Team Notes week 2 2018
NEWS, NOTES, RUMORS AND OTHER GOOD STUFF
Directly from the desk of FlashUpdate Editor Bob Harris. The good; the bad; and yes. ... Even the Bears. There is no better way to jump start your weekend than browsing these always educational -- often irreverent -- team-by-team, Fantasy-specific offerings. ...
Access specific teams by clicking on a team name in the schedule appearing directly to your left or by clicking on a helmet below; return to the helmets by hitting the link labeled "Menu" following each teams notes. ...
Arizona CardinalsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 12 September 2018
A day after signing his three-year extension that made him the fifth running back in NFL history to get $30 million guaranteed, David Johnson spent the first drive of Sunday's game against the Redskins demonstrating why he's worth that kind of money.
As ESPN.com's Josh Weinfuss noted, Johnson unleashed a series of jump-cuts, leaving Washington defenders in his wake. The combination of power and speed that helped him dominate in 2016 was back. Albeit briefly. By the time the Cardinals punted to end their first possession, he had rushed for 23 yards on four carries and caught another pass for 4 yards.
"I think we saw a small glimpse of what he's capable of doing today -- not only in the running game, but the passing game," wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald said. "He's able to break tackles and turn small catches into big plays."
Then Johnson's story turned.
From that point until late in the fourth quarter, Johnson wasn't a factor. He ran for 14 more yards the rest of the game, in large part because the more the Cardinals trailed, the more they had to abandon the run.
As soon as the Cardinals went down 7-0 early in the first quarter, offensive coordinator Mike McCoy began transitioning to the pass.
"David's really good," quarterback Sam Bradford said. "He had some great runs in the first half. Unfortunately, we just had to get away from the run. It takes a little bit out of the playbook when we have to get away from it.
"It takes some of the play-action stuff away, but he has showed that he's special when he touches the football."
Johnson didn't blame McCoy's decisions. He praised McCoy's ability to adapt. But the more McCoy tried to play catch-up, the less he used the team's newest multimillionaire.
By the end of Arizona's 24-6 loss to Washington, however, Johnson's contract was far from his mind.
"I am thinking about the loss, what I did wrong, mental errors, dropped catches and how bad I played," he said.
He blamed himself for missing a "couple holes" and not blocking well enough. He blamed himself for the defense playing 17 more minutes than the offense.
"I didn't play my best game," Johnson said.
Johnson didn't need $39 million to set lofty expectations for himself, but now that he signed the rich deal, everyone else will put them on his shoulders. And by the way Arizona's offense played Sunday, putting up 213 total yards while converting one third down in 21 minutes, 52 seconds of possession, it will need Johnson to play up to his new deal. He finished with 67 total yards from scrimmage.
But he'll need help.
Right guard Justin Pugh said the Cardinals "100 percent pressed" when they started to trail. The more they press, the more bad things happen, Pugh added.
"I don't think there's any pressure," Pugh added. "I didn't go out there and play differently today just because I signed a big deal in the offseason. Maybe it's because it happened the day before the game [for Johnson].
"He probably was dealing with some stuff -- a lot of emotions, a lot of people texting you. I think everything will calm down for all of us. The way the game unfolded for us, it was just bad from the get-go. We don't want to be the type of team that's down, throwing the ball like that. Obviously, we need balance, and that's tough. It's something we got to work on, look at the film, break down what happened and correct those things."
Meanwhile, the team's official website noted the struggles of Bradford -- notably his inaccuracy after a training camp and preseason that highlighted the opposite -- were obvious against Washington.
"It was very surprising because he's usually pretty accurate in this throws and putting it where it needs to be," Wilks said. "Why was that, I couldn't tell you. But it's the first game. We have a lot of football left."
In a first half during which the Cardinals only ran 13 offensive plays (plus a kneel down to end the half), Bradford threw seven passes, completing three for only 11 yards -- career-low yardage in a half for Bradford. Only one of the passes was for more than five yards downfield, save for a throwaway.
Bradford's first pass of the second half was down the field, a gain of 27 to Larry Fitzgerald. By then, the Cardinals already trailed, 21-0. Wilks said one of the reasons deep threat J.J. Nelson only played one offensive snap (it came in the first half) was because the big deficit changed the offensive plan and Nelson's place in it.
Bradford was 17-for-27 for 142 yards in the second half.
Wide receiver Chad Williams said the Cardinals have much more in the passing playbook to unveil down the field, and Wilks said he was "happy" with his current five wide receivers on the roster.
Johnson had the second-most targets (nine, behind Fitzgerald's 10) and tight end Ricky Seals-Jones had six. Williams and Christian Kirk were the only non-Fitzgerald wide receivers targeted. They made one catch for four yards (Kirk) on five tries.
Wilks addressed the receivers the Cards had in for tryouts last week - Braxton Miller and Corey Coleman - saying it was just part of the ongoing work to bolster the back end of the roster. This week, Wilks added, the Cards will work out some tight ends and linebackers.
QBs: Sam Bradford, Josh Rosen, Mike Glennon
RBs: David Johnson, Chase Edmonds, T.J. Logan
WRs: Larry Fitzgerald, Christian Kirk, Chad Williams
TEs: Jermaine Gresham, Ricky Seals-Jones, Gabe Holmes
Atlanta FalconsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 12 September 2018
Head coach Dan Quinn said Friday that "yes," he was happy with the variety in offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian's red zone play calling despite the team going 1-for-5 in the red zone during Thursday night's 18-12 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles.
The rest of us? Not so much. ...
The Falcons managed just nine points on those five red zone opportunities, with a 9-yard touchdown run by Tevin Coleman and a 21-yard field goal by Matt Bryant. Bryant missed the extra point on Coleman's red zone score.
"I was pleased with the variety in terms of calling plays, especially down in the red zone," Quinn said Friday after watching the tape. "There's certain ones that you could do from the 5 [yard line] to the 10. When you get back, get a little bit further, you can throw over the top of somebody still. When you're down closer, obviously you can't throw over a defender anymore. Back line is good. Outside toward the pylon is good.
"So, we were pleased with 'where.' What we were not pleased with was the execution of it. That's not to say it's just players. That's all of us: getting the right design, the right training. ... Our execution will be better. I reminded the guys [Thursday] night is not going to define the year in the red zone. It just showed we've got plenty of work ahead of us to do."
Matt Ryan admitted to having a poor outing and was 1-for-8 for 3 yards in the red zone, with an interception on a ball intended for Julio Jones. He missed running back Devonta Freeman on what should have been a touchdown pass during a third-and-goal play from the Eagles' 1-yard line on the team's first series. The Falcons got the matchup they wanted after Ryan motioned Freeman out of the backfield, but the throw was off the mark.
As ESPN.com's Vaughn McClure reminded readers, the Falcons made cleaning up the red zone woes their primary emphasis this offseason and during the preseason, but both Jones and Freeman sat out all four preseason games to preserve their bodies for the regular season, which might have affected timing. Quinn previously expressed no regret about holding Jones and Freeman out of the preseason.
The first drive also featured the "heavy package" with three tight ends and a fullback at one point. Quinn said going with such personnel was the reason why Jones was not on the field for three plays from the 1-yard line. In fact, no receivers were on the field.
Ryan missed a throw to Jones in the game's final seconds that could have led to victory. It was a fade from an inside alignment, with Jones inside Mohamed Sanu. The goal was to free one of them up versus man-to-man coverage. Jones ran behind Sanu and got the single coverage, but Ryan's throw forced Jones too wide and out of bounds.
"Probably just us executing that play at the end, we've got to nail that," Quinn said. "We had the right [play] on. If there was a double that goes to Julio, it goes to a certain player. If there's a double that goes to Mohamed or stays where it was, it goes somewhere else. The read was correct in terms of where we wanted to go. We just didn't execute it. That's [why] we've got work to do."
Quinn said an open Sanu was missed on the second-down play during the final drive, when Ryan tried to hit a covered Jones in the end zone, with Jones working out of the slot. According to ESPN Stats and Information research, Ryan is 1-of-20 over the past two seasons, including the playoffs, when targeting Jones in the end zone. Ryan also has overthrown 12 of those 20 attempts.
The Falcons did not target Calvin Ridley, the first-round draft pick from Alabama, in the red zone versus the Eagles. They ran the ball five times in the red zone for 16 yards and the Coleman score.
On one goal-line play on fourth down, fullback Ricky Ortiz did not maintain his block, allowing the defender to pull down Freeman short of the end zone. The Falcons also gave up penetration to Eagles star Fletcher Cox on a goal line play that allowed the defensive tackle to stuff Freeman.
Quinn reiterated how the red zone failures in the opener don't have to define what occurs for the duration of the season. The Falcons return to action in Week 2 against the Carolina Panthers, a team they averaged 19.5 points against in two meetings last season.
Worth noting. ... As ESPN's Mike Clay reminded readers this week, Panthers cornerback James Bradberry shadowed Jones in Week 9 last season and Jones ripped off six catches for 118 yards on 11 targets. Carolina didn't shadow in the Week 16 meeting and Jones managed seven catches for 149 yards.
According to Clay, it's possible Bradberry and second-round rookie Donte Jackson turn into a solid duo, but they're unlikely to be able to slow down Jones, who is coming off a 19-target Week 1 effort against the Eagles. Jones also will run a quarter of his routes in the slot against Captain Munnerlyn, who struggled in Week 1 after a rough 2017. Clay believes Sanu is a sneaky bet for a bounce-back this week.
On the injury front. ... Freeman, who banged a knee in Thursday's loss, said after the game that he was fine. But Quinn told reporters before Wednesday's practice that Freeman has been experiencing soreness and will sit out practice as a result. They’ll practice twice more this week before issuing a final injury report for Sunday’s game against the Panthers.
Coleman would get the start if Freeman is unable to play.
Fourth-round pick Ito Smith and recent practice squad promotion Brian Hill round out the running back group in Atlanta. ...
A few final items. ... The Falcons announced signings of LB Corey Nelson and S Keith Tandy on Monday. They already lost starting strong safety Keanu Neal for the season with a torn ACL and on Tuesday placed middle linebacker Deion Jones on IR with a foot injury. Jones' absence will be significant considering the impact he has on the defense with his speed and coverage ability.
When Jones sat out in preseason, WLB Duke Riley stepped in at MLB and Nelson known more as a WLB. Quinn said he was first looking at Damontae Kazee and newcomer Jordan Richards to replace Neal so we will see how things play out with the addition of Tandy.
QBs: Matt Ryan, Matt Schaub
RBs: Devonta Freeman, Tevin Coleman, Ito Smith
WRs: Julio Jones, Mohamed Sanu, Calvin Ridley, Justin Hardy, Marvin Hall, Russell Gage
TEs: Austin Hooper, Logan Paulsen, Eric Saubert
Baltimore RavensCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 12 September 2018
According to ESPN.com's Jamison Hensley, what everyone saw in the Ravens' season-opening 47-3 win over the Bills is exactly what the wide receivers witnessed three months ago.
Joe Flacco's timing, confidence and rapport with all of his new targets -- Michael Crabtree, John Brown and Willie Snead IV -- happened almost immediately at the Ravens' spring minicamp.
"It's really just showing the world," Crabtree said.
What Flacco and his new receivers showed on Sunday was a touchdown party. Through a driving rain, Flacco clicked with each one in the end zone in their first game together.
How significant is that? Flacco threw three or more touchdowns to his wide receivers in a single game for only the fifth time in his 11-year career and for the first time since October 2014.
"It's definitely good for us to go out there as a team and as an offense, speaking as the quarterback, to have the kind of game we did for sure," Flacco said. "If we didn't score 40 points and we scored 25, and we still won, it's the same outcome, but there's something to be said about going out there and playing the way we did today. Just how everybody feels or how we feel as players, it can take you to another level."
The first glimpse of how explosive this offense can be occurred on the opening drive. Faced with a second-and-26, Flacco rolled to his right and threw across the field to Brown for a 29-yard completion. Six plays later, running back Alex Collins ran for a touchdown.
After that, the Ravens' next three trips to the end zone came from Flacco hitting one of his free-agent additions.
Flacco's first touchdown pass was a 7-yarder to Brown, but it was set up by Crabtree, who ran an inside route that drew the attention of a safety. That created a wide-open throwing window to Brown in the back of the end zone.
"We all work together," Crabtree said. "Whoever's got the clear cut, whoever's got the double-team, we have to make sure it happens. We're unselfish. Right now, we're just having fun."
Right before halftime, Flacco placed a fine touch pass to Crabtree in the back of the end zone for a 12-yard touchdown. With cornerback Phillip Gaines draped on him, Crabtree was able to come down with his right foot in bounds and then dragged his left toe for the score.
Crabtree's prowess in the red zone was a big reason why the Ravens signed him this offseason.
"Crabtree has a special way of running routes and getting in position and making big catches," Flacco said.
Flacco's final touchdown was supposed to go to tight end Nick Boyle, but Snead negated the score with an offensive pass interference penalty. On the next play, Snead redeemed himself by catching a 13-yard pass over the middle and diving into the end zone.
"I was joking with Willie, I said he knew the second play call," Flacco said. "After he committed that OPI, he knew he was going to get the ball, and that's why he just set it up on purpose."
It's easy to downplay Baltimore's success because the Ravens were playing the Bills. But Buffalo allowed the second-fewest touchdown passes in the league last season.
By the time the Ravens pulled a majority of their starters in the middle of the third quarter, Crabtree (three catches for 38 yards), Brown (three for 44) and Snead (four for 49) were feeling they had shown only a glimpse of their potential together.
"It was an awesome feeling," Snead said. "If it wasn't raining, I can only imagine what we could have done."
As NFL.com put it, "Flacco certainly doesn't look like he needs an in-house QB competitor to push him to new heights in quarterbacking. ..."
He completed 25 of 34 passes for 236 yards and three touchdowns before letting Lamar Jackson take his first regular-season snaps as an NFL quarterback. His 121.7 passer rating was the seventh highest of his career.
Other notes of interest. ... Running back Kenneth Dixon suffered a knee injury that led the team to place him on injured reserve Wednesday. Dixon limped off in the final two minutes against the Bills.
Injuries have been a significant issue for the third-year running back and it appears that will continue. He missed all last season with a meniscus tear in his knee and dealt with other injuries this summer.
With Dixon out, the only had two other running backs on the roster with Collins and Javorius Allen. Harbaugh indicated that Baltimore could operate with just two active running backs Thursday night against the Bengals.
"We've done it before," he said. "We'll just have to see how it plays out."
The team did add running back De'Lance Turner to the roster after Dixon went on IR, but it's not clear if Turner would be ready to contribute Thursday night. ...
Tight end Hayden Hurst (foot) and defensive tackle Willie Henry (abdomen) are still not practicing. Both were estimated to be out a few weeks when they underwent surgery about two weeks ago.
QBs: Joe Flacco, Lamar Jackson, Robert Griffin III
RBs: Alex Collins, Javorius Allen
WRs: Michael Crabtree, John Brown, Willie Snead, Chris Moore, Jordan Lasley, Janarion Grant
TEs: Nick Boyle, Mark Andrews, Maxx Williams, Hayden Hurst
Buffalo BillsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 12 September 2018
As NFL.com suggested, "Perhaps the Bills should make an offer for Le'Veon Bell the Steelers can't refuse. ..."
Kidding aside, the preseason didn't foreshadow the immense struggles Buffalo encountered on offense Sunday. Second-year quarterback Nathan Peterman had a miserable afternoon, finishing the game with 5 of 18 passing for 24 yards and two interceptions before getting pulled in favor of Josh Allen in the third quarter.
The line in front of him hardly did him any favors and the running game only complemented the misery of the passing game as Peterman posted a QB rating of 0.0. Allen performed slightly better than Peterman in his limited playing time against the Ravens' reserves, completing 6 of 15 passes for 74 yards.
That left head coach Sean McDermott with the unenviable task of figuring out who should start in Week 2.
And with Peterman failing to finish a game in three career starts, ESPN's Chris Mortensen reported early Wednesday that Allen did enough to get that honor.
The Bills subsequently confirmed the news.
"It's the right move for our team," McDermott said in naming Allen the starter.
That doesn't mean it's the right move for fantasy football owners.
As Profootballtalk.com's Michael David Smith noted, Allen was obviously going to start eventually, considering that he was a Top 10 draft pick and Peterman has done nothing to lead anybody to believe he's a long-term answer. But it wasn’t clear whether the Bills wanted to make the move this soon, as there are concerns about whether the they have a good enough team around Allen to protect him from getting thrown to the wolves early in his rookie year.
That's why the decision wasn't immediate, with McDermott telling reporters after the game he would "look at the tape" and "be objective" about his decision on who starts this Sunday.
As ESPN.com's Mike Rodak put it, "The Bills (were) stuck between a rookie and a hard place at quarterback."
Peterman has been one of the worst starting quarterbacks in recent NFL history. Of the 227 quarterbacks who have started games since 2001, the second-year signal caller's 16.8 passer rating in his three starts ranks 224th. He has been replaced in all three of his career starts, either by poor play or injury.
So benching Peterman for Allen seems like the obvious move. That said, the Bills weren't markedly better under the newcomer, who completed 6 of 15 passes for 74 yards and took three sacks in mop-up duty Sunday. It's a reminder Allen will hardly serve as a quick fix. He needs plenty of development, so playing behind a porous offensive line with a shaky group of receivers might only stunt his growth.
Indeed, Sunday showed the Bills have plenty of problems beyond quarterback (their defense allowed the Ravens to score touchdowns on all six of their red zone trips).
But we all know the quarterback is the centerpiece of the team.
And the last time Peterman was the centerpiece against the Chargers, they intercepted him five times in the first half of his first career start last November. Allen will do what he can to avoid a similar outcome. ...
Meanwhile, as the Buffalo News noted, a series three-and-outs prevented the Bills from getting any rhythm, but somehow LeSean McCoy needs more than four first-half touches.
Kelvin Benjamin did not win his matchups with Brandon Carr. Charles Clay had just two targets. He was open on Allen's first sack, but the QB had locked onto Benjamin down the sideline. On the seven plays the Ravens blitzed, the Bills were 1 for 5 for minus-2 yards with two INTs and two sacks. ...
This week, it's worth noting that Chargers cornerback Casey Hayward didn't shadow against Kansas City last week, but he did shadow during 11 of the Chargers' games last season. According to ESPN's Mike Clay, these teams met in 2017, but Benjamin left early with an injury (Hayward had been shadowing him early on). T
hen with Carolina, Benjamin was shadowed by Hayward in one game back in 2016 and was limited to one catch for 11 yards on four targets.
That said, arguably the league's best corner is a strong bet to travel with Benjamin in Week 2. That's more trouble for Benjamin, who was limited to one catch for 10 yards on six targets during an atrocious display by the Buffalo offense in Baltimore last week. Combine the Bills' quarterback woes with a brutal matchup against Heyward, and Clay believes Benjamin needs to be on the bench.
Other notes of interest. ... Buffalo came out of the opener with a pair of injuries. Nickel corner Taron Johnson sustained a shoulder injury in the first half while making a tackle and did not return.
Meanwhile DE Shaq Lawson suffered a hamstring injury.
McDermott didn't have much to offer in the way of details Monday afternoon.
"Shaq and Taron are still being evaluated," he said.
The severity of both injuries will come into clearer focus on Wednesday when the first injury report of the week is released.
QBs: Josh Allen, Nathan Peterman
RBs: LeSean McCoy, Chris Ivory, Marcus Murphy, Taiwan Jones
WRs: Kelvin Benjamin, Zay Jones, Jeremy Kerley, Andre Holmes, Brandon Reilly
TEs: Charles Clay, Nick O'Leary, Logan Thomas
Carolina PanthersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 12 September 2018
As ESPN.com's David Newton framed it, "Attention NFL: Carolina Panthers offensive coordinator Norv Turner may be old in terms of football years, but he's not so old-school in his philosophy.
"He's going to take advantage of the weapons he has as promised. And quarterback Cam Newton is a weapon as a runner. ..."
David Newton went on to stress that notion Cam would run less with Turner, 66, at the helm was dispelled in Sunday's 16-8 season-opening victory over the Dallas Cowboys.
It actually was dispelled in the first half as Newton, who has rushed for more yards than any quarterback since he entered the league in 2011, carried seven times for 64 yards and a touchdown.
And most of these were designed runs, not scrambles.
Newton, who finished with 13 carries for 58 yards (several kneel-downs at the end), began with a carry for no gain on Carolina's second play. Three plays later, he went 16 yards up the middle after faking a handoff to running back Christian McCaffrey.
This was nothing like the play calling Turner did in the early 1990s at Dallas with Troy Aikman -- who happened to be in the booth calling the game -- at quarterback.
Then again, Turner has never had a weapon like Newton, whom he called in an interview with ESPN in April the NFL's most dangerous quarterback with the ball in his hands.
Newton definitely kept the Cowboys off balance even though the Panthers couldn't fully take advantage. His threat as a runner was seen on Carolina's second touchdown when McCaffrey gained 15 yards on an option left.
