Team Notes week 2 2021
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 14 September 2021
As Darren Urban of the team's official website framed it: "They knew. They said all along they knew. ..."
Kyler Murray said he and the offense would be fine if they didn't play preseason snaps. DeAndre Hopkins raved about what the unit could -- and would -- be.
And that's what the Cardinals were on offense Sunday, in their season-opening domination of the Titans in Tennessee, 38-13. They had 416 yards. They had 136 yards rushing -- only 20 of them by Murray. Murray looked like a quarterback advancing to that next level. Rondale Moore added an element to the unit that had otherwise been absent.
"You guys in the media were panicking after one preseason game, so we felt like we had to calm (you down a) little bit," Hopkins said, smiling. "We knew what we were going to be like."
Other than early penalties -- a bugaboo that still must still be quelled -- complaints would be disingenuous. Murray made one poor decision, an interception that led to a Titans' touchdown to start the second half. But Murray made sure the Cardinals answered with a touchdown drive of their own.
"There's adversity in every game," Murray said. "That was a little bit of ours, and we faced it."
It helps to have next-level talents like Murray and Hopkins. Who else are going to combine to save what would have been a disaster -- the near-fumble return for a touchdown by defensive tackle Corey Peters to the Tennessee 1, only to have penalties threaten to force a field goal? Third down, Murray is flushed right, and somehow, finds Hopkins along the backline
"The play is never over until he's on the ground," Hopkins said.
Or when Murray somehow weaved and bobbed his way out of two or three potential sacks -- 43 yards of running all told -- before firing an 18-yard strike to Moore.
"That was a great play call, wasn't it?" head coach Kliff Kingsbury quipped.
Or the time when Murray, on the zero all-comers blitz, dropped the ball over the top clean for a 26-yard score to Christian Kirk. Props to Murray and Kirk for the excellent execution, and props to the coaching staff for have repped just such a play in practice.
Kirk caught that ball too.
"I kind of knew it was going to be the same thing," Kirk said. "So, once I saw it coming behind my head, I just knew that I had to adjust and look up into the air and know with him, and his talent and his ability to place the ball, I just knew I had to run right underneath it."
The nine snaps of the preseason never mattered to Murray, and they certainly don't matter to anyone now.
"Man, he won the game," Hopkins said. "At the end of the day, it says W or a loss. He had five touchdowns. He prepared like he was going to have five touchdowns. He demanded everybody else to be on their A-game. When we messed up, Kyler was the first one on us. ..."
Next on the agenda?
The Cardinals host the Vikings this Sunday. ...
Other notes of interest. ...Who will be the Cardinals' best offensive weapon after Hopkins?
According to ESPN.com's Josh Weinfuss, it's going to depend on the game, but Arizona showed Sunday it has offensive depth. As noted above, Kirk caught two touchdowns, A.J. Green could be an option despite a quiet first start (he was targeted in the end zone but the pass was broken up) and Moore is also worth keeping an eye on.
Whatever the case, Murray is going to be Murray and Hopkins is Hopkins and Weinfuss contends that if defenses want to commit to them, Arizona has plenty of other options who can help them score 40 points a game.
As for the backfield rotation. ... It was a pretty even split.
Chase Edmonds started with James Conner coming off the bench behind him. As CBSSports.com suggests, that scenario played out perfectly against the Titans.
Edmonds was efficient both as a runner and pass catcher -- he ran for 63 yards on 12 carries while catching four passes for 43 yards on four targets, and there were still 16 carries left for Conner to run out the clock with late.
The difference is that Conner didn't draw a single target, so the former Pittsburgh runner might disappear from the box score in games where the Cardinals need to throw more often.
Edmonds, by contrast, should remain the lead Arizona running back regardless of the game scenario. His Week 2 against the Vikings might not be ideal, but Edmonds is an unconditional part of a Cardinals offense that looked impressive Sunday. ...
Receiver Andy Isabella was the only player who didn't appear in the game besides backup quarterback Colt McCoy. Isabella was the team's second-round pick in 2019 but nearly three years later, it's clear the Cardinals don't have a great idea where to use him. What's more, rookie WR Moore looked good in his first game and is doing a lot of the things that Isabella was expected to do. ...
As the Associated Press notes, the Cardinals still aren't the most disciplined team in the world. That had four penalties on the opening drive, one reason they settled for a field goal instead of a touchdown. Arizona settled in after the mistake-riddled first quarter, finishing with eight penalties for 59 yards. But considering Arizona was the NFL's most penalized team in 2020, it's something worth watching. ...
One last note here. ... Weinfuss note the Cardinals' defense is legitimate -- as in Super Bowl good. It was anchored by pass-rusher Chandler Jones' five sacks, which tied the franchise record. It showed its depth with newcomer J.J. Watt in the backfield more than Titans back Derrick Henry Sunday. Cornerback Byron Murphy Jr. showed his versatility and made plays from sideline to sideline. The defensive line all but shut down Henry.
Arizona's defense showed what it's capable of against an offense that made the playoffs last season.
QBs: Kyler Murray, Colt McCoy, Chris Streveler
RBs: Chase Edmonds, James Conner, Jonathan Ward, Eno Benjamin
WRs: DeAndre Hopkins, A.J. Green, Christian Kirk, Rondale Moore, Andy Isabella, Antoine Wesley
TEs: Maxx Williams, Darrell Daniels
Atlanta FalconsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 14 September 2021
As ESPN.com's Michael Rothstein suggested, the Falcons Week 1 loss to the Eagles was "really, really ugly."
Everything kind of fell apart for Atlanta.
The offense fizzled after two strong drives to start the game. The defense was beaten by a thousand gashes and zone reads and short passes it couldn't defend. And it got worse from there. This was about as bad as it could get in head coach Arthur Smith's debut.
It was known the Falcons had some roster holes and lacked depth, but for it to be such a complete meltdown is concerning. When a team's penalty yards (99) approaches either its rushing (124) or passing (136) yardage, you know it has been a really bad day.
Of obvious concern for fantasy managers, is the offense.
Things started out strong, with Smith bringing out a bit of no-huddle with a personnel set in different formations.
But after that, everything sputtered.
As AtlantaFalcons.com's Kris Rhim reminded readers, for the past three seasons, the Falcons have ranked at the bottom of the NFL in rushing. Their 27th place finish in 2018 was their highest in the past three seasons, when Tevin Coleman led the team with 800 rushing yards. The Falcons have not even had a thousand rusher since Devonta Freeman ran for 1,079 yards in the 2016 season.
The Falcons brought in reinforcements in the offseason to fix their running game, including Smith and running backs Mike Davis and Cordarrelle Patterson.
Davis emerged in 2020 when he became the featured back in Carolina after Christian McCaffrey went down to injury, gaining 642 rushing yards, 373 yards receiving, and eight total touchdowns. Patterson rushed for 232 yards last season, splitting time at wide receiver and running back.
Smith came from serving as offensive coordinator for the past two seasons in Tennessee. The Titans' offense went through Derrick Henry, the NFL's rushing champion the past two seasons, and became just the eighth running back to eclipse the 2,000-yard mark last season.
And the difference in the running game was felt immediately against the Eagles.
Davis burst out a 12-yard run on the second play from scrimmage, lowering his shoulder trucking a defender before going down. Patterson found open lanes with ease too. His first two carries went for a combined 25 yards.
At the end of the first quarter, the Falcons had already accumulated 86 yards, beating their total amount in seven different games last season. By the nine-minute mark in the second quarter, the team had 102 rushing yards, surpassing their 95.8 per game average last season.
But, for the remainder of the game, the Falcons gained just 22 yards on the ground and just 16 in the second half.
The team did not gain any yards on the ground in the third quarter -- finishing with negative two yards.
As the running game faded and the Falcons deficit grew much larger, the offense was forced to go to the air, but with no fear of the running game by that point, it made it challenging for the Falcons to get anything going. And with pass rushers not afraid of the run, Matt Ryan was under heavy pressure almost every drop back. He was sacked three times in the second half.
Ryan said he thought Patterson and Davis ran well, but the lack of effective drives hurt their chances of keeping the running game going on the ground.
"We just needed to do a better job later into the game in getting into some drives, getting a couple first downs, and getting rolling," Ryan said. "I think early in the game we did that, and we saw them start to finish runs and runs coming out the back end for big gains."
Davis had 15 carries to Patterson's seven, but Patterson led the team with 54 yards. The team's third option at running back, Wayne Gallman, was inactive after signing on Sept. 2 but could still work into the rotation.
Meanwhile, the passing game barely threw intermediate routes, let alone deep shots.
Atlanta reached the red zone twice and settled for field goals. The offensive line had three false starts.
Ultimately, Sunday's game against the Eagles showed a glimpse of how effective the Falcons run game could be, but if the Falcons face large deficits in games, the run game will have no chance.
The good news, according to Rothstein, "is that it can't get any worse. Except Atlanta plays the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 2."
For what it's worth, Smith opened his first news conference following a regular-season game by saying "I feel awful for our fans."
Falcons fans have seen worse than the 26-point loss, but it was the most lopsided season-opening setback for Atlanta since a 48-10 loss at Tampa Bay in 1987. That team finished 3-12 in a strike-impacted season. ...
Also of interest. ... Pitts brought in four of eight targets for 31 yards in the Falcons' 32-6 loss to the Eagles on Sunday.
As CBSSports.com notes, Kyle Pitts' highly anticipated regular-season debut was a disappointing microcosm of the Falcons' afternoon, even as the rookie tight end tied for second on the team in receptions and also was the runner-up in receiving yardage (he caught four of eight targets for 31 yards), despite his modest total.
His longest reception went for 18 yards, meaning he netted a measly 13 on his three other grabs. Pitts did draw even with Calvin Ridley for the team lead in targets, however, offering a glimmer of optimism for disheartened fantasy managers who invested heavy draft capital in him.
Pitts will have the tough task of trying to better his production on the road battle against the defending champion Buccaneers.
QBs: Matt Ryan, Josh Rosen, Feleipe Franks
RBs: Mike Davis, Cordarrelle Patterson, Wayne Gallman
WRs: Calvin Ridley, Russell Gage, Christian Blake, Olamide Zaccheaus, Frank Darby, Chris Rowland
TEs: Kyle Pitts, Hayden Hurst, Jaeden Graham
Baltimore RavensCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 14 September 2021
As BaltimoreRavens.com's Clifton Brown noted, Lamar Jackson lost two fumbles Monday night, and his last turnover was the most costly.
With the game tied in overtime, Jackson lost the football while being sacked by Carl Nassib, setting up the winning drive for the Las Vegas Raiders in their 33-27 victory. It was fitting that a hit on Jackson led to the Ravens' demise. He was hit all night.
The Raiders had three sacks and seven quarterback hits on Jackson, and only his elusiveness kept him from being hit more often.
Jackson was still angry about his two turnovers during his postgame press conference, blaming himself. He took to social media afterwards to express more frustration.
"That ticked me off. I hate any type of turnover," Jackson said. "Two hands on the football."
Brown went on to note that while Jackson needs to take better care of the football, the Ravens need to take better care of him. This was the debut of Baltimore's new-look offensive line -- a starting front five of All-Pro left tackle Ronnie Stanley, left guard Tyre Phillips, center Bradley Bozeman, right guard Kevin Zeitler and right tackle Alejandro Villanueva.
The offensive line did not fare as well as Baltimore hoped. Phillips was carted off with a knee injury in the first half and did not return, replaced by Ben Powers. There was no immediate update after the game from head coach John Harbaugh on Phillips' injury.
Meanwhile, the Raiders generated consistent pressure on Jackson throughout the game, led by Maxx Crosby who had two sacks and four quarterback hits. Much of the offseason talk surrounding the Ravens centered on their offensive line, and how well it would play. That talk will continue after this game.
Jackson used his mobility to create some magic, most notably on his 10-yard touchdown pass to Marquise "Hollywood" Brown when he eluded at least three tackles to buy time until Brown broke free.
However, the magic ran out for the Ravens' offense in overtime, largely because they didn't have enough answers for the Raiders pass rush. Jackson's numbers weren't bad at all (19 for 30, 235 yards, one touchdown, no interceptions, 86 yards rushing). But winning is what he cares about most, and the Ravens are 0-1.
Baltimore led 14-0 in the second quarter and had a chance to take control of the game. But instead of keeping the momentum, the Ravens lost it, and their next game is the home opener against the defending AFC champion Kansas City Chiefs, who hold a 3-0 record over Jackson as a starter quarterback.
The Ravens entered the game having won five straight season openers, usually in dominant fashion. But this Week 1 game had a different feel. By halftime, the Raiders had closed to within 14-10, setting up an exciting second half where both teams made big plays and big mistakes.
Jackson's first fumble came in the fourth quarter when he coughed up the football after taking a hard hit from Quinton Jefferson. The Ravens were still leading, 17-10, but Jackson's turnover set up a give-play 41-yard touchdown drive by the Raiders, ending with Josh Jacobs' 15-yard touchdown run.
With 16 games left, the Ravens have time to figure things out. But for the first time in six years, they opened a season with a loss, and Jackson was already looking forward to facing the Chiefs.
"We have to prepare for a great team, Sunday night in the bank," Jackson said. "We've got to make something happen."
Between now and then, Baltimore will need to evaluate the veteran running backs the team brought in recently. Le'Veon Bell and Devonta Freeman have been on the practice squad. Latavius Murray was active and had 10 carries for 28 yards and a touchdown Monday.
But Ty'Son Williams ran for 65 yards on nine carries in his NFL debut and broke free for a 35-yard touchdown. He also had three catches for 29 yards.
Despite all the injuries, the Ravens rushed for at least 100 yards for a 40th consecutive game. They are now three games shy of the record set by the Pittsburgh Steelers during the 1970s.
Baltimore did release running back Trenton Cannon on Tuesday, perhaps an indication they're comfortable with the Williams-Murray duo atop the depth chart.
QBs: Lamar Jackson, Trace McSorley, Tyler Huntley
RBs: Ty'Son Williams, Latavius Murray, Devonta Freeman, Gus Edwards
WRs: Marquise Brown, Sammy Watkins, Devin Duvernay, Tylan Wallace, Miles Boykin, James Proche, Rashod Bateman
TEs: Mark Andrews, Josh Oliver, Eric Tomlinson, Nick Boyle
Buffalo BillsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 14 September 2021
According to BuffaloBills.com's Chris Brown, from the moment the offense stepped on the field Sunday, they didn't look like the juggernaut offense they had become in 2020.
An opening three-and-out series to start the game was a precursor of what would follow for most of the afternoon.
"We've got to do a better job," said head coach Sean McDermott of the offensive execution. "I've got to do a better job. Getting into a rhythm would be one thing, establishing the line of scrimmage would be another, and then beating ourselves with penalties. It's not good enough."
Though an opening 75-yard kick return allowed the Bills to still put points on the board on that initial drive, Buffalo would punt on their next three possessions and Josh Allen fumbled away another for a turnover.
"Starting with me, early on, just being maybe a little too aggressive instead of just finding some easier things," said Allen. "Whether it be first-game nerves or jitters or feeling stuff with my feet, but again, I've got to play better, I've got to be better. I know that. But that's a really good team. They had a really good plan."
It wasn't until their final drive of the first half that they were able to finish a drive with a touchdown when Allen found Gabriel Davis for a three-yard strike to go into the locker room up 10-0.
Allen finished the first half 16-26 for 152 yards with a touchdown.
Holding penalties, miscommunication between quarterback and receiver in the passing game and some errant throws by Allen all contributed to a frustrating day of self-inflicted wounds on the offensive side of the ball.
The toughest one was an overthrow by Allen to Emmanuel Sanders, who had beaten man-to-man coverage on a 2nd-and-14 and would've scored a touchdown had the throw been accurate.
"Missing Emmanuel on the deep throw, obviously that's one I need back," he said. "A defense like this gives you that type of opportunity, you've got to execute and make those plays happen. I didn't. We didn't. It is what it is."
Despite Buffalo's propensity to throw in the second half, Allen's numbers went down as he was 14-25 for 118 yards over the final two quarters. Pittsburgh's choice to rush just three or four and drop seven into coverage compromised the effectiveness of the Bills passing attack.
"There weren't many times that we got many one-on-ones," said Cole Beasley, who finished with eight catches for 60 yards. "There was always someone playing hard leverage one way and then somebody waiting for us on the other side. So they definitely had a good scheme. They made it tough, but we've got to be better. We've got to make more plays."
So can the offense replicate last year's success?
According to ESPN.com's Alaina Getzenberg, Allen is the key.
As outlined above, accuracy downfield proved to be a major problem, despite facing the lowest blitz rate of his career, per ESPN Stats and Info. He completed just 30 of 51 passes, a career high in pass attempts, for 270 yards against the Steelers and had trouble connecting with both Stefon Diggs and Beasley.
The offensive line, one of the team's biggest questions coming into the game, also struggled with Allen's limited movement, which played a part in the Steelers not needing to blitz. The line was also called for six holding penalties, four of which were accepted, something McDermott called, "unacceptable."
Getzenberg also noted that Allen improved on his accuracy issues last season, but the ability to build on last year's success will be something to watch going forward. That starts with this week's game against the Dolphins in Miami.
Worth noting. ... In a surprise, running back Zack Moss was watching his team from the booth in the team’s season opener. When both sides announced their inactives prior to the game, Moss was among them.
After Moss slowly started to trend towards being the “hot hand” in the Bills backfield in 2020, it was surprise to see him sidelined as a healthy scratch. Now he’s responded.
Via his social media account on Twitter, Moss posted a message on Monday. It read, “control your controllables.”
Without Moss, the Bills had a solid showing from Devin Singletary. On 11 handoffs, Singletary had 72 rushing yards, an average of 6.5 yards per carry.
Throughout the preseason, Singletary has looked to be the better rusher as he looked to bounce back after a sophomore slump, of sorts, in 2020. But it wasn’t so much Singletary taking Moss’s spot.
Without Moss, the Bills used Matt Breida. On four carries, Breida had four yards.
Despite Moss dealing with a couple of injury issues this offseason including a hamstring injury, McDermott said that Moss being scratched was a personnel decision. Nothing to do with health.
“Numbers. Just numbers,” McDermott said.
With Breida mirroring a similar running style to the quick Singletary, it might not be long until Moss gets another chance to prove himself with his ground-and-pound style.
Perhaps even as soon as Week 2 when the Bills visit the Miami Dolphins. I'll be watching for more on this and will report back via Late-Breaking Update as developments warrant.
On the injury front. ... McDermott said that Davis would not practice Wednesday with a lower body injury. Defensive tackle Star Lotulelei, linebacker Matt Milano and wide receiver Isaiah McKenzie will be limited.
QBs: Josh Allen, Mitchell Trubisky
RBs: Devin Singletary, Zack Moss, Matt Breida, Taiwan Jones
WRs: Stefon Diggs, Cole Beasley, Gabriel Davis, Isaiah McKenzie, Emmanuel Sanders, Jake Kumerow
TEs: Dawson Knox, Tommy Sweeney
Carolina PanthersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 14 September 2021
According to ESPN.com's David Newton, the jury is still out on quarterback Sam Darnold. While the third pick of the 2018 draft was efficient against his former team in Sunday's win against the Jets, it should not have been that close.
Newton added, "Darnold only proved he can play well against a bad team."
As is his custom, Darnold downplayed any emotions about beating the team which contributed to him taking a beating for three years. He said it was "a little different for me," seeing green uniforms on the visiting sideline, but he put that aside quickly.
"You kind of forget about it in the middle of the game while you're playing," he said. And after watching him work for five months, you realize that's just kind of how he's wired.
But aside from two ugly early trips to the red zone (which included a failed fourth down attempt and a fumble when the ball appeared to hit fullback Giovanni Ricci), Darnold turned in a solid game.
