Team Notes Week 6 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 13 October 2020
As ESPN.com's Josh Weinfuss reported, all week there was talk around the Arizona Cardinals that Sunday's game against the New York Jets was a "must-win."
For a 2-2 team in early October, it seemed a bit hyperbolic. But for the Cardinals, it wasn't. They needed to beat the winless Jets, one of the worst teams in football, to stay relevant in the tough NFC West and they needed to do it in a convincing fashion to prove they have what it takes to keep chasing a playoff berth this season.
Then second-year quarterback Kyler Murray went to work.
Murray helped the Cardinals (3-2) avoid a three-game losing streak with his arm and legs, throwing for a career-high 380 yards in a 30-10 win against the Jets (0-5), a week after he threw for 133 yards.
On Wednesday, Murray was named NFC Offensive Player of the Week for his effort.
He diced apart the Jets' secondary with a variety of throws, including a 37-yard touchdown throw to wideout DeAndre Hopkins with 8:35 left in the game that was as beautiful as it was accurate. Of Murray's 380 yards, 131 went to Hopkins, who had his third 130-yard game as a Cardinal.
The three-time All-Pro didn't have any 130-yard games last season with the Houston Texans.
Hopkins credited the play calling of head coach Kliff Kingsbury and the decision-making of Murray for his outstanding performances this season.
"Those guys trust me to get me the ball downfield," Hopkins said. "A lot of people look at me as just a possession receiver, I guess. And my abilities and my talent, obviously, today's and other games, show that I'm not just a possession receiver but I'm a downfield threat."
Hopkins has six plays of 20 yards or more this season though five games, compared to 16 in 2019 and 23 in 2018. Against the Jets, Hopkins had plays of 45 and 37, in addition to plays of 15, 13, 11 and 10. His 45-yard catch was along the left sideline on a play in which he had to come back to grab an underthrown pass. And his 37-yard catch was a one-handed touchdown, also down the left sideline.
"I didn't even know if he was going to catch it," Murray said of the 45-yard throw. "He shows you time and time again why he's the best shooter in the league."
Hopkins also became the fourth-youngest receiver (28 years, 127 days) in NFL history to reach 9,000 receiving yards for his career, behind Randy Moss, Calvin Johnson and teammate Larry Fitzgerald.
Hopkins registered 151 yards in his Cardinals debut against the San Francisco 49ers in Week 1. He followed that up with 137 yards in a Week 3 loss to the Detroit Lions. His previous game with 130 or more yards was in Week 17 of the 2018 season. He had five games with more than 100 yards last season, but his season-high was 120.
Hopkins leads the NFL with 528 yards on 45 catches. He's the only player with more than 500 yards and more than 40 catches.
"We just hit some throws we didn't hit the week before," Kingsbury said. "I don't think we ever got in a rhythm. Like I said, I did a poor job of getting us started with play calls and we never got in a rhythm and it was real disjointed and we didn't hit the shots that we did take down the field, and we hit him today.
"Thought guys were aggressive in the way they played on the perimeter and made some of those screens work, and so it was just a better overall effort."
Hopkins, who had 41 yards last week, said Sunday felt different because the Cardinals took more shots downfield.
"It felt a little bit more aggressive," Hopkins said. "Obviously, losing two games back-to-back, we had to come up with some things to get the playmakers the ball and be successful. And Kliff and the guys did a good job of obviously trusting me and Kyler to connect downfield."
Murray wasn't just productive against the Jets, he was accurate, completing 27 of 37 passes for one touchdown and an interception. Murray found tight end Darrell Daniels for an easy 31-yard gain as the defense was sucked in by play-action. Kingsbury said tight ends coach Steve Heiden brought the call to his attention during the week of practice.
"It was a beautiful play design by him and it worked out," Kingsbury said.
The Cardinals had 496 yards in total offense. They had 500 yards until taking knees to end the game.
Chase Edmonds, who played his college ball at nearby Fordham, added a 29-yard TD run, Kenyan Drake tallied from a yard out and Zane Gonzalez kicked a 47-yard field goal. Arizona scored touchdowns on drives of 96, 89, 75 and 70 yards.
The win keeps Arizona in the hunt for the postseason, including a shot at the NFC West title heading into their coming Monday night game against the Cowboys. ...
Also worth noting. ... As noted above, the Cardinals got rushing TDs from Edmonds, Murray and Drake. That's the first time they've had three different players run for TDs since Beanie Wells, Tim Hightower and Anquan Boldin did it in Detroit in 2009.
Drake hasn't been quite as productive in his second season with the Cardinals, averaging just 3.7 yards per carry through five games. He has also hasn't been utilized as much in the passing game with six catches for 22 yards. That drop in production isn't all his fault: Now that Edmonds is healthy and Hopkins is catching tons of balls on the perimeter, there are more options. But there's no doubt Arizona would like Drake's yards-per-carry average to jump.
Weinfuss believes Edmonds, who continued his tear of playing well at MetLife Stadium with 36 rushing yards and 56 receiving yards, will get more carries on Monday night against the Cowboys.
That doesn't seem like a reach.
Kingsbury wants to keep getting Edmonds involved.
"He's got real juice, and we've got to continue to find ways to get him the ball," Kingsbury said. "There are a lot of playmakers, and he's one that can make things happen."
He and Drake were used in tandem at times, with Edmonds often splitting out into the slot. ...
According to the team's official website, before the season began, Murray wanted to see his 48 sacks as a rookie cut in half in Year 2. Through five games, the pace is close, as he is on track to take 25.6 sacks.
While Murray's elite scrambling ability has helped the cause, the offensive line has more than pulled is weight. According to ESPN's pass-block win rate, the Cardinals are the third-most effective team in the NFL at sustaining their blocks for 2.5 seconds, behind only the Packers and Browns. ...
The Cardinals continue to be one of the most penalized teams in the NFL, earning 42 yellow flags through five games, including 10 against the Jets. Kingsbury said the team has been too lax in letting penalties slide during practice and that needs to change. ...
On the injury front. ... LB Chandler Jones was ruled out after a first-half biceps injury that will require season-ending surgery to repair. Kingsbury said he believes the recovery time is 3-4 months. S Budda Baker returned to the lineup after missing a week following thumb surgery.
QBs: Kyler Murray, Colt McCoy, Chris Streveler
RBs: Chase Edmonds, James Conner, Jonathan Ward, Eno Benjamin
WRs: DeAndre Hopkins, A.J. Green, Christian Kirk, Rondale Moore, Andy Isabella, Antoine Wesley
TEs: Maxx Williams, Darrell Daniels
Atlanta FalconsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 13 October 2020
As NFL.com's Grant Gordon put it, "Five losses started Dan Quinn's sixth season as Atlanta Falcons head coach. That 0-5 beginning has also brought about the end to Quinn's tenure as Falcons head coach."
Quinn and general manager Thomas Dimitroff were fired on Sunday after the Falcons' 23-16 loss to the Carolina Panthers, the team announced.
"Decisions like these are very difficult, but the previous two seasons and start to this one have been especially hard for me because of the deep love, admiration and respect I and my family have for Dan, Thomas and their families," team owner Arthur Blank said in a statement. "For many years, they have represented me, our team, organization and Atlanta with class, commitment and all the passion you would want in the leaders of the team. But as everyone knows, this is a results business and I owe it to our fans to put the best product we can on the field. We have poured every resource possible into winning and will continue to do so, but the results of late do not meet our standard or what I've promised our fans. Therefore, we will install new coaching and personnel leadership of the Atlanta Falcons at the appropriate time.
