Team Notes week 4 2018

By Bob Harris
Bob Harris<

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 2018

Josh Rosen was picked by the Cardinals 10th overall in April's draft as the team's quarterback of the future.

As the team's official website put it, "The future turned out to be late September. ..."

Head coach Steve Wilks decided Monday that Rosen was now the team's starting quarterback, with Sam Bradford moving to the bench.

"It's all a process," Wilks said. "He's going to have some growing pains -- that happens as a rookie. But you'll see some great things from him as well."

Asked if Rosen was the starter for the balance of the season, Wilks said he once had made the point that it had been Bradford's job to lose and now "I'm saying the same exact thing about Rosen."

The newcomer completed 4-of-7 passes for 36 yards and an interception in his brief appearance during the 16-14 loss to the Bears Sunday. Wilks had decided, after Bradford's third turnover, to make the change. The turnover - and telling Rosen - came with more than 11 minutes left in the game. But the Bears drove down the field with a nearly-seven-minute possession to not only kick the go-ahead field goal but put Rosen in a tougher spot for his debut.

Wilks said he was happy with the fast start of Bradford and the offense in generating 14 points in the first quarter, but then the offense got "stagnant." The turnovers also became costly. Bradford's last, a fumble when the Cards were already in field-goal range, was the breaking point.

"There are definitely no excuses," Bradford said Sunday of his performance this season. "I came out and didn't play my best."

Wilks said Bradford took the demotion in stride.

"Sam is a pro," Wilks said. "He's going to do everything he can to help Josh, as he was before."

Rosen's confidence is part of the allure to put him in. Wilks said Rosen has the right demeanor to step in as a rookie, that the game "isn't too big for him."

In the few snaps he played against the Bears, Rosen showed his accuracy and command of the huddle, Wilks said. His mobility gives the Cards' offense an asset they do not have with Bradford, and Wilks said that could lend itself to more rollouts or bootlegs in the game plan.

Wilks did not commit to a backup, saying he'd announce later in the week whether Bradford or Mike Glennon would now be No. 2.

It would make a difference in Bradford's contract, since the veteran reportedly has active-per-game bonuses.

But that has nothing to do with the rookie with the starting job.

"Josh plays with a lot of confidence," Wilks said. "I think he gives an opportunity to be successful. When you look at the situation when he went into that (Bears) game, I didn't have a problem because again, he is confident in what he is doing."

"There are definitely no excuses," Bradford said Sunday of his performance this season. "I came out and didn't play my best."

In general, as ESPN.com's Josh Weinfuss noted, Sunday's performance was a continuation of the offense's poor play over the first two weeks, when it scored just six points. Heading into the contest, Arizona was ranked last in the NFL in yards per game, passing yards per game and per play, first downs per game, third-down percentage, average time of possession and points per game.

Publicly, the Cardinals exuded confidence that the offensive woes could be corrected this week. But that was not case Sunday and their quarterback of the future didn't provide a spark.

Now we'll all find out what Rosen can do with an extended look. ...

Other notes of interest. ... After showing flashes of his ability in the first two weeks, second-round pick Christian Kirk put together the most complete game of his career in Sunday's 16-14 loss to the Bears.

The rookie wide receiver led the Cardinals with seven catches for 90 yards, including a pair of 30-plus-yard receptions. The Cardinals have been searching for a legitimate third option offensively beyond running back David Johnson and wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald, and Kirk seems to be that guy.

"I tell (the quarterbacks) all the time, 'I'm here, we're here,'" Kirk said. "As a group, especially as wide receivers, we're going to make those plays for them. I remind them of that every time we step on the field."

Kirk had an integral 30-yard reception on a third-and-4 on the Cardinals' opening drive, which set up a 35-yard touchdown catch by tight end Ricky Seals-Jones two plays later.

He had a 32-yard reception in the fourth quarter to get the Cardinals down to the Chicago 23-yard line, but Bradford lost a fumble two plays later. Kirk said his comfort level has increased each week.

"It's definitely slowing down a bunch," Kirk said. "I've just been able to make the right decisions, whether it's reading coverages or whatnot. It just feels comfortable."

Kirk was targeted a team-high eight times. No other pass-catcher was targeted more than four times, including Fitzgerald, who caught his only two targets for nine yards.

"That's just how the cookie crumbles sometimes," Fitzgerald said. ...

On the injury front. ... In open part of Wednesday's practice, Fitzgerald (hamstring) was doing some individual drills but didn’t have his helmet; I'll have more on his status via Late-Breaking Update as developments warrant. ...

Defensive end Markus Golden (ACL) and tight end Jermaine Gresham (Achilles) returned to action for the first time following last year's significant injuries. Both were on a limited snap count.

Gresham had a nine-yard catch in the fourth quarter, his only reception of the contest. Golden didn't have a tackle and was called for a roughing the passer penalty. Golden said there were no lingering issues and he's looking forward to increasing his playing time moving forward.

DEPTH CHART
QBs: Josh Rosen, Sam Bradford, Mike Glennon
RBs: David Johnson, Chase Edmonds, T.J. Logan
WRs: Larry Fitzgerald, Christian Kirk, Chad Williams, J.J. Nelson
TEs: Jermaine Gresham, Ricky Seals-Jones, Gabe Holmes

Atlanta Falcons

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 26 September 2018

As NFL.com's Kevin Patra put it, "Matt Ryan played a ridiculous game Sunday afternoon in Atlanta. ..."

The Falcons still lost, but fantasy owners made out like banditos

Ryan's stat line: 374 yards on 26-of-34 passing, 74.3 completion percentage, a whopping 10.7 yards per attempt average, five touchdown passes and zero interceptions for a 148.7 quarterback rating.

Ryan's 141.8 passer rating is the highest passer rating in a loss in the Super Bowl-era, per NFL Research (minimum 25 attempts). The previous high was owned by former Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo (141.3 in 2011).

Sunday marked the 26th time in NFL history that a player threw for 350-plus passing yards, 5 TDs and no INT, per NFL Research. But Ryan was just the third to lose such a game. The others: Dan Marino, 38-34, to the Jets in 1988; and Eli Manning, 52-49, to the Saints in 2015.

The Falcons wasted Ryan's sterling performance, a breakout game from rookie receiver Calvin Ridley (7 for 146, 3 TDs), and another 4-of-4 red zone day.

"You never know how games are going to shake out, but your mentality offensively or as a quarterback has to be whatever we have to do," Ryan said. "If it's going to be like today, we've got to go out there and make the plays and score the points when we need to. And we had chances offensively to finish the ball game today, and we didn't do that."

Unfortunately for Ryan, with a record-setting Brees on the other side of the field, the Falcons' offense never saw the ball in overtime and fell to 1-2 on the young season in the process.

But this is obviously good news for fantasy owners. Scoring at such a high clip could help offset the Falcons' defensive issues.

Remember, the Falcons entered Week 3 without arguably their two best defenders, as Pro Bowl strong safety Keanu Neal suffered a season-ending ACL tear and Pro Bowl middle linebacker Deion Jones was placed on injured reserved following foot surgery. The earliest Jones can return is the Nov. 18 game against the Dallas Cowboys.

To top it off, free safety Ricardo Allen, one of the designated "chiefs" as a team leader, went down Sunday with what turned out to be a season-ending torn Achilles' tendon.

ESPN.com's Vaughn McClure noted that Allen missing significant time leaves the Falcons without maybe their smartest defender, as well as without their hardest hitter in Neal and arguably the league's best coverage linebacker in Jones.

But in terms of the offense, the Falcons know they have everything it takes to score and score often, with the Cincinnati Bengals coming up next and a road trip to the Pittsburgh Steelers sandwiched between their next NFC South game against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in Week 6.

In 2016, the Falcons were 12-1 when they scored 30 or more points, including the playoffs.

For what it's worth, McClure reports that most of the Falcons' offensive players said they were disappointed with the inability to establish the run game against the Saints, which will be an emphasis moving forward to help keep the defense off the field. But there's no denying the red zone plays being called by offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian, as the Falcons are 8-for-8 in the red zone over the past two games.

And yes, Ridley is the real deal. A 75-yard touchdown reception on which he coasted into the end zone showed just how difficult a matchup he is for opposing defenses and how much easier he makes things for top target Julio Jones.

The addition of Ridley to the offense was a key asset and Ryan explained just why we could there's reason to believe we could expect to see more of these types of performance from Ridley.

"He stepped up when he had the opportunity too," Ryan said. "It was clear from the start the game plan would be having two guys to account for Julio and a safety coming down from the opposite side to account for where Mohamed Sanu was at. That leaves Calvin singled up in one-on-one coverage. I thought Sark did a great job of taking advantage of that ... calling plays to get him shots down the field. But at the end of the day, Calvin has to go out there and make those plays and he's done that for us all season but today was special. I was proud of him.

"I thought Calvin did a great job for us today, played extremely well, took advantage of the one-on-one opportunities when he got them and made them pay for keeping him isolated.

Now we'll see if the Falcons continue to make opposing defenses pay with so many weapons at Ryan's disposal. ...

On the injury front. ... The Falcons were without running back Devonta Freeman and defensive ends Takkarist McKinley and Derrick Shelby on Sunday.

At this point, Neal and OG Andrew Levitre are the only two players who have been ruled out for the season. Jones is expected to be back at some point in the second half of the season, and his return would be a catalyst for the defense, which allowed 534 yards on Sunday.

Other players could be back sooner, possibly as early as this week.

According to the team's official website, Freeman may be the biggest question mark at this point. Quinn has remained adamant that the team considers him day to day and that he will return to the field when he shows the same explosiveness he had prior to the knee injury he sustained against the Eagles. Freeman has yet to practice in any capacity since the injury occurred but Quinn said on Wednesday the veteran running back would get in work some work during the walkthrough portion of practice.

Watch the Late-Breaking Updates section for more on Freeman's status in coming days, but expect Tevin Coleman to continue starting and carrying the load this week.

Same with Jones, who like last week, opened this week sitting out practice due to a tender calf. Jones went on to play without issue last Sunday and will likely do the same this week.

DEPTH CHART
QBs: Matt Ryan, Matt Schaub
RBs: Devonta Freeman, Tevin Coleman, Ito Smith
WRs: Julio Jones, Calvin Ridley, Mohamed Sanu, Justin Hardy, Marvin Hall, Russell Gage
TEs: Austin Hooper, Logan Paulsen, Eric Saubert

Baltimore Ravens

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 26 September 2018

Joe Flacco may be the only person in Baltimore who doesn't mind all the rain this September.

For the second time in three weeks, a steady rain came down at M and T Bank Stadium. And once again, Flacco excelled despite it.

As the team's official website suggested, "It's safe to say, Flacco is a mudder."

The most excited he was all day, however, was when he ran and slid ono the wet turf for a first down to ice the Ravens' 27-14 victory over the Broncos. Flacco got up and gave a huge fist pump with his teammates slapping his back after another gritty performance.

According to ESPN.com's Jamison Hensley, the Ravens talked about whether they needed to dial down the passing game as the heavy rain came down before the game.

"We decided it was the same game plan," head coach John Harbaugh said. "You always feel that [Flacco] gives you a bit of an advantage in the elements."

Throwing darts through the raindrops, the strong-armed Flacco consistently put the ball on his targets' hands, completing 25 of 40 passes (62.5 percent) for one touchdown and a 91.4 passer rating.

While other phases struggled, Flacco carried Baltimore to the top of the AFC North standings, where the Ravens (2-1) are tied with the Bengals (2-1). The running game averaged 2.8 yards per carry. The defense had trouble getting off the field. The special teams had a punt and a field goal blocked.

Flacco continually pushed the ball downfield and stepped up at the most critical moment. On third-and-1 with 2 minutes, 45 seconds remaining, Flacco rolled to his right and beat Broncos safety Darian Stewart and linebacker Bradley Chubb to the outside. He dove forward in the wet grass for a 5-yard gain to seal the win.

According to Hensley, when it rains, Flacco soars because of his mindset.

"I don't pay any attention to it, and [offensive coordinator] Marty [Mornhinweg] doesn't either," said Flacco, who had grass stains on both legs, his chest and even on top of his shoulder pads. "That's what is great. [We went] out there and threw the ball all around the yard in the first half even though we were trying to establish [the run] and get some of those things done, too. I think in the pregame, you can overthink it, and what are you really going to do though? By the time the game comes around, you're just trying to execute the play."

One of the big reasons why the Ravens drafted Flacco in the first round 11 years ago was his ability to throw in bad weather. During a cold and windy pre-draft workout, Flacco impressed Ravens officials when only five of his 150 passes hit the ground.

Flacco has been tested early this season and has come through sublimely. In rain games against the Bills and Broncos, Flacco has connected on 67.5 percent of his passes (50-of-74) for 513 yards. He has thrown four touchdowns and no interceptions for a 105.3 rating.

In those same games, the other quarterbacks (Nate Peterman, Josh Allen and Case Keenum) combined for a 49.3 completion rate (33-of-67 passing) for 243 yards. They've totaled no touchdowns and four interceptions for a 49.3 rating.

"A lot of teams would go away throwing the ball during rain like this," tight end Mark Andrews said. "It's [Mornhinweg] having trust in [Flacco]. He's proven he can do it. And obviously, with his day today, it proves it again as well."

Flacco repeatedly put the ball where it needed to be. In the second quarter, Flacco dropped it in John Brown's outstretched arms for a 44-yard connection. In the third quarter, Flacco hit Andrews in stride for a 29-yard, over-the-shoulder catch.

"I think that's always one of the things that when you take into account guys that are going to be on this team is the fact that you have to play in Cincinnati, you have to play in Cleveland, you have to play in Pittsburgh, and you have to play in Baltimore," Flacco said. "Grass fields, for the most part, and you can always be [dealing] with some weather, so you've got to be able to step up to the plate and do it, and it's just part of playing football."

The Ravens next play the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday night. Unfortunately for Flacco, the forecast at Heinz Field is just a 20 percent chance of rain. ...

Meanwhile, the Ravens offense made a little history in Sunday's victory over the Broncos.

With touchdowns on their three trips into the red zone, Elias Sports Bureau reports that they have become the first team in league history to score touchdowns on their first 12 red zone visits in a given season. Alex Collins ran for one of the scores while Javorius Allen, who has emerged as a viable flex play for fantasy owners, caught one touchdown and ran for another.

That balance has been in place through the first three games. They've scored six touchdowns on the ground and six through the air and seven different players have been responsible for the touchdowns, which quarterback Joe Flacco noted while discussing the successful start to the season.

"We've had a good mix," Flacco said in his postgame press conference. "I think we've probably thrown the ball in six times and run the ball in six times. If you can do both of those things, especially when you get down tight inside the 5-yard line … that helps a lot. It takes a lot of pressure off your offense. We've got good playmakers, and we put a lot of pressure on the defense with the guys that we have out there."

The change in the Ravens' red zone fortune dates back to last season. In the past eight games (including three in 2018), Baltimore has scored 26 touchdowns on 32 red zone trips (81 percent).

The Ravens will work to keep the streak alive against the Steelers. ...

Kicker Justin Tucker was named the AFC Special Teams Player of the Week after he connected on two 50-plus-yard field goals and three extra points against the Broncos. This is Tucker's eighth Player of the Week award. ...

The Ravens signed former Bears center Hroniss Grasu on Monday and waived DB Robertson Daniel. Grasu was one of 10 offensive linemen who had tryouts with Ravens a week ago. He has started 12 games for Chicago in 2015 and 2017. ...

The Ravens were missing eight players at practice on Wednesday.

According to Hensley, absent were quarterback Lamar Jackson, Brown, tackle Ronnie Stanley, linebacker Terrell Suggs, safety Eric Weddle, cornerback Brandon Carr, cornerback Anthony Everett, and defensive tackle Willie Henry.

The injury designations for each player will appear on the official practice report. I'll be following up as need via Late-Breaking Updates. ...

And finally. ... Harbaugh said that tight end Hayden Hurst (foot) could return to practice this week and he was indeed on the field Wednesday.

The rest of the week will provide more of an idea about whether he’ll be able to play against the Steelers on Sunday night.

That said, with fellow rookie Andrews excelling, the Ravens don't need to rush Hurst back. In Sunday's win over the Broncos, Andrews set the franchise's single-game rookie tight end record with 59 yards receiving. He set up two scoring drives, catching passes of 30 and 29 yards.

For the season, Andrews has caught eight passes for 107 yards, which are more than Evan Engram, Trey Burton and Vernon Davis. In his last game, Andrews found a way to get open around the goal line when Flacco began to scramble. It led to a 1-yard touchdown.

Flacco certainly does love connecting with his tight ends. Since entering the NFL in 2008, Flacco has targeted tight ends on 1,116 passes. Only Drew Brees, Philip Rivers and Tom Brady have thrown more to tight ends.

DEPTH CHART
QBs: Joe Flacco, Lamar Jackson, Robert Griffin III
RBs: Alex Collins, Javorius Allen
WRs: Michael Crabtree, John Brown, Willie Snead, Chris Moore, Jordan Lasley, Janarion Grant
TEs: Hayden Hurst, Mark Andrews, Nick Boyle, Maxx Williams

Buffalo Bills

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 26 September 2018

As ESPN.com's Mike Rodak reminded readers, Josh Allen's awe-inspiring arm strength was the most obvious trait that drew the Buffalo Bills to the polarizing prospect from Wyoming. The Minnesota Vikings found out on Sunday what else endeared Bills general manager Brandon Beane to the quarterback he made the No. 7 overall pick of April's draft.

Allen guided the Bills, who were 17-point underdogs, to the NFL's biggest upset since 1995 as much with his legs as his arms in a 27-6 win. Allen outran Vikings linebacker Anthony Barr to the pylon for a 10-yard touchdown, hurdled over Barr for a 10-yard gain on third-and-9 and later dove over the middle of the Minnesota defensive line for a 1-yard touchdown to help give Buffalo a 27-point halftime lead that was never threatened.

"I was trusting my feet, trusting my gut," Allen said of the hurdle. "There was a guy who was maybe three yards in front of the sticks. I knew we needed a first down there and we went on to score on that drive. It was a big play, but it was just another first down."

Allen said Sean McDermott loved the effort, as did others on the sideline.

"You see that hurdle? That's Josh, man. He's dope," safety Micah Hyde said. "I jumped off the bench. I think I was on the field trying to dap him up. That was a huge play. Don't do it again, though."

Overall, Allen ran 10 times for 39 yards in the absence of perhaps the team's best player, running back LeSean McCoy, who was inactive with a rib injury. In his first career road start, Allen demonstrated the athleticism and fearlessness of a ball carrier who allowed the Bills to forget about the quarterback mobility they lost in trading Tyrod Taylor. Allen's 10-yard rushing touchdown was the longest by a Bills quarterback since Taylor's 12-yard-run in Oakland in Week 13, 2016, and it was the first rushing touchdown allowed by the Vikings this season. Allen became the first Bills quarterback with two rushing touchdowns in a game since Trent Edwards in 2008, according to ESPN Stats and Information.

In the process, Allen became the latest young quarterback to breathe new life into a team after electrifying efforts by Cleveland's Baker Mayfield and Kansas City's Patrick Mahomes this season.

Allen completed 9 of 13 passes (69 percent) for 158 yards and two touchdowns in the Senior Bowl. Beane noticed Allen's footwork improved in that game from his college career, when he completed an alarming 56 percent of his passes, and credited the change in part to Allen's work with private quarterback coach Jordan Palmer.

The sharper version of Allen was on display Sunday, when he finished 15-of-22 (69 percent) for 196 yards and a 26-yard touchdown to second-year tight end Jason Croom.

Rodak went on to note the environment Sunday was almost entirely foreign to Allen. He was raised in a farming town of about 8,000 people outside of Fresno, California and, after not receiving any Division I offers, made his mark at Reedley College. The Tigers play their games at a high school stadium where out 350 people witnessed a Reedley win Saturday.

Allen played in front of a larger stage at Wyoming, but only two of his road starts -- both blowout losses to Big Ten foes Nebraska and Iowa -- came in front of more than 36,000 people.

Compared to his quarterback counterparts in the first round of the 2018 draft -- who played in the ACC, Pac-12 and Big 12 conferences -- Allen seemed least equipped, given his experience in the Mountain West, to immediately handle the pressure of a hostile NFL venue.

There were a few hiccups Sunday for Allen, particularly with ball security. A second-quarter jet sweep-style play to Marcus Murphy almost resulted in a lost fumble, and in the third quarter, Allen had to dive on a botched snap. He was bailed out later in the quarter by tight end Jason Croom when Allen was sacked and allowed the ball to come loose.

Allen only attempted four second-half passes, limiting his exposure. But his poise when the Bills were building their early lead, sucking the hope out of the home crowd, should be commended.

"I think he's done a good job," defensive tackle Kyle Williams said. "I think he's done a good job of kind of soaking it all in. Speaking when he needed to, and outside of that, learning and listening. He's done a really good job. I'm really excited about where he's headed."

Allen's next test?

A trip to Lambeau Field, where the Bills opened Sunday evening as 10.5-point underdogs to the Green Bay Packers. ...

Looking ahead to that game, McCoy appears to be on track to play.

Just ask him.

"I'm playing this week," the veteran running back said in a statement released by the team. "There's still some pain but I felt good today. I'm ready to go out and get this thing going again."

Chris Ivory rushed 20 times for 56 yards and added three catches for 70 yards in McCoy's absence in Minnesota giving fantasy owners with McCoy some hope that he too can be productive given a positive game script.

