Team Notes week 2 2020
NEWS, NOTES, RUMORS AND OTHER GOOD STUFF
Directly from the desk of FlashUpdate Editor Bob Harris. The good; the bad; and yes. ... Even the Bears. There is no better way to jump start your weekend than browsing these always educational -- often irreverent -- team-by-team, Fantasy-specific offerings. ...
Access specific teams by clicking on a team name in the schedule appearing directly to your left or by clicking on a helmet below; return to the helmets by hitting the link labeled "Menu" following each teams notes. ...
Arizona CardinalsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 16 September 2020
As the Associated Press reported, Kyler Murray used the new toy Arizona got him this offseason to get his second season off to a rousing start.
And when Murray wasn't hitting wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins -- who set a career high with 14 receptions Sunday -- he was carrying his team to a 24-20 road win against the San Francisco 49ers at Levi's Stadium with career highs of his own.
The second-year quarterback finished with 91 yards rushing on a career-high 13 carries, including a 22-yard touchdown run that gave the Cardinals their first lead of the game with 6:38 left in the fourth quarter. Murray had 100 yards rushing, which would have been a career high, until two kneel-downs on the game's final two plays set him back.
That 22-yard sprint was Murray's fifth career rushing TD, fourth most among QBs since he debuted last season.
Murray's previous career high was 93 yards rushing, which he set in Week 5 last season at the Cincinnati Bengals. As ESPN.com's Josh Weinfuss noted, Murray used his speed and quickness all day on a mixture of short and long runs. In addition to the 22-yard scramble, Murray had runs of 25, 15 and 11 yards, as well as two for 8 yards and one for 9.
After the game, Murray joked that he isn't counting those negative yards. But Murray's runs weren't part of the game plan, he said. Instead, they were a product of openings in front of him, the result of 49ers defenders getting out of their lanes and getting tired. All of Murray's rushing yards were gained against boxes of six or fewer players, according to NFL Next Gen Stats.
"I just take what they give me," Murray said.
"That's when the offseason work, the conditioning, all that stuff, that's when it kicks in. For me, just doing whatever it takes to win. Those plays weren't meant for me to take off and stuff like that, but whatever I got to do to get the win, I'm gonna do."
In his debut with the Cardinals, Hopkins had 14 catches for 151 yards, including a 33-yard catch late in the fourth quarter that set up a winning touchdown run by Kenyan Drake. Hopkins' previous career high was 12 catches in Week 17 of the 2018 season as a member of the Houston Texans, but the four-time Pro Bowler wasn't surprised he debuted with such a productive day.
"I wasn't because I sacrifice and I put in a lot of work every day, from what I eat to how I take care of my body and my preparation, I know that I'm going to go out and when my number's called, I'm going to catch the ball," Hopkins said.
With his game Sunday, Hopkins became the first player in NFL history with at least 14 catches and 100 receiving yards in a team debut, as well as the second player in NFL history with 14 catches in a debut, according to ESPN Stats and Information research. His 14 catches also tied him with Anquan Boldin for the second most in a game in Cardinals history.
"I didn't know he was going to go for that many catches," head coach Kliff Kingsbury said, "but he got hot, and Kyler and him got in a rhythm, and just excited he's a part of our organization."
Sunday was the Cardinals' first September win since Sept. 17, 2017, at the Indianapolis Colts, a span of almost three years. It was also Arizona's first Week 1 win since 2015
"It's a big-time game, first one of the season, against the NFC champions, your best players got to play at their best and I think that's just what's got to be," Murray said. "In big games you got to rise to the occasion and play well. We started off slow, but everybody stayed through it, stuck with it, fought through adversity and we came out on top."
For what it's worth, Niners CB Richard Sherman moved around and mostly played the wide side of the field rather than spending the day on the defensive left side. According to NFL Next Gen Stats, Sherman had 23 snaps on the right side, nearly twice as many as he had all last season.
Hopkins had three catches for 22 yards on 15 plays going against Sherman, compared to 10 catches for 96 yards against Emmanuel Moseley. ...
There had been concern all week about the status of the game because of poor air conditions from fires across Northern California. The Air Quality Index remained below the 200 threshold and the game was played as scheduled. ...
Also of interest. ... As ArizonaCardinals.com's Darren Urban noted, the Cards had 180 yards rushing and more than 400 total, hard to imagine after the start but also another exclamation point on what people think this offense will be. Yes, Murray was scrambling for a bunch of rushing yards, but the offense is set up to potentially give him that option.
Also according to Urban, Chase Edmonds looks like he's going to be a bigger part of the offense. He made the TD catch, he had a couple of nice runs, and there were plenty of times when he was on the field with Drake. That's smart. He can be a weapon.
Larry Fitzgerald didn't have his most spectacular game, with only four catches for 34 yards, all in the first half. But the veteran wideout wants to win.
So watching him race over to a prone Hopkins, with 49ers defenders "struggling" to get off of Hopkins after a catch and the first-half clock winding down with the Cards in field goal range, wasn't a shock. Watching him grab the ball and sprint to the official at the hashmark to quickly get the ball spotted, so Murray could spike it and set up Zane Gonzalez' career-long 56-yard field goal, That's a play that won't be remembered because the box score won't show it.
But it demonstrates what Fitzgerald is all about.
"His IQ," Hopkins said. "He's one of the smartest guys I've been around."
Next up. ... The Cardinals host Washington on Sunday.
QBs: Kyler Murray, Brett Hundley, Drew Anderson, Chris Streveler
RBs: Kenyan Drake, Chase Edmonds, Eno Benjamin
WRs: DeAndre Hopkins, Christian Kirk, Larry Fitzgerald, Andy Isabella, Trent Sherfield, KeeSean Johnson
TEs: Dan Arnold, Maxx Williams, Darrell Daniels
Atlanta FalconsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 16 September 2020
As ESPN.com's Vaughn McClure noted, Matt Ryan surpassing John Elway for ninth on the all-time passing list sounded nice. So did the Falcons boasting three 100-yard receivers in one game for the first time in team history with Julio Jones, Calvin Ridley and Russell Gage.
But McClure went on to suggest it's safe to say Ryan and the Atlanta Falcons would have traded those statistical accomplishments for more touchdowns in a 38-25 season-opening loss to the Seattle Seahawks. Ryan's 450 passing yards and the 401 combined receiving yards between Jones, Ridley and Gage on 27 catches (nine apiece) were meaningless in defeat, particularly with a lot of those yards coming as the Seahawks softened their coverage while leading.
Of course, fantasy managers are just fine with all of this.
But we can all agree on one issue.
It's no secret how dangerous the Falcons' offense can be, particularly with the new additions of running back Todd Gurley II and tight end Hayden Hurst. Yet a Falcons team that talked all offseason about faster starts managed just one first-half touchdown against the Seahawks: a 1-yard dive by Gurley. The Falcons had just 12 points at the end of the three quarter, and the Seahawks defense certainly deserves credit for that.
Gurley was asked about their points total going into the fourth with all the talent they have.
"Yeah, you know, just to kind of put points on the board ... there's really not much to say," Gurley said. "Like you said, with the talent we have in the receivers, the tight end, Keith Smith at fullback, me, Ito Smith, Brian Hill at running back -- touchdowns. Touchdowns is what we need. We need to be able to score about 80 percent touchdowns, 100 percent in the red zone. And take care of the ball, and we can definitely start getting some wins."
As Gurley said, the Falcons have to score touchdowns -- and score them early -- if they hope to avoid an 0-2 start with Sunday's tough matchup at Dallas. The Cowboys, who scored just 17 points in a season-opening road loss to the Los Angeles Rams, averaged 32.1 points per game at home last season. The Falcons need that same touchdown-scoring mentality all season if they hope to compete against the Drew Brees-led New Orleans Saints and Tom Brady-guided Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the NFC South.
Against Seattle, they found themselves down 14-3 after one quarter and never grabbed a lead in the game.
There were missed opportunities to reach the end zone. Right before halftime, it appeared the Falcons had a shot to at least attempt one pass toward the end zone with a timeout available before settling for a Younghoe Koo field goal. Late in the third quarter, Ryan connected with Jones on a double move for 44 yards, but it might have been a touchdown if Jones didn't have to slow down. And then the Falcons had a third-and-2 at the Seahawks' 11 and got a no gain on a Gurley run. They went for it on fourth-and-2, but Ryan was sacked, ending any chance to score with under two minutes left in the third quarter.
Offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter could have taken more deep shots earlier in the game; Ryan's pair of touchdown passes to Ridley came in the fourth quarter, which was too late.
We will see what adjustments Koetter makes this week against Cowboys defensive coordinator Mike Nolan, a guy he coached alongside in Atlanta during Koetter's first stint as coordinator when Nolan was defensive coordinator. They know what to expect from each other. But the expectations for the Falcons should be touchdowns.
Although Atlanta's defense looked improved in some areas such as the pass rush, the offense still will have to carry the load.
"I think the biggest jump typically happens in football from Week 1 to Week 2," Ryan said. "I think that the only way that happens though is the serious attention to detail that it takes and the hard work that it is going to take for us getting back and focused. If we can clean up some of those things from the first time out there and be a little bit better, I think there are positives to take away. It's a long season."
A few finer points: McClure believes the Falcons didn't target Jones and Ridley as much as they should have in the first half when the game was close. Gage had a team-best seven targets in the half. Jones came on in the second half and surpassed 150 yards receiving. Ryan could have had a long touchdown hookup with Jones in the second half had he hit Jones in stride.
As for this week's game?
Rams coach Sean McVay opted to go with an up-tempo game plan with a lot of play-action in the opener against Dallas. Jared Goff executed it to (near) perfection and the Rams' running back by committee (led by Malcolm Brown) eventually wore out the Cowboys on defense -- and kept their high-powered offense (Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott, Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup and CeeDee Lamb) on the sidelines, especially in the first half.
As AtlantaFalcons.com's Matthew Tabeek put it, "The Falcons are not the Rams, but it's hard to argue with McVay's plan. Wins are hard to come by in this league and LA is 1-0 while the Cowboys head back to Texas 0-1, looking to rebound against the 0-1 Falcons. ..."
For the record. ... Gurley looked pretty solid in scoring his first touchdown as a Falcon. Gurley wasn't spectacular, but he had a nice 15-yard run early. The newcomer was on the field 36 of the team's 79 offensive snaps; Hill was in the backfield for 21 plays while Smith got 20 snaps. ...
While he was targeted five times, Hurst ended up with just three catches for 38 yards. But one of them was a spectacular 27-yard catch late in the first quarter in which he ran past a pair of defenders and laid out for the ball giving the Falcons a first down in Seahawks territory. Seven plays later, Gurley punched it in for his first score. ...
As noted above, Jones, Ridley and Gage each had nine catches and all surpassed 100 receiving yards on the day. Jones finished with a team-high 157 yards while Ridley and Gage tallied 130 and 114 yards, respectively. According to Elias Sports Bureau, Sunday was the first time in NFL history a team had three players with nine catches and 100 yards in the same game. ...
Jones became the second-fastest receiver to record 800 career receptions following a 5-yard catch from Ryan in the second quarter.
Jones entered the game needing three catches to achieve the milestone. He accomplished the feat in 127 games. Former Steelers receiver Antonio Brown reached 800 receptions in 126 games. The seven-time Pro Bowler Jones, now in his 10th NFL season, owns a career average of 6.3 receptions per game and has collected 100 or more receptions in a season three different times.
Jones stands alone as the Falcons' all-time leading receiver. He is the fastest receiver to record 12,000 career yards, reaching that mark in 125 games to surpass Jerry Rice (142 games). Jones also owns the highest yardage-per-game average in NFL history at 96.2 yards per game (based on at least 100 career games).
On the injury front. ... The Falcons added Jones to the injury report last Friday. They listed him as limited with a hamstring issue.
It didn’t stop him from playing 65 of 79 offensive snaps or from having a productive game against Seattle.
Jones, though, remained a limited participant in Wednesday’s practice with the hamstring injury.
Left tackle Jake Matthews (knee), cornerback Kendall Sheffield (foot) and defensive end Charles Harris (ankle) did not practice.
Defensive tackle Marlon Davidson (knee) was limited.
Defensive end Dante Fowler (ankle) was a full participant.
QBs: Matt Ryan, Matt Schaub
RBs: Todd Gurley, Brian Hill, Ito Smith, Qadree Ollison
WRs: Julio Jones, Calvin Ridley, Russell Gage, Christian Blake, Olamide Zaccheaus
TEs: Hayden Hurst, Jaeden Graham, Luke Stocker
Baltimore RavensCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 16 September 2020
As ESPN.com's Jamison Hensley put it, "Lamar Jackson didn't simply return to NFL MVP form. He was actually better, at least in accomplishing his biggest offseason goal. ..."
Jackson stretched the field unlike any time before in Sunday's dominating, 38-6 season-opening win over the Cleveland Browns.
He was 9-of-10 for 180 yards on throws of 10 yards or more downfield, including a 19-yard touchdown pass to Willie Snead (which traveled 18 yards in the air). That's the most such completions in a game in Jackson's career.
Last season, Jackson completed just 49.2 percent of passes over 10 yards, which ranked 19th in the NFL.
Hensley noted that Jackson wasn't as flawless as last year's season opener, when he recorded a perfect 158.3 passer rating. But he was certainly close. Jackson completed 20 of 25 passes for 275 yards and three touchdowns for a 152.1 rating.
But much like last year's opener, Jackson was unstoppable. He moved the Ravens 99 yards to the end zone in 10 plays, and he then marched Baltimore 69 yards in 35 seconds for another score.
This continues a successful run. Jackson became the 11th reigning league MVP to throw for three or more TDs in a season opener.
In addition, Jackson picked up AFC Offensive Player of the Week in Week 1 for the second straight year.
Jackson has nine career games with three or more touchdown passes, which is tied for third-most at age of 23. He'll play the entire 2020 season at age 23. He has certainly put himself among elite company. Dan Marino has the most with 13, and Patrick Mahomes ranks second with 12.
"Lamar played outstanding," head coach John Harbaugh told Profootballtalk.com after the game. "He was the difference. He got our offense going."
Jackson's career is still getting going in the grand scheme of things. Including Sunday, he has started only 32 regular-season games. Harbaugh said he has seen Jackson's growth and maturity as he gains more experiences and sees more defensive looks both during camp and today. Not that there's much more that Jackson needs to do to get to his ceiling.
"He played almost as well as he could," Harbaugh said.
So did the Ravens, who avenged their most recent home regular-season loss from nearly a year ago and ran their regular-season winning streak to 13. ...
Worth noting, Sunday's game marked the third straight season in which the Ravens won a season opener by more than 30 points. Baltimore roughed up the Buffalo Bills, 47-3, in 2018 and then routed the Miami Dolphins, 59-10, in last year's opener. The Ravens are now 10-3 in Week 1 games under Harbaugh, and the Browns are 0-12-1 over that same span in openers.
Also, Jackson led the second-ever 99-yard touchdown drive in franchise history. The other one occurred 22 years ago to the day, when Baltimore drove the length of the field against the New York Jets. Jim Harbaugh, John's brother, was the starting quarterback for the Ravens in that game, but Eric Zeier quarterbacked that drive. ...
After finishing with one of the best red-zone touchdown scoring percentages last season (64.7 percent), the Ravens continued that trend. Five of their six drives in the red zone ended with touchdowns, including a 99-yard drive in the second quarter. ...
According to Baltimore Sun staffer Mike Preston, it appears it is only a matter of time before rookie J.K. Dobbins becomes the starting running back. He gives the Ravens the dimension they lacked last season as a runner who can get to the perimeter quickly. It's early in the season, so there will be enough carries for Mark Ingram and Gus Edwards as well.
Offensive coordinator Greg Roman rotated his running backs as promised, with none of them playing more than 39 percent of offensive snaps. By contrast, Ingram often played more than half the team's offensive snaps in 2019. Last season, Ingram led the Ravens with 202 rushing attempts. Edwards was next with 133, but we could see a more even split among running back touches.
In the end, the Ravens' running game Sunday wasn't as dynamic as it was last season, but it was still effective. ...
Second-year player Marquise Brown was dominant throughout the game. It's hard to handle him with his speed on underneath patterns across the middle. Tight end Mark Andrews makes Jackson look good on some of his poor throws, and he had two touchdown catches. Andrews absorbed most of Hayden Hurst's snaps from last season, playing a higher percentage (71 percent) than he did in any 2019 game.
"The Ravens hope that a healthy Brown adds another dimension to this offense, and he had a strong game with five catches for 101 yards, but Andrews remains the Ravens' most valuable offensive player not named Jackson," Press Box's Bob Smolka wrote.
Overall, it was good to see the Ravens get a lot of the receivers involved in the offense, including Snead and Miles Boykin. When all was said and done, Boykin, Snead and Brown shared almost identical snap counts.
QBs: Lamar Jackson, Robert Griffin III, Trace McSorley
RBs: Mark Ingram, J.K. Dobbins, Gus Edwards, Justice Hill
WRs: Marquise Brown, Miles Boykin, Willie Snead, Devin Duvernay, Jaleel Scott, Chris Moore, James Proche
TEs: Mark Andrews, Nick Boyle
Buffalo BillsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 16 September 2020
Josh Allen turned in the best statistical performance of his career in Sunday's 27-17 win over the New York Jets, completing 33 of 46 passes for a career-high 312 yards and two touchdowns.
According to ESPN.com's Marcel Louis-Jacques, it was Allen's first time eclipsing 300 passing yards in his three-year career and also tied and set career-highs in attempts and completions, respectively.
Louis-Jacques went on to note that Allen started hot, completing 20 of 26 passes for 161 yards and two scores in the first half, connecting on his first seven attempts. He added 57 yards and a touchdown on 14 carries, as well -- although he did fumble twice in that opening half.
Allen called the 300-yards milestone "one of those stats that doesn't matter," but said he was thrilled by the win and cognizant of what he needed to improve on.
"Obviously, I'm happy that we won a game, I'm also happy the way we won it," he said. "Those two fumbles early on -- I can't do. When we're in a position to score points, I can't take that away from us.
"The way we won, yes I'm happy. But at the same time, we've got a lot to work on, a lot to grow from. ...We've got to be better. We left a lot out there and we know that."
Bills general manager Brandon Beane traded for wide receiver Stefon Diggs this offseason, before drafting receivers Gabriel Davis and Isaiah Hodgins in order to bolster his team's passing offense. In their first game together, Diggs and Buffalo's leading receiver in 2019, John Brown, combined for 156 yards and a touchdown on 14 catches -- including a 17-yard screen pass to Brown, which Allen changed at the line of scrimmage.
The presence of Diggs seemed to ease the coverage that was on Brown yesterday.
Allen complimented the duo of Diggs and Brown after the game, insisting that neither was the "lead" receiver over the other.
"They're extremely smart football players. They know how to get open, they're fun to play with," he said. "Not a lot of guys in this league can do what they can do ... That's what you like to see with your 'one' and 'two' receivers -- and I wouldn't even say we have a 'one' and 'two,' we have two 'ones.'"
Head coach Sean McDermott agreed that the team has "a lot to work on" following its first game of the season, although he did expect some mistakes in the Bills' first game since January.
That's not to say he's upset by Sunday's performance.
"We left some things out there," McDermott said. "Overall Josh did a really good job with giving our receivers a chance. I thought our line did a great job giving Josh time to work back there. Good first game but a lot to work on.
"There's a lot to like. We've worked things in practice that we saw carry over to the game -- that's the biggest thing that makes me smile as a coach."
Buffalo plays the Miami Dolphins in Week 2. The Dolphins gave up 75 yards and two scores to Patriots quarterback Cam Newton, along with 155 yards on 15-of-19 passing in a 21-11 loss. ...
Other notes of interest. ... Buffalo ran more than 80 offensive plays for just the second time in McDermott's tenure as Bills head coach. Their 81 plays from scrimmage against the Jets on offense was the first time they ran that many since they snapped the ball 81 times in a loss at Chicago in 2018 (41-9).
Their 81 total plays on offense dwarfed New York's 53 plays from scrimmage on Sunday. ...
As for Allen's rushing work. ... Offensive coordinator Brian Daboll said that utilizing Allen on the ground was part of the game plan against the Jets, a strategy informed in part by New York's stout run defense and in part by their 42-21 loss to the Baltimore Ravens last season. In that game, quarterback Lamar Jackson rushed for 86 yards.
"The quarterback zone read is an obvious element to our game, particularly I would say last game," Daboll said. "Now, whether it is next week or the week after that, I couldn't tell you. But you go back and play a team like New York who is very, very good at stopping the run, it's just a way to try and get an extra [advantage]. ... That was part of the game plan. It certainly wasn't all of it. We've got to do a good job of trying to take care of the ball when it is in [Allen's] hands and he'll work to do that. ..."
As noted above, Brown torched the Jets in his first game alongside Diggs, recording 66 yards and a touchdown on five catches in the first half alone. He finished with six catches for 70 yards. Brown set a career high in receiving yards last season, and his chemistry with Allen was obvious throughout the game.
For what it's worth, Brown has had a touchdown in five of his seven season openers, with one against Buffalo in 2018 when he was with Baltimore. ...