Newton's running was an afterthought this offseason and during the preseason. The focus was on the 2015 NFL MVP becoming more efficient and getting his career 58.5 completion percentage into the 65 to 70 percent range.
He did that, too, completing 65.3 percent of his attempts for 161 yards -- and no interceptions.
But it was Newton's ability as a runner that set the tone.
It also was the biggest surprise since no one knew for sure how much the quarterback would run with all the preseason talk about getting McCaffrey 25 to 30 touches a game. McCaffrey didn't come close. He carried 10 times for 50 yards and caught six passes for 45 yards.
This may be the style of play Carolina has to maintain to win while Newton gets used to a rebuilt receiving corps. That Pro Bowl tight end Greg Olsen left in the first half with an injury to the same right foot that required surgery and kept him out nine games a year ago also makes using Newton as a runner more necessary.
Olsen re-fractured his right foot, the team announced Tuesday. Olsen will avoid surgery at this time and will be evaluated on a month-to-month basis.
Injured reserve could be an option, which would wipe out at least eight weeks. But Olsen put out as positive a statement as possible given the circumstances.
"We are optimistic this is not how my 2018 season will end," Olsen said. "After consulting with our medical team, we have determined our best course of action is to press forward with my rehab in hopes of playing again this season. We will re-examine our options this offseason in regards to my foot and our path forward. I look forward to rejoining my teammates on the field as early as possible."
Olsen's injury wasn't the only bad news for the Panthers' offense. The team also announced that offensive tackle Daryl Williams will undergo knee surgery after exiting Sunday's game with an injury. He was placed on IR on Tuesday. The news is a big blow to an offensive line that has been dealing with injury issues all summer.
With Olsen out, the Panthers will likely turn to rookie Ian Thomas as their starting tight end, although Newton suggested the front office might need to make a roster move to add a tight end.
"You guys know how I feel about Greg, you can't ever replace him, his professionalism that he brings to the game, his overall outlook, his IQ, his understanding," Newton said. But the QB added that Thomas, listed at 6-3 and 260 pounds, "has been being prepared for this moment," in a way, even though he obviously won't be as productive as Olsen' right away.
Instead, it will be about Thomas' offensive teammates learning to gel with him as much as he still has to learn how to incorporate his skillset into Turner's offense.
If history is any indication, McCaffrey will see more balls thrown his way with Olsen out.
Whatever the case, this new offense remains a work in progress, but fortunately for the Panthers, they have Newton's old legs to rely on. ...
Also of interest. ... When wide receiver D.J. Moore "rushed" for 3 yards on the Panthers' third play from scrimmage, it appeared the first-round pick might be in for an eventful day. But he wound up playing just 17 snaps on offense and finished with more tackles (1) and punt returns (1 for 15 yards) than targets (0).
But Panthers.com's Bill Voth notes that shouldn't be surprising. The Panthers have asked Moore to learn all three wideout positions, which will take some time. So right now, he's understandably behind veterans like Jarius Wright, who's more familiar with Norv Turner's offense.
"Absolutely, just because of the plethora of receivers we have to choose from," Rivera said when asked if the plan is to bring Moore along slowly. "There's no need to force a guy on the field until he's truly ready. So he is going to be brought along at a pace that Norv and (wide receivers coach Lance Taylor) feel that he needs."
We'll see if Olsen's injury speeds that process.
QBs: Cam Newton, Taylor Heinicke
RBs: Christian McCaffrey, C.J. Anderson, Cameron Artis-Payne
WRs: Devin Funchess, Torrey Smith, D.J. Moore, Curtis Samuel, Jarius Wright, Damiere Byrd
TEs: Ian Thomas, Chris Manhertz, Greg Olsen
Chicago BearsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 12 September 2018
As ESPN.com's Jeff Dickerson noted, even in defeat, the Bears emerged from their heartbreaking 24-23 loss Sunday to the Packers as a possible future force to be reckoned in the NFC.
This after the Bears unveiled a creativity and explosiveness on offense not seen since the Marc Trestman honeymoon period in early 2013. The brief Trestman era turned out to be an abject failure, but these Bears appear to have staying power with a young core of talented skill-position players, many of whom are signed to lucrative, longer-term contracts.
In the NFL, it all starts and ends with the quarterback.
Second-year Bears signal-caller Mitchell Trubisky resembled the All-Pro in Sunday's opening half, not Aaron Rodgers, who left the game in the second quarter with a knee injury but returned triumphantly after halftime. Trubisky looked in complete control of Matt Nagy's offense, completing 8 of 9 pass attempts for 99 yards (112.5 quarterback rating) and rushing for a 2-yard touchdown as the Bears built a 17-0 halftime lead.
Everywhere you looked, the Bears had playmakers at Trubisky's disposal: Tarik Cohen, Allen Robinson, Trey Burton, Taylor Gabriel and Jordan Howard all made their presence known.
The Bears marched 86 yards on 10 plays for a touchdown on their first possession of the game, but they failed to get into the end zone again on nine subsequent drives. They settled for field goals on all three of their red-zone possessions after their first drive, failing to convert on third-and-goal from the 3, third-and-nine at the 15 and third-and-two at the 14.
"We're not there, but we will get there," Nagy said after the game.
Trubisky will continue to improve as he gains more experience and a greater grasp of the new offense. The second-year quarterback completed 23 of 35 passes for 171 yards and a 77.2 passer rating in Sunday night's loss.
"I felt getting in and out of the huddle, the things that he saw, the throws that he made, his footwork in the pocket, I thought he did a really good job with that," Nagy said Monday. "He played the way I knew he could play. Now we left some out there, too. But that's going to happen. Mitch is going to learn. He's going to keep growing. He understands that. First thing he said to me on the bus [Sunday night] was, 'How can I get better?' That's the best part about him and where we're at right now."
For his part, Nagy called plays that kept Green Bay's defense off balance during the first 20 minutes. However, the first-year head coach was probably a little too conservative in the final two quarters as the Bears unsuccessfully attempted to stave off the feisty Packers.
Remember, though, the Bears had one of the league's worst and most predictable offenses under former head coach John Fox. On Sunday night, Nagy used creative packages such as three running backs in the backfield and a trips formation that featured left tackle Charles Leno split out to the right as a slot receiver.
On defense, the Bears frustrated the Packers offense until the final quarter, led by new arrival Khalil Mack, who earned every penny of the massive six-year, $141 million contract he recently signed. Mack dominated Green Bay's offense, recording a sack, forced fumble and fumble recovery -- all on the same play -- and a 27-yard interception return for a touchdown prior to halftime.
The rest of Chicago's defense did its part, too, until its end-of-game collapse.
Green Bay's late rally proved the Bears are still vulnerable, but the NFC North just got a whole lot more interesting.
On the injury front. ... Tight end Daniel Brown (shoulder) and safety DeAndre Houston-Carson (forearm/back) missed Sunday night's opener with injuries.
Other Bears inactives were receiver Javon Wims, tackle Rashaad Coward, defensive tackle Bilal Nichols, outside linebacker Kyle Fitts and cornerback Kevin Toliver II.
QBs: Mitchell Trubisky, Chase Daniel
RBs: Jordan Howard, Tarik Cohen, Benny Cunningham
WRs: Allen Robinson, Taylor Gabriel, Anthony Miller, Kevin White, Josh Bellamy, Javon Wims
TEs: Trey Burton, Dion Sims, Ben Braunecker, Adam Shaheen, Daniel Brown
Cincinnati BengalsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 12 September 2018
As NFL.com's Kevin Patra wrote, "In a league where the value of dual-threat running backs increases by the season, Joe Mixon arrives at an opportune time. ..."
Fantasy owners who invested in the second-year man would agree.
After a pedestrian rookie campaign, the Cincinnati Bengals' running back burst out in Sunday's opening-week win over the Indianapolis Colts. Mixon displayed his game-breaking, dual-threat ability. The jitterbug running back is a matchup nightmare for linebackers in space.
Mixon paced the Bengals with 17 carriers for 95 and a touchdown and finished as the team's second-leading receiver with five receptions on seven targets for 54 yards, behind only A.J. Green.
When the Bengals committed to handing the ball off to Mixon, the offense awoke.
His 149 all-purpose yards included two plays of 20-plus yards, and four 10-plus-yard gains. Green believes the second-year back deserves to be named with the likes of Le'Veon Bell and Todd Gurley as one of the league's best dual-threats.
"You mention him with Le'Veon or Gurley," Green said, via the team's official website. "He's there with those guys."
Much like the entire Bengals squad, Mixon got off to a slow start on Sunday. Andy Dalton was intercepted on his first pass of the game, a wayward screen to Mixon. After the sluggish start, the Bengals' offense picked up in the second half, scoring on their final three offensive possessions to secure the win.
The offense leaned on Mixon as they churned the way back into the ballgame. The more they used the back, the better Dalton and the offense looked. The running back noted offensive adjustments made at the half that involved mixing up the inside and outside runs.
"I kept telling the receivers to keep doing their thing," Mixon said. "On the perimeter they were running the guys off or keep blocking and holding them off. I'm very excited. Marvin [Lewis] came in here [at half] and told us to settle down. Can't beat ourselves. We re-grouped and went one drive at a time. The line was great. They were grinding it and pounding it."
It was clear in the season opener that Mixon will be the Bengals workhorse tailback. He earned 82 percent of the offensive snaps to Giovani Bernard's 18 percent, per Next Gen Stats. It's the type of three-down workload that backs like Bell, Todd Gurley and David Johnson enjoy.
While the Bengals' young back isn't yet established in that group, he took a big step towards getting there on Sunday. And when Mixon, Green, John Ross and Tyler Eifert are clicking, Dalton's production elevates.
And for the record, Bengals.com's Geoff Hobson reports that Lewis liked Mixon's number of catches (4) and the coach thinks the second-year back can carry it 22 times a game (he had 17 carries in the opener).
Other notes of interest. ... Eifert caught all three of his targets for 44 yards against the Colts. More importantly, he came out of the game unscathed in advance of this week's Thursday night game against the Ravens.
Indeed, the Bengals had a walkthrough practice Monday and Preston Brown (ankle) and Carlos Dunlap (calf) were the only non-participants. Limited participants were Clint Boling (foot), Cody Core (back) and Darqueze Dennard (neck). Full participants were Eifert (back) and William Jackson (shoulder).
According to ESPN.com's Katherine Terrell, Dunlap is a surprise entry on the list, as he didn't appear to get injured during the game. Brown seemed pretty optimistic he would be playing and said he usually only needed two days to get right.
And finally. ... The Bengals announced they have released quarterback Matt Barkley from their injured reserve list, having reached an injury settlement with him.
QBs: Andy Dalton, Jeff Driskel
RBs: Giovani Bernard, Mark Walton, Thomas Rawls, Joe Mixon
WRs: A.J. Green, Tyler Boyd, John Ross, Josh Malone, Cody Core, Bennie Fowler
TEs: Tyler Eifert, Tyler Kroft, C.J. Uzomah, Mason Schreck
Cleveland BrownsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 12 September 2018
According to ESPN.com's Pat McManamon, there were times Tyrod Taylor looked tentative Sunday, when the ball floated.
He seemed at times reluctant to make a throw, as he held the ball, and held it some more.
There were other times he was besieged; he was sacked seven times and was forced to run seven times (his eighth carry was a called run).
Overall, the numbers were not pretty, by his own admission: 15-for-40 for 197 yards with one touchdown and one interception, a rating of 51.8.
But Taylor's bottom line was more succinct.
"At the end of the game, we still had a chance to win the game and that is really what it all boils down to," Taylor said.
The context that can never be avoided is that Taylor's backup is the first overall pick in the draft. The Browns have committed to Taylor, but McManamon added it's not unfair to wonder how many 15-for-40 offensive-malaise games the Browns can handle before they decide it's Baker Mayfield's time.
There is no indication that time is near, though. Head coach Hue Jackson wasn't asked about Mayfield after the game, or if he had considered a change. That's how firmly the Browns have committed to Taylor.
Last week, general manager John Dorsey explained the thinking while admitting that what Mayfield did in preseason was "everything I thought he would do."
"What it takes [for Mayfield] is a broader understanding of what it takes to play the quarterback position in the National Football League, and it just doesn't happen overnight," Dorsey said.
Dorsey said he aims to divide the season into quarters, which means a serious evaluation of individual players could take place every four games; the first such quarter would conclude after games at New Orleans, against the Jets (and rookie QB Sam Darnold) and at Oakland.
For much of Sunday's game, Taylor and the offense struggled. The Browns had the ball 19 times. After a scoreless first half, they scored a touchdown on an 86-yard drive fueled by the running game, scored a second touchdown on a 1-yard run following a fumble forced by Myles Garrett, and scored the game-tying TD on a 55-yard drive that lasted two plays, both fade routes.
But there were plenty of moments of struggle.
In the first half, the Browns punted on five possessions, then ended the half with a two-play possession that lost 14 yards and cost a field goal try. In the third quarter, Taylor was late on a deep post to Josh Gordon that could have been a touchdown had the pass been thrown earlier.
After the third-quarter touchdown, the offense punted three times in a row. And after Garrett forced a second fumble in the fourth quarter, the offense lost two yards on three plays.
Finally, with the game tied, the offense had four tries to win the game before Zane Gonzalez's field goal try was blocked. The possessions ended with an interception and three punts in overtime as the Browns gained 16 yards in nine plays.
"I think the guys can see that we are an improved football team," Jackson said. "But there are some areas that we have to clean up and clean up fast."
Consider: The defense forced six turnovers. Cleveland had a plus-five differential. And the Browns did not win. According to Elias, since 1999 teams that have had a plus-five turnover differential in a game have gone 132-4-1. The Browns have two of the losses, and one of the ties.
Jackson has committed to Taylor as the starting quarterback, and he said that Taylor "handled the game as well as you could expect him to in the first game."
"I have never been a stats guy," Taylor said. "Yes, it would be ideal to come out and light up the stat chart, but wins and losses are ultimately what a quarterback is judged on, and today was a tie. Like I said, you do not really know how to feel on that.
"Moving forward, I never pay attention to the stat category. The only stat that matters to me is wins and losses."
Meanwhile, some of the tension we saw between Jackson and offensive coordinator Todd Haley during this summer's Hard Knocks surfaced briefly after the game, from Jackson's perspective, regarding the fact that receiver Josh Gordon wasn't supposed to start on Sunday. But he did.
"The personnel group got him out there," Jackson told reporters after the game. "The personnel group got him out there in the first play. I saw it just like you did. Not what I wanted, but we will get through that, too."
For the record, Gordon finished with 69 (of 89 possible) snaps, second to Jarvis Landry (81 snaps) among receivers. Gordon was targeted three times and had one catch, for a touchdown.
Also for the record, the Browns are listing Gordon as the starter opposite Landry on their official depth chart heading into Week 2. ...
In a related note. ... ESPN's Mike Clay, while conceding Saints shutdown cornerback Marshon Lattimore was lit up by Mike Evans in Week 1 (which was the case for the majority of the Saints' defense), believes this unit is too talented to expect anything less than a big rebound. Lattimore was one of the league's best corners as a rookie, and he has shadowed in seven consecutive games.
Lattimore rarely travels to the slot, which is why he figures to follow Gordon (89 percent perimeter in Week 1) and not Landry (69 percent slot in Week 1).
Landry, by the way, also has a rare tough matchup vs. slot man Patrick Robinson. Clay believes both receivers should be downgraded and avoided in DFS cash games.
A few final notes. ... One of the complaints a season ago was that tight end David Njoku wasn't on the field enough. That changed against the Steelers as he played 78 offensive snaps (88 percent) on Sunday. The other three tight ends on the roster combined to play 52 snaps.
Njoku was targeted seven times and caught three of them for 13 yards.
Antonio Callaway played a lot early when Gordon was on the bench, but only ended up with 15 snaps. Rashard Higgins logged 54 snaps. It appears it's going to be Callaway early on who loses out when the Browns use Njoku and Duke Johnson in the slot or outside.
It was mostly Carlos Hyde and Johnson lined up in the backfield on Sunday. Hyde played 47 snaps and Johnson 41, though not all of those were in the backfield.
Rookie Nick Chubb played just four snaps and carried the ball on three of them. The other one was a pass play where he went the wrong way picking up a blitzer and got Taylor hit.
As Cleveland Plain Dealer staffer Dan Labbe suggested, if Chubb isn't a reliable pass blocker, he won't see much additional time.
QBs: Tyrod Taylor, Baker Mayfield, Drew Stanton
RBs: Carlos Hyde, Duke Johnson, Nick Chubb
WRs: Jarvis Landry, Antonio Callaway, Rashard Higgins
TEs: David Njoku, Darren Fells, Randall Telfer, Seth DeValve
Dallas CowboysCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 12 September 2018
As ESPN.com's Todd Archer reminded readers, the Cowboys spent the offseason discussing the merits of a committee approach at wide receiver after they cut Dez Bryant. They talked about using multiple tight ends for the first time, with Jason Witten retiring after a 15-year career.
The whole idea was to be "Dak friendly."
If the 16-8 season-opening loss to the Carolina Panthers is any indication, the Cowboys haven't been too friendly to their quarterback. And the quarterback still has a lot of development left to go.
The Cowboys avoided their first shutout since Nov. 16, 2003, at New England -- a 12-0 affair in Bill Parcells' return to Foxboro -- but they hardly answered enough questions to make folks a little less queasy about life without Bryant and Witten.
Dak Prescott completed 19 of 29 passes for 170 yards. He wasn't intercepted, but he did not throw a touchdown pass, either. Dating back to last season, Prescott has not thrown for 200 yards in seven of his past nine starts. That's 200 yards, not 300.
And to keep with the dating-back-to-last-season theme, the Cowboys have not scored a first-half touchdown since Week 15 at Oakland, when Rod Smith burrowed his way into the end zone with 14:04 left in the second quarter. They had three Dan Bailey field goals in Week 16 against the Seattle Seahawks and were pointless in the season finale against Philadelphia Eagles.
On Sunday, the Cowboys had six first-half possessions and never got past their 45-yard line.
At least they got into Panthers territory on the first possession of the second half. They finally found the end zone with 8:52 left when Ezekiel Elliott took an option pitch from Prescott for a 4-yard touchdown.
But as Archer suggested, "every yard was a fight."
Archer added, "If the Cowboys can't make plays in the passing game, then life for Elliott will be extremely difficult."
In his first two seasons, they have been able to run Elliott effectively, but that wasn't the case Sunday. He finished with 69 yards on 15 carries, with 33 of those yards coming on two runs in the second half.
Of Prescott's six completions in the first half, none were deeper than 9 yards, and three were completed behind the line of scrimmage, according to ESPN Stats and Information data. With a chance to hit wide-open tight end Blake Jarwin on third-and-7 in the second quarter, Prescott was woefully short on his throw, caught between whether he should run for a first down or hit Jarwin.
Prescott's first completion of the second half went 20 yards to Allen Hurns, viewed as Bryant's top replacement. He completed at least one pass to seven different pass catchers, but the varied attack did not make for an efficient one.
Prescott struggled to find any rhythm until the fourth quarter, but the Cowboys' chances of pulling out an improbable win ended with 1:18 to play. Prescott was sacked for the sixth time in the game, and Captain Munnerlyn recovered the fumble forced by Mario Addison.
Archer summed up: "There were no answers. Just more questions."
Worth noting. ... Head coach Jason Garrett's most pertinent quote on Monday came after 17 minutes of conversation about the loss to Carolina.
Knee deep into a press conference about his offense's struggles to move the ball against the Panthers, the Cowboys' head coach was asked if he would consider taking over play calling duties from offensive coordinator Scott Linehan, who has become a lightning rod for criticism in the wake of Sunday's underwhelming performance.
"I have a tremendous amount of faith in Scott," Garrett said. "We just have to do a better job collectively as a staff and as an offensive unit to help us move the football and score some points."
Other notes of interest. ... Prescott practiced fully Wednesday despite an ankle issue. He should play as usual.
Garrett said defensive end Randy Gregory was feeling better Monday after suffering a concussion in the Cowboys' season-opening loss to the Panthers.
Garrett said Gregory entered concussion protocol as result of the injury. He accidentally collided with teammate DeMarcus Lawrence in the second quarter and did not return.
"He also had a knee situation early on in the game," Garrett said. "We feel like he's made progress in both those areas."
Gregory did not start against the Panthers, but he rotated with Taco Charlton at right defensive end in the first half, substituting into the game often on clear passing downs.
Gregory did not practice Wednesday. In addition, Lawrence didn't practice because of a groin injury.
Garrett confirmed that suspended defensive lineman David Irving is with the team and working with the strength staff. Irving was suspended four games before the season for violating the NFL's policy on substances of abuse and is eligible to return in October. Elsewhere on the roster, Kavon Frazier (shoulder) started at safety in place of Xavier Woods (hamstring) without any apparent setbacks. Woods was inactive against Carolina and his status for Week 2 against the Giants is uncertain at this point.