He finished 24-of-35 for 279 yards, with a 57-yard touchdown pass to Robby Anderson (who had a jet plane celebration -- he was going to enjoy beating his old team even if Darnold didn't). Darnold also ran for a score, keeping that touchdown ball as a tangible reminder of his first win here.
"It was just good to get a win," he said flatly.
That's not a surprise to his teammates, who voted him a captain last week, and have been impressed with his ability to fit into a new environment.
"He was calm," wide receiver D.J. Moore said. "He wasn't too crazy. He was just calm, cool, collected."
"I've never seen him different," Christian McCaffrey said. "I think that's the biggest thing for us that we see, since OTAs, he's been the same guy. He comes to work every day, he's a first-one-in, last-one-out kind of guy, and that's the kind of guy you want leading your team."
Head coach Matt Rhule said he was confident in his quarterback anyway, but had a good feeling when Darnold started teasing him during pregame for talking to so many old friends from New York.
"He was making fun of me before the game, saying you're saying hi to more people than I am," Rhule said with a smile.
"Coming into the game, he was the least of my concerns," Rhule said. "I wasn't worried about Sam. He's been locked in this week. ... He's the kind of guy you want to succeed. And when you have those guys in the building, things are good.
"I think Sam's resilient. Honestly, this whole week, he's been locked in. I think he was ready to go all week, and played like it, and hung in there."
As for McCaffrey, he had 21 rushes for 98 yards, and nine receptions for another 89 yards. So you know, your basic 30-touch, 187-yard day from a guy who missed 13 games last season with a collection of injuries.
That might be too much of a workload to be sustainable, but not for him -- at least not right now.
"Yeah," he replied when asked if he was ready for that much action. "I'm ready to roll."
For all the yards, his best play came when the ball never touched his hands at all.
On Darnold's deep touchdown to Anderson, McCaffrey helped out his offensive linemen by picking up a defensive tackle coming up the middle.
"The deep play to Robby, we whiffed up front, and Christian blocked the defensive tackle himself," Rhule said. "If that doesn't happen, that play doesn't happen. That might have been Christian's best play of the day."
McCaffrey grinned when asked about the block, saying it reminded him of all the blocks he's gotten over the years from guys who never got the attention he does.
"I get a lot of satisfaction from that," he said. "Those are the fun plays. Those are the plays that are fun for the guys. There are so many guys who never get recognized. We work as one unit, all 11 guys, that's the most important thing. Football is the biggest team sport that gets a lot of individual attention, but you can't have one without the other."
Rhule also complimented McCaffrey for getting down in bounds after a late first-down rush, the kind of play that didn't help his stat line, but enabled Darnold to take a knee, which is always the best revenge in any game.
"That's just how unselfish he is," Rhule said of McCaffrey. "I thought he looked great out there. We'll continue to build off what he did schematically and continue to improve. I think Christian's ready to have a great year."
If he does, then Darnold has an ever better chance to continue to build. But they'll both build in a way that sounds more boring than it actually is -- one day at a time.
The biggest question coming out of Sunday's opener: Can the offensive line protect Darnold against a good defense?
This group that Rhule says remains a work in progress gave up only one sack, but Darnold was hit eight times. Right guard John Miller didn't play after testing positive for COVID-19, but he could be back for Week 2.
Darnold's ultimate success depends on how he is protected against top defenses such as the New Orleans Saints, who are coming up next. ...
Other notes of interest. ... McCaffrey played 89 percent of the snaps en route to his 30-touch day. Those numbers might not be sustainable, but fantasy managers have plenty to be pleased about the initial direction the offense has taken.
Moore and Anderson played an identical 52 snaps. Moore caught six of his eight targets for 80 yards, while Anderson had the 57-yard touchdown catch.
Ian Thomas (35 snaps) played the most of the tight ends, followed by Dan Arnold (33 snaps), Tommy Tremble (12 snaps) and Colin Thompson (12 snaps). ...
The Panthers kicker carousel continues to spin. ... Per Joe Person of TheAthletic.com, Carolina cut Ryan Santoso on Tuesday.
The move means the Panthers will keep the seventh-round pick they'd conditionally agreed to trade to the Giants for Santoso. The kicker had to be on Carolina's roster for two games for New York to receive the pick.
Santoso was 2-of-2 on field goals, but 1-of-2 on extra points in Sunday's victory over the Jets.
After cutting Santoso, the Panthers announced that they've signed Zane Gonzalez off of Detroit's practice squad.
Gonzalez spent most of the last three seasons with the Cardinals. He hit 87 percent of his field-goal attempts in 2019, but that dipped to 73 percent last year in 12 games. He was placed on injured reserve in December after going just 16-of-22 on field goals, missing five from 40-49 yards.
In 51 career games for Arizona and Cleveland, Gonzalez has made 78 percent of his field-goal attempts and 95 percent of his extra points. He's also sent 57 percent of his kickoffs for touchbacks.
Gonzalez signed with the Lions in the spring but didn't earn Detroit's job out of camp. The Lions claimed Austin Seibert off waivers after teams reduced their rosters to 53.
The Panthers are now on their third starting kicker since mid-August. The team cut Joey Slye after trading for Santoso. Carolina also has Dominik Eberle on its practice squad.
On the injury front. ... Nickel back Myles Hartsfield injured his wrist in the second half and Rhule said it "could be significant." Juston Burris moved to nickel back for the rest of the game. A.J. Bouye is projected to be the team's nickel back but he is serving a two-game suspension to start the season.
QBs: Sam Darnold, Phillip Walker
RBs: Christian McCaffrey, Chuba Hubbard, Royce Freeman
WRs: D.J. Moore, Robby Anderson, Terrace Marshall Jr., Brandon Zylstra, Shi Smith
TEs: Dan Arnold, Ian Thomas, Colin Thompson, Tommy Tremble
Chicago BearsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 14 September 2021
As Profootballtalk.com's Myles Simmons reminded readers, in the days leading up to Sunday's night's game, Rams head coach Sean McVay told reporters it would be "naïve" not to prepare for Bears quarterback Justin Fields in some way.
It turned out McVay was right.
Fields didn't play many snaps, but Chicago did rotate him in with starter Andy Dalton periodically throughout the 34-14 loss to Los Angeles. This year's 11th overall pick, Fields was 2-of-2 passing for 10 yards, though one of those completions was a shovel pass. And Fields took a zone-read for a 3-yard touchdown.
His first snap came on the Bears' first drive -- a 9-yard pass to receiver Marquise Goodwin.
After the game, head coach Matt Nagy said Dalton and Fields were both prepared for the rookie to play.
"We had the plan and we stuck to our plan," Nagy said. "We knew where and when we were going to use him and we stuck to that. And so, we'll see where that goes and how we do it. But I think we all understand that for us, strategically, we'll see where we go with that -- without giving anything away."
Nagy admitted the Bears may have used Fields more if they hadn't gotten down by multiple possessions late in the contest. But he seemed pleased with how the rookie executed, particularly on that opening drive.
"Really, the very first play when he went out there and was able to make a throw -- and that was an RPO. So he made a decision to throw the ball off of a look that we had," Nagy said. "So right there to start the game, I thought that was great. And then he was involved on the sideline. And then when we got down into the red zone at times, we had a couple things in for him that worked and some that didn't work. But when he got down in the red zone, he did some great things there, too.
"So we've just got to keep having him grow and keep staying positive. But he's certainly a weapon."
Nagy also acknowledged that there's a balance of getting Fields work with potentially knocking Dalton out of his rhythm.
"I don't think that's a bad question at all. I think that's real," Nagy said. "And I think when you go through these situations or experiences, you look at all of that stuff because you want to make sure you're taking care of both guys the right way."
Dalton was fine in Sunday's game, finishing 27-of-38 for 206 yards with an interception. But with Fields already getting select game snaps, sooner than later he's going to be taking all of them with Dalton relegated to QB2.
The Bears meet Dalton's former team when they host Cincinnati in their home opener. He beat the Bengals last season playing for the Dallas Cowboys, throwing for two touchdowns in a 30-7 win. ...
One issue that's not going away any time soon -- regardless of the starting QB, is the left tackle position.
As ESPN.com's Jeff Dickerson noted, Teven Jenkins -- Chicago's second-round pick and original projected starter -- is out after back surgery. Jenkins' replacement, recently signed veteran Jason Peters, left Sunday night with a quad injury. Peters' replacement, rookie Larry Borom, later exited the Rams game with what appeared to be a nasty ankle injury.
Elijah Wilkinson, who mainly plays right tackle, had to finish the game on the left side.
While the Bengals, aren't a great defense, they can rush the passer. It's something to watch this Sunday. ...
Other notes of interest. ... Running back David Montgomery provided a bright spot in Sunday night's loss, rushing for 108 yards and one touchdown on 16 carries.
Last year when the Rams defense ranked No. 1 in the NFL in total yards and third against the run, the unit did not allow an opposing back to rush for more than 100 yards all season.
"David ran really hard, and it's fun to see because you've seen it all camp," Dalton said. "You know what all he can do, and now you get him in a game atmosphere and for him to run the way he did, I love to see the way he played."
On the Bears' second play from scrimmage, Montgomery raced 41 yards to the Rams' 12. The third-year pro later rushed for a 3-yard touchdown with :34 left in the first half, cutting the deficit to 13-7. Montgomery has now scored a touchdown in seven straight regular season games.
Montgomery has now rushed for at least 100 yards in six career games, with four of those outings coming in his last seven contests.
Montgomery's 108-yard performance was the second best by an NFL running back in Week 1 (with only Monday night's Ravens-Raiders game remaining), topped only by the Bengals' Joe Mixon, who rushed for 127 yards.
So why didn't Montgomery get more carries?
"I don't think we abandoned the run game at all with him (Sunday)," Nagy said. "I thought we did a good job of giving him opportunities. He ran hard. There were some hard runs in there."
Montgomery, now in his third year, ran for 598 yards over the final six games in 2020 and finished the season with 1,070. ...
Offensive coordinator Bill Lazor told reporters last week that the Bears were focused on improving on third down after ranking 31st in the NFL with a 34.6 percent success rate last season.
They converted at a 45.5 percent clip Sunday night (5 of 11), but went 0 of 4 on fourth down plays. ...
With an 11-yard catch in the third quarter, Jimmy Graham became just the sixth tight end in NFL history with 700 career receptions. He's also one of only three tight ends with at least 700 catches, 8,000 yards and 80 touchdowns, joining Hall of Famers Tony Gonzalez and Antonio Gates.
Graham's 11-yard catch came against cornerback Jalen Ramsey on third-and-8 from the Rams' 11, setting up Fields' TD run on the next play.
"It was Jimmy one-on-one; that's basically what it was," Dalton said. "Gave him a shot and he made a great catch and got us down there, and Justin was able to punch it in after that."
Allen Robinson has now caught at least one pass in all 89 career games he's played since entering the NFL in 2014 with the Jaguars.
Robinson caught a team-high six passes for 35 yards. ...
For the record. ... Dickerson believes Chicago's defense cost it the game. The bar is set low for the Bears' offense, but the defense -- led by first-year coordinator Sean Desai -- is supposed to be the team's strength. Yet the Bears got picked apart by Matthew Stafford in his Rams debut to the tune of 321 yards, three touchdowns and a 156.1 rating.
They gave up touchdown passes of 67 yards to Van Jefferson and 56 yards to a wide-open Cooper Kupp.
The Bears won't go anywhere with a defense that makes those kinds of critical errors.
QBs: Justin Fields, Nick Foles, Andy Dalton
RBs: David Montgomery, Damien Williams, Khalil Herbert, Tarik Cohen
WRs: Allen Robinson, Darnell Mooney, Damiere Byrd, Marquise Goodwin, Breshad Perriman
TEs: Cole Kmet, Jimmy Graham, Jesse James, J.P. Holtz, Jesper Horsted
Cincinnati BengalsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 14 September 2021
Joe Burrow's first words after the team's victory over the Minnesota Vikings were aimed squarely at the discourse surrounding rookie wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase.
"I thought he was dropping everything," Burrow sarcastically quipped moments after he walked past Chase before speaking with the media for his postgame news conference on Sunday.
Chase, who battled drops in the preseason, had a team-high five catches for 101 yards and a touchdown in the Bengals' 27-24 overtime win at Paul Brown Stadium.
According to ESPN.com's Ben Baby, the fifth-overall pick in this year's NFL draft said he was aware of all the chatter surrounding his catching woes and dismissed it all as "trash talk." After the game, Chase said he was confident he would perform when it counts.
"I know I was going to do it," Chase said. "It was just a matter of time. Just play my game and focus on what I came here to do, and that's what I did."
Chase had zero drops in his NFL debut that ended up being the most productive by a Bengals rookie in a season opener. He broke the Bengals' franchise record for receiving yards in a debut, previously set by Jordan Shipley (82 yards in 2010). The former LSU product had his biggest play of the game when he went down the right sideline and hauled in a 50-yard catch for a touchdown with 35 seconds left in the first half, after which he did his signature "Griddy" dance in the end zone.
"I thought he delivered," Bengals running back Joe Mixon said. "That's what we picked him for."
Questions about Chase's catching ability were among the dominant storylines during his rookie training camp. Last week, Chase commented on the difference between the balls in college and the NFL, which prompted a few headlines, as well.
It wasn't all media chatter, though.
Burrow said that he was approached this week by some saying they hoped Chase would play well on Sunday. Burrow simply shrugged off the concerns for his former LSU teammate and told them not to worry.
"It's Sunday, it's game day," Burrow said as he recalled that conversation. "He's going to come ready to play."
Expect that to be the case again this week when the Bengals host the Bears. ...
By the way, Burrow is back.
His knee was injured in Week 11 last season and needed major reconstructive surgery, but he displayed no hesitation or ill effects Sunday, even after being sacked five times by the Vikings.
Burrow got up holding his shoulder after one hit but didn't miss a play and said after the game he was fine. That's good news. As Baby suggested, the future of the Bengals will hinge on Burrow. There were promising signs.
One example: On fourth-and-inches in overtime, Burrow appeared to check out of a play at the line of scrimmage. Burrow instead dropped back and hit tight end C.J. Uzomah for a 32-yard strike that set up the game-winning field goal.
Burrow was 20 for 27 for 261 yards and two touchdowns in this one.
In addition, Mixon recovered from a foot injury that kept him out for much of last season, rushed for 127 hard yards and a touchdown, averaging 4.4 yards a carry.
Just like always, the O-line has to work on keeping Burrow upright. The line is improved with former Viking Riley Reiff aboard and a healthy Jonah Williams, but keeping the quarterback healthy is a work in progress.
On the injury front. .. Safety Ricardo Allen (broken hand) has been placed on injured reserve.
And finally. ... Kicker Evan McPherson came up clutch on two occasions against teh Vikings and collected AFC Special Teams Player of the Week. McPherson was perfect on Sunday with three point-after makes and two field goals in as many tries. It was the drama that underscored the kicks which proved most impressive, though, as McPherson made good on a 53-yard field goal in the fourth quarter and then hit a 33-yard game-winner in OT.
QBs: Joe Burrow, Brandon Allen
RBs: Joe Mixon, Samaje Perine, Chris Evans
WRs: Ja'Marr Chase, Tee Higgins, Tyler Boyd, Auden Tate, Stanley Morgan Jr., Mike Thomas
TEs: C.J. Uzomah, Drew Sample
Cleveland BrownsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 14 September 2021
As Associated Press sports writer Tom Withers reported it, "Baker Mayfield lay face down in the grass, slamming his hands in frustration into the Arrowhead Stadium turf after the Browns' final mistake.
"Revenge against Kansas City slipped away. ..."
Unable to put away the Chiefs for the second straight game, this time because of two critical second-half turnovers and Mayfield's late interception, the Browns let the defending AFC champions off the ropes and fell 33-29 Sunday in a season opener that lived up to the hype.
With a chance to go 1-0 for the first time since 2004, the Browns came up short in the clutch again. They're 1-21-1 in openers since 1999.
It was a performance of highs and lows: from coach Kevin Stefanski's impeccable play calling in the first half to punter Jamie Gillan's muffed snap, which gave Patrick Mahomes a short field and the Chiefs' needed momentum.
"Disappointed," Stefanski said Monday on a Zoom call. "We have to be able to play clean football, and that's for 60 minutes."
The Browns played a nearly perfect first 30 minutes, building a 22-10 halftime lead while overwhelming the Chiefs, who didn't have any answers for Cleveland's multi-faceted offense.
But star running back Nick Chubb's third-quarter fumble, followed soon after by Gillan's blunder on Cleveland's first attempted punt of the season triggered memories of the Jan. 17 playoff loss to the Chiefs -- another game the Browns could have won.
Painful as they may be, Withers believes these are necessary growing pains for a Cleveland team with Super Bowl aspirations. The Browns have shown they play with the league's elite. But until they start beating some of the top teams consistently by showing poise down the stretch, they'll remain among the second tier -- good, not great.
"We have to do better," said center JC Tretter. "There are no moral victories. We have to play better. We have to finish better. We won't see the Chiefs for a while, and we'll worry about them when it comes about. But we know we haven't beat them yet, and if we need to, we need to perform at a higher level to do that."
And, right or wrong, most of the pressure is on Mayfield.
He matched Mahomes pass for pass, finishing 21 of 28 for 321 yards. But with a chance to rally the Browns to a comeback win, Mayfield tried to do too much. With the play breaking down, he threw his pick when he needed to throw the ball away.
Another loss. Another lesson.
But there were positives: Stefanski could do no wrong in the first half. Aggressive with his play calling from the start, he had Kansas City's defense reeling as the Browns dialed up big chunk plays while outshining the Chiefs' famed offense.
Cleveland finished with 457 yards, averaging 8.2 per play.
Rookie WR Anthony Schwartz made three catches for 69 yards while filling the role that would have been Odell Beckham Jr's.
Mayfield hooked up with Schwartz for a 44-yard pass in the first half that made Kansas City's defense honest. A fourth-round pick from Auburn, Schwartz was slowed by leg injuries much of the summer.
Schwartz played in 31 of the offense's 59 total snaps in his NFL debut.
Donovan Peoples-Jones was listed as a starter when the Browns ruled Beckham out. He played in 47 snaps.
Jarvis Landry led all receivers with 51 snaps. TEs Austin Hooper received 38, David Njoku received 35 and Harrison Bryant received 18. WR Rashard Higgins took four snaps.
Chubb and Kareem Hunt split their snaps fairly equally. Chubb recorded 31 snaps while Hunt registered 28.
As for Beckham, Stefanski said the team will continue an "appropriate plan" with the star receiver, who is coming off major knee surgery.
Turns out the appropriate plan is holding him out again. Beckham has been ruled out for Sunday's game against the Texans, Stefanski announced on Wednesday.
That’s surprising, given that last week the Browns listed Beckham as questionable and didn’t rule him out until 90 minutes before kickoff. Stefanski described ruling Beckham out as giving more clarity to the situation this week.
Whatever the reasons, everyone in Cleveland is left to wonder just how long it will be until Beckham’s torn ACL is healed sufficiently that he can play. It may be a while.
ESPN.com's Jake Trotter suggests that as good as the Browns offense was Sunday, their ceiling will be even higher once Beckham comes back. Now we have to figure out when that might be.
I'll have more on this situation status via Late-Breaking Update in coming days. ...
Starting left offensive tackle Jedrick Wills Jr. may have avoided a serious left ankle injury when he got tangled up while blocking on Jarvis Landry's touchdown run in the first quarter.
Stefanski said Wills is "day to day," which is better than "week to week."
