Team Notes week 13 2019
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 26 November 2019
The Cardinals entered their off week with plenty of problems to fix, particularly on defense, that have contributed to the team's current four-game skid.
The solution might not come with a brilliant new strategy. It might be between the ears.
In some ways, the first 11 games have gone even better than the Cardinals could have hoped when they hired young coach Kliff Kingsbury and drafted quarterback Kyler Murray with the No. 1 overall pick. Kingsbury has been innovative on offense, Murray has looked like a franchise player, and the team plays extremely hard.
The biggest problem is simple: Arizona isn't winning.
"It's the theme of our season," Kingsbury said. "It's great effort, great passion, intensity, all these things, and not making enough plays in critical moments. Penalties obviously don't help. Turnovers don't help, but effort's been there all season. We've got to find a way to get back from this (off week) to finish games."
The latest setback was on Sunday after a 36-26 loss to the 49ers. The Cardinals jumped to a 16-0 lead, but quickly lost that advantage. Then they rallied for a 26-23 lead in the fourth quarter before the defense fell apart in the final minutes.
The good news is the Cardinals (3-7-1) were once again competitive against one of the NFL's best teams. The bad news is that, for all the good moments, it's just another loss.
Murray didn't have huge numbers in the passing game but continues to make the right decisions at the right time. He completed 24 of 33 passes for 150 yards and two touchdowns while also running for 67 yards, including a 22-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter against the Niners in Week 11.
Meanwhile, Kenyan Drake has learned the offense in less than a month after coming to the Cardinals in a trade with the Dolphins and has consistently been the Cardinals' most reliable option in the backfield. He had 16 carries for 67 yards against the 49ers and caught six passes, though they were only for a combined 13 yards.
Drake's production has been crucial considering starter David Johnson has been ineffective while backup Chase Edmonds was out with a hamstring injury.
Edmonds practiced Monday and is expected to play Sunday against the Rams.
Edmonds has been out since Week 8 against the Saints, and his return will give Kingsbury three intriguing options.
"It's a good problem to have to have three talented running backs," Kingsbury said.
Johnson had been the Cardinals' starter for several years but didn't get a touch in nine snaps against the 49ers last time out. Kingsbury said there is "definitely" a way to integrate Drake, Edmonds and Johnson into the game plan against Los Angeles.
"Three guys like that that can help your team a bunch of different ways, it's on us as an offensive staff to find different ways to get them involved and get them the football," Kingsbury said.
The Cardinals play at a faster pace than most NFL teams, which is why Edmonds believes all three could have a role.
"If you're running 60 plays per game, probably not, but we're looking to get it up into the 80/90 range," Edmonds said. "It'll be fine, man. We're all talented. We're all selfless. It's not going to be a problem at all."
Although he was listed as a limited participant Wednesday, Edmonds said he will be ready for whatever is asked of him on Sunday, including a return to special teams if needed. The second-year back is averaging 5.1 yards per carry this season with five total touchdowns.
"Whatever way I can help this team win football games, that's going to be satisfying to me," Edmonds said. ...
Arizona will have three straight home games when it returns against the Los Angeles Rams, Pittsburgh Steelers and Cleveland Browns. There have been a lot of good vibes around the franchise thanks to Kingsbury's arrival and the good play of No. 1 overall pick Kyler Murray, who's thrown for 2,703 yards, 14 touchdowns and just five interceptions.
But for the Cardinals to win on a consistent basis, the defense must be better.
If Kingsbury is frustrated by the lack of progress on defense, he hasn't shown it. On Monday, he was asked if he had any coaching strategies or tricks to loosen up his team and shake the lengthy losing streak.
The coach looked amused.
"Like a dance off or something?" Kingsbury asked.
Maybe nothing that crazy. But at this point, it might not hurt.
QBs: Kyler Murray, Brett Hundley
RBs: Kenyan Drake, David Johnson, Chase Edmonds
WRs: Christian Kirk, Larry Fitzgerald, Damiere Byrd, Pharoh Cooper, Andy Isabella, Trent Sherfield, KeeSean Johnson
TEs: Charles Clay, Maxx Williams, Dan Arnold
Atlanta FalconsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 26 November 2019
As ESPN.com's Vaughn McClure suggested, this was supposed to be another step toward a miraculous turnaround -- a chance for the Atlanta Falcons to continue silencing critics while helping alter the perception surrounding their embattled head coach.
The Falcons had a golden opportunity Sunday to build off a two-game winning streak against a weak Bucs defense. Instead, they left the home fans shaking their hands in disgust in a baffling 35-22 loss.
The Falcons fall to 3-8 and questions about coach Dan Quinn's future will surely crop up again.
There were a variety of factors that led to Sunday's implosion. The defense wasn't as sharp as it has been the past couple of games, despite interceptions by Desmond Trufant and De'Vondre Campbell. The Falcons didn't sack Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston and allowed wide receiver Chris Godwin to catch seven passes for 184 yards and two touchdowns, including a 71-yard score. There was noticeable confusion and mental breakdowns on defense despite the recent emphasis on communication.
And offensively, the Falcons couldn't protect quarterback Matt Ryan, who was sacked six times and was under duress most of the afternoon.
A nonexistent running game, outside of Qadree Ollison's 1-yard touchdown, didn't help Ryan's cause.
Quinn is sure to take criticism for settling for field goals when touchdowns were needed. But, again, this was a game where nothing came together for the Falcons.
Now they have a short turnaround to regroup Thursday night against the rival New Orleans Saints, a team they embarrassed on Nov. 10 by pulling off a 26-9 stunner.
As for the offensive issues. ... The Falcons have lost all four games this season when Ryan has been sacked four or more times. Certainly, the Saints will come with a better rush plan on Thanksgiving night than they did when the Falcons beat them 26-9 in New Orleans.
The Falcons still have to face a pretty strong San Francisco 49ers defense, as well as the Carolina Panthers, once again.
Ryan finished 23-for-46 for 271 yards with no touchdowns and an interception. Calvin Ridley was the Falcons' leading receiver with six catches for 85 yards and a touchdown (thrown by backup Matt Schaub). Julio Jones sustained a shoulder injury in the first half but finished with five catches for 68 yards, going past Calvin Johnson for 30th place on the NFL's career receiving list with 11,681 yards.
Jones only needed seven yards to pass Johnson as he came into the game with 11,613 yards. Through 10 games played, Jones totaled 59 catches for 882 yards and four touchdowns.
It's hard to ignore tight end Jaeden Graham's 53-yard reception down the middle of the field on the game's second play. Graham showed no hesitation to step up and make a big play. The question is, how many more opportunities will he get? Graham benefited from starter Austin Hooper being out the past two games with a sprained left MCL.
Hooper might be back as soon as Thursday's game or maybe the week after. Whenever Hooper returns, Graham won't see the field as much but at least the Falcons know Graham is capable.
That's not necessarily the case with running back Brian Hill, who ran for 14 yards on nine carries, and caught three of his four targets for 13 yards during Sunday's loss.
With Devonta Freeman (foot) sidelined the past two weeks, Hill had an opportunity to take hold of the Falcons' starting running back position in his stead. Hill has thus far proven incapable of overcoming a weak offensive line that has struggled to open up running lanes all season, rushing for a meager 1.8 yards per carry in starts against the Panthers and Buccaneers.
The good news?
Freeman, a limited participant Monday, was upgraded to "full" participation Tuesday and he will return to action.
The bad news?
As CBSSports.com noted, he's heading for Thanksgiving night matchup against New Orleans' top-three rush defense.
Meanwhile, Quinn announced on Wednesday morning that Jones is questionable for Thursday night’s game and the decision will go all the way to game time, depending on the strength in Jones’ shoulder. Jones did not get to test the shoulder against contact this week although he participated in walkthrough, Quinn said.
According to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport, Jones is optimistic that he can play Thursday.
Tight end Luke Stocker (back) is also questionable while Hooper (knee) will miss third straight game.
I'll have more via Late-Breaking Update in advance of tomorrow's game.
QBs: Matt Ryan, Matt Schaub
RBs: Devonta Freeman, Brian Hill, Qadree Ollison, Kenjon Barner
WRs: Julio Jones, Russell Gage, Justin Hardy, Olamide Zaccheaus, Christian Blake
TEs: Austin Hooper, Jaeden Graham, Luke Stocker
Baltimore RavensCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 26 November 2019
As ESPN.com's Jamison Hensley reported it, "Lamar Jackson was an unstoppable force in one of the greatest performances ever in Monday Night Football history, showing the football world once again why he's perhaps the best player in the game. ..."
In a 45-6 rout of the Los Angeles Rams, Jackson ripped long runs and threaded passes in the red zone in another MVP-type masterpiece, leading the Baltimore Ravens to touchdowns on all six of his drives while continuing to rewrite the NFL record book.
Here are some new feats he established Monday:
First player with five touchdown passes in a Monday Night Football debut, according to the Elias Sports Bureau research.
Youngest player (22 years old) with multiple games of five touchdown passes in NFL history.
First player in NFL history with four touchdown passes and at least 50 yards rushing in consecutive games.
First player with at least 3,000 passing yards and 1,500 rushing yards over his first two seasons in NFL history.
In what has become a tradition, Jackson walked off the field hearing the chants of "MVP."
"I'm not worried about MVP," Jackson said. "If it comes, it comes, I'll be satisfied; but I'm trying to win a Super Bowl. That's a team award; that's what I want."
Jackson finished 15-of-20 for 169 yards with touchdown passes to Marquise Brown (6 and 18 yards), Willie Snead IV (two 7-yarders) and Mark Ingram (7 yards). He also ran for 95 yards on eight carries.
He did all of this despite not playing the final 14 minutes, 43 seconds of the game.
Asked if everyone is witnessing history with Jackson, Ravens linebacker Matthew Judon said: "I don't know what we're seeing, but we're going to continue to watch it."
Before Jackson exited, the Ravens became the first team since the 2008 Saints to score a touchdown on their first six drives of the game. Going back to last week, Jackson has directed Baltimore to score points on 12 consecutive drives (excluding a one-play, end-of-half kneel down).
"That's just operating at the highest level you can operate at as a quarterback," head coach John Harbaugh said.
On Wednesday, Jackson was named AFC Offensive Player of the Week for the fourth time this season. Previously, Jackson won it in Weeks 1, 9 and 10.
He became the odds-on favorite for NFL Most Valuable Player last week. But it's more than just an MVP race now; it's a competition for most touchdown passes in the league. Jackson is tied with Seattle's Russell Wilson for the NFL lead with 24 touchdown passes.
"He's a hell of a player, and I wish him the best," Rams quarterback Jared Goff said. "I think he's really proving a lot of people wrong, and you always love to see that."
Jackson is the third quarterback in the Super Bowl era to win seven straight starts before turning 23. He joined Ben Roethlisberger and Drew Bledsoe.
"There's a reason why people are talking about him as an MVP," Rams coach Sean McVay said. "It felt like it tonight."
Jackson credited the coaching staff for preparing him in film study and praised his teammates for giving him the work in practice that challenges him. It almost seemed that any play offensive coordinator Greg Roman called would work.
"We watched a lot of film all week," Jackson said. "They were trying to disguise coverages. G-Ro called great plays against great coverages and our guys did a great job of getting open.
The centerpiece of everything is Jackson. Brown was asked what it feels like playing with Jackson, when he has the ball in the red zone and the Ravens' offense is rolling.
"Very dangerous," Brown said. "You don't know what to defend. He can do so much."
"We're clicking on all cylinders right now," Jackson said. "It's OK, but we're trying to win the Super Bowl. This is cool, but we're chasing that right now, and that's what we're focused on."
Baltimore (9-2) leads the AFC North by three games over the Pittsburgh Steelers (6-5) and moves back to within one game of the New England Patriots (10-1) for the top seed in the AFC.
This sets up a marquee matchup Sunday, when the Ravens face the San Francisco 49ers (10-1) at MandT Bank Stadium. The matchup between Baltimore's multi-dimensional offense and San Francisco's uber-athletic defense, led by a deep front seven, will be one of this season's most anticipated and a potential Super Bowl preview.
"There is something special here, but you know what? There's nobody crowned in November," Harbaugh said. "So we have a lot of work to do. ..."
Also worth noting. ... Monday night was only the 18th career start for Jackson, but he's already one of the 50 most productive running quarterbacks in NFL history.
Jackson ran for 95 yards on Monday night, which gives him a total of 1,571 career rushing yards. That moved him into 50th place all-time among rushing quarterbacks, ahead of former Saints quarterback Aaron Brooks, according to Pro Football Reference.
With five more games this season, Jackson is on pace to finish this year with 1,274 rushing yards. That would be by far the most in NFL history for a quarterback, and that would bring his career total to 1,969 rushing yards. That would move him to 31st in NFL history, just behind former Bengals quarterback Jeff Blake.
The NFL's all-time leading quarterback rusher is Michael Vick, who retired with 6,109 career rushing yards. Jackson will need a few more years to break Vick's record, but as long as he stays healthy, the 22-year-old Jackson is going to rewrite the record book.
Ingram pounded the Rams for 111 yards and a touchdown on 15 carries and he was spelled by Gus Edwards (55 yards) and lightning-quick Justice Hill (27 yards) on occasion and eventually when the game got out of hand.
Jackson's designed runs tore up a Rams front that couldn't play sideline-to-sideline with the speedy ball-carrier, but as NFL.com's Jeremy Bergman suggests, credit should be given to his road-grading offensive line, which overcame the loss of starting center Matt Skura to a knee sprain. Mike Garafolo of NFL Network reports that Skura will miss the rest of the season. He's set to have surgery to repair the injury.
Skura has been a starter in Baltimore since midway through the 2017 season. Patrick Mekari will take over the role now that he's out of action.
Sans its veteran snapper, Baltimore racked up a season-high 285 rushing yards (its sixth 200-yard rushing games) and 31 first downs (tied for a season-high) against the Rams.
QBs: Lamar Jackson, Robert Griffin III, Trace McSorley
RBs: Mark Ingram, Gus Edwards, Justice Hill
WRs: Marquise Brown, Willie Snead, Seth Roberts, Miles Boykin, Chris Moore, Jaleel Scott
TEs: Mark Andrews, Nick Boyle, Hayden Hurst
Buffalo BillsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 26 November 2019
In a battle of top five defenses, Buffalo's unit emerged superior in the Bills 20-3 victory Sunday. With just 94 total net yards at the half, the Broncos offense began the second half with a 10-play 48-yard field goal drive in which they secured three first downs to put their first points on the board to make it a 13-3 game.
Little did Denver know those would be the last first downs the Broncos would get for the remainder of the game.
The good news?
The Josh Allen-led offense, featuring nine new starters, is showing signs of having found a rhythm since coordinator Brian Daboll introduced a hurry-up element to its attack in a 37-20 win at Miami a week earlier.
After wearing down the Broncos with 12- and 17-play field-goal drives to open the game, Allen hit Cole Beasley for an 18-yard touchdown pass on Buffalo's first drive of the second half. He then sealed it by completing a 34-yard touchdown pass to a diving John Brown.
"I think we started hitting our stride at the right time. We just have to keep rolling," Beasley said. "We've been doing it in practice, and I think Josh is a lot more comfortable doing it that way."
Allen finished 15 of 25 for 185 yards with an interception. He oversaw a unit that finished with 424 yards for a second consecutive week. And Buffalo's running game found its stride with 244 yards rushing -- it's best outing since Week 16 of 2016.
Rookie Devin Singletary had his first 100-yard game with 106 yards rushing.
Frank Gore added 65 yards rushing to up his total to 15,289 and move ahead of boyhood idol Barry Sanders into third on the NFL career list. The 15-year veteran also increased his total to 19,154 yards from scrimmage to pass Marshall Faulk for fourth on the list.
Gore officially passed Sanders on a 6-yard run in the fourth quarter. Now in his 15th season, Gore previously became the fourth player to rush for 15,000 career yards during the Bills' Week 4 game against the New England Patriots.
"I'm happy I was able to hit this milestone at home in front of the Buffalo fans," Gore said. "It hasn't been an easy road to get to Year 15, but I am very blessed."
The fact that he even made it to his 15th season is something Gore holds in high value. And although his placement on the NFL's all-time leaderboard is important to him to some extent, it pales in comparison to his inclusion alongside the running backs he looked up to when he first entered the league.
"They told me I would be [in the NFL] two or three years. When I got drafted in the third round, they said San Francisco reached on me," he said. "After the game, when I saw all the cameras, I was like, 'Man, I passed Barry.' Barry is one of the best, if not the best to do it. ... And I'm a guy who they said wouldn't be in the league more than two or three years, and I got a chance to pass him today.
The stats have taken a backseat for Gore this season, something his teammates have taken note of.
"I told him it was an honor to be in the backfield with him," said Allen, who grew up a 49ers fan. "I mean, the guy just comes in and works and doesn't say anything -- puts his head down and doesn't care about stats and numbers or this and that. He wants to help his team win football games.
"You know, at 36 years old, how well he's playing. ... It's unbelievable."
A model of durability, playing in 217 of 231 possible games, Gore, 36, could finish his career in his current position on the all-time list. He's roughly 1,500 yards from the No. 2 rusher, Walter Payton, and 3,000 yards from the all-time leader, Emmitt Smith.
Meanwhile, it's worth noting Allen's interception was his first in 172 consecutive attempts, when he sailed a pass over the middle intended for Brown. He was picked off by safety Justin Simmons. It was Allen's first interception since the third quarter of a 14-7 win at Tennessee in Week 5. And it was also Buffalo's first turnover in three-plus games. The Bills had never gone four straight without a turnover. ...
On a day when the Broncos were determined to take Brown, the Bills leading receiver, out of the game, Buffalo needed other playmakers on offense to pick up the slack. The Bills leaned most on two of the shortest players on the team in Beasley and Singletary.
Beasley led the team with nine passing targets and delivered with six receptions for 76 yards and a touchdown.
"They played zone mostly," said Beasley of Denver's coverage scheme. "There really wasn't much man. When teams play a lot more zone there's a lot more voids and holes in the middle of the field, so I'm probably going to get the ball a little bit more just from my feel in there. It's kind of how our offense is built. The way they played defense it's hard to win outside. (John) knew it was going to be that way."
Beasley continuously found the soft spots in the zones to help move the sticks and keep the offense on the field. By halftime he had five catches for 58 yards in helping to stake Buffalo to a 6-0 lead at the break.
Singletary was also contributing as the team's lead back with a hard-fought 62 yards on 12 carries to average better than 5.3 yards per rush against the league's 11th-ranked run defense. By game's end, he had his first 100-yard rushing.
Singletary was also important when he picked up the blitz on the 3rd-and-6 touchdown pass from Allen to Beasley to essentially put the game out of reach for Denver.
Allen still took a hit, but Singletary helped to give him enough time to get the ball off to Beasley who did the rest on the 18-yard scoring play.
"I told him it was a hell of a job taking a shot," said Beasley of his comment to Allen after the play. "I told him I appreciate him hanging in there and waiting on me. That was really good by him."
All told Buffalo's offense rolled up a season-high 244 rushing yards, and tied their season best 424 total net yards, and did it against the league's fourth-ranked defense.
They'll try to use that momentum when they head to Dallas for a Thanksgiving Day matchup with the Cowboys. ...
On the injury front. ... The Bills could be without starting center Mitch Morse for their Thanksgiving game against the Cowboys.
Morse is listed as questionable with a finger injury that forced him from last week’s game against the Broncos.
Head coach Sean McDermott indicates that for Morse it’s an issue of functionality snapping, especially in the shotgun as the finger injury is on his snapping hand.
If he can’t play Thursday, Jon Feliciano would again step in at center.
Meanwhile Robert Foster is also questionable after leaving last week’s game with a hamstring injury.
As Rotoworld.com noted, Foster appeared to badly pull his hamstring in Week 12. The fact he was on the field at all on Tuesday is a positive, but expect Brown, Isaiah McKenzie and Beasley to be the top-three options here.
Offensive tackle Ty Nsekhe will miss his second straight game with an ankle injury. Cody Ford is expected to play wire to wire at right tackle as he did last week.
QBs: Josh Allen, Matt Barkley
RBs: Devin Singletary, Frank Gore, T.J. Yeldon
WRs: John Brown, Cole Beasley, Isaiah McKenzie, Andre Roberts, Duke Williams, Robert Foster
TEs: Dawson Knox, Tyler Kroft, Tommy Sweeney, Lee Smith, Jason Croom
Carolina PanthersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 26 November 2019
As ESPN.com's David Newton notes, kicker Joey Slye was making a solid case for the Panthers to keep him over injured veteran Graham Gano next year.
That was before Sunday's meltdown at New Orleans. Now he'll be lucky to make it to next week.
Slye missed two extra points and a chip-shot 28-yard field goal with 1:56 remaining and a tie score to spoil a heroic effort by quarterback Kyle Allen and wide receiver D.J. Moore. The 34-31 loss to the Saints on a last-second field goal by Will Lutz dropped Carolina to 5-6 with its third straight loss.
Allen was coming off a four-interception performance in a 29-3 home loss to Atlanta that put the Panthers in a must-win situation in the NFC playoff race. He'd had nine interceptions in a four-game stretch and the growing pains were killing playoff hopes.
Allen's struggles also raised questions about whether he could be the quarterback of the future if the Panthers opt to move on from Cam Newton, on injured reserve with a Lisfranc injury, next season.
