Team Notes Week 4 2017

By Bob Harris
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NEWS, NOTES, RUMORS AND OTHER GOOD STUFF

Directly from the desk of FlashUpdate Editor Bob Harris. The good; the bad; and yes. ... Even the Bears. There is no better way to jump start your weekend than browsing these always educational -- often irreverent -- team-by-team, Fantasy-specific offerings. ...
Access specific teams by clicking on a team name in the schedule appearing directly to your left or by clicking on a helmet below; return to the helmets by hitting the link labeled "Menu" following each teams notes. ...

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Arizona Cardinals

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 26 September 2017

As the team's official website noted, when he was in a rhythm, quarterback Carson Palmer was excellent on Monday night against the Cowboys, but those moments were too few and far between as the game moved along.

After a hot start, the Cardinals' offense slowed down considerably the final three quarters, in large part due to below average protection. Palmer was sacked six times and pressured many more, limiting a passing game which was finally finding its footing.

"We had guys open at times and just didn't get them because we couldn't throw the ball," head coach Bruce Arians said.

The coach was pleased with Palmer, however.

"I don't think our quarterback could have played any better," Arians said of the veteran signal caller after the game. "He was lights-out from the start to finish. Even getting hit that many times, he moved his feet great. He was sound around the pocket."

He added: "This is the best I've seen him in about two or three years."

While Arians didn't lay blame on individual players, the right side of the line, featuring Evan Boehm and Jared Veldheer, seemed like the weak link for a second straight week. Cowboys defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence had three sacks and six quarterback hits, and he was often lined up against Veldheer.

Veldheer is a veteran who found a lot of success at left tackle in the past but is struggling after a position switch.

"I need to block my guy," Veldheer said. "It doesn't matter where I am. My job is to block the guy."

Palmer finished the game 29-of-48 passing for 325 yards and two touchdowns, but there were times when the offense became stagnant because he was either sacked or threw the ball away. Left tackle D.J. Humphries and left guard Mike Iupati didn't play in the games due to injuries, which also contributed to the struggles.

"We will keep working," Palmer said.

If there's any good news, GM Steve Keim said it's that Humphries and Iupati might be ready to come back and play this Sunday against the visiting 49ers.

Arians didn't sound so sure about that.

"I'll believe it when I see it," he said. "All those guys that have missed (time), I want to see them out there in practice at a very high level before I think they can play in this game. ..."

Meanwhile, the Palmer to Larry Fitzgerald connection was on point against the Cowboys.

As ESPN.com's Josh Weinfuss put it, "On Monday night, with the eyes of the NFL -- and the nation -- on the game, Fitzgerald turned in one of the best performances of his career, tying a career-high with 13 catches for 149 yards and a touchdown."

It was Fitzgerald's first time with at least 10 catches, 100 yards and a touchdown since Week 17 of the 2010 season in San Francisco.

"That's Fitz," Arians said. "That's Monday night. He's a Monday player. It was a great performance by him. It's a shame we couldn't play better around him."

Weinfuss went on to suggest that when Palmer and Fitzgerald are in sync, the offense finds a rhythm. It moves. It opens up for other players. When Palmer has to look elsewhere, things change. While Palmer completed 13 of 15 passes to Fitzgerald, he completed 16 of 33 passes to everyone else Monday night. He averaged 9.9 yards per attempt to Fitzgerald and 5.3 to everyone else.

At times, despite Palmer and Fitzgerald being on the same page, they didn't get help from their own teammates.

After Palmer threw to Fitzgerald five times on Arizona's second drive of the game, Phil Dawson missed a 36-yard field goal attempt.

But when Fitzgerald and Palmer were on, there were few things inside University of Phoenix Stadium that could slow either one. They connected on Palmer's first 11 attempts to Fitzgerald, including a 15-yard touchdown to tie the game at 14 in the third quarter. On that drive, two of the three plays were to Fitzgerald. But Fitzgerald didn't think he was in for a big day based on his early production.

"I don't think it has anything to do with it," Fitzgerald said. "Usually, my numbers are scripted calls early in games. Like last week, the Colts played schemes where it wasn't capable to get opportunities, and that just happens from time to time. That is just ball.

"Sometimes you are going to have some looks and other times it is just not there."

They were there plenty on Monday night. ...

As NFL.com notes, with a relatively friendly slate of games coming up against the 49ers, Eagles, Buccaneers, Rams and 49ers again, the Cardinals could easily slip back into contention and make us forget about their disappointing 2016 season. Arians thinks Palmer is already well on his way to doing so. ...

In a related note. ... According to ESPN, Palmer's 100th touchdown pass with the Cardinals made him just the fourth quarterback in league history with triple-digit touchdown passes with two different teams. Palmer also threw 154 touchdowns with the Bengals. The other three were Kurt Warner (102 with the Rams and 100 with the Cardinals), Fran Tarkenton (239 with the Vikings and 103 with the Giants) and Peyton Manning (399 with the Colts and 140 Broncos). ...

Other notes of interest. ... As Profootballtalk.com framed it: "Three things became clear on Monday night when the Cardinals had the ball: (1) Fitzgerald is still great; (2) the Arizona offensive line isn't; and (3) the team really misses David Johnson.

They won't have David Johnson for a while. For now, Chris Johnson will remain the starter.

That's what Arians said Tuesday, via Darren Urban of the team's official website.

Johnson had 17 yards on 12 carries against the Cowboys. Andre Ellington had 22 on five attempts, adding 59 yards on five catches (while Johnson had one catch, for four yards).

While Johnson will be the starter, Arians admitted the veteran looked "a little rusty" against the Cowboys and the coach hinted that Ellington might see more time in the backfield this Sunday against the visiting 49ers.

"Andre looked very much more comfortable. I thought Andre looked very fast in the game," Arians said.

Asked if Ellington can be effective running between the tackles or if the player still projects more as a third-down back in passing situations, which is what he was when the season started, Arians said, "Andre's always been effective. When he was our guy, 80-yard runs were up the middle. We're not a perimeter running team anyways."

Beyond that, Kerwynn Williams had only one carry for three yards on Monday night. Those who made speculative free-agent plays for Williams should feel free to move on if need be. ...

Still dealing with a quad injury, John Brown worked out before Monday night's game, but his status for Sunday remains uncertain. I'll be following up via Late-Breaking Update as the week progresses. ...

And finally. ... Kicker Phil Dawson has missed three field-goal attempts in his first three games - a 32-yarder at Detroit in Week 1, a 42-yarder at Indianapolis in Week 2 and a 36-yarder on Monday night against Dallas.

Asked to explain what might be wrong with the 42-year-old veteran, Arians was perplexed.

"You'd have to ask Phil," Arians said Tuesday. "I'm not a kicking expert and I'm as shocked as anybody that he has three misses this year when he's only had three (misses) for like the last couple years."

Keim also weighed in on the subject during his weekly radio appearance on the team's flagship station:

"Well, like any other position, when you don't produce there's always concern," Keim said. "Now what gives me confidence is Phil's body of work, the fact that he's been such a consistent kicker for his entire career. But at the same time, it doesn't minimize that we have to be concerned with missing those types of kicks.

"So he's got to continue to improve and again, knowing Phil like I do, I'm sure he'll be back in here working this week to make sure that doesn't happen again."


DEPTH CHART
QBs: Drew Stanton, Blaine Gabbert
RBs: Kerwynn Williams, Elijhaa Penny
WRs: Larry Fitzgerald, John Brown, Jaron Brown, J.J. Nelson, Chad Williams
TEs: Jermaine Gresham, Troy Niklas, Ricky Seals-Jones

Atlanta Falcons

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 26 September 2017

Matt Ryan thought the Detroit Lions had just scored the go-ahead touchdown with seconds left in Sunday's game when Matthew Stafford found Golden Tate. Ryan even huddled with offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian about how to get down the field with eight seconds remaining in regulation and down 33-30.

Then the officials reviewed the place, reversed the touchdown, and ran 10 seconds off the clock, allowing the now 3-0 Falcons to walk off Ford Field with a puzzling 30-26 victory.

But it brings up some issues. ... As ESPN.com's Vaughn McClure reminded readers this week, Ryan said after a season-opening win at Chicago that the offense was still a work in progress.

That might still be the case.

McClure went on to explain Sunday's game was far from a flawless effort for Ryan and the offense. Ryan saw his nine-game streak without an interception end emphatically. He had three interceptions -- although not all were his fault -- after not having a single game last season when he threw multiple interceptions.

"It comes down to taking care of the football, for sure," Ryan said. "We talk about that all the time. When you're minus-three in the turnover differential, it's tough to overcome that. We were able to do that today, but that's certainly something that we have to clean up moving forward."

Couple those miscues with some late-game defensive lapses, including two surprising penalties on reigning NFC defensive player of the week Desmond Trufant on the Lions' final drive -- and the Falcons found themselves in a dogfight. They survived.

But not everything was bad on offense.

The Falcons, who averaged a league-best 33.8 points per game last season, did reach 30 points. Devonta Freeman did rush for 106 yards and a touchdown on 21 carries. Ryan spread the ball to seven different receivers, including a team-leading seven catches for 91 yards by Julio Jones, who was treated for a back injury late. And Taylor Gabriel's 40-yard catch-and-run touchdown showed why the speedy receiver is such a dangerous threat.

Ryan pointed to establishing the run as reason why Gabriel was able to break open for the score.

Ryan commended the offensive line for hanging in tough against a strong Lions defensive line, too, even if some of the penalties and Ryan's two sacks taken didn't appear to be all that great.

The Falcons' offense recorded a season high 428 total yards, including 151 yards on the ground, also a season high. It was the second straight game the Falcons had rushed for more than 125 yards.

The Falcons also had two scoring drives of 10 plays or more, and now have seven drives of 10 plays or more this season

"We took care of the job today," Ryan said. "That's what it means. We set out every week to try and be the best football team that we can be that week."

On to the next.

The question, of course, for the Falcons and fantasy owners, will be the Jones' health.

Head coach Dan Quinn said on Monday that Jones will be limited in practice this week. Quinn also said that he's not worried about having Jones on the field against the Bills in Week 4, although injuries -- especially back injuries -- can take a turn for the worse so his status could change over the course of the week.

I'll obviously have more via Late-Breaking Update in coming days. ...

Meanwhile, the Falcons will host the Buffalo Bills on Sunday before receiving the early bye week. After the bye, they will face the New England Patriots on the road in a rematch of Super Bowl LI, a game they led 28-3 before losing 34-28 in overtime.

"There's no doubt that we have to be better with the ball," Quinn said. ...

Other notes of interest. ... Freeman crossed the 100-yard mark for the first time this season. He also scored his fourth rushing touchdown of the season and 27th of his career. The Falcons are 16-2 when Freeman rushes for a touchdown. He finished the game with 21 carries for 106 yards.

Tevin Coleman delivered 89 yards from scrimmage despite being outsnapped 41 to 28. Given his production, Coleman remains a viable flex option. ...

Coleman and Freeman combined for 227 total yards against the Lions. That is the seventh time the duo has reached 200-plus combined yards and the team is 7-0 when the two running backs reach that mark.

Matt Bryant went three-for-three on field goals, including two 40-plus-yard field goals. Bryant is first in the league with eight made field goals.

Gabriel's touchdown was his first of the season. The 40-yard touchdown catch was Gabriel's sixth career touchdown of 30-plus yards and his seventh touchdown reception of 25-plus yards.

According to NFL.com's Matt Harmon, Sanu and Gabriel split the No. 2 duties today, as they both collected six targets and scored touchdowns. Harmon added: "If you're chasing one of these two for fantasy purposes, Sanu is the more consistent option. He was on the field for 85 percent of Atlanta's plays to 52 percent for Gabriel."


DEPTH CHART
QBs: Matt Ryan, Matt Schaub, Matt Simms
RBs: Devonta Freeman, Tevin Coleman, Terron Ward
WRs: Julio Jones, Mohamed Sanu, Taylor Gabriel, Justin Hardy, Nick Williams, Andre Roberts
TEs: Austin Hooper, Eric Saubert, Levine Toilolo

Baltimore Ravens

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 26 September 2017

Joe Flacco said the players didn't practice like zombies after their overseas flight, but as ESPN.com's Jamison Hensley wrote, "that's exactly what the team resembled in Sunday's 44-7 embarrassment against the Jacksonville Jaguars."

The Ravens looked slow and lost in their first game played outside the United States. The result: A loss that matches the worst margin of defeat in the Ravens' 21 years of existence and ranks as the second-worst loss in the 10-year history of the NFL international series (one point shy of the mark).

Even though the Ravens entered the game as one of the NFL's 10 undefeated teams, this Baltimore squad was far from perfect, giving up big plays on defense and sputtering on offense. Turnovers were the key in building a 2-0 start. But without forcing a turnover Sunday, Baltimore was simply a team that couldn't get the ball to its playmakers and paid the price for too many lapses in coverage.

How much did the 7 1/2-hour flight and five-hour time difference affect the Ravens?

"I don't know," head coach John Harbaugh said. "It doesn't really matter at this point."

Flacco finished with a career-low 28 passing yards, the fewest by any quarterback with at least 15 attempts in a game since Derek Anderson threw for 23 yards in 2009, according to ESPN Stats and Information. Flacco threw two interceptions and didn't complete a pass -- at least not to a Ravens player -- until there was 4:15 left in the second quarter.

"We kind of all traded turns making bad plays," said Flacco, who was 8-of-18 for a passer rating of 12.0. "That leads to big losses and bad football."

Flacco didn't complete a pass until midway through the second quarter, and that was to the Jaguars (an interception that led to Jacksonville's second touchdown of the game). His first connection with a Ravens receiver came four minutes before halftime.

Flacco's 8 yards passing in the first half tied for his fewest in the opening half of a game over his 10-year NFL career. This was the eighth time he has thrown for less than 35 yards in the first half, and all of those games resulted in losses.

Flacco didn't complete a pass that traveled more than 5 yards downfield, the first time in his career that has happened. He was 0-for-6 with two interceptions on such passes.

All of the blame can't be put on Flacco. With Marshal Yanda done for the season with an ankle injury, the Ravens have one remaining starter from last year (left tackle Ronnie Stanley) and the starting interior of the offensive line Sunday featured two undrafted rookies (guards James Hurst and Matt Skura) and a sixth-round pick (center Ryan Jensen). This factored into Flacco's getting pressured on eight of his 20 dropbacks.

An awful game like this will continue the narrative about how Flacco hasn't been the same since winning the Super Bowl in 2012. Over the last four-plus seasons, Flacco is tied for the fourth-most interceptions (43) and ranks 31st by averaging 6.7 yards per attempt.

The defense, which had given up 10 total points in the first two games, allowed that many on the Jaguars' first two drives and finished with the second-most points surrendered by the Ravens over the past 15 years. Even the special teams didn't go unscathed. With the Jaguars up 37-0 in the final minute of the third quarter, the Ravens watched Corey Grant take a fake punt and run 58 yards.

Hensley added this marked the fifth-most points allowed in franchise history and the sixth time in the Harbaugh era that Baltimore has been held to seven or fewer points.

"It's bad," wide receiver Jeremy Maclin said. "They out-executed us in every phase of the game. That's what happens in the National Football League when you don't come ready to play."

What has to be unnerving for the Ravens is this happened against a Jaguars team that had lost by 21 points a week ago. The Ravens will get a chance to prove where they stand the next two weeks, when they play host to their AFC North rival Pittsburgh Steelers and then travel to the Oakland Raiders.

"One loss or one win never defines a season," Harbaugh said. "What defines a season is how you respond to the adversity you face."

Remember, Flacco will be facing a Pittsburgh defense this week that has totaled 11 sacks (second most in the league) and allowed only two touchdown passes. After the line had trouble picking up blitzes in London, the Sports Xchange suggests the Steelers will be equally aggressive attacking Flacco. ...

Other notes of interest. ... Alex Collins, who was signed off the practice squad last week, continues to push for more playing time and finished with 82 yards rushing on nine carries. Starter Terrance West had 26 yards on six carries had a costly fumble.

That might cost him playing time next week against Pittsburgh.

"When you play well, you get more opportunities," Harbaugh said.

The running back rotation came as a bit of a surprise. West was questionable for the game and didn't practice until Friday. Javorius Allen was the presumptive lead back, but Collins got the hotter hand. Allen managed just 15 rush yards on eight carries and 13 yards on his five receptions. As NFL.com's Matt Franciscovich put it, "Rough go for anyone who started him but the silver lining is that he played 56 percent of the snaps."

The team's passing attack, as outlined above, wasn't productive. That Allen led the team in receiving tells the story there, although Ben Watson snagged the late touchdown from Ryan Mallett. Even that silver cloud came with a dark lining as Watson only got one more target than fellow tight end Nick Boyle.

For the record, Watson (calf) was limited in Wednesday's practice.


DEPTH CHART
QBs: Joe Flacco, Ryan Mallett, Dustin Vaughan
RBs: Terrance West, Javorius Allen, Danny Woodhead
WRs: Mike Wallace, Jeremy Maclin, Breshad Perriman, Chris Moore, Michael Campanaro, Kenny Bell
TEs: Ben Watson, Maxx Williams, Nick Boyle, Gavin Escobar

Buffalo Bills

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 26 September 2017

As ESPN.com's Mike Rodak framed it, "Trying to figure out Tyrod Taylor is like trying to tackle LeSean McCoy: Right when you think you have him pinned down, he darts off and leaves you in the dust. ..."

When McCoy, held to 21 yards on 14 carries, proved unusually easy for the Broncos to bottle up on Sunday, it was the Buffalo Bills quarterback who shook off one of his worst games in Week 2 to down the Broncos, 26-16, with one of the best performances of his career.

Taylor completed 20 of 26 passes for 213 yards, two touchdowns and a 126.0 QB rating -- the fourth best of his 32 games as Buffalo's starter. His 76.9 percent completion rate was his second best since joining the Bills, and 42.3 percent of his passes went for first downs, the fourth-highest rate in his Bills career.

"Tyrod responded in a major way today," McCoy said after the game. "And hey, if we've got to win like that, I'll bet my last dollar, and you know I'm a betting man. So if we've got to win like that with Tyrod, we can do that."

Making Taylor's afternoon more impressive?

He did it against a Broncos defense that entered Sunday with the NFL's lowest opposing quarterback rating (74.8) since the start of the 2015 season. Denver has two of the league's best cornerbacks in Chris Harris and Aqib Talib. And the Broncos were expected to use elite pass-rusher Von Miller to pressure Taylor, as Bills rookie Dion Dawkins manned the left tackle position in place of an injured Cordy Glenn.

Taylor was sacked four times on Sunday, but some of those were less the fault of the offensive line and more the product of Taylor leaving the pocket and trying to run.

As Rodak noted, continuing to deal with the August trade of his top receiver, Sammy Watkins, it was another remarkable bounce-back game for Taylor, who has a knack for quieting doubts about his starting status after each of his poor outings.

In his eight career games with the Bills in which he has posted a passer rating of less than 80, Taylor has responded the next week with a passer rating of at least 90.8, including six games with a rating of at least 100 and three with a rating over 110.

According to the Sports Xchange, Taylor said one of the reasons for the improvement in the passing game after two rather mundane weeks was that offensive coordinator Rick Dennison tried to create more opportunities for Taylor to move outside the pocket.

"Rick Dennison always has an open ear, even from my time working with him in Baltimore (when Taylor was a backup and Dennison was quarterbacks coach)," Taylor said. "This week, I talked with him about the things I have seen and that I liked, the things I felt we were good at."

Taylor struggles when he stays in the pocket. First of all, he's only 6-1 and that creates vision problems. Second, he's not very good at making quick and decisive choices and that sometimes leads to sacks. He's better when he can get outside, open his lanes of vision, and his mobility allows him to extend plays until someone comes open. And if no one does, he's one of the best in the league at scrambling for yardage.

Wide receiver Jordan Matthews, who caught three passes for 61 yards, said one of the biggest reasons for the Bills' lackluster passing game has been the opposition, and he has a point.

Even the Jets in Week 1 possess a pretty good defense, let alone Carolina and Denver.

"First of all, you've got to look at our first three games," Matthews said. "We played two teams that in the last two years have been to the Super Bowl. And then we've got another team next week (Atlanta) that's been to the Super Bowl recently.

"So, things aren't going to just be awesome."

Wide receiver Andre Holmes, who caught two passes for only six yards, including one on a deflected ball that he snatched in the end zone for a touchdown, said the receivers know they have been singled out by fans and media, and they had to tune out the criticism.

"That was just kind of an emphasis for the week, that we wanted to get the passing game going," Holmes said. "J-Matt (Matthews) early on in the week had said, 'Don't speak too soon on us receivers,' and that's just the kind of mindset we have.

"We've been in the league long enough to know what type of players we are and that we're good receivers. We never got down or anything. We just went out there and made plays. ..."

Things could get a bit easier this week, going up against Atlanta's more-generous defense. ...

Other notes of interest. ... While McCoy struggled once again on the ground, he salvaged the day for fantasy owners in PPR leagues by catching seven passes for 48 yards. Mike Tolbert out-rushed McCoy, totaling 41 yards on the ground. ...

Charles Clay caught six passes for 39 yards and a touchdown. He continues to be a trusted target for Taylor and a viable streaming tight end in all formats. ...

Wideout Zay Jones continues to struggle in his rookie season. He was held without a catch and dropped a touchdown pass at the goal line, though as mentioned above, the ball fortuitously caromed to Holmes who caught it for a touchdown. Jones has only three catches for 39 yards in three games.

Kicker Stephen Hauschka had a quite a day. He made all four of his field-goal attempts, including from 53 and 55 yards, as he scored 14 of Buffalo's 26 points. The performance earned him AFC Special Teams Player of the Week.

Hauschka had gotten off to a rocky start. He missed his first attempt, a 46-yarder against the Jets. Last week in Carolina he made a 45-yarder, but it caromed in off the upright. Against Denver, there were no issues as every kick was true.

