Team Notes week 5 2021
NEWS, NOTES, RUMORS AND OTHER GOOD STUFF
Directly from the desk of FlashUpdate Editor Bob Harris. The good; the bad; and yes. ... Even the Bears. There is no better way to jump start your weekend than browsing these always educational -- often irreverent -- team-by-team, Fantasy-specific offerings. ...
Access specific teams by clicking on a team name in the schedule appearing directly to your left or by clicking on a helmet below; return to the helmets by hitting the link labeled "Menu" following each teams notes. ...
Arizona CardinalsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 5 October 2021
As Associated Press sports writer David Brandt put it, "In every quarter of a dominant victory on the Rams' home turf, Kyler Murray and the Arizona Cardinals confirmed they're no longer the annual afterthought in the NFC West."
As ESPN.com's Josh Weinfuss put it, "On Sunday, Murray had command of one of the league's best offenses, which is now averaging 35 points per game, and the defense held the Rams offense, which was averaging 31.7 points, to 20. It was Arizona's first win over the Rams in four years and was as big of a statement as there's been this season."
Indeed, the unbeaten Cards, with an offense that can run up the score on anybody, combined with a defense that finally managed to outsmart Sean McVay, now sit atop the NFC West and are the only undefeated team in the NFL.
Murray passed for 268 yards and two touchdowns and ran for 39 more yards, and the Cardinals extended their longest perfect start since 2012 with a 37-20 win over Los Angeles on Sunday.
A.J. Green caught a 41-yard TD pass, Chase Edmonds ran for 120 yards and James Conner rushed for two short scores for Arizona (4-0), which ended the Rams' streak of eight consecutive victories in the rivalry during McVay's career.
The Cards haven't won the division or had a winning record since 2015, but they're off to a roaring start to 2021 highlighted by this blowout of the previously unbeaten Rams.
"I feel like as a team, we're building towards something," said cornerback Byron Murphy Jr., who made an interception in the first half. "We hadn't beaten the Rams in in how many years? I don't know the exact number. Five years? But this is something definitely growing."
Kliff Kingsbury's Cards won with style, lighting up the Rams' defense for 465 total yards and scoring touchdowns after two early takeaways to affirm their status as a contender despite playing three of their first four games on the road.
"Not really too worried about what other people think," Murray said. "I think the guys in the locker room understand what we're doing, what we're capable of and where we can take it."
Maxx Williams caught a TD pass from Murray, who went 24 for 32 and repeatedly frustrated the Rams' defense while the Cards scored on seven of eight possessions after a game-opening punt. Arizona's defense made several big plays, and it sealed the team's first victory over the Rams since Jan. 1, 2017, by stopping Matthew Stafford and the LA offense on downs at the 1 with 12:05 to play.
The NFL's only remaining unbeaten teams are Arizona and Las Vegas, which faces the Chargers at SoFi Stadium on Monday night. The Cardinals celebrated their win on the same field, but were mostly buttoned up in their postgame comments.
"Not a statement," Kingsbury said. "We wanted to get a week better. Division games are important. We've got to continue to play physical football and clean some stuff up."
Los Angeles' defense had few answers for Murray, who consistently found open receivers or picked up his own yardage.
"That's the athleticism and just the great playmaker that he is," McVay said of Murray. "There were a couple instances where we feel like we could have been better, but you've got to give him credit. He's a playmaker."
Arizona scored touchdowns after both of Los Angeles' turnovers in the first half, and the Cardinals now have a plus-5 turnover differential this season.
"The best thing we're doing is protecting the football," Kingsbury said.
Weinfuss summed it up like this: "The Cardinals' offense is diverse and efficient and quick and combustible. At this point, an overconfidence or getting too fancy in the play calling are about the only things that could stop the Arizona offense."
As Brandt notes, he Cardinals will spend a lot of time at home over the next month, starting with Sunday's game against division rival San Francisco in what's expected to be Trey Lance's first start (in place on an injured Jimmy Garoppolo). Brandt added: "The 4-0 start doesn't guarantee anything. Arizona was 6-3 last season before fading down the stretch and missing the playoffs."
Next up, the Cardinals host the San Francisco 49ers Sunday. ...
Also of interest. ... Kingsbury said Green is finally comfortable in the offense -- which makes sense after he didn't play in the preseason -- and it's showing. He does enough down the field that he's getting one-on-ones often, and as seen on that 41-yard touchdown, teams can't cover him that way. He still is a weapon.
DeAndre Hopkins didn't have a big game, but he was a factor, catching 4-of-7 targets for 67 yards.
Green caught 5-of-6 targets for 67 yards with his touchdown; Williams caught 5-of-5 targets for 66 yards and the above-mentioned touchdown; Rondale Moore caught 3-of-3 targets for 28 yards. The rookie added two carries for nine years. Christian Kirk caught a five-yard pass. ...
The Cardinals believed Conner would be a good fit when they signed the former Steelers running back during the offseason. So far, he's been exactly what the team needed. Edmonds continues to be productive on longer runs and in the passing game, while Conner can get tough yards close to the goal line.
Edmonds might not be a true No. 1 running back, but he is proving he can handle an expanded role after the team lost Kenyan Drake to Las Vegas in free agency during the offseason. ...
Matt Prater had a 55-yard field goal, and it makes a huge difference to have so much confidence in the kicker.
On the injury front. ... The Cardinals remain relatively healthy after their first four games. They're a little banged up on the offensive line and hope to get Kelvin Beachum and Justin Murray back soon. Starting cornerback Byron Murphy Jr. is battling issues with his ankle and ribs. Kingsbury said he's day to day. After the game, Murphy said he was OK.
Defensive lineman Jordan Phillips is week-to-week. Phillips has been on IR since Sept. 2 with an undisclosed injury.
QBs: Kyler Murray, Colt McCoy, Trace McSorley
RBs: James Conner, Darrel Williams, Jonathan Ward, Eno Benjamin
WRs: A.J. Green, Marquise Brown, Antoine Wesley, Rondale Moore, Andy Isabella, DeAndre Hopkins
TEs: Zach Ertz, Darrell Daniels, Maxx Williams
Atlanta FalconsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 5 October 2021
Since Week 1, Cordarrelle Patterson has shown the threat he poses in the Falcons offense. From his explosive runs against the Philadelphia Eagles in the opener to his one-handed grab in the Falcons loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers that he scored for a touchdown. It has become clear that Patterson is much more than just a dynamic kick returner.
In Sunday's game against the Washington Football Team, Patterson had one of the best games of his career, if not the best, further proving his value to the Falcons offense.
Patterson caught three receiving touchdowns, the first multiple touchdown game of his career. The three scores put Patterson's season total at four touchdowns, tying his career season-high from 2013 when he scored four touchdowns with the Vikings. He finished the day with 116 total yards (82 receiving, 34 rushing) and continues to be a grade-A bargain on a one-year, $3 million free-agent deal.
The former Viking, Raider, Patriot and Bear has found quite a home with his fifth club in his ninth pro season.
"I love that boy," linebacker Foye Oluokun said of Patterson's performance. "He plays with heart. Mike Davis plays with heart. I think our whole team, we got a chip on our shoulder."
Patterson's third touchdown may have been the most impressive of them all. Patterson lined up out wide on the left side of the field. He made a quick move as the ball was snapped to get Football Team defender Kendall Fuller off balance and caught the touchdown pass over Fuller's outstretched white gloves.
The score helped the Falcons keep pace with Washington, who scored on the prior drive and shifted the momentum back to the Falcons as they jumped to a 23-19 lead with just over 11 minutes to go in the third quarter.
"Like I said earlier in the week when your number is called, you gotta go and make a play," Patterson said. "They did a good job calling my number, and I just tried to go out there and make a play for my team."
Patterson's first touchdown came on a 42-yard touchdown pass where he walked into the end zone untouched after speeding past the Football Team defenders, who were not within five yards of Patterson.
Patterson said that he did not do much to evade the Football Team defenders and that he was "too surprised" that he was left so open on that touchdown.
Quarterback Matt Ryan said postgame that Patterson is a "throwback" type of football player because of his toughness and willingness to accept any task or role. He added that Patterson is someone he had admired for years when they were on opposing teams.
"He's played extremely well," Ryan said. "He's made plays for us in the run game in the pass game, and in the return game, he impacts the game in so many different ways. I'm glad we have him."
Still, even with Patterson being the Falcons' most dominant offensive weapon on Sunday, he was on the sidelines for the Falcons' final two offensive drives. The first drive came with 3:47 left in the fourth quarter, following a Washington touchdown and the Falcons leading 30-28. With Washington only having two timeouts, a first down could have essentially ended the game, but the Falcons failed to convert and punted with 1:47 left.
"He is not the only good player we have," Ryan said of Patterson not being on the field. "We have a lot of good players. We got a lot of good backs. I think Mike Davis does a great job for us. I love our guys, and I trust all of our guys that when they're in there when their number is called, guys are going to make a play."
As ESPN.com's Michael Rothstein notes, the Falcons, many times, came close to locking up Sunday's game against Washington.
They led by eight in the fourth quarter, 30-22. Then what appeared to be conservative play calling on offense (runs with Davis, who averaged 1.1 yards per carry) and a defense that couldn't contain quarterback Taylor Heinicke's ability to extend plays with his legs, turned what looked like a massive win for Atlanta into a crushing loss.
Luckily, perhaps, for Atlanta, the next three weeks it faces the Jets, has a bye week and then goes to Miami.
This week's game against the Jets is a London game. ...
A couple of related notes, Patterson joined Calvin Ridley as the only Falcons in the last 15 seasons to catch three TD passes in a single game. Julio Jones never had a three-TD performance in 10 seasons with the Falcons.
In addition, Ryan had one TD to each level of the field (behind the line of scrimmage, short, intermediate and deep).
Ridley, normally sure-handed, needs to improve his concentration on deep routes. A couple of missed plays could've made a big difference.
Even though Ridley had a couple of drops in the second half, the emergence of a deep passing attack for the first time this season was an encouraging sign for the Falcons. Rookie tight end Kyle Pitts, the No. 4 overall draft choice, could be a deep threat, too, if Atlanta made called on him to do so.
On the injury front. ... Russell Gage, who has missed the last two games with an ankle injury, was not practicing on Wednesday; I'll have more on his status via Late-Breaking Update as developments warrant.
CB Isaiah Oliver was carted off the field in the first half with a knee injury and didn't return; he was placed on IR on Tuesday. Punter Cameron Nizialek injured his right hamstring while kicking off. He was able to limp back on the field to do the holding for kicker Younghoe Koo on an extra point, but Koo had to take over the kickoff and punting duties the rest of the game. The Falcons are expected sign veteran P Dustin Colquitt off the practice squad with Nizialek also going on IR.
Cornerback Erik Harris had pass breakups in the third quarter and another in the fourth, but one of them was a sure interception that got away from him. Harris hurt his calf late in the game and was forced to the sideline.
QBs: Marcus Mariota, Josh Rosen, Feleipe Franks
RBs: Cordarrelle Patterson, Qadree Ollison, Damien Williams
WRs: Damiere Byrd, Olamide Zaccheaus, Bryan Edwards, Frank Darby, Auden Tate, Christian Blake, Chris Rowland, Calvin Ridley
TEs: Kyle Pitts, Anthony Firkser
Baltimore RavensCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 5 October 2021
As ESPN.com's Jamison Hensley pointed out, the Ravens might have made NFL history in how they went about matching NFL history.
With three seconds left in Sunday's game against the Broncos, the Ravens decided not to take a knee to run out the clock and instead chose to tie a 44-year-old NFL rushing record. Up 23-7, head coach John Harbaugh said it was "100 percent my call" for quarterback Lamar Jackson to run 5 yards, which allowed Baltimore to record its 43rd straight game of 100 yards rushing.
"It's one of those things that's meaningful," Harbaugh said. "It's a very, very tough record to accomplish. It's a long-term record. So, I'm not going to say it's more important than winning the game, for sure. It's certainly not. But, as a head coach, I think you do that for your players and you do that for your coaches, and that's something they'll have for the rest of their lives."
The Elias Sports Bureau could not confirm the last time in the past 25 years that a team gained yards on a play that began in the final five seconds while leading by at least 10 points. Elias did find a play in 1992, when Spencer Tillman ran for 1 yard with two seconds left when his Houston Oilers led the San Diego Chargers 27-0.
On Sunday, it looked like the Ravens would fall one game short of tying the Pittsburgh Steelers, who produced 43 consecutive 100-yard games from 1974 to 1977 behind running back Franco Harris. But Baltimore cornerback Anthony Averett intercepted Broncos quarterback Drew Lock in the end zone, giving the Ravens one last play.
Baltimore, which had 97 yards rushing, then had Jackson run a quarterback keeper to the left side to extend the streak.
Jackson said he didn't know what Harbaugh was thinking because the victory was sealed at that point.
"I'm not going to lie. I ain't really care about the record," Jackson said. "I wasn't thinking about that. I was thinking about winning the game."
Broncos coach Vic Fangio remains salty about the play.
Asked Monday about the final play, in which the Ravens called a run to get over 100 yards rushing and tie the NFL record with 43 consecutive games reaching the century mark, Fangio didn't hold back.
"I thought it was bull----, but I expected that from them," the coach said. "In 37 years of pro ball, I've never seen anything like that. But it was to be expected, and we expected it."
Fangio spent four seasons with Baltimore from 2006-2009, first as a defensive assistant and the final year as a linebackers coach. The last two seasons with the Ravens came under John Harbaugh. In 2010, Fangio moved to Stanford to work under Jim Harbaugh.
The 63-year-old coach cited player safety as one reason he took offense to the Ravens not kneeling out the clock.
"Because I just know how they operate," Fangio responded when asked why he expected the Ravens to run a play. "That's just their mode of operation there. Player safety is secondary."
That's quite an accusation Fangio leveled on Harbaugh.
Of course, it should be noted that the Broncos were calling timeouts with less than 30 seconds left and trying to score a garbage-time TD, including a pass that was intercepted with three seconds left, giving the Ravens a chance to run their final play.
Whatever the case, the Ravens' streak of 100-yard rushing games dates to Jackson's first game as their starting quarterback on Nov. 18, 2018. The next longest active 100-yard streak belongs to the Cleveland Browns at five games.
"Whenever you're in the record books, it's important," wide receiver Marquise Brown said. "So, it's great to get that done."
The good news here?
Jackson can lead the Ravens to victory without a running game.
As Hensley explained, the mentality for opposing defenses had been: Stop Baltimore's run game, and you stop the Ravens' offense. But Jackson, who practiced only once last week because of a back injury, showed he can carry the offense with his arm, continually stretching the field and finishing with 316 yards passing.
It's the second 300-yard passing game of Jackson's career.
The decisive strike from Jackson came in the second quarter, when he threw a 49-yard touchdown pass to "Hollywood" Brown. Taking bigger shots downfield has been a focus all offseason for Jackson, who led the NFL with 14.3 yards per completion entering the game.
After Sunday's games, Jackson currently ranks 11th in the league with 1,077 yards passing after finishing 22nd in each of the past two seasons.
Jackson shook his head when asked if he believes he has silenced the critics who say he can't lead Baltimore to victory with his arm.
"No. There will always be noise," Jackson said. "You got to block it out and play football."
Teams once thought they could shut down the Ravens offense if they contained Baltimore's running game. Not anymore.
The Ravens now face the Indianapolis Colts on Monday Night Football, when their passing attack could be even stronger. Wide receiver Rashod Bateman, a first-round pick, might make his debut after missing the first four games following groin surgery.
"The sky's the limit," Jackson said of the passing attack. "We've just got to keep it going. One play at a time, one practice at a time. Just stay locked in and focused on our duties."
The next question is whether anyone will step up to become the Ravens' lead back?
Offensive coordinator Greg Roman said entering this game that the Ravens are "just starting to get a feel for our [running] backs." But the backfield remains in flux.
After making starter Ty'Son Williams inactive, Latavius Murray managed 59 yards on 18 carries (a pedestrian 3.3 yards per carry). Le'Veon Bell and Devonta Freeman combined for 15 yards on five attempts. The Ravens have been trying to find someone to take over the featured role since top backs J.K. Dobbins and Gus Edwards suffered season-ending knee injuries within weeks of the start of the regular season.
All the blame can't be placed on the running backs. Baltimore is on its third left tackle just four games into the season. Andre Smith, a practice squad promotion, filled in for Alejandro Villanueva (knee), who had been filling in for Ronnie Stanley.
But at some point, it would be helpful for the Ravens -- and for fantasy managers -- if somebody would lay claim to a primary role. ...
Next up, the Ravens will take have a shot at getting the rushing game on track against a beat up Colts defense.
On the injury front. ...RT Alejandro Villanueva hobbled off in the third quarter with a knee injury. His replacement, Andre Smith, was flagged for a face mask away from the play that negated TE Mark Andrews' 30-yard TD reception. As noted above, Bateman and Miles Boykin hope to be activated from IR after returning to practice last week.
I'll have more on their status via Late-Breaking Update in coming days.
QBs: Lamar Jackson, Tyler Huntley
RBs: Devonta Freeman, Mike Davis, Latavius Murray, Ty'Son Williams
WRs: Rashod Bateman, Devin Duvernay, Tylan Wallace, James Proche, Miles Boykin
TEs: Mark Andrews, Josh Oliver, Eric Tomlinson, Nick Boyle
Buffalo BillsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 5 October 2021
As ESPN.com's Alaina Getzenberg notes, through the first four games of the Buffalo Bills' 2021 season, the No. 1-ranked defense has been the star of the show. The Bills defense is allowing only 216.8 yards per game, has shutout two opponents and the team has a +90 scoring differential, best in the NFL by a significant margin.
The offense, though, has been pretty good too, putting up 35-plus points in each of the past three games. Among the positives has been the team's leader in touchdown catches, tight end Dawson Knox.
Knox, a third-round pick in 2019, has been the favorite target of quarterback Josh Allen in the red zone, with the pair celebrating touchdown catches by posing for fake prom pictures.
Knox's four touchdown catches are the second-most in the NFL and tied for the most among tight ends (Bucs' Rob Gronkowski). He is tied with wide receivers Stefon Diggs and Cole Beasley for the most red zone targets (six) on the team and leads the team in red zone receiving yards with 29.
The third-year tight end has at least one score in each of the past three games, the first Bills tight end to do that since Charles Clay in 2016. His hot touchdown streak extends to the 2020 postseason, which he finished with two scores.
While he's not putting up huge receiving yards (averaging a career-high 36 yards per game), Knox has taken a step forward as both a receiver and a blocker in the running game, an area of his play both Allen and coach Sean McDermott praised after Sunday's 40-0 win over the Texans.
"Whether it be blocking, whether it be pass catching to running routes, he just finds ways to get open," Allen said. "I have supreme trust in this guy right here and he's only going to continue to get better."
Getzenberg went on to remind readers that Knox is part of a 2019 draft class that's been under pressure to produce more this year.
Fellow third-rounder, running back Devin Singletary, has had a mixed start to the season with some fumbling issues, putting the ball on the ground in three of the four games. Singletary has been splitting time with second-year back Zack Moss.
The Bills' running game has been effective, however.
Buffalo accumulated 199 yards on the ground against the Texans, with 106 coming after contact. It was the team's most yards after contact since Week 14 of 2017 and its fifth-most since ESPN began tracking that in 2009.
With little tight end depth on the roster, Knox was arguably the player from that 2019 group that needed to take the biggest step forward. He has already accounted for nine first downs this year, just five away from his total last season.
"The little things you do right start to add up," Allen said after the win over Houston. "[Knox] does everything right throughout the week and it's awesome to play with him. ..."
Next up. ... The Bills have two straight prime-time appearances. After playing at Kansas City this coming Sunday night, Buffalo travels to play Tennessee on Monday, Oct. 18 before its bye week. Last season, the Bills opened 4-0 before losing consecutive games to Tennessee and Kansas City. ...
Worth noting. ... Buffalo became the NFL's first team since the 2009 New York Jets to have two shutout wins by 35 or more points in a season. The Bills became the NFL's third team to post two shutouts through the first four weeks of the season, joining Baltimore in 2000 and Washington in 1991.
Buffalo's 44 points allowed through four weeks are its second fewest after giving up 40 during the first four games of the strike-shortened 1982 season.
Meanwhile, Allen's second TD pass to Knox was his 103rd career TD (passing, rushing, receiving), moving him one ahead of Jack Kemp for third on the franchise list among quarterbacks.
Still, Associated Press sports writer John Wawrow notes the team's offense in the red zone needs to improve. Buffalo has scored 12 touchdowns and settled for nine field goals on 21 drives inside an opponent's 20.
On the injury front. ... Starting LB Matt Milano was sidelined by a hamstring injury and listed day to day. S Jordan Poyer (left ankle), nickel cornerback Taron Johnson (groin) and starting left guard Jon Feliciano (concussion) did not play Sunday. McDermott said they are also day to day.
QBs: Josh Allen, Case Keenum
RBs: Duke Johnson, Devin Singletary, Zack Moss, Taiwan Jones
WRs: Stefon Diggs, Jamison Crowder, Gabriel Davis, Isaiah McKenzie, Tavon Austin, Emmanuel Sanders, Jake Kumerow
TEs: Dawson Knox, O.J. Howard, Tommy Sweeney
Carolina PanthersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 5 October 2021
According to ESPN.com’s David Newton, head coach Matt Rhule on Monday left open the possibility that running back Christian McCaffrey could play Sunday against the Philadelphia Eagles.
McCaffrey missed Sunday's 36-28 loss to the Cowboys because of a strained hamstring suffered the previous week.
"I'm going to get to Wednesday and see," Rhule said when asked if McCaffrey would be available for the Eagles. "In talking to Christian -- he's going to come out to practice and see exactly where he is football-wise."
McCaffrey suffered the injury early in the second quarter of the Sept. 23 victory against the Houston Texans. It was not considered serious enough to put the 2019 Pro Bowl selection on injured reserve.
McCaffrey made the trip to Dallas and was on the sideline Sunday at ATandT Stadium, where Carolina suffered its first loss after a 3-0 start.
It has been the team's belief all along that McCaffrey possibly could return after missing only one game and likely would miss no more than two to three if there is no setback with the injury.
McCaffrey entered the Texans game as the NFL leader in total yards from scrimmage with 324. He had 40 yards against the Texans before the injury and now ranks 12th.
Rhule said he was pleased with the play of his backs -- rookie Chuba Hubbard, Rodney Smith and Royce Freeman -- with McCaffrey out. Hubbard led the way with 13 carries for 57 yards to go with two catches for 14 yards.
The Panthers rushed for 113 yards, with quarterback Sam Darnold accounting for 35 on six carries. He had two rushing touchdowns to increase his total to a league-leading five.
While Hubbard had some issues with footing earlier this season, his only problem Sunday was when he had a flat tire.
Hubbard said he blew through the side of his cleats on one run early, something that happened two or three times a year when he was in college. He quickly grabbed a new pair of shoes, and had a solid outing.