The Bills spent consecutive third-round picks on running backs Devin Singletary and Zack Moss the past two drafts, but Allen (14 carries) nearly carried the ball more than both backs combined (18 carries). Singletary and Moss were given a near-even workload in their first game together, but the fact that neither was much of a factor in the run game is an intriguing storyline to follow. ...
Rookie kicker Tyler Bass had a tough first couple kicks in his first NFL game. Bass ended 2-4 missing from 38 and 34 yards away. Bass's first kick was a close one and ruled wide right, but after a closer look, it seemed like it did sneak in. The call was not changed, and it stayed no good. The rookie was able to make his last two kicks and made all three PATs.
McDermott has not lost confidence in Bass.
"There's always a first time for all of us," McDermott said. "And we remain confident in Tyler. ... He's a young kicker, and that's going to happen from time to time and so we stick by him. I was proud of the way the guys stood by him and supported him. The offensive players, the defensive players, and not just the special teams' players in this case. I'm very proud of the guys for that."
On the injury front. ... Brown did not practice Wednesday due to a foot injury; I'll have more on his status via Late-Breaking Update in coming days. ...
In addition, McDermott said linebackers Del'Shawn Phillips and Matt Milano likely won't practice Wednesday, while linebacker Tremaine Edmunds is a "wait and see."
QBs: Josh Allen, Matt Barkley, Jake Fromm
RBs: Devin Singletary, Zack Moss, T.J. Yeldon, Taiwan Jones
WRs: Stefon Diggs, John Brown, Cole Beasley, Gabriel Davis, Isaiah McKenzie, Andre Roberts, Isaiah Hodgins
TEs: Dawson Knox, Tyler Kroft, Lee Smith
Carolina PanthersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 16 September 2020
First-year head coach Matt Rhule said when he moved on from franchise quarterback Cam Newton that Teddy Bridgewater was a better fit for what he wanted to do offensively.
And as ESPN.com's David Newton reported, Bridgewater, with some help from the best overall running back in the NFL in Christian McCaffrey, supported that premise in Sunday's 34-30 loss to the Las Vegas Raiders with accuracy and efficiency that gave the Panthers a chance to win.
What failed Carolina was -- as advertised -- a young defense that will take time to grow into a unit that can win. That group played hard as Rhule demands but gave up too many yards and points for Bridgewater and company to overcome.
The run defense, in particular, was porous at times, giving up 133 total yards a year after being one of the worst in that category.
Still, the offense was in position to win it, thanks to Bridgewater and McCaffrey, until a questionable fourth-and-1 call near midfield with two minutes left.
Bridgewater completed 22 of 34 pass attempts for 270 yards and a touchdown with no interceptions. He also rushed four times for 26 yards.
According to NFL.com's Gregg Rosenthal, Bridgewater's 6.2 average depth of target during his time in New Orleans was misread by others as a sign that all he could do was dink and dunk. His first start with the Panthers on Sunday was far more fun to watch, with the aDOT figure jumping up to 8.2, while his deep-ball percentage also more than doubled.
Yes, it's just a one-week sample size, but Bridgewater also routinely made the first defender miss. As Rosenthal stressed, Bridgewater is never going to be a running quarterback, but the athleticism he shows while extending plays before finding a receiver has been undersold going back to his Louisville days.
Not spectacular like Cam Newton when healthy, but more than adequate to win.
The only advantage Newton might have given Carolina was on the fourth-down call, when he was almost automatic in gaining less than a yard.
As for that fourth-down play call, Rhule took the heat for Brady after the game.
Little-used fullback Alex Armah got the ball instead, a curious decision by any standard (though Armah converted a third-and-1 earlier in the game).
"That's something I have to think about walking away from this," Rhule told Joe Person of The Athletic. "When you write up who to blame for that, the only person you can blame is the head coach."
As Profootballtalk.com suggests, not throwing his 30-year-old coordinator (or Armah) under the bus was noble, though it's hard to justify not involving the guy they gave a $16 million a year contract extension to this offseason.
For his part, McCaffrey said it "doesn't matter if I was surprised or not," defending Armah. Armah has 17 career carries for 27 yards.
While the decision may have cost them a chance to win a game, eating it is still a smart move by Rhule from a leadership perspective. They're building for the future, so creating trust and accountability will serve them better in years to come than any one game during a rebuilding season.
Meanwhile, McCaffrey was his usual stellar self once offensive coordinator Joe Brady went to him consistently starting late in the third quarter. He had 96 yards rushing and two touchdowns on 23 carries and three catches for 38 yards. But David Newton contends the team should have gone with McCaffrey earlier.
McCaffrey had 10 touches with about five minutes left in the third quarter. He had 11 on the next drive and finished with 26. When McCaffrey got rolling, so did the offense. Rhule and Brady said McCaffrey would be the focal part of the offense, so why wasn't he from the beginning?
The defense just needs time to catch up -- although from a fantasy football perspective, anything that forces the offense to do more is fine with us. ...
Other notes of interest. ... McCaffrey joined Chuck Foreman (37 rushing, 18 receiving) as the only players with 25-plus rushing touchdowns and 15-plus receiving scores in their first 50 career games.
Robby Anderson caught a 75-yard touchdown reception from Bridgewater in the fourth quarter. It marked the longest touchdown reception for Carolina since 2016 when Ted Ginn went for 88 yards against the Raiders. It goes down as the 10th-longest touchdown reception in franchise history.
McCaffrey played 65 of a possible 67 snaps on offense. Mike Davis was in for three snaps and Armah had eight snaps.
D.J. Moore, Anderson and Curtis Samuel played the majority of offensive snaps at WR, with all three playing over 75 percent. Brandon Zylstra (eight), Seth Roberts (five) and Pharoh Cooper (three) saw minimal action on offense.
Chris Manhertz technically started at tight end, but Ian Thomas saw more snaps at tight end. There were 13 snaps when they were both in together.
And finally. ... Joey Slye's preseason was filled with inconsistency, one reason Kaare Vedvik was kept on the practice squad. Despite three first-half field goals, Slye missed an extra point, something that plagued him last season, when he missed four.
QBs: Teddy Bridgewater, Will Grier, Phillip Walker
RBs: Mike Davis, Trenton Cannon, Christian McCaffrey
WRs: D.J. Moore, Robby Anderson, Curtis Samuel, Pharoh Cooper, Seth Roberts, Brandon Zylstra
TEs: Ian Thomas, Chris Manhertz
Chicago BearsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 16 September 2020
As ESPN.com's Jeff Dickerson framed it, "Same old Mitch.
"At least, until the fourth quarter. ..."
Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky's feel-good story read more like pure fiction until the former second overall pick tossed three late touchdown passes to lead Chicago to a 27-23 comeback win over the beleaguered Detroit Lions.
Few of the supposed improvements Trubisky showed in August -- footwork, accuracy and leadership -- carried over to the first three quarters at Ford Field as the Lions built a sizeable lead courtesy of Trubisky and the offense's ineptitude on third down and an uncharacteristically lackadaisical effort by Chicago's vaunted defense.
Trubisky and the Bears flipped the script in the final 15 minutes (with help from the Lions who lost at least three defensive starters to ejection and injury to avoid more full-blown consternation over the starting quarterback spot.
Trubisky finished 20-of-36 for 242 yards and three touchdowns. As Dickerson suggested, his supporters will lean on the statistics. In reality, the Bears were extremely fortunate to knock off a very mediocre Lions team. Trubisky is feast or famine. He has to become a more consistent player for the Bears to challenge for the playoffs.
The fourth-quarter heroics are wonderful, but the Bears offense can't dig holes for itself like that. The Bears went 2-for-11 on third down.
Still, the Nick Foles debate will have to wait for another week.
After the game, Trubisky said he wasn't going to make too much of the start to a long season.
"For me, it's just one game at a time," Trubisky said, via the Chicago Sun-Times. "This is only one game. I've got to continue to stay focused, to stay in this mental space that I'm in and just keep getting after it every single week. If you're focused on writing the story while you're going through it, then you kind of distract yourself. It's better to just stay present, live in the moment. That's exactly what I'm trying to do."
He'll try to keep that going against the Giants in Week 2. ...
Continued reliance on the rushing attack could help.
In last season's opener, the team ran only 12 designed running plays for 37 yards. On Sunday, those numbers more than doubled and tripled, respectively. The trio of David Montgomery, Tarik Cohen and Cordarrelle Patterson combined for 124 yards on 24 carries.
Trubisky credited the rushing attack for establishing the balance that allowed the Bears to mount their fourth-quarter comeback.
"Hitting them with the pass," said Trubisky, "hitting them with the play-action and then hitting them with nakeds, screens, the runs, I think when you're a balanced offense, everything just starts to open up. The O-line did a great job opening up lanes for the running backs to run, and it was creating a rhythm for our offense."
Adding in Trubisky's 20-yard scramble in the fourth quarter, the team averaged 5.3 yards per carry, a stark improvement from last season's 3.7 mark. Even without Trubisky's improvisation, the team still averaged a full yard more per carry.
Montgomery, whose status was in doubt until late last week due to a groin injury, led the way with 13 carries for 64 yards. Cohen put in his best rushing performance since 2018, contributing 41 yards on seven carries. Converted receiver Patterson added 19 yards on four carries.
Head coach Matt Nagy commended his offensive line for setting the tone early and giving the running backs space to create plays.
"They never get their credit," said Nagy, "and I thought they did a really, really good job establishing that run, early on especially. There were some nice runs, six-, seven-, eight-yard runs. We stayed patient with that. In the end, it looks like there was about 4.7 yards per rush, which, you love that in this league."
While the passing game struggled to find momentum in the first half, the Bears were able to march down the field twice to set up manageable field goals for Cairo Santos. Trubisky felt that the early focus on running the ball helped set the tone.
"I think it helps the big boys up front," said Trubisky. "They love coming off the football and opening up run lanes for our running backs, and I think it settles our running backs as well. We just want to keep teams off balance, and that comes, for us, [by] being in balance, and then [other teams] never knowing what's going to come next."
Last year's Giants squad held Montgomery and Cohen to a combined 47 yards on 19 carries. The game may serve as a test to see if the Bears' rushing attack is here to stay.
"We've got to keep grinding, keep getting better," said Trubisky. "I definitely love to see the run game going, running backs running hard and the O-line busting their tails up front. They played a great game."
Also of interest. ... When the Bears visited Detroit last Nov. 28, Anthony Miller caught a 32-yard pass from Trubisky to set up the game-winning touchdown in an exciting comeback victory. History repeated itself Sunday as the two connected on a nearly identical 27-yard pass down the right sideline—only this time the play resulted in the go-ahead touchdown with 1:54 remaining.
"It was actually the same exact route; we just dressed it up a little differently with formation and all that," Trubisky said. "It was the same end zone and the same side of the field, so it was kind of weird that that happened."
Miller finished the game with four receptions for a team-high 76 yards.
"I trusted him," Trubisky said. "He kept telling me all game, 'Trust me, trust me, stick with me,' and I did. I just looked off the safety, put it in a place where he could make the play, and he made a phenomenal catch. A lot of credit goes to the O-line for just giving us time. But Anthony made a phenomenal catch. It was really similar to the one last year. It was kind of crazy. ..."
Prior to Jimmy Graham's short touchdown catch at the beginning of the fourth quarter, the Bears' tight ends were non-existent. Chicago poured tons of resources into tight end when it signed veterans Graham and Demetrius Harris in free agency and drafted Notre Dame's Cole Kmet in the second round.
The Bears wanted to turn tight end from a position of weakness to a position of strength. Chicago appeared to accomplish that goal in training camp. In Week 1 of the regular season, not so much. Graham ended the game with three catches for 25 yards. ...
Replacing the injured Eddy Pineiro, Santos made all five kicks he attempted—field goals from 35 and 28 yards and three extra points. ...
And finally. ... Allen Robinson is entering the final year of his deal. He's made it clear that he wants to stay in Chicago and would like to get extended, but it takes two to tango for that to happen.
Nothing got done before the season and Robinson made some changes on social media which fans caught on to. Robinson deleted all Bears related posts from his Instagram and removed "Chicago Bears" from his Twitter bio. He also changed his Twitter header photo from a Bears comic.
Then a report early Tuesday afternoon indicated the receiver had not asked for a trade despite being frustrated by the pace of extension talks. Then came word from Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune that Robinson asked about a possible trade. Allen's agent, Brandon Parker, denied a trade request has been made.
Robinson spoke to reporters Wednesday and it comes as no surprise the lead topic was Robinson's feelings about the team.
Robinson said, via Mark Potash of the Chicago Sun-Times, that he'd met with Nagy and general manager Ryan Pace and that they are "in the clear" in terms of Robinson finishing the season in Chicago. He added that "my heart and spirit has never wavered" about wanting to be in Chicago for the long haul.
During his own press conference, Nagy said, via Jason Lieser of the Chicago Sun-Times, that he still thinks that the two sides can work out a new deal and that "our players all realize the history we have here in regards to taking care of guys."
Robinson signed a three-year, $42 million deal with the Bears in 2018. He has 153 catches for 1,901 yards and 11 touchdowns over two seasons with the team and has emerged as one of the most underrated receivers in the league. His career statistics are close to those of Keenan Allen, who recently signed a four-year extension with the Chargers averaging more than $20 million per season.
Allen has played one more season than Robinson has.
QBs: Mitchell Trubisky, Nick Foles
RBs: David Montgomery, Tarik Cohen, Ryan Nall
WRs: Allen Robinson, Anthony Miller, Ted Ginn, Cordarrelle Patterson, Darnell Mooney, Javon Wims, Riley Ridley, Alex Wesley
TEs: Jimmy Graham, Cole Kmet, Demetrius Harris, J.P. Holtz
Cincinnati BengalsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 16 September 2020
According to ESPN.com's Ben Baby, quarterback Joe Burrow provided a glimpse into what his rookie year could look like.
The top overall pick in the 2020 draft made a few mistakes in his NFL debut. But he showed enough good things to suggest the Bengals can live with those rookie errors if it means Burrow cements himself as the next franchise quarterback.
Burrow came agonizingly close to helping the Bengals avoid a 16-13 loss to the Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday at Paul Brown Stadium. The rookie was 23-of-36 passing for 193 yards with no touchdowns and one interception. He scored his first career touchdown with a 23-yard run in the first quarter.
While the turnover came in the fourth quarter, Burrow rallied and was on the verge of becoming the first quarterback taken No. 1 overall to win his rookie debut since David Carr did it in 2002.
Burrow had a 3-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver A.J. Green negated after Green was whistled for offensive pass interference with 7 seconds remaining. Kicker Randy Bullock missed a 31-yarder with 2 seconds left that would have put the game into overtime.
On Cincinnati's final drive, Burrow showed the resolve he'll need during his rookie season. On the possession following the interception, Burrow calmly led the Bengals down the field and made nearly every throw he needed to pull off the comeback. He was 8-of-11 for 70 yards on that final drive.
Much like Sunday, Burrow's rookie year won't be perfect. But the resiliency he showed is a good sign -- and will be required as he tries to navigate the NFL. ...
For what it's worth. ... Yes. Green thought it was a bad call.
The official said Green pushed off and nullified the touchdown; Green said all's fair in love and war.
"For one, he was clamping me the whole time," Green told Geoff Hobson of the team's official website. "Coming off the ball within five yards, so if you're are going to call that, we can call that both ways. But they made the call and we lost the game.
"It definitely was the winning touchdown."
But he saw the future. The name is "Burrow."
"He's unbelievable. That guy doesn't flinch," Green said. "The way he handled himself in that last drive was unbelievable. I haven't seen no rookie the way he handled it after adversity. We got a special one in Joe and we are going to be better next week. We are going to build this thing brick by brick and get better each week."
Green finished with five catches for 51 yards. But if you ask him it was six for 58 and his seventh Opening Day TD. ...
Other notes of interest. ... According to Baby, there's really no way around it -- the Bengals' offensive line needs to do a better job of keeping Burrow upright.
In the first half, Burrow was on the ground often. When he was standing, he had limited time to find receivers. He averaged 2.21 seconds per attempt in the first half, according to NFL Next Gen Stats. At the time, that was the quickest of any qualifying quarterback in Week 1. To the Bengals' credit, the offensive line looked considerably better in the second half and gave Burrow the chance to make some big plays. However, the line has been scrutinized over the years for a reason.
And with Burrow behind center, it's imperative Cincinnati is consistently able to protect their young quarterback. ...
As NFL.com noted, Joe Mixon went 987 days between lost fumbles.
The long streak didn't make Sunday's botch versus the Chargers to end the run any easier to digest for the tailback whose last fumble came on Dec. 31, 2017.
"I owe the team. I owe it to them. Thursday is up," Mixon said Tuesday, noting Thursday night's tilt versus the Browns.
With 12:20 left in a 13-13 game, Mixon took the handoff from Burrow and immediately felt pressure from linebacker Denzel Perryman. The running back attempted to pirouette out of the tackle, and then the ball squirted loose. Former Bengal Nick Vigil was there to scoop up the loose pigskin. All the while, expert play-by-play Kevin Harlan was shouting, "He never fumbles, he never fumbles!"
Mixon estimated he's watched the disaster about 50 times.
"I played it back even when (RB coach Jemal Singleton) showed me. I don't like looking at it. But. ... 'Run that back one more time. Run it one more time.' Different angle," Mixon said, via the team's official website. "It sucks, but at the same time, no matter how bad it is, you have to learn from it. You have to just to see how you could have attacked it differently. How you could have held the ball and made a move off of it and these are things I'm accessing in my head."
The fumble led directly to the Chargers' go-ahead field goal, which eventually became the game-winner.
Mixon, who just signed a new four-year contract extension worth $12 million per year, vows not to let it happen again.
"It definitely hurt. Definitely disappointed. It's definitely inexcusable," said Mixon. "It's something I will never get used to doing. From there just got to learn from it. Learn from the mistake and bounce back, hopefully look back to go ahead and go on another streak ... it's definitely going to add fuel to the fire."
That streak starts with Thursday night's tilt in Cleveland. ...
Meanwhile, Bullock's left calf did what the Bengals offense couldn't do. As Bullock went to kick the tying 31-yard field goal with seven seconds left, he sliced it right when he couldn't bring his kicking leg through while the other calf "grabbed," he said.
Tom Pelissero of NFL Media reports that there are still tests being done, but the current belief is that the injury is "nothing serious."
When Bullock put the Bengals up, 13-6, with a 43 yard field goal with 1:32 left in the third quarter, he had just passed Shayne Graham as the most accurate kicker in Bengals history with an 87 percentage. Now he's back in second place after suffering just the second miss of his career on a last kick (the Bengals lost when he missed one in Houston on Christmas Eve, 2016) and the Bengals never got to overtime.
"I don't have anything to hide from. I'm here," Bullock said. "I've played for a long time. This is part of my job as well as communicating with you guys. I wish I had a better answer for what transpired. For whatever reason a calf grabbed and affected the play."
Despite the miss, head coach Zac Taylor said the team is sticking with Bullock.
"Randy's our kicker," Taylor said.
They claimed former Browns kicker Austin Siebert earlier, but that's apparently just an insurance policy after Bullock was listed as limited with injuries to both calves on the team's estimated practice report released Monday. Seibert was dropped by the Browns after missing a field goal and an extra point in their loss to the Ravens.
But Bullock practiced fully on Wednesday and avoided injury designation
The Bengals will be without defensive tackles Geno Atkins and Mike Daniels against the Browns.
Atkins missed last week with a shoulder injury, while Daniels has a groin injury.
Safety Shawn Williams (calf) has also been ruled out, as has guard Xavier Su'a-Filo, who went on injured reserve with an ankle injury.
Otherwise, everyone else on the roster was a full participant in practice and had no injury designation.
QBs: Joe Burrow, Ryan Finley
RBs: Joe Mixon, Giovani Bernard, Trayveon Williams, Samaje Perine
WRs: A.J. Green, Tyler Boyd, John Ross, Tee Higgins, Auden Tate, Damion Willis, Alex Erickson, Mike Thomas
TEs: Drew Sample, Cethan Carter, C.J. Uzomah
Cleveland BrownsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 16 September 2020
As Associated Press sports writer Tom Withers framed it, "Odell Beckham Jr. watched the ball hit his hands, then the ground.
"The Browns fell just as easily and quickly. ..."
In a season opener filled with mistakes and looking like so many in previous Cleveland seasons, Beckham's dropped pass on a crucial third-down play late in the first half of Sunday's 38-6 loss to the Baltimore Ravens may have been the most costly.
There were plenty to choose from.
"They out-coached us, they outplayed us," head coach Kevin Stefanski said after a painful debut. "We did a lot of things losing teams do. We turned it over three times, didn't play complementary football. We've got a lot to clean up."
With no margin for error against one of the NFL's best teams, the Browns made way too many against the Super Bowl-craving Ravens, and Stefanski's first game with Cleveland went the same way as it did for most of his predecessors.
The Browns fell to 1-20-1 in season openers since the franchise's rebirth in 1999, and Cleveland is now winless in 16 straight openers -- an NFL record it already owned.
For the second year in a row, the opener was a colossal letdown for a Browns team seeking a fresh start. Last season, it was a brutal 30-point loss to Tennessee, and this one was just as bad -- maybe even worse since it came against a division opponent.
"Sometimes a wake-up call is good for everybody," quarterback Baker Mayfield said. "A punch in the mouth and that's how we should take it."