"Kicking is about rhythm," he said. "I just feel more and more comfortable each game I'm here, learning this stadium, learning the winds. The ball was flying well. It was about 80 degrees, which it's like this a lot in Buffalo, right? It's like this in December, right?"


DEPTH CHART
QBs: Tyrod Taylor, Nathan Peterman
RBs: LeSean McCoy, Mike Tolbert, Joe Banyard, Taiwan Jones
WRs: Kelvin Benjamin, Zay Jones, Deonte Thompson, Andre Holmes, Corey Brown, Brandon Tate
TEs: Charles Clay, Nick O'Leary, Logan Thomas

Carolina Panthers

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 26 September 2017

Cam Newton proclaimed on Sunday that better things are ahead for the Carolina Panthers and their struggling offense.

He might be right, but it's hard to see how.

Newton can't seem to knock off the rust from offseason shoulder surgery, and being limited in practice -- as he was for three days last week (he also started this week with a limited session on Wednesday) -- doesn't help because he has no opportunity to get in a rhythm.

Pro Bowl tight end Greg Olsen is out at least another seven weeks with a broken foot that he suffered last week against the Buffalo Bills.

Pro Bowl center Ryan Kalil has missed consecutive games after waking up eight days ago with a mysterious "crick" in his neck. His brother, left tackle Matt Kalil, keeps giving up sacks in crucial situations, such as the third-and-4 from the opposition's 8-yard line on the first drive of Sunday's 34-13 loss to the New Orleans Saints.

And wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin on Sunday injured the same knee that ended his 2015 season in that year's training camp. Head coach Ron Rivera told reporters on Monday that Benjamin's MRI results "came back good" But the wideout was not on the field for Wednesday's practice and this is a situation we'll have to watch closely in coming days (I will be following along when Late-Breaking Updates commence early Thursday).

Rivera also said that Kalil (neck) is "doing a lot better," but his availability for Week 4's tilt with the Patriots remains a mystery for now.

Whatever the case, Newton isn't ready to give up on the season.

"Moving forward, there is no need to panic," Newton said. "There is no need to rush. There is no need to be up in arms about the situation. Should you be frustrated as a fan? Absolutely."

And as fantasy owners as well.

As ESPN.com's David Newton notes, we all had high expectations after spending the summer hearing how potent this offense would be with new weapons such as Christian McCaffrey (102 yards receiving against the Saints) and Curtis Samuel. Yet through the first three games, it has produced three touchdowns and eight field goals.

It went seven quarters without a touchdown from the third quarter of the opener at San Francisco to the third quarter against the Saints, when Cam Newton ran 3 yards for a score.

Newton has not gone through the normal full practice regimen as he comes off shoulder surgery from the spring. That lack of timing and precision seems more evident after a third game in a row without reaching the 230-yard mark in passing.

By the end of the setback in New Orleans, it wasn't even worth putting Newton back in the game, so Derek Anderson was at the quarterback controls for the last two series.

That was in part to preserve Newton.

"We didn't need to have him go out there and throw 10, 12 more balls," head coach Ron Rivera said. "Figured we get the shoulder a little bit of rest and start getting ready for New England."

Newton , though three of the throws were intercepted.

Newton shouldered the blame on Sunday -- as he should have -- for what he called a "lackluster performance." He threw 26 passes (completing 17, none of them for touchdowns) for 167 yards with three interceptions.

That's lackluster.

Newton has to play better. Next up is Tom Brady and the New England Patriots on the road. The Patriots on Sunday put up 36 points against a Houston Texans defense that ranked No. 1 in the NFL a year ago.

Brady had five touchdown passes, which in one game is three more than Newton has thrown in three outings.

Until Newton starts getting more time practicing during the week, the inconsistencies could continue. Rivera admitted it's "hard" to develop chemistry with the receivers when the trainers are resting Newton's shoulder.

Newton admitted it's "tough."

He also said he was ready to play and that Sunday's contest came down to letting the Saints off the hook by settling for field goals early.

Newton believes that will change, that "big things are ahead for us."

It's just hard to see how right now. ...

Other notes of interest. ... The Panthers put up some decent rushing numbers (6.6 yards per attempt), but those are deceptive. There were only 23 yards on the ground in the second half against New Orleans. McCaffrey had just four rushing attempts, though he was active in the passing attack.

The good news?

McCaffrey finally showed his explosiveness in a regular-season game. The best evidence was a 37-yard reception down the left sideline on which the eighth pick of the draft stretched his 5-11 frame out for the catch. Newton came right back to McCaffrey two plays later for an 11-yard pickup to the 3-yard line on which McCaffrey juked the first defender to pick up an additional 5 yards.

The former Stanford star had by far his most productive day, accounting for more than 100 yards of total offense. The Panthers were intent on getting McCaffrey the ball from the start, as evidenced by the running back catching two passes for 9 yards and gaining another 7 yards on a reverse.

With Olsen sidelined, Ed Dickson was the starter at tight end, but he wasn't much of a factor with one catch for 8 yards.

Newton said he takes responsibility for finding the answers and identifying other options during Olsen's absence, which will last at least a couple of months.

"It's up to me as the signal-caller to get the ball in the right positions and in the right peoples' hands," Newton said.

Rivera said the Panthers have to use Dickson better.

"I think there were probably a few more opportunities we could have had for Ed," he said. "One thing we can't overlook is the tight end position.


DEPTH CHART
QBs: Cam Newton, Derek Anderson
RBs: Christian McCaffrey, Jonathan Stewart, Fozzy Whittaker, Cameron Artis-Payne
WRs: Devin Funchess, Russell Shepard, Brenton Bersin
TEs: Ed Dickson, Greg Olsen

Chicago Bears

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 26 September 2017

As ESPN.com's Jeff Dickerson notes, rookie Tarik Cohen didn't coin the nickname "Thunder and Lightning" for the backfield, but the on-field partnership he has formed with Jordan Howard certainly fits that description.

And the Cohen-Howard could be built to last.

Through three games in 2017, Cohen, 22, and Howard, 22, have combined for 354 rushing yards. Cohen averages 6.6 yards per carry. Howard's average is 4.4, and that's even after Howard -- second in the NFL in rushing yards last year -- averaged less than 1 yard (0.8) on nine attempts last week in Tampa.

"I think of us as 'Thunder and Lightning' because he's in there punishing linebackers and punishing defensive backs and then I can come in and break a big play -- he feeds off of me and I feed off of him," Cohen said after Sunday's 23-17 overtime win over the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Howard, who left the field on two separate occasions because of a shoulder injury, gashed the Steelers for 138 yards and two touchdowns, including the game winner in OT.

"Sometimes I was hurt pretty bad," Howard said. "I didn't feel like I could finish. But my teammates kept pushing me through, and my coach, and I just saw my team -- they kept fighting, so I had to keep playing.

"I couldn't even believe -- I had to look back to make sure there weren't any flags on the game winner. Because that's like a dream come true; you always dream about stuff like that, but it never happens, so that was crazy."

As for Cohen, the Bears prefer to divvy up his touches between running attempts, receptions and punt returns. Cohen, who had 15 touches on offense in Week 3, set up Howard's winning score in overtime by running circles around Pittsburgh's defense on a 36-yard gain -- a run that could have ended the game had Cohen not stepped out of bounds.

"I definitely know that I scored a touchdown," Cohen laughed. "I shot that dagger 3 like Ray Allen and I felt like I finished that game."

Cohen is also the Bears' leading receiver with 20 catches for 126 yards and one touchdown.

There's not much Cohen can't do, but he's infinitely more dangerous when Howard is running well. Even with a limited passing attack, the Bears proved on Sunday they can have stretches where they dictate terms on offense when Howard and Cohen flummox defenses.

"I feel like we can be the best running back tandem," Cohen said. "The things he does great, I can complement. When he beats up a defense, I can come in and spark it up and maybe have a big run here and there. And then he can get in there and do what he does; be the running back he was last year."

Meanwhile, Dickerson contends the wildest part of Sunday's crazy game is that the Bears actually beat the Steelers with only 101 passing yards.

Mike Glennon dinked and dunked all afternoon but at least he only turned the ball over one time -- although the Steelers failed to capitalize on several opportunities late in the game.

It's not hard for fantasy owners to figure out, however.

Howard had a bounce-back performance for fantasy owners, who will and should continue to start him regularly. Cohen is so explosive that he's a smart play every week, with 102 all-purpose yards. Glennon is not a good play. To add insult to fantasy injury, Glennon's lone touchdown pass was to the third-string tight end.

Indeed, as Associated Press sports writer Andrew Seligman notes, the team's wide receivers are beginning to take on more of a role as blockers than pass catchers.

Against the Steelers, Glennon targeted wide receivers only four times in his 21 attempts and completed one 9-yard pass to Deonte Thompson.

Glennon has made only 27 of his 72 completions to wide receivers, and the Bears haven't had a pass to a wide receiver longer than 20 yards this season.

To be fair, Glennon doesn't have the receivers he started the season with due to injuries. Kevin White (shoulder) and Cameron Meredith (knee) are on injured reserve. Markus Wheaton played his first game Sunday following a broken finger, and didn't make a catch.

Glennon after the game called it a case of leaning on what he has available: The speedy Cohen and Howard.

Howard led the team in targets against Pittsburgh with five. Cohen had four.

"They're one of the best running back duos in the league, and we can't forget Benny Cunningham, he's a huge part of our offense, too," Glennon said. "But those two guys, though, they're special."

Thompson and Josh Bellamy showed there is more to playing receiver than catching passes when each made a key block downfield for big overtime runs. Bellamy's block opened the outside for a 36-yard Cohen run, and Thompson's downfield work made it easy for Howard to score the winning TD.

Of course, it won't be easy to win games when the Bears fall behind. Now, they have a short week and visit Green Bay on Thursday night.

Chicago won at Lambeau Field two years ago, but it'll take another massive upset to knock off Aaron Rodgers, who's lost to the Bears only four times in his career.

But some good news right out of the chute this week?

The Bears had to file a mock injury report Monday due to the Thursday night kickoff and Howard was not listed. ...

As NFL.com's Matt Harmon pointed out, with Wheaton back from an offseason injury, Kendall Wright was relegated to an ancillary role. He did not see a target and was on the field for just 52 percent of the team's plays.

One last note here. ... Safety Quintin Demps (arm) suffered a broken forearm and could go on injured reserve.


DEPTH CHART
QBs: Mitchell Trubisky, Mike Glennon, Mark Sanchez
RBs: Jordan Howard, Tarik Cohen, Benny Cunningham
WRs: Kendall Wright, Josh Bellamy, Markus Wheaton, Dontrelle Inman, Kevin White
TEs: Dion Sims, Adam Shaheen, Daniel Brown, Ben Braunecker

Cincinnati Bengals

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 26 September 2017

According to ESPN.com's Katherine Terrell, "This one will sting for a long time."

The Bengals played about as well as they could have for almost 60 minutes against the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field on Sunday afternoon.

They went home empty-handed after Aaron Rodgers decimated them with a 72-yard pass in overtime, setting up a field goal by Mason Crosby for a 27-24 Packers win. Rodgers got a free play after Michael Johnson jumped offside.

Now the Bengals are 0-3 and looking up at the rest of the AFC North. That just might be too big of a hole to overcome.

Positives?

According to Associated press sports writer Joe Kay, the offense in Green Bay was better under new coordinator Bill Lazor, who took over for the fired Ken Zampese after a 13-9 loss to Houston. A.J. Green caught 10 passes for 111 yards and his first touchdown after getting 10 catches in the first two games combined.

Dalton finished 21 of 27 for 212 yards and two touchdowns, with no interceptions. Rookie running back Joe Mixon rushed for 62 of the Bengals' 110 yards on the ground.

The Bengals scored a touchdown on their first possession, ending a drought of 25 series without getting into the end zone. But they managed only three points in the second half, a familiar problem from last season when they'd have fast starts and accomplish little after halftime.

"Everything is a process," said Green, who had openly lobbied to get more passes after the 0-2 start. "I feel like we took a step forward."

The historically bad offense was the main problem in the first two games, while the defense played well overall. In Green Bay, the defense contributed William Jackson III's interception return for a touchdown that helped the Bengals surge ahead 21-7, but they couldn't contain Rodgers when it mattered.

"We should have stopped them," cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick said. "This one is going to hurt."

Cincinnati plays at Cleveland Sunday. Only three teams that started 0-3 have reached the playoffs since the current playoff format was adopted and none since 1998.

"We just have to keep pushing," said running back Jeremy Hill. "We have a lot of savvy veteran guys in this locker room. Obviously not a lot of us have been here before, but that won't stop us from practicing hard and trying to execute at a high level because it is still a long season. We are just going to take it one game at a time."

If they get their first win against the Browns, they'll be back at home the following week against the Bills with a chance to go 2-3 before their bye.

It's not where they wanted to be, but it's a chance to salvage their season. And having something to play for can be motivational. ...

Meanwhile, tight end Tyler Eifert is expected to miss multiple weeks while recovering from his back injury, a source told ESPN's Adam Schefter.

Eifert does not need back surgery at this time, the source also told Schefter.

He missed Sunday's game against the Packers but played in the Bengals' first two games. He did not practice at all last week.

Eifert, 27, was one of the team's top red zone targets in 2015 and had 13 touchdown receptions. He played in only eight games last season due to a combination of back and ankle injuries. He has missed 28 games due to injury in his NFL career and has never completed a full season without injury.

He underwent offseason surgery on his back, which he admitted in July will affect him in some ways for the rest of his career. He was unable to participate in practice during organized team activities but was back for training camp. The 2013 first-round pick is in the final year of his rookie contract with the Bengals. ...

In addition, receiver John Ross has had a rough start to his NFL career. After dealing with injuries in college, including a shoulder issue that delayed his arrival in training camp, Ross sprained his knee in the fourth preseason game and last week the knee problem returned, causing him to miss Sunday's game. Ross fumbled after a 12-yard reception in Week 2, his only touch in a game this season.

His status for this week's game remains unclear, but Ross was not on the practice field Wednesday. Brandon LaFell was limited. ...

Other notes of interest. ... According to Terrell, fantasy owners might want to put Mixon in their lineup from now on. The Bengals look like they're going to lean on him as their lead back going forward after he played 56 percent of the team's snaps in Green Bay.

Hill had seven carries for 23 yards and one catch for six yards. Giovani Bernard had five total touches for 39 total yards. As NFL.com's Matt Franciscovich suggested, "It seems like Mixon is about to take over this backfield, which would relegate Hill and Bernard to low-volume bench warmers in fantasy."

With Green owning such a massive share of the target volume, there wasn't much for other players to work with. LaFell was targeted twice; Tyler Boyd go one. Eifert's backup, Tyler Kroft, finished second on the team in targets with four.

And finally. ... Linebacker Vontaze Burfict is eligible to return after completing a three-game suspension from the NFL for his latest egregious hit. He's expected to start in Cleveland. Last year, he also served a three-game suspension, started the fourth game and was on the field for 34 of 45 plays during a 22-7 win over the Dolphins.


DEPTH CHART
QBs: Andy Dalton, AJ McCarron, Jeff Driskel
RBs: Joe Mixon, Jeremy Hill, Giovani Bernard, Brian Hill, Thomas Jones
WRs: A.J. Green, Brandon LaFell, Tyler Boyd, John Ross, Josh Malone, Alex Erickson, Cody Core
TEs: Tyler Kroft, Ryan Hewitt, C.J. Uzomah

Cleveland Browns

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 26 September 2017

As ESPN.com's Pat McManamon framed it: "Every loss is bad, but this Cleveland Browns defeat pushes the machine toward tilt. ..."

McManamon went on to explain the Browns came to Indianapolis feeling like they could and would earn their first win of the season. Instead they were steamrollered in the first half en route to a 31-28 loss to the Colts that was far more one-sided than the final score would indicate.

The Colts were playing with a starting quarterback who joined the team after the preseason and was making the second start of his career. By halftime they led 28-7, and the second half was a frantic effort by the Browns to get back in the game.

The Browns may talk about being encouraged by the fight -- and it's valid -- but the big picture says this has to rank among the lows of the era of head coach Hue Jackson, who badly needs a win to validate his belief, his talk and decisions made on behalf of his team. If the Browns are going to show they are improved, they need to go out and do it and stop talking about it.

Cleveland's receivers have yet to show they can make key plays consistently on offense. In a passing era, it's tough to win without dependable receivers.

In addition to dropped passes, the Browns have committed double-digit penalties in their past two games and their rookie quarterback has thrown seven interceptions.

Yet, second-round pick DeShone Kizer remains confident, even after being picked off three times and fumbling once at Indianapolis.

"We're right where we want to be, we just don't have the wins to support it," Kizer said Monday. "Everything is right there. We have the talent, we have the players, we have the mentality.

"That's what is most disappointing right now. We understand what it takes to win, but it's about executing consistently to get those wins."

The Browns' next opportunity for a victory arrives Sunday, when Cincinnati visits. The Bengals are 0-3 for the first time since 2008, and Cleveland is 1-18 in two seasons under Jackson.

"This is a big game for us because this is the game we are in, and it's here at home against a division opponent," Jackson said. "None of us like losing."

As Associated Press sports writer Tom Withers noted, for better or worse, Kizer has become the focal point of the franchise. He has 646 yards passing, three touchdowns, eight turnovers, and a pedestrian .528 completion percentage in three starts.

The 6-4, 233-pounder has demonstrated that he can throw hard, but is still learning how to protect it.

Baltimore intercepted Kizer three times and forced him to lose a fumble in a 24-10 Ravens win in Week 2.

"I think he knows the buck starts and stops with him," Jackson said. "He has to do his part, and he has to do it better. We've turned the ball over quite a bit in the last several weeks, and we can't do that if we want to win football games."

On the season, Kizer has the 32nd (and lowest) passer rating in the league at 53.2 and is tied for the fifth-most sacks taken in the NFL with 10.

Browns football operations director Sashi Brown has done him no favors by assembling a weak receiving group.

Free agent signee Kenny Britt and second-year pro Ricardo Louis started at the position against the Colts. Rashard Higgins, Kasen Williams and Jordan Leslie -- all waived during the preseason -- also saw action.

"I think this team can win," Jackson said, turning the focus to the front office. "But that question that you just asked (if it was built to win now), I think that's something you have to talk to Sashi about and the executive team."

Jackson said Britt and Williams were partially responsible for Kizer's passes being turned into interceptions by Indianapolis cornerback Rashaan Melvin. Britt tipped an off-target throw in the air, while Williams was not running the correct route. The unofficial total had seven dropped passes for Browns receivers.

"My thing is if there is an opportunity to make a play for our quarterback, let's see if we can make it," Jackson said. "The one thing we know in this league is tipped balls don't find the ground, they find other teams. We have to work better together."

Given the lack of experience at quarterback and wide receiver, Jackson was asked if it was realistic to expect them to be playmakers this season.

"We have the group that we have," he said. "My job is to coach the guys that are here."

Britt caught three passes for 54 yards and a touchdown. He went into the game with two catches for 15 yards. Instead of talking about the touchdown, Britt is talking about what the Browns can do to get better.

"We can be elite," Britt said. "I don't believe any defense in the NFL can stop us to tell you the truth. (These are) young wide receivers that are going to get better and better and we know what we're capable of and the plays we could have or didn't have. So we have to go out there and work 10 times harder."

In the meantime, Duke Johnson led the Browns with six catches for 81 yards. He carried the ball twice for 23 yards.

Isaiah Crowell is off to a slow start this season. He carried 12 times for 44 yards against the Colts and now has just 114 yards on the season. At this point, he's a risky fantasy play since his usage will be game-script dependent.

Tight end David Njoku had his second touchdown reception in two games, this one off play-action inside the 5. Njoku clearly is the tight end the Browns want to look to in scoring situations, as his height and athletic ability make him a tough mismatch.

For the record, Coates (hamstring) will have his status updated once the team begins practicing Wednesday. I'll have more via Late-Breaking Update in coming days.


DEPTH CHART
QBs: DeShone Kizer, Cody Kessler, Kevin Hogan
RBs: Isaiah Crowell, Duke Johnson, Matt Dayes
WRs: Josh Gordon, Corey Coleman, Ricardo Louis, Rashard Higgins, Bryce Treggs, Sammie Coates
TEs: David Njoku, Seth DeValve, Randall Telfer

Dallas Cowboys

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 26 September 2017

As ESPN.com's Todd Archer conceded, Dak Prescott has had better games, statistically speaking, since becoming the Dallas Cowboys' quarterback. He has tossed more touchdowns in a game. He has completed more passes and thrown for more yards.

But, Archer added, "Monday's 28-17 win against the Arizona Cardinals might have been Prescott's hardest game, and it definitely can be considered his most satisfying. ..."

With folks waiting to see how he and Ezekiel Elliott would respond to the worst defeat of their young careers -- a 42-17 loss last week against the Broncos in Denver -- they answered the call, especially Prescott.

"Last week, we got hit in the mouth pretty good," Prescott said in a postgame interview with ESPN's Lisa Salters. "It was important for us to come back this week, prepare the right way and do the things that we needed to do to get a win tonight."

Prescott did just that, scoring the Cowboys' first touchdown by somersaulting over two Arizona defenders on a 10-yard run in the second quarter, after Dallas got off to a dreadful start offensively.

"Dak was an animal today," Elliott said. "He came out there and made some big plays. Sometimes he has to use his feet to get out of the pocket to make those downfield throws, but he played amazing."

In the third quarter, he found Dez Bryant for a 15-yard touchdown, after Bryant ran by and through a number of defenders before receiving a final push from center Travis Frederick at the goal line.

In the fourth quarter, Prescott made the most of a busted play with a 39-yard, off-balance throw to Brice Butler, who outjumped Justin Bethel in the end zone and, more importantly, completed the process of the catch all the way to the ground.

After the Cardinals cut the Cowboys' lead to 21-17 with 6:35 to play, and with most everybody expecting the Cowboys to lean on Elliott, Prescott rolled right on a bootleg and found Butler again for a 53-yard gain. Elliott ended that drive with an 8-yard run for his first touchdown of the year.