"Our finish in 2019 earned an opportunity to show that momentum could be continued and built upon, but that has clearly not happened," Blank continued. "And overall, the last 3-plus seasons have fallen short of my commitment to Atlanta and to our fans everywhere. I want them all to know that my commitment to winning has not wavered and I will continue to provide every resource possible to that end."
On Sunday, the Falcons announced president and CEO Rich McKay has assumed oversight of the teams' day-to-day operation.
On Monday, they announced Raheem Morris will serve as interim head coach.
"Raheem is a strong leader and a talented coach that has adapted to a variety of roles since joining the Falcons in 2015," McKay said in a statement. "He has experience as a head coach and has worked on both sides of the ball. We felt that combined with his connection to the players and coaching staff, which will be an important factor as we move forward in 2020, he was the right person to give this responsibility to."
Morris spent three years as the head coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers from 2009-2011, compiling a 17-31 recorded. He sandwiched a 10-win 2010 season between a three-win year in his first leading the Bucs and a four-win campaign that lead to his dismissal.
The 44-year-old Morris joined the Falcons in 2015 as DBs coach after three years in Washington. He was moved to WRs coach in 2016, where he spent three seasons. The Falcons moved him back to the defensive side of the ball, where he helped improve the secondary late in 2019 and helped save Quinn's job for another offseason.
Morris took over as the full-time defensive coordinator in 2020.
Given his head coaching experience, Morris was the logical choice to take over after the Falcons fired Quinn. After being credited with helping improve Atlanta's defense last year down the stretch, Morris was even considered a fringe head coaching candidate.
Morris is now charged with injecting life into a listless club that just fired its longtime coach and GM after a 23-15 home loss to Carolina. If Atlanta turns its season on a dime, expect Morris to be a candidate for a permanent head-coaching gig. The interim's task begins Sunday in Minnesota against the 1-4 Vikings.
Shortly after Morris was promoted, the team announced that they have dismissed special teams coach Ben Kotwica.
The Falcons also announced that Jeff Ulbrich will take over as defensive coordinator. Ulbrich was serving as linebackers coach and assistant head coach. Ulbrich has split defensive play calling duties with Morris this season and it's unclear how things will work now that Morris has been named the interim head coach.
Bernie Parmalee has been named the new special teams coordinator and Will Harriger will take over for Parmalee as the running backs coach.
Following Bill O'Brien's dismissal as Houston Texans head coach and general manager, Quinn is the second head coach of the 2020 season to be fired and Dimitroff is the second general manager.
In his five seasons and change in Atlanta, Quinn, 50, leaves one game over .500, having produced a 43-42 record in the regular season. His teams had two playoff trips, highlighted by a trip to the Super Bowl in the 2016 season. Alas, Atlanta has had consecutive losing seasons and hardly appears headed to the postseason dance or above .500 this year.
Injuries continue to be problematic for the Falcons, just as much as the perception of potential unrealized and the inability to close out victories does.
Meanwhile, as ESPN.com's Vaughn McClure suggested, the Falcons certainly didn't play like a desperate team trying to save their coach's job Sunday.
Yes, Matt Ryan threw a costly fourth-quarter interception in the end zone on a bad decision that could have changed the complexion of the game. And yes, cornerback Isaiah Oliver's season-long struggles continued as he surrendered a 57-yard touchdown to D.J. Moore in man coverage. But to put it simply, the Falcons were nowhere near as "fast and physical" as they needed to be in a must-win game.
"Defenders constantly were run over, particularly by diminutive but powerful Panthers running back Mike Davis (5-9, 220)," McClure wrote. "The Falcons gave up 312 yards and allowed Panthers quarterback Teddy Bridgewater to complete 74 percent of his passes in the first half. When the Panthers had to eat clock late with the lead, the Falcons couldn't make tackles and continued to give up extra yards. On a day when the Falcons needed to come with pressure the most, they couldn't sack Bridgewater."
On a more positive note. ... Running back Todd Gurley seems to be looking stronger and stronger in the run game with each passing week. Not only did Gurley rush for 100 yards for the first time since 2018, he also turned the corner and displayed his speed on a 35-yard touchdown run. It was Gurley's longest score since his 80-yard touchdown reception in Week 16 of 2017. The 35-yarder also was the fifth-longest touchdown run of Gurley's career, according to ESPN Stats and Information.
It was his fifth rushing touchdown of the season. No Falcons player had more than four rushing touchdowns all of last season. It was Gurley's 75th career touchdown in his 78th game, allowing Gurley to join LaDainian Tomlinson, Jim Brown, and Emmitt Smith on an exclusive list of players with 75 touchdowns in 78 or fewer games. Gurley is the fourth-fastest to score 75 touchdowns.
The preseason concerns about Gurley's surgically repaired left knee don't seem to be as talked about these days. And Gurley played like a guy who wanted to save Quinn's job.
But Julio Jones missed his second game of the season while dealing with a left hamstring injury. Jones played only one half in last week's loss at Green Bay. It was wise of the Falcons to keep Jones from playing this week, but you have to wonder how long that hamstring injury is going to linger.
Of course, the Falcons are a much better team with Jones on the field.
"You're taking one of the best players of all time out of your lineup, so it's not going to be the same," offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter said of running the offense without Jones. "There's just no way it can be the same. ... No team wants to take an elite player out of the game. That's a challenge just because those guys like Julio make plays that you don't plan for. They make spectacular plays."
Without Jones in the lineup, the Falcons relied on Calvin Ridley as the top receiver. He caught 8-of-10 targets for 136 yards. Russell Gage, Olamide Zaccheaus and tight end Hayden Hurst chipped in with lesser contribution. But clearly, Jones' absence was felt.
Jones, the franchise's all-time leader in receiving yards (12,338) and receptions (812), has 15 catches for 213 yards with no touchdowns this season.
I'll have more on his status via Late-Breaking Updates in coming days. ...
Also. .. The Falcons also saw defensive end Takkarist McKinley go back down with a groin injury that already has cost him game time this season. ...
And finally. ... Another top Falcons rookie has landed on the league's reserve/COVID-19 list.
This time it's defensive lineman Marlon Davidson, the Falcons' second-round pick, who has gone on reserve/COVID-19.
The Falcons' first-round pick, A.J. Terrell, went on the list earlier this season. Terrell missed two games before returning last week.
QBs: Matt Ryan, Josh Rosen, Feleipe Franks
RBs: Mike Davis, Cordarrelle Patterson, Wayne Gallman
WRs: Calvin Ridley, Russell Gage, Christian Blake, Olamide Zaccheaus, Frank Darby, Chris Rowland
TEs: Kyle Pitts, Hayden Hurst, Jaeden Graham
Baltimore RavensCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 13 October 2020
As the Associated Press reported, the Ravens have grown accustomed to winning with a strong running game and the remarkable skill of versatile quarterback Lamar Jackson.
They took a different approach against the Cincinnati Bengals on Sunday, carving out a 27-3 victory with the kind of defensive performance that once defined the franchise.
The Ravens sacked Joe Burrow seven times, forced the Bengals rookie into a pair of turnovers and effectively stuffed Cincinnati's running game in meticulous fashion.