QBs: Baker Mayfield, Case Keenum
RBs: Nick Chubb, Kareem Hunt, Demetric Felton, D'Ernest Johnson
WRs: Odell Beckham, Donovan Peoples-Jones, Anthony Schwartz, Rashard Higgins, Jarvis Landry
TEs: Austin Hooper, David Njoku, Harrison Bryant
Dallas CowboysCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 14 September 2021
There was nothing but confidence from the Cowboys when it came to how quarterback Dak Prescott would do in his return from last season's fractured ankle and this summer's shoulder trouble, but those outside of the organization needed a little more convincing.
Prescott provided it on Thursday night. Prescott looked right at home while completing 42-of-58 passes for 403 yards, three touchdowns and an interception in Tampa. He also ran four times for 13 yards, shook off a cut to his left hand, and led a scoring drive that put the Cowboys up 29-28 with 1:24 left to play in the game.
The Bucs would drive for a game-winning field goal, which left the Cowboys lamenting missed kicks and other moments where the offense couldn't convert. Prescott's outing wasn't anything to lament, however, and he said he "enjoyed every moment" of his long-awaited return to action.
"I don't feel like I say things just to say them, so that's just a credit to all the work I put in," Prescott said, via Todd Archer of ESPN.com. "I think when you invest that much work in rehab and prehab and just everything that has gone into the last 11 months for me to get on the field, I mean, I'm not surprised about the way that I went out there and fought. Ran the ball a couple times and did all the things that I'd normally do 11 months ago. No, I feel like I'm a better player than I was when I left the field [last year] and I told y'all that was the expectations I had for myself, and I'll continue to try to get better game in and game out."
So yes. Cowboys fans have many reasons to feel good about Thursday night's opener.
There's one reason for concern, however.
As Profootballtalk.com suggests, the Cowboys threw the ball way too much. Fifty-eight passes, against 18 runs. That's more than 75 percent of the time throwing.
"We got -- it's easy to say, but as you know, to establish a passing game against a big time front, and they've got it," Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said Friday on 105.3 The Fan. "The Bucs have a big time defensive front. You got to go against that wall and you got to have a lot of one-yard runs that when you got a quarterback and you can make a play like that we're able to make in the passing game, that's going to be a challenge because you got to wear them down with that running game. It just didn't go that way, but that's the anecdote. The running game takes early patience."
Like many things Jerry says, it takes a little effort to discern the point. Arguably, he's acknowledging that the Cowboys didn't have "early patience" with the running game. Whether that was the plan or whether it just happened isn't known.
On their first drive of the game, the Cowboys went pass, run (four yards), pass, run (two yards), run (four yards), pass, pass, pass, pass, punt. The next time the Cowboys got the ball, the Bucs had just scored a touchdown. That's when the running game went out the window, with seven straight passes that culminated in a touchdown.
Although the Cowboys passed the ball very well, they need more balance in their offense. Every team needs balance in the offense. Ideally, every offense needs to be so balanced that, on any given play, the defense doesn't know what's coming.
Yes, certain circumstances will scream out "pass." In situations like first and 10 or second and seven or third and five, the most balanced offenses are in the best position to keep the defense guessing. For the Tampa Bay defense on Thursday night, there wasn't a lot of guessing to be done.
But what about going forward. The Cowboys play the Chargers in Los Angeles on Sunday and they have issues.
Cowboys are coming and going from the reserve/COVID-19 list and the team's No. 3 wide receiver is headed to injured reserve.
Cowboys All-Pro guard Zack Martin, who missed Week 1, has been activated off the reserve/COVID-19 list, while Dallas wideout Michael Gallup (calf) has been placed on injured reserve, the team announced Monday.
While Martin and backup offensive lineman Brandon Knight were activated from the COVID list, defensive end Randy Gregory was placed on it.
According to Archer, defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence suffered a foot injury in Wednesday’s practice and was listed as a limited participant. Add Gregory’s potential absence and the Cowboys’ pass rush would look a lot different Sunday vs. the Los Angeles Chargers.
Conversely, Martin's activation is a welcomed occurrence for the Cowboys, who missed him in a loss to the Buccaneers and will be without starting tackle La'el Collins for five weeks due to a suspension.
Jones announced Terence Steele will be their starting right tackle while Martin, who's returning from a stint on the reserve/COVID-19 list, will continue to play right guard, per Slater.
Gallup's trip to IR isn't surprising given his calf ailment. He had four catches for 36 yards in Week 1. With Gallup on the mend, receivers Amari Cooper and CeeDee Lamb could see even more production and Cedrick Wilson is likely to get more reps.
The playing status for Gregory, a starting defense end, in Week 2 against the Chargers is up in the air now. If Gregory is unvaccinated, he'll need to isolate for at least 10 days and test negative before returning to the team. If he is vaccinated, he'll need two negative tests at least 24 hours removed.
In other Cowboys news, the team is expected to re-sign kicker Lirim Hajrullahu to the practice squad as a contingency plan following kicker Greg Zuerlein's struggles against the Bucs (he missed a pair of field goal attempts and an extra point in Week 1), NFL Network's Tom Pelissero reported.
The Cowboys need to do a better job offensively in the red zone, but Zuerlein can't miss makeable kicks like this. ...
Other notes of interest. ... Cooper and Lamb combined for 20 catches, 243 yards and three touchdowns. Drops are the only concern. Lamb was among the league leaders as a rookie last year and had a costly one on Dallas' opening drive. A daring throw over the middle later in the game went through Lamb's hands, resulting in Prescott's only interception.
The schedule gets easier, as expected after opening against the defending champs.
The Chargers will be tricky, though, after such a strong rookie year from quarterback Justin Herbert. Dallas figures to be favored the three games after the LA visit, but an 0-2 start will only increase the anxiety coming off a 6-10 season in McCarthy's less-than-stellar debut.
And now there's more instability in the offensive line with Collins' suspension.
And finally. ... The Cowboys signed veteran receiver Robert Foster to the practice squad.
QBs: Dak Prescott, Cooper Rush, Will Grier
RBs: Ezekiel Elliott, Tony Pollard, Corey Clement
WRs: Amari Cooper, CeeDee Lamb, Cedrick Wilson, Noah Brown, Simi Fehoko, Michael Gallup
TEs: Blake Jarwin, Dalton Schultz
Denver BroncosCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 14 September 2021
As ESPN.com's Jeff Legwold noted, it was quite the Denver debut for quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, who became the fifth quarterback to start the team's season opener over the past five years.
He showed composure when things broke down, good mobility and consistently moved the ball throughout the game. By the end of the third quarter Bridgewater was 26-of-34 passing for 248 yards and two touchdowns. The Broncos had also put together scoring drives of 10, 16 and 15 plays. And most importantly, Bridgewater did not have a turnover.
But all did not end well in the 27-13 win over the Giants.
Jerry Jeudy avoided serious injury Sunday in a play that initially appeared to be headed toward a much worse outcome. The injury, a high-ankle sprain, is not season-ending but the second-year receiver will miss at least the three-week period required by short-term injured reserve status, per the Denver Post's Ryan O'Halloran.
The Broncos announced they will elevate CB Nate Hairston from the practice squad to replace CB Ronald Darby, (who also goes on IR) and receiver Kendall Hinton to replace Jeudy, who caught six passes for 72 yards, before leaving Sunday's game.
Head coach Vic Fangio said despite suffering the injury, the sprain was the worst of the damage, leading to a better chance for a return.
"Everything else checked out good," Fangio said. "He's going to miss some time. It's hard to put a timetable on it right now."
Jeudy's involvement is key to a Broncos receiving corps that is young, deep and balanced, but knows its best route runner is the former Alabama star. Sunday was a perfect example of this reality. Despite his departure, Jeudy still finished as Denver's leading receiver, creating space throughout the duration of his participation with expert-level route running worthy of clips and tweets.
Jeudy appeared to be building legitimate momentum in the game when he suffered the injury, leaving Teddy Bridgewater to turn elsewhere. Luckily for Bridgewater, elsewhere includes Courtland Sutton, K.J. Hamler, Tim Patrick, Noah Fant and Albert Okwuegbunam.
Still, of Bridgewater's 264 yards, Jeudy accounted for more than 25 percent.
As a team, Denver gained 420 yards of total offense. Even without Jeudy, the Broncos were still able to pull away.
They can certainly win games without Jeudy, but Denver will understandably want him back as soon as it is sensible.
In general, however, things are looking up for Denver.
The Broncos scored on four consecutive drives after an Okwuegbunam fumble and the defense held on fourth down twice in the fourth quarter to thwart a comeback.
And for what it's worth. ... As far as Fangio is concerned, Okwuegbunam's turnover inside the Giants' 5-yard line was a phantom fumble because safety Logan Ryan's right knee appeared out of bounds by the time he corralled the loose ball.
"They first told me it's going to be our ball and they were just figuring out where to place it and the timing element of it," Fangio said. "And then he came back and said, 'You're not going to like this: The head guy in New York came in and said, 'Let it stand.'"
Fangio said he didn't get an explanation as to why NFL senior VP of officiating Walt Anderson overruled his replay official who was about to reverse the call on the field.
A league spokesman told the Associated Press on Monday, "The determination was made that there was no clear and obvious video evidence to warrant a change, so the on-field ruling remained."
Also worth noting. ... Bridgewater may finally have quashed any lingering gripes over the Broncos moving on from Drew Lock, who turned the ball over 18 times last year, when he completed a league-low 57 percent of his passes. Bridgewater completed 78 percent of his throws, hit nine different receivers and threw for two touchdowns with no interceptions.
This week, Bridgewater and the Broncos will try to build on their success against the Jaguars in Jacksonville.
Other items of interest. ... As ESPN.com's Tristan Cockroft suggests, the final stat sheet will make this look Sunday's game was a clear win for Melvin Gordon, but consider that at one time, these running backs had split the carries evenly (11 apiece), and come game's end, Javonte Williams had 14 to Gordon's 11 and each played exactly half the team's offensive snaps.
Gordon did look quicker than he has in the recent past, with a pair of runs clocked 15-plus mph -- including his 70-yard touchdown burst in the fourth quarter (giving him 101 yards on the day), but this has all the makings of a maddening committee, one tough to trust except when facing the weakest run defenses or when game flow will clearly tilt in Denver's favor.
Fortunately, that should remain the case against the Jaguars, so even with 10 to 12 carries apiece, each has high-end flex appeal and perhaps one will eventually emerge as the clear leader. ...
One last item here. ... DE Bradley Chubb just can't get healthy. He missed 12 games in 2019 with a torn ACL and the final two games last season with a bum left ankle that required surgery and sidelined him for much of this offseason. His sprained right ankle has been slow to heal and he still hasn't played a regular season game alongside Miller since Sept. 29, 2019.
QBs: Teddy Bridgewater, Drew Lock
RBs: Javonte Williams, Melvin Gordon, Mike Boone
WRs: Courtland Sutton, Tim Patrick, K.J. Hamler, Diontae Spencer, Jerry Jeudy
TEs: Noah Fant, Albert Okwuegbunam, Andrew Beck, Eric Saubert
Detroit LionsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 14 September 2021
According to Associated Press sports writer Dave Hogg, the problem facing head coach Dan Campbell isn't finding things to fix.
It is deciding where to start.
The Lions trailed the San Francisco 49ers 31-10 at halftime and 41-17 with two minutes left before a late charge brought them within 41-33.
Campbell said watching the game film didn't make the game look much better than it had seemed in real time.
"There was nothing that surprised me," he said. "We've got a lot to clean up, but the positive is that we can clean them up. We missed on a lot of little things, and if we do those little things, we're probably going to win a game."
But there were positives.
The running back combination of Jamaal Williams and D'Andre Swift had 93 yards on 20 carries, but also helped when the Lions had to throw the ball after falling so far behind. Swift caught eight passes for 65 yards, including a 43-yard touchdown on a screen pass, while Williams had eight catches for 56 yards.
The bigger question for fantasy managers is whether Williams getting the starting nod over Swift a one-time thing? Or was Swift's groin injury more serious than it appeared and the coaching staff wanted to ease him back onto the field?
To his credit, Swift did jump right in on the second drive of the game with a 4-yard run up the middle, then took a short screen pass up the middle for a 43-yard touchdown in the third. As ESPN.com's Eric Woodyard advised readers, it's still something worth noting, particularly when Swift is expected to be "The Guy" this season with Williams as his complementary piece.
That said, ESPN's Tristan Cockroft notes that Swift played 67.9 percent of the offensive snaps, a rate he exceeded just twice during his entire rookie season, ran 37 routes and saw a team-high 11 targets and generated 24 PPR points, a number he again exceeded just twice in 13 games as a rookie.
Whatever the case, Cockroft believes we should expect another week of greater receiving than rushing contributions in Week 2 against the Green Bay Packers, who will be desperate for a win after an embarrassing 38-3 loss to the New Orleans Saints on Sunday.
Adding to that, the vertical passing game was almost nonexistent against the 49ers. Until the desperate last few minutes, Jared Goff was checking everything down to the running backs and tight ends. T.J. Hockenson is a big part of the Lions offense, so his eight catches for 97 yards and a score is a positive, but no wide receiver had more than three receptions.
In a related item. ... Wide receiver Tyrell Williams' debut for the Lions was cut short by a hit to the head from 49ers safety Jaquiski Tartt in the third quarter and he may miss Week 2 as well.
Williams is in the concussion protocol as a result of the hit and will be unavailable to the team as long as that remains the case. The Lions do have an extra day for Williams, who had two catches for 14 yards, to get cleared because they're playing the Packers on Monday night.
After Williams' injury, the Lions were left with the relatively unexperienced quartet of Kalif Raymond, Amon-Ra St. Brown, Quintez Cephus and Trinity Benson at wideout.
"They did an admirable job of fighting their ass off because we really lost Tyrell there at the end of the game," Campbell told Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press. "We were down to four and those guys were kind of rotating, trying to help each other out. So they got high in reps, which is why we train the way we train, and they fought through it. Now, we made some plays, but we didn't make enough to win the game."
Again, the trio of Hockenson, Swift and Williams will likely continue to soak up targets if the receiver group remains thin.
I'll have more on Williams via Late-Breaking Update in coming days. ...
Also on the injury front. ... Cornerback Jeff Okudah was hoping to bounce back after a rough rookie season in 2020. Instead, the No. 3 overall pick in last year's draft was beaten badly on a long touchdown pass, then sustained a season-ending Achilles injury. "I hate it for him and I hate it for the team," Campbell said. "He was coming around, and now all of his focus has to be on getting ready for 2022."
Rookie tackle Penei Sewell had to make a late switch from right tackle to left after Taylor Decker sustained a finger injury. That meant making his regular-season debut against 49ers star Nick Bosa, but the 20-year-old held his own.
"He's going to be good," Bosa told reporters after the game. "He's more comfortable on the left. I could tell. The tape I saw on the right was ... I told him after the game, he's better on the left and he's more comfortable on the left. He's going to be a solid player, for sure."
Campbell laughed when asked if Sewell's performance could lead to him winning the full-time job at left tackle even when Decker returns from injury.
"I would love to entertain that possibility, but man, we are so far away from that right now. We're just trying to figure out how to put the best lineup out there for the Packers on Sunday."
One last note here. ... Goff became the first QB not named Matthew Stafford to start a season opener for Detroit since Jon Kitna in 2008, but he looked stiff early on -- beginning 1-of-5 for 12 yards and an interception on passes with more than 5 air yards down the field in the first half. Goff ended with 338 passing yards and three touchdowns while completing 38 of 57 attempts in his Detroit debut.
QBs: Jared Goff, David Blough
RBs: D'Andre Swift, Jamaal Williams, Jermar Jefferson
WRs: Quintez Cephus, Kalif Raymond, Amon-Ra St. Brown, Trinity Benson, KhaDarel Hodge, Tyrell Williams
TEs: T.J. Hockenson, Darren Fells
Green Bay PackersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 14 September 2021
As Associated Press sports writer Steve Megargee suggested, after producing perhaps the most disappointing performance of the NFL's opening week, the Green Bay Packers must prove it was an aberration rather than an indication they aren't nearly as good as advertised.
The Packers fell 38-3 to the New Orleans Saints in Jacksonville, Florida, snapping a franchise-record streak of six straight season-opening victories. It was a stunning result for a team that talked openly about how much was at stake this year after losing in the NFC championship game each of the past two seasons.
"Unfortunately, sometimes in this league, you get humbled," head coach Matt LaFleur said Monday. "Certainly we got humbled."
An offense that produced a league-high 31.8 points per game last season couldn't find the end zone. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers, the reigning MVP, was 15 of 28 for 133 yards with two interceptions.
"I felt like our energy was a little bit low," said Rodgers, who compared it to a 26-11 loss to the Los Angeles Chargers from 2019.
Rodgers also suggested that the team might have thought they were better than they are heading into the game.
"Yeah, I think so," Rodgers said, via the team's website. "I think there's probably some of that. We probably felt like we were going to go up and down the field on whoever they had out there. ... This is a good kick in the you-know-where to hopefully get us going in the right direction."
The offense barely got on the field in the first half because the Saints controlled possession so effectively.
New Packers defensive coordinator Joe Barry had a miserable debut, with Green Bay allowing five touchdowns and one field goal in the Saints' first seven possessions.
"I still have the utmost confidence in our defense," safety Adrian Amos said. "We're going to regroup and get better this week. We're going to get back to our assignments, see what we messed up."
As ESPN.com's Rob Demovsky suggested, you might have expected the Packers' defense to start slow given they have a new coordinator and one of their best players (edge rusher Za'Darius Smith) barely practiced all summer.
But the offense?
This wasn't supposed to happen - even though they had two rookie starters on the offensive line and their left guard Elgton Jenkins filling in for All Pro left tackle David Bakhtiari (who is out at least six weeks). According to Demovsky, Rodgers and his plethora of weapons looked sharp all summer in training camp, which made it all the more surprising they could barely function against the Saints.
And to top it off, Rodgers did something he almost never does: He turned it over in the red zone.
His third-quarter interception was his first red zone interception since Week 6 of 2019. He had thrown 45 touchdowns down there since his last red zone interception, and the Packers were one of only three teams (the Buccaneers and Browns were the others) without a red zone turnover last season.
This lopsided loss followed an eventful offseason in which Rodgers skipped the Packers' organized team activities and mandatory minicamp before reporting to training camp on time.
Did Rodgers' offseason drama impact how badly the offense struggled?
Demovsky believes the bigger issue was the offensive line, and the two rookie starters -- center Josh Myers and right guard Royce Newman.
Rodgers was under duress far too often, and his first interception was the perfect example. Rodgers faced quick pressure up the middle from a five-man rush and threw it up just before he went down. Rodgers' second pick was essentially desperation. It was just the second time Rodgers had thrown multiple interceptions in a season opener (2010 was the other, but they won that game to start their Super Bowl season), and it was just his second multi-INT game since the start of 2018 (it happened in Week 6 at Tampa Bay last year).
It was a historically bad performance for the veteran quarterback.
Players acknowledged before the season they understood what was at stake this year because of the uncertainty surrounding the futures of Rodgers and All-Pro receiver Davante Adams, who could become a free agent next year.
Yet they still delivered a dreadful opening performance.
Running back Aaron Jones wondered afterward if "a little bit of complacency" might have been an issue. Rodgers said "we probably felt like we were going to go up and down the field on whoever they had out there" before adding "that obviously wasn't the case."
"It kind of caught me by surprise," Jones said. "I'm not used to losing like this. I know all the guys and myself included, around the locker room, we had a great feeling coming into this one. We felt like we worked hard in practice and did everything we needed to do leading up to it."
The Packers never have lost consecutive games within the same season under LaFleur, who is in his third year.
They'll need to play better across the board to avoid a second straight loss when they face the Detroit Lions in a Monday night home opener. ...