Also hoping to return to action this week is DE Shaq Lawson, who has missed each of the last two games with a hamstring injury.

"Shaq Lawson with the hamstring is progressing well. It looks like he'll practice as we get into the week," McDermott said.

Trent Murphy suffered an ankle injury late in Sunday's game. Coach McDermott labeled him day to day. ...

Adam Caplan of ESPN reports that the Bills are trading veteran tackle Marshall Newhouse to Carolina. There's no word on compensation heading back to Buffalo. ...

And finally. ... McDermott said defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier resumed defensive play-calling duties Sunday after being stripped of them last week against the Chargers. "I thought he called a heck of a football game," McDermott said.

McDermott said during the week the play-calling effort would be a collaboration but was not seen referencing a play-calling sheet during the game.

DEPTH CHART
QBs: Josh Allen, Nathan Peterman
RBs: LeSean McCoy, Chris Ivory, Marcus Murphy, Taiwan Jones
WRs: Kelvin Benjamin, Zay Jones, Jeremy Kerley, Andre Holmes, Brandon Reilly
TEs: Charles Clay, Jason Croom, Nick O'Leary, Logan Thomas

Carolina Panthers

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 26 September 2018

As ESPN.com's David Newton noted, during a 31-21 victory over Cincinnati Cam Newton and Christian McCaffrey were on the same page in a way that Norv Turner envisioned when the Panthers hired him in January to revamp the offense.

Newton rushed for two touchdowns, passed for two more and completed 62.5 percent of his passes. McCaffrey rushed for a career-high 184 yards on a career-high 28 carries a week after catching a career-high 14 passes for 102 yards.

The second-year back also caught two passes for 10 yards, giving him a career-high 30 touches for the game.

Remember when Turner said he wanted to get Newton, with a career completion percentage of 58.5, in the 65 to 70 percent range? And get McCaffrey 25 to 30 touches a game?

This is what he was talking about.

The two working in tandem behind a makeshift offensive line set up play-action passes, deep routes and everything that has been a part of Turner's success as a coordinator.

"We spoke momentarily afterward," Newton said of a conversation with his offensive coordinator. "It's just keeping defenses off balance. Keeping a balanced run game, balanced pass game, taking shots when they're there, guys making contested catches, guys blocking on the perimeter, guys busting their tails all over the field."

The difference on Sunday and the first two games is that McCaffrey was the focal point of the running game, not Newton. The second-year back had only 18 carries for 87 yards against Dallas and Atlanta, while Newton had 18 carries for 100 yards and a touchdown.

Newton can't set up the play-action well when he's the running threat.

But when the defense is focused on McCaffrey as a threat running and receiving that opens everything.

That was most evident in the second quarter when McCaffrey and C.J. Anderson lined up in the backfield on consecutive plays. Anderson gained 6 yards on the first play and then caught a 24-yard screen pass on the next when the defense went with McCaffrey as Newton faked what would have been a lateral to his right.

"C-Mac is a ballplayer," Newton said. "It's hard for a lot of people to label him. They want to say he's this, but playing like today he's obviously not just a receiving back. He's a total running back. He shows signs that this is not a fluke."

McCaffrey admitted it has bothered him that critics have said he can't run between the tackles in the NFL the way he did at Stanford, where he was one of the top all-purpose backs in college during the 2015 and '16 seasons.

That his top rushing performance before Sunday was 15 carries for 66 yards, last year against Atlanta, fueled that even more.

"It definitely bothered me," McCaffrey said. "But the more and more I go through this league I learned it's never about proving anyone wrong or proving anybody right. It's just proving myself right.

"That's the biggest thing I've mentally had to take over as I continue to grow."

As the team's official website noted, this was a masterful performance from McCaffrey and the Panthers offensive line against a stout Bengals defensive front that had allowed 141 combined rushing yards in the two games prior, which was third fewest in the NFL.

McCaffrey predictably credited the men blocking for him.

"It starts up front," McCaffrey said. "The O-line and all the stuff that they've been through, to see what [running game coordinator John Matsko] had done with them and to see how they've come together through everything - no complaining, no anything - just go out there and ball."

The offensive linemen predictably credited the man toting the rock.

"I thought our group did good," center Ryan Kalil said, "but at the end of the day, (Christian) is a very, very good running back. He has great vision and great patience and he knows how to hit those holes."

The offense in general proved it is headed in the right direction.

If the defense can continue to tighten up and play to expectations the Panthers (2-1) have a chance to make some noise in the NFC.

That they have the bye to let a few injuries heal and the New York Giants at home in two weeks gives them a chance to get off to a 3-1 start.

"When you've got a team playing confident like we're playing, it makes us hard to beat," Newton said. "But as we go into this bye week, we know we can't get off the pedal.

"We want to impose our will. We are a team that can attack a defense many different ways. And as the game progresses, I see the body language on the defensive line and the body language of defenders and they're wearing down. ..."

Also worth noting. ... When Greg Olsen broke his right foot again, and the team didn't put him on injured reserve, it seemed a pretty clear sign he was coming back soon.

And while there still isn't a set date in mind, the veteran tight end said Monday night he doesn't think he'll miss as many games as when he broke it the first time last year (nine).

"Yeah, I'm way ahead of the curve," Olsen told David Newton. "Last year at two weeks I was laying in my bed in a cast. I couldn't do anything. I'm way ahead of the curve from that standpoint. It's just a matter of seeing each week how your foot responds and just try to add a little more, a little more. What that time frame is, we're optimistic. Hopefully, it's sooner rather than later."

As Profootballtalk.com's Darrin Gantt suggests, the fact Olsen didn't need (or didn't choose to have) surgery signaled a return inside the eight-week window if he had been placed on IR. This week's bye give Olsen another week of recovery.

Gantt added, "When well, he's one of the most dangerous weapons at his position." Remember, Olsen became the first tight end to record three straight 1,000-yard seasons from 2014-16.

And finally. ... Adam Caplan of ESPN reported on Tuesday that the Buffalo Bills are trading veteran tackle Marshall Newhouse to Carolina. There's no word on compensation heading back to Buffalo.

As PFT noted, the Panthers have their projected left tackle Matt Kalil and right tackle Daryl Williams on injured reserve and right guard Trai Turner has been out with a concussion for the last two games, so the interest in offensive line depth in Carolina is easy to understand.

Newhouse has been a backup with the Bills this season and has played 14 snaps through three games. He also has extensive starting experience over the previous seven seasons.

DEPTH CHART
QBs: Cam Newton, Taylor Heinicke
RBs: Christian McCaffrey, C.J. Anderson, Cameron Artis-Payne
WRs: Devin Funchess, Torrey Smith, D.J. Moore, Curtis Samuel, Jarius Wright, Damiere Byrd
TEs: Greg Olsen, Ian Thomas, Chris Manhertz

Chicago Bears

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 26 September 2018

According to ESPN.com's Jeff Dickerson, Mitchell Trubisky's bumpy performance in Week 3 will not silence the critics convinced the Bears drafted the wrong quarterback in 2017, but the team did achieve an important milestone in its rebuilding effort on Sunday.

The Bears won a game they were supposed to win.

For a franchise that routinely struggled to handle prosperity under former head coaches Marc Trestman and John Fox, the Bears managed to win back-to-back games for just the second time since 2016.

All alone atop the NFC North for the first time since Week 16 of the 2013 season, the Bears can thank their opportunistic defense (four takeaways) and strong rushing attack for erasing a 14-point deficit to beat the winless Arizona Cardinals 16-14.

The only drama left in Arizona is chronicling the developing of rookie quarterback Josh Rosen, who mercifully replaced Sam Bradford late in the fourth quarter.

The Bears' season, on the other hand, is very much alive, especially after Green Bay and Minnesota suffered unexpected losses on Sunday.

However, Trubisky has to play better for head coach Matt Nagy's team to be a serious playoff contender.

"With Mitch ... there are plays when he played really well ... but we can improve," Nagy said. "There are going to be some growing pains as we do this and it's not going to happen overnight."

Trubisky's most impressive throw of the afternoon was a 39-yard, third-quarter completion to Allen Robinson that set up a touchdown, but far too often, the second-year quarterback missed the mark on downfield pass attempts.

Those accuracy issues are becoming acute.

The Bears lauded Trubisky's accuracy when they made him the second overall pick of the 2017 NFL draft out of North Carolina, but that passing precision has yet to materialize at the NFL level.

"I just gotta keep getting better. ... It was a good win for us on the road," Trubisky said.

"I'm really tough on myself. I know I can play a lot better."

Trubisky also turned the ball over twice in the first half, and nearly threw a pick inside the 20-yard line in the third quarter. This comes on the heels of Trubisky tossing a pair of interceptions versus Seattle six days earlier.

The good news, according to Nagy, is that Trubisky, "has not flinched at all on the sideline after turning the ball over, that's the best part of this process -- he's getting better -- I'm proud of him."

"We can improve but I'm happy with where he's at. ... We're going to continue to work together and continue to keep pushing forward until this thing clicks."

As the Associated Press noted, the Bears have scored touchdowns on only 40 percent of their trips into the red zone, placing them in the bottom quarter of the league.

One possible way to improve Trubisky's effort would be to scale back the offense.

Considering he has started only 15 NFL games, it's possible Trubisky is at his limit in comprehending all the nuances of the team's new attack.

"I think that it's probably getting close," Nagy said.

Nagy added there are other factors slowing the offense besides his quarterback, but Trubisky must be completely aware of the best places to go with the football.

Of course, Trubisky isn't going anywhere.

As Dickerson added: "The fan base can scream all they want about Chicago drafting Trubisky instead of Patrick Mahomes (13 touchdown passes, zero interceptions), but what's done is done."

Even if fans (and fantasy owners) are tired of watching the defense carry the offense, the Bears need better balance to reach their full potential.

And as Dickerson summed up, "It all starts with the quarterback. ..."

Other notes of interest. ... Jordan Howard rushed 24 times for 61 yards and a touchdown while catching both of his targets for 20 yards in Arizona. During a Monday appearance with the FootballDiehards on SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio, Howard told listeners that he's worked hard on his receiving skills in order to stay on the field more.

The efforts are paying off.

Howard has been on the field for 68 percent of the team's snaps through three games pulling in 10 of 11 targets on the year. Tarik Cohen has been on the field for 37 percent of the snaps while garnering eight targets. ...

Rookie wide receiver Anthony Miller dislocated his left shoulder against the Cardinals on Sunday, Nagy said. He tried to play with it, but was in obvious discomfort.

Cornerback Prince Amukamara, who hurt his left hamstring during safety Eddie Jackson's third-quarter interception, is due for an MRI on Monday.

The Bears could be cautious with both, given their bye week after Sunday's game against the Buccaneers, although Nagy characterized both as being "day-to-day" on Monday.

Miller had four catches for 35 yards Sunday, while Amukamara had two tackles, a tackle for loss and a pass defended.

And finally. ... In our search for favorable matchups this week, look no further than the Bears wideouts going up against the Buccaneers secondary with Carlton Davis, Brent Grimes and M.J. Stewart.

According to ESPN's Mike Clay, the Bears move Robinson all over the formation, as he has lined up 35 percent wide to the left, 34 percent wide to the right and 32 percent in the slot this season. Taylor Gabriel is used similarly (35 percent, 36 percent, 30 percent).

This week, that means both will see a fairly even share of the Buccaneers' struggling corners.

The Bucs have allowed the most fantasy points to slot receivers (a missed opportunity for injured Miller) and the third-most to wide receivers overall.

As Clay suggests, Robinson should be locked into lineups every week and Gabriel's heavy volume makes him an underrated asset as is. The good matchup pushes him into the flex mix.

DEPTH CHART
QBs: Mitchell Trubisky, Chase Daniel
RBs: Jordan Howard, Tarik Cohen, Benny Cunningham
WRs: Allen Robinson, Taylor Gabriel, Anthony Miller, Kevin White, Josh Bellamy, Javon Wims
TEs: Trey Burton, Dion Sims, Ben Braunecker, Adam Shaheen, Daniel Brown

Cincinnati Bengals

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 26 September 2018

At various times for the Bengals wide receivers last Sunday it was a grinding and yet giddy afternoon that in the end ended with a 31-21 loss to the Panthers. For the final 2:53 of the third quarter and the first 11:27 of the fourth the Bengals had three drives to tie it at 28 and if it wasn't one thing it was another conspiring to make them come up empty.

"We still had a chance to take it down there and tie it," said wide receiver Tyler Boyd after his career 132-yard day. "That's what really hurts me. That's what upsets me."

According to Bengals.com's Geoff Hobson, the buzz was about the two improv catches Boyd made to save a scrambling Andy Dalton and the two catches John Ross didn't make that turned into Dalton interceptions.

And the vintage toe-tap catch A.J. Green made and all the ones he would have made if he hadn't left the game with a groin injury on the third play of the third quarter.

Dalton finished with his fifth best passing yardage ever with 352. He tied Boomer Esiason with the most 300-yard games in team history despite a 64.8 passer rating.

The one thing they couldn't prevent was Green from getting hurt. It looked like cornerback James Bradberry arrived too soon over the middle and separated Green from the ball when he hit him in the back as Green leaped to catch it with his hands before it hit his chest. He went one way and the ball the other.

"I hurt it as soon as I hit the ground. I just fell awkwardly. I did the same thing in college," Green said. "I feel better. Still a little sore, but I feel better walking, so that's a good sign.

"At first I thought I knocked the air out of myself. I was just trying to catch my breath. Then I got up and ran and I was like 'Oh, a little sore.' I couldn't really lift my leg after a while. But it feels good now. It should be fine. It's just a little sore. ... I thought I'd just give it like a series or two just to calm down. But after a while it got even sorer and stiff."

Green added, "I didn't hear anything pop."

According to Cincinnati Enquirer staffer Paul Dehner Jr., head coach Marvin Lewis on Wednesday expressed optimistism about Green. The coach said it was an aggravation of a college injury and that anti-inflammatories are clearing everything up.

We'll find out more about that in coming days, but Green was in pads on Wednesday; watch the Late-Breaking Updates section for more as the week progresses. ...

Meanwhile, the Bengals struggled to move the ball in the second half with him on the sideline, going 0 for 4 on third down. Green caught five passes for 58 yards.

"It's tough just sitting there on the sideline not able to play," Green said. "Being the guy on offense and not being able to play. But we fought hard. Turnovers killed us. I think that's one thing that really held us back. You can't win when you have all those turnovers."

I'll be following Green's progress closely via Late-Breaking Update in coming days (watch the Late-Updates section for more). ...

Meanwhile, Hobson believes Sunday proved that if Ross isn't, Boyd is more than ready to be Green's wing man in the Marvin Jones-Mohamed Sanu mold. In fact, Boyd became the Bengals' first drafted wide receiver other than Green to have a 100-yard day since Sanu four years ago.

Speaking of running mates, they go into this week's meeting with the Sanu-Julio Jones Falcons in Atlanta with Boyd leading them in receiving yards, 249-219 yards.

"I just want to help the team and make as many plays as possible with A.J. getting doubled or if the read is coming to me and I do my best to catch the ball," Boyd said. "Keep the chains rolling."

Beyond that, ESPN.com's Katherine Terrell reports the Bengals didn't appear to be hanging their heads after the loss on Sunday.

Several Bengals players lamented the major mistakes made in the game, pointing out that they had an opportunity to win until the fourth quarter.

"It hurts, especially the turnovers like the mistake ones like the tipped ball, but at the end of the day we still had an opportunity to go down and tie the game," Boyd said. "We needed to take advantage and we didn't. That's what upset me."

Added Green: "We moved the ball very well. We just had a couple turnovers. You're going to have games like this. That's one thing about this team, though, we're not going to put our head down because we know if we didn't have those turnovers we would have been in the game."

Also on the injury front. ... Defensive tackle Ryan Glasgow, who was carted off the field Sunday, is feared to have suffered a season-ending knee injury, NFL Network's Ian Rapoport reported, per sources informed. He left the stadium in crutches and had an MRI Monday morning.

Also worth watching, CBSSports.com's Jason La Canfora reported prior to Sunday's game that Joe Mixon was actually pushing the Bengals to try to return from last week's knee scope to play the Panthers and he remains at least a possibility to play in Week 4.

Mixon has been explosive catching and running with the ball, and was a huge part of Cincinnati's 2-0 start. He was limited in Week 2 by the injury, but carved up the Ravens defense when he was on the field and is vital to coordinator Bill Lazor's game plan. Mixon has rushed for 179 yards on 38 carries with one rushing touchdown in two games this season, and also had six catches for 57 yards and a touchdown.

Mixon is feeling much better since the scope and, if the incision heals before the Bengals take the field in Week 4 at the Falcons and there is no advanced risk of infection, he could be active by then.

With Mixon out in Carolina, Giovani Bernard played 57-of-65 snaps (88 percent) against the Panthers. He ran for 61 yards and a touchdown on 12 carries and pulled in five catches on nine targets for another 25 yards.

Rookie Mark Walton, who was the only other active back on the roster, was in on just seven plays and did not touch the ball.

Benard (thigh) was limited in Wednesday's practice. I'll be following up on him along with Green in coming days.

DEPTH CHART
QBs: Andy Dalton, Jeff Driskel
RBs: Joe Mixon, Mark Walton, Giovani Bernard
WRs: A.J. Green, Tyler Boyd, John Ross, Josh Malone, Cody Core, Bennie Fowler
TEs: Tyler Eifert, Tyler Kroft, C.J. Uzomah, Mason Schreck

Cleveland Browns

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 26 September 2018

As NFL.com's Nick Shook framed the story, "It started Thursday night, with less than two minutes remaining in the first half of Cleveland's win over the New York Jets, but it's now official: The Baker Mayfield era is underway."

Head coach Hue Jackson confirmed Mayfield's promotion to starter when speaking to reporters Monday after practice. Tyrod Taylor will be the backup, if healthy, Jackson added.

Shook added: "Mayfield's insertion into Cleveland's thrilling come-from-behind win served as all the proof needed to make the rookie The Guy(TM) in orange and brown."

The quarterback quickly changed the mood of the entire stadium, quickly moving the Browns into range for a field goal just before half.

Mayfield pinpointed a few passes that served as a (very small) sample of what could be ahead. First, his completion to Jarvis Landry at New York's 1 set up the game-tying touchdown; later, his dart down the seam to Landry in a very tight window set up the game-winning score. Both came after Taylor failed to complete (or for the most part, even attempt) downfield passes and receded from veteran hope to business as usual for a struggling Browns offense.

In between, the rookie was quick with his decisions and accurate on most of his throws, looking wise beyond his years under duress much like he did in leading Oklahoma to a College Football Playoff berth. He left Browns fans in blissful shock as they poured out of FirstEnergy Stadium late Thursday, raving about the future under center, which suddenly seemed brighter than ever (with jersey sales reportedly reflecting the surge in confidence).

Where Mayfield goes from here is anyone's guess, but after leading the Browns to their first win in 635 days, in front of a packed house on primetime television, the move was a no-brainer -- and perhaps wise to prevent an uproar. Cleveland's offense is notably better (the bar was low) with him on the field, which is rather necessary with an immediate slate that includes trips to Oakland and Pittsburgh, and home games against Baltimore and the Los Angeles Chargers.

While growing pains typical of a rookie are expected, the ceiling is higher with Mayfield, who has quickly made the Browns an intriguing team to watch after three weeks. We'll see if he can keep it up.

Meanwhile, it's worth noting that Mayfield becomes the 30th starting quarterback for the Browns since they re-entered the league in 1999.

Here's the full list of Browns quarterbacks since they re-entered the NFL in 1999: Tim Couch, Ty Detmer, Doug Pederson, Spergon Wynn, Kelly Holcomb, Jeff Garcia, Luke McCown, Trent Dilfer, Charlie Frye, Derek Anderson, Ken Dorsey, Brady Quinn, Bruce Gradkowski, Colt McCoy, Jake Delhomme, Seneca Wallace, Brandon Weeden, Thaddeus Lewis, Jason Campbell, Brian Hoyer, Johnny Manziel, Connor Shaw, Josh McCown, Austin Davis, Robert Griffin III, Cody Kessler, DeShone Kizer, Kevin Hogan, Tyrod Taylor.

Time will tell if the 23-year-old Mayfield can hold the starting job longer than the others. But he did get off to a solid start and Mayfield knows he's been anointed as some kind of Cleveland football savior.

He's not backing down from the job.

"That's what I signed up for," he said. "I'm living my dream and I wouldn't have it any other way. Without pressure, I don't think this would be very much fun, without all the people watching and finding joy in this game. I love this game, and without the competitive nature, I wouldn't enjoy it."

Jackson said he hopes Taylor will be cleared from concussion protocol in time to back up Mayfield on Sunday against the Raiders. If not, veteran Drew Stanton will be active.

As for Mayfield, Jackson has been impressed with his quick development and acknowledged the switch happened sooner than he anticipated. But Jackson is also confident Mayfield is prepared to take the starting job and run with it - it's why the Browns took him ahead of every other player in the draft.

Jackson has changed QBs before. This switch feels different.

"This was a guy that we picked together, that we went all-in on unanimously and said this is the guy for the future," Jackson said, referring to general manager John Dorsey and his coaching staff. "The guy that we picked for the future of the organization is now the starter of the team."

