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Team Notes week 3 2023
NEWS, NOTES, RUMORS AND OTHER GOOD STUFF
Directly from the desk of FlashUpdate Editor Bob Harris. The good; the bad; and yes. ... . There is no better way to jump start your weekend than browsing these always educational -- often irreverent -- team-by-team, Fantasy-specific offerings. ...
Access specific teams by clicking on a team name in the schedule appearing directly to your left or by clicking on a helmet below; return to the helmets by hitting the link labeled "Menu" following each teams notes. ...
Arizona CardinalsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 19 September 2023
Josh Dobbs knows how NFL games are judged.
As ESPN.com's Josh Weinfuss explained, "It's not how an offense starts, even if it scores 20 points in the first half, eclipses its total number of first downs from Week 1 (13) by time there's 10 minutes left in the second quarter and walks into halftime with 31 more yards than it accumulated in all four quarters last week (210) -- just like the Cardinals did Sunday against the New York Giants.
"It's about how games are finished."
The Cardinals jumped out to a 20-0 lead at halftime and, within the first 6 minutes of the third quarter, were up 28-7. Despite noticeable improvement from the season opener, the Cardinals' offense didn't finish like it started, contributing to the team's collapse in losing its home opener, 31-28.
"We gotta give ourselves a chance to finish by executing, playing the same way that we play throughout the game," said Dobbs, who finished 21-of-31 for 228 yards and a touchdown. "So, we know the games get tight. That's how the NFL is."
Or, as head coach Jonathan Gannon put it, Sunday was a "tale of two halves."
Last Wednesday, during his weekly news conference, Dobbs said he felt the improvement on offense was "night and day" compared to the week before. The first half showed proof of that. Arizona's 241 yards of offense and two offensive touchdowns in the first two quarters -- both more than what was produced in Week 1 -- was the product of a week's worth of focusing on details that the Cardinals' struggled with against the Washington Commanders in Week 1, wide receiver Zach Pascal said.
The run game, which was a focal point for Arizona in practice last week, clicked.
Running back James Conner hit 100 yards within the first five minutes of the third quarter thanks to runs of 22 and 21 yards on the Cardinals' first drive of the second half. He had just 3 yards after that.
"I am really sick to my stomach," Conner said. "I am hurt. I am not discouraged but I am hurt for sure. We are in this thing together. Our offense put a couple more points up than we did last week. Still wasn't enough. We didn't complete the mission."
Even with everything that happened in the second half, Gannon felt the offense played "well."
"We ran it. Dobbs I thought threw some good balls in there. Guys are getting open, catching it," Gannon said. "We even had the one good drive there in the second half, got some of the momentum back and then we couldn't get off the field.
"But I thought [our offense] played really well. They scored 28 points against a pretty good defense there. That's a good day."
Compared to how the season started it was, but it wasn't good enough to win on Sunday.
Sunday proved one thing to Dobbs.
"We can compete with anyone," Dobbs said. "And then, just like I said last week, if we go out, we execute, we do what we say we're gonna do and we do what we're supposed to do, we're a difficult offense to stop.
"We showed that and we'll continue to show that."
Just like the Cardinals did last week after not scoring an offensive touchdown against the Commanders, they'll spend the week trying to figure out what went wrong.
Can the Cardinals' offense build on their progress?
It won't be easy facing the Cowboys and 49ers' defenses the next two weeks but the Cardinals showed Sunday they can produce a balanced and productive offense - for a half and Dobbs showed better command of the scheme and wasn't afraid to make plays with his feet (41 rushing yards and a touchdown)).
By the way, Dobbs' 23-yard touchdown run was the longest run of his career. He had a 13-yard run for the Steelers in 2020.
Conner served as a workhorse on the ground, finishing with 23 carries for 106 yards and a touchdown.
Marquise Brown caught 6-of-10 targets for 54 yards and a touchdown; receiver Rondale Moore had a quiet afternoon Sunday with just one catch for 14 yards while rookie Michael Wilson caught 3-of-3 targets for 56 yards.
As Rotoworld notes, Wilson is slowly but surely gaining a larger role and made the most of his opportunities in Week 2.
Zach Ertz caught 6-of-8 targets for 56 yards and is playing well ahead of Trey McBride.
Dobbs had Ertz open on a deep ball on the game's first possession, and he said later he wished he had it back. It would have been the first deep completion of the season, and he just overthrew Ertz by inches. That drive ended with Matt Prater barely missing a 55-yard field goal left, a miss that didn't seem like it would matter much, until later, when it did.
As Darren Urban of the team's official website suggests, Ertz and McBride look like they will be a nice tight end combo on offense. But tight ends lost a long gain screen for a second straight game -- this week McBride, last week Geoff Swaim -- because of an unnecessary penalty.
On the injury front. ... The Cardinals are suddenly thin at safety after two-time All-Pro Budda Baker was placed on injured reserve Monday following a hamstring injury in practice last week. Arizona still has solid veteran Jalen Thompson -- who had an interception against the Giants -- but Baker's absence will be a big blow. He was inactive for Sunday's game.
Finally. ... The Cardinals still have at least two weeks before Murray can return from the PUP list.
QBs: Kyler Murray, Clayton Tune
RBs: James Conner, Michael Carter, Emari Demercado
WRs: Marquise Brown, Michael Wilson, Rondale Moore, Greg Dortch, Zach Pascal
TEs: Trey McBride, Geoff Swaim, Zach Ertz
Atlanta FalconsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 19 September 2023
According to Associated Press sports writer Paul Newberry, when Arthur Smith sent the word to his offense -- we're going for it on fourth down -- the Falcons were fired up.
Bijan Robinson and his blockers were determined to make it the right call.
Capping another dynamic day for the rookie running back, Robinson ripped off a 7-yard run on fourth-and-1 to set up Younghoe Koo's 25-yard field goal with 57 seconds remaining as the Atlanta Falcons rallied for a 25-24 victory over Green Bay Packers on Sunday.
"When you get told, 'Get the first down,' you've got to do everything you can to do it for your team," Robinson said.
He rushed for 124 yards on 19 carries and hauled in four catches for another 48 yards, showing why the Falcons (2-0) selected him No. 8 pick in the draft even though running backs aren't supposed to go that high anymore.
"When you get the right guy for your team, that's all you can ask for," Robinson said, breaking into a big smile.
Atlanta's young quarterback, Desmond Ridder, sparked the comeback by bootlegging for a 6-yard touchdown on fourth-and-4 with just under 12 minutes remaining.
Then it was Ridder and Robinson teaming up for drives that set up two of Koo's four field goals, including a 39-yarder with 8:13 remaining.
Robinson had 56 yards rushing and 27 yards receiving in his NFL debut, a 24-10 victory over the Panthers.
He was even better against the Packers.
The Falcons pounded Green Bay into submission, finishing with 211 yards rushing and 446 yards overall. The Packers had just 224 yards, including 84 on the ground.
"They shredded us consistently," Green Bay coach Matt LaFleur said.
As NFL.com's Kevin Patra noted, in the nascent stage of his NFL career, the rookie running back continues to show his difference-making ability. Robinson's combination of burst, strength and cutting ability makes defenders look silly.
Robinson, who played on 72 percent of the Falcons' offensive snaps, generated 172 scrimmage yards.
He registered 17 rushes for 118 yards (6.9 average) on rushes outside the tackles vs. 2 rushes for 6 yards inside the tackles. He finished with four forced missed tackles on runs and 88 rushing yards after contact.
The rookie's versatility was on display late in the game, splitting out wide versus linebacker De'Vondre Campbell on a third-and-3. Robinson got wide open for an easy conversion to milk more time off the clock before the game-winning field goal.
He's a force for the 2-0 Falcons.
ESPN's Seth Walder notes that Robinson recorded 56 rush yards over expectation, highest of any running back in the early window, per NFL Next Gen Stats. For comparison: Behind the very same offensive line and against the same Packers defense, his teammate Tyler Allgeier -- normally a very good rusher -- recorded minus-19 rush yards over expectation, worst of any running back in the early window.
Meanwhile, Ridder was fortunate not to have more than one INT and needs to be better in the red zone, where Atlanta went 2 for 5. But the QB made some clutch plays late to spearhead a comeback, particularly with his legs.
Ridder finished 19 of 32 for 237 yards passing, including a 3-yard touchdown to Drake London with 12 seconds remaining in the first half. The Falcons quarterback also ran 10 times for 39 yards.
Ridder has not lost at home as a starting QB in his career 4-0 (0-2 on the road). It's the first time Atlanta has won its first two games since 2017 (beat the Packers in Week 2 at home that season as well).
Despite trailing by 12 points entering the fourth quarter, the Falcons' young offensive players didn't lose their heads and made enough plays to squeak out the win.
Next up, the Falcons stay in the NFC North for their first road game of the season, traveling to Detroit's Ford Field to meet the Lions. A victory would give Atlanta only its seventh 3-0 start in 58 seasons.
On the health front. ... No injuries were reported during the game, but RB Cordarrelle Patterson (thigh) was inactive Sunday despite practicing in full all week with a thigh injury and not being listed as questionable on the injury report. When he's finally able to go, the Falcons will have another intriguing weapon on offense.
QBs: Desmond Ridder, Taylor Heinicke, Logan Woodside
RBs: Bijan Robinson, Tyler Allgeier, Cordarrelle Patterson
WRs: Drake London, Mack Hollins, KhaDarel Hodge, Van Jefferson, Scott Miller, Jared Bernhardt, Josh Ali
TEs: Kyle Pitts, Jonnu Smith, MyCole Pruitt, John FitzPatrick
Baltimore RavensCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 19 September 2023
Lamar Jackson did more than enough to beat the Bengals, even without injured running back J.K. Dobbins.
The Ravens' explosive quarterback threw two touchdown passes and extended drives with his legs as Baltimore outlasted slow-starting Cincinnati 27-24 on Sunday.
The Ravens (2-0), their division rival, looked like the better team for most of the game.
Jackson was 24 for 33 for 237 yards. He ran for 54 more and Gus Edwards -- with more chances because of Dobbins' season-ending torn Achilles tendon -- picked up 62 yards on 10 carries.
"Lamar played winning football. He got in a rhythm early, hit some passes and made some huge plays throwing the ball down the field," head coach John Harbaugh said.
Jackson completed all five passes he threw on a 70-yard opening drive that ate up nearly eight minutes, and Edwards bulled in from 1 yard out to finish it.
Big picture view?
As NFL.com put it, "Jackson is settling in."
Although Baltimore won in Week 1, Jackson's outing that day wasn't entirely memorable. That's to be expected of a quarterback operating in a new offense. But on Sunday, Jackson started to flourish in Todd Monken's system. He tossed multiple beautiful passes, including a majestic missile downfield to rookie Zay Flowers for 52 yards (leading to a Mark Andrews touchdown grab), but his best pass came on a pivotal possession early in the fourth quarter.
After watching a similar pass to Devin Duvernay fall incomplete earlier in the drive, Jackson dropped a gorgeous dime on Nelson Agholor on third down, pushing Baltimore's lead to 10.
The score proved pivotal, as the Ravens held onto a three-point lead in the final minutes, thanks in part to Jackson's scrambling ability. Jackson made a few mistakes, but he was better in Week 2 than he was in Week 1. And Baltimore likely doesn't win without his rare talent.
Meanwhile, Monken's offense is starting to take shape.
Because it wasn't explosive statistically or visually, Baltimore's Week 1 win was somewhat strange. That was not the case in Week 2. The strength of Baltimore's offense under Monken might be versatility. Take the second half, for example. Odell Beckham Jr. exited due to injury, and instead of starting to slow down, Jackson simply leaned on the teammates available to him.
Agholor made a semi-significant contribution, Flowers had another nice outing and Rashod Bateman got involved. Andrews made a big catch on second-and-23 to help Baltimore earn a first down on the next play during what was the most important scoring drive of the afternoon.
Baltimore distributed carries almost evenly, with Edwards and Justice Hill tallying 10 and 11, respectively, for a combined total of 103 yards. Add in Jackson's 12 totes for 54 yards and you have a well-rounded, if not spectacular, offense.
That's winning football.
Worth noting: Jackson was 13 of 19 for 123 yards and 2 TDs when targeting receivers aligned in the slot. His 19 attempts to receivers aligned in the slot is the second most in a game in Jackson's career (20 in Week 2, 2019 vs. Cardinals).
In his first game back after missing the opener with a quad injury, Andrews caught the aforementioned touchdown, his first touchdown pass from Jackson since Week 6 of last season - a span of 12 games.
As noted above, Beckham left the game with an ankle injury and did not return, but the Ravens don't seem too concerned about his condition.
After the game, Harbaugh said they'd learn more on Monday but that he doesn't think Beckham or edge rusher Odafe Oweh, who left the game with an undisclosed issue, suffered major injuries.
"I don't believe either one of those will be serious as it looks right now," Harbaugh said at his postgame press conference.
The Ravens host the Colts next Sunday and the coming days will bring more word about Beckham's availability.
We'll have more via Late-Breaking Update in coming days.
QBs: Lamar Jackson, Tyler Huntley, Josh Johnson
RBs: Gus Edwards, Keaton Mitchell, Justice Hill, J.K. Dobbins
WRs: Zay Flowers, Odell Beckham, Rashod Bateman, Nelson Agholor, Tylan Wallace
TEs: Isaiah Likely, Charlie Kolar, Mark Andrews
Buffalo BillsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 19 September 2023
As Associated Press sports writer John Wawrow framed it, "The worse Josh Allen feels one week, the better he plays the next. ..."
Following a four-turnover season-opening dud at the New York Jets, a self-motivated Allen let loose with a near-perfect performance in leading the Bills to a 38-10 rout of the Las Vegas Raiders on Sunday.
"I love feeling how I felt last week. I really do, because it makes the good feel that much better," Allen said. "I take the bad with the good, I understand it, and I'm just trying to let it fuel me and use it to my benefit."
Allen threw three touchdown passes in a game he opened by completing his first 13 attempts. He didn't throw his first incompletion until the second quarter, and those 13 straight completions were a career best and the longest streak by a Bills quarterback to start a game since Jim Kelly had 14 in Week 1 of 1990, according to Elias Sports Bureau.
Putting aside the over-aggressive tendencies that got him into trouble against the Jets, Allen established a rhythm by focusing on completing mostly short and easy attempts to finish 31 of 37 for 274 yards and no turnovers.
It was Allen's 21st outing with three or more touchdowns passing, and Buffalo improved to 13-4 in games following a loss since 2019.
"Just us getting back to who we feel like we are," Allen said.
Offensive coordinator Ken Dorsey partnered the passing game with a strong rushing attack as Buffalo finished with 183 yards rushing, with Allen accounting for just 7. James Cook led the way with a career-best 123 yards (his first career 100-yard outing) -- the most by a Bills running back since LeSean McCoy had 156 in December 2017.
What stood out was Allen playing within his limitations. Center Mitch Morse referred to the outing as stoic and intentional.
"I think it represents his tenacity as a competitor, and also that he understands who he is," Morse said. "It's a beautiful thing. And it was just awesome to see and be a part of this week, especially Josh going out there and finding his mojo."
Allen completed passes to nine players, with Gabe Davis catching six for 92 yards and a touchdown. Tight end Dawson Knox and Khalil Shakir also caught touchdown passes, while Latavius Murray and Damien Harris scored a touchdown each rushing.
Allen completed 7 of 8 passes for 73 yards and two touchdowns while throwing on the run. The "wow" plays Allen is known for remained, notably a touchdown pass to wide receiver Shakir, but he also made smart decisions throughout the day.
As ESPN.com's Alaina Getzenberg noted, unlike last week, the receivers were able to get yards after the catch as Allen's yards per attempt increased from 5.8 in Week 1 to 7.4 in Week 2, while his air yards per attempt decreased from 7.4 last week to 3.9. He also limited unnecessary hits with three carries for 7 yards and two sacks.
"The discipline, like I mentioned, was present really with the whole team, in particular Josh," head coach Sean McDermott said. "When he does that, when he's willing to take what they give him, and take those checkdowns, and then use his legs as well in a decisive way, he makes it really hard to defend."
Next up, Buffalo travels to play the Washington Commanders, who are off to a 2-0 start under second-year quarterback Sam Howell. Since 2019, the Bills are 18-2 when facing opposing quarterbacks with 16 or fewer career starts.
In those games, Buffalo has combined for 54 sacks, 27 interceptions while allowing just 12 touchdowns passing. ...
Also of interest. ... Receiver Trent Sherfield has yet to be targeted in two games despite combining to play 43 offensive snaps, including 32 against the Raiders.
Finally. ... Sunday's win came after a tumultuous week following the opening loss. McDermott had to address his leadership group after team owner Terry Pegula was accused of making racially insensitive comments in a lawsuit filed by a former NFL Media reporter. Pegula denied the allegations.
And then on Wednesday, a Bills media reporter was overheard on an open microphone questioning receiver Stefon Diggs' character. Diggs went to social media a day later, calling the comments "hurtful" and "insulting."
"I think it shows the resiliency of this team. No one liked the taste in the mouth we had this week, I think we brought a certain edge to this week's practice and preparation," Morse said. "It was nothing crazy or confrontational, but just very intentional."
QBs: Josh Allen
RBs: James Cook, Latavius Murray, Ty Johnson
WRs: Stefon Diggs, Gabe Davis, Khalil Shakir, Trent Sherfield, Deonte Harty
TEs: Dalton Kincaid, Quintin Morris, Dawson Knox
Carolina PanthersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 19 September 2023
Bryce Young hasn't won a game in the NFL yet, as the Panthers fell to 0-2 with a 20-17 loss to New Orleans on Monday Night Football.
But as Augusta Stone of the team's official website notes, the rookie quarterback's performance improved statistically from his Week 1 outing at Atlanta, completing 22-of-33 passes for 153 yards, one touchdown, and no interceptions.
However, Young was sacked four times and didn't put together a touchdown drive until the game was out of reach, ending his day with an 87.1 rating.
He also didn't stretch the field much, with his longest pass going for 22 yards and averaging 4.6 yards per attempt. That's better than the 3.8 yards per attempt last week, but still not what he needs to be at.
Few people across the team know the pressure Young feels as a quarterback as well as his head coach does; Frank Reich once had the same job.
Now heading up this team and guiding his rookie quarterback, Reich said he understands the heat coming their way.
"I think Bryce is handling the pressure well," Reich said. "Listen, he's the quarterback -- (and as) head coach (and) quarterback, we're going to take the heat, and that just comes with the territory. So you own that. And you understand that when you're in that position, and Bryce understands that for the position that he's in."
But Reich also acknowledged the obvious: It isn't all Young's fault. The Panthers' retooled offense, complete with new offensive skill players, including running back Miles Sanders, wide receivers Adam Thielen (Monday's receiving leader with 54 yards on seven receptions) and D.J. Chark Jr. (who made his Panthers debut Monday), as well as the new faces filling in for injured starting guards along the offensive line, has to support him too.
"Our struggle on offense -- it's not one person," Reich said. "I will look at the film, but I thought Bryce still did some really positive things, made some plays with his feet, made some good decisions, made good throws, showed plenty of things that we want to see. So I was encouraged by that.
"I know how hard it is to play that position. I've been around it a long time. And I know how dependent it is on everything. So we've all got to get better. Everybody's got to get better -- coaches and players. So that's the way we work through it."
It's true that Young single-handedly posted the Panthers' longest play of the night on a 26-yard scramble late. His two scrambles totaled 34 yards, the second-best rushing total of any Panther in a night that saw them put up 100 yards on 19 attempts. That left 66 conventional rushing yards, a week after they ran for 154 in Atlanta.
Sanders, who led rushers despite putting up just 43 yards on 14 attempts (3.1 yards per attempt), acknowledged how the loss fell back on all the offense.
"(The Saints') defense had a better day," Sanders said. "The D-line had a better day, and I'm pretty sure that everybody else on the offense will own up to that. You've just got to watch the film and get better.
"As an offense, it just wasn't our day."
To Chark, totaling one catch for 15 yards in his first appearance off the hamstring injury that had him miss Week 1, he sees the same thing. Young is doing all he can; it's up to them to work around him too.
"I think he's doing well," Chark said of Young. "He's taking what he gets. He was big for us down the stretch -- that run he had. Just figuring out ways to help us out, and we have to help him out. Progress needs to be made on our end to help him out. This is just his second game."
For all the issues throughout most of the game, Young pieced together Carolina's lone touchdown drive, scoring with less than 1:30 on the clock.
They got in rhythm too late, but he connected with Thielen, Hayden Hurst, Chuba Hubbard and Jonathan Mingo at times throughout on the 11-play, 75-yard drive that put the Panthers within a field goal (thanks to a successful two-point conversion try) and shaved just 1:58 off the clock.
They failed to recover an onside kick attempt, setting up for the game's conclusion in a slim New Orleans victory.
"We were able to execute that drive," Young said. "But obviously, it was too little too late. But I think it was just being able to pull together and execute. A lot of times (against New Orleans), we were one thing away. I missed throws that should have kept the sticks moving, whatever it may be, but it was just execution.
"I think we were in good spots to be successful. And we just didn't make enough plays to win, and it starts with me."
As ESPN.com's David Newton pointed out, the most notable issue is that Young has been solid when not pressured, but under pressure, he has struggled badly.
He was 4-for-9 passing for 20 yards with four sacks when pressured in Monday night's loss after going 2-for-10 with a sack under similar circumstances in the Week 1 loss to Atlanta.
Until he responds, teams will continue to increase the pressure rate and the Panthers will continue to struggle offensively.
The Panthers are averaging 260.0 yards and 17 first downs per game in their first two and have converted just 9-of-28 third downs on the season (32.1 percent). As a result, they're 0-2, but Reich said there were individual parts of the process that he liked.
But they'll be working on the parts he didn't like with a short week before heading to Seattle this weekend. ...