Mayfield threw an interception on Cleveland's first possession, kicker Austin Seibert missed an extra point and field goal -- and may soon get the boot himself -- and Stefanski's first gamble backfired badly when he faked the first punt this season.
"That's on me," Stefanski said. "It didn't work out."
Little went right for the Browns, and yet despite numerous early issues, they were still within 17-6 and possibly driving for a late score in the second quarter when Beckham, known for his one-handed catches, tried to run before securing Mayfield's short pass at the Baltimore 20 with 50 seconds left.
A completion would have given the Browns a first down and the chance to carve into the Ravens' lead. Instead, they had to settle for a field-goal attempt, but Seibert pushed his 41-yard try to the right. Earlier, he clanked his first PAT of 2020 off the left upright. "I expect him to make those kicks," said Stefanski.
Mayfield spent the offseason trying to put a rough 2019 season -- 21 interceptions -- behind him. But on Cleveland's opening drive, defensive end Calais Campbell dropped into coverage, tipped a pass intended for receiver KhaDarel Hodge and cornerback Marlon Humphrey picked off the deflection.
Mayfield finished 21 of 39 for 189 yards, and had a few nice moments. But just as last year, the No. 1 overall pick in 2018 struggled to find chemistry with Beckham, who was targeted 10 times and finished with three catches.
"I have to be better and give him a chance on some of those things," Mayfield said. "Like the free-play late in the game, just give him a chance. He is a great player so I just need to give him a chance."
There's no shame in falling to the defending AFC North champs on the road, especially after so much turnover following an unprecedented offseason.
But a disappointing 2019 season also began with a deflating 30-point loss.
To have any hope of snapping the NFL's longest playoff drought -- now up to 18 years -- the Browns better right the ship quickly, with two winnable games on deck, against Cincinnati and Washington at home. ...
Other notes of interest. ... The season-opening blowout loss produced a flurry of Monday personnel activity.
Seibert was waived Monday following an empty performance in which he missed his lone field goal attempt and only extra-point try. In is Cody Parkey, signed to the 53-man roster from Cleveland's practice squad to replace the former fifth-round pick just in time to prepare for Thursday night's game against the Bengals.
Also out, at least for the rest of September, is tight end David Njoku. Cleveland placed him on injured reserve Monday with a knee injury, but NFL Network's Ian Rapoport reported Njoku is expected to return sooner rather than later.
With the league's shift to unlimited injured reserve-to-return candidates and its shortening of the timeline to return from eight weeks to three, Njoku could be back on the field by October. The tight end made the most of his opportunities Sunday, catching the Browns' only touchdown of the day and making an acrobatic grab over Baltimore defensive back Tavon Young for a 28-yard gain.
Njoku finished with three receptions for 50 yards and the touchdown, a nice start to a season that will now meet an interruption.
The news is a bit disappointing for Njoku, who suffered a broken wrist and concussion in Week 2 of 2019, all but washing out the remainder of his season. After Cleveland invested in the tight end room in the offseason -- signing Austin Hooper and drafting Harrison Bryant -- Njoku needed to prove something to management in his fourth NFL season.
It sounds as if he'll receive such a chance at some point following a strong start to 2020. ...
Jarvis Landry (hip) was held out of Tuesday's practice; he returned for a limited session Wednesday and is officially listed as questionable for Thursday night's game.
Tackle Jack Conklin (ankle/finger), OL Chris Hubbard (ankle), center JC Tretter (knee), defensive end Olivier Vernon (abdomen) and tackle Jedrick Wills Jr. (shin) are also questionable to play against the Bengals. Cornerbacks Kevin Johnson and Greedy Williams and linebackers Mack Wilson and Jacob Phillips have been ruled out. ...
Beyond that. ... After playing through a sports hernia injury all last year, Beckham underwent surgery in the offseason and showed up to training camp 100 percent healthy. Yet, as noted above, just like in 2019, Mayfield and Beckham struggled Sunday. As ESPN.com's Jake Trotter pointed out, Beckham has been predicting a big 2020 season for himself. This was an inauspicious start.
QBs: Baker Mayfield, Case Keenum
RBs: Nick Chubb, Kareem Hunt, D'Ernest Johnson
WRs: Odell Beckham, Jarvis Landry, Rashard Higgins, Donovan Peoples-Jones, KhaDarel Hodge, JoJo Natson
TEs: Austin Hooper, David Njoku, Stephen Carlson, Harrison Bryant
Dallas CowboysCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 16 September 2020
According to the Associated Press, Mike McCarthy lost his debut as coach of the Dallas Cowboys in part because of a curious fourth-down decision that didn't work.
He might have won a quarterback with the move.
Dak Prescott's pass to rookie receiver CeeDee Lamb covered 2 yards on fourth-and-3 when a short field goal could have pulled Dallas even in the fourth quarter of a 20-17 loss to the Los Angeles Rams.
Now the Cowboys will see whether a short-term loss can turn into a long-term gain, starting Sunday in their home opener against Atlanta.
"I mean, I love the aggressiveness," Prescott said. "I think that was the point in the game that if we get that first down and punch it in the end zone, we're looking at a whole different ballgame. I think it was a momentum chance, and I love the play call. We just weren't able to get it."
For Dallas fans, there were things besides a debatable coaching move that looked hauntingly familiar to the end of Jason Garrett's tenure: a defense that couldn't keep up early, and an offense that couldn't make the clutch play late.
The Cowboys might argue that made the big play on a long pass from Prescott to Michael Gallup that put them in position for at least a field goal in the final seconds. Gallup was called for offensive pass interference against Jalen Ramsey.
"They're going to call it like they want to call it," Gallup said. "We've got to keep playing through."
Worth noting. ... The Cowboys went 1-6 in one-score games. Only the Cincinnati Bengals have been worse since the start of 2019, dropping to 0-9 after losing their opener, 16-13, to SoFi Stadium's other tenant, the Los Angeles Chargers, on Sunday. If 2020 is going to be different than the Cowboys' 8-8 disappointment in 2019, their level of play has to rise when it matters most.
From 2016 to 2018, Prescott had a league-best 14 game-winning drives in the fourth quarter or overtime.
It's the kind of situation they need to work on. ...
Other notes of interest. ... Ezekiel Elliott scored both Dallas touchdowns and finished with 96 yards rushing and 31 receiving. He's the first Cowboys player with a rushing and receiving TD in an opener. And there were plenty of touches -- 25 (22 carries, three catches) -- when one of the questions was how his role would evolve under McCarthy considering the coach's history with QBs. ...
After undergoing further evaluation upon the team's return from Los Angeles, Blake Jarwin will have ACL surgery after injuring his knee against the Rams, Cowboys chief operating officer Stephen Jones confirmed Monday in an interview with 105.3 The Fan FM. "It's pretty clear that Jarwin is unfortunately going to have to have his ACL repaired, and we all know what that means. Obviously a tough loss for us," Jones said.
The injury is expected to end Jarwin's 2020 season after just two quarters. The fourth-year pro entered the year with sky-high expectations, having assume the starting role from Jason Witten. Sadly, after just one reception for 12 yards, his knee buckled while he was breaking out of a route.
Obviously, the injury puts the Cowboys in quite a bind. Even with Jarwin manning the starting spot, the tight end position looked like one of the thinnest positions on this roster.
Dalton Schultz wasn't exactly inspiring in Jarwin's absence. The third-year tight end drew an offensive pass interference flag on a Cowboys' touchdown drive, and he also dropped two crucial passes.
Fellow backup Blake Bell played just eight snaps, while rookie Sean McKeon was a healthy scratch from the game day roster. ...
LB Leighton Vander Esch broke his collarbone and is headed to injured reserve with a chance to return in 6-8 weeks. Sean Lee will not be playing for a while. NFL Network's Jane Slater reported Wednesday that the Dallas Cowboys linebacker is expected to be out six weeks after undergoing hernia surgery last week in Philadelphia with noted specialist Dr. William Meyers, per sources informed of the situation.
Lee started the season on IR, and undergoing surgery confirms he'll be out longer than the minimum three weeks.
Slater noted that Lee is looking at a mid-October return.
Dallas will now be looking at Joe Thomas likely starting and playing heavy minutes while the Cowboys wait for the return of Lee and LVE
T Cameron Erving had his left knee crunched while blocking on the 53-yard field goal that Greg Zuerlein missed. If Erving misses much time, it will be a huge blow to the depth of the offensive line.
QBs: Dak Prescott, Andy Dalton, Ben DiNucci
RBs: Ezekiel Elliott, Tony Pollard, Rico Dowdle
WRs: Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup, CeeDee Lamb, Cedrick Wilson, Malik Turner, Ventell Bryant, Noah Brown
TEs: Blake Jarwin, Dalton Schultz, Blake Bell
Denver BroncosCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 16 September 2020
A trio of fourth-quarter Drew Lock passes may be the lingering memories of Monday's 16-14 loss to the Tennessee Titans.
There was the first-down pass to Jerry Jeudy with just over four minutes to play that dropped from Jeudy's hands. There was a deep shot to DaeSean Hamilton on third down that would've given the Broncos a game-sealing score. And there was one final Hail Mary attempt that fell short as Lock tried to launch a game-saving pass from his own side of the field.
None of those passes, though, should be a reason to forget Lock's first-quarter touchdown pass, when he booted to his right and threw back across his body to Noah Fant for a go-ahead score.
It was athletic, and it was a bit risky. The 9-yard pass was in some ways emblematic of Lock's skill as a quarterback, and it was an impressive play by a second-year player.
And while Monday's outcome wasn't the desired one, there were signs that suggested there could be similar plays on the way.
"I think it was good without watching the tape," head Vic Fangio said of Lock's play. "He played well. He was in command of what we were trying to do. Made some plays both with his arm and his feet. I was pleased with the way Drew played. I know when you only score 14 points, you think the quarterback wouldn't have played well enough, but I think he did."
In addition to the first-quarter touchdown, Lock scrambled for a first down and avoided a Jadeveon Clowney rush to find Tim Patrick for a first down. At halftime, Lock was 14-of-17 for 142 yards, one touchdown and a 121.1 passer rating.
Lock, though, was focused on how to improve after a second half in which the Broncos scored seven points and totaled just 3 yards in the third quarter. To the second-year quarterback, this loss didn't feel much different than the ones that stung the Broncos early in 2019.
Lock finished 22-of-33 for 216 yards and a touchdown with a 95.0 passer rating.
"It does feel a little bit like those from last year," Lock said. "Obviously, I was on the sideline for those. It hits a little harder being on the field and being able to have a say in the outcome. There's just some plays that we could've made to not only finish the game out, but during the game. The drive where I fumbled the snap on the 1[-yard line] -- I could've picked up some yards on that play. We got to third down, and we got kicked off the field. There's just a lot of little things that we could have done better.
"I feel like it was promising. Made some plays, but we want to be an elite offense. Tonight, with some of the things that we did, including some of the things I did myself, it just wasn't elite for us."
As the Broncos look ahead to Pittsburgh, Lock will aim to show increased comfort in new Offensive Coordinator Pat Shurmur's system. And, to be fair, there were flashes of impressive play. With the exception of the third quarter, the Broncos moved the ball well and reached the red zone on three occasions.
"I showed some things I wanted to show tonight, but I wasn't trying to throw everything out there the first game just to show everybody and prove everything," Lock said. "I think I will prove it over the season. I'm really excited about Pat Shurmur's offense. I felt comfortable back there -- more comfortable than I did toward the end of last season. It just felt right. It felt like I was where I needed to be. I was very confident going into the game and I was confident the whole game. I just have to make a couple plays here and there to pull out a win."
Meanwhile, Fant seemed on pace for his third career 100-yard game as he posted five catches for 81 yards and a touchdown in the first half. He was targeted just once in the second half, though, which Fangio attributed to the Broncos' three-and-outs that limited the number of opportunities for the offense.
When he was at his best on Monday, the 2019 first-round pick was borderline unstoppable. He showed tremendous concentration in the end zone on his touchdown grab and was a problem in space for the Titans, who struggled to tackle him after he caught the ball on crossing routes.
"First time seeing Noah Fant up close," Melvin Gordon said. "He's pretty electric out there. I was kind of wowed a little bit with how he was playing."
Running back Phillip Lindsay left Monday night's loss to the Titans early with what the team called a foot injury, but Fangio was a bit more specific after the game.
Fangio said that it was a toe injury that forced Lindsay to the sideline. Adam Schefter of ESPN reports that Lindsay has turf toe.
Schefter adds that the team hopes it is a minor injury for Lindsay, but further evaluation will take place this week. In fact, NFL Network's Tom Pelissero reports that Lindsay was getting a second opinion and there's some optimism Lindsay, who didn't practice Wednesday, won't be out long.
But his status is clearly in doubt on a short week for Sunday's game at Pittsburgh and NFL Network's Ian Rapoport advised his Twitter followers not to be surprised to see Lindsay miss the next few weeks, just based on the nature of his injury and the position he plays.
Lindsay ran seven times for 24 yards and caught one pass for 11 yards before leaving on Monday. Gordon would be in line for more work if Lindsay can't go against the Steelers in Week 2.
In addition, the get injured wideouts Courtland Sutton (shoulder) and K.J. Hamler (hamstring) back for this one. Fangio said on Tuesday that Hamler would be back practicing full Wednesday. Sutton, who was limited Wednesday, hopes he can do more by end of week.
I'll be following up on all three in coming days; check the Late-Breaking Updates section for the latest.
In addition, cornerback A.J. Bouye wasn't able to finish his Broncos debut. NFL Media reports that Bouye was diagnosed with a dislocated shoulder and no surgery is planned. It's on to rehab, and Bouye should be out just a few weeks. That likely means he's headed to injured reserve, from which he can return after just three weeks.
Bouye played 28 snaps in his first game since coming to the Broncos in a trade with the Jaguars. He broke up one pass during his time on the field.
Bryce Callahan was joined by rookies Michael Ojemudia and Essang Bassey at corner once Bouye went out.
QBs: Jeff Driskel, Blake Bortles
RBs: Melvin Gordon, Royce Freeman, Phillip Lindsay
WRs: Jerry Jeudy, K.J. Hamler, Tim Patrick, Daesean Hamilton, Tyrie Cleveland, Diontae Spencer, Courtland Sutton
TEs: Noah Fant, Jake Butt, Troy Fumagalli, Nick Vannett
Detroit LionsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 16 September 2020
As ESPN.com's Michael Rothstein framed it, "It happened again. Another start to the season. Another three quarters of good football. Then the fourth quarter started and the Detroit Lions managed to push a double-digit lead away. ..."
For a second consecutive season, the Lions blew a big fourth-quarter lead in their opening game.
This year was worse, however. Detroit at least salvaged a tie in its first game at Arizona in 2019. On Sunday against Chicago, the Lions allowed the last 21 points in a 27-23 loss to the Bears.
Last year, Detroit led 24-6 at Arizona in the final quarter, but the game ended in a 27-27 tie. Against Chicago, the Lions were up 23-6, and the Bears had not looked threatening on offense.
Matthew Stafford tried to lead a last-minute comeback that fell 16 yards short and the Lions had the familiar feeling from the final three quarters of last season.
Rookie D'Andre Swift, who had scored the game's first touchdown in the second quarter, dropped what could have been the winning TD with 6 seconds left.
"I just pulled him to the side and told him, 'Hey, it's all about how you respond to this. Don't let this get you down,'" said Adrian Peterson, who rushed for 93 yards in his first game with the Lions. "I can imagine how he feels in that situation, how he must feel. But at the end of the day, what he showed me today is that he's going to be able to help us. He's going to win games for us."
Another competitive game. And another loss for a team that hasn't won since October of last season.
Injuries were a factor.
Starting cornerbacks Desmond Trufant and Justin Coleman (nickel) both left Sunday's game with hamstring injuries. They join the long list of players currently dealing with hamstring injuries on the Lions' roster. That number is now up to seven and Coleman was placed on IR earlier this week.
Wide receiver Kenny Golladay, cornerback Jeff Okudah, tight end Hunter Bryant and safety C.J. Moore were all inactive with hamstring injuries.
Wide receiver Danny Amendola was also nursing a hamstring injury, but he was able to play.
"When you have a couple of injuries at one position you're trying to do the best you can," head coach Matt Patricia said after the game. "Guys that are going in there are getting ready to go. We have confidence in all of those guys when they've got to go play. We'll see what it looks like tomorrow from the injury standpoint and we'll assess and go forward.
"We know it doesn't stop, you know we've got challenges every week and certainly at the skill positions, the DB position, we know how important it is to have all of those guys out there and to have them be healthy. So we're going to fight through that."
Detroit's health situation at the cornerback position will certainly be something to monitor this week, especially with a road game to Green Bay on the slate next Sunday. Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers completed 32-of-44 passes for 364 yards with four touchdowns and no interceptions in a win over the Minnesota Vikings earlier today.
Along those lines, Patricia told reporters that Okudah will practice Wednesday. Trufant and defensive end Austin Bryant wereen't expected to do much in the unpadded session, while cornerback Darryl Roberts, offensive tackle Halapoulivaati Vaitai and defensive end Nick Williams could be limited. Detroit announced it has signed cornerback Chris Jones from the Cardinals' practice squad.
Golladay was at practice in a helmet Wednesday but not doing anything.
We'll have more on all involved via Late-Breaking Update in coming days. ...
Other notes of interest. ... The Lions signed the 35-year-old Peterson a week ago and while he isn't the player he was in his prime, there's little question he has something left after Washington released him. Peterson ran with power and his cuts still looked close-to-as-sharp as when he was in his prime.
He doesn't have the speed gear he used to, but he's going to offer the Lions the powerful, consistent back Detroit hasn't had in a long time, gaining 93 rushing yards and another 21 receiving.
Peterson had by far the best game among the three running backs. Rookie D'Andre Swift played the most snaps. And Kerryon Johnson, who started, added value as a pass protector.
Offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell said Tuesday he expects to use that rotation again Sunday when the Lions face the Green Bay Packers this weekend; I'll have more on that rotation via Late-breaking Update in coming days as well. ...
Without Golladay, it took almost a half for Golladay to find his rhythm. Once he did, Stafford continued playing at the level he left off at last season, continuing to find open receivers and hit his targets in stride (at least until the end of the fourth quarter, when he threw a tipped-pass-interception). Stafford completed 24 of 42 passes for 297 yards, one touchdown and an interception.
Also, while it wasn't quite the debut he had in Arizona as a rookie (31 receptions for 131 yards and a TD), second-year tight end T.J. Hockenson made some nice plays Sunday against the Bears to start his second season in the league.
Hockenson beefed up this offseason and added muscle, but still showed off terrific speed and the ability to separate from defenders and make plays in the open field Sunday.
He finished the game catching all five of his targets for 56 yards and 4-yard touchdown grab in the third quarter that gave the Lions a 20-6 lead at the time.
Amendola led the Lions in receiving with five catches for 81 yards Sunday.
It was a nice start to the year for Hockenson.
QBs: Matthew Stafford, Chase Daniel
RBs: Kerryon Johnson, D'Andre Swift, Adrian Peterson, Ty Johnson
WRs: Kenny Golladay, Marvin Jones, Danny Amendola, Marvin Hall, Jamal Agnew
TEs: T.J. Hockenson, Jesse James, Hunter Bryant
Green Bay PackersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 16 September 2020
As Profootballtalk.com's Josh Alper noted, after an offseason that saw the Packers draft a quarterback in the first round and not draft a wide receiver at all, there were plenty of people waiting to see how Aaron Rodgers would kick off the year against the Vikings.
Rodgers said that playing in front of no fans at U.S. Bank Stadium was "one of the strangest experiences" of his life, but it seemed to suit him fine on the field. Rodgers was 32-of-44 for 364 yards and four touchdowns in a 43-34 victory over their NFC North rivals.
Rodgers said, via Lily Zhao of WITI, that "execution was pretty high on our side" when discussing the performance of the offense against the Vikings. He added that he felt like he was "in it from the start" and the results will make everyone around the team happy.
It's the fifth time that Rodgers has thrown for at least 350 yards and at least four touchdowns without throwing an interception. That's the kind of strange experience that the Packers will sign up for a few more times.
He sure didn't in the Packers' season-opening 43-34 win over the Minnesota Vikings at a fan-less U.S. Bank Stadium. Rodgers seemed as happy as ever heading into his 16th NFL season despite the fact that the team drafted his possible eventual successor, Jordan Love, in the first round instead of adding a playmaking weapon. And he relied on an old favorite and a couple of young receivers he talked up this summer.
The result was the first four-touchdown-pass game in a season opener for a Packers quarterback since Brett Favre in 1999. Rodgers threw two to Pro Bowl receiver Davante Adams and one each to up-and-comers Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Allen Lazard -- the two other starters who benefited from Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst's decision to ignore the position in the draft even though most outsiders viewed it as the team's biggest weakness.
It was Rodgers' most touchdown passes to receivers in a game since Week 4 of the 2017 season. He finished 32-of-44 for 364 yards without an interception, and the Packers scored their most points ever in a season opener.
Rodgers targeted Adams, last year's receiving leader, time after time, feeding him nine times for 103 yards and a touchdown in the first half alone. Forget that Adams dropped a touchdown on a failed fourth-and-1 play on one of three failed red zone trips early in the game. Adams caught touchdowns of 24 yards in the second quarter and 1 yard in the third on the way to 14 catches for 156 yards.