Other notes of interest. ... Mason Crosby made a 39-yard field goal for the Packers' only points. He has made 19 consecutive field-goal attempts, four shy of his own franchise record. Crosby made 23 straight from 2010-11. ...
On the injury front. ... S Darnell Savage hurt his shoulder. "Hopefully with the extra day, that'll give us an opportunity to get him back for Monday night," LaFleur said. TE Josiah Deguara left with a concussion. Deguara played just two games last year before missing the rest of his rookie season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament.
QBs: Aaron Rodgers, Jordan Love
RBs: Aaron Jones, A.J. Dillon, Kylin Hill
WRs: Davante Adams, Randall Cobb, Allen Lazard, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Amari Rodgers, Malik Taylor
TEs: Robert Tonyan, Marcedes Lewis, Josiah Deguara
Houston TexansCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 14 September 2021
As Associated Press sport writer Kristie Rieken reported it, "Tyrod Taylor's solid debut for Houston helped the Texans overcome the absence of Deshaun Watson and start the season with a victory over the Jaguars.
:Now the Texans will look to improve before a much bigger test this week when they travel to play the Cleveland Browns. ..."
Taylor is getting another chance to start this year after he started only one game for the Chargers last season before being sidelined when a team doctor accidentally punctured his lung when giving a painkilling injection for a rib injury. By the time he recovered he had lost his starting job to Justin Herbert.
This year, with Watson on the team but not playing after 22 women filed lawsuits alleging sexual assault or harassment, and after he requested a trade, Taylor has stepped in to steady the Texans as they try to bounce back from a 4-12 season.
His 291 yards passing in Sunday's 37-21 win were his most since throwing for 329 yards on Dec. 24, 2016 for Buffalo against Miami.
"He's a great leader and he makes plays," receiver Brandin Cooks said.
Taylor threw two touchdown passes and didn't have a turnover to help head coach David Culley get a win in his head coaching debut.
"It wasn't a perfect game by any means, but the effort, the focus and the execution was there in all three phases," Taylor said. "It's something to build off of and we'll continue to keep working to get better."
The Texans had 160 yards rushing in the opener, which ranked fourth in the NFL in Week 1 entering Monday night's game. It's a huge improvement from last season when Houston was 31st in the league averaging 91.6 yards rushing a game. The Texans added Mark Ingram and Phillip Lindsay this offseason and both players had touchdowns Sunday to help in the win.
David Johnson also scored a touchdown, but he only had three carries and three receptions on the day.
Ingram started and led the team with 85 yards rushing and Lindsay added 25 yards on the ground.
"We had a lot of good runs and then there's some runs that weren't as clean, and I think we can improve and learn from it and grow from it," Ingram said.
With Ingram garnering 26 of the 37 carries available, in a game in which the team unexpectedly dominated, it's fair to wonder if that role is sustainable.
As ESPN.com's Tristan Cockroft notes, the Texans aren't likely to have game flow on their side in 2021, and Johnson ran 13 routes to Ingram's four.
That matters when you're talking about a team likely to throw often.
Indeed, it's also fair to wonder if this Texans defense for real.
As ESPN.com's Sarah Barshop noted, Houston matched its 2020 total with three interceptions on Sunday. Going into the season, it was clear that Houston's formula for success this season was a strong performance on defense and special teams. The Texans took advantage of rookie mistakes by quarterback Trevor Lawrence to get some takeaways Sunday, but the No. 1 overall draft pick still managed to throw for 332 yards.
The team only allowed 14 points to Jacksonville, but can Lovie Smith's defense continue taking the ball away against non-rookie opposing quarterbacks?
Houston traded top cornerback Bradley Roby to the Saints last week and will need some of its young players to step up moving forward to shore up the secondary heading to meeting with Baker Mayfield and his strong receiving corps this week. ...
On the injury front. ... The Texans expect to have wide receiver Anthony Miller back to help them try for two in a row against the Browns this week.
Texans head coach David Culley said on Monday morning that the team is planning on having Miller in action this week. Miller came to Houston in a July trade with the Bears and he has been out since dislocating his shoulder in a preseason game.
I'll have more on his status via Late-Breaking Update in coming days.
If Miller is able to go, he'll join Cooks, Chris Conley, Nico Collins, Danny Amendola and Andre Roberts as receiving options in Houston.
Amendola had five receptions for 34 yards and a touchdown Sunday. The 35-year-old, who won two Super Bowls with New England, signed with the Texans last Wednesday, giving him a job for the first time since his contract with the Lions ended after last season. ...
Culley also shared some less positive health news. Defensive tackle Vincent Taylor is set to miss at least this week after hurting his ankle in the win over Jacksonville.
QBs: Davis Mills, Jeff Driskel, Deshaun Watson, Tyrod Taylor
RBs: Mark Ingram, Phillip Lindsay, David Johnson, Rex Burkhead, Scottie Phillips
WRs: Brandin Cooks, Chris Conley, Anthony Miller, Danny Amendola, Nico Collins, Andre Roberts
TEs: Jordan Akins, Pharaoh Brown, Brevin Jordan
Indianapolis ColtsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 14 September 2021
According to Colts.com staffer JJ Stankevitz, the box score backed up what was plain to see during the Colts' 28-16 Week 1 loss to the Seahawks on Sunday: Carson Wentz was under pressure quite a bit.
Wentz was hit 10 times, including three sacks, in his Colts debut by a swarming Seahawks defense. Two of those sacks came on third downs and the other came on a fourth down -- so every one ultimately resulted in the Seahawks winning back possession.
The reason behind all that pressure, though, may not necessarily be as simple as it might've seemed to those watching on TV or in the stands at Lucas Oil Stadium.
"I'm not ready to just dump this thing and say the offensive line played bad, so forgive me for that," head coach Frank Reich explained. "But I need to see the film. I understand what it looked like, I also understand there's a lot that goes into it. I'm not saying they can't get better, I think we all can."
Center Ryan Kelly took responsibility for the offensive line's play and the amount of times Wentz was pressured.
"One of the biggest things is to keep the quarterback safe. We gave away too many hits," Kelly said. "That's not our standard of play. This is a good realization of where we are and where we have to go."
Something Kelly pointed to is the three times Wentz scrambled -- he gained 23 yards on those and didn't appear hindered at all by his foot, which he had a procedure performed on just under six weeks ago. But Kelly and the Colts' offensive line would've rather allowed Wentz to feel comfortable in the pocket than have his athleticism and toughness be put on display.
Reich felt like "there was a lot of good" with what Wentz did against the Seahawks -- he completed 25 of 38 passes (66 percent) for 251 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions, good for a passer rating of 102. He had a handful of standout plays, like an empty-protection flick to Michael Pittman Jr. in the second quarter, a couple of third down strikes to Mike Strachan, a zippy shot to Parris Campbell and his two touchdowns to Zach Pascal, among others.
But Wentz, too, shouldered some of the responsibility for how much he was pressured.
"There's a handful of plays I want back that I could've got us in the right protection and helped us out," Wentz said. "So you can never take it right at face value. So we gotta learn from it, learn from the tape, and that's on all of us."
Whatever the case, as ESPN.com's Mike Wells notes, "The goal was for Wentz to avoid being sacked and hit like he did last season (50 sacks) in Philadelphia. And oh yeah, Aaron Donald, the premier defensive lineman in the NFL, and the Rams are up next for the Colts in Week 2. ..."
Indeed, the Colts face another daunting challenge with Donald and Jalen Ramsey bringing last year's top-rated Rams defense to Indy on Sunday. Reich knows his team must clean up its mistakes and perform at a better overall level to avoid the first 0-2 start of his coaching career -- and the franchise's first 0-2 start since 2017.
Other notes of interest. ... Stankevitz reports the general feel from the Colts in the aftermath of Sunday's loss was that there were mistakes to be corrected after going back and watching the film, and that the team as a whole was frustrated those mistakes were made.
But there were positives.
As Associated Press sports writer Michael Marot notes, the screen passing attack was on point.
Running backs Jonathan Taylor and Nyheim Hines had 11 receptions for 108 yards, nearly half of Wentz's overall production. Reich, however, wanted to see more big plays from his pass-catching backs.
In addition, Pascal again proved a reliable replacement for four-time Pro Bowler T.Y. Hilton (neck surgery). He caught four passes for 43 yards and hauled in both of Wentz's TD throws. Expect him to continue getting a heavy workload until Hilton returns.
As for the things that need correcting?
Despite reaching the red zone four times, the Colts only scored two touchdowns. Indy settled for a 21-yard field goal on its first series and turned the ball over on downs on its other trip inside the Seahawks 20-yard line. That has to change.
And will the Colts' defense be more of the unit that forced four punts, a turnover and sacked Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson four times on six second-half drives than the group that gave up 257 yards and struggled to get off the field on third down in the first half?
The Colts gave up only 332 yards a game last season. Wilson faced minimal pressure in the first half while being able to pick apart the defense. It didn't help that the Colts didn't have veteran cornerback Xavier Rhodes (calf).
On the injury front. ... Reich thought the Colts finished the game without any significant injuries, but he said Monday that RT Braden Smith hurt his foot. Reich said he did not believe the injury was similar to those that required surgery for Nelson and Wentz. Team doctors will spend this week monitoring Smith's status, Reich said.
And finally. ... Marlon Mack, last year's opening-day starter lost the No. 1 job to Taylor when he got hurt. Mack re-signed with Indy in free agency, presumably to be No. 2 on the depth chart. But on a day Taylor logged 17 carries for 56 yards and six catches for 60 yards, Mack was one of five active players who didn't play.
QBs: Carson Wentz, Jacob Eason, Sam Ehlinger
RBs: Jonathan Taylor, Nyheim Hines, Marlon Mack, Jordan Wilkins
WRs: Michael Pittman Jr., Zach Pascal, Parris Campbell, Ashton Dulin, Mike Strachan, T.Y. Hilton
TEs: Jack Doyle, Mo Alie-Cox, Kylen Granson
Jacksonville JaguarsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 14 September 2021
As ESPN.com's Michael DiRocco reported, the NFL debut of coach Urban Meyer and quarterback Trevor Lawrence was certainly not what Jacksonville Jaguars fans had hoped.
"In fact," DiRocco notes, "it was pretty bad. ..."
In a 37-21 loss to the Texans, the Jaguars had trouble lining up and making sure they had the correct number of players in the huddle, got called for four holding penalties, threw three interceptions and had six dropped passes. It was an unexpected performance after an offseason full of optimism.
But Meyer said he and the locker room aren't shell-shocked by what was the franchise's 16th consecutive loss, dating back to a season-opening victory over Indianapolis in 2020.
"I don't really know that word [shell-shocked] other than we've all got our ass kicked before," Meyer said. "Let's tighten up and go. I believe in that team. I believe in our staff. Come back to work. Going to earn your captain's stripes and leadership stripes as a coach and leaders on the team. But I believe in those guys."
Sunday marked the first three-interception game of Lawrence's career -- including high school and college.
It was the first time Meyer lost a season opener as a head coach (he was 16-0 before Sunday at Bowling Green, Utah, Florida and Ohio State) and the first time he lost his first game with a new team.
It also was the first time Lawrence has ever had a losing record as a starting quarterback.
"It obviously sucks," Lawrence said. "Losing's always hard, especially when you feel like you're prepared and had a great week and really think we were ready. Just obviously didn't play well. It starts with me. I played really bad tonight. Disappointing for sure.
"I still believe in this team. I still know what we're capable of. We did some good things. We started off with some penalties, three-and-out; but then after that, we had a couple good drives, we're hitting some big plays. There's a lot of good things there, and we've got to keep doing those and learn from the bad. We've got to watch it and learn from it, for sure, but then flip the page. It's a long season. We can't let this snowball. We've got to move on and go win next week."
Most of the Jaguars' problems were self-inflicted. They were penalized for illegal formation three times (one was accepted, one was overridden by a roughing the passer penalty and another was declined for a holding penalty). They dropped six passes, including two by D.J. Chark (who had one of the illegal formation penalties) and two by James Robinson.
There also was an illegal participation penalty for 12 men in the offensive huddle.
"It's inexcusable the things that need to be fixed," Meyer said. "Three preseason games you'd think we'd have that fixed, so that's something that we're going to ... I would guesstimate you would not see that again. That's inexcusable."
Then there were Lawrence's three interceptions. He owned all of them, saying the first came on a bad throw, the second on a bad decision and the third after he lost sight of the middle linebacker and tried to force a throw.
"It's either a bad throw or a bad decision when you throw a pick," Lawrence said. "Bad decisions, those are the ones that'll get you, for sure.
"Turnovers, it's all me. You're not going to win many games with three turnovers, especially when the margin was minus-3 for us. Just not good."
It wasn't all bad for Lawrence, though.
Lawrence's first career touchdown pass came on a perfect read and throw down the seam to tight end Chris Manhertz. Lawrence later threw a 41-yard strike down the sideline to Chark for a score and he hooked up with Marvin Jones for a 4-yard score late in the game.
The No. 1 overall pick ended up completing 28 of 51 passes for 332 yards in his NFL debut, with three TDs and three picks.
It wasn't great, but the Jaguars feel like it's something they can build on going forward -- although they face a tough matchup against the Broncos this weekend. ...
Other notes of interest. ... According to Associated Press sports writer Mark Long, one goal has to be finding some offensive identity and balance.
Meyer said repeatedly over the last eight months that he wants to be able to run the ball, but Jacksonville hardly tried in Houston. Robinson carried just four times for 22 yards in the first half as Jacksonville opened five of six drives with passes. ESPN.com's Matt Bowen believes there has to be some concern here for Robinson after he finished with 25 yards rushing -- on only five carries -- versus a rebuilding Texans defense.
Remember, Robinson isn't an explosive, big-play runner. He's a grinder, a volume guy who needs the touches on the ground.
However, playing behind a poor offensive front in Jacksonville, on a team that will have to push the ball through the air to compete, Robinson might start to slide down the ranks. That's especially true if Carlos Hyde continues to get more work than Robinson. We don't expect that, but it's something to watch. ...
Chark dropped two passes and was flagged for illegal formation, hardly an ideal start for a guy entering the final year of his rookie contract. Chark caught three passes for 86 yards, including a 41-yard score late in the third quarter of a lopsided game. But he was targeted a team-high 12 times. In fairness, it was Chark's first live action since breaking a finger early in training camp and requiring surgery.
Tight end James O'Shaughnessy had a career-high six receptions for 48 yards. He didn't do anything flashy, but the seventh-year pro was steady at a position that appeared to be a weak spot heading into the season. ..
On the injury front. ... Cornerback Tre Herndon (knee) was ruled out early last week and likely will miss another game. His absence forced the Jags to go with second-year pro CJ Henderson in the starting lineup and rookie Tyson Campbell as their nickel cornerback.
And finally. ... Meyer made it clear Wednesday that there's no chance of him returning to college to take the newly vacant coaching job at USC.
"No chance. I'm here committed to try to build an organization," Meyer told reporters.
USC presumably won't hire a permanent coach until after the season -- likely December, the prime month for college football coaching turnover. By then, Meyer should have a much better feel for whether he's a fit for the Sunday league.
Bohn dismissed seventh-year USC coach Clay Helton on Monday after just two games this season, following a 42-28 home loss to Stanford.
QBs: Trevor Lawrence, C.J. Beathard
RBs: James Robinson, Carlos Hyde, Dare Ogunbowale
WRs: D.J. Chark, Marvin Jones, Laviska Shenault, Tyron Johnson, Jamal Agnew
TEs: Chris Manhertz, Jacob Hollister, Luke Farrell, James O'Shaughnessy
Kansas City ChiefsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 14 September 2021
According to Associated Press sports writer Dave Skretta, just about everyone inside the Kansas City Chiefs locker room remained confident on Sunday when the upstart Browns scored a touchdown to take a 29-20 lead early in the fourth quarter.
The reasons were standing on their sideline: Andy Reid and Patrick Mahomes.
No surprise there.
Reid has never lost to the Browns in nine meetings, and he's been downright dominant in September, using the offseason to put in place plans that have produced 15 consecutive wins in the opening month of the season.
Mahomes is merely 11-0 with 35 touchdown passes and no interceptions in his career in September.
So yes, the Chiefs trailed by two possessions against an AFC rival with Super Bowl aspirations.
They were never worried, though.
"I just think we have a lot of belief in this team," said Mahomes, who was 27 of 36 for 337 yards with three touchdowns and ran for another score in rallying the two-time defending conference champions to a 33-29 victory.
"We've been in those situations before and we think we can win no matter what the situation is."
That might be the biggest defense between the Chiefs and Browns and a lot of other teams: Mahomes and Co. have been to three straight AFC title games, back to back Super Bowls and have a Lombardi Trophy under their belt.
Talent is one thing, and the Chiefs and Browns both have plenty of it. Experience winning big games is another entirely.
Not only do the Chiefs have that, so does Reid, who for years shouldered the label as the best coach never to win the Super Bowl. But his triumph over San Francisco a couple of seasons ago, combined with his continued success in Kansas City, has put him in Hall of Fame territory as he seeks a fifth consecutive AFC West championship.
That's obviously a good thing regardless of circumstance. But it might be even more important this season.
As ESPN.com's Adam Teicher suggests, the Chiefs are going to need to score a bundle to win. Their defense was a pushover for three quarters against the Browns. Led by Chris Jones, the Chiefs' D got hot in the fourth quarter, but they can't afford to dig themselves a hole and put as much pressure on the offense as they did on Sunday.
Teicher also wonders if the Chiefs have anyone to help Travis Kelce and Tyreek Hill as a receiver?
Nobody stepped forward in any meaningful way against the Browns. The offense leaned heavily on their two top receivers.
But if Kelce and Hill play the way they did against the Browns, it might not matter. The pair looked capable of carrying the passing game on the receiving end. Hill caught 11 passes for 197 yards and a touchdown while Kelce pulled in six of seven targets for 76 yards and a pair of touchdowns. ...
For the record. ... Mahomes earned his sixth career AFC Offensive Player of the Week accolade for his performance against the Browns. ...
Worth noting. ... According to Skretta, the Chiefs' completely rebuilt offensive line had a rollercoaster Week 1. They were pushed around much of the first half, but rebounded in the second to pry open some holes for Clyde Edwards-Helaire, who had 43 yards rushing, and kept Mahomes relatively clean against Browns pass rushers Jadeveon Clowney and Myles Garrett.
"There were times I drifted to the back just a bit too far and they were kind of getting those guys around the 10-yard area, so I had to step up pretty quickly," Mahomes said, "but we'll continue to work on that. They're doing a great job of being firm in the front and kind of edging those guys so I can still be in the pocket."
They'll need to continue to focus on that pass protections when they travel to Baltimore to take on the Ravens Sunday night. ...
A few final notes. ... Tyrann Mathieu was cleared of COVID-19 on Saturday, but Reid chose not to suit him up, even though Mathieu had been participating in meetings virtually throughout the week. The Honey Badger, who tested positive for the virus despite being fully vaccinated on Sept. 1, is expected to play at Baltimore.
The Chiefs got very little pressure on Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield until the second half, and a big reason was the absence of Frank Clark. The defensive end hurt his hamstring in training camp and, even though he returned to practice last week, he was unable to get properly warmed up Sunday and was declared inactive.
QBs: Patrick Mahomes, Chad Henne
RBs: Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Darrel Williams, Jerick McKinnon
WRs: Tyreek Hill, Mecole Hardman, Demarcus Robinson, Byron Pringle, Daurice Fountain, Marcus Kemp
TEs: Travis Kelce, Noah Gray, Blake Bell
Las Vegas RaidersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 14 September 2021
When the Las Vegas Raiders offense stumbled in the first half, the defense held tough to keep the team in the game.
