Team Notes week 5 2020
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 6 October 2020
As ESPN.com's Josh Weinfuss put it, the Cardinals have the reigning rookie of the year at quarterback and one of the best wide receivers in football, but none of that matters when their defense plays like it did Sunday in a 31-21 loss to the Carolina Panthers.
For as bad as the Cardinals' defense played, however, the offense didn't help itself. It had 30 yards after a quarter and just 94 at halftime. It finished with 262 yards, but was under 200 -- 184 -- after accounting for Kyler Murray's 78 rushing yards.
Murray threw for just 133 yards, completing 24 of 31 passes and had three touchdowns.
Carolina wideout Robby Anderson had more yards receiving than DeAndre Hopkins, Larry Fitzgerald and Christian Kirk combined.
Hopkins didn't get his first target of the game until there were 55 seconds left in the first quarter. For the Cardinals' offense to get ignited, Hopkins is the one player Arizona needs to get involved early. Sunday showed that if the Cardinals' offense is struggling early, it may not have the luxury of trying to get other players involved while defenses focus on Hopkins, who finished with 41 yards on seven catches. Hopkins is the type of playmaker who can change the dynamics of a game quickly and needs to be used as such -- early and often.
For what it's worth, ArizonaCardinals.com's Darren Urban wrote, "Hopkins did not look like a guy who had a bad ankle."
It also marked the second-straight game with less than five yards receiving for Fitzgerald.
Murray's 4.3 yards per attempt - even with three touchdown passes - is not a sustainable stat for a team looking for wins. He was smart with the ball (the fumble wasn't his fault, with backside pressure), but as Kirk said a couple of times, this offense is about explosive plays and then using tempo off that.
Via Scott Kacsmar, Murray has generated two of the four lowest passing yardage performances with 24 or more completions since 1950.
Murray's performance against the Panthers, during which he generated 133 yards on 24 completions, ranked No. 1 on the list. Murray also lands at No. 4, thanks to a Week 11 performance against the 49ers during which he generated 150 yards on 24 completions.
For the record, as Rotowold.com notes, Andy Isabella ran 18 pass routes against the Panthers. It was the fewest pass routes among the four wideouts in the team's regular rotation. Kirk, returning from injury, ran 32 routes, finishing with 19 yards and a touchdown against Carolina. Isabella posted two grabs for three yards and remains a little-used option in the Arizona passing game.
Fitzgerald, who has 88 yards on 236 offensive snaps this season, ran 14 more routes than Isabella in Week 4.
The good news, perhaps, for the Cardinals is they face the winless New York Jets next week, which should give the defense a chance to turn things around.
On the injury front. ... Kenyan Drake took a shot near the end of the game and had to go to the locker room. Chase Edmonds -- whose wonderful one-on-one move on a short pass in the red zone kept a touchdown drive alive - would be up. The last thing the Cards need is for Drake to be down.
Drake (chest) had 13 carries for 35 yards and wasn't targeted during Sunday's 31-21 loss at Carolina. He left the game in the fourth quarter and didn't return.
During a post-game media session, Kingsbury told reporters he doesn't "believe Drake's injury was anything major," but Drake's status now is in some question. If Drake is at all hindered, Edmonds would be in line for more work after turning nine touches into 40 yards and one TD on Sunday.
I'll have more via Late-Breaking Update in coming days.
But it's worth noting, the Cardinals called running back Jonathan Ward up from the practice squad as many times as they could.
Now they've decided to keep him.
Via Urban, the Cardinals signed Ward to the active roster Tuesday. To make room for him, they released safety Curtis Riley, who was signed to provide cover for an injury plagued position.
Ward used up his two free promotions from the practice squad, and played a special teams role when he's been up.
The Cardinals are hoping to get some portion of their injured safety group (Budda Baker, Jalen Thompson, and Chris Banjo) back soon. Thompson is eligible to come off IR this week.
QBs: Kyler Murray, Brett Hundley, Drew Anderson, Chris Streveler
RBs: Kenyan Drake, Chase Edmonds, Eno Benjamin
WRs: DeAndre Hopkins, Christian Kirk, Larry Fitzgerald, Andy Isabella, KeeSean Johnson, Trent Sherfield
TEs: Dan Arnold, Maxx Williams, Darrell Daniels
Atlanta FalconsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 6 October 2020
Head coach Dan Quinn expected to be coaching a playoff contender this season. He's not.
Quinn said after the Falcons dropped to 0-4 with a loss in Green Bay on Monday night that he has a hard time explaining what is going wrong.
"Knowing where we are at, it's certainly not the start that any of us envisioned or wanted," Quinn said, via the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. "It's confusing. It's frustrating for everybody, but I also told them that it's the people inside the locker room that get to fix that, that get to change it."
This was an important game for the Falcons, who had lost fourth-quarter leads in their previous two games, but they could not gain the lead against the Packers on Monday night.
"We've got a team full of fighters and warriors, but our second quarter cannot look like our first," Quinn said. "I expect those two quarters of football to look a helluva lot different, certainly on the result side. We did not get what we came here to get."
Atlanta had back-to-back three-and-outs on its first two possessions and fell behind 20-3 in the first half. The offense came alive a bit in the second half, scoring 13 points, but that was not enough to overcome an offense that entered the game as the highest-scoring unit in the league.
Green Bay finished with 403 yards on offense, including 315 through the air.
Notably, Calvin Ridley finished the game without a single catch, and he dropped a touchdown late in the game that would have pulled Atlanta within a single touchdown. He entered the matchup as one of the NFL's leading receivers through three weeks of action. Todd Gurley scored two touchdowns in the game, matching his output for the season entering Week 4.
The Falcons ended the evening with 327 yards of offense. Matt Ryan ended with 249 passing yards and no touchdowns or interceptions. Christian Blake was the Falcons' leading receiver on Monday, recording eight catches for 86 yards.
The Falcons begin division play next week against the Carolina Panthers (2-2) and are still seeking their first win of the season.
Quinn said he spoke with Falcons owner Arthur Blank after the game but they did not discuss his job security. Quinn does believe, however, that he still has a chance to turn the season around and compete for the NFC South title.
"In my heart and in my head and everything that I believe in, I know that we can," Quinn said. "I know that the second quarter of our season will look a lot different than our first. That's, in fact, what I told the team. Nothing has been decided yet. We do have our first division game coming up here this weekend and we're certainly looking forward to that."
One NFL head coach, Houston's Bill O'Brien, has already been fired this season. Quinn is running out of time if he doesn't want to join him on the unemployment line.
Other notes of interest. ... As the team's official website put it, "While Ryan was by no means Superman and arguably played more like Clark Kent at times, the 35-year-old signal caller was still the Falcons' best player against the Packers, a team many consider to be the class of the NFC."
Ryan might be able to carry the offense at times, but outside of 20-play offensive drives, he can only do so much for a defense that's 31st in passing yards allowed, 32nd in passing touchdowns allowed and 32nd in opposing quarterback passer rating.
It didn't help that Julio Jones was ruled out in the second half because of a hamstring injury.
Jones, who was questionable coming into the game after being limited in practice by a left hamstring injury, had four catches for 32 yards in the first half. On his first catch, he surpassed Roddy White as the franchise's all-time leader in receptions with 809.
But Jones remained in the locker room after halftime at Lambeau Field. Quinn told ESPN's Lisa Salters the plan was to use Jones situationally coming off the injury.
Jones, 31, said leading into the game the soft-tissue injury was a day-to-day thing, although he felt good in limited practice time. Jones missed the Week 3 game against the Chicago Bears.
The Falcons' star receiver first injured his left hamstring in preseason practice. He tweaked it during a Week 2 loss at Dallas.
Quinn told reporters on Wednesday if Jones is at his best with the hamstring, he will play. But it's too early to tell now and Jones did not practice Wednesday; I'll be following up via Late-Breaking Update in coming days. ...
And finally. ... The Falcons announced safety Damontae Kazee, who was carted off during Monday's loss to the Packers, will miss the remainder of the season with a torn Achilles.
QBs: Matt Ryan, Matt Schaub
RBs: Todd Gurley, Brian Hill, Ito Smith, Qadree Ollison
WRs: Julio Jones, Calvin Ridley, Russell Gage, Olamide Zaccheaus, Christian Blake
TEs: Hayden Hurst, Jaeden Graham, Luke Stocker
Baltimore RavensCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 6 October 2020
According to ESPN.com's Jamison Hensley, Lamar Jackson continued to remind everyone that he's the best dual-threat QB ever in beating the Washington Football Team as much with his legs as his arm.
In a 31-17 victory Sunday, Jackson reached 5,000 yards passing and 2,000 yards rushing quicker than any player in NFL history. He recorded this feat in his 35th career game, which eclipsed Michael Vick (39 games).
Needing 96 yards passing to reach the 5,000-yard milestone, Jackson set the record on a 25-yard touchdown pass to Mark Andrews in the second quarter.
Jackson showed how dangerous he is running the ball earlier in the second quarter when he broke free for a 50-yard touchdown run, which is the longest of his career. It was the longest touchdown run by a quarterback in five seasons.
But Jackson didn't get all high-fives on that play. Jackson said he heard from head coach John Harbaugh after he lifted the ball up in the air 15 yards away from the end zone and nearly got tackled before crossing the goal line.
"We watch 'plays of the week' [and] nine times out of 10 it's plays that you should not do, and I was almost on one of those plays," Jackson said. "That's basically what he was telling me on the sideline."
This marked the first time a player produced a touchdown run of 50 or more yards and a touchdown pass of at least 25 yards since Marcus Mariota in 2015.
"Lamar came up and just made some big touchdown throws; scramble plays, plays where he had great vision," Harbaugh said. "So, probably the key to the game right here."
Jackson's performance came after he produced a career-low 97 yards passing in a 34-20 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs on Monday night. He is now 22-1 against the rest of the league.
Jackson had an uneven passing performance on Sunday, completing 14-of-21 (66.7 percent) throws for 193 yards and two touchdowns and one interception. He ran for 52 yards on seven attempts.
"Lamar played great out there," Andrews said. "So when you have a guy like 'Eight' it's just fun to fly around and play games, and it was a good win."
Overall, it's worth noting the Ravens only outgained Washington (350 to 343), ran fewer plays (70 to 56), and converted fewer first downs (24 to 18). Their win wasn't always pretty, but pundits believe this is a team that's on track to reach its peak.
"This year, the Ravens know, they are catching no one by surprise," The Baltimore Sun's Jonas Shaffer wrote. "Andrews said afterward that 'everyone kind of has a bull's-eye on us.' Still, they're 3-1, and they could be playing a lot better. There are worse situations to be in."
"Was it a great performance?
Not even close," The Athletic's Jeff Zrebiec wrote. "Are there still concerns, like the pass rush, the downfield passing game and consistency running the football? You bet there are. Was the performance good enough to beat the Pittsburgh Steelers, the team's next top-flight opponent four weeks from now? Probably not.
"But on a short week, after a deflating and humbling loss in prime time and without your All-Pro left tackle Ronnie Stanley and starting defensive lineman Derek Wolfe, the Ravens needn't offer any apologies for their victory Sunday. They just have to know that they are going to need to play a lot better in the weeks ahead and one sideline conversation late in the game between two of the team's biggest stars, Jackson and [Marlon] Humphrey, as backup quarterback Robert Griffin III finished the proceedings off suggests that they understand that."
Zrebiec suggested that maybe it's unfair to compare this year's team to last season given the roster changes and the effect of the coronavirus pandemic.
But the reality is that the Ravens have a better record than at this point last season. And this week, they host Cincinnati in an AFC North matchup.
Meanwhile, Gus Edwards led the Baltimore backfield with nine carries, though Mark Ingram tallied just one fewer. While he was on the field to close out a comfortable win, Edwards was also involved early on, earning two carries on the team's first offensive possession. Despite maintaining a substantial role in the Ravens' offense,
As CBSSports.com notes, Edwards has not recorded more than 10 rushes in a game this season and has yet to be targeted in the passing game. That lack of volume makes it difficult to rely on him as a regular producer.
Marquise Brown finished with four receptions for 86 yards on eight targets.
Brown delivered a pair of receptions over 30 yards in the first half to account for the majority of his production in the game. He set up the Ravens' first score of the contest with a 33-yard catch, beating Washington's secondary down the field before being tackled at the one. Due to Baltimore's run-heavy approach on offense, Brown has failed to rack up large volume through four games. However, he's made the most of the chance he's received, as five of his 12 receptions have gone for 20 yards or more.
Andrews recorded three receptions for 57 yards and two touchdowns against Washington.
Andrews bounced back from a tough Week 3 performance when he appeared out of sync with Jackson. He recorded a pair of touchdowns in a single game for the second time this season, hauling in scores of 25 and 22 yards. There was little else left for Andrews to do throughout the game, as the Ravens attempted only 23 passes.
Something to watch here. ... Per Hensley, Jackson wasn't at practice Wednesday during the portion open to reporters, though he did talk to reporters earlier in the day.
Jackson did not practice due to a knee injury that is not considered serious, a source tells ESPN's Adam Schefter. He was held out of practice for “precautionary reasons.”
When Jackson did talk, he said he wasn't satisfied with where they were offensively, since they're 31st in the league in passing.
"No, I'm not happy because I would like to connect with my guys on those passes," Jackson said. "I feel like there are a lot of yards and touchdowns we've been leaving on the field when we don't connect. That's probably why our passing isn't where it's supposed to be. But I feel it's early in the season."
The Ravens also have Griffin and Trace McSorley on the roster. As noted above, Griffin finished last week's win over Washington, though no mention was made of any injury. RG3 also ran the offense Wednesday with Jackson sitting out.
In addition, Brown (knee) was limited Wednesday.
I'll follow up via Late-Breaking Update in coming days.
QBs: Lamar Jackson, Robert Griffin III, Trace McSorley
RBs: Mark Ingram, J.K. Dobbins, Gus Edwards, Justice Hill
WRs: Marquise Brown, Miles Boykin, Willie Snead, Devin Duvernay, Jaleel Scott, Chris Moore, James Proche
TEs: Mark Andrews, Nick Boyle
Buffalo BillsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 6 October 2020
According to ESPN.com's Marcel Louis-Jacques, this is not the Buffalo Bills team we've been groomed to expect over the past two years.
After consecutive top-three finishes in total yards allowed in 2018 and 2019, the Bills have hemorrhaged yards in 2020, particularly in the second half, ranking 30th in yards allowed and 31st in points allowed entering their Week 4 game against the Las Vegas Raiders.
But they bucked that trend Sunday, controlling the game's momentum in the second half en route to a 30-23 victory over Las Vegas and a 4-0 start to the season. Rebounding from four straight Raiders scoring drives to start the game, Buffalo's defense forced a punt and three straight turnovers while its offense responded with two touchdown drives to pull ahead.
Entering Sunday, the Bills' defense was on the verge of becoming a major area of concern after allowing 410 yards to the Dolphins and 478 to the Rams. They still allowed almost 400 yards to Las Vegas but turned in a far more energetic performance than either of their past two lackluster games.
It's a positive sign with games against the Titans and Chiefs in the next two weeks.
But looking beyond that, Louis-Jacques points out the Bills are no longer a team buoyed by their defense while their offense does just enough to win the game.
This Buffalo team is an offensive juggernaut capable of putting up points in a hurry. The NFL's fourth-ranked offense entering Week 4 actually put up a season-low 336 yards, but moved the ball at will when it needed to against a middle-of-the-pack Las Vegas defense. Quarterback Josh Allen continued his strong play to begin the season, completing 24 of 34 passes for 288 yards (another season low) and two touchdowns. Buffalo's defensive performance in the second half was inspiring but make no mistake, the Bills are an offense-driven team in 2020.
Want further evidence?
Much has been made of Buffalo's scoring exploits over the first month of the season. One need look no further than the Bills red zone touchdown percentage. Over the last three games, Buffalo has scored touchdowns on 10 of their last 11 (91 percent) trips inside the opponent's red zone for 91 percent success rate.
That's the highest success rate in the league over that stretch. Only three other teams in the league (Seattle, Kansas City, Dallas) are at 80 percent over the last three games.
With over 400 yards receiving thus far Stefon Diggs has set a personal best for most receiving yards through the first four games of a season. His previous high in the first quarter of a regular season was 2017 when
Allen logged the 20th rushing touchdown of his career in the win on Sunday. With 20 rushing touchdown in his first 32 games Allen has become the second-fastest quarterback to reach 20 rushing TDs in league history. Cam Newton is the only QB to do it in fewer games (27).
Allen ranks second in passing yards with 1,326 trailing only Dak Prescott (1,690). He is second in passer rating with a mark of 122.7, behind only Russell Wilson (136.7) and he's second in passing TDs with 12, with again Wilson the only one ahead of him with 16.
Buffalo's passing attack leads the AFC in pass plays of 20 yards or more this season. The Bills receivers have pulled in a total of 21 passes for gains of 20 yards plus. The only team in the league with more right now is the Dallas Cowboys with 22.
The Bills offense is also leading the AFC in yards per play on first down. Their 6.8 yards per play on first down ranks fifth in the league as four NFC teams (Atlanta, Green Bay, Minnesota, L.A. Rams) have been even more prolific.
Buffalo's receivers have been a large part of the team's passing success. All their three and four wide sets have made the Bills wideouts the primary contributors to the team's yardage totals. Through the first four games the Bills receivers have accounted for more than two-thirds of the team's targets in the passing game. Their 67 percent is the highest percentage total in the AFC and second only to the Arizona Cardinals (67.4 percent).
Buffalo's biggest focal point of the offseason was finding a way to score more points in 2020. After averaging just 19.6 points in 2019, the Bills have averaged 30.8 through four games this season, including at least 30 in each of their past three games.
It's an impressive improvement, considering they only did so twice last season.
And fantasy managers are the beneficiaries. ...
Also worth noting. ... Allen went to the locker room after coming down hard on his left shoulder in the first half of the game. He returned quickly and after the game, the quarterback explained what happened and why he doesn't think it will hinder his preparation for this week.
"It's good," Allen said, via Sal Maiorana of the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle. "I just landed it on it a little funky, but it's just the left shoulder, it's not the right one, thank God. It'll be all right, it's no big deal, I played through the pain and we'll get some treatment on it this week, but it shouldn't inhibit anything."
Head coach Sean McDermott called Allen "a competitive sucker" after the game and wondered how any teammate could not love playing with someone like that. It's hard to imagine anyone on the Bills feeling otherwise at this point.
On the injury front. ... Zack Moss (toe) did not play in Sunday's game in Las Vegas. It was a bit of a surprise after the rookie was able to practice on a limited basis all week. Devin Singletary, who rushed 18 times for 55 yards and a touchdown while adding five catches for 21 yards (on six targets) continued to benefit.
Moss was limited at Wednesday's practice along with Cole Beasley, who is dealing with a foot issue.
I'll have more on both via Late-Breaking Update as the Bills prepare to take on the Titans this week.
Which brings up the elephant in the room. ... The hope for a reopened facility in Tennessee is on hold after additional positive tests.
The news comes after two consecutive days of all negative tests out of Nashville, with the Titans hoping to return to the team facility. The latest positives throw another monkey wrench of uncertainty into the plans.
McDermott told reporters Wednesday that his team has reported zero positive COVID-19 tests at this time, and they are monitoring the situation in Tennessee.
"We have to be responsible and gather info so we can put the health and well being of the people in our building at the top of our list," McDermott said.
"We're fighting an uphill battle," he added. "The league took the right steps to increase the protocols. It's necessary because it's only going to get more difficult. No one is perfect. We're trying to do the best we can."
I'll obviously be watching for more on this situation -- and it's impact on Sunday's game -- as developments warrant; watch the Late-Breaking Updates section for more.