According to Darin Gantt of the team's official website, the Panthers appear to have settled into something resembling a wide receiver rotation. Mingo played all but one snap (59 total or their 60), and Thielen played most (52). Chark, still on perhaps a bit of a pitch count after a hamstring strain cost him Week 1, played 37, and Terrace Marshall Jr. just 22.
Once everyone is fully healthy, the first three will likely be the go-to choices.
It was hard to get a true read on the run game since that part never got established, but the Sanders (37)- Chuba Hubbard (22) split was roughly the same the week before against the Falcons. But a lot of Hubbard's snaps were in pass protection, as he got just two rushing attempts to Sanders' 14.
That one snap for backup quarterback Andy Dalton was telling, as he came in for Young for a short-yardage rep (it would have been two if not for a penalty). They need to find a reliable answer for those situations since taking your starting quarterback off the field is never ideal. ...
Kicker Eddy Pineiro was the part of the offense that worked best, hitting a pair of 50-plus field goals (52 and 54, to be specific). He's actually hit 23 straight field goals for the Panthers since the game at Atlanta last year when he wasn't as reliable, with the first 19 of those coming last season.
Finally. ... Reich said on Monday night that linebacker Shaq Thompson will miss "extended time" after suffering a "significant" lower leg injury and Reich gave an idea of just how extended Thompson's absence will be on Tuesday.
Reich told reporters that Thompson fractured his fibula during the loss to the Saints and that he had surgery to repair the injury on Tuesday. Thompson is expected to miss the rest of the season as a result.
Kamu Grugier-Hill stepped into Thompson's role on Monday night and will likely continue to see more playing time now that Thompson will be out of the picture for Carolina.
QBs: Bryce Young, Andy Dalton
RBs: Chuba Hubbard, Miles Sanders, Raheem Blackshear
WRs: Adam Thielen, Jonathan Mingo, D.J. Chark, Terrace Marshall Jr., Laviska Shenault, Ihmir Smith-Marsette, Mike Strachan
TEs: Hayden Hurst, Tommy Tremble, Ian Thomas, Giovanni Ricci
Chicago BearsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 19 September 2023
As Larry Mayer of the team's official website noted, after D.J. Moore was only targeted twice in last weekend's season opener against the Packers, the Bears were determined to get their star receiver more involved Sunday versus the Buccaneers.
They accomplished that objective in a 27-17 loss at Raymond James Stadium, as Justin Fields threw seven passes to Moore, completing six for 104 yards.
"My main thought this game was, 'Give him the ball,'" Fields said. "He's probably one of the best playmakers we have on offense. So we just want to get him the ball."
Fields connected with Moore for 33 yards on the Bears' first possession Sunday, and the two hooked up again three plays later for 31 yards. The two big plays set up Fields' 1-yard touchdown run, which gave the Bears a 7-3 lead.
Discussing the 31-yarder, Fields said: "He just had a choice route and made a good decision, broke out. The line protected on that play, and of course it was a big play. He's smart in those situations. He always makes the right decision. It was a good all-around play."
Mayer went on to report that Moore wasn't the only Bears receiver who was more involved in the offense Sunday. After not making any catches against the Packers, Chase Claypool had three receptions for 36 yards, including a 20-yard touchdown from Fields that drew the Bears to within 20-17 with 6:17 remaining in the fourth quarter.
"It was good," said head coach Matt Eberflus. "I thought his effort was good. I thought he did a nice job, obviously catching that skinny post in the end zone there was excellent. I thought it was really good."
Claypool described the time since the Packers game as "a good week, a lot of lessons learned and a lot of progress made, and I'm going to keep that journey going." He called his performance Sunday in Tampa "a step in the right direction, but I feel if we're not winning, it doesn't really matter."
Claypool's touchdown Sunday was his first in nine games with the Bears since being acquired last Nov. 1 in a trade with the Steelers.
"In the moment, it was nice for sure," he said, "finally helping the team the way I wanted to, going back to last season, so it was good."
Fields threw the ball downfield more against the Buccaneers than he did versus the Packers, something he had vowed to do after conceding that he was "a little bit too conservative at times" versus Green Bay.
"I felt a little bit better," Fields said. "Definitely threw the ball down the field more. D.J. had a few nice catches down there. Chase, of course, had a nice touchdown. So it definitely felt better this week, for sure."
But NFL.com's Kevin Patra pointed out that Fields can't find consistency.
Fields missed a host of throws and often took too long in the pocket. There were some flashes, but Fields ended the game with two INTs, squelching any chance for a comeback. For long stretches, the play-calling was stale, the QB looked rattled and the offensive line remains a massive issue.
The rushing attack struggled as well.
The Bears rushed for only 67 yards on 16 carries. Khalil Herbert gained 35 yards on seven carries, Roschon Johnson added 32 yards on four attempts—with 29 yards coming on one run—and Fields was held to four yards on three runs while completing 16 of 29 passes for 211 yards.
"You're always searching for balance," Eberflus said. "That's when you play winning football. When you stay ahead of the sticks like that, when you have a good running game, it opens up the play-action. We have to really put the hammer down on that, make sure we do a good job with balance."
Missing the explosive plays with his legs, Fields and the Bears' offense are in a bad place to open the season.
Fields and all involved will have to improve on the road versus the Chiefs in Week 3. ...
On the injury front. ... Darnell Mooney left in the third quarter of Sunday's game and did not return to the field.
He told reporters after the game his knee injury is a "nagging bruise" and expects to be "fine." Mooney He didn't specify whether or not he expects to play in Week 3 against the Chiefs, but he clearly avoided major injury here. Mooney was not targeted against the Bucs with Moore and Claypool doing the heavy lifting.
I'll have more on Mooney via Late-Breaking Update in coming days.
QBs: Justin Fields, Tyson Bagent, Nathan Peterman
RBs: Khalil Herbert, D'Onta Foreman, Roschon Johnson, Travis Homer, Khari Blasingame
WRs: D.J. Moore, Darnell Mooney, Tyler Scott, Velus Jones Jr., Trent Taylor, Equanimeous St. Brown
TEs: Cole Kmet, Robert Tonyan, Marcedes Lewis, Jake Tonges
Cincinnati BengalsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 19 September 2023
Joe Burrow said he aggravated his strained right calf during Sunday's loss to the Baltimore Ravens.
Burrow was seen limping and treating the calf on the sideline late in the team's 27-24 loss to Baltimore as the Bengals fell to 0-2 for the second straight season. Burrow and coach Zac Taylor both said he would have gone back into the game had the Bengals received the ball one more time.
But, as ESPN.com's Ben Baby reports, the severity of the injury remains uncertain.
"I'm not sure how it's going to feel the next couple days," Burrow said. "It's pretty sore right now. No telling how it's going to feel. So, I think we're going to take it day by day."
Burrow said he "tweaked it a little bit" on the team's final offensive drive of the game. He said it occurred on an incomplete pass to wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase on which Burrow was not pressured. On the next play, Burrow rolled to his right, leaped off his right foot and found wide receiver Tee Higgins for a 4-yard touchdown pass.
Burrow had 27-of-41 passing for 222 yards, 2 touchdowns and 1 interception.
Taylor said he was in "great shape" as a playcaller despite Burrow's calf issue. Taylor also said Burrow looked "great" in defeat.
"They hold their coverages as long as anybody we play against," Taylor said. "And I thought he saw it really well and did a good job efficiently leading us."
But the calf is a lingering concern.
"Whenever you have these kind of things, it's always ongoing," Burrow said when asked whether the calf could be an issue throughout the season. "It's always something that you're managing."
The fourth-year quarterback out of LSU missed nearly six weeks in the preseason with the strained right calf he suffered in the second practice of training camp.
He said the calf felt "good enough" after the team's Week 1 loss to the Cleveland Browns, a 24-3 defeat. Burrow threw for a career-low 82 yards against Cleveland on a wet day that made passing difficult.
Sunday's loss to Baltimore showed improvements, specifically in the second half. He had 187 of his passing yards and both touchdowns in the final two quarters as the Bengals spent the entire day fighting a deficit.
But he also allowed a crucial interception. In the third quarter, a pass intended for Higgins was intercepted near the end zone by Ravens defensive back Geno Stone.
"Really good play by him," Burrow said. "Good disguise. But I got to see that."
Cincinnati finds itself in a familiar position in many ways. Last year the Bengals dropped their first two games of the regular season and first two AFC North contests, including a loss to the Ravens. Burrow was still recovering from an emergency appendectomy at the beginning of last season.
After the most recent loss to Baltimore (2-0), Burrow said it's tough to start fast when the quarterback misses training camp. However, he also said the Bengals will bounce back from another rough stretch to start a season. Higgins said he asked Burrow about the calf and Burrow "said it was nothing."
NFL teams that start 0-2 historically have a tough time making the playoffs, much less reaching the AFC championship game like Cincinnati did last year.
"That's the beauty of a 17-game season," Taylor said. "It's a very difficult division. This is exactly where we were last year. It's not ideal, but there were a lot of positive things.
"We feel like we're in great shape. We'll make some corrections and adjustments and move forward."
Burrow's confidence wasn't shaken.
"We need to have great practices and a great week and build on that," Burrow said. "We're 0-2, but we've done that before. It's not what you want, but we'll bounce back. That's what we do."
Cincinnati will have an extra day to regroup before facing the Los Angeles Rams (1-1) on Monday Night Football on Sept. 25. The Rams lost to the 49ers 30-23 on Sunday.
"Stay patient with us," Burrow responded when asked if he had a message for the team's fans. "I know that's hard to say and listen to. They want wins, there's a lot of excitement going into this season. We have a lot of excitement, and we still do."
For what it's worth. ... Higgins held an optimistic outlook as Cincinnati waits to see how Burrow feels ahead of next week's game. "I'm pretty sure he could push through it," Higgins said. "We've seen him push through injuries multiple times. It's Joe. He's mysterious. You never know what he's going to do."
Taylor told reporters on Monday that it was hard to say whether Burrow would be ready to play next Monday night. The Bengals still are in the evaluation process.
That said, ESPN's Adam Schefter said it's "fair to wonder" if Burrow will play against the Rams. Schefter said Burrow through two games has "obviously" not been right after missing the entire month of August with a calf strain.
NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reports Burrow won’t be fully healthy “probably for some time.”
Jake Browning is next man up at quarterback if Burrow can't go.
I'll be watching this closely and will report back further as the team begins preparing for Monday night's game in earnest on Thursday; watch the Late-Breaking Updates section for more. ...
A few final notes. ... After a Week 1 with no catches, Higgins bounced back against Baltimore with 8 catches for 89 yards and 2 touchdowns. Meanwhile, with five catches for 31 yards on Sunday, Chase now has more games with fewer than 40 receiving yards (two) this season than he had in all of 2022 (one). ...
Rookie Charlie Jones gave Cincinnati a big lift on Sunday. The fourth-round draft pick from Purdue fielded a punt, cut left through an opening and streaked down the sideline untouched for an 81-yard touchdown that tied the game early in the second quarter. It was Jones' first NFL score and the first punt returned for a TD by a Cincinnati player since 2012.
QBs: Jake Browning, Joe Burrow
RBs: Joe Mixon, Trayveon Williams, Chris Evans, Chase Brown
WRs: Ja'Marr Chase, Tee Higgins, Tyler Boyd, Trenton Irwin, Andrei Iosivas, Charlie Jones
TEs: Irv Smith Jr., Tanner Hudson, Drew Sample, Mitchell Wilcox
Cleveland BrownsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 19 September 2023
Nick Chubb, considered one of the premier backs in the league, suffered a grisly knee injury in Monday night's loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers that is expected to end his season, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported.
Chubb is believed to have torn multiple ligaments, Rapoport reported. Head coach Kevin Stefanski confirmed he anticipated Chubb being lost for the season, though he did not authenticate ligament damage without imaging, which is expected to take place Tuesday.
"Obviously, Nick's got a very significant knee injury, which is, you feel for the person," Stefanski said after the game. "He's a great football player as we know, but he's an even better person. So we will support him every step along the way."
On a carry in the second quarter, Chubb was hit low by Steelers safety Minkah Fitzpatrick and his left knee went inward. Chubb quickly grabbed his leg before he was attended to by medical staff, subsequently carted off and quickly ruled out for the game. The play was gruesome enough in nature that no replay was shown on the telecast.
Steelers fans warmly chanted "Chubb" as the running back, who was visibly emotional, was transported off the field.
As NFL.com's Grant Gordon reminded readers, Chubb previously tore the PCL, MCL and LCL in his left knee during his college career at Georgia. It's the same knee he injured on Monday.
A model of consistent excellence, Chubb is a four-time Pro Bowler who's had four straight 1,000-yard rushing seasons. The 27-year-old was well on his way to another stellar campaign, having rushed for 106 yards in Week 1 against the Cincinnati Bengals and having tallied 64 yards on 10 carries Monday.
Following Chubb's departure, running back Jerome Ford came in and caught a 3-yard touchdown pass.
In addition to the touchdown catch, Ford had 16 carries for 106 yards, the majority coming on a 69-yard run. Cleveland will need more big contributions from Ford and others to come close to filling the vacancy left by Chubb, who's never missed more than four games in an NFL season.
According to Cleveland Plain Dealer staffer Mary Kay Cabot, the Browns explored the possibility of dealing for Rams running back Cam Akers to add depth to their backfield before signing former Cleveland running back Kareem Hunt on Tuesday.
Hunt signed a one-year deal worth $4 million to return to the Browns, according to multiple reports.
Hunt, 28, spent the last four seasons with Cleveland before hitting free agency when his contract expired this offseason. The 2017 third-round pick took visits with the Saints and Colts but ultimately waited for another opportunity.
Now he’s found it with his former team.
Hunt tallied 468 yards rushing with three touchdowns and caught 35 passes for 210 yards with a TD in 17 games last year. His yards per carry dipped from 4.9 in 2021 to 3.8 in 2022, however.
Even with Hunt on the squad, the Browns plan to keep Ford as the team’s starting running back.
Pierre Strong Jr. is also on Cleveland’s 53-man roster at running back, but Hunt should be able to get up to speed quickly given his knowledge of the offense.
Whatever the case, Chubb has been Cleveland's engine since his rookie campaign of 2018 and it was no surprise to see the offense struggle for much the rest of the game as Deshaun Watson's last-ditch drive came up well short.
A season that once looked so promising no longer feels that way.
As ESPN.com's Jake Trotter suggested, "Watson continues to be a shell of the quarterback that led the NFL in passing in 2020."
He committed two costly facemask penalties, turned the ball over twice, which resulted in Pittsburgh touchdowns, and failed to make any key plays in the fourth quarter. With Chubb's injury, Cleveland's season hinges on Watson carrying the offense, and there is no sign he is capable of that right now.
All this, NFL.com's Nick Shook reminded readers, after an offseason filled with talk about a wide-open, explosive offense has yet to materialize.
After a rain-soaked opener gifted the Browns an excuse for their struggles, Week 2 brought a hard dose of reality.
Frequent pressure forced Watson to instinctively pull his eyes down and attempt to bail out of generally clean pockets.
Per Next Gen Stats, Watson completed just 3 off 11 pass attempts while under pressure Monday night, bringing his total to 7 of 22 while under pressure this season. His -26.7 completion percentage over expected while under pressure is the worst in the NFL among qualified quarterbacks.
Watson spoke to the media after the loss, telling reporters: "You're not going to put it on anyone else. You put it on me."
"I can take the full blame, Watson added. I can take the criticism and I'm going to do that. And I told everyone on our offense, the whole team I'mma do better for this team, for this organization so we can win games like that. I'm fine with taking the criticism and I will be better."
"I just gotta keep doing what I'm doing, trying to get one percent better each and every week."
There are glimpses of good -- downfield passes to Elijah Moore, well-placed sideline shots to Amari Cooper -- but far too much of it is awful.
As for Stefanski, there are a number of decisions that can be questioned: Why did the coach decide to go up-tempo while holding a 22-19 lead early in the fourth quarter? Why did he dial up a pass on second-and-9 with 7:06 left and Cleveland still clinging to the same lead (which ended in a strip-sack and a fumble returned for a touchdown)?
For most of Stefanski's tenure in Cleveland, there have been a multitude of times in which he seemingly outcoaches himself.
Shook contends he did it again on multiple occasions Monday, such as when he called an option on fourth-and-short early in the game, which failed to pick up the first down after a review. Worst of all, Stefanski and Watson haven't been able to find an answer to the blitz.
Stefanski hasn't schemed away from pressure, and Watson too often fails to escape pressure.
Pittsburgh's approach in the final moments of the game could be seen from the moon: Send the house at Watson and dare him to make a play. He didn't, sending Browns fans to the interwebs to question everything about their franchise's past, present and once-optimistic future -- and rightfully so. ...
The Browns are back in action Sunday when they host the Titans at Cleveland Browns Stadium. ...
Worth noting. ... Cooper caught 7-of-10 targets for 90 yards in a game he wasn't sure to play in.
Cooper aggravated a groin injury in practice on Saturday and came into the contest on the worse side of questionable. As Rotoworld notes, he ultimately played and provided the offense with the only true production through the air.
Moore caught 3-of-9 targets for 36 yards while David Njoku caught all four targets for 48 yards. ...
Finally. ... According to Washington Post reporter Mark Maske, Watson won't be suspended by the NFL for making contact with an official during Monday night's game. The on-field officials and the league considered the contact inadvertent and the officials did not believe it merited a penalty.
Watson could be fined by the NFL for his contact with an official Monday night but won't be suspended. He also could be fined for his two personal fouls.
QBs: Joe Flacco, Dorian Thompson-Robinson, P.J. Walker, Deshaun Watson
RBs: Jerome Ford, Kareem Hunt, Pierre Strong Jr., Nick Chubb
WRs: Amari Cooper, Elijah Moore, Cedric Tillman, Marquise Goodwin, David Bell
TEs: David Njoku, Jordan Akins, Harrison Bryant
Dallas CowboysCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 19 September 2023
As ESPN.com's Todd Archer reported, Dak Prescott had a quick answer when asked for his definition of complementary football.
"Winning," the Dallas Cowboys quarterback said. "Simple. Winning."
The Cowboys dispatched the New York Jets 30-10 on Sunday at home, seven days after tossing aside New York's other team, the Giants, 40-0, at a rain-soaked MetLife Stadium.
The Cowboys are 2-0 for the first time since 2019. The last time the Cowboys won both of their first two games of the season by 20 or more points was 1968. They are the fifth team in the Super Bowl era to score 70 points and allow 10 or fewer in their first two games. Prior to the New England Patriots doing it in 2019, the last time it happened was 1970 (Detroit Lions).
While the defense has been dominant -- 10 sacks, seven takeaways -- the Cowboys are finding their offensive identity.
The weather was an impediment against the Giants, but the Cowboys did not turn the ball over. They didn't turn the ball over against the Jets either.
Prescott did not go consecutive games without an interception last season, when he tied for the most with 15 in 12 starts. He wasn't very pleased to answer an interception question Sunday.
"Last year is last year and it's something I've left," Prescott said. "You know the interceptions, all that, I guess when you lead the league it will never go away. But as I stated last year, every one of them has their story. But that's not where my mind is. That's not something I think about. Just being candid. I really don't care about the questions about them at this point.
"I'm going out there, just trying to complete the ball, get the ball to these guys, the playmakers that we have, get it to them in space, let them go do their thing. And I'm still going to take some shots. I'm still going to not shy away from the confidence that I have and the work we've put in on some one-on-ones to give these guys some opportunities. But I don't even think about that at this point."
As Archer notes, the Cowboys had three scoring drives of 12 plays and one each of 13 and 14 plays. They held the ball for 42 minutes, 15 seconds.
"If we can get a lead and let that defense start rushing," All-Pro right guard Zack Martin said, "they're tough to stop."
The Cowboys ran it 30 times against the Giants with four different runners getting a touch, not counting Prescott. They ran it 44 times against the Jets with five different runners getting a carry, not counting Prescott. They converted 46.3 percent of their third-down chances against the Giants, and 50 percent against the Jets.
"It's definitely something to build on," said tight end Jake Ferguson, who caught a touchdown pass Sunday. "A great start to the season. A good Week 2, but there's always room for improvement."
The only inefficient part of the offense against the Jets was in the red zone, converting touchdowns on just 2 of 6 opportunities.
But some of McCarthy's playcalling in the second half led to Brandon Aubrey field goal attempts because there was no need to be overly aggressive with how the Cowboys' defense was handling the Jets.
Who knows, there may be a game when the defense allows more than 10 points. Or it doesn't pressure the opposing quarterback on 55 percent of the dropbacks, which is the highest rate of any team through two games since 2009, according to ESPN Stats and Information. Or it doesn't get multiple takeaways in a game.
Aside from receiver Garrett Wilson's 68-yard touchdown catch, the Cowboys allowed 3.3 yards per play. The Cowboys had four takeaways in the second half, including three interceptions.
"We know our style," defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence said. "We know our identity that we play with."
And the offense was figuring its identity out too against the Jets. Wide receiver CeeDee Lamb had 11 receptions (on 13 targets) for 143 yards. Prescott completed 31 of 38 passes for 255 yards and had two touchdown passes. He completed his first 13 passes of the game, the best start he has had in his career.
New lead running back Tony Pollard had a career-high 25 carries, but his 2.9-yard average per carry told the story of a struggling running game.
Cowboys have their second-best scoring margin through two games in franchise history (+60; only behind 1968's +67). This is the best scoring margin for the Cowboys through two games since the 1970 merger.
The offensive precision allowed Dallas to stay on the field all game, earning a whopping 83 plays and 42:15 time of possession with three drives of 75-plus yards. Prescott attempted just two passes of 20-plus air yards, per Next Gen Stats, but completed 81.6 percent of his 38 attempts.
Soon they will have left guard Tyler Smith, who has missed the first two games with a hamstring strain, back in the lineup. Wide receiver Brandin Cooks could be back as soon as Sunday against the Arizona Cardinals after a sprained knee kept him out against the Jets.