Rodgers also trusted in Valdes-Scantling despite the fact that the deep-threat receiver all but disappeared in the second half of last season, and Lazard, a late bloomer last year after starting the 2019 season on the practice squad. Valdes-Scantling caught four passes for 96 yards and a touchdown, while Lazard had four catches for 63 yards and a touchdown.
Rodgers and Valdes-Scantling connected on a 45-yard bomb just days after the quarterback heaped praise on the third-year receiver.
"I would say that the receiver that I've been most impressed with, especially the last week, 10 days of camp is Marquez," Rodgers said leading into the regular season. However, in a stretch that exemplified Valdes-Scantling's maddening inconsistency, he dropped two balls in the third quarter -- one on third down that would've extended a drive and another that might have gone for a 61-yard touchdown on a perfectly thrown deep ball -- before hauling in a 39-yard pass on a free play.
Rodgers also showed off his mastery at the line of scrimmage once again, drawing three neutral-zone infractions or defensive offside penalties Sunday. That's tied for his most in a game over the past eight seasons, according to ESPN Stats and Information. One of them he turned into the 39-yard completion to Valdes-Scantling in the third quarter.
Keep in mind, Rodgers did this as the road quarterback, albeit in a stadium without fans. Rodgers' four touchdown passes moved him past Eli Manning and into seventh place on the all-time list with 368. Last year's touchdown machine, Aaron Jones, scored his first one of the season. He'll need 18 more to match last year's NFL co-leading total.
It also was the Packers' seventh straight NFC North win after they ran the table (6-0) in division games last year on the way to their 13-3 regular season.
It's their longest division-winning streak since the 2012 season, when they ran their streak to 12 straight.
The Packers' offense flourished despite finishing the game with a makeshift offensive line. Already without preferred starting right tackle Billy Turner (knee), they lost left guard Lucas Patrick (shoulder) and right guard Lane Taylor (right knee) to in-game injuries. The fear is that Taylor tore his ACL and will need surgery. But either way, he's done for the year, a source told ESPN.com's Rob Demovsky.
Elgton Jenkins, their regular left guard, started at right tackle but moved back to his old spot after Patrick's injury, and Rick Wagner finished the game at right tackle. Rookie Jon Runyan replaced Taylor at right guard.
Head coach Matt LaFleur said Rick Wagner did "an outstanding job" when he came in at right tackle. If he feels Wagner is a permanent answer, then Turner could go back to right guard, where he played last year.
As Alper summed up, "With Love watching as the inactive third quarterback, neither the Packers' injuries nor their lack of additions at receiver was an issue on Sunday. ..."
For the record, Adams' 41.6 PPR fantasy points represented a new single-game personal best, and he enjoyed a whopping 41.5 percent target share (17-of-41) in doing it. So much for the fallacy that when opposing secondaries know which receiver to key on, they can shut him down; it didn't seem like a problem for the Packers here.
A few final notes here. ... Wide receiver Equanimeous St. Brown was inactive for Sunday's game after missing the entire 2019 season with an ankle injury.
In the midst of the pre-draft process, Gutekunst brought a name to LaFleur of an intriguing prospect the GM viewed as a potential fit in the offense.
Josiah Deguara, a do-it-all tight end out of Cincinnati.
"He said, 'Hey, why don't you check out this guy?'" recalled LaFleur of his conversation with Gutekunst. "Then, we did some digging."
LaFleur had deep connections to the Bearcats' program. Deguara's position coach, Mike Denbrock, was a longtime family friend who served on the same coaching staff as LaFleur at Notre Dame in 2014.
And the more LaFleur dug into Deguara's background, the more he liked what he saw. The 6-2, 238-pound tight end's versatility, intelligence and athleticism were off the charts.
Deguara, the Packers' third-round pick this past April, flashed all of those traits in his first NFL start against Minnesota. Deguara was featured heavily in an H-back and move tight end role and did a little bit of everything in an array of multiple-tight end packages against the Vikings.
Deguara started in two tight ends sets over Jace Sternberger and Robert Tonyan.
All told, Deguara saw 24 offensive snaps in his debut and played an important part in the Packers establishing early momentum.
Tonyan (48 snaps), veteran Marcedes Lewis (32), Deguara (24) and Sternberger? (12) combined to play 116 offensive snaps against the Vikings, the most for the position group so far in LaFleur's 20 games as Green Bay's head coach.
LaFleur cautions that it's only one game and there's still a long way to go. But in his NFL debut, Deguara did not disappoint.
QBs: Aaron Rodgers, Tim Boyle, Jordan Love
RBs: Aaron Jones, A.J. Dillon, Jamaal Williams, Tyler Ervin
WRs: Davante Adams, Allen Lazard, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Equanimeous St. Brown
TEs: Robert Tonyan, Marcedes Lewis, Jace Sternberger, Josiah Deguara
Houston TexansCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 16 September 2020
In the Chiefs' 34-20 season-opening victory over Houston, tackling was sloppy in general from the defending AFC South champions as they played their first game of the season following a virtual offseason and no preseason games due to the coronavirus pandemic, Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle reports.
"We didn't play well enough to win," Texans defensive end J.J. Watt said. "We have to stop the run a lot better. We have to put ourselves in better situations on third down to get off the field. We have to create takeaways. We didn't do that.
"Tackling is the one thing that most teams haven't been able to do at a true high-speed level, as you'd like to do. It's one of the tougher things to do without putting your guys at risk. It's something we're going to get better at."
The Texans, in their first game coached by first-year defensive coordinator Anthony Weaver as the replacement for Romeo Crennel, looked no better than they did during an embarrassing 51-31 AFC divisional-round meltdown in January.
"There's a lot to fix," head coach and general manager Bill O'Brien said. "We have a long way to go here obviously.
"We had trouble stopping the run. Our defense could not get off the field, so we got down. We have to improve very quickly this week."
Up next, they face another team with title aspirations: the Baltimore Ravens, who are coming off a 14-win season behind reigning MVP Lamar Jackson.
After the loss to Kansas City, Deshaun Watson, who finished the game 20-for-32 for 253 yards with a passing touchdown and rushing touchdown, didn't seem concerned about the Texans' offensive inefficiency, which was on display during a national broadcast in their first game since trading three-time All-Pro receiver DeAndre Hopkins.
"I was sharp," Watson said. "I took what the defense gave me. They took away a lot of deep shots and I tried to give my guys some opportunities to make plays, and sometimes we capitalized and sometimes we didn't and we just have to continue to grow from there. I did what I needed to do to stay as close as possible and keep this team in reach to try and win the game."
The Texans were counting on their new-look offense, which boasts speed and experience at wide receiver, to blend well with the skill set of their franchise quarterback. Instead, Watson mostly relied on Will Fuller, his most familiar target, who had eight catches on 10 targets for 112 yards. New acquisitions Brandin Cooks and Randall Cobb combined for four catches on eight targets for 52 yards. Kenny Stills didn't catch either of his two targets.
According to NFL Next Gen Stats, Watson had a 69.2 percent completion percentage when targeting open receivers (at least three yards of separation), which is his second-lowest completion percentage in a game in his career. Last season, with Hopkins, Watson had an 86.7 percent completion percentage when targeting open receivers.
As ESPN.com's Sarah Barshop notes, part of the reason for that was the Chiefs' impressive pass rush. Watson was pressured on 13 of his 40 dropbacks on Thursday, and completed only one pass with an interception and four sacks taken, according to research by ESPN Stats and Information.
The Texans posted their worst pass-block win rate in a game since the start of the 2018 season, sustaining their blocks for 2.5 seconds just 38 percent of the time, according to ESPN Stats and Information. Each Texans offensive lineman allowed at least two pressures, according to Pro Football Focus. Second-year right tackle Tytus Howard had a 75 percent pass-block win rate, the second-worst mark of his young NFL career, and allowed two sacks, the first time in his career he has been responsible for multiple sacks in a game. Coach Bill O'Brien said the Texans had trouble with Chiefs defensive end Frank Clark and "some of their games up front." Defensive tackle Chris Jones had a 21.2 percent pass-rush win rate and six pressures.
Watson said Houston needs to "get guys healthy and get guys back into that rhythm," noting that this was the first live action he saw with some of his new offensive weapons. Cooks' status was a game-time decision due to a quad injury and he missed practice time over the past week.
One bright spot for Houston was running back David Johnson. Acquired in the Hopkins trade in March, he showed promise that the Texans' backfield should be improved. Johnson finished with 77 rushing yards and a touchdown on 11 carries and three catches for 32 yards.
Johnson was once one of the top two-way threats in the league, leading the NFL with 2,118 yards from scrimmage in 2016. That helped him earn a three-year, $39 million deal from the Cardinals, though injuries derailed his career there. The Texans are hoping he can provide a boost to their offense, and based on the early returns, they're encouraged.
"Hard runner, great vision, going to play to the final whistle," Watson said. "Finding a new rhythm of a new offense, getting his feet wet. He did a good job of making plays and running the ball. ..."
On the injury front. ... After missing a quarter in Week 1, Duke Johnson might be out for all of Week 2.
The running back is considered week to week and a long shot to play Sunday against the Ravens because of an ankle sprain, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported. Johnson went down in the third quarter of Houston's season-opening loss to the Chiefs last Thursday. Rapoport added that it's possible the veteran back returns for Week 3, an indication that his sprain is not serious.
O'Brien told reporters Monday that Johnson, who was limited Wednesday, is day to day while also expressing optimism about his reinforcements at running back.
"We feel good about the depth we have," he said.
Hopefully, however, they won't need it. Backups Buddy Howell and Scottie Phillips have yet to log an NFL carry.
For the record, Cooks (quad) was limited along with Johnson on Wednesday; more on both via Late-Breaking Updates. ...
And finally. ... The Texans placed tight end Kahale Warring on injured reserve with an undisclosed injury, the team announced Tuesday.
They promoted tight end Pharaoh Brown from the practice squad to the active roster in a corresponding move.
Warring, a 2019 third-round pick, is eligible to return after missing three games. He missed his entire rookie season with a concussion. Brown, 26, has played 11 career games with seven starts for the Browns and Raiders. He was with the Browns in training camp, reporting with a shoulder injury that initially landed him on the physically unable to perform list.
QBs: Deshaun Watson, AJ McCarron
RBs: David Johnson, Duke Johnson, Buddy Howell
WRs: Will Fuller, Brandin Cooks, Randall Cobb, Kenny Stills, DeAndre Carter, Keke Coutee
TEs: Darren Fells, Jordan Akins, Kahale Warring
Indianapolis ColtsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 16 September 2020
As the Associated Press' Michael Marot suggested, Marlon Mack could have bristled when the Indianapolis Colts took another running back, Jonathan Taylor, in the second round of April's draft.
Instead, Mack welcomed the tag-team concept. It lasted less than one half.
Head coach Frank Reich confirmed the Colts' worst fears Monday, announcing Mack will miss the rest of this season with a ruptured right Achilles tendon. Taylor will move into the starting role.
"That's really unfortunate," Reich said. "Marlon is beloved in our locker room, and he's a true Colt. And he was just looking so good in training camp and in his few snaps yesterday, he looked like lightning out there. I haven't had a chance to talk to him yet, but I left him a message that said I think the best is still ahead for Marlon Mack."
He was injured on a 3-yard catch midway through the second quarter of Sunday's 27-20 loss at Jacksonville, and the timing couldn't be worse for Mack.
Though he had battled through injuries each of his first three seasons, Mack's numbers steadily increased. He rushed for a career-best 1,091 yards last season, scoring eight touchdowns while averaging 4.4 yards per carry. Mack believed Taylor's presence could help him post even bigger numbers this season with a chance to enter free agency in March.
But after a strong camp and a fast start against the Jaguars -- four carries for 26 yards and two catches for 27 yards —- Mack pulled up lame on his third reception. He immediately went to the ground, reaching for his foot.
The Colts initially described it as an ankle injury before acknowledging after the game that it was actually an Achilles tendon injury.
Indy has plenty of talent in the backfield, and Reich expects everyone to pitch in as the Colts try to improve on last season's No. 7-ranked rushing offense.
"Jonathan will step into the starting role. He looked good yesterday, and he's ready," Reich said. "Nyheim (Hines) is still going to be an important part of the mix and then Jordan (Wilkins), we've got a lot of confidence in Jordan. I'm a big Jordan fan. He's a good runner and he'll do a good job for us."
Taylor, selected No. 41 overall, was Wisconsin's workhorse the past three seasons. He topped the 2,000-yard mark in 2018 and 2019 and became the first Football Bowl Subdivision player to top 6,000 yards in three years. The two-time Doak Walker Award winner, which goes to college football's best back, had nine carries for 22 yards and six receptions for 67 yards in his NFL debut.
And now the New Jersey native promises he'll be ready for the increased workload.
"I take this saying from college: You don't count the reps, you make the reps count," Taylor said Sunday. "So whenever, if they ever called my number, I was determined to make sure I was able to go in and was ready and not be able to have a drop-off. Coach Reich did a tremendous job as far as making sure everything was 100% percent crystal clear throughout meetings, throughout training camps and up until the game to make sure that I fully understood the game plan and everything that was supposed to be going on."
Hines scored both of Indy's touchdowns Sunday and finished as the team's leading rusher, seven carries for 28 yards, while leading the team with eight receptions. He had 45 yards receiving. He showed his breakaway speed in December when he returned two punts for touchdowns against Carolina.
Mack's injury also opens up opportunities for Wilkins, who like Hines was drafted by the Colts in 2018.
And it's always possible the Colts could add another back to the mix before next weekend's home opener against Minnesota, which also lost its opener.
Among the players working out in Indy Monday was Lamar Miller, the veteran running back who was cut at the end of the Patriots' training camp. Miller, who also recently visited the Bills, missed all of last season with a torn ACL. Miller was joined at the Colts' cattle call by running backs Darius Jackson and Benny LeMay. The Colts also kicked the tires on kicker Matt Gay. ...
Jackson was signed to the practice squad and the team announced that Mack has been placed on injured reserve on Wednesday morning.
Mack's roster spot will be filled by wide receiver Daurice Fountain. He was promoted from the practice squad in a corresponding move.
Fountain was a 2018 fifth-round choice by the Colts and played in one game during his rookie year. He spent last season on injured reserve. ...
Meanwhile, the Colts knew what they were getting they agreed to sign quarterback Philip Rivers to a one-year, $25 million contract back in the spring.
As ESPN.com's Mike Wells put it, "Rivers would complete some tough throws that he probably shouldn't attempt. He would also make some boneheaded throws that would leave you scratching your head, wondering what he was thinking by attempting that pass."
So that meant the biggest question mark about the Colts' decision to sign Rivers was would they be getting the turnover-prone quarterback from 2019 or one who showed consistency throughout his career?
Unfortunately for the Colts, they saw the bad side of Rivers in his Indianapolis debut against the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday.
Rivers threw two interceptions, including one in the fourth quarter, in the Colts' 27-20 loss to Jacksonville. He has lost 64 games by seven points or less in his career, which is five more than any other quarterback in the Super Bowl era, according to ESPN Stats and Information.
The start seemed promising for Rivers, as he opened the game by leading the Colts down the field to a very quick 7-0 lead. But things started to turn for Rivers when he tried to force a throw into a double team to receiver T.Y. Hilton that was picked off by cornerback C.J. Henderson.
In addition, Rookie Rodrigo Blankenship missed a 30-yard field goal that would have extended the Colts' lead 20-14.
Kicking problems is the last thing the Colts need after a horrible kicking situation with Adam Vinatieri last season.
Next up, the Colts host Minnesota Sunday. Indianapolis has won the last five meetings, topping 30 points three times.
A few final injury notes. ... Zach Pascal (ankle) and Jack Doyle (ankle, knee) were held out of practice Wednesday; I'll have more on both via Late-Breaking Update in coming days.
QBs: Philip Rivers, Jacoby Brissett, Jacob Eason
RBs: Jonathan Taylor, Nyheim Hines, Jordan Wilkins, Marlon Mack
WRs: T.Y. Hilton, Michael Pittman Jr., Zach Pascal, Dezmon Patmon, Ashton Dulin, Parris Campbell
TEs: Mo Alie-Cox, Trey Burton, Jack Doyle
Jacksonville JaguarsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 16 September 2020
As NFL.com's Kevin Patra notes, the tank talk when it came to the 2020 Jaguars never passed a critical-thinking test. Instead of letting the nonsense linger, Gardner Minshew and his young teammates shut it up quickly.
The youthful upstarts parried every attack, outlasting the Indianapolis Colts, 27-20, to open the season with a divisional win.
"When they are playing with confidence, you love a young team that plays with confidence," Minshew said of his teammates, via the team's official website. "They have the energy.
"They got that swag about them."
Jaguars rookies played key roles all over the field. Undrafted running back James Robinson led the backfield with 62 yards on 16 carries and added a 28-yard reception; second-round receiver Laviska Shenault Jr. caught three passes for 37 yards, including a 15-yard TD.; first-round corner C.J. Henderson had an interception and three passes defended -- a big one on a fourth-and-4 to clinch the win; nose tackle DaVon Hamilton earned two tackles; and first-rounder K'Lavon Chaisson had two tackles and a pick that was negated by a defensive penalty.
Minshew, who threw just one incomplete pass on 20 attempts with three TDs, knows what it means to perform well in your first NFL game. It was last year in Week 1 when he took over for an injured Nick Foles, and Minshew Mania was unleashed.
"You always say 'I know I can play in this league', but until you do it...you know..." Minshew said. "I know this time last year that was the time when I was really like 'I really can do it.' Our guys have that same confidence where they know that they belong here, and not only do they belong, but they can be really good players for us."
The Jags stripped down the roster to allow younger players a chance to earn roles. They proved that plan wasn't completely insane in Week 1.
Credit should also go to the coaching staff, including offensive coordinator Jay Gruden, who called a spectacular game and had Indy's head spinning.
Head coach Doug Marrone said, despite his team being young and not together for most of the summer, it is the closest group he's led.
"I've always been constantly pushing this team, I've never gone back, I've never said, 'Hey, we've had this problem, we've had this problem, or I didn't like this, or I didn't like that,'" Marrone said. "I think a lot of us sometimes we can tend to lose faith in team, just the word team. And this team has really instilled that faith for me. And I can only talk about myself, about how they feel about each other, how close I feel to them-I feel, with no disrespect to any other team I've been on, outside of just being a line coach and having your own room, this is the closest I've felt to a team since I've been a head coach."
As Patra suggested, "Wins have a way of making everything seem rosy."
Still, if the young bucks continue to play well, it will be a heck of a story out of Jacksonville. How the youth reacts when the first sign of difficultly presents itself in 2020 will truly tell the story of what sort of squad Marrone is leading. ...
The Jaguars play AFC South foe Tennessee this Sunday. Jacksonville has dropped six in a row in Nashville, losing those by a combined 67 points. ...
Other notes of interest. ... As ESPN.com's Mike DiRocco suggested, Minshew must absolutely love playing in season openers. The second-year player threw just one incompletion Sunday, going 19-of-20 for 173 yards and the above-mentioned three touchdowns. Add in what he did in last year's opener when he came off the bench for an injured Nick Foles (22-of-25 for 275 yards and two TDs with one interception) and Minshew has completed 91.1 percent of his passes for 448 yards and five TDs and one interception in the two Week 1 games.
The only pass Minshew didn't complete against the Colts was a ball thrown slightly behind Shenault. Shenault got both hands on the ball but got his arm knocked away and couldn't hold on.
Of course, Minshew might never throw an easier TD pass than the go-ahead score to Keelan Cole with 5:56 to play. Cole simply ran through the middle of the field from the left side of the formation and no Colts defender picked him up. All Minshew had to do was loft a soft 22-yard pass, and Cole caught it around the 2-yard line before easily walking into the end zone. WR D.J. Chark played a big role in the play, though, because he ran a post that took Colts CB Rock Ya-Sin out of the play. Safety Khari Willis stayed in close to cover Shenault in the flat, which left Cole wide open.
It looks like the Jaguars might have their lead back in Robinson. He had a very good camp and was impressive enough that general manager Dave Caldwell and head coach Doug Marrone felt comfortable cutting Leonard Fournette, who had accounted for 1,674 yards of total offense in 2019. Veteran Chris Thompson said Robinson had the best vision of all the Jaguars' backs, and Robinson showed off some of that with some nifty cut-backs to avoid tacklers, especially in the first half.
He also got the sparse crowd energized when he vaulted a tackler on a 28-yard catch and run in the fourth quarter.
With Devine Ozigbo on IR with a hamstring injury and Ryquell Armstead still on the reserve/COVID-19 list, the Jaguars have to feel good about what they saw from Robinson.
By the way. ... Robinson made NFL history in his pro debut. His 62 yards broke the previous mark for undrafted rookie running backs in season openers.
He became the first undrafted rookie running back in 30 years to start in Week 1. Several undrafted rookie fullbacks have started openers over the years. But the feat has been much rarer for tailbacks. Tampa Bay's Bruce Perkins and Seattle's Derek Loville were the last to do it, getting Week 1 nods in 1990.
On the injury front. ... Defensive end Josh Allen (calf) is not expected to practice Wednesday, per the team.