QBs: Josh Allen, Matt Barkley, Jake Fromm
RBs: Devin Singletary, Zack Moss, T.J. Yeldon, Taiwan Jones
WRs: Stefon Diggs, John Brown, Cole Beasley, Gabriel Davis, Isaiah McKenzie, Andre Roberts, Isaiah Hodgins
TEs: Dawson Knox, Tyler Kroft, Lee Smith
Carolina PanthersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 6 October 2020
As Panthers.com's Myles Simmons suggested on Monday, if you thought things looked dire for the Panthers after Week 2, you weren't alone.
The Panthers were 0-2, and their best player had just gone down with a high ankle sprain. The offense looked OK in Week 1 but had four giveaways a week later. The defense looked OK in Week 2, but couldn't stop the Raiders in the season-opener.
But a funny thing has happened in the last couple of weeks.
The Panthers have snapped their 10-game losing streak with a mini-win streak.
They're back at .500, evening their record at 2-2 through the first quarter of the season.
In some ways, that doesn't sound like much. And no one's goal is to be .500. But considering everything that's gone into this season for Carolina - a new coach, new offensive and defensive systems, no in-person offseason program, limited training camp, no preseason games - being 2-2 at the quarter pole is significant.
This was never impossible. The day after Christian McCaffrey suffered his high ankle sprain, he tried telling us the sky wasn't falling.
"When you're 0-2, it's not over, and that's very important to understand," he said 13 days ago. "When you start hearing the noise, good or bad, it starts to take you off the path. And I think it's very important to stay with what you know in times of adversity."
It's true, there's often a team that starts 0-2 that ends up being special. But one factor in Carolina's recent improvement has been the simple fact that they've gotten to know one another better.
"It's not an excuse or anything, but everything was new here, new coaching staff, a lot of new players," quarterback Teddy Bridgewater said after Sunday's win over the Cardinals.
"When you really understand a person and know what they've been through to get here and why they play this game, it makes you want to play for them even more."
The arrow seems to be pointing up with the Panthers' 2-2 start. They just have to keep it going that way.
Meanwhile, Bridgewater will get much-deserved credit for his performance in Sunday's 31-21 victory over the Arizona Cardinals.
But as ESPN.com's David Newton advised his readers, don't forget about Joe Brady.
What the NFL's youngest offensive coordinator has done at 30, particularly since McCaffrey was lost 4-to-6 weeks with an ankle injury, has been as impressive as the turnaround by the defense.
And the defensive turnaround has been impressive the past two weeks since figuring out how to pressure the quarterback.
The combination of an offense that stresses opposing defenses with a defense stressing opposing offenses.
Brady was somewhat of an unknown coming into the season because of his age and inexperience. He was criticized for a late fourth-and-1 call in the opening loss to Las Vegas with the Panthers driving for a potential winning touchdown.
Since then he's gotten into a groove with his play calling, particularly the past two weeks with McCaffrey out. He's put Bridgewater and his supporting cast in position to make easy plays in much the same way he did at LSU last season as the pass-game coordinator for the national champions.
None were easier than a second-quarter touchdown pass to running back Reggie Bonnafon and third-quarter touchdown pass to tight end Ian Thomas.
On both, Brady had Bridgewater roll right while much of the motion went left and the receivers were at least 5 yards from the nearest defender.
That Bridgewater is proficient at running the offense that he worked with Brady on at New Orleans in 2018 helps.
Bridgewater even showed a little Cam Newton-like flair in the running game with an 18-yard touchdown run in which he juked one defender just past the line of scrimmage and ran through two more near the goal line.
But the Panthers didn't bring Bridgewater in to be Newton. They brought him in to run Brady's offense, which he did to near perfection on this day.
All that said, Bridgewater had by far his most impressive game, completing 26 of 37 pass attempts for 276 yards and two touchdowns. His one rushing touchdown was his first since 2018 at Minnesota. His only real mistake came on a first-half interception that led to an Arizona touchdown. ...
Next up: The Panthers visit the Falcons in a divisional matchup Sunday. ...
Also of interest. ... Carolina was 4-of-5 in the red zone and 7-of-11 on third down. Entering Week 4, Arizona had the league's best third down defense, allowing a 28.6 conversion rate. They were also No. 2 in red zone defense, allowing just four touchdowns on 13 red zone trips.
"I think it started with our offensive line keeping guys clean," head coach Matt Rhule said. "I thought there was some huge, huge catches by Curtis Samuel, D.J. Moore, Robby Anderson and Seth Roberts. [Thomas] had some great catches today. I just thought it was a whole, collective team effort."
Seven different players played at least 20 percent of the offensive snaps, a new high for 2020.
Chris Manhertz played a career-high 77 percent of the snaps and made one catch for 17 yards. Thomas played 58 percent and Colin Thompson played 23 percent of the snaps as Carolina had a number of formations with multiple tight ends.
Bonnafon had 12 touches on his 21 snaps, accounting for 71 scrimmage yards and the above-mentioned touchdown.
Still, it's worth noting that even after Carolina made McCaffrey the highest-paid RB in the NFL this year, Davis has more yards from scrimmage than McCaffrey. With 111 scrimmage yards, including 84 yards on the ground and a rushing touchdown against Arizona, Davis now has 130 rushing yards, 146 receiving yards and two touchdowns.
Against Arizona, the Panthers rushed for 168 yards, their most since they racked up 285 against the Jaguars in Week 5 last year.
The Panthers won both games Davis started and lost both games McCaffrey started.
Anderson fell one yard short of his third 100-yard receiving game this season, leading Panthers' receivers with eight receptions for 99 yards.
Samuel had three receptions for 51 yards, with two of them converting long third downs.
Kicker Joey Slye, who made a 27-yard field goal in the fourth quarter, missed a 42-yarder later in the quarter. That snapped his string of consecutive makes at 16, dating back to Week 12 in New Orleans last year. ...
On the injury front. ... McCaffrey still has at least a week to go on IR. Rhule says he's "attacking rehab every day." The coach added it was good to have McCaffrey on the sideline Sunday because he's "a key component to the team."
The Panthers on Tuesday placed Bonnafon on the practice squad/injured list with a high ankle sprain.
Though he has been on the practice squad for the season's first four weeks, Bonnafon was activated to play Carolina's last two games. Bonnafon must stay on the practice squad/injured list for at least three weeks, the same as if he were placed on the 53-man roster's reserve/injured list in 2020.
With Bonnafon joining McCaffrey as Carolina's sidelined running backs, the club is down to two running backs on the active roster: Davis and Trenton Cannon.
QBs: Teddy Bridgewater, Will Grier, Phillip Walker
RBs: Mike Davis, Trenton Cannon, Christian McCaffrey
WRs: D.J. Moore, Robby Anderson, Curtis Samuel, Pharoh Cooper, Seth Roberts, Brandon Zylstra
TEs: Ian Thomas, Chris Manhertz
Chicago BearsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 6 October 2020
As ESPN.com's Jeff Dickerson framed it, "Welcome to reality.
"The Chicago Bears (3-1) are not among the NFL elite. Not even close. ..."
Chicago might have enjoyed the good fortune to open the year against the bottom-feeding Detroit Lions, New York Giants and Atlanta Falcons, but whatever feel-good vibes materialized from the surprise 3-0 record evaporated in Sunday's 19-11 home loss to the Indianapolis Colts.
Dickerson continued, "The Bears -- led by veteran quarterback Nick Foles -- were consistent, all right.
"Consistently bad. ..."
Instead of playing lethargic football for most of the game -- like versus the Lions, Giants and Falcons -- the Bears were flat for all four quarters against the Colts.
Mitchell Trubisky or no Trubisky, the Bears' offense remains a mess. In what sounds like a broken record, the Bears failed to convert on third down (4-of-14), run the football (28 net rushing yards) or score enough points.
The defense was not much better, either.
Chuck Pagano's group has played shockingly ordinary football for a month.
And special teams allowed a punt block.
Dickerson went on to suggest Chicago is fortunate not to be 0-4.
Foles squandered the opportunity to ease any quarterback concerns around town. The 31-year-old signal-caller was largely inaccurate and ineffective. This might explain the ultra-conservative first-half game plan on offense.
One reason the Bears benched Trubisky for Foles -- we thought -- was because Foles possessed better downfield vision and deep-ball accuracy. The theory turned out to be a bust. Foles failed to stretch the field until midway through the second quarter.
"Chicago's offense was so bland that it reminded people of the brand of football the organization played from 2015 to 2017 when John Fox's Bears bored the nation," Dickerson wrote. "Where was the creativity? Where was the adventure? It was all in dangerously short supply in Week 4."
Foles finished 26-of-42 for 249 yards, one touchdown and one interception. The Bears moved the ball slightly better in the fourth quarter because -- as is usually the case -- Matt Nagy's team fell behind by two scores and had to operate out of the hurry-up. The difference was that the miracle comeback did not happen on Sunday.
Foles tossed an interception that went off wide receiver Anthony Miller's hands at the 10:59 mark of the fourth quarter and effectively sealed the win for the Colts. The Bears expected a lot more out of the veteran QB. Hard to imagine the Bears' offense would have fared much worse under Trubisky.
Nagy saw problems with timing in the passing game, besides the Colts playing strong defense.
"I think that this is not going to happen overnight with Nick," Nagy said. "This is going to take a little bit of time as he gets going with the timing of these players and what we get to. There's a little bit of that.
"At the same time, we've all got to keep pressing forward, but hopefully we get better there in that area, and we grow and we understand. We don't get frustrated. But we all know that we've got to score more points and that's what we'll do."
Foles found Darnell Mooney for 33 yards and Robinson for 27 early in the second quarter to spark an 84-yard drive, leading to a 27-yard field goal by Cairo Santos.
However, the Bears could do nothing else on offense until their final possession and now must rebound against Tom Brady and Tampa Bay on Thursday night.
Other notes of interest. ... The Bears and Robinson have yet to agree to a contract extension. The stalled negotiations have not really derailed Robinson's effectiveness. The 27-yearold wideout went over 5,000 career receiving yards with a 27-yard catch in Sunday's second quarter.
Robinson has now made at least one catch in 76 consecutive games. He ended the day with seven receptions for 101 yards -- most coming in garbage time -- and a touchdown.
According to Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune, the Bears are working out kicker Kai Forbath today, along with long snapper Andrew DePaola and punter Ryan Anderson.
It's unclear if they're looking to immediately replace Santos, or whether Eddy Pineiro isn't ready to return from injured reserve because of his groin injury.
Santos is 5-of-7 on field goals this year.
The 33-year-old Forbath was in camp with the Cowboys this summer, and did a couple of stints with the Panthers practice squad this year. He tried out for the Falcons last week. ...
On the injury front. ... Khalil Mack has yet to have a full practice this season. So it came as no surprise when the Bears' estimated practice report Monday listed him as limited.
There is no reason to think the pass rusher's knee issue will keep him out Thursday.
For four consecutive weeks, the Bears have listed Mack as questionable in their status report. For four consecutive weeks, Mack has played.
His 245 defensive snaps are 87 percent of the team's defensive snaps for the season.
Mack played 63 of 72 defensive snaps Sunday and made two tackles, including one for loss. He has 1.5 sacks this season.
The Bears estimated safety Deon Bush (hamstring) and safety Sherrick McManis (hamstring) as non-participants Monday. Defensive tackle Akiem Hicks (ankle, shoulder, hand), offensive tackle Bobby Massie (thigh), Mooney (shoulder) and linebacker Josh Woods (thumb) were listed as full participants.
Still, Mooney was listed as questionable on the final injury report in advance of Thursday night's game; I'll follow up via Late-Breaking Update as needed.
QBs: Nick Foles, Mitchell Trubisky
RBs: David Montgomery, Ryan Nall, Artavis Pierce, Tarik Cohen
WRs: Allen Robinson, Darnell Mooney, Anthony Miller, Cordarrelle Patterson, Javon Wims, Ted Ginn, Riley Ridley, Alex Wesley
TEs: Jimmy Graham, Cole Kmet, Demetrius Harris, J.P. Holtz
Cincinnati BengalsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 6 October 2020
As ESPN.com's Ben Baby noted, getting his first NFL win on Sunday wasn't enough for Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow.
He had to make history while he did it, too.
This year's top overall draft pick finally secured his first pro victory in the Bengals' 33-25 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars at Paul Brown Stadium. In the process, Burrow became the first rookie quarterback in NFL history to throw for 300 or more yards in three straight games.
After four games, head coach Zac Taylor said it no longer feels like the team has a rookie quarterback. And after a few winless games to start the year, the second-year coach admitted it's good for Burrow to get that elusive first win.
"It gets the monkey off your back a little bit," Taylor said. "That's the truth. You gotta get that first win of the season. A lot of the small things that pop over the weeks when you're not winning, they add up.
"So to get that first win, everybody gets that pressure off of him a little bit. Now we can just free up and go play ball."
Against the Jaguars, Burrow once again showed why Cincinnati believes he is their next franchise quarterback. The Heisman Trophy winner was 25-for-36 passing for 300 yards, one touchdown and one interception.
Burrow secured the historic mark on a 23-yard completion by rookie Tee Higgins in the fourth quarter.
Burrow shrugged off the accomplishment. Burrow said the win was all he cared about, a refrain that has been repeated even as the Bengals endured three losses to start Burrow's tenure as the starting quarterback.
But the former LSU standout did concede that he is feeling comfortable with Taylor and his new offense, which has produced the strong start to his NFL career.
"I think Zac has done a great job of asking what I'm comfortable with and calling those plays," Burrow said. "And he understands what I like in certain situations."
The Bengals' quarterback could have had a bigger stat line against Jacksonville (1-3) if a couple of plays went his way. Burrow had a first-half touchdown throw to receiver Tyler Boyd negated because of a holding penalty. Later in the half, Burrow had a potential TD throw go off tight end Drew Sample's facemask and the ball was wrestled away by Jacksonville linebacker Myles Jack for an interception.
But the first-half errors and a 13-10 halftime deficit weren't enough to derail Burrow's strong start to his rookie season.
In the second half, Burrow buoyed Cincinnati's offense. Cincinnati outscored the Jaguars by 17 points in the third quarter when Burrow was 7-for-11 passing for 75 yards.
Meanwhile, in 24 hours, Joe Mixon went from a worrying hospital visit with a mysterious chest injury to busting out for one of the best games of his career.
The fourth-year running back missed practice late in the week and said he went to a hospital Saturday with pain in his chest and difficulty breathing. He didn't say exactly what doctors told him, but he thought he might have hurt himself by sleeping on it wrong.
Mixon sure looked fine against the Jaguars, though, rushing for 151 yards on 25 carries with two touchdowns and adding a third score on a 9-yard swing pass from Burrow.
"The doctors loved up on me, and I was able to go out there and make some things work," Mixon said.
Mixon's touchdowns covered 9, 34 and 23 yards in a true 2020 breakout
On Wednesday, Mixon was named AFC Offensive Player of the Week. ...
The Bengals rolled up 505 yards of offense, working through or around some of their recent offensive line problems to get their first win. Getting the running game unstuck allowed some better looks downfield for Burrow.
After being hit 18 times and sacked eight times in a 23-23 tie against Philadelphia last week, Burrow went about his business without much trouble from the Jaguars' pass rush. He was sacked once.
"The O-line played really, really well today," Burrow said. "They've taken a lot of heat the last couple weeks, and I was super happy for those guys to have the game they did today and they're going to continue to build on it. I know they are."
Building on it won't be easy this week with a trip to Baltimore to face the Raven on the schedule. ...
Other notes of interest. ... The great A.J. Green continues to try and find it. He had just one catch for three yards and it was on the Bengals' first play. That's his fewest yards in a game he didn't get hurt. He missed a few plays when he rolled on his wrist late in the third quarter, but he came back to finish.
"We're not going to worry about guys getting their touches and targets. There are enough weapons to where we can win football games, and someone might have one catch for three yards," Taylor said. "And there might be one where you have 10 catches for 150 yards. Going back to the unselfish players and high-character guys we have on this team ... they understand that they just want to win. A.J. was as happy as anyone in that locker room. His time will come."
Something about the Jags. He had just one catch for seven yards in the 2018 game against Denver before he left in the second quarter with a season-ending toe injury. In Jacksonville in 2017 he had one catch for six yards before his blowup with Jalen Ramsey got him ejected.
QBs: Joe Burrow, Ryan Finley
RBs: Joe Mixon, Giovani Bernard, Trayveon Williams, Samaje Perine
WRs: Tyler Boyd, A.J. Green, Tee Higgins, Auden Tate, Damion Willis, Alex Erickson, Mike Thomas, John Ross
TEs: Drew Sample, Cethan Carter, C.J. Uzomah
Cleveland BrownsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 6 October 2020
The Browns hadn't had an offensive showing like this in decades. They didn't need their most effective offensive player for it, either.
But then late, they nearly squandered it.
Despite losing star running back Nick Chubb in the first quarter to a knee injury, the Browns scored 31 points in the first half, then survived a furious fourth-quarter rally from the Dallas Cowboys for a wild 49-38 victory.
Cleveland led 41-14 in the fourth quarter before Dallas reeled off 24 consecutive points to pull within a field goal with 3:42 to play. The Browns, however, finally iced the game on the first play of the ensuing drive, an electric Odell Beckham Jr. 50-yard touchdown run off a reverse.
"I turned the corner and everybody was blocking, and it was weird," Beckham said. "I was about to slide, but I just turned the jets on and got in the end zone."
The rushing touchdown was the first of Beckham's NFL career, but the touchdown that meant the most to him was the first. It came on a 37-yard pass from wide receiver Jarvis Landry, who was a teammate at LSU and is a longtime friend. It's a play that's been in the playbook for a while and Beckham said he told head coach Kevin Stefanski to "stop running it in practice or you have to call it."
"I would not trade that play for any amount of touchdowns in the game or if I was the one to throw it to him," Beckham said. "That is my brother, like for real and for real life. I got his back forever, and he's got mine. It was an amazing feeling."
Later in the first half, Beckham would haul in another score for his first multi-touchdown game since joining the Browns before last season.
The Browns are 3-1, which is an unusual feeling for the team and it's one that can linger if Beckham can continue making impacts like he did on Sunday.
According to ESPN.com's Jake Trotter, the 31 points were the most Cleveland had scored in a first half since 1991, when Bernie Kosar was still its quarterback. In the first half alone, Cleveland rolled up 333 yards and 24 first downs -- just the fourth time since 1978 an NFL team generated that many first downs in a first half, according to Elias.
Needing only the first half Sunday, the Browns have now scored 30-plus points in three straight games for the first time in 52 years. The last time Cleveland won three of its first four games to start a season was 2001, when current Browns starting quarterback Baker Mayfield was 6 years old and Tom Brady was making his second career NFL start.
"That speaks volumes to us after bouncing back after Week 1," said Mayfield, referring to Cleveland's 30-point season-opening loss at Baltimore before the three-game winning streak. "We have to hit the reset button. We're on to the second quarter of the year."
Worth noting, Browns finished with more than 200 yards on the ground for the second time in four games this season, a feat Cleveland hadn't accomplished since 1974. D'Ernest Johnson led the Browns with 83 rushing yards, while Kareem Hunt ran for 71 and scored two touchdowns. The two combined to average 7 yards on their 22 carries.
Behind Beckham's first career rushing touchdown, the Browns finished with 307 rushing yards, their highest game total in 11 years.
"The offensive line is doing a great job. ... We're working as a team," Hunt said. "Hopefully, we get (Chubb) back soon."
It won't be that soon.
Chubb, who came in as the NFL's fourth-leading rusher, was injured in the first quarter when his right leg was rolled up on by a pair of opposing linemen engaged with each other. He limped to the locker room, and the team said it was a knee injury. Chubb, who suffered an MCL injury, is expected to miss "several weeks," head coach Kevin Stefanski said Monday.
Chubb, who will be placed on injured reserve, won't require surgery and is expected to return at some point this season.
"Knowing Nick, he is going to work very hard in rehab," Stefanski said. "And so, I know that is hard to see your teammate go down like that but knowing Nick he will work his butt off to get back.