None of this was easy on Monday. None of it has been easy for the Cowboys' offense through the first three games.

The New York Giants, Denver Broncos and Cardinals have three of the league's better defenses. The Cowboys have seen some premier cornerbacks in Janoris Jenkins; Aqib Talib and Chris Harris Jr.; and Patrick Peterson. They have seen the past two 3-4 defenses stack the line so much that Elliott has had to run against not only eight-man boxes, but also nine-man fronts.

But on Monday, Prescott made the plays with his legs and his arms, finishing with 183 yards on 13 of 18 passing. He ran for 17 yards and bought time on a number of pass plays.

"When you play quarterback and things don't go well again and again and again, it's hard to get into rhythm," head coach Jason Garrett said. "Sometimes you start forcing things and I just think his mental toughness is off the charts. ... Throughout the ballgame, things didn't come easily to us. He just kept battling. He kept making good decisions."

And Elliott was able to grind his way to 80 yards on 22 carries, after being held to eight yards on nine carries against the Broncos. Fifty of Elliott's yards came on two carries.

The Cowboys don't want to live with every yard being a fight as the season goes on, but hard wins are often the most satisfying. ...

Meanwhile, as Profootballtalk.com's Mike Florio notes, Prescott did everything he wanted to do, specifically when he ran out of the pocket. Or, more accurately, sprinted out of the pocket.

His accuracy seems to improve when throwing on the sprint. Indeed, his two most important throws of the night -- both to Butler -- came when running to the right and unleashing a laser-guided missile.

Three times he threw on the run as the designed play, completing two for 90 yards. Three other times he threw on the run after being flushed out of the pocket, completing two for 54 yards.

That's 4-6 for 144 yards when throwing out of the pocket.

Coupled with his ability to use the zone read not as a crutch but as a well-timed change of pace, Prescott currently is capable of being as dangerous as any quarterback in the league.

And that's just what he can do with the ball in his hands. His leadership skills quite possibly had something to do with Elliott not slumping his shoulders and accepting the fact that the Arizona defense was going to be able to shut him down. Though he seemed to be running in mud early in the game, Elliott eventually improved, doing just enough to balance Prescott, who quickly has become far more important to the Dallas offense than any running back could be.

Which could be the best news for the Cowboys as they move three games in to Prescott's second season. ...

Also of interest. ... Bryant caught a touchdown pass against the Cardinals, giving him 69 for his career. That's the sixth-most in NFL history through the first 100 games of a player's career.

That said, Bryant has been unusually quiet on the stat sheet through three games, catching just 11 of 27 targets for 114 yards and two touchdowns. As noted above, however, Bryant has faced a series of high-end cornerbacks on a weekly basis this season.

That could make Dez a buy-low candidate for those interested in wheeling and dealing.


DEPTH CHART
QBs: Dak Prescott, Cooper Rush
RBs: Alfred Morris, Rod Smith
WRs: Dez Bryant, Terrance Williams, Cole Beasley, Ryan Switzer, Brice Butler, Noah Brown
TEs: Jason Witten, Geoff Swaim, Rico Gathers

Denver Broncos

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 26 September 2017

According to ESPN's Jeff Legwold, Trevor Siemian learned many football lessons from Peyton Manning, and not just the ones that result in a well-timed audible at a key point in a game.

So Siemian, who threw two in the Denver Broncos' 26-16 loss to the Buffalo Bills on Sunday, knows that the reasons won't matter much beyond fixing it.

"I can't do that, at home or on the road," Siemian said. "Those two turnovers, obviously, they hurt you. ... The defense bailed us out one time. I felt good about getting points there [on the second one] if I don't turn it over."

Legwold went on to remind readers that Siemian had tried to do his part to regulate the fervor around him in the first two weeks of the season. He went into Sunday's game tied for the league lead with six touchdown passes, the Broncos were 2-0, and Siemian was even the halftime interview during Monday Night Football after the Broncos' dismantling of the Dallas Cowboys in Week 2.

But in a classic every-week-is-different affair, following two weeks of being in a groove, the Broncos' offense looked out of sorts for much of Sunday's affair, with Siemian near the top of that list. He finished 24-of-40 passing for 259 yards to go with the two interceptions -- his third and fourth of the young season.

A key number to note, though, was the 40 attempts. That has been a line where the trouble has begun in Siemian's 17 career starts.

Last season, the Broncos were 7-2 in games that Siemian started and attempted fewer than 40 passes, including the contest in Tampa, Florida, where he attempted seven passes before leaving with a shoulder injury. The Broncos won their first two games this season, with Siemian attempting fewer than 40 passes in both.

After Sunday's loss, the Broncos are now 1-5 in games Siemian starts and attempts 40 or more passes. Certainly past results don't guarantee future performance, but it's clear if the Broncos want to be their most successful, they have to stay out of obvious passing downs. At one point, Siemian was sacked on back-to-back plays during one second-quarter drive.

The interception, however, really made the difference.

"The turnovers hurt," Siemian said. "You kind of screwed your defense there, so I'd like to have those back. Our defense bailed us out plenty of times."

Siemian tried to remind anyone who would listen last week that "it's early" in the wake of the win against the Cowboys. Now he gets another task of a starting quarterback -- trying to rebound after a loss he helped create.

"[Siemian] is trying to make plays," Broncos coach Vance Joseph said. "I can't fault him for that. We want him to be smart with the ball -- he has been smart with the ball -- and he's made those plays before, so I'm not down on that part. We can't do it, but I get why he took some chances."

As the Sports Xchange notes, until those picks, Siemian was steady, although his passes floated a bit more than usual, and the pass protection had its best day.

As for the rushing attack, the consistency wasn't there as the Broncos would have hoped but Jamaal Charles and C.J. Anderson did combine for 92 yards on 17 carries, with Anderson ripping off a 32-yard run.

Charles touched the football on 10 of the 21 snaps he played, averaged 6.2 yards per carry and scored his first touchdown as a Bronco. As NFL.com's Matt Franciscovich notes, the Bills hadn't allowed a rushing touchdown to a running back yet this season, until Charles managed it.

"Anderson is still the workhorse here," Franciscovich added, "but we could see more games like this from Charles in negative game scripts. ..."

Devontae Booker was inactive for a third consecutive game as he completes his recovery from a fractured wrist.

Demaryius Thomas caught six passes for a team-leading 98 yards despite tight coverage and is back on pace for what would be his sixth consecutive 1,000-yard season. Emmanuel Sanders, however, continues to lead the team in targets -- although the edge over Thomas is slight.

Despite the loss in Buffalo, the Broncos weren't panicking Monday. Some of the problems were within their control. Some were beyond their grasp. On a Sunday defined by mystifying results, the Broncos had a head-scratcher that they knew was simply one of those days.

"It wasn't as bad or terrible as you would think it was after a loss," Anderson said. "There are just some things that we need to clean up as an offense that we know we can clean up."

They'd better, with the Raiders looming this week.


DEPTH CHART
QBs: Trevor Siemian, Paxton Lynch, Brock Osweiler, Chad Kelly
RBs: C.J. Anderson, Devontae Booker, Jamaal Charles, De'Angelo Henderson
WRs: Demaryius Thomas, Emmanuel Sanders, Bennie Fowler, Cody Latimer, Isaiah McKenzie, Jordan Taylor
TEs: Virgil Green, Jeff Heuerman, Jake Butt

Detroit Lions

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 26 September 2017

It all felt so familiar. Matthew Stafford getting the ball with less than two minutes left, needing a touchdown to win the game. In 2016, this became almost automatic for the Detroit Lions. And in these situations, despite the odds, the Lions inevitably won.

But Sunday against the Atlanta Falcons was different. It's a new year -- and with it came a different result. Big plays on the final drive were erased by penalties on Zac Kerin and Marvin Jones. And instead of a signature win, the Lions had one too many mistakes and one too many drives early on that did not work out.

And Stafford, the last-minute football miracle-worker last season, couldn't convert. What was initially called a touchdown by Golden Tate was changed, and the Lions came up a half-yard short. They fell to Atlanta 30-26, and it'll be a game Detroit will look back on as a missed opportunity against the defending NFC champions.

"That's part of the challenge that we face every week after either you win or you lose," head coach Jim Caldwell said. "If you win and guys are still thinking about how well they played the day before or week before, that can get you. And this is no different. This is kind of (what) this league is all about. It's how do you handle it? So we try to preach it and talk about it, and I think our guys have always had pretty good, really good focus in that regard."

But as the Sports Xchange notes, the Lions haven't been very successful in bounce-back games recently.

In 2015, they lost handily to the Arizona Cardinals a week after officials missed a batted-ball call in the end zone that preserved a Seattle Seahawks victory, and later in the season they fell to an inferior St. Louis Rams team 10 days after Aaron Rodgers completed a miraculous Hail Mary touchdown pass.

Last year, the Lions no-showed their playoff loss to the Seattle Seahawks after losing at home to the Packers in Week 17 with the division title on the line.

Caldwell said this year's team is different, and the roster has had plenty of turnover. But Sunday's loss to the Atlanta Falcons still was of the gut-punch variety. Still, Caldwell said he doesn't think there'll be much work to do this week to get their minds right, but even he won't be sure until the weekend rolls around.

"You have setbacks during the course of games," Caldwell said. "You have adversity, and we've been able to overcome those. So we'll see how we bounce back and the idea is to get it behind us as quickly as we can and a lot of that has to do with just guys making up their mind, it's over and done with. But the close ones make you think about it a little bit. We understand that part of it.

That said, as ESPN.com's Michael Rothstein suggested, the Lions showed something Sunday. They lost, but they looked like a team on par with the Falcons. It didn't look like a mismatch, but rather a competitive game. And that, for the Lions, is a big step.

It validates, in many ways, the wins over the Arizona Cardinals and the New York Giants. It shows that this team should be in playoff contention -- that a division title is possible.

That journey will start again when they take on the Minnesota Vikings and their very stout defense.

One area in serious need of improvement heading into Week 4?

Running the ball was a struggle for a Lions offense that played without center Travis Swanson and top interior backup Joe Dahl. Left guard Graham Glasgow moved to center, Kerin made his first start at guard, and the Lions struggled to get any push up the middle against the Falcons.

Ameer Abdullah ran for 47 yards on 14 carries and didn't have a gain longer than 11 yards all day. Zach Zenner was ineffective, running for just 5 yards on three carries as Dwayne Washington's replacement in short-yardage situations.

Theo Riddick managed just 38 receiving yards on his four receptions against Atlanta. As NFL.com's Matt Franciscovich reminded readers, the game seemed like a decent matchup for Riddick but it didn't pan out. Riddick and Abdullah split playing time pretty much down the middle with 30 and 29 snaps respectively. Franciscovich added: "Neither will be favorable plays on the road against the Vikings."

Tate caught seven passes for 58 yards on Sunday, giving him 301 catches in his three-plus seasons in Detroit. Tate is the fastest player to 300 catches in a Lions uniform, reaching the mark in 51 games. Calvin Johnson (66 games) held the previous record.

According to NFL.com's Matt Harmon, Tate took 75 percent of his snaps from the slot, gathering nine of his 11 targets and scoring his touchdown from the inside. With just 10.6 air yards per target, the majority of Tate's looks are high-percentage passes.

Beyond Tate, as Harmon wrote, "On the field for just 62 percent of the team's plays, Kenny Golladay is strictly a No. 3 receiver and high-ceiling dart throw for fantasy. Marvin Jones is a mainstay on the field, going out for 97 percent of Detroit's plays, but he's hauled in just 46.1 percent of his targets on the season."

One issue for Golladay is that he's still sharing the No. 3 spot with TJ Jones, who caught all three of his targets for 63 yards against Atlanta.

Eric Ebron dropped two passes Sunday to help stall fourth-quarter drives. Both drops came on second down, and left the Lions in long third-down situations.

"One thing we try to avoid is being in third down," Ebron said. "I've got to perform better, we've got to perform better."

Ebron finished with just two catches on seven targets for nine yards

Matt Prater made field goals of 55 and 57 yards on Sunday, giving him 11 kicks of 55 or more yards in his career. Sebastian Janikowski, with 13 such field goals, is the only kicker with more makes from that distance.


DEPTH CHART
QBs: Matthew Stafford, Jake Rudock
RBs: Ameer Abdullah, Theo Riddick, Dwayne Washington, Tion Green, Zach Zenner
WRs: Golden Tate, Marvin Jones, Kenny Golladay, Jared Abbrederis, TJ Jones
TEs: Darren Fells, Eric Ebron, Michael Roberts

Green Bay Packers

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 26 September 2017

As ESPN.com's Rob Demovsky framed it, "Take that, Tom Brady.

"Aaron Rodgers did Sunday what the New England Patriots quarterback did three hours earlier.

"It's what MVP quarterbacks do.

"And Rodgers might have even one-upped Brady. ..."

This after the Packers veteran quarterback engineered a game-tying drive and a game-winning one, and it was vintage free-play Rodgers.

First, he threaded the needle like only he seems to do on a 3-yard touchdown pass to Jordy Nelson that barely skimmed by the fingers of Bengals cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick with 17 seconds left in regulation.

Then, in overtime, when the Bengals jumped offside on third down, Rodgers made them pay with a 72-yard pass to Geronimo Allison for a catch and run that set up Mason Crosby's 27-yard game-winning field goal. When Crosby's kick went through the uprights in the south end zone to win it 27-24, it was the only time the Packers led all game.

Remarkably, it was Rodgers' first overtime win. He came in 0-4 in regular-season overtime games and 0-7 overall including the playoffs. Other than the 2009 wild-card playoff loss at Arizona, when Rodgers fumbled, most of those were hardly his fault. He had thrown only six overtime passes in those seven overtime games.

It also was the first time Rodgers won in a game in which he was sacked at least six times. He had been 0-6 in such games.

A loss would have put the Packers at 1-2 for the fourth time in Rodgers' career as a starter. That would've left a gloomy outlook considering how beat up the Packers are and their short week ahead -- their next game is Thursday night against the Chicago Bears at Lambeau Field.

Rodgers' heroics made his first pick-six in more than seven years a footnote to this game and not what defined it.

Now, perhaps defensive tackle Mike Daniels, outside linebacker Nick Perry, cornerback Davon House and inside linebacker Jake Ryan will be back on Thursday. And perhaps left tackle David Bakhtiari and receiver Randall Cobb will return.

Either way, the Packers avoided a potential early-season crisis thanks to Rodgers, who got quite an assist from Allison, who introduced himself to the NFL world last October, when his first professional catch went for a touchdown.

Less than a year later, he showed everyone why the Green Bay Packers believe he has so much more to offer.

"No surprise on Geronimo," head coach Mike McCarthy said. "Really, you could see it coming in preseason. So he's taken that leap from Year 1 to 2. Plays with a lot of confidence. He's just a damn good football player, so it's no surprise he made that play."

Allison wasn't a one-play wonder on Sunday. On a day when Cobb was inactive because of a chest injury, Allison posted a career-best day with six catches for 122 yards.

As Demovsky reminded readers, a year ago, Allison wasn't on anyone's radar. He was just a rookie on the practice squad who wouldn't get called up to the roster until Week 8. He played in the final 13 games, including the playoffs, and finished with 17 catches for 267 yards and two touchdowns.

"We preach that a lot to our young guys: Even though you might not be a starter right now, we'll eventually rely on you at some point," Nelson said. "Usually it's down the road, not necessarily Week 3. He's prepared. He knows his stuff. That's impressed us from Day 1 since he's been here. For a guy who if you think back to the beginning of last year was on the practice [squad], now he's our No. 4 guy, our No. 3 guy [on Sunday]. It's real impressive."

Allison's 2017 debut was delayed by a one-week suspension to start the season following last year's marijuana arrest, but a strong training camp this summer left little doubt that he would have a role once again.

"I've known Geronimo has been a player for a long time," Rodgers said. "He's a fantastic part of our offense, does a lot of things really, really well. He's a tough kid, a really tough competitor. I remember the first day I watched him at training camp, I said, 'How do you not get drafted?' I said this kid's fantastic. He's got a great attitude. I was ripping him a little bit Week 1 about him being suspended and missing him out there, but it's good having him back.

"He's a guy who can really help him out, especially with Cobb being banged up. I'm really proud of him. ..."

While Rodgers and the passing attack have fared reasonably well, the Packers can't get running back Ty Montgomery going. Montgomery carried 12 times for 35 yards Sunday (2.9 yards per carry). And through three games, Montgomery has just 124 rushing yards on 41 carries (3.0).

The good news is that Montgomery led the team in targets (he just didn't get much production out of them with just eight catches for 15 yards) and his role seems secure.

Montgomery turned up on the initial injury report with wrist issue. But both Montgomery and Cobb were removed from the final injury report after Wednesday's practice.

A few final notes on Rodgers. ... With 313 passing yards against the Bengals, he now has a franchise-record five straight games in which he eclipsed 300 yards.

In addition, Rodgers threw just the second interception that was returned for a touchdown in his career on Sunday against the Bengals.

It came 2,877 days since Rodgers' first and previously only pick-six of his career when Bengals cornerback William Jackson undercut an out route for Nelson and returned it 75 yards for a touchdown in the second quarter. He joined former Tampa Bay Buccaneers safety Tanard Jackson as the only two players to return a Rodgers interception for a touchdown.

Rodgers had thrown 4,502 passes between his two pick-sixes. It was a span of seven years, 10 months and 16 days between those two plays.

Entering this season, a total of 80 quarterbacks have thrown at least two regular-season interceptions returned for touchdowns since Rodgers became a starter in 2008, while Rodgers had just one. The most during that span was Philip Rivers with 19 followed by Drew Brees (18), Eli Manning (15), Peyton Manning (15), Carson Palmer (15) and Jay Cutler (15).


DEPTH CHART
QBs: Brett Hundley, Joe Callahan
RBs: Jamaal Williams, Aaron Jones, Devante Mays, Ty Montgomery
WRs: Davante Adams, Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb, Geronimo Allison, Jeff Janis, Trevor Davis
TEs: Richard Rodgers, Lance Kendricks

Houston Texans

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 26 September 2017

The Texans couldn't close out their game against New England, but Houston is encouraged by the marked improvement of rookie quarterback Deshaun Watson in his second NFL start.

Watson threw for 301 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions and ran for 41 yards in Houston's 36-33 loss to New England on Sunday.

"Each rep, each snap I take in practice, meetings on the game field is always a rep I try to get better at and try to get some experience," he said. "Just continue that each and every week."

Watson started the season backing up Tom Savage, but took over at halftime of Houston's season opener when Savage struggled against the Jaguars.

The 12th overall pick in the draft has looked increasingly comfortable leading the offense as he's gained more experience.

While Watson had success on the ground in Weeks 1 and 2, ESPN.com's Sarah Barshop notes his completion percentage of 57 percent ranked 26th in the NFL and he struggled to throw the ball down the field. Entering Sunday, he was just 3-of-21 on throws 11-plus yards down the field.

On Sunday, six Texans players caught a pass of 14 yards or longer. That includes a 29-yard touchdown pass to receiver Bruce Ellington and a 12-yard score to tight end Ryan Griffin.

"Each rep, each snap I take in practice, meetings, on the game field is a rep that I try and get better at and try to get some experience," Watson said. "And I'm just continuing that each and every week."

Watson also distributed the ball well in the passing game for the first time. Against the Patriots, eight Texans caught a pass from Watson.

Watson had this success against a team that has dominated rookie quarterbacks at home. Entering the game, Bill Belichick-coached teams were 8-0 at home against rookie signal-callers, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

The Patriots added another win to that total on Sunday night, but Watson's performance gave the Texans a taste of what he can accomplish going forward.

"It's only his second start, two in a row on the road," O'Brien said. "Like all rookies, he's got a long way to go, but I think he's showing up pretty well in his first two starts."

As Associated Press sports writer Kristie Rieken pointed out, Watson is the most mobile quarterback the Texans have ever had, and his teammates rave about his ability to extend plays with his feet.

That skill was on display in Sunday's game when he evaded four tackles before launching a 31-yard pass to D'Onta Foreman in the fourth quarter.

"He's a guy that can create plays," Foreman said. "I've seen him step out of three, four tackles and still get the ball off. To me that's amazing just to be a rookie and be able to step in and throw like that. It's been fun playing with him."

"I think we're growing as an offense with Deshaun," running back Lamar Miller said. "He does a great job of keeping plays alive and being a leader."

O'Brien operates as the Texans' offensive coordinator and is adapting his offense to suit Watson's primary strengths as a young quarterback, including his use of play-action, throwing on the move and having the green light to run the football when he needs to create something out of nothing.

"I just try to make plays as much as I can when nothing is there and try to keep the chains moving and move the ball and try to score points," Watson said. "Always think positive. You can't have any doubt when you step on the field at this level."

Another impressive quality about the 22-year-old quarterback has been the confidence he's shown since the moment he stepped on the field in the third quarter of Houston's opener.

He continued to show the same unflappable nature that was on display last season when he led Clemson to a national title.

"His poise is wonderful," said Foreman, a fellow rookie. "I never can tell if he's nervous or not. He just goes out there and plays hard every down. So I definitely respect that."

Watson said he's been confident all his life and that he isn't going to change simply because he's now playing against the best football players in the world.

"You can't have (any) doubt when you step on the field at this level," he said.

He'll have a chance to further demonstrate the confidence on Sunday as the Texans (1-2) return to AFC South play when they host Tennessee (2-1) in the first of three straight home games.

In the meantime, it's worth noting that during the O'Brien era, the Texans have started nine different quarterbacks. That includes $72 million bust Brock Osweiler last year. The Texans are hopeful they finally have their franchise quarterback on the roster. ...

Other notes of interest. ... This week he and the Texans could get a boost with the possible return of speedy receiver Will Fuller.

According to Houston Chronicle staffer Aaron Wilson, Fuller is making progress and trending toward potentially returning Sunday after being sidelined with a broken collarbone for the first three games of the season.