QBs: Gardner Minshew, Mike Glennon, Jake Luton
RBs: James Robinson, Chris Thompson, Dare Ogunbowale, Ryquell Armstead, Devine Ozigbo
WRs: D.J. Chark, Chris Conley, Laviska Shenault, Dede Westbrook, Collin Johnson, Keelan Cole, Michael Walker
TEs: Tyler Eifert, James O'Shaughnessy, Tyler Davis, Josh Oliver
Kansas City ChiefsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 16 September 2020
As ESPN.com's Adam Teicher notes, the Chiefs scored 34 points and won their season-opening game with ease, so everyone on their offense was certainly satisfied with the results.
But there's little doubt things looked different. The Chiefs favored a short passing attack, with Patrick Mahomes' longest completion being 19 yards. He was efficient with three touchdown passes, but all three were 6 yards or less.
In another change, the Chiefs relied heavily on their running game and rookie back Clyde Edwards-Helaire. The Chiefs ran on 34 of their 67 plays, the first time with Mahomes as the starting quarterback that they ran by design more than they dropped back to pass. Edwards-Helaire's 138 yards was the most by a Chiefs runner in a Mahomes start.
According to CBS Sports, the elusive rookie tailback is the youngest player in NFL history to rack up 130-plus rushing yards and a score on the ground in his NFL debut.
They weren't easy yards, either. Edwards-Helaire was shedding tackles all night, and according to Pro Football Focus, his seven broken tackles on runs were tied for the most ever by a rookie in their NFL debut.
So was this a one-time thing or is the big-play Chiefs offense evolving?
"I personally think this offense has its own unique ability to do something special," said tight end Travis Kelce, who had one of the touchdown catches. "We have a lot of guys that can do some special things with the ball in their hands. And of course [Mahomes] is going to be back there doing his thing."
Teicher went on to explain the opener's circumstances dictated at least some of the way the Chiefs played. The Houston Texans, still stinging from the nine passes of 20 or more yards they allowed against the Chiefs last year in the playoffs, were determined to eliminate the big play. Mahomes was content to take the shorter passes available beneath the coverage.
Mahomes averaged 2.35 seconds on his passes, according to NFL Next Gen Stats. That's the lowest rate of his career. He was 15-of-18 with two touchdowns within 2.5 seconds of the snap.
Mahomes also averaged 4.5 air yards on his passes, also the lowest of his career, according to ESPN Stats and Information. Of his 24 completions, 21 were caught within 5 yards of the line of scrimmage.
"[The Texans] did a lot of stuff at the line of scrimmage and then they kind of stayed back and kept safeties back and they put a guy over [Tyreek Hill] pretty much the whole entire game," Mahomes said. "I think that's what it makes this offense so good is we can change within games. We can go through our game plan and find ways to score and find ways to move the ball down the field and today it was running the football and taking the short passes.
"I think whenever we get to the Chargers next week, we'll play another great defense, and we'll have to find a way to move the ball and score that week as well."
The Chiefs also had leads against the Texans of 24-7 early in the third quarter and 31-7 early in the fourth, making a steady feed to Edwards-Helaire the smart play.
But his addition makes the Chiefs different. They had no back with his abilities last season. Damien Williams led the Chiefs with 498 rushing yards last season and Edwards-Helaire is already about one-quarter of the way to that total.
"He's been doing it since the day he got here," Mahomes said. "He's been working hard, he's been learning from his mistakes and he's been running the ball between the tackles and catching out of the backfield.
"I thought the offensive line did a great job of giving him holes to run through and he hit it every single time and so, he's going to keep getting better. It's another weapon that I kind of have in this offense and we're going to keep doing whatever we can to keep moving the ball and scoring touchdowns."
That doesn't mean the Chiefs intended for Edwards-Helaire to be such a big part of the offense.
"I feel like he's had a good camp and he's a heck of a player and we wanted to give him the ball, but we didn't come in saying he's going to get X number of carries," coach Andy Reid said. "But we liked the mix we were able to get going with."
The Chiefs had 10 players with 100-yard receiving games last season, counting the postseason. They had six receivers with multiple touchdown games.
They had none of that against the Texans. But Kelce, Hill and Sammy Watkins each had at least five catches and a touchdown.
Edwards-Helaire had the other touchdown on a 27-yard run.
"This group has been together for a while now and we know the intentions of the play caller," Kelce said. "That's the biggest thing, understanding what coach Reid and [offensive coordinator Eric] Bieniemy are dialing up for so we can paint a picture for Patrick and execute the plays.
"We just trust whatever coach Reid is dialing up. No matter whose job it is to make a play, we're making a play. .."
For what it's worth, Reid notched his 223rd career victory (including the postseason) on Thursday night, which ranks sixth all-time in NFL history.
Reid is now just six wins away from matching Curly Lambeau for the fifth spot on the list.
Kansas City will return to action next week to take on the Los Angeles Chargers at SoFi Stadium as they look to continue the "Run It Back" tour with another victory.
On the injury front. ... Defensive tackle Khalen Saunders is expected to be out about a month. Saunders exited Kansas City's opener early with a dislocated elbow but didn't sustain any fractures and does not need surgery.
QBs: Patrick Mahomes, Chad Henne
RBs: Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Darrel Williams, Darwin Thompson
WRs: Tyreek Hill, Sammy Watkins, Mecole Hardman, Demarcus Robinson, Byron Pringle, Marcus Kemp
TEs: Travis Kelce, Deon Yelder, Nick Keizer, Ricky Seals-Jones
Las Vegas RaidersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 16 September 2020
As ESPN.com's Paul Gutierrez notes, Josh Jacobs picked up where he left off last season, when many saw him as being robbed of the NFL offensive Rookie of the Year award, and outperformed (barely) Carolina's all-everything back Christian McCaffrey in the Las Vegas Raiders' 34-30 victory.
Comparisons to all-time greats are a dangerous business. Raiders coach Jon Gruden apparently doesn't care.
"That was a little bit like Walter Payton used to play," Gruden said. "It was hot as hell. He got beat up early. He insisted on coming back and he insisted on getting the ball as a runner and receiver. He is special. He deserves some national attention -- and I hope you give it to him."
Jacobs, who missed three of the Raiders' final four games last season with a shoulder fracture, rushed for a career-best three touchdowns (he had seven TDs all of last season) while running for 93 yards on 25 carries and catching four passes for 46 yards. McCaffrey, meanwhile, ran for 96 yards and two TDs on 23 attempts and added three catches for 38 yards.
Jacobs became the second player since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger to rush for at least two TDs in a season opener in his first two seasons, joining Lawrence Phillips, who did it for the Rams in 1996 and 1997. There were seven lead changes in the game.
It marked the third time since Week 8 of 2019 that Carolina has allowed a player to run for three touchdowns.
Remember all that concern about Jacobs giving up passing-down work?
As NFL.com's Gregg Rosenthal pointed out, on a hot day in Charlotte, Jacobs refused to come out of the game while racking up 139 yards from scrimmage on 29 touches. Jacobs played 49 of 63 possible snaps, with Devontae Booker next in line among running backs with eight snaps.
The second-year star has clearly worked on his receiving skills and was the best player on the field in Carolina in Week 1. ...
Meanwhile, Derek Carr was the epitome of efficient, completing 22 of 30 passes for 239 yards and a touchdown pass to Nelson Agholor en route to his 19th career, fourth-quarter comeback victory. And Carr did it with a pair of rookies starting at receiver in Ruggs and Bryan Edwards. All offseason we heard about how Ruggs was going to stretch the field and provide a deep threat for No. 4. Carr's first pass of the game was a deep shot to Ruggs, but the duo was unable to connect.
A few plays later, Carr found Ruggs streaking over the middle of the field for a 45-yard play. Ruggs finished the day with 55 yards receiving and flashed glimpses of how dynamic he can be as a playmaker.
Nine receivers caught a pass for the Raiders.
Carr has always shared the ball and it's one of the things Gruden loves most about him. The former Fresno State Bulldog's ability to get everyone involved in the game plan keeps opposing defenses guessing and keeps things balanced. Carr targeted the receivers, tight ends, and running backs all throughout the game, finishing the match with 239 yards and the above-mentioned touchdown, which was a perfectly thrown rainbow right into Agholor's arms.
Helping Carr out were the zero sacks were allowed by the Raiders' offensive line.
The Raiders have one of the most formidable lines in the NFL, but after losing Trent Brown early in the game yesterday, the unit wasn't playing at full strength. In Brown's stead, backup tackle Sam Young stepped up; however, Young left the game due to injury as well. This left guard Denzelle Good as the only option to fill in, and he did a superb job. ...
Without a perfect day from kicker Daniel Carlson, it's unlikely the Las Vegas Raiders would have defeated the Carolina Panthers, 34-30, on Sunday. Thus, Carlson was voted AFC Special Teams Player of the Week. The Silver and Black booter was perfect on the day, piling up 10 points as he hit all four of his extra points and both of his field goals, including one from a career-long 54 yards.
On the injury front. ... Ruggs hurt his knee in the game but toughed it out by playing through the issue. Gruden appreciated that.
"I like the fact that he came back and played through something," Gruden said, via the Mercury-News. "That's what the great ones do. They play through pain, they play through difficult situations. He did that."
The Raiders want to keep getting the ball in Ruggs' hands, and they want to see Ruggs keep showing that toughness.
Also. ... Brown is not believed to have suffered a calf injury against the Panthers, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported. Brown has a chance to play Monday night against the Saints.
QBs: Derek Carr, Nathan Peterman, Marcus Mariota
RBs: Josh Jacobs, Jalen Richard, Devontae Booker
WRs: Henry Ruggs III, Bryan Edwards, Hunter Renfrow, Zay Jones, Nelson Agholor, Tyrell Williams
TEs: Darren Waller, Jason Witten, Foster Moreau, Derek Carrier
Los Angeles ChargersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 16 September 2020
Playing with a starting quarterback other than Philip Rivers for the first time since 2005, the Los Angeles Chargers mustered just enough offense -- and got just enough breaks.
The Chargers got it done against the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday but showed they still have plenty of work to do behind journeyman Tyrod Taylor.
Taylor -- LA's starter for now, with rookie Justin Herbert awaiting his opportunity -- and running back Austin Ekeler chipped away at the improved Bengals defense and found just enough cracks to escape with a 16-13 win. The Chargers got a break when Randy Bullock missed a 31-yard field goal that would have tied the game with 7 seconds left, thwarting a last-minute rally by Bengals rookie quarterback Joe Burrow.
Taylor, who has had stints with Baltimore, Buffalo and Cleveland, was a mundane 16 for 30 for 208 yards. Rookie Joshua Kelley ran for the only Chargers touchdown, and Michael Badgley booted three field goals.
"Early on in the game, a little out of synch," Taylor said. "And I'll take full blame for that. We have to be better on third down, and that starts with me. We can do that. As the game progressed more and more we were able to get on the same page."
Ekeler carried 19 times for 84 yards, and Hunter Henry caught five passes for 73 yards.
The Chargers' biggest play of the first half was a 36-yard pass from Taylor to Mike Williams. But the drive stalled and LA settled for a 24-yard field goal by Michael Badgley.
Late in first half, Taylor couldn't convert a fourth-and-short on a keeper. On the next series, Taylor hooked up with Henry for a 33-yard gain but again had to turn to Badgley for a field goal.
The Chargers finally got over the hump with a drive capped by a 5-yard scoring run by Kelley that tied the game at 13 with 12:23 left.
"We needed that touchdown," Taylor said. "It came at the end of a long drive, and to be able to finish that with a touchdown was definitely big for us and a momentum swing forward. I wasn't pretty by any means."
Joe Mixon's fumble on the first play of the Bengals' next drive gave the ball back to Los Angeles, which had three shots inside the 5-yard line but had to settle for another field goal.
"They were just trying to find things that work because in the beginning of the game, things were going our way," Bengals linebacker Josh Bynes said. "They were trying to find what was going to work, and they found that. They executed well when they needed to, and that's why they won the game."
Head coach Anthony Lynn said Taylor's avoidance of turnovers -- Cincinnati gave the ball away twice -- was one of the keys to the game, along with the running of the Kelley, who finished with 60 yards in his NFL debut.
"We have to execute better," Lynn said. "It will get better. We'll clean it up."
Kelley was ecstatic.
"It's crazy my first game is a nail-biter," he said. "I was just hoping for some type of (kick) block or some craziness. I was hugging my position coach. Just happy. Just so happy to get a win, especially in the first game of the season."
Kelley, a fourth-round pick out of UCLA, finished with 60 rushing yards on 12 carries, including a 26-yard run. The Chargers went into their Week 1 game open to using either Justin Jackson or Kelley as their No. 2 running back behind Ekeler.
Kelley made a statement in Week 1, getting the bulk of the work with Jackson sidelined by a quad injury, and might get those opportunities moving forward.
But what about Ekeler?
His final stat line for the day was 19 carries for 84 yards (averaging out to 4.4 yards per carry) with no touchdowns. Through the air, he had just one reception on one target which went for a measly three yards.
Still, Lynn said it's still a "priority" to get Ekeler touches moving forward.
Lynn went on to explain the team's new scheme with Taylor will continue to limit checkdowns to running backs. Ekeler was Los Angeles' workhorse on Sunday, out-carrying Kelley 19 to 12. But the one passing target is a concern for those invested in the running back.
While rookie receiver Joe Reed looked good, Williams looked healthy despite the shoulder injury that limited him in practice last week. ...
According to NFL Network's Tom Pelissero, the Chargers are bringing in running backs Jordan Scarlett and Brian Herrien for a workout.
The move comes due to Jackson's quad injury.
Lynn said that he was unsure how severe Jackson’s injury was, and that the team was going to take it day-by-day. ... Stay tuned; more on this via Late-Breaking Update in coming days. ...
One last note here. ... The Chargers placed LB Drue Tranquill on injured reserve with a knee injury.
QBs: Justin Herbert, Tyrod Taylor, Easton Stick
RBs: Austin Ekeler, Joshua Kelley, Justin Jackson
WRs: Keenan Allen, Mike Williams, Jalen Guyton, Joe Reed, K.J. Hill, Jason Moore
TEs: Hunter Henry, Virgil Green, Stephen Anderson
Los Angeles RamsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 16 September 2020
According to Stu Jackson of the team's official website, perhaps it's no surprise that the player regarded as "Mr. Reliable" by his position coach was the focal point of the Rams' backfield.
Running back Malcolm Brown set new career highs with 18 carries for 79 yards, and his two rushing touchdowns marked his second multi-touchdown game of his career, in Los Angeles' 20-17 SoFi Stadium-opening win over the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday Night Football. Primarily a reserve through his first five years with the Rams, the expanded role and performance was "exciting" for him.
"We had a good game plan going in," Brown said. "If those guys call my number, I just got to be ready. That's my mindset, that's going to stay my mindset throughout the year."
Not only did Los Angeles call his number, they did so at critical junctures in the game.
L.A.'s crisp 7-play, 75-yard drive to open the game ended with Brown scoring a 1-yard touchdown run for the game's first points. And on the Rams' go-ahead touchdown late in the third quarter that gave them back the lead, it was Brown punching it in from two yards out.
In the passing game, Brown led the running back rotation with four targets, hauling in three of them for 31 yards. His longest catch went for 18 yards, off of a screen pass.
"In the run game, Malcolm Brown> was kind of our bell cow and he did a great job," quarterback Jared Goff said during his virtual postgame press conference.
Overall, Brown wound up playing 60 percent of L.A.'s offensive snaps against Dallas. In addition to those single-game personal bests for rushing attempts and rushing yards, he surpassed 100 yards from scrimmage for the first time in his NFL career.
"We felt like Malcolm is such a big, important part of our game plan, but he was going to get a lot of opportunities in those later-down situations," head coach Sean McVay said postgame. "He ended up carrying the load and did an excellent job."
It was yet another strong season-opening stat line for Brown -- he also had 11 carries for 53 yards and two rushing touchdowns in the Rams' Week 1 win at the Carolina Panthers last year -- but the Rams knew he was valuable long before those performances. Back in March 2019, the Detroit Lions had signed Brown -- a restricted free agent -- to a two-year offer sheet, and Los Angeles matched it to retain him through this season.
For a player who first joined the team as an undrafted free agent in 2015 and ascended from special teams contributor to backup running back by the 2017 season, putting together a performance like Sunday night's was certainly special.
"It's very exciting. I feel like that's just what I had to do," Brown said. "Sometimes you gotta step into this league and play a role. I was very aware of it. My rookie year when I came in, I knew I wasn't going to just be the man automatically. I was very, very, very aware of it. I just kept my head down and worked. I knew I may eventually get a shot, I may not, but at the same time, you just gotta keep going. That's what I tell a lot of guys coming in -- it may not be the circumstance you want, but you last long enough and do what you need to do throughout your years in this league, and something will spark. An opportunity came, and I was able to just do what I had to do."
The Rams got the ball first in their new home, and Goff hit Robert Woods with a short pass that turned into a 20-yard gain on the building's first play from scrimmage. The 75-yard opening drive ended with Brown's 1-yard plunge for the stadium's first touchdown.
As ESPN.com's Lindsey Thiry reported, with his fifth NFL season underway, Goff appeared poised and confident throughout the opener.
He completed 20 of 31 passes for 275 yards, with an interception. In the first half, Goff orchestrated four trips into the red zone, though only one resulted in a touchdown. In the second half, Goff put together an 11-play, 85-yard drive that was capped by a 2-yard touchdown run by Brown.
In what appeared as Goff's only blunder of the game, Cowboys cornerback Chidobe Awuzie intercepted a pass intended for Van Jefferson that eventually was converted into a field goal. However, replays suggested that the play should have been overturned, as Cowboys defensive end Aldon Smith's arm hit Goff in the head.
On the injury front. ... Tight end Gerald Everett injured his back in the second half.
We'll be watching for more on his status in advance of the team's visit to Philadelphia this Sunday, a contest that begins a run of four road games in five weeks, though McVay told reporters on Tuesday there were n significant injuries from Sunday night (including Everett).
Watch the Late-Breaking Updates section for more on Everett. ...
And finally. ... The Rams' 2020 rookie class is bound for a big season if Sunday night was any indication. Running back Cam Akers, a second-round pick from Florida State, started, and Jefferson, a second-round selection from Florida, played a prominent role.
Akers rushed for 39 yards in 14 carries and Jefferson hauled in an impressive 31-yard reception in tight coverage.
QBs: Jared Goff, John Wolford
RBs: Malcolm Brown, Cam Akers, Darrell Henderson
WRs: Cooper Kupp, Robert Woods, Van Jefferson, Josh Reynolds, Nsimba Webster, Trishton Jackson
TEs: Tyler Higbee, Gerald Everett, Brycen Hopkins, Johnny Mundt
Miami DolphinsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 16 September 2020
As ESPN.com's Cameron Wolfe suggested, the Miami Dolphins suffered a 21-11 loss to the New England Patriots Sunday in a game that showed they have improved, but still have a ways to go to be considered a contender to win the AFC East.
The first and most obvious issue is the lack of offensive firepower, which was made even clearer once wide receiver DeVante Parker exited the game early in the second half with a hamstring injury.
Beyond that, the self-professed placeholder at quarterback played like one in the season opener, amplifying questions about the team's timetable for turning to rookie Tua Tagovailoa.
But Ryan Fitzpatrick's play wasn't the only -- or even the biggest -- problem. He'll start again Sunday in the home opener against Buffalo, head coach Brian Flores said Monday, quelling for the moment any quarterback controversy.
Fitzpatrick threw three interceptions, but the intended receiver slipped on one of those plays, and defensive pass interference could have been called on another. When asked about the 16-year veteran's performance, Flores took the broad view.
"As a team we've got to be better across the board," he said. "There were some opportunities we didn't take advantage of. That includes the quarterback position. We need better play from everybody. We need better coaching. That starts with me."
Fitzpatrick, 37, has acknowledged he'll eventually relinquish the starting job to Tagovailoa, but the Dolphins want more time to groom their potential franchise quarterback.
Fitzpatrick has 18 career games with at least three interceptions, second most in the NFL since he entered in 2005 (Eli Manning, 23). Fitzpatrick's teams are 0-18 when that happens. Fitzpatrick's 18 games with three interceptions are tied with New Orleans Saints QB Drew Brees for most among active players. However, Brees has started 135 more games than Fitzpatrick.
According to Wolfe, it's too early to make a switch to Tagovailoa but a couple more games like this will make the calls get louder.
Positives? Pass protection in the opener was significantly improved over last year, when Miami allowed an NFL-high 58 sacks. With two rookies up front, Fitzpatrick was sacked only one time in 31 pass plays.
"Those young guys got off to a solid start," Flores said, "but it's about consistency in this league."
As noted above, Parker, who caught all four passes thrown his way, left the game in the third quarter because of a sore hamstring and didn't return. He missed time in preseason because of the same issue.
"He's in there," Flores said. "We'll take a look at him over the course of the week. I don't have a status update. Obviously he didn't return, so we'll see what it looks like tomorrow and in the coming days."
That Parker led the Dolphins in catches and yards despite missing much of the game underscores his importance to the offense in Miami.
Early reports indicate Parker, who practiced on a limited basis Wednesday, is likely to be ready to go against the Bills this weekend, but I'll have more on his status via Late-Breaking Update in coming days. ...
