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Team Notes week 2 2023
NEWS, NOTES, RUMORS AND OTHER GOOD STUFF
Directly from the desk of FlashUpdate Editor Bob Harris. The good; the bad; and yes. ... 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 12 September 2023
As ESPN.com's Josh Weinfuss framed it: "When Arizona Cardinals quarterback Josh Dobbs trotted onto the turf at FedEx Field about four minutes into the season opener against the Washington Commanders, he had been a part of the team for just two weeks and three days.
"He didn't know he was going to start until this past week.
"Sunday wasn't supposed to be perfect by any stretch for the Cardinals' offense. And it wasn't. ..."
"This should be the worst performance we have as an offense," tight end Zach Ertz said. "In the NFL, you've got to peak at the end of the season and peak at the right times, and that happens through practicing the right way."
There are still 16 more games to determine whether Sunday's 20-16 loss was, indeed, the worst performance of the season. While Dobbs and the rest of the offense figured out who they were as a unit Sunday, the defense had their back.
When outside linebacker Cameron Thomas recovered a fumble and fell into the end zone in the second quarter, he gave the Cardinals the lead and the momentum. Both fizzled out during the fourth quarter of head coach Jonathan Gannon's debut.
But even as the defense hushed the sellout home crowd in the first three quarters, the offense was slow to find its way.
It didn't score a touchdown -- forced to settle for field goals the three times out of 11 possessions it crossed midfield. Arizona finished with 210 total yards.
"We left a lot of opportunities out there," Dobbs said. "We moved the ball at spurts, but you just gotta do better situationally, in the red zone specifically. You work so hard to get down there, you gotta get seven points and that's what the game came down to.
"[The] defense did a phenomenal job of rallying to the ball all day, forcing turnovers, [scored a] big defensive touchdown. So, on offense, we have to finish drives, we gotta score touchdowns, and that starts with me."
When the defense is dominant like it was on Sunday -- holding Howell to just 202 passing yards and a touchdown -- the offense wants to protect the football and try to give the defense longer fields to defend, Dobbs said.
To do that, Arizona needs to keep the ball moving. The Cardinals were 4-of-14 on third downs. Dobbs passed for just 133 yards on 21-of-30.
Despite his struggles -- four of his completions were for negative yards and nine were for less than 10 yards -- Gannon said at a Monday press conference that Dobbs will remain the starter when the Cardinals host the Giants next Sunday.
"I think a huge jump is in store," Dobbs said. "Just getting out there, getting the flow of the game, right? Getting the flow with the guys, timing, rhythm in the games is always different than practice. Just getting there playing ball can definitely make a huge jump and I expect to make a huge jump, especially situationally. ..."
On the injury front. ... The Cardinals came out of the opener fairly healthy. Veteran OL Kelvin Beachum (hand) was inactive against the Commanders and Gannon said he wasn't sure if he'd be able to practice this week. ...
Other notes of interest. ... James Conner rushed 14 times for 62 yards in Washington, adding five receptions for eight additional yards.
As Rotoworld suggests, Conner was probably the best offensive player on the field for the Cardinals, churning out tough yards on the ground without a legitimate downfield passing threat. There's a reason Conner's five receptions generated all of eight yards. Keaontay Ingram did mix in behind Conner, but in pure "breather" fashion.
The Cardinals' offensive environment is going to make Conner difficult to trust as an RB2 but a matchup against the Giants could work in his favor this weekend. ...
Marquise Brown caught 3-of-5 targets for 28 yards, adding a 29-yard rush. That was easily the longest run of his career. He had a seven-yard rush as his previous best.
Ertz was back for the first time since tearing his ACL nine months ago. And he was a big part of the game plan, as Dobbs' main target early in the game. He couldn't bring in one catch -- a high Dobbs throw on first down at the Washington 12 when Ertz was in the end zone, on a drive that ultimately ended in a field goal -- but with an offense that was rightly conservative, his presence is important.
"It's been a long road," Ertz said, adding that he had a feeling at the end of the week he'd be playing. "I felt like myself, I felt like I could get in and out of my breaks like I wanted to, and blocking was up to the standards I set for myself."
Ertz said "I probably should have caught" the first-half high end zone pass that glanced off his hands. "I expect myself to make that play, whether it was catchable or not."
Meanwhile, as Darren Urban of the team's official website notes, fellow tight end Trey McBride also had a couple of good moments. Will be interesting to see if McBride's use increases as we go. ...
Matt Prater, easily good and right down the middle on a 54-yard field goal, is now 13-for-17 in two seasons and one game with the Cardinals from at least 50 yards. He once again showed that whatever he might do in preseason, he's there when it counts.
Finally. ... Urban notes the Cardinals want to play "violent." That's a tenet of Gannon. But they were flagged for four 15-yard penalties, and while there were degrees of how harsh the play was to draw the flags, the Cardinals can't have that.
QBs: Kyler Murray, Clayton Tune
RBs: James Conner, Keaontay Ingram, Emari Demercado, Michael Carter
WRs: Marquise Brown, Michael Wilson, Rondale Moore, Greg Dortch, Zach Pascal
TEs: Trey McBride, Geoff Swaim, Zach Ertz
Atlanta FalconsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 12 September 2023
The No. 8 pick stole the spotlight from the top choice in the NFL draft.
Bijan Robinson caught a touchdown pass in his debut and set up another score with a long run, giving the Atlanta rookie immediate bragging rights over Carolina's Bryce Young as the Falcons opened with season with a 24-10 victory over the Panthers on Sunday.
As ESPN.com's Michael Rothstein suggests, if this was the first test for Robinson, he clearly passed it.
Many more await.
"We'll line him up all over the place and he's still more that he can do," head coach Arthur Smith said. "He's such a unique player and unique balance, so you get in there and you get in the red zone and he made a heck of a play but we saw it every day in practice.
"I thought he'd do something like that today and he did and I'm glad it helped us win."
According to Rothstein, Smith was referencing Robinson's touchdown reception. After catching a swing pass, with Carolina linebacker Frankie Luvu rushing at him, Robinson quickly decided to almost back-juke to make Luvu miss -- a skill Robinson called a combination of "a gift" he has and instincts he's honed.
Then Robinson turned upfield and broke a combination tackle attempt by Carolina safety Vonn Bell and linebacker Shaq Thompson on his way to a touchdown. When he scored, Robinson considered giving the ball back to the official. His teammates insisted he keep it.
"I had to make a decision really fast. And then, after that, you gotta get what you can and then try to get a touchdown," Robinson said. "What I'm thinking in my head, just catch the ball, make sure I catch the ball first, then get upfield and try to make something happen."
On Friday, Robinson told ESPN he felt "super confident" with his game plan and his mind was clear. The nerves he felt before his preseason debut wouldn't come. He believed in his process.
Robinson's receiving touchdown was the first by a Falcons running back in his debut since Bubba Bean did so in 1976 and Sunday was the first time a Falcons player scored a touchdown in his first career game
Robinson played 31 snaps Sunday according to ESPN Stats and Information research and touched the ball on 16 of those snaps. It was a high work rate for a rookie in his first game, especially one who became such a big part of Atlanta's offense in Week 1.
From how he hit the hole to his juking, tackle-breaking touchdown run, it was something Atlanta had seen before - and knows it needs to see once again.
"The amount of times that we done seen him do some stuff like that," fullback Keith Smith said. "It's becoming the norm almost. You know what I'm saying?
"It's crazy. It's cool to see."
Worth noting. ... Tyler Allgeier didn't go away.
As Late-Round Fantasy's JJ Zachariason noted Sunday, the backfield split in Week 1 went like this:
Robinson: 65 percent snap share; 40.0 percent RB rush share; 35.3 percent target share
Allgeier: 54 percent snap share; 60.0 percent RB rush share; 17.6 percent target share
Allgeier rushed 15 times for 75 yards and two touchdowns. He caught all three of his targets for 19 yards. As Rotoworld notes, Allgeier saw more touches and more importantly, more red-zone work, converting a pair of three-yard carries for scores.
The Falcons currently have a 53 percent running back target share.
Atlanta could get Cordarrelle Patterson (thigh) back next week, adding another back to the rotation behind Robinson, but Allgeier should remain the favorite in short-yardage and goal-line spots.
Hosting the Packers this weekend, both backs are playable assets in Week 2. ...
While the rushing attack is on point, it's fair to wonder if we should be concerned about Atlanta's pass production.
While Desmond Ridder's completion percentage was good (15-for-18), Ridder threw for only 118 yards and many of those throws were because of great adjustments by receivers, including a fingertip catch by Mack Hollins and a swim-move type adjustment on a 35-yard completion to Kyle Pitts.
Pitts was targeted three times. He had two catches for 44 yards. But his first catch of the game came with less than 90 seconds on the clock in the third quarter.
Robinson's six targets led the team. Hollins led the wide receivers with four targets and caught three passes for 31 yards.
Drake London had one target on Sunday night. It fell incomplete.
The second-year receiver never seemed to be involved in the passing game Sunday. And while this likely will be an aberration for London, Rothstein believes it's worth noting because it's only the second time in his career he's had fewer than three targets in a game.
After the game, it was brought to Smith's attention that Ridder (whose first pass of the afternoon was tipped into the air and caught by the quarterback himself) had more catches than London.
Smith didn't like that.
"Let the fantasy guys worry about that," Smith said. "We've got to clean some things up. We can all be better in our spacing, but targets is the most misunderstood thing in the National Football League. There's progressions, there's spacing, if somebody underneath is not right, that's the stuff where I'm a little irritated as a coach.
"We had to fix it at halftime. That's on me. That's on everybody. We don't care. Drake London doesn't care. All we care about is 1-0. We have a lot of work -- and that has to improve because it's not going to sustain every week. Every week is its own entity. We don't care about the stats. We care about one: Winning."
For now, the winning formula appears to be more running than passing. Fantasy managers should take note.
QBs: Desmond Ridder, Taylor Heinicke, Logan Woodside
RBs: Bijan Robinson, Tyler Allgeier, Cordarrelle Patterson
WRs: Drake London, Mack Hollins, KhaDarel Hodge, Van Jefferson, Scott Miller, Jared Bernhardt, Josh Ali
TEs: Kyle Pitts, Jonnu Smith, MyCole Pruitt, John FitzPatrick
Baltimore RavensCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 12 September 2023
Running back J.K. Dobbins tore his Achilles in the Baltimore Ravens' season-opening 25-9 win on Sunday, which ended his 2023 season and devastated the entire locker room.
Dobbins went down five minutes after halftime when he took a short pass in the right flat and was wrestled to the ground by Houston Texans safety M.J. Stewart just 2 yards shy of the end zone. He limped to the sideline before heading to the locker room with his arms draped around trainers to assist him.
Afterward, Baltimore wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. said Dobbins' injury made his stomach hurt, and inside linebacker Patrick Queen fought off tears when talking about Dobbins.
"You can't replace a J.K.," Ravens guard Kevin Zeitler said. "[He's a] special guy, both football-wise and personality-wise. He helps keep his team moving and all that. So, an absolute gut punch and heartbreaking."
An MRI on Monday confirmed the injury. Dobbins is expected to undergo surgery Friday.
Cam Akers recovered in less than 6 months from a torn Achilles two years ago and NFL Network's Tom Pelissero reports Dobbins is aiming for a similar timeline.
Former Pro Bowl running back Melvin Gordon III will get promoted from the practice squad to join Gus Edwards and Justice Hill in the Baltimore backfield. Against the Texans, Edwards received a majority of the snaps on early downs (32 yards on eight carries), and Hill surprisingly was given most of the touches in the red zone (scoring two touchdowns).
"I pretty much consider all the guys starters, really, just being truthful about it," head coach John Harbaugh said. "They all have to be able to play that well. They're on the team for a reason -- it's because they're good enough to do it, and all those backs are going to play quite a bit."
Gordon, 30, signed a one-year, $1.1165 million contract, which included no guaranteed money, just before the start of training camp but was released last week when the Ravens cut their roster down to 53 players. Now, he's back on the active roster after spending one week on the practice squad.
Last season, Gordon ran for 318 yards and two touchdowns in a limited role with the Denver Broncos.
"He's here for a reason and certainly didn't expect it to be this quick, but that's why he's here and that's why he wanted to stay here," Harbaugh said. "He's a proven back, so I'm very, very glad that he's here."
In the past couple of years, the Ravens have added veteran running backs to address injuries, signing the likes of Latavius Murray, Devonta Freeman, Kenyan Drake and Le'Veon Bell.
But Baltimore is not looking to acquire another running back, Harbaugh said. The top available running back had been the Indianapolis Colts' Jonathan Taylor, who recently was available via a trade and is on the physically unable to perform list.
"I think we're good," Harbaugh said. "I like the guys we've got."
Still, it's not ideal.
"That's very unfortunate," quarterback Lamar Jackson said. "I feel like J.K. been busting his behind to get back on that field and just show ... what he's capable of and to help us out along the way. I spoke highly of him this offseason, just letting everybody know we really need him. For him to go down with a [season-ending] injury, that's just very unfortunate, not just him -- for all of us."
This marks the second time in three years that Dobbins will essentially miss an entire season. He was sidelined for all of the 2021 season when he suffered a significant left knee injury in the preseason finale. Last season, Dobbins wasn't at full strength and missed nine games while trying to recover from that knee injury.
Heading into the opener, Dobbins declared himself 100 percent healthy for the first time in three years.
"Just kind of crestfallen for him," Harbaugh said. "We will put our arms around him, and he'll get into rehab, and he will be back [next season]. But yeah, it's really hard for him."
Dobbins, 24, had expressed frustration over his contract this offseason. He was entering the final year of his rookie deal making $1.391 million, which is slightly more than Edwards and Hill, both of whom will earn $1 million.
In March, Dobbins will become an unrestricted free agent having missed 43 of 67 career games (64 percent).
"It hurts to see that type of stuff happen to somebody so good," an emotional Queen said. "I just asked everybody, just pray for him, pray for his mental [health]. It's just tough. It hurts, honestly. It hurts."
Injuries took a toll on the Ravens in Week 1.
In addition to Dobbins, Baltimore had three other starters leave the game and not return: safety Marcus Williams (shoulder), left tackle Ronnie Stanley (knee) and center Tyler Linderbaum (calf).
Harbaugh said their statuses will be evaluated after they undergo MRIs. A source told ESPN's Jeremy Fowler that the Ravens are looking to determine whether Williams, who has full range of motion and limited pain but a lot of swelling, suffered a torn pec.
Other notes of interest. ... There was a lot of excitement and anticipation surrounding the Ravens' revamped offense under new coordinator Todd Monken heading into yesterday's game, but the enthusiasm was tempered by an uneven performance.
Baltimore managed just 265 yards of total offense. Jackson, who quipped a few months ago that he wanted to throw for 6,000 yards, had 169 yards passing against the Texans.
He also threw an interception and fumbled twice (losing one).
As ESPN.com's Jamison Hensley wrote: "Jackson looked like a quarterback who hadn't played in 280 days, recording his first game with multiple turnovers since Week 6 of 2022."
The Baltimore Banner's Jonas Shaffer saw it like this: "The Ravens' old reliables were mostly missing and their new wrinkles were not much fun. Monken's sped-up tempo kept the Texans on their heels at points in the first half, creating advantages in short-yardage scenarios. But the run-pass options and screens that Monken's Georgia offenses had used to wreck defenses for the past two seasons were either ineffective or invisible Sunday.
"The Ravens' ground game, which had rolled late last season, even without Jackson, was perhaps more disappointing (3.4 yards per carry on 32 carries). Jackson led the team with six carries for 38 yards, but five of those attempts were scrambles and the other a quarterback sneak.
"Texans defenders didn't seem preoccupied by the threat of Jackson keeping the ball on read-option plays or escaping their blitz packages on obvious passing downs."
The offensive line didn't have its best day, as Jackson was under pressure for much of the game.
Rookie receiver Zay Flowers made a good first impression in his NFL debut. The 22nd-overall pick finished with a team-leading nine catches for 78 yards on 10 targets. He also had two carries for nine yards on jet sweeps, nearly becoming the second player in Ravens history with 100 scrimmage yards in his first career game.
"On a day when receiver Odell Beckham Jr., one of the most famous athletes in the world, made his return to football, it was Flowers, the Ravens' prized first-round rookie receiver, who stole the spotlight," the Baltimore Banner's Kris Rhim wrote. "Flowers did everything: caught passes, made defenders miss and took handoffs. The offense looked clunky and confused for most of the game in Monken's new system, but Flowers was the anomaly.
"The Ravens have struggled to find productive first-round receivers, but in his first game Flowers showed they may have finally gotten one."
QBs: Lamar Jackson, Tyler Huntley, Josh Johnson
RBs: Gus Edwards, Keaton Mitchell, Justice Hill, J.K. Dobbins
WRs: Zay Flowers, Odell Beckham, Rashod Bateman, Nelson Agholor, Tylan Wallace
TEs: Isaiah Likely, Charlie Kolar, Mark Andrews
Buffalo BillsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 12 September 2023
According to ESPN.com's Alaina Getzenberg, there was an uncanny familiarity to Josh Allen's demeanor in the visitors locker room at MetLife Stadium on Monday night.
After a dismal performance in a loss at the New York Jets in November, Allen sat in front of his locker looking ahead, speaking with the team's backup QBs and showing visible frustration.
Flash forward 10 months as Allen -- following a 22-16 overtime loss to those same Jets to open the 2023 season -- again sat on a stool in front of his locker, talking with new backup quarterback Kyle Allen as wide receiver Stefon Diggs came over to offer some words of encouragement.
But the frustration? That remained the same. And the familiar feeling wasn't lost on Allen.
"Trying to force the ball," Allen said of his turnovers, pausing with a deep sigh. "Same s---, same place, different day."
Following an offseason and lead-up to the regular season spent emphasizing the importance of reducing turnovers and making smarter decisions on the field, Allen walked into MetLife Stadium on Monday night and did anything but.
Allen turned the ball over four times against the Jets, matching his career high (2019, also in season opener versus New York). Monday's outing included three second-half turnovers that played a significant part in the Jets working back from a 13-3 halftime deficit. All of that came a season after Allen led the league in turnovers (19).
"I hurt our team tonight. I cost our team tonight," Allen said. "It feels eerily similar to last year, and I hate that it's the same. I do."
He now has 84 turnovers since entering the league in 2018, the most during that time frame. In his sixth season, Allen is also now the quarterback with the most overtime losses, including postseason, without a win or tie (0-5), according to ESPN Stats and Information research.
"It's a long season in the NFL," head coach Sean McDermott said. "And unfortunately, sometimes you have to be reminded of these things. And it hurts with a loss, right? And so, it's a constant, constant reminder during the week of, 'Hey, take care of the football -- take the football away, that wins games when you do that.' And in this case, it loses games."
Allen, 27, finished the day 29-of-41 passing for 236 yards and one touchdown. He threw three interceptions, was sacked five times and fumbled once, which gave the Jets the ball at the Bills' 27-yard line with 4:51 remaining in the game. All three interceptions were picked off by safety Jordan Whitehead, on throws intended for three different receivers.
Despite the Bills adding new playmakers on offense, the inconsistency and difficulty in making plays against a tough Jets defense remained, including going three-and-out after getting the ball at the start of overtime.
"Our guys played so hard. Defense gave us opportunities," Allen said. "They played a heck of a game, and it sucks when you feel like you're the reason, and I am the reason why we lost tonight."
Allen and the offense had its moments, notably an 11-play, 75-yard touchdown drive in the second quarter that marked the Bills' only touchdown of the contest. They also put together a nine-play, 53-yard drive at the end of the fourth quarter that forced overtime thanks to a 50-yard Tyler Bass field goal that banged off the left upright and in.
But throughout the game, the O-line struggled, including right tackle Spencer Brown, and the team's receivers labored to get open, with Allen trying too hard to get them the ball.
Trying to do too much and force balls downfield was once again part of Allen's downfall. He was 4-for-9 with all three interceptions on throws of 15 or more air yards downfield, and all three of the picks came against the Jets' standard pass rush, tied for the most such interceptions in a game in his career.
His completion rate in the first half was 81 percent (17-of-21), but he was sacked three times despite the Jets blitzing him on only three of his 27 dropbacks (11 percent). The Jets increased the blitz in the second half and overtime (8-of-22, 36 percent), and Allen's completion rate dropped to 60 percent.
The Bills will have a quick turnaround, hosting the Las Vegas Raiders on Sunday, and they must find some sort of reset to get closer to making Allen's offseason goals reflect on the field.
Worth noting: Allen was traveling 17.33 mph when he let go of the ball on his first-half touchdown pass to Diggs. That is the fastest speed on a touchdown pass in the Next Gen Stats era (since 2016). It was also Allen's 30th touchdown pass on the run (8 or more mph) since 2020, the most in the NFL in that time.