Allen completed 23 of 36 pass attempts for 256 yards and three touchdowns. Two of those went to Moore, who had six catches for 126 yards, the third time in four games he has topped 100 yards receiving.
That Allen overcame a 14-0 deficit makes his performance even more impressive. He's made many of his past mistakes trying to do too much in catch-up mode.
On this day he returned to being the efficient quarterback the Panthers believe he can be.
But it was spoiled by a terrible day by Slye, an undrafted kicker who won the job to start the season after Gano was placed on injured reserve with a knee injury.
The Panthers gave it their all in this one only to be denied by missed kicks. Entering the game, NFL kickers were 134-of-134 on field goals 28 yards and in, according to ESPN Stats and Information.
The Panthers host Washington on Sunday as they try to snap a three-game skid. ...
For what it's worth, Ian Rapoport of NFL Network first reported the Panthers had kickers in for a workout Monday and Greg Joseph was signed to the team's practice squad. Joseph was recently drafted in the XFL, but hasn't signed with the upstart league so he remained free to play in the NFL.
Joseph was 17-of-20 on field goals and 25-of-29 on extra points with the Browns last season. We'll see if he's just there to turn up the heat on Slye or if a move might be made in coming days. ...
Other notes of interest. ... Running back Christian McCaffrey tied former Minnesota Vikings running back Chuck Foreman for the most games (8) with a rushing and receiving touchdown in his first three seasons. His 16 touchdowns this season leads the NFL.
He had 133 yards from scrimmage, slightly below his 157.6 average entering Sunday, as he pursues the NFL single-season record (2,509) set by Chris Johnson.
As ESPN.com's Tristan Cockcroft pointed out, it was another 30-point PPR fantasy performance by McCaffrey, who now has six of them through 11 Panthers games.
That brings his seasonal totals to 300 PPR points, the third- and 14th-most by any player through his team's first 11 games of any season since at least 1950. Only Priest Holmes (359.0, in 2006) and LaDainian Tomlinson (359.0, in 2006) scored more PPR fantasy points through that stage of any season. ...
Meanwhile, after the final play of the first half, everyone watching feared the worst.
Did Moore just break his arm? Was his elbow seriously damaged? Was that the last we'd see of him in 2019?
It was a truly scary moment as Allen was in trouble and fired a pass to the second-year wide receiver with Carolina looking for a two-point conversion to make it 17-17 going into halftime.
But Allen's pass was too far in front, and to make matters worse, Moore's left arm took a direct hit from Saints defensive back C.J. Gardner-Johnson, who was breaking on the ball. Moore immediately collapsed to the ground in pain and was carted to the locker room for further evaluation.
It was Moore whose 51-yard touchdown catch on a deep ball in the first quarter got Carolina back into the game against New Orleans. It was Moore who entered the game on the best run of his young career.
"I saw the replay as we were going in," Allen said, "and it looked gross."
Keep in mind Moore was already dealing with ankle discomfort after twisting it during a punt return that went wrong due to a collision with safety Rashaan Gaulden in the first quarter.
Thankfully, Moore was back on the sideline with his teammates to start the second half and he made his way back into the game with a protective sleeve on his left arm/elbow.
And he went back to making plays.
"The dude's courageous," head coach Ron Rivera said. "He stepped up. When we needed him to be out there, he went out there. Hats off to him."
He finished with 126 receiving yards on six receptions with his first ever two-touchdown game. He also walked away some bruises to show for it.
"Unbelievable," fellow wide receiver Curtis Samuel said of Moore's performance. "Ankle. Arm. Whatever you want to call it, he played phenomenal. He did everything he could. He put it all out there."
It was Moore's third 100-yard performance in the last four weeks, and the only outlier was a 95-yard effort. He now has 905 yards on the season, joining only Steve Smith and Muhsin Muhammad as Panthers with over 900 in the first 11 games of a season.
"He was super impressive," tight end Greg Olsen said. "We took him where we did (in the first round) for a reason. Has a great attitude, doesn't have a selfish bone in his body. A really good, young, dynamic player."
Although the two-TD outing only pushed his season scoring total to three, ESPN.com's Ken Bowen notes the volume is there -- Moore has seen at least eight targets in seven straight games -- the route running is really developing and he continues to post numbers despite the up-and-down play from Allen.
With matchup this week versus the Redskins, Moore should be expected to produce solid WR2 numbers.
For the record, Moore played 63 snaps as he battled for that career-best performance. Donte Moncrief played 13 snaps, his most as a Panther, in his stead.
Moore missed practice with an unusual "ankle/not injury related" notation, but head coach Ron Rivera explained that Moore was limited by ankle, then left practice early for personal reasons -- "happy reasons." It turns out he left to be at the birth of his child.
Samuel was limited by a sore knee while McCaffrey was held out for "rest."
I'll be following up on Moore's health via Late-Breaking Update in coming days.
One last note here. ... Wednesday, the Panthers put defensive tackle Dontari Poe and Greg Van Roten on injured reserve.
To fill their roster spots, they signed defensive tackles Stacy McGee and Woodrow Hamilton.
Van Roten, a one-time journeyman guard, found a spot in Carolina and started the last 27 games at left guard for the Panthers. They’ll likely move Daryl Williams into his spot, as the former Pro Bowl tackle has struggled to regain his form or a starting job this year.
Poe’s absence will thrust Kyle Love into a more prominent role, along with the new guys.
QBs: Will Grier, Kyle Allen, Cam Newton
RBs: Christian McCaffrey, Reggie Bonnafon, Mike Davis, Jordan Scarlett, Elijah Holyfield
WRs: D.J. Moore, Curtis Samuel, Jarius Wright, Brandon Zylstra, Chris Hogan
TEs: Greg Olsen, Ian Thomas, Chris Manhertz
Chicago BearsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 26 November 2019
As ESPN.com's Jeff Dickerson suggested, beating the New York Giants at home isn't much of an accomplishment.
New York (2-9) arrived at Soldier Field with a suspect secondary, a rookie quarterback and a worse kicking situation than even that of the Chicago Bears.
Yet, the Giants actually led at halftime -- despite two missed field goals by Aldrick Rosas -- and possessed the ball with a chance to win near the end of regulation.
Luckily for the Bears, quarterback Mitchell Trubisky settled into a groove in the third quarter and Chicago held on for a much-needed 19-14 victory.
The Bears' (5-6) defense, as usual, did enough to win.
But it was still a comedy of errors at times on offense.
Tight end Ben Braunecker dropped a wide-open touchdown pass. Trubisky tossed an interception in the end zone. Center Cody Whitehair was called for illegal hands to the face that negated a 60-yard Allen Robinson reception. The offense botched a two-point conversion attempt that somehow culminated with Eddy Pineiro attempting a 48-yard PAT (Pineiro missed wide left, of course).
Add it up, and it was an ugly victory.
But between head coach Matt Nagy, Trubisky and Robinson, no one felt that the Bears offense played to its full potential.
One fact is undeniable, however. The connection between Trubisky and Robinson had its most productive game of the season.
"You felt our passing game today," said Nagy.
Trubisky ended the day with 278 passing yards, his highest mark of the season. Nearly half of that total went to Robinson, who has been the offense's first option for most of the season. Trubisky said that the matchups between Robinson and the Giants secondary were favorable most of the afternoon.
"We like A-Rob in the slot," said Trubisky, "especially against the guys they had lining up over him and he did a great job getting open all day long, and if you put him in favorable matchups he's usually going to win, and the O-line did a great job giving me time, and I just got to give him the ball."
Robinson finished the day with a season-high 131 yards on six receptions, the first time he's crossed the 100-yard mark since the season-opener against the Green Bay Packers. He also added his fourth touchdown catch of the season on the opening drive of the third quarter.
"There was a little play-action with it," said Nagy. "He ran a hell of a route. A really good route. Mitch made a hell of a throw and stuck it right there, and he was able to finish after that, so it was good."
Trubisky gave Robinson most of the credit for the play.
"He just ran a great route," Trubisky said, "and the safety took the guy going over the middle, and then he ran a great route in the alley, and just put it in the spot where he could get it, and he drug the guy in the end zone. He just big-bodied him, ran a great route, and made a big play for the offense."
The Bears have now scored a touchdown on their opening drive of the second half in five straight games. The explanation as to why the offense has been so efficient coming out of halftime eludes Robinson.
"I can't pinpoint exactly what it is," said Robinson, "but whatever it is, we need to try to start the game like that. We'll put ourselves in some better positions and have some better outcomes."
While Robinson has been the team's leading receiver in seven of 11 games this season, the receiver's yardage came more explosively than previous weeks. Coming into the Giants game, the receiver was averaging 11.1 yards per reception, the lowest rate of his career. In the game Sunday, however, Robinson averaged nearly twice that number with 21.8.
Robinson said that the change happened organically, as the Giants' defense gave him more space downfield.
"That's pretty much what they gave us," said Robinson. "We saw an opportunity. Going into any game plan, you have your short stuff. You have your deep stuff. You have your intermediate stuff, but today, for us running those plays, those things were open."
A week after the Trubisky-Robinson connection yielded only four catches for 15 yards, the two combined for catches of 15, 23, 32 and 49 yards. Receiver Anthony Miller was also able to contribute 77 yards on six catches as well.
"We were able to create pretty good separation," said Robinson. "You had some catch and run opportunities. We had open guys."
The numbers might have looked even better had Robinson's biggest play of the day, a 60-yard reception early in the second quarter, not been called back for an illegal hands-to-the-face penalty at the line of scrimmage.
While the play might have padded the Bears' winning margin and Robinson's stats, he wasn't worked up about the negated play.
"You gotta move on," said Robinson. "We've got to move on. Stuff like that happens. I mean, it's football. There could be a flag on almost every play."
Throughout the season, it has been clear that the Bears offense performs at its best when Trubisky can find Robinson downfield. Robinson, with 63 receptions, eclipsed his total from last season against the Rams a week ago. With Sunday's performance, he now has 764 yards through 11 games, 10 more than he had in 13 games in 2018.
Robinson said that the pair has worked to build chemistry over the past two seasons and that their rapport is an ongoing effort.
"It's always a continuous effort to try to improve that so that we're always on the same page," said Robinson. "We're always trying to improve what we can do."
Robinson highlighted the effort of his quarterback, including Trubisky's third-quarter touchdown run on a designed sweep, when Trubisky lowered his helmet and pushed through defenders to get in the end zone.
"He works to make plays," said Robinson. "I think that's for anybody. I'd be remiss if I didn't say that there's been frustration for a lot of people this year. Like I said before, that's not a bad thing. Guys come in to work each and every day and work hard to make plays and try to help that translate to wins."
Minus the red-zone pick -- Trubisky's third of the season, tied for second-most in the NFL, per ESPN Stat's and Information -- and another poorly-thrown fourth-quarter interception, Trubisky played OK. Most encouraging, Trubisky actually ran when flushed out of the pocket.
Trubisky had four rushing attempts for 21 yards and a touchdown.
The Bears had 300 total yards of offense for just the second time this season. Entering Sunday, every other team in the NFL had at least three games of 300 total yards of offense this season.
After missing both of his field-goal attempts from 47 and 49 yards last Sunday against the Rams, Pineiro made both of his tries versus the Giants from 26 and 24 yards. He made 1-of-2 extra-point attempts, with the miss coming from 48 yards following two penalties.
On the injury front. ... Receiver Taylor Gabriel and tight end Ben Braunecker are in the concussion protocol and did not practice Monday or Tuesday.
It's the second concussion of the season for Gabriel and it was no surprise he was ruled out on Thursday along with Braunecker, offensive lineman Bobby Massie, defensive back Sherrick McManis, linebacker Danny Trevathan and tight end Adam Shaheen (foot).
According to Ian Rapoport of NFL Network, Massie suffered a high ankle sprain against the Giants. Massie missed a game earlier this year because of vertigo, but this injury should keep him out a few weeks. ...
And finally. ... With the Bears visiting the Lions in four days on Thanksgiving, Nagy and his coaching staff won't spend much time evaluating Sunday's win.
"Very, very, very little on this game," Nagy said. "Don't care, it's over with. So now we'll see at some points that they might have attacked us, so they don't take advantage of that next game. But I think for us time is of the essence. There's no time here, so we have to get rolling. As a matter of fact I'll be in there tonight."
QBs: Mitchell Trubisky, Chase Daniel
RBs: David Montgomery, Tarik Cohen
WRs: Allen Robinson, Anthony Miller, Cordarrelle Patterson, Javon Wims, Riley Ridley, Taylor Gabriel
TEs: Jesper Horsted, J.P. Holtz, Bradley Sowell, Eric Saubert
Cincinnati BengalsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 26 November 2019
As ESPN.com's Ben Baby framed it, "This is what the bottom looks like for the Cincinnati Bengals."
In the 51 previous seasons of the franchise's existence, things have never been this bad. Sunday's 16-10 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers put the Bengals at 0-11, the worst start in Cincinnati's history.
Prior to Sunday, the worst start to a season was 0-10, which most recently occurred in 1993. The latest grim statistic reinforces how bad things are for Cincinnati.
The Bengals have lost 13 straight games dating back to last season, which is also the longest losing streak in franchise history.
In that woeful 1993 season, the Bengals won just three games. At this rate, Cincinnati will be lucky to pick up that many victories this season. The only winnable games appear to be a home contest against the New York Jets in Week 13 and a road trip to the Miami Dolphins in Week 16, two teams that, at one point, challenged the Bengals' claim as the worst team in the NFL this season.
But those teams have displayed some upside and the Bengals clearly have not as, after three starts, rookie QB Ryan Finley has completed only 47.1 percent of his passes, thrown two touchdowns and committed five turnovers.
So it should come as no surprise the Bengals are going back to Andy Dalton.
Head coach Zac Taylor announced Monday Dalton will start Week 13 against the New York Jets.
Via Tyler Dragon of the Cincinnati Enquirer, head coach Zac Taylor said going back to Dalton was simply "in the best interest of the football team."
"We just want to win, and that veteran presence he has will certainly be helpful through all the things we've experienced on offense, and he's got great experience," Taylor said. "We've obviously had our challenges on offense, regardless of who's playing quarterback."
The Bengals benched the veteran signal-caller before their Week 9 bye week to let Finley get a shot in a lost season.
Cincy has seen enough of Finley.
Lacking ideal arm strength, Finley struggled to move the ball consistently in Taylor's offense, averaging 11.0 points per game in the three contests with the rookie. Finley's 62.1 passer rating is 17.1 points lower than Dalton's 79.2 passer rating this season.
The Bengals' offense put up their ninth game with fewer than 20 points scored this season -- tied for most in the NFL with the Redskins -- in Sunday's 16-10 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers.
After getting their evaluation of Finley done, it's clear the Bengals will look to the 2020 draft for their signal-caller of the future.
Now the Bengals will turn back to Dalton to try to avoid a winless season. Dalton returns to face a hot Jets defense that swarmed the Oakland Raiders Sunday in a 34-3 win. Cincinnati closes the season facing the Browns, Patriots, Dolphins and Browns again.
Taylor hopes going back to Dalton can spur the Bengals to a win down the stretch to avoid the third 0-16 season in NFL history.
"We're just going to keep taking it one week at a time right now," Taylor said. "You want to see as many games as you can possibly get. ..."
Tyler Boyd caught five of nine targets for 101 yards and a touchdown during Sunday's loss.
Boyd led the team in targets, catches, and receiving yards, topping the 100-yard mark for the third time this season. He tied his season long with a 47-yard reception and scored a 15-yard touchdown to get his team on the board in the second quarter. The touchdown was Boyd's first since Week 5, and this was an excellent way to bounce back after he failed to generate any yardage last week against the Raiders.
Joe Mixon carried 18 times for 79 yards in this one. Mixon's 18 carries were his second most since Oct. 6, and he averaged a respectable 4.4 yards per tote against a solid Pittsburgh front.
As CBBSports.com notes, Mixon curiously wasn't involved in the passing game and finished without a target for the first time this season.
Mixon has come to life as a runner over the last four weeks, averaging 86.3 yards per game while carrying at least 15 times in each contest. Consistent production as a pass catcher would benefit his fantasy stock, and he'll look to get more involved in that department Sunday against the Jets.
One outstanding question: Will A.J. Green ever make it back onto the field this season?
I'll be watching for signs of that in coming day, but it'll be interesting to see if Dalton's return is a factor in this -- although Taylor said it won't be and that Green remains "day-to-day;" watch the Late-Breaking Updates section for more.
QBs: Andy Dalton, Ryan Finley, Jake Dolegala
RBs: Joe Mixon, Giovani Bernard, Trayveon Williams
WRs: Tyler Boyd, John Ross, Alex Erickson, Stanley Morgan Jr., Damion Willis
TEs: Tyler Eifert, C.J. Uzomah, Cethan Carter, Drew Sample
Cleveland BrownsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 26 November 2019
According to ESPN.com's Jake Trotter, Baker Mayfield might finally be finding a rhythm with his star wide receivers.
Mayfield tossed a season-high three touchdown passes Sunday -- two to Jarvis Landry and another to Odell Beckham Jr. -- as the surging Cleveland Browns rolled to a 41-24 rout against Miami for their third consecutive victory. It was the first time all season that Mayfield found Beckham and Landry for touchdowns in the same game.
Despite the collective talent, Mayfield's chemistry with Beckham and Landry has been rocky at times this year. Lately, though, the three seem to be finding their groove together.
Through Cleveland's first seven games -- which included five losses -- Mayfield had only one touchdown pass and a startling eight interceptions targeting Beckham or Landry.
Over the past four games, however, Mayfield has six touchdowns and only one pick targeting Beckham and Landry, culminating in the scoring outbreak in the first half against the Dolphins.
Mayfield finished off the opening drive with a 7-yard touchdown strike to Landry, who arrived in Cleveland in a trade with Miami last year. Landry, who would later grab a 5-yard touchdown pass from Mayfield in the second quarter, has touchdown catches in each of the past four games, tied for the longest active streak in the NFL.
In between Landry's touchdowns, Mayfield also hooked up with Beckham for a 35-yard score over the top of the Miami defense, breaking Beckham's streak of eight straight games without a touchdown, which had been the longest of his career.
Behind Mayfield, Landry and Beckham, the Browns scored four touchdowns in a first half for just the second time since returning to the NFL in 1999, according to ESPN Stats and Information.
Mayfield finished 24-of-34 for 327 yards, though he did toss one interception, throwing behind Beckham on a slant pattern early in the second half.
It was the second-year signal caller's best statistical game of the year and he finished with a quarterback rating of 118.1, a season high. He was especially efficient against the blitz, going 7-of-7 with two touchdowns against Miami's blitz in the first half alone. That marked the first time all year Mayfield has had multiple touchdown passes against the blitz in a half, according to ESPN Stats and Info.
Mayfield now has seven touchdown passes over his past three games, which matches the total he had through the first nine weeks of the season.
Generally speaking, Mayfield was sharp. So, too, were Landry and Beckham, who together totaled 16 receptions and 232 receiving yards -- easily their biggest combined output of the season.
Three weeks ago, Mayfield declared the Browns had to start force-feeding Beckham the ball early and often. That's exactly what Cleveland has been doing ever since.
Sunday, Beckham had eight targets, giving him 30 over the past three games, tied for the most he has been targeted over a three-game stretch all season.
With his first touchdown reception since Week 2, Beckham netted managers 20 fantasy points in PPR formats for just the second time this season.
It should have been somewhat expected.
As ESPN.com's Ken Bowen notes, it was a prime matchup for Beckham versus the Miami secondary. And there's more of that coming.
But before Beckham hits that favorable stretch in Weeks 14-15 against Cincinnati and Arizona, he gets the Pittsburgh defense.
Back in Week 11, the Steelers held Beckham to 60 yards receiving on 4-of-10 targets. Yes, Beckham has some real upside when the fantasy playoffs start, but keep those expectations in check this week.
Meanwhile, Landry set a personal best with 36 PPR fantasy points, and he now has 53 targets in his past five games combined. And while the overall matchup against Pittsburgh is tough this week, Landry's matchup against slot cornerback Mike Hilton is one of their few individual-player matchups that might be favorable.
As ESPN.com's Tristan Cockcroft suggested, in a full-PPR league, Landry arguably warrants a better ranking than Beckham.
Nick Chubb carried 21 times for 106 yards during Sunday's win. He also caught three of four targets for 58 additional yards.
Chubb exploited this favorable matchup to the tune of 5.0 yards per carry, as he topped the 100-yard mark for the fifth time this season. He also notched a new season high in receiving yardage thanks to a couple of big plays in the passing game.
Kareem Hunt scored a short rushing touchdown in the first half, but Chubb got one of his own in the final minutes to end a four-game run without a TD.
The second-year back continues to produce at a strong rate while Hunt remains a viable flex-level play and both will look continue that again Sunday against the Steelers.
Of course, as Trotter suggests, it should be a wild scene in Pittsburgh, on the heels of last week's melee with the Steelers that saw the NFL punish 33 players and suspend Cleveland defensive end Myles Garrett for the rest of the season for ripping off Mason Rudolph's helmet and striking the Pittsburgh quarterback in the head with it. In his appeal, Garrett accused Rudolph of inciting him with a racial slur, which Rudolph denied through his agent.
In a show of support, Browns owner Dee Haslam was photographed Sunday donning Garrett's No. 95 on her cap. Cleveland tailgaters were less subtle, playing Rudolph piñata, as blindfolded fans tried to hit a dummy mockup of the Steelers quarterback with a Pittsburgh helmet. When FirstEnergy Stadium showed Rudolph throwing an interception in Cincinnati on the video board, chants of "Pittsburgh sucks" and "Rudolph sucks" reverberated around the stands.