As ESPN.com's Jamison Hensley suggested, Jackson looked like a quarterback who hardly practiced.
He was held out Wednesday with a sore knee and was forced to go home Thursday with a stomach issue. The reigning NFL MVP was wild on most of his throws, connecting on 51.3 percent of his passes (19-of-37), the third-worst completion rate of his three-year NFL career.
Jackson said his knee issue "didn't really affect me at all," but the missed practice snaps did have an impact.
"Football is definitely a practice sport, whether it's technique, timing, chemistry, just understanding the game-plan inside and out not because you studied it but because you operated it and practiced it. It's always going to have an effect," head coach John Harbaugh said. "It's important for everybody to practice, especially important for the quarterback."
What made that especially challenging is that the Bengals employed a defense that the Ravens hadn't seen them use on tape. Thus, the film work and mental reps that Jackson still had throughout the week didn't prove to be as useful.
Jackson said last week that teams are rolling out different defenses every week and the Bengals followed suit.
"They were a true college 4-3 type of a look, played quarters with the safeties low. They've played that in the past but they hadn't played it yet this year. So it was a new defense that we thought we might get, but we didn't get a chance to rep it out very much," Harbaugh said. "That happens to us quite a bit. So that's something we've got to learn to deal with and handle as an offense because we run a unique scheme."
Jackson did convert in the red zone, where he threw touchdown passes to tight end Mark Andrews (five yards) and wide receiver Marquise Brown (2 yards).
He finished 19-of-37 for 180 yards with 3 yards rushing, the lowest total of his career.
If we're looking for positives here, since Jackson became the starter in Week 11 of the 2018 season, Baltimore has scored at least 20 points in 28 straight regular-season games. That ties the 1999-2000 Rams for the second-longest such streak in NFL history.
The Ravens have also forced a turnover in 18 straight games, the longest active streak in the NFL and second-longest in franchise history. Baltimore has 32 takeaways during the 18-game run.
Next up, the Ravens travel to Philadelphia, their last game before taking a rescheduled bye on Oct. 25.
Jackson said "it's going to be totally different" because he expects to be at practice every day before facing the Eagles. A return to offensive form would send them into the bye week with a better feeling about where things stand on that side of the ball.
One post-game talking point was the Ravens' run-pass ratio. Jackson threw 37 times to 24 runs, but Harbaugh explained that 11 of those passes were in two-minute drills at the end of the first half. On first and second down, the Ravens ran 20 times to 13 passes.
"That's a high number in the NFL. It's even high for us," Harbaugh said.
The Ravens would have run the ball more in the fourth quarter with a big lead, but they only ran five plays total because the Bengals had a long drive in which they also ran often.
"I think the basic raw numbers are more indicative of the situations that we were in than they were any design or anything play-calling wise," Harbaugh said. "What we all want to do is just continue to improve execution and how we attack defenses going against us. So like I said last week, we are still very much a work in progress. We have a lot to improve on.
"We have to improve as the season goes on to achieve the things that we want to achieve. By the same token, just Lamar by himself made some really great plays. He moved around and made some great throws. When we scored 17 points, he was the main driver of that. ..."
As for the backfield rotation. ... Mark Ingram registered 57 rushing yards on 11 carries to lead the way against the Bengals. Gus Edwards rushed seven times for 25 yards while J.K. Dobbins had one carry for 34 yards and three catches for 21 yards.
As CBSSports.com put it, "Thus continues the conundrum of investment in the Baltimore backfield, as the Ravens rushed for over 160 team rushing yards without a single RB exceeding 60 scrimmage yards or scoring a touchdown. After garnering 57.9 percent of Baltimore's RB carries in a trouncing of the Bengals, Ingram has the best chance of any Ravens back to fall into the end zone against the Eagles' top-12 rush defense."
And finally. ... There was a lot of buzz about wide receiver Miles Boykin stepping up as the No. 2 wide receiver opposite "Hollywood" Brown this season.
However, Boykin has just 10 receptions for 111 yards through the first five games. He didn't have a catch versus the Bengals and didn't seem to be on the same page with Jackson on one attempt to the end zone, leaving the Ravens settling for a field goal.
So far this season, Andrews and Brown have 40 of the Ravens' 88 receptions. While Harbaugh said the Ravens would like to get more of their other targets involved, he's pleased with what he's seeing from Boykin.
"He's playing well. Even though the catches aren't there -- I know that's how receivers are kind of measured -- but he's in the right spots, he's running the right routes, and he's blocking really well," Harbaugh said. "Those are all things that are kind of unseen, unsung type things that get noticed by coaches and other players [more] than they do when you're watching it."
QBs: Lamar Jackson, Trace McSorley, Tyler Huntley
RBs: Ty'Son Williams, Latavius Murray, Devonta Freeman, Gus Edwards
WRs: Marquise Brown, Sammy Watkins, Devin Duvernay, Tylan Wallace, Miles Boykin, James Proche, Rashod Bateman
TEs: Mark Andrews, Josh Oliver, Eric Tomlinson, Nick Boyle
Buffalo BillsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 13 October 2020
As ESPN.com's Marcel Louis-Jacques framed it, "The nation tuned in to the Buffalo Bills' game against the Tennessee Titans on Tuesday night, eager to learn whether this 'contender' talk surrounding Buffalo was legitimate.
"It'll be a tough sell moving forward."
The game opened with Josh Allen's pass going off Andre Roberts' hands for an interception.
It went downhill from there.
The more prepared team sure didn't look it in coming out sloppy and flat in losing its first game with a meltdown by the offense, defense and special teams. Allen was intercepted twice, and the Bills had another turnover late that Tennessee turned into 21 points in routing Buffalo 42-16 Tuesday night.
"We got punched in the mouth early on," Allen said. "And I can't do that to our defense, put them in vulnerable situations and allow their offense to have short fields. I did it twice tonight and I take that heavily upon myself."
The Bills (4-1) were held to their fewest points this season, snapping a streak of three straight games scoring at least 30 points a game.
It also was the most points Buffalo had allowed since 2018 in a season-opening 47-3 loss at Baltimore. Nathan Peterman started that loss and threw two interceptions in the first half before giving way to Allen, then a rookie who went on to make his first career start the next week.
Buffalo also had 10 penalties for 56 yards on a night the Bills were without starting cornerbacks with Tre'Davious White because of a back injury and Levi Wallace on injured reserve. Linebacker Matt Milano and starting wide receiver John Brown also were out. Rookie running back Zack Moss sat out too.
"Just uncharacteristic game for us," head coach Sean McDermot said. "Uncharacteristically poor fundamentals, poor pre-snap discipline, turning the ball over. You've been around this game a long time, you can't do that. There's only one opponent, and that opponent's on the other sideline. You can't beat yourself."
They have a few days to make corrections before hosting the defending champion Kansas City Chiefs (4-1) on Monday night.
Allen was far from the version of himself we've seen over the first four weeks of the season, completing 26-of-41 for 263 yards, two touchdowns and those season-high two interceptions. It was his first multi-interception game since Week 4 of the 2019 season and pushed his total to six interceptions over his past 17 regular-season games.
With his two TD passed, Allen becomes the fourth player in team history with four consecutive games with two passing touchdowns. He is the first since Ryan Fitzpatrick from week 17 of the 2011 season to week four of the 2012 season.