"You never like to see your players on the ground like that. And again, Nick does not say much as you guys know, but he is a leader of this football team. His teammates really respond to him and the way he goes about his business. He is disappointed, but I can promise you he is going to attack this rehab."
Chubb, who finished second in the NFL in rushing yards last season, leads the Browns with 335 rushing yards and four touchdowns. He's already posted two 100-yard games on the season and has the most 20-yard rushes of any NFL player since 2018.
Without Chubb, the Browns will continue to rely on the trio of Hunt, Johnson and Dontrell Hilliard to help fill the void.
"That was good to see with those guys stepping up, the offensive line and the tight ends and the wide receivers they are all straining, and the runners were running through arm tackles and breaking tackles so that that was good to see," Stefanski said. "But you lose a player of Nick's caliber, we are going to need those guys to step up really across the entire offense."
The coach added: "Nick's tough to replace, obviously. But we have to make sure we put a game plan together and find a way to move the rock. I trust the guys will step up when they're called upon."
For the record, Chubb played just 14 snaps Sunday before he hurt. Beyond that, it was 26 snaps for Hunt, 17 for Johnson and 15 for Hilliard.
Making his NFL debut, Donovan Peoples-Jones played 33 snaps. His role likely increased in a big way after KhaDarel Hodge suffered a hamstring injury in pre-game warmups. The Browns played just three WRs on Sunday.
Tight end Harrison Bryant received some of his most extensive action of the season. He played 52 snaps while Austin Hooper played 63. Stephen Carlson was on the field for 16.
Worth noting. ... Tight end David Njoku is eligible to come off of injured reserve after missing three games with a knee injury and Stefanski indicated that the team would have him back on the practice field Wednesday.
"I think we will, yes," Stefanski said, via Cleveland.com.
Njoku caught three passes for 50 yards and a touchdown in the season-opening loss to the Ravens. Hooper and Bryant have combined to catch 16 passes for 135 yards and two touchdowns in three games without Njoku.
And finally. ...The team announced that Hodge had been placed on injured reserve because of the injury he suffered Sunday. They The signed wide receiver Taywan Taylor off of the practice squad.
Hodge played in three games this season, catching three passes for 51 yards. Claimed off waivers from the Rams last year he's a core special teamer, and helps as a run-blocker this year.
Taylor was a Titans third-round pick in 2017 and he was traded to the Browns last August. He appeared in three games and returned three kickoffs for 53 yards. He did not catch any passes, but had 53 catches for 697 yards and two touchdowns in two seasons with Tennessee.
QBs: Baker Mayfield, Case Keenum
RBs: Kareem Hunt, D'Ernest Johnson, Dontrell Hilliard, Nick Chubb
WRs: Odell Beckham, Jarvis Landry, Rashard Higgins, Donovan Peoples-Jones, KhaDarel Hodge
TEs: Austin Hooper, David Njoku, Harrison Bryant, Stephen Carlson
Dallas CowboysCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 6 October 2020
Mike McCarthy is seeing a pattern with the Cowboys after four games, and he doesn't like it one bit.
Moreover, he doesn't see a path for success if it continues.
The Cowboys are 1-3 for the first time in 10 years and would be facing 0-4 if not for a near-impossible onside kick recovery and last-second field goal in a Sept. 20 comeback win over Atlanta.
Sunday's 49-38 loss to the Cleveland Browns followed a track similar to the first three weeks of the season.
"We need to play better complementary football. Right now it's not happening," McCarthy said. "It hasn't happened in any of the four games."
Yes, the Cowboys are giving up far too many points on defense: a franchise-record 146 through the first four games of a season. Big passing plays were a problem in Weeks 2 and 3 against Atlanta and Seattle and on the Browns' opening touchdown drive: a 37-yard trick-play pass from receiver Jarvis Landry to receiver Odell Beckham Jr.
Big run plays were the main problem Sunday. Cleveland racked up 307 yards on the ground, the most ever against a Cowboys defense.
All that said, DallasCowboys.com's Rob Phillips contends the defense isn't getting enough help from the offense.
The Cowboys have posted video-game numbers in yardage and points the last three games. They also have a league-high nine turnovers that have led to 45 points by opponents, including back-to-back fumbles in the first half Sunday that led to two Browns touchdowns. Conversely, the defense has two takeaways this season (none Sunday) leading to three points.
For the third straight game, the Cowboys found themselves in catch-up, pass-first mode in the second half, trailing by as many as 27 points in the fourth quarter after a 34-0 Browns run.
"It's unacceptable," McCarthy said of the Cowboys' minus-7 turnover margin, tied for worst in the league. "It will not be the identity of this football team. It can't be. Until we all get on the same page and get that part corrected, we're going to be a no-huddle offense for a quarter and a half."
Still, from a fantasy perspective, it's not that horrible.
In fact, it's great.
In his past two games, Dak Prescott has 974 passing yards, the most over a two-game span in NFL history.
In his past three games, Prescott, who is playing on the $31.4 million franchise tag, has thrown for 1,424 yards, the most over a three-game span in NFL history. At least the Cowboys were able to pull off an improbable 40-39 win against the Atlanta Falcons in Week 2 when Prescott became the first quarterback in league history to throw for at least 450 yards and rush for three scores in the same game.
In the Cowboys' loss to the Browns, Prescott had career highs in yards (502) and attempts (58), and his 41 completions were the second most he has had in a game. He had at least four touchdown passes in a game for the fourth time, tying him with Troy Aikman for fourth most in team history.
Prescott's 502 yards passing are the second most by a Dallas quarterback. In a 51-48 loss to the Denver Broncos in 2013, Tony Romo threw for 506 yards.
Prescott almost led the Cowboys to the second-biggest comeback in NFL history.
Down 41-14 in the third quarter, the Cowboys closed to within 41-38 after Prescott's second touchdown pass of the game to rookie CeeDee Lamb and a 2-point conversion by Amari Cooper with 3 minutes, 42 seconds to play.
In the fourth quarter, Prescott completed 21 of 30 passes for 254 yards and two touchdowns, but he was intercepted with 1:36 to play on a pass to Cooper.
"I overthought the play," Cooper said. "I was supposed to run a quick slant and catch the ball ... It just looked like it wasn't there, so I tried to race to the second window and the ball was thrown. But that's not what I'm supposed to do. I'm supposed to take one step and look for the ball."
McCarthy had praise for Prescott for getting the Cowboys into contention.
"Dak is exactly what you're looking for," McCarthy said. "He's wired the right way in his ability to keep playing through adversity. He never blinks. But obviously, the turnovers, you take a look at why that happen, how they happen. It's like anything in this game. The negatives are not just one thing or on one person. I thought Dak stood tall and led us back to giving us a chance to be in the game there at the end."
The Cowboys are back at home this Sunday to take on their rivals, the New York Giants. ...
On the injury front. ... According to ESPN.com's Todd Archer, tight end Dalton Schultz suffered a bruised thigh late in Sunday's loss, but the expectation is he will be able to play this week.
Center Joe Looney suffered a sprained MCL and will be out for an extended period, per the team's site. Also, right tackle La'el Collins will indeed have hip surgery that will likely end his 2020 season. The Cowboys announced they have released defensive back Brandon Carr and offensive tackle Alex Light, signed offensive tackle Greg Senat to the active roster from the Browns' practice squad, and added offensive tackle William Sweet to their own practice squad. Carr, a 13-year veteran, returned to Dallas just before the season and appeared in three games.
QBs: Andy Dalton, Ben DiNucci, Dak Prescott
RBs: Ezekiel Elliott, Tony Pollard, Rico Dowdle
WRs: Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup, CeeDee Lamb, Cedrick Wilson, Noah Brown, Ventell Bryant, Malik Turner
TEs: Dalton Schultz, Blake Bell, Sean McKeon, Blake Jarwin
Denver BroncosCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 6 October 2020
Drew Lock is 50-50 for the Denver Broncos' game at New England this weekend but if his right shoulder is still sore, fellow second-year pro Brett Rypien will get his second straight start.
Coach Vic Fangio wanted to see how Lock did when the team returned to practice Tuesday. Lock didn't return to practice Tuesday, but he was throwing footballs on Monday.
Fangio expected Lock to practice Wednesday.
"He will partake in individual period where there is good amount of throwing going on," the coach explained. "We are not going to give him a full workload. We'll let him do individual drills, get a few reps, see how he feels Thursday."
The QB is doing all he can to get back on field for beat-up Broncos.
"I just need to see a healthy quarterback," Fangio said. "I'm not going to put him out there unless he's healthy, he can throw without hesitation, without altering his delivery and he's very confident -- and healthy -- that he can go out there and play normal."
Rypien led the Broncos (1-3) to a 38-27 win over the winless New York Jets on Thursday night when he became the first QB since Jim Druckenmiller in 1997 to win his first NFL start despite throwing three interceptions.
Lock, a second-round draft pick in 2019, injured his throwing shoulder on a sack at Pittsburgh in Week 2 and was replaced by Jeff Driskel, who lost his start against Tampa Bay last week.
Rypien, an undrafted QB out of Boise State and the nephew of former Super Bowl winner Mark Rypien, threw for 242 yards and two touchdowns.
"Overall, very pleased with his play, not pleased with three interceptions, obviously," Fangio said. "But if he has to play this coming week in New England, I think he'll be even better for it."
Fangio had no updates on tight end Noah Fant (ankle) and rookie receiver K.J. Hamler (hamstring) other than to say, "it's iffy whether they'll be ready to play" next weekend at New England.
Fangio said Hamler's injury is to the same hamstring the speedster hurt in training camp "but it's in a different place. It's a totally new injury."
Fangio said he expects running back Phillip Lindsay (turf toe) to play against the Patriots.
"He could have played last night. He was ready to play mentally and physically, but I didn't feel comfortable playing him without any practice," Fangio said. "He essentially hadn't practiced since sustaining the injury. Last week's practices were all walkthrough-type practices, so I didn't think it would be the fair thing to play him, nor the prudent thing."
Fangio said he's "probably not as optimistic" with cornerback A.J. Bouye's return from a sprained shoulder "as I am with Drew. So, he's less than 50-50."
Meanwhile, receiver Tim Patrick, who first arrived to the Broncos as a practice squad player late in the 2017 season, finished with six catches for a career-best 113 yards with a touchdown against the Jets.
With Courtland Sutton out until the 2021 season and Hamler's hamstring a question mark again, the Broncos will need performances like Patrick's against the Jets.
Patrick is now second on the team in receptions (16) -- behind Fant and is tied with Fant for the team lead with two touchdowns. ...
Although Lindsay could return this week, Melvin Gordon is on a roll.
Gordon, who joined the Broncos this offseason, ran the ball 23 times for 107 yards and two touchdowns in New York. He capped his "Thursday Night Football" performance with a 43-yard touchdown run that sealed the Broncos' win.
The Wisconsin product now has 51 total touchdowns in his career, which makes him just the eighth active running back to tally at least 50 combined scores.
His performance against the Jets was also his 10th career 100-yard rushing game.
I'll be watching for more on Lock, Lindsay and Fant in coming days; check the Late-Breaking Updates section for more as the week progresses. ...
A huge day was had by kicker Brandon McManus in last Thursday's win. McManus booted a 53-yard fourth-quarter field goal that stood as the game-winner. It was his third field goal of the night and his second from 50-plus. He was also perfect on four point-after attempts as part of a 13-point night.
On Wednesdya, McManus was named AFC Special Teams Player of the Month. ...
One last note. ... Fangio said there's no bad blood between him and Jets coach Adam Gase after Rypien was hit hard twice in the closing seconds of a chippy performance by the Jets, who committed six personal fouls.
Fangio didn't meet Gase for the customary postgame handshake because he was busy trying to keep the peace and shoo his players into the locker room.
"Both of us texted with each other after the game and we spoke today on the phone. Adam and I are friends, have been, will continue to be," Fangio said. "... I just didn't want any situation to happen there that would be an embarrassment for the league and for the teams."
QBs: Drew Lock, Brett Rypien, Jeff Driskel, Blake Bortles
RBs: Melvin Gordon, Phillip Lindsay, Royce Freeman
WRs: Jerry Jeudy, Tim Patrick, K.J. Hamler, Daesean Hamilton, Tyrie Cleveland, Diontae Spencer, Courtland Sutton
TEs: Noah Fant, Jake Butt, Albert Okwuegbunam, Nick Vannett
Detroit LionsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 6 October 2020
The Detroit Lions scored two quick touchdowns to take a 14-0 lead within the first five minutes against New Orleans.
By this point, we all should have known the game was far from over.
For a third time in four games this season, the Lions lost after leading by double digits. This time, it was the injury-riddled Saints who came away with a 35-29 victory Sunday. New Orleans scored 35 unanswered points after Detroit's early advantage, and as the Lions head into their open date, it's becoming harder to avoid the question of whether Matt Patricia will be their coach much longer.
"We've got a lot of work to do," Patricia said. "Certainly, when I came to Detroit, there was a lot of work to do and that's what we're trying to do."
Detroit went 9-7 in 2017 under Jim Caldwell before he was fired and replaced by Patricia after that season. Patricia is now 10-25-1, and although he had previous experience as a defensive coordinator with New England, the Lions (1-3) have looked particularly out of sorts lately on that side of the ball.
The last time the Lions made major in-season changes was in 2015, when they fired general manager Martin Mayhew after reaching their open week on the schedule. They were 1-7 at the time. A week earlier, they'd replaced their offensive coordinator.
So it's not too early to wonder if owner Sheila Ford Hamp might act. Hamp's mother, Martha Firestone Ford, handed the team over to her earlier this year.
Players have remained supportive of Patricia, while understanding their performance hasn't been good enough.
"We all believe in the plan that's put in place," Decker said. "We're professional athletes. We're expected to come here and perform, and follow the lead of the things that the coaches have us do. We believe in what's being taught here, and then if we didn't, frankly we wouldn't be here."
Still, they have lost 14 of their past 16 games under Patricia and fall to 1-3 this season -- the team's only win a come-from-behind victory in Arizona last week that stopped the team's 11-game losing streak.
Hamp said in June the goal was "major improvement" from last season's 3-12-1 mark when the family decided to retain Patricia and general manager Bob Quinn last December.
Has she seen enough to continue for now?
Only she really knows. But if the Lions continue as they've been, the answer might be easier for her than ever before.
For what it's worth, Patricia was asked why fans should believe that he is the right coach to send things in a different direction given the team's performance since he arrived.
"That's a hard question," Patricia said. "We just lost to the Saints. Let's just give them credit for this game, they played extremely well and I know we got a lot of work to do. I think when I came to Detroit, there was a lot of work to do and that's what we're trying to do.
"But, talking about this year, we're talking about right now, these first four games and obviously today wasn't good enough. ..."
Some notes of interest. ... Matthew Stafford was not sharp Sunday. He threw a bad interception intended for T.J. Hockenson in the end zone that stopped a promising drive and missed open receivers more than once. He wasn't helped by early drops, but for as decent as his stat line looked -- 17-of-31 for 206 yards, three touchdowns and one interception -- his play didn't quite match up with it.
Too many passes missed their mark, especially against a Saints defense down their top two corners in Marshon Lattimore and Janoris Jenkins.
Hockenson made a big splash last year in his rookie debut with six catches for 131 yards and a TD. In the next three games he had only five catches for 35 yards and a TD. He's been steadily productive this year. He had five catches for 54 yards and a TD in the opener and followed it with 10 catches for 124 yards and a TD over his next three.
He had two catches for nine yards and his second TD Sunday. Hockenson also caught a two-point conversion in the fourth quarter.
The Lions had only two "splash plays" that gained 20 yards or more. Both were completions by Stafford -- 50 yards to Danny Amendola in the first quarter and 31 to Jesse James in the second quarter. The two caches made up 81 of his 206 passing yards.
The Lions rushed for 90 yards without a touchdown in last week's win over the Cardinals. They rushed for 90 yards and a TD (by Adrian Peterson) in Sunday's loss to the Saints.
QBs: Matthew Stafford, Chase Daniel
RBs: Adrian Peterson, D'Andre Swift, Kerryon Johnson, Jason Cabinda
WRs: Kenny Golladay, Marvin Jones, Danny Amendola, Quintez Cephus, Marvin Hall, Jamal Agnew
TEs: T.J. Hockenson, Jesse James, Hunter Bryant
Green Bay PackersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 6 October 2020
As ESPN.com's Rob Demovsky suggest, at this rate, it doesn't seem to matter who's on the field for the Green Bay Packers as long as Aaron Rodgers is the quarterback and Matt LaFleur is the play caller.
Without WR1 Davante Adams and WR2 Allen Lazard, Rodgers and LaFleur had no trouble improvising on Monday night against the Atlanta Falcons at Lambeau Field.
Enter tight end Robert Tonyan, who before this season had two career touchdown catches and 14 total receptions.
Monday night turned into Tonyan time. The relatively unknown third-year tight end caught three touchdown passes and had six catches for 98 yards in all (each career highs) to help the Packers to a 30-16 victory that gave them their first 4-0 start since 2015 and gave LaFleur a 17-3 record -- the second-most wins by an NFL coach through 20 games behind only George Seifert's 18.
They've scored at least 30 points in their first four games of a season for the first time in franchise history.
It didn't matter that Rodgers' receivers were Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Darrius Shepherd, Malik Taylor and Reggie Begelton. Only Valdes-Scantling had caught a pass this season before Monday. And of the other three, only Shepherd had caught a pass in an NFL game ever (one for 1 yard last season).
All Rodgers needed was a former undrafted tight end from Indiana State, who in four games this season now has five touchdown catches to match Jimmy Graham's production in 32 games as the Packers' primary tight end the previous two seasons. Tonyan is tied for the NFL touchdown lead with Buccaneers wide receiver Mike Evans.
With Adams held out Week 3, Rodgers still managed a near-flawless first half: 18-of-22 for 228 yards with three touchdowns for a 149.4 rating.
His final numbers, 27-of-33 for 327 yards and four touchdowns (and no picks, of course, since he hasn't thrown one all season) included a perfect 19-of-19 when targeting running backs (including eight catches for 95 yards by Jamaal Williams) and tight ends.
Worth noting. ... The Packers have had a different offensive contributor -- other than Rodgers, of course -- in each of their first four games. In Week 1 against the Vikings, Adams tied a 78-year-old franchise record with 14 catches (for 156 yards and two touchdowns).
In Week 2 against the Lions, Aaron Jones rushed for a career-best 168 yards and totaled 236 from scrimmage.
In Week 3 against the Saints, Lazard had a career-high 146 yards receiving (on six catches with a touchdown).
And then there was Tonyan in Week 4.
Who will it be in Week 6 at Tampa Bay after the Packers' bye this coming weekend?
Other notes of interest heading into the off week. ... As noted above, Rodgers looked good for most of Monday night's win, but there was one awkward moment in the fourth quarter of the contest.
Rodgers was trying to avoid the Atlanta pass rush and tumbled to the turf in awkward fashion as part of that effort. He got back up slowly, but remained in the game and told Lisa Salters of ESPN after the final whistle that he was more red-faced about how the play looked than he was concerned about his health
"I think it was more embarrassment than injury," Rodgers said. "My ankle kinda, or knee, something, kinda hyperextended maybe a little bit but I'm alright."
The bye means there's plenty of time for Rodgers to make sure all is well.
There's also time for Adams to continue recovering from his hamstring injury, which would put the Packers in good offensive shape for that trip to Tampa Bay.
Adams had been officially listed as questionable after being limited in practice this past week. He indicated in a since-deleted tweet that he wanted to play Monday but was being held out.
"Sorry fans and friends I wont be on the field tonight. I've done everything I need to do and proved Im ready but I guess I don't know my body as well as others. Good luck out there my boys," Adams said in a tweet that has been deleted.
Adams said this past week that he wanted to make sure he was 100 percent before he returned.