Taylor's influence helped accelerated the learning curve for Mayfield. The Browns signed Taylor, who guided Buffalo to the playoffs last season, to serve as a "bridge" quarterback until Mayfield was ready. But although that connection is complete, Jackson said the team needs Taylor.

"He's right here, not going anywhere," Jackson said. "That's important. Part of Baker being able to play like he did was because of Tyrod and Drew, so I don't want to upset that room that way. Tyrod's going to be needed. He's the backup quarterback on this team if he's healthy. He's played and his teammates know who he is and the way he goes about the rhythm of his game.

"So I think it's always good to have that kind of depth at that position."

Mayfield's elevation was welcomed inside Cleveland's locker room by teammates who believe he's destined for greatness.

"I keep saying this is the Baker Era and stuff," wide receiver Rashard Higgins said. "If it pans out how it's supposed to be, Baker might be the next big thing. He might be on the LeBron (James) wall. ..."

A few final items. ... Carlos Hyde had a big Thursday night in more ways than one. On his 28th birthday, the Browns running back combined for 103 yards and two touchdowns before bolting the stadium to see the birth of his first child.

"It was a handful of a day right there," the former Ohio State standout said. "Just being at the hospital, getting to the game, playing the game, and then having to get back to the hospital. Then my son was actually born two hours later after the game."

Hyde's son is named Carlos Jr.

Jackson said free safety Damarious Randall, who was questionable Thursday with a heel injury, should be able to go this weekend. The former first-round pick is still being bothered by the ailment, but "I think he'll be fine."

LB Christian Kirksey returned to practice after missing two games with a sprained ankle. DE Myles Garrett was on a stationary bike during the portion of practice open to media members, but Jackson said the former No. 1 pick "is fine."

DEPTH CHART
QBs: Baker Mayfield, Tyrod Taylor, Drew Stanton
RBs: Carlos Hyde, Duke Johnson, Nick Chubb
WRs: Jarvis Landry, Antonio Callaway, Rashard Higgins, Derrick Willies, Damion Ratley, Rod Streater
TEs: David Njoku, Darren Fells, Randall Telfer, Seth DeValve

Dallas Cowboys

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 26 September 2018

According to ESPN.com's Todd Archer, Ezekiel Elliott had more than 100 yards rushing in a game for the first time this season, but the Dallas Cowboys running back took the blame for a 24-13 loss to the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday.

"I had a poor performance today," Elliott said. "Did well in the run game, but overall, I dropped the ball. That loss is on me."

Elliott finished with 127 yards on 16 carries, and his 7.9 yards per rush were the second-best of his career in a game, but he was flagged for an illegal touch of a forward pass that negated what would have been a 31-yard touchdown catch in the second quarter, and he fumbled in the fourth quarter with the Cowboys attempting a comeback.

"I had no idea [I was out of bounds]," Elliott said. "That's on me. I've got to have better awareness of the sideline. That's it."

Instead of a game-tying touchdown, the Cowboys had to settle for a 50-yard field goal by Brett Maher.

Elliott had four runs of at least 19 yards, but on his season-high 26-yarder in the fourth quarter, he fumbled for the first time this season. Safety Bradley McDougald tracked Elliott from behind and chopped the ball free for Justin Coleman to recover with 10:46 remaining and Seattle up 24-6.

"You can say whatever, but at the end of the day, when you've got the ball in your hands, that's the team in your hands," Elliott said. "Me being a leader on the team, me being a better player on this team, I got to do a better job of taking care of the ball. That cost us the game."

Later in the fourth quarter, Elliott was out of bounds again when attempting to catch a Dak Prescott pass.

"He gets a lot of different machinations of handling that ball out there, Zeke, and we intend to keep him doing that," owner and general manager Jerry Jones said. "I know he'd like to have his reference point back, obviously, when he was out of bounds when he made the touchdown, and you know he'd like to have that ball back when he was fighting for yardage. He's a lot to handle out there for the defense, and I'm just glad we've got him."

But the biggest problem obviously isn't Elliott.

As Associated Press sports writer Schuyler Dixon pointed out, Prescott has the fewest throws of at least 15 yards down the field among quarterbacks who have played all three games this season.

It isn't really news to the leader of the Dallas Cowboys.

"I don't think we've just attacked that area enough, simple as that," Prescott said after the loss to Seattle on Sunday. "I don't necessarily say they're taking it away as much as we haven't tried them enough. You can put it on me. I guess I just need to push the ball down the field more."

Whether it's play-calling, blocking or a group of receivers looking woefully ill-equipped to replace the All-Pro version of Dez Bryant, the Cowboys' passing game is broken - even as Elliott had his first 100-yard rushing game of the season.

Prescott, who has completed just three of 10 passes at least 15 yards downfield, had his fifth straight game of fewer than 200 yards with at least 25 passes going back to last season. The Cowboys haven't had that long a run of inefficiency in the passing game in 15 years.

If it's any consolation, Quincy Carter-led Dallas made the playoffs despite that ineptitude in 2003, although those Cowboys were quickly bounced in the wild-card round because of their stagnant offense.

These Cowboys (1-2) don't look anything like a playoff team with this offense. They play Detroit (1-2) on Sunday at home with the Lions coming off a stirring win at home against New England.

Cole Beasley is the only receiver with 100 yards for the season (132). Newcomer Deonte Thompson, supposedly a speed threat on the outside, is averaging 9.2 yards on nine catches.

Tavon Austin, acquired in a trade during the draft, has the only catch of more than 20 yards - a 64-yard touchdown on the third play of Dallas' win over the New York Giants. His other four catches are for 17 yards.

Austin has the only two receiving touchdowns for Dallas. The second was on a 3-yard shovel pass with the Cowboys trailing the Seahawks 24-6 in the fourth quarter.

Geoff Swaim has been solid trying to replace 15-year tight end Jason Witten, who retired to go into broadcasting. He led the Cowboys with five catches for 47 yards against the Seahawks.

"We have to be more efficient and we have to be more explosive throwing the ball," head coach Jason Garrett said Monday. "There are a lot of components to it. There's a protection component. There's a decision-making component. There's a throw and catch component. There's a winning on the route component."

For the record, despite scoring just 41 points in three games, the fewest to start a season since 1990, Garrett said he will not make significant changes in personnel or in the play calling operation with offensive coordinator Scott Linehan.

"I think it would be false for me to say this is about play calling," Garrett said. "This is about everything we're doing offensively, we have to do better. We have to coach better. We have to play better. We have to run it better. We have to throw it better. We have to protect better. We have to do all the things good offenses do and we have to do all of those things better."

Garrett served as the Cowboys' play caller from 2007-12 before giving way to Bill Callahan in 2013 and Linehan the following season. While he is involved in the process of putting the game plan together, he does not anticipate getting more involved in games.

In terms of personnel, Garrett said he believes the team is playing its five best offensive linemen, though rookie left guard Connor Williams has had some struggles. Two weeks ago, the Cowboys signed veteran Xavier Su'a-Filo -- who started 31 of 32 games for the Houston Texans in 2016-17 -- but he has been inactive for the past two games.

Last week, the Cowboys re-signed wide receiver Brice Butler, who was inactive in Seattle.

"We're evaluating the game and we're evaluating everything that we're doing in all phases of our team and we'll spend the next couple of days going that as we put a plan together for Detroit," Garret said. "And we'll make the necessary changes that we need to make."

One last note here. ... Linebacker Sean Lee could miss a couple of games with an injury to his left hamstring. Lee aggravated the hamstring in the third quarter of Sunday's loss.

Lee missed five games last season with hamstring issues. He was limited in his work during the organized team activities, minicamp and training camp with the idea of keeping him fresh for the regular season. He has missed 10 games in his career due to hamstring injuries.

With Lee out, rookie first-round pick Leighton Vander Esch will see a larger role. He was credited with 11 tackles and a tackle for loss against the Seahawks.

DEPTH CHART
QBs: Dak Prescott, Cooper Rush, Mike White
RBs: Ezekiel Elliott, Rod Smith
WRs: Cole Beasley, Allen Hurns, Michael Gallup, Tavon Austin, Brice Butler
TEs: Geoff Swaim, Blake Jarwin, Dalton Schultz, Rico Gathers

Denver Broncos

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 26 September 2018

Head coach Vance Joseph said last week the team's dismal 5-11 season was "dead and gone." And then the Broncos went out and resurrected that painful slice of history.

As ESPN.com's Jeff Legwold reminded readers, last season, a 2-0 Broncos team made its first road trip and lost to the Buffalo Bills. And Sunday, the 2-0 Broncos made their first road trip only to once again see their offense and quarterback Case Keenum have their worst day of the young season in a 27-14 loss to the Baltimore Ravens.

"As an offense we've got to get better," wide receiver Demaryius Thomas said. "Too many penalties, too many mistakes. It's hard to win when you do what we did."

Keenum, who signed a two-year, $36 million deal in the offseason, had enjoyed the comforts of his new home in the season's first two games. He led two game-winning drives in those games, including a field goal drive last week as the Broncos earned a one-point win over the Oakland Raiders with six seconds remaining.

Sunday, however, in a steady rain for much of the day, neither Keenum nor the Broncos' offense got their footing. Even as the Broncos flashed some quality work in the running game, and Keenum found a sliver of rhythm in the closing minutes, the Broncos consistently had difficulty handling the Ravens' defensive front in pass protection.

Keenum was hit repeatedly and by halftime was a shaky 7-of-12 passing for 56 yards with two passes knocked down, having been sacked three times and fumbling once. By the end of the third quarter, Keenum was just 12-of-21 passing as the Broncos had more penalty yards (90) than net passing yards (85) at that point. He finished 22-of-34 for 192 yards and an interception.

"It was a combination of things," Keenum said. " … Whether it's I missed a guy running wide open -- there's a few I can remember and could see from the pictures we had some guys open -- to whether they schemed up a good blitz that got our protection, whatever the situation is, one thing here or there, couple tipped balls, it just wasn't our day."

Toss in some particularly crushing penalties in one third-quarter drive alone in a penalty-filled day (120 yards in all) -- such as Garett Bolles' holding penalty that negated a 38-yard completion to Thomas to go with an unnecessary roughness penalty on guard Ron Leary that pushed the Broncos out of field goal range -- and it all looked eerily familiar to the week-to-week struggles in 2017.

Because as Keenum sputtered -- he threw his fifth interception of the season in the fourth quarter with the Broncos on a rare venture into Ravens territory, and leading rusher Phillip Lindsay had been ejected just before halftime for throwing a punch in a scrum to recover a fumble -- so did the offense. After an eight-play touchdown drive that gave the Broncos a 14-7 lead in the first quarter, Denver went 17, 3, 9, minus-3, 0, 11 and 33 yards on their next seven drives.

"When we went on out little stretch of not being able to move the ball very well, you just can't do that for that long in this league, especially on the road," Keenum said. "It's definitely frustrating."

"We can't do it, it probably cost us 20 points today," Joseph said of the penalties. "Just self-inflicted penalties. A lot of penalties was just guys losing their composure, we can't do that."

The Broncos and Keenum have talked about the importance of bouncing back from the bad things that happen. They will now get their chance to show it with the high-flying Kansas City next on the docket.

The good news? The Broncos should be healthier in the secondary when Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs arrive for a "Monday Night Football" matchup.

Joseph said cornerback Tramaine Brock has a left groin strain but that MRI results indicated he should be ready to play against Kansas City. Joseph expects Brock to return to practice either Wednesday or Thursday as the Broncos prepare for the Chiefs. Cornerback Adam Jones should also be ready to play, Joseph said. Jones missed the last week of practice and Sunday's game against Baltimore with a thigh injury.

Also of interest. ... As noted above, Lindsay was ejected from Sunday's loss as officials said Lindsay threw a punch in the scrum to recover a fumble.

Lindsay said he didn't throw a punch.

"I was just trying to get the ball, the ball ended up squirting back out on that play so, like I said, I was going for the ball," Lindsay said.

"Something I'm going to learn from. We were playing football, we were playing football, it's physical, and at the end of the day, we're just out there playing. They seen something they didn't feel was right."

Joseph said he was told Lindsay threw a punch under the pile.

"We can't do it, if that's accurate, we can't do it," Joseph said. "He's obviously a big part of what we do offensively, he's a double returner, both our kickoff and punt returner today, so losing him, that's a big deal."

Lindsay came into Sunday's game as the Broncos' leading rusher with 178 yards. Lindsay had 20 yards rushing on four carries before the ejection, which came just before the two-minute warning.

As a result of the ejection, Lindsay could face a one-game suspension.

DEPTH CHART
QBs: Case Keenum, Paxton Lynch, Chad Kelly, Kevin Hogan
RBs: Royce Freeman, Phillip Lindsay, Devontae Booker
WRs: Emmanuel Sanders, Demaryius Thomas, Courtland Sutton, Daesean Hamilton, Isaiah McKenzie, Jordan Taylor, Jordan Leslie, Carlos Henderson
TEs: Jeff Heuerman, Jake Butt, Matt LaCosse

Detroit Lions

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 26 September 2018

A day after their first win of the season, the change in the mood of the previously winless Detroit Lions was evident.

"Just coming in today, it was a little bit different," wide receiver Golden Tate said. "It's kind of a sigh of relief."

As Associated Press sports writer Noah Trister suggested, winning has a way of lifting the tension. Especially considering the quality of the opponent that the Lions beat.

Sunday's decisive 26-10 victory over the New England Patriots was fashioned by a smothering performance from the Lions defense.

The Lions held the Patriots to 209 yards, the fewest they've allowed since holding the New York Giants to 197 yards on Sept. 8, 2014. It was only the third time since 2007 that the Patriots produced fewer than 210 yards.

Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, who led the NFL with 4,577 yards passing last season, was limited to 133 yards.

"That is amazing," Lions cornerback Darius Slay said. "That is really amazing."

But there was even better news from a fantasy perspective: The offense rediscovered a run game after a half-decade away. Matthew Stafford played his best game of the season, connecting on 60 percent of his passes that went at least 15 yards in the air.

According to ESPN Stats and Information, this was the Lions' 10th-most efficient offensive game since the start of the 2013 season with a rating of 80.50.

And, as ESPN.com's Michael Rothstein suggested, a team that looked like it might have been one of the worst in the NFL now looked like one that could compete.

Now, after a win over the Patriots -- Matt Patricia's first as a head coach -- the conversation has turned ever so slightly. No, Sunday night's win doesn't erase that the Lions lost by 31 points to the Jets in the season opener or that they trailed by 17 points in the fourth quarter against San Francisco -- two teams that have lost to everybody but the Lions this season.

But it does offer an idea of what Detroit is capable of when it does play well. Sunday night looked more like the team the Lions had hoped -- maybe expected -- to be this season instead of the group they were throughout a rough preseason and an ugly first two weeks.

The Lions needed this. Multiple players said as much -- not only because the team entered Sunday 0-2 but because of the way they had played. They truly believed they were better than the performances they had posted.

Sunday proved that.
Improving to 1-2 on the season while handing the defending AFC champion Patriots (1-2) their second straight loss, the Lions said it won't matter if they don't carry the momentum into Sunday's game at Dallas against the Cowboys.

"Now that we have this win, it means nothing if we don't come back this week and have a great week of practice and go out there and handle business on the road against another good opponent," Tate said.

"We're happy we got that first win, but now we've got to put that game to bed. Now we've got to prepare like we did last week for the Dallas Cowboys on the road. Try to hit restart and go do it again."

Other notes of interest. ... After relative baby steps in the first two games - five carries for 17 yards against the Jets, eight for 47 against the 49ers - Kerryon Johnson took a giant step in Sunday night's win over the Patriots with 16 carries for 101 yards.

Johnson and LeGarrette Blount, who plays a power back role, are legitimate running threats that give the offense the balance that's been lacking most of Stafford's career.

As much as players have downplayed it, Johnson and Blount were fully aware of what it meant for the Lions to break a 70-game streak of not having an individual 100-yard rushing game.

"It was amazing," said Blount. "Obviously, this hasn't happened around here in a long time."

Johnson talked more about what the running game meant to the overall makeup of the offense than he did about himself.

"I think we saw a different offense today and we won," Johnson said. "I think it helped us a lot, opened a lot of our passes. It made life a lot easier for Stafford and our receivers, and the o-line did a fantastic job.

"It takes a lot to get us there. It takes a lot to do that and pass-block, and they did an awesome job."

Remember: The Lions were last in the league in rushing yards per game (76.3), tied for last in yards per attempt (3.4) and they had only two 100-yard rushing games as a team last year.

By comparison, the Lions are averaging 98.7 yards per game and 4.5 yards per attempt. The 159-yard rushing game against the Patriots was the most for the Lions since they ran for 241 in a win over the Packers on Thanksgiving Day of 2013. ...

Meanwhile, the Lions' receiver corps does not have a preeminent star like Julio Jones or A.J. Green, but the balance they have in the three starters with running back Theo Riddick a threat out of the backfield is among the league's best.

The three-game stats demonstrate the varied threats the Lions' group poses, as follows: Tate, always near the top of receivers in yards after the catch with 20 catches for 257 yards and a TD.

Kenny Golladay, a deep threat with power to go inside, with 19 catches for 256 yards and two TDs.

Marvin Jones, a long-ball threat who has added yards after the catch to his repertoire, with 12 catches for 177 yards and two TDs.

And Riddick, third on the team with 17 catches for 98 yards. Add one to keep an eye on: Johnson 10 catches for 52 yards. ...

Finally. ... DE Ezekiel Ansah appeared to be on the right path, after practicing last week on a limited basis. That no longer appears to be the case.

Via Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press, Ansah wasn’t at Lions practice Wednesday.

As Profootballtalk.com notes, Ansah suffered a shoulder injury in the opener, but was listed as questionable for last week’s game. He didn’t play either of the last two weeks.

DEPTH CHART
QBs: Matthew Stafford, Matt Cassel
RBs: Kerryon Johnson, LeGarrette Blount, Theo Riddick, Ameer Abdullah
WRs: Marvin Jones, Kenny Golladay, Golden Tate, TJ Jones, Bradley Marquez
TEs: Luke Willson, Levine Toilolo, Michael Roberts

Green Bay Packers

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 26 September 2018

As ESPN.com's Rob Demovsky pointed out on Monday, three weeks into the season, the Packers have the exact same record as the Cleveland Browns.

Then again, so do the Minnesota Vikings.

Demovsky went on to suggest only one of those teams should feel good about a 1-1-1 record -- and it's not either of the NFC North teams.

The Packers, perhaps more so than any of those three, should be most concerned after Sunday's 31-17 loss at the Washington Redskins.

Their quarterback is beat up, adding an apparent right hamstring issue to an already injured left knee.

They lost one of their marquee free agents when $5 million defensive tackle Muhammad Wilkerson had to be carted off with a left ankle injury that appeared so serious the Packers ruled him out almost immediately and he left the stadium in an ambulance.

Their defense, which everyone thought would be improved with the coordinator change from Dom Capers to Mike Pettine, still hasn't reached championship caliber.

And no one knows how to legally hit a quarterback anymore.

So much to sort out and so much for the Packers to figure out before Sunday's game against the Buffalo Bills, who stunned the Vikings in Minneapolis.

Aaron Rodgers didn't start anywhere near as sharp as he was a week against the Vikings, his first game with the brace on his left knee, although he got better as Sunday's game went along. Even after he appeared to pull up and grab his right hamstring in the third quarter, he managed to move the ball -- even with his feet when he converted a third-and-3 with a 10-yard scramble. But there were no heroics like in the season-opening win over the Bears from down 20 points.

Perhaps more than anyone, Rodgers could use a bye week but won't get one until Week 7 -- although he denied he did anything to his hamstring.

"He's going to be dealing with this for a while," head coach Mike McCarthy said. "He gutted it out, moved out of the pocket more than I would have liked, but I really won't know the extent really probably until tomorrow."

While Wilkerson's season is over, the Packers will have to figure out how to turn around a defense that couldn't stop 33-year-old Adrian Peterson (19 carries for 120 yards), struggled against tight ends (Vernon Davis and Jordan Reed combined for three catches of 20 yards or more), and was flagged for three pass interference penalties against three different defensive backs (Jaire Alexander, Tramon Williams and Davon House) on the same drive.

And that was all before a third roughing the passer penalty against Clay Matthews in as many games -- this one wiped out a sack of Alex Smith late in the third quarter and infuriated Packers coach Mike McCarthy to the point where he had to be restrained on the sideline.

Still, the defense actually gave the Packers a chance, holding the Redskins to just one first down on their first four possessions of the second half, all of which ended up punts.

The Packers had their chances to rally, but the mistakes piled up too high in a 31-17 defeat at FedExField.

"We have to clean our own house," McCarthy said. "It's sloppy right now."

After the Packers scored on a 2-yard TD pass to Davante Adams (seven catches, 52 yards) to open the second half, they were within 28-17. The defense stiffened, allowing just one first down in a span of four possessions.

But the offense continued to sputter due to penalties and drops, and a comeback never materialized.

"The penalty imbalance was heavy against us," McCarthy said, as the Packers were flagged for 11 infractions for 115 yards compared to just six for 66 for Washington.

"Way too many holding calls. A lot of long down-and-distances. We had a lot of opportunities in the second half to get the game back to one score and didn't get it done."

For the most damaging miscue, take your pick.

Rodgers called it either an excuse or a coincidence, but the bottom line is through three weeks the Packers have been wildly inconsistent throughout their performances with one more game in the first quarter of the season to go.