Fuller returned to practice last week from an injury suffered during training camp.

Although O'Brien was somewhat noncommittal about Fuller's chances of returning for Sunday's game against the Tennessee Titans, he was upbeat.

"I think that'll be something that we'll see starting on Wednesday, but I'm hearing some good things," O'Brien said.

A first-round draft pick from Notre Dame last year, Fuller could provide a boost to the passing game as a complementary presence opposite wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins.

Fuller is the fastest player on the Texans' roster with a 4.28 time in the 40-yard dash.

He had a mostly promising rookie season last year, but struggled with his hands at times. Fuller dropped five passes during the regular season on 92 targets, finishing his first NFL season with 47 receptions for 635 yards and two touchdowns.

The second-year player, who was a first-round draft pick, has missed the first three games after breaking his collarbone early in training camp.

The Texans moved the ball consistently and had their moments running the ball, but went away from it in key short-yardage situations.

As NFL.com's Matt Franciscovich notes, Miller continues to be the volume back for the Texans, but he only managed 56 rushing yards on his 14 attempts against New England. Miller was on the field for 70 percent of Houston's plays, signaling that he is still the primary back over Foreman.

It was Miller's third straight game with at least 50 rushing yards, but he has yet to find the end zone this season and, as Harmon added, that will continue to limit his fantasy upside.

While Hopkins continues to get the bulk of the targets, NFL.com's Matt Harmon pointed out that Ellington returned from a Week 1 concussion to assume a key role in the Texans offense. He was on the field for 99 percent of the team's plays.

We'll see if Fuller's return, when he returns (and he was on the practice field to open the week Wednesday), has an impact on Ellington.

The Texans cut wide receiver Andy Jones, according to Wilson, and the team is expected to promote receiver/return man Chris Thompson to active roster from practice squad.

Houston claimed Jones off waivers after the Cowboys waived him Sept. 2. He made his NFL debut in the Texans' season opener and played one snap against the Jaguars.

The Texans, in need of a tight end for their Week 2 Thursday night game, cut him the following week. They re-signed him last week, and he was inactive against the Patriots.


DEPTH CHART
QBs: T.J. Yates, Tom Savage
RBs: Lamar Miller, Andre Ellington, Alfred Blue, Tyler Ervin
WRs: DeAndre Hopkins, Will Fuller, Braxton Miller, DeAndrew White
TEs: Stephen Anderson, Evan Baylis, MyCole Pruitt

Indianapolis Colts

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 26 September 2017

Receiver T.Y. Hilton guaranteed that the Indianapolis Colts wouldn't open the season 0-3 for the first time in six years.

Saying it is one thing. Actually doing it is another when it comes to the Colts.

As ESPN.com's Mike Wells reported, with the possibility of sinking to their lowest point since their dreadful 2-14 season in 2011, the Colts backed Hilton up Sunday by jumping to a 21-point lead before holding on for a 31-28 victory over the Cleveland Browns. This is the fourth straight season that Indianapolis has avoided falling to 0-3.

"It would have sucked [to be 0-3]," running back Frank Gore said. "It was a good win, good team win. Wasn't pretty, but we got the 'W.'"

The victory was necessary to calm the nerves of a franchise that found a way to lose in the first two weeks of the season.

The calmness started with quarterback Jacoby Brissett with an assist from a defense that had three interceptions.

Brissett showed he was capable of leading the Colts in his first start last week against the Cardinals. It was just a matter of continuing to learn as much of the offense as he could and work on his continuity with his skill-position players during the week at practice.

"Another week, you get a lot more comfortable, you get to learn from the mistakes that you make and you get to do it again and try to correct a lot of those things," Brissett said. "It was just a lot more at ease I would say. It is definitely something that I'm still getting used to and still learning how to differentiate things that we go through for pregame and stuff like that, but I definitely felt a lot more comfortable."

Wells went on to advise readers there's been a different level of confidence out of the Colts' offense since head coach Chuck Pagano made Brissett the starter prior to Week 2. It's clear that Brissett has command of the offense, and he showed a nice touch on his passes while finishing 17-of-24 for 259 yards and a touchdown.

"He did a good job in managing things," Pagano said. "They gave us a lot, a bunch of different looks. I thought he managed things well, protected the ball and he made big plays. The receivers made big plays for him. He's growing, he'll continue to grow, continue to get better. We'll continue to add as much as we can add and not overdo it to give him some more tools in his toolbox."

His ability to improvise and use his feet was on display early in the game. After two series in which the Colts had 23 yards of total offense to go with two false penalties and a sack of 9 yards, Brissett led them on a 10-play, 70-yard drive. He scored on a 5-yard designed run.

Brissett energized the home crowd when he put a spin move on a Cleveland defender and then went in untouched for a 7-yard TD run on Indianapolis' next series. Brissett is the first Colts quarterback to have two rushing touchdowns in a game since Andrew Luck did it twice during his rookie season in 2012.

"I knew he could move, but he showed some good moves out there," Hilton said. "I caught a tail end [of the spin move] on the Jumbotron and I was like, 'Yea he has some legs.' He has some juice."

What the Colts needed, though, was a way to get their passing attack going, which meant finding a way to make Hilton, who had only 106 yards receiving through the first two weeks, a bigger part of the offense.

Hilton was back to his old ways of exploiting defenses, as he had seven receptions for 153 yards, which included a 61-yard touchdown reception.

Hilton was the go-to player for Brissett when the Browns blitzed. Brissett was 5-of-7 for 118 yards with that touchdown pass when throwing to Hilton when Cleveland blitzed, according to ESPN Stats and Information.

Hilton knows things will get a lot tougher this week in Seattle.

"It's going to be tough," Hilton said Monday. "But at the end of the day, we're dealing with the same situation. We're both 1-2. We're both looking for a win. We've just got to go out there and play."

As the Sports Xchange notes, facing the Seahawks means that Hilton will get a long look at cornerback Richard Sherman. The pair have had their moments in the past and the Colts receiver is expecting a battle on Sunday night.

"Always. It's the best against the best," Hilton said. "I'm pretty sure he's going to follow me, so I look forward to it. It is what it is."

Meanwhile, Brissett is the first Colts quarterback to rush for two touchdowns and throw for a score in a single game since Bert Jones in 1974. And his performance against the Browns has ramifications beyond Sunday's win.

He showed that the offense won't fall apart while Luck remains out of the lineup and works his way back from right shoulder surgery.

ESPN insider Chris Mortensen reported Sunday that Luck was expected to begin practicing as early as this week. Luck has not practiced or played in a game since Week 17 of last season.

That won't be the case, however.

After ruling out Luck for Sunday night's game in Seattle, Pagano suggested it was possible the QB could get some work this week.

That changed on Wednesday, however, when Pagano just told reporters that Luck would not practice this week, and would likely begin working him in next week. He said there was no setback, just that he hadn’t progressed to the point where practicing was a smart move.

Once he does return to the practice field, it’s expected to take a few weeks for him to get into anything resembling game shape. And it doesn’t take a long look at Cam Newton's season after a late return from shoulder surgery to know that it’s going to take some time.

The Colts' desire -- as Pagano and general manager Chris Ballard have expressed for months now -- is not to rush Luck back because they want him as healthy as possible. The Colts want to avoid a situation where Luck, who was originally injured in Week 3 of the 2015 season, has to miss practice time on a regular basis.

That was the case last year when he was limited in practice at least one day in each week of the season.

If Pagano sticks to what he said back in June, Luck will be on a "pitch count" once he does start to practice. Mortensen reported that Luck will need three to four weeks of practice before he'll be ready to start a game. That means he could be available in Week 7 against Jacksonville at Lucas Oil Stadium.

Luck, who hadn't missed a meaningful snap during the first three years of his NFL career, has missed a total of 13 games over the past three seasons. This is the longest Luck has gone in his career at any level.

I'll be following up as needed via Late-Breaking Update. ...

Other notes of interest. ... As a group, the combination of running backs Gore, Robert Turbin and Matt Jones combined for 92 yards on 36 rushing attempts. Gore led the way with 57 yards on 25 carries and had a 4-yard touchdown run in the second quarter.

While the Colts only averaged 2.6 yards per rushing attempt, they were able to get needed yards on the ground when it counted the most. Brissett also was a weapon as a runner.

Rookie Marlon Mack (shoulder) did not see much practice time last week and did not play against Cleveland. Mack remains listed as week to week and his injury prompted the team to promote Jones, the former Redskin, from their practice squad. ...

Receiver Chester Rogers (hamstring) also remains listed as week to week. Rogers was injured during the early stages of training camp. He suffered a setback in practice two weeks ago. There is no timetable for when he will be cleared to return for workouts.

Receiver Kamar Aiken suffered a concussion in the first quarter of the Cleveland game and did not return. Aiken is now in the NFL's concussion protocol and has yet to be cleared to return for practice this week. His status will be updated by Friday. Remember; Aiken got the start over Donte Moncrief against the Browns, a move that some observers viewed as a message to Moncrief. ...

Tight end Erik Swoope (knee) is rehabbing seven days a week and remains hopeful of being able to return for practice this season. Swoope was injured during training camp and had surgery last month. The former Miami (Fla.) basketball player was expected to make a big push for increased playing time this season.

WR Matt Hazel was waived by the Colts on Monday. Hazel had been claimed off the waiver wire after being released by Washington on Sept. 3. He played in two games and caught one pass. Hazel was released, signed to the practice squad and then added to the active roster prior to last week's game with Cleveland.


DEPTH CHART
QBs: Jacoby Brissett, Scott Tolzien
RBs: Frank Gore, Marlon Mack, Matt Jones, Robert Turbin
WRs: T.Y. Hilton, Donte Moncrief, Chester Rogers, Kamar Aiken
TEs: Jack Doyle, Ross Travis, Jason Vander Laan

Jacksonville Jaguars

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 26 September 2017

Three weeks into the 2017 season and the Jacksonville Jaguars (2-1) have delivered two dominating performances, including Sunday's 44-7 rout of Baltimore in London's Wembley Stadium.

And as ESPN.com's Michael DiRocco notes, in each case, they perfectly followed the plan that executive VP of football operations Tom Coughlin and head coach Doug Marrone want: Run the ball, minimize Blake Bortles' mistakes, pressure the opposing quarterback and force turnovers.

DiRocco went on to suggest, "Maybe that's who the Jaguars really are in 2017. Maybe their identity is that of a team with a suffocating defense that forces turnovers and an efficient ball-control offense that doesn't turn the ball over.

"And if that's the case, they're staring at a potential 3-1 start before a showdown with Pittsburgh that will show just how close the franchise is to being one of the AFC's elite teams."

"I think as long as we can take care of the things we can control, take care of the football, kind of let our defense play the way they played today, we're going to be all right," Bortles said.

The Jaguars ran for 166 yards against the Ravens, including 59 and a touchdown from rookie Leonard Fournette, and Bortles completed 20 of 31 passes for 244 yards and four touchdowns, which is one TD shy of his career high. More importantly, Bortles was not sacked and the Jaguars didn't turn the ball over.

Fournette averaged 3.5 yards per carry but was more effective than that, because he had runs of 10 and 19 yards called back because of penalties.

As DiRocco suggested, it's going to be tough going for Fournette, because teams are loading the box and making stopping the run their first priority. Still, he got critical yards when the Jaguars needed it. He gained 6 yards on a fourth-and-1 carry to keep a drive alive that ended with a field goal, which gave the Jaguars a 13-0 lead early in the second quarter.

The Jaguars held the Ravens to just 15 yards and one first down in the first half. For the game, they intercepted quarterback Joe Flacco twice, sacked him twice and sent him to the bench in the fourth quarter. Flacco threw for only 28 yards. Baltimore (2-1) managed just 186 total yards.

Sunday's performance was similar to Jacksonville's 29-7 victory over Houston in the season opener: Fournette ran for a touchdown, no giveaways on offense, 10 sacks and four turnovers forced by the defense.

In between there was a clunker of a 37-16 loss to Tennessee, but that game stayed close into the third quarter before things fell apart due to a rash of turnovers and penalties. That seems to prove the point that when the Jaguars follow the Coughlin/Marrone plan they can at least be competitive with most teams.

After routing the Ravens, the Jaguars are forcing the rest of the AFC South to take notice that they're no longer the easy W on the schedule they have been for much of the past decade. With Indianapolis struggling without Andrew Luck and Houston dealing with a rookie quarterback, the Jaguars look -- after three weeks, anyway -- like they can challenge Tennessee for the division title.

"We believe in our capabilities, whether nobody else does," said cornerback A.J. Bouye, who had one of the Jaguars' two interceptions. "We know what we do in practice. We know the work we put in from the D-line to the linebackers to the corners to the safeties, and you could tell when the turnovers started coming, the sacks and everything, we kept getting motivated and our offense kept making plays.

"The ceiling is high for us, and this was probably our best game of the year and we want more games like this. We know it's going to be tough, but Coach [Marrone] always emphasizes just being consistent."

They'll reinforce that if they travel to New York Sunday and beat the Jets for their first 3-1 start since 2007. That was the last time the franchise had a winning record -- and made the playoffs.

Meanwhile, as Associated Press sports writer Mark Long pointed out, this will be the first time in five seasons that Jacksonville has not enjoyed a bye week following a "home game" in London.

Marrone said they arrived at the team facility around 2 a.m. Monday. He tried to sleep in his office, but fire alarm tests woke up him a few hours later.

"That didn't work out too well for me," Marrone said.

Players and assistants, meanwhile, headed home for several hours before they returned later for treatment, workouts and game review.

"It's kind of like a West Coast trip, where you're playing a Monday Night game and you get in at that time and then you have to turn around and play again," Marrone said.

Getting back on the field will be the real test for a team that has been really good for 10 quarters and really bad for two. Marrone wants to see them build on the success in London.

"That's a snapshot of exactly how we want to play and what we want to do in all three phases. Again, it (needs to) become consistent. ..."

Other notes of interest. ... Marqise Lee injured an ankle on Sunday but had it re-taped and returned to action, finishing with four catches for 65 yards. As NFL.com's Matt Harmon notes, Lee has 19 targets combined in the two games since Allen Robinson went down with a torn ACL.

Harmon added, "He offers some semblance of a volume floor when Jacksonville can control a game like this and can hit a ceiling when they need to chase a team, as they did in Week 2."

Allen Hurns pulled in all three of his targets for 20 yards and a touchdown in London.

Tight end Marcedes Lewis tied a Jaguars franchise record with three TD catches against Baltimore. That raised Lewis' career total to 31, surpassing current Jaguars receiving coach Keenan McCardell, who had 30 TD receptions with the Jaguars. Lewis won't catch the all-time record of 67 held by Jimmy Smith.

Harmon, however, reminded his readers not to chase those TDs. Lewis had three touchdowns in 2014, 2015 and 2016 combined.

Corey Grant continues to make significant contributions to the Jaguars success even though his game action has been limited. Grant is contending with T.J. Yeldon for the No. 3 running back spot while serving as the Jaguars kickoff returner and playing on the punt coverage team. Grant's big play on Sunday was a 58-yard run from punt formation in the third quarter with the Jaguars holding a 37-0 lead. Grant took a direct snap and immediately turned around right end and had a clear path down the sideline to the 2-yard line where he was finally tackled. That run enabled Grant to lead the team in rushing with 75 yards on six carries.

Yeldon, meanwhile, was a healthy scratch in London.

One last note here. ... Receiver Jaelen Strong (hamstring) was held out of practice Wednesday.


DEPTH CHART
QBs: Blake Bortles, Chad Henne, Brandon Allen
RBs: Leonard Fournette, Chris Ivory, T.J. Yeldon, Corey Grant
WRs: Keelan Cole, Dede Westbrook, Allen Hurns, Max McCaffrey, Jaelen Strong, Marqise Lee
TEs: Marcedes Lewis, Ben Koyack

Kansas City Chiefs

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 26 September 2017

According to Associated Press sports writer Dave Skretta, the Chiefs have ripped off so many big plays during a 3-0 start this season that the latest, a 69-yard touchdown run by Kareem Hunt against the Chargers on Sunday, wasn't even supposed to happen.

Hunt was reminded in the huddle that he only needed to pick up a first down to allow Kansas City to run out the clock. So when the record-setting rookie took the handoff, dodged to his left and hit daylight, head coach Andy Reid wanted him to go down and eliminate any risk of a fluke turnover.

Instead, Hunt outran the defense for a touchdown to cap a 24-10 victory in style.

"You'd like him to go down and that's a tough thing to do," Reid said. "Game over at that point if you get a first down. He kept running, and he's young and he'll learn that. That's a tough thing to ask."

It's almost as if the Chiefs' offense can't help but reel off big plays.

Reid and his much-maligned quarterback, Alex Smith, have earned a reputation for running a dink-and-dunk system the past few years. Short pass plays and conservatives runs have been the norm.

But the drafting of speedy wide receiver Tyreek Hill last year and Hunt this year have transformed the offense, giving it a pair of big-play threats that have so long been absent. Already those two have provided five plays of at least 50 yards this season, more than the Chiefs had all of last season combined.

"This is a big thing in this league," Reid said of the big plays, pointing out how hard it has become to slowly drive downfield. "That's a tough thing to do for an opponent."

Far easier to get big chunks of yards in a single play.

The Chiefs had two of the four biggest plays from scrimmage in the entire league heading into Monday night's game between the Cowboys and Cardinals. They both occurred in a 42-27 season-opening victory over New England, a 78-yard touchdown pass to Hunt and a 75-yard scoring strike to Hill that seemed to have set the tone for the way the Kansas City offense has been humming through three games.

When you throw in Hunt's latest touchdown run, which made him the first rookie since 1981 with six or more scores through the first three weeks, the Chiefs have three of the 10 longest plays from scrimmage.

"He's at a spot right now where he's catching a lot of footballs, he runs with power, mentally he knows where he's at, he's able to block for us. So right now he's doing everything that we're asking him to do," Chiefs offensive coordinator Matt Nagy said. "Now, not to say that Kareem doesn't have weaknesses because we all have weaknesses, but so far what we've asked him to do, he's doing it all pretty well."

That may be the biggest understatement this week.

He had 17 carries for 172 yards against the Chargers, giving him a league-leading 401 yards rushing. He has 538 yards from scrimmage, more than 150 more than second-place Todd Gurley, and is a big reason the Chiefs are third in the NFL in total offense behind the Rams and Patriots.

Hunt isn't the only reason the Chiefs have been ripping off those big plays. Remember that the Chiefs' two biggest plays this season have come with Smith slinging the ball.

The quarterback known primarily as a game manager tossed two more touchdown passes against the Chargers, giving him a 128.1 passer rating.

That makes four straight regular-season games dating to Week 17 last season in which Smith has surpassed the 100.0 mark in a game.

Meanwhile, Kansas City Star beat writer Terez Paylor advised readers not to expect the Chiefs to stop giving the ball to Hunt anytime soon.

Reid was asked Monday if the Chiefs have to be careful with how much they work they give the 5-10, 208-pound Hunt -- who leads in the NFL in rushing and is on pace to record 299 touches this season. Reid said that's not a consideration.

"No, I think we're OK with how we're using him," Reid said. "We're still getting Charcandrick West in there for reps, and if the other Hunt (Akeem Hunt) comes along here we'll have a third back that we're comfortable with. I think we're OK right now … I've used No. 10 (Hill) in the backfield there where there's pass routes, and he had a carry yesterday. I think we're all right."

Reid said it's possible -- even likely -- for rookie running backs to hit a wall. But not all of them do.

"If I didn't (give him the ball) then you'd ask me if I needed to give him the ball more," Reid said. "I went through that with Jamaal Charles, at first it was too much, then not enough, it goes back and forth. I just go off of the feel I have and the experience, we'll be all right there."

Not since Billy Sims of the 1980 Lions took the NFL by storm has a rookie running back done what Hunt has accomplished for the 2017 Chiefs.

According to the NFL, Hunt matched Sims and Dutch Sternaman of the 1920 Decatur Staleys for the most touchdowns by any player in his first three NFL games (six).

Hunt's 538 yards from scrimmage is second only to Sims, who had 562 during his first three games for the Lions. Hunt easily surpassed Sid Blanks of the 1964 Houston Oilers for the No. 2 spot; Blanks racked up 452 yards in three games.

Making Hunt's performance possible was, in part, the season-ending knee injury suffered by Spencer Ware in the preseason. Hunt's skills and the team's blocking likely had a little something to do with it, too.

Bottom line?

It's all good for those who invested in Hunt this summer. ...

Other notes of interest. ... While Hill continues to prove himself worthy of the team's decision over the offseason to make him their WR1, Travis Kelce continues to be a more volatile commodity than fantasy owners would prefer. It appears some of this is related to Hill.

As NFL.com's Matt Harmon explained, "Given that this is still a conservative offense run by Alex Smith, it does appear that it'll be rare for both Hill and Kelce to go off. The latter had just one target (against the Charger). Kelce posted a combined six catches for 41 yards in the two games Hill finished with a big fantasy day. Hill failed to crack 50 yards in Week 2 when Kelce popped up for 103 yards and a touchdown on 10 targets."

We'll see if there's enough to go around for both receivers, but with Hunt dominating the offense, Harmon's contention is sound.

And finally. ... The Chiefs parked kicker Cairo Santos during the preseason because of a groin injury, and now they're going to be without him for at least eight weeks.

The team announced they had placed Santos on injured reserve, and signed rookie Harrison Butker off the Panthers practice squad.

Santos had played in all three games so far, and hadn't missed a field goal or an extra point. But he was apparently still bothered by the old problem, which cost him three weeks of the preseason.

Butker was actually on the Panthers 53-man roster to start the season, while the waited to see if they could swing a trade for either him or Graham Gano. The seventh-round pick from Georgia Tech has a strong leg and nearly unseated Gano.


