Team Notes week 2 2016
NEWS, NOTES, RUMORS AND OTHER GOOD STUFFDirectly 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. ...
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Arizona CardinalsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 14 September 2016
As Associated Press sports writer Bob Baum framed it: "A season of sky-high expectations began with a thud for the Arizona Cardinals. ..."
A day after his team lost at home to the depleted New England Patriots 23-21, Cardinals coach Bruce Arians watched video of the contest Monday and dissected what went wrong.
"It wasn't just the young players," he said, "but it was a lot of young players that got caught up in everything that was going on. There were some critical errors by some young players."
Third down woes, on offense and defense, plagued the team, as did missed tackles and, on one big play, blown coverage by a rookie.
"Nothing to the point that can't be corrected," Arians said. "It was not talent."
Indeed, Arizona had a chance to win it but Chandler Catanzaro missed a 47-yard field goal in the final minute. The snap from rookie Kameron Canady was a bit low. Holder Drew Butler said he trapped the ball and spotted it a few inches from where it was supposed to be.
But from a fantasy perspective, there were positives.
As Pro Football Focus' Wes Huber noted, a quick glance at the box score would indicate that Carson Palmer began his season strong for Arizona.
For the most part, you'd be correct. Palmer connected on 17-of-19 attempts and both of his scoring strikes under 10 yards.
Larry Fitzgerald did his part. The veteran wideout caught his 99th touchdown on a 3-yard pass from Palmer late in the second quarter, which tied him for 10th all time with Don Hutson, who played from 1935 to 1945.
Fitzgerald's 100th career score came on a dramatic over-the-head diving catch on a fade from Palmer that gave the Cardinals their first lead of the game, 21-20, early in the fourth quarter. Fitzgerald finished the game tied for eighth all time on the touchdown list with Steve Largent and Tim Brown.
Next on the list is San Diego Chargers tight end Antonio Gates, who owns sole possession of seventh place with 104 touchdowns.
But Fitzgerald said he was glad to have his 100th.
"I'm glad to put it behind me so I don't have to talk about it anymore," he said.
As Huber reported, "Johnson was not only consistently productive throughout the contest, he generated a fourth-quarter, spinning, stiff-arming 45-yard run that might have convinced several Patriot defenders that he had harnessed the power of invisibility." Johnson secured each of his six receiving targets to amass 132 total yards and a touchdown while demonstrating great speed and elusiveness.
Chris Johnson and Andre Ellington hardly played at all. Chris Johnson carried the ball just once for two yards and Ellington never got the chance to run. He was thrown to twice, catching both passes for eight yards. Arians said he would have preferred to give Chris Johnson more carries, "but we only had 59, 60 snaps." Asked Monday if he was surprised at his lack of a workload, Chris Johnson nodded his head and said "yes."
"It's a long season, though. Things will work out," he added.
Johnson said he didn't talk to Arians about only getting to run the ball once, saying there was no reason to approach his head coach. Ellington also refused to complain.
"I'm fine," he said. "That's what actually makes it so sweet you never know who coach is going to call on but whenever he does, you've got to be ready. He's a smart coach. I don't have any doubt about what he's doing upstairs. I know he's going to put us in the best position to make plays."
Other notes of interest. ... On Sunday morning, NFL Network reported that Fitzgerald was telling people close to him that he was retiring after the season.
During his postgame news conference, however, Fitzgerald said he hasn't thought about 2017.
"You know, I don't talk about the future," Fitzgerald said. "I don't even know what I'm having for dinner tonight, let alone what I'm doing next year. I signed another year for a reason. I believe in what we're doing here. I believe in the guys that I have in this room, the head coach [Bruce Arians], his staff. Obviously, [Cardinals president] Michael Bidwill is doing everything he can to put us in a position to win.
"That's where my mindset is at. What I'm doing next year is of no importance. This is the year. And I want to make sure we make it great."
John Brown was targeted four times against the Patriots but only caught one pass for eight yards. Brown missed most of training camp after suffering a concussion during team drills on the first day of padded practice. Asked if Brown's output Sunday was the result of just too much rush, Arians agreed. "I don't think there's any doubt. He missed way too much time."
On the injury front. ... Receiver J.J. Nelson left Sunday night's game with a left shoulder injury but Arians couldn't provide any update on his condition when meeting with reporters on Monday. Nelson was scheduled to have an MRI exam on Monday and the coach said the results weren't available. He did not practice Wednesday.
If Nelson is out for any length of time, Jaron Brown will pick up the slack in his place.
Arians said defensive tackle Frostee Rucker will miss two to three weeks with an MCL sprain. Arians was still awaiting results of tests on a foot injury to guard Evan Mathis. Punter Drew Butler suffered a severely sprained ankle against the Patriots, but he felt confident he would be ready for this weekend, saying the ankle improved overnight.
QBs: Josh Rosen, Mike Glennon
RBs: David Johnson, Chase Edmonds, T.J. Logan
WRs: Larry Fitzgerald, Christian Kirk, Chad Williams, J.J. Nelson, Kendall Wright
TEs: Jermaine Gresham, Ricky Seals-Jones, Gabe Holmes, Darrell Daniels
Atlanta FalconsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 14 September 2016
Matt Ryan said he was feeling extremely confident about the offense heading into year two of offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan's scheme. Head coach Dan Quinn was "jacked" about the influx of speed on defense and how it would help cure some coverage woes.
All that being said, 60 minutes on Sunday showed the Falcons remain trapped in a bad place.
And as ESPN.com's Vaughn McClure suggests, they could dig themselves deeper as they head to the "Black Hole" that is the Oakland Raiders' home of O.co Coliseum.
The Falcons are 0-1 after a 31-24 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Sunday's season opener. They entered 2016 tied with the San Francisco 49ers for the league's toughest schedule, based on last season's records of opponents. And now they'll travel to Oakland in Week 2 for a matchup with the 1-0 Raiders.
Then comes a road trip to face the rival New Orleans Saints. Then a home matchup against the three-time division champ and Super Bowl runner-up Carolina Panthers. Then a game at the reigning Super Bowl champion Denver Broncos. Then at the 2013 Super Bowl-winning Seattle Seahawks.
The winnable game in this first part of the schedule seemed to be Sunday's clash with the Buccaneers.
"I don't look at it as us being in a hole," said wide receiver Julio Jones, who was limited to 66 receiving yards on four catches Sunday. "We're just seeing where we're at and how we've got to get better.
"Of course, we lost a divisional game. Those guys know you better than anybody because you play them twice a year, every year. But I still don't consider this a hole. We just have to play better ball and eliminate little penalties here and there."
Avoiding pre-snap penalties will be an emphasis going forward, but establishing a running game will be the priority in Oakland coming off a game in which the Falcons averaged just 2.4 yards per carry.
It's going to be hard enough for Ryan to get enough time to throw against the pressure of ascending pass-rusher Khalil Mack, so running backs Devonta Freeman and Tevin Coleman -- or Coleman and Freeman, depending on the order Shanahan goes with -- must enjoy better success next week. The offensive line has to do its part and not get dominated the way it did in spurts on Sunday.
And, of course, there's all the chatter about the no-huddle and why the Falcons don't use it more often. Quinn defended not going to it more in the fourth quarter on Sunday, saying, "We didn't feel it was necessary at the time."
We'll see if the philosophy of using the no-huddle changes in the coming weeks, because Ryan runs it so well.
As a whole, the Falcons simply need to show improvement from week to week. After one game, they don't look much different than the team that faltered at the end of last season.
Other notes of interest. ... As NFL.com noted, Freeman was ineffective against the Bucs while Coleman was the Falcons' biggest playmaker aside from Jones.
Some forget that Coleman was given just as much of an opportunity to seize the starting job at the start of last season as Freeman but faltered. He might end up getting just as many snaps as Freeman as the season wears on. He was especially effective catching balls, coming down with five catches for 95 yards, which led the team.
But Pro Football Focus' John Kosco advised readers the second-year back didn't generate more than what was given to him by his blockers, as he forced just one missed tackle.
Freeman forced just one missed tackle; he didn't receive much room to work with, however, as all but one of his yards came after contact.
As noted above, neither Freeman nor Coleman could get much going in the running game against the Buccaneers. The Falcons had 52 rushing yards on 22 carries, averaging just 2.4 yards per carry. In fact, Ryan had a better yards per carry average (3.3) than both Coleman (2.8) and Freeman (1.8).
In the end, Freeman, the starter, played 36 of 65 offensive snaps while Coleman played 32. Coleman accumulated 117 total yards on his 13 touches, while Freeman had 40 yards on his 15.
So moving forward, how does Quinn plan to approach the situation, knowing the last thing he wants is to neglect his Pro Bowl running back in Freeman?
"We know both these guys are going to be a factor," Quinn said. ``We just had two running backs active [Sunday], so for the whole portion of the game, both of them have done significant things really well. We're going to utilize them both.
``Devonta has shown he's definitely capable of carrying a load all the way through. But the fact that we have two guys that we're able to feature is important. Both of them are going to be a really big factor in what we're doing. ..."
On the injury front. ... Jones, who re-injured his left ankle during Sunday's loss, said he's not concerned about it being a lingering issues.
Jones first injured the ankle running a deep route in the third preseason game against Miami. He ran a similar route in the fourth quarter Sunday and pulled up hurt after the incompletion.
"I'm good, though," Jones said. "You're never going to be 100 percent anymore. I've played through things. It's nothing that's going to hold me back from going out there and producing or doing what I do."
Last week, Jones was limited in practice a few days before returning to full participation Thursday.
Sanu, who hobbled around the locker room nursing his own ankle injury, had five catches for 80 and a 5-yard touchdown catch in his Falcons' debut. He was wide-open one play-action pass from Ryan which led to a 59-yard gain. However, the Falcons had to settle for a field goal in the red zone.
Jones and Sanu both worked on a limited basis Wednesday.
QBs: Matt Ryan, Matt Schaub
RBs: Tevin Coleman, Ito Smith
WRs: Julio Jones, Calvin Ridley, Mohamed Sanu, Justin Hardy, Marvin Hall, Russell Gage
TEs: Austin Hooper, Logan Paulsen, Eric Saubert
Baltimore RavensCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 14 September 2016
The Ravens found a way to win when they didn't play their best football. That type of performance could go a long way in helping them rebound from a 5-11 finish in 2015.
While the re-tooled offense struggled to make big plays, the Ravens defense took over and shut down the Buffalo Bills in a 13-7 victory in the season opener. It was just the type of game Baltimore would have struggled to win last year.
"We didn't make critical mistakes down the stretch," head coach John Harbaugh said. "We did not have critical penalties down the stretch. We played with discipline. We didn't give up big plays on offense or defense."
Last year, the Ravens repeatedly failed to come up with an important stop in the fourth quarter and lost nine games by eight points or fewer. This time, Baltimore the defense aggressively attacked the ball and held the Bills scoreless in the second half.
And when the game could have gone either way in the final quarter, the Ravens responded by not allowing a first down. A 37-yard field goal by Justin Tucker with 5:39 remaining sealed the win.
The Ravens were also helped by several regular starters returning from season-ending injuries, including quarterback Joe Flacco, running back Justin Forsett, receiver Steve Smith, tight end Dennis Pitta and linebacker Terrell Suggs. Each of the players had a key role in the win and none of them appeared to be hampered by last year's ailments.
From a fantasy perspective there is ample reason for optimism.
In his first regular-season game in 10 months, Flacco relied on deep downfield passing to beat the Bills.
All of the Ravens' scores were set up by the strong arm of Flacco. He connected with Mike Wallace for a 66-yard touchdown and hit Breshad Perriman (35 yards) and Pitta (27 yards) on two other shots to set up field goals. As ESPN.com's Jamison Hensley notes, this is a stark difference from last season for Flacco.
In 2015, Flacco was 8 of 31 with one touchdown and two interceptions on throws of 25 yards or longer. His 25.8 completion rate on those throws ranked 30th in the NFL.
That's why the Ravens wanted to give Flacco more downfield options this year. Wallace made his presence known in the second quarter. He scored his 11th touchdown catch of at least 50 yards, according to ESPN Stats & Information. This comes after Wallace didn't catch a pass of more than 40 yards last season with the Vikings.
Perriman, who was sidelined his entire rookie season with a sprained knee, made a leaping, 35-yard catch along the sideline. The first catch of his career led to Justin Tucker's 50-yard field goal in the first quarter.
Smith caught five passes for 19 yards and stands 53 yards short of passing James Lofton for 10th place on the career list. Suggs had a sack.
Pitta stepped up in the fourth quarter in his first game since 2014. Flacco completed a 27-yard pass to Pitta on a throw that went behind his tight end. But as if he knew the ball was going to be there, Pitta hauled it in to set up a 37-yard field goal.
Those three completions accounted for 128 of his 258 yards passing (49.6 percent). Flacco, who was playing in his first game since a season-ending knee injury last November, finished 23 of 34 with a 99.9 passer rating.
Flacco was sacked four times. Each time, Flacco bounced up from the ground right away.
The Ravens' offensive line, which started two rookies (Ronnie Stanley and Alex Lewis) on the left side, struggled to make it a safe pocket. This was unusual for Flacco, who had only been sacked four or more times once in his previous 17 games.
"We sure want to protect our quarterback better than that," Harbaugh said. "When you're going against this defense, that's always the No. 1 task. It's always a challenge. I'm sure there's plenty of things we could have done better."
The running game, remained a question mark after four quarters Sunday. Forsett had 10 carries for 41 yards, and Terrance West toted the ball 12 times for 32 yards, but it was evident that for Baltimore to move the ball, it had to be through the air.
Meanwhile, Baltimore faces another test with an AFC North matchup Sunday against the Cleveland Browns, who will be without injured starting quarterback Robert Griffin III. Instead, the Ravens will likely face veteran Josh McCown, who is 2-1 all time against them.
"He's had a lot of success against us," Harbaugh said of McCown. "We have a lot of respect for him. We know what kind of a player he is. We know how good he is, and he's super-good against us. We know we have our hands full. It will be all hands on deck to get ready for the offense led by Josh McCown."
As any fantasy owner will tell you, the more offense the better.
According to the Sports Xchange, the Ravens will spend part of the week trying to get the offensive line in sync. As noted above, the two rookies were an issue, but some of the veterans committed some of the biggest mistakes.
Right guard Marshal Yanda had a couple of false start penalties that stalled drives. He also had uncharacteristic breakdowns in coverage. Center Jeremy Zuttah snapped the ball into Flacco's chest and had a costly penalty. Flacco was sacked four times.
That unit will look to show big improvements in Week 2 against Cleveland, especially with improving communication.
And finally. ... On the injury front, Perriman missed Wednesday's practice. ESPN's Adam Schefter is reporting the injury is a minor calf issue. I'll be following up via Late-Breaking Update.
QBs: Lamar Jackson, Robert Griffin III, Joe Flacco
RBs: Gus Edwards, Ty Montgomery, Javorius Allen
WRs: Michael Crabtree, John Brown, Willie Snead, Chris Moore, Jordan Lasley, Janarion Grant
TEs: Hayden Hurst, Mark Andrews, Nick Boyle, Maxx Williams
Buffalo BillsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 14 September 2016
As ESPN.com's Mike Rodak suggested, the Bills seem capable of much more than it showed Sunday in its 13-7 opening day loss to the Baltimore Ravens. With Tyrod Taylor entering his second season as the starter, LeSean McCoy in "phenomenal shape" -- as offensive coordinator Greg Roman said last week -- and Sammy Watkins ready to play after an injury-plagued 2015 season, the Bills' offense was primed to break out.
As the Sports Xchange added, at the very least, they were capable of improving on 2015 when they finished 12th in scoring, 13th in yards and No. 1 in rushing.
Instead, the offense was downright ineffective at points in Sunday's loss and one week into 2016, the Bills are dead last in scoring and yards.
The Ravens outgained the Bills 204 to 7 in net yards before the Bills mounted a touchdown drive in the second quarter, the early struggles the result of an offensive line that gave McCoy (6 net yards in the first quarter) little room to work with and decisions by Taylor that seemed timid at best.
Of course, there might not be a team in the NFL who knows Taylor better than the Ravens, who drafted him in the sixth round of the 2011 NFL Draft and kept him as their backup quarterback for four years.
Maybe that helps explain why the Ravens dominated Taylor on Sunday.
Instead of Taylor leading a big-play passing attack, he went 15-for-22 passing and 111 yards. He didn't throw a touchdown and completed only one pass more than 20 yards downfield. He also rushed only five times for 11 yards. Baltimore's game plan was pretty simple.
Taylor finished with just 5.04 yards per attempt. The 111 passing yards on 22 attempts would have been fourth worst by a quarterback with at least 22 attempts in 2014. If the Ravens were trying to make Taylor prove he could pass from the pocket on Sunday, he failed the test.
For a team that was able to challenge defenses last season with a league-high 10 touchdown passes that traveled 25 or more yards in the air, the deep (or intermediate) passing game never showed up Sunday in Baltimore.
"I was taking what they gave me," Taylor said after the game, noting that the Ravens played both safeties deeper than the norm through most of the contest.
Taylor might be even-keeled with his approach, but the Bills will need more from him -- and the entire offense -- in short order.
Other familiar problems also crept up Sunday for the Bills: They were bitten by a key injury -- left tackle Cordy Glenn left with an ankle injury and did not return (he is ruled out for Thursday night) -- and committed key penalties that will call the discipline of Rex Ryan's team into question.
Luckily for the Bills, it's only Week 1, and they have plenty of time to show they're not the same team that stumbled to a disappointing 8-8 record last season. But with another tough game on the docket Thursday night when the Bills host the Jets, falling into a 0-2 hole would be hardly ideal.
But there is one other issue of importance for fantasy owners to watch: Watkins' foot.
According to Associated Press sports writer John Wawrow, Watkins said his surgically repaired left foot feels fine, and he's ready to play Thursday night.
"I'm definitely going to be out there playing," Watkins said Monday, putting to rest concerns he experienced a setback at Baltimore.
"I got it checked out, and I'm fine," he said, referring to tests conducted on his foot following the game Sunday.
"I just felt like it was tired, and I just wanted to make sure," Watkins said. "So it's no particular reason why I did it. I just felt I needed to do it. And if I need to do it again, I'm probably going to do it every week."
Watkins spoke after attending a walk-through practice session that was closed to reporters. Though it's unclear whether Watkins participated, he walked off the field showing no signs of a limp.
"I don't know if I'm around 100 or 95 percent or whatever," said Watkins, who had two screws inserted into his foot in April to repair a stress fracture. "I feel great. I can go out there and compete at the highest level." The team listed him as a non-participant in Tuesday’s practice, although that wasn’t an entirely accurate description of his workload.
Chris Brown of the team’s website explained that Watkins would not have been a participant had the team held a normal practice, but they didn’t hold a normal practice two days before hosting the Jets. The team held a walkthrough instead and Watkins was dressed for that scaled-back session.
Watkins was limited to four catches for a team-leading 43 yards against Baltimore.
Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News initially reported Monday that the Bills were considering whether to shut Watkins down in hopes of getting him to 100 percent, but Ryan said the team isn't thinking about doing that right now.
Still, as NFL.com's Kevin Patra suggested, even if he plays, the injured foot could impact Watkins' ability to get off the line of scrimmage, create separate and beat defenders down field. How well he'll deal with the pain management isn't something anyone can legitimately hypothesize.
Watkins will be listed as questionable for this game and his status is something I'll be watching closely right up through Thursday night's kickoff. Watch the Late-Breaking News section for more. ...
Meanwhile, the Bills added bulk to their offense by re-signing fullback Jerome Felton about 10 days after the ninth-year player was among the team's final cuts.
Buffalo initially signed Felton to a four-year contract in March 2015. The Bills, however, used mostly a one-man backfield which led to Felton being used sparingly last season.