Diggs led the team with 102 yards receiving; no other player had over 40 receiving yards.
When targeting Diggs, Allen completed 10 of 13 passes for 102 yards and a touchdown, an average of over 10 yards per completion. When not targeting Diggs, Allen completed 19 of 28 passes for 134 yards, an average of 7 yards per play.
"We just lost the game, we didn't play to our standard and we beat ourselves," Gabe Davis said. "I don't think it really has to do with the Jets, I feel like it has to do with us."
Two positives to note: Rookie TE Dalton Kincaid tied for second on the team in receptions (4) and third in yards (26). Also, second-year pro James Cook, who assumes the RB1 duties this season, was a security blanket for Allen and tied a career high in targets (6).
QBs: Josh Allen
RBs: James Cook, Latavius Murray, Damien Harris
WRs: Stefon Diggs, Gabe Davis, Khalil Shakir, Trent Sherfield, Deonte Harty
TEs: Dalton Kincaid, Quintin Morris, Dawson Knox
Carolina PanthersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 12 September 2023
According to Augusta Stone of the team's official website, of all the players on Frank Reich's mind after the Panthers' loss to the Falcons on Sunday, he said Bryce Young is the one he's least worried about.
Reich's confidence in the first overall pick Carolina (0-1) selected this year stayed strong after a less-than-perfect debut on the road in Atlanta (1-0).
He knew Young would take full accountability for his role in the 24-10 loss in Week 1 NFC South play.
"He's got the maturity of someone way beyond his years," Reich said. "He's a team-first person. He'll be hard on himself. And each of us should be."
Yes, the rookie quarterback took full accountability for his first loss in the NFL, which was an imperfect outing that included two interceptions and a few first-time slip-ups. Young wasn't easy on himself either, reflecting a message Reich said he relayed to the locker room after the loss.
"We're all competitors, and losing is never going to be acceptable," Young said. "There's a lot for us to learn from, to grow on, a lot I have to be better at. I have to be better for us moving forward. So we're going to watch tape and learn from it."
He tallied 146 yards on 20-for-38 passing (52.6 percent) with one touchdown and two interceptions, for a passer rating of 48.8. He was sacked twice, both in the fourth quarter after a day of mostly effective protection up front.
"Not good; not good enough to win," Young said of his performance. "Made crucial turnovers, which (I) can't do, especially where they happened. We didn't score enough to win, and again, that falls on me. That falls on my shoulders. So I need to improve. I need to be better. Going to learn from it."
Young's longest throw of the day went to tight end Hayden Hurst for 16 yards. Hurst also caught the lone touchdown reception of the day on a 4-yard pass to the end zone, though he was also the intended target for Young's first interception -- one of two picked off by Atlanta safety Jessie Bates III.
The other interception also went Bates' way on a ball intended for Terrace Marshall Jr. in the third quarter.
"Whenever turnovers happen. ... They're on me," Young said. "It's on me to make sure that I locate the safety. Obviously, I've got to clean that up and be better moving forward."
A simple retelling of the game (and Stone notes Young would agree) would say that turnovers decided a hefty chunk of the Panthers' outcome against Atlanta. Both picks resulted in points for the Falcons, as did a Miles Sanders fumble in the second half.
The Falcons scored 17 of their 24 points off Panthers' turnovers.
Reich said he wasn't going to immediately diagnose the cause for all of the turnovers because sometimes the film will show other aspects to consider.
"Disappointing that we lost," Reich said. "I mean, there are multiple reasons for that. Obviously, we've got to protect the football, but I would be careful to say much more than that. Again, I've got to see the film. There are multiple things that go into turnovers. It's not always what it appears on the surface. So you've got to dig into the tape a little bit more."
In a loss where bad plays are going to stick out over many of the positives for the team, Young did tally 51 yards on 6-of-6 passing, connecting with Hurst, Marshall, Adam Thielen, and Jonathan Mingo in the touchdown series, moving the ball with efficiency early.
But Young didn't make it downfield for any long completions, and he didn't protect the ball, and he's going to focus on finding ways to be better.
"Coach talked about owning it and making sure that we feel it and use it as fuel," Young said. "In order to do that, you have to own it. Right now, we're owning.
"Once we leave here, and we start the process, I think there's a lot of opportunities for myself as an individual to grow, us as a team, as a unit to grow."
That process will continue in Charlotte this coming Monday Night, when the Panthers host the Saints.
Remember, the Saints defense more than held its own against the Titans in Week 1, with the secondary combining for three interceptions, the run defense stifling running back Derrick Henry in the second half. ...
Other notes of interest. ... According to Panthers.com's Darin Gantt, it's clear at this point the Panthers' base offense is a three-receiver set since Marshall, Thielen, and Mingo all played at least 87 percent of the team's snaps. Part of that was dictated by score since they were behind late, but this is how they want to roll.
Of course the personnel might change this week if D.J. Chark can return from the hamstring injury that sidelined him against the Falcons; I'll be watching for more on that in coming days and will report further via Late-Breaking Update as the week progresses. ...
Wide receiver Ihmir Smith-Marsette got two snaps as an offensive player, something they may need to experiment with more if Chark misses more time. They badly need a downfield threat, as Young averaged an anemic 3.8 yards per attempt in his debut.
Also, as Associated Press sports writer Steve Reed notes, the 33-year-old Thielen, who was brought into be the team's No. 1 receiver to replace D.J. Moore, managed just 12 yards on two receptions in his Carolina debut and certainly wasn't the focal point of the passing game. He was targeted just twice.
Thielen ran one nice route that could have resulted in a big play. However, he working with a rookie quarterback and was limited last week with an ankle injury, which may have affected his performance.
The running back position was probably more evenly divided than imagined, with Sanders getting 44 snaps and Chuba Hubbard 28. Sanders didn't play in the preseason, but he was healthy and ran for 72 yards on 18 carries, with Hubbard adding 60 yards on nine carries. ...
When the Panthers put together the roster, one of the things that was evident was the lack of a true short-yardage option to go to since they have a small quarterback in Young who isn't going to sneak it.
So in the first quarter, when faced with a third-and-1 at the Falcons 11, they handed it to wide receiver Laviska Shenault Jr. At 6-1, 220 pounds, he's the closest they have to a big back, but he was stopped for no gain. On fourth-and-1, they chose to go for it, handing it to 210-pound Hubbard, who was stopped for a loss.
It was an aggressive call early in the game when a field goal would have given them a 3-0 lead. But Reich said the distance to gain made it a call he wanted to make.
"It was pretty clear because it was really short; it was a kind of a short-yard," Reich said. "With the play that we felt good about. And although I'm not going to just be a chart guy, it was a very strong go on the charts. ..."
The defense was solid. The Panthers held the Falcons to just 221 yards, and only 91 of those came through the air.
Brian Burns had 1.5 sacks in the first half alone and was a part of a defense that had four sacks and six quarterback hits in the first half before Atlanta got the lead and went more with the run.
On a less-positive note, Jaycee Horn, who missed 18 games in his first two NFL seasons with various injuries, suffered a hamstring injury in the first half against the Falcons and Reich said on Monday that Horn was still being evaluated by doctors. Reich didn't speak to reporters on Tuesday, but a report indicates he'll be discussing plans to fill in for Horn once he is back at the podium.
Jeremy Fowler of ESPN reports that Horn is set to miss multiple weeks because of the injury. Should Horn wind up on injured reserve, he'd have to miss at least four games. The Panthers host the Saints on Monday night in Week Two and then face the Seahawks, Vikings, and Lions.
C.J. Henderson replaced Horn against the Falcons. Donte Jackson, Troy Hill, and D'Shawn Jamison are the other corners on the 53-man roster.
And finally. ... Former Bears' RB Tarik Cohen, who has not played in the NFL since suffering ACL and MCL tears as well as a tibial plateau fracture in September 2020, plans to sign Wednesday to the Carolina Panthers' practice squad, per his agents Drew Rosenhaus and Ryan Matha.
QBs: Bryce Young, Andy Dalton
RBs: Chuba Hubbard, Miles Sanders, Raheem Blackshear
WRs: Adam Thielen, Jonathan Mingo, D.J. Chark, Terrace Marshall Jr., Laviska Shenault, Ihmir Smith-Marsette, Mike Strachan
TEs: Hayden Hurst, Tommy Tremble, Ian Thomas, Giovanni Ricci
Chicago BearsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 12 September 2023
As Associated Press sports writer Jay Cohen framed it, "A big season for Justin Fields got off to a rough start Sunday.
"At least he had plenty of company. ..."
Fields lost a fumble and threw an interception as the Chicago Bears fell apart in the second half of an ugly 38-20 loss to the Green Bay Packers. The dynamic quarterback was sacked four times and noticeably outplayed by Jordan Love, who was making his second career start for Green Bay.
The significance of the matchup was never lost on the 24-year-old quarterback, who has played the Packers more than any other opponent throughout his three-year career and has yet to notch a win.
"It sucks," Fields said. "Rivalry, Week 1, going against the Packers. It sucks. I mean, nobody's in good spirits. This one hurts. I'm not going to lie to you. It definitely sucks.
"It definitely hurts. Not only because it's the first game of the season, it's a loss, but it's a loss to them. So, I want to say sorry to teammates, all the fans that were rooting for us. We'll bounce back. We'll be good."
Looking for more growth from Fields, the Bears invested in their offensive line and passing targets in the offseason. The 24-year-old Fields rushed for 1,143 yards and eight touchdowns last year in his second season with the team, but he threw for just 2,242 yards and 17 TDs with 11 interceptions.
At least in Week 1, it was hard to tell any difference -- especially in the second half.
"We have a lot of room to improve, a lot of room to grow," Fields said. "I think that's what we're going to do."
Fields accounted for 275 of Chicago's 311 yards, but his interception was returned 37 yards by Quay Walker for a touchdown with 12:36 left. He also lost a fumble with Chicago trailing 24-6 in the third quarter.
D.J. Moore had just two receptions for 25 yards in his first game since he was acquired in a March trade that sent the No. 1 overall draft pick to Carolina. Moore is expected to serve as a No. 1 receiver for Fields after he had three seasons with at least 1,150 yards with the Panthers.
"The defense was kind of pushed over to me," Moore said. "So it was hard to see me. I understand that. So I've just got to learn from it."
Stepping into a more prominent role after David Montgomery signed with Detroit in free agency, Khalil Herbert had nine carries for 27 yards. Take out Fields' production on the ground and Chicago finished with 63 yards rushing on 20 attempts.
Chicago went 3 for 13 on third down, compared to 9 for 16 for Love and Green Bay. The Bears also finished with seven penalties for 61 yards, hurting their ability to put together long drives.
"We put ourselves behind on offense a bunch of times and I think that's why the third downs were not what we expected them to be," head coach Matt Eberflus said. "We've got to get that cleaned up because that's something you can improve on and being disciplined and not having those penalties."
How do the Bears jumpstart the offense?
Fans inside Soldier Field began booing the Bears offense at the start of the third quarter when the short passing game resulted in another quick three-and-out. Chicago focused heavily on this area in the preseason, but it's not supposed to become their offensive identity. Moore and Chase Claypool (two targets) were complete nonfactors.
That can't happen against Tampa Bay in Week 2 if the Bears want to snap an 11-game losing streak dating back to October 2022.
Looking for positives?
Rookie running back Roschon Johnson ripped off three physical runs that gave the Bears momentum on their sole touchdown drive of the game in the third quarter. According to ESPN.com's Courtney Cronin, Johnson was Chicago's most efficient running back (4.0 yards per carry) on a day when the running game fell flat. He also added six catches for 35 yards.
Also, in his first regular season game back since injuring his ankle last Nov. 27, Darnell Mooney led the Bears in receptions (4) and receiving yards (53). Mooney also was targeted a team-high seven times.
Mooney was responsible for the Bears' first touchdown of the game as he and Fields connected for a 20-yard score late in the third quarter. The reception marks Mooney's 11th career TD. ...
Cole Kmet caught 5-of-7 targets for 44 yards and tied Mooney with seven targets. As Rotoworld suggests, a lack of red zone opportunities by the Bears limited Kmet's scoring chances, but he'll have a chance to bounce back in Week 2 against the Buccaneers. ...
In his NFL debut, Tyler Scott fielded four kickoffs against the Packers, with a long return of 33 yards, in racking up 84 return yards. The rookie showcased his return capabilities in the Bears' final preseason game against the Bills Aug. 26 with a 56-yard kick return.
QBs: Justin Fields, Tyson Bagent, Nathan Peterman
RBs: Khalil Herbert, D'Onta Foreman, Roschon Johnson, Travis Homer, Khari Blasingame
WRs: D.J. Moore, Darnell Mooney, Tyler Scott, Velus Jones Jr., Trent Taylor, Equanimeous St. Brown
TEs: Cole Kmet, Robert Tonyan, Marcedes Lewis, Jake Tonges
Cincinnati BengalsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 12 September 2023
As ESPN.com's Ben Baby framed it: "In the span of less than 30 hours, Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow experienced one of the greatest highs and the biggest lows the NFL can provide.
"One day after signing his record-breaking contract extension, Burrow threw for a career-low 82 yards in a 24-3 loss to the Cleveland Browns.:
He completed 14 of 31 passes for no touchdowns and no interceptions.
Before Sunday, his lowest yardage total was 148 yards in a Week 11 win against the Las Vegas Raiders in 2021.
"Obviously, not up to our standard, not up to my standard," Burrow said after the game.
Burrow and Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson had to contend with a wet, misty day off Lake Erie. Watson wasn't very effective, either. Both quarterbacks finished with a completion percentage over expectation worse than minus-12 percent, according to NFL Next Gen Stats.
Burrow failed to complete a pass of 10 or more air yards for the first time in his career, per ESPN Stats and Information. It also was the first time Burrow finished a game with fewer than 5 passing yards per attempt.
Burrow toggled between wearing and removing a glove on his throwing hand throughout the game. He didn't lean on the conditions for an excuse for the loss.
"When it is raining like that it is something that you got to handle," Burrow said. "We didn't handle it today."
The bigger factor might have been the lack of practice time Burrow had during training camp because of his strained right calf. He missed nearly six weeks with the injury he suffered July 27.
In the season opener, Cincinnati's offense struggled to communicate. Bengals offensive lineman Ted Karras said it was "poor."
For the first time since the finale of his rookie year in 2020 when he got hurt in the first series, wide receiver Tee Higgins had no catches.
"It's definitely frustrating, man. Just ending the game with no catches, being the competitor I am, I don't want to end the game without any catches," Higgins said of his eight targets. "So definitely, I put my foot down and get back to work, grind out, work out, get to meetings, do all the, all the little things, and then come back next week, bigger and better than ever."
Higgins didn't blame not having his quarterback this camp.
"I feel like we got enough reps. He practiced all week, so I mean, it just came down to execute," Higgins said.
Burrow said his calf felt "good enough" Sunday but acknowledged that the time he missed played a role in the blowout loss.
"Those things happen when the quarterback doesn't perform in training camp," Burrow said. "That was obviously something I would have liked to have done, but no excuses. Obviously, not very good today."
With Sunday's loss, Burrow remains winless in three games at Cleveland Browns Stadium. Cincinnati has not won in Cleveland since 2017 and now has lost six straight road contests to the Browns for the first time in franchise history. Overall, the Bengals have dropped eight of their past 10 matchups in the Battle of Ohio.
To compound the defeat, the loss came after some midweek banter between the clubs. In a media session leading up to the game, Bengals wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase referred to the Browns as the "elves," a reference to the team's mascot, Brownie the Elf.
"It's frustrating because I called their ass 'elves' and we just lost to some elves," Chase said. "I'm pissed on my part. I'm pissed on that end.
"We had missed opportunities. We didn't capitalize on that s--- and we lost."
As Baby pointed out, Cincinnati is no stranger to slow starts.
The Bengals lost the first two games last season when Burrow was still feeling the effects of his emergency appendectomy. The team finished the regular season by winning eight straight games and making a run to the AFC Championship Game for the second straight year.
Sunday's performance came one day after Burrow signed a five-year contract extension worth up to $275 million. The deal gives Burrow the highest average annual value in NFL history. The fourth-year quarterback said nobody is panicking after another season-opening loss.
"Week 1 doesn't define anybody's season," Burrow said. "Obviously, not very good out there. Anybody that watched saw that.
"But we have been in this spot before and come back stronger and had great years. That's what we are going to do."
That process begins on Sunday with another game inside the AFC North when they host Baltimore in Week 2.
QBs: Jake Browning, Joe Burrow
RBs: Joe Mixon, Trayveon Williams, Chris Evans, Chase Brown
WRs: Ja'Marr Chase, Tee Higgins, Tyler Boyd, Trenton Irwin, Andrei Iosivas, Charlie Jones
TEs: Irv Smith Jr., Tanner Hudson, Drew Sample, Mitchell Wilcox
Cleveland BrownsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 12 September 2023
The Browns defeated the Bengals 24-3 in their season opener on Sunday afternoon at Cleveland Browns Stadium.
After a closely contested first half, the Browns dominated the second half, leaving the Bengals to just a field goal before pulling away in the fourth. Their skillful execution of plays and strategic maneuvers allowed them to pull away from the Bengals in the 100th meeting of the "Battle of Ohio."
The defense set the tone in the first half by forcing the Bengals' offense to punt in their first seven drives. Five were three and outs.
The defensive line made Bengals QB Joe Burrow uncomfortable all game. Despite only sacking Burrow twice, the team managed to get nine quarterback hurries. DE Ogbo Okoronkwo made the Browns' first sack of the season when he brought Burrow down for a loss of two on the opening drive. DE Myles Garrett got the team's second sack in the fourth quarter on a fourth-down play to essentially seal the game.
The defense forced the Bengals to punt a total of 10 times and held one of the league's best offenses over the past few years to three points.
After having hiccups throughout the first half, the Browns' offense found hit stride late in the 2nd quarter. According to the team's official website, receiver Elijah Moore electrified the building on the drive's opening play when he lined up in the backfield and rushed for 19 yards. On the fifth play, Deshaun Watson made a tremendous throw, threading the ball between two defenders for a 12-yard completion to Donovan Peoples-Jones.
Four plays later, Watson escaped the collapsing pocket, ran for 13 yards and scored the game's first touchdown with 17 seconds remaining in the second quarter.
Watson passed for his first touchdown of the season when he found TE Harrison Bryant for a 3-yard pass with 9:14 left in the game.
Watson also used his legs a lot Sunday, rushing for 45 yards on five attempts.
RB Nick Chubb, who rushed for over 100 yards five times in his career against the Bengals, continued the tradition Sunday.
Although he did not play a single snap in the preseason, as is usually the case, Chubb rushed for 106 yards on 18 carries. Chubb's longest run of the game came in the first quarter, when he received a handoff from Watson and ran for 17 yards on third down.
This was his sixth game against Cincinnati where he achieved over 100 yards. His 106 yards on Sunday also marked Chubb's 30th game with 100+ rushing yards -- the second most in the NFL since 2018.
Chubb's contributions didn't just come in the form of the run game. He also caught four passes for 21 yards.
"He's going to continue to plug, he's going to continue to run hard," Watson said. "First game for him, so I know he was a little bit winded, but he kept doing what he needed to do, and he ended up getting over 100 yards. I wish he could have gotten the end zone a couple of times, but he's going to have more opportunities for us."
Cleveland finished with 206 total rushing yards on 40 attempts, in comparison to the Bengals' 76 rushing yards. With the rain conditions playing a factor throughout Sunday's matchup and the success of their passing game, they looked for opportunities to run the ball and gain yardage.
The game's first points came after Dustin Hopkins made a 42-yard FG with 14:15 in the 2nd quarter, earning a loud fan reaction. Hopkins went 3-for-3 on the day.
Worth noting. ... As ESPN.com's Jim Trotter pointed out, Cleveland's new defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz came up with a masterful game plan in his debut, blitzing Burrow on 53 percent of his dropbacks in the first half, the highest rate of his career, according to ESPN Stats and Info.
Head coach Kevin Stefanski awarded Schwartz a game ball following the victory in the locker room to acknowledge the success of the defense.
"To hold that offense -- and I have a ton of respect for that team and that offense and the whole team in general -- but to hold them to 143 yards, two of 15 on third down was very impressive." Stefanski said. "So, very proud of Jim and his staff, the defensive staff and the players."
Pass-rushers Myles Garrett and Za'Darius Smith were in Burrow's face on almost every dropback. Cleveland's secondary was even more impressive, as cornerbacks Denzel Ward and Martin Emerson Jr. locked up Cincinnati's talented receiving corps.
The rainy conditions helped. But the Browns' defense sent a message that, after a rocky 2022 performance, it could be among the most improved units in the entire NFL.