"I will be making sure I feel normal -- like before it happened -- before I step out there," Adams said Thursday. "So we're doing our thing to make sure that that's the case."
Jones had 12.9 yards of separation on his 6-yard touchdown catch in the first quarter against Atlanta. That's the second-most separation on a Packers touchdown catch over the past four seasons.
And finally. ... Tight end Josiah Deguara has a torn ACL and is out for the year.
QBs: Aaron Rodgers, Tim Boyle, Jordan Love
RBs: Aaron Jones, Jamaal Williams, A.J. Dillon, Tyler Ervin
WRs: Davante Adams, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Equanimeous St. Brown, Malik Taylor, Reggie Begelton, Allen Lazard
TEs: Robert Tonyan, Marcedes Lewis, Jace Sternberger, Josiah Deguara
Houston TexansCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 6 October 2020
As NFL.com's Nick Shook pointed out, Bill O'Brien's abrupt shift in sideline responsibilities, however drastic it was or wasn't, didn't produce a victory for the still-winless Texans on Sunday.
After three straight losses to open the season, O'Brien decided he'd heavily involve himself in play-calling instead of leaving it solely to offensive coordinator Tim Kelly, adding the task to a list of responsibilities that already included intimate involvement in game planning.
The formula helped the Texans reach the playoffs in 2019, but it didn't pan out in a 31-23 Week 4 loss to the Vikings in which Houston fell short of 100 rushing yards as a team.
O'Brien said Monday he was uncertain of whether he'll continue with such a formula after it produced 23 points and a significant loss in the time-of-possession battle (Minnesota dominated, 36:31 to 23:29).
"It's just about trying to do what's best to be consistent on offense," O'Brien said, per The Athletic's Aaron Reiss. "We do it together. That wasn't a major change."
As both head coach and general manager, O'Brien already owned a vast majority of the control over his team.
Or he did. Right up until he was fired later Monday.
After assuming the role of general manager in the offseason, O'Brien received almost universal criticism when he shipped superstar receiver DeAndre Hopkins to Arizona for running back David Johnson and draft picks. The pressure on O'Brien only intensified as the Texans limped out to the terrible start with Johnson struggling as their running game was the worst in the NFL and with the defense allowing the most yards in the league.
O'Brien was in his seventh season in Houston where he compiled a 52-48 record. He won the AFC South four times in his tenure, including the past two years.
Team owner Cal McNair announced the decision Monday and thanked O'Brien for his work with the team.
"Bill's leadership moved our organization forward as he guided us to four AFC South division championships, 52 wins and multiple playoff appearances during his tenure," McNair said in a statement. "Bill proved himself as a coach and leader in this league. I spoke with him earlier today and told him we are moving in a different direction."
O'Brien spoke shortly after the announcement.
"I respected the decision," O'Brien said in a video conference call. "Look, I know in this business when we lost to Minnesota, a game that we had a chance to win. Give Minnesota credit. They did a great job. But I knew that something like this could happen. That's the business."
Perhaps if Hopkins were still on board, O'Brien would be as well?
"Every decision we made was always in the best interest of the team," O'Brien said when asked if he had any regrets about any personnel decisions. "We had long conversations. We put a lot of research into them. There were things that happened within the walls of the organization that outside public really will never know. That's just the way it is, and I totally understand that. We had a lot of great conversations that went into these decisions, a lot of research. We had a lot of people who helped us along the way. We made what we believed were the best decisions for the team. That's what we always did."
O'Brien repeatedly said during the 10-minute call, "We just didn't do enough."
"I'm sorry that we couldn't get this team over the hump," O'Brien said. "We didn't get it over the hump last year, the year before, and obviously early on this year. But it wasn't for a lack of effort. We did win four division championships in six years. So we did a lot of good things here, but we didn't do enough. We didn't bring a Super Bowl to Houston. I believe eventually someone will. I believe this is a championship game that needs to get things turned around right now, but I believe in this team."
Romeo Crennel, who was the team's assistant head coach, will serve as interim coach for the rest of the season.
Via NFL Research, Crennel will become the oldest person to coach an NFL game in the history of the league.
Crennel is 73. The next oldest coach in 101 NFL seasons was George Halas, who coached the Bears at 72.
The last time Crennel served as an interim head coach, he did enough to win the permanent job in Kansas City. He'll have 12 games to audition for the chance to coach the Texans when he's 74, and possibly beyond.
"We have a talented team and I have no doubt our players and staff will rally to make Texans fans proud as we aim to win championships and do great things for the city of Houston," McNair said.
With a three-week slate of very tough games to open the season, a run that included meetings with the powerful Kansas City Chiefs and Baltimore Ravens (and the promising Pittsburgh Steelers), it was fair to point to Houston's difficult schedule as a reason for their winless start.
Sunday's performance against the previously 0-3 Vikings eliminated that excuse and pointed to a larger issue that starts with Houston's inability to establish a legitimate threat on the ground.
That shortcoming was magnified when the passing attack also falls short.
Against the Vikings, Deshaun Watson and the Texans' offense picked off where it left off in Pittsburgh last week, failing to score a touchdown in the first half and struggling to move the ball consistently down the field. In the first quarter, Watson threw for just 16 yards despite playing a Vikings defense which entered the game allowing an average of 292.3 passing yards per game (30th in the NFL).
Those 16 passing yards were his fewest in the first quarter since Week 1 of the 2018 season, according to ESPN Stats and Information.
In the loss, Watson completed 20 of 33 passes for 300 yards and two touchdowns. Wide receivers Brandin Cooks, Kenny Stills and Randall Cobb combined for four catches on 12 targets, with one of Stills' two receptions a touchdown catch late in the fourth quarter. Will Fuller led the way for Houston with six catches for 108 yards and a touchdown.
At 0-4, there's little time for the Texans to continue to hope to tread water. With the risk of losing the season and perhaps the team, the Texans are going to have to start making progress quickly. J.J. Watt lamented the team's struggles in the immediate aftermath of Houston's latest loss, calling it "terrible," "brutal" and "depressing."
Meanwhile, for the fourth week in a row, the Texans failed to force a turnover. Houston entered the game as one just three teams without an interception this season and the only team not to have a takeaway. According to ESPN Stats and Info, the only time the Texans had zero takeaways in their first four games was in 2005.
The Texans entered the game allowing an average of 188.3 rushing yards per game, by far the worst mark in the NFL. Houston again struggled against the run, this time against Vikings running back Dalvin Cook, who ran for 130 yards and two touchdowns on 27 carries.
QBs: Deshaun Watson, AJ McCarron
RBs: David Johnson, Duke Johnson, Buddy Howell, Scottie Phillips
WRs: Will Fuller, Brandin Cooks, Randall Cobb, Kenny Stills, DeAndre Carter, Keke Coutee
TEs: Darren Fells, Jordan Akins, Kahale Warring
Indianapolis ColtsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 6 October 2020
The Colts came into the season thinking their defense had the potential to be one of the best in the NFL. Games like this past weekend are exactly what they had in mind.
Philip Rivers threw a touchdown pass on Indianapolis' first possession, and the Colts shut down Nick Foles and the Chicago Bears in a 19-11 victory Sunday.
After Rivers connected with Mo Alie-Cox on a 13-yard score, the NFL's top-ranked defense did its job.
"I don't want to sound crazy, but I did see this coming," head coach Frank Reich said. "I've been so fired up about the defense from Day One. The way we looked in camp, I look at our personnel, I look at our coaches, look at our schemes on defense how they fit our players. I've spoken about our defense since Day One. I felt like it was going to be real good."
Indianapolis upgraded the defense in the offseason by bringing in 2018 Pro Bowl defensive tackle DeForest Buckner and 2017 All-Pro cornerback Xavier Rhodes. And the payoff is performances like this.
The Colts (3-1) kept the Bears (3-1) out of the end zone until Allen Robinson caught a 16-yard pass with 1:35 remaining. Indianapolis recovered the onside kick and came away with its third straight win, the Colts' best streak since beating Kansas City, Houston and Denver last October.
The Bears managed just 269 yards - only 28 on the ground.
The Colts didn't exactly light up Chicago on offense. But they did play turnover-free ball.
Rivers was 16 of 29 for 190 yards and a TD. He needs four completions to join Drew Brees, Tom Brady, Brett Favre and Peyton Manning with 5,000.
"We didn't do the dumb things," Rivers said. "We didn't turn the ball over three times, we didn't a lot of those things, so I think that is key. A lot to build (on), but certainly a lot of things we need to do better."
The Colts entered the game being the only team in the NFL not having a three-and-out offensive series this season. They had four three-and-out series against the Bears to go along with being 1-of-4 in the red zone. Rivers was not sharp for most of the game. He missed some first down throws to Zach Pascal and T.Y. Hilton. Rivers finished the game 16-of-29 for 190 yards.
Jonathan Taylor rushed the ball 17 times for 68 yards against Chicago. He added one reception for 11 yards.
As CBSSports.com notes, Taylor was once again the lead back for the Colts, working ahead of both Nyheim Hines and Jordan Wilkins. While his longest rush of the game was 16 yards, he managed additional chunk gains of 11 and 12 yards. He was unable to put together a huge performance due to the Colts' inability to reach the end zone but has now racked up at least 14 touches in each game since Week 2 in Marlon Mack's (Achilles) absence.
He'll face a tough defensive front in Week 5 in a matchup against the Browns. ...
One last note here. .. Rookie kicker Rodrigo Blankenship supplied the bulk of the scoring for the Colts. The University of Georgia product was a perfect 4-of-4 on field goals to go with an extra point.
Blankenship, who replaced future Hall-of-Famer Adam Vinatieri, is now 12-of-14 on field goals this season to go with a perfect 9-of-9 on extra points.
On the injury front. ... The Colts played the second half without All-Pro linebacker Darius Leonard, who left with a groin injury. But Indianapolis still had plenty to get by.
QBs: Philip Rivers, Jacoby Brissett, Jacob Eason
RBs: Jonathan Taylor, Nyheim Hines, Jordan Wilkins, Marlon Mack
WRs: T.Y. Hilton, Zach Pascal, Marcus Johnson, Ashton Dulin, Michael Pittman Jr., Parris Campbell, Dezmon Patmon
TEs: Trey Burton, Mo Alie-Cox, Jack Doyle
Jacksonville JaguarsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 6 October 2020
Head coach Doug Marrone could have fired his defensive coordinator or his analytics adviser following a paltry performance at Cincinnati on Sunday.
Instead, he defended both.
No one was buying either argument.
The Jaguars were gouged on the ground and picked apart by a rookie quarterback in a 33-25 loss to the Bengals, who dominated the second half to get their first victory of the season. The Jaguars (1-3) have dropped three in a row.
As Associated Press sports writer Mark Long suggested, maybe Marrone felt bad for his close friend and defensive coordinator Todd Wash when the coach made what many would consider a boneheaded decision to try for a 2-point conversion after Jacksonville scored a touchdown to slice into a 14-point lead with 6:14 remaining.
"I don't like getting heavy into the analytics with what we do, but it gives you a better chance to win the football game, and that's what we're trying to do," Marrone said.
Marrone insisted he was being aggressive, trying to "put pressure on them" and make it "a little bit different ballgame." But the Jaguars failed to get the extra two points, leaving them in need of a touchdown and a 2-point conversion to tie the game in the waning minutes.
It ended up being mostly a moot point since Randy Bullock added his fourth field goal and pushed the lead to 11.
It also partly overshadowed one of Jacksonville's worst defensive outings in franchise history. The Jaguars allowed 505 yards, the 12th time in franchise history they've surrendered more than 500. Three of those have come in the past eight games. This one came against a Cincy team that entered the week ranked 27th in total offense and dead last in yards per play.
"There was a lot of effort. That's what I just told the team," Marrone said.
It could have been worse, too, had the Bengals (1-2-1) been better on third down (4 for 11) or in the red zone (1 for 4).
It certainly didn't help Jacksonville that it lost three defensive starters during the game. Rookie cornerback CJ Henderson went to the locker room with a left shoulder injury. Linebacker Myles Jack left with a sprained right ankle. And nickel cornerback D.J. Hayden was carted away with a hamstring injury.
Those woes aside, the Jaguars have significant issues on that side of the ball. Henderson, the ninth overall pick in the NFL draft, has been a disappointment since a stellar showing in the opener. Defensive tackle Taven Bryan hasn't made an impact, and high-priced, free-agent signee Joe Schobert misses tackles and takes poor angles regularly.
"Well, first I want to say that the Bengals are a good team," receiver D.J. Chark said, showing support for his beleaguered teammates. "I know the record may not show that. But Joe Burrow is a hell of a player and they have a hell of an offense. They're not going out there and getting beat 30-something to zero. It was bound that team was going to get a win. Unfortunately, it was against us.
"The mood in the locker room is basically we've got to stick together. I read Twitter and a lot of times we are the laughingstock because people love making jokes when they're not in the fire with us. But, you know, at this point, it's forget them. ..."
Looking for reasons to be optimistic?
Laviska Shenault continues to impress and become a bigger part of the offense. He caught five passes for 86 yards and he made his biggest impact when the Jaguars went into the two-minute drill. Shenault caught three passes for 59 yards and made a calculated gamble in which he cut back inside to gain several extra yards on his first catch.
Offensive coordinator Jay Gruden still has to work to get Shenault opportunities because the rookie wide receiver isn't quite ready to get open consistently on a variety of routes as a receiver. Shenault will get there as he learns to use his hands to get off press coverage. For now, he continues to show big-time ability and it's clear the rookie, RB James Robinson, and Chark are the Jaguars' top three playmakers.
Shenault left the game with a hamstring injury and was limited in Wednesday's practice. It's something I'll be watching going forward; check the Late-Breaking Updates section in coming days.
There weren't a slew of positives Sunday. Chark was one, catching eight passes for 95 yards and two touchdowns. The Jaguars have scored 27, 30 and 25 points when Chark has played. They scored 13 when he didn't. Gardner Minshew called him one of the NFL's best receivers.
Minshew was good at times Sunday - and his statistics were very good. He deserves credit for a late first-half drive that went the length of the field without time outs and netted what at the time seemed a key field goal. He also got the Jaguars back in the game with a nice late drive, finishing 27 of 40 for 351 yards and two touchdowns with an interception.
But he struggles at other times.
Minshew' first-drive interception was his fourth in the last three games, and he struggled on back-to-back three-and-outs as the Bengals took over the game's momentum in the third quarter. He also continued to hesitate in the pocket and continues to struggle at times against soft zones when forced to throw to the middle of the field. We're four games into the season and still trying to get answers.
Robinson continues to impress. He's an efficient, smart runner who appears headed for a very good NFL career. There may be no brighter early spot on this team.
One problem for the offense?
The Jaguars are struggling on third down. There may be no more important statistic for this team. The Jaguars converted 62.2 percent of their third downs in Weeks 1 and 2 and looked like a contending team. They have converted five of 20 the last two weeks and have looked much different.
And finally. ... Aldrick Rosas, elevated from the practice squad Saturday, handled kicking duties for the Jaguars against the Bengals Sunday. The team deactivated kicker Stephen Hauschka ninety minutes before kickoff Sunday morning.
Those were the latest in a series of recent moves at kicker for the Jaguars, with the team placing kicker Josh Lambo on injured reserve with a hip injury 11 days ago and waiving/injured Brandon Wright -- Lambo's replacement -- after Wright sustained a groin injury in his NFL debut against the Miami Dolphins on September 24.
The Jaguars signed Hauschka, a 13-year veteran, this past Monday. He was listed as questionable with knee soreness entering the weekend.
Rosas, a fourth-year veteran, kicked for the New York Giants from 2017-19 and made 48 of 62 career field goals and 86 of 95 career extra points; he was a Pro Bowl selection following the 2018 season after converting 32 of 33 field goals. He missed from 48 yards out against the Bengals.
QBs: Gardner Minshew, Mike Glennon, Jake Luton
RBs: James Robinson, Chris Thompson, Dare Ogunbowale, Ryquell Armstead, Devine Ozigbo
WRs: D.J. Chark, Keelan Cole, Laviska Shenault, Dede Westbrook, Chris Conley, Collin Johnson, Michael Walker
TEs: Tyler Eifert, James O'Shaughnessy, Tyler Davis, Josh Oliver
Kansas City ChiefsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 6 October 2020
The Chiefs defeated the New England Patriots, 26-10, at Arrowhead Stadium on Monday night to move to 4-0 on the season and secure their 13th win overall dating back to last season.
The Chiefs are 4-0 for the fourth straight season and the last three of those seasons have come with Patrick Mahomes running the offense.
Mahomes has put up some eye-popping numbers in those games, but that was not the case on Monday night against the Patriots. New England's defense held the Chiefs without a touchdown in the first half, but the Kansas City defense forced a Brian Hoyer fumble to set up their first trip to the end zone and then Tyrann Mathieu returned a fourth quarter interception for a touchdown that put them up 26-10.
That would be the final score and Mahomes would finish the day 19-of-29 for 236 yards. He avoided an interception thanks to a questionable officiating decision and said after the game that the performance wasn't up to his standards while noting the effort that the defense made to get them a victory anyway.
"I didn't play very good football," Mahomes said, via Nate Taylor of TheAthletic.com. "Our defense stepped up, made a lot of big-time plays. Whenever you're trying to go throughout a season and win as many football games as possible to set you up for the playoffs, you're going to have to win games like this."
Leading by nine points with just over eight minutes to play, Chiefs' safety Tyrann Mathieu picked off Patriots' quarterback Jarrett Stidham and returned the interception 25 yards for what essentially ended up being a game-sealing touchdown.
The Chiefs put together two impressive drives through their first three possessions of the game, tallying seven plays of double-digit yardage between the two, but both stalled in Patriots' territory and resulted in field goals.
As Profootballtalk.com notes, other teams are likely to look at what the Patriots did and try to take some of it for their own attempts to slow down the Chiefs. The Chiefs will have to adjust to that and the combination of Mahomes and their own defense will make it easier to do that while remaining confident about what the future will bring.
But beating them clearly isn't easy.
The Chiefs haven't fallen since Week 11 of the 2019 season, compiling a stretch of nearly 11 months without a loss. The streak is already the longest in franchise history, and the Chiefs will look to keep it going on Sunday as they take on the Las Vegas Raiders at Arrowhead Stadium.
Other notes of interest. ... As the team's official website suggested, they may have looked like handoffs on television, but Mahomes' two quick tosses for scores on Monday night both went down as touchdown strikes in the box score. It's significant statistically, too, because Mahomes now has a touchdown pass in 14-straight games - the longest active streak in the NFL.
Mahomes' streak also matches Len Dawson for the second-longest stretch in franchise history. Only Elvis Grbac, who tossed a touchdown pass in 15-straight games between the 1999 and 2000 seasons, has a longer streak in Chiefs' history.
Tyreek Hill and Mecole Hardman were on the receiving end of those two quick tosses as each hauled in their respective pass and showed off their electric speed to get around the edge and find the end zone.
For Hill, it was his fourth-straight game with a receiving touchdown to begin the year. He's just the third player in franchise history to haul in a receiving score in each of Kansas City's first four games to begin a season, and the first since 1972. Hill and Tampa Bay Buccaneers' wide receiver Mike Evans are the only two players in the NFL with a receiving touchdown in every game this season.
Hardman, meanwhile, tallied his second receiving touchdown of the year and the eighth of his young career.
Kicker Harrison Butker missed a point-after touchdown for the second straight game. He did make both of his field goal attempts. Butker missed a 42-yard try last week.
And one last note here. ... After news of Patriots cornerback Stephon Gilmore's postive COVID-19 test broke on Wednesday morning, a picture of him embracing Mahomes after Monday night's game was shared on social media.
As Profootballtalk.com notes, neither Mahomes nor any other Chiefs players have tested positive since Monday, but the picture and Gilmore's own incubation time before testing positive were reminders that things won't necessarily stay that way. On Wednesday, Mahomes said that his desire to display good sportsmanship led to him slacking off on the protocols that include a ban on postgame fraternization.