"At the end of the day in this league, it's about getting the job done and winning the game and being complementary [to] your defense," Prescott said. "I think we did that. Very efficient in ways, but we left a lot out there still. That's the standard of this offense, the standard of this team. We expect to score touchdowns on every drive, so when you don't do that, you still haven't hit your goal, I guess you could say.
"[There's] a lot we can do better, but overall, very efficient team win that we're proud of. It's hard to win in this league."
So are we seeing the Cowboys' new offensive identity?
When coach Mike McCarthy said in February that former offensive coordinator Kellen Moore, "wants to light up the scoreboard, but I want to run the damn ball so I can rest my defense," he was killed by the analytic world. But what he actually meant was he wanted to manage the game.
Consider it managed.
Cowboys have their second-best scoring margin through two games in franchise history (+60; only behind 1968's +67). This is the best scoring margin for the Cowboys through two games since the 1970 merger.
By the way. ... Micah Parsons is clearly on pace to earn Defensive Player of the Year honors. Could he even push for MVP?
The Cowboys boast the best defense in the NFL behind Parsons' play. Once again, the linebacker was all over the field, discombobulating the entire Jets offense. Parsons finished with two sacks, a strip of Dalvin Cook, nine pressures, three tackles for loss and a turnover caused by pressure, per Next Gen Stats. His .57-second average get-off on 29 rushes is mindboggling.
Dan Quinn's defense is off to a ridiculous start to the season. They forced three INTs, a fumble, three sacks and held New York to 1 of 10 on third down. They've allowed one TD through two weeks.
Next up is a trip to Arizona to face the Cardinals on Sunday. ...
Aubrey created some concern in the opener because the 28-year-old rookie missed his first-ever NFL regular-season kick on an extra point. He has the job in part because of Brett Maher's four consecutive misses on PATs in a wild-card win last season.
Aubrey hasn't missed in 13 kicks since that first one. He has seven field goals, including a 55-yarder against the Jets, and six extra points.
"I think we've got us a kicker," owner Jerry Jones said.
"That's a far cry from missing that first extra point that we started the season off with, but I'm the kind of guy that will hang in there with them," Jones, also the team's general manager, said with a laugh.
On the injury front. ... Cooks did not participate in any practice last week due to a knee injury and was labeled as questionable on Friday's injury report, but the veteran wide receiver was ultimately ruled out against the Jets.
I'll be watching for more on his chances of returning in coming days; check the Late-Breaking Updates section for more.
Worth noting. ... Michael Gallup's role in the offense seems to be fading. Cooks' absence because of a knee injury should have meant more chances for Gallup. Instead, he was targeted just twice with one reception for 3 yards after catching one for 10 against the Giants. ...
One last item. ... The Cowboys released RB Ronald Jones on Monday.
Jones was eligible to come off suspension Monday, but the team already has four RBs on 53-man roster, and it makes no sense to expose a young back to waivers.
QBs: Dak Prescott, Cooper Rush, Trey Lance
RBs: Tony Pollard, Rico Dowdle, Deuce Vaughn, Hunter Luepke
WRs: CeeDee Lamb, Brandin Cooks, Michael Gallup, Jalen Tolbert, KaVontae Turpin, Jalen Brooks
TEs: Jake Ferguson, Luke Schoonmaker, Peyton Hendershot
Denver BroncosCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 19 September 2023
The Broncos (0-2) have lost back-to-back home games for the first time, not the kind of history coach Sean Payton was hoping to make in his return to the sideline after a year in the broadcast studio following a highly successful 15-year stint in New Orleans, especially after he criticized predecessor Nathaniel Hackett for doing one of the worst coaching jobs in NFL history last year.
For a moment on Sunday, it appeared that despite relinquishing an 18-point first-half lead, the Broncos would still have a chance to scrape out a win and even their record at 1-1.
It wasn't to be.
As the ball fell to the grass on the ensuing two-point conversion attempt, so too did Denver's hope of winning its first game of the season.
And yet, as a slew of players said inside the Broncos' locker room following a 35-33 defeat at the hands of the Washington Commanders, Denver should never have found itself in that position.
"There's no way that that game should have ever come down to that and where we needed a miracle to get it done," right tackle Mike McGlinchey said. "We just let this game slip away."
As Aric DiLalla of the team's official website noted, the result should not have been in question after scoring touchdowns on three consecutive drives to start a game for the first time since 2010.
Or after sacking Sam Howell -- making his first career road start -- three times in the first three drives and holding Washington to three points until the late stages of the first half.
Or certainly after holding a 21-3 lead and facing a second-and-5 at the Washington 35-yard line.
A Russell Wilson fumble two plays later, though, gave Washington a spark.
"The number one key in this game with [Washington], and we looked at it -- every one of their games last year where they didn't have a takeaway, they lost the game," Payton said. "We give them the ball at midfield, and that momentum shifts at that point with the fumble."
So when will the Broncos play the complementary football they've promised?
The season-opening loss to the Raiders was frustrating, but ESPN.com's Jeff Legwold contends Sunday's loss was alarming. They'll try to get it together when they travel to Miami to take on the Dolphins this Sunday.
Worth noting. ... Wilson eclipsed 41,000 passing yards and 5,000 rushing yards for his career on Sunday when he threw for 308 yards and ran for 56 more. He's the only player in NFL history to throw for 40,000 yards and run for 5,000.
The last time Denver scored TDs on each of its first three drives was on Nov. 14, 2010, against Kansas City, a game the Broncos went on to win 49-29.
Payton got the ball into his young speedsters' hands early on, and it paid off with undrafted rookie Jaleel McLaughlin scoring on a 5-yard pitch, rookie receiver Marvin Mims Jr. hauling in a 60-yard touchdown pass and second-year wideout Johnson snaring a 16-yard score.
None of the three touched the ball again until Mims got a handoff midway through the third quarter with the score tied at 21.
Mims had two catches for 113 yards on two targets but wasn't thrown to again after Denver's third possession and spent much of the rest of the game on the sideline.
"Some of it's coverage-driven and some of it is just based on what we're in," Payton said. "We're in a couple of different personnel groupings, so part of that is coincidence, I would say. We had a number of guys we're trying to get the ball to and we will keep doing that."
Mims also had a 45-yard punt return, giving him 168 all-purpose yards on five touches.
"Any time he can touch the football is a good thing for us," Wilson said. ...
Jerry Jeudy caught 3-of-5 targets for 25 yards in his first game of the season. He missed the opener with a hamstring injury. Courtland Sutton caught 5-of-7 targets for 66 yards. All five of Sutton's receptions came on the Broncos' final three offensive drives.
Javonte Williams rushed 12 times for 44 yards against the Commanders, adding two receptions for 14 additional yards. Samaje Perine rushed one time for four yard with three receptions for 20 additional yards.
As Rotoworld notes, Williams looked strong early on when the Broncos' offense was clicking, but faded with the rest of the bunch after a hot start.
Williams was in prime position for a short rushing touchdown early in the first quarter, but instead saw McLaughlin take a five-yard rush for a score to get the Broncos their first points of the day. Williams has yet to find the end zone this season, but has been the unquestioned early-down back. He'll have a chance to find the end zone in Week 3 against the Dolphins, and can be treated as a top-24 back. ...
Just two games into his first season in Denver, Payton suddenly finds himself wrestling with some of the same clock-management and penalty issues Hackett had in an ill-fated 15-game run as the team's coach last season. On Monday, Payton said after the Broncos' alignment and clock issues that he and the coaches will look at ways to decrease verbiage in some of their playcalls.
The Broncos had to use multiple timeouts Sunday to avoid delay of game penalties and had multiple occasions on both sides of the ball when players seemed unsure of where to be in the formation before the snap.
Payton said they can make progress by shortening the playcalls or "getting to the line of scrimmage spontaneously," or giving Wilson a wristband to cover some of the plays with longer playcalls. ...
Finally. ... NFL Network's Tom Pelissero reports the league will not suspend S Kareem Jackson for his illegal hit in Sunday's game.
Jackson avoided suspension for his second egregious hit in as many weeks, but will be in line for a fine once the league finishes reviewing the plays from the week. While he avoided suspension, Jackson is certain to be on the radar of teams and officials in the coming weeks after concussing two players to start the season.
QBs: Russell Wilson, Jarrett Stidham
RBs: Javonte Williams, Jaleel McLaughlin, Samaje Perine
WRs: Courtland Sutton, Jerry Jeudy, Marvin Mims Jr., Lil'Jordan Humphrey, Brandon Johnson
TEs: Adam Trautman, Chris Manhertz, Greg Dulcich
Detroit LionsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 19 September 2023
As ESPN.com's Eric Woodyard reported, NFL legends Barry Sanders and Calvin Johnson were in attendance. The atmosphere was at a fever pitch inside Ford Field on Sunday.
Coming off an emotional season-opening victory against the defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs last week, the Detroit Lions suffered a 37-31 overtime loss to the Seattle Seahawks in their home opener.
"I know it stings and those guys are disappointed. I'm disappointed, the staff is, but this is good," head coach Dan Campbell said. "We'll get a little humble pie here."
Entering the game, the Lions had won three straight and nine of their last 11, dating back to last season.
On Saturday, they unveiled a statue in honor of Sanders outside the stadium, and the franchise was basking in the glow of the win at Arrowhead Stadium last week. However, the loss served as a huge reminder that the Lions have to produce on the field.
"Sometimes you don't know exactly where you're at until you're in it. We come off a big win and you can always preach certain things, but man, this is the NFL, and these guys came in and they took that win," Campbell said. "They earned it over there and we did the mistakes that cost us.
"I don't want to say we weren't ready, but we have to make those plays in the moment and not just assume it's gonna turn into the type of game you want it to."
The Lions led 14-7 at halftime but were burned by second-half turnovers, including a fumble by running back David Montgomery on the first play of the third quarter, then a pick-six thrown by Jared Goff early in the fourth quarter.
Montgomery was carted off the field early in the fourth quarter and didn't return after suffering a thigh bruise, according to Campbell.
The Lions' defense allowed three touchdowns in the fourth quarter and overtime and they lost their third game since the start of the 2022 season in which they scored 30-plus points, the most such losses in the NFL in that span (two of the three losses were against the Seahawks).
The Lions host the Atlanta Falcons at Ford Field next week and their defense better be ready for one of the league's best rushing attacks. Atlanta is averaging 170.5 yards per game on the ground, which is currently fourth best in the NFL. ...
Meanwhile, Detroit falls to 2-15 in September/October games under Campbell since 2021, which is the worst record by any team in the NFL during that time.
"We didn't deserve that one. We might've got away with it at the end there, we really didn't, they earned that win and we kind of earned the loss," said Goff, who went 28-of-35 for 323 yards and three touchdowns with his first interception since Nov. 6, 2022.
"Again, had some plays potentially to kind of sneak one out there and get away with it, but typically it doesn't go your way if the turnover margin is that big."
Other notes of interest. ... Although his streak without an INT ended after 383 consecutive attempts, Goff has multiple touchdown passes in six straight home games going back to Week 9 in 2022 -- the longest active streak in the NFL.
MLive.com's Benjamin Raven notes that Josh Reynolds continues to fill the vertical void for the Lions as one of Goff's most trusted targets through their first two games.
Reynolds led the team with 80 receiving yards in their season-opening win against the Kansas City Chiefs. And the wideout again played a vital role in the loss against the Seahawks, catching five passes for 66 yards and two touchdowns in Week 2.
"Yeah, I trust him a hell of a lot. I trust him," Goff said after the game. "He's got great hands. He's been playing at a high level. He started to catch himself in a little bit of a rhythm now, which is good, and get himself open. I think at the end of the day, I trust him and know he's going to be competitive at the catch point, and he's proved to be that."
With the speedy Jameson Williams suspended for another four games and Marvin Jones drawing no targets in Week 2, it's safe to assume Reynolds remains a key player in Detroit's passing attack. ...
Rookie tight end Sam LaPorta is a reliable receiver. He had five targets for five catches in the opener. He backed that up with five catches on six targets against Seattle. As Mike O'Hara of the team's official website notes, LaPorta currently has the fourth most receiving yards (102) among NFL tight ends after two games. ...
For the record, Amon-Ra St. Brown caught 6-of-7 targets for 102 yards. As Rotoworld notes, St. Brown lost a fumble that helped allowed Seattle back in the game, but it was another WR1 finish for the third-year wideout, who has a favorable Week 3 matchup with Atlanta. ...
On the injury front. ... The Lions played Seattle without left tackle Taylor Decker (ankle) and then lost right guard Halapoulivaati Vaitai to a knee injury in the second half against the Seahawks. Vaitai "could be out a little bit," according to Campbell, although IR might not be required. Campbell also noted that linebacker James Houston will be out for a while with his fibula injury.
The Lions finished that game without two-fifths of their offensive line, plus their lead back. As noted above, Montgomery suffered a thigh bruise while trying to twist out of a tackle in the third quarter and was carted to the locker room. Montgomery said on Sunday that he expects to miss a couple of weeks with the injury, but Campbell called him day-to-day on Monday.
First-round pick Jahmyr Gibbs is expected to be the primary replacement for Montgomery, although lacks the physicality to fully replicate what the veteran can do in the running game. He has 14 carries for 59 yards on the ground, while spending a lot of time trying to find the edge.
Veteran Craig Reynolds is also expected to contribute in a by-committee approach in the offensive backfield and the team promoted former Jets running back Zonovan Knight to the regular roster on Tuesday.
Knight played seven games and made four starts for the Jets last season. He had 85 carries for 300 yards and a touchdown to go with 13 catches for 100 yards in those appearances.
I'll follow up as needed on Montgomery in coming days; watch the Late-Breaking Updates section for more.
Also worth noting. ... The Lions saw a couple of defensive players go down with serious injuries against the Seahawks and they moved both of them off their active roster on Tuesday.
The team announced that they placed safety C.J. Gardner-Johnson and edge rusher James Houston on injured reserve. No corresponding moves were announced, so they can add players to the team ahead of this week's game against the Falcons.
Word on Monday night was that Gardner-Johnson may miss the rest of the season with a torn pec while Houston fractured his ankle. Houston is expected to miss 6-8 weeks as a result of the injury, so both players are set for lengthy absences.
QBs: Jared Goff, Teddy Bridgewater
RBs: David Montgomery, Jahmyr Gibbs, Craig Reynolds, Zonovan Knight
WRs: Amon-Ra St. Brown, Josh Reynolds, Kalif Raymond, Jameson Williams, Donovan Peoples-Jones, Antoine Green
TEs: Sam LaPorta, Brock Wright, James Mitchell
Green Bay PackersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 19 September 2023
As ESPN.com's Rob Demovsky laid it out: "It was all set up for quarterback Jordan Love. Fifty-seven seconds left. No timeouts. The Green Bay Packers needed a field goal.
"A legend was not born Sunday afternoon at Mercedes-Benz Stadium -- at least not one the Packers were hoping for in what ended up being a 25-24 comeback win for the Atlanta Falcons. ..."
Demovsky went on to suggest this could have been a day that, years from now, people would point to as the beginning of Love's legacy. Instead, it served as a coming out party for Falcons running back Bijan Robinson. The rookie "shredded" -- Packers coach Matt LaFleur's word -- Green Bay's shoddy defense for 172 total yards from scrimmage on 23 combined rushes and receptions.
Even with all the damage Robinson inflicted on defensive coordinator Joe Barry's deficient run-stopping plans (25th in rushing yards allowed in 2022), Love had his turn to win it.
And the Packers blew an opportunity to start 2-0 on the road, and they did it in spectacular fashion after leading 24-12 heading into the fourth quarter. It was their first loss with a double-digit, fourth-quarter lead since the 2014 NFC Championship Game at the Seattle Seahawks with Aaron Rodgers at quarterback.
But it wasn't just the last drive that ruined what otherwise had been another poised and promising showing from Love, who threw three more touchdowns without an interception to match his stat line from Week 1 against the Chicago Bears.
The problem was he went 0-for-6 in the fourth quarter.
The Packers went three-and-out twice in a row following Falcons' scoring drives, which is where A.J. Dillon entered into the story. In his chance to make a case for RB1 status with Aaron Jones sidelined with a left hamstring injury, Dillon stumbled behind the line of scrimmage on a third-and-1 play with 6:49 remaining.
All three plays on that drive were runs, and after Dillon went nowhere on the third-down play, LaFleur gave Love the option to run a quarterback sneak on fourth-and-1. Love thought he made that call at the line of scrimmage, but when he started his motion forward, center Josh Myers never snapped the ball. That was because Love didn't give the proper call at the line, saying he used the wrong word.
"Not everybody got the call to get the sneak, so I messed that operation up right there," Love said.
The false start penalty forced the Packers to punt, which the Falcons turned into the go-ahead field goal with just under a minute to play.
It would have added to the legend that Love won without not only Jones but also receiver Christian Watson (hamstring) and left tackle David Bakhtiari (knee). Plus, he lost left guard Elgton Jenkins to a knee injury in the first half.
As solid as Love has been two weeks into the job as Rodgers' full-time replacement, perhaps it was too much to ask for him to win it at the end.
Whatever the case, the Packers must move on quickly.
The home opener against the Saints is seven days away, and then another home game -- against the division rival Lions, who also are 1-1 after an overtime loss at home Sunday -- is on deck four days after that.
This is one the Packers know they let get away. They were in command of the game through three quarters, but then it all went wrong.
There's a lot to learn, but not much time to learn it, in order to make it worth something down the road.
"It's never just one thing," LaFleur said. "There's enough blame, if you will, to go to all of us, collectively. ..."
Again, there were positives.
Reed, the team's second-round pick, and fifth-rounder Dontayvion Wicks were impressive. Reed hit 20.54 miles per hour, according to NFL Next Gen Stats, on his 9-yard touchdown in the second quarter on a jet-sweep motion shovel pass.
Romeo Doubs caught 2-of-3 targets for 30 yards despite a tender hamstring of his own. As Rotoworld suggests, he wasn't on the field as much as he would have been if healthy and conveyed his playing time into three targets. Rookie tight end Luke Musgrave caught 2-of-3 targets for 25 yards.
Finally. ... Jenkins is expected to miss multiple weeks because of the left knee injury he sustained in Sunday's loss at the Falcons. Bakhtiari was a late scratch before Sunday's game because of an apparent recurring issue from his 2020 torn ACL.
It was the second straight season that the Packers had to make a last-minute adjustment to go without him. It happened once last season, at Washington, when he could not go, and then also had games where he did not play the entire game -- including one turf game at Detroit.
Royce Newman finished the game in Jenkins' place, while Rasheed Walker started in Bakhtiari's absence. Yosh Nijman also played 12 snaps at left tackle.
I'll obviously be watching for more on those injuries as well as the status of Jones and Watson; watch the Late-Breaking Updates section for more.
QBs: Jordan Love, Sean Clifford
RBs: Aaron Jones, A.J. Dillon, Patrick Taylor
WRs: Jayden Reed, Romeo Doubs, Christian Watson, Dontayvion Wicks, Samori Toure, Malik Heath
TEs: Tucker Kraft, Ben Sims, Josiah Deguara, Luke Musgrave
Houston TexansCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 19 September 2023
According to ESPN.com's DJ Bien-Aime, after the Texans' 31-20 loss to the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday, the mood in the Texans' locker room was bittersweet.
The Texans had just fallen to 0-2, but their rookie quarterback, C.J. Stroud, had just come off a historic day.
Stroud finished with 384 yards passing (going 30-of-47), the first two touchdown passes of his career and no interceptions -- all coming behind a Texans' offensive line that was missing four starters.
"Man, he's special," right guard Shaq Mason told Bien-Aime.
Stroud's 384 yards were second-most by a player age 21 or younger since the merger (1970), trailing only Matthew Stafford (422 yards) in 2009, according to ESPN Stats and Information, and it was the highest mark of any player in Week 2. Stroud also had the second-most passing yards by a Texans rookie in franchise history, behind only Deshaun Watson (402 yards) in 2017.
Most of Stroud's damage came in the fourth quarter. Houston scored the only points of the quarter, cutting the deficit from 31-10 behind Stroud's 190 passing yards and his second touchdown throw on the day.
"C.J. is a competitor, and he shows that," head coach DeMeco Ryans said. "He continues to fight no matter what odds are stacked against him. No matter who's in front of him, it doesn't matter, and now we need everybody around him to continue to have that winning mindset and go play winning football."
Stroud was pressured on 47 percent of his dropbacks and sacked six times, but he was proud of how the Texans never game up.
"I feel like I did OK," Stroud said. "Of course, you always want to do better. Got to not take sacks in the red zone and got to score in the red zone. That definitely was the main reason why we didn't put any points on the board. We were driving the ball pretty well, just got to finish those drives.
"I feel like, overall, there's light at the end of the tunnel. I think there's hope. I think we showed that today that we're going to fight, and we're not just going to turn around and lay down just because the score flips early. We're going to keep fighting 'til the end."
Both of Stroud's touchdown passes came when he didn't face pressure, and he went 22-of-28 for 287 yards with 10.3 yards per attempt when not pressured, according to Next Gen Stats.
Stroud wasn't the only one with a career day, however.
Wide receiver Nico Collins went over 100 yards for the first time in his three-year career, finishing with seven catches for 146 yards and a touchdown, and rookie wide receiver Tank Dell, a third-round pick, caught his first touchdown and finished with 72 yards.
"We had to make some moves on offense [in the second half], and we're just trying to execute and make plays," Collins said. "C.J. was going through his reads and was dicing them up."
The Texans also struggled to get the run game going, as they rushed for only 52 yards on 26 carries, which put most of the onus on Stroud and the pass game.
"He showed poise, he's getting better week by week, and we can see it on the field," running back Dameon Pierce said. "We just got to do a better job of keeping him protected. He was the No. 2 pick in the draft for a reason. He's a great player, and he has a great arm."