DEPTH CHART
QBs: Patrick Mahomes, Alex Smith, Tyler Bray
RBs: Kareem Hunt, Charcandrick West, Akeem Hunt
WRs: Tyreek Hill, Albert Wilson, De'Anthony Thomas, Jehu Chesson, Demarcus Robinson
TEs: Travis Kelce, Demetrius Harris

Los Angeles Chargers

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 26 September 2017

According to ESPN.com's Eric D. Williams, Philip Rivers is a creature of habit.

But now, Rivers is playing in a new stadium, in a new city and dealing with the pressures of trying to win over a new fan base in L.A. -- a city that so far has been indifferent to the Bolts' presence.

Sunday's performance against the Kansas City Chiefs didn't help win over any fans. In a game ready for the taking, the Chargers lacked killer instinct on offense, with Rivers throwing three interceptions.

"I really was just never in any kind of groove the whole day," Rivers said. "Shoot, anytime a quarterback plays that poorly, it's going to be tough to win, and that's really a shame because our defense was awesome."

As Williams went on to suggest, Rivers might as well have been playing 7-on-7, the protection was so good, with two sacks coming late in the game when the Chiefs knew the Chargers were going to throw. Pressure was not an issue in Rivers' performance.

Running back Melvin Gordon's play was the only saving grace for the offense. He finished with 79 yards on 18 carries, with 78 of those coming in the first half before the Wisconsin product went out with a knee injury.

Gordon returned later in the second half but was ineffective, and the Chargers' running game suffered.

Rivers has been commuting back and forth from San Diego with backup quarterback Kellen Clemens.

He has a driver and a revamped SUV that allows him to prepare during the ride home to his wife and eight kids, so he doesn't miss any time with his preparation.

Gordon said that relocation isn't an excuse for the offense's ineffectiveness and the move doesn't have anything to do with how the offense is executing on the field.

"That has nothing to do with what we have going on out here," Gordon said. "I think our full focus is on the game. He [Rivers] just made a couple mistakes. It happens, and it is what it is. But he's the leader, so we rally behind him.

"He makes a mistake, and he gets over it. We get over it. We have to go out there as a team and try and make him play a winning game."

According to Williams, Gordon is right. Rivers' issues have more to do with getting into a rhythm on offense. We're talking about someone with a career 64.4 percent completion percentage that completed just 50 percent of his throws in a 24-10 loss against the Chiefs on Sunday.

According to ESPN Stats and Information, Rivers was off-target on 11 throws, two of which were intercepted. The 11 off-target passes are tied for the most by a quarterback in a game this season, and Rivers' 27 percent off-target rate is his third-worst mark in the past five seasons.

In his first two games of the season, Rivers combined to throw just 10 off-target passes with no interceptions.

The remedy? The Chargers and offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt have to get back to the quick, short passing game installed when he first joined the Chargers in 2013. That season, Rivers completed a career-high 69.5 percent of his passes on his way to a Pro Bowl season. That was also the last time the Chargers made the playoffs.

"It's too early to overact," Rivers said. "Shoot, last week it wasn't about four balls that hit the ground besides throwaways. This week, I didn't have a completion until halfway through the first quarter, except to the other team.

"I had more completions to the other team than I had to our team. I was just bad. There was just really nothing. I think you hope you avoid days like this all year long, but if you have them, shoot, learn from them and go -- and not overreact."

Worth noting, however, Rivers has had eight three-pick games before Sunday. In fact, Rivers has led or shared the lead for the most interceptions in the NFL in two of the past three years. Last year, Rivers paced all others with a career-high 21 interceptions.

Rivers will need to rebound in order for the Chargers offense to deliver for fantasy owners against the Eagles this weekend.

The good news?

After missing most of the second half Sunday with a sore knee, head coach Anthony Lynn said Gordon should be fine and is on target to play on Sunday.

"He's sore," Lynn said. "He was sore last week. We'll monitor him this week, but I'm sure he'll be fine."

Gordon's sore knee is the same left knee he had microfracture surgery on during the offseason in 2016 after his rookie year.

Gordon also missed the final three games last season due to a hip strain and a sprained left knee. However, Gordon said after Sunday's loss that he landed awkwardly and is fine.

"I played through a lot and been through a lot with my knee," Gordon said. "I'm good."

Before the injury, Gordon was having his best day this season.

On the season, Gordon has 146 yards on 44 carries and three total touchdowns, for an average of 3.3 yards per carry.

I'll have more on Gordon via Late-Breaking Update as the week progresses. ...

Tight end Hunter Henry continues to disappear in an offense in which he had eight touchdown receptions last year. He was thought to be a big part of the mix, but once again he was seldom in Rivers' sights. Henry had zero receptions and targets. Lynn said, "I've got to get him involved."

Once again, Keenan Allen was the most-targeted Chargers receiver. Expect that to be the norm going forward.

And those of you who enjoy Daily Fantasy Tournament play, don't overlook Travis Benjamin as a bargain-basement prospect after he caught two passes for 70 yards out of the slot against the Chiefs.

Tyrell Williams has been more-heavily targeted over the course of the first three games (18 targets for Williams to 15 for Benjamin), but the speedier Benjamin has been the bigger threat.


DEPTH CHART
QBs: Philip Rivers, Cardale Jones
RBs: Melvin Gordon, Branden Oliver
WRs: Keenan Allen, Tyrell Williams, Travis Benjamin, Mike Williams, Geremy Davis
TEs: Antonio Gates, Sean McGrath

Los Angeles Rams

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 26 September 2017

As Associated Press sports writer Dan Greenspan pointed out, the Rams have won two of their first three games for the second straight year, but are using an entirely different formula this season.

The offense is leading the way, making up for surprising breakdowns on defense and special teams in the Rams' 41-39 win at San Francisco last Thursday night. It was the other way around last season, with the defense and special teams controlling things until the offense chipped in with a timely play or two.

First-year head coach Sean McVay wouldn't say if the offense was performing better than he expected, but as Greenspan suggested, totaling 418 yards and averaging 7.0 yards per play against the 49ers would have seemed improbable to anyone who watched the Rams lose both games between the teams last season.

Jared Goff was 22 of 28 for 292 yards and three touchdowns without a turnover. Todd Gurley rushed for 113 yards, and Robert Woods and Sammy Watkins each topped 100 yards receiving.

But Goff was the key as his played point guard while distributing the ball all over the field.

"I thought Jared managed the game really well. Distributed the ball to the playmakers, gave guys the chance down the field," McVay said. "Those are the kinds of things we expect from him.

"I just kind of take it one day at a time, one game at a time, and I thought yesterday was a good offensive performance," McVay said last Friday. "Anytime that you are able to go 8 for 12 on third down, 5 for 7 in the red zone, those key situations, that's going to give yourself a chance to score some points and do some good things."

Goff found Watkins on two touchdown passes, his first scores since being acquired from Buffalo in an offseason trade, but it was a 47-yard over-the-shoulder catch that showed both his potential and that of the Rams' new offense. McVay compared Watkins' ability to track the ball on that play to that of DeSean Jackson, who thrived as the deep threat in Washington when McVay was offensive coordinator.

"I heard the announcers say a Willie Mays-type catch where you're tracking it over your inside and then over your outside shoulder kind of like a deep center fielder, but those are the types of plays that make Sammy a special player," McVay said. "To be able to make that big play down the field I thought was a huge spark for our offense at the time."

Watkins' sensational catch came two plays after center John Sullivan suffered a groin injury that knocked him out of the game. McVay was impressed that the offense was able to maintain its momentum with backup Austin Blythe replacing the free-agent signing. Blythe even received a game ball in the locker room after the win.

The focus ahead of Sunday's game at the Dallas Cowboys will be getting the defense to find some consistency after struggling in each of the last two games. H

However, McVay was pleased with the unit's ability to come through with timely plays.

In fact, that ability has been a revelation.

And there are reasons to believe it can continue as Goff and his revamped weapons get more and more comfortable in McVay's offense.

"There's no limits or expectations on ourselves," Goff said.

That seems especially true of Gurley, who struggled last year finding his groove after earning Offensive Rookie of the Year honors in 2015. He didn't exceed 100 yards one time over 16 games, and there was genuine concern he was a one-year wonder.

All that talk is over now, with Gurley flourishing in McVay's new offense as a runner and pass-catcher.

Gurley has scored six touchdowns through three games.

"Todd continues to show why he's a complete running back," McVay said. "That's what we continue to expect from Todd."

Gurley, fresh from the win over the 49ers, said on NFL Network that his team will take care of the Cowboys in Week 4.

"Next week, we've got Dallas," Gurley said. "We've got a little break. So we're gonna whoop up" on the Cowboys.

The Rams benefit not only from the fact that they have three extra days to get ready -- and that the Cowboys will have one less day.

Other notes of interest. ... Watkins left Thursday's game and is in concussion protocol. The same goes for Tavon Austin.

I'll have more on both players via Late-Breaking Update as the week progresses.

And finally. ... Cooper Kupp came into Thursday night with six targets in back-to-back weeks. Against the 49ers, however, Kupp saw just two targets and was on the field for less than 60 percent of the team's plays. As NFL.com's Matt Harmon suggested, "We now have questions about his role."


DEPTH CHART
QBs: Jared Goff, Sean Mannion
RBs: Todd Gurley, Malcolm Brown, Lance Dunbar
WRs: Robert Woods, Sammy Watkins, Cooper Kupp, Tavon Austin, Pharoh Cooper, Josh Reynolds
TEs: Tyler Higbee, Gerald Everett

Miami Dolphins

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 26 September 2017

According to Associated Press sports writer Steven Wine, head coach Adam Gase talked trash Monday describing his team's offense.

"Just garbage," he said.

That might be unfair to landfills.

Gase said the Dolphins' 20-6 loss Sunday at the New York Jets matched their worst offensive performance since he became head coach in 2016.

After reviewing the videotape, he threatened a lineup shake-up.

"I'm tired of watching it for two years," Gase said. "We're going to figure something out. ... I'll find the guys that want to do it right, and those are the guys that will play."

Personnel changes are most likely up front, where the Dolphins were manhandled by the Jets. When asked what he liked about the offense's performance, Gase said "nothing."

As Wine noted, Gase is usually quick to take blame when things go wrong, but this time he's casting a wide net for culprits. The plays he calls have produced two touchdowns in two games despite an abundance of apparent talent at the skill positions.

Miami netted only 225 yards at the Jets and didn't score until the final play -- against a team that had showed the potential to go 0-16.

The Dolphins are 1-1 only because they escaped with a 19-17 victory in Game 1 when the Los Angeles Chargers' Younghoe Koo missed a 44-yard field goal attempt with 5 seconds left.

Last year, Gase simplified the playbook after the Dolphins started 1-4, which contributed to a turnaround that helped them make the playoffs for the first time since 2008. But after quarterback Ryan Tannehill was sidelined in December by a season-ending knee injury, the offense again struggled.

This season, mental mistakes have been a problem for a unit led by quarterback Jay Cutler.

"It's just surprising some of the stuff we don't do right," Gase said. "We skimmed it back as much as we could over the last year to try to make it where we could play fast and win one on one. We're not doing it."

Cutler came out of retirement when Tannehill reinjured his knee in August, and might now be wondering if he made the right decision.

The Jets stuffed Miami's ground game, allowing Jay Ajayi only 16 yards in 11 carries. That repeatedly created long-yardage situations that allowed them to put heavy pressure on Cutler. He was hit seven times and sacked three times, and his unit went 1 for 15 on third and fourth down. How did the veteran play?

"Not as well as I'd like him to," Gase said. "He took a couple of vicious shots early. He's 34. It's a little different when you're 25."

Cutler went 26 for 44 for 220 yards and had several passes dropped.

"I believe we're a good offense," Cutler said. "We just laid an egg."

Players said the Dolphins practiced poorly last week, but Gase disagreed. Regardless, more intensity in drills is a certainty this week.

"I think anytime you go out there and play like that, you're going to go back and look at what you did at practice and refine some things and change some things and try to get better," Cutler said. "I believe we're a good offense. We have a lot of talent. We'll go and look at this game and figure things out and go back to practice. That's all we can do."

That's true.

According to ESPN.com's James Walker, one problem is Miami's offense is getting accustomed to slow starts. The team has three points in the first half and two touchdowns total in two games. The Dolphins also were 1-of-12 on third-down conversions against the Jets and panicked when they couldn't get the running game going.

Miami's offense is stacked with talent and had high expectations facing a Jets defense that allowed the most points (66) in the NFL after two games and 45 points a week ago. However, the Dolphins were shut out until the final play of the game. Fantasy owners buying into the talent have been disappointed at the results: Just two touchdowns in their first two games.

This week, the Dolphins will play their third consecutive road game to start the regular season when they travel to London to take on the Saints. The game technically a home date for Miami, but the team has yet to play in Hard Rock Stadium because of the cancellation of its Week 1 home game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

On the injury front. ... According to Miami Herald staffer Adam Beasley, Ajayi was on the sidelines Wednesday in street clothes and a sleeve on his right leg. He also missed time last week with the same knee issue. Receiver Kenny Stills also appeared to be nursing a hand injury during Wednesday's session. Watch the Late-Breaking Updates section for more. ...

A few final notes here. ... Jarvis Landry was targeted a team-high 11 times against the Jets. This is after being targeted a team-high 15 times the previous week against the Los Angeles Chargers. Landry had six receptions for 48 yards against the Jets.

But with the Jets unable to run, Landry's heavy workload didn't limit DeVante Parker or Stills. Both players drew 10 targets and Parker pulled in a late touchdown to salvage his day for fantasy owners.

News broke in August that Landry was under investigation for battery by the Broward County State Attorney's Office as the result of an incident with the mother of his child earlier this year. The woman said Landry did not inflict any physical harm and Landry said the same, but the investigation continued into September. It has now come to an end and Landry will not be facing any charges.

"I am very thankful that this matter is over and my family and I can put this behind us now," Landry said in a statement, via Adam Schefter of ESPN. "I greatly respect and appreciate the Broward County State Attorney's Office for their hard work and thorough investigation into this matter and I am thankful that they were able to come to a conclusion that reaffirms the true facts that no crime was committed. My daughter's mother and I will continue to co-parent to raise our child in a happy and healthy environment. I would like to thank my family and friends for their continued support throughout this process."

As Profootballtalk.com notes, the NFL was reportedly doing its own investigation into the matter and, as we've been reminded in the Ezekiel Elliott case, the absence of criminal charges doesn't mean the league won't try to impose discipline on a player.

In addition, the Dolphins reinstated Lawrence Timmons, and the linebacker will play Sunday against the Saints, PFT has confirmed. A week ago, the team suspended Timmons indefinitely after he went AWOL the day before the Dolphins' season opener against the Chargers. Miami made a trade with New Orleans for linebacker Stephone Anthony a few hours after announcing Timmons' suspension last week.

And finally. ... Kenyan Drake ended with one carry for no yards against the Jets despite playing almost the entire fourth quarter. Of course, Miami was forced to pass by that time to come back from its 20-0 deficit. Drake ended up with one reception for two yards.


DEPTH CHART
QBs: Jay Cutler, Matt Moore, Brandon Doughty
RBs: Kenyan Drake, Damien Williams
WRs: Jarvis Landry, DeVante Parker, Kenny Stills, Leonte Carroo, Jakeem Grant
TEs: Anthony Fasano, MarQueis Gray

Minnesota Vikings

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 26 September 2017

As ESPN.com's Courtney Cronin noted, Case Keenum's reputation preceded him against Tampa Bay. Over the years, the veteran quarterback compiled some of his best NFL starts against the Bucs' defense, a trend that continued in Week 3.

With Sam Bradford out for a second straight game with an injury to his left knee, Keenum led the Minnesota Vikings to a 34-17 win over Tampa Bay at U.S. Bank Stadium. It was a performance rooted in redemption after Keenum's rough outing in Pittsburgh last Sunday.

"It was huge," Vikings wide receiver Adam Thielen said. "I think he was probably frustrated from last week, like we all were, and he wanted to go out there and prove that he can play at a high level. The great thing about him is he's done it before. He's had starts in this league, he's won games in this league. For us, we've just got to trust it and go run the play that's called."

Keenum lived up to his status as a Bucs slayer, posting a career-best 369 passing yards and completing 25 of his 33 throws, tossing three touchdowns and finishing with a 142.1 passer rating. He did it against a Tampa Bay defense that was nowhere close to full strength. The Buccaneers entered the game missing a starter from every unit of the defense and dealt with injuries to defensive tackle Gerald McCoy (ankle) and safety T.J. Ward (hip) in the second half.

Nevertheless, when called upon, Keenum answered, which earned him a rare postgame honor.

"I usually don't give out game balls after a game," head coach Mike Zimmer said. "I thought he played great, made great decisions, took care of the football. There were times he ran the ball when he needed to. I thought he played great."

Most importantly, the journeyman quarterback proved he is a viable backup for the Vikings, who are uncertain when Bradford will return.

That fast start the Vikings preached all week? Keenum orchestrated it and showed poise as the Vikings took a more aggressive approach from the get-go. The quarterback averaged 11.2 yards per pass and led Minnesota's up-tempo approach, which allowed the Vikings to run 19 more plays than the Bucs.

"I was having fun," Keenum said. "Guys were feeding off of me, I'm feeding off those guys. Offensive line played incredible tonight. That's where it starts offensively for us. I think I was on the ground maybe once.

"All those guys -- Stefon Diggs, Adam, Jarius Wright making plays. When you look across the board from all those guys to Kyle Rudolph, and you're comfortable with everybody, that's a great place to be as a quarterback."

By halftime, Keenum had thrown three touchdowns to give the Vikings a comfortable 21-3 lead. Not once did he fumble or throw an interception, unlike Tampa Bay quarterback Jameis Winston, who tossed three interceptions on Sunday.

Coincidentally, Keenum is the first quarterback to beat Winston head-to-head three straight times.

The Vikings outgained the Buccaneers in every facet: on the ground (125-26), in the air (369-316), on first and third down and in yards per play (7.1 to 6.7).

Minnesota instilled a ton of trust in Keenum's abilities, a credit to the game plan drawn up by offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur. The strategy against the Buccaneers didn't include a dink-and-dunk approach. Keenum was less predictable and wasn't afraid to take shots down the field. On throws of 15 yards or more, Keenum was 7-of-9 for 221 yards and two touchdowns, according to ESPN Stats and Information.

Unlike a week ago, Minnesota's receivers were able to establish themselves as deep threats. On passes of more than 15 yards, Keenum was 2-of-3 for 64 yards when targeting Thielen and 5-of-6 for 157 yards and two scores when targeting Diggs. Those five receptions on such throws are the most by a Vikings wide receiver over the past 10 seasons and the most by any player in a game this season.

His receivers didn't have to fight for many 50-50 balls, either. Keenum showcased an ability to carve up Tampa Bay's defensive backs on corner routes. Under pressure, Keenum pulled a 180 from his performance last week, finishing 11-of-13 for 232 yards and three touchdowns against the blitz.

"There were a few times when he made checks at the line and that was huge for us because he got us in the perfect play that he know we could beat one-on-one in coverage," Thielen said. "He did a great job tonight commanding the huddle and just running with it."

Of greater interest to fantasy owners, of course, was Keenum's ability to fuel the fantasy fortunes of Diggs and Thielen.

As NFL.com's Matt Harmon put it, "Diggs continues to build on his growing resume as an NFL star" -- perhaps even more so than usual with Keenum was dialed in on his No. 1 receiver. Per Harmon, Diggs' absorbed a 52.1 percent share of the team's intended air yards on the day. His move from the slot has indeed afforded him the opportunity for more big play chances.

Thielen was second on the team in targets with eight. According to Harmon, he also benefitted from Keenum's aggressive mindset, averaging 16.4 air yards per target. While Harmon believes Thielen is a riskier start without Bradford, both wideouts deserve more respect than they got heading into Week 3.

Diggs had two touchdown catches, tying his career high of four in a season. After three games.

"It's fun when that guy is on the field," Keenum said of Diggs. "He's a special dude."

Thielen has 19 catches on the season. According to the Sports Xchange, that's the eighth-highest total after three games in franchise history. Percy Harvin had the most, 27, in 2012. Thielen's 299 yards receiving is the third-highest total through three games. Gene Washington had the most, 397, in 1969

Thielen and Diggs (293 yards) are second and third in the league in receiving, respectively, behind Pittsburgh star Antonio Brown. ...

Meanwhile, Bradford, who injured his left knee on a non-contact play in the season opener against the Saints, sought out a second opinion from Dr. James Andrews in Florida last Friday. Andrews twice surgically repaired Bradford's left knee twice, fixing the quarterback's torn ACL in 2013 and 2014.

Zimmer has said Bradford doesn't need surgery, as medical tests on Bradford's knee revealed no structural damage. But the Vikings remain uncertain about Bradford's status for next Sunday's game against Detroit -- although the coach said the team would go back to Bradford once he's healthy enough to do so.

But Bradford wasn't even in the building on Sunday and he didn't practice Wednesday (which is a change from the past two weeks, when he was limited both Wednesday), and it's hard to know exactly when he'll return (althogh Zimmer told reporters on Wednesday that the team is "doing everything they can" to get Bradford ready to play against the Lions in Sunday's home game."

So, as Profootballtalk.com's Mike Florio pointed out Monday, here's one thing we know: In three weeks, Teddy Bridgewater will be eligible to return from the Physically Unable to Perform list and to practice with the team. One source with knowledge of the situation tells Florio that Bridgewater will be ready to go, but that the Vikings likely will proceed with caution.

At some point, however, necessity may supersede caution. If, for example, Keenum gets injured and Bradford doesn't get healed, the Vikings may decide to do what they have to do to get Bridgewater back on the field.

The Vikings are 2-1 through three games, with upcoming games against the Lions and Bears. ...

Other notes of interest. ... Dalvin Cook wants to prove he can do it all: Pass protection, catch throws and run the football. He excelled in all three areas in Week 3, while continuing to make history as the first Vikings rookie to notch 288 rushing yards over his first three games.

Cook's first NFL touchdown was set up by a 16-yard pass that he caught two plays earlier, a role of his that is increasing week-to-week.