QBs: Dak Prescott, Cooper Rush, Mike White
RBs: Ezekiel Elliott, Rod Smith
WRs: Cole Beasley, Allen Hurns, Terrance Williams, Michael Gallup, Tavon Austin
TEs: Geoff Swaim, Blake Jarwin, Dalton Schultz, Rico Gathers
Denver BroncosCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 12 September 2018
According to ESPN.com's Jeff Legwold, when the Broncos surveyed the free-agency landscape this offseason in search of a quarterback, they wanted a player who could dig himself, and the team, out of trouble.
In his first regular-season start with the Broncos, new quarterback Case Keenum did just that.
"He just kept playing," said cornerback Chris Harris Jr. "He kept going out there and moving the offense and we got the win, and. ... I expect him to play way better."
In a 27-24 win over the Seahawks Sunday, Keenum finished a robust 25-of-39 passing for 329 yards with three touchdowns and three interceptions. His two touchdown passes and a 234-yard performance in the first half had the team's faithful ready to marry Keenum after the first date.
Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders were major factors as the Broncos racked up 470 total yards of offense, the most yards for the offense since Week 17 of 2015.
Rookie Courtland Sutton worked as the clear-cut No. 3 receiver.
But Keenum and the Broncos constructed some tough times Sunday as well. The Broncos' first possession after a summer of optimism included a drop by Thomas, a holding penalty and a near interception. Keenum's sixth pass attempt of the game was intercepted -- by Seahawks safety Earl Thomas. The Seahawks turned that interception into a touchdown one play later, just like they turned Keenum's second interception into a touchdown in the third quarter, tying the game at 17.
"Couple of bad reads, just trying to make the big play when we don't have to," Keenum said. "I realize that, it's something I'm going to fix, something I'll be better at."
General manager John Elway has said one of the biggest reasons he picked Keenum to lead the team was because Keenum had "been through some things, those tough times in games when you have to compete to get out of it because as a quarterback things aren't always going to go your way."
Before he passed for 3,547 yards and 22 touchdowns while leading the Vikings to the NFC Championship Game last season, Keenum had been waived three times in his career and had been benched by two different teams. "He's been through some stuff, and that hardens you as a player if you come out on the other side," is how head coach Vance Joseph has put it.
Far too often during 2017's cave-in, opposing offenses turned one of the Broncos' 22 interceptions into a touchdown. This time, the Broncos didn't let that get into their collective head.
"We're not going to get down, that's Case, that's some of us other players as leaders on this team," Thomas said. "Forget those things and play on. That's going to be our personality, it has to be. We're not going to carry all that negative stuff around with us. A new season."
All in all, it was as solid start for the quarterback who has given the Broncos a new outlook with the first win of the new season.
"It's not exactly how you'd draw it up," Keenum said. "But I'm really excited how good this football team can be, we take care of the ball, I take care of the ball - those (interceptions) are all on me - we're going to be really hard to beat."
The best news here? One week into the season, the Broncos' offensive line looks sharp.
Denver allowed just one sack - and Joseph said Monday that one miscue came on a play that called for a quick throw.
Joseph seemed particularly pleased with his offensive tackles Jared Veldheer and Garett Bolles. Veldheer played "really well" according to Joseph, and Bolles made strides after leading the league in holding penalties as a rookie.
Bolles' visible improvement comes, in part, from a change in the way the Broncos are coaching him.
"I think, first, we're coaching Garett differently," Joseph said. "He's a long, athletic tackle. We're coaching him to set quicker and not give as much ground, to use his quickness on guys. If you're facing a great rusher and you give him space, he can bull [rush] you or he can run around you. We're getting Garett on guys quicker so he can use his feet and his great quickness to stay in front of guys. It's preventing him [from] being so soft in the pocket like he was last year."
Joseph knows Bolles and the line must continue to develop if the Broncos are to find sustained success.
"Offensive line-wise, I've been really, really pleased with preseason til now how they've played in the run game and the pass game," Joseph said. "And that's the key. If we're going to win … and help Case play better and better each week, we've got to run the football and protect Case. So far, so good. Those guys [are] playing well for us."
Also of interest. ... According to the Denver Post, a key statistic in deciding whether an offense is truly has a run-pass balance is looking at first- and second-down play-calling (not including two-minute drill). Third down is a passing down so that will skew the statistics.
The Broncos against Seattle (not including plays negated by penalty):
First down - 32 plays. 17 rushes and 15 passes.
Second down - 23 plays. 12 rushes and 11 passes.
Add it up, and the Broncos rushed 29 times in 55 plays in this situation. ...
Rookie Royce Freeman got the start against Seattle, but only played 28 of 74 possible snaps as fellow rookie Phillip Lindsay ate into his teammate's reps.
Both Freeman and Lindsay had 15 carries against Seattle on Sunday and both had 71 yards rushing.
With 102 yards total offense (the 71 rushing and 32 receiving) and a touchdown, Lindsay became only the third undrafted player since 1967 to total at least 100 yards and a touchdown in their NFL debut.
Will the timeshare continue? According to Denver Post staffer Ryan O'Halloran, Freeman carrying the run game is more ideal for the Broncos because it allows them to use Lindsay in creative ways. ...
The Broncos waived receiver Isaiah McKenzie on Monday. He was released Sept. 1 but re-signed to the active roster when he cleared waivers. The move leaves one open roster spot. The Broncos reinstated receiver Carlos Henderson (one-game suspension) to the practice squad and waived receiver River Cracraft from the practice squad.
QBs: Case Keenum, Paxton Lynch, Chad Kelly, Kevin Hogan
RBs: Royce Freeman, Phillip Lindsay, Devontae Booker
WRs: Demaryius Thomas, Emmanuel Sanders, Courtland Sutton, Daesean Hamilton, Isaiah McKenzie, Jordan Taylor, Jordan Leslie, Carlos Henderson
TEs: Jeff Heuerman, Jake Butt, Matt LaCosse
Detroit LionsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 12 September 2018
As NFL.com put it, "The Lions were the better team in this one for maybe 15 seconds. ..." Matthew Stafford then stepped on the field. His night could not have been worse. The QB threw four interceptions, one of which went for six, and suffered what looked to be two separate injuries to his upper and lower body but managed to keep playing.
Banged up, rusty, regressing -- whatever the excuses were, Stafford threw Detroit out of this ballgame after pulling the Lions back in with a quick scoring drive to start the second half. It didn't help that Detroit's refurbished backfield (Kerryon Johnson, LeGarrette Blount, Theo Riddick) was dead on arrival Monday night, racking up just 39 yards.
Riddick led the way with 20 yards on four carries. Johnson had five attempts for 17 yards. And free-agent acquisition LeGarrette Blount, who exited in the third quarter with an apparent injury that the Lions never officially announced, had four carries. For negative-three yards.
Ameer Abdullah was a healthy scratch.
Save for Kenny Golladay, Detroit's offense was a disaster.
New head coach Matt Patricia was asked if he saw any bright spots.
"There's not a lot to be happy here, as far as that's concerned," Patricia said. "We had a couple good plays. A couple good plays aren't going to win games."
For the record, Stafford now has five career games with at least four interceptions, the most of any quarterback in the NFL since he entered the league in 2009.
Counting the playoffs, Stafford has played 129 games in his NFL career. To throw four interceptions in five of them, or about 4 percent of his career games, is an ugly tally. Consider that Drew Brees has played 264 games - more than twice as many as Stafford and has only thrown four interceptions three times. Joe Flacco has played 41 more games than Stafford and has only thrown four interceptions twice. Matt Ryan has played 40 more games than Stafford and has thrown four interceptions twice. Cam Newton has played almost as many games as Stafford and has only thrown four interceptions once.
And Aaron Rodgers, who has played 167 games - 38 more than Stafford - has never thrown four interceptions in a game.
It didn't help that the Jets defenders knew what plays were coming -- literally.
According to ESPN.com's Michael Rosenstein, Jets players said they weren't stealing signals; they attributed it to thorough preparation and scouting. Cornerback Morris Claiborne said it was the best week of film study he could remember. In a season opener, a team can get a good read on an opponent because it has months to prepare.
But that only highlights the shortcomings for Patricia and his squad.
As NFL.com suggested, "It is difficult to believe and understand how, in his coaching debut with an offseason to scheme, the architect of the New England Patriots' Super Bowl-winning defenses oversaw this type of showing."
Detroit only allowed 349 total yards and 18 first downs, fine numbers given the nature of the blowout, but the Lions defense was susceptible all night to the big play, a characteristic that can and should be blamed on coaching. ...
Stafford got dinged a couple of times on Monday night and left the game for one play in the third quarter, but none of the aches and pains are going to miss a game for the first time since 2010.
Stafford stayed in the game after getting kicked in the left leg and took a play off after a shot to the sternum from Jets defensive lineman Leonard Williams, but said on Tuesday that all is well physically heading into Week 2.
“I’m doing OK,” Stafford said, via the Detroit Free Press. “I’m feeling healthy and good to go.”
Stafford said he felt “lucky” to avoid a more serious leg injury and needs to get the “ball out probably a little bit quicker” to avoid hits like the one he took from Williams.
As Profootballtalk.com's Josh Alper suggested, setting injury worries aside should provide more time to focus on fixing everything else that went wrong in that outing.
And as noted above, it's a long list. ...
Finally. ... The Lions waived Zach Zenner off injured reserve Wednesday, two weeks after he suffered a back injury in the team's final preseason game, the Free Press reports.
QBs: Matthew Stafford, Matt Cassel
RBs: LeGarrette Blount, Kerryon Johnson, Theo Riddick, Ameer Abdullah
WRs: Marvin Jones, Golden Tate, Kenny Golladay, TJ Jones, Bradley Marquez
TEs: Luke Willson, Levine Toilolo, Michael Roberts
Green Bay PackersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 12 September 2018
In the moments after a historic comeback win, Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers confirmed the obvious: He'll be playing next week against the Minnesota Vikings.
When asked about his availability against the Vikings during an on-field interview with NBC's Michelle Tafoya, Rodgers was clear: "I'm playing next week."
All this after Rodgers threw three touchdown passes after returning from a knee injury in the second half, including the go-ahead, 75-yard score to Randall Cobb late in the fourth quarter that stunned the visiting Chicago Bears and sent the Packers to an improbable 1-0 start.
As USA Today's Zach Kruse noted, head coach Mike McCarthy wasn't ready to confirm Rodgers would play in Week 2,
"We do have some information and no decision has been made. We're still collecting all the information," said McCarthy, who added he did not think it would take the whole week to determine Rodgers' availability. "I know Aaron wants to play, and is always driven to play, but that's all I have for right now."
McCarthy did allow for a new morsel of information about the two-time NFL MVP.
"I don't think anybody's feeling great right now. ... But yeah (Rodgers) is sore. He's walking around in a pair of shorts and tennis shoes and socks if that helps you with your story," McCarthy joked. "I mean I don't know what else to tell you."
“We’re taking it one day at a time,” Rodgers said Tuesday on The Dan Le Batard Show. “One day at a time.”
The Packers return to the practice field on Wednesday and McCarthy told reporters that Rodgers will work in the rehab group today.
Not a setback and McCarthy reiterated the situation is "day by day."
Asked if it’s encouraging Rodgers at least can do rehab work, McCarthy says “absolutely”.
But the coach wouldn't say if Rodgers may practice at all this week. “We’ll see what tomorrow brings.”
From the outside, it would seem the fact Rodgers is cleared to do any work at all is an indication further testing didn't reveal truly serious damage.
Rodgers was initially hurt after slipping down and bending awkwardly on a sack in the first half. He exited the field, was evaluated on the sideline and eventually required a cart to get back to the locker room.
The Packers announced he had a knee injury and would be questionable to return. Lambeau Field erupted when Rodgers jogged out of the tunnel and began warming up on the sideline.
He was almost perfect over the final 30 minutes, completing 17 passes for 273 yards and three scores in the second half. The Packers erased a 20-0 deficit to beat the Bears, 24-23.
Now, as Week 1 turns to Week 2 and the Packers' focus shifts to another NFC North foe, the Minnesota Vikings, who come to Lambeau Field on Sunday and two questions remain:
How -- if at all -- would Rodgers be limited by the injury if he plays?
And, according to ESPN.com's Rob Demovsky, the less obvious: What buoying impact could his performance have on the Packers?
Remember, the Packers have experience dealing with mobility-limiting injuries. The calf injury of 2014 and hamstring injury of 2016 forced Rodgers and McCarthy to adjust. They went back to use of the pistol formation on Sunday night against the Bears that became so much a part of their plan when Rodgers had his previous leg injuries.
Rodgers said he did not believe McCarthy altered his play calling upon his return.
"I just told him I've got to be in the pistol or the shotgun and not go under center," Rodgers said.
Rodgers proved he could play at or near his usual level back then and did so again in the second half on Sunday night.
"[We went] exclusively with the no-huddle there in the second half and the two-minute drive; it was just priceless," McCarthy said. "It's the best thing we do. It's the best thing he does."
While McCarthy and offensive coordinator Joe Philbin will have to devise a game plan around Rodgers' left knee, the opening-night performance could have a lasting impact in the locker room.
Part of what endeared former Packers quarterback Brett Favre to his teammates was his willingness to play hurt -- and play at a high level in the process.
"Playing behind Brett Favre for three years, you realize you've got to be tough to play this position," Rodgers said. "In that situation, it's about coming back out and leading. If you can do it and deal with the pain, you should be out there."
Said Cobb, who caught nine passes for 142 yards, including the game-winning 75-yard score with 2:13 to play: "I love seeing the fact that he came back out there and played the way that he did in the second half."
And that's coming from someone who has played with Rodgers for his entire career.
How about what a newcomer like tight end Marcedes Lewis must think?
"When he came back in the second half I was like, 'Bet,'" said Lewis, who played the first 12 years of his career for the Jaguars. "It's inevitable not to feel a certain way when your guy walks back out after, you know, getting his knee banged up, not knowing what's wrong with it, just that it's swollen. He's special."
Other notes of interest. ... While no one would have predicted it would take the Packers into the first minute of the fourth quarter to score their first touchdown of 2018, once they broke the ice, the comeback was on. And as the team's official website noted, third-year wide receiver Geronimo Allison was the star of the series that made the comeback possibilities feel real.
On the eight-play, 81-yard drive, Allison caught passes on three consecutive snaps to close the third quarter, gaining 15, 12 and 1 yard to get the Packers near midfield. The first catch was the most crucial, as it came on third-and-14 with the Packers on their own 15-yard line and moved the chains.
Then, on the third snap of the fourth quarter after Cobb caught a 10-yard pass and RB Ty Montgomery an 8-yarder, Rodgers bought a little bit of time in the pocket and fired deep down the right side to Allison, who had top Bears CB Kyle Fuller running with him step-for-step. The throw was perfect, and Allison's diving catch in the back of the end zone cut Green Bay's deficit to 20-10. ...
McCarthy said he regretted the call for a screen pass late in the first half that led to an interception return for a touchdown by Bears linebacker Khalil Mack. "That was the call that kept me up last night, that dang screen play," McCarthy said Monday.
Trailing 10-0 with 1 minute, 48 seconds left with backup quarterback DeShone Kizer under center as on Rodgers' knee was being evaluated in the locker room, McCarthy elected to push the envelope a bit in order to get Kizer comfortable.
Kizer admitted he tried to do much on the attempt also.
"I kind of lose vision of (Mack) as I get a little contact on my legs," he said of the play. "I tried to make a great play and unfortunately made a bad play worse there."
In his 15 starts last year in Cleveland, Kizer led the NFL in total interceptions with 22. He also lost six fumbles a year ago, including one in the red zone. He lost a fumble to Mack in the red zone on his first series Sunday night.
McCarthy said Kizer will get his usual work in practice this week but didn't feel preparation (or a lack thereof) was an issue for him Sunday.
"He's new to the offense, there's just a lot of fundamental things that we'll continue to work on with him," McCarthy said. "Number one is taking care of the football. ... So as far as what we do, we have a call sheet that's filled out just like any other, just like for Aaron, that's a ready list that we went to when his opportunity came yesterday. So we'll kind of continue to work in that mindset. ..."
In a related note. ... As ESPN's Mike Clay notes, with Jordy Nelson long gone, Davante Adams
is now clearly the Packers' No. 1 wide receiver. That likely will mean shadow coverage from the Vikings' top corner Xavier Rhodes. Clay went on to remind readers that Rhodes shadowed Adams in Week 6 last season. Adams was limited to 54 yards on nine targets, but he bailed out fantasy investors with a touchdown.
Rhodes was his usual intimidating presence in Week 1. He was targeted only once and had an interception against San Francisco.
Givan all that, Clay believes Adams, who missed Wednesday's practice with an unspecified shoulder injury, should be downgraded while Cobb and Allison will have a chance at added volume away from Rhodes' coverage. ...
A few final notes. ... Cornerback Quinten Rollins and running back Devante Mays both were released from injured reserve on Monday, meaning they reached injury settlements with the Packers. It opens the door for them to play again later this season, either in Green Bay or elsewhere. They were waived injured on the final camp cutdowns and after going unclaimed, they reverted back to injured reserve.
In addition, the Packers claimed CB Deante Burton off of waivers from the Falcons and placed WR/KR Trevor Davis (hamstring) on injured reserve.
QBs: Aaron Rodgers, DeShone Kizer
RBs: Jamaal Williams, Ty Montgomery, Aaron Jones
WRs: Davante Adams, Randall Cobb, Geronimo Allison, J'mon Moore, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Equanimeous St. Brown, Jake Kumerow
TEs: Jimmy Graham, Marcedes Lewis, Lance Kendricks
Houston TexansCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 12 September 2018
As NFL.com framed it, "In his first game back from the knee injury that ended his rookie season, Deshaun Watson played, well, like a rookie. ..."
But not the Rookie of the Year he was shaping up to be in 2017.
Watson was nervous-looking in the pocket and inefficient in the face of New England's improved front seven. He attempted off-balance prayers that last year would have landed in the arms of DeAndre Hopkins, but on this day fell into the waiting arms of Patriots defensive backs or sideline observers.
Worth noting, Watson didn't hesitate when evaluating his performance in his return from a torn ACL after the Houston Texans' 27-20 loss.
"I think it was terrible on my part," Watson said. "I feel like you can put that all on me because I've [been] way better than what I showed today. My energy was low and I was just overthinking little things.
"I'm the leader of this team. I'm the leader of this offense, so as I go, the offense goes. And [there wasn't] enough energy or pace on our part."
Watson was playing in his first game since he tore the ACL in his right knee last season in an early November practice. When he got hurt, Watson was tied for the NFL lead with 19 passing touchdowns and had thrown for 1,699 passing yards with eight interceptions.
On Sunday, Watson couldn't pick up where he left off, and the Texans' offense got off to a slow start. Watson fumbled while trying to hand the ball off to running back Lamar Miller on the first play and the quarterback struggled to find a rhythm until late in the game.
Watson finished 17-of-34 passing for 176 yards, with a touchdown and an interception, but 115 of those yards came in the second half.
The Texans were playing without wide receiver Will Fuller, who was inactive with a hamstring injury (rookie Keke Coutee was inactive for the same reason), but even so, Watson was unable to find Hopkins early.
In the first half, Hopkins had two catches for 19 yards. He finished the game with eight catches for 78 yards, including one that set up the Texans' first touchdown of the game.
Watson wouldn't let the Texans' offensive line take the blame for his struggles --"I was just holding the ball too long," he said -- but the unit had a hard time protecting the young quarterback. Watson was sacked three times and the Patriots had 12 quarterback hits.
Watson was under duress on 23 of his 42 dropbacks (55 percent), according to ESPN Stats and Information. It was the highest pressure rate on any quarterback in the past two seasons. When pressured, Watson averaged only 3.8 yards per attempt and threw an interception.
Head coach Bill O'Brien said the team didn't change anything at halftime and said the offense simple executed better in the second half.
"I just feel like you can put the L on me," Watson said. "I'll be way much better than what I showed today. My energy was low, overthinking little things. We just got to capitalize in the red zone. Don't turn the ball over."'
They'll have to capitalize without right tackle Seantrel Henderson.
O'Brien says Henderson is out for the season with an ankle injury. O'Brien says Henderson, who was brought in this offseason to improve Houston's line, will have surgery on Tuesday.
O'Brien says for Watson to play better this week the rest of the offense has to pitch in to help him.
But he did admit that Watson was a little rusty and that he has "to make better reads, better decisions" this week for the Texans to be successful.
On a more positive note, O'Brien told reporters on Tuesday he is hopeful Fuller will play this Sunday against the Titans.
"Not having Fuller is not great," O'Brien said after Sunday's loss. "He was out there a lot during training camp, but wasn't available today. But anyways, that's not an excuse. That's just the way it is, injuries happen in the league. You know, I felt like we had a bunch of preparation for this game."