The Browns will be back in action next Monday, Sept. 18 when they take on the Steelers at Acrisure Stadium in Pittsburgh Monday night.
They'll be without RT Jack Conklin, who suffered a torn ACL and MCL against the Bengals and is done for the season. Rookie offensive tackle Dawand Jones took over for Conklin, and is in line for the Week 2 start against the Steelers.
QBs: Dorian Thompson-Robinson, P.J. Walker, Deshaun Watson
RBs: Jerome Ford, Kareem Hunt, Pierre Strong Jr., Nick Chubb
WRs: Amari Cooper, Elijah Moore, Cedric Tillman, Marquise Goodwin, David Bell
TEs: David Njoku, Jordan Akins, Harrison Bryant
Dallas CowboysCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 12 September 2023
According to ESPN.com's Todd Archer, Micah Parsons was not surprised by the Dallas Cowboys' 40-0 throttling of the New York Giants on Sunday.
"No doubt in my mind," Parsons said. "I saw it before anybody. I said, 'I can't wait to get to New York.' I already knew we was coming. Just because when preparation meets execution, I don't think there's no one that can beat us."
The 1978 Cowboys lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers in Super Bowl XIII. The 1966 Cowboys made it to the NFL Championship Game, losing to the Green Bay Packers. The 1995 Cowboys won Super Bowl XXX. The 1994 Cowboys made it to the NFC Championship Game.
As the Cowboys begin 2023, they are looking to get to a Super Bowl for the first time since 1995.
"Yeah, it's just one win, it's the beginning of the season, but definitely feel like we put the league on notice, that we're for real, that we're coming," defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence said. "But we got a lot of work to do."
Special teams and the defense started the Cowboys' success, with Noah Igbinoghene returning a blocked field goal attempt from Juanyeh Thomas on New York's first possession for a touchdown, and DaRon Bland returning a Jones interception for a score after a big hit on Saquon Barkley.
"I think from there we took the life out of them," said Parsons, who was one of five Cowboys defenders with at least one sack.
The Giants gained 38 yards on their first drive but would gain more than that on just one of their remaining 11 drives. They had three drives that resulted in negative yardage.
"The defense was relentless," said head coach Mike McCarthy, who won his first season opener as Cowboys coach in four tries.
With the victory, Dak Prescott won his 11th straight start against the Giants; he has not lost to the Giants since 2016, his rookie year. Hall of Famer Roger Staubach had an 11-game win streak against New York in the 1970s. Since the 1970 merger, only Tom Brady has a longer win streak against a divisional opponent, beating the Buffalo Bills 13 straight times from Dec. 27, 2003, to Dec. 26, 2010. Patrick Mahomes currently has an 11-game win streak for the Kansas City Chiefs against the Denver Broncos.
But Prescott wasn't considering the win any kind of statement.
"That's y'all's job to write whatever statement it needs to be," Prescott said. "For us, it's about not getting ahead of ourselves, continuing to stay disciplined, show that discipline, not only what we did through these four quarters but taking that and making sure we use that in our preparation and then moving forward next week going home against another New York team, a good team.
"It's the NFL. You've got to show up week in and week out and be prepared. You don't see a lot of wins like this, so we're not going to get ahead of ourselves on this."
In fact, as Associated Press sports writer Schuyler Dixon noted, there's room for improvement.
Even though the Cowboys didn't need it and it was a rainy night, the passing game was out of sync. Prescott completed 54 percent of his passes (13 of 24 passes for 143 yards), and there were several drops. After tying for the NFL lead with 15 interceptions last season, Prescott was lucky he wasn't picked on a throw into double coverage in the end zone before a field goal for a 9-0 lead.
In addition, PK Brandon Aubrey, a 28-year-old rookie and former Major League Soccer player, actually had his arrow pointing up by the end of the game with two field goals and three extra points. But the missed PAT on his first NFL kick brought back haunting memories for Dallas of the reason Aubrey is even here. Brett Maher missed four in a row in the wild-card win at Tampa Bay last season.
Now it's on to the other New York quarterback -- Aaron Rodgers -- when the Cowboys host the Jets this Sunday.
A few final notes here. ... Despite battling the elements and an athletic pass rush from New York, the debut of Mike McCarthy's offense was respectable on Sunday night. The defense helping to jump out to a quick 16-point lead didn't allow for McCarthy to dig too deep in his bag, but certain fun personnel packages debuted.
Peyton Hendershot lining up in the backfield to assist in pass protection, KaVontae Turpin being a prominent ball-carrier out of the backfield and Deuce Vaughn lining up both in the slot and out of the backfield late all contributed to the intrigue around certain personnel sets.
Moving forward, DallasCowboys.com staffer Nick Harris believes we're still only scratching the surface to what could be played around with in 2023 in that department.
On the injury front. ... Three players who missed the opener could be ready for Week 2. LG Tyler Smith injured a hamstring in practice last week. S Donovan Wilson missed all of the preseason after straining a calf early in training camp. CB Jourdan Lewis (broken foot last season) avoided the physically unable to perform list, which would have sidelined him the first four games. But he wasn't quite ready for the opener.
QBs: Dak Prescott, Cooper Rush, Trey Lance
RBs: Tony Pollard, Rico Dowdle, Deuce Vaughn, Hunter Luepke
WRs: CeeDee Lamb, Brandin Cooks, Michael Gallup, Jalen Tolbert, KaVontae Turpin, Jalen Brooks
TEs: Jake Ferguson, Luke Schoonmaker, Peyton Hendershot
Denver BroncosCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 12 September 2023
According to ESPN.com's Jeff Legwold, Russell Wilson and the Broncos didn't just want to get better after an offseason transformation -- they wanted to start cranking out more wins.
But they posted just 16 points in Sunday's season-opening loss to the Las Vegas Raiders, losing by one score (17-16), and Wilson was once again in search of the elusive "one more play."
It was Denver's seventh consecutive loss to Las Vegas.
"Felt like we had opportunities," Wilson said after the two teams combined for just 13 possessions overall. "We definitely played the type of football we want to play, we just have to make one more play."
Wilson did show improved efficiency and timeliness with his throws in his regular-season debut under coach Sean Payton's offense. He was 17-of-19 passing before halftime for 125 yards and two touchdowns. He managed to work the short and intermediate routes effectively, but he was sacked multiple times for the 16th consecutive game -- the longest active streak in the NFL.
He completed passes to eight different players in the first half, and his two touchdown passes before halftime meant he had already done something in the opener he did in only three games last season. A noticeable change was in Wilson's movement outside of the pocket where he was 8-of-11 for 79 yards, according to ESPN Stats and Information.
Both touchdown throws came when he was outside of the pocket and under duress. That 73 percent completion rate was his best in any game since Week 13 in 2020.
"We started off hot, but unfortunately, we weren't able to get the job done," said wide receiver Courtland Sutton. "At the end of the day, the moral victories, I'm kind of just pushing those to the side. It's more of just getting the job done, and we weren't able to get that done."
With wide receiver Jerry Jeudy out due to a hamstring injury and Tim Patrick having been lost for the season early in training camp, they had two receivers in the game, Lil'Jordan Humphrey and Phillip Dorsett, who were elevated from the practice squad Saturday.
Wilson had his worst season as a pro in 2022 -- a career-low 16 touchdown passes and a career-most 55 sacks -- as the Broncos finished the season as the league's lowest-scoring offense at 16.9 points per game. Along the way, the Broncos had seemingly mastered the art of the oh-so-close loss, with 11 games when they scored 16 or fewer points and seven of those ending in losses.
In fact, Associated Press sports writer Arnie Melendrez Staple4ton wrote: "Wilson looked like his old Seattle self." His 108.0 passer rating was better than all but one game last season, and that came under interim head coach Jerry Rosburg, who took over after Nathaniel Hackett was fired with a 4-11 record.
So an improved Wilson may be a good place to start in Week 1, but there is still a long road ahead for this offense.
"Best thing we can do is make one more play," Wilson said. " … We're excited about who we are and [the] biggest thing is to continue to push."
Payton has worked to tailor the offense more to Wilson's strengths while also trying to channel the top-5 offense Payton ran with the New Orleans Saints. In Sunday's first half, Wilson was decisive, quick with the ball and the Broncos scored touchdowns on two of their three possessions in the first half.
But tight end Greg Dulcich, one of the players Payton had expressed optimism about the potential matchup problems for defenses, left the game with a leg injury early in the second half. And without Jeudy or Dulcich, the Broncos' three possessions in the second half resulted in a missed 55-yard field goal by Wil Lutz, a 24-yard field goal by Lutz and the Broncos' only three-and-out of the day in their last possession of the game.
"Overall, our tempo was decent, I think it can be better," Payton said. "We were a little sporadic in the second half. When Greg goes out, that kind of changes some personnel groupings. I wasn't as pleased with it in the second half."
And in the end, Wilson was left with a familiar outcome.
"Greg is definitely a threat," Wilson said. "He's such a playmaker, there's so much he can do … But I still think we should have won that game."
Unfortunately, ESPN's Adam Schefter is reporting that Dulcich will miss multiple weeks with this injury, which is to the same hamstring that caused him to miss Denver's first five games last season and then the last two games at the end as well.
I'll be watching for more on Dulcich as well as Jeudy, as the Broncos prepare to host the Commanders in Week 2. Watch the Late-Breaking Updates section for more as the week progresses. ...
Other notes of interest. ... As Denver looks ahead to a Sunday's game against the Commanders, the team won't look to abandon a strong running game and precision passing attack that led to a pair of first-half touchdown drives. Denver, though, will aim to add more explosive plays to quicken the pace of the game and move the ball in chunks.
In Sunday's loss, the Broncos posted just two plays of at least 20 yards: a 21-yard pass to Brandon Johnson on the first series and a 20-yard Samaje Perine catch-and-run late in the third quarter. Particularly in the second half, Denver struggled to move the ball in chunks; the Broncos had just three plays of at least 10 yards during their three second-half drives.
Payton said the absence of Jeudy and Dulcich -- who did not play in the second half -- contributed to the lack of explosive plays, as did the Raiders' defensive plan. ...
When Wilson wanted to jump-start the Broncos' two-minute drive against the Raiders at the end of the first half, he looked to Perine to make a play.
On first-and-10 from the Broncos' 43 just inside of the two-minute warning, Wilson found Perine for a solid six-yard gain. On the next play, Wilson targeted with Perine again for a 10-yard catch and run, moving the chains and advancing the Broncos into Raider territory. The next play: another Wilson-Perine connection, the third straight Perine reception.
Though the final play of the drive, a Wilson touchdown pass to Sutton with 12 seconds in the half, made the highlight reel and gave Denver the lead, the impact of Broncos' running back duo of Perine and Javonte Williams was a theme throughout Sunday's game. Perine finished as Denver's leading receiver with four catches for 37 yards, while Williams also added four receptions.
Perine said the receiving dimension of his role can help open up the Broncos' offense in the coming weeks.
"With how offenses are going nowadays, running backs have to be able to adapt and catch out of the backfield," Perine said Monday. "I feel like we did a pretty decent job of that yesterday, and we're looking to get that going more and more so defenses [do] not only have to worry about us running the ball but also catching out of the backfield. Again, it gives the defense something else to have to think about."
Of course, Denver's lead backs made their presence felt on the ground as well, with Williams recording 52 yards on 13 carries in his regular season return and Perine averaging 5.1 yards per carry and 41 rushing yards.
Perine believes the backfield's punishing running styles can wear down opposing defenses and become a major asset for the Broncos late in games.
"It's working out great," Perine said of his partnership with Williams. "I mean, obviously it was only the first game, but I can see us really down the stretch going into third and fourth quarters really leaning on defenses when they are getting tired and we're still relatively fresh because we're two physical backs, and some teams just aren't going to want to go against that for four quarters."
As for Williams' surgically-repaired knee?
"As the game went on my knee felt even stronger," Williams said. ...
Finally. ... Payton traded a seventh-round draft pick to the Saints for Lutz at the end of the preseason, confident that Lutz would kick well for him in Denver as he had in New Orleans. In Week 1, that didn't happen. Lutz missed an extra point and a field goal in Sunday's 17-16 loss to the Raiders, but Payton said afterward that he's confident it was just a blip.
"I was surprised a little bit [by] his first kick," Payton said, via SI.com. "He'll bounce back. He's had a good two weeks with us, hasn't had any issues. We attempted the longer field goal-a 55-yard field goal. That one looked pretty close. That too, I think was missed right, though, so we'll work to get that cleaned up."
The Broncos cut three kickers during the offseason, first Brandon McManus, then Elliott Fry and then Brett Maher, before acquiring Lutz for the job.
Payton is confident he got the right man for the job in Lutz, even if it didn't look like it on Sunday.
QBs: Russell Wilson, Jarrett Stidham
RBs: Javonte Williams, Jaleel McLaughlin, Samaje Perine
WRs: Courtland Sutton, Jerry Jeudy, Marvin Mims Jr., Lil'Jordan Humphrey, Brandon Johnson
TEs: Adam Trautman, Chris Manhertz, Greg Dulcich
Detroit LionsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 12 September 2023
As Associated Press sports writer Larry Lage suggested, the Lions can bask in the afterglow of one of their biggest wins in years before getting back to work.
Detroit beat the Kansas City Chiefs 21-20 last Thursday night, giving them a 10-day break before hosting Seattle on Sept. 17.
"It's crucial," head coach Dan Campbell said Friday. "I think it's big to rest the body for about three days before we get ready for Seattle.
"I think it's huge and I think it worked out perfect for us."
The Lions matched, or perhaps exceeded, the hype about their ascending franchise with a road win over the defending Super Bowl champion Chiefs.
"Not the same old Lions, the 1-0 Lions," NBC's Mike Tirico said during the broadcast.
Tirico went on to mention Kansas City's win over the defending champion New England Patriots several years ago on the road in an opener that announced the Chiefs would be a factor.
"This has an asterisk because of no Chris Jones and no Travis Kelce, but after what you saw at the end of last year and what you saw tonight, the blue and silver is for real," Tirico said.
Campbell was asked a day later about what Tirico said with a question that didn't include the rest of the broadcaster's sentence.
"Well, is there an asterisk by the 1-0?" Campbell asked.
Meanwhile, Lage notes that general manager Brad Holmes, in his third year, looks like he hit more than he missed in this year's NFL draft.
Brian Branch, the No. 45 selection overall, picked off Patrick Mahomes and returned the interception 50 yards for a touchdown in the third quarter to help the Lions pull into a 14-14 tie. First-round pick Jahmyr Gibbs and second-round selection Sam LaPorta combined for 99 yards of offense. Gibbs, a dynamic running back, had 42 yards on seven carries. LaPorta caught two passes for 18 yards and was a key blocker on some plays. Linebacker Jack Campbell, drafted No. 18 overall, had two tackles.
"They settled in and the stage wasn't too much for them," Campbell said.
Campbell said at the top of the team's to-do list is improving the offense's tempo.
"We can be so much better," he said.
But can Jared Goff get much better?
The veteran signal caller is closing in on the NFL record for most consecutive passes thrown without an interception.
Goff's last interception came against the Packers in Week 9 of last season. He ended last season having thrown 324 passes since that interception against the Packers, and he threw 35 more passes without an interception in Thursday night's win over the Chiefs. That gives him 359 consecutive passes without an interception, the third-most in NFL history.
The all-time record belongs to Aaron Rodgers, who threw 402 passes without an interception in 2018. The second-most consecutive passes without an interception is 399 by Tom Brady in 2022. Brady also threw 358 passes without an interception from 2010 to 2011, which was the third-most of all-time before Goff surpassed him on Thursday night.
Goff needs to throw 44 more passes without a pick to reach 403 straight passes without a pick and break Rodgers' record. That could happen as soon as the Sunday game against the Seahawks, and it would be a tremendous achievement for a quarterback who has been a big part of a big turnaround in Detroit.
If there was an issue, it's a lack of production from Marvin Jones Jr., who was targeted six times and had two receptions for 8 yards and lost a fumble deep in Kansas City territory late in the first half. It was the wide receiver's first fumble in his 12-year career.
On the health front. ... Offensive tackle Taylor Decker had an ankle injury early in the game, but the ailment didn't prevent him from playing.
QBs: Jared Goff, Teddy Bridgewater
RBs: David Montgomery, Jahmyr Gibbs, Craig Reynolds, Zonovan Knight
WRs: Amon-Ra St. Brown, Josh Reynolds, Kalif Raymond, Jameson Williams, Donovan Peoples-Jones, Antoine Green
TEs: Sam LaPorta, Brock Wright, James Mitchell
Green Bay PackersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 12 September 2023
As ESPN.com's Rob Demovsky framed it: "Turns out, Aaron Rodgers might have been only a co-owner of the Chicago Bears. Jordan Love appears to have left Soldier Field with a share for himself.
"New Green Bay Packers quarterback. Same story for the woebegone Bears. ..."
On the same field where two years ago Rodgers told Bears' faithful, "I still own you," after another Packers' win over their NFC North rivals, Love began his tenure much the same way.
A 38-20 victory in the first game of the post-Rodgers era sent a pointed message.
"Nothing's changed," running back Aaron Jones said. "We're still the Packers."
Demovsky went on to acknowledge whether or not Love has a 15-year run in him to follow 30 years of Rodgers and Brett Favre, these are his Packers now. He waited three years as a backup to show it and for at least one afternoon, he made general manager Brian Gutekunst's bold move to trade up to pick a quarterback in the first round of the 2020 draft look prescient.
It was the Packers' ninth straight win over the Bears, but it felt like something much more than that.
"There's a big-time belief in that locker room for Jordan Love," head coach Matt LaFleur said. "I think the guys, they're going to rally around him. They're excited for him. They love him. They respect him. He comes to work every day, great attitude, great energy. I think you saw that today."
Love made it look easy at first, with a scoring drive on the opening possession. He showed patience in the pocket, double pumped to let Romeo Doubs come open and then hit him on a crosser for an 8-yard touchdown.
Then it looked like a struggle. It was a 10-6 game at halftime.
Then it looked like a vintage LaFleur offense. A deceptive screen pass turned into a 51-yard catch and run for Jones, who capped the drive with a 1-yard touchdown run. By the time Jones caught an option route for a 35-yard touchdown on a fourth-and-3 play, the Packers led 24-6.
A perfectly placed 4-yard fade for Doubs' second touchdown -- which came after the only real moment of concern about Love, who fumbled a snap only to recover and hit rookie tight end Luke Musgrave for a 37-yard pass -- gave the quarterback his third TD and a 31-14 lead. To that point in Week 1 of the NFL season, he was the first quarterback to throw three touchdowns.
With a big assist from Jones, who had 127 yards and two touchdowns on 13 catches before a tight hamstring ended his day, Love completed 15 of 27 passes for 245 yards without a turnover.
"I told him that I think he's going to go for 300 with three touchdowns, but he went for [almost] 250 with three touchdowns," left guard Elgton Jenkins said. "But we'll take it."
This was without perhaps their most explosive receiver, Christian Watson. He was inactive with a hamstring injury, which is perhaps a reason LaFleur shut down Jones early even though Jones said he could have continued to play.
Love was especially strong on the money downs, going 8-of-10 on third and fourth downs, converting seven of those for first downs.
"I feel like he can be a top-five quarterback," Jenkins said. "I'm always optimistic about my teammates, but I definitely feel like Jordan can be one of those guys."
The only stat the really mattered for Love on Sunday was this one: 1-0.
He's a long way from 24-5 -- Rodgers' record against the Bears -- but as cornerback Jaire Alexander said: "[The] Pack is back."
Or perhaps it never left just because Rodgers left town for the New York Jets.
"I definitely yesterday was visualizing just having a win, coming off the field after a win; I kept telling myself, 'I'm going to play great, we're all going to play great,'" Love said. "That's what I kept telling myself over and over again. And woke up today doing the same thing, just visualizing that we were going to get this win and we were going to play great today."
Worth noting: The Packers' rookie class had a huge day.
Anders Carlson kicked a 52-yard field goal. Musgrave had three catches for 50 yards. Jayden Reed caught two passes for 48 yards and also had a 25-yard punt return. Lukas Van Ness and Karl Brooks each had a sack.
"It's a testament to all of us rookies coming in here, putting the work in and showing that we're made for this moment," Van Ness said. "We're ready."
As Associated Press sports writer Steve Megargee notes, the Packers' second-year pros also delivered. Doubs caught two touchdown passes. Zach Tom started at right tackle and contributed to a quality offensive line performance. Quay Walker scored on a 37-yard interception return. Devonte Wyatt had 1½ sacks.
The Packers need to do a better job of avoiding penalties. They were flagged nine times for 90 yards. … The Packers also gained just 2.9 yards per rush.