He finished with 13 carries for 57 yards and a couple of catches for 14 yards. Not a McCaffrey day, but a solid outing.
We'll see if McCaffrey, who did work on a limited basis Wednesday, can get back or not soon enough. Watch the Late-Breaking Updates section for more. ...
Meanwhile, D.J. Moore is on a bit of a roll. And that's only partly to do with his receiving numbers.
The Panthers wide receiver stood out again in Sunday's loss to the Cowboys, the latest in a string of standout performances.
But as Rhule watched the tape, the things that impressed him weren't the eight catches for 113 yards and two touchdowns.
"D.J. has been excellent," Rhule said, brightening at the mention. "Go look at the play where Brandon Zylstra catches the ball on fourth-and-8 (in the fourth quarter). I was inspired watching D.J. sprinting, running 4.3 down the right sideline to maybe go, probably not, but to maybe go make a block to spring Zylstra.
"When your best players play that hard, you're always going to have a chance."
Rhule went on about the little things Moore has been doing, saying: "I love what he does without the football."
Rhule detailed Moore's ability to leave huddles early in practice, because he's so aware of down and distance and situations, that when he hears personnel groupings and formations he knows what play is coming. Rhule talked about his blocking, hoping it rubs off on players such as rookie Terrace Marshall Jr. (who didn't block on play on which Moore might have scored).
"I say all that; I don't know if people, even on our own team, recognize how much of a pro he is," Rhule said. "That's why he's having so much success."
Rhule said that Moore had the traits that would have made him a runner in a previous era.
"I always laugh; if he was born in my generation, he'd have been a tailback, with his body balance and speed. Now he's a wideout in today's football. ... He's really a special player."
In addition to all those intangible things, Moore has the stats to back it up.
Sunday was his second straight 100-yard game, and the 11th of his career.
He's tied for second in the NFL with 30 receptions (trailing Green Bay's Davante Adams, who has 31), and he's fourth in the league with 398 receiving yards (behind Deebo Samuel, Tyreek Hill, and Cooper Kupp).
The Panthers need that kind of production in the absence of McCaffrey, though Moore said he tries not to put a heavier burden on himself because of the situation.
"No, it is not consciously on my mind," he said. "We all know that 22 wasn't out there today. So, everybody had to step up. Just be really hard but take it to the next level."
That's what Moore is doing. In more ways than the obvious. ...
Also worth noting. ... Darnold is emerging as a threat in the running game of all places. He ran for two scores on Sunday, giving him five on the season -- the most of any QB through four games in the Super Bowl era. Darnold's athletic ability and willingness to run the zone read option has been a pleasant surprise for the Panthers.
He's on pace to rush for more than 20 touchdowns this season, which would shatter the NFL record for most TDs rushing in a season by a quarterback currently held by former Panthers QB Cam Newton, who had 14 in 2011.
Areas in need of improvement?
As Associated Press sports writer Steve Reed notes, tight end production is lacking. The Panthers traded tight end Dan Arnold to Jacksonville last week to acquire cornerback C.J. Henderson and the move certainly didn't pay immediate dividends. Carolina tight ends Ian Thomas and Tommy Tremble were only targeted a combined four times and managed just three catches for 15 yards -- all of those by Thomas.
One of the reasons the Panthers dealt Arnold is because they were encouraged about the emergence of Tremble, but he played just 27 snaps on Sunday. Thomas saw the most action out of the tight end group, playing in 44 snaps, more than Tremble and Colin Thompson (12 snaps) combined.
Meanwhile, Henderson allowed a TD pass to Amari Cooper in his first game in Carolina.
In addition, the Panthers continue to struggle to find stability at kicker with Zane Gonzalez missing a costly 54-yard field goal early in the third quarter. That appeared to turn the momentum as the Cowboys went on a 23-0 run to blow the game open. Gonzalez is no longer guaranteed a roster spot after previously being claimed off waivers, so the Panthers could make a move.
Next up, the Panthers will look to improve to 3-0 at home when they host the Eagles on Sunday. ...
On the injury front beyond McCaffrey. ... LB Shaq Thompson is expected to have an MRI on his foot injury that kept him out for a few plays Sunday. ... DE Haason Reddick said Monday he suffered a neck stinger but expects to be ready for the Eagles.
And finally. ... The Panthers traded for the veteran cornerback Stephon Gilmore on Wednesday, sending a 2023 sixth-rounder to New England.
The 31-year-old adds some stability and credibility to their secondary, which has been hit hard by injuries this season.
Gilmore was named Associated Press NFL Defensive Player of the Year in 2019, and was a first-team All-Pro selection in 2018 and 2019.
Originally a first-round pick of the Bills in 2012, Gilmore signed a five-year, $65 million deal with the Patriots in 2017.
He suffered a quad injury late last season, and was placed on the physically unable to perform list to start this season. He'd have been eligible to return after Week 6, but the Patriots released him after they couldn't agree to a restructured contract.
The Panthers have Donte Jackson and veteran nickel A.J. Bouye, but were relying on a mixed bag last week after first-round pick Jaycee Horn was lost to a broken foot. They're also without veteran safety Juston Burris, who is on IR with a groin injury.
They traded for former top-10 pick CJ Henderson but they're still easing the 23-year-old cornerback into his role, and they also have veteran Rashaan Melvin, along with young corners Keith Taylor Jr. and Stantley Thomas-Oliver III.
QBs: Sam Darnold, P.J. Walker
RBs: Chuba Hubbard, D'Onta Foreman, Christian McCaffrey
WRs: D.J. Moore, Robbie Anderson, Shi Smith, Rashard Higgins, Brandon Zylstra, Alex Erickson, Terrace Marshall Jr.
TEs: Ian Thomas, Tommy Tremble, Colin Thompson
Chicago BearsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 5 October 2021
David Montgomery's knee injury won't sideline him for the rest of the season. But he'll likely miss the rest of the month.
The running back is expected to be out 3-5 weeks, NFL Network's Tom Pelissero reported Tuesday. Montgomery suffered what NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported was a hyperextended knee near the end of a Week 4 win over the Lions.
It's a significant blow for an offense that looked to have finally found its footing this past weekend. The Bears snapped a two-game losing streak by amassing nearly 200 yards on the ground, with Montgomery tallying 106 of them and two touchdowns.
His backup, Damien Williams, ran for 55 yards and a score before suffering a thigh bruise. He is expected to be OK, per Rapoport, and fill in as the starter moving forward.
Still, it's possible they might need to rely on rookie running back Khalil Herbert at some point.
"It's one of those deals where, I can remember in the preseason, several years ago when Spencer Ware tore his ACL against the Seahawks (for Kansas City) in preseason game three or four and a running back by the name of Kareem Hunt stepped up and became pretty good," head coach Matt Nagy said. "You just never know where guys are and how they go.
"If that's the case, we have confidence in him."
While there are changes at halfback, there's also a change at quarterback that really isn't.
Justin Fields is the Chicago Bears' starting quarterback -- permanently.
Nagy announced Wednesday that the rookie will remain the starter moving forward, even though Andy Dalton is slated to be a full participant in practice Wednesday.
"He's done everything to show us that he's ready for this opportunity," Nagy told reporters.
Fields has played the past two-plus games for Chicago in relief of Dalton, who suffered a knee injury midway through a Week 2 win over the Bengals. After a rough starting debut against the Browns, the Ohio State product rebounded last weekend in a victory over the Lions.
Fields has completed 25 of 52 passes for 347 yards with no touchdowns and two interceptions and has rushed for 55 yards and a TD.
Against the Lions, Fields unleashed several vertical shots, opening up a previously restricted offense and hitting on four of six passes of 20-plus air yards. His hole shot to Allen Robinson down the sideline was a picture-perfect pass from the big-armed QB.
Nagy did a much better job putting his rookie QB in advantageous situations, using motions, adding extra protection and calling easy intermediate routes early. The coach was in dreamland with a big lead, able to lean on the ground game and give Fields shots.
Fields finished 12 of 18 for 215 yards, and one deflected INT. The few times he was under pressure, the QB showed his ability to spin out of trouble using his legs. When Fields had time against a weak Lions pass rush, he rifled balls confidently all over the field.
As NFL.com suggests, it was the type of game we often saw at Ohio State.
There were still some areas for the rookie to grow -- a bad sack-fumble late. But Fields is an excellent vertical thrower and it showed against a lousy defense. Finally, the Bears O has a field-stretching element after playing in a box for three weeks.
Worth noting. ... Fields' ability to stretch the field unlocked Mooney, who ate up Lions defenders, generating three plays of 20-plus yards. The Bears need Mooney as a complement to Robinson. The first three weeks of Chicago playing dink-and-dunk negates what Mooney does best.
With Fields uncorking bombs, Mooney comes alive.
The Bears had five total pass plays longer than 20 yards against Detroit. Before Sunday they had one total for the season's first three games.
Fields has nine completions of 10-plus air yards this season (Dalton has two such completions).
Next up, the Bears are at Las Vegas to play the Raiders, who finished Week 4 with a loss to the Chargers in Los Angeles on Monday Night Football. ...
Other notes of interest. ... Cole Kmet and the team's tight ends continue to have trouble getting involved in the passing game. Kmet had one reception for 6 yards in three targets and has eight receptions on the year. Jimmy Graham and Jesse James were untargeted Sunday and Graham is the only tight end with a reception this year besides Kmet. He has one catch, none in the past three games.
"We have in this offense a lot of good playmakers and so sometimes, whether it's play design or whether it's just unlucky that they didn't get it, just so far this year, there hasn't been a lot of targets," Nagy said.
"Now at the same point in time the tight ends yesterday I thought did a good job of really saying, 'You know what, we're gonna get after it (blocking) in the run game a little bit and we're gonna be a big part of it.'"
In other Bears news Tuesday, Chicago is trading for Dolphins kick returner Jakeem Grant, Pelissero reported. Miami will receive a 2023 sixth-round pick in the deal. ...
On the injury front. ... Besides Montgomery and Williams, the Bears had defensive end Akiem Hicks leave on the first play with a groin injury and Khalil Mack played on only 48 percent of the defensive snaps as he was dealing with a foot sprain coming into the game.
QBs: Justin Fields, Trevor Siemian
RBs: David Montgomery, Khalil Herbert, Tarik Cohen, Darrynton Evans
WRs: Darnell Mooney, Byron Pringle, Equanimeous St. Brown, Dante Pettis, Tajae Sharpe
TEs: Cole Kmet, Ryan Griffin, Jimmy Graham, Jesper Horsted, Jesse James, J.P. Holtz
Cincinnati BengalsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 5 October 2021
After rallying the Bengals to a late win over the Jaguars, quarterback Joe Burrow said with matter-of-fact confidence that he is getting better every week.
As Associated Press sports writer Mitch Stacy noted, the stats and Burrow's dauntless performances under pressure seem to suggest that it's not just talk.
The unflappable second-year quarterback, playing on a surgically repaired left knee, led the Bengals (3-1) to scores on all four second-half drives after falling behind 14-0 at halftime to the Jacksonville Jaguars.
Before this win, the Bengals had lost 20 straight games when down by 14 points or more -- their last win was in Week 5, 2018, vs. Miami.
Burrow ended up throwing for a season-best 348 yards and two touchdowns in the 24-21 win Thursday night. He completed 25 of 32 attempts (78.1 percent) and is averaging nearly a 73 percent completion rate through four games. His 10.9 yards per completion against the Jaguars were a season best.
Burrow garnered his first AFC Offensive Player of the Week honor for the effort.
Although Tee Higgins, last year's leading receiver, has been out with an injury, Burrow has looked to rookie Ja'Marr Chase, veteran Tyler Boyd and tight end C.J. Uzomah, who caught both of his touchdown passes on Thursday.
The last Uzomah connection was one of the most important and demonstrated Burrow's ability to adjust. On second-and-13 at the Jacksonville 46, Burrow saw a lane and checked to a screen pass to Uzomah, who with blockers in front of him rumbled for a 25-yard gain. That got Evan McPherson in range for the winning field goal.
"You guys have heard me talking about having the playbook in the back of my head and seeing looks I can take advantage of. That comes with experience," Burrow said.
"You always wants to start strong -- we're 3-1, we're in a good spot," he said. "Obviously, we had the one setback where we didn't play very well in Chicago, but we played pretty well the other three games. We're just going to keep building on it. I'm excited to have a bye weekend. It's going to be fun to watch some football, and kind of relax and get a head start on Green Bay."
It was ugly early against the winless Jags, but the Bengals showed the ability to right the ship and get the W even after the first-half struggles. Previous Cincy teams would have come up short.
Thanks to that Thursday night kickoff last week, the Bengals have some extra time to prepare for Aaron Rodgers and the Packers, who visit Paul Brown Stadium a week from Sunday.
They can use the extra days to get some of their key players healthy again.
On Monday, an ESPN report indicated running back Joe Mixon is week-to-week with an ankle injury suffered against the Jaguars last Thursday.
But speaking to reporters on Monday afternoon, Cincinnati head coach Zac Taylor disputed the report, saying Mixon is more day-to-day.
"A running back with an ankle [injury], limit him early in the week," Taylor said, via Charlie Goldsmith of the Cincinnati Enquirer.
Taylor added that the ankle injury has no connection to the foot injury Mixon suffered last season that limited him to just six games.
Mixon has rushed for 353 yards and a pair of touchdowns on 83 carries. He also has seven catches for 29 yards this season.
He left Thursday night's game with 67 yards and hasn't had a 100-yard effort since the Week 1 win over the Vikings.
Samaje Perine is next man up if Mixon can't go. Through four games, he is the lone running back besides Mixon to get carries.
Rookie Chris Evans will be an intriguing option in the passing game. According to ESPN.com's Ben Baby, Evans carries a lot of similarities to former Bengals RB Giovani Bernard, who was released in the offseason after spending eight seasons in Cincinnati. ...
Additionally, Taylor said that he expects Higgins and safety Jessie Bates to practice on Wednesday. Higgins (shoulder) has missed the last two games. Bates (neck) missed the first game of his career last Thursday.
I'll have more on Mixon, who didn't practice Wednesday, and Higgins, who was limited, via Late-Breaking Update as the week progresses. ...
A few additional notes of interest. ... Burrow has nine touchdown passes through four games. He had six through four games in 2020.
Uzomah had some kind of night. He had a career-high 95 receiving yards, including a massive 25-yard reception that set up the game-winning field goal. But given Cincinnati's offense, ESPN.com's Ben Baby doesn't believe that kind of production is going to be sustainable.
QBs: Joe Burrow, Brandon Allen
RBs: Joe Mixon, Samaje Perine, Chris Evans
WRs: Ja'Marr Chase, Tee Higgins, Tyler Boyd, Mike Thomas, Stanley Morgan Jr.
TEs: Hayden Hurst, Drew Sample
Cleveland BrownsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 5 October 2021
As NFL.com's Kevin Patra framed it, "Baker Mayfield authored a dud in the Cleveland Browns' Week 4 matchup against the Minnesota Vikings, missing far too many throws."
That the Browns were able to still come away with a 14-7 victory speaks volumes about the defensive improvements.
Even with the W, Mayfield knows he can't perform like that and stack wins.
"I've got to do better. It's just flat out simple," he said, via the team's official website. "There's not much else I can say."
Mayfield completed 15 of 33 passes (45.5 percent) for 155 yards, took three sacks, threw zero TDs or INTs, and had a passer rating of 59.9. Mayfield generated his lowest completion percentage since Week 17, 2019 at Cincinnati, lowest passer rating since Week 6, 2020 at Pittsburgh, and fewest pass yards since Week 10, 2020 versus Houston.
The Browns went a measly 7 of 18 on third downs as Mayfield missed chances to move the chains with his worst performance of the Kevin Stefanski-era.
"I need to do a good job of taking advantage of my opportunities and staying on track," Mayfield said. "I pride myself on being extremely accurate. And today, I don't know what the hell that was."
It was ugly, that's for sure.
The Browns ability to pound out 184 rushing yards saved the offense on Sunday. The defense shutting down a heretofore potent Vikings offense was key for Cleveland to get a win on a day its QB struggled.
"(They were) good enough for us to win when I'm playing quarterback like that," Mayfield said. "Thankfully they played like that. ... There's a lot of easy throws there that I think I missed."
Even the best QBs will deliver a clunker every now and again, as Mayfield did Sunday.
According to Patra, the mark of a great signal-caller is to make those outings few and far between and bounce back strong after they do happen.
Patra summed up, "The mark of a good team is the rest of the players picking up said QB on an off day and winning regardless. The Browns are a good team. ..."
But one of the consequences of Mayfield's poor showing is the narrative resurfacing about his chemistry with receiver Odell Beckham Jr. In his second game since returning from tearing his ACL last year, Beckham had just two catches for 27 yards on seven targets.
On Monday, head coach Kevin Stefanski said he's not concerned about the partnership between quarterback and receiver.
"When you throw the ball deep, you're not going to hit all of those," Stefanski said Monday, via Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com.
Stefanski also noted that based on what he's seen in practice, he doesn't think Mayfield's accuracy issues on Sunday stemmed from the quarterback's left shoulder popping out against the Texans in Week 2.
Whatever the problem was, Mayfield has to correct it soon because the Browns are facing the Chargers this week.
And even with how well Cleveland's defense is playing, the Browns will need to score more than 14 points to defeat Los Angeles' explosive offense. ...
Other notes of interest. ... It should be noted the Browns defense is quickly proving it might be among the league's elite.
As ESPN.com's Jake Trotter noted, Cleveland delivered another dominant defensive effort in Minnesota, stifling the Vikings and QB Kirk Cousins, who came into the day ranked second in the league in Total QBR. After surrendering a touchdown on Minnesota's opening drive, the Browns allowed only 180 yards the rest of the game - and no points.
According to NFL Research, the Browns have allowed single-digit scoring outputs from opponents in consecutive games for the first time since Weeks 2-3 of the 1995 season, Bill Belichick's last campaign with the team and the club's final season spent in Cleveland before moving to Baltimore in 1996.
On the heels of an offseason overhaul, this Browns defense appears to be for real. ...
Thanks in part to that strong defense, the NFL-leading running game is humming.
As noted above, Nick Chubb gained 100 yards, Kareem Hunt added 69 as the Browns rolled up 184 on the ground. In the wake of that performance, the Browns are averaging 177 yards rushing per game and lead the league with nine TDs.
On the injury front. ... Tight end David Njoku (knee) was not practicing Wednesday. I'll follow up as developments warrant in coming days; watch the Late-Breaking Updates section for more. ... Stefanski is awaiting MRI results on starting left tackle Jedrick Wills Jr., who was forced out in the second half with an ankle injury he first got in Week 1. Wills threw his helmet in frustration before being carted to the locker room. ... S Ronnie Harrison cleared concussion protocol and should be OK. He was on the field for just two snaps Sunday. ... Stefanski isn't sure if LB Anthony Walker Jr. will be activated from injured reserve this week after missing three games.
QBs: Jacoby Brissett, Baker Mayfield, Kyle Lauletta, Deshaun Watson
RBs: Nick Chubb, Kareem Hunt, D'Ernest Johnson, Demetric Felton, John Kelly
WRs: Amari Cooper, Donovan Peoples-Jones, Jakeem Grant, Anthony Schwartz
TEs: David Njoku, Harrison Bryant, Miller Forristall, Stephen Carlson
Dallas CowboysCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 5 October 2021
According to Associated Press sports writer Schuyler Dixon, head coach Mike McCarthy knows the feeling of early momentum on the way to playoff contention, something the Cowboys have for the first time since he became coach last year.
The former Green Bay coach last felt it four years ago, just before things turned south in his long tenure with the Packers when star quarterback Aaron Rodgers got hurt.
Dak Prescott's season-ending ankle injury in Week 5 last year had a lot to do with McCarthy's Dallas debut being a dud almost from the start.
Prescott has been spectacular in his return leading an adaptable offense, and the Cowboys (3-1) have won all three games since a last-second loss to defending Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay in the opener when plenty of pundits were saying Dallas had no chance.
"We needed to win early this year," McCarthy said. "That was clearly evident coming off of last year. We'll still evaluate the same way, win or no win. I'm not really big on comparables. It's not really fair to this team or teams in the past. I love the vibe of our group."
A three-game winning streak actually isn't new to McCarthy in Dallas because the Cowboys had one despite their 6-10 finish last year. Problem was, it came when the team was 3-9 after injuries to Prescott and several other key players on offense.
This time, Dallas is alone in first place in the NFC East for the second straight week after a 36-28 victory over previously undefeated Carolina in a game the Cowboys led by 22 points in the fourth quarter.
"We've got a long way to go," said Prescott, who threw for four touchdowns among his 188 yards passing. "Our expectations and standards are to be the best. Whether we're 3-1 or whatever the record is, it's about the next game."
Dixon went on to note, however, the shift in offensive production from the opener to now is something to behold.
Prescott threw for 403 yards while the Cowboys basically ignored the running game in the 31-29 loss to the Buccaneers. In three games since, Dallas is averaging 201 yards rushing.
Ezekiel Elliott ran for 143 yards in his first triple-digit game of the season against the Panthers, who entered the game leading the NFL in all three defensive yardage categories -- total, rushing and passing. Tony Pollard has three consecutive games with at least 60 yards for the first time in his two-plus seasons.
"We've done a great job getting the running game going," Elliott said. "If we can do that, we can do anything off of that."
Worth noting, Elliott had career lows in rushing yards and yards per attempt during the 2020 season, which led him to change the way he approached the offseason.
He lost weight and put in more work with his personal trainer before reporting to training camp this summer. The early on-field results have been a step in the right direction for Elliott.
He's averaging 5.3 yards per carry and has run for four touchdowns after scoring eight times all of last season. During a Tuesday appearance on 105.3 The Fan, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said that Elliott's output is a direct result of what he did since the end of last season.
"There's no question that what you put in in spring, what you put in in training camp, that's what you get out during the season," Jones said, via Michael Gehlken of the Dallas Morning News. "He put it in during the offseason, and it's paying dividends for him."
One area in need of improvement?
Despite leading the wide receivers in snaps against Carolina, CeeDee Lamb had just two catches for 13 yards. His receiving yardage has steadily declined each week since the 2020 first-round pick had 107 yards against Tampa Bay.
While Lamb is struggling, Dalton Schultz recorded six receptions on eight targets for 58 yards and a touchdown against the Panthers.
As CBSSports.com noted, Schultz nearly replicated his Week 3 performance, when he led the Cowboys in all receiving categories. In Week 4, he led the team in targets and receptions but was out-gained by Amari Cooper. He had a few highlight plays, which included an 18-yard reception -- his longest of the day -- and a six-yard touchdown.
With the performance, Schultz now has at least seven targets in three of four games on the season. ...
Next up, the Cowboys finish a three-game home stand Sunday against the New York Giants, the second NFC East foe in that stretch. It's the same opponent on the same week in the same stadium where Prescott fractured and dislocated his right ankle last year. ...