"You just have to trust in the protocols and the process in place. It was a little bit of a mental lapse," Mahomes said, via Nate Taylor of TheAthletic.com.
Chiefs practice squad quarterback Jordan Ta'amu tested positive last week and Mahomes said on Wednesday that he slept in a different bedroom than his pregnant fiancee after he found out. The news about Gilmore might extend those sleeping arrangements for a while longer.
QBs: Patrick Mahomes, Chad Henne
RBs: Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Le'Veon Bell, DeAndre Washington, Darrel Williams, Darwin Thompson
WRs: Tyreek Hill, Mecole Hardman, Demarcus Robinson, Byron Pringle, Marcus Kemp, Sammy Watkins
TEs: Travis Kelce, Deon Yelder, Nick Keizer, Ricky Seals-Jones
Las Vegas RaidersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 6 October 2020
According to ESPN.com's Paul Gutierrez, on a day he became the Raiders' all-time leader in touchdown passes, Derek Carr was more hung up on his team's second consecutive defeat that dropped them to 2-2 on the season and prompted the $125 million franchise quarterback to vent, "I'm sick of losing."
Carr's career record as a starter fell to 41-57 with Las Vegas' 30-23 defeat to the Buffalo Bills on Sunday. Entering the 2020 season, his 55 losses were the second-most by a quarterback in his first six years in the league, trailing only brother David's 56 losses.
"I'm sick of losing," Carr said. "I'm sick of working as hard as I do, and as we do, and going out there and losing. I mean, it sucks. Enough is enough.
"The things that are hurting us in these close games is not them; it's us. That's the hard part to swallow."
Although Carr had a strong day throwing the ball against a stingy Bills defense -- he finished 32-of-44 for 311 yards and two touchdowns and has yet to throw an interception in 144 pass attempts -- he lost another fumble in the fourth quarter.
Three of the Raiders' four lost fumbles in the fourth quarter this season have been charged to Carr, and the Raiders' minus-4 turnover differential in the fourth quarter is the worst mark in the NFL.
"Me being here, my seventh year, I've seen too much crap," Carr said. "I've seen a whole bunch of crap, if I'm just being honest with you.
"Is it going to take my positivity and my joy away? Absolutely not. I'm going to be me, regardless. But is it OK for me to be a little hot, a little pissed sometimes? Yeah. And this is one of those moments."
Carr's 3-yard touchdown pass to tight end Jason Witten with 13 seconds remaining in the second quarter pulled the Raiders to within 17-13 at the half while also tying him with Hall of Famer Ken Stabler with career TD pass No. 150.
Carr would hit Nelson Agholor for a 7-yard score with 89 seconds left in the game that got the Raiders within a score and was the franchise record-setter at No. 151. It proved too little too late, however.
"It's never good enough when you lose, he knows that, I know that," said head coach Jon Gruden. "Statistics are great. He's done a heck of a job for this football team, all we've been through with the virus and not having any offseason program and trying to break in two rookie receivers [Henry Ruggs III and Bryan Edwards] and then losing two rookie receivers [to injury]. And not having [offensive linemen] Trent [Brown] and Richie [Incognito]. It's been tough on him.
"I wouldn't question one thing about Carr; he's given you everything he's got, and he's performing pretty darn good."
The wins, though, have not followed. And Carr has now fumbled 61 times in his career, losing 46 of them.
"I can speak for Derek, as well: I feel like we are our biggest critics," said second-year running back Josh Jacobs, who was bottled up for 48 yards, the third-lowest total of his young career, on 15 carries. "Every day, we try to come in and work on the little things. It's the little things in this game that make the biggest difference."
Things will get more interesting this week, when the Raiders, who had already been fined a total of $400,000 for previously breaking virus protocols with Gruden's mask issues and a noncredentialed employee in the locker room, added to that total when the league announced further fines for not wearing masks at an indoor charity event. Darren Waller was fined $30,000 and the following teammates were fined $15,000: Carr, Derek Carrier, Zay Jones, Nevin Lawson, Erik Magnuson (practice squad), Foster Moreau, Nathan Peterman, Hunter Renfrow and Jason Witten.
The Raiders placed defensive tackle Maurice Hurst on the reserve/COVID-19 list Tuesday, NFL Network's Mike Garafolo reported.
This week they travel to the high-powered Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs, whose practice squad QB just tested positive, and who are coming off a Monday night game against the Patriots that was delayed by Cam Netwon's positive Covid-19 test. ...
For the fourth straight game -- that's the entire season thus far for those of you keeping track -- the Raiders scored a touchdown inside the final two minutes of the first half. That sense of urgency is good, and the efficiency it takes to make it happen is even better. But where are those attributes the rest of the game?
One last note. ... As CBSSports.com notes, Buffalo's front seven didn't give Jacobs much room to roam, and his 3.2 yards per carry was his worst single-game average so far this season. The second-year back should be more productive in Week 5 against a Chiefs defense that's given up 5.3 YPC through its first three games.
As for Ruggs and Edwards, I'll have more on their progress in coming days while reminding you the reports on Edwards indicate a high-ankle sprain, something he's unlikely to return quickly from. Ruggs was on the practice field to open the week Wednesday.
Watch the Late-Breaking Updates section for more.
QBs: Derek Carr, Nathan Peterman, Marcus Mariota
RBs: Josh Jacobs, Jalen Richard, Devontae Booker
WRs: Henry Ruggs III, Hunter Renfrow, Bryan Edwards, Nelson Agholor, Zay Jones, Tyrell Williams
TEs: Darren Waller, Jason Witten, Foster Moreau, Derek Carrier
Los Angeles ChargersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 6 October 2020
First. ... The bad news.
Running back Austin Ekeler is believed to have suffered a hyperextended knee and hamstring injury on Sunday that is expected to keep him out several weeks, a source told ESPN's Adam Schefter.
Ekeler was seen leaving Sunday's game at the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on crutches and with a brace, according to Schefter. He is expected to undergo an MRI on Monday.
He had 12 yards on two carries and one reception for 2 yards before leaving with 1:37 left in the first quarter of Los Angeles' 38-31 loss. He leads the Chargers with 248 rushing yards and is third on the team with 144 receiving yards this season.
Adam Schefter of ESPN reports Ekeler is seeking a second opinion on his hamstring injury and hyperextended knee and the timeline doctors have given him.
Ekeler played only three offensive snaps Sunday and had three touches for 14 yards. For the season, Ekeler has 66 touches for 392 yards and a touchdown.
Justin Jackson and Joshua Kelley handled the running back duties after Ekeler's injury Sunday, but quarterback Justin Herbert was the team's leading rusher with five carries for 14 yards.
The Chargers rushed for only 46 yards in the loss to the Bucs.
Now. ... The good news.
Herbert is showing why the Los Angeles Chargers were excited to select him with the sixth pick of the NFL draft. The rookie from Oregon had another big day passing Sunday against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, albeit in a third consecutive loss.
"Any time we lose the game it's not good enough," head coach Anthony Lynn said after the Chargers let a 17-point lead slip away en route to a 38-31 loss.
Herbert completed 20 of 25 passes for 290 yards and three touchdowns, two of them to receivers scoring on the first catches of their NFL careers. He was sacked twice and threw his only interception on the Chargers' final drive of the day.
Through three starts standing in for injured starter Tyrod Taylor, the 22-year-old quarterback has thrown for 931 yards and five TDs.
Cam Newton, with 1,012 yards and four 4 TDs through three games of his rookie year in 2011, is the only player who's thrown for more yardage at that point in a career.
"Despite the loss it was an awesome experience," Herbert said. "I know we are going to get better and have a lot to improve."
Herbert threw TD passes of 53 yards to Tyron Johnson and 72 yards to Jalen Guyton, becoming the first rookie to toss a pair of TD passes of 50-plus yards in the same game since Deshaun Watson did it for Houston in 2017.
Johnson, promoted from the practice squad earlier in the day, and tight end Donald Parham, Jr., scored on the first receptions of their careers. Parham's 19-yard TD reception gave the Chargers a 21-7 lead midway through the second quarter.
Herbert was 2 when the 43-year-old Tom Brady made his pro debut with the New England Patriots in 2000. Sunday marked the first time since at least 1950 that the age gap between starting quarterbacks in a NFL game was at least 20 years. The rookie said the six-time Super Bowl champion told him after the game to keep his "head up and keep playing."
Brady was impressed with what he saw during the game.
"He was very impressive and played great. Our defense played great all year and he hung in there and made a lot of good throws," Brady said.
"They hit us on some big plays. We blitzed them a little bit and he just stood in there and took it," Brady added. "He's got, obviously, all the ability. He's got a great arm and moves really well. The team believes in him, so he's off to a great start."
Buccaneers head coach Bruce Arians shared a bit of what he told Lynn after the game, including a reference to one play Herbert made to evade the pass rush before completing a pass.
"I told Anthony after the game, You've got a great one. ... That looked like [Patrick Mahomes], where we had an all-out blitz, and he just kept retreating. Then he threw a dime down the field. For rookies to make plays like that, you know they're special," Arians said, via Sam Farmer of the Los Angeles Times.
Meanwhile, he ducked the question immediately after the game Sunday, Lynn explaining it was too early to think about who will start for the Chargers at quarterback in their next game.
But a decision is looming. If there really is a decision to make, of course.
There can be no question about Herbert's readiness to compete in the NFL. He has made rookie mistakes, crushing miscues that have helped cost the Chargers games, but has shown that he belongs. Lynn, however, so far has been unwavering in his stance that Taylor will return as the starter when he is "100 percent healthy."
That's going to be tested at some point. Perhaps some point soon as Taylor is moving closer to coming back after the rib injury and punctured lung that have sidelined him since minutes before kickoff in Week 2.
The Chargers will have their third-straight game against an NFC South opponent, at New Orleans next Monday night. ...
In addition to Taylor remaining sidelined, WR Mike Williams (hamstring) and starting offensive linemen Bryan Bulaga (back) and Trai Turner (groin) did not play.
QBs: Justin Herbert, Tyrod Taylor, Easton Stick
RBs: Joshua Kelley, Justin Jackson, Austin Ekeler
WRs: Keenan Allen, Mike Williams, Jalen Guyton, Joe Reed, K.J. Hill, Jason Moore
TEs: Hunter Henry, Virgil Green, Stephen Anderson
Los Angeles RamsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 6 October 2020
The Rams are 3-1 after the first quarter of the NFL regular season for the second consecutive year, even after a win over the Giants that felt like a setback for Los Angeles' previously powerful offense.
But the only similarity between the last two seasons is the record, according to left tackle Andrew Whitworth. The current Rams are playing at a higher level, bouncing back more quickly and generally looking smarter on both sides of the ball.
"This feels like an entirely different 3-1 to me, and that's what I feel good about," Whitworth said Monday.
The Rams started 3-1 last season on the way to a 9-7 finish. That start in 2019 included three consecutive wins before an embarrassing 55-40 home loss to a Tampa Bay team that finished 5-11.
"I didn't think we played very good football even in the three wins we had," Whitworth said of 2019. "We were really sloppy, and it felt like we caught a lot of breaks. ... I think in (2020), we feel pretty good about the way we're executing. When you're executing well, you just start to fine-tune from there. We're putting hats on hats. We're playing physically. We have the right intent as a team."
While the Rams see the right efforts on both sides of the ball, the offense didn't have much to celebrate Sunday except its resilience in the 17-9 win over New York.
Jared Goff's group went nearly 45 minutes between touchdowns and was held to a season-low 240 yards by the winless Giants. The Rams' once-formidable running game managed only 58 yards, including just 13 net yards on 11 carries in the second half while LA had the lead.
But Whitworth is happy the offense made adjustments and grinded out a victory. Cooper Kupp got loose for a 55-yard touchdown reception because the Rams tricked the Giants' secondary into busting a coverage, and Kupp did the rest with his trademark elusiveness and speed in the open field.
"The teams that are good, they find ways to win those games," Whitworth said.
The Rams' defense kept New York out of the end zone and gave up just two drives longer than 50 yards. The Giants' offense might be awful, but Los Angeles did what was required to keep its own struggling offense in the game, right down to Darious Williams' clinching interception in the final minute. The effort was particularly encouraging after giving up 35 points in Buffalo one week earlier.
The running game never got going after three strong weeks with Malcolm Brown and Darrell Henderson.
Whether it was the Giants' defense anticipating the Rams' run schemes or the running backs being unable to execute them, the foundation of Los Angeles' offense was cracked.
Henderson got just eight carries, including four in the first quarter, after a combined 32 in the previous two games. The second-year pro looked ready to take charge of the three-back rotation, but that's less clear now.
At the very least, Cam Akers, who has missed the last two games with injured ribs, will eventually return to action. Head coach Sean McVay told reporters on Monday that return could come this week. I'll be watching for more on that in coming days; check the Late-Breaking Updates section for developments. ...
Next up, the Rams have to make their third cross-country trip in four weeks to face Washington (1-3). Along with guarding against the troubles of travel, they must come up with an answer for the Giants' defensive tactics, which are likely to be copied by opponents.
Other notes of interest. ... Cooper Kupp's 55-yard catch and run behind the New York linebackers was the only TD pass for Goff, who went 25 of 32 for 200 yards. Los Angeles had racked up at least 400 total yards in each of its first three games.
"We just couldn't get into a rhythm offensively, but the defense did a great job," McVay said. "We were probably a little bit more conservative than I would have liked to have been offensively, but we couldn't get anything going in the run game."
And finally. ... Golden Tate finally got his chance to face Jalen Ramsey, and the personal animosity between the two players exploded after the game. The Giants wide receiver and Rams cornerback exchanged blows near midfield after the game and had to be separated by teammates and coaches. Tate and Ramsey walked toward each other as the game ended and both took swings before going down to the turf.
The two have been part of a family feud since last summer. Ramsey has two children with Tate's sister, Breanna, but the couple broke up while Breanna Tate was pregnant with their second child.
When Ramsey posted a photo on social media with his new girlfriend last October, Tate responded to a fan's comment with "he know he gonna have to see me."
Safety John Johnson said the Rams knew the game was personal for Ramsey.
QBs: Jared Goff, John Wolford
RBs: Darrell Henderson, Cam Akers, Malcolm Brown, Xavier Jones
WRs: Cooper Kupp, Robert Woods, Van Jefferson, Josh Reynolds, Nsimba Webster, Trishton Jackson
TEs: Tyler Higbee, Gerald Everett, Brycen Hopkins, Johnny Mundt
Miami DolphinsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 6 October 2020
As ESPN.com's Jeremy Fowler put it, "The FitzMagic experience was on full display in the Miami Dolphins' 31-23 loss to the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday."
Ryan Fitzpatrick did just enough -- throwing for 315 yards and running for 47 more and a TD -- to earn more cushion as the starting quarterback while Tua Tagovailoa develops. Fitzpatrick completed passes to 10 different receivers, dove for first downs and touchdowns and battled Seattle's Russell Wilson all day.
Miami believes it can win with him. But zero touchdown passes and two interceptions against a depleted Seahawks secondary doesn't elicit much excitement, either.
The classic boom-or-bust QB, Fitzpatrick will get more rope but needs to produce to quell cries for Tua.
Fitzpatrick said postgame he left the game "feeling terrible" because the Dolphins moved the ball but went 1-of-3 in the red zone.
Head coach Brian Flores was asked Monday who will start at quarterback for his team against the 49ers in Week 5 and he gave a less definitive answer than in past weeks.
This time, Flores said that the coaching staff was going to meet later in the day and that the quarterback position is one of the topics of conversation. He noted that Tagovailoa is a young player coming off an injury and suggested that it will be a little longer before he moves up the next rung of the depth chart.
"I understand where everybody is coming from with Tua, I get all that," Flores said, via Alain Poupart of SI.com. "We'll make the decision on the starter. I would presume it's going to be Fitzpatrick."
On Tuesday, they made it official: Fitzpatrick will start again.
Still, Flores' answer on Monday suggests it might not be too much longer before that changes.
Meanwhile, Fitzpatrick isn't sure when he's going to yield to Tagovailoa. But when he does, he thinks the rookie will be prepared for the chance.
Via Peter King of NBC's Football Morning in America, Fitzpatrick said he's been impressed with the way the first-rounder has handled his internship so far.
"He's a very interesting guy." Fitzpatrick said on King's podcast. "He asks a lot of good questions, good football questions when we're in the meeting room or even on the sideline during a game. You can tell that he's very smart in that regard. Football-smart. I think he's probably a little bit of an older soul, just in terms in some of the stuff that he's into and some of the discussions we can have. It's been a lot of fun getting to know him. He's got a lively personality that makes everybody smile around the building.
"I know my job security really for me is a week-to-week proposition and I've got to go out there and prove it every single week. With Tua, just being able to slow down sometimes, to be able to take the extra minute to explain something-my thought process or to sit on the bench during a game and instruct and talk and answer questions-that stuff is maybe a little bit different than how it would go normally. But I know what my role is. I know that I'm keeping the seat warm for him.
"I know the talent that he has and I'm excited whenever he gets his opportunity. I feel like I'm going to play a big part in that."
Other notes of interest. ... Fowler is buying Isaiah Ford's performance. He entered the game with 52 career targets but got 10 on Sunday, converting four catches for 48 yards. Late in the game, Fitzpatrick trusted him to win on a lob pass over the middle and Ford did just that by beating his man.
The Dolphins can't seem to get Preston Williams going, so Ford is an intriguing receiver option behind DeVante Parker going forward.
In a related note. ... Parker was plagued by injuries early in his career but has learned to play hurt. He went to the locker room early in Sunday's game with an ankle issue, but returned and finished with a career-high 10 catches, the most by a Miami receiver since 2017, for 110 yards.
"As you get older, you realize it's something you can play through," Parker, who was limited in Wednesday's practice said. "Opportunity comes my way, I've got to make the plays, injured or not."
Finally. ... The Dolphins' game Sunday at San Francisco will be their first there since 2012, and their first on the West Coast since 2017.
QBs: Tua Tagovailoa, Ryan Fitzpatrick
RBs: Myles Gaskin, Matt Breida, Jordan Howard, Patrick Laird
WRs: DeVante Parker, Preston Williams, Isaiah Ford, Jakeem Grant, Lynn Bowden Jr., Malcolm Perry, Mack Hollins
TEs: Mike Gesicki, Adam Shaheen, Durham Smythe, Michael Roberts
Minnesota VikingsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 6 October 2020
In a battle between winless teams that made the playoffs last year, one was going to emerge thinking it could turn its season around and the other was going to end up even more desperate.
The Minnesota Vikings have reason for optimism after holding off a late rally by the now-despondent Houston Texans on Sunday.
"You have to string wins together," quarterback Kirk Cousins said. "One game isn't going to do anything for us. Certainly nice to get a win and get headed in the right direction. But each week is its own entity and we've got to be able to string some together for it to mean something and that's what's up ahead for us."
Dalvin Cook ran for 130 yards and two touchdowns for the Vikings (1-3), who beat Houston 31-23.
"It definitely feels good to win a football game, to help the confidence of our team, to get us back in rhythm of knowing we can go out there and win the football game if we play as a whole in each phase of the game," Cook said.
Alexander Mattison added a rushing touchdown and Cousins threw for 260 yards and a TD for the Vikings.
It was a trying week leading up to the game.
A COVID-19 outbreak with their Week 3 opponent, the Tennessee Titans, forced the Vikings to close their facility for precautionary reasons and miss a day of practice.
One Minnesota starter, who head coach Mike Zimmer did not identify, had a false positive COVID-19 result from a point-of-contact test before the game and had to take two more tests at the stadium before he could be cleared. The team also had three other players whose tests were inconclusive and had to retake tests, forcing them to turn in their inactive player list about 10 minutes late.
The situation Minnesota faced could have lent the team an excuse to fall apart. Instead, it galvanized the Vikings to halt an early-season skid as their schedule gets considerably more difficult with a trip to unbeaten Seattle on the horizon in Week 5.