Houston's passing attack would get a significant boost with Fuller back in action. Last year, Fuller's most prolific games came when Watson was under center. Fuller scored a touchdown on seven of his first 11 receptions of the 2017 season, becoming the first NFL player to accomplish the feat in 16 years. ...
And finally. ... Houston will be without cornerback Kevin Johnson for "a lot of time," according to O'Brien, after the 2015 first round pick left Sunday's game with a concussion. Sunday's concussion was his second in less than a month, as he also left the Texans' Aug. 18 preseason game against the 49ers after hitting his head on the field.
"I think he will definitely miss a lot of time," O'Brien said. "I think he's doing better today. I haven't seen him personally, but just from talking to our trainers, I think he's doing better. Anytime a guy has a concussion, obviously two of them fairly close together, it's concerning. So he'll be out for a while."
In fact, the Texans placed Johnson on injured reserve on Tuesday.
QBs: Deshaun Watson, Brandon Weeden
RBs: Lamar Miller, Alfred Blue, Tyler Ervin, Troymaine Pope, D'Onta Foreman
WRs: DeAndre Hopkins, Will Fuller, Bruce Ellington, Keke Coutee, Sammie Coates
TEs: Ryan Griffin, Jordan Akins, Jordan Thomas
Indianapolis ColtsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 12 September 2018
Andrew Luck is back. But as ESPN.com's Mike Wells notes, it's too early to say that his comeback heroics are back.
Luck was 15 yards away from pulling off the 18th come-from-behind victory of his career when tight end Jack Doyle fumbled with 46 seconds left in a 34-23 loss to the Bengals.
The loss took away from the moment everybody had been waiting 20 months to happen.
The throws made during minicamp, snaps taken and hits Luck took in limited action in preseason were just an appetizer. It was all about how he would handle making the necessary throws while facing pressure throughout an entire game for the first time in 616 days -- not just a handful of series in the preseason.
As NFL.com put it, "The return got off to an ominous start."
Luck threw an interception on his first pass, a ball forced into coverage. But he shook off the bad start, masterfully dicing up the Bengals secondary with a bevy of quick strikes. After picking apart Cincy's defense underneath, Luck finally unleashed a deep shot to tight end Eric Ebron for a 26-yard TD. He followed up his interception by completing 10 of his next 12 passes for 99 yards and a touchdown.
Luck looked like his pre-injury self, deftly moving in the pocket to avoid several potential sacks versus a good Bengals defensive front. The QB displayed pinpoint accuracy throughout the day, hitting nine different targets.
He finished with 39-of-53 passing for 319 yards two touchdowns and the INT.
Luck throwing 53 times in his first game in more than a year tells you the Colts have no concerns about the QB's arm.
It also speaks to the state of Indy's run game. While he wasn't able to finish off the game-winning drive, Luck's start is promising for the Colts.
Luck is back.
But as Wells pointed out, the offense, just like the entire roster, isn't about one player.
That also means it's not all about receiver T.Y. Hilton and Doyle, two of Luck's primary targets. Those two are an intricate part of the offense, but new head coach Frank Reich and offensive coordinator Nick Sirianni want every skill player on the field to feel like they're an intricate part of the unit.
All nine players who Luck attempted a pass to had at least one reception, led by Doyle's seven receptions for a team-high 60 yards. The Colts had 380 yards of total offense and Luck completed a career-high 39 passes against the Bengals.
"Not predictable is exactly what it is," receiver Chester Rogers said. "Everybody eats. Everybody has a chance to make plays. We're just going to spread the ball around. It can't get stuck on one side. [We're] going to pick the best side and the best matchup."
The Colts didn't spend the entire game lining up the same formation over and over again throughout the game. There was a lot of pre-snap motion to try to create mismatches and spread the defense out. The Colts rarely looked to the running backs running routes out of the backfield. But rookie running backs Nyheim Hines and Jordan Wilkins were more than just safety valves out of the backfield for Luck. They combined for 10 receptions and 54 yards.
"Everyone touched the ball," Hilton said. "It was unbelievable. (The Bengals) were getting frustrated because they didn't know where the ball was coming from. We look forward to all the things Frank is doing, and Nick. Going great."
The offense should only get better as the weeks go by. Left tackle Anthony Castonzo (hamstring) and running back Marlon Mack (groin) will be back at some point from injuries. Reich will get more comfortable with his play calling. He was second-guessing himself for not being aggressive after the Colts had the ball first-and-goal from Cincinnati's 7 after an interception on the first series of the game.
"You know, for it to be successful throughout the season, we've got to have seven, eight, nine, 10, 11 guys that can go out and make plays," Luck said. "I think we have the guys to do that. I really liked how Frank and Nick (Sirianni) structure the game plan to get everybody the ball."
Castonzo and Mack were present for the beginning of Wednesday's practice.
Of course, I'll be following up on the status of both throughout the week; watch the Late-Breaking Updates section for more as the team goes through preparations for this week's game against the Redskins in Washington.
Beyond Mack and Castonzo, cornerback Chris Milton, who was evaluated for a concussion and did not return, was the team's only reported injury throughout the contest. Milton is now in the league's concussion protocol.
Reich said on Monday in a conference call with reporters that J'Marcus Webb, who started the game at right tackle, also suffered a hamstring injury.
QBs: Andrew Luck, Jacoby Brissett
RBs: Jordan Wilkins, Marlon Mack, Christine Michael, Nyheim Hines, Robert Turbin
WRs: T.Y. Hilton, Ryan Grant, Chester Rogers
TEs: Jack Doyle, Eric Ebron, Erik Swoope, Ryan Hewitt
Jacksonville JaguarsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 12 September 2018
One of the Jaguars' biggest offensive issues last season looks like it could be one again in 2018 -- at least it was in the 2018 season opener against the New York Giants.
As ESPN.com's Mike DiRocco noted, the Jaguars had hoped using a receiver-by-committee approach would be enough to offset the fact they don't have a No. 1 receiver, especially since they expected significant growth out of second-year players Dede Westbrook and Keelan Cole.
But it was evident throughout Sunday's 20-15 victory over the Giants at MetLife Stadium that the offense needs an edge playmaker.
Even before Leonard Fournette left the game late in the first half with a right hamstring injury, the Giants didn't seem overly concerned with the Jaguars' passing game. They still stacked the box to stop Fournette, who obviously keys the offense. The Jaguars were able to take advantage of that with some misdirection and short throws to the backs.
But once Fournette went down, there was nobody else to step into the playmaker role. T.J. Yeldon was solid as Fournette's replacement (51 yards rushing, 18 yards and a TD receiving) but the Jaguars needed someone else to make a play. Nobody did.
Bortles was unable to hit any throws down the field, other than a 31-yard throw to Cole on the second offensive snap. But other than that, Westbrook, Cole and Donte Moncrief weren't really able to stretch the defense. Bortles tried three times to hit Moncrief down the sideline on back shoulder throws, but he missed two and had the other intercepted.
One of the reasons the Jaguars added Moncrief in free agency and drafted DJ Chark in the second round was to stretch the defense and keep them from stacking the box. Per ESPN Stats and Information, no team in the NFL faced more eight-plus man boxes than the Jaguars did last season (145 carries). Fewer defenders in the box makes it easier to run the ball, but the lack of much success down the field didn't help on Sunday.
DiRocco went on to note that losing Marqise Lee for the season with a knee injury certainly was a factor, but Lee was not a downfield playmaker either (12.7 yards per catch career average). The team signed Moncrief in free agency to a one-year deal worth a guaranteed $9.6 million, but he managed only one catch for 14 yards on five targets. Bortles completed only six passes for 53 yards in the second half.
Other than the 31-yard catch, Cole had three receptions for 23 yards. Westbrook had five catches for 51 yards. Tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins had three for 25 yards.
Bortles had several passes deflected at the line of scrimmage and had to dump some off with pressure in his face, but he also missed some open throws.
Were it not for Myles Jack's interception return for a touchdown and Donald Payne's recovery of a muffed punt with less than a minute to play, the Jaguars would not have been able to overcome the lack of offensive production in the second half (four first downs, 121 yards). The only time the offense had the ball inside the Giants' 44-yard line came on their last possession, when Payne recovered the muffed punt at the 22.
The Jaguars were unable to re-sign Allen Robinson in free agency, and he's the kind of downfield playmaker the team needed. It's early, and Moncrief has done that in the past, so he could still be that player for the Jaguars -- but it needs to happen pretty quickly or the offense is going to struggle again, especially if Fournette is out for a significant length of time.
And what about Fournette?
The second-year man appeared to be just getting warmed up running the ball, averaging nearly five yards a carry, before he was forced out.
So the big question heading into the Week 2 match up against the New England Patriots is; Will Fournette be ready to go?
For now, all there is to do is treat. And wait.
That was Monday's update regarding Fournette, who has what head coach Doug Marrone called a "minor hamstring injury."
"We're just going to treat it during the week," Marrone said Monday. "We have a lot of time, and we'll see where it is."
Fournette was walking in the Jaguars' locker room Monday with his leg wrapped. According to DiRocco, Fournette was not limping.
The Jaguars are scheduled to play the defending Patriots (1-0) Sunday.
"A lot depends on how he is," Marrone said when asked how the team will approach Fournette returning to practice this week. "If he's ready to go, we'll ease him back in there and see how he feels. A lot of it depends on that, really."
The Jaguars currently have two healthy active running backs: backup T.J. Yeldon and reserve Corey Grant. Marrone was asked if a player such as running back Brandon Wilds could be activated from the practice squad if Fournette can't play Sunday.
"I don't think we're at that point yet," Marrone said.
Marrone said Fournette told him he previously had dealt with a similar hamstring issue.
"In high school, I think he said," Marrone said. "I just think when you have something before and it feels the same way you know how to deal with it."
Marrone said he listens to both players and doctors when considering when to play an injured player.
"If the doc clears a player, then I listen to the player," Marrone said. "If the doc doesn't clear a player, I don't even address it with the player."
I'll be following Fournette, who didn't practice Wednesday, closely as the week progresses; watch the Late-Breaking Updates section for more.
QBs: Blake Bortles, Cody Kessler
RBs: T.J. Yeldon, Leonard Fournette, Corey Grant
WRs: Keelan Cole, Donte Moncrief, Dede Westbrook, D.j. Chark, Jaydon Mickens, Rashad Greene
TEs: Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Niles Paul, James O'Shaughnessy
Kansas City ChiefsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 12 September 2018
Tyreek Hill scored three touchdowns, Patrick Mahomes passed for his first four NFL scores and the Kansas City Chiefs opened the season with a 38-28 victory over the Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday.
Hill had a 91-yard punt return for a score and a 58-yard TD reception during the first quarter before adding a 1-yard reception for a score in the fourth quarter to put the game out of reach.
Hill also had 169 yards on seven receptions, which is the second-most yards by a Chiefs receiver in an opener, according to Pro Football Reference. Carlos Carson had 173 yards receiving against New Orleans in 1985.
Mahomes, who moved into the starting spot after Alex Smith was traded to Washington in the offseason, was 15 of 27 for 256 yards as the Chiefs extended their winning streak over the Chargers to nine.
"Tyreek really got us going with the punt return and Patrick did a nice job of running the offense," head Andy Reid said via the Associated Press. "There were a lot of great individual efforts on a hot day where we had to endure the elements."
After the Chargers got the opening kickoff but went three-and-out, Hill took Drew Kaser's punt 91 yards for a touchdown just 1 minute, 57 seconds into the game. The third-year receiver fielded the punt near the right hash mark, but quickly found an opening up the left sideline.
It was Hill's fourth punt return for a touchdown in 32 games and the Chiefs' league-leading seventh since 2013.
"Once I caught it, I was like this is wide open," Hill said. "The punt return really got me hyped and got the rest of the offense rolling. It's fun being able to be out and making plays."
After Caleb Sturgis' 45-yard field goal got the Chargers on the board, Mahomes threw his first touchdown pass in the NFL, connecting with Hill for 58 yards. Hill caught the pass at the Chargers 47 and eluded a diving tackle by Jahleel Addae as he found a seam up the left sideline.
Mahomes said it was originally supposed to be a run play, but he said one of the linebackers bit on a run fake which allowed him to find Hill.
"It helped that I hit it fast and Tyreek was able to miss the tackler," Mahomes said. "I needed to settle down after that play, though, and really didn't get any consistency back until late in the first half."
When all was said and done, Hill had seven grabs for 169 yards and two scores, but as NFL.com's Nick Shook pointed out, the play wasn't limited to "the Cheetah."
Mahomes began establishing a regular-season rapport with Sammy Watkins, finding him three times for 21 yards, including a key red zone connection that set up a De'Anthony Thomas rushing touchdown. He also found his fullback -- yes, his fullback -- on a 36-yard touchdown that only happened because Mahomes placed the ball perfectly in an open space between the safety and over the leaping Kyle Emmanuel.
Shook went on to stress it's just one week, and it was a week in which the Chargers didn't have the benefit of much tape. After all, Mahomes only played in one game last season, an essentially meaningless Week 17 contest against Denver.
But Shook suggests if you cued up the tape from the Broncos game and then watched this Chargers game, you'd think you were watching a completely different player. "Sure," Shook explained, "the rocket arm and athleticism are still there, but there was a sense of calm and poise not typically seen in second-year signal-callers -- especially those making just their second start in the NFL against a talented defense."
All in all, Week 1 couldn't have gone any better for them with Mahomes behind the wheel. In fact, he was named AFC Offensive Player of the Week on Wednesday. ...
More on Hill. ... The speedy wideout has 13 touchdowns of 50-plus yards since entering the NFL in 2016, nine more than any other player over that span. He has nine plays of 50 or more yards since Week 15 of the 2016 season. No other NFL player has more than four in that span.
Hill hit 21.95 mph on his 58-yard TD catch and 21.78 mph on the 91-yard punt return. Only Leonard Fournette at 22.05 mph posted a faster play all of last season than Hill had Sunday.
But as BleacherReport.com's Ian Kenyon suggested, the thing that makes Hill so special is his ability to sustain top-speed. "Most players have a burst, like they're hitting the turbo button, and then run out of gas," Kenyon wrote. "Hill sustains that 18-21 mph speed through cuts and through the end zone."
But the rest of Hill's skills were on display on Sunday as well. His route running has become more meticulous and he made a spectacular catch of a 30-yard pass.
He landed awkwardly and hit his head. He was checked for a concussion and cleared to return. He later scored his third touchdown on a 1-yard reception and then proceeded to celebrate with a backflip.
"Tyreek's really worked on his route running and everything in order to make him one of the best receivers in this league," Mahomes said. "Today kind of showed that he has improved on that part as well as the speed that he can bring at any time."
Other notes of interest. ... Hill recorded 40 offensive snaps (71 percent). Wide receiver Chris Conley, playing in his first regular season game since rupturing his Achilles tendon in Week 5 of last season, played 35 offensive snaps (62 percent). Conley had one catch for 15 yards in the game.
Also returning to the field on Sunday was tailback Spencer Ware, who missed all of last season with a knee injury. Ware tallied nine offensive snaps (16 percent), rushing for 32 yards on three carries.
Kareem Hunt rushed 16 times for 49 yards in the Chiefs' Week 1 win over the Chargers. For the first time in a full game, Hunt was held without a reception.
Tight end Travis Kelce played every offensive snap, hauling in one catch for six yards. Reid pointed out that the Chargers made a concerted effort of covering the All-Pro tight end throughout the game, opening up opportunities for other players on offense.
QBs: Patrick Mahomes, Chad Henne, Matthew McGloin
RBs: Kareem Hunt, Spencer Ware, Damien Williams, Anthony Sherman
WRs: Tyreek Hill, Sammy Watkins, Chris Conley, Demarcus Robinson, De'Anthony Thomas, Marcus Kemp
TEs: Travis Kelce, Demetrius Harris
Los Angeles ChargersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 12 September 2018
As ESPN.com's Eric D. Williams suggested, the Chargers have work to do after some head-scratching mistakes on offense over the weekend -- including four drops, two of which would have been scores -- but one thing that clicked for the Bolts was the running back tandem of Melvin Gordon and Austin Ekeler.
The two combined for 292 yards from scrimmage in a disappointing, 38-28 loss the Kansas City Chiefs in the season opener at the StubHub Center on Sunday.
Gordon finished with career-high 102 receiving yards, the first time he eclipsed 100 yards receiving in his four-year NFL career. The Wisconsin product also totaled 64 rushing yards.
Ekeler's 126 total yards from scrimmage was a career-high. He finished with 39 rushing yards and a career-high 87 yards receiving, including a 13-yard reception for a score.
"The running game was awesome," quarterback Philip Rivers said. "The guys up front did a great job and I thought Melvin and Austin ran hard. They're two guys who are hard to tackle and they complement each other very well."
Watching Gordon break a big run from the sidelines, Ekeler knew his turn would be next.
"It's like raising the bar," Ekeler said. "We want to go and raise the bar on each other. If Mel makes a big play, it's like 'All right,' I've got to go and make a big play, keep it at that same level.'"
Gordon's desire is to be the workhorse back for the Chargers this season. But he's willing to share some of the spotlight with second-year pro Ekeler.
"We've been doing it all camp and that's what we're going to continue to do," Gordon said.
The Chargers entered Sunday's contest missing tight end Hunter Henry, who began 2018 on the physically unable to perform list after suffering a right ACL knee injury in May. The Bolts brought back Antonio Gates to help filled the void, but the 38-year-old tight end was used sparingly.
Instead, Rivers looked to Gordon and Ekeler out of the backfield to attack the second level of Kansas City's defense.
"In practice we work on a lot of deep throws, but in the middle of the game when the rush is coming 100 mph, those little, easy throws are a way out, and we might run for an extra 10 yards," Ekeler said.
The Chargers finished with 123 rushing yards, averaging 5.6 yards per carry. That per-carry average was much better than the 3.8 per carry the team averaged last season.
"I thought those two played well from what I could see on the sidelines," Chargers head coach Anthony Lynn said. "I thought they complemented each other really well and [we] had a nice rotation with those two."
As ESPN's Field Yates noted, while spending time at Chargers training camp this summer, one thing he heard quite a bit was the desire to get Ekeler on the field even more on offense (not in place of Gordon, but even alongside of Gordon). Go ahead and consider him worthwhile deeper league add.
Other notes of interest. ... All three phases were plagued by self-inflicted miscues, and on offense, the Chargers lamented several uncharacteristic drops. Lynn counted four total drops, including a deep ball to Travis Benjamin late in the first half that would have led to points and ones by Benjamin and Tyrell Williams in the end zone.
Still, Rivers was able to guide the offense up and down the field with ease as their 541 yards of total offense were the most in the NFL. However, all that matters in the end are those yards resulting in points, and the team's drops proved costly as they all occurred deep in Chiefs' territory.
Those drops were top of mind for Keenan Allen after the game: "Just a lot of plays that we left out on the field. (We) shot ourselves in the foot. (There was) bad execution. We just have to clean some things up ... (Our drops were) very uncharacteristic. We just have to clean it up. It happens. We just have to move on."
Still, as noted above, the offense was rolling as they seemingly marched down the field at will. Everyone played their part, showing just how dangerous Rivers and company can be this year. Two players had over 100 yards receiving in Allen (108) and Gordon).
Meanwhile, another pair had at least 80 yards in Ekeler (87) and Mike Williams (81).
Allen, Ekeler and Tyrell Williams were all on the receiving end of touchdown passes from Rivers, who finished the game with the sixth-most passing yards in his career (424). ...
Worth noting. ... Tre'Davious White is by far the Bills' No. 1 corner, but he's unlikely to see more than the occasional coverage snap against Allen this week. According to ESPN's Mike Clay, White rarely travels to the slot and didn't shadow Allen in the 2017 meeting between these squads. Allen, meanwhile, aligned inside on 60 percent of his 48 routes in Week 1.
The Bills are light at cornerback behind White, with Phillip Gaines on the other side of the field and Bush and rookie Taron Johnson handling slot duties. Johnson is dealing with a shoulder injury, so we should expect Bush (or possibly Gaines if Vontae Davis is activated) to cover Allen most often. Regardless, it's an A-plus matchup for Allen.
Meanwhile, Clay believes Mike Williams, Tyrell Williams and Travis should also be upgraded, though he concedes it's hard to trust any of the three for consistent volume. They're best viewed as DFS tournament plays.
On the injury front. ... Lynn provided no update on defensive end Joey Bosa after the game. Bosa is expected to receive a second opinion on his injured left foot Wednesday. "Right now it's week to week," Lynn said. "As soon as we hear back from his second opinion and the doctors, then we can put together a plan and see where we're at." Lynn also had no update on right tackle Joe Barksdale, who left the game with a right knee injury.
Lynn also said there's no update on Joe Barksdale's knee injury, and the team is moving forward as of right now with Sam Tevi as the team's starting right tackle.