For the record, Stroud left Sunday's game ranked fourth in the NFL with 626 yards passing and the former Ohio State star hasn't thrown an interception.
"I'm excited to just keep working," Stroud said. "That's one thing about the NFL that I'm learning, it's week to week. You've got to lick your wounds and just keep going, because no one said it was going to be easy and it's not supposed to (be)."
Stroud's performance has completely turned around Houston's passing game from last season when Davis Mills struggled to move the offense.
Stroud's big day helped the Texans finish with 389 yards of total offense, which was the most they've had since Week 13 of the 2020 season.
Next up, the Texans must find a way to better protect Stroud so he can stay healthy to lead the team. The defense will have another challenge this week in dealing with Trevor Lawrence when Houston continues AFC South play with a visit to Jacksonville. ...
On the injury front. ... S Eric Murray left in the first quarter with a concussion. ... S Jalen Pitre missed Sunday's game with a chest injury and it's unclear if he'll return this week.
Can the Texans hold up with injuries to offensive line?
The Texans were without four starters on the offensive line as left tackle Laremy Tunsil, center Juice Scruggs, right tackle Tytus Howard and left guard Kenyon Green were out. As a result, the Texans' offense couldn't effectively run the ball, as they totaled 52 rushing yards on 26 carries.
After a promising rookie year, Pierce is off to a slow start with 31 yards on 15 carries in Week 2 and 38 yards on 11 carries in Week 1. ...
Finally. ... It had been 652 days since wide receiver John Metchie III played in a game that counted.
Metchie made his NFL debut against the Colts. He returned to the field after dealing with a torn ACL in 2021 and being diagnosed with leukemia in July 2022, which caused him to miss all of his rookie season.
The 2022 second-round pick out of Alabama finished with one catch for 17 yards, but the stat line was the least of his concerns as he appreciated the moment of returning to the field.
"It was an amazing feeling," Metchie told ESPN. "Something I thought about every day in the hospital, so it was great to be out there playing football."
Metchie continues to work his way back into the Texans' wide receiver rotation as he played in 17.7 percent of the offensive snaps against the Colts, the fewest among his position group. He's still knocking off rust, as the last meaningful game he participated in was on Dec. 4, 2021, when he tore his ACL against the University of Georgia in the SEC championship game.
QBs: C.J. Stroud, Davis Mills, Case Keenum
RBs: Devin Singletary, Dameon Pierce, Mike Boone, Dare Ogunbowale
WRs: Nico Collins, Noah Brown, Robert Woods, John Metchie III, Xavier Hutchinson, Tank Dell
TEs: Dalton Schultz, Brevin Jordan
Indianapolis ColtsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 19 September 2023
As ESPN.com's Stephen Holder reports, Anthony Richardson, in the midst of one of the best football games of his life, quickly realized something wasn't right.
So, after scoring two touchdowns in a span of two offensive plays, the Indianapolis Colts' rookie quarterback admitted he was experiencing concussion symptoms early in the second quarter of Sunday's 31-20 win over the Houston Texans. After a concussion evaluation, Richardson was pulled from the game and did not return.
His status going forward will be determined in accordance with the NFL's concussion protocol as the Colts (1-1) look to a road game in Week 3 against the Baltimore Ravens. Richardson gave way to backup Gardner Minshew, who entered the game with 12:45 remaining in the second quarter.
The concussion, head coach Shane Steichen believes, occurred when Richardson scored on a 15-yard touchdown run with 9:18 remaining in the first quarter. Richardson, who turned the corner after a devastating block by receiver Michael Pittman Jr. and a downfield block by tight end Kylen Granson, appeared to think he would reach the end zone untouched. But just as he neared the goal line, Houston safety M.J. Stewart converged and hit Richardson at full speed, knocking him down as he reached the end zone and causing his head to hit the turf field.
"He just didn't see him," Pittman said of Richardson. "He thought he was home free. He caught a shot at the end, which I thought was unnecessary. But then he bounced up so fast, I was like, 'Yeah!'"
Richardson did indeed bounce right up and celebrated with his teammates. It was a justified celebration, too, as Richardson had reached the end zone for the second time after capping the Colts' previous drive with an 18-yard touchdown on a draw play that led to an easy score. His second score likely proved much more costly, but it wasn't immediately apparent.
Richardson returned to the game for two subsequent series, playing six more snaps before he informed trainers of his issues. Richardson completed 1 of his 3 pass attempts following the hit that was believed to cause the concussion.
It was unclear whether the Colts' trainers or the NFL's independent concussion spotters -- known officially as unaffiliated neurotrauma consultants (UNCs) -- realized Richardson's head hit the turf.
It this case, Richardson's honesty about the situation ultimately led to the right outcome. As Holder suggests, it likely was not an easy decision given how Richardson was performing in the game.
Richardson was 6-of-10 for 56 yards passing in his brief time in the lineup. He added 35 rushing yards on three carries.
Minshew had a very efficient performance in his place, throwing for 171 yards on 19-of-23 passing with a touchdown and no interceptions. As NFL.com's Michael Baca notes, Minshew's ability to make short, accurate passes and Indianapolis' efficient play (zero turnovers) allowed for a decisive victory.
The Colts cruised to the win after leading by as many as 21 points before the Texans made things interesting with 10 fourth-quarter points.
Now, attention will turn to Richardson's recovery. There is also sure to be further analysis of his playing style and whether it has contributed to him leaving both of the Colts' games this season prematurely. Richardson was pulled in the final moments of the Colts' Week 1 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars after taking a shot to his knee.
A big, physical quarterback who embraces contact, Richardson is trying to toe a fine line between tapping into his best skills and playing it safe given his status as the No. 4 draft pick and the future of the Colts' franchise.
"You're always concerned," Colts owner Jim Irsay said after the game. "The first game, he banged up the knee, but it was OK, just a contusion. This game, banging the head. I think it's just something where he's got to protect himself. He's a big physical guy. Obviously, he can run the football and guys do a lot of running now at that position. And, so I think self-protection is an issue."
The injury will make preparations for this week's game against the Ravens becomes complicated, at best.
Even if he clears concussion protocol by the end of the week, his practice reps will be significantly reduced and his preparation will be negatively impacted. And balancing the need to prepare Minshew will be delicate, too, as Minshew plays the position much differently and therefore would require a different game plan.
Steichen will have his work cut out for him.
Pro Bowl center Ryan Kelly also was put into the concussion protocol during Sunday's game and, like Richardson, the Colts won't know if he can play till later this week. Steichen said TE Drew Ogletree was inactive Sunday despite being cleared last week. All-Pro LG Quenton Nelson played through an injured toe.
I'll have more on Richardson's progress in working his way through the protocol as developments warrant all week long; he was not scheduled to practice Wednesday; watch the Late-Breaking Updates section for more. ...
Other notes of interest. ... During his 18-yard touchdown run on the Colts' opening drive, Richardson reached a top speed of 19.15 mph within 1903 yards of distance traveled. The average quarterback would have scored only 1.8 percent of the time, according to the NGS expected rushing yards model. Richardson is the first Colt to have 2-plus rushing TDs in the first quarter of a game since Edgerrin James did so in Week 11 of the 1999 season.
Running back Zack Moss turned in 88 yards off 18 carries (one TD) and added four receptions for 19 yards, but on a day when everything was seemingly planned around Richardson (scored two first TDs of game), Steichen successfully adjusted on offense to earn his first career win as a head coach.
Moss played on 56-of-57 offensive snaps. ...
Their stat lines won't jump out and wow you, but the Colts' receivers were instrumental in the win. Pittman led the team with eight receptions for 56 yards on 12 targets and rookie Josh Downs (4 receptions for 37 yards) turned heads with some impressive grabs in key situations. The Colts converted half of their third-down conversions (6 of 12) and scored points on all four of their red zone trips.
According to Associated Press sports writer Michael Marot, Alec Pierce, Indy's top draft pick in 2022 hasn't done anything wrong, he's just been lost in the shuffle. While Pierce has the size and body control to emerge as an elite receiver, he only has three catches for 33 yards and five total targets in two weeks as the passing game has relied most heavily on Pittman and Downs, Richardson's training camp roommate.
Finally. ... An emotional coach Steichen earned his first game ball by getting his first victory as a head coach. Now, with or without Richardson, the Colts will look to build momentum after snapping an eight-game losing streak that went back to last November. It won't be easy to do when visiting the franchise's old hometown, Baltimore, even with a defense playing well.
QBs: Gardner Minshew, Sam Ehlinger, Kellen Mond, Anthony Richardson
RBs: Zack Moss, Trey Sermon, Jonathan Taylor, Evan Hull
WRs: Michael Pittman Jr., Josh Downs, Alec Pierce, Isaiah McKenzie
TEs: Mo Alie-Cox, Kylen Granson, Will Mallory, Andrew Ogletree, Jelani Woods
Jacksonville JaguarsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 19 September 2023
According to ESPN.com's Michael DiRocco, Trevor Lawrence, Christian Kirk and Evan Engram all pretty much said the same thing after the Jaguars lost 17-9 to the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday: It's unacceptable.
Not losing to the defending Super Bowl champs, but playing so poorly on offense that they failed to reach the end zone for the second time in their last 23 games. It was a malfunction in all areas and unexpected from what was supposed to be one of the NFL's best offenses.
"We're better than that and we're a better team," said Lawrence, who completed 22 of 41 passes for 216 yards and failed to throw a touchdown pass. "We're a better offense than that.
"We've got so many weapons we've got to be able to put points on the board and score and that's just -- it's kind of embarrassing."
It should be. Nine starters returned from last year's offense, which ranked 10th in scoring and yards per game. The message throughout the offseason was this year's unit should be better because this is their second year in coach Doug Pederson's offensive system. That's what happened in Philadelphia in 2017, when Pederson turned Carson Wentz into an MVP candidate in Pederson's second year with the Eagles.
Even though Pederson has ceded all playcalling duties to offensive coordinator Press Taylor in 2023, that shouldn't have had any significant impact because Pederson called plays in the first halves of games and Taylor the second last season.
Plus, the Jaguars added receiver Calvin Ridley, who looked impressive in camp and the season opener despite a nearly two-year layoff because of mental health reasons and a gambling suspension. He was one of the best receivers in the NFL in 2020, catching 90 passes for 1,374 yards and nine touchdowns.
Yet the Jaguars (1-1) managed only 271 yards of offense and failed to score a touchdown on three red-zone trips against the Chiefs. They converted only 3 of 12 third downs, went 0-for-2 on fourth down, and averaged just 4.2 yards per play. Lawrence went 0 for 7 passing in the red zone, the most red-zone attempts without a completion since Brett Favre also went 0-for-7 in 2006, per ESPN Stats and Information.
"We're way too good to go out there and put together something like that and put that out there," said Kirk, who caught 11 passes for 110 yards. "We need to look ourselves in the mirror and be very harsh on ourselves."
Said Engram: "We're better than this."
Everyone asked about the offensive woes cited the same thing: lack of execution. Everywhere. There were drops by Kirk and Ridley, a fumble by Jamal Agnew, and numerous breakdowns by the offensive line. Per ESPN Stats and Info, Lawrence was pressured on 13-of-48 dropbacks and went 2 of 7 for just 20 yards on those 13 dropbacks. He also was sacked four times.
If this were a one-off, it wouldn't necessarily be as concerning, but the offense also didn't function at a high level in the Week 1 victory over Indianapolis. The Jaguars scored 31 points, but the offense went 3 for 12 on third down (they're now 6 for 24 through two games), went 1 for 3 on fourth down, and Lawrence was sacked twice.
The Jaguars' nine points were the second-fewest points scored by the Jaguars in the Doug Pederson era, just behind the six points they scored against the Texans last year.
Lawrence finished with the most pass attempts in the red zone (seven) without a completion in a game in the Next Gen Stats era (since 2016). Lawrence lost -6.9 EPA on his seven red-zone pass attempts.
There's the potential to get the offense rolling this Sunday against Houston (0-2), which has given up 56 combined points in losses to Baltimore and Indianapolis.
"I'm not concerned, but it's something we've got to fix," Lawrence said. "It's definitely an issue. We've got to all look in the mirror and be accountable and be critical of ourselves. It's all of us.
"We've got to make those plays and that's what the good and great teams do and we didn't do it today."
Though it may feel like things are falling apart after what happened Sunday, Pederson doesn't see it that way.
The players need to execute better and the coaches (himself included) need to be better, he said, but there's no need to overreact -- especially after the way the Jaguars' 2022 season unfolded with the offense catching fire in the second half of the season to send the Jaguars to the playoffs.
"It's Week 2," Pederson said. "My gosh. Week 2. We're 1-1. We're in a great spot. You know, we lost to a good football team today. We didn't play great. Guys know that guys are going to rally, guys are going to bounce back. We're going to be better next week. [There's] a lot of football ahead of us.
"Those guys are ticked off in there [the locker room]. They're mad and they know it, but it's so early in this season that one game is not going to define who we are and it's not going to define our season."
Fortunately, the Jaguars have been decent defensively.
The unit held Chiefs star quarterback Patrick Mahomes mostly in check until two fourth-quarter drives totaled 132 yards, eight first downs and a field goal. ...
On the injury front. ... Receiver Zay Jones (knee) is getting further testing today and is considered day to day, Pederson told reporters. OLB Josh Allen has a shoulder sprain but should be OK, per Pederson.
Jones finished without a catch for the first time in two seasons in Jacksonville. Lawrence targeted Jones six times, including three in the end zone. Jones came close to scoring once but failed to get both feet inbounds.
I'll have more on his status via Late-Breaking Update in coming days.
QBs: Trevor Lawrence, C.J. Beathard, Nathan Rourke
RBs: Travis Etienne Jr., Tank Bigsby, D'Ernest Johnson
WRs: Calvin Ridley, Zay Jones, Parker Washington, Tim Jones, Jamal Agnew, Christian Kirk
TEs: Evan Engram, Brenton Strange, Luke Farrell, Elijah Cooks
Kansas City ChiefsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 19 September 2023
The Kansas City Chiefs have relied for years on their dynamic offense to rescue their middle-of-the-road defense.
On Sunday, it was the other way around.
Given the makeup of the roster, and the way Patrick Mahomes and Co. have performed in a close loss to the Lions and their 17-9 win over the Jaguars, which could be the norm this season.
As Associated Press sports writer Dave Skretta notes, the Chiefs have struggled with dropped passes, wide receivers that have been unable to get open, an inconsistent run game and far too many penalties to effectively keep drives alive.
Oh, but that defense. Time after time, coordinator Steve Spagnuolo's bunch made plays to keep Kansas City in the game, holding Jacksonville to 271 yards and quarterback Trevor Lawrence to just 197 through the air.
"You know," head coach Andy Reid said, "I'm an offensive guy, but that was a beautiful thing defensively. Offensively, we got to take care of the penalties and turnovers, but the battle-through-it showed me a little something."
It certainly helped that the Chiefs had game-wrecking defensive tackle Chris Jones back on the field.
After finally agreeing to a reworked deal for this season, and ending a holdout that kept Jones out of the Detroit game, he not only made his debut but made an impact. Jones had 1 1/2 sacks and seemed to be in the Jacksonville backfield on every play.
"Yeah, defense was incredible," Mahomes said. "That's a really good offense, and for them to shut them down -- they were like, 0 for 4 in the red zone. Couple critical stops after we turned the ball over, and then three-and-out a couple of times, and they kept holding them to field goals. I mean, the defense won that game."
Funny to hear that from someone on the offensive side of the ball.
So many times over the years, someone from the defensive side has said the same thing about their counterpart.
Alas, the Chiefs fumbled four times and lost two of them. Mahomes threw an interception for the second straight game. Right tackle Jawaan Taylor was penalized five times -- two false starts, two holds and an illegal formation -- and that contributed to the 12 penalties for 94 yards, which in turn played a role in the Chiefs going 4 for 13 on third down.
"It's hard for us to see -- for everyone to see -- because we've been such a prolific offense for so long, and we've started fast," Mahomes said. "But if you don't execute at a high level in this league, you're not going to have success. You're not going to score touchdowns and have sustained drives. That's stuff we have to get better at."
Just about everyone's hands on offense need help.
There has to be a solution for a team that dropped eight passes against Detroit and fumbled four times against Jacksonville, including punt returner Richie James fumbling a chance deep in his own territory when he lost the ball in the Florida sun.
Wide receiver Skyy Moore was one of the biggest offenders when it came to dropped passes in Week 1.
But he owned his poor performance, answering every question from reporters earlier in the week, and then played much better against the Jaguars. He had three catches on four targets for 70 yards and a touchdown.
James was supposed to be the sure-handed special teams standout that the Chiefs were missing last season when he came over from the Giants. But along with his mistake on punt return, James has failed to make much of an impact at wide receiver.
One real positive here?
The running back perked up a dormant running game. His 31-yard run jumpstarted a touchdown drive to start the third quarter. He rushed for 16 yards on a field goal drive in the fourth quarter, including converting on a 4th-and-1 play with the Chiefs struggling in such situations.
The Chiefs came out of their game against Jacksonville healthy. That includes tight end Travis Kelce, who hyperextended his knee the previous week and missed the opener against Detroit. He had four catches for 26 yards and a touchdown.
The Chiefs return to Arrowhead Stadium on Sunday to face the Bears, who are 0-2 after losing to the Buccaneers last weekend.
And finally. ... The days of Mahomes being underpaid relative to his QB counterparts are at an end.
Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs have agreed to terms on a restructured contract that pays the QB $210.6 million between 2023 and 2026, the most in history over a four-year span, NFL Network Insiders Ian Rapoport and Tom Pelissero reported on Monday. The agreement could reach $218.1 million with escalators by the end of 2026.
The $210.6 million is guaranteed over the next four years, per Rapoport and Pelissero.
Sides also plan to revisit the deal again after the 2026 season, effectively cutting the remaining years on the deal from eight to three.
In simple terms, the Chiefs moved up money to adequately compensate the NFL's best player and shortened the deal to give Mahomes another shot at a pay day as QB contracts continue to rise.
In 2020, Mahomes agreed to a 10-year, $450 million extension with the Chiefs that put him under contract through the 2031 season.
Following Joe Burrow's contract extension, Mahomes dropped to eighth among quarterbacks in average annual salary at $45 million, behind Burrow, Justin Herbert, Lamar Jackson, Jalen Hurts, Russell Wilson, Kyler Murray and Deshaun Watson. Now, the new cash flow gets Mahomes back to where he belongs near the top.
QBs: Patrick Mahomes, Blaine Gabbert
RBs: Isiah Pacheco, Jerick McKinnon, Clyde Edwards-Helaire
WRs: Rashee Rice, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Justin Watson, Skyy Moore, Kadarius Toney, Richie James, Justyn Ross, Mecole Hardman
TEs: Travis Kelce, Noah Gray, Blake Bell, Jody Fortson
Las Vegas RaidersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 19 September 2023
A week after Josh Jacobs complained he had some rust to shake off, the NFL's defending rushing champion found himself running in reverse.
As Associated Press sports writer Jonah Bronstein notes, the Raiders running back finished with a career-worst minus-2 yards rushing in a 38-10 loss to the Buffalo Bills on Sunday. In doing so, he became the first NFL rushing leader from the previous season to finish with negative yardage in a game since the 1970 merger, according to Elias Sports Bureau.
"I feel like I just got to do more, honestly," said Jacobs, who led the league last year with 1,653 yards rushing and 2,053 yards from scrimmage.
Jacobs never found his footing after getting thrown for a loss by Bills lineman Ed Oliver on the first play from scrimmage. He had minus-6 yards on seven carries in the first half. Once the Bills built their lead to 28-10 on their opening drive of the second half, the Raiders offense was forced to become one-dimensional.
"We need to address where we went wrong and improve from there," Jacobs said. "I don't think we just need a next game and flush it. I don't think that would create a winning culture."
After missing the entire offseason due to a contract dispute, Jacobs finally joined the Raiders by signing a one-year contract worth up to $12 million with bonuses on Aug. 26.
He blamed rust for finishing with 48 yards rushing on 19 carries in a season-opening 17-16 win at Denver. His 2.5-yard rushing average was the third-lowest of his career before Sunday. Jacobs' 46 yards for the season mark the worst two-game rushing yardage total of his five-year career.
Head coach Josh McDaniels said the Raiders' running game struggles start up front, and noted: "I need to do a better job figuring out how to get JJ going."
Quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo could not compensate for the lack of balance. He finished 16 of 24 passing for 185 yards and two interceptions. He threw a 16-yard touchdown pass to Davante Adams (six receptions, 84 yards) on the opening drive, but the Raiders managed only a field goal after that in an outing they finished with less than 20 minutes in time of possession.
"We just made too many self-inflicted errors," Garoppolo said.
Adding to Las Vegas' offensive woes, Adams was evaluated for a head injury at the end of the game. McDaniels announced on Monday that Adams, who took a high hit from Bills safety Taylor Rapp while leaping for a long pass in triple coverage with 3:09 left, had cleared the concussion protocol and will be good to go this week. Rapp was penalized for unnecessary roughness on the play.
The Raiders already were without starting wideout Jakobi Meyers, who suffered a concussion in the opener. Hunter Renfrow, who was not targeted in the win at Denver, caught one pass for 23 yards against the Bills. Tight end Austin Hooper had two receptions for 20 yards. Rookie tight end Michael Mayer had one catch for two yards. Mayer was not targeted in the opener.
The Raiders were able to get Jacobs involved in the passing game. He was targeted six times, gaining 51 yards on five receptions.
The one pass Jacobs didn't catch was wrestled away by Buffalo linebacker Matt Milano, leading to a field goal that gave the Bills a 31-10 lead early in the fourth quarter.
The Raiders hoped to establish their running game against a Bills defense that gave up 172 yards on the ground in a season-opening loss to the Jets. The only success they found came on the opening series when rookie receiver Tre Tucker gained 34 yards on a jet sweep to set up Adams' touchdown.