"I'd say the fourth quarter and overtime last week, some of that carried over to the first half," McCarthy said, referring to the defense. "But I thought our guys did a good job setting their jaw, and the defense gave us a lot of opportunities there in the second half."

Added Rodgers: "We left a lot of offense out there. ..."

For what it's worth, the Packers didn't activate third-string quarterback Tim Boyle, signifying they were more confident Rodgers could make it through a full game on his sprained left knee. That was very much uncertain last week against the Vikings, when Boyle as active.

As the Green Bay Press-Gazette noted, Rodgers looked more mobile early, running for 3 yards on third-and-2 and 13 yards on a third-and-10 that was nullified because of a penalty. Then on the first drive of the second half, Rodgers appeared to tweak his right hamstring while stepping out of a sack after backup tackle Jason Spriggs was badly beaten.

Rodgers, who afterward said his hamstring was OK, finished the game but this time was unable to complete a comeback.

Rodgers finished 27-for-44 for 265 yards, two touchdowns and a 93.5 rating. He was also sacked four times. We'll see what kind of toll that took on him as the week progresses.

McCarthy said he doesn't know if Rodgers will practice any earlier in the week than he has the last two weeks, when he only worked on the field on Saturday. Rodgers didn't practice Wednesday, though. The other practices this week are Thursday and Saturday.

In addition to Rodgers, Jimmy Graham was not on the practice field Wednesday. I'll be following up via Late-Breaking Update. ...

On a day full of mistakes, Randall Cobb suffered some of the most glaring. On the Packers' first series, the normally sure-handed slot receiver dropped a third-and-9 pass that would have given Green Bay - already trailing 7-0 - a first down. With the Packers down 28-17 in the third quarter, they went for it on fourth-and-2 from the Washington 43, and Cobb made what appeared to be a diving catch for a first down. But replay review revealed he didn't hang onto the ball before hitting the ground.

And with under 6 minutes to go and the Packers still down 11, Cobb caught a pass but fumbled after being hit and Washington recovered in Green Bay territory. Washington killed some clock before kicking a field goal for the final margin.

And finally, where was Aaron Jones?

The easy explanation will be that the Packers fell behind 28-10 at halftime and had to throw to catch up.

But before Sunday's game became lopsided, it sure looked like Jones was buried on the sideline. It wasn't until late in the first quarter when Jones got his first carry, which went for 10 yards. He got 8 yards on his second carry, and his six carries (for 42 yards) led the team. Jones' role grew as the game went on, but it's a wonder he didn't start as the Packers' featured running back after returning from a two-game suspension.

McCarthy suggested Sunday's game would play out that way, saying earlier in the week Jones would have a secondary role behind Jamaal Williams and Ty Montgomery.

Still, Jones continues to show he's the Packers most talented runner, and six carries won't cut it - no matter the score. ...

One last note here. ... Tuesday was a busy day in the Packers secondary: Bashaud Breeland signed with the team while Davon House (shoulder) was placed on IR.

DEPTH CHART
QBs: Aaron Rodgers, DeShone Kizer
RBs: Jamaal Williams, Ty Montgomery, Aaron Jones
WRs: Davante Adams, Randall Cobb, Geronimo Allison, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, J'mon Moore, Equanimeous St. Brown
TEs: Jimmy Graham, Marcedes Lewis, Lance Kendricks

Houston Texans

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 26 September 2018

According to Associated Press sports writer Kristie Rieken, after losing three close games to fall to 0-3 for the first time since 2008, the Texans are pondering all the little things they did wrong that contributed to the defeats.

They've had a few turnovers but possibly more detrimental to their success than that has been the constant smaller mistakes that have kept the team from running the way it should.

As usual, head coach Bill O'Brien shouldered the blame for their latest loss, a 27-22 defeat to the Giants which gave them their first win this season.

Though he said it was his fault, he refused to go into details about what he's trying to do better.

"There's a lot of things," he said. "Like I always say to you guys when things don't go well - and they haven't gone well lately - it starts with me. So, I just think there's a lot of different things that I can do to be better. I'm not going to list them all."

Though he took the blame for Houston's failure on Sunday, there are certainly plenty of other factors that have kept the Texans out of the win column. The first and most glaring has been the play of the offensive line.

The unit has allowed quarterback Deshaun Watson to be sacked 10 times and hit many more. The group has also committed an inordinate amount of penalties in the first three games. Though several different players have been penalized, right tackle Julie'n Davenport has struggled the most in this area and had five penalties on Sunday alone.

He was called for three false start penalties and flagged two other times for holding.

"He's struggling, and we have to work with him to keep getting better, but we're definitely looking at that position," O'Brien said. "He's a good guy. He's going to work hard to get better, but he needs to improve, no doubt."

O'Brien isn't sure what he can do in practice to help his team eliminate these penalties, but said Monday that he's working to figure out something.

Houston is also intent on improving its red zone efficiency after scoring touchdowns on just two of five trips inside the 20 on Sunday. O'Brien said the penalties have contributed to the problems in that area, but there are also other factors.

"Statistics tell you that when you have a negative play in the red area, you really have no chance of scoring a touchdown," O'Brien said.

"So, I think on all of the drives where we've had to settle for a field goal, we've had a negative play. We have to figure out how to stop doing that."

"It's not good, and that's been one of our main issues on offense," he continued. "When you have a lot of yards, it doesn't matter when you're not scoring touchdowns."

Watson was 24-of-40 for 385 yards with two touchdowns and an interception, but the Texans scored just six of their 22 points in the first half and trailed at halftime for the third game in a row.

As ESPN.com's Sarah Barshop noted, Watson targeted receivers DeAndre Hopkins (six catches for 86 yards) and Will Fuller (five catches for 101 yards and a touchdown) frequently, but the running game never got into a rhythm. The Giants loaded up the box and the Texans "tried a bunch of different schemes," according to O'Brien, but the Texans had to abandon the running game in the second half.

Lamar Miller and Alfred Blue combined for 23 yards on 14 carries.

Though the Texans are certainly disappointed that their season has gotten off to such a dreadful start, O'Brien believes that his players will work hard to try and turn things around. Houston will try again for its first win on Sunday in a visit to AFC South foe Indianapolis.

"We have a bunch of good guys in there that are very much together," O'Brien said. "We've only played one divisional game. We've got a big one this week. So, we just have to keep grinding. There's no other way out of it. There's no choice."

Other notes of interest. ... Rookie wide receiver Keke Coutee has endured a lot of frustration over the past two months.

He's never missed this much time before.

The fourth-round draft pick from Texas Tech strained his hamstring at the start of training camp and has missed the first three games of the regular season. Although Coutee says he's made major improvements and is close to being all the way back, he's been listed as limited on the injury report every week.

"I'm very close," Coutee said. "We'll see how this week goes and how Sunday goes. The leg is way better. I'm very confident in it right now. Very confident in my treatment, 100 percent."

Let's hope so. The Texans have a need after placing wideout Bruce Ellington on injured reserve with a hamstring injury.

DEPTH CHART
QBs: Deshaun Watson, Brandon Weeden
RBs: Lamar Miller, Alfred Blue, Tyler Ervin, D'Onta Foreman
WRs: DeAndre Hopkins, Will Fuller, Keke Coutee, Sammie Coates
TEs: Ryan Griffin, Jordan Akins, Jordan Thomas

Indianapolis Colts

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 26 September 2018

As ESPN.com's Mike Wells reported, the Colts sent up warning flags about quarterback Andrew Luck's surgically repaired right shoulder when Jacoby Brissett replaced him for the final play -- a Hail Mary -- in the Colts' 20-16 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday.

"[It] had nothing to do with [the shoulder] and everything to do getting the ball into the end zone," head coach Frank Reich said.

The Colts started their final drive at their own 11-yard line, and Luck dink and dunked the ball down the field to their 46-yard line. Then Brissett ran onto the field for the final play. Brissett attempted about five warm-up throws on the sideline after being told by the coaching staff before the start of the drive that there was a chance he would enter the game to throw the Hail Mary.

Brissett's throw of more than 60 yards reached the back of the end zone, where it was batted around before hitting the ground.

"It took me a second to figure out what was going on," Luck said. "But I support the decision 100 percent. Jacoby made a heckuva throw. Bought some time and got the ball there."

Sunday was just Luck's third game since he had surgery on his right shoulder in January 2017 and missed all of last season. The quarterback said at the end of the preseason that he could make all the throws necessary in a game. But having Luck leave the game brought into question whether that truly is the case.

"Jacoby has the stronger arm than I do," Luck said. "That's what I see in practice, and Coach Reich obviously thinks that as well. I'll keep working on getting my arm to where it can maybe make an 80-yard throw from the minus 30. No qualms with that decision."

The deep ball was one of Luck's strong suits before he injured his right shoulder in Week 3 of the 2015 season. He hasn't tested his arm much so far this season, as he's averaging a career-low 5.3 yards per completion. Luck finished 25-of-40 for 164 yards and a touchdown Sunday. Eighty-four of those yards came in the final quarter for Luck.

Could he make the 60-plus-yard throw before injuring his shoulder?

"To be honest, I don't know," he said. "I was never in that situation to go out and do it. And I think in this situation I don't know it could happen. I'll be honest, I haven't run around and scrambled and stuck my foot in the ground and tried to chunk it X amount of yards. Haven't felt necessary."

Reich indicated Luck would have remained in if the Colts were around midfield. Still, the Colts' offensive game plan was heavy on short passes all afternoon and Luck wound up 25-of-40 for 164 yards on a low-octane afternoon for the offense.

Luck was asked about a game plan that seemed to emphasize shorter throws, as evidenced by his average of four yards per attempt over the course of the afternoon.

"We had [deep] shots in the game plan," Luck said. "You saw us open it up, especially in the second half. I think it never comes down to one thing, per se. I don't think I was necessarily throwing it that well early in the game, and then settled into a rhythm. [Colts WR] Ryan Grant made a heck of a touchdown catch early, and that certainly helped me feel in a bit of a rhythm. There are a lot of factors. You can't start a game against a good front four just dropping back seven steps and heaving it up."

Reich chalked up the lack of deep throws to the Eagles defense and said "it would have been reckless" to push throws in that scenario. The result was a shortage of points and more losses will likely follow if the Colts can't figure out a way to open up defenses in the weeks to come.

While the result was better in Week 2 against Washington, Profootballtalk.com's Josh Alper noted the throws were similar for Luck and some will likely wonder about any lingering doubts about his arm unless the Colts start taking some more shots down the field in the weeks to come. ...

Of course, the offensive struggles aren't all on Luck.

Another issue is the limited personnel at the Colts' disposal. Left tackle Anthony Castonzo has yet to play a snap this season, right tackle has been a revolving door of players (that will continue to revolve with Joe Haeg is out for a few weeks with an ankle injury), Jack Doyle is now week to week with a hip injury, and starting running back Marlon Mack's durability is now in question as he's already missed two of three games this season with injuries.

As Wells summed up, "Nobody said it would be easy for Luck and the offense, but a season that started with low expectations surrounding the Colts could be one of surprise with possibly a few more victories than expected. But the offense has to catch up, because the defense and special teams are leaving it behind. ..."

Other notes of interest. ... With his five-yard touchdown pass to Grant in the first quarter Sunday, Luck has now thrown at least one touchdown in 26 consecutive games, the longest active streak in the NFL.

Luck's 33-yard run on Sunday tied a career-best set back in 2016.

Through three games, Grant has 124 receiving yards on 13 receptions and one touchdown, the best start to a season in his career. T.Y. Hilton's fifth catch of Sunday's game sent him over 7,000 career receiving yards. He is just the fourth Colt to reach that plateau. He is also the fifth receiver since 2012 to have 7,000 yards receiving.

With Mack out, rookie Nyheim Hines was on the field for 43 snaps (73 percent); Jordan Wilkins started, but only got 17 snaps. ...

Adding to the injury concern (especially with Doyle ailing), Eric Ebron (knee, shoulder) didn't practice on Wednesday while Mack was limited. Luck (groin) was listed as a full participant. I'll have more on all the walking wounded as needed via Late-Breaking Update. ...

With his third field goal on Sunday, kicker Adam Vinatieri tied the great Morten Andersen (565) for the most made field goals in NFL history. The record-tying kick was a 28-yarder with 14:20 left in the fourth quarter, which put Indianapolis ahead, 16-13.

The next kick will really be historic for Vinatieri, who has one more Andersen all-time mark to break this season: the NFL's scoring record (2,544). Vinny now needs 34 points to top that list, too.

And finally. ... The Colts in Monday claimed cornerback Arthur Maulet off waivers (from New Orleans) and released running back Christine Michael.

DEPTH CHART
QBs: Andrew Luck, Jacoby Brissett
RBs: Jordan Wilkins, Marlon Mack, Nyheim Hines, Robert Turbin
WRs: T.Y. Hilton, Ryan Grant, Chester Rogers, Zach Pascal
TEs: Jack Doyle, Eric Ebron, Erik Swoope, Ryan Hewitt

Jacksonville Jaguars

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 26 September 2018

As ESPN.com's Michael DiRocco framed it, "The Jacksonville Jaguars' offense stunk on Sunday."

DiRocco went on to explain there's no other way to put it. No reason to soften the blow. And nobody who played on that side of the ball in the 9-6 loss to Tennessee will argue that Jacksonville's offense didn't stink. Scoring just two field goals at home -- even without running back Leonard Fournette -- is unacceptable.

"We had the looks we wanted and we just didn't execute as football players, and we've got to hold ourselves accountable to the team and to the defense," tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins said. "And most importantly ourselves. We put something on tape last week and then we come and do this.

"When the defense holds them to nine [points], we've got to win. We have more than enough talent to win, and it's unfortunate we let the D down today."

What made Sunday's performance even more disappointing was how good the offense looked the previous weekend against New England. The Jaguars put up 481 yards -- including 377 yards and four TDs passing by Blake Bortles -- without Fournette. Nine players caught passes. They had a game plan for Corey Grant in space to take advantage of his speed. They were aggressive on first downs (20 pass plays called).

It looked completely different against the Titans. Just 232 yards. Only one play longer than 15 yards, and that was a 19-yard completion at the end of the game that involved a lateral after the catch. Only one drive that went longer than 34 yards. Grant being used as a true tailback and getting carries up the middle, partly because T.J. Yeldon was dealing with an ankle injury. Not trying to stretch the field.

Most importantly, the Jaguars managed just two field goals, marking the second straight game against the Titans in which Jacksonville failed to score an offensive touchdown.
"We hurt ourselves," Bortles said. "We had stupid penalties. We had drops. I missed some throws. We've got to not hurt ourselves. Especially [with] our defense and the way they play, we've got to score one touchdown and win the game.

"To go out there and score six points in four quarters, that's bad as an offense. You've got to find a way to get the ball in the end zone."

The Jaguars were down three offensive starters -- Fournette (hamstring), right guard A.J. Cann (triceps) and left tackle Cam Robinson (torn ACL) -- so that played a factor. So did drops by Keelan Cole and DJ Chark. Bortles missed some easy throws, as well, and had three other throws deflected at the line of scrimmage.

The Titans' defensive game plan was to keep everything in front of them and not get beat deep, and Jacksonville wasn't able to get into any kind of rhythm. The few times it did, it self-destructed. A delay-of-game penalty followed by a sack. An overthrow. A holding penalty and then a drop.

The Jaguars' best drive of the day came late in the third and early into the fourth quarter. They moved the ball from their own 12 to the Tennessee 25, but a holding penalty by right guard Chris Reed -- subbing for Cann -- pushed them back, and they eventually had to settle for a game-tying field goal.

The Jaguars certainly weren't at full strength with the injuries to Fournette, Cann, Robinson and Yeldon, but that's still no excuse for failing to score a touchdown at home for the first time since a 17-9 loss to Pittsburgh in Week 5 in 2014. Not when there were chances to get points.

"We stopped ourselves pretty much," receiver Donte Moncrief said. "... We weren't ourselves today. We've got to throw that out and get ready for next week."

Of course, as Associated Press sports writer Mark Long reminded readers, offensive inconsistency has become as much a part of the team's identity as defensive proficiency under head coach Doug Marrone. It's Jacksonville's biggest downfall.

Getting Fournette back would help.

Fournette is the team's offensive centerpiece, a pounding runner who sets the tone for Marrone's throwback style. The Jags managed to beat the Giants and Patriots without him, but needed a defensive touchdown to upend New York and the best game of Bortles' five-year career to knock off New England.

Marrone said on Monday that Fournette and Yeldon (ankle) will be day-to-day this week. . He said he's optimistic about Cann being back. If Cann can get through Thursday's practice with no issues it looks good for him playing against the NY Jets on Sunday.

Fournette and Seferian-Jenkins (core muscle) practiced Wednesday; Yeldon did not.

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

DEPTH CHART
QBs: Blake Bortles, Cody Kessler
RBs: T.J. Yeldon, Jamaal Charles, David Williams, Leonard Fournette
WRs: Keelan Cole, Donte Moncrief, Dede Westbrook, D.j. Chark, Jaydon Mickens, Rashad Greene
TEs: Niles Paul, James O'Shaughnessy, Austin Seferian-Jenkins

Kansas City Chiefs

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 26 September 2018

As ESPN.com's Adam Teicher noted, Patrick Mahomes had what for him was a slow day on Sunday against the San Francisco 49ers.

He threw for just three touchdowns in the Chiefs' 38-27 victory at Arrowhead Stadium.

The three touchdown passes, which all happened in the second quarter, still put Mahomes in the record book. He has 13 touchdown passes, setting a record for the first three games of an NFL season.

Denver's Peyton Manning had the old record of 12, set in 2013.

"He's the Showtime Mahomes," tight end Travis Kelce said. "He keeps surprising everybody every single week, even his teammates. It gets us rolling, playing with confidence, and that stuff is contagious and we just keep it rolling from there.

"Man, it's a blast. I'm not gonna lie. Every time we come to the sidelines, everybody's excited about what just happened on the field. We've all never been a part of something like this ... It's a fun ride right now."

And they're all involved. Literally.

There was a play midway through the game in which Mahomes eluded the pass rush, rolled out to his right and flipped a short, simple pass to running back Kareem Hunt in the flat.

He had at least two other wide receivers wide open, too.

Associated Press sports writer Dave Skretta put it, "Such is the nature of the Kansas City offense through the first three weeks of the season, and the challenge it has presented to a trio of defenses."

Even if they manage to contain one target, or even two or three, Mahomes always seems to have somebody else wide open downfield.

That was once again evident against the 49ers, when Mahomes targeted 11 different receivers and connected with nine.

Kelce led the way with eight catches for 114 yards, his second straight 100-yard performance, and Sammy Watkins hauled in five catches for 55 yards and a touchdown.

But the breadth of the Chiefs' options was really apparent in the fact that Mahomes' other two touchdown passes went to No. 3 wide receiver Chris Conley and backup tight end Demetrius Harris.

Even little-used wide receiver Marcus Kemp managed a reception.

"I've never played with an offense that good before," said Tyreek Hill, who had two catches for 51 yards. "Like I was telling Sammy, man, I'm excited to have all these weapons on the team. It's amazing, man, because a defense has got to worry about so many options."

For the record, Mahomes' 13 touchdown passes have gone to nine different receivers. Nine receivers to score touchdowns is also a record for the first three games of a season, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. The Chiefs had touchdown catches from seven receivers all of last season.

It's not just the quantity, though. The Chiefs have quality players at every position, and in most cases they have multiple guys capable of stepping onto the field without missing a beat.

"Guys everywhere," Mahomes said. "Knowing that I have those weapons, whenever someone has to get a break - we say if you're tired, get a break, because I know I can trust the next guy coming in."

That's hardly a luxury most teams experience.

Then there's the variety of talent.

Kelce is one of the league's best tight ends, a capable blocker whose soft hands allowed him to spear a high throw on Sunday that few others could catch. And when he gets into the open field, just ask 49ers linebacker Reuben Foster how difficult it is to bring him down.

On the outside are Watkins and Hill, giving the Chiefs not only two of the fastest playmakers in the league, but also two of the most sure-handed.

Yes, Hill only had two catches against San Francisco, but one was a leaping grab deep downfield between two defenders in tight coverage, while Watkins made his mark by catching slant routes in traffic and making guys miss.

Indeed, his touchdown grab Sunday looked as if someone was running a gauntlet.

When defenses finally try nickel and dime packages to cover the downfield threats, the Chiefs merely have the reigning NFL rushing champion in Hunt ready to handle the ball.

He finally got into the end zone Sunday for his first two touchdowns this season.

"Coach (Andy) Reid has done an unbelievable job of creating these plays," Kelce said. "Right now we're just dialing them up and going out there and executing what's called. It's as simple as that. Not every single play is going to have one certain guy and that's the fun of it."

It hasn't been much fun for opposing defenses but fantasy owners are loving it.

DEPTH CHART
QBs: Patrick Mahomes, Chad Henne, Matthew McGloin
RBs: Kareem Hunt, Spencer Ware, Damien Williams, Anthony Sherman
WRs: Tyreek Hill, Sammy Watkins, Chris Conley, Demarcus Robinson, De'Anthony Thomas, Marcus Kemp
TEs: Travis Kelce, Demetrius Harris

Los Angeles Chargers

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 26 September 2018

As Associated Press sports writer Joe Reedy noted this week, Mike Williams is starting to show why the Los Angeles Chargers selected him in the first round of the 2017 draft.