The Bills were the eighth-best rushing offense in the NFL in 2019; they ranked 28th through four games in 2020 and that number won't get any higher after a mediocre 95 rushing yards against the Titans. Especially considering Tennessee entered the game giving up the second-most rushing yards in the league, it is alarming that Buffalo couldn't take advantage of the matchup.
After a promising rookie season, Devin Singletary has struggled to find rushing lanes this season and averaged 2.3 yards per carry Tuesday night. Allen has kept this offense moving through the air but when defenses stop the Bills' passing game, the run game has not shown an ability to carry the slack.
With Moss out, T.J. Yeldon had his first receiving touchdown as a Bill in the fourth quarter. This is his first receiving score since week seven of the 2018 season.
With 10 receptions from 106 yards, Stefon Diggs has back-to-back 100-yard games. It is the fifth time in his career with consecutive 100-yard performances. It is the first time for the Bills since Robert Foster in 2018.
I'll have more on Brown, Moss and White via Late-Breaking Update in coming days.
QBs: Josh Allen, Mitchell Trubisky
RBs: Devin Singletary, Zack Moss, Matt Breida, Taiwan Jones
WRs: Stefon Diggs, Cole Beasley, Gabriel Davis, Isaiah McKenzie, Emmanuel Sanders, Jake Kumerow
TEs: Dawson Knox, Tommy Sweeney
Carolina PanthersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 13 October 2020
Don't look now, but the Carolina Panthers are tied for the NFC South lead.
As ESPN.com's David Newton suggested, it was practically impossible to see this coming after an 0-2 start, coupled with the loss of star running back Christian McCaffrey for four to six weeks with an ankle injury.
Many wrote the Panthers off before the season after they hired a first-year NFL head coach and completely overhauled the roster, dumping quarterback Cam Newton along the way. There seemed to be no way rookie coach Matt Rhule's team could keep pace with Drew Brees and New Orleans or Tom Brady and Tampa Bay.
But after Sunday's 23-16 victory against the Atlanta Falcons at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, Carolina has won three straight to force a tie with Tampa Bay.
Newton went on to explain the Panthers' victories are coming for three reasons: Quarterback Teddy Bridgewater is playing lights-out, smart, mistake-free football, finding ways to get the ball into the hands of playmakers as efficiently as anyone in the NFL.
Indeed, Bridgewater continues to prove why the new staff wanted to go with him over Newton and why Rhule this past week called him one of the smartest players he's ever been around. He had 261 passing yards in the first half, his most in a first half and the second-best half of his career.
He finished with 313 yards passing and two touchdowns with no picks for the second straight week.
Beyond that, the NFL's youngest defense has grown up in a hurry, finding unique ways to pressure the quarterback and make big plays in coordinator Phil Snow's multiple sets.
More importantly, everybody is playing hard and fast on both sides of the ball. McCaffrey's replacement, Mike Davis, showed it repeatedly on a late fourth-quarter drive that also was aided by a 17-yard run by Curtis Samuel in which he carried defenders the final 10 yards.
According to the team's official website, Davis used two words when describing his running style after Sunday's win. If you've watched any of the Panthers last three wins, you'll probably agree with him:
There are plenty of backs who are "angry" when they run. That's nothing new. What Davis does deserves the stronger phrase.
"I don't know how to really explain it," he said.
Maybe not, but those two words feel right.
Davis routinely carries defenders for extra yards, seemingly never going down after the first contact. He came into the day with 14 broken tackles, tied for third-most in the league, and added to that total by bouncing off Falcons. Plus, his situational awareness is so consistently good on every play.
In fact, Rhule told reporters the one thing he didn't know about Davis before this season was his ability to "run through contact." The play that stood out to him on Sunday at Atlanta and defined Davis was the way the back shed a couple of tackles and reserved field for a big pickup. Rhule called that "elite."
"We definitely miss Christian McCaffrey," left tackle Russell Okung said. "But in his absence, Mike Davis has been exceptional."
With a home game against the Chicago Bears this week, the games will only get bigger for a team thought to be in a rebuilding mode. The Panthers likely will get McCaffrey back in a couple of weeks, making them potentially more dangerous. McCaffrey might have summed up this team's potential best on the day after he suffered the injury in a Week 2 loss to Tampa Bay.
"We've lost two games, not because we're a bad team," he said. "That's something that can be corrected, injury or not with me. This team has a lot of fight. Our team has a lot of resiliency. And we have the right guys to pick it up from here."
Speaking of McCaffrey, he's technically eligible to come off injured reserve this week, but Rhule said no decision has been made. When McCaffrey hurt his ankle in Week 2, word was that he'd need four-to-six weeks to recover and return to the lineup.
McCaffrey said he hoped to beat that timeframe and the Panthers will get an idea about whether that's possible this week. Rhule said that McCaffrey will be visiting doctors and getting tests to evaluate where he is in the recovery process.
If all checks out well, the running back could be activated for this week's game against the Bears. Rhule didn't speculate if that was possible.
"Once the doctors say he's clear and he feels like he's clear, then we'll activate him," Rhule said, via the team's website. "But I'm not sure exactly when that'll be."
Remember, McCaffrey doesn't have to come off of IR now just because it's been three weeks. When he is designated to return, he'll have a 21-day practice window before he must be placed on the 53-man roster or will revert to IR for the rest of the season. McCaffrey was not on the practice field Wednesday.
I'll continue to follow up via Late-Breaking Updates as developments warrant in coming days. ...
Also of interest. ... Davis played a career-high 83 percent of the snaps at running back, finishing with 149 scrimmage yards on 25 touches. Trenton Cannon played his first two snaps at running back for Carolina when Davis briefly exited the game, running once for a loss of three yards.
Robby Anderson might just be the best free agent pickup in the league. The former Jets wide receiver has at least 99 yards receiving in four of the team's five games this season. He's third in the NFL in receptions (36) and yards receiving (469) and has developed a remarkable chemistry with new teammate Teddy Bridgewater.
The Panthers need to continue to find more ways to get the ball into the hands of the versatile and explosive Samuel. Samuel had four runs for 28 yards, including a 17-yard burst while lining up in the backfield. He also made some nice grabs on third downs to move the chains and finished with 36 yards receiving while catching all five balls thrown his way.
Pharoh Cooper has seen an uptick in snaps at wide receiver lately, playing 25 percent last week and 23 percent this week. He had one catch for 12 yards. ...
Four defensive starters left Sunday's game with injuries, including tackle Kawann Short (shoulder), edge rushers Brian Burns (concussion) and Yetur Gross-Matos (ankle) and cornerback Donte Jackson (toe), leaving their playing status up in the air for this week's game against the Bears.
And finally. ... The Panthers entered the NFL's intensive COVID-19 protocol.
The team made the announcement Wednesday morning, noting the more stringent precautions were put in place after Atlanta Falcons rookie defensive tackle Marlon Davidson was placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list.
The Panthers defeated the Falcons, 23-16, on Sunday in Atlanta. Davidson played 12 of 64 defensive snaps and five special teams plays in Week 5, per Next Gen Stats.
According to the team, as of Wednesday morning, the Panthers have not placed a player on the reserve/COVID-19 list. The measures are simply precautionary. Carolina are scheduled to practice at 1:45 p.m. ET on Wednesday.
NFL Network's Tom Pelissero notes the precautions include daily POC testing, all virtual meetings and mandatory PPE use in practice.
These are the same precautions the Minnesota Vikings took after the outbreak in Tennessee. Minnesota had no positive tests.