There are plenty of positives for the Vikings to hang their hat on.
Offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak used Houston's weaknesses to the Vikings' advantage. Knowing how badly the Texans fared against the run in Weeks 1-3, allowing 5.2 yards per rush, Kubiak called on Cook often and it yielded back-to-back 100-yard outings for the Vikings' star running back (27 carries, 130 yards, 2 TDs). Cook had his most rushing yards after contact of the season, and Kubiak hit the Texans where it hurt most by forcing Cook's runs outside and drawing up plays off of jet sweeps, toss sweeps, swings and screens to force things to the edge.
This is what the best version of the Vikings' offense looks like, predicated off a run game that opens up opportunities elsewhere.
Like their receivers.
Justin Jefferson didn't match the 175 receiving yards he posted in Week 3, but the first-round pick had another strong performance against the Texans.
Jefferson caught four passes for 103 yards and the outcome was better than it was a week ago as the Vikings beat the Texans to earn their first victory of the season. After the 31-23 win was in the books, Jefferson said he's just scratching the surface of what he can do.
"We didn't have a preseason or anything before this," Jefferson said, via Chris Tomasson of the Pioneer Press. "You could say this is my preseason. I'm just getting started."
Adam Thielen had eight catches for 114 yards to combine with Cook's strong rushing day to create the kind of balanced offensive attack that gives defenses fits.
"To have two receivers go over 100 yards and to have a running back go over 100 yards is crazy," Jefferson said. "That's a scary sight."
Scary for the opposition, but a welcome sight to Vikings fans who were waiting to see their team finally come out on top in 2020.
QBs: Kirk Cousins, Sean Mannion
RBs: Dalvin Cook, Alexander Mattison, Mike Boone, Ameer Abdullah
WRs: Adam Thielen, Justin Jefferson, Olabisi Johnson, Tajae Sharpe, K.J. Osborn, Chad Beebe, Davion Davis, Dan Chisena
TEs: Kyle Rudolph, Irv Smith Jr., Tyler Conklin
New England PatriotsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 6 October 2020
The Patriots benched veteran quarterback Brian Hoyer late in the third quarter of Monday night's 26-10 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs, turning to Jarrett Stidham in hopes of providing a spark to a defense that nobly held down an explosive Patrick Mahomes-led attack.
It worked initially, but it was ultimately too late, sparking a question as to whether Bill Belichick might have helped the team by making the switch earlier.
The Patriots were playing without Cam Newton, who had tested positive for coronavirus on Friday, which led to the game being postponed a day.
Asked how much consideration there was to making the switch at halftime, when the Patriots trailed 6-3, Belichick said, "Not a lot. Just trying to play better, down by three points, missing opportunities in the first half. We were trying to find ways to keep playing well. It was a three-point game."
Upon entering the game, Stidham threw a 4-yard touchdown pass to receiver N'Keal Harry 1:15 into the fourth quarter, pulling the Patriots within 13-10.
The play capped off a 75-yard drive that was mostly dominated by the running game before Stidham lofted a nice touch pass to the back left corner of the end zone to a diving Harry.
That the Chiefs only had 13 points at that point in the game was a credit to an inspired performance by the Patriots' defense that had every reason to be jet-lagged after the team traveled to Kansas City on Monday morning for the rescheduled game.
But the Hoyer-led offense couldn't complement that effort through the first three quarters, as two mistakes proved costly.
The first came as the Patriots had a chance to tie the game at 6 late in the second quarter, with the ball at the Chiefs' 13-yard line with eight seconds remaining. They had no timeouts, and Hoyer took a sack as the clock wound down to zero.
"[Offensive coordinator] Josh [McDaniels] said to me in the helmet 'let's take a shot and no bad plays.' I looked, knew I was in the pocket, so I didn't want to intentionally ground. I just have to do a better job of throwing over someone's head," Hoyer explained.
Hoyer had signaled for a timeout after the sack, appearing to think the team still had one to use.
Then with the score still 6-3 late in the third quarter, Hoyer and the Patriots chewed up seven minutes as they advanced 69 yards to the Chiefs 10. On third-and-8, Hoyer held on to the ball too long and was strip sacked.
"I cost us at least six points," he said.
Hoyer finished 15-of-24 for 130 yards, with one interception. Stidham was 5-of-13 for 60 yards, with one touchdown and two interceptions. One of Stidham's picks sailed through receiver Julian Edelman's hands and was returned for a touchdown by Tyrann Mathieu.
The performance of both quarterbacks served up a reminder of how things might have looked had Newton not signed with the Patriots on July 8. Stidham and Hoyer were expected to compete for the top job to replace Tom Brady, before Newton's arrival altered the picture.
Hoyer had been the top backup for the first three games of the season, with Stidham inactive. Now with Newton's status for Sunday's home game against the Denver Broncos uncertain, there will be a question as to whom Belichick might choose if it comes down to Hoyer and Stidham.
"I always want to be out there on the field and it was good to get live reps," Stidham said.
Worth noting. ... Newton was asymptomatic -- as of Tuesday, Nick O'Malley of Masslive reports.
According to ESPN, the New England Patriots quarterback has yet to show any symptoms following his positive COVID-19 test on Saturday.
As ESPN noted, Newton could be cleared as early as five days following his first positive test -- provided that Newton continues to not show symptoms, tests negative multiple times and is cleared by a doctor.
"We'll see how it goes. We'll make a decision on that after we get more information on all those guys, starting with Cam," Belichick said, via Zack Cox of NESN.
Of some concern. ... Stephon Gilmore, the reigning NFL Defensive Player of the Year, has tested positive.
That test comes less than a week after Newton tested positive. A practice squad defensive tackle, Bill Murray, has also tested positive. Gilmore was the only new positive on the team in testing conducted on Tuesday.
The Patriots are not expected to practice Wednesday as they and the league assess whether they can play their scheduled home game against the Broncos on Sunday. The Patriots played the Chiefs on Monday night, and Chiefs players who had close contact with Gilmore may also need to isolate.
Beyond that, the Patriots informed their in-facility personnel, including players, they'll work remotely Wednesday in light of Gilmore's positive test. The schedule will remain the same on Thursday. The team said players and coaches will continue to work from home and that there are no plans for Friday in place at this point.
Everyone still must show up to undergo daily COVID-19 testing. Results will impact where things go from here.
I'll obviously be following this one closely; watch the Late-Breaking Updates section for more. ...
Other notes of interest. ... Running back Sony Michel is going to miss more than Monday night's game against the Chiefs.
The Patriots downgraded Michel from questionable to out with a quad injury on Monday morning and placed him on injured reserve in the afternoon. He'll be out at least three games before he will be eligible to return to action.
Michel's spot in the backfield rotation was taken by Damien Harris. The Patriots activated Harris from IR on Monday and he will be eligible to play on Monday night. Harris had surgery on his pinkie before the start of the regular season. The Patriots also activated wide receiver Gunner Olszewski from injured reserve and promoted wideout Isaiah Zuber from the practice squad.
Harris carried the ball 17 times for 100 yards; the 17 carries were a new season-high mark for any Patriots back this season.
And finally. ... A tough year has become especially difficult for James White, who returned to action Monday night with a heavy heart.
White had been away from football since he lost his father, Tyrone, in a tragic car accident on Sept. 20 that also hospitalized his mother, Lisa. White rejoined the Patriots in the week leading to Monday night's contest with the Kansas City Chiefs.
He carried the ball three times, gaining 21 yards, and caught seven passes for 38 yards, but little of what White discussed afterward had to do with the game. Understandably, White instead reflected on his father's influence on his life, and how he is already missed.
"I mean, he meant a whole lot," White said of his father. "He's one of the biggest reasons why I played football. Being a little kid, seeing my brother play, knowing that my dad played football, it kind of motivated me to go out there and play football. My dad, he was a coach for me growing up. Obviously, it's not always fun having your dad be your coach, but he pushed me, made me who I am today.
"I missed getting that text he would usually send me on Saturday nights before games, just a simple text he would send to get me prepared for the games. I kind of looked back at the last text I got Saturday before the Seahawks game to kind of reminisce on that. He meant everything for me."
The accident that claimed his father's life happened on the eve of New England's Week 2 game against Seattle, forcing White to return home amid the ongoing pandemic that has already added an unexpected stressor to his personal life. With his wife pregnant, White said Monday he wasn't exactly comfortable with traveling, but knew it was necessary because of the tragedy.
With the pain of the loss of his father still fresh, White found some solace in returning to his team as his mother's health improves.
"It was extremely tough for me. My mind still really can't wrap itself around everything. I'm still trying to process everything," he said. "What's gotten me through is my family, seeing my mom continue to recover, being around my wife and my son, and my teammates; them kind of uplifting me. It's a family-like atmosphere in the locker room. Being in the locker room kind of keeps my mind at ease."
QBs: Cam Newton, Jarrett Stidham, Brian Hoyer
RBs: Damien Harris, James White, Rex Burkhead, J.J. Taylor, Sony Michel
WRs: Julian Edelman, N'Keal Harry, Damiere Byrd, Jakobi Meyers, Gunner Olszewski
TEs: Ryan Izzo, Devin Asiasi, Dalton Keene
New Orleans SaintsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 6 October 2020
Several Saints players and head coach Sean Payton were up past 3 a.m., awaiting the negative coronavirus test results that allowed them to play a football game less than 10 hours later in Detroit on Sunday.
While Payton admitted some frustrations with the process that resulted in a false-positive diagnosis for fullback Michael Burton, he also acknowledged that curveballs like these will be inevitable this season.
And he was especially proud his team overcame it with a much-needed 35-29 victory over the Detroit Lions.
The Saints (2-2) had to overcome a quick 14-0 deficit in the first five minutes Sunday while playing without six injured starters.
"It's just one of those games you're proud of your team," Payton said. "It's (the nature of) this game -- it'll test you from an adversity standpoint. And I think this year is gonna be that way for a lot of us. ... And quite honestly, no one really cares. And I mean that in a good way -- there's far more other things that are important that we're suffering from than to hear about, 'We were up 'til 1.' That's just the way it is this season.
"And so we have to understand that and then still be ready to play our best game."
Payton wasn't thrilled that the team had to wait as long as it did for the point-of-care tests to arrive at the Saints' hotel in Detroit. The Saints test their team members earlier than usual on Saturday mornings for instances like this -- and they initially got the results of Burton's positive test around 10:30 p.m.
Burton's sample was re-tested. Then the POC tests were administered to Burton and a group of players who were seated around him on the flight. Once all of those tests came back negative, the game was cleared to be played as scheduled.
"Tests were done by 12:55. And then we got the results back before 3 a.m. Look. ... That's part of the deal this year," said Payton, who was also disappointed that the contact tracers worn by every team member did not seem to work effectively on the plane.
He said the tracers showed only that Burton had been in close contact with three others -- but they knew it was more based on where he was sitting. So they selected their own group for POC testing, including running back Alvin Kamara.
"I think the tracing system has had some inaccuracies, to say the least. But I think we were smart enough to realize who else might've been exposed, and went ahead and had those guys tested," Payton said. Kamara said it was "crazy" being up at 3 a.m. "trying to figure out what was going on."
"But nobody cares at the end of the day. We still gotta do what we gotta do," said Kamara --who did just that with 119 yards from scrimmage and a touchdown in the win.
When would Kamara have otherwise gone to sleep on the night before a game?
"WAY earlier than that," he said.
Kamara added that the situation didn't affect the team, and that it didn't contribute to the quick 14-0 hole into which the Saints fell.
"It is what it is," Kamara said. "Because of what's going on, it's something we gotta deal with. ... There's not gonna be a delayed start to the game if that happens. I think everybody was ready, we approached it the right way. ... We all did what we had to do today."
Yes they did, with a 35 point outburst sandwiched between 14- and 15- point runs by the Lions.
In the end, the situation didn't keep the Saints from winning and, to the relief of anyone who'd bet on them giving four points, covering.
Drew Brees, who was without star receiver Michael Thomas for the third straight game, found a rhythm with wideouts Tre'Quan Smith and Emmanuel Sanders. Smith hauled in four passes for 54 yards and two touchdowns, including a crucial third-down conversion on a 19-yard pass from Brees to seal the win.
"Both of those guys played outstanding," Brees said of Smith and Sanders in his postgame press conference.
Sanders eclipsed 8,000 career receiving yards with his first reception, becoming the 100th player in NFL record books with 8,000-plus career receiving yards. Sanders finished with six receptions for 93 yards.
Brees completed 19-of-25 passes for 246 yards, two touchdowns and one interception.
Kamara accounted for 83 yards on the ground and a seventh TD this season. Latavius Murray had 64 yards rushing and two scores.
New Orleans controlled the time of possession 36:46 to 23:14 as it improved to 2-2. The Lions dropped to 1-3.
Next up, the Saints host the Los Angeles Chargers on Monday Night Football.
QBs: Drew Brees, Taysom Hill, Jameis Winston
RBs: Alvin Kamara, Latavius Murray, Ty Montgomery, Dwayne Washington
WRs: Michael Thomas, Emmanuel Sanders, Tre'quan Smith, Marquez Callaway, Deonte Harris
TEs: Jared Cook, Josh Hill, Adam Trautman
New York GiantsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 6 October 2020
As ESPN.com's Jordan Raanan, the Giants have scored three touchdowns in 16 quarters this season, and they didn't score any in Sunday's 17-9 loss to the Los Angeles Rams.
Who knows when that first win of the season will come?
Per Raanan, "Jason Garrett's offense isn't just struggling, it's bordering on incompetence."
At least the Giants play Garrett's former team, the Dallas Cowboys, next Sunday. Nobody is playing worse defense than the Cowboys; just like nobody is playing worse offense than the Giants.
New York remained stuck at three touchdowns this season by settling for three field goals in three red zone trips on Sunday. In four games they've reached the end zone the same number of times that Odell Beckham Jr. did on Sunday alone for the Cleveland Browns.
It's not as if they're getting a ton of chances. The Giants produced just 67 yards of total offense in the first half Sunday, when the teams combined to produce 183 yards -- the lowest total in any game through two quarters this season entering Sunday night.
So much for Garrett padding his résumé for a shot at becoming a head coach again. The former Cowboys coach can't get his unit on track and can't produce any explosive plays in a league that is scoring points at a record pace.
The winless Giants came into Sunday averaging 12.7 points per game, second worst behind the New York Jets. That now dips to 11.75 points per game, worst in the NFL through four weeks. Their last touchdown came almost nine quarters ago.
According to Raanan, the problems are many. There are no big plays. The Giants didn't complete a pass of 20 or more yards until Darius Slayton made a big play late in the four quarter. They have just nine pass plays of more than 20 yards this season, among the worst in the league.
They also remain a mess in the red zone, in part because of their league-worst running game. The Giants went 0-for-3 in the red zone against the Rams. They entered Sunday with the second-worst red zone efficiency at 33 percent, trailing only the Jets.
Garrett's play calling has been unimaginative. Even after a week of practicing some trick plays, they were left in the bag on Sunday.
Quarterback Daniel Jones remains stuck on his first read, missing open receivers when there actually are open receivers. It's exactly what the Saquon Barkley-less Giants don't want to see, because they're struggling badly to score points.
Against the Rams, Jones was hit and sacked early.
The Rams had four sacks on the Giants' first four possessions of Sunday's game. That was just the start. They pressured Jones on more than half of his dropbacks in the first half (nine pressures on 17 dropbacks). It continued a troubling trend for the Giants' offensive line.
He couldn't make enough plays late, including missing a wide-open Evan Engram on a much-needed third down in the third quarter and a key miss on a fourth-down pass to Golden Tate late in the fourth quarter.
Then, just when you thought he'd at least get through a game for only the second time in his career without a turnover, his last pass was a costly interception near the goal line.
Jones finished 23-of-36 for 190 yards. He's on pace for eight touchdown passes for the season. His sophomore season is not going as planned.
For the record, Jones had been pressured on 58 dropbacks the first three weeks of the season, the most of any quarterback in the NFL. While the Giants did a better job in the second half on Sunday -- and did a commendable job limiting Aaron Donald throughout -- it's a tough way for Jones to live.
One last note here. ... As Profootballtalk.com's Michael David Smith notes, when Barkley was lost for the season with a knee injury, he had 34 yards on 19 carries. The two running backs who have replaced him, career backup Wayne Gallman and recent arrival Devonta Freeman, both have more yards on fewer carries.
In fact, the Giants rushed for a season-high 136 yards against the Rams, 61 more than they had two weeks ago against the Bears. Gallman and Jones each had team-high totals of six carries and 45 yards.
QBs: Daniel Jones, Colt McCoy
RBs: Devonta Freeman, Dion Lewis, Wayne Gallman
WRs: Darius Slayton, Sterling Shepard, Golden Tate, Damion Ratley, Cody Core, C.J. Board
TEs: Evan Engram, Kaden Smith, Levine Toilolo, Eric Tomlinson
New York JetsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 6 October 2020
According to Associated Press sports writer Dennis Waszak Jr., Sam Darnold and the Jets wanted to wait a few days before they know if he has a shot at playing next Sunday.
Darnold sprained the AC joint in his throwing shoulder last Thursday night when he was sacked late in the first quarter by Denver's Alexander Johnson. The third-year quarterback stayed in for one more play and handed the ball off before heading to the locker room to be examined.
He appeared to have avoided serious injury when he came back into the game during the Jets' next offensive series.
"You have things like adrenaline and different things like that," Darnold said of being able to return to the game. "So for me, it's just, again, taking it day by day and understand what the doctors are saying and then seeing where we are Wednesday, Thursday, and then, you know, obviously Sunday."
They figured it out on Wednesday.
Head coach Adam Gase said on Wednesday that Joe Flacco will get the start at quarterback when the NFC West comes calling on Sunday.
Flacco's last NFL start came for the Broncos in Week Eight of the 2019 season. He missed the rest of the season with a neck injury and dressed for a game for the first time last week. He completed a pair of passes for 16 yards before Darnold returned to the game.
Losing Darnold is another blow to the offense, which already has played without running back Le'Veon Bell, wide receiver Breshad Perriman and wide receiver Jamison Crowder, who returned from a hamstring injury Thursday night and recorded his second 100-yard game.
Bell (hamstring), eligible to come off injured reserve, was designated to do so and slated to practice Wednesday, opening a three-week window for his return.
That said, the return is expected to be sooner. Bell is, in fact, expected to play against the Cardinals this week barring a setback.
The Jets are less certain about Perriman (ankle) and rookie wide receiver Denzel Mims (hamstring), also eligible to be activated from IR.
The Jets have struggled to find the end zone, with only five touchdowns in four games. Of the five, three came on broken plays, including Darnold's 46-yard scramble against Denver.
Rookie left tackle Mekhi Becton also is an injury question mark. He didn't start because of a sprained capsule in his left shoulder, but he came off the bench to replace the injured Chuma Edoga (shoulder). Becton lasted only 16 snaps because he lost strength in his shoulder, Gase said.
Gase was criticized for using Becton in the first place, exposing one of his best players to the possibility of further injury.
"If he was in risk of hurting himself even further, then he wouldn't have been able to go in," Gase said. "It was really, what was his strength? How long could he last?"
Gase said it was a "pain tolerance issue, not a structural issue" with Becton. ...
Stay tuned. I'll obviously be following up on all invovlved in coming days. Watch the Late-Breaking Updates section for more. ...
One last note here. ... The Jets signed QB Mike White to the practice squad after releasing him from the active roster last week. The team cut RB Kalen Ballage, who had nine catches for 67 yards and 13 yards rushing on three carries in three games but blew a few blocking assignments against Denver.