The second-year wide receiver has three touchdowns and is averaging 17.2 yards per catch. He had his first two-touchdown game with four receptions for 81 yards in Sunday's 35-23 loss to the Rams.

"His confidence is at an all-time high. He's looking good," head coach Anthony Lynn said Monday. "Last year he was learning on the run because he wasn't practicing a lot. He has been really consistent for us so far."

Williams, who is 6-4 and 220 pounds, can be a matchup problem for opposing defenses when he is healthy. But he has battled injury problems two of the past three seasons.

During his sophomore year at Clemson in 2015, Williams broke his neck when his head slammed into the padded base of the goal post after a touchdown. He missed six games last year due to back and knee injuries.

Williams is hoping that this year mirrors what he did at Clemson in 2016, when he had 98 receptions for 1,361 yards and 11 touchdowns to lead the Tigers to their second national championship.

If the first three weeks are any indication, Williams has the potential for another bounce-back season.

Both of his touchdowns against the Rams came despite tight windows to catch the ball. The 42-yard touchdown during the first quarter came while Marcus Peters was draped over him in coverage in the end zone on a go route. On Williams' second touchdown, which came during the third quarter, he caught the ball at the Rams 3 on an out route and was able to outmuscle Lamarcus Joyner to the end zone.

"I'm making the best of my opportunities. Every time the ball comes my way, I feel like something good comes from it," Williams said.

Williams is also showing a knack for making positive plays when he has the ball. All but one of his 11 receptions has been for a first down and four have gone for 20 yards or more. Williams' ability to move the chains is also a reason why he continues to gain more trust from Philip Rivers.

"He's come along. He's going to continue to do this," Rivers said. "He's only going to continue to be more and more of a factor for us."

Williams is hoping to have another big game this week when the Chargers host the San Francisco 49ers.

The Niners (1-2) come into the game with the fifth-worst pass defense in the league and will be without cornerback Richard Sherman (groin) as well as quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, who suffered a season-ending knee injury in Sunday's 38-27 loss at Kansas City. ...

Worth noting. ... Williams needed medical attention after landing hard in the end zone after that first TD, but he obviously returned and played without issue.

Meanwhile, for the first time in his 16-year NFL career, Antonio Gates said he dealt with bouts of dizziness, light-headedness and struggles with balance -- reasons he did not practice all week and was questionable to play against Rams.

"It was scary," Gates said. "I wasn't sure whether I was going to play or not, but I just gradually took it slow and I was able to go today."

After a couple days of rest, Gates said he finally felt like himself on Friday, and recovered enough to make it on the field Sunday.

Diagnosed with vertigo by the Chargers' medical staff, Gates said he does not know how he got it, but believes rest and paying more attention to his diet helped him overcome the initial symptoms later in the week.

Gates said the missed practices were not a concern because of all of the time he has spent in the Chargers' offense.

"This was my 16th season, so I don't know how much I need from a physical standpoint to try and get ready to play," Gates said. "But might I add it's just not easy to do that. I don't want people looking at the situation thinking it's just so easy to come up, step into a game and make plays that try to help your team win."

Rivers said that Gates is gradually working his way back into the offense.

"We're going to need him as the year continues to progress," Rivers said. ...

Other notes of interest. ... Melvin Gordon passed Don Woods for the seventh-most career rushing yards in Chargers history with a 20-yard run in the first quarter in which he hurdled a defender.

Gordon finished the game with 80 yards and one touchdown on 15 carries. He added four yards on two catches. Austin Ekeler rushed four times for 44 yards and caught all three of his targets for 24 yards. ...

The Chargers promoted running back Justin Jackson from their practice squad and waived running back Detrez Newsome.

Jackson was a seventh-round pick in this year's draft. He is Northwestern's career rushing leader (5,440 yards) and just the second player in Big Ten history to rush for 1,000 yards or more in four straight seasons.

Lynn said Jackson would be used mainly on special teams, an area where the Chargers have struggled. They had a punt blocked and a missed extra point in Sunday's 35-23 loss to the Rams.

And finally. ... Lynn confirmed that defensive end Joey Bosa (foot) will be out Sunday. He said right tackle Joe Barksdale (knee) "could be back sooner than I thought," though he offered no timetable for Barksdale's return.

DEPTH CHART
QBs: Philip Rivers, Geno Smith, Cardale Jones
RBs: Melvin Gordon, Austin Ekeler, Justin Jackson
WRs: Keenan Allen, Mike Williams, Tyrell Williams, Travis Benjamin, Geremy Davis
TEs: Virgil Green, Antonio Gates

Los Angeles Rams

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 26 September 2018

As ESPN.com's Lindsey Thiry noted, with pressure coming, Jared Goff didn't flinch as he navigated the pocket.

Instead, the quarterback stepped up and delivered a strike to Cooper Kupp for another touchdown.

On Sunday, in a 35-23 victory over the Los Angeles Chargers at the L.A. Memorial Coliseum, Goff delivered arguably the best game of his burgeoning career.

"He's money," said receiver Robert Woods, who was Goff's go-to receiver Sunday, with 10 catches for 104 yards and two scores. "He stands tall in the pocket, delivering in the spot where only we can catch it."

Against a touted Chargers defense, though without star defensive end Joey Bosa, Goff completed 29 of 36 passes for 354 yards and three touchdowns, with an interception, as the Rams improved to 3-0 ahead of a Thursday night game against the Minnesota Vikings.

And for a second consecutive week, Goff finished one yard shy of tying his career-high of 355 passing yards, which he managed last November in a lopsided victory over the Houston Texans.

"He's making plays that great players make," head coach Sean McVay told Thiry, adding, "You just see the ownership, the comfort level as he's accumulating these reps against certain defensive structures or systems."

Goff, the top overall pick in 2016, demonstrated Sunday an improved poise in the pocket, and a confidence to throw into tight windows -- something he seldom did last season, even as he grew more confident in McVay's system.

"I think I'm getting more comfortable with anticipating stuff and anticipating windows," Goff said. "That just happens as you grow and get better."

In the first quarter, Goff threw a dart over the middle to Brandin Cooks for a 17-yard completion, before Todd Gurley rushed 1 yard for a touchdown to give the Rams' a 7-0 lead.

Goff followed in the next series with a 21-yard pass to Cooks up the sideline, and a 3-yard pass to Woods for a touchdown to give the Rams a 14-6 lead. Cooks finished with 7 catches for 90 yards.

Goff was 13 of 14 for 141 yards and a touchdown in the first quarter alone.

In the second quarter, Goff suffered his only miscue when he attempted a pass to tight end Gerald Everett in the corner of the end zone that was intercepted by Derwin James. It was the second interception Goff has thrown this season.

"It was not a smart play," Goff said. "I think you just kind of force it in there, but I think if I throw a better ball it might be a different outcome. But you've got to know we have points down there already and for me to turn it over like that is not what we want to do."

Goff rebounded in the third quarter. He moved around the pocket, before stepping up to complete a 53-yard pass to Kupp, who shed a tackle and sprinted 20 yards to the end zone, to put the Rams up 28-13.

Kupp credited Goff for the off-schedule play, another sign of Goff's ability to improvise on the go.

"Didn't get the look we really wanted and Jared did a great job keeping the play alive," said Kupp, who caught four passes for 71 yards and a touchdown. "Hung in there, trusted the o-line, trusted that someone was going to get open and then just made a great throw with people in his face."

And then later in the third, Goff put the game out of reach when he completed a 6-yard touchdown pass to Woods to give the Rams a 35-20 lead.

"We find holes, find gaps and credit to Jared," Woods said. "He keeps his eyes open, moving from guy to guy to find an open guy."

Goff completed passes to six players, including tight ends Tyler Higbee and Everett, and even kept one for himself when he spied an opening for a 16-yard gain.

"I like it," Woods said about Goff's keeper, laughing. "It's another threat for this offense, dual-threat quarterback, picking up yards on the ground, another threat for the defense to watch."

With matchups against the Vikings this week and the high-scoring Kansas City Chiefs and New Orleans Saints later in the season, there's no doubt that the Rams' offense, averaging 34 points per game, has a playmaker at every position.

And now, with Goff posting 941 passing yards through three games (The third-most through three games by a Rams quarterback since Kurt Warner in 2000 and 2001), the third-year quarterback has left no doubt that he's a threat, too.

And he's giving fantasy owners options across the board -- including himself.

Worth noting. ... Cornerback Marcus Peters is believed to have suffered a calf strain that initial reports said could put him out for two to four weeks, although McVay on Tuesday wouldn't rule Peters out for Thursday night's game against the Vikings. Fellow cornerback Aqib Talib suffered a high ankle sprain Sunday and will have surgery on his injured ankle Thursday. McVay said the team would have an idea about his recovery timeline after the operation.

It will be at least eight weeks before he’s back in the lineup, however. The team announced on Wednesday that Talib has been placed on injured reserve.

Talib will be eligible to be designated as one of the team’s two players to return from IR in six weeks and he can be activated two weeks after that. McVay said the team hopes he will be able to return down the line.

McVay also said kick returner JoJo Natson had surgery on his broken hand, and there's a chance he could play Week 5 against the Seattle Seahawks.

In addition, Mark Barron (ankle), Dominique Easley (knee) and kicker Greg Zuerlein (groin) were not practicing to open the week.

Sam Ficken is set to continue handling the placement work until Zuerlein returns.

DEPTH CHART
QBs: Jared Goff, Sean Mannion, Brandon Allen
RBs: Todd Gurley, Malcolm Brown, John Kelly, Justin Davis
WRs: Brandin Cooks, Robert Woods, Cooper Kupp, Josh Reynolds, Mike Thomas
TEs: Tyler Higbee, Gerald Everett, Johnny Mundt

Miami Dolphins

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 26 September 2018

According to Associated Press sports writer Steven Wine, Ryan Tannehill says when he calls a trick play, even his offensive linemen get excited.

And why not?

Razzle dazzle is a big reason the surprising Miami Dolphins are undefeated.

"I'm all for anytime everybody gets excited about a play call," play-caller and head coach Adam Gase said Monday. "The worst is when the quarterback says he doesn't believe it's going to work. That's when you get a little nervous.

"If I feel like guys really like something, we'll get to it."

They're likely cueing up something exotic for the New England Patriots, where the Dolphins play Sunday with a chance to end their streak of nine consecutive losses in Foxboro.

The Dolphins used a receiver-to-receiver pass and two wideout sweeps to score three touchdowns Sunday and rally past Oakland 28-20. With the win, Miami improved to 3-0 for only the third time since the Dan Marino era and took a two-game lead over the other three teams in the AFC East, including perennial power New England.

How much is left in Gase's bag of play-calling tricks?

"A lot," he said.

Sunday's surprises allowed the Dolphins to spring their speed - NASCAR on grass, as receiver Jakeem Grant called it.

Grant and receiver Albert Wilson each scored on a jet sweep, and Wilson threw his first NFL pass for a 52-yard touchdown to Grant.

The Dolphins had practiced the three plays for weeks and chose the right time to call them. The scores helped erase a 17-7 second-half deficit.

"The play comes into the huddle, and everyone kind of gets excited," Tannehill said. "Anytime there's a big-shot call or a trick play, you can feel the offensive line kind of get excited."

The defensive line, too.

"It's a lot of fun watching guys run down the sideline untouched," defensive end Cameron Wake said.

Wilson did just that, sprinting into the clear on his 74-yard jet sweep catch and run. The Raiders' reaction?

"They got behind me so quick, I didn't really see their faces," Wilson said.

As Wine noted, the 5-9 Wilson and 5-7 Grant are part of the fastest receiving corps in team history.

Kenny Stills can fly too, as he has showed while averaging 20.4 yards on nine catches this season, three for touchdowns. Running back Kenyan Drake is also swift, giving Miami yet another quick-strike option.

"Coach always tells us just go out there and run - a lot of defenders are going to be terrified by speed, so just take off and run," Grant said.

It's not really that simple. The trick plays require perfect timing, and talent.

The receiver-to-receiver pass involved a fake pitch by Tannehill, a handoff to Frank Gore and a lateral to Wilson. The former high school quarterback then rolled to his right as he threw a pass right on the money, as had been the case daily in practice.

"I know how hard that is to be running full speed laterally and make that throw," Tannehill said. "During the week, he was consistent on making a perfect throw. It wasn't ever a question. He never stretched Jakeem out or made him adjust really. After I saw him run it the first time I thought, 'He's got this. He doesn't need any tips.'"

After the game Wilson tweeted: "and he can pass !!"

Grant made the catch at the 35-yard line and broke two tackles en route to the end zone, motivated by an earlier conversation with Wilson.

"All he told me was, 'Make sure you score. And if you get tackled by one man in the open field, you owe me $100,'" Grant recalled. "Now he owes me $100."

The Dolphins know trickery will take them only so far.

The early schedule has been soft, injuries are mounting, and keeping Tannehill healthy is a must. Vegas is so unimpressed by the Dolphins that they're a touchdown underdog at struggling New England.

But Gase, who came to Miami in 2016 with a reputation as an offensive wiz, finally seems to have the right personnel for his playbook. That includes the versatile Wilson, acquired last offseason from the Kansas City Chiefs.

"We have so much stuff," Wilson said. "I'm ready for everything he calls - every run play, every pass play. Whatever he has for me, I'm ready for it."

Wine summed up, "The Dolphins hope the defense won't be. ..."

Of course, all is not well from fantasy perspective.

Drake was limited to five carries for just three yards. He added to two catches for seven yards.

As Rotoworld reported, "It was a nightmare fantasy day in a golden matchup, but the Dolphins ran an absurdly low 39 plays. It was just bizarre game flow. Drake did watch as Gore got the "start," though he out-touched his veteran teammate 7-6."

Reasons for optimism this week?

The Patriots allowed the Lions to run for 159 yards, the most for Detroit in almost five years. ...

DeVante Parker was on the field for 75 percent of the team's snaps in his 2018 debut. Only Stills, at 91 percent, played a higher percent of wide receiver snaps. This shows us that Gase values what Parker adds to the team with his dimension of size and speed. Parker had a 36-yard catch in the third quarter that helped set up a touchdown.

For perspective, Wilson had 52 yards passing and 74 yards receiving on only 10 offensive snaps.

Also worth noting. ... Rookie tight end Mike Gesicki was on the field 61 percent of the snaps. While it seemed like A.J. Derby was out there a lot early on, after he sustained a foot injury, it was time for Gesicki to step forward. And Gesicki did, with a career-high three catches on three targets, including a nice 19-yarder.

As Palm Beach Post staffer Joe Schad suggests, if Derby, who didn't practice Wednesday, is out for any extended period of time, it will be on the rookie to prove he can emerge as a starter. ...

And finally. ... The Dolphins have waived WR Tanner McEvoy, a source told ESPN's Field Yates.

DEPTH CHART
QBs: Ryan Tannehill, Brock Osweiler, David Fales, Luke Falk
RBs: Kenyan Drake, Frank Gore, Kalen Ballage, Senorise Perry
WRs: Kenny Stills, Albert Wilson, Danny Amendola, Jakeem Grant, DeVante Parker, Isaiah Ford
TEs: Mike Gesicki, Durham Smythe, A.J. Derby, MarQueis Gray

Minnesota Vikings

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 26 September 2018

As ESPN.com's Courtney Cronin reported, minutes after the opening kickoff in a game in which the Vikings came in as 17-point favorites over the Buffalo Bills, Minnesota began its course of crashing and burning as things unraveled in the worst possible way in a 27-6 loss.

The offense was out of sync from the get-go. Without Dalvin Cook, Minnesota looked to get its run game back on track with Latavius Murray and Mike Boone, and for good reason. In the Bills' first two losses, Buffalo gave up 138 yards and two rushing touchdowns to backup running backs.

In Week 3, Buffalo held Minnesota to 14 yards rushing, and two of those runs which came from Kirk Cousins. According to Elias, the Vikings' 6 attempts tie the fewest ever by a team in a single game in NFL history.

Cousins played a large part in the Vikings cementing themselves in an early hole. The Vikings quarterback accounted for three turnovers against the Bills -- two fumbles and an interception -- on a day where the Bills forced him into throwing 55 times (he completed 40 passes for 296 yards and a touchdown).

In 2017, Cousins lost nine fumbles, prompting him to place an emphasis on ball security.

"We drop back every single day and talk about having two hands on the ball and protecting the football and understanding how important that is," Cousins said.

The offensive line looked shaky at best against San Francisco and Green Bay, but the wheels downright fell off against Buffalo. Left tackle Riley Reiff got worked off the edge by Jerry Hughes all afternoon. Guard play, which has been under the microscope since the Vikings failed to address the position with their first-round pick, has struggled with Mike Remmers and Tom Compton. With all the roster upgrades made over the offseason, preseason and in the past few weeks, the offensive line remains the team's weakest link.

Top off the fact that the Vikings defense hasn't been the same since the NFC divisional playoff game against the Saints.

The Bills gashed Minnesota every which way, with the D giving up 128 rushing yards, allowing Allen to go 15-of-22 passing for 196 yards and a touchdown, and failing to contain an offense that had no business running the Vikings out of their own stadium.

The Vikings got shredded, exposed and downright embarrassed in Week 3.

I don't think we took this team too lightly," head coach Mike Zimmer said in his postgame press conference. "I think they came out and kicked our butts."

Zimmer said he has not seen a first half that bad in a long time and that he did not think missing players like Cook and Everson Griffen helped to explain why things were so lopsided.

Zimmer added that he has not lost faith in the team.

Let's hope not. Because thing don't get easier from here, either.

On a short week with a ton of questions to be answered, Minnesota now has to prepare for Jared Goff and the league's most explosive offense, Los Angeles Rams.

That, in effect, might be the best thing that comes out of this loss.

"You don't have time to sit back and think about how poorly we played today," Rudolph said. "The best way to bounce back from such a poor performance is to go play well. Thankfully, we don't have to wait seven days to go play well."

Meanwhile, Minneapolis Star Tribune staffer Andrew Krammer reports that Cook said his hamstring "feels great at this point" after he was held out of practice last week prior to missing Sunday's loss.

Ahead of a quick turnaround Thursday night in Los Angeles, Cook was listed as not practicing Monday but said he expects to play against a Rams defense that is allowing a league-best 12 points per game.

"Yeah, there's a good chance," Cook said. Zimmer said the same and Cook was dressed for practice and participating in the portion of Tuesday's practice that reporters were allowed to see.

"I'm still taking this thing day to day and seeing how I feel Thursday," Cook explained on Tuesday. "It's about a feeling. It's about how you feel with a hamstring. ... It's just something you can't control so it's just how it feels. Thursday."

Worth noting, Thursday night's start to Week 4 will mark about one year since Cook's rookie season ended with a torn ACL. Cook, who has 185 yards from scrimmage in two games this season, called it a "milestone."

"It's been awhile since I overcame that thing. It's definitely a milestone," Cook said. "I got back kind of early. That was the plan and I'm happy with that process."

Given the results against the Bills, Cook's return would be a welcomed one, especially with Rams star running back Todd Gurley on the other sideline.

"I know he going to come out and try to run crazy," Cook said. "That's my game plan, too. I know T.G.; he's a great running back. That's why he just got paid for what he's been doing. Just have to go out there and try to outrush their running game. ..."

Stay tuned. I'll have more on Cook via Late-Breaking Update in advance of Thursday night's kickoff. ...

Meanwhile, the Vikings said they are concerned about the "well-being" of Griffen, who did not play in Week 3 and was listed on the injury report Monday.

"We are aware of the situation involving Everson Griffen and certainly concerned by what we have heard," Vikings general manager Rick Spielman said in a statement Monday night. "We are currently focused on Everson's well-being and providing the appropriate support for him and his family."

Spielman's statement came after police investigated an alleged incident involving Griffen at a hotel in Minneapolis on Saturday.

No police report was filed, and Minneapolis police told ESPN that the situation did not warrant a further investigation.

Griffen was ruled out for Sunday's loss to the Buffalo Bills after not practicing last week because of a knee injury. Zimmer was asked postgame to address why Griffen was not on the sideline, to which he responded, "He is having a personal matter and I'm going to leave it at that."

On Monday, Griffen was listed as DNP on the simulated practice injury report with a "knee/non-football injury." (The Vikings have a short week since they are playing the Rams in Los Angeles on Thursday; they did not practice Monday.)

Griffen was arrested twice after his rookie season, the first incident coming Jan. 28, 2011, when he was arrested in Los Angeles on suspicion of public intoxication. He was arrested days later for allegedly assaulting an officer during a traffic stop. Griffen, 30, has played all nine of his seasons with the Vikings, compiling 62 sacks. He's a three-time Pro Bowl selection. ...

Other notes of interest. ... It's been an uneven start for the Vikings, but there's been nothing uneven about Adam Thielen's three-game run to open 2018.

Through three games, Thielen has 32 receptions for 338 yards and a touchdown. His 338 yards rank second in the NFL and also ranks second in Vikings history for most receiving yards through the first three games of a season, while his 32 receptions ranks third all-time in NFL history for receptions through the opening three games of a season behind New Orleans' Michael Thomas (38 in 2018) and Atlanta Julio Jones (34 in 2015).

Injuries to CBs Marsu Peters and Aqib Talib will not help the Rams in their charge to cool off the red hot Thielen -- or Stefon Diggs and Kyle Rudolph for that matter. ...