To date, Pelissero noted, there has been no evidence of transmission between players on opposing teams during a game.
QBs: Sam Darnold, Phillip Walker
RBs: Christian McCaffrey, Chuba Hubbard, Royce Freeman
WRs: D.J. Moore, Robby Anderson, Terrace Marshall Jr., Brandon Zylstra, Shi Smith
TEs: Dan Arnold, Ian Thomas, Colin Thompson, Tommy Tremble
Chicago BearsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 13 October 2020
According to the Associated Press, head coach Matt Nagy unloaded on the Chicago Bears' struggling offense, venting about incorrect route running, breakdowns in blocking technique and missed opportunities for quarterback Nick Foles in the win over Tampa Bay on Thursday night.
It was an unusual tone for the usually upbeat Nagy. But he was clearly agitated a day after the Bears beat Tom Brady and the Buccaneers 20-19.
"The details right now in this offense are not there," he said Friday. "So that's our job as coaches to make sure that we get these freakin' details right. It's as simple as that."
Nagy is thrilled that the Bears are 4-1, their best start since the 2012 team won seven of its first eight games. But the margin between 4-1 and 1-4 or even 0-5 is a thin one.
The Bears once again had to rally from a double-digit deficit, this time after falling behind 13-0 in the first half. They joined seven other NFL teams with three victories in the first five games after trailing by 10 or more, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
Chicago also staged two big fourth-quarter rallies to win in Weeks 1 and 3, rallying from 17 down at Detroit and wiping out a 16-point deficit at Atlanta. In between, they nearly blew a 17-point lead against the New York Giants.
But while those three teams are a combined 1-11, beating Brady and the NFC South-leading Buccaneers at least lends the Bears some credibility. They just need to get more from the offense. And their coach is not happy.
"You need to do everything exactly the way it is supposed to be done," Nagy said. "So if that means running a route at five steps and not three steps, or if that means running a route at three steps and not seven steps, that has to happen. If it means to set a certain way and block somebody, that's what that means. If it means to throw on a certain time with your feet, do that. If it means to make the right play call at the right time, then do that as coaches. Meaning myself.
"And so we're all in this thing together. But I refuse to allow this happen."
His players don't necessarily disagree.
"I think everybody should be fired up about that," Allen Robinson said. "That's what also makes the players that we have in this locker room special, is we don't have any complacency. None of our quarterbacks are complacent. Our receivers aren't complacent. Nobody is walking around here satisfied.
"Yeah, we fortunately have started 4-1. It's tough to win in this league. But at the end of the day, we're not sitting back waiting on praise or thinking that we have arrived or anything like that. We know we have a long way to go, and we also know the capability [of the offense] if we reach that point and if we are the offense we say we want to be. So again, everyone should be fired up around the offense."
Against the Bucs, facing a dominant front for the second time in five days, the Bears again could not get their ground game going. They ran for 35 yards Thursday after managing 28 rushing in a loss to Indianapolis. By comparison, they had 414 yards through the first three games. And that production in the run helped set up the play-action game.
It's not hard to see why Nagy is frustrated. After all, the Bears are averaging 21 points and rank near the bottom of the league in total offense and rushing as well as yards per pass. They haven't scored a point in the third quarter this season.
And on two full possessions plus one that stretched into the fourth, the Bears managed just 39 yards. Chicago faced third-and-long situations on its first two drives of the quarter and was forced to punt.
They'll be looking to improve on all those things in a meeting with the Panthers in Carolina on Sunday. ...
In a related note. ... ESPN.com's Jeff Dickerson believes David Montgomery to continue playing 80 percent of the snaps, as he has the past two weeks. The Bears drafted Montgomery to be a heavy-volume contributor. They've yet to treat him in that manner and it would be great if they did. But as noted above, more snaps does not necessarily mean higher fantasy value, in this circumstance.
On the injury front. ... The Bears placed offensive lineman James Daniels on injured reserve. He was replaced by Alex Bars. Nagy had no update on safeties Deon Bush and Sherrick McManis, who missed the game because of hamstring injuries, or kicker Eddy Pineiro (groin). He is on injured reserve and has not played this season.
Meanwhile, the Bears kept all of their practice squad players home and altered Monday's schedule following practice squad offensive lineman Badara Traore's positive COVID-19 test over the weekend, Dickerson reported.
"We were scheduled to have [a high-tempo] practice where we're going pretty fast and we have got everyone here, but we kept our practice squad players for preventative measure, we kept them at home, so they're not even in the building today," Nagy said. "What happens when you don't have your practice squad players is now you don't have guys and numbers to run your [high-tempo] practice."
As of Monday, Nagy anticipated practice squad players returning to the building for Wednesday's practice -- the Bears are off on Tuesday -- but acknowledges that everything is subject to change as the club undergoes daily testing.
Nagy added that Traore -- an undrafted rookie out of LSU -- appears to be OK.
QBs: Justin Fields, Nick Foles, Andy Dalton
RBs: David Montgomery, Damien Williams, Khalil Herbert, Tarik Cohen
WRs: Allen Robinson, Darnell Mooney, Damiere Byrd, Marquise Goodwin, Breshad Perriman
TEs: Cole Kmet, Jimmy Graham, Jesse James, J.P. Holtz, Jesper Horsted
Cincinnati BengalsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 13 October 2020
As Associated Press sports writer David Ginsburg reported, there was no place Joe Burrow could go to escape. The Bengals rookie shuffled in the pocket, squirmed toward the sideline and, on a few occasions, simply tried to duck.
Everywhere he went, there always seemed to be some guy in a purple jersey poised to drop him to the turf.
Coming off three straight 300-yard games, Burrow ran into a relentless defense that made him look very much like a first-year player Sunday. Notching seven sacks and forcing the top overall pick in the 2019 draft into a pair of turnovers, the Baltimore Ravens smothered Cincinnati 27-3.
If there was ever any question, the 3-hour horror show indicated just how far the Bengals -- and their prized rookie -- have to go before they can compete against the NFL's top clubs.
"Personally, I got to get the ball out of my hands faster," Burrow said. "I wasn't very accurate today, which is disappointing to me. I thought we had a great week of practice that didn't carry over."
After becoming the first rookie in NFL history to sling together three consecutive 300-yard games, Burrow went 19 for 39 for 183 yards with a lost fumble and an interception.
Not surprisingly, he was worse under pressure. According to NFL Next Gen, Burrow was 1-of-6 passing when he was under pressure for 11 yards and an interception.
"That's a tough aggressive defense. I've seen them do that a lot to a lot of quarterbacks in this league," head coach Zac Taylor said. "It's just one of those performances early in the season you're going to have and you've got to learn from, and I'm very confident he'll do that."
Burrow has spent the first part of the season learning how to read defenses and simply stay in one piece. He's been sacked 22 times, including eight in Philadelphia. On Sunday, seven different Baltimore players each had a sack.
"We know how to handle pressure from a defense," Burrow said. "We've handled it the last three or four weeks. We just didn't handle it very well today."
That's because the Ravens were coming from all sorts of angles, and just about anyone and everyone was poised to attack on any given play.
Burrow can only hope this experience will help him avoid a similar debacle.
"I consider myself a playmaker and I didn't make any today that brought us down the field," he said.
Burrow also conceded: "I did hold the ball a little too long sometimes."