"We shot ourselves in the foot most of the game after that drive," McDaniels said.
Jacobs was hit in the backfield on several of his runs, and McDaniels said the Raiders' inability to control the line of scrimmage made it difficult to get their All-Pro running back on track.
"We have to be able to block people and get the runner started," McDaniels said. "A lot of times we couldn't even really get to the line of scrimmage without being touched."
McDaniels disputed the argument that more of a downfield passing attack could create running lanes for Jacobs, saying the Raiders took their share of deep shots. The numbers back him up. The Raiders rank sixth in the league with 7.7 yards per pass attempt and seventh with 10.7 yards per completion.
But Garoppolo has never been known for possessing the strongest arm, and his inability to beat opponents over the top makes it easier for defenses to be more aggressive. His longest completion this season is 23 yards, and against Buffalo, Garoppolo underthrew speedster Tre Tucker, who had beaten his defender by at least a step but had to slow down for what turned into an incomplete pass.
"There are opportunities that we maybe haven't converted on," McDaniels said. "We have plenty of opportunities to do both."
The Raiders play their home opener in front of a national TV audience Sunday night against the Pittsburgh Steelers. ...
On the injury front. ... While McDaniels said Adams was fine after he was evaluated for a potential concussion, Meyers' status remains uncertain -- although the coach said the wideout was "headed in the right direction."
I'll have more on that via Late-Breaking Update as the week progresses. ...
Other notes of interest. ... What is going on with Renfrow?
A week after not getting a single target for the first time in his career, Renfrow was again an invisible man. The 2021 Pro Bowler, who caught 103 passes that season, was not targeted until there were less than 4 minutes to play by Garoppolo. According to ESPN.com's Paul Gutierrez, there were at least a few other occasions on which Renfrow was running free but Garoppolo did not see him.
If Garoppolo, who has more interceptions (3) than throws to Renfrow (1), does not want to become too predictable, he needs to get the receiver more involved. ...
The Raiders can almost always count on kicker Daniel Carlson and punter AJ Cole. Carlson, who made a 24-yard field goal, didn't hide when a kickoff returner headed his way and instead brought down Damien Harris. Cole had another strong game with a 49.7-yard average on three punts, with two landing inside the 20-yard line.
QBs: Aidan O'Connell, Jimmy Garoppolo, Brian Hoyer
RBs: Josh Jacobs, Zamir White, Ameer Abdullah, Brandon Bolden
WRs: Davante Adams, Jakobi Meyers, Tre Tucker, Hunter Renfrow, DeAndre Carter, Kristian Wilkerson
TEs: Michael Mayer, Austin Hooper, Jesper Horsted
Los Angeles ChargersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 19 September 2023
According to Associated Press sports writer Joe Reedy, Brandon Staley is feeling the pressure with the Los Angeles Chargers off to their first 0-2 start in six years.
After Sunday's 27-24 overtime loss at Tennessee, the third-year coach bristled at suggestions that a hangover remains from last season's playoff loss in Jacksonville when the Chargers blew a 27-point, first-half lead and were eliminated 31-30.
"It's a convenient story line, but it's not the truth," Staley said. "We've lost two tough games, but the men in that locker room are finishers, and they have what it takes, and we're excited to prove ourselves."
Staley is correct if one wants to only look as far back as the playoff game. The painful truth is that what has caused the Chargers to drop their first two games this season has existed for the past two-plus seasons.
And as much as Staley says he has guys that are finishers, they've often come up short in clutch situations. They lost 36-34 to Miami in the opener after Tyreek Hill scored on a 4-yard pass from Tua Tagovailoa with 1:45 remaining.
They have dropped their last four regular-season and playoff games by nine points.
The Chargers had an 11-0 lead midway through the second quarter, but were only up 14-10 at halftime. It was the fifth time under Staley the Bolts have lost after having a double-digit lead, tied for second-most in the league since 2021.
Staley was hired after leading the Los Angeles Rams as the league's top-ranked defense in 2020. He has a 19-18 overall record, with 13 losses by one score.
His defense continues to be prone to allowing big plays. Tennessee had six explosive plays -- three runs of at least 12 yards and three completions of at least 16 yards -- including two pass plays of at least 49 yards that would lead to touchdowns later in the drive.
Over the past three seasons, the Chargers have allowed 281 explosive plays, third-most in the league.
"I don't think there's some magical answer people keep asking about. I think it's the little things that every single one of us needs to do a little better," linebacker Joey Bosa said.
The offense has yet to turn the ball over, but has failed to produce late. The Chargers got the ball to begin overtime, but offensive coordinator Kellen Moore called three deep shots instead of short or intermediate passes to take time off the clock. Pass protection has also yet to hold up in critical moments, including a third-down sack when the Chargers were at the Titans 7.
For a team that had hopes of at least making the postseason at the beginning of the season, the Chargers are following a dangerous trend under coaches hired by general manager Tom Telesco in their third season.
Anthony Lynn and Mike McCoy had winning records in their first two seasons before things went south in Year Three.
Lynn went from 12 wins and a playoff berth in 2018 to five victories in 2019. McCoy was 4-12 in 2015 after 9-7 in 2014. Both coaches were fired after four seasons.
"It's a tough group and there's a lot of pride in that room," Staley said. "We put a lot into this, and we've got a good football team. We've got to bounce back, learn from our mistakes and be ready for Minnesota."
It's fair to say Austin Ekeler's absence was felt.
The Chargers were sorely missing the man who has scored more TDs than anyone in the NFL the past two seasons, as Ekeler was out with an ankle injury. The Chargers scored on just two of their five trips to the red zone.
Running back Joshua Kelley, who started in place of Ekeler, totaled just 39 yards off 13 carries.
Justin Herbert played very well with 305 yards (27 of 41) and two touchdowns, finding Keenan Allen (111 yards, 2 TDs) and Mike Williams (83 yards) eight times apiece. Herbert pushed the ball downfield, averaging 10.6 air yards per attempt, his most in a game since his rookie season, but the offense should have scored more points considering all the opportunities it had.
Ekeler has a nose for the end zone and his presence could have been the difference.
When will he be back? The Chargers aren't saying.
"No timeline on his return," Staley said Monday.
Ekeler did not practice last week.
He rushed for 117 yards with a touchdown and caught four passes for 47 yards in the Week 1 loss to the Dolphins.
Ekeler did not miss any games last season and missed only one in 2021.
I'll obviously be watching his status carefully in coming days; I'll have more via Late-Breaking Update as the week progresses. ...
Meanwhile, as Reedy suggests, this week is shaping up as the Desperation Bowl, with the Chargers and Vikings both at 0-2 after being looked at as Super Bowl contenders throughout the preseason.
One last note here. ... The Chargers are 21-10 with Herbert in games in which they led at any point in the fourth quarter. Herbert's 10 such losses are the most in the NFL since 2020. The Chargers are now 2-5 in OT with Herbert as the starter.
QBs: Justin Herbert, Easton Stick
RBs: Austin Ekeler, Joshua Kelley, Isaiah Spiller, Elijah Dotson
WRs: Keenan Allen, Quentin Johnston, Jalen Guyton, Derius Davis, Josh Palmer, Mike Williams
TEs: Gerald Everett, Donald Parham, Stone Smartt
Los Angeles RamsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 19 September 2023
Cam Akers' tumultuous time in Los Angeles appears headed for a finale.
The Rams have had trade talks centered around Akers, NFL Network's Ian Rapoport reported on Monday, less than 24 hours after Akers spent Los Angeles' Week 2 loss to the 49ers as a healthy scratch.
Head coach Sean McVay later confirmed the talks during his Monday afternoon news conference, saying general manager Les Snead has spoken with multiple teams and trading Akers is "the direction" the Rams are going.
Akers was inactive for the game following what Rapoport characterized as a difficult week of practice, leaving him in an uncertain standing with the Rams. Kyren Williams replaced him as the starting running back and will serve in such a role going forward.
"Coach's decision, felt like that was best for our football team," McVay said after Sunday's game. "Felt like Kyren gave us the best opportunity and what Ronnie Rivers and Royce Freeman had done, so that was the decision that I made."
The development is a disappointing one for those who hoped Akers' strong finish to the 2022 season -- in which he broke 100 rushing yards in each of his final three outings -- would propel him to a fast start in 2023. Instead of seeing Akers sprint out of the gate in the first two weeks, Rams fans watched him average just 1.9 yards per carry in Los Angeles' Week 1 win over the Seattle Seahawks before sitting out in Week 2.
Admittedly, Williams had a better outing in the season-opening win and appeared to become McVay's preferred back after scoring two touchdowns in Los Angeles' surprising season-opening triumph. Preference shouldn't matter, not in a league in which committee backfields are all the rage, but it apparently had enough of an impact to lead McVay to make Akers inactive on Sunday.
Without Akers, Williams had a similarly productive, but not overwhelmingly positive day Sunday, gaining 52 yards and scoring one rushing touchdown on 14 attempts. He was the only running back to record a rushing attempt in the Week 2 defeat.
"It's different. It's more about I'm always going to make decisions that are in the best interest of our football team," McVay said Sunday. "I have tremendous respect for Cam Akers, but I felt like for our football team today and in this game and as we moved forward, that was going to be the best decision for us."
As NFL.com's Nick Shook suggested, "It doesn't take a doctorate in psychology to read between the lines here: Akers is likely unhappy with his role in the Rams' offense, and McVay isn't interested in acquiescing."
Akers grew similarly displeased in 2022, stepping away from the team for several weeks with the expectation he'd be dealt by the trade deadline. When that didn't happen, he and the Rams found a way to work together again, leading to some of the best games of his career.
This time around, it sounds as if McVay doesn't have much patience for Akers' displeasure. On Monday, McVay was asked if Akers would return to active duty with the team if a trade does not come together.
"That won't be an opportunity," McVay said. "It'll be an opportunity to make a move. ... I feel good about the opportunity to move him, but we won't go back and forth on it."
Akers said on social media that he was confused about being inactive, but McVay said he thought the team had been "very clear" with Akers and his agent about the situation and that the team "felt good" about the dialogue they've had leading up to what appears to be the final days of their relationship.
Through two weeks, the 2023 Rams are proving to be a fascinating bunch.
They were not expected to contend for the first time since the middle of last decade. McVay is operating in a new space, no longer weighed down by the pressure of needing to produce instant success, and the results have suggested McVay is going to operate without concern for star power.
Take the receiving corps, which is currently headlined by Puka Nacua and Tutu Atwell with Cooper Kupp on injured reserve. The former has a team-high 25 catches for 266 yards through two games, while the latter is finally starting to deliver on the second-round pick Los Angeles spent on him in 2021.
McVay doesn't need to keep his headlining stars happy. He's free to try to win with whoever he deems his best option. As of now, that option is Williams. We'll see if Akers ends up finding a better opportunity elsewhere via trade, or works with the Rams to again settle their differences for a second straight year.
Based on his "next couple days" line, it sounds like the window to find common ground won't last nearly as long this time around.
Meanwhile, ESPN.com's Sarah Barshop offer some more on Nacua, who caught 15 passes for 147 yards on Sunday, breaking the NFL's single-game record for receptions by a rookie and setting a new overall league mark with the aforementioned 25 catches in the first two games of his career.
One week after he recorded 10 catches for 119 yards in his NFL debut, Nacua -- with his 10th catch on Sunday -- broke Earl Cooper's record, set in 1980, for most receptions by a player through his first two games. On the next play, Nacua broke the 100-yard receiving mark to become the first player to record 10 receptions and 100 receiving yards in each of his first two NFL games.
"He's a stud," McVay said. "The game makes sense to him. Physically and mentally tough. Works really hard. He's very inquisitive. He asks a lot of questions, and he's got great guys to be able to lean on.
"His rapport with Matthew Stafford, where they're able to bounce things off of one another, I think that's been a real positive, and Puka's going to continue to improve."
Najee Harris (2021), Saquon Barkley (2018), Roy Helu (2011) and Don Looney (1940) each had a 14-catch game as a rookie.
According to Elias Sports Bureau research, Nacua is now one of four players in NFL history to record 100 or more receiving yards in each of his first two NFL games, joining Looney (1940), DeSean Jackson (2008) and Will Fuller V (2016).
Nacua's 25 receptions are also the most by a rookie over any two-game span in NFL history; Odell Beckham Jr. had 23 catches over two contests in December 2014.
While Nacua and Atwell, who led all Rams players with 75 snaps against the 49ers, excel, Van Jefferson is being left behind. The fourth-year pro had just one catch on four targets against the 49ers while Nacua got 20 targets and Atwell got nine. Jefferson is in a contract year, but he hasn't seized a key role in the Rams' game plan.
Kupp will miss at least two more games and is eligible to return in Week 5 against the Philadelphia Eagles.
Next up, Los Angeles is on the road Monday night for a Super Bowl 56 rematch against the winless Cincinnati Bengals. Joe Burrow's injured calf provides an opportunity for the Rams to keep their season on a solid path. ...
Other notes of interest. ... According to Associated Press sports writer Greg Beacham, the Rams' offensive line has been much better than it was last season, when its ineffectiveness doomed almost everything McVay tried to do. Stafford has been sacked just once and hit only eight times in two games. He was sacked 29 times in nine games last season, ultimately leading to the injuries that sidelined him.
Right guard Joseph Noteboom went out with a shoulder injury. If he has an extended absence, it could affect the chemistry of that unit. The Niners didn't get significant pressure on Stafford until Tremayne Anchrum replaced Noteboom in the second half.
The defense didn't handle the 49ers -- who averaged 6.8 yards per play -- as impressively as they did the Seahawks in Week 1, although that's hardly a surprise. LA's unit lacks elite talent after getting rid of several important players from last season's group, but the Rams made those moves with the plan to develop young players into core contributors. ...
With two second-half interceptions Sunday, Stafford now has eight INTs in six games against the 49ers since joining the Rams. Stafford also was sacked once on Sunday, but he'd been sacked 17 times in their previous five meetings.
QBs: Matthew Stafford, Carson Wentz, Stetson Bennett
RBs: Kyren Williams, Royce Freeman, Zach Evans, Ronnie Rivers
WRs: Cooper Kupp, Puka Nacua, Tutu Atwell, Ben Skowronek, Demarcus Robinson
TEs: Tyler Higbee, Brycen Hopkins, Hunter Long, Davis Allen
Miami DolphinsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 19 September 2023
Don't look now, but Tua Tagovailoa is the hottest quarterback in the NFL through the first two weeks of the season.
At least, that's what the oddsmakers are saying.
As ESPN.com's Marcel Louis-Jacques notes Tagovailoa is tied with Patrick Mahomes as the betting favorite to win the Most Valuable Player award by Caesars Sportsbook.
As Miami prepares to host the Denver Broncos in its home opener Sunday, Tagovailoa is leading what's been the league's best offense -- winning a pair of conference games on the road in the process.
"Well, I think if you can win any time on the road, that's a big plus," Tagovailoa said Sunday night after a 24-17 win over the New England Patriots. "It's hard to win games on the road in this league.
"But, you know, we're still trying to find our identity as a team, offensively, defensively, and the special teams. And we'll continue to watch film, continue to grow, continue to get better."
Tagovailoa recorded a modest stat line against New England -- 21-of-30 passing for 249 yards, one touchdown and an interception, largely taking underneath routes while the Patriots played with multiple safeties over the top. But if the Dolphins are still trying to find their identity as Tagovailoa suggested, they don't appear to be struggling through the process.
Running back Raheem Mostert ran for 121 yards and two scores on 18 carries, powering a Dolphins ground game that went for 143 yards. A week ago the roles were reversed, with Tagovailoa throwing for 466 yards and three touchdowns to lift Miami's offense over the Chargers.
The Dolphins' offensive identity? Offense -- by any means necessary.
"I've been fortunate enough to be on several offenses that have had some productivity," head coach Mike McDaniel said Monday. "And in that process, you learn the whole mode of playing an opponent, watching their tape, game planning for what they're doing but also game planning for what could possibly be coming. And in that, by and large, most teams -- specifically coached by Coach [Bill] Belichick -- if you've put on tape that you can win a certain way, they'll try to force you to win another way.
"So I knew line of scrimmage play was going to be important, but you have to let the game kind of play out, see what the defense is doing and if they're taking something away, something else is vulnerable. So you just kind of have to have equity in your game plan from that perspective."
Louis-Jacques went on to note the scorching start to the season has been vindicating especially for Tagovailoa, who entered the season facing skepticism about his durability and ability to repeat what had been a career year in 2022 before concussions derailed his season.
Even in the small sample size of two games, Tagovailoa leads the NFL in passing yards (715), yards per attempt (9.5), passing first downs (38) and ranks third in quarterback rating (79).
He's faced 23 blitzes -- the sixth-most in the league through two weeks -- but he's only been contacted six times and sacked once. The clean uniforms are in part a result of improved offensive line play, but also because he's getting the ball out faster than any other quarterback in the NFL, taking an average of 2.35 seconds to attempt a pass.
He was even quicker against New England.
According to Next Gen Stats, Tagovailoa averaged the fourth-fastest time to throw (2.08 seconds) of any quarterback in a game since 2020.
He hasn't been perfect, notably, he's thrown two interceptions including one Sunday night at a critical juncture in the fourth quarter. But McDaniel said he's most proud of the way Tagovailoa has been able to quickly respond to his mistakes without letting them eat away at him.
"Anytime he's off on any sort of throw, you know, in the past, that frustration has really bled into multiple drives," McDaniel said. "And there was one drive. ... He had a couple throws that he would have liked to have back, one to Tyreek and one to Jaylen Waddle down the field consecutively. But it speaks to where he's at in his game because I thought he came back from that. We had some operations stuff that we'll need to clean up.
"That's the whole point, and what I talk to the team about all the time is it's a journey. It's a journey of getting better so your best football is in December. So when you're able to not play entirely your cleanest football and get the win, you embrace that. And we'll look forward to getting better from it."
Meanwhile, after Miami's defense gave up 234 yards rushing against the Los Angeles Chargers in Week 1, coordinator Vic Fangio said his unit was good enough to win a high-scoring contest, but "not good enough to win a lot of games." The Dolphins turned it around in Week 2 at New England, limiting the Patriots to 88 yards rushing and stopping them on a late drive that could have tied or won the game.
Still, the Dolphins had to hold on at the end.
McDaniel said his team made some mistakes that should be easy to correct early in the season.
"I told the guys in the locker room that they're going to feel like it didn't need to be a nail-biter," McDaniel said. "And that happens a ton. You're fortunate to get the win in that learning process of how to make sure that that's not the case. But overall, on the road, prime time, division opponent, those are very, very valuable games to be able to come up with a win."
Also of interest. ... On Mostert's 43-yard touchdown run, the running back reached a top speed of 21.62 miles per hour per Next Gen Stats, the second-fastest speed by a ball carrier this season. The Dolphins are responsible for the top-three fastest speeds this year, with the other two turned in by wide receiver Tyreek Hill. ...
According to Associated Press sports writer Alanis Thames, the quarterback-center exchange between Tagovailoa and Connor Williams has been an issue dating to the preseason, and it cost Miami a potential third-down conversion in the fourth quarter with the team trying to protect a seven-point lead.
Tagovailoa said he was "changing up" pre-snap, which caused the miscommunication. ...
In addition, Jason Sanders had a field goal blocked and missed a 55-yard attempt that gave New England one last chance to win. Sanders was 2 of 6 on attempts of 50-plus yards last year. ...
On the injury front. ... Waddle is in concussion protocol, McDaniel said Monday, after the wide receiver took a hard hit to the head.
Waddle was the intended receiver on a pass from Tagovailoa in the fourth quarter Sunday night. The pass fell incomplete but Waddle was on the receiving end of a helmet-to-helmet hit from Patriots linebacker Marte Mapu, who was penalized for unsportsmanlike conduct.
Waddle received attention from medical trainers on the field before being escorted to the sideline and eventually to the locker room.
McDaniel said Waddle was already "progressing" through protocol as of Monday afternoon.
The third-year pro was Miami's leading receiver Sunday night, finishing with 86 yards on four receptions.
I'll be following up on Waddle via Late-Breaking Update in coming days.
If he is unable to play against the Broncos, it will probably mean elevated roles for Cedrick Wilson, who has been a healthy scratch in the first two games, or possibly Robbie Chosen, who remains on the team's practice squad.
QBs: Tua Tagovailoa, Mike White, Skylar Thompson
RBs: Raheem Mostert, De'Von Achane, Jeff Wilson, Salvon Ahmed, Christopher Brooks
WRs: Tyreek Hill, Jaylen Waddle, Braxton Berrios, Cedrick Wilson, Chase Claypool, River Cracraft
TEs: Durham Smythe, Julian Hill, Tyler Kroft
Minnesota VikingsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 19 September 2023
The Minnesota Vikings started the season just 10 days ago. It's literally slipping away.
Thanks to the costly fumbles that have accounted for six of their seven turnovers, the Vikings have already taken two frustrating losses.
"We have to go back and continue to find ways to re-emphasize how important it is when you have the football in your hands playing for the Minnesota Vikings," coach Kevin O'Connell said after the 34-28 defeat Thursday in Philadelphia. "We're really not giving ourselves clean opportunities to win these games the way that we started. I have to do a better job."
O'Connell said Friday his staff was already working on ways to practice ball security next week, including urging his defensive to be more aggressive about trying to knock it loose.
Punt returner Brandon Powell, running back Alexander Mattison, wide receiver Justin Jefferson and quarterback Kirk Cousins were the fumble culprits against the Eagles, after Cousins was charged with two in the 20-17 opening loss to Tampa Bay. Cousins also threw an interception against the Buccaneers.
"I have to keep two hands on the ball as much as I can," Cousins said. "As a passer it's hard because you're pulling your hand back, but going back to two hands on the ball as much as possible."