Glenn Gronkowski was an undrafted rookie free agent, who played just eight snaps against Baltimore.
A few final notes here. ... TE Jim Dray suffered an ankle injury in the second quarter on Sunday and did not return. His status for Thursday remains unclear.
Starting TE Charles Clay (knee) was limited in Tuesday's practice and he was listed as questionable for Thursday night. Knee issues have been common for Clay dating back to his time in Miami. I'll follow up as needed. ...
Reggie Bush had a terrible debut for the Bills on Sunday as he rushed three times for minus-4 yards and did not catch a pass.
QBs: Josh Allen, Derek Anderson, Matt Barkley
RBs: LeSean McCoy, Chris Ivory, Marcus Murphy, Taiwan Jones
WRs: Zay Jones, Robert Foster, Deonte Thompson, Isaiah McKenzie, Brandon Reilly
TEs: Charles Clay, Jason Croom, Logan Thomas
Carolina PanthersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 14 September 2016
Head coach Ron Rivera said he fully expects Cam Newton to play this Sunday against the San Francisco 49ers despite taking at least four helmet-to-helmet hits in a Week 1 loss to the Broncos.
Rivera said that while Newton's body is sore, his head is fine.
"He's tough, he's resilient and he's moving around pretty good," Rivera said Monday, reiterating that his QB has passed a number of concussion tests.
Newton made a brief appearance in the locker room, but did not answer questions. He's expected to address the media on Wednesday.
As the Associated Press notes, the NFL and the Players Association are both looking into whether more should have been done when Newton took a shot to the head in the final minute of the game from Denver safety Darian Stewart.
Pro Bowl tight end Greg Olsen remains upset that Newton was hit in the head four times and the Panthers were awarded no penalty yardage. Only one roughing the passer penalty was called on the Broncos and that was nullified by an intentional grounding call on Newton. The league told AP sports writer Steve Reed last week that the officiating crew erred on one play and should have called a penalty.
"If there is a penalty, then throw a flag -- that is very simple," Olsen said.
The NFL will review all of the Week 1 games and will hand out fines later in the week. Rivera has sent in "a number of plays" into the league for review.
Of greater interest to fantasy owners, Rivera said the Panthers may have to alter how they use Newton moving forward.
"As far as what we do and how we do it, there are some things we have to look at," Rivera said. "A lot of it is him. He's a competitive guy and we do have to be aware of it too, because he wants to be the guy with the ball."
Offensive coordinator Mike Shula said he wants to limits Newton's carries, too. Newton ran 11 times against Denver, but Shula would like that average to be about 7 or 8 per game.
Limiting Newton's runs won't be easy; it so ingrained in his game that it's going to continue happening whether coaches want it to or not. One thing that that might help limit him, though?
Open targets down the field.
And lost in the loss and the violent helmet-to-helmet hits to Newton took in Denver was the successful return of Kelvin Benjamin.
The 6-5, 245-pound receiver made his presence known early, catching two passes on Carolina's opening drive. The second was a 14-yard touchdown over the middle in which Benjamin used his size to create an easy target for Newton. Benjamin finished with six catches for 91 yards and a touchdown on a team-high 12 targets.
Benjamin's conditioning was a concern during the preseason. Rivera said the goal was to have the 2014 first-round pick out of Florida State ready for 30 to 35 snaps in the opener.
Benjamin played 52 -- 71 percent of the team's snaps. He showed no major sign of being winded or tired.
Olsen also had a typical big game, catching seven passes on nine targets for 73 yards.
However, second-year wide receiver Devin Funchess never became a factor. The player who arguably was the MVP of training camp, had one catch for 9 yards on four targets.
Denver's defense had a lot to do with that. As Benjamin noted, the Broncos have a "one-of-a-kind defense."
But the offense in many ways looked like it did in 2014, when Benjamin and Olsen caught 48 percent of the passes for 52.6 percent of the yards.
Newton did complete passes to five other targets, but none had more than one catch and their total was for 30 yards.
As ESPN.com's David Newton noted, Olsen and Ted Ginn, Cam Newton's top wide receiver target, averaged only 40 percent of the receptions in 2015 while Benjamin was sidelined. The distribution contributed majorly to Newton throwing a career-best 35 touchdown passes and winning the MVP.
There wasn't that balance against Denver. ...
A few final notes here. ... Newton ran in for a 2-yard touchdown in the second quarter. Newton's 44th rushing score of his career broke a tie between him and Steve Young for most by a QB in NFL history.
Olsen caught seven passes, raising his career total to 549. That puts him ahead of former Panther Jeremy Shockey (547) for seventh all-time for receptions by a tight end.
The Panthers extended their NFL-leading streak to 28 games with at least 100 rushing yards. Jonathan Stewart managed just 64 yards on 15 carries. ...
Stewart was limited in practice with an ankle injury. I'll follow up via Late-Breaking Update as needed in coming days. ...
K Graham Gano booted a 50-yard field goal through the uprights in the final seconds, but that came after the Broncos had called timeout. Moments later, Gano's second attempt at a game-winner sailed wide left.
"I just missed it," he said. "The timeout didn't affect me, it never does."
QBs: Cam Newton, Taylor Heinicke
RBs: Christian McCaffrey, Cameron Artis-Payne, Travaris Cadet
WRs: Devin Funchess, D.J. Moore, Curtis Samuel, Torrey Smith, Jarius Wright, Damiere Byrd
TEs: Ian Thomas, Chris Manhertz
Chicago BearsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 14 September 2016
White's NFL regular-season debut did not go as the Bears had planned. The tipping point on Sunday occurred when White, limited in practice with a hamstring injury, and Cutler did not communicate on a critical third-quarter interception -- a sequence that altered the game and allowed the Houston Texans to rally for a 23-14 victory.
The day began on a high note for the Bears, who after grabbing an unexpected lead at halftime, had Houston on its heels.
But disaster struck to open the third quarter, when Cutler fired a pass to the sideline, deep in Chicago territory, to seemingly no one in particular that Houston's Andre Hal picked off.
Cutler expected White, who had stopped his route and sat just inside the numbers, to break off and head to the sidelines. But White stayed put and essentially stopped the route.
Following the interception, Cutler, who has praised White at every turn, forcefully gestured to White that he wanted him to keep running. The scene never got ugly, but the disconnect between the two was obvious.
White, who earlier in the game failed to make a third-down play on a catchable ball, was not targeted by Cutler again until the final drive.
"I'll talk to Kev about it," Cutler said after the game. "It was his first game out there. But it left my hand, it's my responsibility, so it is what it is."
That is a stark contrast to the day Cutler had with Alshon Jeffery.
Jeffery's long-term future in Chicago beyond 2016 is up for debate, but for the time being, Jeffery is the equalizer on the Bears' offense.
The Texans' secondary, which shadows DeAndre Hopkins every day in practice, had no answers for Jeffery, who set a career high with 105 receiving yards in the first half.
Cutler's best course of action was to simply throw the ball up to Jeffery and let him use his size to gain separation. As Dickerson suggested, at 6-3, Jeffery is not the fastest player on the field, but he has the strongest hands on the team. Jeffery's 29-yard circus reception in the first quarter showed off his sizeable catch radius.
Even veteran Eddie Royal made a sizable impact.
But for Chicago's offense to truly thrive, Cutler needs to trust all his receivers.
White is here to stay. The former seventh overall pick is the Bears' future. He is supposed to be a centerpiece moving forward to justify the draft selection.
A late-week hamstring issue had become a problem for White and may have made an impact.
"I wasn't really worried about the hamstring," he said. "I was out there so I've got to perform. It'll get better and we'll get better."
If push comes to shove, it's not a stretch to think the Bears will support White, even though Cutler is the quarterback. That is why Cutler and White's relationship is of the highest importance.
Cutler seemed to agree.
"We need him," Cutler said. "He's going to be fine. We're not worried about him."
Meanwhile, the Bears proved on Sunday they can compete with a playoff-caliber team. But the margin of error is small in the NFL, especially on the road, and the Bears are not good enough yet to overcome a disastrous turnover. The team simply wore down in the second half.
Cutler and White need to fix their problems. But the offensive line has work to do as well.
The Bears worked hard to revamp the offensive line, signing veterans Josh Sitton and Bobby Massie, drafting Cody Whitehair, who just shifted to center, and rewarding Kyle Long with a four-year, $40 million extension.
Blitz pickup is not solely the responsibility of the line. The Bears let veteran Matt Forte walk in the offseason; he happened to be their most consistent blocking back. Forte's loss is expected to be felt on many levels in 2016. The receivers also have roles protecting the quarterback.
The point is not to cast individual blame. Collectively, the Bears better figure out how to keep Cutler upright.
Brian Hoyer is a fine backup quarterback. But no teams expressed interest in bringing him in to be their starter in the offseason. That tells you how the league values him.
For all the consternation over Cutler, the Bears have almost zero shot of achieving their 2016 goals without him.
Allowing Houston to sack Cutler five times (the Texans were also credited with 13 quarterback hits) in Week 1 is dangerous.
"I don't feel great," Cutler said after the game Sunday. "I didn't get hit a lot in the preseason, so the last time I've been hit like that was last year. Usually, you want to build into these, and then Week 4 of 5, when you've gotten used to it, take a few shots then. I'll bounce back pretty quickly, though."
"We can't be helping No. 6 (Cutler) off the ground like that," Long said. "We should be patting him on the butt after touchdown passes. Not helping him up like that."
The Bears face a different concept but an effective defense against Philadelphia Monday night at home.
"We're going to get better," Cutler said. "But I don't want to pin exactly what this offense is going to be or what direction we're going until we get a little more involved."
One thing that might help?
The Bears' best weapon offensively, by far, is Jeffery. The Eagles, meanwhile, will likely be without CB Leodis McKelvin, which means that rookie seventh-round pick Jalen Mills will see quite a bit of playing time. Expect the Bears the find ways to get Mills lined up on Jeffery.
Other notes of interest. ... A 61-yard rushing effort by running backs proved inadequate and kept the offense in long-yardage situations, resulting in 4-for-13 conversions on third down. Jeremy Langford seemed more hesitant making his cuts than in preseason. The outside zone run to the right was perceived to be a strong point for Massie and Long on the right side, but it was rarely used.
And finally. ... Royal had his first touchdown catch since Oct. 4, and second with the Bears. He totaled four receptions for 57 yards. He also returned four punts for 40 yards.
QBs: Chase Daniel, Tyler Bray, Mitchell Trubisky
RBs: Jordan Howard, Tarik Cohen, Benny Cunningham
WRs: Allen Robinson, Anthony Miller, Taylor Gabriel, Kevin White, Josh Bellamy, Javon Wims
TEs: Trey Burton, Ben Braunecker, Daniel Brown, Adam Shaheen
Cincinnati BengalsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 14 September 2016
Following Sunday's 23-22 win at the New York Jets, quarterback Andy Dalton handed the game ball to offensive coordinator Ken Zampese. It was Zampese's first game as coordinator after spending 13 seasons as Cincinnati Bengals quarterbacks coach, including the past five years helping to mentor Dalton.
As the Sports Xchange suggested, "Zampese got the ball. Dalton did the dirty work."
Despite being sacked seven times and pressured often, Dalton managed to go 23 of 30 for 366 yards and a touchdown. It was a gutsy performance by the sixth-year veteran, who continues to put questions about his fortitude in the rear-view mirror.
"I thought he played a good football game today," said head coach Marvin Lewis. "He was accurate in his throws and everything that way, and that's what we need. And he gets us in and out of the right plays all the time. He did a great job directing the drives."
While under constant pressure, Dalton used a short passing game and quick release to chew up chunks of yardage and three times rally the Bengals from deficits before a raucous crowd at MetLife Stadium.
"They're good up front," said Dalton of the Jets. "But we adjusted. We made plays. It (short passing game) was big. Early in the game in the game, we were getting into third-and-long situations. It made it tough. We got into a little bit of a rhythm to stay ahead of the sticks."
Green finished with 180 receiving yards and became only the sixth player since the NFL/AFL merger to post back-to-back 150-yard receiving games in a season debut.
"Big day," Lewis said. "He's everything as advertised. We know that, in every way."
Dalton and Green, who seem to share a brain at times, were in sync all day, despite constant double teams and playing their first game without the supporting cast of Marvin Jones and Mohamed Sanu, who departed via free-agency and tight end Tyler Eifert who's out with an ankle injury.
Uzomah stepped in for Eifert's backup Tyler Kroft who's also injured and had a 54-yard reception.
Zampese and the Bengals spent the entire game trying to ease the pressure by the Jets' defensive front. Dalton continued to take a pounding, but he never allowed the Jets to finish him off. He had two completions of 54 yards, one for 49, and another for 32.
In fact, as Pro Football Focus' Josh Liskiewitz noted, deep passing was the key to Dalton's game, and although he did throw his interception on a downfield attempt, he was otherwise perfect on throws longer than 20 yards in the air from the line of scrimmage, going four-for-four for 189 yards and a touchdown on his other deep tosses.
He also had a QB rating of 134.6 on the 21 dropbacks on which he didn't face pressure, as opposed to just 47.7 on the 11 on which the rush threatened him.
In addition, veteran receiver Brandon LaFell had a big day in Green's shadow, catching four passes for 91 yards.
LaFell, who was on the field for 55 of the team's 57 offensive snaps, had a key reception on third-and-7 to set up Green's touchdown. LaFell made a catch over the middle and gave the pursuing defender a hard shove while staying in stride for a 21-yard gain. Green scored on the next play.
"I think we caught them sleeping a little bit on LaFell, and that's good," Lewis said. "That's the thing we saw from Brandon is he's got great body control. He's a very accomplished NFL receiver, and you saw him catching the ball going across the field, you saw him catching the ball on the sideline today, and he caught a couple deep balls. It was big."
When Lewis' comments were relayed to LaFell, the receiver and his teammates started laughing, obviously pleased.
"Hey man, they can sleep on me all year and double-team A.J," LaFell said. "Let them sleep on me. ... Let me do my thing, stay under the radar. I like it like that."
Running back Jeremy Hill provided the other offensive bright spot when he pushed the pile into the end zone for a 12-yard score late in the third quarter that temporarily put the Bengals on top 20-16.
Although he only rushed for 31 yards on nine carries, Hill showed new resolve following a sub-par 2015 season. "That's the Jeremy I watched at LSU, as an LSU alumnus," said tackle Andrew Whitworth. "We saw (growth from) his rookie year to last year. I think he's a guy that is ready to have a big season. I think he's prepared and excited for that opportunity. ..."
Also worth noting: The Jets had a top-10 offense last season behind huge years from both Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker. The Cincinnati defense deserves much credit for finding a way to keep both in check, holding the pair to a combined five catches for 69 yards and a touchdown. Shut down Marshall and Decker, shut down the Jets. ...
The Bengals play at Pittsburgh Sunday in a long-awaited game. Personal fouls on Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict and cornerback Adam "Pacman" Jones moved the Steelers into range for a field goal in the closing seconds of an 18-16 playoff win at Paul Brown Stadium last season.
Nobody's forgotten it, of course. They're just keeping their thoughts to themselves for now.
"I ain't talking about Pittsburgh," Jones yelled to a group of reporters who started to approach him in the locker room on Monday.
When Lewis was asked about the Steelers game three times, he responded with the same six words each time: New team," he said. "New season. New year."
One last note here: Eifert has already been officially ruled out this week. I'll be watching for more, but don't expect him back before October.
QBs: Jeff Driskel, Tom Savage
RBs: Joe Mixon, Mark Walton, Giovani Bernard
WRs: Tyler Boyd, John Ross, Cody Core, Josh Malone
TEs: C.J. Uzomah, Tyler Kroft, Tyler Eifert, Mason Schreck
Cleveland BrownsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 14 September 2016
Robert Griffin III's comeback has come to halt. Already. ... Griffin broke a bone in his left shoulder during the fourth quarter of Sunday's 29-10 loss at Philadelphia and will miss at least eight games -- and potentially the season -- with an injury that leaves the Browns' muddled QB situation as jumbled as ever.
The franchise's 25th starting quarterback since 1999, Griffin, who signed with the Browns as a free agent in March in hopes of reviving a career that fizzled in Washington, got hurt while trying to run out of bounds.
Griffin was nearing the sideline when he was struck by Eagles rookie defensive back Jalen Mills, who delivered a blow to the QB's chest area.
"It's football and these things happen," head coach Hue Jackson said. "It's unfortunate but it does happen in this sport."
The Browns placed Griffin on injured reserve -- under new NFL rules he can brought off the list -- and he could return at some point in 2016.
But there's no guarantee that will happen (NFL Network's Ian Rapoport suggested on Tuesday that it's quite unlikely Griffin returns this year) and the 26-year-old has sustained another setback to a career filled with promise when he burst into the NFL as a dual-threat QB in 2012.
"He's been through a lot," Jackson said. "He gets it. He understands it's unfortunate that it happened. He worked extremely hard. But he also understands that there's a bigger plan.
"Sometimes he's not in control of everything, and it was unfortunate that it happened. But I think he's seen enough situations and been in enough in this league to understand that things happen in due time and that you've got to work through this and be prepared when the next opportunity comes."
Jackson didn't accuse Mills of a dirty hit, and said the timing was such that Griffin, who was also slightly pushed from cornerback Ron Brooks, couldn't avoid contact.
"I don't think the guy was trying to hurt Robert," Jackson said.
"The guy was out of bounds himself and I think he reacted to this player running at him and at the last minute, I think they both seen each other and that was the reaction."
Despite being injured and in obvious pain, Griffin, who was checked by Cleveland's medical staff when he got to the sideline, returned to the field for the final series. While favoring his left arm, Griffin only handed the ball off.
"He wanted to be out there with his teammates," Jackson said. "I don't think anybody knew to the extent of the injury. We're all tough guys, we go out there and play and we want to stay out there with our teammates and finish the game. That's a credit to Robert."
With Griffin out, veteran Josh McCown will start this week's home opener against Baltimore. McCown, who coincidentally sustained a concussion on the opening drive in his debut with Cleveland last season, went 1-7 in eight starts but passed for 457 yards in a win over the Ravens.
McCown was the subject of trade talks during the offseason, but the Browns are glad they hung on to him.
"That's why we kept Josh here, because he knows how to play and he's been in this league and understands our offense and what we're trying to accomplish," Jackson said.
"It's unfortunate that this happened to Robert, but it is comforting to know that we have a guy that's played in NFL games and knows how to manage games."
McCown is excited by his new chance, but not at the expense of seeing Griffin get hurt.
"It's just heartbreaking because I know how much he wants to be out there with his guys fighting for his team," McCown said.
Adding insult to injury, the Browns were beaten Sunday by Eagles rookie quarterback Carson Wentz, who shined in his debut.
The Browns passed on a chance to take Wentz and traded the No. 2 overall pick to Philadelphia, but Jackson said the team isn't second-guessing that decision.
"That was one game, and he played well," Jackson said. "We'll look back and see where he is over a period of time, but the Browns gotta get better. ..."
That's not a high bar.
The Browns were invisible on offense until constructing a seven-play, 75-yard touchdown march midway through the second quarter to cut Philly's lead to 10-7. Prior to that drive, the Eagles had seven first downs to zero for Cleveland. The tone of the game shifted when Griffin hit Terrelle Pryor on a 44-yard bomb that set up that first score, but the quarterback -- 12 of 26 for 190 yards -- later saw an off-target pass to rookie Corey Coleman tipped and picked off.
The rookie wideout made up for it with a 58-yard grab in the second half, but Cleveland's offense looked like a deep-ball-or-bust operation. Griffin wasn't helped by a nonexistent ground game or by second-year center Cam Erving, who floated a snap over RG3's head and out of the end zone for a game-changing safety.
McCown could change that boom or bust attack. As ESPN.com's Pat McManamon noted the veteran has played well and can deliver the ball from the pocket, a facet of the game that Griffin struggled to master. McCown also is 2-1 against the Ravens with an overall passer rating of 96.7.