QBs: Philip Rivers, Geno Smith, Cardale Jones
RBs: Melvin Gordon, Austin Ekeler, Justin Jackson
WRs: Keenan Allen, Tyrell Williams, Mike Williams, Travis Benjamin, Geremy Davis
TEs: Virgil Green, Antonio Gates
Los Angeles RamsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 12 September 2018
As NFL.com noted, after a humbling low-wattage first-half performance, Sean McVay and the Rams rebounded in the second half to steal time of possession, momentum and a win from the Raiders in Jon Gruden's homecoming.
The league's leading offense from a season ago didn't look it in the first two frames. Reigning Offensive Player of the Year Todd Gurley had only five touches in the first half, but took shovel pass 19 yards for a touchdown - one of the newest wrinkles in McVay's offense; offseason acquisition Brandin Cooks was nowhere to be found; and Jared Goff looked off.
But the Rams responded in the second half by scoring 23 unanswered points. L.A. emphasized establishing the run with Gurley, who eventually salted the game away with 147 total yards on 23 touches, and finding Cooks in the middle of the field. Cooks led all Rams receivers with 87 yards on five catches.
Cooks also drew two substantial pass-interference calls in the game. The second of the two penalties was translated into points, with a Greg Zuerlein field goal near the end of the second quarter.
Goff still looks stiff biding his time in the pocket and probably could have used some preseason snaps with the starters. But as Goff continued to attempt deep passes, it's easy to think the run game will open up for Gurley even more in the coming weeks.
And in a tight game like this one, Goff and the Rams offense prevailed despite the big plays they didn't hit and because of the mistakes they didn't make.
Gurley moved up in the Rams' record book on his first carry of the game on Monday night.
Gurley took his first handoff of the season for two yards in the Rams' opening three-and-out drive of the game, needing just one yard to take sole possession of eighth place in the Rams all-time rushing list. Gurley entered Monday night tied with former Ram Paul Younger.
As noted above, Gurley finished his night with 108 yards rushing, 39 yards receiving, and one touchdown.
The Rams led the league in point differential in the third quarter (+78) in 2017, putting up 119 points and allowing only 41.
McVay's offense continued its third quarter success on Monday, outscoring the Raiders 10-0 in the quarter. Goff connected with second-year receiver Cooper Kupp for the Rams' second touchdown of the game on 1st-and-goal from the Oakland eight, to take a 20-13 lead as the quarter came to an end.
The Rams would build on the third quarter momentum, scoring another 13 points in the fourth.
Zuerlein was money last season, hitting 95-percent of his field goal attempts, good on 38-of-40 tries.
The Rams special teams' "old faithful" uncharacteristically missed his opening field goal of 2018, sending a 46-yard try wide-right in the second quarter. It is of note, though, that Zuerlein's miss came from the Oakland A's infield dirt.
Zuerlein then hit his next four attempts of the night - his longest from 55 yards. On Wednesday, he was named NFC Special Teams Player of the Week. ...
The Rams emerged from Monday night's win with a couple of injuries at a fairly important position. Return specialist Pharoh Cooper has an ankle injury that may require surgery.
"Pharoh. ... Got his ankle pretty good," McVay told reporters on Tuesday. "It might require it to get fixed. He's getting a second opinion on that, so he's going to be out for some time right now. ... It's definitely going to be something that's going to limit him and keep him out for at least a few weeks."
Cooper was placed on injured reserve on Wednesday.
Unfortunately, the next man up at the position of kickoff returner is also down for a few weeks with a groin injury.
"Mike Thomas is the backup there, so that makes it really complicated," McVay said. "So whether we handle that internally or we go outside for somebody else to figure that role out, those are things that we've kind of been discussing. In terms of making that final decision, that'll be something that we'll probably decide on in the next day or so."
So the opportunity arises for a free agent with return skills to get a shot in L.A. Or maybe the Rams will look into trading with a team that currently has a surplus as the position. It's also possible that backup punt returner Kupp will get a chance to return kickoffs, too.
QBs: Jared Goff, Sean Mannion, Brandon Allen
RBs: Todd Gurley, Malcolm Brown, John Kelly, Justin Davis
WRs: Brandin Cooks, Robert Woods, Cooper Kupp, Josh Reynolds, Mike Thomas
TEs: Tyler Higbee, Gerald Everett, Johnny Mundt
Miami DolphinsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 12 September 2018
There's no such thing as a normal season opener for the Miami Dolphins in recent years. In 2017, Hurricane Irma postponed their Week 1 contest, forcing them to play 16 consecutive games without a bye week. In their 2018 opener Sunday, they played the longest game in NFL history because of four hours of lightning delays.
But a 27-20 victory over the Titans, Ryan Tannehill's first real action in 637 days made the chaos of Sunday even better.
"It was great to be back out here," Tannehill said. "I wasn't as sharp as I'd like to be. ... But I felt -- coming away from this long day, this grind of a game and get a win, it feels good."
According to ESPN.com's Cameron Wolfe, at least six teammates and head coach Adam Gase mentioned the word "trust" when describing the impact Tannehill's return has on the team. Wolfe added, "It didn't feel like a cliché team-unity thing, either. It's clear Tannehill's return has brought an increased level of trust and a calming presence to a Miami team that was subjected to a lot of chaos in 2017, when Jay Cutler was brought in after Tannehill had ACL surgery."
"It's just that he knows this offense well enough and he's been in it for three years now," Gase said of Tannehill. "I just like the way that we're operating. I think there are some things that we're going to clean up and we're going to feel better about probably four weeks from now. ... It feels right. It feels like we're headed in the right direction."
Receiver Jakeem Grant added: "When he's back there, we know we can make splash plays. There's a lot of trust between us and Ryan. We play for each other."
The Dolphins feel like they have their true franchise QB on the field again.
There were also subtle examples of that growing trust in Tannehill on Sunday, such as when defensive players kept urging Gase to go for it on fourth down when the offense was rolling or when Tannehill hit Kenny Stills perfectly in stride on a 75-yard deep ball for a touchdown.
Left tackle Laremy Tunsil said the huddle feels different this year with Tannehill in it.
"Offensively, having Ryan back has been so valuable for us," Gase said. "Not having Ryan last year opened up a lot of guys' eyes that he made a big difference for us."
Sunday's return wasn't perfect. Tannehill threw two interceptions, one of which slipped out of his hand on a goal-line pass to Mike Gesicki, to go with his 230 yards and two touchdowns. Tannehill admitted he "left a lot of plays out there." But the Dolphins see that as a positive to build from.
"It's been a steady climb for him since we got here and where he is now, where he has more control of the offense," Gase said. "There's still some things he'll want to clean up. I know he'll be mad at a few decisions he made where he might have had some better plays, and that happens."
As for now, the Dolphins are 1-0 with their starting quarterback on the field, with room to grow. ...
Other notes of interest. ... As the team's official website noted, the Dolphins found chunk yardage plays on offense and special teams and were able to take the football away with their defense. The fireworks started when Grant took a kickoff 102 yards to give the Dolphins a 17-10 lead early in the fourth quarter.
Tannehill followed that score when he found Kenny Stills for a 75-yard touchdown later in the quarter to take a 14-point lead.
In general, it was a team effort that propelled Miami in the home opener and multiple players on offense touched the ball to make that happen. Both Kenyan Drake and Frank Gore added to the rushing attack behind an offensive line that played with consistency and toughness. Drake used his speed and vision to gain his yards and Gore's explosiveness and experience combined to have him rush for 61 yards on nine carries.
The ball was also spread around to the wide receivers, making it easier for Tannehill to move the offense. Newcomer Albert Wilson was used both as a receiver and runner to give this offense an added dimension. Grant used his speed to create space in the secondary for himself and the rest of the receiving group.
Grant took home the AFC Special Teams Player of the Week honor after taking two kickoff returns for 125 yards, including an explosive 102-yard effort returned for a touchdown against the Titans. ...
On defense Pro Bowl safety Reshad Jones proved why he's still one of the most talented players in the league, grabbing two interceptions and taking momentum away from the Titans. Linebacker Kiko Alonso also snagged one away from Tennessee that set up the Dolphins offense with excellent field position.
In addition, nickel corner Minkah Fitzpatrick showed his talent for tackling in the open field, stopping a fourth down attempt inside the two-yard line and corner Bobby McCain used his quick reflexes and tenacity batting away a would-be reception.
DeVante Parker, who was held out of the opener as he continues to work his way back from a broken finger, worked on a limited basis Wednesday. I'll have more on his status vis Late-Breaking Update as the week progresses. ...
One last note here. ... The Dolphins re-signed C Travis Swanson and released TE Gavin Escobar on Monday.
QBs: Ryan Tannehill, Brock Osweiler, David Fales, Luke Falk
RBs: Kenyan Drake, Frank Gore, Kalen Ballage, Senorise Perry
WRs: Kenny Stills, DeVante Parker, Albert Wilson, Danny Amendola, Jakeem Grant, Isaiah Ford
TEs: Mike Gesicki, Durham Smythe, A.J. Derby, MarQueis Gray
Minnesota VikingsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 12 September 2018
The Vikings offense had many bright moments in Cousins' Minnesota debut. On an afternoon where the quarterback eclipsed the century mark in career touchdown passes, Kirk Cousins threw for 244 yards, two touchdowns and finished with a 95.1 passer rating.
The touchdown tosses were impressive, starting with a 22-yard dime to Stefon Diggs and then an 11-yard pass to the back of the end zone where Kyle Rudolph was waiting -- a throw he executed with the hand of DeForest Buckner inches from his face mask.
"(He) threw it in a place where only I could catch it," Rudolph said. "That's the trust we've built with all the reps throughout OTAs, minicamp, training camp and the preseason. Over my time here, that's been my responsibility. When we get in the red zone, the windows are a lot tighter. My frame allows the balls to be thrown a little bit higher. Kirk threw it in a perfect spot and I made play on it."
As ESPN.com's Courtney Cronin noted, Cousins learned in his first regular season outing with Minnesota how explosive the Vikings offense is with the playmakers he has at his disposal.
He also learned that playing with the backing of the NFL's No. 1 defense is really, really nice luxury to have.
Ahead of the two-minute warning in the first half, with the 49ers threatening from the 1-yard line, Eric Kendricks forced a fumble while Harrison Smith swooped in to recover the ball. One play after 49ers tight end George Kittle dropped perfectly passed, would-be touchdown, Vikings rookie cornerback Mike Hughes came away with a pick-six. Xavier Rhodes picked off Jimmy Garoppolo in the fourth quarter and Smith sealed the game with an interception with 1:45 to play.
"When you can create those turnovers, create points for us off those turnovers, in crunch time make those plays, pressure the quarterback," Cousins said. "So many players stepped up."
Most importantly, that allowed the Vikings offense to take chances, even when things didn't go so well later in the game.
Cousins did not complete a pass in the fourth quarter, totaling six incompletions on three straight possessions where the Vikings went three-and-out. There are throws Cousins undoubtedly wants back, including a near-interception by Jaquiski Tartt on a pass intended for Diggs. The pressure created by a defense that was in the bottom-third of sacks last season caused stressed Minnesota's offensive line at points throughout the game.
"When you have a defense like ours, it takes a lot of the anxiety away from our offense," wide receiver Adam Thielen said. "I think now it's our turn to pay them back and make sure that we are putting up points and taking the pressure off them."
The Vikings could have used more from its run game. Up until Dalvin Cook's second quarter fumble, the Vikings running back was embarrassing the San Francisco defense. Between Cook and Latavius Murray, the Vikings run game averaged 3.6 yards per rush, which isn't awful, but this offense prides itself on going as far as its run game will take it.
What Cousins did get to see is how explosive the offense can be with Cook as a pass-catcher. The second-year rusher recorded his longest reception off a short screen pass that he took for 17 yards. Once Cook is able to catch a pass, find a seam and rip off a big run that will be one of the most dangerous plays in Cousins' arsenal.
"I told him many times, "I'm going to continue to throw you the ball, whether you like it or not, because first of all, it's a good thing when the ball is in your hands, and second of all, you're the guy who is open,'" Cousins said.
Cousins displayed great pocket awareness and looked sharp in his debut. He walks away from his Vikings' debut with a glimpse of just how dynamic his new team can be and the things that will carry Minnesota in search of a championship season.
Meanwhile, as NFL.com suggested, one way Minnesota's offense can improve is getting more from the ground game.
Cook returned from season-ending injury in 2017. The running back looked better as a pass-catcher Sunday. Cook was the Vikings' second-leading receiver, earning 55 yards on six receptions. He struggled to find space on the ground, generating 40 yards on 16 carries, a 2.5 per carry average.
His longest run of the day was a 15-yard burst in which he blasted through several arm tackles. Unfortunately, after breaking free, Cook had the ball popped out from behind for a fumble.
The play displayed Cook's game-breaking potential, but underscored he still has steps to make in his return to full-time duty
Murray handled the late touches as the Vikings salted away the clock. Murray could siphon off more of Cook's snaps if the second-year back struggles with inefficacy on the ground.
The Vikings on Monday signed offensive lineman Bryan Witzmann and put offensive lineman Aviante Collins on Injured Reserve. Collins showed up on the injury report with an elbow injury that was suffered in practice last week. He had the roster as an undrafted free agent in 2017 and had worked at both guard and tackle in preseason and training camp.
Zimmer announced in his Monday press conference that Collins will miss the rest of the season.
QBs: Kirk Cousins, Trevor Siemian, Kyle Sloter
RBs: Dalvin Cook, Latavius Murray, Roc Thomas
WRs: Adam Thielen, Stefon Diggs, Laquon Treadwell, Stacy Coley, Brandon Zylstra, Aldrick Robinson
TEs: Kyle Rudolph, David Morgan, Tyler Conklin
New England PatriotsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 12 September 2018
According to ESPN.com's Mike Reiss, there were two notable developments for the Patriots as wide receiver Phillip Dorsett highlighted a big day with a 4-yard touchdown catch in the second quarter of the team's 27-20 win against the Houston Texans.
The first addresses a short-term need. Dorsett (7 catches, 66 yards) showed he can be a difference-maker in the team's depleted receiving corps, flashing some of the athletic traits and potential that made him a 2015 first-round draft choice of the Indianapolis Colts.
"Phillip did a great job, got some opportunity and then came up with the plays, came up with the catches. It's kind of what he's been doing all camp, all spring and it was good to see it show up. We needed it," quarterback Tom Brady said. "He caught the ball well, ran a variety of different routes, had some option routes in there which he did a good job of, catch and run. I thought he played great."
"We definitely had a better connection," added Dorsett. "We were working on it all throughout camp, and it showed."
The second development to NFL history, Brady is on the cusp of achieving another milestone, and this one is special: Dorsett was the 69th different player to catch a touchdown pass from Brady, moving him closer to NFL record holder Vinny Testaverde, who threw scoring passes to 70 players while playing for seven franchises (1987 to 2007). Testaverde had two separate stints with the New York Jets.
That, of course, sparks the question: Who might catch record-tying touchdown 70? And then a potential record-breaking 71st?
The Patriots can happily consider the possibilities after Sunday's season-opening win that was also sparked by a revived pass rush, which had rusty Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson on the run often. The Patriots totaled 12 quarterback hits and three sacks.
With the defense putting the clamps down on Watson and the Texans, it gave the offense more margin for error as it tries to find its way without Julian Edelman, who is serving a four-game NFL suspension. Because there are several news faces on offense, the options are plentiful for Brady to target for record-tying touchdown number 70 and the potential-recording breaking 71st.
Receiver Cordarrelle Patterson is a prime candidates. Patterson worked as the team's No. 3 option in the season opener, with offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels designing a few plays to get the football into his hands where his dynamic run-after-the-catch skills could be maximized.
Meanwhile, second-year tight end Jacob Hollister is also in the mix. He was inactive for the season opener with a hamstring injury but had been coming on strong in training camp as a capable pass-catcher, with head coach Bill Belichick noting he has a great future ahead of him.
And then there are the running backs. First-round pick Sony Michel, who is not yet 100 percent (knee) and was inactive for the opener, displayed solid pass-catching ability in camp while James White has been a mainstay of the passing attack since his arrival. Rex Burkhead is also capable enough.
While Dorsett was one of the stars of the opener, the Patriots were still thin at the position -- something they began to rectify on Tuesday by signing former Cleveland first-round draft pick Corey Coleman and former Denver Bronco Bennie Fowler.
A star wide receiver at Baylor, Coleman went to the Browns with the 15th overall pick in the 2016 NFL draft. But he didn't do much in Cleveland, catching 56 passes for 718 yards and five touchdowns in two seasons. The Browns traded him (and his guaranteed salary) to the Bills this offseason, but he didn't make Buffalo's roster.
Fowler spent the first four years of his career with the Broncos after going undrafted out of Michigan State in 2014. He spent 2014 on the practice squad and caught 56 passes for 698 yards and five touchdowns in 45 regular season outings.
Fowler also caught the final NFL pass of Peyton Manning's career. That pass came on a two-point conversion in the fourth quarter of Denver's Super Bowl 50 victory.
The Patriots waived wideouts Riley McCarron and Chad Hansen. ...
This week, it's worth noting that while Jaguars cornerback Jalen Ramsey had a little bit of trouble against one of the game's top wide receivers in Odell Beckham last Sunday (five catches, 75 yards on seven targets). But ESPN's Mike Clay suggests life figures to be much smoother against Chris Hogan and Dorsett in Week 2.
Ramsey will team up with A.J. Bouye (who was his usual dominant self, allowing only one 10-yard catch in Week 1) to cover New England's top receivers this week.
Ramsey and Bouye combined to allow five receptions for 73 yards on eight targets in the 2017 AFC Championship Game against New England. Danny Amendola and Brandin Cooks fared well in that game, but Hogan (two catches for 20 yards on four targets) and Dorsett (three routes) weren't factors. Dorsett should be on the bench, and Hogan is a risky flex in Week 2.
Of course, Rob Gronkowski, who had seven catches for 123 yards and a touchdown against Houston, remains a prime candidate to score (and dominate opponents) on a weekly basis.
Gronkowski's 21-yard scoring grab from Brady in the first quarter marked the 76th time the two have connected for a TD, which ranks second all-time among QB/TE combinations. The Chargers' combination of Philip Rivers and Antonio Gates is first, with 87. When accounting for just quarterback/pass-catcher combinations, the 76 touchdowns for the Brady/Gronkowski is fifth all-time.
Brady, in his weekly interview on sports radio WEEI, had high praise for his star tight end.
"He's just a spectacular player," Brady said. "He's the best tight end in the league, probably the best to ever play the game. When you have that guy on your team, you have to give him looks. ... He's a big part of what we do, and we all have to match his greatness -- all of us -- in order to be a great offense."
Finally this week. ... Jeremy Hill's first season in New England will last just one game. Hill suffered a torn ACL on Sunday and is out for the season, Ian Rapoport of NFL Network first reported.
He was placed on injured reserve on Monday and the team is adding Kenjon Barner to fill the roster opening.
The 25-year-old Hill signed with the Patriots this year after four years with the Bengals. He had four carries for 25 yards and one catch for six yards before leaving yesterday's game with his injured knee.
Burkhead was the Patriots' leading rusher on Sunday with 18 carries for 64 yards. White added five carries for 18 yards (along with four catches for 38 yards and a TD) and Patterson ran the ball three times for 13 yards.
But of course, nothing with New England's backfield is ever simple. So the fact that Burkhead was held out of practice Wednesday with a previously undisclosed concussion adds to the intrigue. Michel and Hollister (hamstring) were limited.
Stay tuned. I'll be watching for more on Burkhead and Michel in coming days; check the Late-Breaking Updates section for more as the week progresses.
QBs: Tom Brady, Brian Hoyer, Danny Etling
RBs: Sony Michel, James White, Rex Burkhead, Kenjon Barner, James Develin
WRs: Chris Hogan, Phillip Dorsett, Josh Gordon, Cordarrelle Patterson, Julian Edelman
TEs: Rob Gronkowski, Dwayne Allen, Jacob Hollister
New Orleans SaintsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 12 September 2018
Bad memories came flooding back to head coach Sean Payton after a fifth straight regular season opener ended in defeat.
It wasn't just that the Saints lost, but how it happened.
An anemic pass rush and blown coverages helped an opposing quarterback look as spectacular as any point in his career as the Saints fell behind big. Prolific passer Drew Brees orchestrated a frenetic rally to make it interesting, but ran out of time in a 48-40 loss.
"Today's a tough day in our league, obviously, after a loss like that," Payton said. "It wasn't a good tape. It was not a good film.
"The first thing I said this morning was: 'It is oftentimes said that these early weeks of the season, your team can improve a lot.' I believe that to be true," Payton recounted.
"Now, if that is to happen, then today has to be a day where we're willing to shoulder and not deflect (criticism). That is me as the head coach and everyone in that room. What I mean by that - shoulder - is accept, 'Hey, I have to do this better. I have to find a way to improve this rather than try to deflect.'"
While Payton wanted his team focused primarily on addressing what went wrong, a lot had to go right -- namely on offense -- in order for the Saints to score as many points as they did.