Given all that has transpired, it figures to be tense this weekend -- both on the field and around Heinz Stadium. ...
One last note here. ... Head coach Freddie Kitchens said on Monday it was too early to say if TE David Njoku will be activated this week to face the Steelers. The coach said Demetrius Harris, Ricky Seals-Jones and Stephen Carlson have been doing good job at the position.
QBs: Baker Mayfield, Garrett Gilbert, Drew Stanton
RBs: Nick Chubb, Kareem Hunt, D'Ernest Johnson
WRs: Odell Beckham, Jarvis Landry, Damion Ratley, Taywan Taylor, Rashard Higgins, Derrick Willies
TEs: Demetrius Harris, Ricky Seals-Jones, David Njoku, Stephen Carlson, Pharaoh Brown
Dallas CowboysCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 26 November 2019
Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones knew it was going to be difficult to win Sunday against the Patriots for a variety of reasons, but mostly because of New England coach Bill Belichick.
"The bottom line is that was a tough challenge," Jones said. "They know how to play this game, in this weather. Their team was masterful. Their coach was masterful. ... It was a significant setback for our team. We need this win. We needed a win against an opponent like this, and we haven't had one."
In rainy and windy conditions, the Cowboys lost 13-9 at Gillette Stadium, dropping to 6-5 on the season and still looking for their first win against a team with a winning record this season. The last time the Cowboys had a victory against a team with a winning record was in Week 13 last season, when they beat the New Orleans Saints, who entered that game on a 10-game winning streak.
That Belichick had the upper hand against Jason Garrett was not unexpected to Jones.
"I think you're going to get out-coached during this era when you come to New England. I do. I think you are," Jones said. "I give him his, not due there, but it's just what you're dealing with. My point is: Don't get yourself in a spot where you have to come up here and beat him, and beat them on a day like today. Don't get in a spot where that's determining what you want to be about, where that's determining where we're going."
As ESPN.com's Todd Archer noted, while Belichick and the Patriots managed the game and the weather, the Cowboys had difficulties handling both. Their special teams contributed to a 10-point swing with a missed field goal attempt by Brett Maher and a blocked punt that led to New England's first touchdown in the first quarter.
Late-game decision-making by Garrett, who is not under contract after this season, also came into question.
Trailing 13-6 and facing fourth-and-7 from the New England 11, Garrett opted to kick a field goal to cut the gap to four points with 6:04 left. Had it been a shorter yardage to convert on fourth down, Garrett said he would have put more consideration into going for it.
"[If] they go ahead and kick a field goal coming back, it's still a chance to be in the game," Garrett said. "Then, what did we get it back with, just under three with a chance to go win it? So just felt good about that decision."
The Cowboys got the ball back with 2:38 to play and all of their timeouts but were hurt by a dubious tripping penalty and a properly overturned catch via replay by Amari Cooper on fourth down that effectively ended the game.
After the game, Jones did not second-guess his coach's decision to kick the field goal. Neither did quarterback Dak Prescott nor tight end Jason Witten.
But Jones was not happy to be leaving with a loss.
"Make no mistake about it, this was a bigger game [for the Cowboys] than it was for the Patriots on the win column," Jones said. "We had an opportunity to establish something. There is no gratification getting down to the last drive with it determining the outcome of the game. That is not the point. You can't be satisfied with how we got out there.
"I don't care if it is New England with their record and their coach and all that. You can't be satisfied just because you got within the last drive. I'm just really frustrated. I thought we could come up here and put together a better effort in all three phases. I expected us to play well against them defensively. We got what I think we should have expected from our defense. The other phases of the game, we can't come up here and play like that."
Despite the intense criticism from Jones, the Cowboys will make no immediate changes to Garrett's coaching staff with a game against Buffalo in four days, a team source told ESPN's Ed Werder. The Cowboys are in first place in the division and continue to control their fate in the final five weeks of the season, but so far they have not passed any of their tests.
Another one awaits on Thanksgiving when the 8-3 Buffalo Bills visit ATandT Stadium. The Bills (8-3) are similar to Dallas in that most of their wins have come against struggling teams, but they're in a much better place mentally than the Cowboys at the moment. ...
Other notes of interest. ... After badly missing Randall Cobb on a makeable third down in the second quarter against the Patriots, Prescott went to the sideline and grabbed a pair of gloves in hopes of combating the wet field conditions at Gillette Stadium.
"I struggled early in those first few series before I put the gloves on," he said. "I couldn't get a real grip on the ball, I wasn't driving the ball, and that's all me. That hurt the team. I missed some throws, obviously some wide-open throws to convert third downs so that we could continue to move. I can't do that."
It was that kind of day for Prescott and the offense. The league's top-ranked offense (28.6 points and 444.6 yards per game) produced 321 total yards and only three field goals against the Patriots' top-ranked defense.
One bright spot was running back Ezekiel Elliott, who ground out 86 tough yards on 21 carries. Dallas probably should have used the two-time rushing champion more considering the conditions. And Prescott (19-of-33, 212 yards, interception) did drive to the red zone twice.
But the Cowboys settled for field goals on both trips.
As Archer noted, Cooper really likes ATandT Stadium. He doesn't like the road very much.
Cooper, despite being on the field played 52 of 64 offensive snaps, was held without a catch for the first time since joining the Cowboys in a trade last season from Oakland (and only the fourth time in his career). A fourth-down catch on the final drive for 20 yards was negated by replay with 45 seconds to go. He had one catch at the New York Jets but played only one series because of a quadriceps bruise. He was targeted once in the first half and Stephon Gilmore ended up with an interception. In the third quarter, he had a first-down reception wiped out by a penalty.
In six road games, he has 17 catches for 213 yards and two touchdowns. The Cowboys are home in three of their last five games.
On a more positive note. ... For the first time this season, Cooper is not on the Cowboys' practice report.
While injuries played a part in him leaving two games with no catches previously in his career, Cooper apparently can't blame his outing against the Patriots on an injury. Cooper has played every game despite injuries to a foot, a quadriceps, an ankle and a knee.
He was a full participant all three practice days last week with a knee injury and did not have a designation heading into the game.
The Cowboys did estimate weakside linebacker Leighton Vander Esch (neck) and defensive tackle Antwaun Woods (knee) as non-participants, which does not bode well for their returns on a short week.
Right tackle La'el Collins (knee, back), safety Jeff Heath (shoulder, shoulder), right guard Zack Martin (back, ankle, elbow) and left guard Connor Williams (knee) were listed as limited.
A few final items here. ... The above-mentioned missed field goal was Maher's seventh miss of the season, matching his total from a season ago.
And last. ... It will not change the outcome of Sunday's loss, but the Cowboys were informed by the league office that the two tripping penalties in Sunday's game should not have been called, a source told ESPN.
Center Travis Frederick was flagged for tripping on third-and-1, negating an Elliott first down on a 3-yard catch as the Cowboys were driving for a potential go-ahead score late in the fourth quarter. In the first quarter, left tackle Tyron Smith was penalized for tripping, putting the Cowboys in a difficult second-and-23 situation that preceded the blocked punt by the Patriots, which led to the game's only touchdown.
Garrett had no comment on the calls during his Monday news conference.
QBs: Dak Prescott, Cooper Rush
RBs: Ezekiel Elliott, Tony Pollard
WRs: Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup, Randall Cobb, Tavon Austin, Devin Smith, Ventell Bryant
TEs: Jason Witten, Blake Jarwin, Dalton Schultz
Denver BroncosCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 26 November 2019
As ESPN.com's Jeff Legwold noted, the ingredients for a miserable afternoon in Western New York were all there for the Denver Broncos: A biting wind, an opponent with a top-five defense, and three banged-up offensive linemen protecting a quarterback in Brandon Allen making just his third career start.
Toss in a frenzied stadium, and the Broncos cooked up another day of offensive woe, all part of a 20-3 loss to the Buffalo Bills that left Denver at 3-8 on the season.
The Bills led just 6-0 at halftime, as the Broncos' second-ranked red-zone defense held stout. Somehow, the Broncos were in position to take the lead with a single touchdown drive.
Denver never got that drive it so badly needed.
The Broncos have lost back-to-back games on the road, and this loss hardly seemed in doubt after the opening frame.
Buffalo finished the game with more than 400 yards of total offense, and the Bills' defense picked off Allen once and sacked him on four occasions.
With a steady dose of no-huddle offense and a smothering defense, the Bills took control of the game early and hardly looked back.
Denver moved the ball to the Buffalo 25-yard line late in the second quarter, but Allen threw an interception to Tre'Davious White to end the drive. Allen targeted Courtland Sutton on the play, but Sutton ran a comeback route, while Allen appeared to expect him to keep running up the seam.
"It's just on me," Allen said. "Called the right play, thought the wrong thing. Thought he was going to keep going. Courtland did exactly what he's supposed to. He stopped on the route, and I threw it like he was going to keep running and made a poor decision there."
Added head coach Vic Fangio: "It was critical, obviously. We were in field-goal range, with the wind at our back, and it took points off the board -- at least three."
The Broncos did not get any closer to the red zone. The team went all 60 minutes without a trip inside the Buffalo 20-yard line.
The offense, in general, failed to generate much momentum. A week after recording 113 yards on five catches, Sutton tallied just one catch for 27 yards on eight targets.
"He tweaked his ankle early in the game and kept playing, but I do think it affected him some," Fangio said of Sutton. "I just think their whole defense as a whole just kind of whipped us, so it left the opportunities for everybody down to a minimum."
Allen, meanwhile, completed 10-of-25 passes during the game for 82 yards, an interception and a 32.4 quarterback rating.
Fangio said he had not given any thought to whether rookie quarterback Drew Lock would play against the Chargers in Week 13. The Broncos must activate Lock ahead of the team's Week 14 game in Houston, or else Lock will revert to injured reserve for the remainder of the season.
While no decision made yet, Fangio said "all options are available." Fangio said that Lock could "possibly" be activated this week, and "possibly" even start Sunday against the Chargers.
Lack of practice time is "more the issue than his ability to learn [the offense]," Fangio added.
Lock has resumed practicing after beginning the season on injured reserve because of a broken thumb. Last week, Fangio said it wasn't necessary for Lock's long-term development to play this season.
Of course, there's a reasonable case to be made that starting Lock at this point might not be in Lock's best interest, much less the team's.
General manager John Elway chimed in on Wednesday, telling reporters that Allen and Lock will split the reps in practice this week.
Whatever the case, Allen said he hopes to continue as the starter.
"Obviously I want to play," Allen said. "I want to be part of the solution. That's not up to me, so I'm going to work like I'm going to play next week."
The Broncos have scored just six points over the last six quarters, dating back to a Week 11 game against the Vikings. They have now been outscored 40-0 in the fourth quarter of the last five games and have scored 16 or fewer points six times this season.
That makes 13 times in the last 27 games -- or 48 percent of the time.
That's the résumé of an offense that has started six different quarterbacks, had three different offensive coordinators and two different head coaches since the start of the 2017 season.
After a season-low 134 total yards on Sunday, the question becomes: What steps can the Broncos take to make some progress on offense in the final five weeks of the season, starting with this week's game against the Chargers?
Other notes of interest. ... Phillip Lindsay ran for 57 yards on 13 attempts and added an 11-yard catch during Sunday's loss.
Lindsay was unable to shake loose against the Bills, but his 4.4 yards-per-carry average was all the more impressive considering the Denver pass offense did not pose a threat throughout the game. As CBSSports.com notes, Lindsay is dangerous when he's able to get to the edge and slash through the line. That's becoming increasingly difficult as defenses have learned not to fear Allen's arm on dropbacks.
A middle-of-the-road Chargers pass defense awaits Sunday, but Lindsay's value may ride on whether Allen is back under center or whether the Lock era is upon us.
According to Legwold, there is a segment among the Broncos' faithful that simply believes Lock should simply be tossed into the pool after all of seven full regular-season practices. In reality, if Sunday is how the Broncos are going to play the rest of the way, there's probably no way to stop the Lock train now, but Allen's day of misery should give them pause.
The Broncos didn't protect well -- Allen was either hit or forced off the spot right at the top of the dropback far too often -- and an inexperienced quarterback behind shaky protection means pain and suffering.
If the Broncos can't protect on five- or seven-step drops, or get a little more done in the play-action game, every guy behind center will suffer the same fate as Allen did Sunday.
And finally. ... Tim Patrick did not practice Wednesday and was limited Thursday as well as Friday due to a shoulder injury. He didn't look 100 percent against the Bills. Without Patrick taking some of the heat off Sutton, and with the line unable to consistently keep the rush off Allen, nobody else made enough impact.
Also. ... Linebacker Von Miller played 64 of 80 defensive snaps in the loss to the Bills on Sunday, but he came out of it with an issue with his right knee.
Fangio said Miller came in for treatment and "some tests" Monday.
Miller underwent an MRI, Nicki Jhabvala of TheAthletic.com reports.
"But he's fine at this point," Fangio said.
Miller is day to day, but the team could limit him in practice as a precaution.
With six sacks in 11 games, Miller is on pace for the second-fewest sacks of his career. He had five in nine games in 2013.
QBs: Drew Lock, Brandon Allen
RBs: Phillip Lindsay, Royce Freeman, Devontae Booker, Theo Riddick
WRs: Courtland Sutton, Tim Patrick, Daesean Hamilton, Fred Brown, Juwann Winfree, Diontae Spencer
TEs: Noah Fant, Jeff Heuerman, Troy Fumagalli
Detroit LionsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 26 November 2019
The loss of Matthew Stafford to injury continues to take a toll on the Detroit Lions, and the losses on the field keep adding up.
Backup quarterback Jeff Driskel threw three interceptions in the latest defeat, 19-16 to the Redskins on Sunday, and embattled coach Matt Patricia continues to face questions about his job status with the season slipping away. Detroit (3-7-1) has lost four in a row and seven of eight.
"He's our head coach, and he's the guy we're really behind," right guard Graham Glasgow said of Patricia. "We just need to execute, and I think at the end of the day that comes down to everybody on the team: coaches, players. I don't think that gets pinned on one person in particular."
Driskel is filling in for Stafford, who has missed three consecutive games with back and hip injuries. Jim Caldwell was fired after the Lions went 9-7 in 2017, and they're 9-17-1 since Patricia was picked to replace him.
"I definitely think the team is fighting," Patricia said.
That fight isn't translating into wins. The Lions led the lowly Redskins 16-13 in the fourth quarter but couldn't put the game away. Driskel was intercepted by Washington's Quinton Dunbar in the final minute, a play that put the Redskins in position to drive for the go-ahead field goal.
Driskel, who was 20 of 33 for 207 yards, took responsibility for the turnovers. Patricia might take the fall for those and other blunders.
"We all saw what the mistakes are," Patricia said. "We all saw them out there. We have to do a better job of coaching it and executing it."
The Lions are 0-3 since Stafford was sidelined, yet things started going off the rails before that. Detroit's defense has struggled and wasn't good enough Sunday to send the game into overtime.
Asked about taking over the defensive play calling, Patricia became, well, defensive, and refused to go into details. He spent six seasons as Bill Belichick's defensive coordinator with the New England Patriots before getting his first head NFL job.
Glasgow said reporters "can speculate" about how players respond to concerns about Patricia's job security. He was more direct when asked if this was the toughest loss of a tough season.
"Right now it definitely feels that way," he said. "Yeah, this one doesn't feel good."
Indeed, as ESPN.com's Michael Rothstein noted, this year, like the past one and so many others in franchise history, is now clearly lost. The main thing for the Lions now has been trying to show progress. Has there been? Which leads to this: Everything has to be on the table for Lions ownership after the season.
They could keep general manager Bob Quinn and Patricia to give them a third season in which they can try to build their version of a winner. It would be a vote for continuity and not bailing on a program they invested heavily in too soon.
Or Detroit could move on from one or both of them, essentially hitting some version of the reset button again. It's a dicey proposition after two seasons, but at this point, it's worth at least a discussion.
There's no singular way to explain what has happened with the Lions this year. Yes, losing Stafford was a crushing blow, but Detroit had moved the ball well in games after he injured his back. The defense, though, continues to struggle.
And even though Detroit's defense was statistically better Sunday, there's not much to read into because Washington's offense has been suffering all year long and is starting a rookie quarterback.
It's still a loss. Another one. And with it, more extinguishing of hope for a franchise this season and, perhaps, for a regime in its totality.
In the shorter term, the Lions host the Chicago Bears on Thanksgiving Day. ...
Other notes of interest. ... Bo Scarbrough continued his emergence. He ran outside with a rumble and inside with power, knocking one Washington player's helmet off when he made contact with him and rarely being brought down on the first hit. He ran 18 times for 98 yards, and that doesn't include a 25-yard run that was called back because of a Rick Wagner hold.
Detroit had been looking for any type of running game after it lost Kerryon Johnson to a knee injury last month, landing the promising, second-year player on injured reserve for the second straight season. ...
The Lions continue to have special-teams issues.
Detroit allowed a kick return for a touchdown -- Washington's sole end zone trip against the Lions -- and had Marvin Hall horrifically misjudge fielding a punt, pushing the Lions back to the 2-yard line in the third quarter. Detroit has had special-teams problems all year, often with penalties, and some of those issues Sunday kept an otherwise inept Washington offense in the game. ...
On the injury front. ... The Lions were interested in signing veteran quarterback Josh Johnson before the XFL declined to release him from his contract and it appears that they had more than Stafford's back injury on their minds when pursuing a deal.
Indeed, those looking for Driskel kick off the Thanksgiving slate of NFL games is going to have to wait a little longer to find out if he’ll start at quarterback for the Lions.
Driskel has been dealing with a hamstring injury this week and has been listed as questionable for Thursday’s game. Driskel was a limited participant in the team’s final practice before taking on their NFC North rivals.
The Lions ruled out Stafford (hip, back) for the fourth straight week, which leaves David Blough as the only other available quarterback. The team worked out Joe Callahan and Taryn Christion on Tuesday without signing either of them.
Patricia said that Blough got some work with the first team in Driskel's place on Tuesday in order to prepare for the possibility that he'll have to play against the Bears.
Driskel told reporters Tuesday the hamstring has “definitely gotten better each and every day.”
In addition to Stafford, the Lions have ruled out cornerback Jamal Agnew (ankle), Hall (foot) and cornerback Rashaan Melvin (ribs). Defensive end Trey Flowers (concussion), defensive end Da'shawn Hand (ankle), defensive tackle Damon Harrison (knee), tight end T.J. Hockenson (shoulder) and safety Tracy Walker (knee) join Driskel with questionable tags.
I'll follow up on Driskel and Hockenson via Late-Breaking Update before Thursday's game. ...
And finally. ... In case you missed, it Lions have discussed shutting down Stafford for the season because of his back injury, but that is not what the quarterback wants, and he still is hoping to play again this year, sources told ESPN's Adam Schefter.
Not only does Stafford want to play, but he is, in the words of one of Schefter's sources, "maniacal" about it.
However, if the Lions cannot turn around their season and string together some victories, the safest approach might be to rest Stafford for an injury that doctors have told him would sideline most players six weeks. With the fractures in Stafford's back, surgery is not considered an option.
The injuries are potentially chronic, and Stafford knows that the pain -- which he has dealt with dating back to last season -- could be an issue for him for years to come.
But Stafford still wants to return to play this season, despite knowing the risks involved.
QBs: David Blough, Kyle Sloter
RBs: Kerryon Johnson, Bo Scarbrough, Ty Johnson, J.D. McKissic, Paul Perkins
WRs: Kenny Golladay, Danny Amendola, Chris Lacy, Travis Fulgham
TEs: Jesse James, Logan Thomas
Green Bay PackersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 26 November 2019
According to ESPN.com's Rob Demovsky, "Now we know the difference between the San Francisco 49ers and the Green Bay Packers.
"A tight end who makes big plays.
"A defensive front that stuffs the run and harasses quarterbacks down after down without blitzing.
"And a young head coach experienced in game-management decisions.
"Some day, the Packers might be able to claim all of the above. ..."
Not now, though, and certainly not in Sunday night's 37-8 loss at Levi's Stadium in what was billed as a matchup of the top two teams in the NFC.
"That we got outcoached and we got outplayed and we've got to "man up," we've got to look at ourselves critically and get a lot of stuff corrected," head coach Matt LaFleur said when asked what he told his team afterward. "We've got to be honest with ourselves. But it wasn't nearly good enough. And again, give them credit. That's a good football team. But we've got to be a lot better."
If the Packers are still one of the top teams in the NFC -- and the conference standings say they are -- then the gap between them and the top is perhaps wider than we thought coming into Week 12.
And it's because the 49ers (10-1) have someone like tight end George Kittle, who returned from a two-game absence because of an ankle injury, and caught six passes for 129 yards (including a 61-yard touchdown), while the Packers tight end Jimmy Graham couldn't put away a catch on a well-thrown deep ball in the second quarter when it was still a 10-0 game.
And because the 49ers' defense held Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams in check -- the Packers' longest run came from receiver Allen Lazard on an end around for 21 yards in the second quarter-- and swarmed Aaron Rodgers, especially on third down, to the point where he was just 1-of-6 for 7 yards with two sacks while the Packers went 0-for-9 on first-half third downs. In fact, they didn't convert a third down until the final minute of the game, after they had gone 0-for-14.