Also, A.J. Dillon rushed for just 19 yards on 13 carries, though he also had two catches for 17 yards. They didn't need much from him considering Jones went off before his third-quarter hamstring injury, but as Demovsky suggests, at some point they're going to need more than they got from him in this one. ...
Next up, the Packers stay on the road Sunday to face the Atlanta Falcons, who opened their season with a 24-10 home victory over the Carolina Panthers.
I'll be watching for more on Jones and Watson and their respective injuries in coming days while reminding you LaFleur characterized Watson's status as "week to week"; watch the Late-Breaking Updates section for more.
Finally. ... The torn Achilles tendon Rodgers suffered against the Bills on Monday night is costing his former team a chance at an extra first-round pick in next year's draft. That's because the four-time MVP's inability to play will cost the Green Bay Packers a first-round draft pick.
Part of the package the Jets used to acquire Rodgers included compensation in the 2024 draft. Under the terms of the deal, the Packers would get a 2024 first-round pick only if Rodgers played 65 percent of the Jets' snaps during the 2023 season. Now that Rodgers' season is over, the Packers will get a second-round pick instead.
QBs: Jordan Love, Sean Clifford
RBs: Aaron Jones, A.J. Dillon, Emanuel Wilson, James Robinson
WRs: Christian Watson, Romeo Doubs, Jayden Reed, Dontayvion Wicks, Samori Toure, Malik Heath
TEs: Luke Musgrave, Tucker Kraft, Josiah Deguara, Tyler Davis, Ben Sims
Houston TexansCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 12 September 2023
According to ESPN.com's DJ Bien-Aime, even though Houston lost 25-9 to the Baltimore Ravens, Texans players and coaches were impressed with rookie quarterback C.J. Stroud's poise and performance in his debut.
"[Stroud] was balling today," wide receiver Nico Collins said postgame.
Stroud finished 28-for-43 for 242 yards with no touchdowns or interceptions, but despite the offense never getting in the end zone, head coach DeMeco Ryans was pleased with what he saw from the No. 2 pick.
"First time out, C.J. was in a tough place to play, a tough opponent, a lot of things were stacked up against him," Ryans said. "But I thought he handled himself well."
Among the obstacles stacked against Stroud that Ryans was referring to was playing without three starters on the offensive line.
Left guard Kenyon Green, one of Houston's first-round picks in 2022, was placed on injured reserve following the final preseason game and is out for the season. Rookie center Juice Scruggs and right tackle Tytus Howard were placed on injured reserve after the 53-man roster cut-down day. Both Scruggs and Howard are out of the first four games.
As a result, Stroud was sacked five times with a lost fumble, but he never lost composure in the face of the numerous negative plays.
"It's part of my job. Honestly, I could've did better. Just answering the bell extra next drive, next play, just making more plays," Stroud said. "I always just think being negative isn't going to help. Just being the light on the team and being like a cool, calm, collected one can help a lot.
"That's my job of being the quarterback, keeping everybody even keel and try to go to the next play as best we can."
Where Stroud showed efficiency was in the short area range. On passes under nine yards, he went 14-for-18 for 130 yards with a passer rating of 96.8, but he completed only 50 percent of 10 attempts for 78 yards on throws longer than nine yards.
Another strong suit for Stroud was throwing passes under 2.5 seconds. He went 14-18 for 119 yards with a 94.2 passer rating. The effectiveness decreased when he held the ball for over 2.5 seconds, going 14-for-22 for 123 yards.
Overall, the Texans' offense was spotty throughout, as the unit finished with 268 total yards, went 0-for-2 in the red zone, 1-for-4 on fourth downs, and converted 38 percent of their third downs.
"Offensively, we have to have a clean operation. It wasn't clean enough when we were on offense," Ryans said. "We wanted to have a clean procedure, and it wasn't. So we have things to clean up, things to fix, and a lot to learn from this game."
One of the issues from the Texans' offense during Stroud's debut was the lack of a rushing attack. The team rushed for 72 yards on 23 attempts, led by running back Dameon Pierce, who had only 38 yards on the ground after averaging 72 per game as a rookie.
"Five-man front, good run defense and aggressive linebackers. Nothing we didn't practice against [and] nothing we didn't prepare for," Pierce said. "They played to their identity. We've just got to make sure we play to ours.
"We want to be a clean team -- a clean procedural team -- running the ball with efficiency, getting first downs running the ball, setting up our passing game, and we couldn't get any of that rolling today. And, like I said, we were shooting ourselves in the foot. But we're going to clean it up this week."
The Texans have their home opener in Week 2 against the Indianapolis Colts (0-1), another team with a rookie quarterback starting in No. 4 pick Anthony Richardson. ...
Other notes of interest. ... As noted above, the offensive line was the team's biggest problem in Week 1. After already dealing with multiple injuries to the group, the unit took another blow Sunday when right tackle George Fant sustained a shoulder injury late. He was filling in for Howard, who is out for at least the first four games.
So, if Fant can't go against the Colts, Houston will be down to its third stringer at the position.
Ryans didn't say who would fill in if Fant is out, but noted that players have been getting work at multiple spots on the line in practice to prepare for different roles because of the injuries.
Elsewhere on the injury front. ... Jalen Pitre left in the second quarter Sunday with a chest injury. DT Hassan Ridgeway injured his calf in the third quarter. Ryans declined to provide an update on the injured players Monday, saying he'd have more information Wednesday.
Finally. ... As Rotoworld suggests, it was a forgettable day for Pierce, who entered Week 1 with high expectations after a promising rookie season. Pierce's longest play of the day came on a nine-yard reception, but he averaged a dismal 3.5 yards per carry and was repeatedly stuff by a stout Ravens defense.
If there's one positive to take away from his outing, Pierce out-targeted Devin Singletary 3-0 and could be viewed as the top receiving option out of the backfield.
QBs: C.J. Stroud, Davis Mills, Case Keenum
RBs: Devin Singletary, Dameon Pierce, Mike Boone, Dare Ogunbowale
WRs: Nico Collins, Tank Dell, Robert Woods, Noah Brown, John Metchie III, Xavier Hutchinson
TEs: Dalton Schultz, Teagan Quitoriano, Brevin Jordan
Indianapolis ColtsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 12 September 2023
On Sunday, the Colts got a glimpse at the promise, poise and power that convinced them to draft Anthony Richardson fourth overall in April.
Only this time at Lucas Oil Stadium, the former Florida quarterback was wearing a helmet and pads instead of shorts and a T-shirt. And instead of working in front of NFL scouts, he was playing in front of a capacity crowd and facing AFC South champion Jacksonville.
Afterward, Colts coaches and fans seemed to like the first impressions Richardson made in his professional debut. Richardson, meanwhile, was not satisfied with the results.
"We didn't win, so I didn't do good enough," he said following a 31-21 loss that extended Indy's opening day winless streak to 10. "But first game, first experience, felt good just being out there with my teammates. The energy was good. We've just got to clean some things up, including myself."
Statistically speaking, Richardson was solid.
He went 24 of 37 with 223 yards, one touchdown and led the Colts in rushing with 10 carries for 40 yards and another score. He also was sacked four times, three of them from Josh Allen, threw a late interception that led to Jacksonville's game-sealing touchdown and wound up watching the final 58 seconds from the sideline after hurting his left knee on a goal-line run.
Richardson said he actually hurt the leg in the first quarter and new Colts coach Shane Steichen told reporters his starting quarterback should be just fine.
What was clear in Week, 1, though, was just how different Indy's new offense and new era may look.
"He's a great athlete," Jacksonville linebacker Travon Walker said. "But there's always room to improve. He's definitely a great athlete, showed off his running skills as a quarterback, and I feel like he's going to be pretty good."
Richardson also acknowledged he needs to get better in multiples facets.
But at age 21, the third-youngest quarterback to start an NFL opener -- and one of the most athletic to ever work out at the NFL's annual scouting combine in Indy -- is far from a finished product.
As Associated Press sports writer Michael Marot noted, the biggest questions about Richardson entering the draft were consistency and accuracy. The results on those points were mixed on Sunday.
His completed 64.8 percent of his throws, a significant improvement over his college days. The problem: He didn't take many chances showing off the strong arm fans witnessed during his daily warmup routine at training camp.
Part of that was by design.
He targeted mostly running backs and tight ends in the first half before finally taking some downfield chances in the second half. Michael Pittman Jr. caught eight passes for 97 yards and a 39-yard score -- the first TD pass of what is expected to be many from the 6-4, 244-pound rookie.
"I thought he managed the game well, thought he did some really good things, really encouraged with his progress," Steichen said. "Obviously, we had a few quarterback designed runs that he popped. Early on that one drive went down and scored, and it was good to see him get his first touchdown of his career."
He also celebrated with a spinning spike and with Colts fans seated in the field level suites as well as teammates.
Ultimately, though, Richardson understands what matters most in the NFL is winning and staying healthy.
Richardson may need to work on his sliding technique, which he jokes he's only used seven times to achieve both.
But the opening day reviews of the new face of Indy's franchise were positive.
"It was everything I expected," second-year Colts receiver Alec Pierce said. "It's good to kind of see that in person because they wear the red jersey to practice and stuff so you kind of miss that, him getting to use his physicality and athleticism. But I was definitely impressed."
Beyond Richardson, the ground game was disappointing.
Without Indy's top two running backs, 2021 NFL rushing champ Jonathan Taylor (ankle) and Zack Moss (broken right arm), it was going to be a struggle. Losing rookie Evan Hull (knee) in the third quarter didn't help. Richardson led the Colts with 10 carries for 40 yards and one TD. Indy's other three rushers had 16 carries for 25 yards.
Steichen told reporters Monday that Taylor did not attend Sunday's game.
After making the team as an undrafted rookie in 2021, the Colts had been encouraged by Deon Jackson's development. But he struggled mightily as the workhorse back Sunday. He carried 13 times for 14 yards and caught five passes for 14 yards. That's 18 touches for 28 yards.
He fumbled twice. Even worse, Jacksonville recovered both of his fumbles.
On a more positive note, Richardson's training camp roommate, receiver Josh Downs also played well in his NFL debut. Though he had three receptions for 30 yards, he was targeted seven times, second only to Pittman. Downs also showed the shiftiness and speed that prompted general manager Chris Ballard to draft the smallish receiver in the third round.
This week's matchup between Richardson and rookie QB C.J. Stroud of Houston could be the first of many between these two. Richardson may have the stronger supporting cast, especially if Moss is cleared after returning to practice last week. His presence could give the offense more balance.
Back to the injuries. ... There doesn't appear to be much concern about Richardson's availability for Sunday's game. Hull, however, will be out awhile.
Hull has been placed on injured reserve. The fifth-round pick ran once for a yard and caught a six-yard pass in his NFL debut.
The Colts signed Jake Funk off of the practice squad to fill Hull's spot on the active roster. Funk was elevated on a temporary basis in Week 1 and ran twice for 10 yards. He also caught one pass for 12 yards.
Moss seems likely to return, but I'll have more on that via Late-Breaking Update in coming days.
QBs: Gardner Minshew, Sam Ehlinger, Kellen Mond, Anthony Richardson
RBs: Jonathan Taylor, Zack Moss, Trey Sermon, Evan Hull
WRs: Michael Pittman Jr., Alec Pierce, Josh Downs, Isaiah McKenzie
TEs: Mo Alie-Cox, Kylen Granson, Will Mallory, Andrew Ogletree, Jelani Woods
Jacksonville JaguarsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 12 September 2023
As ESPN.com's Michael DiRocco noted, receiver Calvin Ridley made a triumphant regular-season return to the NFL on Sunday in the Jacksonville Jaguars' 31-21 victory over the Indianapolis Colts at Lucas Oil Stadium.
He had not played in an NFL game since Oct. 24, 2021, after stepping away from the Atlanta Falcons for mental health reasons and then serving a suspension during the entire 2022 season for violating the NFL's gambling policy. The Jaguars traded for him on Nov. 1, and when he was reinstated in March, no one knew whether he would be the same player he was in 2020.
In his first game in nearly 23 months, Ridley's eight catches for 101 yards and a touchdown were impressive. To the Jaguars receiver, however, the win was more important.
"[Stats] didn't mean that much, honestly," Ridley said after the game. "I just love this team, man. I've worked so hard with them. I just want to win with them. I just want to get the W's."
Ridley can downplay his stats if he wants, but there's no question he makes the Jaguars' offense -- which ranked 10th in scoring and yards per game last season -- better.
Trevor Lawrence and Ridley had an undeniable connection. Of Lawrence's 24 completions, a third went to Ridley.
And that brings up an issue for fantasy managers. If one receiver gets a high volume of targets and catches, it likely means someone else won't be as involved.
Receivers Christian Kirk and Zay Jones and tight end Evan Engram had career seasons for Jacksonville in 2022. With the addition of Ridley, there are fewer targets to go around, but that doesn't seem to faze the group.
"I think we've all kind of bought into just putting our pride aside, checking it in at the door and coming together as one," Kirk said last week. "We all know it's going to be week to week of who's able to have those opportunities to individually have a big game. But as long as we're walking off the field with the W, I'm sure we're all going to be happy."
Kirk was targeted three times against the Colts -- fifth among Jaguars players -- and had one catch for 9 yards.
Ridley had seven catches for 92 yards and a touchdown in the first half, and Jones, who finished with five catches for 55 yards, also had a touchdown catch in the first half. Engram and running back Travis Etienne Jr. each had five catches. But any of them could be the odd man out against the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 2 -- including Ridley. That's just how the Jaguars' offense is going to work.
Ridley didn't have much to say about his long-awaited return, but he admitted the offense can get even better.
"We should've scored more points," Ridley said. "We should've been in better situations. That was obviously our first game [and] I feel like we're still getting better. We're still learning each other. But I like where we are."
Areas in need of improvement?
Yes. Ball security.
The Jaguars had three fumbles -- including two on a bizarre play -- and an interception. Rookie running back Tank Bigsby was involved in two, having a ball bounce off his hands for an interception and having the ball stripped from his hands after picking up Lawrence's fumble. It didn't cost the Jaguars the game, but it could have against the league's better teams -- like Kansas City in Week 2.
All three did enough to overcome their mistakes.
DiRocco also believes it's fair to wonder if the offensive line's play going to be an issue. Right guard Brandon Scherff was ruled out late in the game with an ankle injury, but the unit wasn't doing a good job of dealing with the Colts' defensive front before he left the game.
The Jaguars averaged 3.2 yards per carry before their final possession, including Etienne's 26-yard touchdown run, and Lawrence got hit six times. That kept the offense from getting into a rhythm. If that continues to be an issue, it takes away the team's biggest strength: The ability to be explosive.
This week, the Jaguars have a chance against the Chiefs to proclaim themselves as someone to be reckoned with in the stacked AFC.
QBs: Trevor Lawrence, C.J. Beathard, Nathan Rourke
RBs: Travis Etienne Jr., Tank Bigsby, D'Ernest Johnson
WRs: Calvin Ridley, Christian Kirk, Zay Jones, Jamal Agnew, Parker Washington, Tim Jones, Kendric Pryor
TEs: Evan Engram, Brenton Strange, Luke Farrell, Elijah Cooks
Kansas City ChiefsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 12 September 2023
The Kansas City Chiefs proved in their season-opening loss to the Detroit Lions on Thursday night that their defense can get by just fine without Chris Jones.
Travis Kelce is another matter.
They fixed the first issue on Monday when Jones and the team agreed to terms on a new one-year contract, which could mean he will be back on the field when they visit the Jacksonville Jaguars for Week 2.
The Chiefs did not disclose terms, but a source told Associated Press sports writer Dave Skretta, no years were added to his four-year, $80 million deal, which was due to expire
While the Chiefs defense repelled the Lions all night, their perpetually high-scoring offense fizzled minus Kelce, undone by dropped passes, penalties and miscommunication.
Patrick Mahomes looked a beat off, the offensive line played well until two significant penalties as the Chiefs tried to march for a go-ahead field goal, and just about everyone who had an opportunity to get their hands on the ball dropped it at least once, all leading to a 21-20 loss at Arrowhead Stadium.
Perhaps it would have turned out differently if Mahomes had Kelce, his All-Pro tight end and sure-handed security blanket, who missed the game after hyperextending his knee in practice two days earlier.
"I mean, you're losing I think the best tight end of all time," Mahomes said. "It's going to have an impact on the game, but others guys have to step up, and they're going to have to step up in moments, because I'm sure there will be times when he gets doubled, and so we're just going to have to rely on guys that are young and talented to step up and make plays."
Mahomes finished by saying, "I believe they will." But they did little Thursday night to create a whole lot of confidence.
Noah Gray, who was first off the bench to replace Kelce, miscommunicated once with Mahomes and dropped his pass on another play. Jerick McKinnon, who rarely drops a pass, did so late in the game. Kadarius Toney not only had one bounce off his hands for a pick-6 but dropped what would have been a long gain as the Chiefs were driving for go-ahead points.
Hard to believe that Kelce would have dropped so many balls under any circumstances.
"Got to be better as an offense," said Blake Bell, another Kansas City tight end. "Defense battled their tails off, played great. Offensively we've got to finish when we get down there and whatever it is -- dropped balls -- we're just not scoring."
Kelce tried to convince Chiefs coach Andy Reid and trainer Rick Burkholder to let him play, going through a series of drills earlier in the day. But he acknowledged some pain in the knee and Reid and Burkholder decided to give him the night off.
There is hope that the 10 days between Thursday night's loss and Sunday's game in Jacksonville is enough to ensure Kelce is back on the field.
"I feel like we put ourselves in some bad situations. We didn't execute. Couldn't get conversions on third downs," McKinnon said. "When you play against a good team you can't do those things, and if you can't come up with points, this is what happens."
Still, Mahomes provided some of the biggest highlights against Detroit not with his strong right arm but with his feet, and the fact that his scrambling topped a short list of things that were working is a bad sign. Mahomes ran six times for 45 yards, while the rest of the Chiefs combined for another 45 yards rushing but needed 17 carries to get them.
Toney, meanwhile, has had a rough couple months.
He needed surgery after one practice at training camp for a torn meniscus in his knee, causing him to miss the entire preseason, and the rust was evident. Not only did Toney drop the aforementioned high-pressure passes, he also was stuffed for a loss on second-and-2 at the Detroit 20 midway through the fourth quarter.
And when McKinnon dropped a pass of his own on the next play, the Chiefs had to settle for a field goal that left them with a 20-14 lead.
That brings up another point: Short-yardage offense was a problem.
As ESPN.com's Adam Teicher notes, the Chiefs had nine plays in which they needed 2 yards for a fresh set of downs and converted on three of those. The Chiefs struggle with power football and often get too cute with their approach.
Stay tuned. ... I'll have more on Kelce's status (likely daily) via Late-Breaking Update as the week progresses.
QBs: Patrick Mahomes, Blaine Gabbert
RBs: Isiah Pacheco, Jerick McKinnon, Clyde Edwards-Helaire
WRs: Rashee Rice, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Skyy Moore, Kadarius Toney, Justin Watson, Mecole Hardman, Justyn Ross, Richie James
TEs: Travis Kelce, Noah Gray, Blake Bell, Jody Fortson
Las Vegas RaidersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 12 September 2023
Wondering if Jimmy Garoppolo has won over the Las Vegas Raiders' locker room?
According to ESPN.com's Paul Gutierrez, we should wonder no more.
Because, Gutierrez went on to explain, if his sprinting out of the blue medical tent and back onto the field in the first quarter after taking a nasty blow to the head to throw a touchdown pass wasn't enough to rally his new guys, there was his gritting through his surgically repaired left foot getting rolled up on and not coming off the field.
Then there was the way he rebounded from a potentially crushing end-zone interception late in the third quarter to lead a go-ahead fourth-quarter drive, let alone his clutch 8-yard scramble on third-and-7 to clinch the 17-16 win over the Denver Broncos.
Yes, there were a lot of smiles and compliments in Las Vegas' locker room after its white-knuckle victory, which came in the first Raiders season opener started by a quarterback not named Derek Carr since 2013.
Especially from All-Pro running back Josh Jacobs, whose blocking enabled Garoppolo to scramble for the game-clincher.
"Man, he's a dog," Jacobs said. "Any quarterback that's willing to take a hit in a big moment to secure a win got my respect."
Garoppolo had a workmanlike day throwing the ball, completing 20 of 26 passes for 200 yards with two touchdowns and the interception for a 107.9 passer rating. He was not sacked, either.
But the end-zone pick, on a ball he tried to force to running back Ameer Abdullah in double coverage that was tipped up to Kareem Jackson, is what bothered Garoppolo.
"I mean, it's a terrible, stupid decision," Garoppolo said. "Just got to take the points. Throw it away when nothing's there. But I thought mental toughness kicked in and guys. ... Believed in me, so I appreciate them."