The Browns at least know what McCown is capable of accomplishing.
Tight end Gary Barnidge dropped two passes in the first half and did not make a catch Sunday. But he caught 79 passes last season and there's reason to believe he'll fare better under McCown than he did with Griffin focused on the deeper balls. The same could be said for running back Duke Johnson.
Meanwhile, the final numbers show the Browns averaged 5.7 yards a carry, but they are deceiving because running back Isaiah Crowell carried the last three plays of the game and rushed for 40 of his 62 yards when the score was already 29-10.
Crowell did score the Browns' only touchdown on a 2-yard run. The Browns don't get to develop their run offense playing from behind. Griffin rushed for 37 yards on five carries but he paid for it.
One last note here: Pryor was practicing in full on Wednesday after coming up with an injured shoulder against the Eagles.
QBs: Baker Mayfield, Tyrod Taylor, Drew Stanton
RBs: Nick Chubb, Duke Johnson
WRs: Jarvis Landry, Antonio Callaway, Rashard Higgins, Damion Ratley, Breshad Perriman, Derrick Willies
TEs: David Njoku, Darren Fells, Randall Telfer, Seth DeValve
Dallas CowboysCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 14 September 2016
As ESPN.com's Todd Archer framed it, "Make that 1-14 in their past 15 games without Tony Romo. ..."
This after Dak Prescott was unable to rally the Dallas Cowboys to a victory in the first start of his career, though it was hardly his fault in Sunday's 20-19 defeat to the New York Giants at AT&T Stadium.
With no timeouts and 1:05 to play, Prescott had a chance. He got the Cowboys to the New York 40 but Terrance Williams did not run out of bounds when he had the chance, and the clock expired on the Cowboys and Prescott's heroics.
The Cowboys followed their blueprint from two seasons ago with a balanced attack designed to control the clock, but they forgot to do what they did so well in 2014: Score touchdowns.
They had to settle for four Dan Bailey field goals, including three in the first half and two when they got inside the red zone. Dez Bryant had a 24-yard touchdown catch overturned by replay in the second quarter, forcing the Cowboys to settle for a 25-yarder by Bailey. On the first drive of the game, Cole Beasley was unable to come down with a high throw on a slant and the Cowboys settled for a 23-yard field goal by Bailey.
Those two plays alone set a different tenor to the game.
The Cowboys were unable to get Dez Bryant the ball. He was limited to one catch for 8 yards, marking just the seventh time in his career he was held to one catch or fewer in a game. Ezekiel Elliott recorded an 8-yard touchdown in the third quarter, but he finished with just 51 yards on 20 carries as the Giants loaded the box to stop the rookie running back.
"I think I was average [Sunday]," Elliott said after the game. "That's not why I was brought here to be average, so we've got a lot of work to get done."
No doubt. But ESPN.com's Jean-Jacques Taylor advised readers this is a time for perspective not panic.
If you watched the game then you know Elliott didn't have many holes. The Giants attacked the line of scrimmage, and guards Zack Martin and La'el Collins and center Travis Frederick each struggled at various times. The Giants' defensive ends, Olivier Vernon and Jason Pierre-Paul, are good against the run, making it difficult to attack the perimeter.
The Cowboys rushed for 101 yards on 30 carries, a 3.4 average. That's not nearly enough production for a team that prides itself on being a physical running team.
"We have to be very critical of ourselves," Martin said. "We have to run the ball better."
On the rare occasion the Cowboys' line did create a running lane, Alfred Morris was in the game. He had runs of 7, 9 and 13 yards among his seven carries. Occasionally, experience trumps talent. In the last five years, Morris has carried the ball 1,092 times --140 times in 10 games against the Giants -- while Elliott carried the ball seven times in the preseason after a tight hamstring kept him out of the first two preseason games.
"I'm used to running against the New York Giants. I know their scheme and what they're doing," Morris said. "I was just able to find holes. I was able to get a little more rhythm than Zeke was able to get. It's going to come for him. Every time you're out there, you want a home run, but that's not going to happen all the time. You can't get discouraged. "
Until he has a big game, Elliott will remain burdened by his own expectations far more than the expectations of others. On his touchdown run, Elliott showed why the Cowboys drafted him.
He started left, read the middle linebacker and cut back right, accelerated through a hole and dove into the end zone. Vision. Patience. Quickness, Speed. Desire. All in one five-second burst.
"I was hoping to have a better day for sure," Elliott said. "The type of guy I am, the type of competitor I am, I'm a little bit disappointed. But you've got to start somewhere. ..."
Other notes of interest. ... Prescott was efficient, completing 25 of 45 passes for 227 yards with no touchdowns and no interceptions. But Prescott needs to think bigger -- as in Bryant -- and head coach Jason Garrett and offensive coordinator Scott Linehan need to be more aggressive in his play calling.
It's okay to take some deep shots.
Tight end Jason Witten and Beasley combined for 17 catches for 131 yards. But they couldn't finish in the end zone. This offense needs to threaten opponents deep in order to maximize their potential. ...
A few more notes here. ... Witten (currently at 1,029 catches) made a team-high nine receptions to surpass Isaac Bruce (1,024) for ninth place on the NFL's all-time receptions list.
And finally. ... Romo was on the Cowboys sideline Sunday helping out Prescott. Romo remains sidelined with a fractured bone his back. Owner Jerry Jones said his starting quarterback expects to return to the lineup "sooner rather than later."
Romo had X-rays on the compression fracture in his back last week.
"Everything is fine, not fine, but is on go," Jones said. "(The X-rays showed) nothing that would in any way get in the area of a setback or would show concern."
Romo injured his back in the Aug. 25 exhibition game against the Seahawks. The Cowboys did not place Romo on short-term injured reserve, hoping for his return for the Oct. 30 game against the Philadelphia Eagles. But they have not ruled out the Oct. 16 game against the Green Bay Packers for Romo to get back on the field.
QBs: Dak Prescott, Cooper Rush, Mike White
RBs: Ezekiel Elliott, Rod Smith
WRs: Amari Cooper, Cole Beasley, Michael Gallup, Allen Hurns, Tavon Austin
TEs: Geoff Swaim, Blake Jarwin, Dalton Schultz, Rico Gathers
Denver BroncosCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 14 September 2016
According to ESPN.com's Jeff Legwold, the feeling among the Broncos' decision-makers in the wake of last Thursday's win over the Panthers is their collective gut was right about Trevor Siemian.
He didn't play a prime-time opener, a Super Bowl rematch, flawlessly, but he did operate with the kind of poise the Broncos want and the kind of poise the Broncos believed he had. The two interceptions got plenty of review, but so did the two second-half scoring drives.
"I know there's plenty of work to do," Siemian said Monday as the Broncos began preparation for the Indianapolis Colts, whom they play at home on Sunday. "I really just kind of try to live in the moment, do what needs to be done."
But the fact Siemian never looked out of place in a job he just formally won about 10 days before the opener spoke volumes.
"The thing I think I'm most impressed with is just watching him operate the group, first time out, first start in the NFL," Broncos coach Gary Kubiak said. "We didn't have to waste a timeout, we didn't get a call wrong. He handled the operation really well. The guys were confident in him handling the huddle and also doing it from 10 points down against a group like that. So, I think his poise was a big step in the right direction. We've got a lot of things we've got to clean up but it was a nice first step."
Siemian finished 18-of-26 passing for 178 yards to go with a touchdown and the two interceptions. But he rebounded from the interceptions – the passes were intercepted at the Panthers' 32- and 11-yard lines respectively – to help the Broncos come back from a 17-7 deficit at halftime.
"That's that cool and calm we've seen even last year in practice," cornerback Chris Harris Jr. said. "Trevor faced our defense every day in practice. He knows how to play."
While the Broncos had some communication issues on defense (two 12-men on the field penalties) and on special teams, the offense steered clear of major substitution problems.
The new look line in front of Siemian, particularly tackles Russell Okung and Donald Stephenson, also performed as the Broncos' had hoped. Siemian was sacked twice against one of the more difficult defensive fronts in the league, and the Broncos rushed for 148 yards against the Panthers.
"Well, I'm encouraged [by the offensive line]," Kubiak said. "That's the biggest thing. ... I'm encouraged by what we can be. I was very encouraged by our tackle play. I thought Michael Schofield getting his first start at guard, which he earned, played well. Matt Paradis ran the group. We faced a lot of different fronts, a lot of different groups, and Matt really handled the group well."
C.J. Anderson led the Broncos with 139 yards from scrimmage and scored two touchdowns, both in the fourth quarter. He averaged 4.6 yards on his 20 carries, picking up 92 yards. Rookie Devontae Booker had a rough night. He fumbled once and missed blitz pickup on Kurt Coleman, leading to Siemian's second interception.
Fullback Andy Janovich was the revelation; he delivered good work as a blocker and rumbled 28 yards for the Broncos' first touchdown.
And the good news this week?
The Colts surrendered 448 total yards in their season-opening loss to the Detroit Lions on Sunday – 116 rushing and 332 passing. The Lions scored on six of 10 drives in the game – their 11th possession was a kneel-down just before halftime. ...
On the injury front. ... Wide receiver Demaryius Thomas did not practice Monday morning, but is expected to return to practice Wednesday, Head Coach Gary Kubiak said at his press conference as the Broncos returned from an off weekend following the Thursday night win over Carolina.
"We rested him today," Kubiak said. "My expectations are for him to be ready to go Wednesday. He was feeling pretty good today."
Thomas suffered a hip injury early in the game, but played through it.
"He came out early, went back in and played well. I think he was sore," Kubiak said. "But he had a couple of days, he's had some good treatment and could have practiced today if we wanted him to, but we'll hold off until Wednesday."
Thomas was indeed on the practice field Wednesday. But Denver Post staffer Cameron Wolfe advised his Twitter followers: "Just my observation: [Thomas] keeps grabbing his hip while going through drills. Seen some grimacing, too. Something to watch."
Thomas was officially listed as a limited participant in the session.
On a more positive note, receiver Bennie Fowler returned to practice Monday on "pretty much a full" basis, Kubiak said. The practice was Fowler's first since he suffered an elbow fracture against the Bears on Aug. 11. Fowler will be "day-to-day," Kubiak added.
Tight end Jeff Heuerman, who was inactive last week because of the hamstring injury he suffered Aug. 17, is also progressing.
"He's doing good," Kubiak said. "Our expectations are for him to be available [against the Colts], but I think it will be a day-to-day process. We'll see how it goes."
Offensive lineman Ty Sambrailo also continued to make progress as he works his way back to full health following his July 31 elbow injury.
"I would say today is probably the first day that we've sent him on the field with no limitations," Kubiak said. "So this week will be important."
I'll be following up on Thomas (and the other relevant Broncos) when Late-Breaking Updates crank up early Thursday.
QBs: Case Keenum, Paxton Lynch, Kevin Hogan
RBs: Phillip Lindsay, Royce Freeman, Devontae Booker
WRs: Courtland Sutton, Daesean Hamilton, Andre Holmes, Jordan Taylor, Jordan Leslie, Carlos Henderson
TEs: Matt LaCosse
Detroit LionsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 14 September 2016
As ESPN.com's Michael Rothstein reminded readers this week, Jim Bob Cooter said his offense would be different. Quarterback Matthew Stafford insisted it as well. And after seeing it deployed fully for the first time, some things became clear with the new-look Detroit Lions.
They will diversify. They will use their running backs on receiving routes to get them in space. And at least for one week, it'll work like it did in Detroit's 39-35 win over Indianapolis on Sunday.
Stafford threw to running backs Ameer Abdullah and Theo Riddick 10 times against the Colts. They caught all 10 passes for 120 yards and two touchdowns. They also found a sustained running game in Cooter's new offense, with Detroit running backs carrying 21 times for 109 yards and two touchdowns -- one by Riddick and another by rookie Dwayne Washington.
It's the first time the Lions have had three running backs score a touchdown in the same game since 2005.
The Lions ranked last in the NFL in rushing last year at a paltry 83.4 yards per game. There's no telling how much better they'll be this fall, but one week into the season they're off to a good start.
Meanwhile, throw in another five receptions and a touchdown to the tight ends -- Eric Ebron had five catches for 46 yards and a score -- and it's a much different offense than what the Lions ran when Calvin Johnson was with the franchise.
The focus of this offense has been to use short passes to create space for the skill players -- almost all of whom are shifty and fast with good hands -- to make plays and convert first downs. It's an offense that clearly will revolve around sustained drives instead of big-play bop. And it proved to be somewhat boom-or-bust.
The Lions either scored touchdowns or went three-and-out. On five drives, they scored a touchdown. On three, they couldn't notch a first down. The last drive of the game was the only one that didn't go that way -- and it was the one that ended with the game-winning field goal for Matt Prater.
Even that drive encapsulated what Stafford does so well. He led the two-minute offense -- an area in which he's always looked comfortable -- with precision and efficiency. He used his safety valve, Riddick, his tight end in Ebron and his new acquisition, Marvin Jones.
It's an offense that -- for at least one day -- seemed to work well even without their now-retired former superstar.
And of course, Sunday's game presented a situation Stafford has faced many times as he drove the Lions into field-goal range for the 21st come-from-behind win in his career and his 13th in the last two minutes of a game.
Earlier in the week, Stafford said he needed to take more leadership with the offense. And on Sunday he did, getting his teammates to believe.
He completed 31 of his 39 passes for 340 yards, three touchdowns, no interceptions and only a couple of throws that were really questionable at all. Stafford wasn't perfect, but the moxie he has always shown in late-game situations with his team needing a score to win showed up again.
"That's the ringleader," Ebron said. "And we just all stick together."
A few related items. ... Stafford made another move up the all-time passing charts in the season opener. And the man he moved past is a big name -- former quarterback and current Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh.
Harbaugh had 26,288 passing yards in his career with four teams (Bears, Colts, Ravens and Chargers). Stafford now has 26,316 passing yards, moving into 63rd place. He could catch some Hall of Famers soon. Bobby Layne -- the old Lions quarterback -- is next on the list at 26,768 and Joe Namath, Ken Stabler and Terry Bradshaw are all within 2,000 yards of Stafford's current total.
With his three touchdown passes, Stafford also moved past former Cowboys quarterback Troy Aikman in career touchdown passes. He's now at 166 TD passes, tied for No. 64 with Brad Johnson.
Also according to Rothstein, Stafford's 79.5 completion percentage against the Colts (31-of-39) was the third-best completion percentage of his career. It was also the best completion percentage in the NFL last week. He's thrown at an 80 percent completion rate twice -- in 2011 against San Diego (80.6) and last season against New Orleans (88.0).
His 128.6 passer rating was the sixth-best of his career and the third time in his past nine games he has put up a passer rating at least that high along with games against the Saints and Eagles last season. It was the second-highest passer rating in the NFL last week, behind Drew Brees (131.3).
Anquan Boldin also moved up the all-time NFL receiving yards list. With his 35 yards Sunday, he is now the No. 16 receiver all-time with 13,230 yards. He passed Hall of Famer Andre Reed, who had 13,198 receiving yards from 1985 to 2000.
Also worth noting. ... Washington played as the Lions' goal-line back Sunday, ahead of the inactive Zach Zenner. Washington, a rookie seventh-round pick. According to Rothstein, Zenner is trending down at this point. ...
Receiver Andre Roberts handled most kick and punt returns on Sunday as the Lions held Abdullah (kicks) and Tate (punts) mostly out of special teams. Abdullah did line up for the Lions' final kick return, after the Colts took a short-lived 35-34 lead.
Matt Prater missed the extra point that forced the Lions to play from behind late, but he made the game-winning 43-yard field goal in what he called a "redemption kick."
QBs: Matthew Stafford, Matt Cassel
RBs: LeGarrette Blount, Theo Riddick, Zach Zenner, Kerryon Johnson
WRs: Kenny Golladay, Bruce Ellington, TJ Jones, Brandon Powell
TEs: Michael Roberts, Luke Willson, Levine Toilolo
Green Bay PackersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 14 September 2016
According to ESPN.com's Rob Demovsky, this is what an offense with a deep-threat tight end, an experienced receiver and a healthy array of complementary weapons can do for the Packers.
And it sure looked a lot different than the group that scuffled through last season.
Demovsky stressed it's not yet a well-oiled machine -- after all, it was the first time quarterback Aaron Rodgers and Jordy Nelson played a game together in nearly 13 months -- but in a 27-23 road win over the Jaguars, it was an acceptable start to a season chock-full of expectations.
In Sunday's Florida heat -- at 90 degrees it tied for the third-hottest game in Packers history -- Green Bay's offense was an improved version of the unit that ranked 23rd in the NFL last season.
Rodgers enjoyed the spoils that an offseason provided -- the addition of free-agent tight end Jared Cook (who drew a key pass interference penalty), a recovered Jordy Nelson and a deep receiver group with two rejuvenated players in Randall Cobb and Davante Adams.
Together, it provided an optimistic start to the season, even though it took about a quarter of football to get going.
As NFL.com's Gregg Rosenthal noted, Nelson, in his first game since he tore the ACL in his right knee in the 2015 preseason, averaged 5.3 yards-per-catch on six grabs and only wound up with 32 yards receiving total on nine targets. His timing was off with Rodgers in multiple occasions and Green Bay was not able to move the ball vertically.
For all of Rodgers' time in the pocket and great plays, he averaged 5.9 yards-per-attempt.
The key to the whole thing against the Jaguars might have been something that won't show up on the Packers' offensive stat sheet. Cook, the lanky and speedy tight end who signed a one-year, $2.75 million deal with Green Bay after the Rams cut him, ran down the seam and drew a 30-yard pass interference penalty. It was the perfect start to a two-minute scoring drive that ended with perhaps one of the best plays of the NFL's opening Sunday of 2016: Rodgers' 29-yard touchdown pass to a diving Adams.
Not many quarterbacks have the arm strength to make that throw, particularly with Jags cornerback Jalen Ramsey grabbing the back of Rodgers' jersey.
But it wasn't a flawless day. While trying to run out the clock late in the fourth quarter, Rodgers had to burn a timeout, and the Packers followed that with an inexcusable delay of game penalty that turned a third-and-short into a third-and-long and then a punt.
Previously, an apparent miscommunication between Rodgers and the offensive line on third-and-goal from the 2 saw the line pass-blocking while Rodgers handed off to James Starks, who got stuffed.
So it's safe to say there's plenty for McCarthy's offense to figure out before Sunday night's early-season NFC North showdown at Minnesota.
There was, for example, a late fourth-quarter possession that Rodgers called "embarrassing" when they failed to gain even a single first down in an effort to run out the clock forcing the defense to seal the win.
"It felt good, but hey, there's things I need to do a better job of, and getting in the flow that you want on offense is challenging," head coach Mike McCarthy said. "It was important for us to move the ball in the second half, [and] we weren't maybe as aggressive as I would have liked."
"I don't think we played very well offensively," said Rodgers, who threw for just 199 yards but tossed a pair of touchdown passes and ran for another. "Two bad red-zone trips and a really embarrassing last drive, but we won. It's tough to win in this league; it's tough to win on the road. We're 1-0, and we're going back to Minnesota with a chance to open up that stadium. There's a lot of football left in the season."
Indeed, and it's safe to say there was still an assortment of riches compared to what Rodgers had at the end of last season, when he was down to the likes of Jeff Janis and Jared Abbrederis in his receiving corps in the playoff loss at Arizona.
With Rodgers throwing for two touchdowns and running for another, he now has the kind of weapons that he needs going into this week's divisional matchup against the Vikings. ...
Meanwhile, the oppressive heat as well as Jacksonville's early dominance with time of possession diminished the touches for Eddie Lacy.