Davante Adams had just 43 yards, catching seven of 12 targets, and Williams had 80 yards from scrimmage (45 rushing, 35 receiving). The Packers managed just 149 yards of offense before Rodgers was replaced for the last series by backup QB Tim Boyle.
"We didn't do a whole lot of positive tonight," Rodgers said. "A lot of stuff we talked about during the week, eliminating the negative-yardage plays, we didn't do that. They got after us up front and covered us good on the back end."
For the second time in three games, the Packers traveled to the West Coast and left with a lopsided loss.
"We just keep putting ourselves in these tough positions with these third-and-forever, second-and-forever," Adams said. "It's tough against a good team to come back against stuff like that. We've got to put ourselves in better positions on early downs and that's a start, that will help. And then the rest you've still got to execute. But you definitely put yourself in a terrible spot if it's in a terrible spot if it's holdings or jumping offside or just not moving the sticks. So we've got to be better there."
Yes, the Packers (8-3) have the better quarterback in Rodgers, but when he's in near constant scramble mode, what good does that do anyone? The answer on Sunday night was: nothing. Rodgers finished with just 104 yards on 20-of-33 passing and was sacked five times.
It was the fewest yards Rodgers has ever had in a game with at least 30 passes.
His previous low (161) came in the Packers' Week 9 loss at the Chargers. His 3.2-yard average per attempt was his career low in an NFL start.
The Packers' lead in the NFC North is virtually gone because the Vikings (8-3) keep winning. For now, the Packers have the edge because of their head-to-head win, but they still have to go to Minnesota on Dec. 23. But first, they catch a bit of a break, taking on the Giants this Sunday. ...
For what it's worth, LaFleur aimed much of his criticism at himself.
He said the 49ers did a "much better job" of coaching and cited the usage of Jones as an example. Jones ran 13 times and did not catch a pass for the second straight week despite his ability to make plays out of the backfield being a big factor in the team's 7-1 start to the season.
"I think we definitely need to involve him more," LaFleur said, via ESPN.com. "I think a little bit yesterday was a product of that scheme. There's not a lot of [opportunities] for the backs, and then when we try to get the ball to the backs out of the backfield, they did a nice job of having vision on our halfbacks. That falls on me right there. I gotta do a better job of making sure he's in the game when some of those plays are called for the halfbacks."
Jones, who is second on the team in receptions (35), has seen his involvement in the passing game shrink with the return of Adams from a four-game absence because of turf toe. Adams has 21 receptions on 33 targets over the last three games.
"I do think we've maybe been overly reliant to put him in spots to get the ball," LaFleur said. "I just think we have to do a better job as a staff."
Said Rodgers after the game: "I'm sure we'll talk about that moving forward and some stuff that's worked in the past, but we had a lot of plays on the call sheet that we liked and we were trying to get off and get called. Being behind the sticks all night was tough, I'm sure, on Matt's play-calling."
Jones averaged over 19 touches a game during Green Bay's four-game winning streak in October, but has averaged under 12 touches a game while the team's gone 1-2 in November.
LaFleur also will have to figure out how to replace right tackle Bryan Bulaga, who avoided a major knee injury but is still expected to miss time after his right leg got rolled into early against the 49ers. Alex Light replaced Bulaga and finished the game, but LaFleur suggested he may explore other options.
The most likely would be to move Billy Turner from right guard to right tackle and insert Lucas Patrick at right guard.
QBs: Aaron Rodgers, Tim Boyle
RBs: Aaron Jones, Jamaal Williams, Tyler Ervin, Dexter Williams
WRs: Davante Adams, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Geronimo Allison, Allen Lazard, Jake Kumerow
TEs: Jimmy Graham, Marcedes Lewis, Robert Tonyan, Jace Sternberger
Houston TexansCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 26 November 2019
Deshaun Watson and the Houston Texans got back on track with a win over the Colts last Thursday night to take over the AFC South lead.
As a result, they've had extra time to prepare for their next test with a visit from the Patriots.
Houston improved to 7-4 with the 20-17 victory over Indianapolis that came after a 41-7 loss to the Ravens last Sunday. The Patriots are 9-1 entering Sunday's game against the Cowboys.
Watson leaned heavily on star receiver DeAndre Hopkins to lead Houston to Thursday night's win. Watson, who had two turnovers against Baltimore, threw for 298 yards and Hopkins caught both of his touchdown passes and had 94 yards receiving.
Head coach Bill O'Brien talked about the value of having a veteran like Hopkins on a team with a young quarterback.
"You have a guy who's been doing it for a long time," O'Brien said. "You look at DeAndre Hopkins' stats in his career, they're incredible. His ability ... (as) a guy that we go to on third down or first and second down to move the chains, and that's great for a quarterback, and everybody knows he's got awesome hands."
Watson, who threw multiple touchdown passes for the sixth time this season, raved about the performance of Hopkins against the Colts.
"He did a (great) job to come down with those two touchdowns," Watson said. "You got to give him that credit. He basically checked to those plays and I was on the same page with him and we came down with the touchdowns."
Houston's offense got a boost on Thursday night with the return of receiver Will Fuller, who missed the previous three games with a hamstring injury. Fuller had 140 yards receiving, which was the second-most in his career and his eighth career 100-yard game.
"He's just a really dynamic receiver," O'Brien said. "He's got really good speed and he's a great route runner. The deal with Will, and Will knows this ... it's always health. Just being healthy and being able to be out there, Will is going to make plays because he can run, he's improved his hands over the years."
Fuller, who has 590 yards receiving this season, has missed 20 games in four NFL seasons because of injuries.
The extra days before Houston's next game should help the secondary get healthy before the group has to deal with Brady and the Patriots. Watson looked good against the Colts but will need to limit his mistakes, and the Texans must get their running game going if they hope to get their first win over the Patriots since 2010.
Houston's 99 yards rushing on Thursday night were its second-fewest of the season. Carlos Hyde, who piled up a season-high 160 yards rushing on Nov. 3, but has managed just 65 and 67 yards in the last two games.
O'Brien knows that his team needs to improve in this area as it chases a playoff berth.
"We have to spend a lot of time this weekend on the running game as coaches, see where we're at, what we're doing, because I think that's a key in the last stretch of the season here," he said. "You've got to be able to run the football."
Worth noting. ... Receiver Keke Coutee was inactive on Thursday despite being healthy.
Coutee had a rough stretch where he dropped a pass that was intercepted in a loss earlier this season to the Colts and committed some mental mistakes that got him taken out of the lineup for the following two games.
The former fourth-round draft pick from Texas Tech dropped one pass against Baltimore, but it was negated by a penalty.
Watson had welcomed Coutee back days prior to kickoff.
"It's always good to get Keke back out there and get his confidence up," said Watson, who has connected with Coutee for 16 receptions and 179 yards on 25 targets. He's a great help for this team, he's a great football player, great teammate, just a great person, a brother.
"You just kind of make sure that he's staying along, staying encouraged and that's what we've been doing. He's definitely going to help us out as we make this run."
It remains to be seen if he can work his way back into the mix this week, but Kenny Stills and DeAndre Carter have been faring well enough if not. ...
And finally. ... The Texans worked out former Ravens running back Kenneth Dixon, according to Houston Chronicle staffer Aaron Wilson.
Dixon wasn't immediately signed to a contract, though.
The Texans also worked out running back Marcus Murphy, wide receivers Victor Bolden and Tommylee Lewis and punter Cameron Nizialek.
QBs: Deshaun Watson, AJ McCarron
RBs: Carlos Hyde, Duke Johnson, Buddy Howell, Taiwan Jones
WRs: DeAndre Hopkins, Will Fuller, Kenny Stills, DeAndre Carter, Keke Coutee
TEs: Darren Fells, Jordan Akins, Jordan Thomas
Indianapolis ColtsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 26 November 2019
Wide receiver T.Y. Hilton couldn't call NRG Stadium his second home after the way he played last Thursday night against the Texans.
Instead, Hilton said the Colts' 20-17 loss was "100 percent" on him after he dropped two key passes in his return following a three-game absence because of a calf injury.
"I let the team down," said Hilton, who finished with three catches, none in the second half, for 18 yards in arguably his worst performance in eight career games in Houston. "Totally on me."
As ESPN.com's Mike Wells notes, Hilton spent most of the game being a decoy then failed to come through when the Colts needed him. He dropped a pass along Houston's sideline on third-and-4 late in the third quarter, when the Colts were trying to hold on to a 17-13 lead. On the Colts' next possession, Hilton dropped another third-down pass deep along the sideline in the fourth quarter after the Texans had gone up 20-17.
"I have to make that," Hilton said. "That's what I get paid for. I have to make them. One hundred percent on me."
Hilton went into Thursday's game averaging 133.3 receiving yards against the Texans in Houston. He joked in the past that NRG Stadium was a second home for him.
"When someone says this is their home, they're insulting me," said Texans wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins, who had six catches for 94 yards and two scores. "T.Y. is a great player. That's my boy. But I take things like that personally. I didn't know that until you just said that, because I'm not really in the media. But he's played some amazing games here. [Thursday] wasn't their day."
That Hilton even played Thursday could be considered surprising.
Since injuring his calf in practice on Oct. 30, he practiced just once, on Wednesday. Even then, the Colts just held a walk-through, which they routinely do the day before games.
Head coach Frank Reich said the plan was to play Hilton no more than 30 snaps because it was his first game since Oct. 27 against the Denver Broncos. Hilton, who admitted he was sore, ended up playing 25 snaps.
"I give him credit for wanting to be on the field," Reich said. "We knew even if we could get him on the field for 20, 30 plays, some of it was just as a decoy so hopefully [the Texans] would roll the coverage to him or do something like that and give us a chance to run it a little bit better. So that was part of the plan."
Hilton told reporters on Tuesday that he was fighting through tightness in the calf Thursday night -- "I didn't have my explosiveness" -- and that he spent the weekend in the training room, getting treatment.
According to Zak Keefer of the Athletic.com, Hilton planned to practice on a limited basis Thursday, his first work in practice in about a month. ...
Meanwhile, one month ago, the Indianapolis Colts appeared to be in control of the AFC South.
They were 4-2, including 2-0 in the division, after beating Houston at home and were a popular underdog following the retirement of quarterback Andrew Luck.
Following three losses in four games, they are 6-5 and second to the Texans.
Not making enough plays has become a recurring theme for Indy's offense.
Clearly, the Colts were off when Brian Hoyer replaced Jacoby Brissett (left knee) as the starting quarterback in a home loss to Miami. Hilton was on a play-count. Running back Marlon Mack went down with a broken right hand in Sunday's victory over Jacksonville, had surgery last Monday and could miss about a month.
While Brissett continues playing with a sprained medial collateral ligament and Jonathan Williams just posted a second straight 100-yard game, the Colts need Hilton to get healthy enough to stretch the field.
"We still have to find ways to make big plays and if you are going to run the ball for 175 yards that has to be accompanied by four or five chunk plays in the passing game," Reich said during a conference call Friday. "Collectively, as coaches and players, as an offense, we just didn't get that done last night."
Indy had a 10-day break to prepare for a crucial game against surging Tennessee. The long break should have been sufficient for Reich and offensive coordinator Nick Sirianni more time to devise a creative game plan with more down-field throws for Brissett.
That said, Williams now has back-to-back 100-yard games and should continue to running hard behind a strong offensive line at least until Mack returns.
Worth noting. ... Indianapolis will be on the road for three of its last four, with trips to Tampa Bay, New Orleans and Jacksonville along with a home against Carolina.
They'll head into this stretch without Eric Ebron, who was placed on injured reserve Monday because of an ankle injury. The team signed tight end Ross Travis to the active roster.
Ebron played in last Thursday's loss at Houston, making four receptions for 44 yards despite missing two days of practice because of the ankle injury.
Ebron was hoping to finish the season, despite ankle pain that began before the season did.
However, Ebron said on social media that the pain became "unbearable."
Ebron made the Pro Bowl in his first season with the Colts in 2018, catching 66 passes for 750 yards and 13 touchdowns. But his production dipped this season: He has only 31 receptions for 375 yards and three touchdowns.
Ebron, who will be a free agent at the end of the season, has 283 receptions for 3,195 yards and 27 touchdowns in a six-year career.
Travis returns to Indianapolis after being waived on Aug. 31. He played in four games for the Colts in 2017 and spent the 2018 season on injured reserve. In stints with the Kansas City Chiefs and Colts, Travis has 10 receptions for 91 yards in 21 career games.
Jack Doyle and Mo Alie-Cox will be the top two tight ends for the Colts with the loss of Ebron, although the team also added a second newcomer at the position later Monday: Matt Lengel.
Lengel has appeared in 18 career games with two starts. He has played with the Patriots (2016), Browns (2017) and Bengals (2018).
One last item here. ... In addition to ruling Mack out on Monday, Reich told reporters there's a chance Parris Campbell could return from his hand injury this week.
More on that -- and Hilton -- via Late-Breaking Update in coming days.
QBs: Jacoby Brissett, Brian Hoyer, Chad Kelly
RBs: Marlon Mack, Jordan Wilkins, Nyheim Hines, Jonathan Williams
WRs: T.Y. Hilton, Zach Pascal, Marcus Johnson, Dontrelle Inman, Ashton Dulin, Chad Williams
TEs: Jack Doyle, Mo Alie-Cox
Jacksonville JaguarsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 26 November 2019
According to ESPN.com's Michael DiRocco, the Jaguars' season pretty much ended on Sunday at Nissan Stadium. A 42-20 defeat marks three double-digit losses in a row in the division, and there can be no one in the organization who is safe after yet another embarrassing and demoralizing performance against Tennessee.
Owner Shad Khan said after last season that there were too many long Sundays and he expected that to change this season. It clearly hasn't, and the Jaguars' sixth-consecutive road loss to the Titans might force his hand as early as Monday.
Head coach Doug Marrone is 19-24 in his two-plus seasons, which includes a 9-18 mark since winning the AFC South with a 10-6 record in 2017 and an appearance in the AFC title game. Defensive coordinator Todd Wash's unit on Sunday gave up more than 200 yards rushing for the fourth time this season. That hadn't been done before in franchise history.
General manager Dave Caldwell and executive vice president of football operations Tom Coughlin have drafted well the past two seasons, but they are in jeopardy, too.
It will depend on whether Khan trusts them to make the decisions in free agency and the upcoming draft, which includes two first-round picks.
At 4-7, the Jaguars would have to win out to even have a chance at the final playoff spot.
As DiRocco suggested, that's laughable based on what has happened the past three weeks. Khan hated getting laughed at during his first five seasons as owner, and that's why no one is safe. ...
Meanwhile, even with the Jaguars sputtering their way into oblivion, Marrone won't turn to Minshew Mania to pull his team from the doldrums of a third straight blowout loss.
Marrone dismissed going back to rookie quarterback Gardner Minshew after inserting veteran Nick Foles into the lineup two weeks ago.
"We got to figure it out with the guys we have," Marrone said, via The Florida Times-Union. "You got to keep fighting. You got to keep trying. If you just say, 'hey, we're going to get it corrected and you keep things the same.' I can't live like that. That's not how I live my life. I don't believe in that.
"It's very difficult. We're going to go back, look again and probably try to find something else. Because obviously, what we've been doing hasn't worked."
Foles completed 32 of 48 passes for 272 yards with no touchdowns in Sunday's loss. The Jags have been outscored 75-33 since Foles reentered the starting lineup in Week 11.
The veteran has been average since returning to the lineup, completing 30-plus passes in back-to-back games for the first time in his career. The Jags' offense, however, is missing the splash plays we saw with Minshew under center.
Given how bad the defense has played recently, it might not matter much who is under center.
The questions Marrone will face the rest of the way if the losses mount in Jacksonville underscore the precarious situation in which the Jags sit. They are on the hook for Foles' big contract for at least another year yet have an exciting young rookie who is still growing. Under normal circumstances, most coaches would go about trying to save their jobs by showing potential with the young quarterback.
The Jags, however, might be the one team pigeonholed into sticking with the veteran down the stretch of another lost campaign.
For what it's worth, Foles looked better than he did in his first game back from his broken collarbone last week, but the first half had a similar feel of the 2018 offense: no rhythm. Maybe a change to an up-tempo attack at times earlier in games would help jump-start them.
A matchup against Tampa Bay's generous pass defense might also help this week. ...
Worth noting. ... The Jaguars fired offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett with five games left in the 2018 season, but they aren't planning any big moves on the coaching staff with five games left in this season.
That was the word from Marrone on Monday. As noted above, Wash is the coach under the microscope this time as the Jags run defense has fallen apart during their three-game losing streak. They have allowed 699 rushing yards to the Texans, Colts and Titans in blowout losses that have pushed them out of playoff contention.
Marrone said "you have to look at the staff and see if there's someone that can do it better" in order to make a change at this point in the year. He doesn't see that kind of upgrade on hand this season.
"I don't believe there's a change I can make right now that would make sense for me -- or this team -- to help us win," Marrone said, via the team's website. ...
On a more positive note, Jaguars.com's John Oehser notes that Leonard Fournette's transformation off the field has been remarkable this season. He has taken steps toward being a team leader and showed admirable class Sunday when he was one of the first players speaking to the media after the loss.
He continues to be a different person than he was during a 2018 season when he was often criticized for behavior on and off the field.
Oh, he's also still playing well.
A week after he got 15 touches -- eight carries and seven receptions -- in the loss at Indianapolis, the Jaguars made a point to get Fournette more touches Sunday. He carried 24 times for 97 yards and caught nine passes for 62 yards, running hard and playing at a higher level than anyone else on the Jaguars' offense.
QBs: Gardner Minshew, Nick Foles, Josh Dobbs, Phillip Walker
RBs: Leonard Fournette, Ryquell Armstead, Devine Ozigbo
WRs: D.J. Chark, Dede Westbrook, Chris Conley, Keelan Cole
TEs: Ben Koyack, Nick O'Leary, Seth DeValve
Kansas City ChiefsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 26 November 2019
Patrick Mahomes grew up in baseball clubhouses as the son of a big league pitcher, then gravitated toward football and began making his mark on high school football fields all across Texas.
He continued to make his mark in college and now the NFL.
But strangely enough, the comparisons that people are making to the Kansas City Chiefs quarterback these days have nothing to do with baseball or football. They have to do with basketball.
Chiefs chairman Clark Hunt recalled the heady days of Michael Jordan with the Chicago Bulls -- his family still retains an ownership stake in the franchise -- and how Jordan turned the NBA team into a global brand. Hunt sees similar characteristics in his brilliant young quarterback.
"When you have a successful team, that helps. And obviously when you have a star player, that also helps," Hunt said. "Michael did a lot to grow their brand not only nationally but on an international basis. To some degree, Patrick gives us that same opportunity."
On the field, Mahomes' cool demeanor, improvisational skills and ability to do things with a ball that others only dream of have prompted comparisons to Golden Star Warriors star Steph Curry.
"It's obviously really cool and amazing to be compared to someone like that," said Mahomes, who has guided the Chiefs into their bye week at 7-4 and in control of the AFC West.
"For me," Mahomes continued," I have so much longer to go getting anywhere near that level. Those guys have been consistent and great every single year and for their entire career, and for me, I'm just getting started and I understand that. I obviously love to hear it and love to see it, but I know I have so much to prove to even get anywhere near that."
As Associated Press sports writer Dave Skretta notes, Mahomes has certainly been providing plenty of proof.
Mahomes shattered just about every franchise passing record in his first season as the starter, leading the Chiefs to the AFC title game and taking home the league's MVP award.
And while his follow-up season may not have the same eye-popping numbers, an argument could be made that he's been even better this season.
In parts of nine games, Mahomes has thrown for at least three touchdowns five times. He's leading the league in yards per attempt, third in yards per game and the same in quarterback rating. And he's only thrown two interceptions, tied with Russell Wilson and Aaron Rodgers for best in the NFL.
That's some pretty good company.
Skretta went on to note that Mahomes is still making the did-you-see-that no-look throws. Jump passes are still in his arsenal. He can still deliver the ball with incredible velocity and accuracy with just about any arm angle, whether he's in the pocket or on the run, under pressure or with plenty of time to survey the field.
Those things are all easy to see, though. Less obvious are his improved decision-making and leadership -- the latter in part a natural byproduct of having a successful season under his belt.
To a man, the Chiefs acknowledge they would follow Mahomes just about anywhere.
"We see it all week during practice," wide receiver Sammy Watkins said. "This is the time where people be like, 'Oh, wow!' But all week he goes through practice, he tries these hard throws and he's literally on point. We just looking like, 'Oh yeah, that's just Pat being Pat.'"
Making his performances this season more remarkable? Mahomes hasn't been healthy since Week 1.
He sprained his ankle in the Chiefs' season-opening win in Jacksonville, then aggravated it a couple of more times but never missed a game. Then in Denver, on a seemingly innocuous quarterback sneak, Mahomes dislocated his kneecap and wound up missing the next two games.
He returned to throw for 446 yards and three touchdowns in a shootout loss at Tennessee.
Mahomes was solid again last week in Mexico City, leading the Chiefs to an important win over the division-rival Chargers. He only threw for 181 yards with a touchdown and an interception -- modest and unspectacular by his standards -- but he ran for a big first down and made the plays that mattered.
Now, he gets to enjoy a long-awaited bye and get a bit healthier for the stretch run.
That bodes well for the Chiefs. Not so much for the teams on their remaining schedule.