Another positive: The Raiders were able to hold onto this game after faltering in so many similar situations last year. They lost nine games by seven points or fewer last season, dropping five of the 10 games in which they led by at least seven points.
"This type of game was the difference in our season last year, just finishing," said receiver Davante Adams, who had six catches for 66 yards. "They say you're trash when you don't ... we finish these and then they talk a lot different about you, regardless of what it took to get there, if it was ugly or not."
Garoppolo was 4-of-5 for 60 yards on the Raiders' go-ahead drive with a 6-yard touchdown pass to Jakobi Meyers with 6:34 remaining in the fourth quarter, his second touchdown pass to Meyers. He had three completions on the drive of at least 10 air yards, his most on any drive since Week 6 of last season, per ESPN Stats and Information.
And Garoppolo also found a warm place in Adams' heart by coming to him to essentially apologize for missing him on a potential big gainer downfield.
"That, to me, that's like you arguing with your girl and she says, 'I'm sorry,'" Adams laughed. ""All right, let's watch a movie now. We good. I don't need to act pissed off for the rest of the night and all of that.' So it makes it real easy to grow with somebody and continue to go and try to win when you got somebody like that.
"Jimmy's a gamer, man ... I mean, it's fun going out there and playing with him ... just his cool, his poise, I mean he threw some dots, he hit Jakobi over the middle with some guys in his face, showing that type of toughness and resolve after going and throwing a pick in a situation where we obviously need points. That's what you need from one of your leaders."
Throughout his career, Garoppolo has built a reputation of being unflappable while being in command of the huddle. He clearly demonstrated that for his new teammates in Week 1.
The Raiders will spend this week at The Greenbrier resort in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia, in preparation for Sunday's game at Buffalo, which opened its season Monday night with a loss to the New York Jets. ...
On the injury front. ... Meyers is in the NFL's concussion protocol, head coach Josh McDaniels said Monday, although he had no additional details.
Before leaving the game, Meyers had a game-high nine catches, on 10 targets, for 81 yards and two touchdowns, the first multi-TD-catch game of his career.
Meyers, who played his first four NFL seasons with the New England Patriots, came to Las Vegas on a three-year, $33 million free agent contract in March.
"He's been very consistent, honestly," Garoppolo said of Meyers after the game. "He's the same guy every day. Comes out, puts in the work and as a quarterback, when you have a guy like that, it makes it easy. You can trust them."
Meyers initially stayed on the ground for a few minutes after the hit but walked off with help from trainers. He was walking around and talking with teammates after the game in the Raiders' locker room, but he was unavailable for comment at the time, as he was being evaluated for the concussion.
McDaniels was asked if defensive end Chandler Jones -- who has taken to social media the past week to criticize the team and organization and has alternately said he did not and did want to play while being away from the team -- might join the Raiders this week.
"I have no updates on Chandler," McDaniels said. "I'm going to stick with what I said last week."
I'll have more on Meyers -- and Chandler if need be -- as developments warrant this week; watch the Late-Breaking Updates section for more.
Other notes of interest. ... As Associated Press sports writer Mark Anderson notes, Hunter Renfrow and rookie tight end Michael Mayer not only didn't make any catches, they weren't targeted. It's not shocking regarding Mayer since it was his first NFL game, but the Raiders traded up in the draft because of his pass-catching skills.
Renfrow, who had 1,038 yards receiving two years ago, has never looked comfortable in McDaniels' system. But the Raiders will need him, especially if Meyers will be out for a week or so.
Jacobs was held to 2.5 yards per carry. He admitted to being rusty after missing training camp over a contract dispute. Jacobs averaged 4.9 yards last season in leading the NFL with 1,653 yards. It would be shocking if he continues to have days like Sunday in which Jacobs rushed for 48 yards, but missing so much practice time could mean it will take him a while to get back to last season's standards.
QBs: Aidan O'Connell, Jimmy Garoppolo, Brian Hoyer
RBs: Josh Jacobs, Zamir White, Ameer Abdullah, Brandon Bolden
WRs: Davante Adams, Jakobi Meyers, Tre Tucker, Hunter Renfrow, DeAndre Carter, Kristian Wilkerson
TEs: Michael Mayer, Austin Hooper, Jesper Horsted
Los Angeles ChargersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 12 September 2023
As Associated Press sports writer Joe Reedy notes, the Chargers' offense showed signs of improvement during the season opener in the areas head coach Brandon Staley pointed to throughout the offseason.
The same can't be said about Staley's defense.
Many of the deficiencies that have plagued the Chargers' defense were laid bare again in Sunday's 36-34 loss to the Miami Dolphins.
Giving up a ton of points? Check. It was the seventh time since Staley's arrival in 2021 that Los Angeles has allowed at least 35 points, tied for second most in the league.
Inability to get off the field on third-and-long? Check. The Dolphins converted three of six opportunities when they faced third down with more than 6 yards to go. The Chargers allowed opponents to convert 30.2 percent on third-and-long last season, the league's fourth-highest conversion rate.
Allowing big pass plays? Check. Miami's Tua Tagovailoa had a league-high 14 completions of at least 16 yards on Sunday (the next closest was eight by Tampa Bay's Baker Mayfield). The Chargers have allowed 185 explosive pass plays since 2021, tied for third-most in the league. Factor in runs of at least 12 yards, and the Chargers have surrendered 275 explosive plays during that span, also the third-highest.
"I didn't do a good enough job (Sunday) getting us adjusted throughout the game. We tried. Our adjustments didn't take shape," Staley said. "It turned into a track meet in the passing game. We gave up a couple of killer third-down-and-longs that, I think, really could have changed momentum for us.
"I don't think that we played the right leverages in the secondary, and I didn't think that we rushed the quarterback effectively enough."
Despite having a healthy Joey Bosa and Khalil Mack, the Chargers did not record a sack and had only two quarterback hits.
Los Angeles also allowed a franchise-record 466 passing yards to Tagovailoa, and the 536 total yards were the most they gave up in an opener, surpassing the 505 yards that Denver gained in 1962.
Even though Staley and his players repeated that it was only one game, the continued breakdowns in the same areas are putting even more heat on the defense. Los Angeles was looking for a good opener after blowing a 27-point lead in last year's playoff loss at Jacksonville. Instead, the Chargers squandered another late lead and the opportunity to show they had learned from past mistakes.
But from a fantasy perspective, defensive weakness often leads to offensive urgency. And we like that.
Against the Dolphins, Los Angeles leaned on the run.
Staley has stressed improving the running game since last season ended. The Chargers had the most rushing yards (234) and highest average yards per carry (5.85) in the league on Sunday. It was the first time since 2011 they had at least 40 rushing attempts and went for over 200 yards on the ground in the same game.
They also became the first NFL team to run for more than 220 yards and three touchdowns in a season opener since 2010, so the initial returns under new offensive coordinator Kellen Moore look more than promising.
Austin Ekeler and Joshua Kelly each had 16 carries and scored a touchdown. Ekeler rushed for 116 yards and Kelley finished with 91. It was the first time since 2018 the Chargers had a pair of 90-yard rushers.
On a 10-play, 75-yard drive that finished with Kelley's 2-yard TD early in the fourth quarter, Moore called six straight run plays that gained 34 yards.
"That was great for us to get in rhythm, and once you get in that rhythm you get a feel for the defense, how everything's going," Kelley said.
The offensive line blocked well. Ekeler and Kelley ran decisively behind them. Los Angeles can't run for 234 yards every week, but they won't have to on those days when quarterback Justin Herbert and his receivers do the heavy lifting.
There is a concern, however.
Ekeler injured his ankle in the second half and Staley said Monday that the veteran back is day to day, with his status for Wednesday's practice to be determined. Ekeler was unable to finish Sunday's game, finishing with 20 touches and a touchdown on 41 snaps.
Kelley played 39 snaps.
The Chargers chose to make Isaiah Spiller, a 2022 fourth-round pick, a healthy scratch in favor of undrafted rookie free agent Elijah Dotson, who played only one snap.
Ekeler played all 17 games in 2022 and missed only one game in 2021.
I'll have more on his status via Late-Breaking Update as the week progresses and the team begins preparing for their trip to Nashville to take on the Titans this Sunday. ...
Meanwhile, Herbert completed 23-of-33 attempts for 228 yards and a touchdown, adding five rushes for 18 yards and a touchdown.
Sunday was the 28th straight game in which Herbert has completed at least 20 passes, the third-longest streak in league history. Drew Brees leads the way with streaks of 57 and 30 games.
As Rotoworld suggests, Herbert's sneak into the end zone in the fourth quarter saved an otherwise forgettable day against a middling Miami defense. Herbert attempted a few downfield shots early in the game but reverted to his checkdown tendencies, finishing the game with a 6.9 yards per attempt.
Herbert was sacked twice on the final drive and was pressured six times in the last 15 minutes after Miami generated only four pressures in the first three quarters.
It's not exactly what fantasy managers had in mind in the Chargers' revamped offense, but the Titans has been generous to opposing passers dating back to last year.
Keenan Allen led all wide receivers in yards (76) and snaps (74) during the afternoon, playing about 91 percent of all offensive snaps. Fellow wide receiver Mike Williams left the game in the second quarter to be evaluated for a concussion, but returned in the second half and finished playing 62 snaps.
Josh Palmer played the third most snaps at receiver with 52, while rookie Quentin Johnston played 22 snaps in his debut. Derius Davis rounded out the receiver group playing three snaps on offense.
Allen, plagued by hamstring problems most of last season, finished with six receptions for 76 yards. He also reached 800 career catches in his 127th career game, tying Julio Jones as the second-fastest player to reach that mark in NFL history.
Among the tight ends, Gerald Everett finished with the most snaps at 55, followed by Donald Parham, Jr. who played 40 and caught a touchdown. The other tight ends, Tre' McKitty and Stone Smartt, played six offensive snaps.
QBs: Justin Herbert, Easton Stick
RBs: Austin Ekeler, Joshua Kelley, Isaiah Spiller, Elijah Dotson
WRs: Keenan Allen, Quentin Johnston, Jalen Guyton, Derius Davis, Josh Palmer, Mike Williams
TEs: Gerald Everett, Donald Parham, Stone Smartt
Los Angeles RamsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 12 September 2023
According to ESPN.com's Sarah Barshop, as the Rams prepared for their trip to Seattle, wide receiver Tutu Atwell wanted to make sure Cooper Kupp, who had been ruled out with a hamstring injury, would be on the sideline against the Seahawks.
"I said, 'Make sure you can come,'" Atwell said. "It's just like a second eye. What I can't see, he can see. And I just ask him questions off the field, and he's a great, great person. And I appreciate him for that."
With Kupp nearby, Atwell (six catches) and rookie wide receiver Puka Nacua (10 catches) each had 119 receiving yards in the Rams' 30-13 win over the Seahawks on Sunday.
Nacua set a franchise record for receiving yards in a first career game, and the pair became the first Rams teammates to each have at least 100 receiving yards in a season opener since Torry Holt and Isaac Bruce in 2003, according to ESPN Stats and Information.
"I'm so proud of those guys, but I'm not surprised," head coach Sean McVay said. "That's what Tutu Atwell had been doing, going months back. And I thought he really started to play with a lot of confidence towards the latter part of last year when he got his opportunities that were earned.
"Puka Nacua has come in and he's as mature a rookie as I've ever been around. And he is a physical, tough, strong player. He's got a great way about himself. And both of those guys stepped up."
The Rams will be without Kupp for at least three more games after he was placed on injured reserve Saturday.
In the locker room after the game, Nacua couldn't keep a smile off his face, noting he hadn't even had a chance to call his mother and the rest of his family.
"I can't wait to [call them]," Nacua said. "I know they're watching and hopefully screaming, but it was just ... this is football heaven for me."
Nacua said he tried not to put more pressure on himself because of Kupp's absence but that he appreciated having "a second coach" in Kupp on the sideline.
"It's always nice to have him on the field, but then when he's not, the level of communication he has takes another step to being able to make sure we understand," Nacua said. "And when we're coming back and we're checking the iPads and stuff like that, he's the first one there saying, 'Hey,' either 'good job' or 'this is what I'm seeing and this is what I'm looking at.' Coop's the man. I love that guy. I feel like I'm blessed to be in this situation."
Nacua, a fifth-round pick, had the most receiving yards for a player drafted in the fifth round or later (or undrafted) in his NFL debut since 2000, according to ESPN Stats and Information.
According to Fantasy Points' Scott Barrett, Nacua's 15 targets were the most for a rookie receiver in Week 1 since targets became a stat in 1992.
Tyler Higbee caught all three of his targets for 49 yards while Van Jefferson caught 4-of-5 targets for 24 yards. But Nacua and Atwell truly stood out. ...
Matthew Stafford completed 24 of 38 passes for 334 yards, his eighth 300-yard passing game in a season opener, tying Matt Ryan for the second-most such games in NFL history. McVay said Stafford checked "all the boxes" with his performance Sunday, specifically praising the quarterback's command and communication against Seattle.
Despite Los Angeles' success through the air, Stafford didn't throw a touchdown; all three scores came on the ground, with two from running back Kyren Williams and one from running back Cam Akers.
Stafford praised Nacua as a "big, physical kid who understands the game," but the rookie gave credit to the team's other receivers, including Atwell and Jefferson, for helping to put him in the position he was in Sunday.
"They've helped accelerate my learning," Nacua said. "It's been so fun to get to ask questions. I hope they never get annoyed with me. I have four older brothers, so I'm used to being the annoying little brother, but they never make me feel like that and always helping me learn."
The question is, can a healthy Stafford keep a Kupp-less offense in games?
Stafford has said multiple times this offseason that he feels healthy, and it showed on Sunday in Seattle. Stafford completed passes to five different pass-catchers, including four players with catches of at least 20 yards.
Stafford completed 24 of 38 passes for 334 yards on Sunday. While the offense looks significantly different without Kupp, Stafford and the Rams showed Sunday they could win without their star receiver.
But can they win this week? Against their most dangerous nemesis.
The Rams have lost eight consecutive regular-season meetings with the 49ers, although they also squeaked out a victory in the NFC championship game during that stretch. As Associated Press sports writer Kyle Shanahan's dominance over McVay must irk Los Angeles' competitive coach, but the Niners are a daunting challenge this early in McVay's quest to build a sustainable winner.
McVay said the Rams didn't sustain any injuries that will sideline anybody for Week 2. Nacua had bruised ribs, RG Joseph Noteboom injured his ankle and CB Ahkello Witherspoon had soreness.
I'll follow up as needed on Nacua via Late-Breaking Update as developments warrant.
Other notes of interest. ... Akers, who managed just 29 yards on 22 carries, was arguably the least efficient running back in the league on Sunday totaling negative 41 yards over expected per NFL Next Gen Stats.
His 1.32 yards per carry were the fewest for any player with at least 20 carries in a game since Buffalo's Mike Gillislee averaged 1.17 yards (280 yards on 24 carries) against the New York Jets in Week 17 of the 2015 season.
Meanwhile, Williams' 53 snaps were almost twice as many as the 28 snaps Akers saw, and his 29 routes run easily topped Akers' four.
As Rotoworld notes, Williams turned in a solid training camp and was being hyped as the team's top pass-catching back heading into the season. He saw just two targets in the team's Week 1 win, but his overall efficiency and snap share suggest he could soon be operating as the Rams' RB1.
That's not to say fantasy managers should force him into lineups with the 49ers coming to town; but he's definitely rising up the ranks.
QBs: Matthew Stafford, Carson Wentz, Stetson Bennett
RBs: Kyren Williams, Royce Freeman, Zach Evans, Ronnie Rivers
WRs: Cooper Kupp, Puka Nacua, Tutu Atwell, Ben Skowronek, Demarcus Robinson
TEs: Tyler Higbee, Brycen Hopkins, Hunter Long, Davis Allen
Miami DolphinsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 12 September 2023
As ESPN.com's Marcel Louis-Jacques reminded readers this week, Tyreek Hill said this past offseason that he felt more comfortable within the Dolphins' offense, and that he mainly got by on his athleticism during his career year in 2022.
"For any evidence supporting his statement," Louis-Jacques added, "look no further than the Dolphins' 36-34 win over the Los Angeles Chargers in Week 1."
Hill caught 11 passes for 215 yards and two touchdowns, his first 200-yard game with Miami and the third of his career. His performance was matched by quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, who completed 28 of 45 passes for 466 yards and three touchdowns in his first game since Dec. 25.
Head coach Mike McDaniel said the duo's offseason work came to fruition Sunday.
"Those two guys are a great example of not focusing on anything but their craft," McDaniel said. "They were on the same page, for sure."
Tagovailoa peppered Hill with 15 targets, starting with his first pass attempt of the game -- which Hill took for 16 yards. He finished the first half with 104 receiving yards, but his most notable plays all came in the second half.
With just over two minutes remaining in the third quarter, the Dolphins began a drive on the Chargers' 35-yard line after a short punt. Hill beat cornerback J.C. Jackson on a go route, and Tagovailoa hit him in stride for a 35-yard touchdown. On Miami's go-ahead drive, Tagovailoa climbed the pocket and found Hill for a 47-yard completion on third-and-10. They connected once again five plays later for the game-winning touchdown -- a 4-yard goal line fade with Chargers cornerback Michael Davis draped over Hill.
McDaniel said Hill's offensive enlightenment was clear on essentially every one of his 11 catches Sunday afternoon.
"He probably would've had half last year because understanding how to beat coverage is not something that we needed to teach him," McDaniel said. "But understanding when to separate and how to get the ball -- that's what he's really majored in this year. ... It would be very, very accurate to say we saw a better version of him today within the offense and I think that has a big part of his success."
Hill set career highs in his first season with the Dolphins, with 1,710 yards on 119 catches. Remarkably, he said he had only a basic grasp of McDaniel's offense and essentially used his speed to make up for it.
After two full offseasons with Miami, Hill could feel the difference a year makes.
"Everything was more fluid this year because last year, man, I was just banking on my speed and just outrunning guys," he said. "But this year, I was in my bag a little bit more on release moves, and just routes at the top and stuff like that. That's how I was able to get my first catch. Last year, we ran the same exact route and I wasn't open. But this year, it's a whole lot different because I know how to run it and I know exactly how many steps I need to be at and stuff like that.
"So yeah, everything was different, man. I'm not counting on my speed -- obviously after the catch I am."
To be fair, Tagovailoa's first regular-season game in 259 days got off to a sluggish start. Miami's first snap was botched, although the fumble was offset by a Chargers offsides penalty. He fumbled another snap five plays later from the Chargers' 2-yard line, however, for his first turnover of the game.
He also threw an interception in the end zone on a risky jump ball to slot receiver Braxton Berrios.
But even with the hiccups, Louis-Jacques notes that Tagovailoa's performance was markedly better than last season's loss to the Chargers, in which he completed just 10 of 28 passes for 145 yards and a touchdown.
The noteworthy difference came on in-breaking routes; he completed 17 of 23 attempts over the middle for 300 yards and a touchdown after connecting on just four of 13 such routes a season ago for 26 yards.
Tagovailoa finished 3 yards shy of his career high for passing yards. It came after an offseason of heavy speculation and scrutiny over his playing career and durability.
He missed five games last season with two documented concussions and briefly discussed retirement with his family before ultimately deciding against it. He spent the offseason transforming his body to withstand a 17-game season, a process that included jiu-jitsu break-fall training and adding eight pounds of muscle.
He was hardly touched Sunday afternoon, even without starting left tackle Terron Armstead; the Dolphins' offensive line didn't allow a sack against a Chargers pass rush that featured both Khalil Mack and Joey Bosa.
Meanwhile, as Associated Press sports writer Alanis Thames notes, Miami's offense was formidable last year when Tagovailoa was healthy and connecting with his receivers on those kinds of plays. That connection alone could carry the Dolphins far in 2023.
Thames added McDaniel's play-calling and game management put his team in position to answer every score by the Chargers. The coach decided to go for it on fourth and 7 at the Chargers 42, leading to a touchdown. He took a timeout with 14 seconds left in the first half before a Los Angeles field goal, and Miami used that time to make a kick of its own before halftime. ...
Next up, the Dolphins play another road game, at division rival New England on Sunday night. ...
For the record, Even with Hill feasting, Jaylen Waddle caught 4-of-5 targets for 74 yards. As Rotoworld notes, Waddle saw five targets with Hill drawing 15. Berrios caught 3-of-5 targets while working as the Dolphins' No. 3 wideout behind Hill and Waddle. River Cracraft also drew five targets and caught three of them for 40 yards and a touchdown. Durham Smythe caught 3-of-7 targets for 44 yards.
Raheem Mostert had ten carries for 37 yards and a touchdown, adding two receptions for 13 yards.