Down the stretch, the defense didn't wilt and forced a couple of key turnovers that helped the Raiders get the game into overtime and then win it.
After years of being dragged down by a porous defense, there were some promising signs for the Raiders in their season-opening 33-27 overtime win over the Ravens on Monday night that new coordinator Gus Bradley's group may be much improved.
"We harp on the defense so much," Derek Carr said. "You hear this, you hear that. I've seen a lot of coordinators come in, come out. For them, to make the play at the end to win the game to give us a chance, chance after chance, after chance. ... Just please, just someone praise the defense. They deserve it."
Led by an improved Maxx Crosby and newcomer Yannick Ngakoue on the edge, the Raiders put heavy pressure on Lamar Jackson for much of the game.
That helped keep the game close in the first half and then win it in the end. Newcomer Quinton Jefferson forced a fumble from Jackson early in the fourth quarter that set up a game-tying TD from Josh Jacobs.
Carl Nassib stopped Jackson just short of a first down late in regulation to force a tiebreaking field goal and give Carr and the offense just enough time to respond and send the game into overtime.
Then after the offense nearly gave the game away when Carr's pass near the goal line hit Willie Snead in the hands and was intercepted by Anthony Averett, Nassib responded with a strip-sack that set up the winning score on Carr's 31-yard pass to Zay Jones.
"They held us in that game, and they did that against a superstar, one of the best players in the whole world at playing football," Carr said. "They were able to keep us in that football game. I tip my hat, and I love those guys because they were able to give to keep us in there to give us a chance to get our stuff right."
A few issues on the offensive side of the ball.
As NFL.com put it, "Carr's receiving corps is still buffering."
Carr targeted Darren Waller an absurd 19 times Monday night, resulting in 10 catches, 105 yards and a pivotal touchdown reception in the fourth quarter. The 19 total targets tied for the most in a game by a Raiders player since at least 2009 and tied for the second most of any tight end in that span.
"He is the best player that I have ever coached, so I am going to continue to look for him," Gruden said. "He is a hell of a player, and he deserves some good looks."
But for almost the entire first half, it seemed as if Carr and the Raiders intended to solely target Waller. Henry Ruggs III was a non-factor through two quarters, while fullback Alec Ingold morphed into a volume pass-catcher and Hunter Renfrow filled in the gaps.
Then, the second half welcomed the emergence of Bryan Edwards, whose heroics (four catches, 81 yards) nearly won the Raiders the game early in overtime. His timely grabs helped move the chains when the Raiders absolutely had to, and though Las Vegas didn't initially cash in on his long reception in the extra period, they wouldn't have gotten there without Edwards.
If he can prove to be a legitimate option for Carr, the Raiders will have a much better chance through the air this season, no matter how long it takes Ruggs to figure out how to become a consistent playmaker.
In a related note. ... On Carr's game-winning touchdown pass to Jones, Baltimore sent eight rushers in what is known as a zero blitz. It's only the second time a defense has done so in overtime in the Next Gen Stats era, which dates back to the beginning of the 2016 season.
One other issue. ... The Raiders handed starting spots this year to untested center Andre James and rookie right tackle Alex Leatherwood. Both struggled in the opener with James getting called for two holding penalties, botching a shotgun snap that knocked Las Vegas out field-goal range, and missing a block on a fourth-down run.
Leatherwood allowed a sack to Justin Houston, committed a holding penalty and had a false start with the Raiders at the 1 in overtime.
They'll need to shore things up0 as they prepare for Week 2. The Raiders visit Pittsburgh on Sunday to take on the Steelers. The Raiders have lost their past six road games following a Monday night game with the most recent win coming in 2009 at Kansas City.
On the injury front. ... In his Tuesday press conference, Gruden said the team is concerned that edge rusher Yannick Ngakoue, quarterback Marcus Mariota, defensive tackle Gerald McCoy, and guard Denzelle Good suffered long-term injuries.
Ngakoue, Las Vegas' most significant free-agent signing in the offseason, injured his hamstring during Monday's game. McCoy had to be carted off the field with a season-ending knee injury.
"Hopefully Yannick is not as seriously injured as he possibly can be -- we don't know the outcome yet," Gruden told reporters. "Losing McCoy is a big loss to our leadership network and our D-line."
Mariota took a designed quarterback run 31 yards on third-and-1 early in the game, but was unable to play for the rest of the contest. While Mariota is Las Vegas' backup quarterback, Gruden apparently had significant plans for the 2015 No. 2 overall pick.
"Yeah, we lost a big part of our offense," Gruden said. "Hopefully it's not going to linger on. He missed the whole preseason with a quad strain. He strained it again last night. The severity of that injury kept him out of the game. it's too bad -- it was a 31-yard gain to really give us an element we haven't really had around here."
As for other injury issues, Nassib is one of the players who would not have practiced if the Raiders did more than a walkthrough. He was listed with a pectoral injury last week, but practiced every day. He is now listed with a toe injury as well.
Jacobs was limited by a toe injury last week and dealt with an illness over the weekend. The toe and an ankle injury caused Jacobs to sit out on Wednesday.
Gruden intimated back problems forced defensive end Clelin Ferrell to miss Monday’s game, but he was a full participant in practice all of last week and worked fully again on Wednesday.
Left guard Richie Incognito (calf) remained out after missing Monday’s game. Linebacker Nick Kwiatkoski (concussion) and safety Roderic Teamer (ankle) were also out along with Mariota and Good.
Ngakoue (hamstring) was able to work on a limited basis on Wednesday. Ingold (fibula) and linebacker Denzel Perryman (hip) were also limited.
I'll follow up as needed via Late-Breaking Update.
QBs: Derek Carr, Marcus Mariota, Nathan Peterman
RBs: Josh Jacobs, Kenyan Drake, Peyton Barber
WRs: Henry Ruggs III, Bryan Edwards, Hunter Renfrow, Zay Jones, Willie Snead
TEs: Darren Waller, Foster Moreau, Derek Carrier, Nick Bowers
Los Angeles ChargersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 14 September 2021
As Associated Press sports writer Joe Reedy noted, the Brandon Staley era has started with something the Los Angeles Chargers were not able to do the past two seasons: win a close game after experiencing adversity.
Sunday's 20-16 victory over the Washington Football Team was especially satisfying considering the Chargers were 7-16 in one-score games in 2019 and '20 after making the postseason in 2018.
"It is huge. You always have to find a way to win and pull it out. I know last year it seemed like we were doomed with losing these types of games," said receiver Mike Williams. "Regardless of the situation we have practiced it a lot (during training camp)."
The Chargers appeared to be going in for the go-ahead score early in the fourth quarter when Justin Herbert was picked off at the WFT 5-yard line with 12:16 remaining. But on the next play, Kyzir White forced Antonio Gibson's fumble and Kenneth Murray recovered at the Washington 3. Williams scored the winning touchdown on a pass from Herbert three plays later.
The offense then came up big again later in the fourth quarter with a 15-play drive to run out the final 6:43.
"There were a couple times when Washington was able to grab the momentum and we had things that happened that could have been deflating, but we were able to respond right away," Staley said. "I really felt like it was a team win."
For the most part, Staley had to be pleased with how his team did in his first game. The new offensive scheme featured a lot of quick passes as five players had three or more receptions. The defense was able to get consistent pressure on quarterbacks Ryan Fitzpatrick and Taylor Heinicke.
The Chargers won their opener for the third straight season, but still have a tough stretch.
The Chargers host the Dallas Cowboys in their first regular-season game in front of fans at SoFi Stadium. The Chargers have won three straight and four of the last five against the Cowboys in the regular season.
After hosting Dallas, LA travels to Kansas City before hosting Las Vegas on "Monday Night Football. ..."
Still there are plenty of positives here. ... As ESPN.com's Shelley Smith noted, the Chargers made some of the goofiest errors (fumbling in the end zone deep in Washington territory, which gave Washington a touchback) but managed to win the game thanks to Herbert, who threw for 337 yards while completing 31 of 47 passes.
Herbert had the end zone fumble and threw a red zone interception but managed to keep his cool, throwing the game-winning touchdown pass to Williams early in the fourth quarter after Kyzir White forced a fumble deep in Washington territory which Joey Bosa recovered.
The Chargers had two red zone turnovers but were able to play keep-away for the last 6:43 out to get the win.
Williams and Keenan Allen combined for 17 catches for 182 yards. It was Allen's 28th career 100-yard game. Williams had a career-high eight receptions for 82 yards. Williams has been used as a deep threat for most of the past two seasons, but he was mostly utilized on short and intermediate routes against Washington.
After being a major point of emphasis during the offseason, the new-look offensive line had a great debut with only two sacks and eight quarterback pressures allowed, per Next Gen Stats. Left tackle and first-round draft pick Rashawn Slater did not allow a pressure, while right tackle Storm Norton was solid after Bryan Bulaga did not play in the second half due to a back injury.
The hamstring injury that kept Austin Ekeler out of practice last Wednesday and Thursday didn't appear to be an issue in Washington.
Ekeler carried the ball 15 times for 57 yards and a touchdown. Notably, as CBSSports.com pointed out, Ekeler wasn't even targeted in this contest as Herbert rarely saw enough pressure to force any checkdowns.
Considering the running back was listed as questionable heading into Sunday's contest after a mid-week hamstring injury, fantasy managers still have to be happy with Ekeler's explosiveness, particularly after contact. The Chargers used a number of two-back sets with Larry Rountree mixing into the rotation, so any hopes of Ekeler having a monopoly on the backfield opportunities predictably were dashed.
However, it seemed incredibly unlikely such a situation would occur under new offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi anyhow.
Expect more production next week against a Cowboys defense that was picked apart Week 1.
For the record, Ekeler scored the Chargers' first touchdown of the season. Per Elias, he's the sixth undrafted player ever with 10-plus rushing touchdowns and 15-plus receiving touchdowns.
In a related note. ... If we weren't sure how ready Ekeler was in advance of this game, we probably got a hint 90 minutes before kickoff when Joshua Kelley was made a healthy scratch, leaving Roundtree and Justin Jackson as the only backs available behind Ekeler. ...
On a less positive note. ... The Chargers had six penalties for 94 yards, with three being 15 yards or more. Joey Bosa picked up a pair of roughing-the-passer calls and rookie Asante Samuel Jr. was flagged for pass interference during the second quarter, which ended up being for 35 yards.
Washington's longest play on offense was for 34 yards when Terry McLaurin made a great catch near the sideline on a play when safety Nasir Adderley should have defended the man instead of the ball.
Punt returner K.J. Hill had a rough game. Instead of fielding Tress Way's first punt near the sideline on the LA 31, he let it bounce an additional 19 yards and out of bounds, causing the Chargers to start at the 12. Hill also played the bounce on his lone return, which resulted in only a 3-yard gain.
On the injury front. ... Bulaga (back tightness) remains day to day. Adderley has a hip flexor injury, but Staley said he expects him to practice on Wednesday.
One last note here. ... Herbert now has 4,673 passing yards in his first 16 starts. He is the only player in NFL history to have 400-plus completions and pass for over 4,500 yards in his first 16 games.
QBs: Justin Herbert, Chase Daniel, Easton Stick
RBs: Austin Ekeler, Justin Jackson, Larry Rountree III, Joshua Kelley
WRs: Keenan Allen, Mike Williams, Jalen Guyton, Josh Palmer, K.J. Hill, Josh Reed
TEs: Jared Cook, Donald Parham, Tre' McKitty, Stephen Anderson
Los Angeles RamsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 14 September 2021
One of Sean McVay's coaching slogans is emblazoned on walls and T-shirts throughout the Los Angeles Rams' training complex: "The standard is the standard."
Matthew Stafford and the Los Angeles Rams set the standard awfully high in their season opener, but there's no reason yet to think they can't meet it again.
According to Associated Press sports writer Greg Beacham, McVay had few significant complaints Monday about his team's effort in a 34-14 victory over the Chicago Bears to open a season with Super Bowl aspirations.
Stafford's offense was constantly effective and frequently brilliant, while the defense was more than good enough to improve the Rams' record to 5-0 in season openers under McVay.
Stafford's debut was a long time in the making after the Rams agreed to a blockbuster trade last January that sent quarterback Jared Goff, two first-round picks and a third-round selection to the Detroit Lions in exchange for the veteran quarterback.
Stafford finished 20-of-26 for 321 yards and three touchdowns, with a career-best 156.1 passer rating, becoming the first player in NFL history to win his team debut while passing for 300 yards and three touchdowns, without an interception, according to Elias Sports Bureau research.
Stafford was named NFC Offensive Play of the Week for his efforts in this one.
"A lot of anticipation for this game," Stafford said during a postgame news conference. "It's a new experience for me, new place, new stadium, new fans, the whole deal, but this team has embraced me and I really appreciate that."
After playing last season without a vertical threat and struggling to consistently create plays downfield, McVay emphasized over the offseason and throughout training camp the need for the offense to be more explosive this season.
Stafford provided big-play ability in his debut, as he averaged a career-high 12.3 yards per attempt while completing passes to six different players.
"He had confidence in his teammates, he expected to play well and he did a great job," said McVay, who is 5-0 in season openers since he became the Rams' coach in 2017. "I loved everything that he did tonight."
Stafford's 67-yard scoring pass to Van Jefferson capped a three-play opening drive that covered 80 yards, spanned 1 minute, 18 seconds and resulted in Stafford high-stepping down the field as Ramsey and teammates erupted on the sideline.
"It was great job by [Stafford] being able to flip his hips and make an unbelievable throw," McVay said. "I think that's kind of one of those things -- he's gifted, he's got a great ability to be able to change his arm slot and make all types of throws, whether it be short, intermediate or down the field, but he's -- you're not limited in anything you can do with him in the pass game."
Stafford delivered more of the same to open the second half. After converting on third-and-10 with a 19-yard completion to receiver Robert Woods, Stafford went deep to receiver Cooper Kupp, who did not have a defender within 10 yards, for a 56-yard touchdown that gave the Rams a 20-7 lead.
"It was exactly what we wanted and it was from a bunch of different guys," McVay said about the explosive plays generated from Stafford, Jefferson, Kupp, Woods and tight end Tyler Higbee, who caught a 37-yard pass.
"Matt did a great job of facilitating the ball to everyone," Jefferson said. "This offense is going to be explosive and we're just following Matt."
According to ESPN.com's Lindsey Thiry, Stafford cautioned in his postgame excitement that their win over the Bears was only one game and that the Rams must continue to build on the performance.
But for a team with Super Bowl expectations on the shoulders of their new quarterback, it appeared to be a solid start.
Another important debut also went fairly well: New defensive coordinator Raheem Morris' group held Chicago to two scoring drives and forced two turnovers, keeping the Rams firmly in control while the offense pulled away.
The Rams also thrived in their first real game with fans at SoFi Stadium, which opened in 2020 with no crowds. Los Angeles had grown used to playing without cheers, but several players acknowledged the boost from support in the stands.
"Emotions were high, but it was a good feeling in the locker room," said Kupp, who had seven catches for 108 yards.
Of some concern, the Rams' run defense was third best in the NFL last season, but it wasn't sharp in the 2021 opener. The Bears racked up 134 yards that could have been more if they weren't behind all night, and their 5.2 yards per carry was fourth highest in the opening week. Morris rarely stacked the box against the run.
Next up for the Rams, the Indianapolis Colts and their powerful offensive line will provide a solid test for the Rams' defense in their road opener. ...
Other notes of interest. ... Can the Rams run the ball consistently?
There was no question that losing running back Cam Akers to a season-ending Achilles injury before the season would be a big blow, but the Rams must find a way to gain traction on the ground, as they rushed for only 18 yards in the first three quarters. Darrell Henderson Jr. started and rushed for 70 yards on 16 carries, with most of the yards coming late.
Sony Michel, who was acquired just over two weeks ago in a trade with the New England Patriots, got one carry for 2 yards and rookie Jake Funk also did not check in on offense. ...
Second-round pick Tutu Atwell only got on the field for two offensive snaps and didn't play on special teams. The speedy receiver will have to work his way up to playing time in the Rams' deep group of wideouts, and he doesn't have the job as LA's punt returner, either.
On the injury front. ... Starting DT Sebastian Joseph-Day "banged his knee up a little bit," McVay said. Joseph-Day might miss a practice, but McVay expects him to play this weekend.
QBs: Matthew Stafford, John Wolford, Bryce Perkins
RBs: Darrell Henderson, Sony Michel, Jake Funk
WRs: Cooper Kupp, Robert Woods, Van Jefferson, DeSean Jackson, Tutu Atwell
TEs: Tyler Higbee, Johnny Mundt, Jacob Harris, Brycen Hopkins
Miami DolphinsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 14 September 2021
As Associated Press sports writer Tim Reynolds reported, "It's a start.
"The Miami Dolphins are in sole possession of first place in the AFC East for the first time in nearly three years, and in that spot after Week 1 for the first time since 1998. A road win against New England got them there; staying there will require a win over the reigning division champion Buffalo Bills this Sunday. ..."
"You celebrate, you're happy about it but then we've got to turn the page and move on to next opponent, which is obviously another big game against a very good team," head coach Brian Flores said Monday. "That's the approach. There's most definitely excitement -- but know there's tough games on the horizon."
But the start included reasons for optimism.
Rookie receiver Jaylen Waddle finished his professional debut with 61 yards and a touchdown on four catches. They were modest, albeit promising numbers, but ESPN.com's Marcel Louis-Jacques reports the connection between Waddle and quarterback Tua Tagovailoa was palpable. The Dolphins need it to continue against the Bills this week
Waddle averaged 3.6 yards of separation against the Patriots, per NFL Next Gen Stats. That's significant for a Dolphins receiving corps that ranked No. 31 in the league in that category last season (2.96 yards), according to ESPN Stats and Information research.
Tagovailoa's passer rating when targeting Waddle was a nearly perfect 157.3, showing signs their chemistry from their time together at Alabama is transferring to the NFL.
The Dolphins quarterback said they have not had time to go over their film from Alabama, but noted that both are vastly differently players than they were two years ago -- specifically in terms of how they communicate.
"His biggest improvement is his communication," Tagovailoa said of Waddle. "In college, Jaylen would speak up here and there, but you really see him now. You come to the sideline after a series and he's out there telling me, 'Hey, this is why I'm running this route. I'm running it because of this and that, and this is where I'm expecting the ball.' He's telling me 'do this.'
"And it's not asking -- it's more so telling."
Now in his second year as Miami's starter, Tagovailoa doesn't take offense to his teammate being assertive; on the contrary, he requested it.
And seeing Waddle's ability to communicate with him this early his career gives him confidence in his receiver.
Said Waddle: "[That confidence] just comes from [Tagovailoa]. He tells me if [I see] something to just tell him and let him know. So any time that I see something or something doesn't go as we would like, I always go to him. ... He gives me his thoughts and I give him my thoughts, then we go from there."
Waddle's demeanor has carried over into meeting rooms, where he's the youngest among a veteran group of wide receivers that includes DeVante Parker, William Fuller V and team captain Mack Hollins.
Although he's a higher draft pick than any of them, Waddle has been nothing but receptive to any critiques his elders have to offer.
"He brings it every day in practice," wide receivers coach Josh Grizzard said. "He's attentive in meetings and, compared to a lot of guys in his generation, he is open to learning from older guys and criticism and not taking it personally."
Beyond that, Miami's opening drives of each half against New England went for a combined 19 plays and 155 yards -- 8.2 yards apiece on average -- and resulted in 14 points.
he Dolphins' other seven drives Sunday totaled 33 plays, 104 yards -- 3.2 yards on average -- and three points. Miami players and coaches said it wasn't just because of scripting, but those drives clearly seemed like the most organized of the day.
"We need to do a better job executing in between," Flores said.