It was apparent that at 39 years old, Brees remains effective enough to pass for 439 yards and lead the offense on five touchdown drives. Receiver Michael Thomas set a team record with 16 receptions. He also had 180 yards receiving and scored a touchdown.
Alvin Kamara picked up where he left off as Offensive Rookie of the Year last season, scoring three times to go with more than 100 yards receiving. Even 37-year-old tight end Ben Watson looked effective in his first game as a Saint in three years, catching four passes for 44 yards.
But Watson said that on good teams, every unit feels as if it came up short after a loss, so the offense was not praising itself. He said he would expect the defense would do the same in a low-scoring loss.
"We should have scored 49 - and a good team looks at it that way," Watson said, alluding to the fact New Orleans could have indeed scored more if not for two lost fumbles - one of which was returned for a touchdown - and three drives than ended with punts.
Tampa Bay, by contrast, did not turn the ball over and punted only once.
"It's about looking in the mirror and being willing to acknowledge what we see," Watson said. "Football is a game played by humans. There's going to be mistakes made. ... How do we return from those?"
Veteran linebacker Demario Davis, who made his Saints debut on Sunday, said his defensive teammates should understand how urgent it is that they understand exactly what went wrong and how to correct it - fast. The Saints gave up more than 500 yards and three TDs longer than 35 yards.
"When you give up 48 points you didn't do nothing right - technique, assignment, alignment, eyes, discipline. It just wasn't a good performance," Davis said. "It wasn't good enough and we've got to get it fixed."
Heading into the season, the schedule appeared to allow a fast start for New Orleans, which has Super Bowl aspirations after nearly advancing to the NFC title game last season.
There was Sunday's opener at home against a Buccaneers squad coming off a five-win campaign and with its starting quarterback suspended, followed by another home game against Cleveland, which did not win a game last season. Cleveland hasn't won a game yet this season, either.
But the Browns' tie with Pittsburgh on Sunday left them better off than New Orleans, and also provided evidence that Cleveland may have improved considerably. ...
Worth noting. ... The barrage of points Fitzpatrick hung on the Saints early in the season opener forced New Orleans to deviate from its plan on offense.
And as the plan changed, Kamara's workload rose.
Kamara took a career-high 52 snaps on offense, almost 20 more than the 32.5 he averaged in the 14 games after the Saints traded away Adrian Peterson last season.
"I feel like he's in excellent shape," Payton said. "I thought he played exceptionally well, and yet it turned into one of those space-matchup games where we were throwing it more than we'd like."
All in all, Kamara's 18 offensive touches were about 30 percent higher than the 13.7 touches he averaged after the Peterson trade last season and tied a career high he set against the New York Jets last December.
A handful of extra touches probably was to be expected with Mark Ingram out of action for the first four games, suspended for violating the NFL's policy on performance-enhancing drugs.
Payton has said all along that he didn't want to just turn Kamara into a 30-touch-per-game workhorse with Ingram out, largely because of concerns about taking the tread off the second-year star's tires too early in a long season. "The challenge is, there's a number of plays you want him in," Payton said. "And yet, there can be diminished returns if you're not careful."
New Orleans wanted to give Mike Gillislee and Jonathan Williams, who played seven snaps and three snaps, respectively, more time and more carries.
Gillislee was handed the ball three times; Williams got one carry.
Forced to play from behind early, New Orleans threw the ball 45 times, took one sack and ran it just 13 times, far from the game plan the Saints installed during the week.
Because of the way the game progressed, Kamara and Thomas were leaned on to carry heavy loads that were a little too much even for players as good as the two Pro Bowlers.
"It's not the design," Payton said. "We had our opening series scripted, and that went smooth. ... Early on, we were going to, based on what they were doing, kind of throw it a bit more, go after the personnel matchups we like. I hate when a game becomes one-dimensional, and we've just experienced that too often. ... I wouldn't say that game unfolded the way we would have liked."
And finally. ... Receiver Cameron Meredith was inactive for the Saints, which meant second-year pro Austin Carr worked as New Orleans' top slot receiver.
Carr played 43 of 64 (67 percent) snaps.
As ESPN.com's Mike Triplett noted, Meredith has healed from the major knee injury that sidelined him last year with the Bears -- and he practiced fully all last week. However, he still appears to be working his way back to peak form. Not only did he miss time in OTAs while recovering from the knee injury, but he also missed a couple weeks of training camp with a minor unspecified ailment. Meredith didn't have a catch in the preseason until Week 4 (when he impressed with two catches for 72 yards and a TD).
It's unclear how far away the Saints see Meredith from being able to overtake Carr. Payton told repoters on Wednesday that Sean Payton said Meredith is doing well and that his healthy scratch was about him missing reps in camp and needing to get the timing down in the offense.
Also worth noting, Thomas did not practice Wednesday due to illness. Ted Ginn (knee) was also held out.
I'll be watching for more on Thomas, Ginn and Meredith in coming days; check the Late-Breaking Updates section for more as the week progresses.
QBs: Drew Brees, Teddy Bridgewater, Taysom Hill
RBs: Alvin Kamara, Mike Gillislee, Jonathan Williams, Mark Ingram
WRs: Michael Thomas, Ted Ginn, Tre'quan Smith, TommyLee Lewis, Cameron Meredith
TEs: Ben Watson, Josh Hill
New York GiantsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 12 September 2018
Rookie running back Saquon Barkley's start to his professional career started off slowly against the Jacksonville Jaguars.
His first carry went for no gain and the next carry netted minus-3 yards. At the end of the first half, Barkley had 12 yards rushing on eight carries, an average of 1.5 yards per attempt.
As NFL.com's Herbie Teope noted, the Jaguars defense, a unit that finished the 2017 season ranked second overall in total defense, deserves a lot of the credit for keeping Barkley in check.
"It definitely was a challenge and a challenge that I was excited for and excited to go against and it definitely was a test," Barkley told reporters after the game. "Not just the defensive line, but their defense as a whole."
Barkley's patience, however, paid off in the second half. He settled down and totaled 10 carries for 94 yards and a touchdown, which came on a 68-yard burst off right tackle.
"It was a great call, first of all, and it was blocked up perfect," Barkley told reporters. "The O-line did a great job on the front side creating movement. [Tight end] Evan [Ingram] did a great job on the backside with a cut block and I was able to get one-on-one with the guy, make him miss and use my speed on the sideline to get in the end zone."
The explosive touchdown run showed why the Giants used the second overall pick on Barkley.
"It was a great run," head coach Pat Shurmur told reporters during his postgame press conference. "That's why we drafted that young man."
Barkley attributed his second-half success against the Jaguars to staying within himself with an understanding not every offensive call will result in a big play.
He also trusted his blockers while adjusting to the flow of the matchup.
"Your mindset changes throughout the game because you get a feel for it," Barkley said. "You get a feel for the O-line, you get a feel for what their defense is doing, how they're attacking you, how they're playing."
While the Giants ultimately lost to the Jaguars by a 20-15 score, Barkley's debut -- 106 yards rushing and a touchdown on 18 carries and 22 yards receiving on two catches -- offered plenty of optimism for the offense.
He struggled early in the first half against a stout defense and failed to convert a 2-point conversion attempt, but Barkley's ability to get it going in the second half proved the Giants' ground game is primed to improve after finishing the past two seasons ranked near the bottom of the league.
"I think that you see the potential that we have on this offensive side of the ball as a team," Barkley told reporters, "and we just have to eliminate the mistakes and I have to eliminate my mistakes."
That might be a bit easier this Sunday night against the Cowboys. The Dallas defense isn't at the Jaguars' level and Barkley. ...
Meanwhile, in the marquee matchup of the week -- Odell Beckham against Jalen Ramsey -- the stat sheet would tell you OBJ won.
Beckham, in his first regular-season game since that season-ending ankle injury last year, recorded 11 receptions for 111 yards, his most productive day since Week 16 of 2016. But Beckham wasn't always covered by Ramsey and often lined up against A.J. Bouye. Aside from a few pass interference penalties on Ramsey, there were no extracurriculars or fireworks.
But the team's official website contends Beckham's impact went beyond his production. The way Pat Shurmur and Mike Shula used formations, rub routes, and play design to free him in space or give him true one-on-one opportunities was ingenious.
And finally. ... Shurmur mentioned just one player who came out of the game with an injury, running back Wayne Gallman with a knee. Gallman told reporters on Tuesday the injury was minor and that he'll be ready to play against the Cowboys on Sunday Night Football this weekend.
Gallman was officially listed as limited on Wednesday as was reveiver Sterling Shepard, who has a sore back. Olivier Vernon (high ankle sprain) did not participate.
QBs: Eli Manning, Davis Webb, Kyle Lauletta
RBs: Saquon Barkley, Wayne Gallman, Jonathan Stewart
WRs: Odell Beckham, Sterling Shepard, Cody Latimer, Russell Shepard, Hunter Sharp
TEs: Evan Engram, Rhett Ellison, Jerell Adams
New York JetsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 12 September 2018
As NFL.com's Jeremy Bergman noted, the night could not have started off worse for Sam Darnold.
On the very first pass of his career, the New York Jets quarterback rolled out to his right, only to throw a prayer back across his body into the hands of Detroit Lions safety Quandre Diggs, who took it to the house. Darnold joined Brett Favre and Jameis Winston as the only rookie quarterbacks to throw pick-sixes on their first career attempts, QBs who in any other conversation would be fine company.
It was a typical "Welcome to the NFL, rookie" moment, where the nervy young gun quickly learns the perils of testing professional secondaries. A pick-six like that would have ruined other first-year quarterbacks' evenings. But Darnold was different on Monday night.
"On that interception, I was pretty nervous. Not going to lie to you guys," Darnold told reporters after the Jets' 48-17 victory. "But after that, I put it behind me. I think after the crowd got really loud after that pick, it was just, 'Shoot.' And then I was like, 'OK, here we go. Can't get much worse than that.'"
In fact, it got much better.
Darnold responded with a stellar, composed evening during which the rookie displayed excellent out-of-pocket accuracy and quick decision-making. The quarterback showed touch and field vision on a 41-yard dime to deep threat Robby Anderson for his first career TD pass. Then, after Detroit marched down the field for an easy second-half-opening touchdown drive, Darnold led New York right back down the field in just six plays, hooking up with Terrelle Pryor on two crosses and Quincy Enunwa for a catch-and-score.
The Jets didn't look back after that, rolling to an easy win on the shoulders of a resilient rookie quarterback and an opportunistic defense.
After the pick-six, Darnold completed 80 percent of his passes for 198 yards and those two scores; he also picked up a first down on a six-yard scamper. Enunwa, a slot target who missed all of last season with a neck injury, was Darnold's top target on the night, racking up six catches for 63 yards on 10 targets.
It was clear after the game that Darnold's play under such adversity inspired a sizable portion of the locker room and earned the respect of the team's vested leaders.
"He came out first play and made a mistake. He came out the next series and acted like it never happened," Jets second-year safety Jamal Adams gushed to NFL Network's Kimberly Jones after the game. "He brushed it behind him and attacked the day. That man is so poised and we're just so proud to have him as a quarterback and play together."
"He didn't flinch," Jets coach Todd Bowles said stone-faced while talking about Darnold to reporters. "He didn't even blink."
Next up for Darnold: a home opener against the division-rival Miami Dolphins in front of what is sure to be a raucous, excited Meadowlands crowd. The hype for Sam the Savior is only going to grow after Darnold's resilient rookie debut. If he can follow up this milestone next week how he responded to Monday night's adversity, the Jets will be flying high and taking the rest of the league along for the ride. ...
In a related item. ... As the New York Post notes, Enunwa showed chemistry with Darnold, looking like he was the receiver Darnold most trusted early. He finished with six catches for 63 yards and one touchdown, with the Jets barely throwing late in the blowout win.
"Quincy did a heck of a job," Bowles said. "He blocks, he catches, he runs short and deep routes. It's exciting to have him in there because he brings a different element and picks everybody up when he's over there."
Enunwa missed all of last season after suffering a neck injury in training camp that required surgery. He then suffered a setback in last month's training camp when he injured his right thumb.
Enunwa looked fully healthy on Monday, though. He made some nice catches and bashed his way through the Lions defense on his way to a 21-yard touchdown in the third quarter that put the Jets up 24-17.
It will be interesting to see how the Darnold-Enunwa connection develops through the year. ...
For the record, the 31 points they scored the third quarter were the most for the Jets in a quarter since the first quarter of Week 4 in 2008, when they had 34 against the Cardinals. ... It was the first time the offense, defense and special teams scored a touchdown in the same game since Week 1 in 2012. ... The last time the Jets had three touchdowns of 40 yards or more was Dec. 14, 1997, against the Buccaneers. ... Their five interceptions were their most since Week 4 in 1999 against the Broncos. ...
Other notes of interest. ... The Jets offensive line has been ridiculed for most of the preseason, but it held up well in this game. The unit allowed just two sacks and opened up holes for 169 yards rushing.
"I thought they did a good job," Bowles said. "We got some holes open here and there. They hit our quarterback a few times, but I think for the most part they did a good job. It was a good team effort."
Running back Isaiah Crowell (10 rushes, 102 yards, 2 TDs) had a nice debut with the Jets. In terms of snap counts, Bilal Powell and Crowell had an even split, as expected.
Tight end Neal Sterling was an afterthought in training camp, at least in terms of media coverage, but he played a key role in the opener.
It'll be interesting to see what happens at receiver, with Jermaine Kearse possibly returning this week. That could limit Terrelle Pryor. ...
Kearse (abdomen) and safety Marcus Maye (foot) were both inactive. Doug Middleton started in place of Maye.
QBs: Sam Darnold, Josh McCown
RBs: Bilal Powell, Isaiah Crowell, Trenton Cannon, Elijah McGuire
WRs: Robby Anderson, Quincy Enunwa, Jermaine Kearse, Terrelle Pryor, Andre Roberts
TEs: Eric Tomlinson, Jordan Leggett, Chris Herndon, Neal Sterling
Oakland RaidersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 12 September 2018
As ESPN.com's Paul Gutierrez noted, Jon Gruden's return to the NFL sideline as a head coach following nine years in ESPN's Monday Night Football booth left much to be desired for the Raiders, who were booed off the field after the final gun.
The Raiders, in a complete rebuild under Gruden with 31 players on the team's 53-man roster having never spent a day on the team's 53-man roster last season, fell to the Los Angeles Rams 33-13 on Monday night before an announced crowd of 53,857 at the Oakland Coliseum.
As such, all seven coaches making their debuts on kickoff weekend lost, with Gruden joining the New York Giants' Pat Shurmur, the Chicago Bears' Matt Nagy, the Arizona Cardinals' Steve Wilks, the Indianapolis Colts' Frank Reich, the Detroit Lions' Matt Patricia and the Tennessee Titans' Mike Vrabel.
"It was a tale of two halves, and obviously we did not take care of the ball and that was a critical part of this football game," Gruden said of the Raiders, who were outscored 23-0 after halftime. "Very disappointing."
Gruden, of course, coached the Raiders from 1998 through 2001 and then the Tampa Bay Buccaneers from 2002 through 2008, beating the Raiders in the Super Bowl in 2003.
In his second run as coach of the Raiders, Gruden has reassumed offensive play calling duties, and his game plan against the favored Rams was simple -- ball possession and power running, combined with some precision passing from Derek Carr.
It worked in the first half.
"Unfortunately," Gruden said, "we could not bottle it and sustain it.
"It's about getting this football team better, and it wasn't good enough tonight."
Even with 10 penalties for 145 yards (more penalty yards than Oakland had in any game last season) in the first half, the Raiders held the ball for 21 minutes, 31 seconds to the Rams' 8:29 and led 13-10 at the break. Carr completed 20 of 24 passes for 199 yards, though he was picked off in the end zone.
And while Rams cornerbacks Marcus Peters and Aqib Talib took away receivers Amari Cooper and Jordy Nelson, tight end Jared Cook more than picked up the slack.
Cook had six catches for 113 yards in the first half, his third 100-yard receiving game since joining the Raiders in 2017. He had four such games during the first eight years of his career.
Consider: Cook had seven catches for 141 yards and two touchdowns in his debut with the Rams in 2013, but he did not reach the 100-yard mark in any of his other 47 games with the Rams.
Cook finished Monday night's performance with a franchise record for a tight end with 180 yards receiving on nine catches, eclipsing Todd Christensen's 173 yards against the San Diego Chargers on Nov. 20, 1986.
"It's a completely different team, it's a better team," Cook said of the Raiders. "The players that we got. The coaches that we got. It's just a better team."
But after looking like 2016 Carr in the first half, the signal-caller regressed into 2017 Carr after halftime. He did not appear comfortable in the pocket against the Rams' fearsome interior pass rush of Aaron Donald and Ndamukong Suh. The play-action game disappeared and with it any chance of Gruden picking up a victory in his return.
Carr was intercepted three times, including a 50-yard pick-six by Peters late in the game.
"Obviously, I don't think it was a smashing debut, by any sense," Gruden said.
"We expect a lot better out of ourselves, and it goes on me."
That said, Gruden still believes in Carr.
"We put a lot into it, we put a lot of time into this," the coach explained. "I thought he was on his way in the first half. He was 20 of 24, there was some good things. I heard a skunk got loose in our tunnel. I think that's what screwed us up a little bit. But I don't have any doubts that Derek Carr is going to be great and I can't wait to get started and get ready for the Broncos...Knowing how good Derek is, it gives us hope that we can get it all solved."
Gutierrez went on to note the Raiders have a short week to get their offense back in gear and, less than a week after dealing with Donald and Suh, have the unenviable task of facing Von Miller and the Broncos in Denver on Sunday.
This was a deflating loss for Oakland, no doubt, and if the Raiders allow it to bleed over the rest of the week, they will be in serious trouble in Denver. ...
In what seems like a related note. ... The Raiders announced on Wednesday that Martavis Bryant has rejoined the team.
According to NFL Network's Tom Pelissero, the Raiders called Bryant on Tuesday morning, and he arrived at the facility later in the day. Oakland traded a third-round draft pick to Pittsburgh for Bryant this offseason but cut him before the season opener. Reports have persisted that Bryant faces a possible suspension for another violation of the league's substance abuse policy. But the league has not announced a suspension, allowing Bryant to sign a free agent contract. ...
Other notes of interest. ... Marshawn Lynch opened the Raiders scoring in 2018, pushing the pile on a 10-yard run on the opening drive of the game. Lynch carried the ball four times for 19 yards and his touchdown was the culmination of a 7-play, 75-yard drive.
Lynch continues to lead the league with 59 rushing touchdowns since the beginning of the 2011 season. He finished the night with 11 carries for 41 yards (3.7 avg.) and the touchdown.
Placekicker Mike Nugent split the uprights for the first time as a Raider early in the second quarter. Nugent finished the night perfect with two field goals and one PAT. ...
And finally. ... Did the Raiders miss Khalil Mack on Monday night?
In a word, yes.
As NFL.com noted, save for one point-saving strip sack by Bruce Irvin, the Raiders pass rush did little to bother Jared Goff, who had plenty of and/or too much time in the pocket. The ramifications of Mack's departure and the acquisition of two first-rounders won't be fully understood for some time. But in the short term, it's clear that, despite the promising youth on Oakland's defensive line (P.J. Hall, Mo Hurst), the Raiders are already missing the edge threat that Mack provided in spades.
QBs: Derek Carr, AJ McCarron
RBs: Marshawn Lynch, Doug Martin, Jalen Richard, DeAndre Washington
WRs: Amari Cooper, Jordy Nelson, Martavis Bryant, Seth Roberts, Johnny Holton, Keon Hatcher
TEs: Jared Cook, Derek Carrier, Lee Smith
Philadelphia EaglesCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 12 September 2018
Jay Ajayi is going to be the Eagles' "workhorse" in the backfield this season, Doug Pederson said following their opening night win over the Atlanta Falcons, albeit in a very 2018 kind of way.
As ESPN.com's Tim McManus reminded readers, the opening act of Thursday's game led to some confusion for fans and fantasy players alike, as veteran Darren Sproles got the start for the Eagles while Ajayi played sparingly, finishing the half with just three carries.
The script flipped in the second half, though. Ajayi was unleashed, and ended with 15 carries (10 more than both Sproles and Corey Clement) for 62 yards with a pair of touchdowns.
Ajayi was dealing with a foot ailment entering the game. When you factor that in, Pederson's running back rotation makes more sense, and Ajayi's prospects for the 2018 get even brighter.
"I wanted to make sure because Jay was nursing a little bit of a lower body injury for a couple weeks, and just wanted to make sure he was good and get him into the flow of the game," Pederson said. "I think not only going forward, but him, health-wise, coming out of the game was really good. Moving forward, we'll see him more."
That's music to Ajayi's ears. He wants to carry the load. Standing at 6-feet, 223-pounds, he likes to grind defenses down early and take advantage of their exhausted state late. It worked well in 2016, when he toted the ball 260 times and finished fourth in the NFL with 1,272 yards and eight touchdowns. The 25-year-old has extra incentive to reclaim the role of primary back. Ajayi is set to become a free agent at the end of the season. The bigger the year, the bigger the new contract that awaits him, whether it be in Philadelphia or elsewhere.