Meanwhile, newcomer Jordan Howard, acquired to upgrade the ground game, gained 7 yards in eight carries.
Third-string running back Myles Gaskin led Miami with 40 yards rushing in nine carries, and he added 26 yards on four catches.
"Myles broke some tackles," Fitzpatrick said. "Not only in the run game, but in the pass game he made some nice plays, so that was exciting to see."
And finally. ... The Dolphins don't have Josh Rosen anymore. They don't have Jake Rudock either.
The team swapped out third-string quarterbacks Monday.
Miami cut Rudock to create a spot on the practice squad for Reid Sinnett. He will backup Fitzpatrick and Tagovailoa.
Sinnett, who played at the University of San Diego, was an undrafted rookie who signed with Tampa Bay this spring. He spent training camp with the Bucs, who cut him from the practice squad after signing Rosen last week. As a fifth-year senior, Sinnett threw for 3,528 yards, 32 touchdowns with 10 interceptions while also running for six scores.
Rudock spent all of last season on the Dolphins' practice squad. The Dolphins cut him at the start of training camp in July.
QBs: Ryan Fitzpatrick, Tua Tagovailoa
RBs: Jordan Howard, Matt Breida, Myles Gaskin, Patrick Laird
WRs: DeVante Parker, Preston Williams, Lynn Bowden Jr., Malcolm Perry, Isaiah Ford, Mack Hollins, Jakeem Grant
TEs: Mike Gesicki, Durham Smythe, Adam Shaheen, Michael Roberts
Minnesota VikingsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 16 September 2020
A little after 11 a.m. last Saturday, the Vikings announced a multi-year contract extension for Dalvin Cook.
Roughly 24 hours later, the Vikings running back was getting ready for Week 1 against the Packers.
And on Monday, Cook reflected on the developments.
"It's still a surreal moment, signing that deal and making the dream come true," Cook said. "I didn't actually have time to enjoy it, but just getting ready and preparing for a game and knowing that situation resolved itself was enough for me at the moment.
"I enjoyed it with my teammates. They congratulated me. Everybody around the facility did," Cook added. "That was big."
Cook noted that he preferred to get the deal done before Sunday's kickoff so that he could focus entirely on football.
"Being in Minnesota was always important to me with the guys I've built the relationships with and just being around the guys in the locker room and everybody in Minnesota," Cook said. "I love being here. That was important for me to get that done [so] I could just go out and play football.
"That was important, getting that done before the season so I could just turn it loose," Cook added.
The 41st overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft, Cook has proven to be one of the league's most effective running backs when he's on the field.
Although he battled injury issues in his first two seasons he put it all together with a Pro Bowl year in 2019. He rushed for 1,135 yards and 13 touchdowns on 250 carries, and also added 53 catches for 519 yards through the air.
Yet as he entered the final season of his rookie contract, it was public knowledge that the Vikings and Cook's representation were trying to work together on a new deal.
Nevertheless, Cook showed up for training camp with a team-first attitude and put in the work each day to help get him prepared for the 2020 season and beyond.
"I started playing football when I was 4 years old," Cook said. "To get to this point and see all the obstacles that I've been through -- getting injured and just watching football and taking a step back from it to now being here, it just shows that if you keep working hard, there's a prize at the end of the road.
"Just put your head down and work," Cook added. "That's what I did every day, and I'm still going to do."
Head coach Mike Zimmer, who officially named Cook as one of six team captains last week, said he is thrilled the running back is staying up north.
"Like I've said all along, he's a terrific football player, great person, good leader," Zimmer said. "He runs extremely hard, catches the ball well. I'm glad."
Cook had a productive season debut despite limited opportunities Sunday. He played 30 of Minnesota's 52 offensive snaps against the Packers, rushing 12 times for 50 yards and scoring two touchdowns. Cook also added a pair of 2-point conversions.
The Vikings held the ball for just 18 minutes and 44 seconds, and had 382 total yards of offense.
"Obviously, we didn't get the win, and that's the most important thing," Cook said. "But I tried to keep fighting for my team and keep helping us in the game.
"We had some guys making plays; we just didn't make enough," Cook added. "That's what we've got to go back and evaluate. I just tried to give my team a chance to win a football game."
Cook will be counted upon to help turn things around for the Vikings beginning Sunday in Indianapolis.
But after signing his multi-year contract extension, he'll also be one of the faces of the franchise for the foreseeable future, too.
Too bad he can't help on defense.
The Vikings undoubtedly felt the absence of defensive end Danielle Hunter, who was placed on injured reserve last week, and it yielded a lackluster attempt at pressuring Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Minnesota's pass rush looked anemic and Rodgers looked comfortable, even with only one truly consistent receiver, Davante Adams, whom the Vikings couldn't figure out how to stop.
Minnesota allowed Adams to set a career high in receptions with 14 for 156 yards and two touchdowns. The Vikings' defense was gassed going into halftime after being on the field for 22:45 in the first two quarters and couldn't find the method needed to limit Rodgers up front in spite of utilizing a rotation among their defensive ends.
The 522 total yards allowed by the Vikings was their most in 29 regular-season games since Sept. 27, 2018, at Los Angeles when the Rams racked up 556 yards.
They'll look to do better going forward, starting with this week's game against the Colts. ...
How did the Vikings' offense look without Stefon Diggs?
According to ESPN.com's Courtney Cronin, Kirk Cousins had five passing attempts in the first half, his lowest in any first half as a starting quarterback and all four completions were to Adam Thielen.
Cousins' numbers (19-for-25 passing for 259 yards, two TDs, INT) were bolstered by a second-half comeback attempt when the Packers were ahead by multiple scores. Cousins looked comfortable only when throwing to Thielen, showing how discombobulated the Vikings' passing attack was on Sunday and how much work the offense has to do to replace Diggs, who was traded away this offseason.
Cousins did have a few moments where he was able to put his athleticism on display, something he talked about tapping into this offseason. That included a play in the first quarter when he bought time while keeping his eyes downfield before hitting Thielen for a 25-yard reception and a 14-yard scramble later in the game.
Thielen, trying to come back from a 2019 season spoiled by a lingering hamstring injury, had six receptions for 110 yards, two touchdowns and a 2-point conversion.
Receiver Justin Jefferson, whom Minnesota drafted 22nd overall, had two catches for 26 yards, including a 17-yard reception in the fourth quarter. But the Vikings' infrequent use of three-receiver sets limited Jefferson's action.
QBs: Kirk Cousins, Sean Mannion
RBs: Dalvin Cook, Alexander Mattison, Mike Boone, Ameer Abdullah
WRs: Adam Thielen, Olabisi Johnson, Justin Jefferson, Tajae Sharpe, K.J. Osborn, Chad Beebe, Davion Davis, Dan Chisena
TEs: Kyle Rudolph, Irv Smith Jr., Tyler Conklin
New England PatriotsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 16 September 2020
As NFL.com's Kevin Patra noted, the best coaches play to their top player's strengths instead of trying to fit a square peg into a round hole.
It's no surprise, then, that Bill Belichick and Josh McDaniels would completely overhaul their offense to best suit Cam Newton after 20 years of employing Tom Brady at quarterback. The run-heavy offense with a bevy of zone reads and QB-keepers provided an offensive revolution in New England's 21-11 win over Miami on Sunday.
"We always try to do what's best for the team to win," Belichick said Monday, "Everything we've done for the last 20 years, and rightfully so, has been for Tom Brady, it was for Tom Brady. Everything was dedicated to him, other than the games that he didn't play in, like when Matt Cassel played, or Jimmy Garoppolo and then Jacoby Brissett when Brady was suspended. So you know there were times when he had to plan differently."
Newton owns a different skill set than Brady. The 2015 NFL MVP's ability to pound the rock allows the Pats to be even more ground-focused than they were at times with Brady.
"When your starting quarterback has things that he's good at or things that you can take advantage of, then I think you try to take advantage of them," Belichick noted.
Newton led the Patriots in rushing Sunday, taking 15 carries for 75 yards and two rushing TDs. The 15 rushes were the most by a QB under Belichick (even more than those outlier Brissett games in 2016), and were the second-most of Newton's career (17 in 2014 in a tie vs. Cincinnati). Newton's 75 rushing yards were the most by a Patriots quarterback since 1977, when Steve Grogan had 81 rushing yards at the Buffalo Bills, according to Elias Sports Bureau.
His 13 designed rushes, the final one going for 11 yards to close out the game, were the second most of Newton's career, according to ESPN's Stats and Information (15 in 2014, Week 6 at Bengals).
On the whole, the Patriots overall rushed 42 times for 217 yards, both totals their most in a season opener under Belichick.
It wasn't just straight runs from McDaniels either. With Newton under center, the Pats used a bevy of play actions and zone reads to keep Miami off balance. New England ran the ball or used play-action on 82.5 percent of offensive plays (52 of 63).
After being the only team without a read-option rush in 2019 under Brady, the Patriots had 10 rushes for 49 yards on read options in Week 1, per Pro Football Focus.
New England did damage inside and outside. Per NextGen Stats, the Pats compiled 20 rushes for 98 yards and a TD on inside-the-tackle runs. (4.9 yards/rush). On outside rushes, they compiled 120 yards on 21 carries with 2 TDs. NE ran on 21 of 33 shotgun snaps (63.6 percent, averaged 4.9 yards/rush).
As for Newton's hefty workload carrying the ball, Belichick didn't sound worried.
"Some of those runs were option type runs. We don't know who's going to get the ball," he noted, via NFL Network's Mike Giardi.
With the run a constant threat, Newton pegged darts over the middle when he did throw, completing 78.9 percent of his passes. The Pats didn't ask him to throw deep down the sideline or into traffic. The mix of QB runs and passes ushers in a new era in New England with a plethora of possibilities.
"Cam's been great for us. He's earned everybody's respect, really, daily," Belichick said. "I thought he played well today. He ran the ball well, he led the team, made some good checks and adjustments."
"This is the new normal and I think it's time for everybody, including myself, to realize this is what it's like," Newton said. "I think it hit me full-circle today; and for me to just kind of realize that I'm a New England Patriot.
"And I'm just going to embrace this whole moment."
How McDaniels' offense evolves when teams bulk up to slow Newton's running ability will be interesting to watch as the season progresses.
As Patra suggested, it could be the ultimate case of a team switching up its plan on a week-to-week basis based on the opponent.
Our next look will come Sunday in Seattle. ...
Other notes of interest. ... Julian Edelman pulled in 6-yard pass early in the second quarter, his 600th career reception. He is now second in franchise history behind only Wes Welker (672).
Veteran kicker Nick Folk won the preseason competition with rookie Justin Rohrwasser to replace Patriots' all-time leading scorer Stephen Gostkowski following his release in March.
That competition was expected to continue after Folk had mixed results against the Dolphins. Folk was 3 for 3 on extra points. But he was 0 for 1 on his only field-goal attempt of the day, missing from 45 yards.
However, the team officially signed Folk to the 53-man roster which means he won't go back down to the practice squad; he'll stay up and kick again this week. ...
One last note. ... Newton got into it with a couple of members of the Dolphins on his way off the field. Newton and Dolphins linebackers Elandon Roberts and Kyle Van Noy were going back and forth as other Patriots players tried to help the quarterback off the field without further incident.
After the game, Newton said that it was a "competitive game" and that the Dolphins players were trying to grab his chain, which "kind of got under my skin" as the game came to an end. Newton also said he wanted to focus on other things.
"I don't want to be selfish to kinda focus and dwell on that," Newton said.
While he looked fine during the game, Newton did appear to be favoring his left leg following that post-game scrum. But he said he left the game feeling fine.
"I'm great. Everything's good. Trust," Newton said.
QBs: Cam Newton, Jarrett Stidham, Brian Hoyer
RBs: Sony Michel, James White, Rex Burkhead, J.J. Taylor, Damien Harris
WRs: Julian Edelman, N'Keal Harry, Damiere Byrd, Jakobi Meyers, Gunner Olszewski
TEs: Ryan Izzo, Devin Asiasi, Dalton Keene
New Orleans SaintsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 16 September 2020
The Saints got some very bad news on the injury front with wide receiver Michael Thomas Tuesday.
Thomas has a high-ankle sprain that is worse than originally believed the team now expects him to miss several weeks, NFL Network reported.
Thomas suffered the injury during Sunday's win over the Buccaneers, but still played 80.3 percent of New Orleans' offensive snaps in the victory. High-ankle issues tend to be troublesome and can result in increased time on the sideline, and the initial reporting suggested Thomas' ailment was on the milder side.
But further medical checks apparently showed the injury is worse than Thomas believed.
Going back to Week 17 of last season and including the playoffs, Thomas has had three straight games of 70 or fewer receiving yards, averaging less than five receptions and 42 yards per game, per NFL Research.
Thomas has led the league in catches each of the last two seasons, and there's no easy way to replace a player of his caliber. The Saints will have their hands full trying to get their offense up to speed without their star wide receiver as they prepare for a Monday night game against the Raiders in Las Vegas.
Emmanuel Sanders and Tre'Quan Smith are next men up in the pecking order but this is obviously a situation I'll be following up on via Late-Breaking Update in coming days. ...
Meanwhile, Drew Brees added a historic accomplishment in the first quarter of New Orleans' 34-23 victory over the Buccaneers when he broke Brett Favre's NFL record by attempting the 10,170th pass of his career.
Brees, 41, already holds the NFL records for career passing yards (77,576), TD passes (549) and completions (6,885). Brady, 43, ranks second in each of those categories.
And now Brees holds a 4-3 lifetime edge against Tom Brady in head-to-head meetings, dating to their Big Ten days in 1999.
"Of course, it's significant and it's unique, and I'd be lying to you if I said it didn't mean a little bit more," Brees said of the matchup against Brady. "I've got so much love and respect for him and what he's been able to accomplish and his journey. Really both of our journeys -- we played each other in college for God's sake, 1999. I'm sure there's some guys on the team that weren't born when that happened. We would both pinch ourselves if you told us back then we would have the opportunity to play this long and be a part of so many great teams and great moments, historic moments.
"We'll have to worry about them later in the year as well, but for now it's nice to get the win."
As ESPN.com's Mike Triplett suggested, this was hardly the most dynamic performance by either Brees or Brady in their Hall of Fame careers. Brees completed just 18 of 30 passes for 160 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions, and Brady was 23-of-36 for 239 yards with two TDs and two picks.
But Brees helped to cement the victory with a 46-yard deep strike to tight end Jared Cook in the fourth quarter.
Head coach Sean Payton fell on the sword for New Orleans' offensive shortcomings, saying it was "as bad a game as I've had as a play caller. ... It was awful."
Then Brees fell on his own sword: "Well, if you asked me how you think I played, I'd say awful as well."
"We get to be our harshest critics coming off this game," said Brees, who credited Tampa Bay defensive coordinator Todd Bowles for a plan that included a lot of zone coverages and zone pressures. "We're used to playing at a much higher level offensively -- especially in the passing game. So we'll get that back on track.
"I think the best thing we did was we took care of the football. We ran the ball well and we put together some long drives. ... Teams always have a very specific plan for us, maybe play differently than they would for other teams. We're constantly having to adjust on the fly, that's what we do. We definitely could have done a better job today with that."
Brees had originally told the Saints in February that he planned to retire, sources told ESPN's Adam Schefter. But then he changed his mind and decided to come back for a 20th season. Sources also told Schefter and ESPN's Jeff Darlington that the Saints and Brady had mutual interest in each other before Brees decided to come back.
Brees has not declared this as his final season, but he did acknowledge last week: "Hey, at this time, man, I'm on borrowed time. I've got nothing to lose. So I'm turning it loose and letting the chips fall where they may. ..."
For what it's worth, Alvin Kamara rushed 12 times for 17 yards and a touchdown against the Buccaneers.
As Rotoworld.com noted, Kamara had a late touchdown called back while doing almost nothing on the ground. As usual, he excelled as a pass catcher, catching 5-of-8 targets for 51 yards and a touchdown. He was out-rushed by backfield mate Latavius Murray, who got 15 carries against Tampa.
Kamara gets a plush Week 2 matchup against the Raiders and their exploitable rush defense.
QBs: Drew Brees, Taysom Hill, Jameis Winston
RBs: Alvin Kamara, Latavius Murray, Ty Montgomery, Dwayne Washington
WRs: Emmanuel Sanders, Tre'quan Smith, Marquez Callaway, Deonte Harris, Michael Thomas
TEs: Jared Cook, Josh Hill, Adam Trautman
New York GiantsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 16 September 2020
As ESPN.com's Jordan Raanan understated, "The New York Giants need Saquon Barkley. He's their best player and the centerpiece of their offense."
And the Giants aren't going to win many games if Barkley runs for 6 yards, like he did on Monday night in Joe Judge's debut as the head coach.
So it's hardly a surprise they lost their season opener 26-16 to the Pittsburgh Steelers at MetLife Stadium. Barkley had a frustrating evening, with the aggressive Steelers defense consistently in the backfield.
"I've got to be better. I've got to be better for the team. Got to find a way to get the run game going. That's just how I truly believe. ... I know that is going to be a key part of our success. I actually believe in it. I still believe in it."
Barkley had eight runs for losses with his offensive line failing to open holes, or seemingly even providing resistance. Barkley was hit at or behind the line of scrimmage on 11 rushes, tied for the most in a game in his career.
At one point late in the first half, he had eight rushes for minus-8 yards. He had minus-3 yards rushing at halftime.
"Not really too concerned about the stats," Barkley said. "Got to give credit where credit is due. They have a great defensive front."
It's not going to get any easier next week when he faces a tough Chicago Bears defense on the road. But the Giants aren't going to get away from Barkley. They know he is the key to their success.
"Every week is going to be a little different. The Steelers had a very talented front [Monday night]," coach Joe Judge said. "We are going to stay aggressive with the run game. Saquon is a key part of our team. He is going to be a difference maker in how successful this team is going to be. We are going to keep going to him and I have confidence in our O-line."
Barkley was visibly frustrated on the sideline at times throughout the game. How could he not be? Barkley also had a dropped pass in the first quarter and failed to pick up a blitzing Steeler in the fourth quarter that led to a sack. It was his nightmare evening.
"I guess I probably showed a little emotion on my face," Barkley said. "I'm human at the end of the day. At the end of the day, the moral of the story is we didn't win the game. That is the only thing I am about, trying to find ways to win the game. That is going to be my whole mindset coming back this week playing Chicago. What can we do? What can I do as a player, as a team, to put us in a better position to win the game."
The Giants and new offensive coordinator Jason Garrett couldn't dial up anything to create space for Barkley. Nothing they did against a fast and aggressive Steelers defense worked in the run game.
As Raanan stressed, most of it wasn't even Barkley's fault. Nonetheless, it led to the second-worst game of his professional career. He rushed for 1 yard on 13 carries last year in a loss to the New York Jets.
This isn't the norm. And probably won't be moving forward. The Giants aren't going to face many defenses as good as Pittsburgh's, and their offensive line is almost certain to play better moving forward.
Raanan went on to note there was a lot to like from the Giants in Judge's debut. They battled. They were competitive against a more experienced and talented team.
It might not have been the result they wanted. Still, there was enough to think they will fare better against competition more their speed. ...
Other notes of interest. ... Daniel Jones completed 26 of 41 passes for 279 yards with two touchdown passes to Darius Slayton. He made more than a few plays in what was mostly a solid performance.
The second-year quarterback had his moments, but he also threw two costly interceptions. The first was when he was fooled by Steelers outside linebacker T.J. Watt in the first half. The second was a killer. He threw an ill-advised pass under pressure near the goal line with the Giants down 16-10 late in the third quarter. It was a backbreaker.
"He had two throws I know he wants back. Down at the goal line, that's something we can't have happen," Judge said. "Look, I'll talk to Daniel a little bit more about it, I'll watch the tape and make sure we clean up everything involved. That's definitely something you can't have, 19-play drive and come away with no points, especially down there in the low red [zone]. That's not acceptable, but I'm proud of the way he played aggressive, I'm proud of the way this team stuck together."
The good news? At least Jones didn't fumble despite some big hits and heavy pressure. That was a problem last year when he led the NFL with 18 fumbles, 12 lost. ...
Also according to Raanan, this was not the performance tight end Evan Engram was looking for coming off a disappointing 2019. Engram had two catches on seven targets for 9 yards.
It was a struggle for Engram right from the start, when he dropped a pass on the opening drive. It didn't get much better as the evening progressed. Engram struggled with his blocking against a tough Pittsburgh front and was called for offensive pass interference when he finally did make a catch downfield in the second quarter.
This was not what Engram and the Giants were hoping to see, especially in what amounts to a make-or-break season for the fourth-year tight end.
QBs: Daniel Jones, Colt McCoy
RBs: Dion Lewis, Devonta Freeman, Wayne Gallman
WRs: Darius Slayton, Golden Tate, Sterling Shepard, CJ Board, Damion Ratley, Cody Core
TEs: Evan Engram, Kaden Smith, Levine Toilolo, Eric Tomlinson
New York JetsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 16 September 2020
Le'Veon Bell will miss a few weeks after injuring his left hamstring in the team's season-opening loss at Buffalo.
The Jets are placing Bell on injured reserve. He is eligible to return after three weeks.