According to Associated Press sports writer Dave Campbell, the strangest part of this discouraging development for the Vikings is they haven't recovered any of their fumbles. Jefferson's went into the end zone and out of bounds late in the second quarter, giving the Eagles the ball on a touchback.
The Eagles coughed one up themselves on a punt return at their 16 in the first quarter, but the Vikings didn't jump on that one, either.
The 1959 Chicago Cardinals have the all-time record with 36 fumbles lost in their 12-game season, and the Vikings are on pace to match that in 12 games. The 1938 Chicago Bears and 1978 San Francisco 49ers share the NFL record with 56 fumbles, regardless of recovery.
The Vikings actually share the NFL record for fewest fumbles lost, with just two in 2014 to match the Kansas City Chiefs (2002) and New Orleans Saints (2019). The Saints set the all-time record by fumbling the ball only six times in 2011, a dubious mark the Vikings have matched in two games.
Meanwhile, Cousins, despite a strip sack in each game that has set up a score for the opponent, is second in the NFL in passer rating (114.2) with six touchdowns and 708 yards. Tight end T.J. Hockenson and wide receiver Jordan Addison provided plenty of complementary contributions to Jefferson's usual prowess.
Cousins and Jefferson are clicking like never before, with Jefferson becoming the first NFL player in 12 years to put up consecutive 150-yard receiving games to open a season and Cousins throwing for a franchise-record 708 yards over that stretch.
But when the ball is on the ground, bad things are happening to the Vikings -- and that's not even getting into the fumbles. They've netted 69 rushing yards on 26 attempts.
The Vikings rushed for 28 yards on nine attempts against the Eagles. Eight were by Mattison, who averaged 3.5 yards per carry.
Getting the offensive line back to full strength would be a good start toward reviving a running game that clearly hasn't escaped the struggles of last season. Their next opponent, the Los Angeles Chargers, could provide an opportunity. The Chargers were last in the league last season, giving up 5.4 yards per rush.
QBs: Josh Dobbs, Nick Mullens, Jaren Hall, Kirk Cousins
RBs: Alexander Mattison, Ty Chandler, C.J. Ham, Kene Nwangwu, Cam Akers
WRs: Justin Jefferson, Jordan Addison, K.J. Osborn, Brandon Powell, Jalen Nailor
TEs: T.J. Hockenson, Josh Oliver, Johnny Mundt, Nick Muse
New England PatriotsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 19 September 2023
The New England Patriots are 0-2 for the first time since the 2001 season, snapping the NFL's longest streak of avoiding back-to-back opening losses and sparking emotions from players following Sunday night's 24-17 home defeat to the Miami Dolphins.
"I know it looks bad when you start [0-2], but this is not a bad team, so don't get to asking those type of questions," outside linebacker Matthew Judon said. "I don't think we're about to hang our heads in that locker room."
The Green Bay Packers (2006) now hold the NFL's longest active streak of avoiding an 0-2 start, followed by the Dallas Cowboys (2010) and Rams (2011).
Since 1990, only 31 of 270 teams that began a season 0-2 qualified for the postseason, according to ESPN Stats and Information -- although the implementation of the 17-game regular season in 2021 has created more margin for error. The Cincinnati Bengals rebounded from an 0-2 start last season to advance to the AFC Championship Game.
As ESPN.com's Mike Reiss noted, in opening losses to the Philadelphia Eagles and Dolphins this year, the Patriots started slow, totaling three turnovers in the first quarter, before roaring back and having a final rally fall short.
This year marked the first time a Bill Belichick-coached Patriots team trailed by 10 or more points in each of the first two games of a season.
Asked what he attributes the team's slow starts to, Belichick, now in his 24th season as Patriots coach, said simply: "Can't turn the ball over."
Tight end Hunter Henry, one of six captains, called the 0-2 start "very frustrating."
"We need to be a lot more disciplined," he said. "We've lost two weeks in a row, two close games, we fought back and had a chance there. But we're putting ourselves in positions too early in games, turning the ball over. We have to be better offensively."
The Patriots visit the New York Jets (1-1) on Sunday, then travel to face the Cowboys in Week 4. This marks the first time since 1975 that the franchise opened a season losing its first two games at home.
Quarterback Mac Jones sat dejected at his locker for an extended time late Sunday night, a white towel draped over his head. He eventually made his way to the interview room and when asked the key to not letting the 0-2 start get him down, he said: "Just stay positive and try to work together and find solutions to issues or problems. That's all you can do -- arrive early, stay later and grind with each other."
Veteran center David Andrews believes the team can turn things around, but he focused more on the bottom-line results.
"I don't think belief is the problem, to be honest with you," he said. "Look at the last two weeks, we didn't lay down and quit. But belief only takes you so far. You've got to do it at some point. It's more about execution than belief."
According to Associated Press sports writer Kyle Hightower, capitalizing on opponents' errors has also been an issue for the Patriots.
Special teamer Brenden Schooler had one of the biggest plays of the night with his team trailing 17-3 late in the third quarter. With the Dolphins setting up for a 49-yard field goal attempt by Jason Sanders, Schooler initially lined up halfway between the Patriots' sideline and his teammates on the line of scrimmage.
He got a running start and timed his rush perfectly just as the ball was snapped. His momentum allowed him to easily get around the Dolphins' edge protection and dive in nearly untouched for a block that was recovered by teammate Kyle Dugger.
"It's a testament to our coaching staff because when they drew it up and told us what we were doing I thought to myself, 'I trust them, but I haven't evert seen anything like this before,'" he said.
Unfortunately, the Patriots' ensuing offensive series after Schooler's block quickly moved to the Miami 22 before a pass by Jones intended for DeVante Parker was intercepted by Xavien Howard.
It was one of three times in the final two quarters New England failed to capitalize on a miscue by Miami.
The Patriots went three-and-out following Tua Tagovailoa's interception in the fourth quarter. Then, following a missed 55-yard field goal attempt by Sanders with just over two minutes remaining, the Patriots failed to convert on fourth down, allowing Miami to run out the clock.
They'll need to correct that before they the road for the first time this season if they plan to extend their winning streak against the Jets to 15-straight games. ...
Other notes of interest. ... Jones completed 31-of-42 passes for 231 yards, one touchdown, and one interception, adding 25 yards on five carries.
As Rotoworld notes, that's now 96 pass attempts for Jones through two weeks after averaging under 32 per game in his second season in 2022. Whether that is attributable to new offensive coordinator Bill O'Brien or simply a byproduct of negative game environments through two weeks remains to be seen, but the volume is in stark contrast to his first two seasons in the league.
Five pass-catchers saw six or more targets against the Dolphins, while Henry caught a touchdown for the second consecutive week.
Kendrick Bourne caught 4-of-9 targets for 29 yards, DeVante Parker caught 6-of-8 targets for 57 yards and Henry caught 6-of-7 targets for 52 yards, including the scoring grab.
While others are clearly capable of rising up, Henry appears to be a valuable piece to O'Brien's scheme, particularly in the red zone. ...
Rhamondre Stevenson rushed 15 times for 50 yards and a touchdown, adding 10 yards on three receptions.
Stevenson played well ahead of Ezekiel Elliott in Week 2, out-touching the veteran 18 to five on the night. The former Cowboys saw 14 running back opportunities in Week 1 (seven carries and seven targets). It should be noted that both games saw the Patriots playing from behind in the second half. ...
Finally. ... The Patriots have officially moved on from quarterback Matt Corral.
New England waived Corral from the exempt/left squad list on Monday, according to the transaction wire.
Corral had been claimed by the Patriots after the Panthers waived him when reducing their roster. He became the second quarterback on New England's 53 other than Jones as the club had waived Bailey Zappe and Malik Cunningham.
But Corral was placed on the left squad list back on Sept. 9.
Zappe has since been re-signed to the 53-man roster to be Jones' backup.
The Patriots also announced they've released quarterback Ian Book from their practice squad.
That leaves New England with Jones and Zappe as their only listed QBs.
QBs: Bailey Zappe, Mac Jones
RBs: Rhamondre Stevenson, Ezekiel Elliott, JaMycal Hasty
WRs: DeVante Parker, Demario Douglas, JuJu Smith-Schuster, Tyquan Thornton, Kayshon Boutte, Matt Slater, Kendrick Bourne
TEs: Hunter Henry, Mike Gesicki, Pharaoh Brown
New Orleans SaintsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 19 September 2023
As Associated Press sports writer Steve Reed understated, Tony Jones Jr. is making the most of his elevation from the Saints' practice squad, while Chris Olave continues to make plays for unbeaten New Orleans.
Jones ran for two touchdowns, rookie Blake Grupe kicked two field goals and the Saints beat the Carolina Panthers 20-17 on Monday night, improving to 2-0 for the first time since 2013.
Jones replaced the injured Jamaal Williams late in the first half and ran for 34 yards on 12 carries.
"It was awesome," head coach Dennis Allen said. "He was great. We ran the ball effectively. I think we blocked it up front and he made the right cuts. You know, two touchdowns on the game. It was big for him and big for us."
The Saints' defense did the rest, holding Panthers rookie Bryce Young to 153 yards passing in his home debut. New Orleans limited Carolina (0-2) to 239 yards and sacked Young, the top overall pick in the draft, four times.
The Saints nearly made it two full games without allowing a touchdown before giving up a 3-yard scoring toss from Young to Adam Thielen with 1:16 left in the game. Young's 2-point conversion pass to Thielen got the Panthers within three, but the Saints recovered the onside kick and ran out the clock.
Derek Carr, who threw for 305 yards in the Saints' Week 1 win over Tennessee, struggled early. He had a badly underthrown interception into triple coverage and missed several other open receivers as the Saints limped into the locker room at halftime with a 6-3 lead.
But Carr improved in the second half.
He found Olave, who made the play of the game when hauled in a diving one-handed grab along the left sideline late in the third quarter for a 42-yard gain. That set up Jones' 2-yard touchdown run to give the Saints a 13-6 lead.
"When things aren't quite going exactly the way you want it to, you're just one explosive play away from making something happen," Allen said. "I thought his concentration there and focus all the way through the catch point and to the ground maintaining possession was a progress for him."
Olave had another short grab leading to Jones' second TD with about three minutes to play. He finished with six catches for 86 yards.
Carr finished with 228 yards passing and the one pick. Change-of-pace quarterback Taysom Hill was the Saints' leading rusher with 75 yards on nine carries.
"There's so much that we have to clean up," Carr said, "but it feels good to get to do it when we're 2-0."
How can the Saints find consistency on offense moving forward?
It'll certainly help to get running back Alvin Kamara back after he finishes his three-game suspension, but in the meantime, the Saints will need to figure out how to protect Carr better after allowing eight sacks in two games. The bright side: Wide receivers Olave, Michael Thomas and Rashid Shaheed look as good as advertised.
According to Next Gen Stats, Olave's 42-yard catch in the third quarter increased the Saints' win probability by 12 percent (55 percent to 67 percent). He had less than a yard of separation (0.8 yards) on C.J. Henderson when the ball arrived.
Also worth noting: Carr's 65.5 passer rating in Monday night's win is the worst passer rating he has had in a win in his career (previously 0-25 with a sub-70 passer rating). ...
Still, the good news is the Saints pulled even with unbeaten Atlanta and Tampa Bay atop the NFC South, while the Panthers fell into an early hole.
Next up, the Saints travel to Green Bay to take on the Packers on Sunday. ...
On the injury front. ... Allen said at a Tuesday press conference that Williams will miss "some time" as a result of the injury. Allen did not put a more specific timeline on when Williams might be able to return to action.
Assuming "some time" means more than this week, the Saints will likely be signing Jones to their 53-man roster. He's been elevated from the practice squad the last two weeks and scored two touchdowns on Monday night after Williams left the game.
Jones was the only backup to Williams because Kendre Miller was scratched with a hamstring injury. If Miller isn't healthy this week, the Saints may need to add another back along with Jones because Kamara will be serving the final game of his suspension.
I'll have more on Williams' hamstring via Late-Breaking Update in coming days. The same goes for Miller, who practiced on a limited basis all last week.
In a semi-related note. ... KPRC2 in Houston's Aaron Wilson reports the Saints waived RB Kirk Merritt. The converted wideout's departure could be an indication that Miller's return is imminent.
QBs: Derek Carr, Jameis Winston, Jake Haener
RBs: Alvin Kamara, Jamaal Williams, Kendre Miller
WRs: Chris Olave, Rashid Shaheed, A.T. Perry, Keith Kirkwood, Lynn Bowden, Michael Thomas
TEs: Juwan Johnson, Taysom Hill, Foster Moreau, Jimmy Graham
New York GiantsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 19 September 2023
The New York Giants won't have their star running back for Week 3, and perhaps even longer.
Further testing on Monday revealed that Saquon Barkley has an ankle sprain that will have him considered week to week, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported, per a source.
Rapoport added that Barkley will be out for Thursday night's road game against the San Francisco 49ers.
Head coach Brian Daboll disagrees with that report.
In fact, Daboll said on Tuesday that it was premature to rule Barkley out for Thursday night. Daboll said the team currently plans to make a game-time decision about Barkley's availability.
"I'm not saying that he's out yet," Barkley said, via SNY. "He's a quick healer. I'm not saying he's in, he's out. We're gonna take it all the way up with him to Thursday. He feels a lot better today. I just talked to him, so we'll see where we're at."
Declining to make a definitive call about Barkley's status may just be gamesmanship, although it's hard to imagine the 49ers losing much sleep about the difference between facing Barkley a few days after an injury and not facing him at all.
If Barkley does sit, the Giants can avoid the risk of further injury while giving Barkley extended time to rest up for a Week 4 Monday night date with the Seahawks.
Whatever the case, Barkley found the end zone twice to help erase a 21-point deficit in the Giants' remarkable comeback win, and supplanting his energetic play will be tough for a team that seemed to finally find its footing in the second half of Week 2.
As NFL.com's Michael Baca notes, injuries to New York's offensive line doesn't help the situation, either, with left tackle Andrew Thomas (hamstring) hoping for a quick return after missing Week 2 and guard Ben Bredeson currently in the concussion protocol.
For the record, Barkley was listed as a non-participant for a second-straight day Tuesday. Thomas was listed as a limited practice participant. Bredeson remains in the concussion protocol and out of practice, which likely rules him out for Thursday.
Linebacker Micah McFadden (neck), edge rusher Azeez Ojulari (hamstring), and wide receiver Wan'Dale Robinson (knee) are also listed as limited.
It should be noted that veteran Matt Breida, Gary Brightwell and fifth-round rookie Eric Gray round out the RB depth chart for Big Blue and figure to share the workload assuming Barkley is indeed out.
Daniel Jones, who is second on the team with 102 rushing yards, could be called upon to open up the Giants' passing attack without a featured back. Jones has thrown for 425 yards (41 of 65) with two touchdowns and three interceptions this season, but a leaky O-line that's allowed 10 sacks through two weeks has made for some frenzied offensive highlights for New York.
It's a frustrating injury for Barkley, who signed a reworked one-year deal just ahead of training camp to avoid a lengthy standoff after being franchise tagged earlier in the offseason, but Monday's development brings relief for a star RB who should still have the opportunity to prove his worth in 2023.
Stay tuned. ... I'll have more on Barkley's status via Late-Breaking Update in advance of Thursday night's kickoff. ...
The Giants, meanwhile, potentially saved their season. After losing 40-0 to the Dallas Cowboys a week ago, New York found itself staring down a 20-0 deficit Sunday. Those 60 points the Giants allowed before scoring their first point of the season were the second-most allowed before scoring to begin a season since the 1970 merger, and the most since the 1978 Baltimore Colts (86).
For the third time in their history, the Giants came back from down 21 points to win, after also doing so during the 1945 and 1947 seasons. On Sunday, they did it behind a monster second half from Jones, who threw for a pair of scores and ran for another.
As ESPN.com's Jordan Raanan noted, it all began with a 58-yard pass from Jones to rookie Jalin Hyatt on the first offensive play of the second half.
"We always remained confident," Jones said. "It was getting back to simple execution: trusting it, seeing it and ripping it. We had some opportunities to make plays in the first half. We didn't do it. I knew they'd be there. I just had to execute and give our guys a chance to make those plays. We did it and built on that."
The Giants totaled 358 yards in the second half, compared with 81 in the first.
"The finish that these guys had ... it was good to get a win," Daboll said.
A few final notes. ... Jones led all quarterbacks with 34 fantasy points against the Cardinals, and we saw his dual-threat ability in this one. Jones completed 26 of 37 passes for 321 yards with two scores. Decisive with the ball, Jones was reading it out fast from the pocket and finding targets at all three levels of the field. Plus, Jones added 59 yards rushing.
With designed carries and scramble attempts, he can create conflict for the defense as a runner. Even with a tough Week 3 matchup at San Francisco, Jones will be a fringe QB1.
In a related note. ... Jones' 259 passing yards in the second half are the most he's had in his career for any half.
The Giants scored 24 unanswered points to complete the franchise's largest comeback in the Super Bowl era. According to Next Gen Stats, New York's win probability was as low as 4.7 percent with 38 seconds left in the third quarter (trailing 28-14).
QBs: Tommy DeVito, Tyrod Taylor, Daniel Jones
RBs: Saquon Barkley, Matt Breida, Gary Brightwell, Eric Gray
WRs: Darius Slayton, Wan'Dale Robinson, Jalin Hyatt, Parris Campbell, Isaiah Hodgins, Sterling Shepard
TEs: Daniel Bellinger, Lawrence Cager, Chris Myarick, Darren Waller
New York JetsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 19 September 2023
As ESPN.com's Rich Cimini framed it, "The New York Jets' first game without Aaron Rodgers was a disaster, as quarterback Zach Wilson threw three interceptions in a 30-10 loss to the Cowboys on Sunday in Dallas.
"Afterward, the Jets rallied around Rodgers' replacement with confidence-building words and gestures. ..."
In the locker room, wide receiver Garrett Wilson put his arm around the young QB and gave him words of encouragement. The three tight ends were there too, showing support. It was a telling scene, as the Jets (1-1) made it a point to not cast any blame on their former starter-turned-backup.
"From the outside looking in, it's easy to play the quarterback blame game," Garrett Wilson said. "Honestly, that's the world we live in, where you look at the top man -- the head man, the quarterback, the one who makes the money -- and then point the finger. But all of us internally know that we all have to take the right steps and get better."
The Jets endured a trying six days, losing Rodgers to a season-ending Achilles tendon injury and having to pivot on a short week to Zach Wilson, who was demoted twice last season amid profound struggles. Except for one shining moment -- a 68-yard touchdown pass to Garrett Wilson, who gained 55 yards after the catch -- it was a dismal outing for the signal-caller and the offense on Sunday.
The game ended with four turnovers on New York's last five series, including interceptions on the final three possessions. An 18-10 halftime deficit turned into a fourth-quarter blowout, which undoubtedly will increase the outside noise among those who want the front office to acquire another quarterback.
Zach Wilson completed 12 of 27 passes for 170 yards, throwing for only 76 yards in the second half. Head coach Robert Saleh defended the performance, absolving Wilson of blame on the second and third interceptions.
"I thought he did a nice job," Saleh said. "Obviously, late in the game, he had to force the ball to make something happen and, obviously, it didn't go our way. There was a miscommunication on one of his interceptions with him and the back. They have a hell of a front.
"He did a really nice job in the pocket, extending plays, scrambling. He had a couple of nice off-schedule plays. It just wasn't good enough."
The Jets are exploring the possibility of adding a third quarterback, perhaps as soon as this week, but have stated emphatically that Wilson will be the QB1. This was supposed to be a learning year for the 2021 No. 2 overall draft pick, but everything changed on the fourth play of the first game when Rodgers went down.
Wilson's performance on Sunday -- at least statistically -- was strikingly similar to many past games. (He began the day with 16 touchdown passes and 19 interceptions over his career.) He is no stranger to adversity, but he insisted he is better equipped to handle it this time.
"Absolutely, man," he said. "I feel like I'm seeing [the field] well, I really do. It's just really unfortunate to show that as an offense. We have to be better, I need to be better, but we're right there."
Wilson was under heavy duress, as he was pressured on 16 of 30 dropbacks, according to NFL Next Gen Stats. (That doesn't include his five scrambles for a team-high 36 rushing yards.) Cowboys linebacker Micah Parsons was a force, recording two sacks and nine pressures. Wilson completed only 2 of 13 passes when pressured, continuing a trend. Since entering the league in 2021, he is the worst quarterback in the NFL when pressured, according to the statistics.
But some of the pressure could be attributed to Wilson, who held the ball too long at times. He had no support from the running game as the Jets ran into a lot of eight-man fronts, and perhaps a quarterback with Rodgers' experience would have been able to change the play at the line of scrimmage.
As for that running game?
Despite having Breece Hall and Dalvin Cook, Zach Wilson led the team with five scrambles for 36 yards.
Hall had four carries for 9 yards and Cook only four for 7 as the team's running backs combined for 24 yards on 10 carries.
Hall was not happy with his lack of chances afterward.
"I mean, I only had four touches," Hall said. "That's why we struggled. But it is what it is. We just got down early today and kind of just abandoned the run. I feel like with any team that type of stuff happens, that's how it is. You feel like you've got to get back in the game and stuff like that. It just slips away. So that's what it was."
Hall gained 127 yards on 10 carries in the season opener, including an 83-yard run.
On Sunday, he tied his career low for carries in a game, had his career low rushing yards in a game and had the lowest per rush average in his career.
"I can do something with it whenever I touch it," Hall said. "It's just, they had a good D-Line today and our O-Line had its hands full and everything. I feel like we just didn't get going today. We abandoned the run early, so that's just what it was."
As for Cook, Associated Press sports writer Dennis Waszak Jr. notes the former Minnesota star signed with New York late in training camp and hasn't yet resembled the running back who ran for at least 1,100 yards in each of the last four seasons.
Bigger picture, the Jets had only 46 offensive plays.