With Devon Achane a healthy scratch, Mostert was decidedly ineffective as the Dolphins' lead back. According to Rotoworld, outside of a 12-yard first half carry, Mostert was stopped cold at the line of scrimmage time and time again against LA.
Miami's massive pass-heavy approach didn't provide much opportunity for Mostert in this one. He'll be a touchdown-dependent flex play in Week 2 against a stout Patriots defense and perhaps not even that reliable if Achane works his way back into the mix.
I'll have more on that possibility via Late-Breaking Update in coming days.
QBs: Tua Tagovailoa, Mike White, Skylar Thompson
RBs: Raheem Mostert, De'Von Achane, Jeff Wilson, Salvon Ahmed, Christopher Brooks
WRs: Tyreek Hill, Jaylen Waddle, Braxton Berrios, Cedrick Wilson, Chase Claypool, River Cracraft
TEs: Durham Smythe, Julian Hill, Tyler Kroft
Minnesota VikingsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 12 September 2023
According to ESPN.com's Kevin Seifert, if Justin Jefferson is angry, disappointed or otherwise upset after failing to secure a long-term contract extension this weekend, he wasn't letting on Sunday.
Speaking shortly after the Vikings' 20-17 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, in which he caught eight passes for 150 yards, Jefferson said his approach wouldn't change. Asked if the experience had altered how he feels about the team and whether he wants to remain with the Vikings in future seasons, he said: "Not really."
Jefferson added: "I have the same mindset as I had before. At the end of the day, all I can do is play football. And that's what I continue to do. I know my team. My team doesn't care about the contract, you know? And I don't either. I just want to be here for my teammates, play for my teammates and of course get these wins."
In the third year of his rookie contract, Jefferson is set to earn $2.4 million this season and $19.7 million in 2024. If he is still unsigned at that point, Jefferson could face a franchise tag in 2025. But such hard-line approaches rarely appeal to star players, and the Vikings negotiated for months with his agents after Jefferson's historic third season in 2022.
In addition to winning honors for All-Pro and NFL Offensive Player of the Year, Jefferson set an NFL record for receiving yards (4,825) in the first three seasons of a career. The Vikings hoped he would agree to a contract by Saturday, and talks were intense for much of the past week, but the circumstances proved too complicated to resolve.
The Vikings did not make general manager Kwesi Adofo-Mensah available to reporters Sunday, but head coach Kevin O'Connell has been having "daily" dialogue with Jefferson.
"He knows I support him 100 percent," O'Connell said, "and he was all in today and really has been. We would have loved to get something done with Justin, but the decision was made. And I do not for one second believe that Justin is not going to put his best foot forward like he did today. And really was pretty darn special today."
Jefferson, in fact, set yet another NFL record Sunday by recording the ninth 150-yard receiving game before he turned 25 years old. The next three players on that list are all in the Pro Football Hall of Fame: Randy Moss (eight), Isaac Bruce (six) and Lance Alworth (6).
But he did much of that work Sunday in the first half, during which he caught seven passes for 138 yards.
After halftime, the Vikings had only three possessions and Jefferson managed just two catches for 12 yards.
Along those lines, Associated Press sports writer Dave Campbell notes that for all the mistakes the Vikings made to waste a significant amount of their good work in the season opener, the feeling was strong on their sideline -- and throughout the stadium, for that matter -- that they would ultimately extract a victory from a tight game.
The Vikings turned that into an art form last year, after all, setting an NFL record with 11 wins in 11 decisions by eight points or fewer.
This time, those vital fourth-quarter plays just weren't made.
"There's an unwavering belief in this locker room. Even when there's five minutes left and we were down by a field goal, we thought we had that one for sure," tight end T.J. Hockenson said.
The Vikings widely outgained the Buccaneers by an average of 5.9 to 3.6 yards per play, but their three first-half turnovers not only cost them a prime crack at two scores but gave Tampa Bay three easy points.
"A lot of credit to that team on the other side, but we beat ourselves," running back Alexander Mattison said. "It's hard to win a game that close when the turnover margin is three to zero. It's one of those things we just have to make sure we clean up."
That process has to happen quickly, because the Vikings play Thursday at Philadelphia.
The Vikings, who lost in Week 2 at Philadelphia last year after winning their opener, don't have much margin for further errors, given opening wins by Detroit and Green Bay and a daunting early schedule. Their next three home games are against the Los Angeles Chargers, Kansas City and San Francisco.
"I've got nothing but confidence in our football team, and maybe even more so after watching the tape yesterday knowing how close things were to being maybe a different result," O'Connell said.
For example. ... At the end of the first half, Kirk Cousins tried to squeeze a pass into receiver K.J. Osborn at the goal line. With the score at 10-10, Minnesota at least had a chance to take a three-point lead -- if not go into the break up by a touchdown.
But Cousins' pass was intercepted by rookie safety Christian Izien, ending the threat.
While that throw didn't work out, O'Connell said on Monday that he doesn't want to stop Cousins from being aggressive in those situations.
"I think it was a situation where he felt like, that's not even half a click, that's maybe a quarter of a click away from probably being a catch and then K.J.'s got a chance to split two and maybe score," O'Connell said. "I think looking at it again, 13-yard line, where we were, it's going to be a little tighter, things happen faster. That's a play that Kirk has executed multiple times and he knows that he's going to continue to stay aggressive in those moments.
"And [it's] just an unfortunate outcome with how the defender, outside leverage defender kind of ended up, where that ball ended up with K.J. trying to make a tough catch there."
Cousins also lost two fumbles in the first quarter, finishing with three giveaways on the day.
It should be noted the blocking left much to be desired. The Buccaneers sent some well-timed blitzes at Cousins that weren't picked up, most glaringly by safety Antoine Winfield Jr. on a strip-sack he recovered at the Minnesota 18. Mattison and Ty Chandler combined for just 34 yards on 14 carries.
"Efficiency is something we're going to continue to strive for," O'Connell said. "We did not get it done."
Other notes of interest. ... Jordan Addison became the seventh rookie in Vikings history to score in his NFL debut when he caught a 39-yard touchdown pass from Cousins in the second quarter. He had four receptions for 61 yards.
Mattison rushed 11 times for 34 yards, adding three receptions for 10 additional yards.
As the Vikings' new starting running back, Mattison got 14 total touches in Week 1. According to Rotoworld, as a runner, he only averaged 3.1 yards per carry, but dominated the backfield split, getting 11 out of 14 running back carries for the team. He also added a receiving touchdown, catching the pass in motion and breaking a tackle on his way to the end zone. ...
On the health front. ... The shortened week will make it tougher for center Garrett Bradbury to recover in time from the back injury that forced him out in the first quarter. O'Connell said Monday that Bradbury's status was day to day and that he was "feeling pretty good." He had a similar injury last season that cost him five games.
Left tackle Christian Darrisaw was able to return from an ankle injury that sidelined him during the first half. Outside linebacker Marcus Davenport also has an ankle injury that landed him on the inactive list. Both players were listed on the estimated Monday injury report as limited participants had the Vikings held a practice. Players had the day off.
Finally. ... Running back Myles Gaskin is back on the Vikings' 53-man roster.
Gaskin was released by the Vikings last Friday in a procedural move to avoid having the vested veteran on the 53-man roster for the first game of the regular season. Gaskin was signed to the practice squad the next day and the Vikings announced that they have signed him back to the active roster on Tuesday.
Gaskin was elevated for last Sunday's loss to the Buccaneers, but he did not play in the game.
QBs: Josh Dobbs, Nick Mullens, Jaren Hall, Kirk Cousins
RBs: Alexander Mattison, Ty Chandler, C.J. Ham, Kene Nwangwu, Cam Akers
WRs: Justin Jefferson, Jordan Addison, K.J. Osborn, Brandon Powell, N'Keal Harry, Jalen Nailor
TEs: T.J. Hockenson, Josh Oliver, Johnny Mundt, Nick Muse
New England PatriotsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 12 September 2023
As Associated Press sports writer Kyle Hightower notes, the Patriots ended last season in need of a new direction on offense.
The changes New England made this offseason weren't enough to avert a 25-20 Week 1 loss to Philadelphia. But the Patriots appear to be in a better position to succeed going forward.
New England's biggest impediments on offense last season were turnovers, inconsistency in the passing game and an inability to score touchdowns in the red zone.
Those problems resurfaced early on Sunday in the form of a pick-6 thrown by Mac Jones on the first drive and fumble by Ezekiel Elliott that contributed to a 16-0 first-quarter deficit.
But after Jones failed to attempt a pass beyond 10 yards in the first quarter, new offensive coordinator Bill O'Brien used some bunch formations to free up receivers over the middle of the field. Jones completed 11 straight passes, including a 23-yard strike to rookie DeMario Douglas and touchdown passes to Hunter Henry and Kendrick Bourne, to get the Patriots back into the game.
"We just had to get things going," Henry said. "We put ourselves behind the 8-ball. We were just playing from behind for way too long, and we can't do that."
Though New England's inability to produce points in the red zone on two late fourth-quarter drives ultimately stalled its comeback attempt, it did outscore Philadelphia 20-9 over the final three quarters and for the game outgained last season's top-scoring offense 352 yards to 251.
Aside from his interception, Jones also had a solid performance, ending the day 35 of 54 for 315 yards and three TDs. His lone three-touchdown game in 2022 didn't come until the season finale.
The good news, Jones said, is that he felt in sync with O'Brien's play-calling. That was rarely the case last season with Matt Patricia in charge of the offense.
"I felt like we did some good things, but it wasn't consistent enough," Jones said. "I felt like we had a good plan. Kind of like the game declared. We knew what they were kind of doing. So came up with some plays that we liked, and just need to execute a little better in those critical points."
While playing from behind and injuries to starting guards Cole Strange (knee) and Mike Onwenu (ankle) played a role in the play selection, New England totaled only 76 rushing yards.
Elliott is still learning the offense after signing late in training camp, but the former Dallas star and three-time Pro Bowler will be expected to produce more than just two carries for 29 yards.
His fumble in the first quarter also set up Philadelphia on the Patriots 5-yard line. Hurts connected with Smith for a touchdown four plays later.
The good news? No Patriots player had an injury that required a stoppage of play.
Which helps as the Patriots' defense will be tested again this week when New England hosts division rival Miami.
The Dolphins are coming off an impressive debut, producing 536 yards of offense in their comeback win over the Chargers.
QBs: Mac Jones, Bailey Zappe
RBs: Rhamondre Stevenson, Ezekiel Elliott, JaMycal Hasty
WRs: DeVante Parker, Demario Douglas, JuJu Smith-Schuster, Tyquan Thornton, Kayshon Boutte, Matt Slater, Kendrick Bourne
TEs: Hunter Henry, Mike Gesicki, Pharaoh Brown
New Orleans SaintsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 12 September 2023
As Associated Press sports writer Brett Martel noted, Alvin Kamara is arguably the biggest star on New Orleans' offense and the Saints have started 1-0 without him as he serves a three-game suspension.
It helps to have a defense that has made holding opponents to 20 or fewer points look routine. Having a new franchise quarterback might have helped, too.
Derek Carr, the former Raiders starter who arrived as a free agent this offseason, was effective enough in his Saints debut to lead New Orleans to one more point than the Tennessee Titans scored in a 16-15 defensive struggle in Week 1.
Carr completed nearly 70 percent of his passes for 305 yards and a touchdown on a day when he was also sacked four times and the Saints struggled to run the ball.
"It was rough at times, but (I'm) encouraged that we did enough to make the plays that we needed to to win the game," head coach Dennis Allen said Monday after reviewing video of the opener. "Obviously they're a good defense."
It took one game for Carr to exhibit good chemistry with second-year receiver Chris Olave, a 2022 first-round draft choice who led the team in receiving (72 catches for 1,042 yards) last year. Carr connected eight times for 112 yards with Olave, who seems to be benefitting from the attention defenses must pay to veteran Michael Thomas, speedster Rashid Shaheed and opportunistic tight end Juwan Johnson.
"I don't think it's going to be the last time we're going to see it," Allen said of Carr connecting with Olave for 100-plus yards. "I wouldn't be surprised to see somebody else go for over 100 in another game. I just think we've got a lot of weapons and we've got to do a good job of protecting the quarterback so we can utilize those guys."
The running game managed just 69 yards -- and 11 of those came on Jamaal Williams' game-sealing run in the final minutes.
"I don't think we got as much out of the running game as we could have," Allen said. "It's certainly going to be something we look at from a schematic standpoint."
Perhaps Kamara's return in Week 4 will help. New Orleans also played Sunday without rookie running back Kendre Miller (hamstring), a third-round draft choice out of TCU.
But there are certainly concerns, as the offensive line struggled to protect its new quarterback and kicker Blake Grupe provided most of the points.
Left tackle Trevor Penning was having trouble containing the pass rush of Titans edge rusher Arden Key, who was credited with 1 1/2 sacks. The Saints had to adjust their blocking scheme in the second half to help Penning, a 2022 first-round draft choice out of Northern Iowa.
But Allen forecasted better days ahead for Penning.
"This guy is going to be a good player," Allen said. "You've got a young guy that is playing against an extremely good front. Does he have to get better? Absolutely. Am I concerned? No."
Whatever the case, the Saints will need to figure out how to protect Carr to have success moving forward.
The Saints have a bonus practice day this week as they prepare to play a Monday night game at NFC South rival Carolina in Week 2. ...
Other notes of interest. ... The Saints made a somewhat unconventional decision to keep the unproven, undrafted rookie Grupe over veteran Wil Lutz. Grupe made team brass look good in the opener, hitting all three of his field goals from 26, 33 and 52 yards. He also hit his lone extra point kick and received good reviews on his kickoffs.
On the injury front. ... Miller is the player to watch this week as he tries to work his way back from a hamstring issue; watch the Late-Breaking Updates section for more in coming days.
QBs: Derek Carr, Jameis Winston, Jake Haener
RBs: Alvin Kamara, Jamaal Williams, Kendre Miller
WRs: Chris Olave, Rashid Shaheed, A.T. Perry, Michael Thomas
TEs: Juwan Johnson, Taysom Hill, Foster Moreau, Jimmy Graham
New York GiantsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 12 September 2023
The Giants lost 40-0 at home to the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday night. It was their worst season-opening loss in franchise history, even worse than the 35-0 drubbing to these same Cowboys in 1995.
As ESPN.com's Jordan Raanan put it, "Embarrassing is one way to describe this latest demolition," especially with the Giants coming off a promising season in which they made the playoffs and won a postseason game in their first year under coach Brian Daboll and general manager Joe Schoen.
But these Giants, despite their offseason additions, had a field goal blocked for a touchdown and an interception returned for a touchdown, allowed seven sacks, threw a pair of interceptions and lost a fumble.
And those were only some of the myriad miscues.
The Cowboys and Giants have met 122 times in their history. Only one other time was the margin of victory greater than 40 -- a 45-point Cowboys victory on Sept. 18, 1966. That one was 52-7.
The way Daboll described Sunday's season-opening loss was that his team got "skunked here 40-0."
The Giants were booed by the home crowd as they went to the locker room down 26-0 at the half.
"Yeah, we weren't playing well," Daboll said.
New York was hoping to compete with the Cowboys and rival Philadelphia Eagles this season. This kind of result will damper any belief that it can, at least for the time being.
But the Giants know they'll get another shot at the Cowboys.
"Yeah, that's what the reaction is going to be. Like I said, it's a long season," said running back Saquon Barkley, who finished with just 63 total yards. "I'm not too focused on the Eagles. I'm really focused more on [this week's opponent] Arizona, and the beauty is we get to see Dallas again. We have to go there in a tough environment. I'm not really worried about that gap. They got us. They came in and got the better of us. Made more plays. We didn't execute and now we get ready for Arizona."
It's only Week 1, but the result against Dallas was alarming. It's not often a team gets shutout like that at home. Or anytime.
This was the largest shutout victory in the long, storied history of the Cowboys. They might not have played well, but Daboll thought it was merely a lack of execution, not a lack of effort.
He said he didn't see any quit from the Giants.
"Those guys are competitors. Obviously the result didn't show tonight. But [quitting], that's not us. That's not us to insinuate that someone's not giving effort," he said. "Everyone gives balls-out effort. Just didn't do a good enough job to execute. I don't question that. Not ever."
That's good. Because the Giants have a big week ahead of them and there is a lot that needs to be fixed before Sunday's game at Arizona (0-1). The task is even bigger because New York will be playing two games in five days, facing the 49ers in California four days after playing the Cardinals.
Daboll refused to say whether he will make any lineup changes, but a shakeup seemingly is needed. He said he would be honest with his players and that means telling them exactly what they did wrong.
Veteran wide receiver Darius Slayton said it was easy to see the mistakes on video on Monday.
"Ultimately when you're trying to win a football game you can't have everybody having multiple 'my bads' or, 'I would've done this different, I would've done that different,' so, I'd probably say that was just the main thing," Slayton said. "We had too much of that."
The biggest question is this: Is the Giants' offensive line going to be their Achilles' heel all season long?
This was perhaps the team's biggest concern entering the opener. Would the Giants' line hold up against a dominant Cowboys pass rush? The answer was clearly "No."
It made it impossible for the team to run any offense and quarterback Daniel Jones was flustered and regressed to his early form. The Giants need to figure a way to get this right quickly, otherwise they'll be embarrassed again by the 49ers in prime time in Week 3.
On the injury front. ... Darren Waller, who went into the game listed as questionable due to a tight hamstring, caught 3-of-5 targets for 36 yards against the Cowboys.
The 36 yards led the team on a night the Giants got shut out on the scoreboard. His five targets tied with Slayton for the team lead. As Rotoworld suggests, that's about where the positives ended for the Giants' new red-zone threat. But that also serves as reason for optimism for the veteran tight end as the Giants entered the red zone just once all night, resulting in a 36-yard missed field goal from kicker Graham Gano.
There should be better days ahead for the player likely to lead the team in targets in 2023.
We'll watch for any signs that Waller's hamstring is still an issue in coming days; watch the Late-Breaking Updates section for more. The same goes for Wan'Dale Robinson, who was declared inactive Monday night after being listed as doubtful coming off last year's torn ACL.
In addition, left tackle Andrew Thomas only played 53 snaps in the team's Week One loss to the Cowboys and he went for an MRI on his hamstring to kick off the week.
Raanan reports that the test did not show any injury that will keep him out of the lineup for an extended period of time. Thomas is sore, however, and there remains a chance that he will miss some time in order to get back to 100 percent.
With the Sunday-Thursday games, if there's any doubt about Thomas being well enough to play in both, having Thomas against Nick Bosa and the rest of a talented 49ers front seven might be the team's preferred way to approach things.
As Profootballtalk.com suggests, whether Thomas is in the lineup this weekend or not, the Giants will need better work from their offensive line than they got against the Cowboys.
QBs: Tommy DeVito, Tyrod Taylor, Daniel Jones
RBs: Saquon Barkley, Matt Breida, Gary Brightwell, Eric Gray
WRs: Darius Slayton, Wan'Dale Robinson, Jalin Hyatt, Parris Campbell, Isaiah Hodgins, Sterling Shepard
TEs: Daniel Bellinger, Lawrence Cager, Chris Myarick, Darren Waller
New York JetsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 12 September 2023
As NFL.com's Grant Gordon reported it, "Aaron Rodgers' aspirations for resurrecting the New York Jets lasted just four snaps. ..."
Rodgers' and the Jets' cruelest fears were realized on Tuesday as an MRI revealed he suffered a torn left Achilles in Monday night's game against the Buffalo Bills and will miss the remainder of the 2023 season, NFL Network Insiders Ian Rapoport and Tom Pelissero reported Tuesday.
Head coach Robert Saleh confirmed Rodgers' injury when he met with the New York media on Tuesday afternoon. Rodgers was officially placed on injured reserve later in the day, the team announced.
"I feel more for Aaron than anyone," Saleh said. "He has invested so much into this organization. So much into this journey that he's embarked on and wanting to be part of what we've got going here, and how much he's invested into not only this organization but his teammates, himself, this fanbase, this city. I have a lot of emotions for him. … It's really all about him. It is. I don't look at it like woe is me here for (the) New York organization. I think guys are excited about being able to step in and continue the things we've been building. But a lot of hurt for Aaron."
Saleh confirmed that Rodgers would require season-ending surgery, but he did not have any details on the timeline for a procedure.
It's a crushing blow at the onset of what was hoped to be a renaissance season for the Jets and, furthermore, bears questioning what's next for Rodgers, who turns 40 on Dec. 2.
Going forward, 2021 NFL Draft No. 2 overall pick Zach Wilson will be the Jets' starting quarterback, which Saleh announced Monday night after he said the team feared Rodgers had ruptured his Achilles.