The Bengals couldn't run the ball, either. Joe Mixon, who rushed for 151 yards last week in a win over Jacksonville, was limited to 59 yards on 24 carries.
"Holding Mixon low on the rushing, that's a big heavy duty task and we did a good job at that," Harbaugh said.
After amassing 505 yards and 33 points against the Jaguars, Cincinnati could muster only 205 yards -- much of it in the fourth quarter when the outcome was already decided.
A field goal with 32 seconds remaining enabled the Bengals to avoided being blanked.
Still, the coach isn't displeased.
"I think we've made great progress these past couple of weeks," Taylor insisted. "We're not going to hit the panic button because it's one game. This is not indicative of what we want to put on the field."
What they do want to put on the field is just about anything but this.
"We left a lot out there," receiver Tyler Boyd said. "That's the worst performance of the offense that we ever displayed, and I can tell that will never happen again."
As ESPN.com's Ben Baby summed up, "Sunday was a sobering reminder of what it will take for Burrow to succeed in the NFL. And it also shined a light on how far Cincinnati is from being competitive in the AFC North."
The Ravens travel to Philadelphia, their last game before taking a rescheduled bye on Oct. 25.
Other notes of interest. ... Wide receiver A.J. Green left the game before halftime with a hamstring injury, but it's not clear if he aggravated the same one that took him out of most of training camp It's also not clear if he was venting on the sidelines as people tried to read his lips off the TV. Taylor said that would be news to him.
"A.J. is nothing but positive," Taylor said.
For just the fourth time in his 116 games Green left with no catches, all games that he sustained an injury. It caps a miserable first five games for him with just 14 catches on the season and none longer than 15 yards. With just one catch last week for three yards, it's the first time in his career he's had just one catch in two straight games.
The only time Burrow targeted him came on a blitz and he threw it over his head on a ball cornerback Marcus Peters picked off. Taylor said the fault is on the ball being thrown and not Green's inability to contest it.
"I was standing right there and I don't think (Green) could have made that play," Taylor said. "He probably didn't even know where the ball was, to be quite honest with you."
I'll be following up on Green's status via Late-Breaking Update in coming days.
In addition, DT D.J. Reader was carted from the field in the third quarter with a left knee injury. The team placed Reader on injured reserve on Monday and, in a corresponding move, the Bengals signed free agent Xavier Williams.
QBs: Joe Burrow, Brandon Allen
RBs: Joe Mixon, Samaje Perine, Chris Evans
WRs: Ja'Marr Chase, Tee Higgins, Tyler Boyd, Auden Tate, Stanley Morgan Jr., Mike Thomas
TEs: C.J. Uzomah, Drew Sample
Cleveland BrownsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 13 October 2020
Baker Mayfield only injured his ribs in Sunday's win over the Indianapolis Colts, a victory that pushed surprising Cleveland to 4-1 for the first time in 26 years.
Head coach Kevin Stefanski said Monday that Mayfield is "sore" but that his injury is specific to the ribs.
After getting X-rays, the third-year QB had mentioned his right wrist as taking a hit.
Stefanski seems optimistic that Mayfield, who was checked in the medical tent during the fourth quarter, will play next Sunday when the Browns (4-1) visit unbeaten Pittsburgh (4-0). Cleveland has lost 16 straight games at Heinz Field.
"I think he's going to fight through this," Stefanski said. "But we'll be smart."
Asked if he thought he could play through his rib injury Sunday at Pittsburgh, Mayfield responded: "Oh, yeah. Mama didn't raise no wuss."
Mayfield was on the practice field Wednesday, working on a limited basis. Jarvis Landry (ribs, hip) was not practicing Wednesday.
I'll obviously be following up on this via Late-Breaking Update throughout the week. ...
The Browns' secondary took another hit as safety Ronnie Harrison, who returned an interception for a touchdown on Sunday, was placed in concussion protocol. Harrison started for Karl Joseph after he injured his hamstring in practice last week.
Also, Stefanski said cornerback Greedy Williams will be placed on injured reserve with a nerve injury in his shoulder. Williams, a second-round pick in 2019, missed his fifth straight game with an injury the team didn't think was very serious when he got hurt in training camp.
"He is working so hard in rehab, but just the docs thought it was best to shut him down, see how it responds," Stefanski said. "No surgery required at this point. There's a potential that he's back this year, we just don't know."
Right guard Wyatt Teller strained his right calf against the Colts and is "week to week," Stefanski said.
Mayfield threw two first-half touchdowns while helping the Browns build a 27-10 lead. However, he struggled in the second half and completed just 2 of 9 passes for 19 yards. Afterward, he said it was his worst game this season.
"I like that he's hard on himself," said Stefanski, adding he could have done a better job with play calling. "He wants to be great."
Meanwhile, the last time the Browns won four of their first five games to start a season, Bill Belichick was their head coach. Stefanski hadn't even entered high school.
With Sunday's 32-23 victory, Cleveland moved to 4-1 for the first time since 1994. The Browns went on to finish 11-5 that season to make the playoffs, defeating New England in the wild-card round. But following a losing season a year later, then-owner Art Modell relocated the franchise to Baltimore and fired Belichick.
Sunday at FirstEnergy Stadium, Cleveland delivered one of its biggest victories since.
Cody Parkey's game-clinching, 46-yard field goal with 21 seconds to go gave Cleveland 30-plus points for a fourth consecutive game for the first time since 1968.
"Very special," Landry said of the Browns' four-game winning streak. "We continue to take strides each and every week."
Cleveland returned to the NFL in 1999 -- one year before Belichick took over the Patriots -- but has made the playoffs only once since. The Browns own the league's longest active postseason drought at 18 years.
"I think we have a ways to go," said Stefanski, who already has more wins in a month as Cleveland's head coach than the Browns had combined from 2015 to 2017. "We're in this to win it. We know that. Every week we're trying to win these games, and they're going to be hard. ... But we'll celebrate this one first."
Other notes of interest. ... With Nick Chubb missing the first game of a number to come, Kareem Hunt played 50 snaps, his most of the season. D'Ernest Johnson was next up with 22.
Cleveland finished with 124 rushing yards, the team's lowest output of the season. By comparison, the Browns averaged 118 rushing yards per game and 2019 and ranked 12th in the NFL with that total.
But Hunt's six touchdowns this season are the most by a Browns player through five games since Gary Collins in 1969. ...
Receiver Rashard Higgins saw, by far, his most playing time of the season as Cleveland's third wide receiver. He was on the field for 40 snaps and finished with three catches for 31 yards and a touchdown.
In his first game back from injured reserve, David Njoku played 21 snaps.
And finally. ... The Browns got tricky again as wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. completed an 18-yard pass to tight end Austin Hooper.
Last week, Beckham caught a TD pass thrown by Landry.
QBs: Baker Mayfield, Case Keenum
RBs: Nick Chubb, Kareem Hunt, Demetric Felton, D'Ernest Johnson
WRs: Odell Beckham, Donovan Peoples-Jones, Anthony Schwartz, Rashard Higgins, Jarvis Landry
TEs: Austin Hooper, David Njoku, Harrison Bryant
Dallas CowboysCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 13 October 2020
Dak Prescott was hospitalized with a right ankle compound fracture and dislocation that he suffered on a third-quarter run against the New York Giants on Sunday. The star Dallas Cowboys quarterback was forced to leave the game on a cart and in tears.
On Monday, Stephen Jones didn't have to hear the end of the question.