Finally. ... Kicker Dan Bailey had one kickoff and an onside attempt in his first game for the Vikings, marking what he called a "pretty rare" occurrence where the eighth-year NFL veteran wasn't on the field for a field goal or extra-point attempt.

"I know one for sure last year, but other than that I can't think of too many," said Bailey, who was signed last week. "It's pretty rare. Sometimes that's just how it works. I was ready regardless."

DEPTH CHART
QBs: Kirk Cousins, Trevor Siemian, Kyle Sloter
RBs: Dalvin Cook, Latavius Murray, Roc Thomas
WRs: Adam Thielen, Stefon Diggs, Laquon Treadwell, Stacy Coley, Brandon Zylstra, Aldrick Robinson
TEs: Kyle Rudolph, David Morgan, Tyler Conklin

New England Patriots

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 26 September 2018

As Associated Press sports writer Kyle Hightower framed it, "Two weeks, two head-shaking losses by the New England Patriots. ..."

In Week 2, the Patriots' defense was deficient in a 31-20 loss to Jacksonville in which the Patriots were victimized on third down.

There were problems all over the field in Sunday's stunning 26-10 loss at Detroit, though it was Tom Brady and the Patriots offense that struggled the most against a defense coached by former Patriots defensive coordinator and new Lions head coach Matt Patricia.

It's left New England at 1-2 for the first time since 2012. Things won't get any easier as the Patriots prepare to open their division schedule against 3-0 Miami.

Head coach Bill Belichick said he sees problems everywhere on the field right now.

"We're not making enough plays in any phase of the game, so we've just got to perform better," he said. "I think the energy and the effort and all of that - we're trying. Everybody's trying hard. We're just not getting it done, which is all that matters."

One of the most surprising things in Sunday's loss to the Lions was how ineffective Detroit managed to render Brady.

The reigning regular-season MVP completed just 14 of 26 passes for 133 yards with one touchdown. He also had a costly interception midway through the fourth quarter that helped the Lions seal the victory.

The 133 passing yards for Brady were his fewest in a game since he went 8 of 16 for 80 yards against Buffalo on Dec. 28, 2014.

What's more troubling, though, is an offense that over the past two weeks has gone 6 of 21 on third down.

"We're not scoring enough points. We're not executing well enough on a down-by-down basis. Certainly, at a high level, we should have our expectations set in," Brady said.

"The process has been the same, there's been a lot of talk about it in practice, and we're going through it and watching the film and correcting stuff, it's just not getting done on the field. And we have to get it corrected soon."

Still, as ESPN.com's Mike Reiss notes, the depths of the Patriots' loss kept ESPN Stats and Information busy putting the game -- and start to the season, including their 31-20 Week 2 loss in Jacksonville -- in the following context:

This is the first time the Patriots have lost back-to-back games by double digits since Dec. 16-22, 2002 against the Jets and Titans. They've played 244 games during that stretch.

The Patriots ran 47 offensive plays Sunday, their fewest since 2010.

The Patriots' point differential of minus-20 is their worst through three games of a season since 1995 (minus-39).

The Patriots have been outscored by 35 points (71-36) since halftime of Week 1.

It has not been a pretty start to the season for the Patriots.

One common theme in the way the Jaguars and Lions succeeded in limiting the Patriots offensively, was keying on tight end Rob Gronkowski. One of Brady's favorite options, Gronk has just 13 catches for 189 yards and a touchdown this season.

He hasn't scored in either of the two losses, hauling in only six total receptions.

But Gronkowski said no one inside the Patriots' locker room is panicking about starting 1-2.

"I mean, it's early, it's football and it's the NFL," he said. "Some crazy things happen every single week and we've just got to bounce back. We can't put our heads down, we have to keep them up. We've got to keep on fighting and there's another week next week."

"We've got a big division game next week versus Miami. We've just got to keep on fighting. It's a long season, I know we're 1-2 right now, but we've got to keep on fighting and keep on going. There's no other way to do it."

For what it's worth, and to reflect his level of panic, Belichick offered the following after the game: "I don't think anyone can clinch a playoff spot today. I don't think anyone is eliminated today."

On to playing the Dolphins. ...

Meanwhile, as Reiss pointed, the Patriots have limited options in the passing game, so it would be nice for them to be able to turn to the rushing attack to help alleviate some of the shortcomings.

That's why Sunday night gave rookie running back Sony Michel an opportunity at a coming-out-party, but instead, it mostly served up a reminder that the first-round draft choice has some ground to make up to getting back to being an explosive playmaker after missing all of the preseason and the regular-season opener.

Michel played 23 of 48 offensive snaps, and had an overall underwhelming night as he was stopped on two different third-and-1 plays in the first half, and dropped a pass in the second half.

No running back can do it on his own -- right guard Shaq Mason's missed block contributed to Michel being dumped in the backfield on one third-and-1 play -- but the Patriots will need more from the 31st overall draft

In the first half, Michel had seven carries for 10 yards. The Patriots still stuck with him as their primary option in the second half, over the more experienced James White, who ended up seeing his playing time spike (25 snaps) at the end of the game when the Patriots were clearly in pass-first mode.

Veteran running back Rex Burkhead (seven snaps) left the game in the third quarter with a neck injury and never returned. The team announced on Wednesday that Burkhead was being placed on IR.

Bottom line: The Patriots need more from Michel. Expect him to continue getting ample opportunity to deliver. ...

As Boston Sports Journal's Christopher Price noted, over the last week, it appears Josh Gordon has gone from a potentially low-risk, high-reward luxury item to someone the Patriots' offense needs sooner rather than later.

The new wide receiver, who was a scratch from Sunday's night's game against the Lions (he's been dogged by a hamstring), was spotted on the sidelines during the contest,. It was another game where the Patriots' wide receivers failed to make a serious impact. As a result, as New England continues to cross days off the calendar while it waits for Julian Edelman to return, the possibility of Gordon in the lineup for the Patriots has gone from possibility to inevitability.

I'll be watching for more on his progress in practice in coming days; watch the Late-Breaking Updates section for more on Gordon's chances of making his Patriots debut against the Dolphins. ...

The Patriots have re-signed running back Kenjon Barner according to the team's official website. This is Barner's second stint with the Pats this month, as they signed the straight-line speedster September 11 and then released him a week later as they needed the roster spot. But they now need Barner as running back depth behind rookie Sony Michel and James White with Rex Burkhead suffering a neck injury in the Sunday night loss to the Detroit Lions. The former sixth-round pick by the Carolina Panthers out of Oregon also plays on special teams and can return kicks.

One last item here. ... Gronkowski confirmed Sunday night that he resisted a trade this offseason to the Lions and threatened to retire.

When asked about a report that the New England Patriots were close to trading the All-Pro tight end to Detroit, Gronkowski corroborated the rumor, adding he had no desire to leave Brady's side and nixed the swap by vowing to hang them up.

"Yeah, it happened," Gronk told reporters, per Greg Bedard of the Boston Sports Journal. "Brady's my quarterback. ... I wasn't going anywhere without Brady."

NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported two weeks ago that there were several parties interested in Gronk's services this offseason and New England was close to a deal with one of them. ESPN reported Sunday that the team in question was the Lions.

DEPTH CHART
QBs: Tom Brady, Brian Hoyer, Danny Etling
RBs: Sony Michel, James White, Kenjon Barner, James Develin
WRs: Julian Edelman, Chris Hogan, Phillip Dorsett, Josh Gordon, Cordarrelle Patterson
TEs: Rob Gronkowski, Dwayne Allen, Jacob Hollister

New Orleans Saints

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 26 September 2018

As ESPN.com's Mike Triplett noted, Drew Brees has now completed more passes than any player in NFL history, and he is on pace to set the record for career passing yards in two weeks.

The New Orleans Saints quarterback broke Brett Favre's record with his 6,301st career completion in the second quarter Sunday at Atlanta -- a 17-yard pass to receiver Michael Thomas.

"I hope there's a lot more coming, but I just think about all of the people that had a hand in that," Brees said after the win. "A lot of hands have caught those passes, and a lot of guys have blocked to make those happen. They all are a part of this, absolutely."

He capped another classic performance with a game-winning 1-yard touchdown leap in overtime for a 43-37 overtime victory over the Falcons -- one of the wildest games in the history of this longtime rivalry.

Brees completed 39 of 49 passes for 396 yards and three touchdowns. And he ran for two TDs, the other coming earlier in the fourth quarter when he spun out of a missed tackle by Falcons cornerback Brian Poole for an unlikely 7-yard score.

Brees was named NFC Offensive Player of the Week on Wednesday.

"At some point, I felt like they were coming to try to take my head off, and I could probably spin out of this. It was just a reaction," said Brees, who joked that it can be a good coaching point for his sons' flag football teams that he coaches. "I keep telling my flag football team that spin moves are good and they're not getting it, they're not believing me. So I'm glad that happened because now I have video evidence to show them that, hey, spin moves work. Spin moves are good."

Brees is now 417 yards away from Peyton Manning's mark of 71,940 career passing yards, which he is on pace to reach against the Redskins on Monday Night Football in Week 5 -- although it's not outside the realm of possibility it could happen against the New York Giants this Sunday.

Brees, 39, has tried to not make a fuss out of his historic achievements, shrugging off a question about the completions record this past week. But he did acknowledge this summer that the accomplishments are meaningful for not only himself but everyone around the team who was a part of them.

"I try not to think about that," Brees said this offseason. "I'm just trying to think about obviously taking care of business one day at a time. Then when the season rolls around, you take it one week, one game at a time. Eventually those things add up, they stack up, then there you are in a position to do it.

"But there's so many people that are a part of that. There's so many things that come into play with that. I'd rather reflect on that stuff down the road."

Brees is no stranger to making history. He broke Johnny Unitas' record with a touchdown pass in 54 consecutive games from 2009 to '12. He broke Dan Marino's record for single-season passing yards with 5,476 in 2011 (before Manning later passed him). Brees also holds the NFL records for career completion percentage (67.1) and single-season completion percentage (72.0 percent in 2017).

"Drew is the greatest. I'm not saying it because I play with him. He's the greatest," left tackle Terron Armstead said. "How could you dispute? How could you argue he's not the greatest quarterback to ever live? What more does he have to do? Seriously. It's an honor to play with him and to watch him."

Brees' completion percentage is well over 80 this season, too. When asked why he seems to be getting better in that category with age, Brees responded, "I mean, completions are good, right?"

"[It's a result of] trust and confidence in the guys I'm throwing to, getting time to be able to do it with the guys up front. That's everybody working together," Brees said. "Just time on task. Experience, wisdom, treachery. A little bit of all that stuff."

Brees wasn't the only Saints player to set an NFL milestone in Week 3.

With 10 catches on the game, Thomas now has 38 catches through his team's first three games of the season, an NFL record. Thomas broke the mark of 34, which was set by Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones in 2015.

Speaking of the passing game, NFL.com's Herbie Teope notes that running back Alvin Kamara continued to show he could hurt a team lined up wide of the line of scrimmage or as a receiver out of his tailback position. Kamara posted 15 catches for 124 yards on an eye-popping 20 targets against the Falcons.

Sunday marked the second 100-yard receiving effort on the season by Kamara, who had 112 yards in Week 1.

In addition, Kamara became just the second player in the Super Bowl era with at least 15 rushes and 15 receptions in a single game, according to ESPN Stats and Information. Kamara was the first RB with 15 catches in a game since Atlanta's William Andrews in 1981.

Head coach Sean Payton insisted that he didn't want to overwork Kamara during Mark Ingram's four-game suspension. But all of the Saints' games have been close -- and Kamara is just too good every time he touches the ball.

Beyond Thomas, the Saints also received key contributions from Cameron Meredith, Austin Carr and Ted Ginn. This was the group's best all-around performance of the season and the Saints needed it to outscore the high-flying Falcons. If not for Ginn's two drops, this unit would have been perfect for the day. ...

Payton said last week that the Saints needed to get more from the tight end position and Benjamin Watson and Josh Hill delivered with their most productive game of the season. It wasn't just the timely receptions (combined six catches, 88 yards). Both Watson and Hill did an excellent job of blocking in the running game to help the Saints balance its offense. ...

Taysom Hill, a third-string quarterback/special teams coverage ace/kickoff returner, added yet another wrinkle to his fascinating game when he ran the ball three times for 39 yards in a special read-option package -- including two critical third-down conversions in the fourth quarter. ...

The Saints are re-signing Brandon Tate, a source told New Orleans Times-Picayune staffer Josh Katzenstein. The receiver and return specialist should be at practice tomorrow.

And finally. ... Cornerback Patrick Robinson was placed on injured reserve Tuesday with a broken ankle, Nick Underhill of the New Orleans Advocate first reported. Robinson has played 56 percent of the Saints' defensive snaps and 42 percent of their special teams snaps this season, so he'll be a tough player to replace.

It's unclear whether Robinson will be able to return this season. Players on injured reserve must miss at least eight weeks, but after eight weeks a player from injured reserve can be brought back.

DEPTH CHART
QBs: Drew Brees, Teddy Bridgewater, Taysom Hill
RBs: Alvin Kamara, Mark Ingram, Mike Gillislee, Dwayne Washington
WRs: Michael Thomas, Ted Ginn, Cameron Meredith, Tre'quan Smith, Brandon Tate
TEs: Ben Watson, Josh Hill

New York Giants

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 26 September 2018

As ESPN.com's Jordan Raanan noted, history shows that 0-3 is the death knell.

Teams don't often recover from those types of starts, with just 1 percent of 0-3 teams making the playoffs since the NFL established its current playoff format.

Not only did the New York Giants avoid the dreaded 0-3, the offense showed signs in the first half on Sunday against the Houston Texans of being the unit the team envisioned heading into this season.

Eli Manning was ripping passes to his variety of weapons behind an offensive line that was doing just enough to allow them to operate efficiently. Saquon Barkley was loosening up the defense with his ability to consistently put the Giants in short-yard situations, before hitting on a big run. Odell Beckham was being targeted often and making plays.

The Giants were shut down offensively in the third quarter and for much of the fourth. But as Raanan suggested, they'll take one strong half at this point. And when they needed it most when the game got close late, the offense drove down the field and used a Sterling Shepard touchdown catch to finish off a 27-22 win against the Texans.

"That's how I see playing offense," head coach Pat Shurmur said. "You deal up a progression, you dial it up and the ball goes where it is supposed to go if it gets out on time."

Phew. The Giants (1-2) can breathe. Their season is not about to careen off the tracks.

It begins for the Giants' offense with Manning. He's the quarterback and they need him to make plays. He went 25-of-29 passing for 297 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions after being under fire this past week.

Does Manning look like he can still play the position at a high level?

As the team's official website put it, "With protection, he was extremely accurate. He put the ball on his receivers with accuracy consistently. There wasn't one pass in the game that was close to being intercepted."

"I thought Eli played a good game," Shurmur said. "I should say a damn good game. ... Pretty fair day at the office if I might say myself."

It was the Giants' first September win in more than two years, after losing six straight. It was also the first time they reached 20 points this season. Even if all of those points were scored in the opening 30 minutes, it was still progress.

Beckham and Shepard tasted victory for the first time in almost two full calendar years. It's been that type of run for the Giants. But finally, there is a glimmer of optimism early this season.

The first half in particular can give the Giants hope that they can do the requisite damage moving forward, beginning next Sunday against the potent New Orleans Saints at MetLife Stadium. They're going to need their offense to do big things if they're going to compete with the Saints or be any sort of factor in a competitive NFC.

They did in the first half, when Manning completed 12 of 14 passes for 175 yards and a touchdown and Barkley ran for 69 yards and a touchdown on 10 carries. Beckham caught five passes for 75 yards.

"I love it. Being able to move that ball around, getting it into the hands of playmakers and letting them make plays and do what they do, that is what this offense is built for," Beckham said. "And we got to do that a bit [Sunday]."

The offense is what the Giants were hoping would carry them this season. Instead, it's what held them back the first two weeks.

For a week at least, they have evidence they're headed in the right direction. All those weapons might not be wasted after all. ...

One a less positive note. ... Evan Engram left Sunday's win with a sprained MCL and he's officially considered week-to-week. According to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport, the sprain is moderate and we're likely looking at a two to four week absence.

Engram's 104 yards receiving through three games currently ranks fourth on the team, and the Giants must now find a viable replacement at the tight end position to help the passing game.

The team has tight ends Rhett Ellison, who has six catches for 60 yards and a touchdown on the season, and Scott Simonson on the active 53-player roster. On Tuesday, they promoted Garrett Dickerson from the practice squad to their active roster. The team released WR/KR Kaelin Clay to make room for Dickerson.

Engram wasn't the Giants' only skill-position player banged up against the Texans.

Barkley missed a series in the first quarter after getting hit on his knee on the opening drive, which ended with him rushing for a 15-yard touchdown. Barkley finished with 17 carries for 82 yards and added five catches for 35 yards in the team's first win of the season.

Barkley returned after sitting out the Giants' second offensive drive. I'll follow up on his status as developments warrant via Late-Breaking Update as the week progresses. ...

Also. ... Shurmur said DE Olivier Vernon (ankle) is "day-to-day." He said the same about CB Eli Apple (groin). In addition, Jonathan Stewart (foot) didn't practice Wednesday.

DEPTH CHART
QBs: Eli Manning, Davis Webb, Kyle Lauletta
RBs: Saquon Barkley, Wayne Gallman
WRs: Odell Beckham, Sterling Shepard, Cody Latimer, Russell Shepard, Hunter Sharp
TEs: Evan Engram, Rhett Ellison, Jerell Adams

New York Jets

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 26 September 2018

Sam Darnold and the New York Jets were back on the practice field after some time away.

Time enough to mostly clear their heads of the miserable 21-17 loss at Cleveland last Thursday, not that the sting was easy to brush off in the few days since.

"Yeah, they've been pretty hard," Darnold acknowledged Monday. "I'm not going to lie to you guys."

As Associated Press sports writer Dennis Waszak Jr. noted, New York is 1-2 after playing three games in 11 days and riding a roller coaster of emotions during that brief span. From the highs of a dominant victory at Detroit in the opener to the uneasiness of a loss to AFC East-rival Miami at home six days later to the frustration and disappointment of being the first team to lose to the Browns since 2016.

Now comes the big test for not just Darnold, but the rest of the Jets -- including Todd Bowles and his coaching staff.

With a game at Jacksonville on tap next, New York needs to rebound from the defeat in Cleveland to prevent the season from spiraling.

"I don't think it's going to be tough at all," Bowles insisted. "It's a long season, we understand that. If we would have won, we would have moved past it. We lost the game, we're going to move past it."

All eyes will be on Darnold, of course, as they have been from the moment he became the future - and now, present - of the franchise.

The 21-year-old rookie is supremely confident in himself, and has been lauded throughout his playing career for his ability to focus on the task at hand and not repeat mistakes. The Jaguars will surely be aiming to make Darnold uncomfortable on Sunday and force him into errors.

"Yeah, Jacksonville is a great defense," Darnold said. "Obviously, they've got great players, but they also just play together very well. That's what I noticed and that's going to be a fun challenge going up against them in their place."

Bowles, for one, isn't concerned about Darnold shaking off his play - one touchdown, four interceptions - in New York's two losses.

"I think he'll come out of it fine," Bowles said. "I think Sam has the right mentality and he has the right work ethic to learn what he has done wrong, as well as the rest of the team. They come back out of it, and he's not in it by himself. We are in it as a team."

And that's why the heat has been turned up a bit under Bowles, who's in his fourth season with the Jets and has a 21-30 record with no playoff appearances.

Owner Christopher Johnson has said there is no postseason mandate for Bowles or general manager Mike Maccagnan. His main priority is seeing overall progress from the team, which makes this a critical stretch for the coach.

An ugly loss such as the one against the Browns can send some teams into a freefall. From the sense he got with his players at practice, Bowles believes there will be no lingering effects.

"We don't carry anything too long," he said. "We have practice to get better at, and we have Jacksonville to get ready for, so we're on to the next one."

Cornerback Trumaine Johnson, in his first season with the Jets after four with the Rams, echoed his coach's sentiments.

"We can't dwell on that loss," he said. "We've got 13, 14 more games in the season and hopefully the playoffs. Just move on from it."

But, they also hope to learn from it, too. And fix the mistakes that put the Jets in this position in the first place.

"Yeah we could have coached better and we could have played better," Bowles said of blowing 14-3 and 17-14 leads in the second half. "All the way around on both sides of the ball, including special teams, we just couldn't make a play. There were a lot of things we could have done better that have hurt us in the past two or three weeks that we are going to try and work on.

"We understand that we need to do a better job on both sides. ..."

In a related note. ... As ESPN.com's Rich Cimini notes, Darnold and offensive coordinator Jeremy Bates are catching some flak for not trying enough deep passes. In fact, Darnold is attempting them at a higher rate than Aaron Rodgers, Kirk Cousins, Jared Goff and Drew Brees, among others, per ESPN Stats and Information.

Cimini added it's not always about distance; there are other ways to be aggressive, such as throwing on first down to keep defenses off balance. That certainly wasn't the case against the Browns. ...

Also related. ... As Profootballtalk.com noted, of all the records future Hall of Fame quarterback Peyton Manning holds, the one record he wishes he didn't hold came in 1998, when he became the rookie quarterback to throw more interceptions than any other rookie quarterback in NFL history.

Of course, records are made to be broken and through three games, Darnold has five interceptions. That puts him on pace, roughly, for 27. One short of Peyton's record of 28. ...