Bell was injured on an incomplete pass late in the second quarter when Bills linebacker A.J. Klein was penalized for holding after he got tied up with Bell and sent the running back sprawling. Bell grabbed at the back of his left leg on the play before heading to the sideline.
He returned for the second half, with his left leg wrapped. But, Gase acknowledged Sunday after the game he was "mad at myself" for letting Bell back onto the field. Bell was removed from the game shortly into the third quarter and watched the rest of the game from the sideline.
Bell finished with six carries for 14 yards and two receptions for 32 yards in the 27-17 loss.
Head coach Gase and Bell spoke after the game, and the coach expressed some optimism that the injury wouldn't keep Bell out too long.
"I just know what kind of shape he's in, his work ethic and the way he finds ways to play through injuries and the way he bounces back," Gase said. "I just wouldn't be surprised if he came back quicker than anticipated."
Turns out that it we won't see him again until Week 5 at the earliest.
Frank Gore and Josh Adams were the only other healthy running backs on the roster. Rookie LaMical Perine is still recovering from an ankle injury suffered in training camp and Gase announced on Wednesday the youngster won't return this week.
The Jets signed running back Kalen Ballage to the active roster after placing Bell on IR Tuesday. Ballage, the former Dolphins starter, was originally drafted by Gase in Miami. New York previously tried to engineer a trade for Ballage, but it fell through when he failed a physical and was subsequently released by Miami.
Still, expect Gore, who played the first 10 seasons of his career with the 49ers, to get a chance to turn back the clock Sunday at MetLife Stadium. That doesn't mean fantasy managers should chase those points.
I'll obviously be following up on this one via Late-Breaking Update in coming days, but the linuep decision on Bell -- at least for the rest of this month -- has been made for you. ...
In a few related notes. ... Rookie receiver Denzel Mims, now dealing with a second hamstring injury to go with the one that sidelined him all of August, was also placed on IR Tuesday; he's also eligible to return Week 5. ...
Meanwhile, as ESPN.com's Rich Cimini wrote, "Remember all that summer happy talk from the New York Jets about Sam Darnold's growth in Gase's offense? Just watch, they said. Darnold, in Year 2 of the system, will make a major step forward under the so-called quarterback whisperer."
Based on what unfolded Sunday, Cimini advised readers it was all empty promises.
Darnold got off to a horrible start and struggled through most of the loss to the Bills, raising a few burning questions:
Was it Darnold? Was it Gase? Was it the lack of playmakers?
This is the narrative that will dominate the conversation in the coming days and weeks. This much we know: Darnold threw a brutal interception, missed open receivers, took an unnecessary sack and seemed out of sync the entire day. You could say it was his worst game since his infamous "Ghosts" performance last year against the New England Patriots.
Darnold completed 21 of 35 passes for 215 yards with a touchdown, but the numbers don't tell the full story. His 69-yard touchdown pass was a screen to wide receiver Jamison Crowder, who did all the work. The third-year quarterback, who needs a good year to cement his long-term future, seemed indecisive at times. Greater command of Gase's offense? Hardly.
There wasn't much around him. Other than Crowder (seven catches for 115 yards), Darnold got little help. There was a little spark with Bell, but he was a nonfactor after the hamstring issue arose in the second quarter.
This was a troubling performance on every level, but it starts with Darnold, who seemed to regress Sunday after a promising finish to last season.
"I missed way too many throws," Darnold said to reporters after the game.
Gase said that the offense didn't do "nearly enough" and that there's "just so much to clean up" before they face the 49ers in next weekend's home opener.
Worth noting. ... The Jets devoted most of their offseason resources to rebuilding the offensive line. The initial results weren't great. The line, with four new starters, lacked punch in the running game, as the Jets managed only 52 yards on 15 carries. The pass protection was suspect, as Darnold was sacked three times and pressured 16 times. One sack was on Darnold, who passed up an easy throwaway.
Rookie left tackle Mekhi Becton held up reasonably well. He allowed one sack, but it could've gone as a coverage sack. He also had a holding penalty (declined).
Gase told reporters on Wednesday that Becton (knee) and Avery Williamson (hamstring) would be limited in practice.
QBs: Sam Darnold, Joe Flacco, James Morgan
RBs: Frank Gore, Bilal Powell, Josh Adams, Lamical Perine, Kalen Ballage, Le'Veon Bell
WRs: Chris Hogan, Braxton Berrios, Vyncint Smith, Denzel Mims, Breshad Perriman, Jamison Crowder
TEs: Chris Herndon, Ryan Griffin, Daniel Brown, Trevon Wesco
Philadelphia EaglesCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 16 September 2020
As Associated Press sports writer Rob Maaddi reported, Carson Wentz came out firing before an undermanned offensive line couldn't protect him from a relentless rush.
Pressured consistently and pummeled often, Wentz threw two costly interceptions after tossing a pair of touchdown passes and made a couple of errant throws in the fourth quarter of Philadelphia's 27-17 loss to Washington on Sunday.
"I put our defense in a bad spot a couple occasions," Wentz said. "I gotta be better. I'll own that."
Already missing three-time Pro Bowl right guard Brandon Brooks after he tore an Achilles tendon, the Eagles found out before the game that three-time Pro Bowl right tackle Lane Johnson couldn't play because of an ankle injury that required surgery last month. That forced rookie Jack Driscoll to start in his place and 2019 undrafted free agent Nate Herbig made his first career start at right guard. Driscoll sustained an undisclosed injury in the second half and was replaced at right tackle by Jordan Mailata, also making his NFL debut.
"It was a very up-and-down performance for the offensive line, very poor in the run game," center Jason Kelce said. "We gotta be better upfront. No excuses. I don't think anybody, in particular, individually played a terrible game. Everybody had their chances to screw this one up, myself included."
The Eagles reshuffled their line last week, moving nine-time Pro Bowl left tackle Jason Peters back to his normal position one week after 2019 first-round pick Andre Dillard suffered a season-ending biceps injury. Versatile Matt Pryor had been playing at left tackle in training camp and he ended up not starting at any spot.
The instability up front put Philadelphia in a difficult spot against a team featuring four recent first-round picks on the defensive line plus Ryan Kerrigan, who led the way with two sacks and recovered a fumble.
"Anytime you disrupt your offensive line and lose some continuity, it's going to affect you a little bit," head coach Doug Pederson said. "Our guys don't let the changes bother them. We still have to go execute and play. This front was a really good test for our guys, valuable experience. You don't want to move too many parts upfront, but we take pride in getting our guys prepared and go play."
The Eagles also were missing starting running back Miles Sanders. His absence was a major reason they couldn't get the run game going, finishing with 57 yards on 17 carries.
Up 17-0 in the second quarter, the Eagles had a first down at their 28 with only 1:44 left in the half. Instead of running the ball and working the clock, they were aggressive. Wentz's pass for Jalen Reagor was underthrown and picked by Fabian Moreau at the Philadelphia 45. That gave Washington momentum going into halftime.
It appeared Reagor could've made a stronger play for the ball and possibly break it up. Pederson said he didn't have a good view on it, but he didn't regret trying to score more points in that spot instead of running the ball.
"Instinct is just to continue to keep the gas pedal down and continue to put pressure on," he said. "That's been my mind-set."
Jimmy Moreland stepped in front of Wentz's pass to rookie John Hightower in the third quarter and returned it 32 yards to the Eagles 20. Peyton Barber ran in for a score that cut it to 17-14. Like Reagor, it seemed Hightower could've been more aggressive trying to break up the play. Pederson said he needed to see the replay before commenting.
Watching the game film and breaking down all the mistakes won't be pleasant this week.
Wentz completed just 57 percent of his passes with 2 TDs, 2 INTs and the eight sacks -- not all of which were fault of the O-line.
"I've got to be better, I know that," Wentz said. "We came out offensively feeling good. We moved the ball right down the field, put up points, got ahead in the game ... I've gotta clean up the interceptions. I put our defense in a bad spot on a couple of occasions. We definitely lost some momentum and we didn't make the plays we needed to make.
"I've got to be better. It starts with me. I've got to protect the ball and lead these guys better and I'll own that."
As PhillyVoice.com's Jimmy Kempski pointed out, in addition to the two picks, he tacked on two more fumbles to his league leading 50 since 2016, and he took a bad sack that led to a more difficult 53-yard field goal attempt, that Jake Elliott missed.
Up next is Aaron Donald and a Rams defense that registered three sacks and seven hits on quarterback Dak Prescott in a Week 1 win over the Dallas Cowboys.
As for Sanders and Johnson, both worked fully on Wednesday and multiple reports indicate both will play against Los Angeles this weekend.
I'll have more on Sanders, Alshon Jeffery (who was held out as he continues to work his way back from last year's Lisfranc surgery), Johnson and the rest via Late-Breaking Update.
Also worth watching, Boston Scott went into the locker room late in the third quarter on Sunday before returning to the field later in the quarter.
It's unclear what Scott's injury was. ... Whatever the case, I'll be following up on all the injured players of interest here via Late-Breaking Update in coming days. ...
In a couple of related items. ... The Eagles are placing defensive end Vinny Curry (hamstring) and cornerback Craig James (thigh) on injured reserve. Philadelphia signed guard Sua Opeta to the active roster and tight end Jordan Franks to the practice squad. ...
Other notes of interest. ... As Profootballtalk.com reminded readers, word from Eagles training camp this summer was that wide receiver DeSean Jackson looked as fast as ever while filling what looked like a prominent role in the team's offense, but his snap count in Sunday's loss to Washington left some people scratching their heads.
Jackson played 54 percent of the offensive snaps as the team spread out the workload at wideout between five players over the course of the afternoon. On Monday, Pederson said that he expects Jackson to take on a bigger role in the weeks to come.
"Obviously he's a big part of the offense, but at the same time, we want to make sure that he's a guy that's healthy and fresh for us down the long haul here," Pederson said at his press conference. "I think each week, I would anticipate his rep count to increase as we go, and we're going to be smart with him but we also know that he's an explosive receiver for us and we want to get him on the field as much as possible moving forward."
Jackson only played 14 snaps after Week 1 last season because of a core muscle injury and that experience makes it easy to understand why the Eagles would want to ease him into this campaign. Given the need for offensive spark after Sunday's loss, that increase may need to be a sharp one. ...
And finally. ... According to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport, the Zach Ertz got into a heated discussion with general manager Howie Roseman had a heated discussion after practice at the NovaCare Complex, in full view of several teammates.
"Late after one practice this week, Zach Ertz and general manager Howie Roseman got into it," Rapoport said on NFL Network on Sunday morning, later adding on Twitter that owner Jeffrey Lurie was also present. "[It was] a very heated discussion, I'm told, one that was witnessed by several players. An airing of grievances of sorts, with some of that frustration coming right out into the open. Now these two men are professionals and certainly they can focus on their jobs, but obviously this makes Zach Ertz's future in Philly even more up in the air."
There was no clarification of when exactly this happened, whether it was before Ertz's comments this week expressing his frustration over his current contract situation or after.
Dallas Goedert had eight catches for 101 yards and a TD.
QBs: Carson Wentz, Nate Sudfeld, Jalen Hurts
RBs: Miles Sanders, Boston Scott, Corey Clement, Jason Huntley
WRs: DeSean Jackson, Greg Ward, JJ Arcega-Whiteside, John Hightower, Quez Watkins, Jalen Reagor, Alshon Jeffery
TEs: Zach Ertz, Dallas Goedert, Richard Rodgers, Josh Perkins
Pittsburgh SteelersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 16 September 2020
As ESPN.com's Brooke Pryor it, if Ben Roethlisberger had any jitters Monday night, the veteran shook them off in time for a vintage performance in the Steelers' 26-16 victory against the New York Giants.
Playing for the first time in a year since a season-ending elbow injury sustained in Week 2 of 2019, Roethlisberger completed 21 of 32 passes for 229 yards and three touchdowns -- and an 11-yard keeper for a first down.
"There obviously were a little bit of jitters, I was excited and nervous to be out there," Roethlisberger said. "I just wanted to not let my guys down, that was the biggest thing."
Roethlisberger looked most like his old self in an abbreviated two-minute drill just before halftime, leading the Steelers on an eight-play, 78-yard drive capped with touchdown throw to James Washington where the third-year wide receiver muscled his way into the end zone for the score.
"Us being out there right before half having two minutes to go down out points on the board it was like 'OK that is the Ben we know,'" JuJu Smith-Schuster said. "Being able to go down and have those points on the board [on that] drive -- that is what we do."
Just before that drive, Roethlisberger stood on the sideline between drives with a jacket transformed into a wrap for his surgically repaired elbow to keep him loose and warm.
Roethlisberger admitted afterward he might feel some pain Tuesday following the game, but that there was nothing serious wrong with his knee, which he briefly grabbed after his 11-yard run in the second-quarter, or his elbow.
"I probably just grabbed my knee because I was moving so fast, but I feel great right now," Roethlisberger said. "Obviously, adrenaline still pumping and we won the game. I'm going to be sore tomorrow and might have some bumps and bruises but in terms of elbow and everything else I feel really good right now."
With his third scoring pass of the night -- and second to Smith-Schuster -- Roethlisberger notched his 366th career touchdown, setting a franchise record and tying Eli Manning for eighth-most in NFL history.
"I am just so excited, I am just thankful," Roethlisberger told ESPN's Maria Taylor in his postgame interview. "I told the guys in the locker room before the game that I'm back because of them. I don't need to accomplish anything personally anymore. It's about being with a defense that I think is as good as any I have ever played with, skill guys that are young and fun to play with and then, of course my line, who I love to death and they love me.
"They are the reason I came back to play."
It wasn't the most auspicious start for Roethlisberger, 38, when he threw a lateral to running back James Conner under pressure for no gain, ending his first series back after three plays. But Roethlisberger slowly got into a rhythm, finding Smith-Schuster for an 11-yard gain on the next series. That gave the quarterback and his offense a little life as he went on to connect with rookie Chase Claypool on a 28-yard toe-tapping reception to convert a third-and-long. The Steelers had to settle for a field goal on that drive, but a quarter later, Roethlisberger found the end zone when he hit Smith-Schuster for a 10-yard touchdown, capitalizing on T.J. Watt's interception of Daniel Jones in Giants territory.
"They're unbelievable," Roethlisberger said of his defense. "Unfortunately, I have to face it every day in practice, they are one of the best defenses I've played with, and I've played with some really good ones. I'm excited to be on the football field with them, and what they do is as a quarterback they allow me to play more free, because if you do make a mistake you can count on them to bail you out a bit.. they did it tonight, creating turnovers, big stops."
After a scoreless third quarter, Roethlisberger got his team on the board yet again with a field goal drive followed by a time-consuming 11-play, 75-yard drive finished with Smith-Schuster's second touchdown to seal the victory in his return.
"I'm excited we won the game, I'll tell you that," Roethlisberger said. "It's not about me individually, the reason I came for is for these guys and this team. It's a special group of football players and men, and I'm just thankful to be a part of it."
For the record, Smith-Schuster added a second touchdown in the fourth quarter and Diontae Johnson also had several key catches in what wound up being a solid night all around for the Steelers offense.
The veteran quarterback did it with a new-look offensive line, including an entirely different right side than the one he previously played behind. Zach Banner won the right tackle job out of training camp, while Stefen Wisniewski replaced the injured David DeCastro at right guard. But both left late in the fourth quarter, with a knee injury and pectoral injury, respectively. ...
The Steelers also finished the game without Conner, who suffered a sprained ankle that will be examined Tuesday, a source told ESPN's Adam Schefter. Pittsburgh is, in the words of the source, "optimistic for a timely return."
Benny Snell went into Monday night's game thinking he was primarily going to contribute on special teams. But when Conner went down, Snell went in -- and made the most of his opportunity.
Snell finished the game with 19 carries for 113 yards, the first 100-yard rushing game of his career, and he said afterward he was glad to show what he can do as a primary ball carrier.
"Going into the games I don't really have a mindset of how to call or what type of plays that I'll get on offense," Snell said, via the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. "Most of my workload is on special teams so that is what I take my pride in, so whenever my time comes I know it'll come. Opportunity presented itself tonight, and I was able to get more carries than usual."
As for Conner, Tomlin told reporters on Tuesday the Steelers will "leave the light on" for Conner this week.
In other words, it's unclear now how much if any time Conner will miss, but Snell has proven that he should have a role in the offense going forward. I'll have more on this situation via Late-Breaking Update in coming days.
But looking forward, even though Tomlin made it clear he planned for Conner to be his "primary ball toter," Snell's performance Monday night could make him reconsider.
More immediately, Conner, Smith-Schuster (knee) and Johnson (toe), the latter two who played the whole way on Monday, sat out Wednesday's practice. More on all involved via Late-Breaking Update.
QBs: Ben Roethlisberger, Mason Rudolph, Josh Dobbs
RBs: James Conner, Benny Snell, Jaylen Samuels, Anthony McFarland Jr.
WRs: JuJu Smith-Schuster, Diontae Johnson, James Washington, Chase Claypool, Ray-Ray McCloud
TEs: Eric Ebron, Vance McDonald, Zach Gentry
San Francisco 49ersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 16 September 2020
According to ESPN.com's Nick Wagoner, it's far too early in the NFL season for the San Francisco 49ers to press the panic button and sound the Super Bowl hangover alarm.
But make no mistake, Sunday's 24-20 loss to the Arizona Cardinals is one that could absolutely prove costly later in the year. After squeaking out a pair of wins against the Cardinals last year, the Niners couldn't find the late-game magic needed to extend their winning streak against Arizona to three. Their final attempt came up short when a fourth-down pass to receiver Trent Taylor was knocked away.
This loss will undoubtedly sting as the 49ers controlled the action for much of the first half but were unable to extend a quick 10-0 lead due to some self-inflicted wounds, including allowing a punt block that turned into Arizona's first score. From there, an offense missing its top two centers and top two wideouts failed to sustain much of anything until the game's closing moments.
All told, San Francisco's offense was just 2-of-13 on third or fourth down and 1-of-4 in the red zone. Those struggles left a defense that dominated early gasping for air late as it chased around Arizona quarterback Kyler Murray to no avail.
While the Niners will get some key players back on offense, this loss has the chance to linger in an NFC West division that once again figures to feature nothing but heavyweight slugfests.
Jimmy Garoppolo got off to as good of a start as you could expect after a 76-yard touchdown pass to running back Raheem Mostert on the team's second possession and even had a near-perfect passer rating at the end of the first quarter. But he found himself under fire and with little in the way of open targets for much of the rest of the game.
Given the circumstances, it'd be unfair to put the offensive struggles solely at Garoppolo's feet, but he didn't find much of a rhythm after the quick start until the final two drives. He finished 19-of-33 for 259 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions for a passer rating of 103.0.
"He had some good plays in there, but just like the entire offense, just missed a number of opportunities that it was going to take to win that game," head coach Kyle Shanahan said of his QB. "We had a couple there. He's got to play better. We've all got to play better on offense especially. It starts with me."
Meanwhile, George Kittle said immediately after Sunday's game his lower leg felt "fantastic." Shanahan said Monday that Kittle has a sprained knee that is a "little sore."
That leaves Kittle's availability for Sunday in doubt.
Kittle, who caught four passes for 44 yards, had his left knee bent awkwardly on a hit by Cardinals safety Budda Baker near the end of the first half. Kittle left for the locker room before the end of the half but returned to start the second half.
The All-Pro played 61 of 62 offensive snaps.
"You go off what the player says and what the doctors say, and Kittle was good to go," Shanahan said. "(He) came back and did a hell of a job for us in the second half. That had nothing to do with his stats and stuff. That has more to do with how he's playing and the people they're putting on him. When that happens, got to go different directions.
"We were happy with Kittle. When he tells you he's all right, and you look at him and watch him move, he was good to go in that game."
Shanahan told reporters on Wednesday that Kittle wont practice this week, but the team is hopeful he will play Sunday against the Jets.
Wide receivers Deebo Samuel and Brandon Aiyuk did not play against Arizona and Richie James left during the proceedings.
James' status for this week is uncertain although Shanahan said he expects Aiyuk to make his debut this week.
But a day after Shanahan said it could happen, free agent wide receiver Mohamed Sanu has agreed to a deal with the 49ers.
The signing will reunite Sanu with Shanahan, who already knows what kind of player he's getting because Shanahan was the Falcons' offensive coordinator during Sanu's tenure in Atlanta.
"We'll see how these injuries go, but I love Sanu," Shanahan said Monday. "He's a hell of a player. ... He's definitely a guy I really respect, and I think everyone in this league respects."
The 49ers sought a trade for Sanu at the trade deadline last year. He ended up in New England after the Patriots gave a second-round choice for him, and the 49ers ended up with a one-year rental in Emmanuel Sanders.
Sanu, 31, played in Atlanta in 2016 when Shanahan was the Falcons' offensive coordinator. Sanu has remained a free agent since the Patriots released him out of training camp. ...
Other notes of interest. ... Niners running backs have made a habit of holding the crown as the fastest player in the league with the ball in their hands. Mostert claimed it for himself on Sunday on that 76-yard touchdown catch and run. On the play, Mostert reached a max speed of 22.73 mph, the fastest speed reached by a ball carrier in the past three seasons, according to NextGen Stats.
In the process, Mostert took the top spot from former teammate Matt Breida, who reached 22.3 mph in Week 5 last season.