A few final notes. ... In the Cowboys' last two games, they scored their opening touchdowns with one-yard runs from Elliott, with fullback Connor McGovern lead blocking for him. Which is noteworthy because McGovern is not, in fact, a fullback.
As Profootballtalk.com's Michael David Smith notes, McGovern is a backup guard, but the Cowboys are using him at fullback occasionally, and when they do it's been successful. They have those two one-yard touchdowns, and on the Cowboys' other four running plays with McGovern at fullback, they've averaged seven yards a carry.
McGovern said that when offensive coordinator Kellen Moore proposed playing fullback to him, he jumped at the opportunity for more playing time.
"Last week, Kellen came to me and asked if I want my own personnel [group]," McGovern told Michael Gehlken of the Dallas Morning News. "I was like, 'What do I have to do?' Next thing you know, I'm at fullback. Whatever they need me to do, I'll do it."
Moore is enthusiastic about the new wrinkle in the Cowboys' offense.
"It's been awesome. He's a guy that's done some great stuff for us," Moore said.
Although McGovern looks a little out of place as a 308-pounder lined up in the backfield, he said anyone who thinks he can't move fast enough to get the job done is in for a surprise.
"A lot of linebackers think they can just beat me right to the hole," McGovern said. "They don't know that I can get there, too. It's a lot of fun."
On the injury front. ... Elliott was held out of Wednesday's practice while dealing with some knee discomfort, but he intends to return to practice Thursday and play through issue.
Amari Cooper missed some plays early because of a hamstring issue, but returned to score a touchdown and lead the Cowboys with 69 yards receiving. He was not, however, practicing Wednesday.
Michael Gallup (calf strain) will be eligible to come off injured reserve.
I'll have more on their progress via Late-Breaking Update in coming days. ...
In addition, Trevon Diggs, the first Dallas player with an interception in each of the first four games, had two against the Panthers for an NFL-leading five. Diggs sat in the fourth quarter because of back tightness while Carolina rallied but said he could have returned. ... LB Keanu Neal and DE Bradlee Anae could be ready to return after missing two games because of COVID-19 protocols.
And finally. ... The Cowboys have released linebacker Jaylon Smith, ESPN's Adam Schefter first reported.
The move comes as a surprise because Smith has not missed a game in his career and the Cowboys are on the hook for his full $7.2 million base salary. The team had some trade discussions earlier in the season, according to sources, but a deal never came to fruition. By releasing Smith now, the Cowboys are free from the $9.2 million base salary in 2022 that was currently guaranteed only for injury.
Jones met with Smith on Tuesday to discuss the team's decision.
Smith signed a five-year, $64 million extension in 2019 that included $35.5 million in guaranteed money. Before this season's opener against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Smith started every game he played from 2018 to 2020 and was named to the Pro Bowl after the 2019 season.
This season, Smith did not start any of the first four games. He was credited with 19 tackles and played in 148 of 264 snaps.
With first-round pick Micah Parsons making a huge impression early, the Cowboys were comfortable with the move, even with the financial ramifications. Leighton Vander Esch started Sunday's win against the Carolina Panthers, and the Cowboys are expected to have Keanu Neal back from the reserve/COVID-19 list this week. They also have rookie Jabril Cox and Luke Gifford at linebacker on the active roster.
The Cowboys selected Smith in the second round of the 2016 draft despite a serious knee injury suffered in his final game at Notre Dame that scared off many teams. The Cowboys were confident Smith would return in part because one of their team physicians, Dr. Daniel Cooper, performed the surgery and quelled fears about permanent nerve issues.
Smith took to the field in 2017 and started six of 16 games and finished with 99 tackles, one sack, four tackles for loss, four quarterback pressures, two pass breakups and two forced fumbles. He moved into a full-time starting role in 2018, and he recorded at least 120 tackles in each of the past three seasons.
He had his best year in 2018, which included a 69-yard fumble return for a touchdown. He recorded 14 tackles in six different games, but his movement and coverage ability seemed to drop.
QBs: Dak Prescott, Cooper Rush, Will Grier
RBs: Ezekiel Elliott, Tony Pollard, Corey Clement, Ito Smith
WRs: CeeDee Lamb, James Washington, Simi Fehoko, Noah Brown, Michael Gallup
TEs: Dalton Schultz, Sean McKeon
Denver BroncosCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 5 October 2021
Starting quarterback Teddy Bridgewater suffered a concussion in Sunday's 23-7 loss to the Ravens.
"He says he's getting better as the day goes on, so we'll see," head coach Vic Fangio said after game.
The veteran quarterback took a helmet-to-helmet hit from Odafe Oweh just before halftime.
Drew Lock started the second half with Denver trailing 17-7. He wasn't able to advance the offense past midfield in either of his first two drives. It was a continuation of things for the Broncos, who punted six times in the first half and were held scoreless in Bridgewater's absence. Lock's day ended completing 12 of 21 passes for 113 yards and one interception.
"Well, I think his performance was, you know, just like the rest of the offense -- we just weren't good enough today after the one touchdown drive," Fangio said of Lock's day in relief. "We really could get nothing going. We weren't getting it going with Teddy either after the touchdown drive. So, I think it's more of a collective thing offensively than a quarterback thing."
Bridgewater, off to the best start of his career, completed just 7 of 16 passes for 65 yards before exiting. His 3-yard touchdown pass to Noah Fant gave Denver a 7-0 lead early in the second quarter. It was short lived, as the Ravens scored on three of their next four drives to take a 10-point lead into the break.
Lock made his 2021 debut after losing a training-camp battle with Bridgewater. The third-year QB tied for the league lead with 15 interceptions in 2020 while Denver went 4-9 in his 13 starts.
That opened the door for Bridgewater to take his job this offseason. Once thought to be the future for the Vikings and a free-agent prize for the Panthers, Bridgewater has quickly made a home for himself in the Denver. He came into Week 4 ranked in the top five in passer rating (116.4) and completion percentage (76.8) while guiding the fifth team of his eight-year career to a 3-0 start.
Whatever the case, as the Broncos approach their Week 5 game against the Steelers, Bridgewater's status remains uncertain.
"We'll have more information by Wednesday, and that will have more of a determining factor," Fangio said.
Fangio said it's possible Bridgewater could return to practice with limitations earlier than Friday -- but he was not cleared to work on Wednesday.
"He can't go out and full practice, but he may be able to do some stuff," Fangio said.
Fangio did not rule out the possibility that Bridgewater could start against the Steelers without practicing.
Diontae Spencer, who suffered a chest injury one play before Bridgewater took a hit to the head, will be day to day this week. Pat Surtain II is also day to day with a "midsection" injury.
Fangio said the hits on both Spencer and Bridgewater "should have been called, obviously." Neither play was flagged, despite the apparently illegal hits.
"I sent a video in to the officiating office during the week showing similar hits that they've had and gotten away with, and it continued," Fangio said. "So, you can see sending videos in to the officiating office can be fruitless at times."
Guard Dalton Risner will "probably" be able to return this week, but Fangio remains unsure about guard Graham Glasgow's status. Fangio said Risner was "not close enough" to being able to play against the Ravens after being listed as questionable. Cornerback Ronald Darby is also eligible to return from injured reserve this week, and Fangio said the Broncos will "see where he's at come Wednesday."
Rookie cornerback Patrick Surtain II is expected to be OK after leaving Sunday's game against the Ravens with a chest injury, per NFL Network's Tom Pelissero and Rapoport. Fangio said Surtain is day-to-day.
I'll be following Bridgewater's progress closely in coming days; watch the Late-Breaking Updates section for more.
What if Bridgewater misses time?
According to DenverBroncos.com's Aric DiLalla, the answer was probably seen in Sunday's loss.
Javonte Williams carried a defender on his back and broke a 31-yard run. Melvin Gordon III picked up gains of seven, eight and 14 yards on the Broncos' first three drives.
The Broncos seemed to find early success in the run game against the Ravens, as Denver averaged 8.1 yards per carry in the first quarter as the team rushed nine times for 73 yards.
The struggles, though, were also evident to Fangio -- and that early success, which helped push Denver to a 7-0 lead, could not be sustained throughout the rest of the game.
"It got bottled up there pretty good as the game wore on," Fangio said Sunday.
After the end of the first quarter, the Broncos ran the ball just eight times for 33 yards. As Fangio explained Monday, the Broncos' lack of plays after the first frame contributed to the pass-heavy offense. Through the final three quarters, the Broncos ran eight times and dropped back to pass on 33 occasions.
"Part of that is when you're going three-and-out, you don't have many plays," Fangio said. "It's hard to get anything going when you're going three-and-out as much as we did, or one first down and out. You just don't have plays, and it just skews everything."
And when the Broncos did have first downs, it's not hard to understand why the team was more comfortable throwing the football. During their 15 plays on first down in the first half, the Broncos ran the ball seven times and dropped back to pass on eight occasions. The Broncos averaged 7.43 yards per carry, but that number drops to 3.5 yards per carry with Williams' outlier of a run removed.
When Bridgewater dropped back to pass, he completed 4-of-7 passes for 56 yards, which was good for 14 yards per completion and eight yards per attempt. Bridgewater also scrambled once for two yards, but he drew a 15-yard penalty on the play.
That first-down success throwing the football helps explain Denver's decision to rely on its passing attack.
Fangio also noted that the team's 8.1 first-quarter yard-per-carry average was not an accurate indicator of the run game's performance.
"Statistically, it wasn't [very good]," Fangio said. "You're just looking at yards per carry -- which [is boosted] when you throw in a 31-yarder, and then we had two other good runs there by Melvin. But by and large they were winning the running downs. When you look at yards per carry, that's probably the worst thing to look at."
In all, Denver had just two runs longer than five yards from the end of the first quarter until the waning seconds of the game.
Fangio did note that he was impressed with Williams' first-quarter run that set up Denver's lone touchdown of the afternoon. Williams bounced off several tacklers and then carried cornerback Marlon Humphrey on his back for a big gain.
"It was tremendous, but that's why we traded up to get him in the second round," Fangio said. "We knew if we waited, he wouldn't have been there, and he's proven us right. He's a really good back and we've been very pleased with his play."
As the Broncos move ahead toward Week 5 -- still without wide receivers Jerry Jeudy and K.J. Hamler -- Fangio knows finding a more even approach will be critical.
"It's important," Fangio said Sunday. "Any time you can have balance, you're a better offensive football team."
Lock, who entered the game after halftime and handed the ball off just four times, agreed with Fangio's assessment.
"You know, [the] run game in the NFL is No. 1," Lock said Sunday. "It's undefeated. You got a good run game, you can do a lot of things. So being able to feed Melvin, being able to feed Javonte, keep them in the game, keep them rolling, keep them warm, I think that will always help us out. Whenever you get into a game, especially like this one where both defenses are playing well … it's about controlling the ball, staying on the field, converting third downs."
Fant also believes that an increased commitment to the run should help against the Steelers and beyond.
"I think we just have to keep on it," Fant said Monday. "Sometimes those big plays don't bust all the time. You just have to keep on it and keep pushing forward with those. Sometimes you're only going to get three yards on each play, but you just have to keep grinding it. That's what I expect us to fully do. I think we have a good running game, and we can make a lot of yards in that area. [We] just have to keep doing it. ..."
For what it's worth, Fant also said on Monday that the team is used to Lock if he has to play.
"It's the same approach we had in camp," Fant said, via Ryan O'Halloran of the Denver Post. "We didn't know who the quarterback was going to be. We're comfortable with both of them. … We ran the same game plan [Sunday with Lock]. That's the game plan we prepared for during the week and we just kind of kept with it. Obviously, we have to improve and try to put some more points on the board."
Fant caught 6-of-10 targets for 46 yards and a touchdown. While the touchdown came before Bridgewater left the game, half of Fant's catches came with Lock on the field in the second half. Given his 10 targets, Fant remains a valued component in this offense and fantasy managers should view him as a solid TE1 against the Steelers.
Courtland Sutton caught 3-of-7 targets for 47 yards against the Ravens. Sutton appeared to struggle a bit when Lock took over for Bridgewater. Even with Bridgewater at QB, Sutton has come up short in the two games since his huge nine-catch, 159-yard outing in Week 2.
Tim Patrick caught 3-of-6 targets for 39 yards as he continued to play his usual role. Patrick was on the field for 92 percent of the team's offensive snaps. It's been two games since he's been in the end zone (after scoring in each of the team's first two games), but Patrick remains a viable flex play in deeper leagues.
For what it's worth, Fangio told reporters on Wednesday that Jeudy’s progress the past week or so has been “very good."
Fangio added there's hope Jeudy will only miss six total weeks. That timetable would get the wideout back in the mix around Week 7 or 8. ...
And finally. ... A day after the Ravens chose to run the ball with three seconds remaining rather than take a knee, Fangio addressed Baltimore's decision to forego the NFL's common practice.
"Yeah, I thought it was kind of [expletive], but I expected it from them," Fangio said. "Thirty seven years in pro ball, I've never seen anything like that, but it was to be expected and we expected it."
Fangio said he knows "how they operate" and that "player safety is secondary."
Fangio added that his displeasure with the decision stemmed from both the risk of injury and the lack of sportsmanship.
The Ravens gained five yards on the play, which pushed them over 100 yards on the afternoon. With the rush, they tied an NFL record for the most consecutive games with 100 rushing yards.
"That was one hundred percent my call," Ravens head coach John Harbaugh said Sunday. "That's one of those things that's meaningful. It's one of those things that I think as a head coach you have to be mindful of your team, your players and your coaches and what it means to them. It's a very tough record to accomplish and it's a long-term record. I'm not going to say it's more important than winning the game. As a head coach, I think you do that for your players, and you do that for your coaches, which is something that they'll have for the rest of our lives."
Not every Bronco was peeved by the Ravens' decision.
Defensive back Kareem Jackson was more annoyed with the plays the defense didn't make during the course of the game rather than focusing on the final play.
"Honestly, I don't give a [expletive] about that last play. More so care about the plays throughout the game," Jackson said. "It's our job to stop them. They ran it to get their 100 yards or whatever they was trying to do. But as a whole defense, I feel like we didn't play up to the standard that we've set for ourselves. We've got to execute, even on that last play. So it is what it is. ... As a whole, we've got to be better."
QBs: Russell Wilson, Josh Johnson
RBs: Javonte Williams, Melvin Gordon, Mike Boone
WRs: Jerry Jeudy, Courtland Sutton, Tim Patrick, Diontae Spencer, K.J. Hamler
TEs: Albert Okwuegbunam, Eric Saubert, Andrew Beck
Detroit LionsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 5 October 2021
As ESPN.com's Eric Woodyard reported, there was nothing for quarterback Jared Goff to smile about upon entering the news conference room at Soldier Field on Sunday.
Another game. Another loss. Detroit is now 0-4.
"We need to make sure we don't go numb to it," Goff said following Sunday's 24-14 defeat in Chicago. "Keep that hope. Keep that faith that we've had. It's hard. Going forward, we've lost some tough ones. We've shown some fight, we've shown some good things, but ultimately it hasn't been close to good enough yet."
There are no more excuses, though.
The Lions have produced sustained periods of good football in each of their four losses. Maintaining that level for a full game has been the issue.
"I think you just get to the point where there's no longer like, 'Oh, we did these things good.' You get to the point where it's like 'Well, we still lost' and you're not happy about it," said Goff, who amassed 210 of his 299 passing yards in the second half against the Bears.
"Yeah, maybe a pissed-off team will execute a little bit better and that's me included," he added. "How can we be better next week? Maybe being pissed off will be the answer."
The theme of Sunday's loss was Detroit's inability to convert in the red zone.
The Lions failed to score on four different drives that reached the red zone, which is tied for the most by any team in a game since 2000 and set a franchise mark for a single game. Detroit became the first team in at least the past 40 seasons to reach the red zone in each of their first three possessions and fail to score any points, per Elias.
"We need work," coach Dan Campbell said. "If we've got to do three days of that this week, that's all we'll do."
It all started with a failed first-quarter snap between Goff and his center, Frank Ragnow, which resulted in a bizarre turnover on first-and-goal at the Chicago 8-yard line.
Goff was trying to communicate with teammates at the line when the ball was snapped and ricocheted off his shoulder, only to bounce directly into the hands of Bears defensive lineman Bilal Nichols. The Bears marched down and scored on the ensuing possession to take a 14-0 lead.
From there on, it was a snowball effect, with Goff fumbling on a strip-sack play by linebacker Robert Quinn two series later. It was mistake after mistake for the Lions, who are one of two winless teams remaining in the NFL. And to compound their problems, they lost Ragnow (toe) and outside linebacker Romeo Okwara is confirmed to have suffered a torn Achilles. Campbell confirmed Okwara's injury and on Wednesday, the team placed Ragnow on injured reserve.
If the team can't limit mistakes in scoring situations, they'll find it difficult to get that elusive first win.
Although the schedule doesn't lighten up for Detroit -- with games against the Minnesota Vikings, Cincinnati Bengals and Los Angeles Rams in the next three weeks -- Goff is steadfast in his belief that the Lions are close to a breakthrough.
"We're on our way," Goff said. "I know it's kind been a [broken] record player for me every week, but trust me when I say that we're on our way and I believe in these guys."
As noted above, the Lions will travel to Minnesota (1-3) in search of their first win. The Vikings have struggled to put a full game together, but their defense is starting to get its footing, allowing one touchdown in its last six quarters. ...
Other notes of interest. ... Running back Jamaal Williams has been a solid free-agent pickup. He rushed for 66 yards on 14 carries on Sunday and is averaging 4.5 yards per carry, a career high for the five-year veteran. But he had only two carries in the second half against the Bears, a casualty of the Lions falling behind on the scoreboard.
D'Andre Swift carried the ball eight times for 15 yards and caught 4-of-6 targets for an additional 33 yards.
With Williams getting a solid half of the workload, Swift needs to maximize his play-making ability to meet expectations any given week. The receiving equity he carries affords that potential. ...
T.J. Hockenson caught 4-of-8 targets for 42 yards against the Bears. It was an improvement over his miserable Week 3 showing, but still not what fantasy managers hoped for. That said, the eight targets (a 21 percent target share) are sufficient to keep Hockenson inside the top 5 at his position heading into this week's game against Minnesota.
Kalif Raymond had 68 yards receiving in the prior week's loss to the Ravens and caught two touchdown passes against the Bears. Raymond, who credited his increased chemistry with Goff, could potentially be a difference-maker for Detroit if he builds on those performances.
Quintez Cephus caught 4-of-5 targets for 83 yards. He was on the field for 87 percent of Detroit's offensive snaps and finished with the team's longest reception of the day -- a 33-yarder from Goff. Amon-Ra St. Brown turned eight targets into six catches and 70 yards. While the rookie wideout tied with Hockenson for the team-high in targets on the day, and he played a robust 72 percent of the offensive snaps, St. Brown's fantasy value is minimal at this point.
QBs: Jared Goff, Tim Boyle, David Blough
RBs: D'Andre Swift, Jamaal Williams, Craig Reynolds, Jermar Jefferson, Godwin Igwebuike
WRs: Amon-Ra St. Brown, Josh Reynolds, Kalif Raymond, KhaDarel Hodge, Trinity Benson, Tom Kennedy, Quintez Cephus, D.J. Chark
TEs: Brock Wright, Garrett Griffin, Jared Pinkney, T.J. Hockenson
Green Bay PackersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 5 October 2021
As NFL.com's Kevin Patra put it: "Chalk up a W for Aaron Rodgers, wanna-be GM. ..."
For the first three weeks of the season, it seemed like Rodgers' insistence that the Green Bay Packers acquire Randall Cobb was a superfluous waste of money. However, Week 4 told a different story in the Packers' 27-17 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers.
With the Steelers' stout defense intent on taking away Davante Adams (six catches, 64 yards), Cobb stepped to the plate, leading the Packers with 69 yards and two TDs on five catches. Cobb made himself available on big third-down plays all game.
"There's a knack to playing in the slot," Rodgers said, per the team's official website. "To have another guy in there who can get open like that and have the feel that he does just gives us a lot of flexibility in the offense, for sure."
Cobb led the Packers with four targets, four catches, 68 yards and one TD on third downs in this game (all other Packers combined: five targets, one reception, 11 yards).
In the first three weeks, Cobb averaged just 14 snaps a game and compiled four catches for 58 yards. With Marquez Valdes-Scantling out on Sunday due to injury, snaps were aplenty for the 31-year-old receiver.
The old connection with Rodgers was off to a fast start. In the second quarter, Cobb caught his first TD from Rodgers since Week 14, 2018. Cobb generated his first game with 50-plus receiving yards and at least one receiving TD for the Packers since Week 1, 2018, when he caught a 75-yard game-winning TD in a comeback win versus Chicago.
Cobb said his connection with Rodgers remains strong even after three years apart.
"It's kind of like riding a bike," Cobb said. "You've been around each other for so long and you understand. He understands how I move, so whenever I'm getting ready to break on my route, he knows. It's muscle memory."
Sunday marked Cobb's first game with multiple receiving TDs since Week 3, 2015 versus Kansas City (3 rec TD). That game was 2,197 days before Sunday.
With MVS going on IR over the weekend -- meaning he'll miss at least two more games -- Cobb's role in the offense should remain expanded.
"It's about all of us producing, because that's what's going to make us take that next step," Cobb said. "I play a piece in that, part of the puzzle. I think we've got a very resilient team. I think we have a very confident team. Us being humbled Week 1 really opened our eyes to this isn't a cakewalk. After that first loss, we kind of reset our mind. We didn't lose confidence in who we were."
It took a few weeks, but the trade for Cobb is finally paying off for the Packers.
It's also worth noting, Rodgers has thrown eight touchdown passes without an interception over the past three games and the rushing attack is picking up the pace. After gaining just 3.4 yards per carry through its first three games, Green Bay had a season-high 131 yards rushing on 33 attempts.
Aaron Jones carried the ball 15 times for 48 yards and caught 3-of-4 targets for 51 yards against the Steelers. Playing through a minor ankle injury he suffered in Week 3, Jones gave way to A.J. Dillon more than he usually does (it was a 50-50 split on carries). Dillon rushed for a season-high 81 yards on 15 carries and had a 16-yard catch.
On a less positive note. ... Tight end Robert Tonyan had just two catches for 8 yards, the third time in four games he has been held below 10 yards receiving. Tonyan remains a touchdown-dependent fantasy asset and so far this season, he only has one scoring catch (in Week 2).
On an even less-positive note -- at least for the Packers (but maybe not for fantasy managers): Already accustomed to playing without their top pass rusher, the Green Bay Packers now must prepare for the likely absence of their best cornerback.
Jaire Alexander injured a shoulder in the second half against the Steelers on Sunday. Without getting into specifics, head coach Matt LaFleur said Monday he had spoken with head athletic trainer Bryan Engel and team physician Patrick McKenzie about Alexander's situation.