Asked if Prescott's serious ankle injury could impact the team's long-term plans at the quarterback position, the Cowboys chief operating officer's answer was emphatic.
"Absolutely not. Absolutely not. He's our future," Jones told 105.3 The Fan. "If anyone can overcome anything it's Dak. This is something that our doctors feel good that he'll overcome and come back better than ever."
Prescott had successful surgery Sunday night to repair a right ankle compound fracture and dislocation suffered during a 9-yard run in the third quarter of the Cowboys' win over the Giants.
Jones said it's premature to set a firm recovery timetable for Prescott's injury, but the team feels great about him "totally overcoming it and be ready to go next year."
"We feel very good that he can come back better and stronger than ever," Jones said.
Prescott is currently on the one-year, $31.5 million franchise tag, but he and the Cowboys have said repeatedly they want to reach a long-term deal after the season.
As Jones said, that feeling has not changed.
Veteran Andy Dalton now steps in at quarterback as the Cowboys (2-3) look to maintain their slim NFC East lead. Sunday, Dalton completed 9 of 11 passes for 111 yards and directed the winning 72-yard field goal drive in the final 53 seconds.
Asked about the Cowboys' backup quarterback situation with Dalton moving up the depth chart, Jones said, "Right now it's rookie Ben DiNucci. And I'll go back to it again: we're always looking at player acquisition 365 days a year and we'll continue to do that."
They did. The Cowboys subsequently signed quarterback Garrett Gilbert off the Browns practice squad.
Teammates realized what they're up against now.
"It sucks. Yeah it sucks," Elliott said after the game. "I know we won; it just sucks to lose Dak, our leader. And I was talking to the guys and it's going to take all of us. It's going to take all of us to fill that void that we're going to be missing from 4. Just gotta go out there and play for him."
Added linebacker Jaylon Smith: "Devastating when you lose your No. 1. It's really words can't explain. I know how it feels. I've experienced it myself. But I know Dak's a fighter. We came in together as rookies and built a great relationship. One thing I know about him, he gonna fight. Just looking forward to hearing his voice. Gotta hear him."
Prescott was off to a record-setting start to the season, with three consecutive games passing for at least 450 yards. He entered the week with 1,690 passing yards, an NFL best and the most by a Cowboys quarterback through four games in team history.
Prescott's injury adds to a growing list for the Cowboys.
Defensive tackle Gerald McCoy, who signed a three-year, $18 million deal as a free agent, suffered a season-ending torn quadriceps on the first day of padded practices in the summer.
The Cowboys (2-3) either have or have had nine starters or significant contributors on injured reserve this season, including Pro Bowl left tackle Tyron Smith (neck), Sean Lee (sports hernia/pelvis), Leighton Vander Esch (collarbone), La'el Collins (hip), Blake Jarwin (knee), Chidobe Awuzie (hamstring), Anthony Brown (ribs), Joe Looney (knee) and Cameron Erving (knee).
And there was another brutal injury Sunday. An MRI confirmed starting defensive tackle Trysten Hill suffered a torn ACL. Hill's season is over.
The Cowboys signed Dalton, 32, to a free-agent deal worth $3 million guaranteed and up to $7 million after a nine-year run as the Cincinnati Bengals' starting quarterback. Dalton took the Bengals to the playoffs four times but was unable to win a postseason game.
"Yeah it's one of those things where you never want anything to happen but you have to stay ready and so that's what I've done, I've stayed ready," he said after Sunday's game. "I've been ready to go into these games and you want to have the opportunity to play."
The previous time the Cowboys lost their franchise quarterback to injury in-game came in 2015, when Tony Romo suffered a re-break of his right collarbone against the Carolina Panthers on Nov. 26, 2015. Romo suffered the initial break in a Week 2 win against the Philadelphia Eagles.
The Cowboys finished that season with a 4-12 record, starting four different quarterbacks -- Romo, Brandon Weeden, Matt Cassel and Kellen Moore.
Romo was on the national call for CBS for Sunday's game.
For what it's worth, NFL Network's Bucky Brooks believes Dalton is good enough.
Dalton proved his worth against the Giants with a handful of pinpoint throws and a superbly directed two-minute drill that set up the game-winning field goal. Although Dalton isn't on the same level as Prescott as a playmaker and passer, he is good enough to win games with a five-star supporting cast on the perimeter and a dominant running back behind him.
Offensive coordinator Kellen Moore will need to tweak his game plans to suit the QB2's talents while also take a more conservative approach but the Cowboys should be able to compete for the
For example, the Cowboys wisely put the ball in Elliott's hands early in the game despite facing a significant deficit in the first quarter. The team turned to their "ground-and-pound" approach to regain control of the game. After Prescott's injury, the Cowboys upped the ante and made the No.21 the focal point of the game plan.
The All-Pro runner responded with effort that showed the football world that he is still capable of carrying the load as an old school workhorse.
Also according to Brooks, CeeDee Lamb is as good as advertised.
Lamb is the second player in NFL history with at least five catches in the first five games of his career, joining Terry Glenn (1996).
The rookie was viewed as the No.1 receiver in the 2020 class by several executives, scouts, and observers when he entered the draft out of Oklahoma. Lamb is as good as advertised as a playmaker in the passing game. He can win as a route runner or deliver splash plays as a "catch-and-run" specialist with explosive running skills.
He quietly posted his second 100-yard game of the season on an assortment of short and intermediate plays that showcased his dynamic skills, leading Dallas with eight catches for 124 yards.
With Lamb capable of taking over the game at any point, the Cowboys effectively countered the Giants' attempt to neutralize Amari Cooper on the outside. ...
One last note here. ... The mistakes on special teams are piling up. The Cowboys got away with one when there were completely fooled on a fake field goal for a touchdown. The play was nullified by an illegal shift penalty. Dallas later had too many men on the field on a New York punt, allowing the Giants to try Graham Gano's 54-yard field goal, which was good.
QBs: Dak Prescott, Cooper Rush, Will Grier
RBs: Ezekiel Elliott, Tony Pollard, Corey Clement
WRs: Amari Cooper, CeeDee Lamb, Cedrick Wilson, Noah Brown, Simi Fehoko, Michael Gallup
TEs: Blake Jarwin, Dalton Schultz
Denver BroncosCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 13 October 2020
When Head Coach Vic Fangio addressed the Broncos early in training camp, he told his team that they needed to be prepared for a season that would require improvisation and adjustments.
On Sunday morning, the Broncos were informed of the first major adjustment of the season, as their Week 5 game against the Patriots was postponed.
"I knew it was a possibility," Fangio said Sunday. "It's just part of the COVID season here that we're playing this season, in that there's going to be adjustments that have to be made. They're going to happen late, they're going to happen when you might not be prepared. I was prepared for this. We're just going to roll with the punches and adjust."
The Broncos' game was initially shifted from Sunday, Oct. 11 to Monday, Oct. 12, but after another reported positive test surfaced in New England, the NFL informed the Broncos their game would be further postponed. Fangio said he received word of the postponement around 6:45-7 a.m. on Sunday and was aware two days ago that a further delay could be possible.
"Well, all this stuff is going to seem unfair when you're initially hit with it," Fangio said. "We've prepared for a game and the game first got moved one day and now it's getting moved totally. It's going to seem unfair and you're going to ask why we're doing this, but my message to them and to anybody is we were inconvenienced by this, but it very easily could've been flipped around to where we had the positive test and the Patriots were inconvenienced by it. I'm happy that the positive tests weren't in our building, but I'm under no illusion that at some point we might have a positive test or two and be the cause of a game getting moved down the road.