Adding Cook as a wrinkle in the passing game gives Keenum a threat that forces teams to play Cook outside, an area where the running back can excel with his speed. And did you see how it took two, three or even four defenders to tackle him? Cook racked up 84 yards after contact on his runs and receptions, according to ESPN Stats and Information data.

Volume has been his friend. Cook benefited from 32 touches against the Buccaneers with 97 yards on the ground and 72 receiving. As NFL.com's Matt Franciscovich noted, Cook gave owners a scare when he stayed down after a hit in the second half, but he popped back up and was back in the field in no time

Latavius Murray and Jerick McKinnon combined for five touches. Neither are fantasy relevant.


DEPTH CHART
QBs: Case Keenum, Teddy Bridgewater, Sam Bradford
RBs: Latavius Murray, Jerick McKinnon, Mack Brown, C.J. Ham
WRs: Stefon Diggs, Adam Thielen, Laquon Treadwell, Michael Floyd, Jarius Wright, Rodney Adams, Stacy Coley
TEs: Kyle Rudolph, David Morgan, Blake Bell

New England Patriots

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 26 September 2017

As ESPN.com's Mike Reiss noted, tight end Rob Gronkowski's groin injury didn't stop him from playing 64 of a possible 65 offensive snaps in Sunday's 36-33 win over the Houston Texans.

But that's not to say it didn't take him a lot of hard work to get to that point.

"It wasn't 100 percent, I would probably say, until the game," Gronkowski said. "You have to work it through rehab and practice and everything. I knew it was going to be good. That's why I said this week, 'I'll be good.'"

Gronkowski was better than that, totaling eight catches for 89 yards with a touchdown. He was particularly impressive on the team's game-winning touchdown drive when he powered forward on third-and-12 to pick up the first down on a 15-yard catch-and-run reception. That was a big play in the comeback.

The lone snap Gronkowski didn't play came in the first half, on a third-and-4 play, when the Patriots had four receivers and a running back on the field.

Chris Hogan was immense in the first half (four catches for 68 yards, two TDs) while Danny Amendola was back in the No. 3 role after missing the team's Week 2 win over the Saints with a concussion, which meant Phillip Dorsett (knee/questionable) slipped to the No. 4 spot.

It was telling that when the Patriots faced third-and-18 on the game-winning drive, it was Amendola who was the target. He's earned that trust.

According to Reiss, outside of one decision on a punt return when he let the ball bounce and it pinned the Patriots deep in their own territory, Amendola played big in his return to action, setting the Patriots up with a shorter field on their first touchdown with a 33-yard punt return and then hauling in the above-mentioned 27-yard pass to keep the game-winning drive alive. Per Reiss: "That's Julian Edelman-type clutch."

"I've got a job to do when I'm out there," Amendola said after having missed one game due to a concussion. "It was good to get back. Missed it last week."

With Rex Burkhead (ribs) inactive, it led to a slight uptick for Dion Lewis, but otherwise, not a huge change in workload at running back as James White led the way with 32 snaps and Mike Gillislee getting 21. Lewis was on the field for 12 snaps.

All that said, the Patriots want to be more balanced and less predictable in the backfield this fall.

So far, it hasn't worked out.

New England ran the ball just 20 times for a mere 59 yards (3.0 average) against Houston. Gillislee continues to get the most carries, but the newcomer was able to gain just 31 yards on his 12 attempts. In the face of the pass rush New England tried to turn to the ground attack in the fourth quarter but it didn't work. Gillislee picked up 5 and 4 yards on consecutive carries to start a drive trailing 30-28, but was stuffed on third-and-1 leading to the punt.

Short-yardage runs have been an issue through three weeks, but the bigger concern is the inability to really get much of a complementary ground game going in New England.

That's on Gillislee and the offensive line, neither of which were good enough against Houston.

Meanwhile, through three weeks, the Patriots have been a pass-happy team on both sides of the ball. Offensively, that's seen Tom Brady tally a 121.5 passer rating through three games, completing 64.5 percent of his throws for 1,092 yards with eight touchdowns and no interceptions. That's tremendous production for anyone, never mind a 40-year-old.

Still, Brady led his 52nd career game-winning drive to bring the Patriots back from a fourth-quarter deficit or tie, and by connecting with wide receiver Brandin Cooks on two touchdowns, he has now thrown a scoring pass to 67 players in the regular season over his career.

He is closing on the all-time record of 70, held by Vinny Testaverde.

With a five-TD effort against Houston, it's no surprise that Brady was named the AFC Offensive Player of the Week for a second-straight week.

Cooks entered the game with five catches for 125 yards in the first two games of the season. He finished with five for 131 against the Texans, along with two touchdowns, including the game-winner. The final catch was close.

"It's a game of inches," Brady said of Cooks' effort. "It was a great play."

With all the key skill players delivering, it's worth noting a first-down pass on the Patriots' second drive bounced off Dwayne Allen's hands, and there was another play where Brady seemed to be looking in his direction (but got sacked, both of which seem to capture how the two are struggling to get on the same page.

This week, New England will host the Panthers, who also boast a tough defense -- but one that wasn't up to snuff in a loss to New Orleans last weekend.

One last note here. ... Burkhead remained on the sidelines when the Patriots started their week on Wednesday.


DEPTH CHART
QBs: Tom Brady, Brian Hoyer
RBs: Dion Lewis, Rex Burkhead, James White, Mike Gillislee, James Develin
WRs: Brandin Cooks, Chris Hogan, Danny Amendola, Kenny Britt, Phillip Dorsett, Malcolm Mitchell, Matt Slater
TEs: Rob Gronkowski, Dwayne Allen

New Orleans Saints

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 26 September 2017

As ESPN.com's Mike Triplett noted, "Turns out, the New Orleans Saints weren't ready to call it a season just yet. ..."

They got a stunning bounce-back performance from the NFL's 32nd-ranked defense (three interceptions and four sacks).

They got their best offensive performance to date against the Carolina Panthers, who had the top-ranked defense through two weeks. The running game finally had success with Mark Ingram, Adrian Peterson and Alvin Kamara all contributing. And finally Drew Brees looked like Drew Brees.

And they got a win they desperately needed after an ugly 0-2 start.

The Saints' 34-13 victory at Carolina saved them from a miserably long flight to London on Sunday night. More importantly, it saved them from a miserably long season.

New Orleans showed more poise than it did in the first two games in which early deficits ballooned, leaving the Saints with a double-digit deficit throughout both second halves.

"It wasn't a perfect game, but when it wasn't going well, we held our composure," linebacker Manti Te'o said. "It was a good building block for us.

There were many stars in New Orleans' first victory, but the two biggest were probably receiver Michael Thomas and safety Kenny Vaccaro.

As Triplett pointed out, defenses did a decent job of bottling up Thomas in the first two weeks. But the Saints uncorked their best offensive weapon during the opening drive on Sunday.

Thomas caught five passes for 50 yards on that opening drive -- including two third-down conversions and his first touchdown of the season -- to give the Saints a 7-3 lead en route.

"We came out with more intensity and a sense of urgency. We attacked them, we didn't let them attack us," Thomas said of the Saints' first win of the season. "We played confident football and made a lot of huge plays on offense and defense.

"That's Saints football, and that's what we've been waiting for."

Thomas finished with a season-high seven catches for 87 yards and now ranks 14th in the NFL in both receptions (17) and receiving yards (221) through Sunday's games.

The 6-3, 212-pounder has been an obvious focus for opposing defenses -- especially in the red zone -- because he clearly became the Saints' go-to guy after they traded receiver Brandin Cooks to New England in March and lost receiver Willie Snead to a three-game suspension to start the year.

But Triplett reminded readers the Saints during the Payton-Brees era have always tried to make it impossible for defenses to key in on just one guy because they spread the ball around and use so many formations.

Two of Thomas' catches on that opening drive Sunday came when the Saints split Kamara out wide. Kamara was followed by a cornerback both times, which allowed Thomas to get matched up against linebacker Thomas Davis. Brees quickly targeted Thomas on both plays for gains of 11 and 12 yards.

"It was big," Payton said of the tone New Orleans set with that opening drive. "We got him matched up on a linebacker a couple times. ... And he's one of those guys that I think is real good after the ball is in his hands.

"He had a number of big plays, and I think it helps to get him going, certainly early on."

Thomas also had two catches against a cornerback on the opening drive and one where he settled in an open pocket in the middle of the field.

Thomas didn't appear to be the first option on his 5-yard touchdown catch, but he got open after cornerback Daryl Worley bounced off him in the end zone and fell to the ground (Worley drew a flag for pass interference that was declined).

"The first touchdown was a really nice play on his part because he ... was able to shake free and make a play on the ball. And that was a good way to start the game," Brees said. "There are definitely times when you feel like a team has a game plan for somebody and, hey, they're gonna double him at times. We saw a little bit of that today. ...

"He was able to get open and do great things when he got the ball in his hands."

Meanwhile, Vaccaro came up with a huge response to being benched last week. He tipped one pass early in the fourth quarter that turned into a spectacular one-handed interception by rookie safety Marcus Williams. Then Vaccaro intercepted another pass later in the fourth quarter when Carolina had crossed midfield and was threatening to make it a one-score game.

It wasn't a perfect performance by New Orleans' defense, which still allowed rookie running back Christian McCaffrey to catch nine passes for 101 yards. But it was a game-changer after the Saints' defense allowed more than 1,000 yards and 65 points in the first two weeks.

But it was definitely better than we've seen. It'll be interesting to see if the Saints can put two solid defensive efforts together in a row. ...

Other notes of interest. ... As noted above, New Orleans had 100 yards rushing for the first time this season, finishing with 149 yards and a 5.5 yards-per-carry average.

It rushed for just 60 yards in the opener against Minnesota and 81 a week later against New England. The team blocked better and benefited from playing with a lead rather than a large deficit for most of the game.

According to NFL.com's Matt Franciscovich, Ingram remains the lead back. He averaged 4.0 yards per carry on his 14 attempts for 56 yards against the Panthers and added 30 receiving yards to total a respectable 86 from scrimmage on the day. Peterson continues to be inefficient, with just 33 rush yards on his nine attempts and had the lowest snap count in the backfield again, on the field for just 13 plays compared to Ingram's 29.

Kamara had a couple of splash plays, including a 25-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter.

Per Franciscovich, "For now, Kamara is a risky play in fantasy leagues, but he could eventually usurp Peterson as the No. 2, just something to keep an eye on."

Receiver Ted Ginn scored his first touchdown with his new team by grabbing a 40-yard pass from Brees against his old team.

But remember: Snead was reinstated and joined the team for its trip to London after serving his three-game suspension.

Snead was third on the team with 72 catches and 895 receiving yards last season, but head coach Sean Payton said on Wednesday that the team will wait to see what kind of role Snead will play right out of the gate.

"We'll wait and see how he's moving around," Payton said, via the team’s website. "It's been a little bit of time since he had been playing. We'll see how he handles the work week."

Brandon Coleman and perhaps Ginn will lose playing time once Snead is back in the mix. Coby Fleener will feel the impact as well.

I'll follow up on Snead's status via Late-Breaking Update in coming days. ...

One last note here. ... John Kuhn flew to London with the Saints after Sunday's victory over the Panthers, which provided a pretty big hint about a roster move the team would be making this week. They made it on Monday. The NFL's transaction report brought word that Kuhn is back on the 53-man roster after being dropped by the team last week.

It's the second time the Saints have cut and re-signed Kuhn this month.


DEPTH CHART
QBs: Drew Brees, Chase Daniel
RBs: Mark Ingram, Alvin Kamara, Daniel Lasco
WRs: Michael Thomas, Ted Ginn, Willie Snead, Brandon Coleman, TommyLee Lewis
TEs: Josh Hill, Michael Hoomanawanui

New York Giants

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 26 September 2017

The New York Giants' offense finally came alive. It appeared the team might actually save its season and avoid an 0-3 start despite scoring a total of 13 points in its first 11 quarters.

The Giants exploded and scored 24 points in the fourth quarter on Sunday. Somehow, it still wasn't enough. They lost 27-24 on a 61-yard field goal by Philadelphia's rookie kicker Jake Elliott as time expired at Lincoln Financial Field.

The Giants fell to 0-3 despite entering the season with high hopes after finishing 11-5 and making the playoffs last year.

Still, according to ESPN.com's Jordan Raanan, they're not panicking as they head into this week's game against the Buccaneers.

"We're all right. We're all right. We're all right," said wide receiver Brandon Marshall, who had eight catches for 66 yards. "We're in a tough spot right now but offensively we have to continue doing what we started doing today and if we do that we'll be OK. We have a lot of playmakers in this room. We have a lot of guys with high character. We have a lot of guys who are strong and tough and leaders.

"We'll be fine. It's a long season."

Still, this one was demoralizing for the Giants. Despite their struggles (no points through three quarters) they had the lead late twice in the fourth quarter after two Odell Beckham scores and a long catch and run by Sterling Shepard.

Shepard's 77-yard touchdown gave the Giants their first lead of the season with 7:12 remaining in the fourth quarter. The defense, considered the strength of the team, couldn't hold it.

"We struggled," safety Landon Collins said. "We got on one another on the sideline and we just have to step it up. We allowed them to get almost 200 yards rushing and that's what we do not do. We have been holding teams up to 100 yards or maybe a little less, but that's one thing we can't have happen on our defense. We can't condone that."

This is what head coach Ben McAdoo has been talking about with complementary football. The Giants haven't been able to combine quality offense, defense and special teams efforts. When their offense finally woke up, their defense broke down.

From a fantasy perspective, Beckham showed how productive he can be on the field during Sunday's game when he caught two touchdowns in less than two minutes to tie the game at 14 in the fourth quarter.

He followed the first of those touchdowns by dropping to all fours and mimicking a dog urinating on the field, which led to a penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct.

"I was in the end zone. I scored a touchdown," he added. "I'm a dog so I acted like a dog. I don't know if the rulebook said you can't hike your leg. (The ref) said I peed on somebody, so I was trying to find the imaginary ghost that I peed on. But I didn't see him.

"Either way it goes, you play football. I wear red and white, I don't wear black and white. I don't make calls. I just play football."

He followed the second by raising a fist in what he suggested was a reference to the widespread protests around the league.

That didn't draw a flag, but Beckham wasn't apologetic about the one he did get. He said after the game that he was trying to "spark the team, and the consequences are going to be what they are."

Or not in this case.

On Monday, McAdoo was asked about Beckham's celebrations and the penalty but made it clear he had no interest in the topic.

"We should be talking about how he played," McAdoo said, via Ralph Vacchiano of SNY. "He made some great plays yesterday, some tremendous plays. I'd rather be talking about that than the celebration penalty."

The first three-plus years of Beckham's career have seen plenty of things worth talking about in terms of both his play and penalties for his behavior on the field.

Beckham's penalty was the 19th called against him in his career and his second this season. Since entering the NFL in 2014, eight of his penalties have been of the undisciplined category, including taunting, unnecessary roughness, and unsportsmanlike conduct.

He was suspended one game in 2015 for drawing multiple unsportsmanlike conduct penalties in a game against cornerback Josh Norman, then of the Panthers.

Last year, he was fined $127,157 for various rule violations that included verbal offense against an official, two unsportsmanlike conduct penalties and one excessive celebration infraction.

These latest penalties will be harder for McAdoo to avoid talking about it should the result be different the next time around. ...

Meanwhile, with nine catches on Sunday against the Eagles, Beckham has 301 in 45 career games. This means that, according to the NFL, Beckham has reached 300 receptions in fewer games than any other player in league history.

Anquan Boldin got to 300 receptions in 47 games.

With 301 receptions in 45 appearances, Beckham has averaged 6.68 catches per game. He added a pair of touchdowns on Sunday, along with one celebration that included the miming of a canine creating yellow snow.

Also on the list of positives, lost in the demoralizing loss was that Aldrick Rosas nailed a clutch 41-yard field goal after a bad snap that could've been the game winner if the defense held up its end of the bargain. Rosas is proving he can handle the pressure. Long-snapper Zak DeOssie mentioned after the contest that he sees Rosas growing right in front of his eyes. This is one of the few positives to come from the first three games of the season.

Conversely, it has been a rough start for second-year running back Paul Perkins.

He rushed for 22 yards on nine carries and actually raised his yards per carry to 2.1 yards this season. While running lanes are often hard to come by in this Giants offense, there were a few plays early in the game where Perkins didn't capitalize on the available space. He is struggling right now.

Orleans Darkwa (back) is another injury related question mark for next week.

McAdoo said during his Monday afternoon conference call that Darkwa was still being evaluated by the medical staff and that there was no update on his status just yet bit Raanan, citing a source, reports that Darkwa's injury is "nothing major." While Raanan added the chances are Darkwa practices this week, he was no able to participate on Wednesday.

I'll have more via Late-Breaking Update as the week progresses; remember, Darkwa's role has been growing each week. ...

And finally. ... Eli Manning, working as part of an up-tempo offense that focused on getting the ball out of his hand as quickly as possible, had his best game of the young season. He completed 35 of 47 passes for 366 yards and three touchdowns.

His numbers might have been better if his receivers didn't drop five of his pass attempts and if on one of his two interceptions Marshall had fought harder to knock the ball away.


DEPTH CHART
QBs: Eli Manning, Geno Smith, Davis Webb
RBs: Orleans Darkwa, Wayne Gallman, Shane Vereen, Paul Perkins
WRs: Sterling Shepard, Roger Lewis, Tavarres King, Travis Rudolph, Ed Eagan
TEs: Evan Engram, Jerell Adams, Rhett Ellison

New York Jets

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 26 September 2017

Josh McCown saw his entire offensive line getting riled up over a penalty call that wiped out a big play for the New York Jets.

So, the veteran quarterback got his guys huddled up and told them to brush it off, that they'd make up for it on the next play.

Sure enough: Snap. Throw. Touchdown.

As Associated Press sports writer Dennis Waszak Jr. notes, that 69-yard toss, a perfectly placed ball to Robby Anderson, was a key moment in the Jets' 20-6 win over the Miami Dolphins on Sunday. It was how McCown handled the holding call on center Wesley Johnson during the previous play that exemplified exactly why the Jets wanted the journeyman quarterback here.

"We were all mad, cussing -- well, I wasn't cussing -- but we were just mad about the play," left tackle Kelvin Beachum said after the game. "We came back into the huddle and Josh just calmed us all down."

On a roster marked by youth and inexperience, the 38-year-old McCown is the wise, old sage with a friendly and professional demeanor.

It's no wonder why teams love having him on their roster, with the Jets his 10th NFL franchise since being drafted by Arizona in the third round in 2002.

But McCown's signing for one year and $6 million in March caused many Jets fans to ask one big question: Why?

New York, after all, was coming off a rough 5-11 season with another veteran in Ryan Fitzpatrick. The focus this offseason was on whether youngsters Christian Hackenberg or Bryce Petty could establish themselves as the franchise quarterback.

"I would say having Josh be a veteran presence in there," general manager Mike Maccagnan said before training camp, "I think he's good for those two young players."

McCown was never challenged for the job in training camp. And, so far, he's been solid in New York's 1-2 start. McCown is 60 of 86 -- 69.8 percent -- for 602 yards with three touchdowns and two interceptions, along with a solid 91.3 quarterback rating.

"Josh has been playing well for the last three weeks," head coach Todd Bowles said. "He's controlled the offense. He sees things. He's playing smart football."

With so much upheaval on the roster and the Jets seeking to build for the future, McCown is the solidifying force for the present. He's someone the young players can watch and follow -- for now.

As Waszak noted, McCown has no idea how long his stint with the Jets will last, or even if he'll remain the starter all season. Many fans have their eyes on USC's Sam Darnold and UCLA's Josh Rosen as draft targets next spring with the potential No. 1 overall pick.

Until Sunday's victory, some outside the organization wondered if the Jets would even win a game this season. Now, some wonder if that win -- and any subsequent ones -- will hinder New York's chances at landing a possible franchise quarterback.

While talk of tanking the season marked the early narratives, Bowles has tried to instill a change in culture around the franchise, with his rallying cry being "One Team, One Goal."

That approach is exactly why McCown is here.

"When you're in a situation like this when you are building something and you're a veteran player, you don't know how long it's going to take or whatnot," he said.

"But what you can do is just share with the young guys your process, how you go about your journey and your day and try to communicate as best you can what you feel it takes to be a pro and hopefully showing those principles that they can carry with them.

"And hopefully you're there to see the growth, to reap some of that fruit. But even if you're not, then later on down the road you see some of those guys play at a high level, you can appreciate that when you went to a spot, you tried to make it better than it was before you left. ..."

Other notes of interest. ... Bowles said X-rays came back negative for Matt Forte (toe) and Charone Peake (ankle), but he was uncertain what their availability would be for this week.

On Wednesday, the Jets placed Peak on injured reserve.

When it comes to Forte, NFL Network's Ian Rapoport advised his Twitter followers on Wednesday that the veteran halfback is considered week-to-week.

In a related note. ... The Jets signed former Saints running back Travaris Cadet following a successful workout on Tuesday, according to Houston Chronicle staffer Aaron Wilson. The move lends credence to Rapoport's reporting.

I'll have more on their status via Late-Breaking Update in coming days. ...

Even with Forte missing time, the running game got the job done, as running backs Bilal Powell (37), rookie Elijah McGuire (34), Forte (25), and McCown (seven) combined for 103 yards on 34 carries. Powell had a 1-yard TD run, but the Sports Xchange believes McGuire looked the best of the bunch despite a late fumble. ...

Anderson topped out at 22 miles per hour on his 69-yard touchdown catch, according to an ESPN video. To put that in perspective, Usain Bolt's top speed is 27 miles per hour, while a galloping horse goes anywhere from 25 to 30 miles per hour.

Anderson blew past veteran cornerback Alterraun Verner for the score, the longest of his career. Give an assist to McCown, who made the throw and noticed immediately that Verner had replaced the injured Byron Maxwell. Anderson took it from there.

"With my speed, a lot of guys are scared," Anderson said. "He came to the line and acted like he was going to press, but he tried to bail and I ran past him."