"They're just getting some other opinions on how to proceed, I guess, is the best way for me to say it right now," LaFleur said.
When LaFleur was asked if he could rule out a worst-case scenario, he replied that "everything's kind of getting looked at right now."
If Alexander misses significant time, it would represent arguably the toughest blow yet for a team already dealing with multiple injuries.
Outside linebacker Za'Darius Smith, who had a combined 26 sacks in 2019-20, hasn't played since a season-opening 38-3 loss to the New Orleans Saints and might miss the rest of the season.
"We're hopeful to get him back, but as far as the timeline, I just know it's going to be a while," LaFleur said. "I know he'll do everything he can to try to get back because he's a big part of this football team."
Left tackle David Bakhtiari, a 2020 All-Pro selection, hasn't played all season and will miss at least two more games as he recovers from a torn anterior cruciate ligament. As mentioned above, Valdes-Scantling went on injured reserve with a hamstring issue last week and must miss at least two more games.
The Packers (3-1) played without guard/tackle Elgton Jenkins (ankle) for a second straight game Sunday and also were missing linebacker Krys Barnes and cornerback Kevin King due to concussions.
"You can never have enough great players out there," LaFleur said. "Right now, we've got a few of our stud players on the bench due to injury."
Through it all, the Packers have won three straight games to lead the NFC North. They've beaten San Francisco and Pittsburgh the past two weeks while missing their two best offensive linemen.
One last note here. ... Mason Crosby's two field goals on Sunday gave him 24 straight makes -- a franchise record -- dating to last season. But ESPN.com's Rob Demovsky believes the Packers need to work on their operation. Crosby's game winner from 51 yards against the 49ers was nearly blocked, and then on Sunday the Steelers actually did block one -- and return it for a touchdown, only to have it called back because Joe Haden lined up offside.
Packers special teams coordinator Maurice Drayton said last week that the unit has an ideal operation time of between 1.25 seconds to 1.28 seconds. If it pulls it off in that time frame, Drayton said: "It is almost, I don't want to say it's impossible, but it's pretty much impossible for a guy to get there off the edge. We will be strong inside and out, excuse me, inside [to] out, and let those guys ... come off the edge."
That's where the Steelers came from on their block that Minkah Fitzpatrick returned for a 75-yard touchdown that did not count.
QBs: Aaron Rodgers, Kurt Benkert, Jordan Love
RBs: Aaron Jones, A.J. Dillon, Kylin Hill
WRs: Allen Lazard, Sammy Watkins, Amari Rodgers, Malik Taylor, Randall Cobb
TEs: Marcedes Lewis, Josiah Deguara, Robert Tonyan
Houston TexansCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 5 October 2021
As NFL.com's Kevin Patra noted, the Houston Texans suffered the worst loss in franchise history in Sunday's embarrassing 40-0 wipeout at the hands of the Buffalo Bills.
It was a historically dreadful performance on many levels. The negative-40 point differential is the worst in franchise history. The 109 total yards were the third-fewest in club history. The six total first downs are second-fewest. The one third-down conversion was tied for second-fewest. And the five turnovers tied for second-most in franchise history (only one game with more).
Any optimism surrounding rookie quarterback Davis Mills has quickly evaporated. The rookie was 11-of-21 passing for 87 yards and four interceptions. Mills became the first Texans QB to throw at least four INTs and for fewer than 100 pass yards in a game -- and the third player in the last five seasons to do so (also Sam Darnold in 2019 and Nathan Peterman in 2017).
Despite the woeful performance from the QB, head coach David Culley didn't hang the blowout loss on Mills.
"This wasn't just Davis Mills, everybody around Davis Mills. ... Nobody played well around him. It's not Davis. Our entire offense did not play well today," Culley said, via KPRC 2 Houston's Vanessa Richardson. "You could put Joe Montana out there today, and the way we played, you're not going to have any success on offense."
Given the way the Texans offense looked in six quarters with Tyrod Taylor, it's fair to contrast the veteran's play with the struggles Mills has encountered.
"It was a tough loss obviously," Mills said. "We don't want to ever have the feeling of putting up zero points."
With the Texans' rebuild evident, there are likely more struggles ahead for Houston this season. However, it can't get much worse than Sunday's performance.
The Texans still have Deshaun Watson on their roster, though it's clear he won't be playing another game for the team. And Jeff Driskel is on the team's practice squad.
But via Brooks Kubena of the Houston Chronicle, the Texans are likely to stick with Mills until Taylor returns.
Culley was asked on Monday if Houston is looking to bring in another QB, Culley said, "Not at this time."
Still, Culley noted that Mills has to do a better job of limiting turnovers.
"We've got to have that out of that position," Culley said.
Taylor is eligible to come off injured reserve next week. His recovery timetable was initially four weeks, which would mean he'd be out for another week after he's able to return. Culley said Monday that he hopes to have Taylor "back here in the next couple of weeks."
While Mills has struggled, Houston hasn't been able to run the ball well either.
Although the Bills' defense has been solid this season -- they shutout the Dolphins in Week 2 -- the Texans' struggles are real. Houston had -23 net passing yards in the first half, which was the fewest by any team in a first half since the Eagles on Nov. 21, 1999 against the Colts (-27) and the fewest in either half in franchise history, according to ESPN Stats and Information.
Houston finished the game with 109 net yards, a total almost eclipsed by its 100 penalty yards.
"That's an undisciplined football team, and that starts with me," Culley said. "It puts us in bad situations. And we're not going to be able to overcome those things. And we weren't today."
As the Texans turn their focus to their Week 5 matchup against the New England Patriots, Mills was asked where the team goes next after this blowout loss.
"I guess there's only up from here," Mills said. "We'll take that as a plus."
Fantasy managers can afford to be pragmatic here.
While Brandin Cooks remains a viable play, he's always going to be tied to the play of his quarterback. Cooks recorded five receptions on seven targets for 47 yards in Buffalo.
He led the team in targets, receptions and yards, though his day was still unproductive due to the complete lack of firepower by the Texans' offense. He also accounted for the team's longest offensive play of the game, which was a 16-yard reception over the middle of the field late in the fourth quarter.
Cooks should continue to get plenty of looks in the offense against New England, though his upside will likely remain capped in tougher matchups -- at least until Taylor returns.
You're taking your chances. ...
Per Aaron Wilson of Sports Talk 790, Houston is waiving receiver Anthony Miller.
The club acquired Miller at the start of training camp from Chicago in exchange for a 2022 fifth-round pick. Miller has appeared in just two games, catching four passes for 20 yards with a touchdown against Carolina. But he had just one 3-yard catch on five targets in Sunday’s 40-0 loss to Buffalo.
The Texans signed receiver Davion Davis off of Cleveland’s practice squad on Tuesday.
Davis spent the preseason with the Browns and totaled 12 catches for 154 yards and two touchdowns.
He served a two-game suspension for violating the NFL's substance abuse policy to open the season and the Browns cut Davis when he became eligible to return to the roster. Davis re-signed to the team's practice squad on Sept. 22.
Davis originally signed with the Vikings as an undrafted free agent in 2019 and made appearances in two regular-season games.
QBs: Davis Mills, Kevin Hogan, Kyle Allen
RBs: Dare Ogunbowale, Rex Burkhead, David Johnson, Marlon Mack, Royce Freeman, Scottie Phillips
WRs: Brandin Cooks, Nico Collins, Phillip Dorsett, Chris Conley, Chris Moore, Danny Amendola, Davion Davis, Jordan Veasy
TEs: Brevin Jordan, Jordan Akins, Pharaoh Brown, Jeff Driskel
Indianapolis ColtsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 5 October 2021
As ESPN.com's Mike Wells wrote, "It couldn't have been scripted any better for Indianapolis Colts quarterback Carson Wentz against the Miami Dolphins in Week 4."
The Colts got their first win of the 2021 season on Sunday, soundly defeating the Dolphins.
Despite playing on a couple of sprained ankles, Wentz led the offense well, finishing 24-of-32 passing for 228 yards with a pair of touchdowns.
It was his first game with at least one pass and rush TD and no giveaways since Week 17, 2019, breaking a streak of 15 starts without such a game. He led the NFL with 19 giveaways in 2020.
During his postgame press conference, head coach Frank Reich commended Wentz for his play.
"I think we saw from Carson a little bit of the player we were expecting," Reich said. "He had a little bit more mobility today. You saw him extend a few plays and make some really big-time plays, but then he also did it from the pocket as well. I feel like that's where it's going."
But, Reich added, the offense's success is not just on Wentz. On Sunday, the Colts' run game got going with Jonathan Taylor putting up 100 yards for the first time all season.
"It's got to be our whole team," Reich said. "We've got to be able to carry each other's back because every player is not always going to be happy. They can make a ton of plays and get some good stuff, but we've got to keep fighting."
Through four games, Wentz has completed 64 percent of his passes for 920 yards with five touchdowns and one interception.
They were clearly pleased after this one.
"We saw from Carson a little bit of the player we were expecting," Reich said. "He had a little bit more mobility today. You saw him extend a few plays and make some really big-time plays. But, then, he also did it from the pocket as well. I feel like that's where it's going. ... Just continue to fight and get better."
According to Wells, Wentz's transformation will be a work in progress because of the change in style, and he's still working his way back from a right ankle sprain that had him questioning his availability two weeks ago. He will continue to use his athleticism, and he's still going to improvise at times, even if it goes against what Reich wants him to do.
That was the case in the first half Sunday.
The Dolphins had the Colts pinned inside Indianapolis' 3-yard line when Wentz lined up in the shotgun several yards into the end zone.
Reich had given Wentz instructions on what to do on the play.
"I said, 'If [the throw] is not there right now, take a short sack,'" Reich would explain after the game.
Did Wentz listen?
He did not.
The quarterback faked the handoff to Taylor and ran a bootleg to the right. Tight end Kylen Granson was the intended target, but he stumbled some, which threw the route off. That's when Wentz went against taking the "short sack" that Reich wanted.
Wentz, bum ankles and all, took off running up the field before diving forward for a 10-yard gain.
"I said, 'Hey, what happened to the short sack?' He said, 'Well, I wasn't down. I was prepared to go down,' but he knew he could get away," Reich said. "Those are the kinds of plays that he can make that really help lead clutch ball games."
It was probably good that Wentz wasn't trying to outrun a defensive back because he would have likely been caught, since he's not 100 percent healthy yet.
"I thought, 'I just gotta get moving,'" he said. "I felt like I was in quicksand there."
But in general, he's headed in the right direction.
As noted above, Wentz's stats aren't eye popping. He has yet to crack the 1,000-yard passing mark after four games, and it'll continue to be a tug-o-war between he and Reich at times. But he has completed 63.8 percent of his attempts, which is currently the third highest of his career, and he has thrown only one interception on the season.
Wentz threw seven interceptions through the first four weeks last season.
Sunday was just a sample of things, because they played with a lead from basically the middle of the second quarter on, which allowed the Colts to lean on their running game and have Wentz throw the ball when the opportunity presented itself.
"I'm never trying to force anything," Wentz said. "Trying to make a big play when it's there. But otherwise, play smart and keep moving the chains."
Wentz's limited mobility has forced more short throws the past two weeks and two strong defenses forced Indy to throw underneath in Weeks 1 and 2. But Indy needs to go deep more often to open up the running game and score more points.
The Colts' defense did what it needed to do by shutting down the short-handed and struggling Dolphins. Can they do it again, this time against one of the league's most dynamic offensive players?
Indianapolis plays at Baltimore and 2019 MVP Lamar Jackson next Monday night. Offensively, Indy also must demonstrate its latest performance was not an aberration.
Also of interest. ... Taylor rusher had 16 carries, 103 yards, one TD and an average of 6.4 yards. Taylor had +35 Rushing Yards over Expected (68 expected, 103 rush yards). He placed seventh in that category last year (+180).
He did it behind an offensive line missing two starters. Indy needs Taylor to perform that way more consistently. ...
Michael Pittman is who they thought he was.
As NFL.com suggested, the Colts trading up in the 2020 draft to select Pittman early in the second round signaled their belief he was a No. 1 receiver. Through the first month of his second season, the USC product is making good on that investment.
Pittman again led Indianapolis in receiving, albeit with modest numbers (six for 59). But four of his receptions came on third down, two of which went for conversions. (A third netted 14 yards on third-and-15.) Wentz continually looked for and connected with the big-bodied wideout, whose size, reliable hands and ability to break tackles make him an ideal possession receiver.
Soon enough his skill set will translate into touchdowns.
As Associated Press sports writer Michael Marot notes, Mo Alie-Cox, the former college basketball star, caught three passes for 42 yards and two TDs.
He came up big, too, when Indy needed him most by wrestling the ball away from a defender to give Indy a 17-point lead.
Conversely, Jack Doyle struggled.
Though he hauled in a 24-yard reception Sunday, a back injury reduced the workload for Indy's most reliable tight end. His performance should improve as he gets healthier.
On the injury front. ... Three-time All-Pro guard Quenton Nelson (sprained right ankle) will miss at least two more games after going on injured reserve. Indy hopes right tackle Braden Smith (strained foot) returns after missing three straight and would like to get three defensive starters -- end Kwity Paye (hamstring), safety Khari Willis (groin) and cornerback Rock Ya-Sin (ankle) -- back. All three sat out at Miami.
Reich said four-time Pro Bowl receiver T.Y. Hilton (neck surgery) is getting closer to being activated.
I'll watch for more on that in coming days; keep an eye on the Late-Breaking Updates section for more.
QBs: Matt Ryan, Nick Foles, Sam Ehlinger
RBs: Jonathan Taylor, Nyheim Hines, Deon Jackson
WRs: Michael Pittman Jr., T.Y. Hilton, Ashton Dulin, Parris Campbell
TEs: Jack Doyle, Mo Alie-Cox, Kylen Granson
Jacksonville JaguarsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 5 October 2021
Jaguars owner Shad Khan publicly reprimanded Urban Meyer on Tuesday for the coach's "inexcusable" behavior at an Ohio bar over the weekend.
Khan released a statement condemning Meyer's actions, which were captured on video and released on social media. One shows a young woman dancing close to Meyer's lap as he sits on a bar stool, a clip that quickly went viral. A second, more damning video appears to show Meyer touching the woman's behind.
"I have addressed this matter with Urban. Specifics of our conversation will be held in confidence. What I will say is his conduct last weekend was inexcusable," Khan said. "I appreciate Urban's remorse, which I believe is sincere. Now, he must regain our trust and respect. That will require a personal commitment from Urban to everyone who supports, represents or plays for our team. I am confident he will deliver."
Meyer apologized Monday to his family, team and Khan. He called a team meeting and vowed to "own it," the motto he uses daily and has plastered all around the Jaguars facility.
"Just stupid," Meyer said. "Should not have put myself in that kind of position."
Meyer didn't fly back with his winless team following Jacksonville's 24-21 loss at Cincinnati on Thursday night, a highly unusual move for any coach. Instead, he remained in his home state of Ohio to see family members and went to dinner Friday at his restaurant/bar in Columbus, Urban Meyer's Pint House.
"There was a big group next to our restaurant and they wanted me to come over and take pictures, and I did," Meyer said. "They were trying to pull me out on the dance floor, screwing around, and I should have left."
The first video shows a young blond woman dancing between the 57-year-old Meyer's legs as he was sitting on a bar stool. The second, taken from a different angle, shows Meyer's right hand on or near her bottom.
The Jaguars (0-4) have lost 19 consecutive games, seven shy of tying the NFL record set by Tampa Bay in 1977. Meyer insists they have shown dramatic improvements since Week 1.
Meyer said he's concerned the videos could have long-term ramifications with players he has asked to buy into his makeover.
"I have a very good relationship with our players," Meyer said. "I've dealt with this, not on the other side but with staff members and with other things, and I've dealt with it. So to say I'm concerned, yeah, I am concerned. But I just got to do right. ..."
We'll be watching for more on this story in coming days; it's entirely possible more will come of it. ...
Meanwhile, it's fair to point out the Jaguars controlled the first half of last Thursday night's game, jumping out to a 14-0 halftime lead, but couldn't hold on at the end.
Despite getting stuffed at the goal line to close the half and seeing their lead whipped out quickly in the third quarter, Meyer's young team didn't just go into the fetal position. Trevor Lawrence and the offense regained the lead with a James Robinson TD early in the fourth quarter.
But the defense couldn't get off the field late.
Lawrence played the best game of his young career, coupling wow-shots with multiple zone-read runs and precision darts. The rookie's best game coming on a short week on the road displays that Jags OC Darrell Bevell needs to tailor the offense better to fit Lawrence's skill set and just let the rookie cook.
Thursday marked the first time this season Lawrence didn't turn the ball over.
But there are injury issues on top of the off-field controversy as the Jaguars prepare to host Tennessee (2-2) on Sunday.
The team placed receiver D.J. Chark Jr. and guard A.J. Cann on injured reserve Monday, and Meyer said "it's going to be awhile" before they're able to return.
The team also activated rookie offensive lineman Walker Little from the reserve COVID-19 list. Little went on the COVID list on Sept. 20.
Chark has seven catches for 154 yards and two touchdowns. Cann has started 94 of 100 games in his six years with the Jaguars.
What do the Jaguars do at receiver with Chark sidelined?
As ESPN.com's Mike DiRocco notes, Tavon Austin got a lot of work after Chark went out on the game's third play, but expect KR Jamal Agnew (who had a 27-yard catch) and Tyron Johnson to get more work, as well.
Johnson hasn't done much since the Jaguars claimed him off waivers (one catch for 6 yards), but he does have deep speed. The three practice squad receivers -- Jeff Cotton, Tim Jones and Josh Hammond -- may get a chance too, but the Jaguars really don't have anyone who can really replace Chark.
He may not have been off to a very good start, but Lawrence trusted him and the Jaguars were counting on him to be a deep threat.
There aren't a lot of playmakers on offense other than Robinson and veteran receiver Marvin Jones Jr., but when they play turnover-free ball and get the ground game going, they're going to have chances to win some games soon. ...
Also Monday, Meyer said kicker Josh Lambo has rejoined the team following a one-week absence and will compete with Matthew Wright for the job this week.
Meyer said last week that Lambo was dealing with confidence issues after missing five kicks in the team's first three games. He was sidelined 12 games last year with a hip injury that required surgery.
QBs: Trevor Lawrence, C.J. Beathard
RBs: Ryquell Armstead, Devine Ozigbo, B.J. Emmons, James Robinson
WRs: Marvin Jones, Christian Kirk, Laquon Treadwell, Zay Jones, Laviska Shenault, Jamal Agnew
TEs: James O'Shaughnessy, Evan Engram, Chris Manhertz, Luke Farrell, Dan Arnold
Kansas City ChiefsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 5 October 2021
According to ESPN.com's Adam Teicher, Andy Reid showed little emotion about becoming the first coach to win 100 games for two different NFL teams, saying merely, "I'm pretty good with it," after his Kansas City Chiefs beat his former employer, the Philadelphia Eagles, 42-30 on Sunday.
But between his week starting off in a Kansas City hospital, the Chiefs having lost their previous two games and the milestone win coming in of all places Philadelphia's Lincoln Financial Field, the moment had to have at least some significance for him.
It was left to Patrick Mahomes to say that it did.
"It's special to him," said Mahomes, who threw five touchdown passes. "He kind of became Andy Reid in Philadelphia. ... But when you look back on [his career], you'll know him as a Kansas City Chief. The way he was able to build up this organization from day one. ... No offense to Philly but I'm glad they let him go and he's coaching us in Kansas City.
"He'll definitely take in this moment for a second, at least."
Reid won 140 games, counting playoffs, for the Eagles as their coach from 1999 through 2012. He then moved to Kansas City, where his record is 100-45 in eight full seasons plus four games in 2021.
Reid, at least publicly, was more excited about the Chiefs breaking a two-game losing streak that dropped them into last place in the AFC West for the first time since 2015. They are 2-2 heading into next week's Sunday night game against the Buffalo Bills, a rematch of last season's AFC Championship Game.
"It bothered everybody," Reid said of the losing streak. "We're in a profession where winning is very important. These guys take that personally. ... They've had success and want to get back doing the things they know are correct and we weren't doing that.
"It was important that we buckle down and do better, and that's what we did."
The Chiefs in the locker room felt much the same way. Ending the short losing streak was more important than getting Reid his 100th win with the Chiefs.
"It wasn't like 'We've got to go get Coach his 100th win,'" said running back Clyde Edwards-Helaire, who rushed for 102 yards and caught a touchdown pass. "It was, 'We've got to go get a win.'"
Mahomes said, "We were due to get him that win. It's been a couple of weeks now but I'm glad we were able to do it in Philadelphia, where he kind of came into his own."
Reid fell ill at the end of last week's loss to the Los Angeles Chargers and was taken to a Kansas City-area hospital. That cast some doubt, at least publicly, whether Reid would be available to coach against the Eagles.
He was released from the hospital on Monday and resumed his coaching duties the following day. It was evident then that he would be able to coach against his former team.
His players were happy he was a part of it.
"As a kid I used to watch TV and see Coach Reid coaching in Philadelphia," said wide receiver Tyreek Hill, who caught 11 passes for 186 yards and three touchdowns. "I used to have dreams and aspirations of playing in the NFL and now I'm actually playing for one of the greatest coaches of all time. ..."
Meanwhile, Edwards-Helaire joked after Sunday's win that everyone in Kansas City probably wanted to "set me on fire" after a fumble against the Ravens cost them an opportunity at a winning field goal.
As Associated Press sports writer Dave Skretta wrote, "Two weeks later, there would be a bucket brigade ready to douse him at the first sign of flames."
Edwards-Helaire responded to his gaffe by running for 100 yards the following week against the Chargers, then had 102 on just 14 carries against the Eagles. He also caught a nifty underhand pass from Mahomes on Kansas City's first offensive drive for his second touchdown reception in as many weeks.
"We want to be able to mix it up, one or the other, and sometimes both," said Reid.
"I'm not big on trends. Once you have trends, these other guys are pretty good that you're playing, and they knock you out of the ballpark. We want to be able to do both and do it when we want to do it."
According to Skretta, that's the thing: Edwards-Helaire's success behind a young offensive line has helped Mahomes, too.
And given the continued struggles of the Kansas City defense, the Chiefs might need to outscore a lot of teams this season.
"I feel like we're still missing a step," said Hill, who had 11 catches for 183 yards and three scores Sunday. "There's always things to correct; I don't care if you put up 50 points, there's always one little thing in a play to be corrected, whether that's myself, whether it's Travis Kelce, whether it's Mahomes. We're going to find something to correct."
For the record, Edwards-Helaire isn't the only one having success on the ground. Darrel Williams carried 10 times for 42 yards, and the Chiefs had 200 yards rushing in all against the Eagles.
They averaged nearly 6 1/2 yards per attempt.
