken jaw), Washington's other new injury is to tight end Ricky Seals-Jones, who Rivera called day to day with a right hip injury. Rookie right tackle Sam Cosmi was in uniform against the Buccaneers after getting cleared from an ankle injury but did not play.
At this point, there's no reason to believe Curtis Samuel will return from his groin injury any time soon. He was not on the practice field Wednesday.
McLaurin (shoulder) and Gibson (shin) were limited in Wednesday's practice.
I'll have more on Gibson, McLaurin, Seals-Jones and Logan Thomas, who enters the second week of his three-week window to return from IR via Late-Breaking Update; neither tight end was on the practice field Wednesday, however.
Worth noting: Tight end Temarrick Hemingway is signing to Washington's practice squad, a move that could foreshadow the need for depth. ...
So the Football Team will now prepare for Cam Newton and the Panthers this weekend in Rivera's return to Carolina. The Panthers are 2½-point favorites, according to FanDuel Sportsbook, after blowing out Arizona 34-10.
QBs: Taylor Heinicke, Carson Wentz, Ryan Fitzpatrick
RBs: Antonio Gibson, Jaret Patterson, J.D. McKissic
WRs: Terry McLaurin, Cam Sims, Adam Humphries, Dyami Brown, Curtis Samuel
TEs: John Bates, Sammis Reyes, Ricky Seals-Jones, Logan Thomas