"Yeah, listen, I think he's been feeling better -- physically feeling better," head coach Andy Reid said. "He's been kind of battling through the injury and I think starting kind of mid-week (last week), I mean, he was going, 'Man, I'm feeling better here,' and I think that sure paid off."
Meanwhile, Tyreek Hill played just seven snaps before exiting with a hamstring injury against the Chargers, but head coach Andy Reid says he's optimistic for Hill's prospects of playing against Oakland.
"I'll see him tomorrow, how he handles things," Reid said Monday. "He'll get out and move around a little bit tomorrow."
I must have gone well. Hill was slated to be a full participant in Wednesday's practice.
All this after Hill received treatment on his right hamstring from athletic trainers on the sideline and briefly exited it to the locker room. He later returned to watch the remainder of the game on the sidelines in uniform.
Reid said Rick Burkholder, the club's vice president of sports medicine and performance, worked with Hill a bit before the player left for the bye week.
"I know he loves to play the game and I think he's been with Rick a bit this past week, but he had somethings that he also had to take care of it," Reid said.
Reid also indicated running back LeSean McCoy should be available against the Raiders. McCoy rushed for 29 yards and a touchdown on seven carries against the Chargers before exiting for a concussion evaluation.
"I can tell you LeSean, that he was not in the concussion protocol. There was a question of that after the game and that's not where he's at."
The club returned early Tuesday morning after the Monday night game against the Chargers game in Mexico City. Reid then let the players have time off for the bye week, and the squad returned on Tuesday to begin preparations for hosting the Raiders on Sunday.
"We're far enough along in the year to where I felt comfortable doing that and just letting them decompress there a little bit and get health," Reid said. "Obviously these are long seasons and coming this late isn't a bad thing where we were sitting."
It won't be until Wednesday when the club expects to reveal the status of other injured players, including running back Damien Williams (rib), tight end Blake Bell (ankle), defensive end Alex Okafor (ankle) and CB Kendall Fuller.
Damien Williams was not slated to practice Wednesday; I'll be following up on his progress as well as keeping an eye on Hill in coming days. Watch the Late-Breaking Updates section for more.
QBs: Patrick Mahomes, Matt Moore, Chad Henne
RBs: Damien Williams, LeSean McCoy, Darwin Thompson
WRs: Tyreek Hill, Sammy Watkins, Demarcus Robinson, Mecole Hardman, Byron Pringle
TEs: Travis Kelce, Blake Bell, Deon Yelder
Los Angeles ChargersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 26 November 2019
According to Associated Press sports writer Joe Reedy, the Chargers' final five regular-season games after their bye this week could go a long way if Philip Rivers returns next year.
The franchise quarterback is in the final year of his contract with neither side indicating they are close to an extension. Rivers has spent his entire 16-year career with the Chargers but is having one of his most frustrating seasons.
Despite Rivers' uncertain future beyond this year, head coach Anthony Lynn isn't considering benching the quarterback who has made 219 consecutive regular-season starts.
"I'm not going to entertain that right now. Right now, Philip Rivers is our starting quarterback," Lynn said. "You know, we're sitting here 4-7. Everybody could be doing something better."
Los Angeles was considered a contender for the AFC West title going into the season but needs to win out and get plenty of help to even entertain getting back to the playoffs. While the Chargers have dealt with their share of injuries, Rivers has also contributed with turnovers and poor decisions.
Rivers threw seven interceptions in losses to the Raiders and Chiefs. It is the first time he has thrown three or more picks in consecutive games. He has thrown 14 this season, which is second in the league, after having only six at the same point last year.
"Not scoring in the red zone and committing turnovers is what gets you beat, and it has been beating us all year," Rivers said after the previous Monday's 24-17 loss to Kansas City in Mexico City.
Rivers has also fumbled twice. Of his 16 turnovers, six have resulted in touchdowns and one in a field goal. Four of the interceptions have come on the final drive of the game as all the Chargers losses have been by seven points or fewer.
Granted, the Chargers' starter in every game since 2006 is playing without both of his starting offensive tackles.
But that doesn't explain his wildly inconsistent throws even with strong protection. While he ranks second in the league with 3,169 yards passing, his 15 TD throws are tied for 13th -- and his 64.4 percent completion rate ranks 18th among quarterbacks with at last 100 attempts, even with his propensity for checkdowns to running backs Austin Ekeler and Melvin Gordon, who have 83 combined catches.
The Chargers' season would look much different if Rivers looked like his best self.
Beyond that, the Chargers' struggles in the red zone are just as bad. They are tied for second with 40 red zone possessions, bur lead the league with six turnovers inside the opponents 20 and are 26th in touchdown percentage (47.5 percent).
Ken Whisenhunt was replaced by Shane Steichen as offensive coordinator on Oct. 28 but many of the same problems have remained.
"We moved it well, but you have to score touchdowns. I've made some poor throws and have given them seven points the last two games," Rivers said.
Lynn has held off in singling out Rivers for the turnovers, but Rivers has returned to taking risks with the ball. He has two games with three or more picks in three of the past four seasons. He didn't have any last season, when Los Angeles was 12-4 and advanced to the divisional round of the AFC playoffs.
In recent weeks most of the interceptions have come on deep throws instead of taking what the defense has given him on shorter routes.
"We've just got to do a better job making decisions with the football, period," Lynn said.
Many thought Rivers would be with the Chargers through 2020 and play at least the first season in the new Inglewood stadium they will share with the Rams. But with extension talks being quiet, the future is cloudy. Tyrod Taylor is under contract through 2020 and the Chargers would have the 11th overall pick in the draft if the season ended today.
Rivers isn't the only offensive skill player who might be going into his final five games with the Chargers. Gordon is more unlikely to be back after holding out for two months and not receiving a contract extension.
Lynn said he is spending most of the bye week evaluating the entire roster as well as his coaching staff. With their record and flickering postseason hopes, Lynn and general manager Tom Telesco are likely starting to cast an eye about the future as well.
After the much-needed bye, the Chargers must keep pushing forward and hoping this offense finds its stride in the red zone under Steichen. Their trip to Denver is a chance to get even for an embarrassing home loss earlier this season to the then-winless Broncos (3-7) while keeping their slim postseason hopes alive.
A few final notes. ... It might be too late to help, but All-Pro safety Derwin James could be back soon. James worked out on the field at Azteca before the game, and he could be ready to return at Denver after missing the entire season following foot surgery last summer.
After designating Adrian Phillips to return from injured reserve 10 days ago, the Chargers did the same for James on Monday.
Phillips did not play in his first game back on the 53-player roster, but Lynn said Monday that Phillips has a better chance of playing this week. Lynn said the Chargers would see how James does this week before determining whether the All-Pro will play.
QBs: Philip Rivers, Tyrod Taylor, Easton Stick
RBs: Melvin Gordon, Austin Ekeler, Justin Jackson, Detrez Newsome, Troymaine Pope
WRs: Keenan Allen, Mike Williams, Andre Patton, Jason Moore
TEs: Hunter Henry, Virgil Green, Lance Kendricks
Los Angeles RamsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 26 November 2019
As ESPN.com's Lindsey Thiry reported it, "Boos rang out at the L.A. Memorial Coliseum, a tone previously unheard in the Sean McVay era, as the Baltimore Ravens routed the Los Angeles Rams 45-6 on Monday Night Football."
The Rams fell to 6-5, and a season after they appeared in Super Bowl LIII, it appears that the end of their season will coincide with Week 17.
The offense appeared lackluster on Monday, gaining only 111 yards through the first three quarters before finishing with 221 total yards. The defense was practically nonexistent, as the Ravens scored six touchdowns on their first six possessions.
Los Angeles went three-and-out on its first two drives, and despite their best efforts to establish the run with Todd Gurley (six carries, 22 yards) and run hurry-up, the Rams quickly fell into a two-score hole, and then a three-score hole, and so on and so forth.
Whereas Baltimore was 6-of-7 in the red zone, Los Angeles was 0-for-2, kicking two field goals in the first half when the Ravens were hitting pay dirt.
The aesthetic difference between Baltimore and L.A. could not be any more stark, too.
As NFL.com's Jeremy Bergman suggested, "The Ravens play confident ball at 1.5x speed, led by an assured, mobile quarterback; the Rams run a slow-developing, chopped-and-screwed attack guided by a perma-rattled signal-caller. Baltimore's play is effortless. The Rams labor to pick up yards, and their labor is fruitless."
A week after McVay showed promise in his ability to adapt his game plan and play calling in a win over the Bears, the Rams' offense once again appeared stagnant against the Ravens.
In the days leading to Monday night's game, the Rams' organization provided plenty of reminders of last season's Monday Night Football thriller against the Kansas City Chiefs, which resulted in a 54-51 Rams win. But nearly 53 weeks later, the only thing that resembled that game was the Rams' yellow color rush uniforms, as they proved once again that this Rams team is a far cry from the 2018 version.
Remember, the Rams signed Jared Goff to a four-year, $134 million extension with an NFL record $110 million guaranteed before the season opener.
Through 12 games, Goff has done little to demonstrate that he was worthy of a record-breaking deal.
On Monday, he completed 26 of 37 passes for 212 yards with two interceptions, as receiver Brandin Cooks returned from his two-game absence because of concussions and receiver Robert Woods returned from a personal issue that kept him sidelined a week ago.
Through their first two possessions, the Rams gained a total of 5 yards, and Goff ended the second drive frozen, taking an 8-yard sack. It marked the first time since Week 17 of 2017, McVay's first season as coach, that the team went three-and-out on the first two drives of a game.
In the fourth quarter, with the Rams driving at the Ravens' 30-yard line, Goff threw a pass that former Rams cornerback Marcus Peters intercepted.
The defense, which features two-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year Aaron Donald and cornerback Jalen Ramsey, was embarrassed by Lamar Jackson, who completed 15 of 20 passes for 169 yards and five touchdowns and rushed for 95 yards on eight carries before he was removed from the game with more than 10 minutes remaining in the fourth quarter, ahead 42-6.
The hope of getting better has yet to come to pass for the Rams as their playoff hopes continue to dwindle. They're still in the hunt but they're now two games behind the Vikings (8-3) for the sixth seed. Crazier things have happened but, for Goff and the Rams to keep their heads above water, shaking off this game and beating the Cardinals in Arizona is their new top priority.
"We got to take it one game at a time. Obviously, we need some stuff to happen but I don't think it's completely out of the realm of possibility at all," said Goff. "I think we're still very much in it and just got to keep fighting."
On the injury front. ... McVay told reporters on Tuesday that tight end Gerald Everett was the only injury of concern to come out of the loss to the Ravens.
“It seemed like we came out of the game pretty clean,” McVay said, via the team’s website. “There was a situation early on in the game where Gerald might have tweaked his knee a little bit. He’ll be day-to-day. When he was in a protection and it just kind of buckled his knee.”
Everett played just 17 snaps for the Rams before exiting the game late in the second quarter. While trying to block Ravens linebacker Matthew Judon, Everett appeared to hyper-extend his right leg before falling down in the backfield. Tyler Higbee took all the remaining snaps in the game at tight end for the team.
Meanwhile, right tackle Rob Havenstein has a chance to return to the lineup this week against the Arizona Cardinals after missing the last two games due to a knee injury.
“There’s a chance that he could be ready to go but we’ll have a little bit more of an update as the week progresses,” McVay said.
Bobby Evans has started in place of Havenstein the last two weeks. McVay said that Havenstein will jump right back into the starting lineup should he be able to play.
“If he’s ready to go, yeah, we’ll get him back in there,” he said.
QBs: Jared Goff, Blake Bortles
RBs: Todd Gurley, Malcolm Brown, Darrell Henderson
WRs: Cooper Kupp, Robert Woods, Brandin Cooks, Josh Reynolds, Mike Thomas, Nsimba Webster, JoJo Natson
TEs: Tyler Higbee, Gerald Everett, Johnny Mundt
Miami DolphinsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 26 November 2019
As ESPN.com's Cameron Wolfe noted, the Dolphins' leading rusher in their 41-24 loss to the Browns was 37-year-old quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick -- and that is the latest sign of a woeful running game that is hurting an offense trying to find its identity.
As the Dolphins head toward the holiday season, a fortified rushing game should be close to the top of the wish list for the present and the future.
"We couldn't get anything going. We have to do a better job," head coach Brian Flores said.
Fitzpatrick added: "It's something that we need to continue to try and figure out."
Miami is averaging 63.2 rushing yards per game, by far the worst in the NFL. It would be the fewest rushing yards per game by any team since the 1946 Detroit Lions (42.5 rushing yards per game), per ESPN Stats and Information research.
It's been more than 70 years since a team had a rushing offense as bad as this one.
Kalen Ballage has been the Dolphins' lead back for the past three games, a role that hasn't been particularly fruitful for him. Through 11 games, he is averaging 1.9 yards per carry on 71 rushes. The last back with at least 70 carries to average 2 yards per carry or less was Eddie Price with the New York Giants in 1953, according to ESPN Stats and Info's data.
The Dolphins look at yards per carry as a team stat and have maintained faith in Ballage -- Flores said at a Monday press conference that Ballage will remain the team's starter, but Wolfe looks for the 6-2, 230-pound back to move into more of a rotational role for the rest of the season alongside rookies Patrick Laird and Myles Gaskin.
Laird and Gaskin, in that order, are gaining more and more trust in the offense -- just look at Sunday's game at Cleveland, when it became more of a running back by committee (RBBC) with the hot hand getting a chance to thrive. Ballage played 38 percent of the offensive snaps with seven carries for 13 yards and one catch for 13 yards. Laird played 37 percent of the snaps with three carries for 20 yards. Gaskin played of the 25 percent snaps with 4 carries for 10 yards and one catch for 7 yards.
The Dolphins' running woes are not just on Ballage.
Miami's offensive line has not blocked well against the run much of this season, and the proof is that no Dolphins back has rushed for more than 66 yards in a game this season.
Miami has started eight offensive line combinations through 11 games this season, including a new one Sunday, and that lack of continuity hasn't helped. Look for more tweaks up front as the Dolphins try to find the right combination.
For fantasy football owners headed toward the playoffs, there likely won't be enough volume in a bad rushing attack for any Dolphins to be starter-worthy in a key situation. But Laird, the most immediate beneficiary of a RBBC change, has found some early success as a tough back who has pass-catching ability.
He could be worth a flier in PPR leagues if his role increases.
But nobody should have huge expectations for any of the three ball carriers here -- especially heading into a tough Week 13 matchup against the Philadelphia Eagles. ...
Meanwhile, Sunday was Fitzpatrick's 37th birthday, and he gave hints of the roller-coaster play that has defined his career. He threw two interceptions, including a cross-body poor decision in the fourth quarter.
But Fitzpatrick also threw the 199th and 200th touchdowns of his career, making him the 44th player in NFL history to reach that threshold. He also added another rushing touchdown when he lowered his shoulder and dived in despite a closing defender.
Fitzpatrick adds enough every game to make the Dolphins' offense look interesting for a drive or two, but ultimately the holes on the offensive line, running game, receiving corps and sometimes Fitzpatrick's own limitations are often too much to overcome. That was the case again on Sunday.
As the Dolphins' season clearly becomes more about 2020, there might be more calls for Josh Rosen to get playing time. Miami coach Brian Flores has continually indicated Fitzpatrick is his starter, but he kept the door open for a change. Fitzpatrick has done nothing to lose his job yet, but the possibility is still alive as the season continues.
On the injury front. ... Wide receiver Albert Wilson left with rib injury in the third quarter while fellow wideout Jakeem Grant went out with an ankle injury following a 25-yard kickoff return. He did not return. Grant ran back a kick 101 yards last week against Buffalo.
On Wednesday, Grant was placed on season-ending IR; he finished the year with 19 catches and 164 yards, plus his return contributions.
Flores told reporters on Tuesday it's too early to tell if Wilson would miss the remainder of the season.
The Dolphins, down to two healthy receivers on the 53-man roster, promoted Isaiah Ford from the practice squad on Wednesday.
I'll be following up on Wilson via Late-Breaking Update as developments warrant.
QBs: Ryan Fitzpatrick, Josh Rosen
RBs: Patrick Laird, Samaje Perine
WRs: DeVante Parker, Albert Wilson, Allen Hurns, Isaiah Ford, Mack Hollins, Trevor Davis
TEs: Mike Gesicki, Durham Smythe
Minnesota VikingsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 26 November 2019
According to Associated Press sports writer Dave Campbell, in the aftermath of the 54-yard touchdown pass that Kirk Cousins threw to Stefon Diggs early in the fourth quarter that accelerated a furious comeback by the Minnesota Vikings, the always animated wide receiver was as fired up as ever as he stalked the sideline and screamed encouragement to almost everyone in his path.
Cousins, meanwhile, calmly waited for his next turn.
The rally was completed soon after with a fourth touchdown by the Vikings in as many second-half drives for a 27-23 win that raised their record to 8-3 and kept them from entering the bye week on a bad note.
The win was made possible by the deep ball to Diggs, who was the fourth option on a post route from the backside of the play as Cousins rolled out to his left to make a throw so difficult that a former coach of his once told him it will work "once a decade." Cousins has hit it twice this season.
"That was a dime," running back Dalvin Cook said. "That's my quarterback."
Just past the midpoint of his three-year $84 million contract with the unprecedented full guarantee, Cousins has begun to give the Vikings their money's worth.
"He's playing lights out," Diggs said.
The second half of his first season in Minnesota was rough, with four losses over the final two months that were each traceable to a wilted passing attack. Then the Vikings were beaten in the first quarter of this season by division rivals Green Bay and Chicago, behind costly turnovers by Cousins against the Packers and his hesitance to take risks against the Bears. Since then? He's been on quite the tear.
Having thrown 177 consecutive passes without an interception, Cousins has the longest active streak in the NFL. According to Sportradar data, only Matthew Stafford for Detroit has a higher percentage (14.1) of attempts this year for 20-plus-yard completions in the league than Cousins (13.1). He has connected on 42 of those, nearing his 2018 total (47) that reflected only 7.8 percent of his attempts.
With two-time Pro Bowl pick Adam Thielen having played only 16 snaps over the previous five games because of a hamstring injury, Diggs has been an indispensable part of the offense. He has sparked dissonance at times this season, when the fifth-year standout has felt under-utilized or upset by a conservative approach.
Fined more than $200,000 earlier this season for unexcused absences at the peak of his frustration, Diggs has not been shy about visible displays of agitation during games, including in that awful first half on against Denver that stuck the Vikings with a 20-0 deficit halftime.
There's no play in football like a deep pass to get a team going, though, and deflate the opponent.
With Diggs and his route-running skill and straight-line speed and Cousins and his ability to sell play-action fakes and deliver an on-target ball, the Vikings have developed one of the most potent combinations in the league.
With Cook already past 1,000 rushing yards, defenses have had to honor the ground game, and offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski has frequently struck a productive balance with his play calls to set up those potential game-breaking passes. Diggs leads the league with 11 receptions and 485 yards on passes traveling at least 20 yards in the air, according to the NFL's NextGen Stats data.
Not coincidentally, Cousins has begun to check some of the empty boxes that, fair or not, have surrounded his career.
The Vikings have won both of their prime-time games so far, including at Dallas on Nov. 10 when they trailed by one point late in the third quarter. They were still down by 16 points early in the fourth quarter before beating Denver.
His performance in the final five games, with three at night and three against division foes, and in the playoffs, if they make it, will ultimately tell the tale of whether the Vikings will commit to him beyond his current contract. The heavy scrutiny will likely never cease, but he's done a lot over the past two months to allay internal and external doubts.
Also of interest as the team heads into a Monday night showdown with the Seahawks in Seattle. ... Thielen injured his hamstring in Week 7 and has missed three games with the injury. The team had Week 12 off, so that has given Thielen nearly a month off between game action.
The hope is that Thielen will be 100 percent, but Vikings fans know all about hamstring injuries. Cook was in and out of the lineup last season after tweaking his hamstring early in the season.
In eight games this season, Thielen has 27 catches for 391 yards and six touchdowns. Before this season, Thielen had never missed a game in his five-year career.
Thielen took part in the team's first practice session of the week on Monday, but he was in sweats Wednesday, and the most he did during the open portion was go through stretching and throw passes to teammates. ESPN.com's Courtney Cronin had heard Monday that there was a slight scare with the hamstring during Monday's short practice which likely explained his lack of activity Wednesday.
Whatever the case, the Vikings won't be releasing an injury report until Thursday because they don't play the Seahawks until Monday, so they don't have to confirm Thielen's level of participation.
I'll have more on his status via Late-Breaking Update as the week progresses. ...
All that said, further indication that Thielen is on track to return might have come when the Vikings waived former first-round receiver Josh Doctson on Tuesday.
And finally. ... Cronin reports that Chad Beebe underwent surgery that will sideline him for the rest of 2019. The plan when he was placed on IR was to see if his ankle would heal on its own. After a while, it was decided surgery was the best option to have him ready for 2020 offseason.
QBs: Kirk Cousins, Sean Mannion
RBs: Dalvin Cook, Alexander Mattison, Mike Boone, Ameer Abdullah
WRs: Adam Thielen, Stefon Diggs, Olabisi Johnson, Laquon Treadwell, Davion Davis
TEs: Kyle Rudolph, Irv Smith Jr., Brandon Dillon, Tyler Conklin
New England PatriotsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 26 November 2019
One week after quarterback Tom Brady expressed frustration with the New England Patriots' offense, the short-handed attack sputtered through another game -- a 13-9 win against the visiting Dallas Cowboys.