He has the ability to do that.

Anderson finished with three catches for 95 yards.

Tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins played his first game of the season after serving a two-game suspension for a DUI arrest last year. Now more than eight months sober, the 24-year-old out of Washington caught five passes for 31 yards on Sunday and played 48 of the team's 63 offensive snaps.

During the offseason, Seferian-Jenkins lost 32 pounds and said on Monday, "It's like playing in a whole different body," adding that his run blocking has also improved.


DEPTH CHART
QBs: Bryce Petty, Christian Hackenberg
RBs: Matt Forte, Bilal Powell, Elijah McGuire
WRs: Robby Anderson, Jermaine Kearse, Neal Sterling, Chad Hansen, ArDarius Stewart
TEs: Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Eric Tomlinson, Will Tye, Jordan Leggett

Oakland Raiders

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 26 September 2017

As ESPN.com's Paul Gutierrez suggested, "Derek Carr just seemed out of it from the start."

The Oakland Raiders, thanks in part to an uncharacteristically sloppy and error-filled game from Carr, were embarrassed on national television by the Washington Redskins 27-10.

Sure, his offensive line, which is one of the best in the NFL, broke down numerous times. And the defense wilted under the pressure of being on the field so much, surrendering 472 yards.

But it was Carr who set the tone with a pair of head-scratching throws that were intercepted, an up-for-grabs deep ball to Amari Cooper and a throw in tight coverage to Seth Roberts.

"I have to take care of the ball," Carr said, after completing 19 of 31 passes for 118 yards, a touchdown and the two picks for a ghastly, for Carr, passer rating of 52.9, the third-lowest such rating of his four-year career. "If I feel like, 'Oh, we need a play or a spark, I can do it,' I have to calm myself down a little bit.

"So, I have to take care of the ball better, and I will. This isn't alarming, but we did get punched in the mouth. It's all about how we respond, or not."

Carr, remember, had not thrown a pick in three games, dating to last season. All of a sudden he had two in the Raiders' first five series, including on the second snap of the game.

"That was an omen," said Raiders radio color analyst Tom Flores.

And while Carr had been sacked only twice in the first two games, he went down four times before the fourth quarter. It was the first time in his career Carr had been sacked four times by a four-man rush, per ESPN Stats and Information.

"We came out flat, very slow, and that's not us" said left tackle Donald Penn. "Good thing is, it happened early in the year. We've got time to get it fixed, but that's not the Raiders offense out there."

Nor, did it seem, was it the Carr his team and fans were used to seeing either.

Consider: Carr oversaw an offense that was 0-11 on third-down conversions.

"It sucked," Carr said.

"If you would have said that our offense is going to be oh-fer on third down, I would have said there's no way," said head coach Jack Del Rio.

"We've obviously seen him [Carr] play at a real high level. Tonight wasn't one of those nights. It started on the second play of the game, and I think it kind of unraveled from there. We didn't get a lot done there with our offense, and he's the trigger man that makes it all go."

And the Raiders had but 108 yards of total offense -- 47 in the first half -- and seven first downs. Washington had 18.

"From start to finish," said Raiders radio play-by-play announcer Greg Papa, "this is one of the worst games Derek has ever played."

There were also the two times Carr was not ready for the snap in the shotgun.

"You put it all on me, every single time," Carr said. "When something like this happens, it's my fault. Everyone wants to pat you on the back when you win, as a quarterback, and you just go ahead and put it all in me. I promise you, I'll be all right."

Meanwhile, less than 24 hours after his team was thoroughly beaten on the field and his wide receivers were verbally trashed by Washington cornerback Josh Norman following the game, Del Rio didn't sound too concerned with Cooper's troubles holding onto the ball.

As San Francisco Chronicle contributor Michael Wagaman reminded readers, Cooper has had a history of drops since entering the NFL as the fourth overall pick in 2015. The receiver had another during Sunday's loss.

One website tracking drops has Cooper with six this season, and another has nine. Because dropped passes are a subjective stat, it's unclear exactly how many Cooper has.

"He's a dynamic player for us," Del Rio said Monday. "Not a good thing when he's not catching the ball and making those plays. We've gotta find a way to help that be rectified.

"We'd like to find a way to help him get through that, He's a dynamic play-making option for us, and when we get him free and get the ball to him delivered like that, we've got to be able to catch it and go get busy."

As Profootballtalk.com's Josh Alper suggested, Cooper's overall production in his first two seasons made it easier to deal with the dropped passes, but nights like Sunday make it harder to downplay.

Cooper and fellow wideout Michael Crabtree were nonfactors almost the entire game. Cooper had one catch for 6 yards. Crabtree also had one reception for 7 yards before leaving in the fourth quarter with a chest contusion.

Crabtree was cleared by doctors to fly home with the team but will be evaluated.

"He took a good shot," Del Rio said. "It was a clean hit. Crab's a tough guy, so I'm sure he'll bounce back."

I'll be following up on Crabtree's status via Late-Breaking Update in coming days. ...

With Cooper and Crabtree coming up small, tight end Jared Cook was the team's leading receiver in Washington. He pulled in four of six targets for 43 yards and a touchdown. ...

The Raiders had 32 yards on 13 carries and only two rushing first downs. Marshawn Lynch never got going and had six carries for 18 yards with a long gain of five yards. Jalen Richard had an 11-yard run but lost seven yards on his only other carry. The Raiders offensive line got zero in the way of push up front.

According to SiriusXM Radio's Adam Caplan, Richard suffered a calf strain against Redskins. He was limited to just 14 total snaps (six on offense, eight on special teams).


DEPTH CHART
QBs: Derek Carr, E.J. Manuel, Connor Cook
RBs: DeAndre Washington, Jalen Richard, Marshawn Lynch
WRs: Michael Crabtree, Amari Cooper, Seth Roberts, Cordarrelle Patterson, Johnny Holton
TEs: Jared Cook, Lee Smith, Clive Walford

Philadelphia Eagles

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 26 September 2017

The Eagles' ground game finally found its footing. And as ESPN.com's Tim McManus noted, that spelled bad news for the now 0-3 New York Giants on Sunday, and bodes well for quarterback Carson Wentz and the Eagles' offense moving forward.

Entering this week's action, head coach Doug Pederson had his team throwing the ball at an unsustainable clip. Wentz dropped back 99 times through the first two games, more than any quarterback in the league with the exception of Aaron Rodgers (103), per ESPN Stats and Information. Following a road loss to the Kansas City Chiefs, in which he dialed up 56 passes to 13 runs, Pederson conceded the approach was not a recipe for success. He responded by calling 39 run plays compared with 34 passes, and the backs incentivized him by racking up 193 yards on the ground.

"That was our goal this week," said right tackle Lane Johnson. "We got tired of not running the ball, especially last week when we really needed it, so it was big."

LeGarrette Blount helped lead the resurgent running attack, gaining 67 yards on 12 carries (5.6 average) with a touchdown in Sunday's 27-24 victory. He acknowledged this week it was difficult not being involved in the run game against the Chiefs -- he did not log a single carry in Kansas City -- but maintained he and Pederson were on the same page. The 30-year-old veteran was largely written off after a quiet summer and slow start to the season but showed he has a little something left in the tank.

According to McManus, Blount let his emotions come out following a punishing 17-yard run in the first quarter that ignited the crowd and a 90-yard scoring drive.

"It's the mentality. You have to get everybody on board and you have to get everybody in the game," he said. "It's not like you get a 10- [to] 15-yard run every time you get the ball. They come few and far between, so whenever you do that, emotions come running and [you have to] fire your offense up. It can fire up the defense. It can fire your whole team up.

"I take pride in running the football well. I take pride in getting big plays. That's something that I love to do."

Multiple players stepped up when veteran Darren Sproles went down to injury against Wendell Smallwood led all rushers with 71 yards, while undrafted rookie Corey Clement stormed for a 15-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter and finished with 22 yards in his first action running the ball at the pro level.

The commitment to the run helped the Eagles nearly double up the Giants in time of possession.

The ground-and-pound approach allowed a banged-up squad to squeak past the Giants and will be crucial for the Eagles -- and more specifically, Wentz -- moving forward.

Wentz entered Week 3 trailing just Andrew Luck for most passes through 18 games to start a career and was tops in the league in 2017 in quarterback hits. Balance is needed if the young QB is to stay upright and develop. Sunday was an encouraging sign Pederson may be cognizant of that. And he'll be all the more inclined to stick with the running game if it's working as well as it did against New York.

But as mentioned above, Sproles was injured and the outcome is not good.

The veteran running back tore his ACL and broke his wrist on the same play in Sunday's win.

Pederson confirmed the injuries Monday, saying it's a "devastating" loss.

The versatile Sproles has nine returns for touchdowns, including seven on punts. The 34-year-old went to three Pro Bowls, including last season when he had a career-high 94 carries.

Sproles was invaluable to the Eagles as both a runner and receiver. He had an 11-yard run just three plays before he got hurt. He also is one of the league's top punt returners. He averaged a career-best 13.2 yards per return last season.

The Eagles' other three backs - Blount, Smallwood and Clement - will have to pick up the slack left by Sproles' absence. Sproles often lined up wide or in the slot as a receiver and offensive coordinator Frank Reich told reporters there's no doubt Smallwood will have an increased role as a third-down back.

The Eagles turned to a familiar running back after losing Sproles for the season, announcing Tuesday they signed Kenjon Barner to a one-year contract.

Barner, 28, played for the Eagles the past two seasons after they acquired him in a trade with the Panthers. He signed with the Chargers as a free agent in the offseason but failed to make Los Angeles' roster.

The Eagles worked out Barner and elected to sign him rather than promoting Byron Marshall off the practice squad.

Barner had 55 carries for 253 yards and two touchdowns in 2015-16 for the Eagles. He also caught 14 passes for 64 yards and had 10 kickoff returns and three punt returns.

Sproles was the team's top punt returner.

Other notes of interest. ... As NFL.com's Matt Harmon notes, Zach Ertz has been the constant in this passing attack while the receivers ping-ponged between usable target totals and doldrums. Ertz has target totals of eight, 10 and 10 in the first three games of the season.

Harmon believes he's a strong bet to finish inside the top-five tight ends this year with this kind of volume.

Also according to Harmon, Alshon Jeffery has target totals of seven, 13 and eight in the first three games of the season. While all three of those teams have star cornerbacks on their depth chart, Jeffery ran less than 60 percent of his routes against Josh Norman, Marcus Peters and Janoris Jenkins in each of those games. Jenkins only covered him for 16 pass plays today.

"It's clear," Harmon wrote, "that Jeffery will be a volatile asset this year as he and Carson Wentz figure each other out."

And finally. ... Jake Elliott, signed off the Bengals' practice squad two weeks ago following an injury to Caleb Sturgis, nailed a 61-yard field goal as time expired to get the win Sunday.

Not surprisingly, Elliott was named NFC Special Teams Player of the Week.

His 61-yarder is the longest in Eagles history. The mark was previously held by Tony Franklin, who booted a 59-yarder in 1979. Elliott said he once hit a wind-aided 75-yard field goal in practice, but his longest in college was 56.


DEPTH CHART
QBs: Nick Foles
RBs: LeGarrette Blount, Jay Ajayi, Corey Clement, Wendell Smallwood, Kenjon Barner
WRs: Alshon Jeffery, Torrey Smith, Nelson Agholor, Mack Hollins, Shelton Gibson
TEs: Zach Ertz, Trey Burton, Brent Celek

Pittsburgh Steelers

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 26 September 2017

As ESPN.com's Jeremy Fowler pointed out this week, the Steelers' offense, advertised as one of the league's most high-powered, has failed to score more than 20 points in a game through three weeks.

We heard plenty of explanations for the shortcomings, but most of the excuses were exhausted after the first two weeks this year.

It takes time for new pieces to jell.

Le'Veon Bell needs a few warm-up games after the franchise-tag absence.

That Week 2 Minnesota Vikings defense was a very tough matchup.

Fowler conceded, those are true statements, but the convenient storylines have passed and the Steelers are faced with the harsh reality that they aren't as good as they thought they were, at least until they change that.

Fowler went on to advise readers that players are fed up coming off a third straight game with 20 offensive points or fewer. Both guard David DeCastro and tight end Jesse James acknowledged that an offense this talented is wasting its resources if it's not producing at least 350 to 400 yards per game.

From 2014 to 2016, 350 yards was a conservative number for this group, with the per-game average not falling below 372 during that span, though the numbers have gotten progressively lower since the explosion for 6,582 yards in 2014.

First on the Steelers' agenda is the need for Bell and his offensive line to regain something close to their historic 2016 form. Bell doesn't have to average 157 yards per game again, but clearly the lack of explosive plays in the running game is a problem.

Bell, the highest-paid running back in the league, has yet to rush for 100 yards in a game this season. The Bears held him to 61 yards on 15 carries.

The problem? Bell simply isn't breaking free.

He's a running back who thrives on getting into a rhythm and wearing down a defense, and without it, jump-starting the offense is difficult. The running holes haven't exactly been impressive, though Bell appeared to have a few chances Sunday on which the offense couldn't capitalize (a 7-yard run to the left within scoring range comes to mind). For whatever reason, he can't get ahead of the defense. His season-long run remains 15 yards.

The offensive line on Sunday was compromised without Marcus Gilbert and Ramon Foster, but this was a dominant group a year ago that's still trying to rediscover that touch.

Commanding the running game should provide more big-play passing opportunities that have been scarce so far.

Ben Roethlisberger led the league last year with 13 touchdowns off deep passes, according to Pro Football Focus. Without Martavis Bryant, the Steelers loosened up defenses with the deep ball to Sammie Coates, then countered with a quick-step deep shot to Antonio Brown, Roethlisberger taking the snap, planting and throwing a lob as soon as Brown would beat his man off the line in press coverage.

So far, those deep shots aren't connecting. The Steelers went 0-for-5 on long shots Sunday, including a near-connection with Bryant on the game's first play. Success on that play would have set a very different tone for the offense's road struggles.

The Steelers have one completion on balls that have traveled 40 or more yards in the air. That's uncharacteristic for this offense.

The Steelers don't have a touchdown play longer than 30 yards, with four of Roethlisberger's five touchdown passes going for less than 5 yards. That's a sign that the offense has improved in the red zone (75 percent touchdown conversion rate), but getting there has been more of a struggle.

The signature sideline plays between Brown and Roethlisberger haven't been sure bets. The deep out route has been unstoppable for years. Perhaps the Steelers haven't run as much sideline action if the defense is overplaying that, but tapping into the duo's muscle memory there could help matters.

And Big Ben was the first to admit on Sunday that he missed many throws.

"I need to play better football, and I will take this game on me," Roethlisberger said. "I did not play well enough. I missed too many throws, did not make good reads or whatever it is, turned the ball over on a sack fumble. Cannot do that, so this one is on me."

Through three games, Roethlisberger is completing 62.7 percent of his passes for 247 yards per game. If this continues it would be Roethlisberger's lowest completion percentage since 2010 and his lowest yards-per-game average since 2008.

Things won't get any easier. The next stop is Baltimore, where the Steelers have averaged 12.3 points per game in their past three road games against the Ravens.

A few final notes. ... Pittsburgh attempted 39 passes to 17 runs. As NFL.com's Matt Harmon suggested, the lack of offensive functionality has yet to bleed over into Brown, who recorded his second double-digit catch and 100-yard game of the season and found the end zone for the first time in 2017. Bryant, meanwhile, was only on the field for 71 percent of the team's plays which trailed rookie JuJu Smith-Schuster (83 percent).

And finally. ... Tight end Vance McDonald was involved in one of the craziest plays in the NFL in recent years. The Bears blocked a Steelers' field-goal attempt and Marcus Cooper scooped up the ball and had clear sailing to the end zone for a touchdown that would have given the Bears a 21-7 lead at halftime.

But instead of crossing the goal line, Cooper slowed down to celebrate. McDonald stripped Cooper from behind. Steelers punter Jordan Berry, who was holding on the snap, knocked the ball out of the end zone, which gave the Bears an untimed down and an opportunity to kick a field goal to make it 17-7 at halftime.

"As a wing, you never want to hear the double thud," McDonald said. "I knew pressure was coming from the other side. My job is to stop the bleeding if something really bad happens. That's kind of what I was thinking."

McDonald was as surprised as anyone that Cooper slowed up before crossing the goal line.

"I didn't know what Coop was thinking," McDonald said. "I played with Coop out in San Francisco. He's going to be looking at that one over again and wishing he had that one back for sure."


DEPTH CHART
QBs: Ben Roethlisberger, Landry Jones, Josh Dobbs
RBs: Le'Veon Bell, Terrell Watson, Stevan Ridley
WRs: Martavis Bryant, Eli Rogers, Darrius Heyward-Bey, Justin Hunter, JuJu Smith-Schuster, Antonio Brown
TEs: Jesse James, Xavier Grimble, Vance McDonald

San Francisco 49ers

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 26 September 2017

The San Francisco 49ers held a division foe to a single touchdown one week, then burned another for 39 points the next.

As the Sports Xchange suggests, that's pretty impressive for a club that won just two games last season.

And one that is, somehow, 0-3 this year.

"I was very proud of our guys," head coach Kyle Shanahan said in the wake of last Thursday's 41-39 home loss to the Los Angeles Rams. "By no means did we play perfect, and I don't think we played as good as we can. But I thought the guys gave it everything they could. I thought they competed hard, and I was proud of that.

"I'm very disappointed we didn't come away with the win, especially one that I thought we could have. I felt the same way after the Seattle game (a 12-9 loss last week), too. But, you know, I feel like guys can control their effort and can control how hard they can go. You can't always control the outcome of the game."

Shanahan said he remains confident his team can put a Seahawks-type defensive effort and Rams-type offensive performance on display in the same game sometime soon.

And it's going to result in a happy ending.

In particular, the much-maligned 49ers' aerial attack entered the game last in the league in many major categories.

And quarterback Brian Hoyer had struggled mightily when attempting to push the ball down the field.

Against the Rams, though, the passing attack that had offered promising glimpses in training camp and the preseason made its first appearance of the season as Hoyer & Co. had what was easily their best performance of the young season. Hoyer finished 23-of-37 for 332 yards with two touchdowns and an interception for a passer rating of 98.0. He stood firm in the pocket despite constant pressure and also added a 9-yard rushing touchdown.

According to ESPN.com's Nick Wagoner, the most impressive was the step forward Hoyer and his targets took on the deep ball. In the first two games, Hoyer was 0-for-7 with an interception on throws traveling at least 15 yards in the air. Against the Rams, he was 7-of-9 for 227 yards with no touchdowns or interceptions.

Now that Hoyer has showed he can do it, it's a safe bet Arizona will mix it up on him more this week, which means another adjustment will be needed.

Whatever the case, even though it didn't result in a win, last Thursday was a much-needed step forward for an offense that seems to be finding its footing after three weeks under Shanahan.

Going into the game, the 49ers' offense was 4-of-23 for a league-worst 17.4 percent conversion rate on third down, and they're just 1-for-4 on fourth-down conversion opportunities. Perhaps more maddening for Shanahan and the offense had been the failure to convert in short-yardage situations. With 3 yards or fewer to gain on third or fourth down, the 49ers had converted just 2 of 10. Things weren't much better in the red zone, where the Niners had settled for three field goals and no touchdowns in four trips. San Francisco was one of just three teams not to score a touchdown (along with Cincinnati and Miami) despite getting that close.

This was another area of improvement on Thursday night. The 49ers were 9-of-18 on third down and 2-of-3 on fourth down, including four touchdowns from 3 yards and in.

In the red zone, the Niners scored touchdowns on five of six trips inside the Rams' 20, a conversion percentage they would gladly take in any game. ...

Carlos Hyde rushed for two touchdowns against the Rams. The two-TD outing was the fourth of Hyde's career and first since last September against Seattle.

Receiver Trent Taylor recorded his first NFL touchdown on a 3-yard pass from Hoyer. Taylor was the target on the 49ers' potential game-tying, two-point conversion attempt that failed late in the game.

His best was a 172-yard game against San Diego in 2013. Tight end Garrett Celek caught a 1-yard touchdown pass. The TD was the seventh of Celek's career.

Pierre Garcon caught seven passes for 142 yards against the Rams. The 142 receiving yards were the sixth-highest of Garcon's career.

Fullback Kyle Juszczyk (concussion) entered concussion protocol Friday after suffering the injury during Thursday's loss to the Los Angeles Rams. Juszczyk recorded his 100th career reception in the game, a 34-yard pass from Hoyer.

Hyde also left the game in the first half with a hip injury, but he was able to return and wound up on the field for 61 of the 82 offensive snaps. Shanahan told reporters on Wednesday, however, that Hyde would be limited in practice. I'll follow up via Late-Breaking Update as the week progresses. ...

On the other side of the ball, linebcker Reuben Foster, who missed his second game with a sprained right ankle, likely won't return against the Cardinals this week. The same goes for safety Eric Reid, who is dealing with a posterior cruciate ligament injury in his left knee.

In addition, Sacramento Bee staffer Matt Barrows reports that defensive end Tank Carradine (high ankle sprain) will be placed on IR.


DEPTH CHART
QBs: Jimmy Garoppolo, C.J. Beathard
RBs: Carlos Hyde, Matt Breida, Raheem Mostert, Kyle Juszczyk
WRs: Marquise Goodwin, Aldrick Robinson, Trent Taylor, Kendrick Bourne, Victor Bolden
TEs: George Kittle, Garrett Celek, Logan Paulsen

Seattle Seahawks

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 26 September 2017

As ESPN.com's Brady Henderson noted, for a little over two quarters Sunday, the Seattle Seahawks' offensive finally found some of the rhythm that had been missing during a pair of dispiriting performances to begin the season.

Russell Wilson was on point, his receivers were making plays and the offensive line provided adequate pass protection. It helped Seattle make a game of what otherwise would have been a runaway.