With that thought in mind, the Dolphins will spend the week prepping for a Sunday home opener against Buffalo, which has won each of its past five games against Miami.
Other notes of interest. ... Myles Gaskin, who delivered 76 scrimmage yards -- 49 rushing, 27 receiving, won't jump off the stat sheet as anything impressive, but he got eight touches on the two Miami touchdown drives and turned them into 57 yards.
Less impressive was tight end Mike Gesicki.
As Reynolds suggested, perhaps it was just something related to certain schemes or personnel groupings that caught Miami's eye, but Gesicki's final numbers -- zero catches, only was the intended receiver twice and wasn't on the field for more than half of Miami's snaps -- were quite surprising.
The Dolphins had a couple of players who missed the season opener back at practice on Wednesday.
According to Profootballtalk.com, wide receiver Will Fuller served the final game of a six-game suspension handed down when he was with the Texans last season, so he is now set to make his first appearance with the Dolphins since signing with him as a free agent this offseason. When asked about Fuller’s potential role, Flores said at his press conference that the team will see how the practice week plays out.
Tight end Adam Shaheen is also back at practice. Shaheen went on the COVID-19 reserve list earlier this month after a positive test and had a previous stint on the list this summer as an unvaccinated close contact of someone who tested positive.
Left tackle Austin Jackson was activated from the COVID-19 list over the weekend, but did not start against New England. He’s also practicing on Wednesday. ...
On the injury front. ... DT Raekwon Davis left in the first quarter Sunday with a knee injury. Before long, he was giving indications on the sideline that he wanted to return to the game. But he won't be back on the field any time soon after being placed on IR on Tuesday.
Receiver Preston Williams (foot) was inactive for the opener. He was limited in Wednesday's practice to open this week.
We'll have more on his status for this week's game via Late-Breaking Update in coming days.
QBs: Jacoby Brissett, Reid Sinnett, Tua Tagovailoa
RBs: Myles Gaskin, Salvon Ahmed, Malcolm Brown
WRs: DeVante Parker, Jaylen Waddle, Will Fuller, Jakeem Grant, Albert Wilson, Preston Williams, Mack Hollins
TEs: Mike Gesicki, Durham Smythe, Hunter Long, Adam Shaheen
Minnesota VikingsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 14 September 2021
According to ESPN.com's Courtney Cronin, head coach Mike Zimmer was baffled by the repeated issues his offensive line struggled with in a 27-24 overtime loss to the Bengals on Sunday.
Minnesota racked up 116 yards on 12 penalties. Outside of a 26-yard pass interference penalty on cornerback Bashaud Breeland, the rest of those infractions were called on the offense. The Vikings were flagged for false starts and offensive holding 11 times, which was their most such penalties in a single game since at least 2000, according to ESPN Stats and Information research.
The blame was spread along the offensive line equally, with each lineman flagged at least once.
This wasn't how this group looked in the lead-up to their season opener, even with Rashod Hill (left tackle), Ezra Cleveland (left guard) and Oli Udoh (right guard) assuming new starting roles. Yet from the offense's first drive, the O-line looked like it hadn't jelled at all.
"I have no idea about the false starts," Zimmer said. "We haven't had hardly any of those in camp. We've been harping on them about where their hand placement is and things like that.
"We've just got to clean it up."
The mistakes kept forcing the Vikings into unfavorable downs and distances, which made it difficult to execute a game plan.
"It was tough to be able to call our plays," wide receiver Adam Thielen said. "Whenever you talk about an offense, you talk about giving yourself opportunities to open up a playbook. When you're second-and-20, when you're third-and-15, third-and-12, your playbook goes from wide open to very narrow.
"So we have to be able to put ourselves in good positions on first and second down, and then [that] allows us to open up that playbook up and really make it tough on defenses."
Minnesota found itself in 21 instances of second-and-long (situations longer than second-and-6). From the start, the offense failed to establish the run with Dalvin Cook, who averaged 3.1 yards per carry on 20 attempts, so any play-action attempt would have been less effective.
"It's too many zones," quarterback Kirk Cousins said. "Those play-actions are designed for when people want to stop the run. Second-and-20, they're going to let you run, so there are too many zones."
As Cronin reminded readers, play-action has long been a major part of the Vikings' offensive identity. Without it, Cousins had limited opportunities to establish a deeper passing attack and looked uncomfortable under pressure while he tried to chip away at the negative yardage. In total, Cousins was sacked three times, all of which were allowed through the interior of the offensive line.
The concern that came out of the past six weeks stemmed from the lack of time Minnesota's offensive starters played together in the preseason. Players and coaches maintained that the lack of time and overall stale feel on offense would have no carryover to the regular season.
The Vikings face the same issues with their offensive line that they've been dealing with for several seasons, and there does not appear to be a quick fix coming anytime soon. Rookie left tackle Christian Darrisaw won't be ready to play for a while, according to Zimmer, and Minnesota hits the road again in Week 2 to face the Arizona Cardinals, whose pass rush totaled six sacks in a rout of the Tennessee Titans, five of which came from defensive end Chandler Jones alone.
The Vikings ranked fourth in yards and 11th in points last season because of how effectively they ran the ball to set up play-action and deep shots to their star receivers. That is and has been their recipe for success, which only comes when they're not fighting field position to stay afloat.
"I hear it all the time from college coaches, high school coaches, [talk about] that jump from Week 1 to Week 2, now we have something to look at," Thielen said. "We didn't really know our identity. We didn't really know -- we had an idea, right? But you just don't know until you get out there and play games.
"Now we have something to work on, get better, get back to work. We have a bunch of fighters on this team. We have 16 more weeks of football, so that's exciting."
On a more positive note. ... New specialists Greg Joseph and Jordan Berry were solid in their first games in purple.
Joseph made all three extra points and his only field-goal try, a 53-yarder on the final play of regulation to force overtime. Berry punted eight times for a gross average of 50.3 yards, including a 63-yard boot in overtime that got the Vikings out of field position trouble.
Zimmer said the Vikings are seeking more hangtime on Berry's punts to maximize their downfield coverage.
On the injury front. ... Linebacker Anthony Barr did not play against the Bengals because of the nagging knee injury that sidelined him for much of training camp, and while Zimmer said Friday that Barr was close to being cleared, his absence was capably overcome by newcomer Nick Vigil. Vigil had 10 tackles, including a 10-yard sack, while playing every snap at Barr's strong side spot.
As noted above, Darrisaw is on the slow road back from a second groin-area surgery this year; he won't be able to help the offensive line anytime soon.
QBs: Kirk Cousins, Kellen Mond
RBs: Dalvin Cook, Alexander Mattison
WRs: Justin Jefferson, Adam Thielen, K.J. Osborn, Dede Westbrook, Ihmir Smith-Marsette
TEs: Tyler Conklin, Chris Herndon, Brandon Dillon, Ben Ellefson, Irv Smith Jr.
New England PatriotsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 14 September 2021
According to ESPN.com's Mike Reiss, running back Damien Harris didn't hide from his crushing, late-game fumble in Sunday's season-opening 17-16 loss to the Miami Dolphins. At a time when some players wouldn't choose to stand in front of reporters and answer hard questions, Harris did.
"It's a tough play. Obviously I have to do a better job holding on to the ball, especially in a critical situation like that," Harris said. "But it's a long season. I'm not going to let this mistake define me, so I'm just ready to move forward."
Harris shared his intended approach. Now we wait to see head coach Bill Belichick's.
Reiss went on to remind readers that when Patriots running backs have struggled with ball security in the past, Belichick hasn't hesitated to reduce their workload. One of the more extreme examples came in 2013 when top running back Stevan Ridley had a string of fumbles and was a healthy scratch as a result of it.
Surely, it would take more than what unfolded Sunday for Belichick to take that type of approach with Harris, who had a promising opening performance (23 carries, 100 yards; two catches for 17 yards) before the miscue.
But it isn't unrealistic to think Belichick will assess Harris' workload in the opener, and consider a reduction heading into Sunday's road game against the New York Jets.
After all, part of the reason Harris played 40 snaps -- and looked fatigued shortly before the play in which he fumbled -- seemed to be because rookie running back Rhamondre Stevenson (five snaps) had fumbled earlier in the game and was essentially put on ice afterward.
On the whole, Harris was still a much more effective runner than Stevenson or Bolden, with four runs clocked at 15-plus mph.
Stevenson, the 2021 fourth-round draft pick from Oklahoma, also had a challenging time in blitz pickup against Dolphins linebacker Elandon Roberts on one play.
Second-year running back J.J. Taylor was a healthy scratch for the opener, and he could be an option to replace Stevenson -- and supplement Harris in the traditional running back role -- against the Jets.
Running backs coach Ivan Fears minced no words in speaking of Harris' fumble.
"That's something we preach. It is the classic thing you wouldn't expect, giving the God d--- game away," Fears said Tuesday. "It's hard to accept. For Damien, that stings like a son of a gun."
Fears added, though, per USA Today: "I feel confident Damien will step up to the plate with this. I really do. We have not had a problem with him."
Belichick was asked how he might employ Harris in the wake of the fumble.
"There's a lot of things all of us could have done better in the game, so I think we all need to improve on the areas that we're responsible for, and do a better job next week," he answered.
Teammates rallied around Harris after Sunday's loss.
"One play isn't the reason we lost the football game; there's many plays we left out there. That's what I told him," said James White (28 snaps), who was the "passing back" in the opener. "He played a very good football game [aside] from that. He's a great player, has a lot of talent, and we're going to need him. He has to keep his head up."
Added wide receiver Nelson Agholor: "He works so hard. It's a 'next-play' mentality. He's a great player and if it wasn't for him, we wouldn't even be in that situation. He ran the ball so well. As his teammate, I continue to tell him I love the way he runs."
Agholor was one several offseason free agents who made a solid debut in New England. He caught five passes for a team-high 72 yards, helping rookie quarterback Mac Jones settle into his first NFL start.
Jones had a fumble on the game's opening drive, but was mostly steady as New England's first rookie quarterback to start the season opener since Drew Bledsoe in 1993. Jones was efficient, completing 29 of 39 passes for 281 yards and a touchdown. But he said he left the field thinking more about the offense failing to convert touchdowns on three of its four red-zone opportunities.
"I think being the quarterback, I need to do a better job, demanding better in practice. Sometimes I just let things slide, myself included," Jones said. "That's not good enough. So I'm going to try and be more vocal, and I am a vocal person, but it's kind of a new situation and I can be better. But it starts with me."
According to Reiss, the 2021 first-round draft pick from Alabama operated the traditional Patriots offense, throwing in rhythm, out of empty formations, and with good accuracy and decision-making. A couple of times, he stood in and took a hit while delivering throws down the field, which also reflected his toughness.
His 133 passing yards in the first half would have been a season high in the first half for the Patriots in 2020.
With Jones, the future is bright in New England. ...
Other notes of interest. ... Sunday's eight penalties were New England's most since it also had eight during a 28-22 loss to Houston in Week 13 of the 2019 season, a span of 20 games.
The Patriots were the league's least-penalized team in 2020 and only had more than five penalties in a game four times last season.
"In the end, it's too many," Belichick said. "I didn't see a lot of penalties that were caused by mental errors out there. But whatever the cause is, we've got to try to commit fewer of them. ..."
After seemingly losing his job to undrafted rookie Quinn Nordin and beginning the week on the practice squad, Nick Folk was elevated to the 53-man roster prior to the game and resumed his 2020 role as Patriots kicker.
Folk probably will keep the role for Week 2 after connecting on his attempts from 27, 42 and 33 yards.
It extended his streak of consecutive made field goals to 29, second in team history behind Stephen Gostkowski with 31 straight makes.
On the injury front. ... Right tackle Trent Brown appeared in seven plays before leaving in the first quarter with a right calf injury. If he's out for an extended period it would be the latest in a string of medical issues that limited Brown to 16 of a possible 32 games the past two seasons with the Raiders.
If that's indeed the case, another option is moving left guard Mike Onwenu out to right tackle, and inserting reliable veteran Ted Karras at guard.
QBs: Mac Jones, Brian Hoyer
RBs: Damien Harris, James White, J.J. Taylor, Rhamondre Stevenson
WRs: Jakobi Meyers, Nelson Agholor, Kendrick Bourne, Gunner Olszewski, N'Keal Harry
TEs: Jonnu Smith, Hunter Henry, Devin Asiasi
New Orleans SaintsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 14 September 2021
The New Orleans Saints are dealing with multiple positive COVID-19 cases, NFL Network's Tom Pelissero reported Tuesday.
Pelissero reports that six assistant coaches, a team nutritionist and a player tested positive for the virus. The player is reportedly receiver Michael Thomas. The seven staff members who tested positive are vaccinated, Pelissero added. Coach Sean Payton noted during training camp that the entire staff was vaccinated.
Thomas was already on the physically unable to perform list after having ankle surgery before the start of training camp and will be out through at least the sixth week of the regular season, so the development won't have any impact on his availability for this Sunday's game against the Panthers or any other games in the next few weeks.
While Thomas' absence won't impact the team, missing coaches during the practice week could hinder the team's preparations for Week 2.
Following the positive tests, the Saints will be in enhanced COVID-19 mitigation protocol, per league policy, which includes a mask mandate and daily testing for all players and staff regardless of vaccination status. New Orleans, still displaced due to Hurricane Ida, is set to take on the Carolina Panthers in Charlotte this Sunday.
The Week 2 game is on as scheduled, Pelissero reported. ... I'll obviously be watching for more on that in coming days. ...
Meanwhile, despite losing Drew Brees to retirement and forced to play on the road, the Saints and Jameis Winston got off to a stunningly dominant start in Week 1.
Winston threw five touchdown passes in his starting debut with the Saints -- with zero turnovers -- as they routed the Green Bay Packers 38-3 in their makeshift "home" venue at TIAA Bank Field on Sunday. He capped his day with a 55-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Deonte Harris in the fourth quarter, while New Orleans' defense was just as dominant with two interceptions of reigning MVP Aaron Rodgers.
It was Winston's first NFL start since the Tampa Bay Buccaneers decided to replace him with Tom Brady during the 2020 offseason after Winston became the first player in league history to throw at least 30 touchdown passes and 30 interceptions in the same season.
Winston was remarkably effective for most of Sunday's contest, often settling for smart checkdowns or scrambling away from pressure -- as he ran four times for 38 yards and three first downs. He had just 93 passing yards before adding the 55-yard home run to Harris early in the fourth. Winston's ultimate total of 148 passing yards were the fewest in a five-touchdown game in NFL history, according to ESPN Stats & Information data.
Winston did have one interception in the second half that was nullified by a personal foul penalty.
"I thought he played very well. He was locked in, focused. We spread the ball around," head coach Sean Payton said.
Running back Alvin Kamara agreed.
"I didn't have any questions about him," Kamara said. "My impressions are what I've felt this whole camp. ... I'm impressed, I guess, but that's what I expect from him."
The Saints' commanding performance overall was certainly surprising, however, considering the level of their opponent and all of the adversity the team was dealing with leading up to this matchup.
Winston, 27, was actually one of 10 new starters for the Saints in Week 1 because of Brees' retirement, an offseason salary-cap purge, injuries and a suspension. The team also lost standout center Erik McCoy, who is expected to miss some time with a calf strain he sustained in the first quarter, NFL Network's Mike Garafolo reported Tuesday.
The Saints have a Week 6 bye and there's a chance McCoy could be out until then, according to NFL Network's Tom Pelissero.
With McCoy's status in question, the club is expected to sign former Chiefs lineman Austin Reiter to the practice squad with plans to elevate him on game day, Pelissero later reported. The Saints flew Reiter in for a workout Tuesday morning.
The Saints returned this week to Dallas, where they have been training at TCU's facilities. It's unclear when they will go home to New Orleans now that power is returning throughout the area. Their next home game is scheduled for Week 4 against the New York Giants.
Other notes of interest. ... Last year, Juwan Johnson was mostly a practice squad receiver who saw action in seven games and made four catches for 39 yards and no touchdowns. Having committed to a position change this offseason, he had a major effect on his first game at his new spot. He converted a fourth-and-7 on a screen and had the first two TD catches of his career.
Reserve QB Taysom Hill, although some of that had more to do with how stellar Winston played. Hill entered training camp in an open competition with Winston for the starting job. Returning to his previous role as a backup as well as a change-of-pace, read-option threat, he did not have a highly productive game. He rushed for 1 yard on two carries and completed one pass for 3 yards.
The Saints worked out receivers Kenny Stills and Marqise Lee on Monday. They are signing Stills to their practice squad, Mike Garafolo of NFL Media reports.
The Saints drafted Stills in the fifth round of the 2013 draft. He caught 95 passes for 1,572 yards and eight touchdowns in two seasons before New Orleans traded Stills to the Dolphins for a third-round choice.
He played 10 games with the Texans during the 2020 regular season, catching 11 passes for 144 yards and a touchdown. The Texans cut him Nov. 27, and he signed with the Bills' practice squad in the postseason.
Receivers Cody Core and Kelvin Harmon also worked out for the Saints.
And finally. ... The Saints are also dealing with a notable injury in their secondary involving Marshon Lattimore.
Two days after his eventful Sunday afternoon, the big-money cornerback will undergo surgery today to repair a chipped bone in his thumb, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported, per a source familiar with the situation. Lattimore, who suffered the injury during Sunday's game, will be considered week-to-week moving forward.
The 25-year-old standout signed a five-year, $97.6 million contract extension hours before New Orleans' clash with Green Bay. He went on to record three tackles and one pass defensed in the victory.
QBs: Jameis Winston, Taysom Hill, Trevor Siemian, Ian Book
RBs: Alvin Kamara, Tony Jones Jr., Dwayne Washington
WRs: Marquez Callaway, Deonte Harris, Chris Hogan, Lil'Jordan Humphrey, Ty Montgomery, Michael Thomas, Tre'quan Smith
TEs: Adam Trautman, Juwan Johnson, Garrett Griffin
New York GiantsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 14 September 2021
As NFL.com suggested, media narratives in the Big Apple take on lives of their own like nowhere else, and coaches or athletes who try to control them often find it a futile exercise. Typically, however, the effort is to dim the spotlight.
But after an uninspiring performance in the New York Giants' opening loss to the Broncos, running back Saquon Barkley, instead, wants it brighter.
"I don't want the theme to be, 'Oh, the run game's not going 'cause Saquon's knee. He's still getting right back from the knee,'" Barkley told New York Daily News staffer Pat Leonard. "That's not the mindset I'm gonna have. I'm not gonna use that as a crutch. The gig is up. I'm back on the field.
"Hopefully week by week, my knee keeps responding properly and my rep count keeps going," the fourth-year back added. "The carries I do get, [it's time to] to get this run game going. Because once we get it going, I think we could be a very good offense."
No one expected Barkley to look 100 percent like his old self immediately after recovering from last season's torn ACL and partially torn meniscus in his right knee.
But it was concerning to see Barkley slip down several times when he planted hard on the turf, almost as if he didn't trust what he felt.
He played on only 29 of the Giants' 61 snaps, rushing 10 times for 26 yards and making one catch for one yard. The Giants had only 20 carries for 60 rushing yards as a team, including only seven rushes for eight yards in the first half.
"We've got to run the ball better, which is the main point," center Nick Gates said Monday. "You're not gonna win too many games if you can't run the ball. As an offensive line, we have to make sure [Barkley] has a hole to run through. And you know, he's been out for a whole year. So he has to regain his confidence in us and get to running the ball again and get comfortable back there."
Barkley assured "nothing alarmed me" with his knee on any contact but admitted to overthinking.
"I don't think that's any indicator of anything with my knee," he said. "I guess that could be part of rust or probably overthinking it. I don't want to do either. Just want to get ready for Thursday Night Football."