By the way, the strong rushing attack probably was a factor in Mahomes being pressured on a season-low 12.9 percent of his dropbacks. He had an 83.8 completion percentage, 130.5 passer rating with no pressure in 2021 (30.0 completion percentage, 60.1 passer rating with pressure).
Next up, the Chiefs face the Bills on Sunday night in a rematch of last season's AFC title game.
And it appears they'll have an additional weapon for this one.
The Chiefs promoted wide receiver Josh Gordon to the 53-man roster, ESPN's Adam Schefter first reported on Tuesday.
The 30-year-old Gordon, who was signed to the practice squad Monday, is now on track to make his Chiefs' debut against the Bills.
The Chiefs have been searching for a wide receiver who can play every down along with Hill since losing Sammy Watkins as a free agent in the spring. They've given significant playing time to Mecole Hardman, Demarcus Robinson and Byron Pringle, but none of those players have consistently delivered for the Chiefs.
Hill is behind only Kelce in receiving yards for the Chiefs with 267. The other three wide receivers have combined for 260 yards.
Gordon was suspended indefinitely in December 2019 for violations of the league's policies on substance abuse and performance-enhancing substances. It was Gordon's sixth suspension since the 2013 season and his fifth for some form of substance abuse.
Gordon submitted his reinstatement letter to NFL commissioner Roger Goodell in July, and the NFLPA recommended that he be reinstated. His application for reinstatement was approved by Goodell on Monday, a source said.
But this time Gordon says he is ready to contribute.
Gordon led the NFL in receiving in 2013, when he accumulated 1,646 receiving yards. ...
On the injury front. ... The Chiefs pass rush continues to have problems. Defensive end Frank Clark missed another game with a hamstring injury, and his potential return would help. Mike Danna had two sacks of Jalen Hurts on Sunday, but Chris Jones went another game without getting his hands on the quarterback.
Clark's inability to stay healthy has been quite literally costly for Kansas City. He's making a team-high $18.5 million in base salary, carries a team-leading $25.8 million salary cap hit and represents more than 13 percent of the team's total cap number. And for that, the Chiefs have so far gotten two tackles in one game this season.
Meanwhile, Willie Gay Jr. was designated to return from IR this week. The linebacker went on the list in early September with a toe injury and was eligible to return last week, though the Chiefs decided he wasn't quite ready.
The Chiefs placed defensive end Joshua Kaindoh on IR.
QBs: Patrick Mahomes, Chad Henne
RBs: Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Jerick McKinnon, Derrick Gore, Ronald Jones
WRs: Mecole Hardman, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Marcus Kemp, JuJu Smith-Schuster
TEs: Travis Kelce, Noah Gray, Blake Bell
Las Vegas RaidersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 5 October 2021
As Associated Press sports writer Greg Beacham noted, slow starts are becoming a familiar predicament for the Las Vegas Raiders, who have fallen behind by two touchdowns in three of their four games this season.
But a delayed kickoff because of a lightning threat -- at a stadium with a roof?
That was a novel source of lateness for head coach Jon Gruden and his Raiders before they faced the Los Angeles Chargers on Monday night.
"It was almost like, what in the world is going on?" receiver Hunter Renfrow asked. "I mean, we're in a dome, right? I bet you if you polled everybody in here, nobody would have guessed you could have a lightning delay. But obviously they responded better than we did to it, or we wouldn't have come out and played the way we did in the first half."
Indeed, the Raiders (3-1) still struggled to catch up when they finally got on the SoFi Stadium field after the lightning threat passed in the Southland.
They were down 7-0 after Los Angeles' opening drive, and they trailed 21-0 at halftime after managing a paltry 51 yards of offense -- the Raiders' worst first half since Gruden's return in 2018 -- offset by 53 yards in penalties. Two lengthy scoring drives to open a strong third quarter weren't enough of a rally to save Las Vegas from its first loss of the season, 28-14 to its AFC West rivals.
Instead of fashioning another dramatic ending in a season already featuring two overtime victories, the Raiders were powerless to stop the Chargers from salting away a comfortable win.
"If anything, hopefully this wakes us up a little bit," said Derek Carr, who passed for a season-low 196 yards and two TDs -- his previous low was 382 yards at Pittsburgh in Week 2.
"I think we need to start a lot faster, if I'm honest. We started the season great, but we don't start games nearly good enough yet."
According to Beacham, the Raiders have been outscored 56-31 in the first half this season, including 28-5 in the first quarter. Those numbers are alarming, but Gruden was particularly dismayed by this slow start, repeatedly calling it "ridiculous."
It could have been even worse, but Renfrow made one of the best heads-up plays in recent NFL history when he sniffed out a fake punt late in the first quarter and roared up from his position as the returner to blow up a pass from Ty Long to Tevaughn Campbell.
"We had penalties that were ridiculous," Gruden said. "We gave up some plays in the passing game today that you can't give up. We didn't play well in the first half. ... We fought back and put ourselves in a position to make a dramatic comeback tonight. We just didn't make the plays."
Las Vegas' first 3-0 start since 2002 ended at SoFi Stadium in front of thousands of silver-and-black-clad fans from the Raiders' bountiful fan base in the Los Angeles area. Although the stadium rocked for the Raiders, the Chargers' fans had much more to cheer outside the third quarter.
The Raiders' potential tying drive was stopped at the Chargers 34 with 10:38 to play when a short pass, a short run and a sack of Carr short-circuited another good-looking drive. Carr said the third-down sack was a fluke partly caused by tight end Darren Waller beating his man so badly that it left his Chargers defender standing in the window where Carr wanted to throw to Renfrow.
"So I went to Waller, but by the time I was going through my progression, I tried to scramble, and it was too late," Carr said.
Daniel Carlson missed a field goal attempt, and the Chargers drove for the decisive touchdown.
The Raiders have little time to dwell on this setback with a short week of preparation for a visit from Chicago (2-2) on Sunday. Carr apologized to the Raiders fans who cheered them in Inglewood and vowed to do better in Las Vegas.
"Coming here, it wasn't really a hostile place," Carr said. "It was more of a home game, just like we thought it would be. For us to just keep going forward, we just need to be consistent. ... The expectation never changes. The expectation is to win every game. We didn't do that today, and that's all my fault."
They'll try to get things on track this Sunday when they host the Chicago Bears. ...
Other notes of interest. ... After having a slow first half, Waller came up big in the third quarter.
The star tight end played with high energy, setting the tempo for the offense in their comeback bid. Waller ended the game with four catches, 50 yards and a nasty touchdown grab over Nasir Adderley that will for sure be a nice addition to his already extensive highlight reel.
Waller and Renfrow were extremely dependable for their quarterback, combining for 10 catches and 95 yards. ...
Josh Jacobs rushed 13 times for 40 yards and caught all five of his targets for 17 yards against the Chargers.
As CBSSports.com notes, Jacobs made his first appearance since Week 1 but found it tough to move the ball against Los Angeles' rush defense. On the bright side, he contributed a handful of receptions, garnering a healthy 18 touches overall in his return to Las Vegas' backfield.
That involvement should offer encouragement surrounding Jacobs' stock as he aims to put his early season injury concerns behind him heading into Week 5. ...
Peyton Barber, who has impressed filling in for Jacobs, was diagnosed with mild turf toe, sources tell NFL Network's Ian Rapoport. There is no fracture.
He’s still seeking opinions and having tests, but it sounds like Barber will spend a few weeks on the sidelines as of now. ...
On the injury front. ... Cornerbacks Damon Arnette (groin) and Trayvon Mullen Jr. (foot) were injured during the first quarter and did not return. Cornerback Nate Hobbs suffered a concussion in the second half.
QBs: Derek Carr, Nick Mullens
RBs: Josh Jacobs, Brandon Bolden, Ameer Abdullah, Peyton Barber, Jalen Richard, Kenyan Drake
WRs: Hunter Renfrow, Davante Adams, DeSean Jackson, Demarcus Robinson, Keelan Cole, Dillon Stoner, Mack Hollins
TEs: Darren Waller, Foster Moreau, Jacob Hollister, Nick Bowers, Daniel Helm, Derek Carrier, Matt Bushman
Los Angeles ChargersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 5 October 2021
As ESPN.com's Shelley Smith framed it, "Believe it or not, the Los Angeles Chargers appear to be in the driver's seat for the AFC West title."
Indeed, they beat the defending division and AFC champs Kansas City Chiefs last Sunday on the road and stunned the previously unbeaten Las Vegas Raiders 28-14 on Monday night at SoFi Stadium.
It could happen, as the Chargers (3-1) took a 21-0 halftime lead and held off the Raiders' (3-1) second-half charge.
The Chargers almost learned a lesson the hard way, though: Never depend solely on your defense, no matter how well it's playing, and never underestimate the Raiders in the second half.
The Raiders scored 14 points in the third quarter and drove into Chargers territory before missing a 52-yard field goal early in the fourth quarter. But that's when the Chargers showed potential championship mettle.
Justin Herbert, who arguably has worked his way into the MVP conversation, drove his team 58 yards on 10 plays for what would be the game-clinching touchdown, an 11-yard touchdown run by Austin Ekeler with 5:20 left. Herbert finished 25-of-38 for 222 yards and three first-half touchdown passes.
Herbert completed his 500th pass in his 19th start, becoming the first quarterback in the Super Bowl era to reach that mark before his 20th start. Ekeler rushed for a career-high 117 yards and scored twice.
Los Angeles is 3-1 for the first time since 2014 and part of a three-way tie atop the AFC West with Las Vegas and Denver. The Raiders' loss means the Arizona Cardinals are the NFL's lone undefeated team after four weeks.
"We stayed patient, I thought we had a good mix of the run and pass. Justin was extremely patient and Austin came alive tonight," Chargers first-year coach Brandon Staley said.
The Chargers dominated the first half on defense, allowing the Raiders 51 yards of offense. But you had to know they'd come roaring back. That's what the Raiders do. They were down to Baltimore and Miami 14-0 and came back to win both games.
The Raiders tried to limit Keenan Allen and Mike Williams, but the Chargers tight ends stepped up in their place. The secondary had no answers for tight end Jared Cook most of the game.
Cook was one of Herbert's main targets, ending the game with six catches, 70 yards and a touchdown. Fellow tight end Donald Parham Jr. had the Chargers' first score of the game and Stephen Anderson had one big-time reception for 34 yards that helped set up another first-half score. ...
Next up, the Chargers host the Cleveland Browns (3-1) on Sunday.
Other notes of interest. ... The Chargers have been able to turn around their efficiency in the red zone the last two weeks by scoring eight out of the last ten times the team's been in the red area.
Herbert talked about what has led to the change down in the red zone.
"We know what we're doing, we just need to execute it," Herbert said. "All those drills, all those four minute and two-minute drills that we do during practice during the week, it shows up in game time. That's the toughest part of the week is practice and going through that grind and watching film and doing all that so that when you go out there on [game day] you play free."
Cook talked about how the team has changed the narrative of the Chargers' red zone story.
"I just think it's focus, attention detail," Cook said. "A lot of times, we were shooting ourselves in the foot, when we do get in the red zone sometimes we shoot ourselves in the foot and get moved back. It's just continue to focus on the details and get things right. ..."
Two big keys for the Chargers winning the game were their ability to run the ball on offense and stop the Raiders rushing attack on defense.
As noted above, Ekeler had an impressive night on the ground, rushing for 117 yards and a touchdown -- a career high total for the running back which helped contribute to the team's 168 total rushing yards.
Staley talked about just how important the run game was for the Chargers on Monday night.
"What the run game did for us was give us balance," Staley said. "The physicality of the game showed up late in the game. We were able to possess the ball and certainly run it in at the end of the game. I'm pleased and there's a lot of work to do."
On the defensive side of the ball, the Chargers held the Raiders' trio of running backs to just 48 yards rushing. ...
Joey Bosa recorded his 50th career sack during the first quarter when he brought down Carr for a 9-yard loss. Bosa, who is in his sixth season, reached it in 67 career games, faster than any Chargers player since sacks were kept as an official stat in 1982. ...
On the injury front. ... The Chargers placed linebacker Kenneth Murray Jr. and defensive lineman Justin Jones on injured reserve Monday, the team announced shortly before they took on the Las Vegas Raiders.
Murray rolled his left ankle during individual drills on Saturday and was carted off the practice field. It's the same ankle he injured during the first quarter of the Chargers' 20-17 loss to the Dallas Cowboys on Sept. 19.
Drue Tranquill started in Murray's place, and rookie Nick Niemann could see additional playing time.
Jones is suffering from a strained calf.
The players will miss at least three games, but with the bye week coming, they won't return until at least an Oct. 31 date vs. the New England Patriots.
QBs: Justin Herbert, Chase Daniel, Easton Stick
RBs: Austin Ekeler, Justin Jackson, Joshua Kelley, Larry Rountree III
WRs: Keenan Allen, Mike Williams, Jalen Guyton, Josh Palmer, DeAndre Carter, K.J. Hill, Josh Reed, Maurice Ffrench
TEs: Gerald Everett, Stephen Anderson, Tre' McKitty, Donald Parham
Los Angeles RamsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 5 October 2021
As Profootballtalk.com's Josh Alper noted, cornerback Jalen Ramsey said after Sunday's loss to the Cardinals that he has "never liked quick turnarounds" to Thursday night games, but head coach Sean McVay sees a positive to having a game on Thursday.
McVay said on Monday that he thinks it's good for the team to have a quick chance to wipe the taste of losing out of their mouths when they take on the Seahawks in Seattle this Thursday.
"We're excited about the opportunity to respond, and so that's what we're looking to do," McVay said, via Gary Klein of the Los Angeles Times, "It was not the outing that we wanted from anybody, myself included, but fortunately we've got a short week to be able to dust ourselves off, get back up and get ready to roll."
McVay also noted that the Thursday game gives them extended time off before Week 6, which is almost like a second bye in a year when their actual bye doesn't come until Week 11. All of that will sound great if the Rams win on Thursday, but a second straight loss will drop them to 0-2 in the division and make it hard to see the schedule as a benefit to the team's playoff hopes this season.
Meanwhile, the last three years in L.A., Robert Woods averaged more than 132 targets per season with Jared Goff under center. Through four games alongside Matthew Stafford, the underrated wideout has seen just 25 targets, catching 15 passes for 172 yards and two touchdowns.
During Sunday's blowout loss to Arizona, Woods caught a garbage-time TD and flipped the ball away. The reaction was viewed as the veteran frustrated by his role in the offense.
That's not how McVay saw it. The Rams coach said Woods was simply frustrated by the offensive struggles last week.
"I'm not worried about Robert's demeanor and disposition," McVay said, per the team's official transcript. "He's a captain. He was frustrated because I think that was a flip of, 'we scored', but that was a frustrating day for all of us. Nobody wants to be in that situation with the standards, the expectations that we have. But if you look at that drive, you talk about a guy that's competing the right way. He made a handful of plays on that drive. Looked at him compete without the ball on the one screen that we threw to Van Jefferson.
"This guy's a stud in every sense of the word. It is important to be able to get a handful of guys involved. That's something that I always want to continue to be intentional about. I think that's one of the benefits that we do have is we've got five eligibles. Want to be able to spread that wealth while also making sure that sometimes I'm calling plays where guys are the primary and the coverage doesn't necessarily dictate where the read goes. So, when Robert's involved, that's a good thing for the Rams offense. That's something that we want to continue to see displayed, but Robert is a leader, he's a captain and he's been doing a great job up to this point. We just need to get him some more opportunities and that starts with me."
As NFL.com's Kevin Patra suggested, Woods' frustration would be understandable. He's been an afterthought as Stafford favors Cooper Kupp, who has generated 46 targets -- 11.5 per game -- in four weeks. Of Woods' four-catch, 48-yards-and-a-score performance in Week 4, 3/30/1 came in garbage time with the Rams trailing 37-13.
Patra went on to note it's not unusual for Stafford to zero in on one receiver for stretches of a season. During his time in Detroit, he often fed targets to his favorite wideouts. It's one byproduct of having a laser arm; you feel you can fit the ball into any window at any time.
As with anything else, there is good and bad that come with force-feeding one player, as evidenced by Sunday's struggles after the Kupp-Stafford combo dominated for three weeks.
Generally, in Detroit, however, when Stafford had multiple good receivers, the ball eventually spread its way around. Even in Calvin Johnson's heyday, Golden Tate and Nate Burleson still ate plenty well as second-fiddles. It was the years that Detroit didn't have a healthy complement that all the targets went towards Megatron.
Woods remains a good wideout, and eventually, as defenses adjust to take away Kupp, his opportunities will open up.
Those chances could come Thursday night against a Seahawks defense that has struggled to slow opposing pass offenses through the first four weeks of the season, ranking 27th in pass defense DVOA, per Football Outsiders metrics. ...
Other notes of interest. ... As Associated Press sports writer Greg Beacham noted, the running game was outstanding when McVay deigned to use it. Darrell Henderson rushed for 89 yards on just 14 carries as his offensive line opened up significant gaps, and LA finished with 123 yards on the ground despite just 23 attempts by McVay.
Henderson had the second-biggest game of his NFL career after missing last week with a rib injury.
Short weeks are particularly hard on running backs, so Beacham suggests Sony Michel could get more action in Seattle. ...
For the record, Henderson (rib), Higbee (ankle) and fellow tight end Johnny Mundt (shoulder) were limited participants in practice Monday and Tuesday.
I'll have more on Henderson and Higbee via Late-Breaking Update in advance of Thursday night's game. ...
Van Jefferson continues to improve in his second NFL season. He caught all six balls thrown to him by Stafford for 90 yards and an early touchdown against Arizona. He has been targeted 18 times this season, as many as Higbee and only seven fewer than Woods.
And finally. ... The Rams were not prepared for quarterback Kyler Murray and the undefeated Arizona Cardinals. Coming off an emotional 34-24 win over the defending Super Bowl champion Buccaneers, the Rams suffered a major letdown in the divisional opener against a team they had defeated eight straight times.
This prompted ESPN.com's Lindsey Thiry to wonder if the Rams can regroup to face another mobile quarterback Thursday.
Murray completed 24 of 32 passes for 268 yards and two touchdowns, while rushing for 39 yards on six carries. The Rams had few answers to slow down the mobile third-year quarterback, causing concern as they prepare to play the Seahawks and Russell Wilson on Thursday.
Similar to Murray, Wilson can extend plays and complete jaw-dropping downfield passes while on the run.
QBs: Matthew Stafford, John Wolford, Bryce Perkins
RBs: Cam Akers, Jake Funk, Darrell Henderson, Javian Hawkins
WRs: Cooper Kupp, Allen Robinson, Van Jefferson, Ben Skowronek, Tutu Atwell, Landen Akers
TEs: Tyler Higbee, Kendall Blanton, Brycen Hopkins, Jacob Harris
Miami DolphinsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 5 October 2021
After Sunday's loss to the Colts, head coach Brian Flores said the team was "bad across the board" and that "there's a lot of things that are not connecting" for the team during their current three-game losing streak.
The offense was one of those things during the loss to the Colts.
They gained 203 yards and turned the ball over twice in the loss and the unit has now failed to gain more than 259 yards in three of their four games.
On Monday, Flores was asked about making changes in hopes of creating better results. He said the team is evaluating things, but won't make "wholesale changes" like altering the way co-coordinators George Godsey and Eric Studesville put together the offense.
Studesville and Godsey also get input from quarterbacks coach Charlie Frye and others on the staff into what the team should be doing offensively.
"I like the system we have in place," Flores said, via Hal Habib of the Palm Beach Post. "Obviously we haven't had the success we want, the production that we're looking for. I like our process during the week. I like our preparation. We've had some good plans going in. We just haven't been able to execute. We're not getting the results we want."
Both coordinators spoke to reporters on Tuesday and both men said things have to get better while noting that there's a lot of football to be played this season.
Studesville also said that the collaborative approach has not been problematic.
"That part of it hasn't been an issue," Studesville said, via Joe Schad of the Palm Beach Post. "It's more execution and doing things of what we're calling."
Godsey said "the bottom line" is that the Dolphins have to improve their production, which is correct but easier said than done based on how the unit has looked through four games.
The Dolphins haven't had quarterback Tua Tagovailoa since he injured his ribs in Week 1 and he won't be back for this week's game in Tampa, so they'll have to fix things with the same group that failed to ignite against the Colts.
But make no mistake: As ESPN.com's Marcel Louis-Jacques wrote, "The glass covering the panic button has been raised -- this offense is in trouble."
Associated Press sports writer Tim Reynolds lent further credence to Louis-Jacques' contention up by noting the Dolphins are 30th in passing yards, 28th in rushing yards per game. The only other team in the NFL to rank in the bottom five of both categories is the New York Jets.
It's hard to even find an individual number that looks good when comparing Miami's offensive players to the rest of the league. Myles Gaskin is the team's leading rusher; he was 41st in the NFL in yards after Sunday. There are 31 players with at least one 25-yard rush this season; none play for Miami.
Entering Monday, there had been 103 instances of someone rushing for 50 or more yards in a game this season. Of those, only one has been recorded by a Miami player.
Jaylen Waddle was tied for 12th after Sunday with 25 receptions; his 200 yards off those catches is 58th in the league.
And then there's the quarterback spot. Jacoby Brissett has thrown two touchdown passes in 11 quarters of work since Tua Tagovailoa got hurt; both of those TDs came in the fourth quarter of Sunday's 27-17 loss to Indianapolis.
"We've had some good plans going in," Flores said. "We just haven't been able to execute and we're not getting the results we want."
Remember, the Colts entered Week 4 allowing the sixth-most yards per play (6.29) in the NFL, yet they held the Dolphins to just 3 yards per play Sunday. Once again, Miami failed to push the ball down the field, seemingly settling for short and intermediate passes; Brissett attempted just one pass longer than 20 yards, and Miami's offense didn't crack 100 yards until midway through the fourth quarter.
Speaking of Tagovailoa -- how much better can he make this Dolphins' offense?
Tagovailoa will reportedly make his return from injured reserve when the Dolphins play the Jaguars in Week 6, giving him a winnable matchup after missing three games with fractured ribs. But he could realistically be leading a team that is 1-4 by that time; his development as a downfield passer won't be able to wait.
He will have to display an ability to stretch a defense or teams will continue to keep Miami's offense in front of them as they've done with Brissett.
With this Dolphins' defense, the team can compete, but their offense has to carry its weight, immediately.
next up, the Dolphins go across the state on Sunday and will face reigning Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay (3-1). When Bucs QB Tom Brady was coming off his six Super Bowl wins with the New England Patriots, he always went 1-1 against the Dolphins in the subsequent regular season. ...
Other notes of interest. ... If you're looking for positives here, look no further than DeVante Parker. He had two big plays when the Dolphins were in full air-it-out mode in the fourth quarter to try and pull off a comeback. Parker got his first touchdown of the season and was targeted nine times by Brissett against the Colts.
On the injury front. ... Receiver Will Fuller V will miss at least three games after being placed on injured reserve on Wednesday.