It's unlikely he'll get the same volume of work as he did in '16, however. Ajayi has long been dealing with cartilage issues in his right knee. The Eagles will want to be smart with how much they use him so that he's effective late in the season. Pederson favors running back rotations anyway in the name of keeping his guys fresh, as do most coaches in the modern NFL.
But as Pederson laid out the roles of his top three backs -- Ajayi, Sproles, Clement -- it became evident that he sees Ajayi as the front man.
"Well, I'll start with Corey. We've got to be careful giving him a lot of extra touches because from the standpoint of he's also a special teams player, and I want to keep him healthy and going for four quarters, first of all," he said. "And then Sproles, we know coming back is going to be mixed in there primarily on some third downs and some special situations offensively, first and second down. Jay to us is kind of the workhorse, the guy that is going to, between the tackles, he's going to pound it through there and he's a tough, physical, big guy that really took off in the second half."
Asked about his foot after the game, Ajayi said "I'm getting there." The Eagles will be careful not to over-use him until he is all the way back.
There's always a little concern when it comes to Ajayi's health, but as McManus summed up, "If he can hold up, Pederson intends on having Ajayi lead the way. ..."
Worth noting, Sproles (hamstring) was limited in Wednesday's practice. ...
Meanwhile, as Philadelphia Daily News staffer Les Bowen notes, the Eagles completed nine passes to wide receivers against Atlanta, for just 43 yards. Eight of those receptions, for 33 yards, went to Nelson Agholor. The other was the first NFL catch for DeAndre Carter, a training-camp feel-good story whose 53-snap debut was pretty surprising for a guy who spent three previous seasons unable to make an NFL roster.
Nick Foles' 15-yard reception on the new Philly Special play accounted for more yardage than any catch by an Eagles wide receiver.
Add the three wideouts the Eagles signed to their practice squad Monday - Texans veteran Braxton Miller, ex-Falcon and Brown Reggie Davis, and former Jaguar Dorren Miller - to reports of former Ravens first-round pick Breshad Perriman and ex-Browns first-rounder Corey Coleman working out for the team (Coleman subsequently signed with New England), and one might infer that management and the coaching staff thought last Thursday night's offensive struggles went deeper than Foles not looking sharp.
Miller was added to the practice squad on Monday.
Beyond that, Pederson keeps saying Alshon Jeffery is close to practicing.
Jeffery missed all of training camp and the preseason. He is scheduled to open the week limited to individual drills on Wednesday. Even if he practices later this week, it's hard to see him playing this weekend at Tampa. Mack Hollins is on injured reserve with a groin injury.
Veteran newcomers Mike Wallace and Markus Wheaton were not a factor in the opener, though Wallace played 66 snaps and was targeted three times. (He did draw one pass-interference penalty, and was clearly interfered with on another route.) Wheaton played two offensive snaps, one more on special teams.
Shelton Gibson, coming off a strong preseason, played 22 of his 26 snaps on special teams, and had no role in the offense.
Wallace said Atlanta's Cover 3 scheme made it difficult to complete long passes. "They have more of a Seattle-type defense. They do a good job of taking the big plays away," he said.
That left Zach Ertz and Agholor, who combined to catch 13 of the Eagles' 20 pass receptions, to carry the load last Thursday night.
So it's worth noting that, as ESPN's Mike Clay did early this week, that Tampa Bay allowed the most fantasy points to slot receivers in Week 1. Vernon Hargreaves III was the primary slot corner last week, but a shoulder injury is expected to cost him the rest of the season. That means rookie M.J. Stewart is the likely next man up in the slot, with Brent Grimes (or Ryan Smith if he remains out) and rookie Carlton Davis on the perimeter.
According to Clay, this all bodes well for Agholor, who aligned inside on 54 percent of his Week 1 routes against Atlanta. Clay added that Agholor won't be short targets with Jeffery still out and in a great matchup. Wallace and deep sleeper Carter also stand to benefit from light matchups on the perimeter if Grimes remains sidelined.
In a related note. ... The Eagles are signing free agent wideout Kamar Aiken. He spent training camp with Philly.
Finally. ...While Pederson officially named Foles as the Week 2 starter on Wednesday, Carson Wentz is clearly progressing. Appearing on Sunday NFL Countdown, ESPN's Chris Mortensen said that Wentz still has not yet been cleared by doctors, but the outlook is positive.
"There is much more optimism that prevails than pessimism," said Mortensen. "I think that the organizational sources I've spoken with say they wouldn't be surprised if he's ready for Week 3.
"Wentz gave the Eagles' aggressive defense a great scout team look, playing (the role of) Matt Ryan on the scout team. He got bumped around, he got stepped on. His GPS data is trending toward playing sooner than later. The key final piece of data is, can he protect himself?
"He has reached that threshold in being able to protect himself. So, sooner than later on Carson Wentz."
I'll continue to keep an eye on developments and report back on Wentz as needed in coming days.
QBs: Nick Foles, Carson Wentz, Nate Sudfeld
RBs: Jay Ajayi, Corey Clement, Darren Sproles, Wendell Smallwood
WRs: Mike Wallace, Nelson Agholor, Mack Hollins, Shelton Gibson, DeAndre Carter, Alshon Jeffery
TEs: Zach Ertz, Dallas Goedert, Richard Rodgers
Pittsburgh SteelersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 12 September 2018
Seventy minutes of flags, fumbles and the occasional fight. Forgive the Steelers if they're not quite sure what to make of their 21-21 tie against Cleveland in the season opener.
A full day removed, they still can't quite put a finger on how to feel after a 14-point fourth-quarter lead somehow morphed into the franchise's first tie in 16 years.
"Very surreal," guard David DeCastro said on Monday. "I don't think it's really settled in yet. It feels like a wash ... It's a very foreign feeling in terms of football. Really hard game all around, kind of hard to describe."
And for the defending AFC North champions, maybe the less said the better.
As Associated Press sports writer Will Graves noted, the Steelers (0-0-1) outgained the Browns by 150 yards and received a breakout performance by running back James Conner, who had 192 combined yards.
They sacked Tyrod Taylor seven times - including four times by outside linebacker TJ Watt, they were also called for a dozen penalties and couldn't hold on to the ball.
Ben Roethlisberger threw three picks and fumbled twice. Conner scored twice, but also fumbled in the fourth quarter to give the Browns all the momentum they would need to start a stunning rally. It also started what the Steelers understand is a familiar cycle once the games start to count. Every Monday, everybody overreacts.
"Win or lose going to get the same questions from the fans, question from the media, they want to frame it every week the same way," said left tackle Alejandro Villanueva, who had trouble keeping Cleveland defensive end Myles Garrett in check on a day Garrett had two sacks and two forced fumbles.
"It is upsetting when you come up with results like Sunday against a team you should potentially beat."
Still, the Steelers and fantasy owners had to be satisfied with Conner's effort.
"[He] ran hard, caught the ball well, made plays for us," said Roethlisberger. "I was proud of the way he played in his first game."
"We feel like we're going to run the ball when we want to run the ball, so I know the mentality of the guys up front," said Conner. "I knew the lanes were going to be there today. I knew today was going to be a good day on the ground, just not enough to win.
"Talking with [offensive coordinator] coach Randy [Fichtner] throughout the week, I knew that was in his plan to feed me and have me out there most of the time."
Conner's 192 total yards were more yards than Le'Veon Bell -- who remains away from the team (he was not at team headquarters on Wednesday) with an unsigned franchise tag worth $14.5 million -- had in any game last season.
In addition, Conner played all but seven of the 84 snaps on offense.
Teammates mobbed Conner on his first-career touchdown, a 4-yard push through the right side with 11 minutes, 19 seconds left in the second quarter. Conner's 22-yard scoring rush with 5:29 left in the third quarter was one of his 36 touches of the day, including five receptions for 57 yards.
Bell did not play Week 1 as part of his holdout and as a way to preserve long-term health, and the decision cost him $853,000 for this week of work.
The Steelers knew what that meant.
As Bell continues to stay away from the Pittsburgh Steelers, the team does not plan to trade the star running back or rescind his franchise tag, sources told ESPN's Adam Schefter.
"We've got a little something to prove," guard David DeCastro said earlier in the week about facing questions without Bell.
It wasn't flashy, but Conner took the yards available, found the soft spots for dump-off catches and adequately protected Roethlisberger with blitz pickup. He passed the test necessary to quell concerns about the run-game adequacy without an All-Pro in the backfield.
As ESPN.com's Jeremy Fowler suggested, Bell likely factored a potential Conner breakout into his decision to not sign his tender. But the Steelers wanted Conner to go off, and they talked him up all week. Although the Steelers knew Bell wouldn't be on the team bus on the way to Cleveland, they had every incentive to apply pressure to Bell with good play. A tie didn't help.
Fowler summed up "Whether Bell returns in Week 2 or Week 11, a 1-2 combo of Bell and Conner might just be a lot of fun. ..."
I'll obviously be watching for more on Bell in coming days; check the Late-Breaking Update section for all the latest as the week progresses. ...
Other notes of interest. ... Roethlisberger threw three interceptions and was responsible for five of the six turnovers committed by the Steelers. The veteran quarterback's poor performance came after he played sparingly in the preseason - as has been the custom in recent years.
Roethlisberger started the third preseason game and logged 26 snaps. He completed 11 of 18 attempts for 114 yards and a touchdown. That was his only preseason activity.
But Roethlisberger said rust was not a factor against the Browns.
"I don't think so," Roethlisberger said Tuesday on his 93.7 FM weekly radio segment.
All three interceptions came in the first half, when he had a 35.1 passer rating.
Adding to the intrigue, Tomlin told reporters on Tuesday that Roethlisberger has an elbow injury that may limit him early in the week in practice. It wasn't the result of any specific incident, according to Tomlin, but "just bumps and bruises" from normal game play.
Asked on Wednesday how the elbow was, Roethlisberger replied with a smile: “Got two of ‘em.”
Given a chance to follow up, Roethlisberger conceded a real answer.
“Just got hit, a bruise; it will be fine,” Roethlisberger said.
Roethlisberger would not confirm or deny if he’d had an MRI performed on the elbow, the outside of which was struck by a helmet. He said it was possible he would miss practice Wednesday, but as Pittsburgh Tribune-Review staffer Chris Adamski noted, that is typical for older veterans under Tomlin.
Asked if the injury could possibly prevent him from playing in the Steelers’ home opener Sunday against the Kansas City Chiefs: “Hope not. Don’t plan on it.”
Also on the injury front. ... Vance McDonald walked out of the Pittsburgh Steelers locker room Monday without a limp or the use of sort of wrap or other device on his injured foot. After missing the regular-season opener Sunday in Cleveland, will McDonald be ready for the home opener against Kansas City this coming week?
"Hoping for it," McDonald said.
McDonald hasn't made it through a full practice since the first week of training camp in late July. Since being acquired by the Steelers 12 ½ months ago, he's missed seven of 17 regular-season games because of injury. ...
Cornerback Joe Haden has a mild (grade one) hamstring pull, a source tells Fowler. That's a good sign for the Steelers, but they won't push it. He's not a lock for Week 2 matchup with Chiefs unless it heals correctly early in the week. Early signs are positive. ...
On Sunday, Antonio Brown became the NFL's 46th player to eclipse 10,000. If he has a typical Brown season, he will surpass close friend Chad Johnson (11,059).
This week, as ESPN's Mike Clay pointed out, Brown goes up against a Chiefs defense that has major issues at cornerback. Steve Nelson and Orlando Scandrick were both shredded by Chargers receivers last Sunday. Kansas City allowed 45.9 fantasy points to perimeter receivers, trailing only the Saints in Week 1.
Brown aligned outside on 80 percent of his Week 1 routes. Brown is almost always an elite play in all formats, but this matchup makes him a really strong DFS option.
Kendall Fuller is the Chiefs' best corner, but he was limited to nickel/slot duties last week. That role will mean a showdown with JuJu Smith-Schuster this week. Smith-Schuster aligned inside on 86 percent of his routes in Week 1 against Cleveland. Clay believes Smith-Schuster should be downgraded slightly.
The receivers' snap counts went as follows: Brown, 83; Smith-Schuster, 63; Justin Hunter, 51; James Washington, 11; Ryan Switzer, 7 (some at running back); Darrius Heyward-Bey, one.
Switzer made quite the impression in his first meaningful game as a Steeler.
The newcomer returned five punts for 56 yards, was sure-handed enough during a driving rainstorm to make two wise decisions in making fair catches and he had another 34-yard punt return wiped out because of holding penalties.
And finally. ... The team has removed Bell's name from the depth chart, as his holdout lingers.
As Profootballtalk.com noted, it's unclear why they did it. PFT's Mike Florio went on to suggest it may be a way to apply pressure to Bell, via a "we're moving on without you" vibe aimed at getting him to choose to climb onto the train as it rolls away. Or maybe they finally realized that Bell shouldn't have been on the depth chart in the first place.
QBs: Ben Roethlisberger, Mason Rudolph, Josh Dobbs
RBs: James Conner, Jaylen Samuels, Stevan Ridley, Le'Veon Bell
WRs: Antonio Brown, JuJu Smith-Schuster, James Washington, Darrius Heyward-Bey, Ryan Switzer
TEs: Vance McDonald, Jesse James, Xavier Grimble
San Francisco 49ersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 12 September 2018
After running off seven consecutive victories in games he started to open his career, Jimmy Garoppolo and the Niners came up short against the Minnesota Vikings in Sunday's 24-16 loss at U.S. Bank Stadium.
"You never want to lose," Garoppolo said. "It sucks."
Before Sunday's loss, Garoppolo was one of five quarterbacks since the NFL merger to win his first seven starts. Garoppolo threw his third interception of the game with under two minutes to go to seal the win for Minnesota.
Had Garoppolo and the Niners been able to complete a fourth-quarter comeback, it would have moved him into third-place all time for most consecutive wins by a quarterback to begin his career.
It was not to be, however, as Garoppolo had an up-and-down day against a Vikings defense that ranked at the top of the league in fewest yards and points allowed in 2017. Garoppolo finished 15-of-33 for 261 yards with a touchdown and three interceptions for a passer rating of 45.1, the worst in his eight starts.
Beyond that, as ESPN.com's Nick Waggoner suggested, of the many things the 49ers hoped would carry over from the end of 2017 to 2018, their problem scoring touchdowns in the red zone was probably not on the list.
The Niners' inability to finish drives in the end zone against Minnesota's daunting defense (and, of course, their four turnovers) left them again searching for the map to pay dirt.
"It gets tougher when you're down there in the red zone," fullback Kyle Juszczyk said. "You just have to be locked into whatever you need to do and there's really not a lot of room for error."
Indeed, the 49ers again found out the hard way how difficult it can be to score touchdowns when the field shrinks, finishing with one touchdown on four red zone trips. It was the continuation of a problem that plagued them last season.
In 2017, the Niners were 27th in the NFL in red zone efficiency, scoring touchdowns on 47.1 percent of their trips inside the opponent's 20. Unlike just about every other offensive statistic, this didn't improve much once Garoppolo took over. In five weeks with Garoppolo as the starter, the 49ers' red zone efficiency moved to 45.8 percent, which was 20th in the league in that span.
Hope that an offseason in coach Kyle Shanahan's scheme would make a difference was also hard to find in the preseason. In the part of three preseason games in which Garoppolo and the starting offense were on the field, the Niners managed just one touchdown in five red zone trips.
On Sunday, the Niners' other three trips resulted in two field goals and, the most costly of all, running back Alfred Morris' second-quarter fumble at the goal line. A touchdown there would have likely tied it at 10 and, with the ball to open the third quarter and plenty of momentum, would have positioned the Niners with a chance to take a lead.
Morris, who just signed with the 49ers in mid-August, said the ball slipped out of his grasp, though Vikings defensive tackle Linval Joseph appeared to have something to do with it.
"It was a little more humid than I thought," Morris said. "Not to make excuses, I fumbled. But surprisingly, my arms weren't dry. Normally I don't have ball-security issues, but after that I was more attentive to make sure my arms were dry because I guess I didn't really expect it to be humid. Down on the goal line, you are just trying to fight for the extra yard and my arms were just slick and it kind of popped out, unfortunately."
Morris wasn't alone in his mistake near Minnesota's end zone, either. The Niners had multiple opportunities to finish with a touchdown celebration and came up empty because of a self-inflicted mistake. While penalties weren't much of a problem as they were last season, the Niners allowed two red zone sacks and missed out on some plays that were there to be made.
On the first field goal drive, Garoppolo floated a pass to the left corner, where receiver Pierre Garcon had an opportunity to come down with it for a 15-yard touchdown but couldn't make the play.
On the second field goal drive, Garoppolo overshot tight end George Kittle, who came free in the back of the end zone.
"I can't jump 40 inches at 250 [pounds]," Kittle said. "That's hard for me. But it was a high ball. If I was 10 pounds lighter, maybe."
Perhaps fittingly, the 49ers' lone red zone touchdown came on the first play after a sack knocked them outside of Minnesota's 20, when Garoppolo escaped pressure and found rookie receiver Dante Pettis in the back corner of the end zone for a 22-yard score.
In the offseason, the Niners made it clear that they believe in their skill-position guys to fix the red zone issues. They opted not to pursue a bigger free-agent receiver such as Allen Robinson and made Pettis the only major addition at receiver. Again, fittingly, he was the only one to reach the end zone.
In the final five games of last season, the Niners were able to overcome their red zone problems, though few of those teams offered the challenge Minnesota's defense presented.
"I think it's just more the small details, us making sure we know we have got to finish when we get down there and not just expecting three points," running back Matt Breida said. "We've got to expect six every time, and I feel like we'll get better at it this week and we'll make a big jump from Week 1 to Week 2."
With tough matchups against Detroit, Kansas City and the Chargers coming up, the Niners know the sooner they can fix this ongoing issue, the better off they'll be.
On the injury front. ... The 49ers lost receiver Marquise Goodwin to a bruised quad early in the game, though he briefly returned and got a few second-half snaps. He's considered day to day and his status moving forward will depend on how he responds to treatment.
Goodwin did not practice Wednesday and I'll be following up on his status in coming days; watch the Late-Breaking Updates section for more. ...
San Francisco lost not one but two guards to foot injuries during the game in Mike Person and Joshua Garnett. That forced Mike McGlinchey to play right guard in his NFL debut. Garry Gilliam stepped in at right tackle.
Garnett suffered a dislocated toe. Shanahan said it's yet to be determined if he'll be available in Week 2. It's a foot strain for Person. Like Garnett, the injury isn't serious, but it's yet to be determined if Person will be ready to play come Sunday.
QBs: Jimmy Garoppolo, C.J. Beathard
RBs: Alfred Morris, Matt Breida, Raheem Mostert, Kyle Juszczyk
WRs: Pierre Garcon, Marquise Goodwin, Dante Pettis , Trent Taylor, Victor Bolden
TEs: George Kittle, Garrett Celek, Cole Hikutini
Seattle SeahawksCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 12 September 2018
Wide receiver Doug Baldwin left the team's 27-24 loss to the Broncos on Sunday with what head coach Pete Carroll said was a sprained MCL.
"He's got a little MCL sprain in his other knee, and so we have just got to see what that means," Carroll said. "He went back in the game and played some, but we just eventually kind of talked him out of playing because he wanted to keep going. And we just want to make sure we take care of him."
In fact, Baldwin has a Grade 2 partial MCL tear of the right knee, a source told ESPN's Adam Schefter.
Carroll did not know how long Baldwin will be out, suggesting it could be just a couple weeks.
"He was sore last night, but he was walking OK and all that," Carroll said. "He wasn't hampered in that regard. But he got hurt. He got hurt. There ain't anybody tougher than him, and if he can come back, he'll come back. That's why he went back in the game. We were trying to talk him out of it and getting him to get him out of there. He made the right decision in not battling us."
That said, Associated Press sports writer Tim Booth, appearing with the FootballDiehards on SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio Tuesday night, advised listeners an October return might be more realistic.
Baldwin injured his right knee, which is not the same knee that was previously injured.
Baldwin went down in the first quarter and started limping off the field before he went down again and had to be tended to by the team's medical staff. He eventually walked off on his own power and returned later in the first half.
A press-box announcement early in the third quarter indicated that he would not return to the game.
Baldwin was held without a catch on one target, and Seattle went into halftime trailing 17-10.
"Doug is a true playmaker. He's done it for years. I know he's going to do everything he can to get back as soon as possible," quarterback Russell Wilson said after the game.
Baldwin, who has led Seattle in receiving in five of his seven NFL seasons, missed about a month of training camp with a left-knee injury. He estimated when he returned to practice in late August that he was 80 to 85 percent healthy and said his knee injury was something he would have to deal with throughout the season.