Saleh reaffirmed Wilson's new status as QB on Tuesday.
"I do want to make it very clear: Zach's our quarterback," Saleh said. "We've got a lot of faith in Zach, we're really excited about his opportunity."
The loss of Rodgers hung over the Jets' dramatic overtime win on Monday, as the long-beleaguered franchise was riding an offseason of optimism into a 2023 campaign that crashed before it got out of park.
Rodgers, who hasn't missed a game due to injury since 2017, was part of only four plays (one that resulted in a penalty), with his abbreviated stat line in his Jets debut reading: 0 of 1 with a 39.6 QB rating. His third dropback saw him pressured just as his first two did. This time, Bills pass rusher Leonard Floyd got a hold of him and wrestled him down with Rodgers' left foot catching on the turf and his Achilles tearing in the process.
The four-time Most Valuable Player initially got up to his feet and then sat back down.
Rodgers was carted to the locker room after a trip inside the blue medical tent. He was shown in a walking boot on his way to X-rays on the broadcast.
Initially deemed an ankle injury that came up negative after the X-rays, Rodgers' Achilles was the real culprit.
The Jets haven't put together a winning season since 2015 or clinched a playoff berth since 2010. Rodgers acquired in a massive offseason trade with the Green Bay Packers, who will now receive a second-round pick next year following Rodgers' season-ending injury (Green Bay was set to receive a first-rounder if Rodgers played in at least 65 percent of snaps this year).
That trade was envisioned to end New York's playoff drought, but now, once more, Wilson will be looked on to be the savior.
The BYU product is 8-14 as a starter over his previous two seasons. The common theme in 2022 was that Wilson's poor play held back a New York squad bolstered by a tenacious defense.
New York's defense is still outstanding, as evidenced by Monday's performance. Running back Breece Hall looked amazing in his return from a torn ACL, and there are winning pieces all around Wilson.
The Jets are technically 1-0 with Rodgers as a starter. Will their grand expectations crumble in his absence, or will they be able to rally without him as they did Monday?
A high-profile matchup with the Dallas Cowboys in Week 2 will be the first confirmation of what lies ahead for Gang Green.
Much will depend on Wilson and the offensive line.
Wilson, who spent the summer learning at Rodgers' side, came off the bench and threw one costly interception, but he made a couple of plays and didn't get in the way of the comeback. He was decent in the preseason, but that was against backups and vanilla coverages.
The Jets received two great individual performances by safety Jordan Whitehead (three interceptions) and, as noted above, Hall (10 carries for 127 yards).
Hall, in his first game action since his ACL injury last October, flashed his old speed, hitting 20 mph on the GPS. Had it not been for the injury, he certainly would've had more carries, but the coaches wanted to ease him in.
Dalvin Cook made his Jets debut, rushing for 33 yards on 13 carries and catching three passes for 26 yards. He also got bragging rights again on his brother James Cook, a Bills running back.
James, who's five years younger, had 46 yards on 12 carries and four receptions for 17 yards.
Garrett Wilson made an unbelievable, game-tying touchdown catch in the fourth quarter. Incredibly, he tipped it to himself and gained possession as he fell backward on a back-shoulder throw. Wilson, coming off a Rookie of the Year season, has the makings of a superstar.
On that touchdown catch, the completion probability was only 34.5 percent per Next Gen Stats -- and it was only a 3-yard pass. The percentage was so low because there were only 0.6 yards of separation between Wilson and Tre'Davious White. And, oh, yeah, he did some juggling, too.
So if Wilson the QB can get the ball in the general vicinity of Wilson the receiver, this whole thing might just work out.
QBs: Tim Boyle, Trevor Siemian, Zach Wilson, Aaron Rodgers
RBs: Breece Hall, Dalvin Cook, Israel Abanikanda
WRs: Garrett Wilson, Xavier Gipson, Jason Brownlee, Allen Lazard, Randall Cobb, Charles Irvin
TEs: Tyler Conklin, Jeremy Ruckert, C.J. Uzomah, Kenny Yeboah
Philadelphia EaglesCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 12 September 2023
As Associated Press sports writer Dan Gelston from it, "Jalen Hurts slogged through an offensive performance that reminded no one of the dynamic play last season that stamped him as an MVP candidate and led the Eagles to the Super Bowl. ..."
Indeed, only 170 yards passing. A fumble that nearly cost Philadelphia a win.
Still, the Eagles won.
"Winning is the only thing that matters," Hurts said.
Even if fantasy managers might not agree, Hurts is right.
That said, the Eagles hardly played like the team that steamrolled through the NFC last season in their 25-20 win Sunday at New England. This was the kind of effort fans call an ugly win.
There are no style points for victories in the NFL, and the Eagles had a full load of reasons why the offense just didn't click. Most of the starters didn't play much in the preseason. The Eagles broke in a new offensive coordinator. The play-calling was suspect. And yes, the Patriots' defense did what it was supposed to do in limiting breakout plays.
"They limited us by our count to three or four," head coach Nick Sirianni said Monday. "We know how important it is to create explosiveness."
A.J. Brown and DeVonta Smith were held to a combined 14 catches for 126 yards.
"It's not like we were throwing it to some bums on the outside," Sirianni said Monday.
The Eagles have a short week to tweak their shortcomings. They play their home opener on Thursday night against the Minnesota Vikings -- a game so big the Phillies shifted a scheduled 4:05 p.m. game that day to Monday.
Maybe the offense is still getting used to new offensive coordinator Brian Johnson or maybe the lack of action for the first team in the preseason left them rusty, but the normally high-flying Birds were grounded.
The offense finished with only one touchdown and 251 total yards and had just one offensive play longer than 16 yards. Hurts, the NFL MVP runner-up, threw for only 47 yards in the first half.
Johnson couldn't find the right calls to get Hurts going and the offense was far from the first one stymied by New England's Bill Belichick.
"I think Brian did a great job for us," Hurts said. "I've said these things throughout training camp and I've made that clear of us searching for an identity and us trying to find an identity and that's something that we are navigating, and that is something that happens when you have different roles and new guys and new places and new faces."
Here's the good news for the Eagles:
Hurts -- who needed six games last season before he threw less than 200 yards in a game -- didn't have two bad games in a row last season. If he's looking for ways to break out, he can just examine last year's game film against the Vikings, a 24-7 win at home, also in the second week of the season.
The Eagles' track record suggests this sluggish offense won't be a long-term problem. Hurts, who has won 18 of his last 19 regular-season starts, threw for 333 yards and a touchdown and ran for 57 yards and two more scores in last season's win over the Vikings. ...
On the injury front. ... The Thursday night game means the Eagles had to turn in projected practice reports Monday and Tuesday.
They had one change to their injury report on Tuesday.
Defensive tackle Fletcher Cox was listed as a limited participant due to injured ribs. Cox was listed as a non-participant on Monday.
The Eagles have only held walkthroughs the last two days so all participation levels are estimations.
Safety Reed Blankenship (ribs), cornerback James Bradberry (concussion), and running back Kenneth Gainwell (ribs) were listed as out for the second straight day. Bradberry seems unlikely to be cleared to play by Thursday.
Linebacker Nakobe Dean was on Monday's injury report, but he's off of it and on injured reserve due to the foot injury he suffered in New England.
Meanwhile, Gainwell's rib injury is an issue. Philadelphia Inquirer staffer Jeff McLane is hearing Gainwell might not be ready to play Thursday night.
That would obviously be disappointing.
Against New England, Gainwell was the lead running back for the Eagles, playing 62 percent of the snaps, ahead of D'Andre Swift (29 percent) and Boston Scott (12 percent), with Rashaad Penny inactive.
Gainwell had 14 carries for 54 yards and four catches for 20 yards on four targets. Sirianni wants Swift to be more involved, and we'll see what happens moving forward. But a potential Gainwell absence in Week 2 would obviously open the door for others. ...
I'll have more on that via Late-Breaking Update before Thursday's kickoff. ...
Also of interest. ... Tight end Dallas Goedert has averaged 54 catches a season the last four years, remaining a trusted target even as the Eagles boast perhaps the best wideout corps in team history.
He's stuck at 0 after the opener.
Goedert, who had six catches for 60 yards in the Super Bowl, was targeted only once in New England. He did have five catches for 82 yards in last year's game against Minnesota.
"Maybe next week will be my week, and if not, I will just keep chopping away until it comes," he said. ...
DeVonta Smith caught a touchdown pass and rocked the football like a baby.
He's just getting started -- both catching touchdowns this season and in fatherhood.
Smith revealed after the game his daughter, Kyse, was born to him and his girlfriend, Mya, on Saturday. Smith, who had seven catches for 47 yards, said the birth happened earlier than expected. But not so early that he couldn't rush to make the team plane and still suit up for the opener.
"Everything timed up perfectly," Smith said. "It was amazing, man. Everybody was talking about it, like, let's go, you've got to rock the baby."
Smith said the best parenting tip he received from his teammates was to sleep while he can. It probably doesn't help the Eagles play on short rest this week. He had seven receptions for 80 yards against the Vikings last season. ...
Lost in the shuffle of one of the normally more explosive offenses in the NFL is the steady foot of Jake Elliott.
Elliott kicked four field goals, including from 56 and 51 yards, and now has 21 kicks of 50 yards or more, including the playoffs, extending his franchise lead. He made two 50-plus-yard field goals in the same game for the second time in his career and became the first Eagles kicker since 1960 to boot two 50-yarders in the second half.
QBs: Jalen Hurts, Marcus Mariota, Tanner McKee
RBs: D'Andre Swift, Kenneth Gainwell, Boston Scott, Rashaad Penny
WRs: A.J. Brown, DeVonta Smith, Julio Jones, Olamide Zaccheaus, Quez Watkins
TEs: Dallas Goedert, Jack Stoll, Grant Calcaterra, Albert Okwuegbunam
Pittsburgh SteelersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 12 September 2023
According to ESPN.com's Brooke Pryor, head coach Mike Tomlin didn't mince words in the aftermath of the Pittsburgh Steelers' 30-7 dismantling at the hands of the San Francisco 49ers.
"You can't start games 0-5 on third down and think that you're going to have the type of day that you desire," Tomlin said. "You got to win the weighty downs, and it's just more than just identifying that component, man. It was a failure on our part, in all areas. We got to coach better, we got to play better.
"... We got kicked in the teeth today in a lot of ways."
As an offense, the Steelers (0-1) converted on just 5 of 15 third downs, while the 49ers (1-0) converted on 6 of 13. The Steelers didn't even pick up a first down until less than two minutes remained in the first half. The Steelers lost the time of possession battle 37:23 to 22:37, and the lack of plays especially in the first half kept the offense from establishing any sort or rhythm or ground game.
"We just didn't execute, honestly," quarterback Kenny Pickett said. "I think it was more us than them. I felt comfortable what I was seeing, what they were doing. We just didn't execute."
That lack of execution was somewhat surprising after the Steelers' starting offense scored touchdowns on all five drives during the preseason. Through the first five drives against the 49ers, the Steelers had one net yard, no first downs, four punts and an interception.
"I think San Fran's starting defense is a little bit better than some teams in the preseason we played," the second-year quarterback said, explaining the offensive discrepancy from the preseason to regular season. "They're a good team, but at the end of the day we didn't execute anywhere near at the level that we need to, that we want to."
Pickett, who completed 31 of 46 attempts for 232 yards, played his best in the two-minute offense just before halftime when he orchestrated a 95-yard drive capped by a 3-yard Pat Freiermuth touchdown grab.
But after a preseason and training camp where he displayed good decision-making and accuracy, Pickett threw two interceptions. He was also sacked five times. It wasn't just that some of Pickett's passes were off the mark, it's that he wasn't always on the same page with his receivers. After talking about offensive cohesion throughout the preseason, Pickett and Freiermuth had a miscommunication on a fourth-down throw to the end zone in the second half, resulting in a promising drive coming up empty.
"That happens," Pickett said. "Pat saw one way. I saw it the other way. It needs to be a fix, but obviously you put a lot of time in, but we will get it right. I'm not worried about that. I'm worried about us staying together, playing balanced football, being able to do what we put a lot of time in to do."
They were the kind of mistakes Pickett largely avoided during a second-half surge to end his rookie season a year ago.
Last year, however, the Steelers made it a point to ask Pickett to simply not lose games so the defense could try to win them. As Associated Press sports writer Will Graves suggested, things are supposed to be different in 2023.
"Pickett's job isn't to be a caretaker but a difference-maker," Graves wrote. "He wasn't one on Sunday. Then again, nobody else wearing black and gold was either."
Like his quarterback, running back Najee Harris, who had 31 yards on six carries, was optimistic about the team's ability to rebound from this loss ahead of Monday night's showdown against division rival Cleveland.
"We got 16 games left," Harris said. "We're not blinking. It's part of the sport. You're going to win some, you're going to lose some. All that matters is how you're going to come back the next week and win that one. So we're here, and we're still excited for this year."
Worth noting: Cleveland visits Acrisure Stadium next Monday fresh off a dominant victory over two-time defending AFC North champion Cincinnati.
Graves contends the Browns want to beat teams the same way the 49ers do: By playing a physical brand of football. Cleveland was wildly successful in disrupting Bengals star Joe Burrow. Now Myles Garrett and company get to spend the week watching the 49ers manhandling Pittsburgh's offensive line and figuring out how they can do the same.
"Things are going to get fixed, need to get fixed quick," Pickett said. ...
On the injury front. ... The Steelers' bid to bounce back from getting blown out by the 49ers will be complicated by injuries on both sides of the ball.
Adam Schefter of ESPN reports that wide receiver Diontae Johnson is going to miss a few weeks after hurting his hamstring against San Francisco. Pittsburgh Post-Gazette staffer Gerry Dulac reports it could be up to four week. Johnson was injured in the second half of that game.
The news on Johnson came a day after word that defensive end Cam Heyward's groin injury is going to keep him out for an extended period of time. Heyward may need surgery and a stay on injured reserve before he'll be ready to return.
Johnson doesn't appear to be set to miss quite as much time, but both absences would be costly ones as the Steelers try to get off the mat.
In addition, Freiermuth, who caught 1-of-4 targets for three yards and a touchdown, was in and out of the game with a "chest" injury. He did finish the contest out, however.
I'll have more on Johnson and Freiermuth via Late-Breaking Update as developments warrant in advance of Monday's game.
In the meantime, Allen Robinson's tank isn't empty.
The wide receiver caught five passes for 64 yards, his most productive game since November 2021 while playing for the Chicago Bears. With Johnson out, Robinson seems poised to take on a larger role.
QBs: Kenny Pickett, Mitchell Trubisky, Mason Rudolph
RBs: Najee Harris, Jaylen Warren, Anthony McFarland Jr.
WRs: George Pickens, Diontae Johnson, Allen Robinson, Miles Boykin, Gunner Olszewski, Calvin Austin III
TEs: Pat Freiermuth, Darnell Washington
San Francisco 49ersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 12 September 2023
As ESPN.com's Nick Wagoner reminded readers, six months ago, Brock Purdy underwent surgery on the torn ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow. The Niners and Purdy entered that day uncertain about when the former "Mr. Irrelevant" would return to football and, when he did, how he would fare.
On Sunday at Acrisure Stadium, Purdy offered answers to both questions in San Francisco's resounding 30-7 win against the Pittsburgh Steelers.
"Purdy shut some haters up [today]," defensive end Nick Bosa said. "I think whenever a guy comes back from an injury, people kind of don't expect him to make another leap in the second year, I'm just happy for him. He's exactly who we thought he was."
The Purdy under center for the Niners on Sunday bore a striking resemblance to the one the Niners saw down the stretch and in the postseason last year before he tore that UCL in the NFC Championship Game against the Philadelphia Eagles. The only noticeable difference this time was the "C" on Purdy's chest after his teammates voted him a first-time captain last week.
Coincidentally, the Niners and Purdy returned to Pennsylvania for his first regular-season start since the injury. Purdy finished 19-of-29 for 220 yards and two touchdowns for a passer rating of 111.3 and tacked on three carries for 20 yards as the Niners jumped on the Steelers early and didn't need much from the passing game in the second half.
According to NFL research, Purdy became the first quarterback in NFL history to win his first six regular-season starts and throw at least two touchdown passes in each game. He's also the first quarterback to post a passer rating of 95.0 or better in each of his first six regular-season starts.
With some help from a defense that allowed just 239 total yards with five sacks and two interceptions, running back Christian McCaffrey, who rushed for 152 yards and a touchdown with three catches for 17 yards and Brandon Aiyuk, who became the first Niners receiver to have at least 100 yards receiving and two TDs in the opener since J.J. Stokes in 1998, Purdy and the Niners never trailed on Sunday.
It was an ideal start to the season for a team that has been harping on the importance of a fast start after beginning the past two seasons 2-4 and 3-4 and playing more road games than it would prefer in the postseason.
And with Purdy healthy, San Francisco believes the best is yet to come.
"He's taken this whole offseason as good as you can as a quarterback being injured," head coach Kyle Shanahan said. "He's done everything he can to come back and he handles the pressure well and he really doesn't change. I think that's why the guys love him and I think that's why he will continue to get better."
On Tuesday, Aiyuk said in a radio interview with KNBR's "Murph and Mac" show that Purdy has been doing well since he came in to replace Jimmy Garoppolo during last season's Dolphins game.
"Purdy, I'm enjoying playing with him," Aiyuk said, via David Bonilla of 49erswebzone.com. "He gives us confidence every single week. He gives us a bunch of confidence. So much confidence going in every game that not only are we going to win the game, but you have a chance to have a great game as well. So I'm loving playing with him.
"I'm not sure I can even define what 'it' is, but he has 'it.'"
Aiyuk added that Purdy plays with "an extreme poise, but also poise and urgency."
"He's never too lagged," Aiyuk said. "He's just always on point. He's on point. He's ready to go. He plays with that swag that just bleeds all the way down to the rest of the offense, down to the rest of the team, that everybody can build off. Like I said, he has 'it.'"
Aiyuk and Purdy will try to keep things rolling against the Rams in Week 2.
Worth noting, the 49ers' slow starts of the past two seasons (2-4 and 3-4) haven't prevented them from reaching the NFC Championship Game in either year. But those early losses have made the road to get there and beyond much longer and tougher. Which is why they emphasized the need to come out of the gates as fast as possible this year, with a long-term goal of cementing the NFC's No. 1 seed and home games throughout the postseason.
Sunday's convincing win in Pittsburgh was a step in the right direction, and with their next three games against the Rams, New York Giants and Arizona Cardinals, there's reason to think the Niners are well on their way to the type of start that could pay big dividends come January. ...
On the injury front. ... The Niners came out of the game healthy as CB Ambry Thomas cleared concussion protocol during the game and again on Monday. ...
After battling a right quad injury and a couple of rough preseason games, PK Jake Moody, the No. 99 pick in this year's NFL draft responded with a perfect debut, connecting on all three of his field goal attempts and all three extra point tries.
QBs: Brock Purdy, Sam Darnold, Brandon Allen
RBs: Christian McCaffrey, Elijah Mitchell, Jordan Mason, Tyrion Davis-Price, Kyle Juszczyk
WRs: Brandon Aiyuk, Deebo Samuel, Jauan Jennings, Ray-Ray McCloud, Ronnie Bell, Danny Gray
TEs: George Kittle, Charlie Woerner, Brayden Willis, Ross Dwelley, Cameron Latu
Seattle SeahawksCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 12 September 2023
DK Metcalf and Quandre Diggs lost their cool with personal fouls caused by frustration. Geno Smith and Seattle's offense were booed off the field.
Both starting offensive tackles were injured and the stands were mostly vacant by the time the final play was snapped.
According to Associated Press sports writer Tim Booth, the Seattle Seahawks season opener could not have gone much worse.
"A very difficult day to take for the opener and everybody's expectations," head coach Pete Carroll said Monday. "Nobody's were higher than ours, but everybody's expectations were dashed a bit to get this thing started."
Seattle's 30-13 loss to the Los Angeles Rams in the opener was the worst home loss for the Seahawks in six years and one of the worst home defeats in Carroll's tenure. The Seahawks have always found ways to be competitive even in defeat, but the performance against the Rams was a deflating effort that left players questioning whether Los Angeles simply wanted to win more.
That's never a great way to start a season, let alone one where the Seahawks believed they could improve on last season's 9-8 record that made them a playoff team.
"It just looked like they were playing harder and that's why they won," Smith, who completed 16-of-26 passes for 112 yards and a touchdown pass, said after the game.
There were plenty of issues for Seattle, but an offense that managed 12 yards and had just one first down in the second half has to be at the top of the list. The Seahawks ran just 14 offensive plays and had only 5:06 time of possession in the second half.
Generally speaking, Seattle seemed rushed in the tempo of its offense against the Rams at a time when the struggles probably called for the Seahawks to move slower.