On the injury report. ... Bowles is hopeful S Marcus Maye will be closer to playing this week. The second-year safety has been sidelined the first three games with a foot injury.

And finally. ... The New York Daily News reported that the Jets have reached out to the Steelers to inquire about disgruntled running back Le'Veon Bell, but there's nothing imminent, according to several published reports. ESPN reported Sunday that Pittsburgh is willing to trade Bell, who has yet to play this season while in a contract dispute.

DEPTH CHART
QBs: Sam Darnold, Josh McCown
RBs: Bilal Powell, Isaiah Crowell, Trenton Cannon, Elijah McGuire
WRs: Quincy Enunwa, Jermaine Kearse, Robby Anderson, Terrelle Pryor, Andre Roberts
TEs: Eric Tomlinson, Jordan Leggett, Chris Herndon, Neal Sterling

Oakland Raiders

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 26 September 2018

As Associated Press sports writer Josh Dubow, the last time an Oakland Raiders coach watched his team lose back-to-back games when leading after three quarters, late owner Al Davis brought out the overhead projector and fired Lane Kiffin.

There will be no repeat with Jon Gruden this week, even if that doesn't ease the pain of these late-game collapses in Oakland.

The Raiders became the second team in the past 20 seasons to start the year with three straight losses after leading the first three games at halftime with the latest blown lead coming Sunday in Miami when Oakland lost 28-20 to the Dolphins.

"Nobody cares right now. They want results," Gruden said Monday. "We want to win. I think the players see a lot of things to be confident about, but we know we got to finish football games much better."

The Raiders (0-3) have spent most of this season playing from ahead, holding the lead for nearly two-thirds of the time and trailing for only 22:28 over the first three games. In fact, there hasn't been a single second played in the first three quarters of any game this season with Oakland behind on the scoreboard.

But the fourth quarter has been an utter disaster. The Raiders fell behind the Rams in the opener on the final play of the third quarter and then were outscored 13-0 in the fourth thanks in part to two interceptions by Derek Carr.

Oakland then was outscored 10-0 in the fourth quarter in a Week 2 loss at Denver before falling apart late again in Miami on Sunday. Carr threw another costly interception and the Raiders let Miami turn two gimmick plays into long touchdowns that have kept Gruden winless in his second stint as Raiders head coach.

"We've got to take a deep breath and look forward to the moment," Gruden said. "We have to apply pressure, not to say we feel pressure. We've got to continue to remain confident and poised and do our jobs individually, so we can do our job collectively. I think at times we have some guys trying to do too much. That's something we really have to solve quickly. We do have good enough players to finish."

Dubow went on to note this marked the first time since Kiffin's final two games in 2008 that the Raiders lost consecutive games when leading after three quarters. They joined the 2011 Minnesota Vikings as the only teams in the past 20 seasons to start the year 0-3 when leading all three games at halftime.

Oakland has started with the ball each week and all three games have begun with the Raiders scoring and the opposition going three-and-out. That has led to the Raiders outscoring the opponent by 18 points in the first half, tying for seventh best in the league heading into Monday night. But Oakland has been outscored by 47 points in the second half, 22 points behind the next worst team in Arizona.

The problems have been in all three phases. The offense has scored TDs on just four of nine red zone trips, committed five turnovers and fallen flat late in games with just one field goal in the fourth quarter all year.

Oakland has failed to generate any big returns on kicks or punts and had an extra point blocked in Denver that proved to be the difference in a one-point loss.

The defense has allowed three TDs on shovel passes and struggled to generate big plays after trading star edge rusher Khalil Mack. Oakland ranks last in the league with three sacks and tied for last with just one takeaway, contributing to Oakland being the only team that hasn't started a drive this season in the opponent's territory.

"It's a big reason why field position is what it is," Gruden said. "Really a turnover is getting a three-and-out, too. Getting a three-and-out, getting the ball back immediately can almost be as good as a turnover. We need some of those and we need to get the ball back, whether we intercept it or strip it away. ..."

Meanwhile, although Carr has completed 76.6 percent of his passes in the first three Raiders games this season, that efficiency has obviously not led to a win.

It has also been mitigated by five interceptions that have hurt the Raiders' cause, including the above-mentioned fourth-quarter interception in the end zone against Miami. That interception came on a first down jump ball to Martavis Bryant that Dolphins cornerback Xavien Howard came down with to kill the scoring chance.

Carr said he had no regrets making the throw on Sunday, but Gruden suggested the quarterback should have charted a different course.

"I thought we were too aggressive," Gruden said, via NBCSports.com. "I think at times he is trying too hard. We will talk about that extensively here in the next couple of hours, but I thought he played really good under some very tough circumstances. I think sometimes he needs to learn a little bit more patience, and I think he will. I'm really excited about the way he has played and improved and mastered this offense. We are getting closer. That was a painful turnover. We will address that, and we will make the corrections."

Gruden made it clear that he's happy with Carr overall by calling his completion percentage and 936 yards through three games "as good as I've ever been associated with," but the lack of wins in Oakland magnifies any negatives that have also been part of the mix. ...

Other notes of interest. ... Jordy Nelson recorded his first touchdown with the Silver and Black, a 12-yarder on the opening drive of the game. He now leads the league with 17 red-zone touchdowns since 2016.

Nelson finished the first half with 151 yards, the most by a receiver in the league entering today's contest. It also ranks as the second most receiving yards in the first half of play of his career.

According to ESPN.com's Seth Walder, Nelson reached a max speed of 21.05 mph on his 61-yard reception in the first quarter, according to NFL Next Gen Stats. Nelson, 33, is by far the oldest player to reach 21 mph while carrying the football this season. Next oldest is Carlos Hyde in Week 1 (Hyde is currently 28 but was 27 at the time).

For the third consecutive game, the Raiders had a player surpass 100 receiving yards, which marks the first time Oakland has opened the season with a 100-plus-yard receiver in its first three games since the 2005 season. ...

The Raiders placed kicker Mike Nugent on injured reserve Wednesday and made the signing of kicker Matt McCrane official, the team announced.

Nugent injured his hip in Sunday’s loss to the Dolphins. He made all six field-goal attempts and was 4-for-5 on PATs for Oakland this season.

McCrane, who made 86.4 percent of his field goals at Kansas State, has never kicked in the regular-season game. He went 4-for-4 on his field-goal attempts, including 53 and 54-yarders, and 3-for-3 on extra points during the preseason with the Cardinals.

DEPTH CHART
QBs: Derek Carr, AJ McCarron
RBs: Marshawn Lynch, Doug Martin, Jalen Richard, DeAndre Washington
WRs: Amari Cooper, Jordy Nelson, Martavis Bryant, Seth Roberts, Johnny Holton, Keon Hatcher
TEs: Jared Cook, Derek Carrier, Lee Smith

Philadelphia Eagles

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 26 September 2018

As Associated Press sports writer Rob Maaddi noted, even with Carson Wentz back, the Eagles are far from complete.

Three of the team's top skill position players weren't on the field for Sunday's 20-16 win over Indianapolis but could be nearing a return.

Wide receiver Alshon Jeffery and running backs Jay Ajayi and Darren Sproles are getting closer to rejoining the offense after missing a combined six games.

It's still too early to know their status for this week's game at Tennessee (2-1).

"Sometimes it feels like you don't know the identity maybe of your offense (without) those guys," head coach Doug Pederson said.

"You kind of have hopes and you kind of say, 'OK, this is what we think we have.' Individually we kind of know these guys, but collectively as a unit, I think you're still working through the month of September trying to figure out your identity a little bit offensively."

Jeffery hasn't played since offseason shoulder surgery. He had 57 catches for 789 yards and a team-high nine touchdowns last season.

But Pederson said at the start of his Wednesday press conference that Jeffery has been cleared for contact. That was the final medical milestone for Jeffery to hit in his return from offseason shoulder surgery.

Pederson said the team has yet to make a decision about whether or not Jeffery will play against Tennessee. The wideout was listed as questionable for last Sunday's game against the Colts despite not having full clearance, so it would seem like a decent bet that he'll play if all goes well at practice the next three days.

Sproles missed the past two games because of a hamstring injury and Ajayi sat out one game with a back issue.

"They're both day to day right now," Pederson said. "I would expect, barring any setbacks, that they would both be available (for practice)."

Still, neither Ajayi nor Sproles were on the field Wednesday.

The Eagles (2-1) still had their best rushing game without Ajayi and Sproles. Wendell Smallwood, Corey Clement and rookie Josh Adams had a total of 142 yards on 32 carries against the Colts.

"Got to have guys like that," Pederson said. "Might be role players, but their role is pretty big in games when your two top guys are down in the backfield."

Missing Jeffery has hurt the team's passing attack. Mike Wallace also went down in Week 2 and Mack Hollins began the season on IR. Pederson used two and three tight ends in more offensive sets and Wentz completed only six passes to receivers in his first game back since last December.

Nelson Agholor had four catches for 24 yards and Jordan Matthews had two receptions for 21 yards in his return to the Eagles.

"Defense and special teams kind of carry the load early in the season and offense kind of plays catch-up a little bit," Pederson said.

"When the offense catches its stride, then you got a good thing going. The other thing is it's a long season. We find ways to win these games early, makes a big difference down the stretch when you start getting the guys back."

Meanwhile, Wentz didn't play at all in the preseason, so he had not taken a hit since his knee injury late last season when he got hit for the first time against the Colts.

Wentz said it "felt great" to get that out of the way and that he was happy with the way he started the game overall. Wentz led a touchdown drive that ended with a toss to rookie tight end Dallas Goedert in the end zone to give the Eagles a 7-0 lead.

Wentz sported a 111 quarterback rating entering the break. Right before halftime, he spun left to avoid the rush and sprinted for the sideline, stretching the ball forward as he dove to pick up a first down.

"I thought it was a normal scramble, to me," Wentz said. "Obviously made a guy miss in the pocket, saw the first-down marker and dove for it. Pretty standard for me."

According to ESPN.com's Tim McManus, Wentz's elusiveness wasn't quite at peak 2017 levels, but he was able to use his legs to create on several occasions.

"It felt good," Wentz said in his postgame press conference. "It felt good to finally be out there. It's kind of a long time coming. Obviously a lot of excitement, a lot of emotions. But coming out the way we did with that hot start going right down the field, going some no-huddle tempo, it felt good."

Asked if he thought about his surgically repaired knee at any point in-game, he responded, "not at all."

The rest of the day would feature more negatives than that opening drive, including an interceptions and a lost fumble as the Eagles had a hard time putting more points on the board. Wentz attributed those turnovers to poor decision-making rather than rust and credited the Colts defense for making things difficult over the course of the afternoon.

They were able to drive for the game-winning touchdown in the fourth quarter after falling behind 16-13, however, and Wentz said his message to the team at that point was to "just stay together" to get the job done.

They did and they'll head to Tennessee with a 2-1 record as a result.

And of course, I'll be following up on Ajayi, Sproles and Jeffery as the week progresses; watch the Late-Breaking Updates section for more in coming days.

DEPTH CHART
QBs: Carson Wentz, Nick Foles, Nate Sudfeld
RBs: Corey Clement, Wendell Smallwood, Darren Sproles
WRs: Alshon Jeffery, Nelson Agholor, Jordan Matthews, Mack Hollins, Shelton Gibson, DeAndre Carter
TEs: Zach Ertz, Dallas Goedert, Richard Rodgers

Pittsburgh Steelers

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 26 September 2018

As ESPN.com's Jeremy Fowler framed it, "Winning overshadows all drama."

The Steelers said it all week, then proved it to be true -- barely -- with a performance that, at least temporarily, quells swirling concern in Pittsburgh.

The Steelers have played their first three games without running back Le'Veon Bell, who didn't report after the franchise tag was placed on him and is now the subject of trade rumors (with the latest reports suggesting the Jets are interested in dealing for him). Then, Pro Bowl receiver Antonio Brown became upset with the coaching staff during Sunday's Week 2 defeat and failed to show up for meetings on Monday. He then tweeted "trade me" when criticized by a former Steelers employee on social media.

In spite of it all, Ben Roethlisberger was brilliant in a 30-27 win against the Buccaneers on Monday Night Football. The quarterback's best road performance in years was buoyed by a defense that forced four turnovers, including a pick-six.

"We're used to it," Roethlisberger said with a laugh after the game.

Instead of panicking about their winless start, the Steelers -- winners of six straight on Monday Night Football -- hunkered down and stuck to their plan.

Roethlisberger said during the week he would try to set a tone, and 353 yards later, the Steelers' offense can imagine the possibilities. Decisive and aggressive, Roethlisberger completed 26 of his first 31 passes and 30-of-38 overall, including a sidearm, falling-down dime to JuJu Smith-Schuster in the final minutes to seal the game.

On Wednesday, he was named AFC Offensive Player of the Week.

Roethlisberger starts a season with back-to-back-to-back games of 300 or more yards for the first time in his career, thanks in part to a masterful two-minute drill to end the first half. With 1 minute, 17 seconds left, Roethlisberger smoothly completed 8 of 9 passes for 75 yards and a 1-yard touchdown to Ryan Switzer.

The Steelers knew only playmaking could redirect the storyline from chaos in Pittsburgh to winning in Tampa.

"The biggest issue was outside the locker room, people perceiving different things," Roethlisberger said. "Not saying we don't have issues -- all teams have issues, different things going on -- but I think it was a little bigger than it really is."

Without much of a running game, Roethlisberger and the passing offense has more than 800 yards over two weeks.

The offensive lineup is coming into focus with Vance McDonald as the lead tight end and a four-receiver lineup of Brown, Smith-Schuster, James Washington and Switzer. The running game was averaging 2.3 yards per carry before James Conner broke off runs of 27 and 9 yards to set up a winning score.

Imagine if Bell was in the mix.

The offense wanted to utilize McDonald's speed to offset Tampa's speedy linebackers. McDonald used that speed after he trucked safety Chris Conte with an open-field stiff arm on his way to a 75-yard touchdown in the first quarter.

"Punish him," said McDonald about his plan when squaring up Conte. "Inflict as much force on him as possible."

On defense, cornerbacks wanted to keep Tampa Bay playmakers in front of them, avoiding the chunk gains and reducing mental errors. The defense is at its best when rushing the passer and creating turnovers. Sacking Fitzpatrick three times and creating four turnovers (three interceptions, one fumble) offset Fitzpatrick's big yardage day.

"It wasn't a good-looking win at all, they made a lot of plays on us," cornerback Joe Haden said. "But toward the end, when we had to make our stops, that was a big stop for us."

Poor discipline led to 115 penalty yards in the first half, the franchise's most in a half over the past 15 years. Too many Bucs were running free late, including Mike Evans going untouched for a 24-yard touchdown with 4:23 left. And Darrius Heyward-Bey's illegal shift on a punt that the Steelers downed at the Bucs' 1 was inexcusable.

But the resiliency that won the Steelers 13 games last season was on display Monday on the road. It's a start.

"We just pull each other closer," said Smith-Schuster, who led the team with 116 yards on nine catches. "When stuff gets hard and it gets tough, we take losses and we come together closer, we play better."

DEPTH CHART
QBs: Ben Roethlisberger, Mason Rudolph, Josh Dobbs
RBs: James Conner, Jaylen Samuels, Stevan Ridley
WRs: Antonio Brown, JuJu Smith-Schuster, James Washington, Darrius Heyward-Bey, Ryan Switzer
TEs: Vance McDonald, Jesse James, Xavier Grimble

San Francisco 49ers

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 26 September 2018

Jimmy Garoppolo's addition last season immediately turned around the fortunes of the San Francisco 49ers. Now the 49ers will have to go back to life before Garoppolo for the rest of the season.

The Niners announced Monday that Garoppolo tore the ACL in his left knee while making a cut late in a loss at Kansas City, sidelining him for the rest of the season.

"It is very unfortunate," head coach Kyle Shanahan said. "I'm not going to sugarcoat it. It was hard waking up today. We were down and disappointed about it because we were looking forward a lot to playing with Jimmy this year and going through the good and the bad knowing that he'd benefit from all of it. Now we don't get to do it. I know Jimmy is really down about it and so are we but it's still going to be all right."

As the Associated Press understated, the injury deals a serious blow to the 49ers (1-2), who had planned their rebuild around Garoppolo and now must turn again to C.J. Beathard at quarterback.

Garoppolo will undergo surgery in the next week or two after the swelling goes down and should be ready to play again next season. The 49ers will promote Nick Mullens from the practice squad to back up Beathard after placing Garoppolo on injured reserve.

San Francisco, though, could sign a free agent quarterback "in the near future," according to NFL Network's Jim Trotter. Mullens has never taken a regular-season snap.

Kellen Clemens, T.J. Yates, Tom Savage, E.J. Manuel, Landry Jones, Matt Simms and Kyle Allen were in Santa Clara for tryouts Tuesday.

Shanahan answered with gallows humor when asked how many quarterbacks the team planned to work out.

"As many as we can get," Shanahan said, via Eric Branch of the San Francisco Chronicle. "No, I'm just joking."

One quarterback who won't be brought in is former 49ers starter Colin Kaepernick, who opted out of his contract with San Francisco in March 2017 after Shanahan decided he wanted to go with a style of offense that didn't fit Kaepernick's game.

"That's what I said last year and it's the same situation now," Shanahan said. "I always look into what style of offense I want to do and what style of offense we've been doing the last two years."

The Niners struggled with Beathard and Brian Hoyer last season before the midseason addition of Garoppolo changed their fortunes. San Francisco won the final five games last year after Garoppolo took over as starter and the team rewarded him with a $137.5 million, five-year contract.

The 49ers will have to wait another year to earn dividends on that investment. Garoppolo got hurt in the fourth quarter of a 38-27 loss Sunday when he was scrambling toward the sideline and decided to cut up field instead of going out of bounds.

Garoppolo's left knee buckled just before Kansas City cornerback Steven Nelson delivered a big hit, ending what was supposed to be his first full season as a starter after just three games.

Shanahan said the play should serve as a reminder to quarterbacks about the importance of protecting their bodies.

"That's something that Jimmy will probably look at differently going forward because now he'll remember this the rest of his life," Shanahan said. "Nothing against him. This happens with everyone. You see it every Sunday. It's a reminder for everyone why it's an obvious coaching point."

Expectations were high in San Francisco this season that the team could end a four-year playoff drought after Garoppolo had a full offseason to immerse himself in Shanahan's offense. But with Garoppolo and new running back Jerick McKinnon both knocked out for the season with torn ACLs in September, those high hopes have been put on hold.

Garoppolo had completed 59.6 percent of his passes with five TDs, three interceptions and an average of 8.1 yards per attempt for a 90 passer rating. While he hasn't been quite as efficient as he was late last year after being acquired at the trade deadline from New England for a second-round pick, the Niners offense has been far more potent than it was before he took over as quarterback.

Beathard started five games as a rookie last year, completing 54.9 percent of his passes with four touchdowns, six interceptions, 19 sacks, 6.4 yards per attempt and a 69.2 passer rating that was second lowest in the NFL.

Beathard threw a touchdown pass to George Kittle on his first snap Sunday only to have it negated by a penalty and wasn't in for any other plays in the game.

"I have a lot of confidence in C.J.," Shanahan said. "I think C.J. got a lot of experience last year. We liked him a lot coming out of college. ... He got thrown into as tough a situation as I could imagine a rookie quarterback being thrown in and the guy didn't blink."

Other notes of interest. ... San Francisco's running game continued to roll, averaging 6.1 yards per carry. Matt Breida ran for 90 yards on just 10 carries. Alfred Morris pitched in 67 yards on 14 carries. Conversely, the 49ers run defense held the Chiefs to just 2.8 yards per carry.

While Garoppolo's season is over, Shanahan announced that CB Richard Sherman will miss a couple of weeks with a strained left calf.

Beyond that, Shanahan said that Breida hyperextended his knee and also is dealing with some calf soreness. Shanahan called him questionable this week and he did not practice Wednesday.

Morris left the game briefly with an ankle injury but returned. He will be re-checked later this week as well. Marquise Goodwin (quad) made it through the game with no setbacks which means he should be good to go.

I'll be following up on Breida and the others as needed via Late-Breaking Update in coming days.

DEPTH CHART
QBs: C.J. Beathard
RBs: Alfred Morris, Matt Breida, Raheem Mostert, Kyle Juszczyk
WRs: Marquise Goodwin, Pierre Garcon, Dante Pettis , Trent Taylor, Victor Bolden, Kendrick Bourne
TEs: George Kittle, Garrett Celek, Cole Hikutini

Seattle Seahawks

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 26 September 2018

According to ESPN.com's Brady Henderson, when the Seattle Seahawks envisioned their 2018 offense at its best, it looked like this:

A resurgent running game led by Chris Carson that sets the tone, controls the clock and wears down opponents.

Doug Baldwin and Tyler Lockett carrying a passing game full of new targets.

An improved offensive line giving Russell Wilson protection he hasn't had, and Wilson mixing his mobility with decisiveness to keep the whole thing moving in a way that it too often didn't in recent seasons.

The Seahawks didn't have everything working perfectly on offense in their home opener Sunday against the Dallas Cowboys, but they had more than enough. The best performance of the season from Wilson and Co. combined with defensive effort reminiscent of Seattle's recent glory days made for a relatively stress-free 24-13 victory at CenturyLink Field.

And with it, the Seahawks are 1-2 and still far from buried in the NFC West standings.