The lead back had just 14 carries and mustered 61 yards. Still, Lacy was productive when he had to be in key spots. He easily converted a fourth-and-1 from the Jaguars' 20-yard line during Green Bay's first series with a powerful 9-yard run up the middle, and the Packers cashed in two plays later with a 6-yard touchdown keeper from Rodgers. Tremendous combination blocking up front allowed Lacy to cut a run out to the right back inside and in the clear for 28 yards into the red zone in the third quarter before the Packers settled for a short field goal.
Lacy's top backup, Starks, was ineffective with just 7 yards on four carries.
One last note here. ... Less than two weeks after cutting Pro Bowl guard Josh Sitton, the Green Bay Packers made a long-term investment in a different offensive lineman -- left tackle David Bakhtiari.
The NFL Network first reported that the deal is worth up to $51.67 million, which would put Bakhtiari among the top-five highest paid offensive tackles in the NFL.
QBs: Aaron Rodgers, DeShone Kizer
RBs: Aaron Jones, Jamaal Williams
WRs: Davante Adams, Randall Cobb, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Equanimeous St. Brown, J'mon Moore, Jake Kumerow, Trevor Davis
TEs: Jimmy Graham, Marcedes Lewis, Lance Kendricks
Houston TexansCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 14 September 2016
As ESPN.com's Sara Barshop noted, the Texans spent the offseason retooling their offense, and it paid off as quarterback Brock Osweiler led the Texans to a 23-14 victory against the Chicago Bears.
Osweiler, who signed a big four-year, $72 million contract with the Texans in March, was 23-of-35 for 231 yards with two touchdowns and an interception. Head coach Bill O'Brien said that although there are always things to work on, Osweiler showed good poise running the offense on Sunday.
Free-agent acquisition Lamar Miller had 28 carries for 106 yards, and first-round wide receiver Will Fuller had five receptions for 107 yards and a touchdown. All-Pro DeAndre Hopkins also had a touchdown to go with five receptions for 54 yards.
"We knew our offense would work," Hopkins said. "It's proven to work, and having a quarterback like Brock (Osweiler) go out there and demand the best from everybody – the offensive line, to the tight ends, even the guys on the bench. Practicing the way we practice and just trying to execute everything 100 percent, it showed today."
Hopkins said if the Texans can continue to get everyone involved, they can create a lot of options and cause problems for opposing defenses.
"It's very difficult [for defenses]," said Hopkins, who had five catches for 54 yards and a touchdown. "You have to pick your poison -- who you want to double-team, who you want to focus on. Lamar Miller running like he is, that creates a lot of options for us."
Last season, the Texans had more of a passing look because they were without starting running back Arian Foster for most of the year. With all the new additions, the Texans have the tools to spread around the offense.
"When I watch the tape, I'm sure that they doubled DeAndre quite a bit, and I would, too," O'Brien said. "He had 111 catches last year and a bunch of yards. He's a great player. I'm sure that they did that. We had a couple – we were able to hit a touchdown, which was great, and then Will was able to catch a few and make some plays."
Osweiler finished 23-of-35 for 231 yards with two touchdowns and an interception. Miller had 28 carries for 106 yards while Fuller was targeted six times with throws 20 or more yards downfield and he led the Texans in targets, catches and yards in his first game. As Pro Football Focus noted, he also took a screen pass to the house, showcasing his speed and open-field running ability.
Though Hopkins and Fuller led the team in receptions and yardage on Sunday, the Texans had eight players who had a catch in Sunday's game.
Regardless of who caught the passes for the Texans' offense, Hopkins said he knew how good the offense could be after watching it come together during training camp and the preseason.
"We knew our offense would work," Hopkins said. "It's proven to work, and having a quarterback like Brock go out there and demand the best from everybody -- the offensive line, to the tight ends, even the guys on the bench. Practicing the way we practice and just trying to execute everything 100 percent, it showed [Sunday]."
But make no mistake about it: Miller was the clear focal point of the offense in the opener. Miller was the workhorse, with all other backs earning a combined three carries.
And the heavy workload likely will become the norm for Miller this year.
"Just coming here, an organization that's a winning organization and just getting the opportunity to show my skill set and my ability, it feels good so far," Miller said.
"I think you need to run the ball," O'Brien said. "I learned that lesson a long time ago calling plays in this league, that if you stick with it, if you stick with it, in the end that really helps your balance, that helps your play-action game, that helps you stay on schedule, you're in more third-and-5s, third-and-4s, instead of being third-and-10s because you're incomplete or whatever it is.
"I talked to Lamar a lot about that in the offseason, ‘Stay patient. Not every play is going to be a home run.' I think that's the way he approached it [on Sunday]."
Miller said he tried to take that approach against the Bears, and that he was happy to have 32 touches on Sunday.
"It felt good," Miller said. "I think the coaches did a great job of keeping it a balanced offense, whether it was throwing the ball or running the ball. I think the offensive line did a great job early on in the game to get me in a groove. I just tried to get positive yards."
Miller said when he signed with the Texans, O'Brien told him that he would have a big role in the offense, so he prepared this offseason for the increased workload.
Miller was the only player in the league to have more than 100 rushing yards on Sunday.
"I have a lot of confidence," Miller said. "I always have a lot of confidence in myself. I feel like as a player, I still have a lot of room for improvement. I just have to be more decisive running the ball. I know in the second half, I was trying to be too patient at times. Once I see a crease, I just have to hit the hole and just get those two or three yards. ..."
Although the Texans' defense had a shaky start, it settled down, shutting out the Bears in the second half. Early in the game, the Texans' secondary had trouble containing Bears Pro Bowl receiver Alshon Jeffery and receiver Eddie Royal. Jeffery finished with four catches for 105 yards, all of which came in the first half.
QBs: Deshaun Watson, Brandon Weeden
RBs: Lamar Miller, Alfred Blue, D'Onta Foreman
WRs: DeAndre Hopkins, Demaryius Thomas, Keke Coutee, Sammie Coates, DeAndre Carter
TEs: Ryan Griffin, Jordan Akins, Jordan Thomas
Indianapolis ColtsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 14 September 2016
The same old issues continue to be problems for Indianapolis: Slow starts on offense and shoddy play on defense.
Both were in full view over the course of the Colts' 39-35 home-field loss to Detroit on Sunday. And as the Sports Xchange suggests, they are issues that must be fixed as much before Indianapolis heads to Denver this week.
What can head coach Chuck Pagano's team do about the slow starts? And what about the inability to get off the field on defense when it's needed most?
"That is a great question because obviously we haven't solved the problem yet," Pagano said. "One suffers because the other. We can't get off the field, they were 75 percent on third down in the first half. Then you go three-and-out, you punt and you go three-and-out and punt and the next thing you know you are up over 30 plays on the defensive side of the football. It has to be better."
The truth is, owner Jim Irsay was giving his team too much credit when he said it would need to score at least 24 points to beat the Lions.
As ESPN.com's Mike Wells put it: "At this rate, Andrew Luck and the Colts' offense will have to score 40-plus points a game if they expect to have any kind success this season, because they can't depend on their defense to help them out on a consistent basis."
And from a fantasy perspective that's just fine.
Their 35 points against Detroit were the most for the team in a regular-season opener since Sept. 6, 2007 (41-10 win vs. New Orleans). Indianapolis totaled 450 yards of net offense, which was the most for the team dating back to Nov. 30, 2014 (487 yards vs. Washington).
A big reason for those totals lie in the fact Indy gave up 448 total yards of offense to Detroit and sacked Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford only once.
Tackling in general was a big problem against the Lions.
How bad? The Lions had 213 yards after the catch on five of Stafford's passes.
"We have to tackle better and we didn't do a great job," Pagano said. "We talked all week about their backs and their receivers, Golden Tate and Anquan Boldin, those guys. You have to limit yards after contact.
"We had multiple opportunities to make plays in their backfield and we couldn't close it out and it cost us. It cost us a lot of extra yards, (receiving after catch) yards. We said early on that that was one thing that we had to do a better job of."
Now comes a tough task of facing the defending Super Bowl champion Broncos.
Remember: The Colts are decimated by injuries on defense. They went into the game without two of their top three cornerbacks, without the starting safety and without a defensive lineman who started the first nine games last season before suffering a torn ACL. Three of their four cornerbacks were signed Aug. 22 or later. It got worse when they lost rookie starting safety T.J. Green and cornerback Patrick Robinson in the game.
The good news?
Luck proved that he's not dealing with any shoulder issues when he threw for 385 yards and four touchdowns against the Lions. He ended the day with a 119.5 passer rating.
"The quarterback is obviously OK -- I know everybody was very concerned about the quarterback," Pagano said. "He is fine. I think that was proven [Sunday], that's the least of our worries."
Luck may be fine, but Wells advised readers it won't be surprising if the quarterback is listed on the injury report when it comes out after Wednesday's practice. The Colts had Luck listed as limited, which raised some concern, on their injury report last week because of his right shoulder.
Don't get worried, though.
Luck said the Colts have had a plan in place for quite some time on how they want to manage his body.
"There's a plan that's been in place for a long time and it may not be perceptible to the casual observer, but I think it's a great plan," he said. "If I need to be on the injury report because that's what the rules say, then hey, I'm on the injury report. So what?"
Does it bother Luck that he's having to continue to answer questions about his shoulder, which caused him to miss two games last season?
"No, it's not frustrating," he said. "I assume you guys will ask the one question and it will be the same answer for the rest of the year, so I hope you don't ask it anymore."
Other notes of interest. ... Indianapolis rushed for 82 yards as a team, led by Frank Gore's 59 yards in 14 carries. As a team, the Colts averaged 4.3 yards per rush with an 11-yard scramble by Luck as the longest run of the game. Running back Robert Turbin and rookie running back Josh Ferguson both got playing time as well for Indianapolis.
Wideout Phillip Dorsett had his best game since being drafted last season as he led Indianapolis against Detroit with four receptions for 94 yards. Dorsett had long catches of 51 and 33 yards, which both led to touchdowns. The 51-yard catch was a career-long.
Tight end Jack Doyle notched three receptions for 35 yards and a single-game career-high two touchdowns. Doyle tied the game with his 16-yard touchdown reception in the fourth quarter. He then gave the Colts a 35-34 advantage with his 6-yard TD catch with 37 seconds remaining in the contest.
The problem for fantasy owners is neither man is the primary weapon at his respective position; it's hard to count on consistent weekly production from either with such a narrow band of data to work from. That said, both are worth watching in coming weeks. ...
And finally. ... With two field goals in the loss to the Lions, place-kicker Adam Vinatieri improved his streak to 27 consecutive conversions dating back to the 2015 season. The streak currently ranks fourth in franchise history.
QBs: Andrew Luck, Jacoby Brissett
RBs: Marlon Mack, Jordan Wilkins, Nyheim Hines
WRs: T.Y. Hilton, Dontrelle Inman, Ryan Grant, Chester Rogers, Zach Pascal
TEs: Eric Ebron, Mo Alie-Cox, Ryan Hewitt
Jacksonville JaguarsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 14 September 2016
According to ESPN.com's Mike DiRocco, the Jacksonville Jaguars believe they're close to turning the corner and are legitimately ready to compete with the rest of the league.
That was certainly the general feeling inside the locker room following Sunday's 27-23 loss to the Green Bay Packers at EverBank Field. The players were upset at having lost a game they had a chance to win in the final minute, but once that disappointment began to fade they admitted the franchise has made progress to be competitive with one of the best teams in the NFL.
And the fact is, when you're 12-36, with 24 losses by double digits, over the past three seasons, taking the Green Bay Packers down to the final minute is progress.
The Jaguars held the Packers to two touchdowns on four red zone trips -- that had been a huge problem area the past three seasons -- and held Rodgers to 199 yards passing.
Don't misunderstand: The Jaguars aren't taking this as a moral victory. Clearly, the players were upset by the loss, but they are encouraged by what happened Sunday.
"You can also learn from a game whether it's a win or a loss, but when it comes down to it we want to finish out the game and get these wins," Hurns said. "It's been a tough time for us and this organization these last couple years but I think we're headed in the right direction. We just have to finish the game off."
There is certainly work to be done.
The Jaguars' defense allowed the Packers to convert half of their 14 third downs and the pass rush struggled to get to Rodgers. In addition, the Jaguars averaged just 1.8 yards per carry, converted just 4 of 15 third downs, and Bortles was sacked three times.
Yet despite that, the Jaguars had a chance to win, which hasn't happened often the past three seasons.
"You know, as far as saying if we played them last year they would have beaten us 28-14, and the year before that they may have beaten us 48-0, I don't know," Bortles said. "We believe we have a team here that has the ability to be successful. I think Gus, [GM] Dave [Caldwell] and [owner] Shad [Khan] have put all of the pieces in place and it's up to us to go out and play and be the best team on the field every time we go on it."
But they still need to win some games. ...
Other notes of interest. ... Running back Chris Ivory has been released from the hospital after two days, the team announced Tuesday.
No timetable has been set for Ivory's return and his status for Sunday's contest versus the Chargers remains uncertain.
The 28-year-old running back was a surprise inactive against the Packers after he was admitted to the hospital Sunday morning.
The Jaguars have not indicated the reason for Ivory's hospitalization. NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport previously reported the issue was unrelated to the calf trouble that landed Ivory in the questionable section of the team's injury report.
The Jags said Ivory is doing well after being discharged on Tuesday, but Ivory was not practicing on Wednesday.
I'll be following up on his progress via Late-Breaking Update as the week progresses. ...
T.J. Yeldon's 1.9-yard average per carry was the worst of his career. His previous low was 2.8. Yeldon finished with 39 yards on 21 carries with a long gain of 7 yards.
Bortles passed for 320 yards against Green Bay. A year ago, Bortles had six 300-plus passing games. Bradley thinks Bortles is doing a better job with quicker reads. "It appears to be that because of is understanding of where he wants to go with the ball. He was really on his reads," Bradley said of Bortles.
The Jaguars have two of the best young and talented wide receivers in the NFL in Allen Robinson and Hurns. But in Sunday's game, they gave special attention to the tight end position where Julius Thomas and Marcedes Lewis caught all six passes directed their way.
Thomas had five receptions for 64 yards and a picturesque 29-yard touchdown grab from Blake Bortles. Lewis had two catches, one of which he rumbled up field for a 37-yard gain, the Jaguars' biggest offensive play of the game.
"It was great to see that dude run with that long gain," Thomas said of Lewis' big play. "The guy is 6-7, 270 pounds with great balance and strength. He can surprise people in the open field.
"It's good for our offense (when the tight ends produce). You know we have great receivers, but the more we can do to give the defenders something to think about, it's only going to help us all. We want to take advantage of our opportunities. It's a highly skilled group."
Getting Lewis involved in the offense is key. A year ago, the veteran tight end caught just 16 passes despite starting all 16 games. The year before, he had just 18 receptions. During the previous seven years, he had averaged just under 40 catches a season.
Worth noting: Bradley said after the game that Thomas had suffered a sprained ankle, but the star tight end was working fully on Wednesday; as with Ivory, I'll also have more on Thomas' status in the Late-Breaking Updates section. For now, assume Thomas will be ready to go, however. ...
Robinson finished with six catches for 72 yards, but there were nine more passes thrown his way. At least two of those, maybe more, could have been flagged for pass interference. The 2015 Pro Bowler took the high road.
"It's not about the calls," Robinson said. "Blake gave me a ton of opportunities to make a play. I've got to make more plays. Seeing that that's how the game is being called, I've got to adjust my physicality to the game."
Fellow receiver Marqise Lee placed the blame elsewhere.
"I don't know what the refs were looking at," Lee said. "We had some (penalties) we felt should have been called."
QBs: Cody Kessler, Blake Bortles
RBs: Carlos Hyde, T.J. Yeldon, Leonard Fournette
WRs: Dede Westbrook, Donte Moncrief, D.J. Chark, Rashad Greene, Keelan Cole
TEs: James O'Shaughnessy, Ben Koyack, Niles Paul
Kansas City ChiefsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 14 September 2016
As ESPN.com's Adam Teicher framed it: "The Chiefs were a team of two halves on Sunday against the San Diego Chargers, dismal and looking lost in the first half but confident and very much a contender to win the AFC West in the second.
"For now, after rallying from a 21-point third-quarter deficit to beat the Chargers 33-27 in overtime, they can live with being either team -- or both. They're 1-0 after reclaiming a game that early on appeared lost."
Hopefully we'll find out which team the real Chiefs are this Sunday, when they face the Texans in Houston.
The Chiefs' defense showed signs during the preseason that the start of the regular season would be a struggle. Key starters in safety Eric Berry, linebacker Tamba Hali and cornerback Phillip Gaines played little or not at all in the preseason. In their absence, the starters played mostly porous run defense and had trouble generating much pass rush.
So yielding 27 points to the Chargers on Sunday wasn't much of a surprise.
But being held without a touchdown until late in the third quarter caught the Chiefs by surprise. The offense that scored 30 points in the final 23 minutes was more the type of attack they thought they would have.
Teicher reminded readers the Chiefs surrounded quarterback Alex Smith with the best supporting cast of offensive players since he arrived in 2013. They looked deeper at receiver and more stable on the offensive line. The offensive starters were productive throughout the preseason.
"Everybody has a great understanding for (what the offense is capable of) when we're playing well," Smith said. "We knew we weren't doing it. We weren't playing the way we were capable of."
It took a long time for the Chiefs to score; longer than they'd hoped. It almost cost them a game. Smith and his teammates were grateful that it didn't. ...
Meanwhile, Teicher went on to point out the Chiefs have two of the best players in the NFL at their respective positions in wide receiver Jeremy Maclin and tight end Travis Kelce. But their best receiver in Sunday's overtime win over the San Diego Chargers was a running back.
It was Spencer Ware, who had most of Kansas City's rushing yards with 70 on 11 carries. He had catches of 45, 28 and 20 yards, all on what would become scoring drives.
In fact, Ware caught seven of eight targets for 129 yards. That's more targets, catches and receiving yards than Ware had in all 13 of his career games entering the season combined (he caught six passes for five yards last season). Combined with his 6.4-yards-per-carry average on Sunday, that type of versatility will make him difficult for the Chiefs to bump from the lineup, even when Charles returns.
"He brings a lot of energy and he's an emotional player," head coach Andy Reid said. "He has a knack for making plays when you need them."
With ESPN's Ed Werder reporting on Tuesday that Charles could miss yet another game, Ware is going to be very a very popular man in Fantasy Nation again this weekend.
Remember, however: Both Ware and West were on the field for an equal number of snaps (34 each out of 71 offensive plays). The Chiefs also used one formation that placed Ware and West on the field at the same time.
For the record, Ware was held out of Wednesday's practice with a sore toe, but Ried said the injury won't be an issue against the Texans this weekend. Charles was working with the scout team on Wednesday with the coach telling reporters: "Every day he gets a little bit better."
I will, of course, be following up on Ware and Charles via Late-Breaking Update in coming days. ...
Other notes of interest. ... According to the Kansas City Star, the Chiefs leaned heavily on their "11" or three-wide personnel, as they called that an astounding 67 percent of the time. Some of that had to do with their large second-half deficit; the Chiefs ran all 24 of their fourth-quarter plays from the shotgun in "11" personnel. Chris Conley (61 snaps) is the clear No. 2 behind Maclin (65 snaps); Albert Wilson (49 snaps) spent most of his time in the slot while rookie Tyreek Hill (10 snaps) was the No. 4.
Hill even received some snaps in the slot in "11" personnel ahead of Wilson. That's worth monitoring going forward.
The Chiefs used "12" (two-tight end) personnel 15 percent of the time, and "13" (three tight-end) personnel 12 percent of the time. That made for a healthy amount of work for Kelce's backups. One thing that was interesting; late in the fourth quarter, when the Chiefs were trying to mount a comeback, there were times where Harris, not Kelce, was the only tight end on the field. Maybe it was a formation thing, or perhaps they were just trying to get Kelce some rest; they were operating in the no-huddle at that point.