Meanwhile, ESPN.com's Brady Henderson reports that Metcalf's latest 15-yard penalty led to a long talk with Carroll on Sunday night, and the coach hopes the message will finally stick with his star wide receiver.
"We'll wait and see how that goes," Carroll said in his afternoon news conference Monday, after mentioning the postgame conversation with Metcalf earlier in the day on his weekly radio show. "He was great talking about the end of the game and all that stuff. We had a great conversation, very serious, man-to-man down to it. He wants to be great and he wants to do everything he can to be great, and so we'll figure it out."
Metcalf was penalized for taunting late in the fourth quarter. According to ESPN Stats and Information research, it was the eighth time in his career that he's been flagged for either taunting, unsportsmanlike conduct, unnecessary roughness or disqualification -- the most in the NFL since he debuted in 2019.
In 2021, Metcalf acknowledged that he had to be more disciplined in heated moments, saying that defenders were trying to bait him into losing his cool -- and often succeeding. But the problem has persisted.
"DK and I talked for a long time last night about [how] that's not what we can allow to happen because that means that they can control him and get after him," Carroll said on his Seattle Sports 710-AM radio show Monday. "So, he has to elevate above that. So it's a challenge. This is nothing new. DK's been an emotional, feisty, fiery player since the day he got here, and that is who he is. But he has to also manage that so they don't take advantage of it."
The taunting penalty occurred at the 4:35 mark of the fourth quarter Sunday with the Seahawks trailing by 14 points. Metcalf shoved cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon to the ground with a block from the side at the end of a play, upsetting Rams players and coaches.
Witherspoon, who spent the 2021 offseason with the Seahawks, remained on the ground in apparent pain. The flag was the result of the jawing that ensued between Metcalf and the Rams' sideline as the two teams were lining up for the next play.
Instead of a second-and-2 from their own 43, the Seahawks faced second-and-17 from the 28 and punted after sacks on consecutive plays.
"I seen their coaches yelling at me or saying something to me, and their players, and I let that get to me and I retaliated," said Metcalf, who caught three passes for 47 yards and scored Seattle's only touchdown. "The second man always gets called. I've just got to be better in that aspect."
It doesn't get easier for Seattle going to Detroit in Week 2. The Seahawks haven't started a season 0-2 since 2018 when they lost their first two games on the road, but still managed to finish at 10-6. Seattle has started 0-2 three times under Carroll, but in all three occasions the Seahawks played their first two games on the road. ...
Also on Monday, Carroll confirmed an NFL Network report that the Seahawks plan to bring in veteran left tackle Jason Peters for a visit. He was subsequently signed to the practice squad and could be promoted to the active roster this week.
Seattle's interest in the 41-year-old Peters -- a nine-time Pro Bowl selection and two-time first-team All-Pro -- comes as both of the team's starting tackles deal with injuries that knocked them out of the opener. Carroll said right tackle Abe Lucas (patellar) and left tackle Charles Cross (toe) are day-to-day.
Asked if the interest in Peters is a sign that Cross' injury is bad, Carroll noted that both tackles are injured and that the team is "a little concerned" about their statuses. Peters has played only 46 snaps at right tackle since 2007, according to ESPN Stats and Information. He played in 10 games last season for the Dallas Cowboys, making one start.
Safety Jamal Adams is still on track to begin practicing this week, per Carroll, though he'll likely be limited. Adams, who missed most of last season after suffering a torn quad tendon in the opener, has taken part only in walk-throughs since he was activated off the physically unable to perform list on Aug. 24.
Carroll said on his radio show there's "a really good chance" that rookie cornerback Devon Witherspoon makes his NFL debut Sunday at the Detroit Lions. Witherspoon, the fifth overall pick, wasn't ready to play in the opener after missing most of training camp because of a hamstring injury. ...
Wide receiver Tyler Lockett was evaluated for a concussion during the game, but nothing came from it. Lockett returned to finish with two catches (on four targets) for 10 yards.
Kenneth Walker III carried the ball 12 times for 64 yards, adding four catches for three yards.
Coming off a groin injury that sidelined him for several weeks in camp and then limited him in practice last Thursday, there was some concern that Walker would be limited or lack his explosive running style.
Though he didn't find the end zone this week, it was clear that he wasn't hampered by the issue at all.
Walker ceded just five carries to his backups and finished the day tied for a team-high in targets.
QBs: Geno Smith, Drew Lock
RBs: Kenneth Walker III, Zach Charbonnet, DeeJay Dallas, Kenny McIntosh
WRs: DK Metcalf, Tyler Lockett, Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Jake Bobo, Cody Thompson, Dareke Young
TEs: Noah Fant, Will Dissly, Colby Parkinson
Tampa Bay BuccaneersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 12 September 2023
As Associated Press sports writer Fred Goodall put it, "The Tampa Bay Buccaneers launched their post-Tom Brady era with a victory that bolsters the team's belief it can be successful without the seven-time Super Bowl winner. ..."
It wasn't pretty. However, a 20-17 season-opening win at Minnesota underscored what coach Todd Bowles has been preaching since the day Brady retired last winter: Replacing the winningest player in NFL history is impossible, but there's still enough talent on a revamped roster to be competitive and win games as the Bucs chase a third consecutive NFC South title.
That includes Baker Mayfield, the former No. 1 overall draft pick of the Cleveland Browns who shrugged off a slow start Sunday to deliver a solid, turnover-free performance in his debut for his fourth team in just over two years.
Mayfield threw two touchdown passes, kicker Chase McLaughlin hit a 57-yard field goal and the Bucs' defense forced three Kirk Cousins turnovers to secure a victory.
As ESPN.com's Jenna Laine notes, heading into the contest, Mayfield had lost nine straight road starts, the second-longest active streak of any quarterback in the NFL. The Vikings had gone 11-0 last season in one-score games, and the Bucs were given just a 33 percent chance to win on Sunday as the third-largest underdog by ESPN Analytics.
"That was huge for us," head coach Todd Bowles said. "He played a gutsy, tough, mentally tough ballgame, and to make that throw at the end to Chris right there without even flinching. He was hit a few times, but he stuck with it. Baker's a winner. He's done this before. And the guys really love to rally around him."
The Bucs tabbed Mayfield, signed this offseason on a one-year deal worth up to $8.5 million, to be their starter three weeks ago after a summer long quarterback competition with 2021 second-round draft pick Kyle Trask.
Mayfield started Sunday's tilt just 3-for-11 for 12 yards, overthrowing a pass intended for tight end Ko Kieft on what should have been a touchdown and missing a connection with Mike Evans on a go route. There were challenges against new Vikings defensive coordinator Brian Flores' blitz packages despite that being a point of emphasis throughout the week.
"Not the prettiest start by any means," Mayfield said. "Every time we'd check, they would. And so that's kind of the story of what you saw in the first half right there. Just one of those things that was kind of a chess match at that point."
But things got things rolling with two minutes to go in the first half. Going no huddle, Mayfield completed a 14-yard pass to Chris Godwin on a post route -- the Bucs' first third-down conversion of the game -- and a 9-yard pass to Evans on an out route that brought the Bucs to the Minnesota 30, followed by a 2-yard carry by running back Rachaad White.
With 1:14 to go in the half, Evans caught a 28-yard touchdown on a post route to make it 10-10.
To open up the second half, Mayfield orchestrated a 16-play scoring drive that saw the offense come back on the field after Vikings cornerback Jay Ward jumped offsides on what would have been a 31-yard field goal attempt.
With new life inside the Vikings' 10-yard line, Mayfield found wideout Trey Palmer on a crossing route for a 7-yard touchdown to make it 17-10. On that play, the Vikings gave a Cover 0 look for an all-out blitz but wound up dropping eight into coverage, which afforded Mayfield time to scramble.
"We talked about that earlier in the week," Mayfield said. "[Quarterbacks coach] Thad Lewis had our red zone presentation and did a great job explaining, 'They're going to give you the same look, and it's just two different outcomes, so stay alive.'"
The Vikings stayed alive in the fourth quarter when Cousins found Alexander Mattison for a 4-yard touchdown pass to tie the game at 17-17. Afterward, Mayfield connected with Godwin and Evans on 16- and 6-yard passes, setting up McLaughlin's 57-yard boot with 5:15 to go. It was McLaughlin's personal best and tied him for the fifth-longest kick in Buccaneers history.
"Couldn't have drawn it up any better," Bowles said of McLaughlin, who signed with the Bucs this offseason in large part because of his ability from 50-plus yards. "That's what we got him for. He was accurate, got it through the uprights. He made a hell of a kick."
The Vikings outgained the Buccaneers in total yards 369-242, but Minnesota's three turnovers kept Tampa Bay in the game until Mayfield found his rhythm.
"I can't say enough about their defense and how they played," Mayfield said. "That's an incredible offense that we just played up against. A few turnovers. They did a really good job, especially with how many snaps they had to be on the field with us. ... I just can't say enough about our guys. Just playing the next play. Wasn't our prettiest effort by any means, but we finished the right way."
Well ... Mostly the right way.
Tampa Bay had the worst rushing attack in the NFL last season and wasn't much better against the Vikings, averaging just 2.2 yards per carry and finishing with 73 yards on 33 attempts. If there was an encouraging aspect to the performance, though, it was that the Bucs never stopped trying to run and did manage to produce a couple of crucial first downs late.
"The run doesn't always have to be pretty. If you can get 33 runs in and keep the defense off the field, it keeps (the opposing defense) out there longer and keeps them off Baker some," Bowles said. "The amount of carries was just as important as the yardage, if not more important."
Granted it's early, but a new-look, overhauled offensive line is still struggling to open holes for the running game.
White, who the Bucs feel is primed for a breakout season, was the feature back on Sunday, as he got in for 54 snaps. He out-snapped the Sean Tucker and Chase Edmonds by a wide margin. Tucker had 10 plays and Edmonds was in for eight.
White had the bulk of the work but tallied just 2.3 yards per rushing attempt on 17 carries for 39 yards. On the other hand, Tucker averaged three yards per attempt (five rushes for 15 yards) and Edmonds had four after gaining eight yards on two attempts.
As PewterReport.com noted, having a new offensive coordinator and system made it exciting for the first game to see how the Bucs would utilize their personnel.
The game got off to an unexpected start with backup tight end Kieft getting the first two targets of the game and three in the first half, but it was starting tight end Cade Otton who surprisingly had the most snaps outside of quarterback and the offensive line with 66 of out 68 (97 percent).
We know the Bucs are going to feature the tight end and plenty of 12 personnel often this season, but for Otton to be an ironman playing that much was interesting right out of the gate. Dave Canales called Otton a Swiss army knife, so clearly he trusts him in any type of formation. Kieft played almost half of the snaps with 32 (47 percent) while reserve tight end David Wells played in eight plays (12 percent).
It was also interesting to see how the rest of the wide receiver group would be utilized -- outside of Evans and Godwin -- after Russell Gage was out for the season. It was very much a by-committee approach, as Palmer accounted for 23 snaps, Deven Thompkins had 18 and Rakim Jarrett was in on six plays. ...
Next up, dual-threat quarterback Justin Fields and the Chicago Bears visit Raymond James Stadium on Sunday.
QBs: Baker Mayfield, Kyle Trask
RBs: Rachaad White, Chase Edmonds, Sean Tucker, Ke'Shawn Vaughn
WRs: Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, Trey Palmer, Kaylon Geiger, Deven Thompkins, Rakim Jarrett, Russell Gage
TEs: Cade Otton, Ko Kieft, Payne Durham
Tennessee TitansCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 12 September 2023
According to Associated Press sports writer Teresa M. Walker, the Tennessee Titans realize they have to play better and know exactly what they need to fix.
They also aren't panicking after a one-point loss on the road in one of the NFL's toughest places to play.
Head coach Mike Vrabel said Monday that new right guard Daniel Brunskill reminded him after their 16-15 loss in New Orleans that the San Francisco 49ers also lost their opener a year ago and still reached the NFC championship game.
"We need to keep improving," Vrabel said. "And we say this all the time. The teams that improve are going to be the ones that are playing in January."
The Titans didn't score a single touchdown with Ryan Tannehill playing his worst game. That didn't help an offense that ranked 28th in the NFL last season in scoring.
Vrabel made a bunch of offseason moves in trying to boost the offense, firing coordinator Todd Downing and promoting Tim Kelly along with making other position changes. The Titans held the ball longer than the Saints but settled for three field goals on three drives inside the New Orleans 13.
ESPN.com's Turron Davenport pointed out the broke away from what has been their winning formula on Sunday.
Tennessee had traditionally used running back Derrick Henry as a hammer to wear down defenses and then gone for the knockout blow in the fourth quarter.
They had an opportunity to do that in New Orleans when it got the ball on its own 27-yard line with 6 minutes, 42 seconds left on the clock, down by one point. But instead of riding Henry to the lead, the Titans utilized rookie back Tyjae Spears, who rushed for 8 yards on the drive's first play, eventually leading to a 29-yard field goal to pull within one point with a little over two minutes left.
Spears' 33 snaps were five more than Henry, who saw the field for 28 plays.
"We're just trying to get everybody involved," Vrabel said Monday. "Let's continue to find ways to get Tyjae and Derrick in there."
Henry led the NFL in rushing attempts in three of the past four seasons, accounting for an NFL-high 36 percent of the Titans' yards on offense, according to ESPN Stats and Information. During that stretch, Tennessee made an AFC Championship Game appearance and won consecutive AFC South Division titles.
Vrabel admitted to trying to run a few times with Henry, but it wasn't successful. Henry had five carries for 12 yards in the fourth quarter, including two for minus-1 yard on the final drive. Henry finished with 15 carries for 63 yards and caught two passes for 56.
At 29 years old, Henry is in the final year of a four-year, $50 million contract with the Titans he signed in July 2020. The offseason was tough sledding for running backs in search of a new contract.
The New York Giants signed 26-year-old back Saquon Barkley to a one-year, $11 million contract after placing the franchise tag on him. Josh Jacobs led the NFL with 1,653 rushing yards but had the franchise tag placed on him before agreeing to a one-year, $11.7 million deal with the Las Vegas Raiders.
The devaluation of the running back position caused player to have a Zoom call that blossomed from a group text that Henry sent to the league's top ball carriers.
Henry made it clear that he isn't frustrated about not getting the ball in the season opener as much as he usually does.
"I trust the coaching staff, what we do," Henry said. "Everybody needs to touch the ball. It's not all about me."
When asked about Henry's involvement going forward, Vrabel said the Saints game was an outlier.
"We're going to need Derrick and everybody so we can figure out what we can do consistently," Vrabel said. "Derrick will be a huge part of that, I can assure you."
But Sunday's outcome might have the coach rethinking that.
When Vrabel decided to let Nick Folk kick his fifth field goal with 2:17 left from the Saints 27, the Titans became the 12th team since 2000 to try a field goal trailing by 4 to 8 points in the final three minutes of regulation.
Only Detroit won after making such a decision and needed overtime in 2015 to beat the Bears.
The 38-year-old made all five field goals after being acquired via trade at the NFL final roster cutdown. Folk made a 58-yarder in pregame warmups, then made kicks of 50, 27, 31, 45 and 29 yards. That's a promise of consistency for a position that has been a big issue going back to the 2019 season.
It's never good when the kicker is the hero of day.
It's definitely not god when your quarterback is the weak spot.
The 35-year-old Tannehill is in the final year of his contract. He had just the third game of his career and first since his rookie season with three interceptions and no touchdown passes.
Tannehill forced throws to receiver DeAndre Hopkins, resulting in two of the interceptions. He overthrew tight end Chig Okonkwo on a trick play that would have been a TD and then Spears on the next series with room to run. His pass to receiver Chris Moore in double coverage was underthrown as he missed seeing a wide-open Okonkwo.
"Ryan has to be better," Vrabel said. "We have to hit guys that are open, and we can't force the ball into double coverage."
The Titans will need to fix things quickly with the Chargers opening as a three-point road favorite. The Titans' early schedule is not favorable with three of the next four away from Nashville after the home opener.
QBs: Will Levis, Ryan Tannehill, Malik Willis
RBs: Derrick Henry, Tyjae Spears, Julius Chestnut
WRs: DeAndre Hopkins, Treylon Burks, Nick Westbrook_Ikhine, Kyle Philips, Colton Dowell, Chris Moore
TEs: Chigoziem Okonkwo, Josh Whyle, Trevon Wesco
Washington CommandersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 12 September 2023
As ESPN.com's John Keim framed it, "The Washington Commanders saw the good. Quarterback Sam Howell extended two plays in the red zone that both resulted in touchdowns, using his arm and then his feet. He displayed resiliency and, at times, delivered strikes. It's why they named him the starter.
"They also saw the bad. Howell scrambled away from pressure, holding the ball too loose, which led to a strip sack and a fumble recovery for a touchdown. He also occasionally held the ball too long. It's why it'll take time for him to fully develop. ..."
Keim went on to explain that for a quarterback making his second NFL start, the ups and downs were to be expected and highlight what the Commanders can build upon -- and what Howell must correct moving forward, starting Sunday at the Denver Broncos.
"It's one of those things: You're never as bad as you think and never as good as you think," head coach Ron Rivera said after the Commanders' 20-16 win over the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday. "There were some really good things, some good rhythm. And then there were some things where you go, 'Oh, why did you do that?'"
Howell completed 19 of 31 passes for 202 yards, with one touchdown pass and an interception. He also ran for the winning score in the fourth quarter. He finished with a QBR of 45.5 -- at 17th, he ranked right in the middle of the quarterbacks for Week 1 prior to Monday night's game.
With a new offensive coordinator in Eric Bieniemy and new starters at four offensive line positions, inconsistency is to be expected -- even if it's not wanted.
The good news for Washington is, despite turning the ball over three times against Arizona, it still won the game. For Washington to win while its offense -- and Howell -- endure growing pains it must take care of the ball better.
But a lot of this season will rest on Howell's development.
Some of the traits he displayed Sunday have long been there and remain a key reason why Washington likes him -- and why the coaches are confident he can be a good starting quarterback.
Despite turning the ball over twice Sunday, Howell's resiliency showed. After his first-quarter interception, he drove the team to the 19-yard line before running back Antonio Gibson fumbled. After Howell's second-quarter fumble for a touchdown, he led a 69-yard drive with 49 seconds left that ended in a field goal.
Howell also was sacked six times -- a combination of mistakes, including some by his protection and some by him. He was also drilled at the end of one run, drawing a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on the defense. Yet he didn't flinch.
"It is a trademark of his, how tough he is," Rivera said. "He took a couple big shots. One thing he has to learn is he can't leave himself exposed like he did. He'll learn that and he'll learn that quickly."
The Commanders won because their highly touted defense came to life and took over late. Even with that, it wasn't a masterpiece.
Howell knows limiting those mistakes is where the work begins.
"I've got to make sure I protect the football," Howell said. "Turnovers, penalties, sacks -- just a lot of things I think I can do better. ..."
Other notes of interest. ... Gibson's fumble will do him no favors as new offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy decides how to split the carries. Brian Robinson Jr. already is the clear No. 1, getting 19 of the 25 designed handoffs to a running back.
"I know what I need to correct," Gibson said. "I know what happened, so just wash it out and get to the next play. ..."
Terry McLaurin caught 2-of-4 targets for 31 yards, but he was on the field for his usual number of routes despite battling through a toe issue the past few weeks. It is to be determined how big of a help or hindrance Howell is going to be, but Rotoworld suggests it would be safer to call McLaurin a WR3 than WR2 for Week 2 against the Broncos as Washington readies for Denver's Patrick Surtain-keyed coverage.
Jahan Dotson led the Commanders' receiver corps in targets (catching 5-of-7 for 40 yards), though Logan Thomas led the entire team with eight.
That's a more than 25 percent target share for 32-year-old Thomas, though three of his missed connections were drops. It is still the kind of usage that can keep Thomas on the TE2 streamer radar.
Curtis Samuel caught 5-of-5 targets for 54 yards. ...
Cut by the New York Giants, former Washington wide receiver Jamison Crowder rejoined his first team last week on the practice squad and was elevated to the active roster for the Cardinals game. Crowder was sure-handed on three returns and is getting a spot on the 53-man roster as a result.
Chase Young's status bears watching after he missed the Cardinals game with a neck injury. He and the team have called it a stinger since Young left four snaps into the preseason opener on Aug. 11.
QBs: Sam Howell, Jacoby Brissett
RBs: Brian Robinson Jr., Antonio Gibson, Chris Rodriguez
WRs: Terry McLaurin, Jahan Dotson, Curtis Samuel, Dyami Brown, Jamison Crowder, Byron Pringle, Mitchell Tinsley, Dax Milne
TEs: Logan Thomas, Cole Turner, John Bates