That, coupled with uncharacteristic defensive struggles, put a lot of pressure on Wilson. But he didn't seem discouraged by his performance.
"It's tough, man," Wilson said. "I thought I was seeing it well for the first three quarters of that game, but we kept getting stopped."
It's one game, guys," Saleh said, "and I don't think it really defines who we are as a defense, who we are as a team."
The players also say they refuse to push the panic button in Week 3.
"We're 1-1 and 1-0 in the division," defensive lineman Solomon Thomas said. "We have everything in the world ahead of us. There's no reason to get down, there's no reason to question things. Believe in the process. Believe in what we're building here."
New York has a chance for a big bounceback when it hosts the New England Patriots on Sunday. Bill Belichick's team is 0-2 but has defeated the Jets in 14 straight meetings, so it's far from a gimme.
"We've got 15 of these left," Saleh said. "Yesterday obviously sucked, but again, it's not the end of the world, either. ..."
On the injury front. ... Saleh said S Tony Adams (hamstring), CB Michael Carter II (elbow) and LB Quincy Williams (knee) will continue to be evaluated, but the coach didn't seem concerned about their injuries. ... The Jets probably won't know if K Greg Zuerlein (groin) will be available until later in the week. Austin Seibert filled in and had a 34-yard field goal and made his only extra-point try.
QBs: Zach Wilson, Trevor Siemian, Aaron Rodgers
RBs: Breece Hall, Dalvin Cook, Israel Abanikanda
WRs: Garrett Wilson, Xavier Gipson, Jason Brownlee, Allen Lazard, Randall Cobb, Charles Irvin
TEs: Tyler Conklin, Jeremy Ruckert, C.J. Uzomah, Kenny Yeboah
Philadelphia EaglesCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 19 September 2023
As Associated Press sports writer Dan Gelston, the Eagles had a pretty good running back in Miles Sanders. Sanders was steady, durable and even rushed for more than 1,200 yards and scored 11 touchdowns in a season that ended in the Super Bowl.
But in the modern NFL, a good running back is as disposable as a cheap razor. It's a pass-first, quarterback-driven league these days.
So much so that elite running backs griped when teams this past offseason refused to give them the lucrative long-term contracts players such as the Giants' Saquon Barkley thought they deserved.
When Carolina offered Sanders a deal with $13 million in guaranteed money, the Eagles said, thanks for the memories, and let him loose. D'Andre Swift was available, after all, and the Eagles (2-0) were able to sign him for less than half the guaranteed money the Panthers are paying Sanders.
Running behind a line anchored by Jason Kelce and Lane Johnson, the big men up front opened lanes as they always do, and Swift bailed out the Eagles on a night when Jalen Hurts was off a beat.
Swift rushed for a career-high 175 yards and a touchdown in a 34-28 win over the Minnesota Vikings on Thursday night. Plug in a talented running back and the big numbers for bargain bucks -- by NFL standards -- are sure to follow.
Hours before kickoff, general manager Howie Roseman walked in the end zone -- just a few strides from where comedian Kevin Hart schmoozed with long-time announcer Merrill Reese -- to fans screaming his name. One yelled, "Howie, you're the GOAT!" and he simply gave a fist pump in the air and kept walking. One reason he's earned that rep is his refusal to place a premium on running backs. Roseman has never drafted one in the first round in a dozen seasons running the Eagles. The good RBs are out there, he figures, and they often can be had on the cheap.
The early returns show that Roseman nailed it with Swift.
Swift is a feel-good story for the Eagles. The 24-year-old was raised in the Philadelphia area and attended St. Joseph's Preparatory School before he went on to play at Georgia. He had about 30 friends and family members at Lincoln Financial Field, and coach Nick Sirianni rewarded Swift in his homecoming by giving him the bulk of the carries. Swift had 28 of Philadelphia's 48 total carries, ripped off a 43-yard run and led a rushing game that finished with 259 yards. The total was the second-most yards rushing in a game in Sirianni's three seasons.
Swift, who had one carry for 3 yards in the opener, may just be getting started.
"He showed vision, explosiveness," Sirianni said. "I thought the offensive line did a phenomenal job of pushing them off the ball. Was really pleased that he protected the ball. Protecting the football is not an easy thing."
Swift never rushed for more than 617 yards in any of his three seasons with Detroit. With Kenneth Gainwell out because of injured ribs, Swift made the most of his opportunity, and he surely will get more chances in the weeks ahead to prove he's worthy of carrying the load as the No. 1 running back.
"It was a hell of a job and we needed it from him," Hurts said.
Meanwhile, a year after special teams was a true weak link in otherwise sensational all-around team play, the unit has picked up the pace this season.
Jake Elliott continues to shine, booting a 24-yard field goal and then a 61-yarder to close the first half, but the standout effort might go to veteran Justin Evans.
Evans punched the ball out on Brandon Powell’s punt return to force a fumble in the first quarter that was recovered by Nicholas Morrow.
Perhaps it seemed fitting on a night when Swift took center stage at the Linc that bad blood was brewing on the sideline.
Against New England, tight end Dallas Goedert had no receptions and publicly took the shutout in stride. Against the Patriots, No. 1 receiver -- or is that DeVonta Smith? -- A.J. Brown got into a heated exchange with Hurts on the sideline in the second half.
Sirianni had to intervene and cool down Brown, who had only four catches for 29 yards. Brown had 88 catches for 1,496 yards a year ago but has just 11 for 108 through two games this season.
Sirianni, who at first said he didn't know anything about the confrontation before he was told it was caught on national television, said the dispute was a private matter.
Brown's complaints were no big deal to Hurts.
"Everybody wants to make plays. Everybody wants to contribute," Hurts said. "I have no worries about him. He's a great teammate, a great friend."
Smith had only four catches but one of them was a 63-yard touchdown and another was a 54-yard leaping reception.
Hurts -- whose three total touchdowns still delighted fantasy football owners -- has yet to play anything like the NFL MVP runner-up he was last season. Yes, there's an adjustment to new offensive coordinator Brian Johnson, but it was another ho-hum outing of 18 of 23 for 193 yards without the breakout runs or passes on the fly that made him so exhilarating to watch last season.
As expected, Hurts' performance was downplayed because, well, he's still Jalen Hurts, and of most importance, the Eagles are 2-0 for the 10th time since 1970.
"Of course, we want to be able to create some more explosives," Sirianni said. "I have to go watch the game tonight and figure out how we can create some more explosives."
Worth noting. ... Center Jason Kelce said the Eagles' offense has been seeing some "crazy things" from opposing coordinators over the first two weeks in an attempt to create confusion and slow the passing attack. Kelce believes it will stay that way, predicting "chaos" the rest of the way.
One point of emphasis for opposing defenses has been to limit the explosive plays. It falls to the coaching staff and Hurts to decode the myriad looks they are getting and find a way to get the passing game back on track.
On the injury front. ... Cornerback Avonte Maddox could miss significant time with a shoulder injury and wide receiver WR Quez Watkins was forced out with a hamstring injury.
Fortunately, the Eagles get a few extra days off before they head to Tampa Bay for Monday Night Football.
QBs: Jalen Hurts, Marcus Mariota, Tanner McKee
RBs: D'Andre Swift, Kenneth Gainwell, Boston Scott, Rashaad Penny
WRs: A.J. Brown, DeVonta Smith, Julio Jones, Olamide Zaccheaus, Quez Watkins
TEs: Dallas Goedert, Jack Stoll, Grant Calcaterra, Albert Okwuegbunam
Pittsburgh SteelersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 19 September 2023
Less than 13 hours after a victory, Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin admitted his offense wasn't playing up to the level it achieved in the preseason.
Through two games, the Steelers' offense is averaging 9.5 points per game and a league-low 12 first downs.
On Monday night, Pittsburgh only had nine first downs and didn't run a single red-zone play in a 26-22 victory against the Cleveland Browns.
And yet, Tomlin said the solution wasn't in making "knee-jerk" reactions to enact "wholesale changes."
"We have to get our mojo back," Tomlin said Tuesday. "We got to get that mojo that we had in the preseason where we're playing fast and fluid with confidence, individually and collectively. We've lost that, to be blunt, in the last several weeks.
"... We do acknowledge that two is a pattern. We've had two outings that are not up to snuff in that regard, and so it has our attention as we are preparing for this next one."
As ESPN.com's Brooke Pryor noted, the 26 points scored by the Steelers without a red-zone drive were the team's most in the past 45 years -- and the most in the NFL since the Kansas City Chiefs had 27 vs. the New Orleans Saints in 2016.
The Steelers managed just one offensive touchdown in each of their first two games, a far cry from the five touchdowns scored on the first team's five preseason possessions. Kenny Pickett has been erratic so far this season, completing just 60.5 percent of his attempts -- ahead of only starting quarterbacks Bryce Young, Joe Burrow, Bryce Young, Deshaun Watson and Zach Wilson.
"He's done a lot of things well in preparation," Tomlin said of Pickett. "He could play better -- we all could play better -- but procedurally I like what I see from him. And usually when a guy procedurally is in the right spot, the performance soon follows."
The run game is also stagnant with only 96 total rushing yards at an average of 3.1 yards per carry, which ranks 27th in the league. The Steelers have also punted 13 times this season, tied for most in the league.
Since Matt Canada was elevated to offensive coordinator in 2021, the Steelers' offense has sputtered and struggled to consistently move the ball. Since that time, every other NFL team has had at least three games with 400 total yards of offense; the Steelers have had none.
"We're not assigning blame for anyone. Obviously it starts with coaching," Tomlin said of the offense's slow start. "We got to coach better. We got to get these guys playing faster with more fluidity. We got to start faster. We have to play more coordinated, particularly at the early stages of games."
With the offensive struggles predating the 2022 season, the frustration among the fan base reached a fever pitch Monday night.
Steelers fans at Acrisure Stadium grew restless with each additional punt Monday night, booing the offense when it came off the field after fruitless drives.
"It's got to get us going," tight end Pat Freiermuth said after the game. "Obviously it's never fun, but we got to learn from that, and obviously it's more of a motivation to let's get this thing going. We love the fans here, and obviously they expect good football, so I'll be trying to continue to get good football and wins for them."
By the team's seventh punt Monday night, a loud chant imploring Tomlin to fire offensive coordinator Matt Canada enveloped the stadium.
Asked about it Tuesday, Tomlin didn't criticize the fans for their words.
"I appreciate their passion," Tomlin said. "I share their passion. We all do, man. We love our fans, man. They inspire us. They challenge us. It's an awesome relationship, man. We don't run from challenges. We run to challenges.
"This is a sport entertainment business. It is our job to win and thus entertain them, and so we don't begrudge them for that. We want them to be fat and sassy and spoiled. It is our job."
The Steelers' offense couldn't score, but that didn't stop their defense from finding the end zone to beat the Browns.
Outside linebacker Alex Highsmith scored nine seconds into the game, returning an interception 30 yards for a score when Minkah Fitzpatrick deflected Watson's first pass of the game. Then, as the Steelers trailed by three in the fourth quarter, Highsmith made another big play by forcing a Watson fumble, which outside linebacker T.J. Watt recovered and returned for the winning 17-yard touchdown.
The touchdowns marked the first time since 2010 the Steelers had two defensive touchdowns in a game, and the first time the Steelers recorded a fumble return touchdown and an interception returned for a touchdown in the same game since 2009.
They racked up six sacks, nine tackles for loss, three forced fumbles and 11 quarterback hits in the victory.
They'll hope the defense continues its strong play -- and that the offense can figure something out -- in advance of Sunday's game against the Raiders in Las Vegas. ...
Other notes of interest. ... The Steelers spent the offseason proclaiming that the run game would be more involved than it was a year ago. Yet, they recorded one rushing yard in the first half against the Browns, the Steelers' fewest rushing yards in the opening half of a game for the last 45 seasons, according to Elias Sports Bureau.
Midway through the third quarter, Najee Harris had gained just four yards on six attempts before breaking off back-to-back first down runs of 21 and 17 yards. The runs were a significant boost for Harris, who was booed earlier in the game when he tried jumping the line and fumbled short of the goal line on a 2-point conversion.
The Steelers finished with 55 yards rushing, with Harris gaining 43 yards on 10 carries while Jaylen Warren added another 20 yards on six carries.
Wide receiver George Pickens gained 56.8 yards after catch on his 71-yard touchdown in the second quarter, per Next Gen Stats.
Pickens was only expected to gain 21.4 yards after catch. The score -- the longest touchdown play by any Steeler since an 84-yard Chase Claypool touchdown in Week 2 of 2020 -- was Pickens' longest of his career, more than doubling his second longest of 31 yards, which also came against the Browns in Week 18 last season.
During training camp, Pickens said he wanted to emphasize his speed and prove that he was capable of more than highlight-reel catches, and he more than did that with his touchdown.
On the injury front. ... NFL Network's Tom Pelissero reports Minkah Fitzpatrick was released from the hospital after undergoing testing on a chest injury. It's believed to be a chest contusion, per Pelissero.
Finally, in case you missed it, the Steelers placed wide receiver Diontae Johnson on injured reserve Monday, meaning he will be sidelined for at least the next four games.
The move was made hours ahead of Monday night's game.
Johnson sustained a hamstring injury during the Steelers' Week 1 loss to the San Francisco 49ers.
The injury occurred early in the third quarter against the 49ers as Johnson tried to make a cut after picking up a first down at the end of a 26-yard gain. A source told ESPN's Adam Schefter last week that Johnson was expected to be sidelined for "a few weeks."
"I just put my foot in the ground," Johnson said Thursday. "Fluke incident, it just gave out on me. I can't do nothing about that."
Johnson said that he hadn't experienced any issues with the hamstring during the preseason and that he came out of training camp healthy.
Johnson is Pittsburgh's leading receiver over the past four seasons, averaging 85 receptions a season since being taken in the third round of the 2019 draft. He was a Pro Bowl selection in 2021.
The Steelers on Monday also placed running back Anthony McFarland Jr. (knee injury) on injured reserve. McFarland is the Steelers' primary kickoff returner. Wide receiver Gunner Olszewski, who was inactive for the Week 1 loss to the 49ers took over kick return duties for McFarland on Monday night.
Mike Garafolo of NFL Media reports that the team is signing running back Godwin Igwebuike to their active roster. Igwebuike has been on the Falcons practice squad.
Igwebuike has also played for the Seahawks, Lions, Buccaneers, and 49ers. He has 21 carries for 122 yards and a touchdown along with eight catches for 63 yards.
QBs: Mitchell Trubisky, Mason Rudolph, Kenny Pickett
RBs: Najee Harris, Jaylen Warren, Anthony McFarland Jr.
WRs: George Pickens, Diontae Johnson, Allen Robinson, Calvin Austin III, Miles Boykin
TEs: Pat Freiermuth, Darnell Washington
San Francisco 49ersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 19 September 2023
For the fifth straight regular-season game with Brock Purdy as their starting quarterback, the San Francisco 49ers scored at least 30 points in a victory.
As ESPN.com's Nick Wagoner reported, the Niners posted a hard-earned 30-23 victory over the Los Angeles Rams as the offense racked up 365 yards, including 159 on the ground. And yet, in the aftermath of their second victory to open the season, this star-studded San Francisco offense found itself focused not on what it did on Sunday but what it didn't.
"We're gonna watch this hard, we know [coach] Kyle [Shanahan] is going to come down on us hard," receiver Deebo Samuel said. "We missed a lot of opportunities out there. I feel like we left like four touchdowns out there."
To be sure, Wagoner went on to acknowledge, the 49ers' offense remains one of the highest-powered units in the league. With Purdy playing point guard and distributing the ball to the likes of Samuel, receiver Brandon Aiyuk, tight end George Kittle and running back Christian McCaffrey, 30 points seems like the minimum expectation. But when Purdy goes through the film of Sunday's win, he's undoubtedly going to lament the throws he missed.
A deep ball down the right sideline to Aiyuk. One over the middle to wideout Jauan Jennings. Another deep throw down the left side for Samuel. All incomplete. All overthrown. They're the throws that can transform a really good offense into a great one.
"Those are on me," said Purdy, who denied that the misses had anything to do with his surgically repaired right elbow. "I've got to do better. I've got to hit them in stride and not overthrow them. It's as simple as that. ... That's what you've got to do as an NFL quarterback, and I put that on myself."
As Wagoner suggested, if it seems like Purdy is being a bit hard on himself, it's because he is.
Sunday was Purdy's 10th career start and seventh in the regular season. He's undefeated in those in-season starts, making him the seventh quarterback of the Super Bowl era to win his first seven career regular-season starts. Along the way, there have been few hiccups from a performance perspective, as he posted multiple touchdown passes and a passer rating of 95.0 or better in each of the previous six. That streak ended Sunday, but Purdy made up for it in other ways.
Purdy finished with a passer rating of 93.1, going 17-of-25 for 206 yards with no touchdown passes or interceptions. He also rushed for a touchdown. The Niners and Purdy found solace in that turnover number on their path to victory. Most notably, Purdy continues to take care of the ball.
Including the playoffs, Purdy has just two interceptions and two lost fumbles in his 10 starts. That continued Sunday in a game in which Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford threw a pair of picks that played a significant role in the Niners' victory.
"The main thing he did today was protect the ball," Shanahan said of Purdy. "Besides those three misses, which none of them were easy, he took care of the football, didn't give them a chance to touch it, but when he was under duress, he was smart."
Against the Rams, Purdy also showed off an ability to adeptly handle quarterback sneaks. That might seem like a small thing, but Jimmy Garoppolo did it nearly flawlessly in his five-plus years in San Francisco, as Shanahan could dial it up in any short-yardage situation and come away with a first down or touchdown. Purdy hasn't had many previous opportunities but delivered in a key moment Sunday.
Trailing 17-10 with one second left in the first half, Shanahan called for a quarterback sneak from inside the Rams' 1. Purdy plowed in for a much-needed tying score as the Rams were set to get the ball first in the third quarter. Purdy said Garoppolo never revealed his secret to success, but it has been a topic among him and his teammates.
"We always try to figure it out, like what does Jimmy do so good on QB sneaks?" Purdy said. "He just found little creases and whatnot and got his shoulder pads down and found a way. That was really about it. I don't think there was necessarily a secret to it or anything. ... I learned a couple things, but he never really told me."
That Purdy didn't have his best game and the Niners still found a way to win is no small thing. Wins are hard to come by, and divisional victories carry a bit of extra weight. Missed deep balls aside, the Niners will take Purdy's Sunday performance every week.
Still, it's fair to wonder what it might look like if it all comes together.
"I'm always extremely irritated when we don't score," Shanahan said. "It's always frustrating. You expect to score. That's how you try to attack. That's what our players expect. We've got a bunch of guys who can make plays. ... Hopefully we got a little bit better this week and it will continue throughout the year. ..."
Meanwhile, as Associated Press sports writer Josh Dubow pointed out this week, the running game is just fine.
McCaffrey followed his 152-yard rushing game in the opener with 116 more yards in Week 2. His 268 yards rushing are the most for any player through two games since DeMarco Murray had 285 in 2014 and the second most in franchise history.
McCaffrey reached a top speed of 20.92 mph on his 51-yard run against the Rams, which was McCaffrey's fastest speed as a ball-carrier since Week 8 of the 2019 season.
He has scored at least one TD in 11 straight games, including the playoffs -- one shy of Jerry Rice's franchise record.
It brings up a point. ... The 49ers shuffled a lot of running backs in and out of the lineup before they traded for McCaffrey last year, but his arrival has led to a change in the way they divvy up playing time.
McCaffrey took the lion's share of the snaps with the 49ers last year and he's taken almost all of them this year. Elijah Mitchell played 10 snaps in the season opener and did not get on the field at all during Sunday's win over the Rams. McCaffrey played all 57 offensive snaps and Shanahan said on Monday that he needs to do a better job of making sure Mitchell is in the mix.
"Yeah, we definitely got to get Elijah in there more and do better with our rotation than we did yesterday," Shanahan said. "That wasn't the plan going in. It just ended up that way, and I got to make sure that doesn't happen."
It is a short week for the Niners before Thursday's game against the Giants and that could make it easier to remember to spread the work around, but having a back with McCaffrey's skills does make it more difficult to pull him off the field. ...
After a shaky preseason, rookie kicker Jake Moody is showing why the Niners picked him in the third round. He made all three field goals and all three extra-point tries for a second straight week. He's the fifth kicker since the merger to make at least six field goals and six extra points without a miss in his first two games and joined Justin Tucker as the only ones to do it in the last 30 seasons.
Moody also showed off his big leg, making a 57-yarder that was the second longest in franchise history. ...
On the injury front. ... Aiyuk injured his left shoulder early in Sunday's victory over the Rams. He battled through to play 30 of 57 snaps.
The team estimated Aiyuk as a non-participant Monday, but Shanahan said Aiyuk would get in limited work Tuesday.
According to Jack Hammer of the Santa Rosa Press Democrat, Aiyuk had a CT scan Monday that revealed no break in his clavicle area.
Aiyuk has 11 catches for 172 yards and two touchdowns this season.
Cornerback Ambry Thomas (knee) will remain a limited participant Tuesday, Shanahan said. Thomas played 14 snaps on defense and two snaps on special teams in Sunday's win.
I'll have more on Aiyuk via Late-Breaking Update in advance of Thursday night's game.
QBs: Brock Purdy, Sam Darnold, Brandon Allen
RBs: Christian McCaffrey, Elijah Mitchell, Jordan Mason, Kyle Juszczyk
WRs: Brandon Aiyuk, Deebo Samuel, Jauan Jennings, Ray-Ray McCloud, Ronnie Bell, Danny Gray
TEs: George Kittle, Charlie Woerner, Brayden Willis, Ross Dwelley, Cameron Latu
Seattle SeahawksCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 19 September 2023
As ESPN.com's Brady Henderson reported, Geno Smith shrugged off a bad mistake to lead a 75-yard drive in overtime, capping it with a touchdown pass to Tyler Lockett that gave the Seattle Seahawks a 37-31 win over the Detroit Lions at a raucous Ford Field on Sunday.