Smith completed 34 of his 48 passing attempts against San Diego, both numbers are career highs. In the Chiefs record book, Smith now has 958 completed pass with K.C., jumping over Steve DeBerg with 934 catches. Against the Chargers, Smith also made it happen with his feet, scoring the winning touchdown in overtime with a 2-yard run. He now has a 9-0 record in games where he scores a running touchdown.
And finally. ... Maclin (head) was pulled on Sunday when he took a blow to the head from Chargers safety Jahleel Addae. Maclin made a 22-yard catch in the middle of the field before he took a helmet-to-helmet hit by Addae. Club personnel put Maclin through the NFL concussion testing and he was ultimately cleared to return to the game.
QBs: Patrick Mahomes, Chad Henne, Matthew McGloin
RBs: Damien Williams, Charcandrick West, Anthony Sherman, Spencer Ware
WRs: Tyreek Hill, Chris Conley, Demarcus Robinson, Marcus Kemp, De'Anthony Thomas
TEs: Travis Kelce, Demetrius Harris
Los Angeles RamsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 14 September 2016
As the Associated Press noted, after Los Angeles football fans waited more than 21 years to once again be able to call a team their own, they need to wait at least another week to see that team score.
"That wasn't what we expected, certainly not what I expected for the first game back in L.A.," head coach Jeff Fisher said. "We have some work to do obviously."
Case Keenum threw for just 130 yards with two interceptions, star running back Todd Gurley was held to 47 yards on 17 carries and the Rams barely even threatened the Niners as they were held to 185 yards and 10 first downs all game.
Outside of a few fleeting thoughts, Fisher didn't seem to heavily consider benching Keenum Monday night even if No. 1 overall pick Jared Goff was active for the game.
"I thought about it. I just wanted Case to finish it. ... I would have done the same had Jared been (No.) 2," Fisher told reporters after the 28-0 beatdown. "I would have let Case finish it. This doesn't change anything as far as quarterback is concerned."
When asked if Keenum is still the starting quarterback, Fisher had this: "That is correct. I'll adjust, but I expect it to continue."
As ESPN.com's Alden Gonzalez reminded readers, coming off an efficient, encouraging preseason in which he handily beat out Goff for the starting job, Keenum looked overmatched against a 49ers defense that doesn't project to be anything special. He completed 17-of-35 passes. Under his watch, the Rams failed to convert 12 of their 15 third-down attempts, averaged just a shade over three yards per play and operated past midfield on only five drives.
As a result, Gurley had a hard time finding space between the tackles. It was a reminder of his stretch run in 2015, when opposing defenses stacked the box because the Rams -- last in the NFL in passing yards -- didn't offer a threat outside of the run.
"When we can't get a run game going, nothing else falls after that," Fisher said. "That was a concern."
The 49ers spent the night daring Keenum to throw, but the 28-year-old couldn't beat them. His Rams went three-and-out on seven of 13 drives and at one point failed to convert 10 consecutive third downs, keeping the Rams' defense on the field for long stretches. Tavon Austin -- given a four-year, $42 million extension in large part because of how much more the Rams expect him to contribute -- caught only four of his team-high 12 targets, and gained only 15 yards from scrimmage.
"We have to stretch the field," Austin said. "We need to keep doing what we were doing. We were open a lot out there today; we just couldn't connect. That's the main thing. We'll connect on it."
The Rams must, if they have any hope of giving Gurley room to operate.
Gurley rushed for a record 566 yards in his first four NFL starts, but his yards per carry dropped from 6.4 to 3.9 over his last eight games, largely because the Rams' offense became so one-dimensional. Gurley said he "most definitely" notices the difference in his running lanes when the passing game opens up, and he's confident that it eventually will.
"I see it every day in practice," Gurley said. "I know it's not us. It's not us at all. I don't know what we did, but we have to do something right and go out and execute next week."
Next week is a major test, at home against the Seattle Seahawks and their stifling defense.
Keenum, who completed 18 of his 24 passes and didn't commit a turnover in the preseason, said Monday's game "will not define me."
"It was a big stage, and it would have been fun to win on Monday night to start the season, but it's a long season," Keenum said. "This is not us. Offensively, this is not us. We're going to come back to work tomorrow and get ready to beat the Seahawks."
Meanwhile, NFL.com notes that while nobody is claiming Goff would be any better, at some point the team has to start thinking about the day they'll abandon one experiment for another. Trading all of their resources for the No. 1 pick in the draft acknowledged that they were one quarterback away from making the leap and positioning themselves as a potential playoff team.
That still might be true, but that quarterback needs to be on the field to make a difference.
Fisher told NFL Network's Steve Wyche last week that the plan was for Goff to ascend to the backup role in Week 2, flipping with Sean Mannion.
That plan is not set in stone, however.
During Monday's press conference, Fisher said only that there is a chance Goff will advance enough to handle backup duties this week.
Until he surpasses Mannion, Goff won't be a candidate to see game action. ...
One last note here. ... Defensive lineman Aaron Donald was ejected in the fourth quarter when he made contact with an official. The infraction came after Rams linebacker Alec Ogletree gave an extra push to Blaine Gabbert following a scramble. As players on both teams started jawing, Donald pushed a 49ers player and then made contact with an official. Donald was called for two personal fouls on the play and ejected.
"I let my emotions get the best of me," Donald said. "No excuses."
QBs: Jared Goff, Sean Mannion, Brandon Allen
RBs: Todd Gurley, John Kelly, Justin Davis
WRs: Brandin Cooks, Robert Woods, Josh Reynolds, Pharoh Cooper, Cooper Kupp
TEs: Tyler Higbee, Gerald Everett, Johnny Mundt
Miami DolphinsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 14 September 2016
There are few moral victories in the NFL. But what the Miami accomplished in their regular-season opener is a rare exception.
The Dolphins lost to the Seattle Seahawks 12-10 at CenturyLink Field. That's no surprise, especially because Miami was the league's largest underdog (10.5) against the spread in Week 1. But there were plenty of times Sunday when you weren't sure which team is rebuilding (Miami) and which team is a Super Bowl contender (Seattle).
As ESPN.com's James Walker put it, "Miami proved it will be a tough out week-to-week in the first season under head coach Adam Gase."
Walker went on to explain the Dolphins had a good plan against Seattle on both sides of the ball to keep the game close until the fourth quarter and executed it well. That is already solid progress over much of the time under former coach Joe Philbin. The Seahawks trailed 10-6 until 31 seconds remained, when receiver Doug Baldwin caught a 2-yard touchdown reception.
The Dolphins' defense mostly frustrated Pro Bowl quarterback Russell Wilson by putting the responsibility on their talented defensive line. Miami was able to consistently apply pressure with their front four, and that made the difference. Defensive linemen Ndamukong Suh, Mario Williams, Jordan Phillips and Jason Jones all got a piece of Wilson for full or partial sacks.
The offense didn't score many points, but certainly missed out on big opportunities that could have been the difference. Receiver Kenny Stills dropped a wide-open deep throw from Ryan Tannehill in the first half that would have been an easy touchdown.
Gase also got aggressive in the first quarter by running the ball on fourth-and-inches and failed -- Miami was in field goal position and could have taken the points. Add in a blocked field goal in the fourth quarter and that's 13 points the Dolphins left on the field in a close game.
But there are more positives than negatives to be taken from this game for the Dolphins despite the loss. As their young roster gets more experience, they will eventually learn how to win these kinds of games against good teams.
As Walker summed up: "Sunday's game at Seattle was arguably the toughest on Miami's schedule, and the Dolphins nearly aced a monumental test. The schedule will only get easier for Miami -- and that's a good thing moving forward. ..."
The overall numbers (186 yards, no touchdowns or interceptions) didn't stand out. But Tannehill was money when it mattered in the fourth quarter when he produced an 86-yard drive that produced the go-ahead touchdown. To do that in Seattle is impressive.
The Dolphins lost because the defense didn't hold late, but Tannehill showed growth with a potentially clutch drive.
In addition, as Pro Football Focus' Jon Abbott noted, the Dolphins looked to get the ball to their top weapon, Jarvis Landry, early and often. It was tough sledding against the Seattle secondary, but he caught seven of the eight passes thrown his way. Landry had 59 yards on those throws, 40 of which came after the catch. Those numbers will likely rise against lesser opponents.
Rookie Leonte Carroo got the start in place of receiver DeVante Parker (hamstring). Carroo, the third-round pick from Rutgers, ended with two receptions for 14 yards. Gase said that Parker, who is battling a hamstring injury, was "close" to being active, so there could be multiple changes to the offensive roster for the trip to New England.
Parker was slated to practice in full on Wednesday; I'll be following up via Late-Breaking Update. ...
Arian Foster ended with 38 yards on 13 carries against Seattle, a paltry 2.9 yards per carry. But according to the Sports Xchange, the good news was the oft-injured Foster seemed to come out of the game healthy.
But not completely healthy.
Foster sat out Wednesday with a hamstring injury, according to the injury report. NFL Network's Ian Rapoport advised his Twitter followers this sounds more like veteran soreness and it seems "minor."
I will of course follow up on Foster along with Parker in coming days. ...
Place-kicker Andrew Franks had a 27-yard field-goal attempt blocked, and that was big. Miami also blocked a late-game extra-point attempt.
And finally. ... The Dolphins didn't bring running back Jay Ajayi with them to Seattle for their regular season opener in a move that Gase referred to as a coach's decision. There was a report from Adam Beasley of the Miami Herald that Ajayi was upset about being pushed out of the No. 1 spot on the depth chart by Foster, but Gase said Monday that this week brings a fresh start for Ajayi.
"We're back to basically, he's back in meetings, he's back in the building," Gase said, via the Herald. "We left him back. That was my decision. We've cleaned that up. We've moved past that. This is a new day for him today."
Ajayi was left home in favor of Kenyan Drake and Damien Williams, both of whom see special teams time on game days. Ajayi doesn't have the same responsibilities, so the team will need to make an overall change to the makeup of the roster if he's going to be active.
QBs: Ryan Tannehill, Brock Osweiler, David Fales, Luke Falk
RBs: Kenyan Drake, Frank Gore, Kalen Ballage, Senorise Perry
WRs: Kenny Stills, Danny Amendola, Jakeem Grant, DeVante Parker, Leonte Carroo, Brice Butler, Isaiah Ford, Albert Wilson
TEs: Mike Gesicki, Durham Smythe, Nick O'Leary, A.J. Derby, MarQueis Gray
Minnesota VikingsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 14 September 2016
According to Associated Press sports writer Dave Campbell, the Vikings will try to keep the Packers guessing about their starting quarterback this week.
Head coach Mike Zimmer said Monday he has not yet decided whether Shaun Hill will stay in the lineup or be replaced by Sam Bradford on Sunday night in the long-anticipated matchup between the border-state rivals that will break in Minnesota's new $1.1 billion stadium.
"I just figured it'd be good sports talk radio. I don't know," Zimmer said, adding: "Green Bay is an awfully good team. Everybody is picking them to go to the Super Bowl. We're just trying to be in the fight, and I'll try to keep my cards close to the vest."
Bradford had only seven days to prepare for the opener at Tennessee, after arriving in a trade with Philadelphia that was prompted by the season-ending injury to Teddy Bridgewater's left knee. Vikings coaches have praised Bradford as a quick study, but the 15-year veteran Hill was the safe pick for the first week.
Hill did nothing to invalidate Zimmer's decision, completing 18 of 33 passes for 236 yards and most importantly no turnovers during Minnesota's 25-16 victory.
"He had poise. He never got too high or too low," wide receiver Stefon Diggs said. "If you noticed, he had some wheels if you saw him take off and run a little bit. I'm just happy that he is playing at a high level, and I expect that from him."
One-third of Hill's completions netted more than 15 yards, and four of them (two to Adam Thielen, one to Diggs and one to Kyle Rudolph) could be qualified as long passes. The throw to Diggs, midway through the fourth quarter as the Vikings drove for the fourth field goal of the second half by Blair Walsh, gained 33 yards. That was the only one that exceeded 21 yards.
ESPN.com's Ben Goessling added that Hill did more than you might think to get the ball downfield, too -- according to ESPN Stats and Information, Hill completed 10 of his 17 throws for at least 10 yards, posting 183 of his yards on such throws. Teddy Bridgewater has never posted a game with that many completions of at least 10 yards, and Bradford has done so just once.
Still, as Campbell went on to suggest, there are two reasons Zimmer and his assistants would make the switch and send Bradford out for the debut of U.S. Bank Stadium, on the big stage of the nationally televised prime-time game for the defending NFC North champion Vikings against the team best positioned to take away that title.
One: His superior arm strength ought to help the Vikings stretch the field better and, ideally, create more space in the box for Peterson to run free. Two: The Vikings gave up two draft picks for him, including their first-rounder in 2017, so the plan all along has been to start him as soon as practical.
"There's a lot of different things going into it," Zimmer said.
I'll obviously be following up on the QB situation via Late-Breaking Update in coming days. ...
Other notes of interest. ... Yes, Adrian Peterson, who finished with 31 yards on 19 carries, let his owners down in a major way. But ESPN.com's Dan Graziano contends there's nothing to worry about with Peterson.
"Buy if you can," Graziano wrote.
Graziano went on to back his argument by noting Minnesota had the ball for less than half of the game and ran fewer offensive plays than did the Tennessee team it beat by nine points. That's in part because Peterson faced a stacked box all night and in part because the Vikings' defense scored two touchdowns.
But as the Sports Xchange notes, Peterson had fresh legs from having not played the preseason. And the revamped offensive line was itching to unveil its newfound aggressive mentality under new line coach Tony Sparano. But the end result was a 1.6-yard average per carry for Peterson and a 2.3-yard average for the team. He had 11 yards on eight first-down carries. He had 2 or fewer yards on 12 of his 19 carries, including four that lost yardage.
I'll suggest it's not time to hit the panic button, but any time a 30-plus year old running back -- including Peterson -- has a poor outing, we're going be having this conversation. ...
Diggs led the Vikings in receiving Sunday with seven catches for 107 yards. It was Diggs' third 100-yard game in 14 regular-season games, but the first since he had back-to-back 100-yard games in his second and third games a year ago.
Laquon Treadwell, a rookie first-round draft pick, was active but did not play on Sunday. Zimmer was quick to remind reporters that Diggs was inactive for the first three games as a rookie a year ago before finishing as the team's leading receiver.
Cordarrelle Patterson got four touches in four different phases of the game on Sunday. He had one catch for 6 yards, one rush for 8 yards, a punt return for 9 yards off a gimmick reverse and a 61-yard kickoff return that set up the team's first score. The 2013 first-round draft pick had only two catches all of last season.
On the injury front. ... Peterson is listed on the team's officialy injury report with a sore ankle, but he practiced fully on Wednesday; Jerick McKinnon (foot) was limited.
Kicker Blair Walsh kicked four field goals, including a 50-yarder. But the kicker who missed a 27-yard field goal in the playoffs, costing Minnesota in a 10-9 loss to Seattle in January, had a rough start.
His first field goal from 37 hooked wide left. Zimmer sent Walsh out to attempt a 56-yarder at the end of the first half, and the kicker was well short despite being lined up in the middle of the field. The Titans missed a chance to return the kick by taking a timeout. With a second chance, Walsh still missed badly with the ball going way left out of the end zone.
The kicker connected on field goals of 50 and 33 yards in the third quarter, and he added two more in the fourth. But he missed an extra point right after one of the defense's touchdowns. It's something to watch going forward.
QBs: Kirk Cousins, Trevor Siemian, Kyle Sloter
RBs: Dalvin Cook, Latavius Murray, Ameer Abdullah
WRs: Adam Thielen, Stefon Diggs, Laquon Treadwell, Stacy Coley, Brandon Zylstra, Aldrick Robinson, Chad Beebe
TEs: Kyle Rudolph, David Morgan, Tyler Conklin
New England PatriotsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 14 September 2016
As the Sports Xchange noted, for one man it was his first win in his first career start as an NFL quarterback. For the other, it was victory No. 247 overall and just the latest example of his greatness as a coach.
Sunday night in Arizona, quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo led the Patriots to a 23-21 victory over an Cardinals team that, like New England, was on the doorstep of the Super Bowl last January.
The third-year backup filled in for the opener with Tom Brady exiled to his four-game suspension and, despite having to play without his top playmaker in tight end Rob Gronkowski (hamstring) and left tackle Nate Solder (hamstring), Garoppolo was the latest example of the next-man-up mantra that Bill Belichick's troops have lived by over the years.
In front of a hostile crowd on Sunday Night Football and pitted against a playmaking defense that blitzed often, Garoppolo shined just about from the start.
While the 2014 second-round pick missed an open receiver on his first throw of the night, he completed four of his five throws on a 74-yard opening scoring drive that concluded with a pretty 37-yard touchdown pass to a wide-open Chris Hogan.
He would go on to complete 24 of 33 passes for 264 yards with the one score and no interceptions for a 106.1 passer rating, his lone blemish being a lost fumble on a strip sack. He led the visitors to scoring drives to open each half, and then directed a 61-yard march that would end with Stephen Gostkowski's 32-yard game-winning field goal late in the fourth-quarter.
Though Garoppolo admitted he was "amped up" before kickoff, he never looked anything other than calm on the field, doing his best Brady imitation in many ways.
"I was fired up before the game," Garoppolo said. "I get nervous before every game. Whether it's little league, college, here. I think that's a good thing, though. If you don't get nervous, it doesn't mean that much to you."
But the reality was this game meant more than any he had played - summer or regular season - over his first two years and 31 NFL pass attempts. Still, Garoppolo didn't seem to mind the jump to meaningful action.
"Nothing crazy. Once you get into it, after the first play or so, it's just football. You're just out there reacting to it, I guess. We were confident going into the game and it showed," Garoppolo said after a performance that earned him a game ball.
It's a confidence that should only grow for the young quarterback and his team moving forward. On a day when the Bills, Jets and Dolphins all lost their openers, a banged up New England team staked an early claim to first place in the AFC East.
As is generally the case with Brady under center, Julian Edelman was the top target for the New England offense, catching all seven passes thrown his way. Garoppolo spread the ball to seven different targets, including himself. The third-year passes hauled in his own batted pass and picked up 3 yards.
"That was a first. That was just a reaction, but it worked out all right, I guess, so positive play," he said.
Malcolm Mitchell (elbow) saw reserve action in his NFL debut. The rookie wideout wore a large brace on his left arm. Mitchell, who dislocated his elbow in the first preseason game of the summer, finished with two receptions for 33 yards in the victory.
Hogan had the second-most snaps of all the team's receivers (56), suggesting his usage is very real.
As ESPN.com's Mike Reiss noted, Martellus Bennett might have disappointed fantasy football owners with his stat line, but he wasn't disappointed himself. Playing all but two offensive snaps in the game, the 6-6, 273-pound Bennett explained how he was focusing as much on blocking as anything after finishing with three receptions for 14 yards.
"Whatever it is, I feel I'm able to do a lot of different things," Bennett told the Boston Herald. "Each week is going to be different for me. One week, I may catch 10 balls. One week, I may block 75 runs. It doesn't really matter. I'm just trying to do the best I can to help the team."
This week it was blocking and the Patriots were able to bring balance to the offense by running the ball 31 times as a team.
That effort only led to 106 yards and a 3.4-yard average. LeGarrette Blount led the way with 22 attempts for 70 yards with a 3.2 average, and an impressive 8-yard touchdown run in which he dragged several Arizona defenders into the end zone.
He also had a key 13-yard run, his long of the night, on a third-and-11 from the Arizona 35 in the fourth quarter to extend a drive that led to Gostkowski's game-winning field goal.
The New England running game, including three end-arounds to Edelman totaling 16 yards, made some plays and balanced out the offense, but the overall production could have been better. ...