Wilson threw a pair of touchdowns and no interceptions while operating as sharply as he has all season. His final numbers (16-of-26, 192 yards, no interceptions) were skewed by some early drops by Brandon Marshall. Wilson bore responsibility for some of the sacks he has taken this season -- 12 in all entering Sunday -- while chalking it up to the inevitable underside of his propensity to keep plays alive, sometimes for longer than they can be kept alive.

But he was sacked only twice against Dallas, both after Seattle jumped out to a 17-3 halftime lead, and seemed to be playing with an emphasis on getting the ball out quickly.

"He just handled every aspect of his game really well today," head coach Pete Carroll said of Wilson.

As Henderson pointed out, Carson's light usage and the lack of any commitment to the running game were two surprises over the first two weeks. It reached its most curious point when he didn't get a carry in the second half of Monday night's loss to the Bears in Chicago even after running effectively in the first half.

After saying for the second straight week that they needed to run the ball more, the Seahawks actually did it this time. They fed Carson early and often, with his 32 carries more than doubling the 13 he had over the first two games combined. That Carson finished with 102 yards and a 3.2 average shows how intent they were on running the ball no matter the results.

It was pretty much over when Carson found the end zone from five yards out early in the fourth quarter. That was the Seahawks' first rushing touchdown of the year and only their second by a tailback since the start of the 2017 season, which gives you an indication of how much their run game has floundered.

But not on this day.

"I'm really proud to see the offensive line be able to go out there and protect Russ and allow us to run the football," Carroll said. "We ran the ball 39 times today (for 113 yards) and that's what we're talking about. Chris was really a workhorse today, going for 30 carries. I just thought that the whole feel of it, the whole attitude, the mentality, everything fit together precisely how we hoped to see it."

Henderson noted another massive difference in this game compared to the first two: Seattle went 7-of-16 on third down. One of the conversions came on Wilson's 52-yard touchdown throw to Lockett, who has three scores in as many games and filled in more than capably as Seattle's de facto No. 1 receiver while Baldwin has been sidelined with a knee injury.

The Seahawks have their defense to thank just as much for this one.

The pass-rush that was about as absent as the running game over the first two weeks showed up to the tune of five sacks and 10 quarterback hits. All-Pro middle linebacker Bobby Wagner made his presence felt in his return from a groin injury that kept him out Monday night.

And then there was Earl Thomas, who capped a bizarre week with a pair of interceptions, his second and third of the season. This was hours after ESPN reported Sunday morning that the team was considering a hefty fine against the All-Pro free safety for conduct detrimental to the team after he sat out two practices last week amid some curious circumstances.

Thomas ended any confusion about those absences when he made it clear postgame that they were related to his continued displeasure over his contract. Thomas said he was protecting himself and that he'll continue to sit out of practice if he's not feeling 100 percent.

Who knows what the Seahawks will do with Thomas. It might have been an easier decision to trade him if the Seahawks were 0-3 and heading nowhere. But they showed Sunday that they shouldn't be buried quite yet.

"This is how we want to play," Carroll said. "We couldn't be any more specific about it. We want to run the football, we want to play defense and use the kicking game as much as we can to control the field. All those things happened today."

On the injury front. ... Carroll said center Justin Britt should be able to play Sunday at Arizona, barring any setbacks this week, after playing only on special teams against Dallas because of a shoulder injury. Carroll said he didn't know if linebackers K.J. Wright or Mychal Kendricks will be available. Wright has missed the first three games following knee surgery and Kendricks is appealing an NFL suspension.

Baldwin, who's missed the past two games with an MCL injury, was scheduled to practice Wednesday and according to Carroll, may play Sunday. I'll be following up on this one via Late-Breaking Update.

DEPTH CHART
QBs: Russell Wilson, Brett Hundley
RBs: Chris Carson, Mike Davis, Rashaad Penny, C.J. Prosise, J.D. McKissic
WRs: Doug Baldwin, Tyler Lockett, David Moore, Jaron Brown, Brandon Marshall
TEs: Will Dissly, Nick Vannett, Ed Dickson, Darrell Daniels

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 26 September 2018

For those hoping for a quick resolution to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' Week 4 quarterback quandary, well, too bad.

One day after Ryan Fitzpatrick dug the Bucs into a halftime hole he nearly pulled them out of, head coach Dirk Koetter was mum on whether the record-breaking journeyman Fitzpatrick or fresh-off-suspension franchise quarterback Jameis Winston would start against the Chicago Bears.

"I know there's a lot of interest in the quarterback thing," Koetter told reporters Tuesday. "I did talk to both Jameis and Fitz and it was great to see Jameis back in the building. He was here early and working hard. We're glad to have him. [It's] a short week. He assured me that he's ready to go, which I don't doubt for a minute that he's been working hard. So we both know what we're going to do.

"I hope everyone can appreciate that it doesn't do us any good to tell our opponents what we're going to do. So that will work itself out as the week goes on. But we do have a plan and both guys are aware of it."

Suspended for the first three games, Winston was allowed back in the Bucs' facility Tuesday via a roster exemption. The quarterback has reportedly been working out for the past month with former Buccaneers teammates, per ESPN.

It will be difficult for Koetter and his staff to move on from Fitzpatrick despite the return of Winston, Tampa Bay's former No. 1 overall pick.

In Monday night's loss, Fitz became the first quarterback in NFL history to throw for 400 yards in three consecutive games. Through the first three weeks, Fitzpatrick has 1,230 passing yards (first in NFL), 11 passing TDs (second), a 124.8 passer rating (second) and a 70.3 completion percentage (sixth).

The blemishes on his record this season came in a miserable first half against the Steelers, when Fitzpatrick threw three interceptions on consecutive drives, including one pick-six.

Winston started 45 of 48 games over the first three years of his career. He was suspended following the NFL's investigation of an accusation that in March 2016 he groped a female Uber driver during a ride in Scottsdale, Arizona.

"We love Jameis. He's a member of our team, and we're anxious to get him back," Koetter said. "He'll be great in our locker room and whatever role that he ends up in, I know Jameis will embrace that role and give it everything's he got."

All that said, a change this week seems unlikely.

As NFL Network's Ian Rapoport reported Wednesday morning, the Bucs have a three-day roster exemption for Winston, who is on the Commissioner's Exempt list. They don't have to make a roster move until Friday. "Don't expect a QB announcement soon based on competitive reasons," Rapopport tweeted, "But all signs have pointed to Fitzpatrick continuing on."

Remember, the Buccaneers play at Chicago Sunday, a short-week game that precedes a Week 5 bye and, as Profootballtalk.com's Michael David Smith notes, the theory goes that you just don't bench a guy who's coming off three consecutive 400-yard passing games, as Fitzpatrick is.

But Smith went on to point out that Fitzpatrick outplaying Winston actually started last year, during the three games Fitzpatrick started when Winston was injured. The Buccaneers went 2-1 in the three games Fitzpatrick started, compared to 2-10 in the 13 games Winston started. And advanced stats like Football Outsiders' DVOA and ESPN's QBR say that Fitzpatrick played slightly better than Winston last year.

Through three games this year, Fitzpatrick has played better than Winston has ever played in any three-game stretch of his NFL career. Fitzpatrick's stats this year are so unprecedented that regression to the mean is a near-certainty, but just because Fitzpatrick is likely to regress, that doesn't mean he's likely to be worse than Winston, coming in without having practiced in three weeks, would be.

Overall, over the Buccaneers' last 12 games, Fitzpatrick and Winston have each started six. In the six games started by Fitzpatrick, the Bucs are 4-2. In the six games started by Winston, the Bucs are 1-5. Winston has averaged 275.2 yards per game and thrown nine touchdown passes. Fitzpatrick has averaged 329.2 yards per game and thrown 14 touchdown passes.

But the passing numbers aren't even the area where Fitzpatrick most outshines Winston. What Fitzpatrick does far better than Winston is recognize the pass rush, get rid of the ball before the rush arrives, and protect the ball when he can't get rid of it. That's why Winston has been sacked 22 times and fumbled seven times over his last six games, while Fitzpatrick has been sacked just eight times and fumbled zero times over his last six games.

Smith summed up: "If Koetter were to go to Winston now, he'd be choosing the lesser of his two quarterbacks. The 24-year-old Winston may have a long future as the Buccaneers' franchise quarterback, but the best quarterback on the roster at present is Fitzpatrick. ..."

For what it's worth, ESPN.com's Tristan Cockroft offered up this list of the most fantasy points by a QB through his team's first three games (since 1950): 97.4 Fitzpatrick, 2018; 92.4 Patrick Mahomes, 2018; 91.0 Peyton Manning, 2013 (with the Broncos); 89.7 Drew Brees, 2018; and 88.8 Steve Young, 1998 (with San Francisco). ...

Other notes of interest. ... Also according to Smith, when the Buccaneers spent the 38th overall pick in the draft on running back Ronald Jones, they thought he could make an instant impact on their offense. It hasn't worked out that way.

Jones was inactive for Monday night's game against the Steelers, just as he was inactive for the first two games of the season. Jones isn't on the injury report, he's just inactive because the Buccaneers don't think he's ready to contribute.

Given how bad Jones looked in the preseason, they're probably right. In four preseason games, Jones had a shockingly bad stat line of 28 carries for 22 yards. He was awful.

Jones ran for 1,550 yards at USC last season, so it's hard to believe he has no talent at all. But he clearly isn't ready for the NFL just yet.

And finally. ... The Bucs placed SS Chris Conte, who was brutalized by a Vance McDonald stiff arm, on injured reserve with a knee injury.

DEPTH CHART
QBs: Jameis Winston, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Ryan Griffin
RBs: Peyton Barber, Ronald Jones, Jacquizz Rodgers
WRs: Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, DeSean Jackson, Adam Humphries, Justin Watson, Freddie Martino
TEs: O.J. Howard, Cameron Brate, Antony Auclair, Alan Cross

Tennessee Titans

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 26 September 2018

As quarterback Marcus Mariota dressed at his locker after Sunday's game at TIAA Bank Field, one by one teammates stopped by to congratulate him.

Some patted him on the back, offering a few words. Others simply gave him a fist bump.

A few moments earlier, head coach Mike Vrabel had given Mariota a game ball for his performance in the team's 9-6 win over the Jaguars.

"That's just a wolf being a wolf, man," tackle Taylor Lewan said of Mariota. "I'll follow that guy anywhere."

Others fell in line once again on Sunday as Mariota came off the bench to help the Titans pull out a gutsy win.

"He's one of the toughest guys I know," center Ben Jones said. "He's a true competitor, and he would do anything for this team. I love that guy to death."

All this after Mariota replaced an injured Blaine Gabbert in the first quarter of Sunday's game. Gabbert started the contest for the second week in a row in place of Mariota, sidelined since Week 1 and limited in practices because of an elbow injury.

Mariota, wearing a glove with two fingers exposed, stepped in and finished off a drive that ended with a field goal by Ryan Succop that gave the Titans an early 3-0 lead. Then he did enough - running and passing - to lift the Titans to a win.

According to ESPN.com's Turron Davenport, Mariota said it was the first time he'd come off the bench in a game since he was in high school.

"I am just happy for this team," Mariota said. "The work, week in and week out these guys put in, it is nice to see it rewarded. … It is a crazy game. When it comes down to it, I am really happy for these guys. Our defense played incredible, and gave us a chance to win in the end."

Mariota completed 12-of-18 passes for 100 yards in the contest while also running for 51 yards on seven carries. His biggest run of the game came late, when he bolted for 15 yards and a first down in the closing minutes on a third down play.

"Fantastic," Vrabel said of Mariota. "It was cool for me to be able to give Marcus a game ball in the locker room, to be able to stay focused throughout the week. He cares about his team immensely and he wants what's best for the team. You saw him come in there and give us a spark. … and really seal the deal for us at the end of the game."

Mariota was active but didn't play last Sunday vs. the Texans. Gabbert got the start, and guided the Titans to a 20-17 win at Nissan Stadium. He was awarded a game ball for his performance.

Mariota didn't finish the season opener against the Dolphins after suffering the elbow injury.

Mariota acknowledged earlier in the week he still felt some numbness and tingling in his fingers as a result of the injury. Mariota said the whole hand is affected by the injury "but the numbness and the (tingling) is a couple of fingers. The weakness is the whole hand, and that is what I am working on."

But Mariota didn't let any of it bother him in the moment on Sunday. He rose to the occasion to guide the Titans to a mammoth win against a division rival.

"There is no greater feeling that winning on Sundays," Mariota said. "The process that you go through, he amount of time you put in throughout the week. It is nice to come out and get it done."

Vrabel gave the Titans the day off Monday.

After the game, Mariota credited the coaches, including offensive coordinator Matt LaFleur, with being creative. Remember, Tennessee beat Houston without its top three offensive tackles because of injuries or illnesses.

"Whether it's dealing with injuries, whether it's dealing with some unusual circumstances, you've got to give those guys a lot of credit," Mariota said.

"You know, it's still a young season, but at the same time, as a group we've got to continue to build off that confidence and see where this takes us."

The coaches might need to get a bit more creative.

Gabbert is in the concussion protocol. Vrabel said he's waiting to hear from doctors when Gabbert might return but the team added a QB on Tuesday, agreeing to terms with veteran Austin Davis, Ian Rapoport of NFL Media reported. If nothing else, he will provide an arm for practice this week.

The Titans also have Logan Woodside on their practice squad. The Bengals selected the Toledo product in the seventh round of this year's draft.

Davis, 29, has appeared in 16 games with 10 starts in his career with the Rams, Browns and Seahawks. He also has spent time with the Dolphins and Broncos. Davis has thrown 13 touchdowns and 12 interceptions in his career.

Meanwhile, Vrabel told reporters on Wednesday that Mariota was doing better and the plan is for him to start on Sunday; I'll be following up as needed via Late-Breaking Update in coming days. ...

As Associated Press Sports writer Teresa M. Walker notes, until Mariota and the rest of the offense gets closer to full strength, the Titans can sure lean on their defense.

Tennessee also has shut out its first three opponents through the first quarter of each game. Only the Rams, Jaguars and Washington have allowed fewer points.

The Titans never let Jacksonville get closer than the Titans 20 with the Jaguars getting into Tennessee territory only three times in the entire game.

Next is a visit from the defending Super Bowl champs, the Philadelphia Eagles.

Then three of the next four are on the road, including Tennessee's first game in London, for a franchise that hasn't won the AFC South since 2008.

"We're three games in," Vrabel said. "We're a long way away. ..."

As things stand now, the Titans are ranked 12th in the NFL in total defense through three weeks.

On offense, the team is ranked 29th overall (10th rushing, 29th passing). Needless to say, there's room to grow on a team that's averaging just 16 points per game. The offense should get a jump-start as Mariota gets closer to full strength, and the o-line is solidified. But the Titans are going to need to show improvement in other areas as well.

Derrick Henry hasn't been happy with his performance early, and the receivers need to be more consistent.

Henry picked up 57 yards on 18 carries on Sunday, while Dion Lewis had 26 yards on seven carries.

On the season, Lewis leads the team with 143 yards rushing on 39 carries, while Henry has 139 yards on 46 carries.

Vrabel sounded OK with the split so far.

"I think it is similar. I think it is good. They are both helping us, and they are both going to play - we've said that," Vrabel said. "As long as they are both helping us win, and we are trying to put both players in the best possible spot that we can, and the best position, I think we'll go with where we are now.

"If it looks like a guy is going, he's running. ... And he gets tired, the next guy needs to go in and we'll keep flip-flopping them around," Vrabel said.

Lewis is second on the team with nine receptions (for 50 yards) while Henry has one catch for five yards on the season. ...


And finally. ... Succop was a rookie kicker in Kansas City back in 2009 when a 13-year veteran by the name of Mike Vrabel joined the Chiefs. The two were teammates for two seasons in Kansas City, and Succop still remembers how well Vrabel treated him back then. He picked up tabs, and included everyone.

Succop smiled and said he was happy to do his part after kicking the game-winning field goal in Vrabel's first win as a head coach vs. the Texans. And on Sunday, Succop kicked another game-winner in the team's win at Jacksonville. Paybacks are swell.

DEPTH CHART
QBs: Marcus Mariota, Blaine Gabbert
RBs: Derrick Henry, Dion Lewis, David Fluellen
WRs: Corey Davis, Taywan Taylor, Tajae Sharpe
TEs: Jonnu Smith, Luke Stocker, Delanie Walker

Washington Redskins

Compiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 26 September 2018

As ESPN.com's John Keim framed it, "They did what they wanted, whether running or throwing. A week ago, the Washington Redskins did the opposite.

"And that's why on Sunday, they feel the opposite of how they did a week ago. ..."

The Redskins' offensive outburst lasted only one half; the defense had to carry them in the second half. Still, as Keim went on to note a 28-point first half was all they needed in a 31-17 win over Green Bay. They even received runs from Adrian Peterson reminiscent of his old days, enabling him to finish with 120 yards on 19 carries.

It's Peterson's ninth career 100-yard game vs. Green Bay, and it followed a 20-yard outing by Peterson in a nine-point showing by the offense.

"We had them on their heels in the first half," said quarterback Alex Smith, who threw for 214 of his 220 yards in the first half. "They didn't have a very good beat on what we were doing, run and pass. It was fun, when you're playing that like that and rolling offensively."

More importantly for the Redskins, Keim added, the win gave them a huge confidence boost heading into the bye week with a 2-1 record.

The Redskins felt confident throughout the week for a couple of reasons. They liked that Green Bay plays a 3-4 defense and uses some looks similar to the Redskins' defense, so the offense was well-versed in blocking against that scheme. The Packers also didn't provide the movement and slanting of the Colts' defensive line that bothered the Redskins' offensive line a week earlier. That enabled a line that was starting a new center in Tony Bergstrom, had Chase Roullier shifting from center to guard and had starting right tackle Morgan Moses leaving with a concussion to do well enough.

One caveat: For a third straight week, the Redskins were facing a team with a new defensive coordinator. Mike Pettine has a history that they studied, but he also showed a lot of looks in the Packers' first two games. But the Redskins knew it would allow them more opportunities -- whether in the run game, versus favorable looks, or in the pass game with more one-on-one situations. They did not get as many of those in the first two weeks. That's a key reason the Redskins had three pass plays of at least 34 yards.

"That's what you want," said tight end Vernon Davis. "When we played the Colts and Arizona, they didn't come up on us. Whenever you get guys up, that's when we can get vertical. We want them to come up and press you. So they did it and we took advantage."

That's why they were more aggressive going down the field. It wasn't because they didn't do it last week; it was because they received better matchups on the outside to be aggressive with more man coverages. The result was a 28-point first half, including a 98-yard drive.

That drive, and the ensuing one, summed up the first-half success. On the 98-yard drive, Smith connected with tight end Jordan Reed, finding a soft spot in the zone behind the linebackers. He turned and ran for a 34-yard gain. On the next play, out of a three-tight-end set, Peterson flashed back to 2012: He used vision and quick cuts to run 41 yards. It's what they didn't get a week ago. What they also didn't get then: any positive vibes. On Sunday, they exited with a lot of them.

Because of their ability to run, they also took shots down the field. In the first two games, Smith attempted only three passes that traveled more than 20 yards in the air. But he added to that total on the first series of the game with a 46-yard touchdown pass to receiver Paul Richardson. He was signed in the offseason for his speed and even though Green Bay doubled him on the play, Smith led him to an open area for a score.

"It was a point of emphasis, we need to go down the field," Richardson said. ...

Getting back to Peterson. ... After three games, he ranks fifth in the NFL with 236 rushing yards and has three rushing touchdowns, one behind the leaders. With his performance against the Packers, Peterson took over sole possession of seventh place on the all-time rushing touchdown list, with 102. He's now two touchdowns behind Redskins Hall of Famer John Riggins on that list and four behind Jim Brown.

With nine more touchdowns, Peterson would also surpass Walter Payton. Peterson has had five seasons with at least 12 rushing touchdowns, but he hasn't hit that plateau since 2012.

There's more: He's 228 yards away from passing Tony Dorsett for ninth place on the all-time rushing list. Sunday's success came a week after an 11-carry, 20-yard performance in which the blocking was more of an issue than Peterson's age. Of those carries in Week 2 against Indianapolis, four lost yards. On Sunday, only one of his 19 carries lost yards.

"I don't care about his other touchdowns; I care about the three he had here," head coach Jay Gruden said. "He's a great player, he's a pro and we're happy to have him. He fell into our lap at a critical time. We needed a player, and he was there for us. He is everything as advertised."

The key for Peterson will be the same as with every other running back: doing it over 16 games. But based on how he trains and the shape he's in, Peterson does not appear to be someone who will get worn down.

That would mean he'll keep climbing all-time lists.

Tackle Trent Williams had a minor knee procedure to clean up the bursa in his knee. Gruden said the procedure had been scheduled and Williams should also be fine for the Oct. 8 game at New Orleans.

Peterson is recovering from a sprained ankle. According to Gruden, the veteran should also be ready for New Orleans in Week 5.

The Redskins have a bye this week.

DEPTH CHART
QBs: Alex Smith, Colt McCoy
RBs: Adrian Peterson, Chris Thompson, Samaje Perine
WRs: Jamison Crowder, Paul Richardson, Josh Doctson, Maurice Harris, Trey Quinn, Michael Floyd, Cam Sims
TEs: Jordan Reed, Vernon Davis, Jeremy Sprinkle