Joe Judge said he expects Barkley to be good to go on Thursday at Washington, despite it being just four days after the running back's first game in almost a full year.
"Unless the medical team tells us something else, our intention is to continue progressing this guy throughout the season, unless there's some kind of setback," Judge said. "But he came out by all accounts in a good position. So our plan at this point would be to go ahead and include him in the game plan as we go through this next day and a half."
There is no telling how long it will take Barkley to get back to form, though, which might explain why the Giants called on free agent running back Latavius Murray recently, according to NBC's Peter King, prior to his signing with the Baltimore Ravens.
Offseason signing Devontae Booker had only four carries for seven yards and one catch for six yards. Eli Penny and Gary Brightwell didn't carry the ball. Brightwell had one catch for six yards. Penny had one target and no catches.
Daniel Jones was the Giants' leading rusher with six carries for 27 yards, but he also fumbled in the red zone on one of them.
Barkley interestingly admitted he was "nervous" at the beginning of the week when the Giants started having real conversations about activating him for Week 1.
"It wasn't a scared nerve, more anxious," he said.
He felt "a little weird" on Monday but still had a "great practice," and settled down until he drove to MetLife Stadium on Sunday morning.
"As I got closer to the stadium, you see the fans and hear the crowd, you get a little anxious," he said. "But when we got in there and called the first play, I was locked in, I was ready."
Generally speaking, the Giants' offense guided by Jason Garrett still leaves a lot to be desired.
It's hard to win when scoring 13 points, and with Jones coughing up another costly fumble. Barkley and wide receiver Kenny Golladay (hamstring) being non-factors after spending most of the summer coming back from injuries was part of it too.
According to ESPN.com's Jordan Raanan, it felt very similar to last year when the Giants averaged a paltry 17.5 points per game. You have to wonder how they change that dynamic going up against a tough Washington defense on a short turnaround. ...
Meanwhile, Judge said on Monday that tight end Evan Engram has been "making a lot of jumps" in his return from the calf injury that kept him from playing in Week 1, but he hasn't jumped high enough to hit the field for Thursday's game.
Engram has been ruled out for Thursday night’s game against Washington.
Barkley has been listed as questionable but appears likely to play on Thursday as well.
The Giants have also ruled out Out: linebacker Cam Brown (hamstring) and guard Shane Lemieux (knee).
I will, of course, be following up on Barkley as needed via Late-Breaking Update right up through Thursday's inactive announcement in the 90 minutes leading up to kickoff.
QBs: Daniel Jones, Mike Glennon
RBs: Saquon Barkley, Devontae Booker, Gary Brightwell
WRs: Kenny Golladay, Sterling Shepard, Darius Slayton, C.J. Board, Kadarius Toney, John Ross
TEs: Evan Engram, Kyle Rudolph, Kaden Smith
New York JetsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 14 September 2021
Stop if you've heard this before: The New York Jets are dealing with major injuries to a few key players.
And it's only Week 2.
Left tackle Mekhi Becton will be sidelined at least a month with a knee injury, and safety Lamarcus Joyner is out for the season with a torn triceps.
Head coach Robert Saleh confirmed the injuries Monday, a day after the Jets fell 19-14 at Carolina in their season opener -- taking some of the shine off what was a promising NFL debut for rookie quarterback Zach Wilson.
Becton, the No. 11 overall pick last year, will be out for what Saleh said is a minimum of four to six weeks with a dislocated right kneecap.
"Everything else seems to be intact," Saleh said.
Saleh added Becton is still being evaluated and seeking a second opinion to determine if he'll need surgery. NFL Network reported Becton also has a sprained MCL.
Becton was hurt when he was rolled into during Wilson's first NFL touchdown pass, a 22-yard toss to Corey Davis with 1:25 left in the third quarter.
"Positive vibes only!" Becton wrote on Twitter on Monday. "I'll be good!"
George Fant, who started Sunday at right tackle, will fill in on the left side during Becton's absence as he did against the Panthers. Morgan Moses, signed as a free agent during the offseason, takes over at right tackle.
"There's a shuffling that has to happen," Saleh said. "We're very fortunate we have three legitimate starting tackles."
Joyner, another offseason free-agent signing, was hurt in the first half. He was expected to team with Marcus Maye to give the Jets a veteran safety tandem that would help a young, inexperienced cornerbacks group.
New York is suddenly thin at safety with Joyner sidelined. Veteran Sharrod Neasman (hamstring) and second-year safety Ashtyn Davis are both on injured reserve. That leaves just Sheldrick Redwine, who replaced Joyner on Sunday, and Adrian Colbert and Jarrod Wilson on the practice squad.
Saleh acknowledged the Jets "for sure" will be exploring various roster moves over the next few days.
That includes finding another punter since Braden Mann will be sidelined four to six weeks with a sprained left knee. He left against Carolina after his first punt, when his leg was rolled into. Kicker Matt Ammendola replaced him and averaged 48.5 yards per kick despite not having ever punted in a game in college or high school.
Linebackers Jamien Sherwood (sprained ankle) and Blake Cashman (hamstring) will be sidelined a few weeks.
There's a glimmer of positive injury news: Wide receivers Jamison Crowder and Keelan Cole could be back this week after missing the opener.
Cole (knee) was back at practice Wednesday while Crowder has one more day until he's cleared.
I'll be following up on their status via Late-Breaking Update in coming days.
Meanwhile, as Associated Press sports writer Dennis Waszak Jr. noted, Wilson showed poise and confidence in his first NFL start since being the No. 2 overall pick in April.
He took a lot of hits and made some rookie-like mistakes -- overthrows, a forced toss on an interception, holding the ball too long -- but also flashed the playmaking ability that made him so coveted.
Wilson finished 20 of 37 for 258 and two TDs to Corey Davis (both in the second half), along with the pick.
According to ESPN.com's Rich Cimini, at times, the game was too fast for Wilson, but he settled down and displayed some of the talent that made the Jets draft him second overall. It was a great learning experience. There's no reason to be down on Wilson, who will improve every week.
"I thought he was really good in the pocket, stood in there strong," Saleh said. "He did take his lumps. He can learn from it, and learning how to do the right thing to avoid the hits themselves. Overall, I thought it was promising for him."
There's plenty to clean up -- and a desperate need for healthy bodies -- before the Jets host the AFC East-rival New England Patriots in their home opener Sunday. It'll be a matchup of rookie QBs with Wilson facing Mac Jones, and the loser will be 0-2. ...
Other notes of interest. ... Tevin Coleman rushed nine times for 17 yards and wasn't targeted in the passing game -- which left him as the top option in the backfield.
As CBSSports.com notes, Coleman got nine of the Jets' 17 rushing attempts, but it's not a good sign that his most memorable play was a 4th-and-1 run that got stuffed for a one-yard loss. New York averaged only 2.6 yards per carry as a team while giving each of Coleman, Ty Johnson and Michael Carter at least five touches.
CBS Added: "An ineffective three-way committee is the opposite of the recipe for fantasy success, so the Jets' backfield is unlikely to garner much interest in Week 2 against the Patriots. ..."
Adding to the tales of woe here was wide receiver Denzel Mims.
The second-round pick from last year played only three snaps on offense despite Crowder and Cole being out. Mims had a 40-yard catch, but that was on the Jets' final drive of the game. He fell behind during the offseason when he lost 20 pounds because of food poisoning, and still has not found a steady role in the offense.
QBs: Zach Wilson, Mike White
RBs: Ty Johnson, Michael Carter, Tevin Coleman, Lamical Perine, Josh Adams
WRs: Corey Davis, Jamison Crowder, Elijah Moore, Keelan Cole, Braxton Berrios, Denzel Mims, Jeff Smith
TEs: Tyler Kroft, Ryan Griffin, Daniel Brown, Trevon Wesco
Philadelphia EaglesCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 14 September 2021
According to Associated Press sports writer Rob Maaddi, fresh off a convincing win in his NFL coaching debut, Nick Sirianni rocked a "Dawg Mentality" T-shirt to his video conference Monday and reminded everyone not to get carried away with one game.
The Eagles dominated the Atlanta Falcons in 32-6 victory Sunday and will host the 49ers this week. San Francisco won its opener at Detroit.
"We've been talking about dog mentality over and over again," Sirianni said. "It's a week- to-week thing, a day-to-day thing. If I think about on Wednesday when we come back out here how well I played in the Atlanta game, then I'm gonna get my butt kicked this upcoming Sunday, so it's living in the moment of what you are in.
"We literally live in the moment of how are we going to leave this building today better than we were yesterday. If you're thinking about the past or have a big ego based on how you played, you won't do that."
Sirianni and Jalen Hurts aced their first tests, earning plenty of praise. They know that'll quickly turn to criticism when the team goes through adversity and losses pile up.
"In all honesty, we won one game. We gotta go out there and do it again," Sirianni said.
Coming off a 4-11-1 season that led to Super Bowl-winning Doug Pederson getting fired and franchise quarterback Carson Wentz being traded, the Eagles didn't have high expectations. After one game, they're the only team in the NFC East with a victory. It's a long season, the longest ever as the NFL plays a 17-game schedule.
"All the hard work we put in, all the different changes we've endured, we've had to overcome and persevere with new coaching, new values as a football team, and buying into it," Hurts said. "Coming out here we won, and started off the right way. I think that's good."
The offense was balanced, featuring short and midrange passes and run-pass options. Hurts got in a rhythm early, made smart decisions and used his legs for positive gains when needed. Sirianni's play calling catered to his young QB's strengths.
And while it was clearly a favorable matchup, Hurts crushed this one.
He was very efficient throwing the football (27-of-35 passing, 264 yards, three touchdowns) relying on schemed concepts plus the second-reaction throws Hurts can make when he moves from the pocket.
Plus, he does bring an added element to the Philadelphia offense given his running traits. The second-year quarterback, who totaled 31 fantasy points in the win, finished with 62 yards rushing on seven carries.
Also worth noting. ... Hurts was sacked once after the Eagles allowed a league-high 65 last year mostly due to an injury-ravaged offensive line that featured 14 different combinations.
Even with a tougher matchup in Week 2 versus the 49ers' defense, Hurts' dual-threat ability, and the pass game structure keep him in the QB1 mix.
So how high is this team's ceiling?
According to ESPN.com's Tim McManus, that kind of convincing road win will get people talking about Sirianni and the Eagles. Expectations were low entering this season, but the Eagles over performed on both sides of the ball Sunday, particularly on defense by keeping Atlanta and its talented skill players out of the end zone.
The upcoming stretch in the Eagles' schedule will tell the true tale: their next five games are against the Niners, Cowboys, Chiefs, Panthers and Buccaneers. ...
Other notes of interest. ... Wide receiver Jalen Reagor caught all six passes thrown for 49 yards, including a 23-yard catch-and-run TD. The 2020 first-round pick had a disappointing, injury-riddled rookie season. But he displayed the skills that made him the 21st overall pick, one ahead of Justin Jefferson.
Rookies DeVonta Smith (6 catches, 71 yards) and Kenny Gainwell (43 total yards) each found the end zone in their debuts.
Add in the performances of Miles Sanders (113 total yards) and Reagor and that's a whole lot of production out of a relatively inexperienced group. ...
On the injury front. ... Zach Ertz (hamstring) didn't take part in stretches prior to Wednesday's practice, according to multiple reports.
As CBSSports.com notes, Ertz left Sunday's opener in Atlanta for a spell due to a hamstring injury but was able to return, finishing the game with two catches (on two targets) for 34 yards. Sirianni relayed Monday that Ertz was receiving treatment but NFL Network's Mike Garafolo reports the Eagles are simply managing the issue. "No great concern here," Garofolo added.
JJ Arcega-Whiteside (ankle) was also sidelined for Wednesday's practice while Sanders (ankle) was limited.
I'll follow up as needed via Late-Breaking Update. ...
One last note here. ... According to Maaddi, the Eagles must be more disciplined.
They committed 14 penalties, including seven by the offensive line. They got away with it against the Falcons, who had 12 penalties.
QBs: Jalen Hurts, Joe Flacco, Gardner Minshew
RBs: Miles Sanders, Kenneth Gainwell, Boston Scott
WRs: DeVonta Smith, Jalen Reagor, Quez Watkins, Greg Ward, JJ Arcega-Whiteside
TEs: Dallas Goedert, Zach Ertz, Jack Stoll
Pittsburgh SteelersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 14 September 2021
According to Associated Press sports writer Will Graves, the growing pains Ben Roethlisberger warned about were unmistakable.
The Steelers' new-look offensive line didn't muster much in the running game, leaving first-round pick Najee Harris with little room to work.
Although rookie left tackle Dan Moore Jr. and rookie center Kendrick Green survived their first NFL starts and were part of an offense that came to life in the second half, the entire group -- left guard Kevin Dotson, right guard Trai Turner and right tackle Chuks Okorafor -- left a lot of room for improvement.
The special teams let up a big kickoff return on the season's first play. And for a half the defending AFC North champions looked as listless as they did during that 1-5 thud that ended 2020.
And it didn't matter. Not with outside linebacker T.J. Watt looking as if he's worth every penny of the staggering deal he signed last week that made him the highest-paid defensive player in the NFL.
Not with the secondary shutting down a Buffalo Bills offense that is supposed to rank among the league's best. Not with Roethlisberger deftly guiding a second-half turnaround that led to a 23-16 victory, upending the modest external expectations surrounding the Steelers in the process.
"I don't want to say a dominant performance because obviously there's still a lot left on the table and I'm sure there's going to be a lot of film to watch and make corrections," Watt said after dropping Bills quarterback Josh Allen twice.
"But I'm very happy with where we are, especially in Week 1. I love playing with this group. We fly around. We handle adversity really well."
It certainly looks like it. Fourteen times in the franchise's 89-year history the Steelers had fallen down by double digits in the opener. And 14 times they had lost. Facing a raucous crowd and a team that reached the AFC championship game nine months ago, Pittsburgh pulled out a win that provided a blueprint of how 2021 might go.
The offense sputtered for long stretches.
Yet it also didn't turn the ball over. The defense looked even better than it did a year ago when it led the NFL in sacks and finished third in the league in yards allowed.
The special teams bounced back from that rough start to block a punt for a touchdown late in the third quarter that gave the Steelers a 10-point lead they never came close to squandering.
"We knew it would be tough sledding," head coach Mike Tomlin said. "They've got a great defense. They've got continuity, not only in players but schematics. We were playing them in their place. We had a bunch of new pieces. We weren't style point-oriented today. We just had to win this game."
A victory that could perhaps send the Steelers on a similar trajectory to 2020, when they ripped off their first 11 games to cruise to the division title before flaming out in the first round against Cleveland.
The schedule is considerably tougher than it was a year ago, but Pittsburgh's performance served notice that when at their best, the Steelers will remain a threat in a loaded AFC.
One concern. ... Pittsburgh's most explosive running play was a 25-yard jet sweep by wide receiver Chase Claypool.
Harris, meanwhile, ran for just 45 yards on 16 carries behind a completely retooled offensive line that returned zero starters from the 2020 season opener.
As ESPN.com's Tristan Cockroft notes, the rookie's five fantasy points during his NFL debut were certainly disappointing to his fantasy managers who drafted him in the late first or early second round.
But there's a positive here: Harris played 100 percent of the team's offensive snaps, as Benny Snell Jr. and Kalen Ballage remained on the sidelines, something that no running back -- rookie or not -- accomplished in 2020.
The Steelers do very clearly regard Harris as their lead running back, and the role could grant him borderline RB1 status.
He gets the Raiders next, a more favorable matchup. Pittsburgh should have a bit of an advantage with Las Vegas going cross-country for an early kickoff on a week after facing Baltimore on Monday night.
QBs: Ben Roethlisberger, Mason Rudolph, Dwayne Haskins
RBs: Najee Harris, Benny Snell, Kalen Ballage, Anthony McFarland Jr.
WRs: Diontae Johnson, Chase Claypool, JuJu Smith-Schuster, James Washington, Ray-Ray McCloud
TEs: Eric Ebron, Pat Freiermuth, Zach Gentry
San Francisco 49ersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 14 September 2021
Running back Raheem Mostert will undergo season-ending surgery on his knee after getting injured in the season opener.
Head coach Kyle Shanahan had said Mostert was expected to miss eight weeks because of chipped cartilage in his knee, but Mostert announced on his Twitter account Tuesday that he will miss the rest of the season.
Mostert said he was "gutted" by the news, but after consulting with multiple doctors felt this was the best decision for his long-term future.
"This gives me, without a doubt in my mind, the best possibility at coming back 110 percent," he wrote. "I have ALWAYS come back stronger and I will this time too! ... This is obviously not what I worked so hard for. I wish more than anything I could be out on the field with my brothers!!!"
The injury to Mostert is the second season-ending injury suffered by a key 49ers player already this year after the 2020 season was derailed by injuries. Cornerback Jason Verrett tore the ACL in his right knee in the season opener at Detroit.
After winning the NFC in 2019, the Niners went just 6-10 last year when they played long stretches without quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, edge rushers Nick Bosa and Dee Ford, tight end George Kittle, cornerback Richard Sherman and Mostert among others.
Mostert played only eight games last season because of ankle and knee injuries and lasted only four snaps this year. He had two carries for 20 yards on the opening drive of a 41-33 win at Detroit before getting hurt.
Sixth-round rookie Elijah Mitchell took advantage of the opportunity and rushed for 104 yards and a TD in his NFL debut. The 49ers also have JaMycal Hasty and third-rounder Trey Sermon, who was a healthy scratch for the opener. Hasty played the reserve role in Detroit toting one time for a 3-yard TD and catching one pass for 15 yards.
The Niners are also signing former Lions running back Kerryon Johnson to the practice squad, according to his agent Drew Rosenhaus. Johnson rushed for 1,225 yards in 34 games with the Lions.
At this point, Mitchell projects as the lead back in Shanahan's run-friendly scheme. But Sermon, the team's third-round rookie, should get a chance to slice off a piece of the workload starting in Sunday's bout against the Philadelphia Eagles.
Meanwhile, more than just a hamstring injury contributed to receiver Brandon Aiyuk seeing limited action in Detroit -- he's also getting more competition for playing time from Trent Sherfield, according to Shanahan.
"He's got a better person behind him this year in training camp and with Aiyuk missing some time and how well Sherfield played, and especially with Aiyuk missing some time heading into that game, it wasn't a very tough decision (to play Sherfield more)," Shanahan said Monday, per the San Francisco Chronicle. "We were going to rotate them throughout the game. I think Trent ended up having 29 plays and I think Aiyuk had 25. So, that was about how we expected it to go. We wanted to split time like that."
Still, it was a bit surprising for a first-round draft pick who had a promising rookie season in 2020 to go without a single target in the game. It certainly wasn't as if the 49ers had trouble throwing the ball -- Jimmy Garoppolo turned in what was a rock-solid performance (17 of 25, 314 yards).
As Shanahan noted, Sherfield made the most of his preseason action with 156 receiving yards on just five catches, including an 80-yard touchdown. On Sunday against the Lions, he notched just his second career TD catch on a cameo appearance from rookie quarterback Trey Lance.
Shanahan said he would discuss Aiyuk's Week 1 playing time with the second-year receiver "sooner than later."
The playing split between Aiyuk and Sherfield gets its next look this weekend. I'll be watching for more on the plan in coming days and report back via Late-Breaking Update.
But as NFL.com's Chase Goodbread suggested, if Deebo Samuel's first game (nine catches, 189 yards) is any indication of his season to come, targets between Aiyuk and Sherfield will be all the more precious. ...
Beyond all that, for three quarters, the 49ers offered a reminder of how dominant they can be when healthy and firing on all cylinders. They also let up late and nearly coughed up a 28-point lead.