On the injury front. ... Gronkowski (hamstring) did not make the trip to Arizona, missing the opener against the Cardinals due to the injury that dates back almost a month to joint practice action against the Bears. His status for this week's game against the Dolphins is up in the air, but he was slated to return to practice on Wednesday.
The same goes for Solder (hamstring) and OG Jonathan Cooper (foot), who returned to the practice field on a limited basis last week after missing basically the entire summer to the injury.
I'll obviously be following up on Gronk and all the walking wounded when Late-Breaking Updates commence early Thursday.
And finally. ... Gostkowski was named the first AFC Special Teams Player of the Week of the 2016 season. He made all three of his field goal attempts and both extra points Sunday night. As Profootballtalk.com suggests, that’s a standard performance for Gostkowski, a first-team All-Pro last season and four-time Pro Bowl selection. He’s made 87.5 percent of his field goal tries over the course of his 11-year career.
The AFC weekly honor is the fourth of Gostkowski’s career.
QBs: Tom Brady, Brian Hoyer, Danny Etling
RBs: Sony Michel, James White, Rex Burkhead, James Develin
WRs: Julian Edelman, Josh Gordon, Phillip Dorsett, Chris Hogan, Cordarrelle Patterson
TEs: Rob Gronkowski, Dwayne Allen, Jacob Hollister
New Orleans SaintsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 14 September 2016
As ESPN.com's Mike Triplett framed it, "The more things change, the more they stay the same. ..."
The New Orleans Saints lost a crushing 35-34 season opener to the Oakland Raiders in familiar fashion on Sunday in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
As we've seen in the past, the Saints' young defense crumbled after a strong start and coughed up a 14-point lead in the second half. The Raiders scored 25 points in the final 19 minutes -- including a gutsy two-point conversion in the final minute, instead of going for the tie.
"We were having trouble stopping anything. On the road, in a game like this, I probably would have done the exact same thing," admitted head coach Sean Payton, who called the loss "obviously disappointing."
But the Saints' inability to stop their opponents plays into the hands of fantasy owners greedy for production.
The numbers bear that out. Drew Brees gave a timeless performance, with 423 passing yards and four touchdowns, including a 98-yard TD pass to Brandin Cooks in the third quarter that was the longest offensive play in Saints history.
Cooks, who had easily eluded cornerback Sean Smith off the snap, had a couple of steps on Smith when he caught the ball in stride and picked up even more speed en route to completing the longest play from scrimmage in the 50-year history of the franchise.
That quickly, it topped the 96-yard pass from Billy Kilmer to Walt "Flea" Roberts that had been in the record books since the team's inaugural season in 1967 and the mark for longest touchdown pass a 90-yard strike from Billy Joe Hobert to Eddie Kennison in 1999.
The Brees-to-Cooks connection was also the longest touchdown pass in the NFL since 2011.
Triplett hand-timed Cooks at closer to 10.9 seconds on the replay. Technically, it was only a 98-yard dash -- but he had to start off with a little stutter-step to shake Smith off the line.
Brees eclipsed 400 yards passing for the 14th time in his career, tying Peyton Manning for the most such performances in NFL history.
As Pro Football Focus' Thomas Maney noted, despite being the oldest starting QB in Week 1 at 37 years old, Brees showed he's still among the league's top signal-callers. He was near-perfect throwing between the numbers, going 17-for-19 there, and connected on three of his four deep (20-plus-yard) passes, including dimes down the left sideline to Willie Snead and Cooks.
When not under pressure, Brees finished with a 142.4 passer rating, versus a 63.9 rating when the Oakland rush did get to him. But that only happened on 16.3 percent of his dropbacks, the lowest rate of any QB on Sunday.
Willie Snead finished with nine catches for 172 yards, including fourth-down, 1-yard TD catch in the first half. Cooks finished with six catches for 143 yards and two touchdowns Sunday.
Overshadowed by Snead and Cooks, hotshot rookie Michael Thomas hauled in all six of his targets and came through with a heads-up play on a Snead fumble. The three receivers combined for 353 yards and three touchdowns on 19 catches, while tight end Coby Fleener managed just one reception for six yards on three targets.
According to Maney, Snead especially looked ready to build on an above-average 2015 season after hauling in all nine of his targets against six different defenders in primary coverage.
As NFL.com's Chris Wesseling advised readers, look for Brees to continue to rely on his trio of playmaking wideouts after struggling to find chemistry with Fleener throughout August. ...
Other notes of interest. ... The C.J. Spiller experiment is over before it ever really started in New Orleans. Spiller spent Sunday's game against the Oakland Raiders on the inactive list.
Spiller, who was also present at practice all week during the media's daily viewing window, was expected to be the No. 2 back behind Mark Ingram against the Raiders.
As the Sports Xchange noted, the Saints didn't have a huge rushing day because the passing game was so efficient, but the backs did their job in netting 88 yards and a 4.0 average on 22 attempts. Ingram led the way with 58 yards on 12 carries, with an average of 4.8 yards per try and a long gain of 17. But that was about it as Cooks was next with an 11-yard gain on a jet sweep. Hightower, Brees, John Kuhn and Cadet, however, combined for just 19 yards on nine carries with none averaging more than 2.5 yards per attempt.
Head coach Sean Payton delegated play-calling duties to offensive coordinator Pete Carmichael in Sunday's game. Payton said he's not sure if he'll take the play-calling job back, but he's comfortable with Carmichael doing it.
"It is a week to week thing," Payton said. "Pete and I communicate each week on how we want this game to unfold. ... I thought it went very well [Sunday]. I will still be very much involved in a handful of those calls and so it is an operation for us. ... That we will just handle week to week."
Carmichael is in his 11th season working for Payton in New Orleans, having started as quarterbacks coach in 2006 and then getting promoted to offensive coordinator in 2009. So they have a comfort level together, and Payton is willing to let Carmichael do what may be the most important job on Sundays. As Profootballtalk.com suggested, "In Week 1, Carmichael did that job very well."
On the injury front. ... CB Delvin Breaux suffered a fractured left fibula in Sunday's game and could be sidelined approximately at least six weeks.
TE Josh Hill was knocked out of the game with a high-ankle sprain and it wasn't immediately known when he'll be able to return.
QBs: Drew Brees, Teddy Bridgewater, Taysom Hill
RBs: Alvin Kamara, Mark Ingram, Dwayne Washington
WRs: Michael Thomas, Tre'quan Smith, Austin Carr, Keith Kirkwood
TEs: Ben Watson, Josh Hill, Erik Swoope, Dan Arnold
New York GiantsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 14 September 2016
According to the Associated Press, the New York Giants aren't getting too excited after opening the season with a win for the first time since 2010.
It's one game and all they did was beat a Dallas Cowboys team that was playing with a rookie at quarterback.
Winning the second one might say a lot more about Ben McAdoo's team. The Giants face the New Orleans Saints (0-1) in their home opener on Sunday, and that means finding a way to stop Drew Brees.
The Giants were shredded by the Saints veteran quarterback last season in a 52-49 loss. Brees completed 40 of 50 passes for 511 yards and seven touchdowns. The yardage total was the most against New York and the TD total tied the highest in an NFL game.
The Giants' revamped defense did enough to beat Dak Prescott in his first start. While it gave up yards and allowed Dallas to keep the ball for long periods of time, the Cowboys only scored one touchdown and settled for four field goals in New York's 20-19 win.
The positive for the Giants is that Brees is going to be seeing a much different defense.
New York signed defensive end Olivier Vernon, tackle Damon Harrison, cornerback Janoris Jenkins and middle linebacker Kelvin Sheppard as free agents and drafted cornerback Eli Apple and safety Darian Thompson in the first and third rounds, respectively.
The Saints' offense also will be seeing Jason Pierre-Paul this season. He missed the first eight games of last season after injuring his right hand in a fireworks accident. The last game he missed was the Saints' game.
Eli Manning had a pretty good game in the loss, throwing for 350 yards and six touchdowns.
"It was a wild game," Manning said. "It's fun to play in those games. You feel offensively you can score most times you get it and you feel you have to score most times you get it. It's fun scoring touchdowns and having a lot of excitement but obviously you would like to get the W, it would mean a little more."
The Saints will have their hands full with the Giants' top receiver, Odell Beckham, who burned them for 130 yards and three touchdowns last season with Delvin Breaux, who won't play this week after breaking his lower leg last Sunday, on the field.
The Cowboys did a pretty solid job on Beckham in the opener, but he still managed four catches for 73 yards, including a key 45-yard reception in the second quarter. Considering the skills and explosiveness Beckham possesses, that's a quiet game for him these days. And it takes constant double-teams to make it happen.
Meanwhile, Shane Vereen may not be their starting running back, but Vereen is a big part of the Giants' offense. As their passing-down back, he splits most of the reps with Rashad Jennings, and does damage with his legs and pass-catching ability. Vereen had five targets (three catches) and six carries on Sunday against the Cowboys. In a shootout against the Saints, he could play an even bigger, more important role.
In addition, as ESPN.com's Jordan Raanan suggested, if Victor Cruz had drawn up a storybook return, it might've looked something like what unfolded against the Cowboys.
Cruz scored the winning touchdown for the Giants. He renewed the tradition of dancing the salsa in the end zone after a score, and catching big passes from Manning when the Giants needed them most.
After 700 days, Cruz finally returned to a regular-season game after knee and calf injuries kept him out of the Giants' previous 26 games. For it to end the way it did, it was almost surreal. Even Cruz couldn't believe it.
"No, to be honest with you," he said. "But I'm excited to have the opportunity, just excited the way my life is unfolding here. I don't even know what kind of ending it's going to have."
Cruz finished with four catches for 34 yards and a touchdown in his return. Finally, the Giants got a real taste of what they may receive on the field from the former Pro Bowl receiver.
Shepard scored his first touchdown. The second-round pick made a leaping catch over Dallas rookie Anthony Brown for a 9-yard score.
Expect all the wideouts to be very busy this weekend. ...
Other notes of interest. ... The Giants gained 55 of their 113 rushing yards in the fourth quarter when the coaching staff decided to get a little more creative with the run-blocking schemes. Before that, the Giants were held to 58 yards in the first three quarters.
When it was all over, New York averaged a robust 4.7 yards per carry, with both starter Rashad Jennings and Vereen coming up with a couple of big-play runs.
And finally. ... Kicker Josh Brown was reinstated by the Giants from the reserve/suspended list after serving his one-game suspension for violating the league's conduct policy. McAdoo said Brown will be the team's kicker when they host the Saints.
Randy Bullock is expected to be waived within the next 48 hours. Bullock missed an extra point attempt in the Giants' 20-19 win over the Cowboys.
QBs: Eli Manning, Davis Webb, Kyle Lauletta
RBs: Saquon Barkley, Wayne Gallman
WRs: Odell Beckham, Sterling Shepard, Russell Shepard, Jawill Davis, Bennie Fowler, Corey Coleman
TEs: Evan Engram, Rhett Ellison, Jerell Adams
New York JetsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 14 September 2016
Todd Bowles is on to Buffalo. Less than 24 hours after the New York Jets' 23-22 season-opening loss to the Cincinnati Bengals, the coach had already put that in the past.
With a short turnaround and a game Thursday night, Bowles' focus is squarely on the Bills.
"I told you we've moved on to Buffalo," Bowles said when pressed on Darrelle Revis' poor showing against Bengals WR A.J. Green. "I don't have time to go over this. We went over it in the coaching staff meetings and we went over every play. We don't have time to talk about it now.
"I've moved on. They've moved on. ..."
For what it's worth, Ryan Fitzpatrick doesn't think his slow start is a result of his inactive offseason.
Fitzpatrick, who missed the entire offseason program during his bizarre contract standoff with upper management, followed up a quiet preseason (16-of-29 passing for 183 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions) with one of his least impressive games the Jets quarterback on Sunday, when he was just 19 of 35 for 189 yards, one touchdown and one interception.
According to Pro Foot Focus' Josh Liskiewitz, Fitzpatrick struggled when he had to throw with velocity, as the ball seemed to flutter out of his hand at times. This led to struggles in his intermediate and deep passing game, as he completed just four of 10 passes longer than 10 yards from the line of scrimmage.
The fact that he only attempted one pass longer than 20 yard downfield is a bit of a tell as to where the Jets think Fitzpatrick's arm strength is right now.
In addition to having a shotgun snap bounce off his leg, Fitzpatrick looked particularly out of sync with wide receiver Brandon Marshall. Fitzpatrick underthrew or overthrew Marshall a handful of times, though Marshall committed a bad drop on an unsuccessful last-second drive that ended with Fitzpatrick throwing the game-sealing interception.
The truth is Cincinnati did a great job on Marshall, effectively removing him from the game -- three catches for 32 yards. Clearly, the Jets can't function without Marshall.
Fitzpatrick did have a nice rapport with receiver Quincy Enunwa, who looks to be the real thing as the No. 3 wideout. Enunwa finished with a team-high seven receptions for 54 yards, including his first career touchdown. He played 63 out of 71 snaps on offense.
Afterward, though, Fitzpatrick said the struggles of the offense were a credit to the Bengals' defense and not due to his six-month absence from the team.
"It's a credit to them," Fitzpatrick said of the Bengals. "It was just poor execution and I don't think it had anything to do with not being prepared and not being on the same page. We just didn't get it done."
Marshall doesn't get a free pass -- he had a costly drop late in the game -- but he seemed ignored at times. He said he wasn't doubled by the Bengals, so why was he invisible? He pointed to the effective ground game, saying, "That's what we led with today."
The Jets rushed for 152 yards (96 by Matt Forte), but it didn't add up to much because they were only 2-for-5 in the red zone -- "the poorest execution in the red zone I've ever seen," Marshall said.
Meanwhile, after the Jets' game at Buffalo, the schedule doesn't let up. They're at Kansas City, home against Seattle, at Pittsburgh, at Arizona and then home against Baltimore.
"For what we want to accomplish this season, every game is a win-type game," Eric Decker said. "I wouldn't put the pressure on, saying we have to win this game, but we have a good team, we have a good squad and maybe we fell short, if you want to call it that, yesterday. Let's see how resilient we are and just bounce back. ..."
Other notes of interest. ... After eight seasons in the NFL, Forte probably isn't someone who seeks compliments. Which is a good thing, since the loss left Bowles in no mood to gush over Forte's impressive debut with the Jets.
"You have to understand (something) about me," Bowles said. "If we lose the game, nobody played well.
Still, the former Bears' star came as advertised, finishing with 155 yards from scrimmage (96 rushing, 59 receiving). It was his NFL-leading 67th game with at least 100 yards from scrimmage. Only two Jets backs in the last five years have reached the 50-50 plateau in rushing and receiving yards in a game -- Forte and Chris Ivory (2015).
Despite an impressive career, there were some questions about Forte because of his age (30) and a hamstring injury in camp. He answered them in Week 1, showing there is life after Ivory in the backfield.
According to ESPN.com's Rich Cimini, the upset of the day was Nick Folk's missed extra point. Until then, he'd never missed a PAT in his career -- 312-for-312, the longest streak in NFL history. As for the blocked field goal, from 22 yards, that appeared to be a low kick. The Bengals got a great push up the middle, with the 6-8 Margus Hunt deflecting the kick with one of his big arms.
Folk made three field goals, but the story was the four points he gave away. He needs a bounce-back game against the Buffalo Bills.
On the injury front, Enunwa, who was limited by sore ribs on Monday, was upgraded to full participation on Tuesday and he won't be on the final injury report released on Wednesday. ...
And finally. ... DE Sheldon Richardson rejoined the Jets on Monday. Richardson missed the season opener while serving a one-game suspension for pleading guilty to resisting arrest following a high-speed car chase in his native Missouri in July 2015. It was the second suspension for Richardson, who missed four games last season following multiple failed drug tests.
Richardson will play Thursday night against the Bills.
QBs: Josh McCown, Sam Darnold
RBs: Isaiah Crowell, Elijah McGuire, Trenton Cannon
WRs: Quincy Enunwa, Jermaine Kearse, Robby Anderson, Andre Roberts
TEs: Chris Herndon, Jordan Leggett, Eric Tomlinson
Oakland RaidersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 14 September 2016
As Associated Press sports writer Josh Dubow suggested, the most daring gambler on the NFL's first weekend turns out not to be much of a betting man at all.
Head coach Jack Del Rio isn't a big fan of horse racing and probably won't be seen at a poker or craps table any time soon.
"I'm not a gambler, but I do believe in having the courage to do what I think is best for this football team," Del Rio said Monday, one day after the Raiders scored on a two-point conversion with 47 seconds left and held on to beat the New Orleans Saints 35-34.
"Good or bad, I'm willing to do that when I'm doing what in my gut I believe is the right thing. Part of that was showing the belief in our football team -- showing the belief in Derek Carr, showing the belief in Michael Crabtree. Showing the belief in our group to go down and do the things we needed to do to win that game."
The Raiders trailed 24-10 early in the second half before scoring 22 points over the last 12 minutes of the fourth quarter, including the final two on Oakland's gutsy two-point conversion with the game on the line.
Carr had just thrown his only touchdown of the game, a 10-yarder to Seth Roberts, when Carr immediately signaled for the two-point try. In a stroke of confidence and pre-planning, Del Rio had informed his third-year quarterback the team would be going for the win rather than having Sebastian Janikowski attempt a game-tying extra point.
Following a quick timeout to discuss things, Carr found Crabtree with a perfectly placed fade pass that Crabtree caught despite tight coverage from Saints cornerback Ken Crawley. Crawley, an undrafted rookie, was in the game because starter Delvin Breaux was out with a broken leg suffered in the third quarter.
The Raiders had also successfully gone for two earlier in the game after whiffing on their first try.
Del Rio wouldn't say what went into the decision to do it with the game on the line, only that it was not an off-the-cuff move.
"I prefer to keep strategy inside, in-house," Del Rio said. "A lot of factors went into it. At the end of the day, you have to go with what you believe is right for your football team. I believed that we would come back and win that game. I believed that going for it was the right thing to do."
Del Rio also stood by his decision to bench starting cornerback Sean Smith midway through the third quarter after the eighth-year veteran was repeatedly beaten by the Saints receivers, most notably on a 98-yard touchdown pass from quarterback Drew Brees to Brandin Cooks that was the longest in franchise history.
Del Rio said that Smith, one of Oakland's top free agent acquisitions this offseason after signing a four-year contract worth nearly $40 million, will start again this week in the Raiders' home opener against Atlanta.
The Raiders coach also emphasized that he expects much more from Smith and told him so after the game.
"I said, 'Hey, you've got to own up to that,'" Del Rio said. "'That certainly wasn't anywhere near where it needed to be and I know you'll bounce back. Be ready to face the music because they're going to be coming at you.' He's a big boy. He'll bounce back. He's going to be a good player for us. It was not what we need and he knows that."
Del Rio also praised Oakland's running game after the Raiders rushed for 167 yards, including a 75-yard touchdown by undrafted rookie Jalen Richard.
Oakland also scored on two short touchdown runs, something Del Rio hinted might have factored into the decision to go for the game-winning two-point conversion.
"It's going to create almost mandatory one-on-one situations," Del Rio said. "And a guy like Michael one-on-one is a pretty good bet there."
Much of the passing offense was concentrated on Amari Cooper (six receptions, 137 yards) and Crabtree (seven catches, 87 yards). Each caught a two-point conversion.
Cooper was targeted 11 times.
Meanwhile, Pro Football Focus noted it was a solid opener for Carr, who led three fourth-quarter touchdown drives to bring the Raiders back from an 11-point deficit. He was more solid than spectacular, and slightly more conservative than his counterpart Drew Brees, only attempting passes of 20-plus yards twice, although he connected on both plays.
But he was nevertheless effective, ending the game with just two negatively graded throws, and neither of those misfires put the ball at serious risk.