The optimistic outlook? Playing without top receivers Phillip Dorsett (concussion) and Mohamed Sanu (ankle), they buy themselves more time to find some answers. The Patriots played turnover-free, situational-smart football to complement the club's strengths -- defense and special teams.
The pessimistic view? Questions persist about whether the unit can consistently string together positive plays to lead the team to victory should the defense falter. On a rain-soaked, windy day when the Patriots' three-receiver set consisted of Julian Edelman and rookies N'Keal Harry and Jakobi Meyers -- and Benjamin Watson and Matt LaCosse split time at tight end -- there wasn't a lot of firepower in the passing game.
Brady finished 17-of-37 for 190 yards with one touchdown.
According to ESPN's Stats and Information, this is the third-lowest completion percentage of Brady's career (minimum 30 attempts). Earlier this season against the Bills, he had completed 46.2 percent of his passes, so two of the four games in his career with the lowest completion percentage have come this season.
For context, this was Brady's 204th game with at least 30 attempts.
The obvious takeaway is more Sony Michel might help.
The second-year running back had a season-high 46 rushing yards on seven carries (6.6-yard average) in the first quarter, as the commitment to the ground attack showed some initial promise. But he had just five carries for 14 yards over the second and third quarter, as the Patriots went away from him. He finished with 20 carries for 85 yards.
Beyond that, Brady was pleased with the way Harry and Meyers stepped up.
Harry's one catch went for the only touchdown of the game, while Meyers had four catches for 74 yards, including two third-down conversions.
It's been a long season of earning Brady's trust but the quarterback was ready to lay some praise on his rookie pass catchers in his weekly appearance on WEEI Radio Monday morning.
Brady loved Harry's strong week of preparation leading up to the Cowboys game.
"[N'Keal] just had a great mentality about it," said Brady. "We were banged up with Phillip and Mohamed and it just looked like those guys were gonna have to play a lot. And I think rather than feeling like 'Oh man, I haven't played much, and I'll be a little worried getting out there,' he really approached it like he had been there all season. Made a lot of good plays in practice. Improved on things he had done and that were corrected. I really love N'Keal's attitude."
Brady was also excited by Meyers' performance, he's been the only receiver to remain healthy all season long and is starting to stack some success.
"He's done a great job," Brady said. "He's come in as an undrafted free agent and made the plays he's made all spring and then made the plays he made this season. I think it's been so impressive. I can't say enough good things about Jakobi. He cares deeply about doing the right things. You love to have teammates like that."
How will it all fit together with Sanu and Dorsett back in the mix?
It will be good for the team to not only have options for 2019, but developmental pieces that could be keys in the future.
"I think both those rookie receivers have answered the call," said Brady. "When you're put in that position and you don't have a lot of football under your belt and you're playing on a team that's competing for titles and do forth, there's a lot of pressure. Both those guys have embraced it. Julian's shown great leadership for the whole group. Hopefully it we get everyone healthy we can see what we can do."
On the injury front. ... Brady was listed as questionable for Sunday's game with an elbow injury. And while the elbow still seems to be an issue, Brady made it clear during his weekly visit with Jim Gray of Westwood One that there's no question about Brady's availability for a Sunday night showdown against the Texans.
"I like to believe that over the years I've gotten a little bit smarter about how to take care of myself," Brady told Gray. "I know when I need a little time whether it's a day or a practice. Rather than be stubborn and push through things like I probably used to, I think sometimes it's smart to try to get ahead of injuries. I spent a lot of time with Alex [Guerrero] getting extra treatment and did so after the game last night [and] did so today.
"I'll be feeling good this week and be ready to go. I'll be excited to take on our toughest challenge of the year in going to Houston and trying to win a game on Sunday Night Football."
Given New England's experience against Baltimore -- a 17-point loss to the Ravens on a Sunday night earlier this year -- it's hard to imagine the game against the Texans being a tougher challenge. But the Patriots are wired to believe that the next challenge is always the toughest challenge, and the Texans are that next challenge.
The bigger challenge remains keeping their one-game lead over the Ravens in the standings, given that a tie would go to the team that trounced the Rams on Monday night, 45-6. The Patriots may need to run the table to prevent the rematch from happening in a place other than Gillette Stadium, because it looks like the Ravens are ready and able to chase their seven straight wins with five more.
Wherever the game is played, it's feeling more and more likely that the Patriots and Ravens are destined to meet again, with a berth in Super Bowl LIV on the line.
Meanwhile, the status of Sanu and Dorsett, who told reporters on Wednesday he's been cleared from the concussion protocol, will be something I'll be watching for along with Brady's participation level in practice; watch the Late-Breaking Updates section for more. ...
Also worth noting. ... Although the ledger will show that kicker Nick Folk missed field goal attempts for 46 and 48 yards -- both to the challenging end of the stadium because of wind -- he rebounded to hit a key 42-yarder in the fourth quarter to that same direction. That was a key kick (and a reflection that the Patriots can count on him) because it made it a four-point game, and forced the Cowboys to drive the length of the field for a touchdown instead of playing for a field goal.
And finally. ... Cornerback Stephon Gilmore had blanket coverage on receiver Amari Cooper, further solidifying his status among the NFL's best. This was Cooper's 20th game as a Cowboy and the first time he was held without a catch with Dallas.
QBs: Tom Brady, Jarrett Stidham, Cody Kessler
RBs: Sony Michel, James White, Rex Burkhead, Brandon Bolden, Damien Harris
WRs: Julian Edelman, Mohamed Sanu, Phillip Dorsett, N'Keal Harry, Jakobi Meyers
TEs: Ben Watson, Matt LaCosse, Ryan Izzo
New Orleans SaintsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 26 November 2019
As ESPN.com's Mike Triplett suggested, the New Orleans Saints can't feel good about the way they kept trying to let the Carolina Panthers back in the game Sunday.
Ugly or not, they have to feel great about the fact that they have now essentially slammed the door shut on the NFC South race.
Thanks to Sunday's 34-31 survival in the Superdome, the Saints (9-2) are now four games ahead of the Panthers (5-6) with five weeks left in the regular season.
They'll have to turn around quickly before playing at Atlanta (3-8) on Thanksgiving night.
And they'll probably get a well-deserved lambasting from the coaching staff between now and then. But at least they can do it with their playoff lives well in hand.
Credit Saints kicker Wil Lutz for nailing the 33-yard field goal to win the game as time expired. Credit the defense for holding up for a total of six plays near the goal line in the final minutes to force a field goal that Panthers kicker Joey Slye wound up missing. And credit the offense for making enough big plays throughout the day to create the cushion in the first place.
But the Saints need to play a lot cleaner in December and January if they want to have any shot at playing in February. ...
Meanwhile, as New Orleans Times-Picayune staffer Luke Johnson notes, with five games left to play, Drew Brees is on his way toward breaking the NFL's single-season completion percentage record.
After completing 30 of 39 passes Sunday against the Panthers, Brees bumped his season completion percentage up to an NFL-best 75.7 percent, which puts him on pace to set a new single-season record by an NFL quarterback.
While Brees is in uncharted territory -- no NFL quarterback has ever gone a full season completing 75 percent of their pass attempts (minimum: 40 attempts) -- setting a new standard in this department is not exactly new.
Brees is coming off back-to-back years in which he broke the single-season completion percentage mark, completing 72 percent of his passes in 2017 and following that up with a 74.4 percent mark last season.
Currently, Brees has three of the top four single seasons by completion percentage in NFL history (Sam Bradford has the other). And he is in the verge of making it four out of five.
In order to qualify for a single-season record (according to Pro Football Reference), Brees would need to average 14 pass attempts per game over the course of a 16-game season, which means he would need to hit 224 pass attempts this year.
After Sunday's game against Carolina, Brees is sitting at 210 pass attempts this season, meaning he needs to attempt 14 more passes to qualify for the single-season record.
Brees hit a couple milestones in Sunday's win against Carolina.
His brilliant 20-yard touchdown pass to Jared Cook in the third quarter was his 450th regular-season passing touchdown in a Saints uniform (he added his 451st later in the game). Only New England's Tom Brady has thrown more with a single team.
Brees also recorded his 50th career game-winning drive in the fourth quarter, which ranks only behind Peyton Manning (54) all-time according to Pro Football Reference, and his 130th game with a passer rating above 100, which ranks second all-time behind Brady (131).
Other notes of interest. ... As they have all season, Michael Thomas and Panthers RB Christian McCaffrey dominated the game as both continued to make strong cases for a non-QB to be considered for the league's MVP award. Thomas had 10 catches for 101 yards and a touchdown -- including a huge 24-yard catch on the game-winning field goal drive.
He now has 104 on the season. McCaffrey, meanwhile, had 133 yards from scrimmage and two touchdowns.
Beyond that, Thomas joined Jerry Rice (1995), Davante Adams (2018) and Antonio Brown (2018) as the only wide receivers since at least 1950 to score at least 15 PPR fantasy points in each of his team's first 11 games of the season. Thomas' 104 receptions, too, are the most by any player in history through 11 games, and he's on pace for a record-setting 151 catches.
He's topped the 100-yard receiving mark in five straight games, and he's caught three touchdowns during that stretch.
Those 104 catches are 23 more than second-place DeAndre Hopkins, and his 1,242 yards this season are 171 more than second-place Chris Godwin. He's been the NFL's most productive receiver this season by a large margin, and he's closing in on the most productive season for a receiver in NFL history.
Plus, as ESPN.com's Ken Bowen asked (and answered), "does any coach in the league scheme-up open-window throws and matchups like Sean Payton does with Thomas? This is clinic stuff in the New Orleans passing game, and it allows Thomas to take over with his upper-level route running."
In addition, the continued emergence of Cook as a third weapon behind Thomas and Alvin Kamara is providing a much-needed boost to the Saints' offense. Cook finished with six catches for 99 yards and a touchdown. His day would have been even bigger if not for an offensive-pass-interference call that wiped out a 42-yard catch. And Brees targeted Cook three times in the end zone.
Kamara ran for 54 yards on 11 carries and caught all nine of his targets for 48 yards during Sunday's win.
As CBSSports.com suggested, those who selected Kamara over McCaffrey in fantasy drafts this past summer are still kicking themselves.
Though the third-year back hasn't been quite as dominant as his NFC South counterpart through 12 weeks of the 2019 campaign, Kamara continues to churn out excellent fantasy performances by virtue of his pass-catching acumen. Kamara has not exceeded 75 rushing yards in any game since accounting for 97 yards in the season opener against Houston, but he's averaged an amazing eight receptions per game over his past five appearances, after compiling just five catches per game Weeks 1 through 4.
He projects to be a top-flight running back option for Week 13, with the Saints taking on a Falcons defense that has conceded 27-plus points in five of its past seven outings. ...
The Saints didn't have cornerback Marshon Lattimore in the lineup against the Panthers on Sunday, but there may be hope for his return to the lineup against the Falcons tomorrow.
Lattimore was listed as a limited participant in practice on Monday, although that was just an estimation of his workload because the Saints didn't get on the field. Lattimore was limited in an actual practice last Friday, so his hamstring has been trending in the right direction.
Lattimore has missed the last two games. He has 38 tackles and an interception this season.
Left tackle Terron Armstead (ankle), center Will Clapp (back), fullback Zach Line (knee) and left guard Andrus Peat (forearm) were listed as non-participants. Wide receiver Deonte Harris (hamstring) joined Lattimore in the limited category.
QBs: Drew Brees, Teddy Bridgewater, Taysom Hill
RBs: Alvin Kamara, Latavius Murray, Dwayne Washington
WRs: Michael Thomas, Ted Ginn, Tre'quan Smith, Deonte Harris, Emmanuel Butler
TEs: Jared Cook, Josh Hill
New York GiantsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 26 November 2019
According to There's something hopefully good coming out of the New York Giants' seven-game losing streak.
They seemingly are going to get another headliner in the NFL draft next spring to add to a mantle that includes halfback Saquon Barkley and quarterback Daniel Jones.
The last two seasons (3-13 and 5-11) helped general manager Dave Gettleman find leaders for the offense and this season's 2-9 record has New York on the way to finding a play-making defender.
There are plenty of good ones. Ohio State defensive end Chase Young seemingly tops the list, with cornerback and Buckeyes teammate Jeff Odudah highly rated. Safety/linebacker Isaiah Simmons of Clemson is the top hybrid, while Auburn defensive tackle Derrick Brown is a monster.
Whether Pat Shurmur will be their head coach remains to be seen. He is 7-20 in less than two seasons with the Giants, and that's not good.
"I see the young players improving. I see us competing in games, we're just falling a little bit short," Shurmur said Monday. "Most of the games, unfortunately, are within a score for most of the game, or we're ahead and somehow we just can't find a way quite at the end. But I do think that there's improvement behind the scenes. It seems like each week we add another young player to the mix of guys. Then they go out and do some good things, and then they do some things that remind you that they're young."
Shurmur doesn't want having so many young players to be an excuse.
"We need to do what we need to do to win the game," he said.
It won't be easy.
Green Bay (8-3) is on deck and coming off a bad loss to San Francisco. The schedule also has two games with the desperate Eagles (5-6) and one apiece with Miami and Washington. The Dolphins (2-9) had won two in a row before losing to Buffalo and Cleveland, while the Redskins (2-9) beat the Lions, a team that beat the Giants in the current skid.
One of New York's wins is against Washington.
Other notes of interest. ... According to ESPN.com's Jordan Raanan, Sunday might have been Jones' worst game as a starter, despite some struggles against two other quality defenses in Minnesota and New England.
It was at least the rookie's least productive game as a passer.
He threw for just 150 yards on 21 of 36 passing with a pair of touchdowns and a lost fumble. The turnover streak continues, though. Jones has now lost a fumble in five consecutive games. He still doesn't have a clean start (no interceptions and fumbles) this season.
Meanwhile, Barkley rushed 17 times for 59 yards and caught two of three targets for one yard against the Bears.
Chicago's defense did a good job of limiting Barkley, especially as a receiver out of the backfield, as he set season lows in both catches and receiving yards. Barkley has been mostly a decoy in the red zone, as he remains stuck on just two rushing touchdowns and one receiving score this season.
He's also failed to eclipse 100 yards on the ground since doing so in each of the season's first two games. Barkley will hope to get back on track against the Packers. ...
On the injury front. .. Safety Jabrill Peppers is likely to miss time after the team announced he suffered a transverse process fracture in his back on Sunday against the Bears.
Wide receiver Golden Tate also was injured in the game, suffering a concussion because of the way he landed on his 23-yard touchdown reception in the fourth quarter.
There was no timetable set on Peppers' return, although the Giants believe it should be this season. It will depend on his pain tolerance.
Tate has 36 receptions for 450 yards and four touchdowns in his first season with the Giants after signing with the team in free agency. He already missed four games this season serving a four-game suspension for violating the league's policy on performance-enhancing substances.
With Tate now in doubt for Sunday against the Green Bay Packers, the Giants face the prospects of another week without their full arsenal. They have not played a game this season with Tate, wide receiver Sterling Shepard, Barkley and tight end Evan Engram working alongside Jones.
Engram (foot) missed Sunday's game along with fellow tight end Rhett Ellison (concussion).
Neither Tate nor Engram practiced Wednesday; I'll be following up on all involved via Late-Breaking Update in coming days. ...
The team announced on Tuesday that veteran wideout Bennie Fowler had been waived, making the second time this season that happened. Fowler was cut in October but re-signed, and had 23 catches for 193 yards and no scores during his time on the roster. The Giants promoted receveiver Da'Mari Scott to the 53-man roster to serve as returner with Tate in concussion protocol and Peppers sidelined. ...
And finally. ... The Giants missed a kick for the fifth straight week. In fact, they missed a pair of field goals in the first half. There has been a complete meltdown of the kicking operation. The first miss against the Bears came when long snapper Zak DeOssie bowled a snap to holder Riley Dixon on a 42-yard attempt.
Kicker Aldrick Rosas' timing was off and the kick missed to the right. It's the second straight game a DeOssie snap cost the Giants.
The second miss came later in the second quarter with the Giants again trying to extend their lead. But this time a slightly off-line snap forced Dixon to execute a tough catch and hold. He did. Rosas hooked the 43-yard kick left.
The entire process has been a problem.
"It's all of it. The whole operation," special-teams coach Thomas McGaughey recently said of their struggles.
It begins with the snap, where the 35-year-old DeOssie has struggled. And it has led to Rosas, a Pro Bowl kicker, seemingly lacking confidence. His struggles were evident in warm-ups and he even put the opening kickoff of the second half out of bounds.
Thos struggles were great enough for the Giants to bring in a handful of free-agent kickers -- Giorgio Tavecchio, Blair Walsh, Austin MacGinnis and Cole Hedlund -- for workouts on Tuesday.
None were signed, but consider it shots fired for Rosas, who has missed either a field goal attempt or PAT in five straight games. He is the first Giants kicker to miss two field goals in a game since Lawrence Tynes in 2010. The Giants may bring in a kicker to turn up the heat.
QBs: Daniel Jones, Eli Manning, Alex Tanney
RBs: Saquon Barkley, Wayne Gallman, Javorius Allen, Elijhaa Penny, Austin Walter
WRs: Sterling Shepard, Golden Tate, Darius Slayton, Cody Latimer, Cody Core, Da'Mari Scott
TEs: Kaden Smith, Rhett Ellison, Scott Simonson
New York JetsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 26 November 2019
As ESPN.com's Rich Cimini reminded readers, three weeks ago, the Jets were a broken team, with rumors swirling about Adam Gase's job security.
Heck, there was speculation he wouldn't make it to "one."
It prompted CEO Christopher Johnson to deliver perhaps the earliest vote of confidence in NFL history, telling the team at 1-7 he had no intention of making a coaching change.
Talk about turning points.
The Jets are one of the hottest teams in the league, winners of three consecutive games after a 34-3 rout of the Oakland Raiders on Sunday at MetLife Stadium. The Jets (4-7), not the Raiders (6-5), played like the team in playoff contention. Here's the crazy thing: With the lowly Cincinnati Bengals and Miami Dolphins up next on the schedule, they could be 6-7 for a Thursday night game against the Baltimore Ravens.
In beating the Raiders, the Jets proved they can beat a quality team and a quality quarterback, Derek Carr. They held a 30-point lead for the second consecutive week -- a franchise first, according to Elias Sports. They hit the 34-point mark for the third time, something they had done only twice previously.
Behind closed doors, Gase told his players they needed to play complementary football to beat the Raiders -- and they did. The offense scored on five of its first six possessions and the defense played its best game of the year, holding rookie rushing sensation Josh Jacobs to only 34 yards on 10 carries and limiting Carr to only 127 passing yards.
In other words, they played a damn-near-perfect game against Jon Gruden.
Of course, Cimini added, there's uneasiness this week because the Cincinnati Bengals (0-11) are next on the schedule, and the Jets have been known to spoil things with an unthinkable loss.
But it really does seem like the team has turned the corner.
So how did they do that?
According to Cimini, Gase was hired, in large part, because of his reputation as an offensive guru. Finally, after eight games of brutal offense, he's showing why Peyton Manning always gives him a glowing recommendation. On Sunday, Gase kept the Raiders off-balance with his play calling, even calling a gadget play for the third straight game -- a double reverse, flea-flicker to wide receiver Robby Anderson for 31 yards.
The Jets have scored 102 points in their past three games. They had only 96 in the first eight.
In addition, after a midseason slump, Sam Darnold has seven touchdown passes and only one interception over the past three games.
Each week is a growing experience. After throwing a horrible interception last week against the Washington Redskins, he got mad, not down. He beat himself up as he walked off the field and immediately gathered the offense on the sideline, taking ownership of the mistake and vowing never to do it again.
Coaches and teammates were impressed with how he took control. He's usually quiet by nature.
On Sunday, Darnold didn't make any killer mistakes, as he seemed to be cognizant of throwing the ball away and using his legs to get out of trouble. His decision-making, the one thing that sometimes gets him into trouble, was nearly flawless. Cimini added that Darnold is also seeing the field so much better in recent weeks; he connected with nine different receivers on Sunday.
He should be able to maintain his mojo against the Bengals and Dolphins, two of the lowest-ranked defenses. ...
Also of interest. ... After only four receptions in the previous three games, Anderson rebounded in a big way -- four catches for 86 yards and a touchdown. Gase, trying to get him involved in the offense, made a concerted effort to move Anderson around the formation, hoping to create favorable matchups.
That was demonstrated on the above-mentioned double-reverse, flea-flicker pass. ...
The offensive line overcame yet another injury (right tackle Chuma Edoga, knee) and delivered its finest performance of the season. The Jets allowed one sack and did enough in the running game to provide balance for the offense. Running back Le'Veon Bell, who averaged 4.0 yards per carry for only the second time, looked better than he had in weeks. ...
According to New York Daily News staffer Manish Mehta, Edoga reportedly has a Grade 2 MCL sprain and is expected to miss "some time." As Rotoworld.com notes, the 22-year-old has started eight games for the Jets this season despite fighting through knee and ankle injuries throughout the year. Third-rounder Brandon Shell, who was the team's Week 1 starter at right tackle, will replace Edoga in the interim.
One last note. ... Per NextGen Stats, Braxton Berrios hit 20.95 mph on a 69-yard reception in the third quarter. Who knew he was that fast? It was only the fourth catch of the season for the diminutive wide receiver.