As ESPN.com's Nick Wagoner suggested, the needed caveat here is that the Lions again look like contenders for the No. 1 overall pick in next year's draft; if the Niners are going to return to contender status, they can't let their foot off the gas, especially against inferior opponents. ...
One last question here: How will the 49ers continue to integrate Lance into the offense?
As noted above, Lance threw his first career touchdown pass on his second NFL snap (and first pass attempt) but only played sparingly after that, taking a total of four snaps. According to Wagoner, because the game was essentially over at halftime, there was no need for Shanahan to show too much of what he has in mind for Lance, but it's clear he won't be afraid to get the rookie quarterback involved where he sees fit.
QBs: Jimmy Garoppolo, Trey Lance
RBs: Elijah Mitchell, Trenton Cannon, Trey Sermon, JaMycal Hasty, Jeff Wilson, Raheem Mostert
WRs: Deebo Samuel, Brandon Aiyuk, Trent Sherfield, Mohamed Sanu, Jauan Jennings, Jalen Hurd
TEs: George Kittle, Ross Dwelley, Charlie Woerner, Daniel Helm
Seattle SeahawksCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 14 September 2021
According to ESPN.com's Brady Henderson, Pete Carroll's postgame slip of the tongue was one of only a few things he regrets about the Seahawks' season opener. They had just beaten the Indianapolis Colts 28-16 behind brilliant performances by Russell Wilson and Shane Waldron, so the head coach was giving his veteran quarterback and new offensive coordinator their due.
"I'm really, really proud of what he was able to do, because he went for it the whole time, and we did it exactly how we've been practicing and how we've been preparing," Carroll said of Waldron. "He handled it with such a cool overall mentality and all, and he and Russ were just cooking."
"Oh wait, I'm sorry I said that," an amused Carroll said. "Wait, scratch that. Doggone it. They did really well together. Shoot, that's out there. Dang it."
Carroll noted that he never made any cooking references during the "Let Russ Cook" mania of last season. But you can't blame him for doing so on Sunday after what Wilson and Co. did against Indianapolis.
They scored touchdowns on three of their first four drives, a sight for all the sore eyes that watched their offense routinely start slow for so many years.
Wilson threw four touchdown passes and no interceptions while completing 18 of 23 attempts for 254 yards. He became the first player in NFL history with at least four TD passes in consecutive season openers, according to ESPN Stats and Information.
They mixed that efficiency with explosiveness, averaging 7.2 yards per play (last season's average was 5.78), with five plays gaining 20 yards or more (they averaged 3.5 last year). That was en route to 381 yards of total offense, including 140 on the ground.
Not that it was perfect. Their offense stalled in the third quarter, with three punts and a lost Chris Carson fumble on their first four second-half possessions.
But this was as strong of a debut as anyone could have realistically expected. They were on the road against a top-10 defense from last year. Wilson and most of the No. 1 offense didn't play a down in the preseason, meaning no live reps to work out the kinks in a new system.
And the guy behind that new system, Waldron, had never called plays in a regular-season game before Sunday.
Among the new elements of Waldron's offense are an increased reliance on fast tempo, more pre-snap motion, how they use running backs in the passing game and using receivers in the run game with fly sweeps.
Rookie second-round draft pick D'Wayne Eskridge suffered a head injury on one such play in the fourth quarter when he took a handoff, gained nine yards and was hit hard near the sideline. That ended his NFL debut early, and it will put his availability for Week 2 in question.
Good thing for the Seahawks that they have as many weapons as they do, a luxury on display on Sunday. That includes new tight end in Gerald Everett (who caught one of Wilson's touchdown passes), Carson (117 total yards) and one of the NFL's best receiver tandems in Tyler Lockett and DK Metcalf.
"I think we're equipped to do a lot of different things," Wilson said.
Wilson gave Waldron a strong endorsement when Carroll involved his quarterback in the search for a new OC. That pairing will go a long way in determining not only the Seahawks' success this season but Wilson's future, which is not quite set in stone after his public venting led to talks about a possible trade.
So far, so good with the Seahawks quarterback and coordinator.
"One thing about Shane that I like is that I've never seen him mad," Metcalf said. "He's always level-headed, cool-headed and very encouraging. That's great on game day. And the way he communicates on the sideline is always positive, just like Russ. They're the perfect match for each other."
The Seahawks fear running back Rashaad Penny will miss this weekend's game against the Titans and possibly longer because of a calf injury, Carroll said Monday.
Penny, the Seahawks' No. 2 running back behind Carson, left Sunday's season-opening win over the Indianapolis Colts after seven snaps and two carries for 8 yards. Carroll said after the 28-16 victory that the team played it safe by pulling Penny when the calf tightened up, knowing it had three other tailbacks available.
On Monday, Carroll called Penny's injury a calf strain.
Along with Penny's calf injury, the Seahawks saw wide receivers Penny Hart and, as noted above, Eskridge leave with concussions and offensive lineman Ethan Pocic suffer a sprained knee (he was placed on injured reserve Wednesday). Seattle's injury report was spotless last week. That won't be the case this week.
"It'll take us a bit to figure out what the return will be on that," Carroll said. "He ran really well when he ran. ... So we're going to miss him, it looks like, this week."
Carroll later mentioned the possibility that Penny could be out a couple of weeks. He said the team is in "good shape" at the position with Carson, Alex Collins, DeeJay Dallas and Travis Homer. Collins was inactive Sunday, one of six healthy scratches for the Seahawks after they entered their opener with no one listed as out, doubtful or questionable on their final injury report.
Penny's career has been marred by injuries since Seattle chose him 27th overall in the 2018 draft. He missed 21 regular-season games over his first three seasons, including 13 last year after tearing an ACL in December 2019. He missed the offseason program following a cleanup procedure on the knee, then got off to a strong start in training camp only to miss more time with a thigh injury.
The Seahawks declined Penny's fifth-year option in May, making 2021 a contract season.
I'll have more on all involved via Late-Breaking Update in coming days.
QBs: Russell Wilson, Geno Smith, Jake Luton
RBs: Chris Carson, Alex Collins, DeeJay Dallas, Travis Homer, Rashaad Penny
WRs: DK Metcalf, Tyler Lockett, D'Wayne Eskridge, Freddie Swain, Penny Hart
TEs: Gerald Everett, Will Dissly, Colby Parkinson
Tampa Bay BuccaneersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 14 September 2021
As ESPN.com's Jenna Laine notes, unlike Super Bowl LV, in which the Buccaneers' defense kept the Chiefs out of the end zone, the Bucs' offense had to carry them this time.
Quarterback Tom Brady threw for 379 yards, four touchdowns and two interceptions, and the defense surrendered 403 passing yards and three touchdowns to Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott.
Had it not been for two missed field goal attempts by the Cowboys' Greg Zuerlein, the Bucs would have been doomed by four turnovers.
Still, the offense looks more improved than it did at the beginning of last season, suggesting that yes, they really can be better than their title-run season.
From a fantasy perspective, it should be noted that Ronald Jones will get another chance.
The running back disappeared from Thursday's game after fumbling in the first half. He didn't return, finishing with four carries for 14 yards on only six snaps.
Via Scott Smith of the team's official website, Jones will start on Sunday against the Falcons.
Head coach Bruce Arians said that Jones "struggled mentally" to get over the fumble, which contributed to the decision to keep him on the sideline. He'll step back into the fray on Sunday against the Falcons.
The last time he had a bad game -- in the Week 9 blowout loss to the Saints -- Jones responded with a 192-yard effort against Carolina. So maybe Jones will turn it around.
He needs to. It's a contract year for him. And it didn't get off to a good start. The best news is that he'll get an opportunity to rectify it.
Arians addressed the media on Tuesday following an abbreviated 'bonus day' of practice.
The team held a walk-through after having three consecutive days off following their Thursday night victory at home over the Dallas Cowboys.
And though that was good news, it didn't come without a cost.
Cornerback Sean Murphy-Bunting went down early in the game with what ended up being a dislocated elbow. Murphy-Bunting was then moved to injured reserve on Monday, meaning he'll miss at least three games. Arians came bearing the news it would likely be at least four weeks, and that's best case. The good news is, the secondary could get some flexibility with safety Jordan Whitehead looking at making a possible return for Sunday's game.
Arians said they'll know more when they see him full speed this week at practice.
Murphy-Bunting wasn't the only significant injury on Thursday night, though we're just finding out about it now because long snapper Zach Triner may very well be the toughest player on the team. Triner broke his finger but continued to snap the ball -- including on the game-winning field goal. Triner has also been moved to IR and his injury will take 10-12 weeks to heal.
Asked when he found out about the injury, Arians said, "When I saw the injury report."
"Nobody brought it up on the sideline," he continued. "He didn't bring it up. Tough as nails. ..."
Meanwhile, the focus has now turned to the Falcons.
The Bucs' offense was certainly ready for Dallas last Thursday, scoring over 30 points in their eighth-straight win, which ties a league record. Only two other teams have done that: the 2007 and 2010 New England Patriots. Should the Bucs score 30 or more points and win against Atlanta, it will be a new NFL record -- and one, yes, still held by Tom Brady.
And while the Bucs' offense was firing on all cylinders, the sheer number of weapons they have make it impossible for all of those cylinders needing to be at full force. People were visibly upset during and after the game about wide receiver Mike Evans not getting enough targets but. But both Chris Godwin and Antonio Brown had over 100 receiving yards and a touchdown.
Rob Gronkowski had 90 yards and two touchdowns. Where exactly was Evans supposed to fit in?
Offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich also explained that Dallas had a plan for Evans -- as teams should for the opponent's number one receiver. But it's nothing to be concerned about. You're going to have to try to stop the other guys, too. And that's when Evans will strike.
"I'll put it like this -- I think he left this game with more catches than he did a year ago (in Week 1)," said Leftwich. "So, it's improvement. I don't view it that way. Mike doesn't see single [coverage]. There is no one guy following him around. I haven't seen that really in a while versus anybody. There's really never one guy following him around. We hope we get that at some point. Mike knows more about the team. All Mike can do is get himself in position. We'll move him around and get him in position to allow him to make plays, but I wouldn't freak out after one game [for] anybody.
"That's just football being football. ..."
Also of interest. ... Gronkowski caught his 99th and 100th career TD receptions from Brady in this game, including playoffs. They joined Peyton Manning and Marvin Harrison as the only QB-receiver duos with 100 touchdown connections in NFL history, including playoffs (Manning-Harrison have 114).
Gronk generated his 22nd career game with multiple receiving TD (including playoffs), breaking a tie with Antonio Gates for most by a TE in the Super Bowl era. Gronkowski moves into a tie for sixth at any position in the Super Bowl era with retired/not-exactly-retired Larry Fitzgerald. Jerry Rice leads the way -- as he does in most receiving stats -- with 49 multi-TD games.
QBs: Tom Brady, Blaine Gabbert, Kyle Trask
RBs: Leonard Fournette, Ronald Jones, Giovani Bernard, Ke'Shawn Vaughn
WRs: Chris Godwin, Mike Evans, Antonio Brown, Scott Miller, Jaelon Darden, Tyler Johnson
TEs: Rob Gronkowski, O.J. Howard, Cameron Brate
Tennessee TitansCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 14 September 2021
As Associated Press sports writer Teresa M. Walker suggests, Tennessee is about to find out if the Titans are who they thought they were coming into this season.
The Titans came into this season with high expectations as the defending AFC South champs. That swagger deflated quickly as the Arizona Cardinals scored the first 17 points in romping all over them in a 38-13 flop Sunday that had fans booing before halftime and leaving before the fourth quarter.
Head coach Mike Vrabel said Monday he doesn't want the Titans leaning on excuses, which are never good enough in the NFL.
"It's a fine line between sitting there and pouting," Vrabel said. "I think we got to own it. It starts with me."
Asked if this was a wakeup for the Titans, Vrabel said he never knows how to answer that.
"You don't want to lose, but hopefully we can learn from this quickly and move on," Vrabel said.
The Titans looked nothing like the high-powered offense led by Derrick Henry, the AP NFL Offensive Player of the Year who ran for 2,027 yards last season. The addition of seven-time Pro Bowl wide receiver Julio Jones caught three passes for 29 yards with a roughness penalty wiping out a 7-yard run by Henry.
"That would fall under the category of doing dumb (stuff) that hurts the team right there in bold letters," Vrabel said.
Tennessee brought in three high-profile veterans to fix a defense that was among the NFL's worst last season, yet old issues still plagued the Titans.
Safety Kevin Byard, who had one interception, said this is the adversity that helps a team figure out who it is.
"We're not going to sit here, mope around, keep our heads down," Byard said. "We're going to keep battling, keep fighting and get ready for Seattle."
The Titans' trick plays worked nicely. Safety Amani Hooker caught a pass on a fake punt to convert Tennessee's first first down of the game, and Henry's toss back to Tannehill for a flea flicker went 39 yards to Chester Rogers in Tennessee's longest offensive play to set up the first touchdown.
But the regular offense?
The Titans couldn't stay on the field, going three-and-out or worse on five drives.
An offense that averaged 30.7 points a game in 2020 scored fewer points than in any regular-season game last year. The offensive line struggled as well. Henry gained 8 yards rushing in the first half. That marks his lowest total as a starter since 2019, when he picked up 4 yards against the Carolina Panthers.
The struggles start with the offensive line. Arizona's defensive line consistently pushed the line of scrimmage into the Titans' backfield. Henry was hit at or behind the line of scrimmage eight times resulting in a net loss of three yards over the first three quarters.
In addition, Tannehill was sacked six times, the most in a Titans' uniform since he was sacked six times Dec. 1, 2019. The Titans also allowed a total of nine quarterback hits, something they can't afford if they want to keep Tannehill in the lineup this season.
The defense also couldn't get off the field, giving up 53.8 percent conversions on third down (7 of 13).
Next up, the Titans visit Seattle on Sunday trying to avoid an 0-2 start to the season. The Titans haven't opened a season losing consecutive games under Vrabel. They reeled off three straight wins after the other season-opening loss, which came in Vrabel's head coaching debut. ...
Other notes of interest. ... Tennessee's acquisition of Jones was hailed as a move that could push the Titans toward legitimate Super Bowl contention.
In Week 1, it didn't do much more than set them back, at least on one regrettable snap.
Facing a second-and-long situation and a 10-point deficit midway through the first quarter, Tennessee finally saw some positive rushing yards from Henry to set up a third-and-1. Well, it would have been a third-and-1, had Jones not gotten into a shoving match with the smaller Cardinals defensive back Byron Murphy.
The extracurricular activity earned Jones a 15-yard penalty for unnecessary roughness, turning the third-and-1 into third-and-16. The next play, J.J. Watt disrupted a screen, forcing an errant Tannehill throw into the turf. The defender nearest the incomplete pass? Murphy.
The Titans were forced to punt, and the next time they regained possession, they netted a grand total of five yards before punting again. A rough start became a game-long nightmare offensively and led to a 38-13 season-opening defeat to Arizona.
"That's absolutely nothing that we coach or teach," Vrabel said of Jones' penalty on Monday. "So, that would fall into the category of dumb s--- that hurts the team, right there, in bold letters. ..."
Signed Friday to the practice squad, Michael Badgley was promoted Saturday when Sam Ficken went on injured reserve. He missed an extra point and a 46-yard field goal both wide left. The Titans promoted Randy Bullock from the practice squad on Tuesday and waived Badgley.
On the injury front. ... Josh Reynolds (foot) was a full participant in Wednesday's practice. Reynolds missed last week's game with the same injury, which he's been dealing with since August.
QBs: Ryan Tannehill, Logan Woodside
RBs: Derrick Henry, Jeremy McNichols, Khari Blasingame, Mekhi Sargent, Darrynton Evans
WRs: A.J. Brown, Julio Jones, Josh Reynolds, Nick Westbrook_Ikhine, Racey McMath, Cameron Batson
TEs: Anthony Firkser, Geoff Swaim, Tanner Hudson
Washington Football TeamCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 14 September 2021
Ryan Fitzpatrick is going on injured reserve with a hip injury, and Washington is turning to Taylor Heinicke to start at quarterback against the New York Giants on Thursday night.
As Associated Press sports writer Stephen Whyno put it, "Cam Newton is not walking through that door, and Robert Griffin III is not walking through that door." This is Heinicke and Kyle Allen's show for the foreseeable future, and head coach Ron Rivera does not plan on bringing in a veteran QB any time soon.
"We like the guys that we have," Rivera said Monday. "We've had them play for us. They've done some good things for us, so we'll see what happens."
Heinicke will be the 10th quarterback to start a regular-season game for Washington since releasing Griffin in 2016. Despite RG3 tweeting, "Make the call" and a clip of his 76-yard touchdown run from his rookie year 2012, a return of the former face of the franchise turned ESPN analyst is not in Rivera's plans.
The plan is Heinicke starting, Allen backing up and Kyle Shurmur serving as the emergency third option. Washington signed the son of former Giants coach and current Broncos offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur to the practice squad Monday.
Heinicke was originally brought in last season as Washington's "quarantine quarterback" after Denver was forced to start a wide receiver because of virus protocols. He quickly went from out of football taking college classes online to making a surprise playoff start in place of injured veteran Alex Smith -- and almost pulling off a stunning comeback against Tom Brady and the eventual Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Heinicke threw for 306 yards and a touchdown in the wild-card round but also separated his left shoulder diving for the pylon. Allen is coming off surgery to repair a broken left ankle and Heinicke plays with a certain reckless abandon, but Rivera did not express any concern about the risk of injury at the position.
"I'm as confident as I can be," Rivera said. "You just never know what's going to happen."
Rivera is excited to see what happens with Heinicke running the offense. While the college star at Old Dominion has not started a regular-season NFL game since 2018 for Carolina under Rivera, Heinicke became popular among teammates and fans for his playoff performance.
"I think our guys will rally around him," Rivera said. "Some guys have an innate ability to create some enthusiasm, some excitement. And that's kind of a little bit about Taylor because of the way he plays. He plays a little bit like a hair's on fire, plays a little bit like a gunslinger."
Rivera hopes Heinicke has matured and understands his job, which is crucial after Washington lost Fitzpatrick a quarter and a half into the season opener Sunday against the Los Angeles Chargers. It did not look good right away when Fitzpatrick was helped to his feet and went right back down, and tests confirmed a right hip subluxation -- an injury in which the ball of the hip comes out of the socket.
Fitzpatrick will see a specialist for a second opinion, Rivera said, and it's not clear if the 38-year-old will miss the remainder of the season. Going on injured reserve means he will miss at least the next three games.
Meanwhile, running back Antonio Gibson looks like he's good to go for Thursday night.
Gibson was listed as a limited participant on Monday's estimated practice report after hurting his shoulder late in the team's Week 1 loss to the Chargers. Any concerns about Gibson subsided on Tuesday and Wednesday when he participated fully. He avoided injury designation on Wednesday.
Gibson carried the ball 20 times and had three catches in the opener. Rivera didn't sound like he thinks he will need to cut back on Gibson's workload.
"I think he's ready to handle it, and it was also the flow of the game," Rivera said, via Ben Standig of TheAthletic.com.
That's a bit of much-needed good news.
The offense has some real talent at skill positions around whoever's at quarterback. Gibson ran for 90 yards, rookie receiver Dyami Brown had a strong NFL debut replacing Curtis Samuel, Terry McLaurin made maybe the catch of the season and Logan Thomas pulled in a scoring strike, so Heinicke will have plenty to work with.
QBs: Taylor Heinicke, Kyle Allen, Ryan Fitzpatrick
RBs: Antonio Gibson, J.D. McKissic, Jaret Patterson
WRs: Terry McLaurin, Dyami Brown, Adam Humphries, Cam Sims, Curtis Samuel
TEs: Logan Thomas, Ricky Seals-Jones, John Bates, Sammis Reyes