Fuller left Sunday's game in the second quarter and did not return. NFL Network reported that Fuller suffered a broken finger.
The former first-round draft pick of the Houston Texans signed a one-year, $10 million contract with Miami this offseason after setting career highs in receptions, receiving yards and receiving touchdowns last season. Fuller has four catches for 26 yards in two games for Miami this season. He missed Week 1 while serving the last game of a suspension and then was out in Week 2 for personal reasons.
Now we'll be waiting until the end of October, at the earliest, for his return.
The news is slightly better on cornerback Byron Jones, as Flores told reporters he's day-to-day with his quad injury. Jones was on the field for just 35 percent of the Dolphins' defensive snaps on Sunday before exiting the contest. He has five passes defensed and a forced fumble so far in 2021.
"We'll see if he can practice Wednesday," Flores said, via Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald.
Flores also said the team hopes defensive tackle Raekwon Davis will return to practice this week after spending the past three games on injured reserve because of a knee injury.
Tagovailoa, who is on IR with fractured ribs, has started to throw, according to Flores, although the coach did not confirm nor deny the above-mentioned ESPN report that Tagovailoa would play in Miami's Week 6 game against the Jaguars. ...
More immediately, Parker (shoulder) was limited in Wednesday's practice; I'll follow up via Late-Breaking Update as developments warrant in coming days. ...
And finally. ... NFL Network's Tom Pelissero reported that the Dolphins traded wide receiver Jakeem Grant for a 2023 sixth-round pick.
The trade thins out a deep receiver corps in Miami while the Dolphins saved a couple million in salary cap space.
Grant has two catches for minus-7 yards in four games this season. The shifty wideout also returns kicks and punts.
QBs: Tua Tagovailoa, Teddy Bridgewater, Reid Sinnett
RBs: Sony Michel, Chase Edmonds, Phillip Lindsay, Myles Gaskin, Salvon Ahmed, Malcolm Brown, Raheem Mostert
WRs: Jaylen Waddle, Tyreek Hill, Cedrick Wilson, Trent Sherfield, Albert Wilson, Preston Williams, Isaiah Ford
TEs: Mike Gesicki, Durham Smythe, Adam Shaheen, Hunter Long
Minnesota VikingsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 5 October 2021
As Associated Press sports writer Dave Campbell reported, needing one big play downfield to stall the Cleveland pass rush and potentially come back to steal a win against the Browns, quarterback Kirk Cousins lofted a deep pass to Adam Thielen in the fourth quarter.
The pass was off the mark.
Thielen tried to play cornerback Greedy Williams as much as the ball. Williams came down with the interception, the first thrown by Cousins this season and snapping a streak of 224 consecutive attempts without a pick.
Cousins and the Vikings had to turn away from their short, quick passing game in an attempt to get anything going against Cleveland's stout defense in a 14-7 loss on Sunday.
"Didn't put enough points on the board," Cousins said. "Started fast, had a great first drive but then didn't do enough the rest of the game. Disappointing when we're at home to not do more. We have to learn from it, watch the film and be very critical and correct things. Then we'll move forward."
Minnesota was coming off its first win of the season, but the offense had put the team in a position for more potential victories. The Vikings entered Sunday fourth in the league in total yards per game.
It looked like Sunday might be a repeat after Minnesota drove 75 yards in 14 plays and scored on Cousins' pass to Justin Jefferson.
The Vikings totaled 175 yards the rest of the game.
"All I can say is that we just didn't execute the way we wanted to," Jefferson said. "The plays were called and we just didn't get downfield and make those big plays."
After two weeks of having a clean pocket and finding open receivers, Cousins dealt with immediate pressure from Myles Garrett and the Browns' pass rush. He was sacked twice and didn't have the time to survey the field he had in the previous two games.
On one play, Minnesota tried to have tight end Tyler Conklin block Garrett one-on-one. Cousins found Jefferson for a 37-yard completion, but Conklin was called for holding. In the fourth, Cousins missed an open receiver after Garrett pressured by bulling straight through left tackle Rashod Hill.
Cousins finished 20 of 28 for 203 yards passing.
"We moved the ball really well that first drive, went right down the field and scored," Vikings coach Mike Zimmer said. "The second part of it, they started pressuring a little bit more."
Dalvin Cook left the game temporarily with an aggravation of his ankle injury and finished with nine carries for 34 yards. Alexander Mattison was held to 20 yards on 10 tries. With no success running the ball on early downs, Garrett and company came after Cousins on third down.
The Vikings were 5 of 16 on third down.
"I still believe offensively we can look like we did a week ago, and two weeks ago, as well," Zimmer said. "Like I told the team, I've been doing this 27 years, I know good teams and I know bad teams. I know this team has a chance to be pretty darn good."
Heck, they could be pretty darn good this very week.
The Vikings have a well-timed visit from one of the NFL's two winless teams, division rival Detroit, this Sunday. The Lions host the rematch on Dec. 5, and Pittsburgh is the only other among the 13 opponents remaining for Minnesota that currently has a losing record. ...
Other notes of interest. ... Justin Jefferson has 114 receptions for 1,738 yards and 10 touchdowns in 20 career games. Odell Beckham Jr. (141, 1,959, 19) and A.J. Green (101, 1,550, 11) are the only others in NFL history with at least 100 receptions for 1,500 receiving yards and 10 touchdowns or more in their first 20 games. ...
As noted above, Cook wasn't much of a factor in his return from a sprained ankle, but neither was Mattison.
Cook was on the sideline for four straight possessions in the second half because he was "a little gimpy," Zimmer said, but Cook came back for the final two drives.
Cook said he plans to continue playing through the injury.
"I don't feel like I'm getting worse or heading in the wrong direction," he told reporters.
I'll have more on Cook via Late-Breaking Update in coming days. ...
DT Michael Pierce started the game despite an elbow injury that had him listed as questionable, but he was sidelined after aggravating it in the second quarter and scheduled for an MRI exam. CB Cameron Dantzler, who played almost the entire game after the departure of Bashaud Breeland due to what the team announced as an illness, was placed on the COVID-19 reserve list on Monday.
QBs: Kirk Cousins, Sean Mannion, Kellen Mond
RBs: Dalvin Cook, Alexander Mattison, Kene Nwangwu, Wayne Gallman
WRs: Justin Jefferson, K.J. Osborn, Ihmir Smith-Marsette, Dede Westbrook, Adam Thielen
TEs: Chris Herndon, Brandon Dillon, Ben Ellefson, Irv Smith Jr., Johnny Mundt
New England PatriotsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 5 October 2021
As NFL.com's Kevin Patra reported it, the Patriots came up short in Tom Brady's return to Foxboro on Sunday night, with Nick Folk's last-minute field-goal attempt doinking off the left upright in the 19-17 loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Aside from the historical and emotional aspects of TB12's return, the biggest takeaway from Sunday night's game was that the Pats found their new Brady, Mac Jones.
The rookie played well on the rain-soaked night, tossing for chunk gains against heavy Bucs blitzes, getting the ball out quick and knowing where the open man would be. Statistically, Jones outplayed Brady, generating 275 yards on a 77.5 percent completion rate, two TDs, one INT, and a 101.6 passer rating (Brady: 269 yards, 51.2 completion percentage, 0 TDs, 0 INTs, 70.8 rating).
At one point on an efficient night, Jones completed 19 straight passes, the most in a single game by a rookie in the last 30 seasons (since 1991, when official completions data begins). In addition, Jones tied Brady (Week 1, 2015) for the longest streak by a Patriots QB in a single game in the last 30 seasons.
Despite playing well versus the pressure on a massive stage, Jones wasn't ready to accept any "moral victories," noting the errors (the Pats had two turnovers and several big penalties) that stunted their progress Sunday night.
"You know, I think we executed well. Well, obviously not good enough to win, but Josh (McDaniels) did a great job, and I think it was good for us to learn that we didn't put it all together, but we got close to putting it all together and playing a full game together," he said, via the official game transcript. "When we can do that, I think positive things will happen. We didn't; we can be 90 percent or 85 percent, and you lose. We don't really do moral victories. Those are always forgotten. But you just kind of have to take it for what it's worth and move on."
On a night in which the Patriots had -1 total yards rushing, the offense was put on Jones' shoulders. The rookie delivered. He generated the second-highest completion percentage (77.5) by a rookie with 40-plus pass attempts in a game in the Super Bowl era (highest: Chargers QB Justin Herbert in Week 14, 2020 vs. ATL, 81.8 percent).
However, the fact is the Pats fell to 1-3 for just the third time in the Bill Belichick era, and the first time since 2001, the year Brady took over.
At least at QB, however, the Pats know they've found a gamer.
"I think we moved in the right direction," Jones said. "You know, we made plays and played hard the whole game, and I turned the ball over. That's one of the problems, you know, turnovers can kill you, and you know if you turn the ball over - If you don't turn the ball over, you have a 90-something percent chance to win, and it's just statistics, but I have thought we moved the ball, passing well and the run game needs to improve, and we'll come up with ways to do that. I thought everyone fought really hard. It sucks we lost but yeah, look at it, like you said, that we're making some progress."
The next tangible progress will be stacking wins, starting with the similarly 1-3 Houston Texans in Week 5.
The first improvement might be on play caller Josh McDaniels.
The Patriots ran 54 offensive plays in Sunday night's loss to the Buccaneers and only seven of them were rushing attempts.
As noted above, Jones threw 40 passes, took a knee once, and got sacked four times while wide receiver Jakobi Meyers completed both passes he attempted. The Buccaneers were also flagged for defensive pass interference three times, so things were pretty imbalanced offensively for New England.
"I never want to be one-dimensional," McDaniels told Karen Guregian of the Boston Herald. "I don't think we ever do, here. There's certainly been games in the past we can all point to and say we probably didn't give it a chance, and had to lean on the passing game. But I would say as a rule of thumb, that is not a sustainable method of playing offense. You can't bail on it every week because somebody makes it difficult . . . we gotta do better than we did Sunday.
The Texans have given up 548 rushing yards through four games, so the Patriots should have an opportunity to get their ground game going in Houston this weekend. ...
Other notes of interest. ... Damien Harris rushed four times for negative four yards and caught both of his targets for 30 yards. He technically led the Patriots in rushing attempts (no other rusher had more than one carry), but he also led the team in negative rushing yardage.
Brandon Bolden didn't fare any better on the ground (one carry for zero yards), but the latter had a much bigger impact in the passing game (six receptions for 51 yards).
Harris has contributed just 10 yards on 10 carries over the last two contests following a hot start to the year.
As CBSSports.com suggests, it wouldn't be surprising to see the Patriots mix things up in the backfield given how poor the rushing attack has looked over the last two weeks. ...
When New England has turned to gadget plays on offense the past two seasons, Meyers has usually been involved.
As noted above, he made his latest contributions Sunday, completing a 15-yard pass to Bolden in the second quarter and then executing a 30-yard flea-flicker pass to Nelson Agholor in the fourth to set up Folk's 27-yard field goal that put the Patriots in front 17-16.
Over the past three seasons, the former high school quarterback is 4 for 4 passing for 88 yards and two touchdowns. ...
N'Keal Harry logged 15 of a possible 59 snaps on offense in Sunday's loss, NESN's Zack Cox reports.
In his 2021 season debut, Harry, who came off IR on Saturday, was out-snapped by Meyers, Agholor and Kendrick Bourne, en route to catching his only target for 10 yards.
For now, the 2019 first-rounder is off the fantasy radar, but now that he's past the shoulder issue that sidelined him early on, Harry's role in the offense could grow in the coming weeks, especially in the event that either Meyers, Agholor or Bourne end up missing time down the road for any reason. ...
Should Belichick have tried to get closer before attempting a 56-yard field goal? Folk had made 36 field goals in a row, but his longest attempt in the streak was from 51, so putting him out there from 56 was testing the limits. It was fourth-and-3 from the 37-yard line, so it was a borderline call for Belichick.
According to ESPN's win probability metrics, via Mike Reiss, the field goal was the correct decision -- with a 42.2 percent win probability. The win probability of going for it was 34.7 percent.
On the injury front. ... Defensive end Henry Anderson suffered a season-ending torn pectoral injury against the Buccaneers, NFL Network's Mike Garafolo reported. An MRI confirmed what the team initially feared regarding Anderson's injury. Special teamer Cody Davis left in the third quarter with a knee injury. ... Jonathan Jones suffered an undisclosed injury.
Adding to those woes, the Patriots are suddenly without the left side of their offensive line.
New England's starting left tackle Isaiah Wynn and starting left guard Mike Onwenu were both placed on the COVID-19 list.
There was no immediate word on whether they were placed on the list because of a close contact with someone who tested positive or because they themselves tested positive, and also no word on whether they're vaccinated. That would affect how much time they need to miss.
Losing two starting offensive linemen won't make life any easier for Jones, although even without Wynn and Onwenu the Patriots would remain heavy favorites on Sunday at Houston.
And finally. ... The Patriots traded All-Pro cornerback Stephon Gilmore Wednesday to the Panthers for a 2023 sixth-round pick. It's a homecoming of sorts for Gilmore, who grew up in and played at South Carolina.
The Panthers inherit the roughly $6 million remaining on Gilmore's deal for the rest of 2021, NFL Network's Tom Pelissero reported.
The former Defensive Player of the Year has yet to make his 2021 debut after beginning the season on the physically unable to perform list. He is eligible to return Week 7. Carolina hosts the Pats in Week 9.
NFL Network's Mike Giardi reported Gilmore is "healthy" and has been running.
"There is nothing wrong with the quad," Giardi said on NFL Now.
QBs: Mac Jones, Brian Hoyer, Jarrett Stidham
RBs: Damien Harris, Rhamondre Stevenson, J.J. Taylor, James White
WRs: Kendrick Bourne, DeVante Parker, Jakobi Meyers, Nelson Agholor, Kristian Wilkerson, N'Keal Harry, Lil'Jordan Humphrey, Ty Montgomery
TEs: Hunter Henry, Jonnu Smith, Devin Asiasi
New Orleans SaintsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 5 October 2021
As ESPN.com's Mike Triplett reminded readers, the New Orleans Saints and their fans waited 21 months for this 70,000-person reunion in the Superdome.
And it was going pretty well with the home team leading 21-10 with seven minutes left in the fourth quarter.
So it was stunning, to say the least, that quarterback Jameis Winston wound up apologizing to the crowd after a 27-21 overtime loss to the previously winless New York Giants.
"I'm just sorry to all the fans. Y'all came out, and y'all were electric," Winston said. "We're gonna get better -- I'm gonna get better -- to put on a better show for y'all."
So what went wrong? Well that's obvious. To blow an 11-point lead in seven minutes, you need everything to go wrong.
But what does this collapse mean for the Saints (2-2) as they head back on the road to play at the Washington Football Team in Week 5?
You could argue Winston and this unit played better Sunday, but they remain the much bigger question mark going forward.
Although Winston threw for a season-high 226 yards, including a season-long 58-yard pass to wide receiver Marquez Callaway (and a 46-yard touchdown pass to Kenny Stills that was nullified by a holding penalty in the third quarter), Triplett believes it's fair to ask whether Sean Payton trusts Winston enough to fully open up the passing offense.
Once again, the Saints went for a run-heavy, control-the-clock approach with 39 rushing attempts and 26 pass attempts. Funny enough, their only turnover came when Taysom Hill took a turn at quarterback and threw a deep up-for-grabs interception in the third quarter.
Winston got hot for a stretch in the middle of the game, completing 12 straight passes (13 if you include the nullified touchdown). But the offense was too stagnant with zero points for the first 29 minutes or last 12 minutes of regulation.
"I thought [the passing offense] was pretty effective today," Payton said. "We were able to get the ball down the field. We had one called back for a holding (penalty) that was a real good throw and catch. … I thought our third-down numbers were good. Our ball security overall was pretty good. Time of possession, running game. You know, if you looked at some of these numbers, you would say there are a number of positive things. But again, there weren't enough."
Payton took offense to the suggestion he got too conservative in the final nine minutes -- and Triplett agrees with him. On one drive, the Saints called two run plays -- on second-and-3 and third-and-2 -- and got stuffed. But those calls made sense. On the next drive, they attempted three passes but got tripped up by a delay of game penalty.
It's fair, however, to question whether this team is too conservative on offense in general since it ranked 31st in total yards and passing yards even before Sunday. That's great when you're winning -- and they were a hair away from 3-1. But now that they're 2-2, it feels like they're walking a tightrope.
The good news is they should also have receivers Michael Thomas and Tre'Quan Smith and offensive linemen Terron Armstead and Erik McCoy back in the coming weeks.
Yet another player who will eventually return from injury is kicker Wil Lutz -- which is awfully important, considering replacement Aldrick Rosas has now missed three straight field goals, including a 58-yarder in the second quarter Sunday that Payton should've never attempted.
"At some point we gotta be able to kick a field goal," Payton said. "But, look, hindsight, I would've punted."
Payton let Rosas off the hook last week, taking the blame for attempting a 52-yard field goal in windy conditions at New England. This week, Payton is making a change.
New Orleans released Rosas on Tuesday. With Rosas out, NFL Network's Ian Rapoport reported Tuesday the Saints has agreed to terms with Cody Parkey. He was most recently with the Browns who released him off injured reserve in August. In his second stint with Cleveland in 2020, Parkey was 19-for-22 on field goals and 43-for-47 on extra points. He also sent 56 percent of his kickoffs for touchbacks.
Parkey has made 85 percent of his career field goals and 94 percent of his extra points.
Lutz is eligible to return from IR at any time after missing three games due to core muscle surgery.
Looking for positives? Or semi-positives?
Running back Alvin Kamara had a couple of firsts in Sunday's loss to the Giants.
Kamara set a career-high by running the ball 26 times and he set another personal record by going untargeted with a pass for the first time in his NFL career. Kamara had one other game without a catch during the 2020 season, but he did have a pass thrown his way in that contest.
Kamara produced 120 yards on those 26 carries, but failing to try to take advantage of his receiving skills will likely be the subject of scrutiny as the Saints move forward from this game.
Meanwhile, tight end Adam Trautman, who was expected to have an increasingly prominent role as a receiver, had just one catch for 3 yards. He also was flagged for a holding call that wiped out the afore-mentioned long touchdown pass from Winston to Stills, although Payton noted that New Orleans' blocking scheme on that play left Trautman in a tough matchup with Giants defensive end Leonard Williams. ...
On the injury front. ... Running back Tony Jones Jr. had to be carted off the field with an ankle injury. The Saints are awaiting the return of center Erik McCoy from a Week 1 calf injury and eft tackle Terron Armstead from a Week 3 elbow injury. It's unclear if either will be ready this week.
Adam Schefter of ESPN reports that Jones is expected to miss three or four weeks while he recovers from the injury. That timeframe suggests a stop on the injured reserve is in his future and his roster spot could go to one of the backs that the Saints worked out on Tuesday.
Lamar Miller, Duke Johnson, Brian Hill, Ito Smith and Ryquell Armstead were involved in those workouts.
While one of them might still be signed, the Saints were said to be signing running back Devine Ozigbo off the Jaguars' practice squad to their active roster, pending a physical. ...
Whatever the case, the Saints visit Washington looking to get back above .500 before entering a bye week that comes at an opportune time as several key players on offense try to work their way back from injuries.
QBs: Taysom Hill, Andy Dalton, Ian Book, Jameis Winston
RBs: Alvin Kamara, Mark Ingram, Tony Jones Jr., Dwayne Washington
WRs: Jarvis Landry, Marquez Callaway, Tre'quan Smith, Michael Thomas, Deonte Harris
TEs: Adam Trautman, Nick Vannett, Juwan Johnson
New York GiantsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 5 October 2021
As Profootballtalk.com's Michael David Smith suggested, the Giants' much-derided decision to take Daniel Jones with the sixth overall pick in the 2019 NFL draft is starting to look like the right decision after all.
Although the 1-3 Giants still have a great deal of work to do, Jones has been playing his best football recently, and had his best game yet in Sunday's win over the Saints.
Jones completed 28-of-40 passes for 402 yards, with two touchdowns and one interception, and wasn't sacked at all. That 402-yard day was a career best, as was his 10.1 yards per attempt average, and the 40 passes were the most he's ever thrown without taking a sack.
Jones was named NFC Offensive Player of the Week for his efforts.
Also worth noting, Jones went 2-of-4 for 106 yards and two TDs on deep passes. It was his second career game with two TDs on deep passes (Week 16, 2019 vs. Washington).
Overall, it may have been the best he's looked as a passer.
Jones also had 27 rushing yards, and with 188 yards so far this season, he's the Giants' leading rusher. Jones is averaging 7.0 yards per carry, tops in the NFL among players with at least 15 rushing attempts.
Jones' status as the franchise quarterback won't be safe unless he wins enough games to ensure the job security of general manager Dave Gettleman and coach Joe Judge.
But he's been playing well this season on a team that is struggling.
Sunday's 27-21 overtime win was important.
Judge's team was coming off two straight last-play losses against Washington and Atlanta. It was playing with two of its top receivers sidelined with injuries and a new left guard.
The biggest obstacle might have been New York was in New Orleans for the Saints' first home game this season after Hurricane Ida had displaced the team for weeks.
That wasn't the case.
Jones and Saquon Barkley rallied the Giants from an 11-point fourth-quarter deficit. Graham Gano, who earlier saw his streak of 37 straight made field goals snapped, kicked a game-tying 48-yard field goal and Barkley won it in overtime with a 6-yard run.
"We have a special group," Barkley said. "I say it every week and it's not really easy to believe me after a loss. But I think that locker room is starting to believe in each other and see what we have."
Still, the Giants need to take the next step. They have to follow up their unexpected win with another one in a game few expect them to win. They are heading to Dallas this weekend to face the NFC East-leading Cowboys, who have won three in a row after losing their opener to the Super Bowl champion Bucs.
It's not going to be easy. Dak Prescott has returned from the broken right ankle he sustained against the Giants around this time last season and is playing well. Of greater note, Dallas' defense seems vastly improved.
A Giants' loss would put them three games behind the division-leading Cowboys (3-1) and leave them 0-2 in the NFC East.
If the Giants pull another surprise, they are back in the playoff hunt. If not, they are once again facing a long fruitless second season under Judge and more questions. ...
Other notes of interest. ... Barkley had his most successful game since tearing his ACL in the second game of last season. He had 13 carries for 52 yards and a game-winning 6-yard TD run in overtime. He also caught five passes for 74 yards, including a 54-yard touchdown. The 126 yards from scrimmage was Barkley's 21st game with more than 100 yards. ...
First-round draft pick Kadarius Toney and off-season free agent signee John Ross had big games filling in for the injured Sterling Shepard and Darius Slayton. Toney had six catches for 78 yards. Ross, who spent the first three games on injured reserve, had three catches, including a 52-yard TD catch.
It also helped having a healthier Kenny Golladay, who had six catches for 116 yards. Things are looking up for the Giants offense heading into next week in Dallas.