QBs: Sam Darnold, David Fales
RBs: Le'Veon Bell, Bilal Powell, Ty Montgomery, Kenneth Dixon, Josh Adams
WRs: Robby Anderson, Jamison Crowder, Braxton Berrios, Tim White, Demaryius Thomas
TEs: Daniel Brown, Trevon Wesco
Oakland RaidersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 26 November 2019
According to Associated Press sports writer Dennis Waszak Jr., Derek Carr refused to downplay what had just happened to him and the Raiders.
Their three-game winning streak was over -- before the third quarter even ended.
"We got our butts kicked," Carr said after the Raiders' 34-3 loss to the New York Jets on Sunday. "There's no other way around that. They got after us from start to finish. Hopefully, it's an eye opener. Hopefully we take it and learn from it like we did earlier in the season against the Vikings.
"We got our face kicked in a little bit."
The Raiders (6-5) were 1-2 after a 34-14 loss at Minnesota in Week 3, but bounced back to win two in a row. They lost two straight after that, but then put together the three-game streak they brought with them into a rain-soaked MetLife Stadium.
Oakland had its sights on a possible AFC West first-place showdown at Kansas City this week. Instead, they got outplayed by a suddenly resurgent Jets (4-7) team that pulled away in the second half.
"We'd better show up or they're going to beat us by 50," Carr said of the Chiefs. "They're a really good football team, one of the best in the NFL. Hopefully our guys, myself included, when we show up at Arrowhead a week from now, we're ready to go. And I believe we will be."
The Raiders were held to a season-low 208 total yards on offense, unable to do much of anything against a stingy Jets defense.
Rookie Josh Jacobs, fourth in the NFL in rushing, was held to 34 yards on 10 carries. The Jets came in allowing a league-low 79.1 yards rushing, and gave up 68 to Oakland -- also a season low for the Raiders.
"They just had a better game plan than us," Jacobs said.
"You ever been on a boat that's sinking? It's not happy," head coach Jon Gruden said. "It's not pleasant. It's adversity. It's football. You've got to respond to adversity. We didn't do a good enough job as coaches rallying our troops today. I'm not going to say much more. I'm emotional about it.
"I'm really anxious to get on to the next game."
That's because there wasn't much to like about this one from the Raiders' standpoint.
"If you're not on your game, you're in for trouble," Gruden said. "I hope the players listen after the game. We've got a tight group of players. We've got some very good veterans. We're 6-5. It's Thanksgiving week. It's a long trip out here to New Jersey. We've got a long trip back to California. We've got a long trip next week and hopefully we're going to be ready to play. Hopefully we're going to play a lot better."
Oakland was still in at halftime, trailing 13-3. But the Jets came out quickly to start the second half and didn't let up.
"We're not the '85 Bears," Gruden said. "We're a development football team. We're developing our roster. We're making strides. Today was a setback. We're going to give our preparation every ounce of diligence that we can. We know what we're up against at Arrowhead. They're coming off a bye week, so it's not going to be easy. ..."
On the injury front. ... Rookie receiver Hunter Renfrow came out of the contest with a couple of injuries.
Ian Rapoport of NFL Network reports that Renfrow broke a rib and punctured his lung during the 34-3 loss. It's unclear how long the injuries will keep Renfrow out of action.
Renfrow took a big shot from Jets cornerback Bless Austin to break up a third down pass attempt early in the game and was shaken up, but returned to action and remained in the contest into the second half. He caught three passes for 31 yards while playing 25 offensive snaps.
Renfrow was a fifth-round pick this year and has 36 catches for 396 yards and two touchdowns this season.
"Big loss for our team," Gruden said.
"It's a big, big loss for us," he said. "We've had a lot of turnover at that position this year. It's really too bad. ... Renfrow's going to be a great Raider. He's really been playing good for us."
And finally. ... It's hard to ignore that the Raiders don't play well when the weather is a factor. The team is now 2-9 in games started by Carr when the temperature is under 50 degrees and that's expected to be the case in Kansas City again this week.
Gruden acknowledged that the Raiders are "not a lot of experienced people when it comes to rain and cold," but said that he's not going to spend too much time trying to figure out why things haven't worked as well once the air gets chilly.
"I'm not a genius. I'm not Thomas Edison, I don't know how to do that," Gruden said. "We're just trying to show pictures of people that are cold that deal with cold. I don't know. We're not going to overanalyze it."
The Raiders haven't won at Arrowhead Stadium since 2012 and Chiefs coach Andy Reid has a sparkling record coming out of bye weeks, so Sunday's game would be a tough test regardless of the weather conditions. If the Raiders can't pass it, a playoff push is going to be more difficult.
QBs: Derek Carr, Mike Glennon
RBs: Josh Jacobs, Jalen Richard, DeAndre Washington
WRs: Tyrell Williams, Hunter Renfrow, Zay Jones, Keelan Doss
TEs: Darren Waller, Derek Carrier
Philadelphia EaglesCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 26 November 2019
Quarterback Carson Wentz was charged with four turnovers Sunday, all part of an awful offensive performance in a 17-9 loss to the Seattle Seahawks that puts the Eagles (5-6) in a precarious position heading into the home stretch.
Wentz (33-of-45 passing, 256 yards, TD) threw two interceptions and had three fumbles -- two of which Seattle recovered. He misfired on several incompletions as well in what proved to be one of the worst performances of his career. Wentz injured his throwing hand in the third quarter after making a tackle and briefly went indoors for further evaluation, but returned to finish the game.
This is the third time this season that Wentz has had multiple turnovers. The Eagles are 0-3 in those games.
Wentz was working with a skeleton crew, as receivers Alshon Jeffery (ankle) and Nelson Agholor (knee) missed the game due to injury along with starting running back Jordan Howard (stinger).
The offensive line was also down two key cogs in Lane Johnson (concussion) and Brandon Brooks, who exited early with an illness.
As ESPN.com's Tim McManus noted, the Eagles have two things going for them: A resurgent defense and the easiest closing schedule in the NFL, starting with a trip to the Miami Dolphins this week.
But with the offense sputtering this badly, nothing is guaranteed.
Meanwhile, further testing on Wentz's right throwing hand revealed that he has just a bruised middle finger, head coach Doug Pederson said Monday.
Wentz is not expected to miss any practice time, putting him on track to play this weekend at the Miami Dolphins.
"It's going to affect [his throwing] a little bit. It's sore, you know, being able to grip the football," Pederson said. "But he battled through it and finished the game."
There was more positive injury news for the Eagles on Monday, as Johnson said he would be cleared from concussion protocol this week. Brooks was forced out of Sunday's game due to an illness related to anxiety.
Howard, meanwhile, "still hasn't regained full strength in his shoulder" after suffering a stinger against the Chicago Bears Week 9, Pederson said. Howard will continue to be limited in practice to start the week. Of primary interest: Howard still has not been cleared for contact.
Jeffery and Agholor were slated to practice fully Wednesday.
I'll obviously be following up on all the walking wounded here via Late-Breaking Update in coming days. ..
Other notes of interest. ... Wentz has been dealt a bad hand all season with his receivers, an oft-maligned group took a serious hit with No. 1 wideout DeSean Jackson out most of the season with a torn abdominal muscle. Agholor and Jeffery have been widely ridiculed in Philly for their spate of dropped passes and sat out Sunday, which forced Wentz to throw to the inexperienced group of JJ Arcega-Whiteside, Greg Ward and Mack Hollins.
Playing in his second career game, Ward had six catches for 40 yards while also serving as the team's punt returner. The former University of Houston quarterback showed the same ability to shake loose that he had demonstrated this summer through training camp and the preseason. With the rest of the receivers struggling badly, he deserves more opportunities.
He may well get them after the Eagles waived receiver Jordan Matthews.
Matthews joined the team for a third time two weeks ago, five years after arriving in Philadelphia as a second-round draft pick. Matthews had four catches for 33 yards in two appearances during his latest stint with the Eagles, including one start.
Pederson told reporters on Wednesday that Arcega-Whiteside will get an expanded role with Matthews gone. ...
And finally. ... Jay Ajayi carried the ball six times for 16 yards in the team's Week 12 loss to the Seahawks.
Ajayi was active for the second consecutive game, but received his first touches as an Eagle in 2019. All told, he saw six of the team's 23 total rush attempts, with Miles Sanders doubling his workload. The majority of Ajayi's yardage came at the end of the first quarter, when he ran off right end for 11 yards.
Though he'll likely remain on the team as depth, Ajayi could quickly be relegated to minimal game action when Howard returns.
QBs: Carson Wentz, Nate Sudfeld, Clayton Thorson
RBs: Miles Sanders, Jordan Howard, Boston Scott, Jay Ajayi
WRs: JJ Arcega-Whiteside, Greg Ward, Robert Davis, Nelson Agholor
TEs: Zach Ertz, Dallas Goedert, Josh Perkins
Pittsburgh SteelersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 26 November 2019
After being benched because of ineffectiveness in the Steelers' 16-10 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday, quarterback Mason Rudolph vehemently denied Myles Garrett's accusations that he directed a racial slur at him to escalate the melee at the end of Pittsburgh's Week 11 loss to the Cleveland Browns.
"I think any human would be in one day, when your integrity's attacked and something's said about you that's totally untrue," Rudolph said Sunday when asked about feeling "distraught" about the allegation during the week. "And I couldn't believe it, and I couldn't believe that he would go that route after the fact. But it is what it is. I think I've moved on, and -- one day it was tough."
Rudolph's benching Sunday came on the heels of a tumultuous week for the quarterback. His four-interception performance against the Browns was overshadowed by the late-game brawl that resulted in 33 fines and three suspensions. A week after the fight, Garrett, who was suspended indefinitely for striking Rudolph in the head with his own helmet, accused the quarterback of using a racial slur to escalate the fight.
The NFL also said it found "no evidence" of Garrett's allegation.
Despite the distractions of the week, Rudolph said the chaos didn't contribute to his abysmal performance against the Bengals. He completed just 8 of 16 pass attempts for 65 yards, and ended the Steelers' second drive with an interception in the red zone.
"I think I do a good job of shutting that stuff out," he said. "And this was just purely -- not moving the ball up and down the field."
Still, after two quarters of ineffective and stagnant play, Rudolph had shown head coach Mike Tomlin enough. He gave his starter one last drive to open the third quarter, but Rudolph took a sack and underthrew a wobbly pass to seal his fate.
"Just felt like our offense needed a spark," Tomlin said, explaining the decision to turn to backup Devlin Hodges. "Mason wasn't doing enough; Duck came in and provided us with a spark, made a couple plays. We'll see what next week holds, next week. But I like the contributions of Duck; I like his readiness; I appreciate the efforts of Mason and also appreciate the support of Mason after we made the change."
And now he'll be looking for that support going forward.
Tomlin announced on Tuesday that Hodges will keep the job -- at least for this week's rematch against the Browns.
"We met as a staff, and we decided we're going to start Duck this week," said Tomlin, using the nickname that has come to define Hodges. "And really, the decision is clear for us, and there are some really clear reasons why. Like I talked about after the Bengals game, I thought he provided us a spark in-game, and I'm hopeful he's capable of continuing to provide that spark as we step into this stadium (on Sunday).
First of all, Tomlin's decision means that Rudolph won't face the Browns for the second time in three weeks.
Beyond that, Tomlin said that the decision to go with Hodges is a one-week decision and that he didn't want to set expectations for the rookie's performance beyond thinking that Hodges "won't kill us" in a game that's vital to Pittsburgh's playoff hopes.
Hodges took over for Rudolph once before this season, coming in when Rudolph sustained a concussion against the Ravens in Week 5. Hodges started -- and won -- the next week against the Los Angeles Chargers before Rudolph resumed his starting duties after the bye week.
Under Rudolph's direction, the offense had just three plays of at least 10 yards in the first half against Cincy -- all coming from players signed off practice squads eight days earlier. Running back Kerrith Whyte had a 21-yard rush and a 16-yard carry in the drive that ended with Rudolph's interception. And wide receiver Deon Cain made a 35-yard catch in the second quarter on second-and-21.
It didn't get better in the third quarter when the offense went three-and-out after halftime and lost 3 yards.
"I saw enough of what I needed to see and thought we needed a spark," Tomlin said. "And whatever time of the game that was, was whatever time of the game that was."
Hodges provided the spark Tomlin sought almost instantly. On the third play of his first drive, the rookie Samford product hit Washington on a post route. Washington took the ball and ran it in to finish off the 79-yard score, complete with a nasty stiff arm to B.W. Webb en route to the end zone.
That catch-and-run showcased the big-play ability Washington has only shown in occasional flashes since being taken in the second round in 2018.
"For me, it was obviously a confidence booster," Hodges said. "I didn't think the third play I was in [that] I'd be throwing a 79-yard touchdown pass, but if I could go back and do it again, it would be pretty cool."
Hodges didn't lead another touchdown drive, but he did help the team add two more field goals to eke out the win and remain in playoff contention with a 6-5 record entering next week's rematch with the Browns.
"Whenever my number is called, I want to be ready," Hodges said.
And this week, his number will be called and, as Tomlin pointed out, Hodges “has not killed us” when he’s played.
Given Pittsburgh’s defense, which ranks second in the league in takeaways and third in sacks, a caretaker under center may be all that’s required for the Steelers to remain in the playoff picture. It’s an aspect of the job Rudolph struggled with recently. Now it’s Hodges’ turn to see if he can continue his improbable rise from “camp arm” to NFL starting quarterback.
“At every turn he’s proven that those circumstances aren’t too big for him,” Tomlin said. ...
Meanwhile, reporting early in the week suggested wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster has a chance to play against Cleveland after sitting out with a knee injury against Cincinnati. And the Steelers received good news Wednesday afternoon, announcing an independent neurologist has cleared Smith-Schuster from concussion protocol.
But the knee remains an issue.
According to Pittsburgh Tribune-Review staffer Chris Adamski, Smith-Schuster was spotted with a sizable brace on his left knee before Wednesday's practice. "Doesn’t have the look of a guy who is going to practice today," Adamski added.
It doesn't sound promising for James Conner either.
"I need to be smart," Conner said Monday. "If I'm not, then surgery will need to be done. I had a minor setback against Cleveland. It's killing me not being out there. The ligaments need to get stronger."
Tomlin was noncommittal.
“I don’t know what their status will be [for Sunday] as I stand here,” Tomlin said before Wednesday's practice. “We’ll go through our normal procedures in terms of looking at those guys and seeing if they’re good enough to participate in practice and then go from there. But I don’t have a lot of clarity as I’m standing here regarding those men.”
Stay tuned. ... I'll be following up via Late-Breaking Update in coming days. ...
A few final notes. ... Given the injuries to Conner this year, Benny Snell appears to be in position to be a potential league winner.
Snell rushed for 98 yards on 21 carries, and grabbed one pass for five yards in the Week 12 win over Cincinnati. The rookie out of Kentucky has some size as a downhill runner, and the footwork is there to work through the wash. As ESPN.com's Ken Bowen put it, "Think volume here if Conner misses more time in an offense that should lean on the run game due to the quarterback situation."
Also. ... The offensive line that allowed 11 sacks through nine games has now surrendered seven over the past two.
And finally. ... As Associated Press sports writer Will Graves pointed out, the red-zone offense is still a mess. Pittsburgh failed to score touchdowns on two trips inside the Cincinnati 20, settling for field goals that kept the Bengals within striking distance.
QBs: Devlin Hodges, Mason Rudolph, Ben Roethlisberger
RBs: James Conner, Benny Snell, Jaylen Samuels, Trey Edmunds, Kerrith Whyte
WRs: JuJu Smith-Schuster, Diontae Johnson, James Washington, Johnny Holton, Deon Cain, Tevin Jones
TEs: Vance McDonald, Nick Vannett, Zach Gentry
San Francisco 49ersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 26 November 2019
As ESPN.com's Nick Wagoner reported, despite a broken ankle and a banged-up knee, tight end George Kittle made his return to the lineup for Sunday night's game against the Green Bay Packers.
But if you didn't know about those injuries before the game, you wouldn't have been able to tell he was still nursing them from his performance as he sparked the Niners to a dominant 37-8 victory against the Packers on Sunday night.
"It means a ton," head coach Kyle Shanahan said. "You guys all know that. It was hard without him, and to have him back tonight -- obviously what he did in the pass game -- but what he does in the run game is equally as important. It's great to have him out there."
Playing in his first career Sunday Night Football game, Kittle appeared in his first game since Oct. 31 and finished with six catches on as many targets for 129 yards, including a 61-yard touchdown that essentially put the game away in the third quarter.
Kittle said the touchdown came on a play the Niners have been practicing since Week 1 but had yet to break out in a game. On the play, Kittle faked running a corner route after showing as if he were going to run block at the line of scrimmage. He then cut to the post, leaving Green Bay defenders looking the wrong direction as quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo hit him in stride.
"We finally got a call to run it so that was pretty fun," Kittle said. "It was just a corner post, perfect coverage to run it against, Jimmy gave me a perfect ball and I had to unhitch the trailer and outrun a couple of guys."
Before Kittle could get back to his regular self, he had some rust to knock off. Kittle said the first two drives were "definitely not my best football" but once he got his feet back under him, he was catching passes again and clearing lanes in the run game.
Kittle was able to do those things like normal despite dealing with some painful injuries. According to Shanahan, Kittle suffered the injuries on the first play of the team's first game against Arizona.
The Niners and Kittle have remained tight-lipped since on what, exactly, those injuries are, but Shanahan offered more detail after Sunday night's victory.
Shanahan described the ankle injury as a "bone chip," comparing it to bark on a tree that would peel off. Because the ankle remained stable despite the chip and could technically not break worse as a result of the initial chip, it became an issue of pain tolerance.
That's something Kittle generally has had plenty of throughout his career and why he was able to play through the injury and finish that Arizona game.
From what Shanahan described, Kittle missed the past two games because of the knee issue, which was something Shanahan called a "popped capsule." That took about two weeks to heal and once it did, Kittle's return became a matter of dealing with pain in the ankle.
"It's mentality," Kittle said. "It's football. Like I said, you either play or you don't play. I wish I could've played last week and the week before; they wouldn't let me. But it's just a mindset."
Without Kittle, the Niners went 1-1, losing an overtime thriller to the Seattle Seahawks, but he made it clear earlier this week he didn't want to miss this upcoming stretch of big games starting with Sunday and followed by a long road trip that includes consecutive games at Baltimore and New Orleans the next two weeks.
Kittle's return also came just in time for a game against the Packers he said he had circled on his calendar for a while. He has previously called last year's 33-30 loss to Green Bay on Monday Night Football one of the games that left him in a rare angry mood.
The 49ers recorded 112 rushing yards, their most since the Oct. 27 victory over the Carolina Panthers, in part, because of Kittle's blocking on the outside.
Indeed, with Kittle back in the fold, the Niners believe it opens up a world of possibilities.
And they'll need all the firepower they can muster with a long road trip looming to face the Baltimore Ravens and New Orleans Saints in consecutive weeks.
At 10-1, the Niners remain in control of the NFC playoff picture with Sunday's win offering a significant boost to their chances of nailing down the conference's No. 1 overall seed and home-field advantage in the postseason. San Francisco's victory carried even more weight because both Seattle and New Orleans won earlier Sunday.
The Seahawks remain only a game behind the Niners in the race for the NFC West division and the Saints still figure prominently in the mix with Seattle and the Niners in the race for home-field advantage.
Underlining just how important the Niners' games against Baltimore and New Orleans are is the tidbit that the 49ers will stay in Florida for the week between games in order to avoid the long trip back home and then back to New Orleans. ...
Other notes of interest. ... The Packers got into an early hole when Fred Warner sacked Rodgers on the opening drive, forcing a fumble that Nick Bosa recovered at the 2. It was the first opening-drive turnover for Green Bay since the 2017 season finale when Brett Hundley threw an interception against Detroit.
The last time it happened with Rodgers at quarterback came in the 2017 opener when he threw an interception against Seattle.
Tevin Coleman ran it in on the next play, marking the second time this season San Francisco scored on its first play. Matt Breida scored on an 83-yard run last month against Cleveland. The Niners were the first team since the 2013 Raiders to score twice on the opening play in a single season, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
Garoppolo didn't have much protection early, but once the line settled in, so did Garoppolo on the way to one of his most efficient performances of the season. He finished 14-of-20 for 253 yards with two touchdowns and, perhaps most important, no interceptions for a passer rating of 145.8.
As more teams work to take away the Niners' rushing attack, Garoppolo finds himself needing to spark the offense on a more consistent basis. Over the past month, he has been up to the task, which could portend big things for the 49ers in the postseason. ...
Receiver Marquise Goodwin was a healthy scratch for the third time this season with the team opting to have embattled second-year pro Dante Pettis as the fifth receiver active after having six wideouts the past two games. Pettis wasn't targeted.
On the injury front. ... While Kittle, Deebo Samuel (shoulder) and Emmanuel Sanders (ribs) played through their injuries against the Packers, Breida (ankle) and Robbie Gould (quad) did not.
Heading into Wednesday's practice, the team indicated that Breida, Sanders and Samuel would work on a limited basis while Kittle would be held out.
Gould have been cleared to practice.
I'll have more on all involved in coming days; watch the Late-Breaking Updates section for more. ...
For now, it's safe to say Gould is close to returning from a quad injury that has kept him out of action since Week 10.