The most notable difference in Carr's play came when the Saints sent extra rushers. He finished with a 125.2 passer rating on plays with four or fewer rushers, but against the blitz he often looked panicky in the pocket, regardless of whether there was actual pressure. That's interesting, given he graded far better when blitzed in 2015 than against a standard rush.
One last note here. ... As NFL.com's Chris Wesseling put it, "Good luck figuring out Oakland's backfield pecking order behind Latavius Murray. Fifth-round rookie DeAndre Washington was the most utilized backup with six touches, but was outshined by Richard and his 75-yard touchdown run.
QBs: Derek Carr, AJ McCarron
RBs: Doug Martin, C.J. Anderson, Jalen Richard, DeAndre Washington
WRs: Jordy Nelson, Marcell Ateman, Seth Roberts, Keon Hatcher
TEs: Jared Cook, Derek Carrier, Lee Smith
Philadelphia EaglesCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 14 September 2016
According to ESPN.com's Tim McManus, Carson Wentz was confident heading into the Eagles' opener against the Browns that the moment would not be too big for him. He called his ability to keep it all in perspective and not get overwhelmed "an inherent characteristic."
"It's still just the game of football," he said.
True, but as McManus reminded readers, this is football at a whole different level than what Wentz experienced at North Dakota State, and given that he was elevated from third-stringer to top man just eight days before the start of the season as a result of the Sam Bradford trade, there were doubts as to whether he was ready for what the league was about to throw at him.
Wentz obviously didn't share in those doubts and his performance reflected his confidence.
The second overall pick in this year's draft went 4-for-5 for 57 yards on his first drive, including a perfect pass to Jordan Matthews in the corner of the end zone for the game's opening score. He finished 22-of-37 for 278 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions (101.0 QB rating) in the Eagles' 29-10 win over the Browns.
His passing grade was the highest earned by a rookie QB in Week 1 since Cam Newton in 2011.
Wentz was greeted with a standing ovation as he took the field for the first time. His first pass was on the money but dropped by Matthews. His second offering -- a back-shoulder toss to tight end Zach Ertz -- was hauled in one-handed by the tight end to kick-start the drive.
Wentz, who missed the bulk of the preseason with a pair of broken ribs (he had just 38 exhibition snaps), had a few miscues (usually followed by a hard clap of the hands and a talk on the sideline with the other player involved) but showed good command overall. He appeared to make some checks at the line of scrimmage and rarely seemed to be on a different page than his intended target.
The fact that the Eagles did not commit a turnover supports that notion.
"It's not surprising, because of us and myself being around him for so long now, and just knowing the maturity level that he has and the things that I was trying to get across to the fans, to the media: This is who he is. This is his DNA," said head coach Doug Pederson.
"And he really handled himself great all week long. He prepared like he was a five, six-year veteran and obviously he played that way."
The Browns are not considered to be a particularly good team, but it was an impressive start for Wentz, who certainly looked like he belonged.
Consider: Wentz became the third player in the Super Bowl era (since 1966) to pass for at least 275 yards, 2 touchdowns and 0 interceptions in a season opener in his first NFL season. He joined Robert Griffin III in 2012 and Jim Kelly in 1986 (Kelly was a "pro" in the USFL before coming into the NFL).
Wentz completed five passes on throws of at least 15 yards downfield, connecting on 5-of-6 attempts (83.3 percent). The Eagles had one game in which they completed at least five such passes last season (Week 17 vs Giants).
He is the first Eagles quarterback with multiple passing touchdowns in his first start since Kevin Kolb in 2009.
Wentz completed all eight of his attempts against five or more pass-rushers.
The Eagles completed 50.9 percent against five-or-more rushers last season, tied for the third worst in the league.
Meanwhile, Pederson became the first Eagles head coach to win his home debut since Dick Vermeil in 1976.
Unfortunately, the Eagles could be without two key starters Monday night when they travel to Chicago to take on the Bears.
Ertz and cornerback Leodis McKelvin both were injured in Sunday's 29-10 win over the Cleveland Browns. Ertz suffered a rib displacement near his left shoulder and McKelvin injured his left hamstring.
Pederson described the status of both players as "week to week," which seems to indicate that neither will play against the Bears. According to Philadelphia Inquirer staffer Zach Berman, Ertz could miss an "extended period."
Ertz, who made 75 catches last season, including 30 in the Eagles' final three games, had six catches for 58 yards against the Browns. If he can't go, veteran Brent Celek would take most of the snaps in one-tight end sets, with Trey Burton joining Celek in two-tight end sets.
TE Trey Burton, the team's third tight end, didn't play Sunday against Cleveland after suffering a minor calf injury during the week. He is expected to practice when the Eagles begin preparations for the Chicago game.
Matthews, who missed the entire preseason with a bone bruise on a knee, had seven catches for 114 yards and a touchdown on Sunday against the Browns. He said the knee injury has completely healed.
The Eagles took the pressure off Wentz by running the ball 34 times for 133 yards. Ryan Mathews had 22 of those carries. He averaged just 3.5 yards per rush and didn't have a run longer than 7 yards but had five rushing first downs. Kenjon Barner had 17- and 19-yard runs.
QBs: Nick Foles, Nate Sudfeld, Carson Wentz
RBs: Josh Adams, Corey Clement, Wendell Smallwood, Darren Sproles
WRs: Alshon Jeffery, Nelson Agholor, Jordan Matthews, Golden Tate, Shelton Gibson, Mack Hollins
TEs: Zach Ertz, Dallas Goedert, Richard Rodgers
Pittsburgh SteelersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 14 September 2016
Ben Roethlisberger knew the retired Heath Miller, suspended teammates Le'Veon Bell and Martavis Bryant and the injured Markus Wheaton weren't walking through that door. So he put the Pittsburgh Steelers' young, largely untested offense on his shoulders.
Roethlisberger threw for three touchdowns to lead the Steelers to a 38-16 rout of the Washington Redskins on Monday night. After telling his teammates he believed in not just All-Pro wide receiver Antonio Brown but Eli Rogers, Sammie Coates and others, Roethlisberger recovered a fumble at a pivotal moment and completed 27 of 37 passes for 300 yards in the season-opening victory.
He threw two touchdowns to Brown and another to Rogers. Often playing on the opposite side from Josh Norman and tormenting cornerback Bashaud Breeland, Brown made eight catches for 126 yards.
Starting in place of Bell, DeAngelo Williams ran for 143 yards and two touchdowns on 26 carries.
"We're confident in that group," head coach Mike Tomlin said. "I know we were missing some pieces tonight, but we had '7.' And when you got '7' you got the chance to put together performances like that."
Tomlin's confident was apparent when trailing early in the second quarter on Monday night and his team well within field goal range, the coach could have opted for a field goal that would have cut Washington's lead in half. Instead, he sent a message that might as well double as Pittsburgh's mission statement in 2016.
Forget the odds. The Steelers are going to go for it.
Moments after Tomlin pointed to the offense to stay on the field, Roethlisberger hit Brown for a 29-yard touchdown that gave Pittsburgh a lead and all the momentum it would need.
Tomlin doesn't consider the call gutsy. With the talent the team has at its disposal, why not go for it?
"It wasn't haphazard by any stretch," Tomlin said Tuesday. "We prepared for it during the week and the guys created enough comfort in us through preparation that we had very little hesitation not only making that call, but making a similar call a few moments later."
Faced with a similar situation on Pittsburgh's ensuing drive, the Steelers let loose again, with Roethlisberger hitting Rogers for 19 yards on fourth-and-1 at the Washington 34 with under two minutes to go in the half.
That drive also finished in the end zone, with Rogers catching the first touchdown of his career after a Roethlisberger pass caromed off Coates right to Rogers.
As Associated Press sports writer Will Graves put it, "So much for Pittsburgh being hampered early in the season while waiting for Bell to return from a three-game suspension and tight end Ladarius Green nursing a lingering ankle injury."
"We hold ourselves to high expectations," Roethlisberger said. "I think people thought, 'What are you going to do without Martavis (Bryant)? What are you going to do without Le'Veon? Without (retired) Heath Miller?' My message was, 'Well, we've got Sammie Coates, Eli, and all the tight ends (and) DeAngelo Williams.'"
That was more than enough to overwhelm the Redskins, who looked helpless as Brown lit them up for 11 receptions for 126 yards and his two touchdowns.
"It's not about who is on me," Brown said. "It was about getting the job done. Whatever that takes."
Which should only ramp up the next Sunday when Pittsburgh hosts Cincinnati in their first meeting since a memorably contentious victory by the Steelers in the wild-card round last January. ...
Other notes of interest. ... Williams showed no signs of being 33 years old as he cut through Washington's defense and kept the pressure off Roethlisberger, Brown and the Steelers' passing game. It looked like a continuation of Williams' 2015 season, in which he tied for the NFL lead with 11 rushing touchdowns and also put up 1,274 total yards from scrimmage.
"The offensive line does a great job of opening holes," Williams said. "I was running through a lot of holes tonight."
According to ESPN.com's Jeremy Fowler, the Steelers consider Williams, who logged 26 carries against Washington, a luxury with Bell out. That's five multi-touchdown games for Williams in his 11 starts with Pittsburgh.
"We're fortunate to have a guy like that," right tackle Marcus Gilbert said. "He's a great player."
Williams and Willie Parker are the only Steelers since 1960 with at least 100 rushing yards in back-to-back season openers. And Williams did his work with minimal help, as Fitz Toussaint logged three carries for 6 yards. Williams led all NFL rushers in yardage in Week 1.
The Steelers feel they have one of the league's best lines, and though they run a lot of no-huddle offense, they want to emphasize the run, especially late in games.
Williams allows them to do that.
In fact, Fowler believes that Williams, who averaged around 18 carries a game as a starter, might become the first 33-year-old to rush for 1,000 yards since Franco Harris in 1983 if he could play a full season.
Williams might not get that chance with Bell returning in Week 4. But he is proving difficult to take off the field, regardless of the lineup.
And he still feels fresh, pointing out on social media recently that he has fewer career rushing attempts (1,658) than 28-year-old LeSean McCoy (1,664).
"I like doing what it takes to win football games," said Williams, who is playing like a bargain on a $2 million salary. "If me being in that spot is what it takes, then absolutely. If we can win football games and I don't have to be in that spot, I'll take the win over being in the spot or not being in the spot."
On Wednesday, Williams was named AFC Offensive Player of the Week for his performance against Washington.
QBs: Ben Roethlisberger, Mason Rudolph, Josh Dobbs
RBs: Jaylen Samuels, Stevan Ridley, James Conner
WRs: Antonio Brown, JuJu Smith-Schuster, James Washington, Darrius Heyward-Bey, Ryan Switzer
TEs: Vance McDonald, Jesse James, Xavier Grimble
San Diego ChargersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 14 September 2016
How do you replace someone who's nearly irreplaceable?
As ESPN.com's Eric D. Williams reported, the Chargers will head down that road beginning on Monday, with receiver Keenan Allen potentially out for the season after suffering what appeared to be an ACL tear in his right knee late in the first half in his team's heartbreaking 33-27 overtime loss to the Kansas City Chiefs.
Allen's teammate Antonio Gates called the Cal product the best player on the team, and said it will take a group effort to replace Allen's production.
"When you lose a player like Keenan Allen, it affects the game," Gates said. "It's as simple as that. It not only affects what you can do, but how much you can do. He's our best player. And I don't know if that's the reason we lost the game, but I think he definitely has a big effect on the game."
Allen was on a record-setting pace the first eight games of the 2015 season before suffering a lacerated kidney that ended his year. Through the first eight games last season, the Chargers averaged 24 points. Allen totaled 67 receptions before the kidney injury, tied for third-most catches in NFL history through the first eight games of the season.
Once Allen went down with the injury in Week 8 against the Ravens, San Diego's offense averaged just 16 points a game the rest of the season. The Chargers went 2-6 down the stretch.
Philip Rivers says his team has to figure out how to get others more involved to pick up the slack. San Diego already lost Stevie Johnson for the year with a torn meniscus in his right knee on the second day of training camp.
San Diego could bring back veteran receiver James Jones, who was cut during training camp. But on Tuesday, the Chargers worked out veteran wide receivers Chris Givens and Griff Whalen, the San Diego Union-Tribune reported. Aaron Dobson was visiting on Wednesday. Dobson is the former Patriots wideout. Givens was cut by the Eagles in training camp, and Whalen was cut by the Dolphins last week. No one available at this point is going to replace Allen in the Chargers' offense, but the team is looking for experience. Givens has played with the Rams and Ravens. Whalen has game experience with the Colts.
But it will be hard to find somebody as talented as Allen.
Speed receiver Travis Benjamin is the most likely candidate to get a bump in targets because of his past production in the league. Not only can Rivers target Benjamin on vertical routes, but he also should get some looks on screens and crossing routes where he can use his quickness and speed.
Dontrelle Inman is a veteran who's been in San Diego's system for three seasons, earning the trust of Rivers.
But Eric Williams the player who could benefit the most is Tyrell Williams. During a Tuesday appearance with the FootballDiehards on SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio, Union-Tribune staffer Michael Gehlken agreed with that assessment.
The second-year pro finished with two receptions for 71 yards against the Chiefs.
Like Allen, at 6-3 and 215 pounds, Williams is a big-bodied receiver with good speed and lateral quickness who offers a big target for Rivers.
But Gates doesn't expect Williams to replace Allen alone. Like last year, it will take everyone on offense to pick up the slack.
"You don't try and replace a guy like Keenan Allen," Gates said. "You just try and use Tyrell to the best of his ability. He came in and made some huge, humongous plays. And you can see the speed of a guy that's so big, fast and physical.
"So I'm quite sure with the experienced coaching staff that we have, that we'll be able to put him in the right positions to make some play for us. ... By committee, we will definitely try and pick the load up for a guy like Keenan. But make no mistake about it, in my opinion, he's one of the top three receivers in the league. So it will be hard to replace a guy like that."
For the record, Allen was placed on season-ending injured reserve on Monday. Rookie Joey Bosa was activated, with no real target date for when he'll make his NFL debut.
And head coach Mike McCoy had no real answers -- or at least ones he wanted to make public -- about why the Chargers collapsed in a 33-27 overtime loss at Kansas City on Sunday.
A lot of things went wrong for the Chargers after they looked so good in the first half. But it was all downhill in the second half and questionable coaching decisions (like abandoning the run) were a factor. Remember: The Chargers also blew a 21-point lead in losing McCoy's debut as Chargers coach in 2013.
Sunday's loss was their ninth straight in the AFC West dating to 2014. The Chargers host Jacksonville (0-1) on Sunday. ...
Other notes of interest. ... As Pro Football Focus noted, Rivers finished with a solid game statistically (25-of-36 for 243 yards, one touchdown, no interceptions), but the Chargers' passing game stalled after Allen was hurt.
Most of Rivers' attempts were underneath throws to Danny Woodhead (five catches on five targets for 31 yards and one TD) and Benjamin (seven of seven for 32 yards).
Rivers attempted just eight passes that traveled more than 10 yards downfield, and while the Chargers were protecting a big lead for much of the game, their last three drives ended in punts and their offense did not have a possession in overtime.
Melvin Gordon posted a goose egg in the touchdown column in his rookie season, but on his 220th career touch, the Wisconsin product finally found pay dirt. Getting that monkey off his back was nice, but Gordon looked like a completely different runner in the early stages of this game.
As NFL.com's Chris Wesseling noted, Gordon generated a multitude of yards after contact, and looked like a force to be reckoned with.
On eight first-half carries, Gordon accumulated 39 yards and two scores.
The second half was a different story, as the second-year back only had 18 yards on six carries. Indeed, Gordon was badly out-snapped (50-23) by Woodhead, meaning the big fantasy day may be tougher to replicate if his play is limited.
It still was an encouraging start nonetheless to Gordon's sophomore campaign.
QBs: Philip Rivers, Geno Smith, Cardale Jones
RBs: Justin Jackson, Melvin Gordon, Austin Ekeler
WRs: Keenan Allen, Mike Williams, Tyrell Williams, Travis Benjamin, Geremy Davis
TEs: Virgil Green, Antonio Gates
San Francisco 49ersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 14 September 2016
According to ESPN.com's Nick Wagoner, as the San Francisco 49ers' offense looked to find its footing early in Monday's season-opening win against the Los Angeles Rams, the spark it needed came from quarterback Blaine Gabbert.
To have Gabbert ignite the offense was a welcome sight, but he didn't do it in the way you might have guessed. After missing some early throws, Gabbert spotted openings in the Rams' defense and began to do his damage with his legs rather than his right arm. An 11-yard run up the middle followed by 5 more and another 11-yard scramble off the left side.
By the time the 49ers finished off their 28-0 demolition of the Rams, Gabbert had nine carries for 43 yards, the second-highest rushing total of his career.
In the eyes of running back Carlos Hyde, Gabbert's success on the ground was a beautiful thing.
"I tell him all the time, 'Blaine this is me and you,'" Hyde said. "We have to work together. And, if we are on the same page, we will kill teams with this read-option. ... It's a two-man game with us, when we run the read-option. I was happy though. He was pulling it in, he was getting yards. It just put more pressure on the defense."
Wagoner went on to note it also opened up things for Hyde, who for the second year in a row looked like the best running back on the field -- or at least the most productive -- in a Monday Night Football matchup against another top running back. Hyde outdueled the Rams' Todd Gurley with 88 yards and two touchdowns on 23 carries to Gurley's 17 carries for 47 yards.
With Gabbert repeatedly showing he wasn't afraid to pull the ball down and make a play, sometimes taking a big hit in the process, the Rams suddenly found themselves unable to concentrate their efforts on slowing Hyde. After gaining just 5 yards on his first two carries, Hyde offered a master class in how to remain patient when running in the confines of inside zone concepts.
After taking a handoff from Gabbert, Hyde dashed to his left but stopped while keeping his feet moving as two blockers pulled from the other side. After letting the play develop, Hyde burst through the hole and into the end zone for the 49ers' first touchdown of the season.
Successful running backs in zone schemes often talk of the need to be slow to the hole but fast through it. It's an innate ability Hyde seems to possess. Head coach Chip Kelly's offense has long leaned on a preference for inside zone runs and, based on Monday's success, it seems his players are already taking to it well.
Overall, the 49ers rushed for 150 yards and three touchdowns on 42 attempts, but 144 of those yards and two scores came between the tackles. All but one of Hyde's carries came inside behind what looks like an improved offensive line paving the way.
"We came into the game saying take what the defense gives you," Gabbert said. "They were kind of dropping their zones, playing some tight man-to-man coverage and there were some running lanes up in the middle of the field. Anytime you can convert third downs, get yourself into second-and-short, third-and-manageable with your feet, that's something that you have to do and I have to capitalize on."
Kelly has repeatedly made it clear that the running game will be the focal point of his offense, despite outside perceptions to the contrary. In Kelly's three seasons in Philadelphia, the Eagles were 24-8 when rushing for 100 yards or more as a team. As of Tuesday morning, Kelly's 49ers are 1-0 in such scenarios.
To be sure, the competition will get tougher and the challenge to build on what happened Monday will only grow. Gabbert will have to figure out how to take advantage through the air as teams continue to load up to stop the run.
But as Wagoner summed up: "If Gabbert can continue to keep defenses honest with his legs, the burden on his right arm will remain limited. Just how the 49ers want it. ..."
Also of interest. ... Last week, Kelly said his offense would push the pace when appropriate, but he was also careful to note that sometimes he prefers to slow things down. But the 49ers didn't slow down much until late in Monday's blowout.
The 49ers offense played 77 snaps, trailing only Seattle for the most by a team in Week 1. The Niners' 31.5 seconds of wall clock time per play was the fastest of any team in the NFL, and their 28 first downs were the most by a Niners team since Oct. 7, 2012.