I'll continue to follow up on Baldwin via Late-Breaking Update as developments warrant, but Brandon Marshall is among the receivers who would stand to play more if Baldwin's injury forces him to miss time. Marshall caught three passes for 46 yards and a touchdown Sunday. Tyler Lockett and Jaron Brown will also have more prominent roles.
What excited Carroll most about Marshall is that the veteran pass-catcher is just getting going with Wilson and Seattle's offense.
Also. ... With a glut of running backs and a short-term shortage of wideouts, third-year running back C.J. Prosise could be moved to receiver.
"We've been talking about it," Carroll told reporters on Tuesday. "He does have the background [with] a couple years in college."
Prosise currently is buried on the running back depth chart, behind Chris Carson, Rashaad Penny, and Mike Davis. ...
In addition, Carroll said the Seahawks added receiver Keenan Reynolds to active roster. ...
Meanwhile, as Profootballtalk.com's Mike Florio notes, the new-look Seahawks have been built around their franchise quarterback. On Sunday, their franchise quarterback didn't play like one. And the team's head coach was willing to say so publicly on Monday.
"It always goes back to the QB, everyone is going to focus on that," Carroll told 710 ESPN Seattle on Monday morning, via USA Today. "Russ needed to do better than he did yesterday, but we needed to help him a lot."
Seattle had multiple chances to win the game or force overtime after Denver took a 27-24 lead with 11:11 to play. But three drives ended with a pair of Wilson sacks and a final-snap interception.
"He got rushed," Carroll said. "He got hammered. We got sacked six times in the game. It's going to be hard for him. He was in the midst of some of those and he bailed a couple times and got in trouble. We didn't protect him as well as we need to throughout."
Carroll's candor may have been influenced by the recent criticism of efforts to coddle Wilson.
"I'm not trying to cover for him at all," Carroll said. "He can play way better. He could have got us out of some issues early by getting rid of the football a couple times, but things got taken away and he got resourceful like he's going to do."
Wilson completed 19 of 33 passes for 298 yards, with three touchdowns and two interceptions. That translates to a passer rating of 92.7, which is far from bad. Not reflected in that calculation is the fact that Wilson absorbed six sacks. He also gained only five yards on the ground.
It gets no easier for the Seahawks on Monday night, when they continue their season-opening road show with a Monday night trip to Chicago for a date with Khalil Mack and company. ...
Other notes of interest. ... In part because of third-down issues, the Seahawks didn't get their running game going as much as they would have liked, particularly early, because the offense didn't stay on the field long enough. The Seahawks finished the game with just 14 rushing attempts by running backs, seven each for Carson and Penny.
"We didn't do it enough," Carroll said. "That goes back to, we didn't convert on third down, so then you're off the field so you don't get to use the ready list you have. We didn't get through it, we ran the ball six times in the first half. How many plays did we have, 15 plays in the first half? That's not enough to figure it out."
That being said, Carroll still saw some things in those limited opportunities that leave him encouraged about the running game going forward.
"The angle block stuff happened again, we hit the trap, we hit a nice wham play," Carroll said. "We did some nice stuff, there's some things there for us that are going to be good, we've just got to get to them, we didn't have the opportunity to access them."
Expect Carson to continue getting the start.
Carroll said on Tuesday that Carson "really took the lead at that position" and Penny "looked a little rusty."
With another elite pass rusher coming up next week, the Seahawks know they need to run the ball better and more often to keep Khalil Mack from being too disruptive.
"It has to happen," Carroll said. "It has to happen. We need to do that. You can't get sacked when you're running it."
In his NFL debut, rookie tight end Will Dissly not only did his expected unglamorous work in the trenches, he also was the team's leading receiver, gaining 105 yards on three catches, including a 15-yard touchdown for his first career reception.
Dissly's most impressive highlight might not have been his first career touchdown, but rather a 66-yard catch and run that saw him break multiple tackles before finally being shoved out of bounds at the 5-yard line. That play was the longest reception by a Seahawks rookie since receiver Darrell Jackson had a 71-yarder during the 2000 season.
Dissly also became the first rookie to record 100 receiving yards in his debut since Houston's Will Fuller did it two seasons ago.
"He was on fire," Carroll said. ...
A few final injury notes. ... Linebacker K.J. Wright, who missed Sunday's game while recovering from arthroscopic knee surgery, ran hard on Monday, but Carroll made it sound like it's unlikely Wright will be back for Monday night's game at Chicago. Carroll doesn't yet know if D.J. Fluker will get back from a hamstring injury, but if he has to miss a second straight game, the Seahawks feel confident with J.R. Sweezy at right guard.
QBs: Russell Wilson, Brett Hundley
RBs: Chris Carson, Rashaad Penny, Mike Davis, C.J. Prosise, J.D. McKissic
WRs: Tyler Lockett, Brandon Marshall, Jaron Brown, David Moore, Doug Baldwin
TEs: Will Dissly, Nick Vannett, Ed Dickson, Darrell Daniels
Tampa Bay BuccaneersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 12 September 2018
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers insisted all along that they weren't overly concerned about having to open the season without suspended quarterback Jameis Winston.
As Associated Press sports writer Fred Goodall noted, that's because Ryan Fitzpatrick not only is an experienced backup who's one of just four players in NFL history to throw touchdown passes for seven different teams, but he has proven he can win games, too.
No one, however, could have anticipated him launching his 14th season quite the way he did, throwing for a career-best 417 yards and four TDs without an interception on the road to key a 48-40 victory over the New Orleans Saints.
Fitzpatrick also ran for a touchdown, improving to 3-1 as a starter since joining the Bucs before last season and earning NFC Offensive Player of the Week honors.
With Winston suspended for three games for violating the league's personal conduct policy, the 35-year-old with 120 starts will also lead Tampa Bay (1-0) the next two weeks against Philadelphia and Pittsburgh.
"Fitz is comfortable being in there, he's not going to get rattled," head coach Dirk Koetter said.
"After a guy (has) played a certain amount - I don't know what the cutoff is, but Fitz has played a lot. I think that experience of, 'OK, I know how fast the game is going to be. I know when I'm going to have to throw the ball away. I know when I'm going to have to eat it and take a hit. I know when it's time to scramble.'" Koetter added.
"I just think that best thing overall that Fitz is doing right now is when the play does break down, he's making good decisions with the football whether it be throwing it to a safe spot or becoming a runner."
Against the Saints, Fitzpatrick joined Mark Rypien as the only quarterbacks to throw for at least 400 yards with zero interceptions while also rushing for a touchdown in the same game. In addition to being 21 of 28 passing, including a pair of TDs of 50-plus yards, he targeted Mike Evans and DeSean Jackson 12 times, completing all of those throws.
"To hit them all 12 of those times is pretty unusual," Koetter said.
Evans rang up 147 yards on his seven receptions while Jackson scored twice on five catches for 146 yards. That marked the first time in Buccaneers history that two players recorded at least 140 receiving yards in the same game.
Worth noting, Evans is about to overtake the second spot on the team's all-time receptions list, as well, but it will take him a bit longer to track down the player at the top. His touchdown catch against the Saints was his 33rd of his career. He needs just one more to catch the all-time franchise leader.
And finally, Evans' 147-yard outburst against the Saints was the 14th 100-yard game of his career. That's just one shy of the team record in that category.
In addition, Chris Godwin pulled in three catches for 41 yards and a touchdown on four targets.
"That's how the Tampa Bay Buccaneers should be. ... We know what we are capable of. We don't really care what the outside thinks."
Just how good was it?
The Bucs' 48 points matched a franchise high, with 41 coming from the offense. Their 529 total yards were also their second most in a game, behind the 573 they had against the Minnesota Vikings in 1980.
In addition to Fitzpatrick's strong showing, it's worth noting that offensive coordinator Todd Monken's debut as an NFL play-caller was impressive. ...
Other notes of interest. ... Jackson suffered a shoulder injury and a concussion late in the fourth quarter when he fell hard face-first into the turf. Jackson was on the field for several seconds as trainers examined him, before walking off with assistance. He had his shoulder on ice in the locker room after the game and he did not practice on Wednesday.
Jackson was having his biggest game as a Buccaneer prior to the injury, catching 5 passes on 5 targets for 146 yards and 2 touchdowns, averaging 29.2 yards on those plays.
"That's what Jason [Licht, the team's general manager] brought him [in] for," said Koetter.
Indeed, Jackson's 58-yard touchdown catch to start the Buccaneers' 48-point onslaught on Sunday was the 27th score of his career that covered at least 50 yards. That puts Jackson into the top five all-time in 50+-yard touchdowns, and the other four players on that list are already in the Hall of Fame.
I'll be watching for more on his status in coming days; watch the Late-Breaking Updates section for developments
A few final notes here. ... The Bucs inactives included Ronald Jones, Brent Grimes, Justin Watson, Vita Vea, Alex Cappa, Mike Liedtke and Adam Gettis.
Why was Jones inactive? He's third on their depth chart at running back. Starter Peyton Barber carried the ball 19 times for 69 yards. He wasn't targeted in the passing game. Jacquizz Rodgers carried twice for one yard and he caught his lone target for a two-yard gain.
A few final items. ... Cornerback Vernon Hargreaves suffered a potentially season-ending shoulder injury Sunday and is getting a second opinion Wednesday from Dr. James Andrews to see exactly how long he will miss, according to ESPN.com's John Keim and Adam Schefter. It sounds like he's heading to IR.
DE Jason Pierre Paul has a brace on his right knee. "My knee is jacked up," he told reporters on Wednesday. "Banged up. Ask me if I can play Sunday, I don't know."
QBs: Ryan Fitzpatrick, Ryan Griffin, Jameis Winston
RBs: Peyton Barber, Ronald Jones, Jacquizz Rodgers
WRs: Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, DeSean Jackson, Adam Humphries, Justin Watson, Freddie Martino
TEs: O.J. Howard, Cameron Brate, Antony Auclair, Alan Cross
Tennessee TitansCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 12 September 2018
The Titans have lost their three-time Pro Bowl tight end at least for a big chunk of the season.
Quarterback Marcus Mariota is being evaluated after hurting his throwing arm, and two-time Pro Bowl left tackle Taylor Lewan is in the concussion protocol.
And that's just the latest injuries for the Titans.
As Associated Press sports writer Teresa Walker noted, now Tennessee has to see who's healthy enough for the home opener Sunday against AFC South rival Houston (0-1) and adapt accordingly.
"What we're going to do every week is try to figure out what gives us the best chance to win, personnel wise, who we have available, maybe who we're playing obviously," rookie head coach Mike Vrabel said Monday.
"We'll be flexible enough to use any personnel that we think will help us win. I don't think we can commit to anything right now."
The Titans already are down starting right tackle Jack Conklin, who was inactive against Miami as he recovers from a torn left ACL repaired in January.
On defense, starting linebacker Derrick Morgan played only 14 snaps in the Titans' 27-20 loss in Miami as the Titans work the veteran back in after a preseason injury.
Tennessee's top two draft picks also are linebackers, and Rashaan Evans and Harold Landry both missed the opener with injuries.
Add to that the Titans are recovering from the league's longest game since the NFL/AFL merger in 1970 because of two lightning delays that made the matchup in Miami last 7 hours, 8 minutes from the opening kickoff to the final second ticked off.
Morgan said it wasn't easy warming up, cooling down again and again, but thinks the Titans learned some mental toughness from the day that wouldn't end.
"Hopefully it never happens again and we never have to play football for eight hours straight," Morgan said.
Mariota was being evaluated after he lost sensation in his right hand after the game from his injured right elbow. He was intercepted twice - both after taking a hit from Dolphins defensive lineman William Hayes following a handoff.
The good news?
Mariota practiced and “is feeling good.”
Vrabel told reporters after practice that, barring a setback, Mariota will be good to go on Sunday.
Blaine Gabbert, signed this offseason, replaced Mariota and threw for 117 yards with an interception. But it sounds like he'll remain relegated to the reserve role this week.
Vrabel did say he told defensive coordinator Dean Pees to take note of how officials are handling quarterbacks carrying out a fake on a run-pass option.
"If that's legal, then we have to do it the same exact way," Vrabel said.
Lewan was held out of Wednesday's practice. Asked about Dolphins lineman Andre Branch's hit, Vrabel said it probably wasn't dirty even if the coach thinks his left tackle "absolutely" was targeted.
The Titans Delanie Walker on injured reserve Monday and the tight end was scheduled to have surgery on his right ankle in the next few days. Walker came into the season with the most catches in the NFL by a tight end between 2013 and 2017. He also has been Mariota's favorite target, leading the team in receptions in two of the past three years.
Vrabel said the Titans will evaluate Walker's potential to return this season after surgery. Jonnu Smith, a third-round pick out of Florida International in 2017, has 19 receptions and will be the first expected to fill in for Walker. Smith had talked to Walker and said the veteran was in good spirits.
"It is some big shoes to fill," Smith said.
Wide receivers Corey Davis, Rishard Matthews, Taywan Taylor and Tajae Sharpe will be relied upon to help fill the void left by Walker. Matthews has two seasons with Mariota as his quarterback. After Walker, he's the pass-catcher that Mariota is most familiar with.
Davis (hamstring) was limited Wednesday, but all of Tennessee's wideouts are capable of making plays after the catch with Taylor perhaps the most explosive. His 47-yard touchdown catch and run against Tampa Bay in week 2 of the preseason is an example of his playmaking ability.
He only played nine snaps against the Dolphins and was targeted once as he tried to make a diving catch in the end zone on a deep pass from Mariota. His snaps will increase going forward.
Running back Dion Lewis will also get more targets -- especially on third down. He has become an outstanding route runner and creates matchup problems for opposing defenses. His ability to turn a short pass into a big gain is something the Titans will rely on.
Though the outlook is bleak without Walker, there are still ways for Tennessee to get the offense going. It will take a group effort to replace Walker, but the pieces are in place to do so.
Of some concern to fantasy owners. ... Lewis out-snapped Derrick Henry more than 2:1 and Lewis clearly looked like the better back. As SBNation's Jimmy Morris notes, game script played a huge part in the snap counts. Lewis is always going to play more when the Titans are behind.
It will be interesting to watch how it plays out the rest of the year, but it's something Henry owners need to account for -- at least early on.
As for the wideouts, Taylor only played 9 of the Titans 69 offensive snaps. Davis led the receivers in snaps at 63. Sharpe was second at 58 and Matthews was third at 36. Morris expects the numbers between Matthews and Sharpe to flip soon, possibly as early this week against the Texans.
QBs: Marcus Mariota, Blaine Gabbert
RBs: Derrick Henry, Dion Lewis, David Fluellen
WRs: Corey Davis, Rishard Matthews, Taywan Taylor, Tajae Sharpe
TEs: Jonnu Smith, Luke Stocker, Delanie Walker
Washington RedskinsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 12 September 2018
Alex Smith looked like his old self. So did Adrian Peterson.
When the 34-year-old Smith wasn't carving up the Arizona defense, the 33-year-old Peterson was running through it.
The result was a 24-6 Washington victory on Sunday, head coach Jay Gruden's first win in a season opener in five tries, and it was even more dominant than the final score would indicate.
"You guys put that monkey there. You guys kept reminding me about the dang 0-4 start," Gruden said. "It counts as one game. I told our team we are 1-0 and now it is time we have to put back-to-back games together."
Smith and Peterson were playing their first game as Redskins and the two veterans made an impact from the start.
"I thought the way we came out moving the ball, finishing drives in the red zone was big," Smith said. "It certainly started with running the football. I thought our O-line was dominant."
Smith, acquired from Kansas City in the offseason to replace Kirk Cousins, completed 21 of 30 passes without an interception and had TD throws of 13 yards to Chris Thompson and 4 yards to Jordan Reed. Peterson rushed for 96 yards on 26 carries, including a 1-yard touchdown run.
"The sky is the limit (for this offense)," Peterson said. "Alex is doing a great job running this offense and for the past couple of weeks I have seen these receivers go out in practice and grind. The offensive line speaks for itself and then you add (Thompson) in there. That young guy got me going today."
Peterson, who played for Arizona a year ago and signed with Washington as a free agent on Aug. 20, finished his day with a 52-yard reception, but fumbled at the end of the play.
The Redskins outgained the Cardinals 429-213 and had 30 first downs to Arizona's 14 and it was even more one-sided before the Cardinals showed some life late in the game.
Washington rushed for 182 yards to Arizona's 68.
According to ESPN.com's John Keim, Smith averaged 3.2 air yards per attempt, his lowest in a game since Week 8 of 2015 (3.0 vs. Lions). The Redskins capitalized on Smith's short passes, gaining 179 yards after the catch, including 71 by Peterson, his most in a game since 2011 (75 at Panthers).
Smith was 13-of-16 for 190 yards and 2 TD targeting running backs and tight ends, the fifth-most such yards in his career.
For a first game with a new quarterback, the Redskins were able to dig deep into their playbook.
Because they overloaded Smith at the start of camp with a heavier-than-normal installation of their offense and he showed he could handle it all. The key now will be to continue building on what they showed Sunday. The Week 1 output is even more impressive considering Washington's offense had several key players either limited or out for much of camp because of lingering injuries and an abundance of caution.
The Redskins used a variety of packages on offense, including seven different formations on the first drive alone.
But again, it was more than that. His accuracy has been on display throughout his career as well as this summer. It was there again Sunday, notably on a two-yard touchdown pass to Reed, who stretched out for the pass against man coverage before lunging into the end zone.
There was also a 22-yard completion that resulted from Smith spinning out of the pocket, rolling to his left and throwing to Reed.
"He's fun to watch in that regard," Gruden said. "You always feel he's going to make the right decision most of the time."
As for Peterson?
ESPN's Dan Graziano reminded readers on Tuesday that Frank Gore (2016) is the only running back to rush for 1,000 yards in his age-33 season since John Riggins did it back in 1985. If there's any other back who can do it, it should probably be Peterson, who amassed 166 yards from scrimmage against Arizona.
After all, Peterson proved himself to be a different type of special when he rushed for 1,485 yards in 2015, less than a year after he suffered a career-threatening knee injury.
Still, Graziano isn't yet buying Peterson as a 1,000-yard rushing candidate this season partly because the fit with Washington seems less than ideal. The Redskins have had just one 1,000-yard rusher since Gruden became coach, with Alfred Morris topping out at 1,074 yards in 2014. Peterson had two 100-yard rushing games for Arizona last season, but otherwise did not get much going (the line and QB situations were obvious factors).
Peterson has never been known as an effective pass protector, which can become a bigger factor in playing-time considerations when a back is no longer as dynamic as Peterson was earlier in his career.
But can he remain a viable fantasy play?
It seems like the volume will be sufficient.
Meanwhile, Thompson can provide the lightning to Peterson's thunder. Thompson's quickness and vision make him a strong fit in the Redskins' run-pass option game, which they used often in the first half. In fact, his first carry resulted in a 13-yard run off this look in the first quarter.
On the day, Thompson carried the ball five times for 65 yards and caught six passes for 63 more, plus one touchdown. Eight of his 11 touches resulted in a first down.
"That young guy got me going," Peterson said of Thompson, who rushed for 294 yards and caught 39 passes for 510 more yards before he was injured last November. He averaged 4.6 yards per carry and 13.1 yards per catch, with nine receptions of at least 20 yards.
At one point in the summer, Thompson expressed concern over when he'd be back to himself. Meanwhile, coaches said he might be quicker than in the past. As the summer wore on and he practiced more, Thompson felt better. Nearly a week before the opener, Thompson said he no longer worried about his leg and felt like his old self. It showed in Week 1.
Also. ... Reed hauled in four passes for 48 yards and the above-mentioned touchdown. The score marked the 23rd touchdown of Reed's career and the first time Reed has found the end zone since recording two touchdowns at the Philadelphia Eagles on Oct.23, 2017.
Wide receiver Jamison Crowder finished with three receptions for 32 yards. He now needs five catches for 200 career receptions. Wide receiver Paul Richardson recorded four receptions for 22 yards in his debut as a Washington Redskin. He is now one reception shy of 100 for his career.
Josh Doctson had one catch for 11 yards (on three targets).
Washington still needed receivers, even if not Dez Bryant. The team took a step toward backfilling the position this morning, with the agents for Brian Quick tweeting out word that he was rejoining his old team.
Quick was part of final cuts there this year, but with injuries (including a high-ankle sprain for Trey Quinn and a concussion for Maurice Harris) reducing them to three healthy wideouts, having someone who could step in quickly was a priority. The 29-year-old Quick played in 11 games for Washington last year, catching six passes for 76 yards.
The team placed receiver Cam Sims on IR to make room for Quick.
QBs: Alex Smith, Colt McCoy
RBs: Adrian Peterson, Chris Thompson, Robert Kelley, Samaje Perine
WRs: Jamison Crowder, Josh Doctson, Paul Richardson, Maurice Harris, Trey Quinn, Breshad Perriman, Michael Floyd, Cam Sims
TEs: Jordan Reed, Vernon Davis, Jeremy Sprinkle