QBs: Joe Flacco, James Morgan, Sam Darnold
RBs: Frank Gore, Lamical Perine, Josh Adams, Ty Johnson
WRs: Jamison Crowder, Breshad Perriman, Jeff Smith, Braxton Berrios, Denzel Mims, Chris Hogan, Vyncint Smith
TEs: Chris Herndon, Ryan Griffin, Daniel Brown, Trevon Wesco
Philadelphia EaglesCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 6 October 2020
Earning their first win of the season in October put the Philadelphia Eagles in first place in the NFC East.
They need to improve in many areas to stay there.
Despite missing six starters on offense, the Eagles (1-2-1) knocked off the also injury-depleted San Francisco 49ers 25-20 on Sunday night to move atop the division standings at the quarter-point of the season.
"I think the one thing that's really stood out this first month is just how resilient this football team is," Eagles coach Doug Pederson said Monday. "We have not played our best football, I don't feel. We've kind of shot ourselves in the foot in the first three, four weeks here. Finally overcame some of the mistakes (Sunday) to put ourselves in a position to be in first place in the NFC East. But there's a long road ahead. We've got to learn from the first four weeks, but at the same time, learn from it and carry it forward.
"We've just got to keep working and this is what I appreciate about our guys is they come to work every day no matter what the circumstances, no matter what the situation. They practice. It's always been a next-man-up mentality and they go to work, and that's what I've learned, and that's what's going to carry us these next four weeks."
As Associated Press sports writer Rob Maaddi noted, Carson Wentz shook off his league-worst seventh interception, again used his legs to make plays and led a group of reserves to a victory the team desperately needed. His perfect 42-yard touchdown pass to Travis Fulgham, fresh off the practice squad, gave the Eagles the lead for good.
Then Alex Singleton's 30-yard interception return for a score helped seal it. The defense had its first three takeaways of the season against the 49ers.
Wentz has been using his legs more the past two games, keeping the ball and scrambling at times and buying time to throw it other times. He had 37 yards rushing on seven carries, including an 11-yard TD run against the 49ers. That followed a career-best 65 yards rushing and one TD in the tie against Cincinnati last week.
Next up, the Eagles visit the Pittsburgh Steelers (3-0) next Sunday. The Steelers had an unexpected bye after their game against Tennessee was postponed because of a COVID-19 outbreak among the Titans.
Other notes of interest. ... As noted above, Fulgham was signed off the practice squad Saturday. A day later, he elevated to the role of hero on "Sunday Night Football."
Wentz said he and Fulgham had the opportunity to rep that play only once in practice, and they hit on it.
"So we're 2-for-2 on that one," Wentz said with a smile.
Fulgham, a 2019 sixth-round draft pick by the Detroit Lions out of Old Dominion, was claimed off waivers from the Green Bay Packers in August before being cut by the Eagles and then placed on their practice squad. He was brought up this weekend out of sheer necessity, as injuries have ripped through the offense.
"It's been a long offseason," Fulgham said. "But I came here to Philly, and they gave me an opportunity to work with Carson."
Wentz, in a reprise of late last season, was working largely with bottom-of-the-roster players and practice squad call-ups and found a way to muscle his team to a win. He was without four of his top four wide receivers (DeSean Jackson, Alshon Jeffery, Jalen Reagor, JJ Arcega-Whiteside), tight end Dallas Goedert and left tackle Jason Peters.
Right tackle Lane Johnson was in and out of the game with a lingering ankle injury that required surgery this summer.
"We're ready, guys are stepping up," Wentz said. "Lots of young guys on the O-line who are doing amazing. [I'm] proud they're staying ready."
It was tough sledding for Wentz, who finished 18-of-28 for 193 yards with two touchdowns (one rushing) and an interception, but he took advantage of the opportunity his defense presented him when Cre'Von LeBlanc stripped Niners quarterback Nick Mullens, setting up the Eagles in San Francisco territory. Seven plays later, Wentz and Fulgham connected, giving Philadelphia its first fourth-quarter lead of the season.
"He just has the confidence in us. With that, we're just able to play our game and not worry about other things," Fulgham said. "Just trusting our quarterback."
Worth noting. ... Wentz set a career high with his third rushing touchdown of the season, and he became the first Eagles quarterback with a rushing TD in three consecutive games since Michael Vick did so in 2010.
As for the injuries, I'll be watching for more on Jackson, Jeffery, Arcega-Whiteside and any other walking wounded that arise as the week progresses, but Pederson told reports on Wednesday that Jeffery and Jackson will practice for this week. Pederson would not commit yet to whether either will play this week; check the Late-Breaking Updates section for more.
QBs: Carson Wentz, Nate Sudfeld, Jalen Hurts
RBs: Boston Scott, Corey Clement, Jason Huntley, Adrian Killins, Miles Sanders
WRs: DeSean Jackson, Greg Ward, Travis Fulgham, JJ Arcega-Whiteside, John Hightower, Quez Watkins, Alshon Jeffery, Jalen Reagor
TEs: Richard Rodgers, Josh Perkins, Hakeem Butler, Dallas Goedert, Zach Ertz
Pittsburgh SteelersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 6 October 2020
As ESPN.com's Brooke Pryor put it, "Mike Tomlin isn't an excuses guy."
And that certainly isn't changing after the Steelers found themselves in the middle of the NFL's first significant test of conducting a season during the COVID-19 pandemic.
With the Week 4 game against the Tennessee Titans postponed until a later date after two additional tests returned positive on Thursday, the Steelers face the very real possibility of playing 13 consecutive weeks.
That doesn't matter to the all-business head coach.
"We do not care," Tomlin said when asked about the potential gantlet of games.
That scenario will play out with the Steelers-Baltimore Ravens game being moved from Week 7 to Week 8 so the Steelers-Titans game can be played in Week 7. Because both the Steelers and Ravens have a Week 8 bye, that schedule swap was chosen.
But that essentially made Week 4 the Steelers' official bye week, giving them a long road to the end of the season -- one they hope ends with their first playoff berth since 2017.
"I'm disappointed because we were preparing to play and we're not getting an opportunity to," Tomlin said of his reaction to the postponement. "But we understand the nature of this environment we're in in 2020 and so we're just adjusting accordingly. There's disappointment, no question.
"We've worked extremely hard at the beginning portion of this week in preparation for what we thought was an opportunity vs. an undefeated team in their venue. You lean in on those opportunities. We're not getting the opportunity to do that. Instead, we're getting a bye week, so we're going to make the best of that."
The Steelers have had a bye during Week 4 or earlier six times in the past 20 seasons, according to ESPN Stats and Information. They've missed the playoffs in half of those seasons, but this is the first year since 2005 the Steelers have taken a winning record into an early bye.
The Steelers got off to a hot start this season with the return of quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, posting a 3-0 start for the first time since the 2010 season when they played in the Super Bowl.
But if Tomlin thought postponing the Titans game was unfair, he hardly expressed that last week.
"My opinion does not matter," he said. "We take marching orders from the National Football League. We understand that they're acting in our collective best interest. I have a great deal of comfort in that."
Tomlin, a member of the NFL's competition committee, said he's not aware of any "developing plans" for contingencies if a team can't play a full 16-game season, but he said there were hypothetical discussions about that scenario during the summer. "They have things in place in terms of playoff tiering and things if we move in that direction," he said. "But that's everybody's hope that that doesn't come to fruition."
Even after learning of the league's decision to postpone the game longer than just Monday or Tuesday of next week, the Steelers still held practice Thursday. It started about an hour earlier than scheduled and wrapped up in less than two hours.
"We're trying to get better every day," Tomlin said. "That's our approach to business every day we take the field. We have areas of improvement, whether skill development, whether understanding of the game or situations relative to the game or just collective cohesion."
The players has the rest of the weekend off with a "bonus day" Monday.
Steelers players, though, were required to stay local during the off days so they could continue to be tested daily for COVID-19. For some, the disruption to the schedule and likely loss of the Week 8 bye presented another challenge in an already difficult season. ...
One positive of the early bye is the opportunity for beat up players to get less beat up and for injured players to get ahead in their recoveries.
That being the case, it's worth noting that the pool video sent out by the Steelers during last Thursday's practice showed receiver Diontae Johnson in a helmet and lined up with other receivers in individual drills. Tomlin confirmed on Tuesday that Johnson is out of concussion protocol.
Still, Johnson was limited Wednesday by a lingering toe injury. The same goes for JuJu Smith-Schuster, who has been managing a sore knee. I'll follow up on both via Late-Breaking Update as needed in coming days. ...
One last note here. ... As NFL.com's Gregg Rosenthal reminded us last week, the Steelers know how to find bargains.
Eric Ebron tends to be an all-or-nothing type of player, and the Steelers are getting the good version during the team's first 3-0 start since 2010. Ebron led the Steelers with 52 receiving yards in Week 3 against Houston, and his 10-yard touchdown catch in the second quarter was a huge turning point.
The Steelers are designing plays for Ebron each week, often lining him up wide on the other side of the formation from the team's fearsome receivers. Signed for $12 million over two years in the offseason, Rosenthal notes that Ebron is typical of GM Kevin Colbert's recent cautious, cost-effective forays into free agency.
On a team that is built primarily on homegrown talent, the contributions of cornerback Joe Haden?, cornerback Steven Nelson and now Ebron can't be overlooked.
Roethlisberger has consistently talked about the big role Ebron will play in the Steelers' offense as the season wears on, which makes sense. Defenses have so much to worry about when it comes to Pittsburgh's wideouts that Ebron (and, to a lesser extent, Vance McDonald) is bound to keep getting favorable matchups, adding a different dimension to a loaded passing attack.
While the Steelers have yet to play a complete game, they have the league's best pass rush and an incredibly diverse passing game. That makes them very difficult to beat.
Also worth noting, the Eagles defense is struggling in coverage against tight ends. George Kittle is the best in the NFL, but the Eagles couldn't even come close to stopping him. He had 15 catches on 15 targets for 183 yards and one TD. In Week 2, Rams tight end Tyler Higbee had three TD receptions in a 37-19 win against the Eagles.
QBs: Ben Roethlisberger, Mason Rudolph, Josh Dobbs
RBs: James Conner, Benny Snell, Jaylen Samuels, Anthony McFarland Jr.
WRs: JuJu Smith-Schuster, Diontae Johnson, Chase Claypool, James Washington, Ray-Ray McCloud
TEs: Eric Ebron, Vance McDonald, Zach Gentry
San Francisco 49ersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 6 October 2020
According to NBCSports.com's Jennifer Lee Chan, it might have been an ugly game, but one bright spot in the 49ers' 25-20 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday night was the return of George Kittle.
The All-Pro tight end was the primary reason for Nick Mullens and C.J. Beathard's passing production. Kittle caught all of his 15 targets for 183 yards, which was nearly 61 percent of the team's 301 receiving yards.
Kittle's only incomplete came late in the fourth quarter when he couldn't hold onto a 2-point conversion attempt from Beathard.
Kittle spoke about getting stronger and faster during the offseason, but what Kittle does now, even before the ball is in his hands is impressive. At times, he does not look open when the ball is thrown, but by the time it arrives, he has maneuvered his body to create space to make the catch.
Head coach Kyle Shanahan, while disappointed with his offense in the team's loss, was impressed with Kittle's first outing after missing the past two game with a sprained knee.
"Just looking at the numbers George had an unbelievable game," Shanahan said. "Didn't realize it was like that. He got open a lot and even when he didn't he didn't he was able to come down with the catch.
"That's something George has worked on for a while, and came through today for us in that way."
Kittle was disappointed in the offense's overall performance and their inability to get a rhythm going in the run game. He pointed no fingers but instead explained that the offense didn't play to the best of their ability as they have shown in the past.
Kittle even joked that it was his fault for the low productivity of the wide receivers after his 15 targets. Really, the reason the tight end has so many targets is because he always makes himself open.
"The entire offseason I worked on catching the ball in as many places that I can, running routes with C.J. as many times as I can," Kittle said. "Just repetition is how you get comfortable making those catches."
Meanwhile, all signs pointed to Mullens being a coveted free agent in 2021, he had one of the worst outings in his NFL career Sunday night.
The fifth-year quarterback struggled in the loss to the Eagles, only completing 18 of his 26 attempts for one touchdown and he threw two interceptions. He was also sacked four times for 28 yards.
When asked why the 49ers' offense couldn't get into a rhythm as they have in the past, Mullens wasn't able to put his finger on a specific reason.
"We had plenty of opportunities and I really just didn't execute," Mullens said. "I feel like the way I'm feeling is pretty black and white right now. I just didn't execute and that's all it comes down to. Three turnovers, 14 points for them off turnovers and that's really about it."
In addition to Mullens' lackluster stats was his inability to see open targets from the beginning of the matchup. The first play of the game was a throw to Kendrick Bourne that was too far in front of the receiver, but the second incomplete was one that Mullens definitely would like to have back.
Mullens took the snap and the entire offense moved to the center of the field expect for Kyle Juszczyk who somehow squeezed through the line to the left. The fullback seemed to be near the left sideline by himself for an eternity. Mullens missed the throw that would have likely been a touchdown, or at least close to it.
Shanahan explained that the offense needed to play better as a whole but those two plays might have gotten into the head of his quarterback.
"Seemed that way a little bit, especially the second play," Shanahan said. "Seemed good in pregame warm ups but that happens. You start to play with two passes and miss both of them.
"Thought we'd give him the chance to get going, get into a little bit of a rhythm, seemed like every time we did, something else came up. Just wasn't able to get him into much of a rhythm today. I know and Nick knows he can play better."
Shanahan pulled Mullens after this third giveaway and Beathard tried to lead a late comeback that ultimately fell short when his desperation heave fell incomplete in the end zone on the final play.
Shanahan had no updates for Jimmy Garoppolo's status or when he will return to practice. Garoppolo has missed the past two games with a sprained ankle but could be ready to return this week when San Francisco hosts Miami. His return would make a decision on whether Mullen or Beathard starts this week a moot point.
"That's something we'll work through this week," Shanahan said, via Matt Maiocco of NBCSportsBayArea.com. "I'm still not sure about Jimmy. Just finished [speaking] with the players about 30 minutes ago, so I don't really know what we'll do on Wednesday.
"We'll have a plan by then. But [I] haven't talked it over with the coaches, yet, so not sure."
Getting their starting quarterback back on the field will be a big boost to the defending NFC champions, who have lost their first two home games of the season.
They have been hampered significantly by injuries, with season-ending injuries to defensive linemen Nick Bosa and Solomon Thomas. Garoppolo, Kittle, star cornerback Richard Sherman, No. 1 receiver Deebo Samuel, running back Raheem Mostert and edge rusher Dee Ford are among the other key players who have missed time this season.
Garoppolo and Mostert were slated to work on a limited basis Wednesday; I'll have more on their progress via Late-Breaking Update in coming days. ...
The 49ers got Samuel back against the Eagles and his return helped bring an end to Mohamed Sanu's brief time with the team.
Ian Rapoport of NFL Media reports that the 49ers were releasing Sanu on Tuesday. He played in the last three games for the team.
Even with Samuel and Richie James out of action, Sanu only saw 40 offensive snaps so he had not been playing an outsize role for the team. He caught one pass for nine yards in his three appearances.
James is eligible to return from injured reserve and would join Samuel, Brandon Aiyuk, Bourne, Dante Pettis and Trent Taylor in the receiving corps if he does get activated.
In addition to Sanu, the Niners released tight end Charlie Taumoepeau from their practice squad. ...
And finally. ... Cornerback K'Waun Williams has a somewhat rare ACL sprain, NFL Network's Ian Rapoport reported. No surgery is required and if rehab goes well, he could be back in three weeks, Rapoport added.
QBs: Jimmy Garoppolo, C.J. Beathard, Nick Mullens
RBs: Jerick McKinnon, JaMycal Hasty, Jeff Wilson, Tevin Coleman, Raheem Mostert
WRs: Deebo Samuel, Kendrick Bourne, Brandon Aiyuk, Trent Taylor, Dante Pettis, Richie James, Kevin White
TEs: George Kittle, Ross Dwelley, Charlie Woerner, Jordan Reed
Seattle SeahawksCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 6 October 2020
As ESPN.com's Brady Henderson noted, Russell Wilson continued to etch his name in the NFL record books Sunday.
Wilson threw two more touchdown passes in the Seattle Seahawks' 31-23 win over the Miami Dolphins. That gives him 16 TDs this season, tying Peyton Manning's record from 2013 for the most through a team's first four games. Wilson set the record for most TDs through three games last week with 14.
The Seahawks improved to 4-0 for just the second time in franchise history. They also did so in 2013, the season they won Super Bowl XLVIII.
Seattle leaned on Wilson over the first three games, partly by design and partly out of necessity as their pass defense was gashed at a historic rate. The 1,292 passing yards Seattle allowed were easily the most through three games of a season in NFL history, according to ESPN Stats and Information research.
Wilson finished 24-of-34 for 360 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. His interception came on an off-balance throw into the end zone that was intended for DK Metcalf but was picked off by Xavien Howard. Wilson's only other interception was a pick-six in Week 2 that bounced off Greg Olsen's hands.
Wilson now has 18 career games with at least 300 passing yards, one shy of tying Matt Hasselbeck for most in Seahawks history, according to ESPN Stats and Information.
Worth noting, however, Chris Carson made a notable contribution in this week.
No one who saw what happened last week at CenturyLink Field -- Carson grabbing his left knee in pain, limping off the field and missing the remainder of Seattle's victory over the Dallas Cowboys -- would have predicted he would crush the Dolphins a week later.
Then again. ...
"Chris Carson is an animal as y'all have seen the past two weeks," Metcalf said after the running back scored his first two rushing touchdowns of the season.
Carson's status was in question after his knee was badly twisted against Dallas, causing a first-degree strain. But an injury that initially looked as though it could sideline him for several weeks -- if not land him back on injured reserve -- didn't even cause him to miss a practice. He started against Miami, handled his usual majority of the backfield workload with Carlos Hyde inactive and finished with 100 total yards on 19 touches, including a season-high 80 rushing yards on 16 carries.
That was despite missing the final six-plus minutes of the first half after taking a hard hit by Elandon Roberts, which forced a fumble (which Seattle recovered) and sent Carson to the sideline to be evaluated for a head injury.
"Chris is a stud football player," head coach Pete Carroll said. "He ain't ever backing down from anything. He told us when we got back on Wednesday, he said, 'I think I'm OK. I'm going to make it.' So we took it easy on him first couple of days, got him through the week and he looked great. It really helped us because Carlos couldn't go with a sore shoulder.
"Chris ran really well today. It was 80 yards' worth of really good running. He's such a tough football player and a great competitor that that's not a surprise to us that he would bounce back like that and get back up off the turf. He took a hell of a shot and got back up and got right after it again. He's a terrific football player."
Carroll had objected strongly to the tackle from Dallas' Trysten Hill that injured Carson, saying last week he was "really pissed" about it. Teammates did the same, with K.J. Wright calling for the NFL to discipline Hill beyond a fine -- he was docked $6,522 for the play -- and Quandre Diggs saying he should have been ejected.
Perhaps adding to the Seahawks' displeasure was the fact that Carson had already suffered enough injury misfortune -- missing 15 games over his first three seasons -- and didn't need any more in a contract year. He's playing out the final year of a rookie deal that's paying him $2.133 million in 2020.
Meanwhile, some of his fellow running backs from the 2017 draft have cashed in with recent megadeals: Christian McCaffrey ($16 million per season), Alvin Kamara ($15 million), Dalvin Cook ($12.6 million) and Joe Mixon ($12 million).
Carson, 26, said his representatives and the Seahawks didn't have discussions this offseason about a new deal, putting him on track to reach the open market barring a rare in-season extension or the franchise tag.
The future of the rest of the Seahawks' backfield is uncertain. Hyde is playing on a one-year deal. Rashaad Penny, their first-round pick in 2018, is on the physically unable to perform list as he works his way back from the serious knee injury that ended his 2019 season. Next year will be the final year of his rookie deal if the Seahawks decline his fifth-year option. Seattle's other two tailbacks, Travis Homer and rookie DeeJay Dallas, are more change-of-pace options than the type of powerful backs that Carroll prefers in the lead role.