The fast tempo didn't necessarily translate to consistent production for the Niners offense, which still managed just 4.16 yards per play, which ranked 29th in the league for the first week. But it did catch the Rams off guard enough to allow the 49ers to convert all four of their red zone trips into touchdowns. ...
According to CSNBayArea.com's Matt Maiocco, former New England wide receiver Aaron Dobson worked out for the 49ers on Tuesday. The 49ers on Tuesday waived wide receiver Chris Harper, also among the final cuts with the Patriots, and re-signed running back DuJuan Harris. Harper was promoted from the 49ers' practice squad for the season opener on Monday night against the Los Angeles Rams.
GM Trent Baalke has not exactly stocked the 49ers with much talent at wide receiver. But he acted quickly to acquire Kerley after Bruce Ellington was lost to a season-ending hamstring injury. Kerley has not been around very long, but he is already a favored target of Gabbert. Kerley had seven catches for 61 yards, including a diving 18-yard reception to pick up a fourth-down conversion in the second quarter.
QBs: Nick Mullens, C.J. Beathard
RBs: Jeff Wilson, Alfred Morris, Kyle Juszczyk, Raheem Mostert, Matt Breida
WRs: Marquise Goodwin, Pierre Garcon, Dante Pettis , Kendrick Bourne, Trent Taylor, Victor Bolden
TEs: George Kittle, Garrett Celek, Cole Hikutini
Seattle SeahawksCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 14 September 2016
According to Associated Press sports writer Tim Booth, Russell Wilson was out of a protective boot and walking around the Seattle Seahawks practice facility by Monday afternoon.
The concerns about whether Wilson would be able to play in Week 2 against Los Angeles seem to be at rest for now.
"He's practicing on Wednesday. He's planning on playing," head coach Pete Carroll said earlier this week -- and then again before Wednesday's practice.
Wilson sprained his right ankle during Sunday's 12-10 season-opening victory over Miami. Carroll was a bit cautious on Monday morning during his weekly radio show, saying he believed Wilson would be able play against the Rams but that it wasn't certain.
A few hours later, Carroll was more confident that Wilson will be able to play through the injury, although he is likely to be limited in practices leading into the matchup in Los Angeles. Since becoming the starter at the beginning of the 2012 season, Wilson has not missed a game due to injury.
"You can hardly tell anything's wrong with him," Carroll said. "We'll help him in practice during the week to make sure we take care of him, but he's planning on playing. There's no question in his mind he's not playing. So I'm going to go along with that until I can't."
Wilson was injured in the third quarter while being sacked by Ndamukong Suh, his foot and ankle twisting awkwardly as he went down. Wilson continued to play through the end of that series then quickly had his ankle re-taped on the sideline. He didn't miss a snap.
"He's been banged up at times. They're not injuries but things that have bothered him and stuff. Just stuff that happens over the course of getting pounded on," Carroll said. "His attitude's just always been the same. He never flinches. He never wavers. So this is the first time he's really had something that we'd consider an injury that you've got to talk about. And like I said, I think last night, he almost welcomed the challenge and had an attitude about, 'Ok, here we go. I'm going to do this.'"
Wilson's mobility was limited after the injury but he was able to scramble a couple of times on Seattle's final drive, which was capped by his 2-yard TD pass to Doug Baldwin with 31 seconds left.
"I was pretty limited but I was telling coach Carroll and some of the trainers, when I'm 43, 44, 45 years old and still playing, that's probably what I'll look like out there," Wilson said after the game.
With Wilson having his reps in practice this week closely monitored, Carroll said the Seahawks may bring in another quarterback. Rookie Trevone Boykin is the only other quarterback currently on the active roster or the practice squad.
While the team is confident, this is a situation we'll all be watching closely; keep an eye on the Late-Breaking News section for more on Wilson throughout the week. ...
Also worth pointing out, the Seahawks' offense did just enough on Sunday, highlighted by Doug Baldwin's game-winning catch, but showed some glaring holes in their offensive line. The Seahawks were without right guard Germain Ifedi in this game. Justin Britt was making his first start at center. Left tackle Bradley Sowell was starting his first game since 2013.
As Pro Football Focus explained, the Seattle offense often employs inside zone runs; that type of zone blocking relies a lot on interior linemen. Seattle's two guards, Mark Glowinski and J'Marcus Webb, graded poorly in run blocking which is a bad omen if they want to build around their inside-zone game.
Offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell said he would cater the offense to the team's personnel. And that's a theme to keep an eye on going forward.
The Seahawks didn't hit on an explosive play until the fourth quarter, and Wilson averaged just 6.0 passing yards per attempt. The longest offensive play was 24 yards and the Seahawks had just two plays over 20 yards.
The Seahawks are used to slow starts. Last year, they began the season 0-2 before finishing 10-6.
As ESPN.com's Sheil Kapadia noted, it's only one game and they escaped with a victory, but in a season that carries Super Bowl expectations, the offense needs to quickly come up with fixes. ...
Other notes of interest. ... Christine Michael had a few significant carries against Miami including a fourth down conversion on Seattle's game-winning drive. He rushed for 66 yards on 15 carries.
Indeed, Carroll announced on Wednesday that Rawls would return to the starting lineup this weekend.
As ESPN's John Clayton noted, Graham's incredible comeback from a torn patellar tendon was rewarded as he got on the field for 17 plays and had a key catch on the game-winning touchdown drive against the Dolphins. Teammates think he's at about 85 percent of his former self. He'll get more involved in the offense each week and might be close to 100 percent by midseason.
"I know he wants to be a bigger contributor. He did very well, blocked well when he had his chances, and it worked out well," Carroll said of Graham. "We got him out there, got him started, and now we'll be able to get a lot more play time from him."
Coming off major ankle surgery, Rawls showed he was ahead of schedule in his return, getting on the field Sunday for 22 plays. That's way more than most people thought he would play before the game. Rawls showed flashes of the powerful running style that allowed him to gain 830 yards as a rookie.
Rawls' promotion means Christine Michael goes back to working off the bench behind Rawls, who at his best is clearly the Seahawks' most dangerous back.
Rookie running back C.J. Prosise cracked a bone in his right wrist in the second half that essentially ended his afternoon. The wrist was put in a cast and Prosise was available for special teams duty if necessary. However, his backfield opportunities evaporated due to the injury. Carroll said Monday that they didn't believe the injury would keep Prosise from being able to play.
And finally. ... The Seattle Seahawks made a couple roster moves Tuesday, waiving cornerback Tharold Simon and fullback Taniela Tupou. The team added defensive back Neiko Thorpe and fullback Will Tukuafu.
QBs: Russell Wilson, Brett Hundley
RBs: Chris Carson, Mike Davis, Rashaad Penny, C.J. Prosise, J.D. McKissic
WRs: Doug Baldwin, Tyler Lockett, David Moore, Jaron Brown
TEs: Nick Vannett, Ed Dickson
Tampa Bay BuccaneersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 14 September 2016
According to ESPN.com's Jenna Laine, if Sunday's season-opening win against the Atlanta Falcons is any indication, Jameis Winston is on track to becoming a star quarterback in the NFL. He threw for four touchdowns and 281 yards on the road, and he showed significant growth in key areas of his development.
In his first appearance of 2016, Winston got off to a similarly slow start to the one he did in his first career start last season. Winston began the game 2-of-5 passing with an interception. He subsequently went 21 for 28 with four touchdowns to four different receivers Brandon Myers, Charles Sims, Austin Seferian-Jenkins and Mike Evans -- including incredible deep balls to Seferian-Jenkins and Evans.
Both balls were only where his receivers could get it, and both guys made incredible plays to come down with it. Seferian-Jenkins looked as though he was falling out of favor in Tampa but now looks like he could be the third massive target that Winston can throw jump balls to.
In addition, head coach Dirk Koetter emphasized the checkdown all week as a way to beat the Falcons' zone-based scheme, and that's exactly what Winston did on a 23-yard catch and run touchdown by Charles Sims.
"It's because they drop their linebackers so far back," Sims said.
On second-and-3 at the Atlanta 23, all of the Falcons' linebackers dropped into coverage, creating a huge opening for Sims.
"I always tell him the same thing: 'Keep reading it out, keep doing it, read it out. Don't be afraid to check it down,'" Koetter said. "Jameis knows what to do. I'm not going to tell him anything on game day."
Checking down also allows Winston to beat the blitz or avoid a bad play if protection breaks down.
Dinking and dunking isn't the most exciting way for a quarterback to win a football game and often, young quarterbacks who try to do too much can't wrap their minds around it. There's no shame in it, though. Just ask Tom Brady. Or Johnson, for that matter. Winston took what the defense gave him in that first half, and it helped get the offense settled.
Winston's longest play in the first half was a 26-yard catch-and-run by Adam Humphries -- every completed pass was a short one, with Winston averaging 8.88 yards per completion.
In the second half, however, Winston exploited the fact that Falcons head coach Dan Quinn probably got into his players' ears at halftime about giving up those shorts passes. It was the perfect opportunity to get the deep ball going, which is what Winston did, averaging 17.9 yards per completion.
As Laine pointed out, there were two deep misses to Humphries and Evans, on second-and-16 and third-and-16, respectively, on the Bucs' first possession of the game. Winston overthrew both. If you've watched Winston practice or play the past several years, it's actually pretty common for him to put too much on his early throws.
Winston will have some growing pains still, as he threw some pretty bad passes when under pressure, but overall he made less mistakes than he did in many of the Bucs' games last year. ...
Not surprisingly, Winston's efforts against the Falcons earned him NFC Offensive Player of the Week honors. ...
Other notes of interest. ... The Buccaneers boast one of the top running back duos league-wide in Doug Martin and Sims. On Tuesday, they added some depth.
The team signed former Falcons passing-down back Jacquizz Rodgers, the team announced. Rodgers, 26, played under Koetter in Atlanta, where he piled up 1,116 yards rushing at 3.7 yards per carry from 2011 to 2014. During that span, he also caught 155 passes for 1,104 yards, doing most of that work as a change-of-pace man on third down.
Rodgers spent last season with the Bears and doesn't loom as a player set for much of a workload in Tampa. He could see snaps as a return man, but the Bucs have their workload set with Martin and Sims leading the way.
According to Pro Football Focus' John Kosko, Martin had a mediocre day when just looking at the box score, but he wasn't given much room to work with, as he averaged just 0.61 yards per carry before contact.
Still, Martin forced eight missed tackles and also caught all five of his targets for 34 yards.
Evans was only targeted twice in the first half Sunday. But at halftime, Koetter made it a point to involve him more and he finished with five catches for 99 yards, including the above-mentioned 45-yard touchdown reception.
"It was exciting," Aguayo said. "I was definitely ready for the regular season to start, but it felt like another game. Honestly, it felt like it was the fifth game of my career. A very, very exciting win."
And finally. ... The Bucs placed DE Jacquies Smith on injured reserve with a torn ACL suffered in Atlanta, ending his season.
QBs: Ryan Fitzpatrick, Jameis Winston, Ryan Griffin
RBs: Peyton Barber, Jacquizz Rodgers, Ronald Jones
WRs: Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, DeSean Jackson, Adam Humphries, Justin Watson, Freddie Martino
TEs: Cameron Brate, Antony Auclair, Alan Cross
Tennessee TitansCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 14 September 2016
According to ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky, the poised, collected rookie who pitched a perfect game on opening day a year ago went a different direction Sunday. ... While Marcus Mariota's final numbers were OK, his third-quarter interception to linebacker Eric Kendricks that was returned for a 77-yard touchdown completely undid the Tennessee Titans en route to a 25-16 defeat to the Minnesota Vikings.
Receiver Harry Douglas was partly responsible for pressure that made Mariota hurry a throw to him. Douglas needed to steer left end Everson Griffen inside, but didn't do enough, head coach Mike Mularkey said.
Mariota said he didn't think there was a psychological effect after the Vikings grabbed their first lead after that pick. But the team's body language and performance after it suggested otherwise.
On the rare occasions the Titans were ahead in a 3-13 season in 2015, they often let it slip away. On Sunday, a solid first half and an early 10-0 lead didn't stand up against Minnesota, but running back DeMarco Murray said there is no spillover of a mentality that existed before he arrived in a spring trade.
"The mindset has already changed," he said.
That's what his teammates will want to hear from him, reinforcement of an offseason filled with positive developments and upbeat outlooks.
But the 31 players left from the year before may still have it rattling around somewhere in their heads, that for all the changes, the result was so familiar.
Still, they are all undoubtedly sold on Mariota.
"Marcus is an absolute warrior, he's the heart of this team," left tackle Taylor Lewan said after beating himself up for two penalties, one that was declined. "He's quiet, but he's just a powerful energy. He's done such a great job for us. I will never talk bad about him, everybody makes mistakes. …
"After the game, you could absolutely see him frustrated. That's a guy who wants to compete every single day. It's not like, ‘Oh man, tough day, let's move on.' He's going to live with it. He's going to eat it and chew on it for a second, see how it tastes. He's going to fix those things. He's an unreal football player. I'll go with him anywhere."
Said coach Mike Mularkey: "As long as he's behind the wheel, we've got a chance. Regardless of the score, regardless of what we've done prior to the next series, he always gives us a chance and I think he believes that.
"I know I do and I know our team does."
Mariota didn't have a great game by any means. Even with the brutal interception and some other shaky moments, he finished 25-for-41 with 271 passing yards and two touchdowns and a 86.5 passer rating. On the no-huddle touchdown drive he was adjusting alignments, flipping plays and converting tough third downs.
As Kuharsky summed up, the Titans won openers the past two seasons and went on to win a total of three of the 30 games that followed. An opening-day loss hardly determines their fate, though it was certainly a reality check.
And there were positives.
As NFL.com's Conor Orr framed it, "The Titans' offense, regardless of its epic second-half freefall, is crazy fun to watch when it is in control of the game. The constant shifting and movement is almost artful and it seems like Mariota has a Peyton Manning-esque control of his offense. He can shift cross-trained tight ends, fullbacks and running backs and turn them into wide receivers and movable blocking chess pieces at will."
Orr added, "Mularkey did a great job of unleashing both DeMarco Murray and Derrick Henry in the first half before an interception and string of fumbles in the fourth quarter put Tennessee out of business. Don't dismiss this offense because of a poor decision by Mariota and two by Murray, though. ..."
Henry had just 3 yards on five carries in his NFL debut, but he did have a 29-yard catch and 41 yards total on two receptions. Murray, who had one fumble and another fumbled exchange with Mariota, had two touchdown receptions among his five catches for 35 yards.
Rookie WR Tajae Sharpe showed that the game was not too big for him, with seven receptions for 76 yards in his first regular-season professional game on Sunday.
Coming up this weekend, the Titans take on the Lions, who won a 39-35 slugfest in Indianapolis against the Colts. The Titans couldn't generate much of a pass-rush against Minnesota backup Shaun Hill, failing to sack him and allowing him to complete 10 passes that traveled at least 10 yards in the air. Matthew Stafford will scorch them if he goes unpressured -- something that might force the Titans to play catchup. ...
One last note here. ... Kendall Wright remains out with a hamstring. Mularkey said he would need to see Wright running full speed before he is allowed to return to practice.
QBs: Marcus Mariota, Blaine Gabbert
RBs: Derrick Henry, Dion Lewis, David Fluellen
WRs: Corey Davis, Taywan Taylor, Tajae Sharpe
TEs: Luke Stocker
Washington RedskinsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 14 September 2016
As Associated Press sports writer Howard Fendrich suggested, from Kirk Cousins' zero-TD, two-pick performance and a total of nine penalties to the admittedly misguided coaching decisions and the out-of-its-depth defense, the Redskins did not look ready to open the regular season.
So now the question becomes: Can they get their act together in time to host the Dallas Cowboys next Sunday and avoid an 0-2 start?
"I think we were ready to play," Redskins coach Jay Gruden said Tuesday. "We just didn't make the necessary plays to win."
Not even close.
After winning the NFC East last season despite never beating a team with a winning record, the Redskins opened this season with a dismal 38-16 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers on Monday night.
There were all sorts of problems for Washington (0-1).
Cousins showed, according to Gruden, that he still has some growing up to do as an NFL starter.
There were the two interceptions and also other issues, such as miscommunication with DeSean Jackson on a run-pass option and several poor throws, including a trio early that were too low.
Indeed, ESPN.com's John Keim noted, Cousins missed too many important throws and did not have a good game. He missed Jordan Reed in the end zone (the ball was a bit late) and on the next play he missed Jamison Crowder on a third down in the red zone, leading to a field goal. Crowder might have gotten inside the 5-yard line. And there was one particularly bad interception in which Cousins got a little greedy.
"He's going to have some bumps along the way. That's what all quarterbacks go through," Gruden said. "How he responds to those downs will make or break him as a quarterback."
The running game, which was not really targeted for improvement in the offseason, flopped early and then was abandoned: Washington's 12 rushes were a league-low in Week 1. Gruden partially tried to explain that away by saying his team was behind in the second half, so wanted to accumulate chunks of yards via the pass.
"That's the approach we took for this week," he said. "Next week could be totally different."
Gruden acknowledged that there were "two bad decisions," in hindsight, on fourth downs in the first half. On fourth-and-1 at the Pittsburgh 40 during his team's opening possession, Gruden opted to punt.
Then, later, on fourth-and-6 at the Pittsburgh 38, he chose to go for it -- and Cousins completed a pass to running back Chris Thompson short of the first-down marker.
"Wasn't good," Gruden said.
Those two words apply to Washington's defense, too.
The front seven did not generate much of an effective pass-rush, except Ryan Kerrigan's early sack-strip of Ben Roethlisberger, which went for naught when the Steelers wound up recovering the football.
The run defense was nonexistent, as DeAngelo Williams replaced the suspended Le'Veon Bell and gained 143 yards while scoring two touchdowns. And Antonio Brown was allowed to roam free for eight catches for 126 yards, including a 29-yard TD on a fourth-and-1 play.
Brown was mostly covered by Bashaud Breeland, while this offseason's big splash, $75 million signing Josh Norman, stayed on his side of the field.
"We have just got to go back and look and correct our mistakes and then study Dallas and figure out things that we might be able to do differently from a personnel standpoint, from a coaching standpoint and go from there," Gruden said, speaking generally about his team's defense. "But the game is done. We've got to learn from it and move on."
As Keim summed up: "The Redskins definitely have the firepower offensively, and early in the game they did a good job of using a variety of personnel packages and featuring different targets. But they never got the run game going; they were slowed too much by one penalty and when they had chances to get up early, they settled for two field goals and not touchdowns. It was a little bit like the Green Bay playoff loss last season; a good team comes roaring back after the Redskins don't capitalize on early chances.
"This game is not a death sentence for the Redskins. But it is a telling one. The Redskins still have enough to compete in the NFC East. They still can win nine games. But Monday is the sort of measuring-stick game the Redskins needed to have. The same is true of Cousins. They didn't live up to it; neither did he."
A few final notes. ... Jones was in the starting lineup after separating his left shoulder on Aug. 19, but he lost 4 yards on his first two carries and finished with 24 yards on seven carries. Washington totaled 55 yards rushing, including just 28 in the first half. Chris Thompson was more productive than Jones thanks to a touchdown run.
Reed caught three passes for 39 yards on the Redskins' opening drive and was a nonfactor with four catches for 25 yards the rest of the way.
Kicker Dustin Hopkins made all three of his field-goal attempts, connecting from 31, 40 and 34 yards. Hopkins was the Redskins' entire offensive production until Thompson's touchdown.
QBs: Josh Johnson, Mark Sanchez, Colt McCoy
RBs: Adrian Peterson, Kapri Bibbs, Samaje Perine, Chris Thompson
WRs: Josh Doctson, Jamison Crowder, Maurice Harris, Michael Floyd, Cam Sims, Trey Quinn
TEs: Vernon Davis, Jeremy Sprinkle, Jordan Reed