Mostert, who emerged as the team's primary running back down the stretch last season, made the first start of his career after playing a reserve role in his first five seasons. The touchdown catch was a career-long for Mostert.
In addition, after missing nearly 1,000 days due to injury, Jerick McKinnon was back on a football field. The running back caught what at the time was the go-ahead score in a back-and-forth fourth quarter.
It was a great sight after the running back missed each of his first two seasons in San Francisco due to knee injuries. In his first game back, he carried three times for 24 yards (8.0 YPC) with a long of 16, and caught three passes for 20 yards and the score. The TD was McKinnon's first score since Dec. 3, 2017, and his first in a Niners' uniform. ...
The 49ers are placing cornerback Richard Sherman on IR on Wednesday, NFL Network's Mike Garafolo reported. Sherman has a calf strain and will miss at least three weeks. ...
And finally. ... Regarding Samuel, he suffered a setback last week in his recovery from his broken foot, Shanahan said Monday, which was the impetus for being placed on injured reserve over the weekend.
Shanahan last week said he thought Samuel was close to playing against Arizona, but then he didn't practice and the move to IR made him ineligible to play until Week 4 against the Philadelphia Eagles. Despite the setback, the team is hoping to have Samuel for that game Oct. 4.
"We didn't think it was a setback because he was just real sore after running one day. But the (soreness) never got better," Shanahan said. "It just got worse and worse after one specific day. Usually after one day when it was sore, we thought it was just because he worked it hard. But when that got worse each day and not better, we knew it ended up being a little bit of a setback."
Shanahan said the team initially wasn't allowed to put Samuel on injured reserve because he sustained the injury during a workout away from the team's facility in June. But the NFL ruled that because he had a setback while rehabbing in Santa Clara he would be eligible for injured reserve allowing the team to open a roster spot, which it has yet to fill.
QBs: Nick Mullens, Jimmy Garoppolo, C.J. Beathard
RBs: Raheem Mostert, Jerick McKinnon, Tevin Coleman, Jeff Wilson
WRs: Kendrick Bourne, Mohamed Sanu, Brandon Aiyuk, Trent Taylor, Dante Pettis, Richie James, Deebo Samuel
TEs: George Kittle, Jordan Reed, Ross Dwelley, Charlie Woerner
Seattle SeahawksCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 16 September 2020
As the Associated Press framed it, "The Seattle Seahawks let Russell Wilson do the cooking. The only thing he burned was the Atlanta Falcons. ..."
Showing what he can do when given a chance to open up the offense, Wilson threw four touchdown passes to lead the Seahawks to a 38-25 victory over the Falcons in the season opener Sunday.
Wilson dished out throws to nine receivers, finishing 31 of 35 for 322 yards. He also carried the ball three times for a team-high 29 yards rushing.
"We wanted to spread the ball around," Wilson said. "We wanted to get the ball to a lot of different guys. We wanted to be aggressive in our approach."
That sort of talk will surely be pleasing to Seahawks fans, who have pleaded with the team to "Let Russ Cook" -- essentially a call to be more aggressive offensively from the start rather than relying on Wilson to keep leading dramatic comebacks.
How did that work out?
The Seahawks threw on 21 of their first 35 plays. More tellingly, Wilson dropped back to pass on seven of 12 first-down plays in the opening half, and ran it himself two other times. There were only three handoffs in those situations.
"Russell was in total command of the game," Seattle coach Pete Carroll said.
Wilson threw a pair of TD passes in the first quarter as Seattle built a 14-12 halftime lead. He added two more in the third quarter to put the Falcons away in a game played with no fans at Mercedes-Benz Stadium because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The biggest play of all came after the Falcons made what looked to be a crucial stop, leaving the Seahawks with fourth-and-5 at the Atlanta 38. The offense stayed on the field, but instead of going for the first down with a short throw, Wilson lofted one to DK Metcalf, who was streaking toward the end zone.
Metcalf beat cornerback Isaiah Oliver and hauled in the perfectly thrown ball without breaking stride to push Seattle to a 21-12 lead.
"They made a good stop on third down and were all celebrating," Wilson said. "I looked at the sideline and said, 'OK, let's go after 'em.' I wanted to be aggressive."
On the ensuing possession, Atlanta attempted a fake punt on fourth-and-2 from its own 33. Blocking back Sharrod Neasman took a direct snap and had enough for the first down on a run up the middle, only to fumble the ball away. It was recovered by Seattle's Freddie Swain at the 36.
Five plays later, Wilson zipped his fourth TD pass of the game, a 7-yarder to new tight end Greg Olsen. The 35-year-old was let go after spending the last nine years at Carolina, where he faced the Falcons twice a season.
Running back Chris Carson was on the receiving end of Wilson's first two touchdowns and finished with six catches for 45 yards. He did more as a receiver out of the backfield than he did on the ground (six carries, 21 yards). One of his catches was a slick one-hander, showing off what Carroll has called some of the best hands of any player on the team.
Is this another indication of how the Seahawks' offense could look different in 2020?
As ESPN.com's Brady Henderson noted, Carson's targets doubled last year from Brian Schottenheimer's first season as offensive coordinator, going from 23 to 46, but the latter total only ranked tied for 26th among running backs.
Worth noting. ... Wilson also became only the second player in league history to rack up 30,000 passing yards and 4,000 rushing yards in his career. The other? Hall of Famer Steve Young.
And Wilson isn't all that far away from passing Young in both categories: Young finished with 33,124 passing yards and 4,239 rushing yards.
This is the first of what will be many all-time career accomplishments for Wilson, who has just started his ninth season and, given his oft-repeated intent to play until he's 45, will have many more. ...
Wilson was named Week 1 NFC Offensive Player of the Week for his efforts. ...
Of some concern. ... Wilson was sacked three times and hit hard on several other plays, with Falcons defenders combining for 10 official QB hits. The Seahawks' offensive line is, and for years has been, more built to run block than it is to pass protect. If they're going to lean more on Wilson's arm than they have in past seasons, they'll have to find ways to do so without putting him in harm's way. Rookie right guard Damien Lewis had a rough NFL debut with three penalties.
Also of interest. ... Metcalf reached a top speed of 20.62 mph on his 38-yard touchdown catch in the third quarter. That was the fastest top speed of the game. Metcalf blew by Oliver after beating him off the line of scrimmage. That redeemed a drop by a wide-open Metcalf earlier in the drive. He had another drop later in the game. Drops were an issue for Metcalf last year as he finished an otherwise stellar rookie season with a 58.6 percent catch rate that ranked 57th among wide receivers.
He had four catches on eight targets for a team-high 95 yards Sunday.
Tyler Lockett finished the game with eight catches on eight targets. That's Lockett's sixth game, postseason included, with eight or more receptions, all of which have come since the start of last season.
Olsen took his career touchdown total to 60 with his first as a Seahawk on Sunday, and the veteran now has at least one touchdown catch in 14 straight seasons. Olsen was one of two newcomers to find the end zone Sunday along with running back Carlos Hyde.
Worth noting. ... Carson was on the field for 45 percent of the snaps against the Falcons as the team is clearly working him back up to speed after the veteran missed time in camp for personal reasons -- on top of the fact he's coming off last year's fractured hip. Hyde filled in with a 34 percent snap share and seven carries.
QBs: Russell Wilson, Geno Smith
RBs: Chris Carson, Carlos Hyde, DeeJay Dallas, Travis Homer, Rashaad Penny
WRs: Tyler Lockett, DK Metcalf, Phillip Dorsett, Freddie Swain, David Moore, Penny Hart
TEs: Greg Olsen, Will Dissly, Jacob Hollister, Luke Willson
Tampa Bay BuccaneersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 16 September 2020
As Associated Press sports writer Fred Goodell suggested, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers have a lot of things to fix if they're going to realize their potential this season..
Tom Brady says it. So does Bruce Arians.
Truth is, every team in the NFL is saying the same thing one game into a journey they hope will wind up at the Super Bowl.
While it would be nice to be 1-0, starting 0-1 hardly is cause for alarm.
"Every team is going to wish they did things better," Brady said after struggling in his much-anticipated Bucs debut in New Orleans, where he threw for two touchdowns but also had one of his two interceptions returned for a second-half TD in a 34-23 loss.
Tight end O.J. Howard suggested if there was a silver lining to losing to the Saints, it's that a talented-laden team with lofty expectations might benefit from being served a piece of "humble pie" early -- rather than later -- in the season.
Brady, a six-time Super Bowl champion, wasn't buying it.
"It doesn't matter how much talent you have if you throw interceptions returned for touchdowns," the 43-year-old quarterback said, "so I've got to correct that."
Arians conceded Monday that he was surprised that Brady struggled after beginning the game with an 85-yard touchdown drive.
"He looked like Tom Brady in practice all the time, so it's kind of unusual to see that in the ballgame because they didn't do the things that we didn't get ready for. Everything they did, we thought we were ready for," Arians said.
"Can't say we were out of sync because we started out as good as you could start out going right down the field. Then, we don't get any more chunk plays other than pass interference penalties," the coach added. "I think it's a great learning experience. It's just Round 1 of a 16-round fight, and we'll learn from it."
Arians offered a blunt assessment of the interceptions, attributing one to a miscommunication between Brady and receiver Mike Evans, saying the other was a "bad decision" on a sideline throw Saints cornerback Janoris Jenkins turned into a Pick-6.
Arians, who has also worked with Peyton Manning, Ben Roethlisberger, Carson Palmer and Andrew Luck during a long coaching career, doesn't shy away from making critical comments about the play of his quarterbacks.
"It speaks for itself. If you're throwing an out route, you don't throw it low and inside. And that hasn't been the case up until that one," Arians said. "(He) was a little bit late on it, and it probably (would have been) a better decision to go somewhere else with the ball."
The coach, however, stressed Brady and the Bucs will be fine.
"He knows how to bounce back," Arians said. "He knew he didn't play very well. It's not what he expects from himself, nor do we expect. I would anticipate him to have a little more grit, a little more determination this week."
Worth noting. ... The running game didn't do a lot to help Brady, averaging just 3.3 yards per carry on 26 attempts, although Arians felt Ronald Jones and newly signed, two-time 1,000-yard rusher Leonard Fournette ran hard. LeSean McCoy out-snapped Fournette 25-9, but Fournette out-touched him 6-1.
The coach expects Fournette's role to increase moving forward. ...
Chris Godwin has been placed in the league's concussion protocol.
Godwin had no symptoms of a concussion on either Monday or Tuesday but did feel symptoms today, Arians said.
Godwin may have suffered the concussion when he took a helmet-to-helmet hit from Saints safety D.J. Swearinger on Sunday.
Godwin was the Bucs' leading receiver on Sunday, catching six passes for 79 yards.
Evans played at New Orleans despite sitting out three practices last week because of a hamstring injury. He had just one reception for 2 yards, but it was for a touchdown. Evans also drew a pass interference penalty on a deep throw, setting up Brady's 9-yard TD pass to Howard.
I'll be watching for more on the health of both Godwin and Evans as the Bucs begin preparing for another NFC South matchup, against Carolina on Sunday. Watch the Late-Breaking Updates section for more on both players. ...
Until then, it's worth noting that Arians, on his weekly radio show Tuesday, told listeners they should've moved Evans around against the Saints instead of keeping him outside and lamented only targeting him four times. Arians said he feels bad if Evans has less than 10 targets in any game. Evans had 1 catch for four yards.
One last note. ... The Bucs' special teams units also struggled. A 54-yard field goal attempt by Ryan Succop was blocked in the second quarter and recovered at the New Orleans 45. And in the fourth quarter, Jaydon Mickens and Mike Edwards collided on a kick return, recovered by Bennie Fowler at the Tampa Bay 18. The Bucs were also plagued by penalties -- something they led the league with last season -- with nine for 103 yards.
"After the way we practiced the last two weeks, I would never thought I'd see us have that many penalties, turnovers, just basic, mental errors that really cost us when we got back in the game, in the coverage," Arians said. "It's round one, we've lost round one and we'll get ready for round two."
QBs: Tom Brady, Blaine Gabbert, Ryan Griffin
RBs: Leonard Fournette, Ronald Jones, LeSean McCoy, Ke'Shawn Vaughn
WRs: Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, Scott Miller, Tyler Johnson, Justin Watson, Jaydon Mickens
TEs: Rob Gronkowski, O.J. Howard, Cameron Brate, Antony Auclair
Tennessee TitansCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 16 September 2020
In the hours leading up to kickoff of Monday night's season opener against the Broncos, receiver Corey Davis went through an extensive on-field workout with members of the organization watching him closely.
Davis, listed as questionable leading up to the contest with a hamstring injury, needed to convince the onlookers he was physically able to go. Earlier in the day, the Titans had called up an extra receiver from the practice squad, just in case.
As it turned out, Davis was more than ready.
One of the guys watching him in pregame -- head coach Mike Vrabel -- handed him a game ball for his efforts in the team's 16-14 win over the Broncos.
"I'm really proud of his effort to get himself to this game," Vrabel said of Davis. "I think admittedly, he's probably not at 100-percent, but I was happy to present him with a game ball in there in front of the team for his effort, toughness and competitiveness."
Davis led the team with seven receptions and 101 receiving yards, including a long reception of 23 yards in the second quarter. His reception total tied for the second-highest number of his career, and his yardage total ranked third in his career.
"If I am going to travel. ... My mindset is 'I'm traveling, it's a business trip, so I am going to go out there and play.' I was questionable, but I had it in my mind I was going to play," Davis said.
"It just felt good to get the game ball. It was a long road for me personally, so to have coaches and players believe in me all the way through, it meant a lot. Personally, I felt good going out there. Me and Tanny were clicking, and I'm happy we got the W."
Davis made touch catches, and he made big catches.
One of them was a nine-yard catch for a first down during the game-winning scoring drive late in the fourth quarter.
With the performance, Davis became the eighth player in franchise history to record a 100-yard receiving game in a Week 1 road game. It was the team's second consecutive Week 1 game with such a performance after A.J. Brown recorded 100 yards at Cleveland in the 2019 season opener.
Behind Davis, receivers Adam Humphries (7 catches, 47 yards) and Brown (5 catches, 39 yards) also made important contributions. Tight ends MyCole Pruitt and Jonnu Smith also had one-yard touchdown catches.
But on this night, Davis really stood out.
"He showed true heart out there today," Brown said. "I don't know if he was 100 percent, but he gave 110 percent. He made a lot of big plays. He did his thing today."
The performance also provided optimism for things to come for Davis, and the offense.
Davis, the fifth overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft, had 43 catches for 601 yards and two touchdowns for the Titans in 2019. In 2018, Davis had a career-high 65 catches for 891 yards and four touchdowns.
"(Corey) was huge," Tannehill said." He came up with some huge catches, scores. I'm really proud of the way he went out and battled. Obviously, just dealing with some things throughout the week and being able to go out and make some huge catches for us, successful catches in traffic, big catch and runs as well. I'm really proud of the way Corey played. [He's] obviously a talented guy and he made big plays for us. ..."
Meanwhile, running back Derrick Henry was on a tear late last season and into the postseason, and he started this season with another productive performance.
Henry carried 31 times for 116 yards in Monday night's win over the Broncos. He now has 1,458 rushing yards in his last 10 games.
This impressive run for Henry really began when the Titans replaced struggling quarterback Marcus Mariota with Tannehill last season. In the 13 games Tannehill and Henry have started together, Henry has a whopping 1,686 rushing yards.
If Henry rushes for 419 yards in his next three games, he'd have more rushing yards over his first 16 games playing with Tannehill than Eric Dickerson's single-season record of 2,105 yards, set in 1984. Since he started playing with Tannehill, Henry has been hard to stop.
Also of interest. ... Stephen Gostkowski has kicked in Super Bowls, and he has three rings to show for it.
Over the last decade, in fact, he's been one of the NFL's very best kickers.
But Monday night, he had a game he'd like to forget. ... Until the very end.
That's when Gostkowski stepped up and kicked the game-winner.
"It's definitely an opportunity I didn't deserve, but grateful I got it for the team," Gostkowski said. "The guys that went out there and busted their butt, I really put them in a tough spot -- you don't always get that lucky to get a chance to redeem yourself. I am just happy the guys got to celebrate.
"I am disappointed in myself, and embarrassed and frustrated. But at the end of the day we won, and luckily guys are happy going home."
Gostkowski missed on kicks of 47, 44 (blocked) and 42 for the Titans before he got a chance to kick the game-winner -- from 25 yards out, with just 17 seconds left.
It was the 10th career game-winning kick for Gostkowski, a former Patriot.
After the game, Gostkowski said he took the sock off his right foot because it's a routine he worked with during the summer with success.
"I would have taken my pants off to make that last kick to try something different," he said with a smile.
The Titans, who had issues at the kicking position last year, signed Gostkowski to solve their problems.
The three-time Super Bowl champion is the Patriots all-time leading scorer, and heading into the game he was ranked 12th in NFL annals with 1,775 career points and 374 field goals. Gostkowski's 87.4 percent field goal accuracy rate heading into the 2020 season was the highest in Patriots history and fifth in NFL history.
That's likely why the Titans aren't signing a new kicker. But Vrabel is looking for some changes as they head into Week 2.
Vrabel said on Tuesday that those changes have to come from Gostkowski as well as the other players on the team.
"For a guy that's a career 87 percent field goal kicker, I think a lot of those corrections are going to be on him. ... But it's also on us to make everything around him better," Vrabel said.
On the injury front. ... Brown (knee) was limited in Wednesday's practice; Davis (hamstring) did not practice Wednesday despite playing through the same issue Monday night. This seems like a day of maintenance. Either way, I'll have more on both wideouts via Late-Breaking Update in coming days.
QBs: Ryan Tannehill, Logan Woodside
RBs: Derrick Henry, Darrynton Evans, Senorise Perry
WRs: A.J. Brown, Corey Davis, Adam Humphries, Cody Hollister, Kalif Raymond
TEs: Jonnu Smith, Anthony Firkser, MyCole Pruitt, Geoff Swaim
Washington Football TeamCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 16 September 2020
After an offseason of turnover, chaos and negative attention, the Washington Football Team delivered what new coach Ron Rivera and the organization needed most: a comeback win.
After falling behind 17-0 to the Philadelphia Eagles in the season opener Sunday, Washington rallied for a 27-17 victory behind a dominant defensive line. Washington recorded eight sacks of Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz. Washington snapped a six-game losing streak vs. the Eagles.
It was Rivera's first game coaching Washington after nine years in Carolina. He's had to deal with not only a pandemic and social justice issues, but also a name change, accusations of sexual harassment in the organization from previous years and his own cancer diagnosis. Rivera missed practice on Tuesday for his first chemotherapy and proton treatment. He needs to have five treatments a week for seven weeks.
And, as ESPN.com's John Keim notes, ever since Rivera announced his diagnosis last month, he harped on the notion that, when he wasn't around, others had to take charge.
Dwayne Haskins did just that Sunday. And the defense took it from there.
With Rivera needing a previously planned intravenous treatment at halftime of Sunday's win, and unable to talk to his players, Haskins delivered a tight spiral of a message to his teammates. With Washington trailing by 10 points, Haskins said he kept his message simple, telling the players:
"We're home. They're the visitors. There's no reason why we should be feeling like we're little bro to them in a sense. For me it was find a way to win."
Which, of course, they did.
"We have had a tough offseason," Rivera said. "But I just love the resilience of these young men."
It was Rivera's first game coaching Washington after nine years in Carolina. He's had to deal with not only a pandemic and social justice issues, but also a name change, accusations of sexual harassment in the organization from previous years and his own cancer diagnosis. Rivera missed practice on Tuesday for his first chemotherapy and proton treatment. He needs to have five treatments a week for seven weeks. The organization knew what he went through, which is why Rivera received a game ball afterward.
Rivera said the intravenous treatment at halftime was planned because they just wanted to be safe. While he was in another room, Rivera let it be known he might not return to the locker room in time to say anything to his players.
"I told one of our operations guys somebody's going to have to make sure somebody steps up to the podium," Rivera said. "Dwayne stepped up and it was a pretty ruckus one from what I understand."
Rookie end Chase Young, who finished with 1.5 sacks in his first game, added: "It definitely hyped us up in the locker room, for sure. I know the speech that he gave, I took it to heart. I know a lot of people in the locker room took it to heart, as well."
Through all of the offseason travails, Rivera had said he just wanted Washington to play good football, knowing it would take time to rebuild a team that went 3-13 a year ago. He also called this first game a measuring stick. If that's the case, Washington measured out quite well -- at least for the final two quarters.
Rivera has preached a desire to move on from the past; Haskins said it can help propel them to where they want to go.
"That's the biggest thing with the past is knowing that it's going to make us better," Haskins said. "Knowing that, we should use whatever we've been through prior to it -- name changing or coaching or whatever the situation or whatever it may be -- that we're going to come together every day on Sunday and find a way to win the game, regardless of the situation or what we've been through."
QBs: Dwayne Haskins, Kyle Allen, Alex Smith
RBs: Antonio Gibson, J.D. McKissic, Peyton Barber, Bryce Love
WRs: Terry McLaurin, Dontrelle Inman, Steven Sims, Antonio Gandy-Golden, Isaiah Wright
TEs: Logan Thomas, Jeremy Sprinkle