They combined for 13 yards on six carries Sunday.
According to Henderson, it's hard to imagine the Seahawks paying Carson if his price tag approaches the top of the market. Teams can't pay everyone in the salary-cap world of the NFL, especially when they're already paying as much as the Seahawks are for Wilson ($35 million per season) and linebacker Bobby Wagner ($18 million). Seattle has others in line for extensions, including safety Jamal Adams and cornerback Shaquill Griffin.
At the same time, it's hard to imagine the Seahawks' backfield without Carson.
"Chris is a monster," Wright said. "He's a dog, man. I'm so glad that I don't got to tackle anybody in the league like him. I don't believe there's anybody that has his running style and I can't wait until he gets paid, whether it's here or somewhere else. But he's definitely top five in my eyes because I've seen a lot of running backs -- there's nobody like him. ..."
Meanwhile, the heat index was over 100 degrees and the temperature was 86 degrees, but it didn't slow down the Seahawks' offense.
"It was a tough day today just because it was so hot out there, we being from the Pacific Northwest. Guys just kept battling," Wilson said.
Next up, Seattle plays host to Minnesota next Sunday. Wilson threw for 240 yards and two scores when the Seahawks beat the Vikings 37-30 last December.
Worth noting. ... The Wilson-led offense is scoring at an impressive clip - 35.5 points per game is second to the Packers (at least prior to their Monday night game against Atlanta). Still, Carroll sees areas where the unit can improve. Sunday's game in Miami - where the Seahawks scored 31 points - was the lowest scoring output of the season.
"We can get so much better and we can do so many more things cleaner, but we really do have firepower," Carroll said. "The protection has given Russ a chance to stand back there and really see the field really well. He'll take you through three or four plays where he wishes he'd thrown the ball differently or to a different guy. But all in all, it's turned out that we're very explosive and we're efficient. The only number that's not staying up there is third down numbers. We're just not as good on third downs as we'd like to be, but as you've noticed we don't have as many (third downs). We have a lot of explosives happening on earlier downs. So, that's an area for us to continue to emphasize, but it is a fun group."
On third down this season, the Seahawks are at 38.5 percent (15 for 39), which ranks 23rd in the NFL. It's a small issue to nitpick, but that's pretty much all you can do when the team is scoring over 35 points per game. The Seahawks' 39 third down attempts are second-fewest among teams that have played four games, as Carroll alluded to the big plays on earlier downs.
QBs: Russell Wilson, Geno Smith
RBs: Chris Carson, Carlos Hyde, DeeJay Dallas, Travis Homer, Rashaad Penny
WRs: Tyler Lockett, DK Metcalf, Freddie Swain, David Moore, Penny Hart, Phillip Dorsett
TEs: Greg Olsen, Will Dissly, Jacob Hollister, Luke Willson
Tampa Bay BuccaneersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 6 October 2020
He's back. For reals. ...
Tom Brady overcame a first-half pick-six and a 17-point deficit to defeat the Los Angeles Chargers 38-31 on Sunday, giving him the fifth-largest comeback in his career.
According to ESPN.com's Jenna Laine, it also was the Bucs' second-largest comeback in franchise history, behind a 21-point rally against the Kansas City Chiefs in 2008.
"How can you not believe in him?" said wide receiver Scotty Miller, who finished with five catches for 83 receiving yards and a touchdown. "He's the greatest to ever do it. We just needed to go in there and follow his lead. We know he's gonna get the job done, so we've just gotta do what we do and help him out a little bit."
For the 43-year-old Brady, it was his biggest comeback since overcoming a 28-3 deficit in Super Bowl LI against the Atlanta Falcons -- a setting that was a far cry from the select group of 6,383 fans and family members who got their first glimpse of Brady in person this season. He finished 30-of-46 for 369 passing yards, five touchdowns and one interception.
"We put ourselves in a pretty good hole -- and we were gonna have to dig our way out of it," Brady said. "And that's just the way football works sometimes."
Brady and the Bucs' offense had gotten off to explosive starts the previous two weeks, scoring 43 total points in the first half and fizzling in the second with just 13 points. This week, after trailing 24-7 in the first half, the Bucs scored four touchdowns in the final 30:28 to win and improve to 3-1.
Prior to Sunday, the Bucs had lost 42 consecutive games when trailing by 17 or more points, with their last such win coming in Week 2 of 2011 at the Minnesota Vikings.
"We knew we played poorly. It was just a show of character. I can honestly say, had this been last year, we would have gotten our ass beat by 20," head coach Bruce Arians said, praising the leadership of his captains. "[With] Tom -- he's never behind in his mind, so we can always make plays to win games."
Brady, 43, became the oldest player in NFL history to record five passing touchdowns in a game according to ESPN Stats and Information research. The record was previously held by Pro Football Hall of Fame quarterback Warren Moon, who accomplished that feat at the age of 40 years and 342 days.
On Wednesday, Brady was named NFC Offensive Player of the Week for the first time. He won 30 previous Player of the Week accolades, but they were all of course for the New England Patriots in the AFC.
Meanwhile, a complete game still eludes Brady's Bucs. The defense struggled against a rookie QB -- albeit a very good one -- and a Chargers squad decimated by injuries.
"[We've] just gotta tighten some things up," Brady said. "Glad we came back. Defense made a big play for us before the end of the half, and that got us ignited a little bit, and then we made some plays in the third, quarter, made some good plays in the fourth quarter. We started the game well, we finished the game well -- that middle part -- we gotta figure out how to play 60 minutes well."
The Bucs' injuries started to pile up too.
Chris Godwin and Leonard Fournette did not play due to hamstring and ankle injuries. Evans left to have his ankle X-rayed but returned. LeSean McCoy left with an ankle injury.
Kick returner Kenjon Barner also left with a concussion. And Tampa lost O.J. Howard in the fourth quarter with an Achilles injury.
"Injuries are taking their toll like every team in the NFL right now," Arians said. "It's the next man up, so we're going to have to get on a short week, get ready for a hell of a football team in Chicago and travel up there with what we've got left. I don't think [Godwin] will be ready -- I think [Fournette] has a chance, but obviously losing O.J. was huge."
Arians was right about Godwin.
The Buccaneers have ruled out Godwin and Justin Watson, along with running back LeSean McCoy, on Wednesday. They also listed running back Leonard Fournette as doubtful, and that’s seldom a good thing.
The good news was that wide receivers Mike Evans (ankle) and Scott Miller (hip/groin) were listed as questionable. They missed some practice time during the short week, but giving them the 50-50 designation suggests there’s a chance for them to be on the field.
The Buccaneers signed wide receiver Cyril Grayson off of the practice squad Tuesday and the current status of their other receivers suggest he'll be playing a role against the Bears on Thursday night.
Grayson played 18 offensive snaps in Week Two without catching a pass. He had one catch for three yards in two appearances last season. I'll have more on any developments via Late-Breaking Update in advance of Thursday night's game against the Bears. ...
Barner has been suspended without pay for four games for violating the NFL policy on performance-enhancing substances, the league announced. Barner is eligible for reinstatement following the team's Week 8 game versus the Giants. ...
One last note here. ... Brady won 219 regular-season games with the Patriots. He won his third with the Buccaneers on Sunday.
That gives him 222 career wins, surpassing former teammate Adam Vinatieri for the NFL record for most wins by any player at any position. Vinatieri's teams won 221 games in his 24 seasons with the Patriots and the Colts.
"I'm so grateful to all the players and coaches and organizations that have made this possible," Brady wrote on social media, replying to a tweet by the team. "Nothing in football is achieved as an individual. ... I'm so thankful to be playing a game I love and so lucky to have made so many friends along the way."
With the five touchdown passes Sunday, Brady surpassed Warren Moon (40 years, 342 days old) as the oldest quarterback to throw five touchdown passes in a game. Drew Brees is the only other quarterback over 40 to throw five touchdowns in a game.
Brady's 552 career touchdown passes are three behind Brees for the NFL record.
QBs: Tom Brady, Blaine Gabbert, Ryan Griffin
RBs: Ronald Jones, Leonard Fournette, LeSean McCoy, Ke'Shawn Vaughn, Kenjon Barner
WRs: Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, Scott Miller, Tyler Johnson, Justin Watson, Jaydon Mickens, Antonio Brown
TEs: Rob Gronkowski, Cameron Brate, Antony Auclair, O.J. Howard
Tennessee TitansCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 6 October 2020
The NFL and the NFL Players Association are investigating whether the Titans, who have had 18 members of their organization test positive for COVID-19 in the past week, violated the league's coronavirus-related protocols, sources told ESPN's Adam Schefter.
After the Titans' recent outbreak -- during which nine players and nine team personnel members have tested positive, one source observed to Schefter that "This isn't a failure of the protocols; it is a failure to follow the protocols."
Officials from both the NFL and NFLPA have been in Tennessee since Friday, seeking answers to an issue that some sources believe ultimately will wind up with the league making an example of the Titans.
The NFL and NFLPA have asked the Titans to turn over multiple videotapes of team activities so they can get a better idea of the root of the outbreak, according to sources.
The Titans are convinced, however, that they have obeyed the rules and have gone out of their way to protect their organization, a team source told Schefter. The Titans believe they have done everything the league has asked, have told the players to wear their masks and have been compliant, according to the source. The Titans also think they've done a better job of observing the protocols than other teams around the league, the source said.
Beyond that, NFL Network's Tom Pelissero reports the NFL and NFLPA are looking into a group of Titans players that reportedly worked out together at Montgomery Bell Academy on Sept. 30 despite the league saying not to, and quarterback Ryan Tannehill was among the group.
Photos of the workout were posted by Paul Kuharsky of PaulKuharsky.com.
Guard Rodger Saffold suggested some degree of gathering, when he retweeted's Kuharsky's story and added: "Guys just don't work out for fun this is for their lively hood, their family, their opportunity. Say what you want but I'm standing up for my team always."
Students at the private school saw a group of adult football players going through workouts, and there are photos from a distance that makes it hard to indentify any particular players that way. But a source told Kuharsky he saw Tannehill there.
When the quarterback spoke to reporters by videoconference that day, he said it was important to stay ready, not knowing what was ahead of them.
"You can't sit around on the couch for a week and be on a Zoom meeting and expect to go be at a physical peak on a Sunday, or whenever the game is going to be," Tannehill said on Sept. 30. "It's going to look a little bit different for everybody, what they're able to do, where they're able to work out, in a garage, in a gym somewhere, I'm not even sure.
"Every man on this team is charged with prepping themselves, getting their bodies right, making sure that we're running, we're conditioned, and ready to go whenever the game comes around. . . . I'm just going to make sure that I'm getting throws in and ready to go and throw the ball well when the game comes around."
Meanwhile, the Titans had planned to reopen their practice facility Wednesday, but those plans are now on hold.
The Titans returned zero new positive tests on both Monday and Tuesday, which led to optimism that they had put the outbreak behind them. But another Titans player tested positive for COVID-19 on Wednesday.
That raises the question of whether the Titans will be able to play their regularly scheduled game against the Bills on Sunday.
The identity of the one Titans player who tested positive today became clear later in the day, when Corey Davis was placed on the Reserve/COVID-19 list. Whoever he is, he's the 10th player on the Titans to test positive in the last two weeks. Nine staff members have also tested positive.
Prior to today, nine Titans -- defensive lineman Jeffery Simmons, offensive tackle Isaiah Wilson, linebacker Kamalei Correa, cornerback Kristian Fulton, wide receiver Adam Humphries, defensive lineman DaQuan Jones, long-snapper Beau Brinkley, wide receiver Cameron Batson, tight end Tommy Hudson and cornerback Greg Mabin -- had been placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list.
The Titans announced that fullback Khari Blasingame was placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list on Monday. Blasingame was used primarily as a blocking back, leading the way for Derrick Henry. He played 41 snaps (19 percent) on offense and 45 snaps on special teams. Blasingame caught one pass for five yards in the Titans' 16-14 win over the Denver Broncos.
The investigation is focused on Titans outside linebackers coach Shane Bowen being the first in the organization to contract the coronavirus, and a potential failure by at least some to report symptoms and wear masks. One source told ESPN that he suspects that the spread started with the Titans' coaching staff.
Bowen was exposed to individuals who had been exposed to the coronavirus, according to a source. NFL employees are required to report being around anyone who has contracted the coronavirus or to not go into work if they have been around those individuals.
If the NFL and NFLPA find that at least one member of the Titans didn't properly report being around someone or others with the coronavirus, it would be a violation.
But there also is a sense from sources that the Titans were not diligent about wearing masks around their training facility -- or if they worked out together, despite the protocols the league and the NFLPA have outlined in their memos. This could lead to the Titans facing discipline in the form of fines and/or even the potential loss of a draft pick.
In case you somehow missed it, the NFL announced last Thursday that the Titans' game against the Steelers would not be played during Week 4 because of the positive coronavirus tests. The Titans are now scheduled to play the Steelers in Week 7 on Oct. 25.
Now we're all in wait-and-see mode for this week's game against the Bills. I'll have more as developments warrant in the Late-Breaking Updates section.
QBs: Ryan Tannehill, Logan Woodside
RBs: Derrick Henry, Darrynton Evans, Senorise Perry
WRs: A.J. Brown, Corey Davis, Kalif Raymond, Nick Westbrook_Ikhine, Cody Hollister, Adam Humphries
TEs: Jonnu Smith, Anthony Firkser, MyCole Pruitt, Geoff Swaim
Washington Football TeamCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 6 October 2020
According to ESPN.com's John Keim, the Washington Football Team coaching staff wanted to see growth from second-year quarterback Dwayne Haskins.
The question after Sunday's 31-17 loss to the Baltimore Ravens: Did they?
The answer came on Wednesday, when Washington made a QB switch, benching Haskins and handing the reins to Kyle Allen for Sunday's game against the L.A. Rams. Alex Smith will be the backup and Haskins will be inactive, the team announced.
The move is a swift turn from the former first-round pick, who has started 11 total games in his young career over two seasons. Just last week, head coach Ron Rivera noted he was committed to Haskins after a three-pick performance. Commitment is fleeting in the NFL.
Haskins is coming off his first career 300-plus yard passing game in the 31-17 loss to the Baltimore Ravens. The 23-year-old set career highs in attempts (45), completions (32), pass yards (314) and completion percentage (71.1, min 20 attempts) in Week 4.
The inconsistencies, however, have been glaring.
As NFL.com's Kevin Patra explained, Haskins too often glares at his first read like it's a staring contest, which either leads the defense right to the play or throws off the timing with the rest of the routes if he finally moves on in his progression. His footwork still gets wonky at times, which leads to overthrows or mistargeted worm-burners. Through four games, Haskins has thrown for 939 yards with 4 TDs to 3 INTs and he's taken 13 sacks (on pace for 52 over 16 games).
There have been flashes of potential from Haskins' big arm, and he has made strides within Washington's new offense, but apparently, those positives weren't enough to give the first-rounder a longer leash.
Rivera turns to Allen, whom he brought with him from Carolina. The coach spoke highly of Allen after trading for the Panthers backup QB, often suggesting this offseason that Allen could start in D.C. Most took that as coach-speak to keep a fire lit under Haskins. After just four games, Rivera turns to the third-year pro.
Allen started 13 games for the Panthers from 2018-2019, earning a 61.9 completion percentage, 250.4 passing yards per game, and a 19-15 TD-INT ratio as a starter. Carolina went 6-7 in his starts.
Last year after taking over for Cam Newton in Week 3, things started great for Allen, as he helped the Panthers to four straight wins under Rivera, and the QB tossed 7 TDs to 0 INTs with a 106.6 passer rating. It all fell apart down the stretch as Carolina lost six straight games with Allen as the starter from Weeks 10-15. During that run of losses, Rivera was fired. After a good first month, Allen went 1-7 as a starter the rest of 2019 with 10 TDs, 15 INTs and a 70.9 passer rating.
Clearly, Rivera believes Allen can run Scott Turner's offense more efficiently. The team must feel that Allen's struggles down the stretch were a product of the surrounding situation in Carolina, not the fact that the rest of the league caught on that the QB struggled when his first read was taken away and had problems handling pressure.
Allen's familiarly with Turner's offense should be an asset out of the gate Sunday against the Rams.
If Allen struggles, the question is whether Rivera might turn back to Haskins after letting the second-year signal-caller watch from the bench for a few games. Or, perhaps, Washington might turn to the veteran Smith, who remains on the active roster as he continues to make his way back from a gruesome leg injury.
Other notes of interest. .. On Friday, Rivera said he felt running back Antonio Gibson was close to a big game. He didn't put up monster numbers -- he finished with 17 touches for 128 total yards from scrimmage -- but he does continue to get better. He finished with a career-high in touches and that will keep increasing the more comfortable he gets. Gibson showed he can hurt a defense on slip screens when out wide and also running through the middle.
He's learning to run with a lower pad level, taking advantage of his 220-pound frame.
Despite a tough matchup and a thigh injury that had him listed as questionable on the final injury report, Terry McLaurin tallied 10 receptions on 14 targets for 118 yards.
As CBSSports.com notes, McLaurin took advantage of game script, vacuuming up 14 of Haskins' 45 pass attempts. Five of his 10 receptions went for double-digit yards, highlighted by a 39-yard gain late in the fourth quarter. Though he has found the end zone only once through four games, McLaurin has racked up 387 receiving yards on 26 receptions and 39 targets.
McLaurin missed practice Wednesday due to the same thigh injury he played through against Baltimore. There's optimism he’ll be able to go again this week, but it's something I'll be following up on in coming days. Watch the Late-Breaking Updates section for more. ...
And finally. ... Rivera has three more weeks of cancer treatments remaining, and he reiterated that he plans to continue coaching throughout the process.
"It's who I am," Rivera said Monday on "Good Morning America."
"Listening to the doctors talking about how important it is to try and do as much of the routine as possible, but they also tell you, 'Hey, be careful, listen to your body.' And also, there's other people watching me, so I'm just trying to set the example."
Rivera was diagnosed with squamous cell cancer in August, causing him to miss two practices and part of a third. Doctors told him they caught it early enough and that his prognosis is good.
During Washington's loss to Baltimore on Sunday, Rivera was visibly drained after receiving chemotherapy earlier in the week. He needed to steady his hand on a team employee as he walked to the locker room at halftime. Rivera would occasionally take a seat during breaks and hydrate throughout the game. He said he took two IV fluids before the game.
Rivera said he has one more round of chemotherapy in the final three weeks.
"I'm looking forward to it," Rivera said. "As [ESPN anchor] Stuart Scott said, I have it; it doesn't have me. And it's not how far I have to go, but it's how far I've gone."
Rivera's diagnosis was made public on Aug. 20. He had first noticed a lump on his throat; when it didn't go away within two weeks, he saw a doctor.
Rivera said having a strong support system has mattered. That support system was visible Sunday in a section of the stadium dubbed "Coach's Corner," where another sign that read #RIVERASTRONG could be seen. Approximately 400 cardboard cutouts adorned the section; family and friends paid money to have their pictures on cutouts, helping to raise $30,000 for the American Cancer Society.
One of those photos was of Rivera's brother Mickey, who died in 2015 after a two-year battle with pancreatic cancer. Recalling that during his postgame news conference caused Rivera to choke up.
When Robin Roberts asked him about it Monday morning, Rivera said, "That really hit me. It's hitting me now. Mickey was such a fighter. And just to see him again, and just imagine -- that hit home. That was great. It was awesome."
QBs: Kyle Allen, Alex Smith, Dwayne Haskins
RBs: Antonio Gibson, J.D. McKissic, Peyton Barber, Bryce Love
WRs: Terry McLaurin, Dontrelle Inman, Antonio Gandy-Golden, Isaiah Wright, Cam Sims, Steven Sims
TEs: Logan Thomas, Jeremy Sprinkle