The Seahawks' victory avoided a 0-2 start and marked a swift turnaround from their blowout loss at home in the opener.
To hear coach Pete Carroll and several of his players tell it, that bounce back began Wednesday.
With a fiery speech from Bobby Wagner.
With the music cut and the entire team gathered around him before practice, the veteran middle linebacker and defensive co-captain delivered a pep talk that was laced with F-bombs and centered around the idea of putting their lousy performance in Week 1 behind them.
Wagner's message proved relevant to Smith, who was mostly brilliant save for his final play of regulation.
The Seahawks had built a 10-point lead in the fourth quarter after a pick-six from cornerback Tre Brown before the Lions answered with a touchdown drive that cut Seattle's lead to 31-28. With Seattle facing a third-and-18 from its own 20 just ahead of the two-minute warning, Smith scrambled to avoid pressure -- and kept scrambling until he took a sack for a loss of 17 yards.
Smith said he was wary of throwing the ball away too early, thereby stopping the clock and leaving too much time for Detroit.
"In hindsight," he said, "just throw the ball away."
After the Lions took over at midfield and kicked the tying field goal to send the game to overtime, Seattle won the toss to give Smith an immediate chance at redemption. He completed 6 of 7 passes for 69 yards on the winning drive, capping it with his second TD pass of the day to Lockett.
"Geno's always an adversity killer," receiver DK Metcalf said. "He's always had his head on straight, he's always motivated to go out there and make a big play. That's just him. I'm not surprised at all at what he did."
The Seahawks were 4.5-point underdogs Sunday, playing with backups at both tackle spots and facing a Lions team that was well-rested and riding high coming off their season-opening road win over the defending champion Kansas City Chiefs. Seattle also had to contend with the ear-splitting noise at Ford Field in what was billed as the biggest Lions game in years.
Despite that, left tackle Stone Forsythe and right tackle Jake Curhan -- playing because of injuries to Charles Cross and Abe Lucas -- held up better than anyone could have expected. The only official quarterback hit Smith took was on his sack.
"I think they may have silenced some people," Smith said of Forsythe and Curhan, both third-year players.
Smith finished 32-of-41 for 328 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. Take away one poor decision that led to a sack late in regulation and Smith was terrific.
According to Associated Press sports writer Tim Booth, Seattle's passing game was smartly constructed to limit the amount of pressure Smith would be under while also giving him some intermediate shots downfield. He distributed the ball to nine different targets, including all three tight ends and both running backs. He was 6 of 7 in overtime, including Lockett's game-ending 6-yard TD catch, his second of the game.
Smith was 19-of-22 passing for 189 yards and two TDs hen targeting receivers outside of the numbers in Detroit. Smith targeted receivers outside of the numbers on 57.5 percent of his targets, his highest rate in a game as a Seahawk. The deep passing game has been absent -- Seattle has two pass plays of longer than 25 yards through two games.
But the intermediate throws that were successful against the Lions should turn into more downfield opportunities in the future.
Beyond that, the Seahawks got two rushing touchdowns from Kenneth Walker III and gained 393 yards, finding their rhythm on offense after hitting a wall in the second half of their 30-13 loss to the Los Angeles Rams in Week 1.
"We needed this badly," Carroll said. "We know what happened last week."
It was also a bounce back performance by Seattle's defense, which couldn't get off the field or get any pressure on Matthew Stafford in the opener. The Seahawks forced three turnovers Sunday, stopped the Lions twice on fourth down and recorded a pair of sacks on Jared Goff.
Seattle will host Carolina for the second straight season on Sunday. The Panthers beat the Seahawks 30-24 in Week 14 last year. Smith threw two interceptions and the Seahawks held the ball for just 21 minutes. This will be the 12th meeting between the teams since Carroll arrived in 2010, playoffs included. Seattle is 8-3 in that span. ...
Other notes of interest. ... If there was worry that Zach Charbonnet's second-round selection might prove a significant hindrance to Walker's fantasy prospects in 2023, ESPN.com's Tristan Cockroft notes we haven't seen it yet.
Walker handled 17 of the team's 22 running back carries on Sunday, including five of the six in goal-to-go situations, and has played 63 percent of the offensive snaps to Charbonnet's 27 percent in the first two games.
The Seahawks have a clear preference for Walker in scoring situations, and he brings the requisite speed to make a difference between the 20s, too, as he did in scoring a solid 18 PPR fantasy points in Week 2. ...
Jason Myers was the picture of consistency last season when he made 34 of 37 field goals, including all six attempts from 50 yards or longer. This year, he's missed three of his last four kicks -- from 39 yards in Week 1 and from 45 and 56 yards on Sunday.
Myers signed a four-year contract extension after last season, but his performance needs to improve. ...
On the injury front. ... Metcalf briefly left Sunday's win with a rib injury, but was able to return, while cornerback Riq Woolen left the game with a chest injury and did not return.
A day later, Carroll said Woolen is "Still pretty sore. He's sore today, and we're just one day at a time. There's nothing that we need to do other than just treat him and see if he can make it back. We'll take it one day at a time."
As for Metcalf, Carroll said, "He had a pretty good day. Still sore, but he had a pretty good day. He was upbeat today. He needs tomorrow, he needs Wednesday, he's going to need a couple of days to get this thing quieted down."
I'll have more on Metcalf via Late-Breaking Update as the week progresses.
QBs: Geno Smith, Drew Lock
RBs: Kenneth Walker III, Zach Charbonnet, DeeJay Dallas, Kenny McIntosh
WRs: DK Metcalf, Tyler Lockett, Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Jake Bobo, Cody Thompson, Dareke Young
TEs: Noah Fant, Will Dissly, Colby Parkinson
Tampa Bay BuccaneersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 19 September 2023
As Associated Press sports writer Fred Goodall reported, thanks to Baker Mayfield playing turnover-free ball and a defense that's reverted to its old stingy ways, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are off to a surprising 2-0 start.
A tough test awaits next Monday night when the defending NFC champion Philadelphia Eagles visit Raymond James Stadium, though, and the Bucs understand they'll need to play better than they did in victories over Minnesota and Chicago to stay unbeaten.
"It's always going to be positive when you're winning and you're undefeated. We're going to take that," star receiver Mike Evans said. "It's two ugly wins, but we love those. We love winning."
With Mayfield doing a terrific job of taking care of the ball and the defense seemingly back on track after not being as reliable as usual a year ago, the Bucs are showing they're capable of being successful without Tom Brady.
Despite losing the seven-time Super Bowl winner to retirement, Tampa Bay is the only team in the NFL to start 2-0 each of the past three seasons.
Mayfield, who's with his fourth team in just over two years, is a big reason why.
The 28-year-old quarterback has completed 69 percent of his passes for 490 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions. His 104.4 passer rating is the highest he's had through the first two weeks of a season.
Turnovers undermined Mayfield in previous stops with the Cleveland Browns, Carolina Panthers and Los Angeles Rams. Since joining Tampa Bay on a one-year contract that could be worth up to $8.5 million, the Bucs don't have a single giveaway.
"He's been through a lot in five years. He's been through ups and downs," head coach Todd Bowles said of Mayfield, the No. 1 overall pick from the 2018 draft. "He knows it's not about him. It's about the team. He's being very smart with the football."
Meanwhile, a rejuvenated defense that has been among the best in the league at stopping the run and forcing turnovers under Bowles is regaining some of the swagger it lost a year ago.
The Bucs had eight sacks and five takeaways while only yielding 54 yards per game rushing against the Vikings and Bears. The only team that's allowed fewer yards on the ground are the Eagles (52) during Philadelphia's 2-0 start.
So, what's changed on that side of the ball?
"I think the guys sacrificed for each other. We know what our formula is to win on defense. ... I'm not saying we've arrived because we definitely have not. It's a good start," Bowles said, noting it would be premature to conclude anything beyond that.
"It's Week 2. We've got a lot of room to grow on offense. We've got a lot of room to grow all the way around," the coach added. "We've won two ballgames. It can go south real quick."
But it'll continue going well if Mayfield continues his stellar play on third down.
He was 12 of 13 passing for 141 yards and one touchdown on third down during Sunday's 27-17 win over the Bears. Overall, he's completed 87 percent of his passes (20 of 23) on third down for 201 yards and two TDs.
So can the Bucs continue to win with Mayfield?
They'll be tested the next two weeks with two top-five defenses from last season on deck: with the Eagles on Monday night and the Saints in Week 4. Monday night will be their first meeting with the Eagles since defeating them in a NFC wild-card playoff game at home two years ago.
The Bucs also beat Jalen Hurts on the road during the 2021 regular season. ...
They'll need to improve on some aspects of their game to hold up against the Eagles.
ESPN.com's Jenna Lane notes that while the Bucs' offense moved the ball much better this week and showed a substantial improvement on third down -- a point of emphasis for OC Dave Canales -- they were 1-for-4 on trips to the red zone, so they left a lot of scoring opportunities.
In addition, while the running game has shown signs of improvement, the Bucs only averaged 3.5 yards per carry while gaining 120 yards on the ground against the Bears. Still, Bowles noted once again the number of carries (34) is almost as important as the yardage gained as the offense strives to win time of possession.
"We're going to do whatever we have to do to win the game," Bowles said. "I'm not sitting here saying we're hellbent on getting 150 yards rushing a game. We rushed it efficiently. That's what we're looking for, that's what we got."
Also of interest. ... The Buccaneers didn't award Evans a new contract prior to the Sept. 9 deadline he and agent Deryk Gilmore set, but his play against the Bears certainly made a case for it.
Evans finished with eight catches for 171 receiving yards and a touchdown, his 10th career game with 150 or more receiving yards. It moved him out of a three-way tie with Tyreek Hill and T.Y. Hilton for most games of 150 or more receiving yards since 2014.
Evans' touchdown catch from Mayfield came in the third quarter on a go route in which Evans sprinted 32 yards downfield and dove backwards into the end zone, with safety Jaquan Brisker and cornerback Tyrique Stevenson converging on him.
There was also a 36-yard catch and run where Evans leapt up to catch the ball and spun his way around safety Elijah Hicks to avoid a tackle, and a 20-yard reception on third-and-11.
"He's been doing this for a long time at a high level. You saw a couple contested catches there and just plays after the catch, as well," Mayfield said. " It was kind of either throw it out of bounds or [throw an] only-he-can-get-it play there on the left sideline, their sideline, and he takes it the rest of the way."
Evans also had a spectacular 70-yard catch-and-run to set up running back Rachaad White's 4-yard touchdown in which Evans hit 20.68 miles per hour on the play.
"That catch and run going toward the ship - he's just a stud," Mayfield said. "He's the best go-ball runner versus off-coverage in the league. That's where that touchdown was, off-corner. He just closes that space so quickly and accelerates. We're lucky to have him."
Through two weeks, Evans has now caught 12 of 20 targets for 237 yards, with a touchdown reception in each game.
The people of X, the social network formerly known as Twitter, took notice. After the game, "Pay Mike Evans" was one of the top trending sports topic on the site. ...
In a related note. ... Chris Godwin extended his streak of consecutive games with at least five receptions to a franchise-best 16. ...
Finally, on the injury front.... Bowles said it's too early to say whether CB Carlton Davis III, who missed Sunday's game with a toe injury, will be able to play against the Eagles. The status of rookie DL Calijah Kancey (calf) is up in the air, too.
QBs: Baker Mayfield, Kyle Trask
RBs: Rachaad White, Chase Edmonds, Sean Tucker, Ke'Shawn Vaughn
WRs: Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, Trey Palmer, Kaylon Geiger, Deven Thompkins, Rakim Jarrett, Russell Gage
TEs: Cade Otton, Ko Kieft, Payne Durham
Tennessee TitansCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 19 September 2023
Coming off a three-interception performance and arguably one of the worst outings of his career in a Week 1 loss to the New Orleans Saints, Week 2 couldn't come fast enough for Tennessee Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill.
Sunday against the Los Angeles Chargers didn't get off to a very different start, as Tannehill had just 11 passing yards in the first quarter, his second-fewest in a first quarter since the start of 2022. But thanks to a second-quarter turnaround and eventual 27-24 overtime win, Tannehill made it clear he is still QB1 in Nashville.
The Chargers sacked Tannehill two times before midway through the second quarter when he uncorked a deep play-action pass that dropped perfectly into wide receiver Treylon Burks' hands for a 70-yard completion. Running Back Derrick Henry punched it in for a 1-yard touchdown two plays later.
"I told Tanny, 'Man, you're our quarterback, and I believe in you. We've got your back,'" Titans defensive tackle Jeffery Simmons said after the game.
As ESPN.com's Turron Davenport notes, Tannehill hung in the pocket, staring down the barrel of the Chargers' blitz-heavy defense and delivered the ball to his receivers. He drew two roughing the passer calls, one of which came on a third down when Tannehill found receiver DeAndre Hopkins for a 7-yard gain to move the chains despite Chargers linebacker Kenneth Murray Jr.'s direct hit to his face.
"That's what Ryan's done," head coach Mike Vrabel said. "He's one of the tougher players on our team. He stood in there and got the s--- knocked out of him a couple times late. I respect the heck out of it, and he kept battling."
Tannehill was 20 of 24 passing for 246 yards and one touchdown. He saw a lot more success off of play-action, going 7-for-9 for 168 yards and one touchdown. Against the Saints, he was 3-of-10 for 65 yards and an interception on such throws, according to ESPN's Stats and Information. Equally as important? The Titans didn't turn the football over.
Henry knew Tannehill was going to respond well because the quarterback worked hard all week. Henry felt "high energy" from his QB.
Tannehill said watching last week's film made him sick to his stomach, so getting support gave him a boost.
"It means a lot," Tannehill said. "I knew I was going to bounce back this week, but it's nice to feel that support from your teammates throughout the week."
After failing to score a touchdown in three red-zone visits against the Saints, Tennessee found the end zone on three of four times inside the 20-yard line this week. One of those touchdowns came on a 12-yard run by Tannehill on an option play. Another came on a play-action pass to receiver Nick Westbrook-Ikhine for a 4-yard score.
The Titans' confidence in Tannehill paid off when it mattered the most. Tannehill's 34 passing yards on the team's final drive accounted for almost all the 37 yards Tennessee gained on the possession. A well-placed strike from Tannehill to Hopkins while rolling out got the Titans to the Chargers' 23-yard line. Nick Folk came on to kick a 41-yard field goal to give the Titans an overtime win a few plays later.
The defense had Tannehill's back, as Simmons put it. Tennessee forced the Chargers to punt the ball after three quick plays in overtime, and the offense was able to answer the call.
"That's a hell of a job to go down, on a drive, and get a field goal at the end," Simmons said.
In the end, the Titans avoided an 0-2 start for a second straight season. The Titans hadn't won since Nov. 17, finishing last season on a seven-game skid that turned a 7-3 record and what seemed like a third straight AFC South title into an early finish and a slew of changes that included firing a GM and hiring a new general manager.
The skid extended to eight games with a one-point, season-opening loss in New Orleans.
Now the Titans are eager to see what they can do moving forward after scoring their most points since that last win in Green Bay.
"Beats losing," Vrabel said Monday. ...
Next up, the Titans will see the Ohio teams, starting Sunday visiting Cleveland with the Browns coming off a short week after playing at Pittsburgh on Monday night. Then Tennessee returns home to host the winless Cincinnati Bengals for the Titans' lone home game over the next four weeks.
For what it's worth, this week will be the third-straight game that the Titans will take on a team missing it's top running back after Nick Chubb suffered a seasons-ending injury in Pittsburgh. Tennessee also missed out on the suspended Alvin Kamara in their Week 1 game against the Saints and Austin Ekeler was out with an ankle injury when they took on the Chargers on Sunday. ...
The Titans also have gone 18 straight games without allowing a 100-yard rusher, and they lead the NFL with eight consecutive games not allowing an opponent to run for 100 yards. ...
How can they keep their roll going on offense?
NFL.com's Michael Baca believes they should take more chances.
Against the Chargers, two of Tannehill's completions came on big plays by Burks (the aforementioned 70 yard pass) and Chris Moore (49 yards), which accounted for nearly half of his passing yards, and everything else came in short, safe throws that seemed to give the Chargers defense little worry. Baca contends taking more chances down field could aid Henry and the rushing attack. ...
On the injury front. ... Rookie OG Peter Skoronski likely will miss at least Sunday's game in Cleveland as he recovers from what Vrabel called a "procedure." Starting safety Amani Hooker remains in the concussion protocol and CB Kristian Fulton is working his way back from a hamstring issue that sidelined him against the Chargers.
QBs: Will Levis, Ryan Tannehill, Malik Willis
RBs: Derrick Henry, Tyjae Spears, Julius Chestnut
WRs: DeAndre Hopkins, Treylon Burks, Nick Westbrook_Ikhine, Kyle Philips, Colton Dowell, Chris Moore
TEs: Chigoziem Okonkwo, Josh Whyle, Trevon Wesco
Washington CommandersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 19 September 2023
As ESPN.com's John Keim framed it: "The Washington Commanders found themselves with a new owner this summer. Now, after two games, they find themselves with a new outlook. ..."
The Commanders are 2-0 for the first time in 12 years after their best comeback since 2015, when then-quarterback Kirk Cousins shouted, "You like that!?" after rallying from 24 down.
Sunday, Washington rallied from a 21-3 deficit to beat the Denver Broncos 35-33, after defending a 2-point conversion on the game's final play.
Washington rallied for the second time this season after doing so in the opener vs. Arizona, though that was only a six-point second-half deficit. The franchise has not started 3-0 since 2005, also the last season it won a playoff game. Washington hosts the Buffalo Bills on Sunday.
It was Washington's biggest road comeback win since a 21-point rally in 1990 vs. Detroit.
The Commanders fell behind by 18 points with nine minutes, seven seconds left in the second quarter. It nearly got worse after the Commanders allowed a 45-yard punt return to their 40-yard line. But on second-and-15, linebacker Jamin Davis forced a fumble of Broncos quarterback Russell Wilson that was recovered by linebacker Cody Barton. That led to Washington's first touchdown.
After that point, Washington outscored Denver 32-6 -- until the Broncos scored on a Hail Mary pass on the final play of the game.
"It really tells them they are capable," said head coach Ron Rivera, who received a game ball from owner Josh Harris after his 100th career regular-season victory. "They stick to it, they stick to it. The crazy part is we were kind of waiting for something good to happen, and when Jamin got the [fumble] that really gave us a bit of a jolt."
Washington has outscored its opponents 34-15 in the second half.
"It was a tough and grueling camp, but we knew it would prepare us for the fourth quarter," said Washington receiver Terry McLaurin, who caught a 30-yard touchdown pass. "I'm proud of the way we finished. We have to get off to a better start."
That was the flip side for Rivera as well. While it's nice to post consecutive comebacks, it's a tough way to live.
"We gained momentum when we got the takeaways," Rivera said. "That's one of the things our guys have to understand, that we are opportunistic. We just have to make sure we can create earlier. That way it won't be as much of a struggle."
It was also quarterback Sam Howell's first road start -- and win. He's now 3-0 as a starter dating back to last year's regular-season finale. Howell finished strong, completing 8 of 9 passes for 121 yards and a touchdown in the second half. He threw for 299 yards and two touchdowns overall.
As Associated Press sports writer Stephen Whyno pointed out, new offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy mixed things up to get Howell some easy completions and put the ball in the hands of playmakers like McLaurin, Curtis Samuel and Antonio Gibson.
"We were kind of rolling on offense," Howell said. "We were doing some good things on the ground and in the air. We opened up the screen game in the second half, and that was big for us. I think the screen game was one of the main things that won us this game."
At times early in the game he and the protection struggled with Denver's defense. But he led Washington to points on five of its last six possessions -- and the lone failure was a 59-yard missed field goal.
"When a guy can maintain that poise in front of his teammates, I think that really helps him," Rivera said. "And it's like he's unflappable and he really handles it very, very well. It was exciting to see him do some of the things that he did today. Those are things we're going to build on."
The defense faces its biggest test yet this weekend when Josh Allen and the Buffalo Bills come to town fresh off a 38-10 thrashing of the Raiders. ...
Robinson rushed for 87 yards and one touchdown, displaying the power and quick feet Washington liked when it drafted him in the third round last year. The backs were also involved in the screen game. Robinson caught two passes for 42 yards while Gibson added three for 44 yards.
But it was Robinson's 26 PPR points against Denver paced all running backs on Sunday. And ESPN.com's Matt Bowen believes we saw the traits that translate to run game production. Remember, Robinson is a downhill runner with straight-line juice and power. With volume and red zone carries, Robinson can produce numbers in the lineup. He saw 18 total carries in this one, with two red zone rushing scores.
And while Robinson isn't a dynamic receiving threat, he caught two passes for 42 yards. With a tough Week 3 matchup versus the Bills, Robinson will be in the RB2/Flex range. ...
Kicker Joey Slye missed two of his four field-goal attempts at Denver, going wide right from 49 and 59 yards. But part of the problem on special teams has been a rough start by long snapper Camaron Cheeseman, who soon may be out of a job. Washington this week is working out some potential replacements for the struggling 2021 sixth-round pick.
On the injury front. ... Tight end Logan Thomas is in concussion protocol after a helmet-to-helmet hit on his touchdown catch by Kareem Jackson, which got the Broncos safety ejected. I'll have more on his status via Late-Breaking Update in coming days.
QBs: Sam Howell, Jacoby Brissett
RBs: Brian Robinson Jr., Antonio Gibson, Chris Rodriguez
WRs: Terry McLaurin, Jahan Dotson, Curtis Samuel, Dyami Brown, Jamison Crowder, Byron Pringle, Mitchell Tinsley
TEs: Logan Thomas, Cole Turner, John Bates