If only the Seahawks' offense could play that way for four quarters. Even three full quarters might have been enough for them to leave Nashville with a win instead of a 33-27 loss. Their inconsistency on offense was far from the only glaring issue, but it was a big one.

And it was mostly at the start.

"I put that on me," Wilson said. "I think we could have been better early."

Wilson was part of the problem as the Seahawks punted on each of their first six possessions, gaining only 36 yards on their first 21 plays. He missed two throws to Doug Baldwin, including one when the receiver was open deep down the field. That continued a trend of some uncharacteristic inaccuracy by Seattle's quarterback over the first two games.

But he wasn't alone. Tight end Jimmy Graham dropped a pass and two snaps from center Justin Britt were off target or mishandled, the second of which resulted in a sack for a 9-yard loss.

For the better part of two quarters, it was ugly.

"We know we had the opportunity to make plays and move the ball up and down the field," head coach Pete Carroll said. "We missed a lot of passes in the first half, didn't throw the ball very well, catch the ball very well, and we left some huge plays on the field, so that made it difficult."

The Seahawks leaned heavily on their defense for the first two games, and for the most part, it delivered. Seattle only allowed 26 points entering Sunday, with 17 coming against Aaron Rodgers and the Packers at Lambeau Field. But this was a reminder that Seattle's defense, as loaded as it is with eight Pro Bowl players, can only do so much. But it fell apart, perhaps partly a result of fatigue after being on the field for more than 19 minutes and 43 plays in the first half because of the offense's inability to sustain drives.

The Seahawks' offense showed progress on Sunday, to be sure.

The Seahawks shook things up along their embattled offensive line, inserting veteran Oday Aboushi at right guard in place of Mark Glowinski. Whether that was much of a factor or not, the pass protection seemed to be improved as the only sack of Wilson came after a bad snap. Seattle only ran for 69 yards, but Chris Carson and C.J. Prosise had just 15 combined carries with the Seahawks in catch-up mode for much of the second half.

Graham shook off an ankle injury from last week and caught seven passes for 72 yards, including a 26-yard gain to set up Seattle's second touchdown. After an unproductive start to the season that led to more questions about his fit in Seattle's offense, he reminded everyone he can be a factor despite the drop and more struggles to get him involved in the red zone.

And after his early misses, Wilson was tremendous. He passed for a career-high 373 yards (on 49 attempts) with four touchdowns and no interceptions. Those numbers are reminiscent of how Wilson performed during the second half of the 2015 season, when he played the best football of his career.

"I was really encouraged by Russell Wilson's play," Baldwin said. "He had a lot going on, and for him to be as resilient as he was today just reminded us all of why he is who he is, why he's Russell Wilson and why we love him so much. Offensive line picked it up, running backs picked it up, the receivers picked it up, it was a whole team effort. I wish we could have done more for our defense and we will, that will definitely be the case. We will figure that out, but definitely encouraged."

From a fantasy perspective, the good news has to be the fact that Carson led Seattle's backfield for the second straight week. While he struggled to find room on the ground, a receiving touchdown in the second half salvaged the day for fantasy owners.

More importantly, it seems like Seattle is going to move forward with Carson as the primary back, and according to NFL.com's Matt Franciscovich, "It makes sense because he is the most talented runner they have."

Prosise was the only other Seattle back to play in the game, and racked up 74 yards from scrimmage on his seven touches. That included a deep 46-yard reception in the second quarter.

Thomas Rawls played one snap while Eddie Lacy, while not inactive, didn't see the field at all. ...

The Seahawks had good news and bad news regarding Baldwin's groin injury from Sunday.

According to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport, following the MRI results, they've confirmed Baldwin's injury isn't serious, which is the good news. But, they also will have to take it "day-to-day" this week to see if he can play on Sunday, which is the bad news.

Baldwin injured his groin during the fourth quarter against Titans and was never able to return to the game.

In an interview with Sports Radio 950 KJR on Tuesday, Baldwin indicated that he didn't believe the injury to be all that significant.

"I'm doing well. I'm feeling well," Baldwin said. "Had a long session of treatment this morning and I'm getting right so I'm on my way.

"I don't think it's that serious. I think that we definitely took the right steps. It had the potential to be serious and we all felt like it was important that I make sure that I'm good for the long-term and not just the short-term."

So should he be expected to be on the field Sunday night against the Colts?

"You definitely expect it. Yes, for sure," Baldwin said.

In addition, NFL Network's Ian Rapoport advised his Twitter followers on Wednesday that Prosise, who had tests on his ankle earlier this week, is not expected to play against the Colts and is considered week-to-week.

I'll be following up on Prosise and Baldwin, who didn't practice Wednesday, via Late-Breaking Update in coming days. Remember, the wideout hit stride in Tennessee with Wilson throwing Baldwin's way 15 times.


DEPTH CHART
QBs: Russell Wilson, Austin Davis
RBs: J.D. McKissic, Mike Davis, Eddie Lacy, Thomas Rawls, Tre Madden
WRs: Doug Baldwin, Tyler Lockett, Paul Richardson, Tanner McEvoy, Amara Darboh
TEs: Jimmy Graham, Luke Willson, Nick Vannett

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 26 September 2017

As ESPN.com's Jenna Laine pointed out, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers were without three starters Sunday in Kwon Alexander, Chris Baker and Brent Grimes. Gerald McCoy, Noah Spence, Vernon Hargreaves and Lavonte David also suffered injuries.

Still, on a day when the offense needed to eat up more time of possession and play more than just complementary football, it did the defense absolutely no favors in a 34-17 loss to the Minnesota Vikings.

The Bucs rushed for just 26 yards on nine carries. Their offense is predicated on a run game to set up their play-action. They had to abandon it quickly, though, because they dug themselves into such a deep hole, falling behind 28-3 by the beginning of the third quarter.

"You never plan on getting down big early on," tight end Cameron Brate said. "We had our backs against the wall and were forced to throw the rest of the game."

Head coach Dirk Koetter agreed.

"We definitely got away from what I think we do best, which is mix run and pass," he said. "We just couldn't stop them in the first half, and then we tried to react and play a little faster and then turnovers. Obviously, when you lose on turnovers 3-0, it's going to be tough to win."

Last week against the Chicago Bears, the Bucs put up 29 points, with 20 of them coming off takeaways. This week, the Bucs were the ones turning the ball over, with Jameis Winston throwing three interceptions. He called them all "bad decisions."

"Playing from behind is different than playing when you have a chance at the game or are coming up ahead. But at the end of the day, turnovers [doomed us]," Winston said. "When the defense makes those stops, the offense has to go out there and score a touchdown. When the defense made a key stop, I went out there and threw a pick. That's definitely not helping them out."

Laine went on to suggest the Bucs showed that their offense is still a work in progress, and unless they're getting takeaways from their defense and flipping the field, their mistakes mean they'll struggle to put points on the board.

Winston did find Brate on a seam route in the third quarter for a 15-yard touchdown, but credit Bernard Reedy for his 50-yard kickoff return to set that up. That drive began at the Minnesota 46-yard line.

They also managed to go the distance on the very next possession, marching 75 yards down the field before Winston chucked a beautiful, 25-yard deep pass to DeSean Jackson to score. That's progress against one of the toughest defenses the Bucs will see all season. But if they want a shot at winning the NFC South and doing some damage in the playoffs, they have to find their mojo offensively.

"Next week we have to really battle and be detailed," center Ali Marpet said. "I don't know if this week in practice, if we were good enough, but we have to be better next week. ... We weren't as good on details [this] second week."

They can get back on track this week against a New York Giants defense that has given up 153.3 rushing yards per game, second-most in the league, and 45.5 percent of their third downs, 23rd in the league. The Bucs' Week 5 opponent, the New England Patriots, are giving up 330.7 yards per game through the air -- second-most in the league.

"It's football. The one thing about it -- you get kicked down, you have to get up," Winston said. "I'm anxious and excited to see how we bounce back against the Giants. Sometimes it's good to have some setbacks so we can persevere even more."

As Winston noted, the Bucs can get back on track with the New York Giants coming to town, although at this point, multiple players could be out with injuries. They then have a Thursday night game against a tough but beatable New England Patriots squad in Week 5, which is also when running back Doug Martin is eligible to return from suspension.

As for those injuries, they're on the defensive side of the ball. Linebacker Lavonte David has an ankle sprain, but not a high ankle sprain, which may have cost him 4-6 weeks. As it is the Bucs are optimistic to get David back sooner, although he likely will miss games against the Giants and Patriots.

DE Noah Spence dislocated his right shoulder again Sunday but finished the game. Spence had offseason shoulder surgery on a torn labrum. CB Brent Grimes has a shoulder injury and did not play Sunday at Minnesota. He was limited in practice last week, but there is a good chance he could play against the Giants. Five-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle Gerald McCoy aggravated his right ankle during the game, an injury he's been dealing with since last week. He had on a walking boot in the locker room.

Also of interest. ... It's safe to say the Bucs were not committed to running the football. They fell behind early, sure, but running backs only combined or nine touches Sunday. Jacquizz Rodgers had five carries for 15 yards. The Bucs did not utilize second-year man Peyton Barber at all.

No real surprise here, but Mike Evans was just the latest victim of Xavier Rhodes.

As NFL.com's Matt Harmon noted, after holding Antonio Brown in check in Week 2, Rhodes shadowed Evans on 72.2 percent of the receiver's routes and let him catch just five of nine targets for a mere 53 yards.


DEPTH CHART
QBs: Jameis Winston, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Ryan Griffin
RBs: Peyton Barber, Jacquizz Rodgers, Charles Sims, Doug Martin
WRs: Mike Evans, DeSean Jackson, Adam Humphries, Chris Godwin, Bernard Reedy
TEs: Cameron Brate, O.J. Howard

Tennessee Titans

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 26 September 2017

As ESPN.com's Cameron Wolfe framed it, "Sunday, the former bullies became the bullied. It wasn't long ago that the Seattle Seahawks were beating teams the way the Tennessee Titans beat them on Sunday, a complete performance anchored by a demoralizing rushing game and a confident quarterback. ..."

It was arguably the most impressive win in the young smashmouth Titans era, given the opponent and method of victory. The Titans gained confidence throughout the first half, and then an explosive third quarter showed the identity of what this team wants to be. The Titans held on after a late Seahawks rally for a 33-27 win.

DeMarco Murray looked healthier than he has all season in running for 115 yards, including a winding 75-yard touchdown set up by great blocks and vision. The offensive line completely shut down the Seahawks' defensive front. Marcus Mariota played smart, winning football and finished 20-of-32 for 225 yards and two touchdowns, with no turnovers.

Wolfe added, "The Titans are who we thought they were."

A season-opening loss at home to the Raiders may have rattled some confidence, but back-to-back wins over the Jaguars and Seahawks re-establish them as the trendy newcomer among AFC contenders. They took some haymakers on Sunday and responded with more consistent jabs and hooks.

Despite first-half struggles (17 carries for 30 yards), Tennessee refused to abandon the run game. It finally got the big one to pop with Murray's long touchdown. That was the longest run against the Seahawks since 2009, before Pete Carroll took over as head coach.

Tennessee's offensive line wore down the Seahawks' defense. The Titans finished with 195 rushing yards, more than the Seahawks allowed in any game last season.

Murray's output was a surprise.

This was supposed to be a big week for Derrick Henry after Murray didn't do much due to his hamstring injury. Henry had a decent day for a backup back -- 64 total yards -- but it was Murray who rewarded fantasy owners. Adding to the dynamic against Seattle, head coach Mike Mularkey told reporters after the game that Henry suffered a thigh bruise early in the game.

That opened the door for Murray to get some work, and he made the most of it, totaling 115 rushing yards on the day.

Given all that, Henry will remain a touchdown-dependent flex option if Murray remains healthy.

The good news?

The Titans are still doing it in the "exotic smash-mouth" approach head coach Mike Mularkey wants. They rank second in the NFL averaging 156.3 yards rushing after running all over Jacksonville in a 37-16 win in Week 2 followed by 195 more in a 33-27 win over Seattle.

They also have allowed Mariota to be sacked only twice this season.

"That's our smash-mouth football," right tackle Jack Conklin said. "The first half, we are trying to break teams down, trying to wear them down. That's what we did last week. We came out here, and that is what our plan was for this week and we were able to carry it out and stay physical the whole time."

Credit Mariota with perhaps the biggest growth. Mularkey said Monday the third-year quarterback managed to get the Seahawks, better known as the "Legion of Boom" on defense, to jump five times.

In addition, Rishard Matthews, a consistent clutch target for Mariota, had a big fantasy day with six catches for 87 yards and a touchdown. As NFL.com's Matt Harmon notes, with Corey Davis inactive, Matthews was the clear lead receiver. "His standing chemistry with Mariota continues to win out in the receiving pecking order," Harmon added before noting that Eric Decker, on the other hand, is a low-volume possession receiver in a run-heavy offense.

"At this point," Harmon continued, "we've seen enough to have Decker on the shortlist of players you're willing to part with to make a priority pickup on the waiver wire. ..."

Next up, the Titans get a chance to solidify their spot as the AFC South's best team on the road against the defending division champion Houston Texans. It's another test of winning games in the division, which has been a problem in previous seasons. Deshaun Watson presents another headache as a running quarterback.

Other notes of interest. ... Also according to Harmon, the Titans deployed more two tight end sets, rather than give a full-time workload to rookie Taywan Taylor (25 plays), with Davis out.

Rookie Jonnu Smith played an almost equal snap count to Delanie Walker (43 to 46). Smith caught his second touchdown in the last two games but only saw two targets. He's not a true threat to Walker's playing time but he's an exciting young talent. According to Harmon, dynasty leaguers need to know his name. ...

And finally. ... Left tackle Taylor Lewan was helmet-to-helmet screaming in Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman's face. For a moment, it was unclear what would happen next. Mariota had been laid out on a late hit by Sherman. A scrum ensued. No one would have been shocked if punches had started flying. This was Lewan -- and he doesn't play games when it comes to his quarterback.

Eventually the situation was diffused, with a surprising call of offsetting penalties. The Titans' offensive line had sent a message. They'll do just about anything to defend their quarterback.

"Marcus is our guy. We're going to protect him no matter what," Conklin said. "That got us fired up."

It was one of the few times that Mariota was touched by the Seahawks' defense on Sunday. The Titans' offensive line didn't allow a sack or a quarterback hit inside of the pocket Sunday. It was an impressive effort against a stout Seattle defensive line.

This was easily the offensive line's best performance of the season, as it made gaping holes to spring the running and screen game throughout the second half. All five of the offensive linemen -- Lewan, left guard Quinton Spain, center Ben Jones, right guard Josh Kline and Conklin -- had good games paving the way the huge rushing day and keeping the pocket clean.

Mularkey was proud of his offensive line for defending their quarterback and was a little surprised that no one got ejected on that play.

"Do they think we're going to take that? There's no way we're going to take that. We'll never take that," Mularkey said. "I'll be disappointed if we don't retaliate when someone does something like that."

As he often does, Mariota took the high road. He told Sherman, "Good hit," after the play and noted afterward that it's "part of the game."


DEPTH CHART
QBs: Marcus Mariota, Matt Cassel, Brandon Weeden
RBs: Derrick Henry, DeMarco Murray, David Fluellen
WRs: Rishard Matthews, Eric Decker, Taywan Taylor, Eric Weems, Corey Davis
TEs: Delanie Walker, Luke Stocker, Jonnu Smith, Phillip Supernaw

Washington Redskins

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 26 September 2017

As ESPN.com's John Keim suggested, the "Pay Kirk Cousins, don't pay Cousins" debate is ongoing after every game. Some games he's not worth much of anything.

Other days -- like today -- he's worth as much as anybody else in the league.

But the truth with Cousins is this: He's capable of struggling but also of producing huge nights. That's why those who made up their minds on Cousins a while ago haven't really changed. Each side can offer proof as to why they think the way they do.

However, as Keim contends, if Cousins strings together more nights like Sunday, a lot of minds could change. He played one of the best games of his career, leading the Washington Redskins to a 27-10 win over the Oakland Raiders. He beat a good team in a prime-time game (much like he did a year ago against the Green Bay Packers) and was the best passer on the field.

Derek Carr received the big contract in the offseason -- and two weeks ago, Cousins' critics would have said he shouldn't receive one that's comparable. But it was Cousins who starred, completing 25 of 30 passes for 365 yards and three touchdowns. Three of those incompletions hit receivers' hands and were dropped or jarred free. It might have been the most accurate Cousins has been.

"We don't even talk about dollars," head coach Jay Gruden said earlier in the week. "That would never come up with any of these guys, so it's not an issue. It won't be an issue. Ever."

For the record, Cousins, who was named the NFC Offensive Player of the Week, hit 25 of 30 attempts for 365 yards and three touchdowns against the Raiders.

After the game, Gruden clearly liked what he witnessed all night.

"You can look at the yards and say, obviously, I like the yards and completion percentage, but there were some decisions that Kirk made that were equally as impressive," Gruden said. "Not forcing the ball; running the ball when we had a couple of bad looks, protecting the football. He really managed the game perfectly. He made some big-time throws, the receivers made some plays for him, so all around I was very impressed with the entire offense."

But what they would discuss is how close they believed Cousins was to having a big game. During the week, multiple coaches said Cousins was "this close" as he was getting more in sync with the receivers. They felt they could contain the Raiders' pass rush because of their tackles, Trent Williams and Morgan Moses. But it was also the precision they started to see last week on the final drive against the Los Angeles Rams.

"Kirk is one of the better quarterbacks in the league," running back Chris Thompson said. "It's on us as running backs, receivers, offensive line. ... Just win our matchups and Kirk is going to get us the ball. He's such a great quarterback. I knew it was about time for him to have a big game."

When receivers cut, the ball would arrive. When he threw downfield, he gave his best deep threat, Josh Doctson, a chance. In practice, Cousins and Doctson had started to connect. Sunday, Doctson made a leaping catch over former Redskins corner David Amerson and ran in to complete a 52-yard score.

"I'm going to give him a chance because they've been asking me to give him that chance," Cousins said of Doctson. "It was scary when it left my hand. ... Josh made me right, but that play can go either way, you know? That's why this game is so tough."

Another time, Cousins stood in the pocket and patted the ball, then did it again. He didn't hurry himself, trusted the protection and allowed the receiver to break free -- then delivered a strike to Jamison Crowder. Because Cousins hit him in stride, it enabled Crowder to run after the catch for 30 more yards.

Like Gruden said, he managed well. That's what Cousins focused on in the offseason. The result: Hitting Thompson on a blitz that he took for a 22-yard touchdown pass.

"By knowing how to manage situations and making decisions based on what I am coached to do and how the game is being played," Cousins said.

Cousins and the Redskins' offense did all this without his one-time security blanket -- tight end Jordan Reed. Since becoming a starter at the beginning of the 2015 season, Cousins owns a 119.6 passer rating when targeting Reed. But during that same span, the Redskins were 2-4 without him.

The Redskins have plenty of other weapons and Cousins used them, completing passes to eight receivers. Doctson can develop into a dangerous threat. And Thompson has been their best offensive player, by far. In the end, Cousins did his job.

In doing so, he proved his worth. Until that worth is debated again next week.

Meanwhile, getting back to Thompson, the versatile third-down back has four of the Redskins' seven offensive touchdowns this season and will be a handful for the Kansas City Chiefs (3-0) this coming Monday night.

Thompson had 150 yards receiving and a touchdown plus 38 yards rushing in Washington's 27-10 thumping of the Oakland Raiders (2-1) on Sunday night, a testament to coach Jay Gruden's play-calling and his value to the Redskins' offense.

"He can line up in the backfield, he can spread them out wide, he can catch the football," Crowder said. "He definitely gives you mismatches against the defense. He's just a great player. He has the speed. He's not that big of a guy, but he has the speed, the toughness and he just makes plays."

Thompson has been a headache for defenses early in the season with 231 yards receiving and 119 rushing. Kansas City can only hope it limits Thompson like it did Darren Sproles in Week 2 when the Philadelphia back had two catches for 30 yards and 10 carries for 48.

Even though Oakland coach Jack Del Rio said the Raiders were aware of what Thompson could do, they left him wide open at times, and he made them pay. Thompson had a 74-yard catch-and-run to go along with his 22-yard touchdown reception.

"Coach Gruden, he's been doing such a great job at his play-calling and being able to get me in some good situations where I'm in 1-on-1 matchups, then it's my job to win," Thompson said. "They're paying me to win my 1-on-1 matchups and to make plays, be a spark for this offense."

Thompson has been the ultimate spark even with just 14 carries. Gruden knows the 26-year-old wants a bigger share of the workload, but he and Cousins don't want to take away from Thompson's multifaceted abilities.

"We have to make sure Chris stays healthy this year because it's really hard to find a guy who can pass-protect, make people miss, help me with the pass game, catch the ball," Cousins said. "He is the total package."

So even without Kelley and Reed in the mix, the Redskins got things clicking on offense with the likes of Thompson and Vernon Davis. Rookie running back Samaje Perine left with a hand injury, as Davis had five catches for 58 yards.

"Vernon is a big asset to our team," said Cousins. "You know that Jordan is not always healthy. The fact that Vernon has the speed that he has and the experience and can make the plays with the last year and half -- what an asset to our offense."

For the record, Reed (chest contusion) remains listed as day-to-day after missing the Oakland game on Sunday. He is expected to participate in practice on Wednesday. It seems reasonable to expect the same of Kelley, who is also considered day-to-day.

According to the Sports Xchange, Perine (bruised hand) didn't break any bones when he took a direct hit from a helmet and fumbled in the second half of Sunday's win over Oakland. He is expected to participate in practice sometime this week.

I'll be following up on all involved when Late-Breaking Updates commence early Thursday.


DEPTH CHART
QBs: Kirk Cousins, Colt McCoy
RBs: Samaje Perine, Kapri Bibbs
WRs: Jamison Crowder, Josh Doctson, Ryan Grant, Brian Quick, Terrelle Pryor
TEs: Vernon Davis, Jeremy Sprinkle, Niles Paul