It's not yet clear if Shepard and Slayton will return this week. Neither practiced on Wednesday while Golladay (groin) was limited. Watch the Late-Breaking Updates section in coming day for more on that.
QBs: Jake Fromm, Brian Lewerke, Tyrod Taylor, Daniel Jones, Mike Glennon
RBs: Saquon Barkley, Gary Brightwell, Matt Breida
WRs: Kenny Golladay, Kadarius Toney, John Ross, Darius Slayton, C.J. Board, Sterling Shepard
New York JetsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 5 October 2021
As NFL.com's Kevin Patra reported, the Jets earned their first win of the Robert Saleh-Zach Wilson era, outlasting the Tennessee Titans, 27-24, in overtime after Randy Bullock missed a field goal that would have tied the game.
For the rookie QB, who'd struggled through his first three games, Sunday's win was a microcosm of what he can be -- a gun slinging demon -- but there are improvements to make to win consistently. Wilson finished 21-of-34 passing for 297 yards, two touchdowns, one interception, and a 97.3 passer rating.
After imploring Wilson to take the "boring" outlet pass at times, Saleh was pleased with the strides he saw from his young QB.
"For Zach, it's just letting the game come to him," Saleh said. "He didn't make any mistakes. The interception was unfortunate, but he made the right reads. He put the ball where it needed to be. He was aggressive when he needed to be. Believe it or not, he was boring when he needed to be. Just thought he did a really, really nice job playing this game."
Wilson called it a "rollercoaster" game, which included several splash plays from the rookie. In the third quarter, the QB scrambled out of the pocket and uncorked a 54-yard shot to Keelan Cole that set up a field goal to give Gang Green their first lead of the season. On the next possession, he rolled right, pointed for Corey Davis to go deep and heaved a gorgeous 53-yard TD pass.
"That's like backyard ball," Davis said after his four-catch, 111-yard day in a revenge game against his former club.
Wilson's two passes of 50-plus yards marked the first time the Jets had two 50-yard plays in the same game since Week 5 in 2018 against Denver. Against the Broncos, they had a long run (77 yards) and a long pass (78). It was also the first time they had two passes of 50 or more yards in the same game since Geno Smith had two to Eric Decker in Week 17 of the 2014 season.
It wasn't a perfect day for Wilson, who tossed his eighth INT of the season (second-most for a rookie QB through four games in the last 40 years -- only Peyton Manning's 11 was more). The rookie also missed a couple of chances to close out the game late, including Davis falling on a third-and-10 throw in the fourth quarter before the Titans tied it late and a scramble on the OT drive that lost three yards instead of throwing it away.
"Regardless, I thought he was awesome," Saleh declared.
For Wilson, the good and bad are all part of the NFL learning curve.
"I've got to take advantage of my opportunity to end that game," the rookie said. "I'm excited to go into this week and learn from that. I thought we had a lot of awesome plays, but it really comes down to that crunch time. The NFL's hard. We've got to win that. I'm excited but at the same time I'm beating myself up."
As Patra added, "Beating himself up after a win is much more fun than after a loss. ..."
Now, the Jets have a chance to put together a winning streak as they head to London to take on the 1-3 Atlanta Falcons at Tottenham Hotspur Stadium Sunday morning. It will be New York's second game played in England, and first since beating Miami 27-14 in 2015. ...
Other notes of interest. ... The Titans made Davis the fifth overall choice in 2017. He left in the offseason, signing with the Jets.
Only five times in 56 games with the Titans did Davis gain more yards in a game than the 111 he finished this one with.
"Feels great," Davis said. "I was quiet this week. I didn't want to make it any bigger than what it is because, honestly, it was the next game. It's one that we needed regardless if I was there previously or not. It definitely feels good to beat your old team, and it's on to the next now."
The Titans could have used Davis on Sunday, with their top two wideouts -- Julio Jones and A.J. Brown -- inactive with injuries. Jeremy McNichols led the Titans with eight receptions for 74 yards.
For the season, Davis has 16 receptions for 257 yards and three touchdowns.
"I'm no stranger to adversity on and off the field," Davis said. "It's just self-talk, my players keeping me in it and coaches as well. That's just something that's going to happen in a game. It's not going to be perfect, but you have to stay in it."
Meanwhile, Denzel Mims' stock was already pretty low, but the wide receiver was active for the first time since the opener with Elijah Moore and Jeff Smith sidelined with concussions and still had no impact. The 2020 second-rounder played just 10 snaps on offense and had no targets against Tennessee.
According to Associated Press sports writer Dennis Waszak Jr., Moore is expected to clear the NFL's concussion protocol after missing the game against Tennessee. Moore practiced Wednesday and Saleh said he's day to day, as are Smith and rookie CB Brandin Echols, who remain in the protocol.
I'll have more on their status via Late-Breaking Update in coming days. ...
And finally. ... As ESPN.com's Rich Cimini suggested, it's fair to wonder if the team's pass rush is for real.
The Jets recorded seven sacks, including two by DT Quinnen Williams. The front four is the strength of the team, but some wondered whether it would be a diminished strength because of DE Carl Lawson's season-ending injury. The coaches have adjusted, using more blitz packages than expected. They designed clever third-down pressures and rattled Ryan Tannehill, who didn't have Jones and Brown.
Cimini added, "Don't buy stock on the Jets' pass rush just yet -- seven sacks is an aberration -- but it's an improving D-line."
QBs: Zach Wilson, Joe Flacco, Mike White
RBs: Michael Carter, Ty Johnson, Austin Walter, Tevin Coleman, Lamical Perine
WRs: Braxton Berrios, Elijah Moore, Denzel Mims, Jeff Smith, Corey Davis
TEs: C.J. Uzomah, Tyler Conklin, Kenny Yeboah, Trevon Wesco
Philadelphia EaglesCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 5 October 2021
The Eagles are enduring plenty of growing pains under first-year head coach Nick Sirianni and a young coaching staff.
It's uncertain when the lessons they're learning will translate into wins.
After an impressive debut at Atlanta in Week 1, it's been downhill for Sirianni and his rebuilding team.
The Eagles (1-3) have lost three straight games by an average margin of 12.7 points per game.
As Associated Press sports writer Rob Maaddi put it, "They're undisciplined, sloppy and struggling to overcome repeated mistakes."
In Sunday's 42-30 loss to the Chiefs, the Eagles had three touchdowns negated by penalties. Those drives ended up producing six points instead of 21.
As Profootballtalk.com's Myles Simmons noted, that it happened to Philadelphia is not much of a surprise this year.
Sirianni's team has drawn the most flags in 2021, and it's not even close. The Eagles have been penalized 44 times in four games. The Buccaneers are No. 2 at 34 penalties.
"We're upset -- we're furious that we're 1-3," Sirianni said after Sunday's game, via Josh Tolentino of the Philadelphia Inquirer. "The self-inflicted wounds have to stop. We keep putting ourselves in holes with penalties. We have to use this tape and get better from it."
The touchdowns got called back due to an ineligible receiver downfield, offensive pass interference, and illegal touching fouls.
At this point, the Eagles just aren't good enough to overcome all of those setbacks.
"My message is really never going to change, win or lose," Sirianni said. "We've got to make our corrections and get better from it."
Jalen Hurts said he and his teammates control the penalties and the little things, which is how they can get corrected.
"We're clearly not there as a football team," Hurts said. "We're not a finished product. No player on this team is a finished product. We've got to put it together."
The good news?
Hurts flushed a bad primetime game.
As NFL.com noted, the young QB bounced back from a poor Monday night performance and looked much more in control versus a porous Chiefs D. It was a better game plan from Sirianni, who helped his QB with a bevy of quick tosses.
The Eagles couldn't get much going in the run game (Miles Sanders, seven carries for 13 yards), but the effective quick-screen game acted as runs to keep the defense off-balance.
Hurts threw the ball with confidence, was on target and didn't force balls into coverage. He finished with 387 yards and two TDs.
The QB also led the Eagles with eight rushes for 47 yards. Behind an offensive line missing four of five starters, the game plan and execution was solid from Philly this week. Hurts went 31 of 38 for 350 yards and two touchdowns on passes of fewer than 20 air yards. With a defense that couldn't get a stop, Hurts wasn't the issue this week.
The Eagles are moving the ball well through the air, but just can't finish off drives.
A defense that gave up a total of 23 points in the first two games hasn't made many stops in the past two games against a pair of powerful offenses. The Eagles have allowed 83 points and 851 yards against the Cowboys and Chiefs.
And now they visit the Carolina Panthers (3-1) on Sunday. The Panthers were undefeated before losing at Dallas 36-28. ...
Other notes of interest. ... Hurts has had two strong games -- against the Chiefs and Atlanta Falcons -- to go with two down games against the Cowboys and 49ers. He has been lights out this season in the quick-rhythm pass game. According to ESPN Stats and Information research, 30 of his 48 passes Sunday traveled 5 yards or fewer through the air, the most in a game in his career.
He was still able to generate some chunk plays, including three to Devonta Smith that netted 20-plus yards. Smith, like Hurts, cooled the previous two weeks following a solid game against Atlanta, but rebounded Sunday, showing off the silky route-running and body control that helped him win the Heisman Trophy.
"It's all a credit to the team, us just getting better each week," Smith said. "The little things we're leaving out there we can correct."
Against the Chiefs, Smith had seven catches for 122 yards. The 2020 Heisman Trophy winner selected with the 10th overall pick in the draft had 115 yards receiving in the first three games combined. ...
Kenneth Gainwell (89 total yards and a touchdown) outproduced Sanders (47 total yards) against the Chiefs on Sunday despite being on the field for 18 fewer snaps. ESPN.com's Tim McManus advised his readers it's hard not to notice how crisp Gainwell looks. He explodes through the hole as a ball carrier and is smooth in the passing game.
Meanwhile, Sanders hasn't quite found his rhythm. Of course, finding a rhythm is hard when you've had only nine carries over the past two weeks.
According to McManus, this situation is creeping closer to a timeshare and will stay that way unless and until Sanders starts busting loose. ...
On the injury front. ... Three-time All-Pro center Jason Kelce is the last man standing again on the offensive line. Right tackle Lane Johnson was scratched Sunday because of a "personal" matter and Sirianni didn't elaborate on the issue. Left tackle Jordan Mailata (knee) missed his second straight game, left guard Isaac Seumalo (Lisfranc) is out for the season and right guard Brandon Brooks (pectoral) is on injured reserve. Kelce was the only lineman who started all 16 games last season.
QBs: Jalen Hurts, Gardner Minshew
RBs: Miles Sanders, Boston Scott, Jordan Howard, Kenneth Gainwell
WRs: DeVonta Smith, A.J. Brown, Jalen Reagor, Zach Pascal, Greg Ward, Quez Watkins, JJ Arcega-Whiteside
TEs: Dallas Goedert, Jack Stoll, Tyree Jackson
Pittsburgh SteelersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 5 October 2021
Head coach Mike Tomlin admits Ben Roethlisberger can't move around and extend plays like he used to. Tomlin doesn't believe that's reason enough to move on from his team's longtime quarterback during a 1-3 start.
The coach believes the accuracy issues that have plagued Roethlisberger over the opening month of the two-time Super Bowl winner's 18th season are "fixable" and has no plans to turn to backup Mason Rudolph.
Asked Tuesday if Roethlisberger is the right quarterback to run first-year offensive coordinator Matt Canada's system, Tomlin replied "absolutely."
"You know what he does and what he's done makes me really comfortable in saying that," Tomlin said.
At least, when Roethlisberger is healthy. Something he's not at the moment.
As Associated Press sports writer Will Graves reported, the 39-year-old is dealing with a hip issue that could limit his practice time ahead of Sunday's visit from Denver (3-1). This is the second time in three weeks Roethlisberger has been dinged up.
He injured his left pectoral muscle during a loss to Las Vegas on Sept. 19, though he took every snap during a 24-10 setback at the hands of Cincinnati the following Sunday.
It's uncertain when Roethlisberger tweaked his hip. The Packers sacked him twice while beating the Steelers 27-17 last weekend, pushing the season total Pittsburgh's retooled offensive line has allowed to 10, just three fewer than Roethlisberger took in 15 games while leading the Steelers to the AFC North title.
Tomlin said his concern for Roethlisberger's safety isn't "out of the ordinary" from what it has been in recent seasons and attributed some of the bumps and bruises as being a combination of Roethlisberger's age and playing from behind, a situation that forces the Steelers to pass and gives opponents more opportunities to take aim at his familiar No. 7.
"There's collateral damage that's associated with (playing from behind) for him and for us," Tomlin said. "And I think we all understand that. I think that's why it's important that we continue to work to improve and have a well-rounded approach to play and get better in all areas."
Pittsburgh's league-worst running game did show signs of life against the Packers. Rookie Najee Harris ran for 61 yards on 15 carries, easily his best total so far as a pro. Yet because the Steelers trailed by two scores or more for the majority of the second half, Roethlisberger ended up throwing it 40 times, completing 26 for 232 yards with a touchdown and a pick.
According to Graves, there were visible signs of the accuracy that's made Roethlisberger one of eight quarterbacks in NFL history to throw for 400 touchdowns. He found Diontae Johnson for a 45-yard score on Pittsburgh's opening possession and connected with James Washington for a 30-yard gain in the fourth quarter.
In between, however, there were the kind of misses that have cropped up with regularity over his past eight regular-season starts, a stretch in which the Steelers are just 2-6. A pair of deep looks to JuJu Smith-Schuster came up empty -- with both receiver and quarterback trying to take the blame afterward -- and a handful of times where Roethlisberger failed to recognize teammates running free in the secondary.
"I dropped my elbow down, and when you drop your elbow, the ball isn't as accurate," he said. "That's just on me to make the better throws. We had some plays. We had some guys open on the sidelines early. I throw them a little faster than I want to at times. At the end of the day, you have to make the throws."
Roethlisberger is completing 62 percent of his passes since Pittsburgh's franchise-record 11-0 run to start 2020 ended, with 12 touchdowns, eight interceptions and a pedestrian quarterback rating of 80.6, well below his career average of 93.7.
Tomlin understands mounting outside frustration with the team finding itself in the unusual position of last in the competitive AFC North. Both he and Roethlisberger understand negativity comes with the job when things aren't going well in a place where -- for the better part of two decades -- things have gone as well for any franchise in the NFL not named New England.
While Tomlin stressed he has plenty of confidence in Rudolph if for some reason Roethlisberger is unable to go at any point this season, he's nowhere close to turning to Rudolph even if Roethlisberger isn't the play-extending master he once was.
"Ben used to be able to run really well when he was young, those days are behind him," Tomlin said. "Other than that, I don't see much that's not a discussion in terms of technical alterations or quality of play that can be improved."
Roethlisberger is averaging just 9.5 yards per completion, the same spot he was a year ago when Pittsburgh's offense became overly reliant on the short passing game in an attempt to offset the worst rushing attack in the league.
The good news?
The Steelers play four of their next five games at Heinz Field, three of them against teams that failed to make the playoffs last season. Anything worse than 3-2 and any chance to contend for a postseason spot likely vanishes. This week's game against a tough Denver defense will be a major test. ...
On the injury front. ... Chase Claypool (hamstring) and RT Chuks Okorafor (concussion) both have a chance to return to practice after sitting out last week. ... RT Zach Banner (knee) is nearing a return after being activated from injured reserve last week. ... The status of DB Cam Sutton (groin) and LG Kevin Dotson (hip) is uncertain.
For the record, Big Ben did not practice Wednesday (he rarely does) while Claypool and Smith-Schuster (ribs) were limited. I'll have more on all three via Late-Breaking Update in coming days. ...
Worth noting, with Claypool sidelined by a hamstring injury, Washington caught four passes for 69 yards.
Running back Anthony McFarland Jr. (knee) returned to practice today. He's the second Steeler, joining Zach Banner, to be designated to return from IR.
Neither has been activated to 53-man, but window is open for both to return.
QBs: Ben Roethlisberger, Mitchell Trubisky, Mason Rudolph, Dwayne Haskins
RBs: Najee Harris, Benny Snell, Kalen Ballage, Anthony McFarland Jr.
WRs: Diontae Johnson, Chase Claypool, Cody White, Gunner Olszewski
TEs: Pat Freiermuth, Zach Gentry
San Francisco 49ersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 5 October 2021
Injuries to quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo helped derail two of the past three seasons for the San Francisco 49ers.
With rookie Trey Lance in place, the Niners should be in better shape to handle it this season if Garoppolo has to miss time with a calf injury.
Garoppolo hurt his right calf in the first half of a 28-21 loss to the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday and missed the entire second half.
A somber Garoppolo revealed during his media session that the injury occurred in his right calf after the first series and he felt it travel "down the Achilles a little bit." He added that he's "hopeful it will just be a couple of weeks" for him to heal pending the results of Monday's MRI.
"It sucked," he said. "I mean, just in between series, I could feel it tightening up and everything. I thought I could gut it out, tried to for the first half but it's just tough, man. I don't know. Been in this situation too many times, it's getting real old. So, just one of those things that's part of the business."
Head coach Kyle Shanahan sounded more optimistic than his QB on Monday when he told reporters that Garoppolo "has a chance" to play when San Francisco visits undefeated Arizona on Sunday.
"It wasn't as bad as we thought it might have been," Shanahan said. "He's in a lot of pain, still sore. Hopefully, by the time he comes in Wednesday, he'll feel better then and he'll have a good chance. If it hasn't improved at all by Wednesday it will be a little bit longer."
The Niners traded three first-round picks this offseason to take Lance third overall to give them an eventual replacement for Garoppolo and insurance if he got hurt again as he did in 2018 and '20.
Now with another early season injury, Lance will have a chance to take over early.
Lance, who played only seven snaps the first three weeks, got the news that he would be stepping in just before the start of the third quarter and delivered an up-and-down performance with a game-plan that was not tailored to his strengths and with little work in practice with the starting offense.
Still, as NFL.com's Jelani Scott suggests, the rookie made the most of the unexpected opportunity.
With the game tied 7-all, the Niners played it conservative on Lance's first series, dialing up three consecutive runs for fellow rookie Trey Sermon which yielded a first down and 21 yards. The drive concluded with a punt after Lance failed to pick up another first down after rushing for a yard on third-and-4.
Seattle punted after a four-play series but Lance was unable to get anything going on his second series. The drive ended following a pair of incomplete passes to George Kittle and Deebo Samuel that bookended a 6-yard Sermon run. The Seahawks followed with consecutive TD drives to take a 21-7 lead.
For his third act, Lance connected with Samuel for just the second completion of his career.
A huge 76-yard catch-and-run touchdown late in the third quarter that came after two Sermon runs and a 4-yard QB scamper. San Francisco trailed 21-13 entering the fourth quarter.
While they couldn't close the gap, the 49ers should be encouraged by Lance's play, especially considering the circumstances. His ability to read defenses will continue to evolve but the 21-year-old showed flashes that demonstrated why the club took him third overall in April.
If Garoppolo's injury lingers into the weekend, Lance will get a chance to show what he's got in his first NFL start against the undefeated Cardinals. ...
Other notes of interest. ... Samuel is off to a stellar start this year after catching eight passes for 156 yards and two TDs in the loss. Samuel also had 189 yards in the opener and leads the NFL with 490 yards receiving. That's the second most through four games in franchise history to Jerry Rice's 522 in 1995 and the most in the NFL since Julio Jones had 502 in 2018.
Sermon was a healthy scratch in the opener and played just one snap before getting hurt in Week 2. But he was strong on Sunday with 19 carries for 89 yards.
Trenton Cannon provided a spark with a big kick return in Week 3, but made a couple of key blunders on Sunday. The first came on punt coverage when he appeared to be in position to down a punt inside the 5, but carried the ball over for a touchback. Seattle took advantage and drove for its first TD of the game. Cannon then fumbled a kickoff in the third quarter, setting up another TD. ...
Beyond Garoppolo on the injury front, Shanahan also hopes that Elijah Mitchell will be able to take the blue no-contact jersey off this week. A speedy running back would be another welcome return for the 49ers.
The fact that the 49ers released veteran running backs Kerryon Johnson and Chris Thompson from the practice squad on Tuesday, might be an indication that Mitchell's return is coming.
Also, with Robbie Gould set to miss at least three weeks after going on injured reserve due to a groin injury, NFL Media's Tom Pelissero reports San Francisco is signing Joey Slye.
Slye just finished a stint as the Texans' fill-in kicker for Ka'imi Fairbairn, who came off injured reserve last week. Slye was 4-for-5 on field goals and 7-for-8 on extra points in three games for Houston.
After two seasons with the Panthers, Slye spent nearly all of training camp with the club but was cut on Aug. 28.
Slye was 29-for-36 on field goals last season with Carolina and 33-for-36 on extra points.
The Niners got some favorable injury news when LT Trent Williams' shoulder injury wasn't as serious as initially feared. He is day to day ... Kittle is day to day with a calf injury that kept him out of practice for some time last week.
I'll have more on Garoppolo and Kittle, who did not practice Wednesday, and Mitchell, who worked on a limited basis, via Late-Breaking Update in coming days.
QBs: Jimmy Garoppolo, Trey Lance
RBs: Elijah Mitchell, Jeff Wilson, JaMycal Hasty, Trey Sermon
WRs: Deebo Samuel, Brandon Aiyuk, Ray-Ray McCloud, Malik Turner, Jauan Jennings, Mohamed Sanu, KeeSean Johnson
TEs: George Kittle, Ross Dwelley, Tanner Hudson, Charlie Woerner, Tyler Kroft
Seattle SeahawksCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 5 October 2021
In one afternoon, the Seattle Seahawks avoided their first three-game losing streak in a decade by beating a division foe on the road and yet still didn't prove much in the process.
There are many questions still circulating around the Seahawks despite Sunday's 28-21 win over San Francisco.
As Associated Press sports writer Tim Booth noted, Russell Wilson was great and accounted for three touchdowns.
But his offense was awful for the first two quarters failing to pick up a first down on the opening five drives of the game.
Seattle's defense gave up 457 total yards and was the beneficiary of San Francisco losing starting QB Jimmy Garoppolo at halftime to a calf injury and playing without starting kicker Robbie Gould.
There was a lot of good fortune that fell in Seattle's favor.
And while there were certainly positives for the Seahawks, the context of how they got to 2-2 still leaves plenty unanswered with a short week and a visit from the Los Angeles Rams on Thursday night.
"We don't lose three games in a row here," Seattle left tackle Duane Brown said. "Once you get into division play, the magnitude of those games and everything that goes into that. Coming on the road in this kind of environment with a real good team over there, we knew the challenges that waited for us."
Still, Wilson had one of his most efficient days and continues to be exceptional at taking care of the ball. He threw for only 149 yards, but accounted for three of Seattle's four TDs with a pair of touchdown passes and a 16-yard TD run. Head coach Pete Carroll was pleased with the adjustments Wilson made at the line of scrimmage, especially after the Seahawks were stuck in neutral for most of the first half.