"I think he's real close," Shanahan said of Gould. "Like I said last week, if it was probably another position he would have gone. I know Robbie wants to go, but we're going to be smart with that and we're going to make sure that he is 100 percent and I think he's getting very close to there. I know he was close to that last week so we'll see how he is here on Wednesday."
Gould's return will mean that rookie kicker Chase McLaughlin will soon have to find another employer. ...
Also. ... Defensive lineman Damontre Moore will miss the rest of the 2019 season. Shanahan announced on Monday that Moore has been placed on injured reserve after breaking his forearm against the Packers. Moore signed with the team two weeks ago when Ronald Blair went on injured reserve and had five tackles and a forced fumble in two games.
QBs: Jimmy Garoppolo, Nick Mullens, C.J. Beathard
RBs: Raheem Mostert, Tevin Coleman, Matt Breida, Jeff Wilson
WRs: Emmanuel Sanders, Deebo Samuel, Kendrick Bourne, Dante Pettis, Richie James, Jordan Matthews
TEs: George Kittle, Ross Dwelley, Levine Toilolo
Seattle SeahawksCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 26 November 2019
As ESPN.com's Brady Henderson suggested, the easy storyline after the best game of Rashaad Penny's career is that his monster performance showed why the Seahawks drafted him in the first round in 2018.
The more important storyline is this: Penny is finally forcing his way onto the field after spending his first season and a half buried behind Chris Carson.
It appears he's shortening what seemed like a massive gap between the team's top two running backs.
On the same day that Carson had his least productive rushing performance of the season -- including another fumble -- Penny had the most productive game of his career. He ripped off a 58-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter to help seal a win over the Philadelphia Eagles and finished with 129 yards on 14 carries, both career highs.
According to ESPN Stats and Information, Penny joins Kansas City's Damien Williams as the only players this season to rush for 125-plus yards on 15 or fewer attempts.
It was almost an out-of-nowhere performance. After all, Penny carried only 36 times in seven previous games this season. That includes four carries in Week 9 against Tampa Bay and two carries in Seattle's last game against the 49ers, when he lost a fumble on one of his three offensive snaps. He entered Sunday with only 85 snaps this season, per Pro Football Reference.
"Frustrated" was how Pete Carroll described Penny's reaction to his limited role. "But he has practiced marvelously. The last three weeks have been his best three weeks of practice. We really wanted him to play (Sunday) and get him in there and see what would happen because he's looked so good in practice. So I thought [running backs coach] Chad Morton did a really good job of rotating him and looking for his opportunity with the intent of getting a shot out there. He came through beautifully. It was a really sweet game for him."
Carson's continued inability to hold onto the ball likely had something to do with Seattle getting Penny more involved. Carson fumbled twice against the Bucs and once versus the 49ers. His fumble Sunday was his seventh of the season (the botched handoff with Russell Wilson was officially attributed to Wilson). He finished with 57 yards on 12 touches.
Penny was already playing more than he had this season by the time Carson fumbled in the fourth quarter Sunday. That was one possession after Penny took a shotgun handoff, knifed his way past the second level, then shed cornerback Ronald Darby on his way to the end zone. It was the Seahawks' longest touchdown run over the last three seasons.
"They all want to play, they all deserve to play," Carroll said. "It's just sometimes it just doesn't happen and it's how you deal with it. What he did is he got better. He's trimmer, he's faster. Look how fast he looked today. He looked like he was shot out of a cannon. And that's because of the hard work. He got a little bit of fresh-legs benefit and he took full advantage of it."
Carroll was referring to the weight Penny lost in the offseason. Penny admitted to not taking his first NFL offseason seriously enough, which resulted in him playing at around 238 pounds as a rookie. He said he currently weighs 230 pounds and hopes to get down to 225. He dropped that weight with the help of a nutritionist he hired in the spring.
"I'm doing way better than what I've done in the past," he said. "I've stopped eating McDonald's. That was hard for me. But then I just started getting more serious about football. Having great body weight and great body shape takes you a long way as a running back. I'm learning that from Chris."
Penny made mention of the support Carson has given him in the form of reminders to stay patient as he waits for his chances.
"Most people think that as competitors we're supposed to hate each other," he said. "I actually love that dude and he can probably say the same thing about me. It's just all about playing off each other. It's tough for me because he has the hot hand and he's doing everything great and I'm just sitting back, but I'm also learning. I think it would suck for me because I'm a first-round pick and everybody is expecting all these big things, and I'm still young and I'm still fresh.
"I've got a lot of carries I can handle for whenever the time is needed."
Meanwhile, it's worth noting the Seahawks committed 12 penalties, dropped a sure touchdown pass and missed an open receiver on another. But in the end, Seattle did what they've done so many times throughout another season that is headed towards the playoffs: They won despite playing nowhere close to their best football.
The Seahawks are 6-0 on the road this season and head home to face the Minnesota Vikings on Monday Night Football.
Also of interest. ... This was not a game that will do much for Russell Wilson's MVP candidacy. He finished 13-of-25 for 200 yards, a touchdown and an interception. The pick wasn't really his fault, coming on a throw to David Moore that was tipped. Wilson had Jacob Hollister wide open in the end zone but airmailed the throw, something you rarely see.
The wind that gusted through Lincoln Financial Field for much of the afternoon might have been a factor.
Wilson delivered a perfect throw into that wind on his touchdown pass to Malik Turner, which came on a trick play that had Carson pitching the ball back to the quarterback.
Wilson is the first QB in NFL history to start his career with eight straight winning seasons. Wilson has started all 136 games since his rookie season, including 13 in the playoffs. Four-time All-Pro middle linebacker Bobby Wagner also began his career in 2012 and has started 126 games in that span.
"It's important to acknowledge the marvelous consistency that Russell has brought us and Bobby, too," Carroll said. "It's incredibly special to accomplish that."
On the injury front. ... The Seahawks were without star defensive end Jadeveon Clowney (hip), who traveled to Philadelphia but was ruled out 90 minutes before kickoff.
On Monday, Carroll said that Clowney was feeling worse after the treatment but that the expectation is that short-term pain will be a long-term gain for the defense.
"He went out there and they had to evaluate whether or not they were going to give him the treatment and the treatment made him more uncomfortable. ... It'll be better for the long haul," Carroll said on 710 ESPN Seattle.
Carroll said the Seahawks will re-examine Jarran Reed late this week to see how his sprained ankle is progressing. Reed left Sunday's game before halftime and didn't return. "We're going to have to wait and see how it's going to hold him back, if he's going to be able to make it through it," Carroll said.
Luke Willson (hamstring) looked good in pregame warmups Sunday but likely won't practice until later in the week. Fullback Nick Bellore's quad injury is "legit" but not as bad as initially feared.
And finally. ... With Tyler Lockett coming off a leg injury, the Seahawks had receiver David Moore (three attempts, 20 yards) handle punt returns and rookie running back Travis Homer (one attempt for 29 yards) handle kickoff returns Sunday.
Carroll liked what he saw from each, calling it Moore's best performance in that role.
"We've been grooming Homer for some time now," he said of the sixth-round pick from Miami. "We're really wanting him to take this spot for us and be a kickoff return guy."
QBs: Russell Wilson, Geno Smith
RBs: Travis Homer, Marshawn Lynch, Robert Turbin
WRs: Tyler Lockett, DK Metcalf, David Moore, John Ursua, Malik Turner, Jaron Brown
TEs: Jacob Hollister, Luke Willson
Tampa Bay BuccaneersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 26 November 2019
As ESPN.com's Jenna Laine noted, it took quarterback Jameis Winston four tries to reach him, but with a 17-yard grab in the second quarter against the Falcons, wide receiver Mike Evans officially reached 1,000 yards Sunday, joining Randy Moss as the only receivers in NFL history to reach 1,000 yards in each of his first six seasons.
"It means a lot. I put in a lot of work. It wasn't easy," said the seventh overall draft pick in 2014, who needed just 7 yards against Atlanta to reach the same milestone as Moss, his boyhood idol. "He was definitely my favorite receiver growing up. He was a freak of nature and so exciting to watch -- to be in the same sentence as him is amazing."
The two-time Pro Bowler wasn't the only Bucs receiver who had a big day in Tampa Bay's 35-22 win. Teammate Chris Godwin, who benefited from the Falcons lining up in Cover 2, finished with 184 receiving yards and two touchdowns to reach 1,000 yards for the first time in his three-year career.
"I've never really [been] a numbers guy in terms of, like, 'All right, I need to hit this number,' but to reach a milestone that I've always believed that I could reach, even when I was a kid -- I'm just so blessed to be in this position," said Godwin, in his first year as a full-time starter. "I've still got a lot to prove, to myself and to everybody else, but I'm on the right track."
On Wednesday, Godwin was named NFC Offensive Player of the Week.
Evans and Godwin are the first pair of teammates to each have three performances with at least 150 receiving yards in a single season in NFL history.
"He's a hell of player," Evans said of Godwin. "He's a Pro Bowl receiver. He comes to work every single day. He's gonna keep dominating and I'm gonna be right there with him."
Godwin, who leads the NFL with nine touchdown catches and has one of the league's highest catch rates, has appreciated Evans taking him under his wing.
"It's really an honor to be here and grow and to be able to learn from a guy like Mike who is so humble and he's such a beast -- it's really an honor of mine," Godwin said. "I'm just going to keep coming in, keep doing what I've been doing, keep working, keep learning and just keep trying to go up."
As Tampa Bay Times staffer Rick Stroud pointed out, Godwin absorbed hits on both of his touchdown catches -- a 71-yard catch-and-run over the middle in the first quarter and then a you-have-to-see-it-to-believe-it grab on third and goal in the second quarter. On the second touchdown catch, he had to hit the brakes, change direction and reach back for the ball -- all while a defensive back smothered him.
The pair helped Winston overcome two early interceptions -- one on a slant pass intended for Evans that was undercut by Desmond Trufant, and a jump pass intended for Dare Ogunbowale that was picked by De'Vondre Campbell -- to throw three touchdown passes, with Ronald Jones tacking on a fourth TD on the ground.
"All of my receivers did a tremendous job today, but it's kinda cool to see two receivers get 1,000 yards on the same day," Winston said.
Winston's third touchdown came from 347-pound defensive tackle Vita Vea -- a former high school running back -- who ran untouched into the flat for a 1-yard touchdown, the first of his career. According to Pro Football Reference, he was the largest NFL player ever to catch a touchdown pass.
"I thought it was a dream, to be honest. I've just gotta commend Jameis. He threw me a dime. He was spot on, I didn't have to jump, reach out or nothing -- it just came straight to me -- all I had to do was catch it," said Vea, who initially thought he was going to be blocking on second-and-1.
"It was the perfect time. [Offensive coordinator] Byron [Leftwich] called it at the perfect time," head coach Bruce Arians said.
Evans chuckled when asked about Vea -- "That was an easy route to run. All you gotta do is just run straight to the end zone and catch the ball -- and he did a great job. ... I'm sure they saw his high school highlights. He's an athlete. He can do a lot. He just got a lot bigger."
Vea denied being the Bucs' new secret offensive weapon, though, saying, "Nah, that's between Mike and Chris. ..."
Expect more of both as the Buccaneers travel to Jacksonville to face the Jaguars next Sunday, beginning a stretch of three games in four weeks against AFC South opponents. ...
One last note here. ... Rookie kicker Matt Gay missed two extra points and had a third attempt blocked by the Falcons. The miscues didn't wind up hurting the team's chances of winning, and Arians said the kicker actually made adjustments to resolve the issue by early in the fourth quarter, when he made a 32-yard field goal.
QBs: Jameis Winston, Ryan Griffin
RBs: Ronald Jones, Peyton Barber, Dare Ogunbowale, T.J. Logan
WRs: Breshad Perriman, Justin Watson, Cyril Grayson, Spencer Schnell, Chris Godwin
TEs: Cameron Brate, O.J. Howard, Tanner Hudson
Tennessee TitansCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 26 November 2019
The Tennessee Titans are getting on a roll right when the NFL schedule puts them in position to control the AFC South.
The Titans (6-5) have won four of their last five, the latest a 42-20 blowout of Jacksonville with their best offensive performance this season. Ryan Tannehill is playing better than he ever has, and the defense has held eight opponents to 20 points or less this season.
Next is a trip Sunday to Indianapolis (6-5), one of the teams ahead of Tennessee in the AFC playoff chase. The Titans have yet to play division leader Houston (7-4), and the Titans also visit Oakland (6-5), another team ahead of them just outside the AFC's final wild-card spot.
"It's going to give us a great opportunity to try to pick off the next team that really that's in front of us," head coach Mike Vrabel said Monday.
The offense with Tannehill and first-year coordinator Arthur Smith had its most productive game with a season-high 471 yards on just 52 plays for a whopping 9.1-yard average gained per play. They also topped 200 yards rushing for a second straight game.
According to ESPN.com's Turron Davenport noted, making Derrick Henry a focal point could pay off down the stretch for the Tennessee Titans.
Henry exploded for 159 yards and two touchdowns on 19 carries to fuel Sunday's win. Breaking big plays is becoming a habit for Henry against the Jaguars, who had a 99-yard TD run against Jacksonville last season. Coming into this week, Jacksonville had given up a league-high five runs of 40 yards or more.
Henry had a 74-yard touchdown run on Sunday, one of two scores on the day. Since 2017, Henry leads the NFL with the most scrimmage touchdowns of 65 yards or more (7).
According to NextGen Stats, Henry covered a total of 86.43 yards on his 74-yard run. He reached a top speed of 20.6 mph during the run.
He is now fourth in the NFL with 991 yards rushing.
The Titans lead the NFL in scoring touchdowns inside an opponent's 20 at 72.4 percent, and they have scored on 13 of their last 14 red zone trips. They've also scored 77 points combined over the past two games.
"If our offense looks like that, we're going to be the best offense in the league," left tackle Taylor Lewan said. "It's about being consistent, establishing the run game, and you're not always going to score 42 points, but the job is to extend drives. Even when we weren't scoring, we were getting the ball down the field and giving Arthur a chance to open up the playbook."
But don't discount Tannehill's presence.
The quarterback Miami traded away in March now is 4-1 since the Titans made him the starter. He now leads the AFC and is third in the NFL with a 111.4 passer rating. He also leads the league gaining an average 9.22 yards per pass after having five passes of 20 yards or longer against the Jaguars.
Tannehill's 155.8 passer rating against the Jaguars was just a shade off perfect.
The quarterback who becomes a free agent in March keeps adding numbers to his next contract.
The Titans must show they can win on the road after going 2-3 away from Nashville. They are 2-14 in the last 16 trips to Indianapolis, though Vrabel said the past has no bearing on what happens this week. Then they go to Oakland before a two-game home stand hosting Houston and New Orleans. That could set up a pivotal regular-season finale in Houston.
For what it's worth, Indianapolis is averaging 97 rushing yards allowed per game. Henry owners take note. ...
On the injury front. ... Henry and Tajae Sharpe were listed as a limited participants in Thursday's practice due to tender hamstrings. I'll have more on that via Late-Breaking Update in coming days. ...
Tight end Delanie Walker is headed to injured reserve for the second year in a row.
Walker has missed the last four games with an ankle injury and the Titans announced on Wednesday that he has been placed on injured reserve. The ankle is the same one Walker hurt in the opener last season and he missed the remaining 15 games of the year as a result.
Walker returned to practice last week, but reported that the injury got worse after returning to the field. Jonnu Smith, MyCole Pruitt and Anthony Firkser will man the tight end position in Tennessee.
According to Profootballtalk.com, the Titans filled the open roster spot by signing kicker Ryan Santoso as a free agent. He’s spent time with the Lions in the last two offseasons and also had a stint with Montreal in the CFL. He joins Ryan Succop on the 53-man roster and the team said in the announcement of his signing that both kickers are expected to remain on hand through Sunday’s game against the Colts.
In addition, the Titans will have to make their run for a playoff spot without the help of Cameron Wake.
Wake was placed on injured reserve by the team on Tuesday. The veteran pass rusher left Sunday's win over the Jaguars with an undisclosed injury that will end his season.
The Titans also placed cornerback Chris Milton on injured reserve. Milton has been dealing with an ankle injury.
Linebacker Derick Roberson and cornerback Kareem Orr were promoted from the practice squad to fill the vacant roster spots. Both signed with the Titans as undrafted free agents this offseason.
QBs: Ryan Tannehill, Marcus Mariota
RBs: Derrick Henry, Dion Lewis, Dalyn Dawkins, David Fluellen
WRs: A.J. Brown, Corey Davis, Tajae Sharpe, Adam Humphries, Kalif Raymond
TEs: Jonnu Smith, Anthony Firkser, MyCole Pruitt
Washington RedskinsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 26 November 2019
As the Redskins offense ran back onto the field, ready to take the victory formation, quarterback Dwayne Haskins was taking a selfie with a fan. That left the Redskins needing to trot veteran Case Keenum onto the field to take the final snap.
As ESPN.com's John Keim understated, it was an unusual ending to Haskins' first NFL victory as a starter.
"I was so hyped, I broke a water bottle," Haskins said. "I look up and we're in victory [formation]. I thought the game was over with already, but I'll get it next time."
Interim coach Bill Callahan said the coaches were looking for him. He didn't come across as upset, but he didn't shrug it off.
"No, I don't laugh at it," Callahan said. "I'm happy we won. We'll address that. I'm just pleased we won the game. I just have to find out."
Former Redskins quarterback Joe Theismann wasn't happy about it, based on his postgame tweet. After the draft, Theismann gave Haskins his blessing to wear the No. 7 again; it had been out of commission since Theismann retired in 1985. But Theismann wasn't a fan of what happened Sunday, calling the selfie "unprofessional and wrong."
That said, it's easy to see why Haskins was celebrating.
He helped lead a 19-16 comeback win over the Detroit Lions. After going 7-for-20 for 88 yards to start the game, he went 6-of-9 for 68 yards on his final two possessions. Both drives ended in field goals. The second one resulted in the game winner, a 39-yard field goal by Dustin Hopkins with 16 seconds remaining.
After that, Haskins was seen in a tight embrace with offensive coordinator Kevin O'Connell and then tackle Morgan Moses on the sideline.
But Haskins was needed for one more snap after corner Fabian Moreau intercepted his second pass of the day.
Teammates certainly understood why Haskins would want to celebrate after enduring a six-sack game in a 17-point loss to the New York Jets a week ago. Teammates also liked how he responded to a tough day. Before the final two drives, he had struggled with overthrows to open receivers.
Entering his last two drives, Haskins had completed 7 of 20 passes for 88 yards. He threw long to a wide-open Terry McLaurin in the end zone on a first-quarter pass. Even on the score-tying drive, McLaurin was open again for a touchdown and the pass was long. Haskins' accuracy continues to be an issue.
However, his last pass came under pressure and he stepped up into the pocket and hit McLaurin, who made a leaping catch, for 17 yards on third-and-5 before the field goal. Haskins completed 6 of his last 9 for 68 yards.
Haskins said he injured his right wrist, which at times impacted his ability to grip the ball as he wanted.
"It's big. Obviously he comes from a big program; he's not used to losing. It's a sour taste in his mouth," right tackle Morgan Moses said. "We all know he has big-play potential. This is about composure."
With the Redskins double-digit underdogs at Carolina, Haskins will need to continue making plays. ...
Other notes of interest. ... The Redskins have been unable to run the ball in the past two games.
In Callahan's first four games, the Redskins ran for 461 yards and averaged 4.7 yards per carry. But in the past two games the Redskins have struggled. Sunday, the running backs managed 87 yards on 23 carries.
Adrian Peterson rushed 10 times for 27 yards and Derrius Guice had 10 carries for 32.
A week earlier, the Redskins were held to 54 yards on 20 carries. They just don't have the playmakers on the outside to withstand an inability to run the ball. And that puts more pressure on Haskins to deliver in obvious pass situations. That's a losing formula for Washington.
The good news?
The Redskins do have some young playmakers.
McLaurin had a strong game with five catches for 72 yards -- but he was open for so much more. And his catch at the Lions' 21-yard line set up Hopkins' game-winning field goal. McLaurin consistently gets open.
Then there was Steven Sims Jr. He's a backup slot receiver with an ability to make big plays. Indeed, he showed his electricity on a 91-yard kickoff return in the second quarter. After avoiding the first defender, he weaved through traffic and showed his speed (20.0 mph, according to Next Gen Stats). He also had a 33-yard return on the opening kick.
On Wednesday, Sims was named NFC Special Teams Player of the Week. ...
On the injury front. ... While selfie-gate likely disappears from the headlines after today, Washington will learn more about Haskins' wrist injury as the week progresses.
"Like I said last night, I went in to see the medical people and, yes, there was a slight wrist injury to his wrist," Callahan said. "It was reported this morning, so I don't know to what extent if it's going to be a bad bruise or a slight bruise. To what extent, how that plays out we'll have to see."
Ryan Kerrigan was concussed Sunday, putting in danger his streak of 139 consecutive starts that ranks first among active NFL linebackers. The status of receiver Paul Richardson also bears watching. Richardson has a hamstring injury again and was not on the practice field Wednesday.
Chris Thompson was close to returning from his toe injury last week; he could make it back this week.
Watch the Late-Breaking Updates section for more on all the above in coming days.
QBs: Case Keenum, Colt McCoy, Dwayne Haskins
RBs: Adrian Peterson, Chris Thompson, Wendell Smallwood
WRs: Terry McLaurin, Steven Sims, Kelvin Harmon
TEs: Jeremy Sprinkle, Hale Hentges