Wilson is one of two quarterbacks in the league with at least 100 pass attempts this season that has not thrown an interception. Denver's Teddy Bridgewater is the other.
"I was really proud of that outing and thought it was one of his one of his classics," Carroll said. "To me, it's one of the real special ones."
Indeed, Wilson made a pair of vintage Wilson plays on the touchdown passes and running back Alex Collins gave the offense a spark after it started with five straight three-and-outs, tying for its most under Carroll.
Of course, there is very little turnaround time with Thursday's showdown at home against the Rams. It's the first meeting since last January's NFC wild-card playoff game won by Los Angeles 30-20. The Rams have won three of the past five in Seattle. ...
Other notes of interest. ... Collins played a season-high 22 of 56 offensive snaps Sunday. That was only three fewer than starter Chris Carson. As noted above, after five straight three-and-outs to begin the game, Collins helped get the Seahawks' offense with a 28-yard catch to open their first touchdown drive. He ran for a touchdown later and finished with 78 yards on 12 touches.
Carroll said Collins "really gave us a spark today. He looked really good."
Who knows if 2018 first-round pick Rashaad Penny will ever end up having a role for the Seahawks? Penny was placed on injured reserve Saturday, knocking him out for at least three more weeks due to a calf injury suffered in the season opener. Combined with an impressive afternoon by Collins as the backup to Carson, it seems unlikely Penny will have much of a role when he's eligible to return from the IR.
According to ESPN.com's Brady Henderson, tight end Gerald Everett has a chance to come off COVID-19 reserve and play Thursday against his former team. Carroll said Everett tested negative on Monday. Vaccinated players can return with two negative tests at least 24 hours apart, so Everett would be eligible to play with another negative test Tuesday as long as he remains asymptomatic.
With Everett out Sunday, Colby Parkinson played 38 snaps. He was held without a catch or a target, but Carroll lauded his blocking.
Carson missed practice all week and is listed as questionable with a neck injury.
He initially popped up on the injury report with a neck injury the week of the season opener but was a full participant for all three practices that week.
D'Wayne Eskridge (concussion) has been ruled out.
DK Metcalf (foot) and Tyler Lockett (hip) avoided injury designation.
Defensive end Darrell Taylor (ankle and defensive end Carlos Dunlap (toe) were also limited. Both avoided injury designation.
Starting right tackle Brandon Shell (ankle) was a full participant for the first time since his injury Sept. 19 against the Titans.
Wide receiver Penny Hart (knee) practiced fully Tuesday.
I'll follow up on all involved via Late-Breaking Update in advance of Thursday night's kickoff.
QBs: Drew Lock, Geno Smith, Jake Luton
RBs: Rashaad Penny, DeeJay Dallas, Travis Homer, Adrian Peterson, Chris Carson, Alex Collins
WRs: DK Metcalf, Tyler Lockett, Freddie Swain, Marquise Goodwin, Penny Hart, D'Wayne Eskridge
TEs: Noah Fant, Will Dissly, Colby Parkinson
Tampa Bay BuccaneersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 5 October 2021
Bruce Arians feels fortunate.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are 3-1, though there's lots of room for improvement after they beat the Patriots in Tom Brady's much-anticipated return to New England.
Arians says the defending Super Bowl champions have yet to play a complete game. Nevertheless, he feels they are making strides in some key areas, especially on defense.
He doesn't share the same sentiment about the offense, though, after Brady and Co. struggled to get the ball in the end zone in Sunday night's 19-17 victory over the Patriots.
"Defensively, we made nice improvement. But offensively, it's still not clicking on all cylinders like it should be," Arians said Monday.
"We look really good for a series or two, then we still keep shooting ourselves in the foot with penalties or missed assignments," the coach added. They've got to be corrected. ... We've talked about it enough, and it's on the players."
Since scoring 79 points in victories over Dallas and Atlanta to begin the season, Tampa Bay has started slowly the past two weeks in a 10-point loss to the Los Angeles Rams and again against New England, which limited one of the league's highest-scoring teams to four field goals and Ronald Jones II's rushing touchdown.
After scoring at least 30 points in a franchise-best nine consecutive games, including last season's Super Bowl, the Bucs have bogged down -- particularly in the red zone, where four trips inside the Patriots 20 produced just 16 points.
Brady threw for 269 yards but no touchdowns in his first game against his former team.
But the offense struggled in the red zone, settling for field goals instead of touchdowns, while the defense became even more short-handed.
"We didn't execute. We didn't execute at all. Our routes weren't (good), our spacing wasn't very good, we didn't throw the ball very well down there," Arians said.
Next up, the Bucs host the Miami Dolphins (1-3) on Sunday. ...
Other notes of interest. ... Leonard Fournette rushed for a season-best 91 yards 20 carries as the running game finally showed signs of life. He also had three receptions for 47 yards.
With Fournette and Ronald Jones splitting carries, the Bucs don't have a clear-cut starter at running back.
Arians said Fournette's performance against the Patriots, while impressive, hadn't changed that.
"He was in this game," the coach said of whether Fournette had established himself as the starter. "We'll see. It can flip in a heartbeat. Ro was running really hard, too. ... I've got all the trust in the world in both of them. ..."
On the injury front. ... Rob Gronkowski has multiple fractured ribs that threaten to sideline him for multiple weeks, sources told ESPN on Saturday. Gronkowski did not travel with the Buccaneers to Foxboro for Sunday's game due to the effect that flying could have on his injury.
"We held out hope all week that Gronk would be ready," a team source told ESPN. "He's a different breed."
Gronkowski suffered the injury during Sunday's loss to the Los Angeles Rams but returned to finish the game. Initially, the Buccaneers and Gronkowski did not think the injury was as severe as it turned out to be, and X-rays of Gronkowski's ribs taken after the game came back negative. But further MRI testing during the week revealed the multiple fractures.
After hosting Miami this week, the Bucs play at Philadelphia on a Thursday night and then come home for Chicago before a road game at New Orleans and their Nov. 7 bye.
Meanwhile, safety Antoine Winfield Jr., who had an interception and forced a fumble, left Sunday night's game and is in the concussion protocol.
"Getting back so late, it's going to be hard to get out of the protocol this week probably, just because of the timing, and the trip," Arians said.
The coach said he should know more about the status of CBs Carlton Davis (quad) and Jamel Dean (knee), Gronkowski (ribs) and linebacker Jason Pierre-Paul (shoulder) on Wednesday.
I'll follow up via Late-Breaking Update as developments warrant in coming days. ...
Amid all the histrionics of perhaps the most anticipated homecoming in NFL history, Brady became the league's all-time leader in passing yardage.
Brady broke longtime friend and contemporary Drew Brees' NFL record for career passing yards on Sunday night as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers defeated Brady's old team the New England Patriots, 19-17.
In the first quarter, a 28-yard completion to Mike Evans established Brady as the new all-time passing leader with 80,359 yards on the play. The pass led to the game's opening score and a 3-0 Bucs lead. When the night concluded, Brady's 269 yards put the new standard for passing yardage at 80,560.
"It's pretty cool," Brady said of getting the record at Gillette Stadium in his NBC postgame interview. "Nothing in this sport can be accomplished without incredible teammates and coaches. I've just been blessed for 22 years to be with some amazing people. A quarterback can't do anything if the guys don't catch the ball. Guys did a great job catching for me the last 22 years. All of them, which I hope were, uh, felt a little piece of happiness tonight watching that. 'Cause everybody contributed. I sure as hell can't catch anything, everyone's seen that drop against the Eagles in the Super Bowl. But I can throw it a little bit and I'm glad I got so many great guys who catch it."
Heading into Week 4, it was a relative certainty Brady would break Brees' record of 80,358 yards on Sunday against his former franchise.
After racking up 432 yards in Week 3 against the L.A. Rams, Brady -- on top of becoming just the second quarterback with 80,000 passing yards -- climbed within 67 yards of tying Brees and 68 away from passing him.
Brady was already the record holder for career touchdown passes -- another record of Brees' he broke -- and entered Sunday with 591.
Thusly, every yard and every touchdown going forward for the 44-year-old Brady will set a new NFL standard as the G.O.A.T.'s career carries on in amazing and record-setting fashion.
Finally. ... Capping off what Brady described as a "very emotional week," the quarterback received a visit in the locker room from New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick after the game.
Belichick was seen walking into the visitors’ locker room, and it wasn't until about 20 minutes later that he exited, soon followed by Brady. A source told ESPN that Belichick had reached out to arrange the meeting with Brady leading into the game.
"We've had a personal relationship for 20-plus years. He drafted me here. We had a lot of personal conversations that should remain that way. They're very private," Brady said.
"I would say, so much is made of our relationship. ... Nothing is really accurate that I ever see. It definitely doesn't come from my personal feelings or beliefs."
The private meeting with Belichick -- which came after they shared an embrace on the field -- was one of the final parts of Brady's highly anticipated homecoming on a rainy night in front of a raucous crowd.
Following his team's victory, Arians said he was "very frustrated" that "everybody wanted to make [Buccaneers-Patriots] about Brady and Belichick."
"This is a team sport. ... I don't think Bill played a snap," Arians said. "He had 22 guys out there playing their ass off, and I knew they would. And we had 22 guys out there playing their asses off. One of 'em just happened to be named Brady."
Before he led the Buccaneers onto the field, the Patriots honored Brady with a one-minute video of his top highlights, which sparked the drenched crowd to chant his name in appreciation, with cheers of "Brady! Brady! Brady!" filling the stadium.
This week, with the struggling Dolphins heading to Tampa, the overall excitement levels should diminish greatly.
QBs: Tom Brady, Blaine Gabbert, Kyle Trask
RBs: Leonard Fournette, Ke'Shawn Vaughn, Giovani Bernard
WRs: Russell Gage, Mike Evans, Cyril Grayson, Tyler Johnson, Breshad Perriman, Jaelon Darden, Scott Miller, Chris Godwin
TEs: Cameron Brate
Tennessee TitansCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 5 October 2021
The Tennessee Titans are banged up, can't protect their quarterback and just lost to a previously winless team.
Yep, there's plenty of blame to go around.
"Nobody did well enough -- head coach, assistant coaches, quarterback," head coach Mike Vrabel said Monday. "We've been through this before. When you lose, we all have to do more, we all have to be better. I'm confident that we will. So we'll see who we have this week, we'll see who's available and get them ready."
The Titans settled for three field goals instead of touchdowns to start against the New York Jets and wound up losing 27-24 in overtime. The Jets hadn't even had a lead this season until late in the third quarter.
As Associated Press sports writer Teresa M. Walker notes, Tennessee, which has 11 players on injured reserve, played with a pair of Pro Bowl wide receivers in Julio Jones and A.J. Brown scratched because of injuries. That included outside linebacker Bud Dupree and three-time Pro Bowl punter Brett Kern, whose replacement shanked his first punt for 12 yards.
Three offensive linemen left with injuries, though two returned. Tennessee gave up a season-high seven sacks, had a season-high eight penalties for 98 yards and let a rookie quarterback escape time and again completing five passes of at least 29 yards or longer -- one after fumbling the ball off the snap.
The combination has the Titans (2-2) at .500 after the first quarter of the season.
"I just know that everybody, including me and starting with me, it's got to be better to win," Vrabel said.
Well. ... Everybody not named Derrick Henry.
He's doing just fine.
In fact, as Profootballtalk.com's Michael David Smith notes, Henry is running more than ever, catching more passes than ever, and on pace to break NFL records for rushing yards and yards from scrimmage.
So far this season Henry has 113 carries for 510 yards and 14 catches for 125 yards, which gives him 127 touches and 635 yards from scrimmage this season.
With some help from the new 17-game season, that puts Henry on record pace in four statistical categories:
If Henry were to keep this pace for 17 games, he would finish with 480 carries this season, which would smash the NFL record of 416, set by Larry Johnson in 2006.
At his current pace, Henry would also rush for 2,168 yards, which would break the NFL record of 2,105 rushing yards, set by Eric Dickerson in 1984.
Henry would also finish the season with 540 touches, which would break the record of 492 touches set by James Wilder in 1984.
And Henry is on pace to finish the season with 2,699 yards from scrimmage, which would break the record of 2,509 yards from scrimmage, set by Chris Johnson in 2009.
Plenty of players who start a season strong fail to maintain their pace over the long haul. So no one should assume Henry is going to rewrite the record book. But the incredible start to the season he's had, combined with the addition of a 17th game, gives Henry a great chance.
Worth noting. ... Even coming off Sunday's devastating loss, Henry isn't hitting the proverbial panic button.
"We just have to play better," Henry said postgame, via Ben Arthur of The Tennessean. "Ain't looking for no excuses, pointing the finger at nothing. … Gotta finish drives, play better as a unit. That's all it is."
Henry also doesn't feel concerned with all the offensive issues.
"Nah, not at all," he said. "Everything is fixable. We just gotta clean up. Come back to work next week and get ready to play."
The Titans will have a chance for a get-right game against the Jaguars in this week. But with Jacksonville rested coming off a Thursday matchup in Week Four, Tennessee can't look past its division rival.
Other notes of interest. ... The Titans' pass protection was an absolute mess on Sunday even as the run blocking for Henry remained a well-oiled machine.
The unit allowed seven sacks of Ryan Tannehill, four in the first half plus a big one in overtime, and the timing for it was awful given that Tannehill was operating with neither Jones nor Brown in the receiving lineup. Center Ben Jones and tackle Taylor Lewan were injured, and although Jones returned in the second half, his backup Aaron Brewer launched a first-half shotgun snap too high for Tannehill, resulting in an 11-yard loss that stymied another drive.
Between the inconsistent protection, penalties, and lineup shuffling, Tennessee needed much more continuity up front.
Another concern? Why can't the Titans consistently score touchdowns in the red zone?
A year ago, the Titans ranked second inside an opponent's 20, scoring 48 touchdowns on 64 chances. That was a rate of 75 percent, which was second in the NFL.
Right now Tennessee is scoring on 50 percent of its drives into the red zone, tied for 25th in the NFL.
The Titans got into the red zone five times Sunday and scored a touchdown once. Two of the seven sacks the team allowed came in the red zone, both times coming on third down. The Titans still have the threat of Henry running the ball inside the 20-yard line but ESPN.com's Turron Davenport believes they need to take advantage of Tannehill's ability to run the ball with more boot action.
Davenport added the Titans also need to use more bunch sets to get quick separation so Tannehill can get the ball to his receivers quickly before the pass rush gets home.
That said, the Jets' defense was tied with the Saints and Broncos as the best in the NFL in preventing red-zone touchdowns, entering this week allowing only 33 percent. It gets much easier against a Jaguars' defense that has allowed touchdowns on 62 percent of opponent's red zone visits.
As for those injuries. ... There's no timetable for Brown, who was previously described as week-to-week, or Jones, who didn't seem to have as serious an issue. That said, Brown was able to practice on a limited basis Wednesday while Jones was held out.
I'll have more on the star wideouts -- and tight end Tanner Hudson, who was carted to the locker room with an ankle injury -- via Late-Breaking Update as the week progresses.
And finally. ... The Titans have designated RB Darrynton Evans to return from IR.
QBs: Ryan Tannehill, Logan Woodside
RBs: Derrick Henry, Dontrell Hilliard, Khari Blasingame, Trenton Cannon, Jordan Wilkins
WRs: Nick Westbrook_Ikhine, Chester Rogers, Racey McMath, Dez Fitzpatrick, Cameron Batson, Robert Woods
TEs: Geoff Swaim, Austin Hooper, MyCole Pruitt
Washington Football TeamCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 5 October 2021
As ESPN.com's John Keim reported it, "Taylor Heinicke faked a handoff, turned and encountered a dangerous situation on Sunday: a free rusher coming right at him. Then the Washington Football Team quarterback did what he does best: He improvised. He stepped right, was spun around by the defender, stepped to his left and lofted a high toss into the end zone as another defender drilled him.
"The bloop throw was caught for a touchdown by receiver Terry McLaurin in Washington's 34-30 win against the Atlanta Falcons. It was yet another example of how Heinicke can overcome his flaws. He can run, he can extend plays and he can get out of situations most could not.
"There's a reason he's only been sacked three times in 118 pass attempts. The elusiveness provides Washington another weapon on offense, which it needed in Sunday. ..."
"That's an advantage for us," McLaurin said in an understatement.
"It's a good part of my game," Heinicke said in another understatement.
It's not as if Heinicke simply runs around all the time; he only does it when needed. He's run the ball 20 times for 87 yards -- good but hardly Lamar Jackson. Heinicke did run the ball five times for 43 yards on Sunday, including a 20-yarder when he picked up a first down inside Atlanta's 5-yard line. Washington coach Ron Rivera said that could become a bigger headache for defenses.
Keim went on to explain that if a team plays man coverage, as Atlanta did on a handful of occasions, it might help against the receivers but it leaves gaps. With receiver Curtis Samuel back in the lineup, cornerbacks have to play for the deep ball so that leaves teams susceptible to big plays if the quarterback runs.
"You got to honor those guys and I think that also helps," Rivera said. "It's going to make things more difficult on paper."
On the game-winning pass to McKissic, Heinicke wasn't under duress, but he did slide to his left against a three-man rush. Then he stopped, spotted McKissic on the other side of the field and hit him. The running back did the rest on a 30-yard run.
"Even when he's scrambling around, his eyes stay downfield," McLaurin said. "He knows that he could give us opportunities to make plays down the field as well. Can't say enough about him, the way he extends plays, the way he gives us a chance one each and every play. It's like, no play's ever dead when Taylor's back there."
Washington's 2-2 start hasn't been smooth as the defense continues to struggle. But for a team that lost its starting quarterback, Ryan Fitzpatrick, in the first half of Week 1, Heinicke has certainly provided more than just a spark. He's now led two game-winning drives in the past three weeks. Sunday's comeback occurred one week after his first bad game in Washington, a two-interception day in a loss at Buffalo.
On Sunday, he completed 23 of 33 passes for 290 yards and three touchdowns. He's provided the team hope that the season won't be lost. His poise and accurate arm help; his legs provide another way to energize his teammates. It's what happened on an 8-yard touchdown run against Tampa Bay in the postseason last year, culminating in a dive at the pylon.
"You never know what you're going to get back there with Taylor," Washington receiver DeAndre Carter said. "He's going to run around, he's going to make plays. We just try to get in there, you know, on the scramble drill, try to be open and be an available target for him when he was ready to throw."
And they need him to throw.
Washington's defense that came in with lofty expectations and was projected to be among the NFL's best has been among the worst.
"We know we have corrections to make," said Bobby McCain, a veteran defensive back who's one of a few additions to the defense this season. "We'll take it to the chin defensively and understand we got to keep getting better, man. We've got a long road ahead of us."
That road includes upcoming matchups against New Orleans and Kansas City at home and Green Bay and Denver on the road before the bye week.
It's quite the gauntlet for a team that's allowing 30.5 points and 417.5 yards a game so far and lucky to be 2-2.
Washington is also preparing this week without head athletic trainer Ryan Vermillion, who was put on administrative leave Monday for what a spokesman called "an ongoing criminal investigation that's not related to the team."
Rivera, who worked with Vermillion in Carolina before both men came to Washington last year, declined further comment on Monday by pointing to a statement released by the team. During a Tuesday appearance on 106.7 The Fan, Rivera was asked about a visit from federal agents to the team's facility related to the investigation.
He declined comment into a "legal matter" and said he was out having his car washed at the time of the raid.
As Profootballtalk.com notes, Rivera's first two years with the organization have seen other tumult, including a fine from the NFL for workplace misconduct, settlement of a lawsuit from cheerleaders whose images were used in a lewd video, and owner Daniel Snyder stepping down from his role in day-to-day operations of the franchise. Rivera was asked what he would "say to the people that say there's always a black cloud" over the team.
"Well that's what we're trying to correct, that's what we're trying to fix, but for whatever reason, we just keep getting drawn back into things," Rivera said. "So, guys, at the end of the day, we're gonna let this play out and we'll trust in the system. And we'll go from there. ..."
Other notes of interest. ... Samuel made four catches for 19 yards in his season debut after missing the first three games to get right from a nagging hamstring injury. It's no coincidence that with Samuel on the field, McLaurin was freed up for six catches and 123 yards.
Kicker Dustin Hopkins is 7-of-8 on field-goal attempts this season and hit the Week 2 game winner against the New York Giants. But two missed extra points at Atlanta put Hopkins back in the spotlight for the wrong reasons. "He's our kicker, and we'll leave it at that," Rivera said.
Carter took the kickoff to open the second half 101 yards for a touchdown to earn NFC Special Teams Player of the Week honors. Washington has a true return specialist for the first time in years, and Carter's big-play potential helps mitigate some of the defensive struggles. ...
On the injury front. ... Although they picked up their second win on the field Sunday, the Football Team paid a potentially steep price for that win.
The first injury for Washington on Sunday was to tight end Logan Thomas. Thomas injured his hamstring early in the game and was ruled out. Thomas appeared to be in severe pain and tossed his helmet when he got to the sideline. After the game, Rivera said it was indeed Thomas's hamstring but did not have a timeline.
Ian Rapoport of NFL Network reports that Thomas will be going on injured reserve. That report came shortly after agent Mike McCartney announced that Washington is signing his client Jace Sternberger off of the Seahawks’ practice squad.
Sternberger was a 2019 third-round pick of the Packers and missed the first two games of the season while on the suspended list. He was released after the suspension was up and signed with the Seahawks once he was a free agent.
Sternberger had 12 catches for 114 yards and a touchdown in 18 games with the Packers. ...
Another major injury concern for Washington is All-Pro right guard Brandon Scherff. Scherff left Sunday's game with a leg injury and immediately went into the locker room. Schefter said on Monday that Scherff suffered a sprained MCL and is likely out 2-3 weeks. This news comes on the heels of NFL Network's Ian Rapoport's earlier report that Washington feared linebacker Jon Bostic suffered a 'serious' pec injury and was placed on injured reserve Tuesday.
Wide receivers Cam Sims and Dyami Brown both left Sunday's game with injuries and did not return. Running back Antonio Gibson also left the game with what appeared to be a rib injury. Cornerback Torry McTyer was injured in the final play of the game.
Defensive tackle Jonathan Allen left the game at one point but did return.
Veteran Ricky Seals-Jones will become Washington's No. 1 tight end in the absence of Thomas. Rookie John Bates will also see more playing time. Washington could also activate Sammis Reyes on game day.
Gibson and Brown did not practice Wednesday. Samuel (groin) was also sidelined. I'll have more via Late-Breaking Update in coming days.
QBs: Taylor Heinicke, Carson Wentz, Ryan Fitzpatrick
RBs: Antonio Gibson, Jaret Patterson, J.D. McKissic
WRs: Terry McLaurin, Cam Sims, Adam Humphries, Dyami Brown, Curtis Samuel
TEs: John Bates, Sammis Reyes, Ricky Seals-Jones, Logan Thomas