"We're all in this together, the entire league is. We compete like hell on Sundays to beat each other, but ultimately we're all in this thing together. It doesn't matter who's at fault or who had the positive test, we all just have to deal with it."
Fangio said the Broncos have not received a "concrete" updated schedule, but ESPN's Adam Schefter reported the Broncos will likely play the Patriots on Sunday, Oct. 18. Denver is scheduled to host Miami in Week 6, so playing the Patriots would have scheduling consequences. It is expected that Week 5 will now serve as Denver's bye week.
The Broncos will alter their schedule over the next several days, as the players will be off on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday.
"I haven't decided exactly yet how practice will be next week starting on Wednesday," Fangio said. "I'm undecided at this point. Get some more facts in hand, and by Wednesday we'll let them know."
When the Broncos do return to the practice field, Fangio said he believes his team will be able to adjust to the inconvenience of the rescheduled game.
"I. ... Think professional athletes -- and professional football players, in particular -- handle adversity very well," Fangio said. "When the schedule has to change, the routine has to change. They all take a deep breath, take a sigh, analyze it and we move on it. We all do like our routines, me being one of them. Most coaches, most players like the routine. They like to know what's happening weeks in advance, but that's not going to be the case this year. I think we've all accepted that and in the long run, although it's going to be an inconvenience and rocky along the way, we'll all be better off for it."
And while a few Broncos players expressed their disappointment and frustration on Twitter -- largely in reaction to the Broncos' shifted bye week ("Mann we ain't even do anything" tweeted linebacker Bradley Chubb on Sunday, and running back Melvin Gordon chimed in with, "Ain't no way we practiced all week and they canceled our game.") -- Fangio said he's been impressed with the way his team has handled the challenges of playing a season during the COVID-19 pandemic.
"I think our players have done great," Fangio said. "They've been cooperative. It's been an inconvenience for everybody, and sometimes what we're asking them to do or what not to do seems trivial and seems unnecessary, but when you're dealing with what we're dealing with, you have to go to those extremes. Those guys have accepted and moved on and -- knock on wood -- up to this point we've been free of the virus in this building. There's no guarantee that we'll be able to keep that streak going, but we're going to try like hell to. ..."
Fangio said Sunday that Drew Lock was "progressing well" from a shoulder injury that has kept him out since the Broncos' Week 2 game in Pittsburgh. And though he was listed as questionable for Monday's previously scheduled game in New England, Fangio indicated it was unlikely Lock would have started.
"I don't think he would've played if we had played tomorrow, although I do think in some ways he could have," Fangio said.
Fangio said Lock did not receive many first-team reps as he practiced for the first time since his injury ahead of Week 5. Brett Rypien, who won his first career start against the Jets, would have been the team's starter in Lock's absence.
Fangio said the Broncos will now evaluate Lock's progress over the next three days. The Broncos' players will be off Sunday, Monday and Tuesday, and Fangio said he would "get some more facts in hand" before deciding how the team's practices would be formatted during the rest of the week.
"We'll see how he progresses the next 72 hours, how much better he gets and go from there," Fangio said.
That Lock practiced fully on Wednesday is a good indication that Lock will return, however. ...
Beyond that, we'll have to see what the extra week does for tight end Noah Fant, who wouldn't have been able to play this past weekend due to an ankle injury, and K.J. Hamler, who would have missed with a hamstring. Fant's injury was initially believed to be one that sidelined him for multiple weeks.
Phillip Lindsay, however, was set to return from a toe injury and seems all but certain to do so this week.
I'll have more on all the walking wounded via Late-Breaking Update in coming days, but we'll also be watching another issue.
This after Gordon was cited late Tuesday with driving under the influence by the Denver Police Department, court and police documents show.
According to 9News.com, Gordon was also ticketed for speeding between 25 mph and 39 mph over the limit. He is expected to be arraigned in Denver County Court on Friday, Nov. 13. The Broncos leave the next day for a game against the Raiders in Las Vegas.
The Broncos had the past three days off but were slated to resume practice Wednesday for their game Sunday at New England. Gordon is coming off his best game since he signed a two-year, $16 million contract with the Broncos in March. His 43-yard touchdown run late in the Broncos' game against the New York Jets clinched a 37-28 win, Denver's first of the season.
Gordon, 27, finished that win at MetLife Stadium in New Jersey with 107 yards on 23 carries. Based on how the league has disciplined prior DUI incidents with other players, Gordon could be facing a two- or three-game suspension from the league.
Fangio told reporters on Wednesday that he sent Gordon home for Wednesday and the running back's status for this weekend would be determined in the next two days.
I'll obviously have more on this as developments warrant.
QBs: Teddy Bridgewater, Drew Lock
RBs: Javonte Williams, Melvin Gordon, Mike Boone
WRs: Courtland Sutton, Tim Patrick, K.J. Hamler, Diontae Spencer, Jerry Jeudy
TEs: Noah Fant, Albert Okwuegbunam, Andrew Beck, Eric Saubert
Detroit LionsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 13 October 2020
The Detroit Lions had a lot of time to work on desperately needed improvements before playing at Jacksonville.
The Lions are among the NFL teams with an early bye, idling them last week in the Motor City to practice and get tested for the coronavirus as part of the league's protocol.
The break gave the players an opportunity to recover while head coach Matt Patricia and his staff try to figure out how to possibly turn around the season.
For at least one veteran, Detroit's bye is ill-timed.
"I want to go back out there and fix it," safety Duron Harmon said Monday.
Clearly, there's a lot to fix.
Detroit (1-3) built a two-touchdown lead in the opening minutes Sunday against New Orleans and collapsed on both sides of the ball as the Saints marched on offense, got stingy on defense and scored 35 straight points. Under Patricia, the Lions have become the league's first team to lose six straight games -- dating to last season -- in which they led by double digits.
Detroit is also one of two teams in NFL history, joining the 2011 Minnesota Vikings, to drop three of its first four games in a season after leading by at least 10 points in each setback.
"It's not on the coaches," Harmon insisted. "We're paid millions of dollars to play football at a high level and if you're not playing at a high level, you're not doing your job."
Patricia's job is in jeopardy as a first-time NFL head coach with 10-25-1 record in his third season. His predecessor, Jim Caldwell, went 36-28 with two playoff appearances in four seasons. Patricia was retained for 2020 after ownership made it clear that contending for the postseason was an expectation.
Patricia said he meets with team owner Sheila Ford Hamp each week, but declined to share much about their conversations.
"Those conversations are in house," he said.
The Lions have scored first in each of their four games, including on the opening drive the past three weeks. Offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell appears to have the offense prepared to play each week, setting them up to start strong. But they would benefit from Matthew Stafford turning it up a notch or two.
While many quarterbacks across the NFL have been racking up passing stats over the first five weeks of the season, Stafford hasn't been able to manage the same level of production.
Stafford missed the second half of last season due to a fractured back that brought a premature end to one of the best seasons of his 11-year career. Now back in the lineup for year No. 12, Bevell said Stafford's back isn't an issue for him at the moment. Instead, Bevell says some issues with his footwork need to be cleaned up to get Stafford back in full form.
"I think there's a lot of things that really go into (how he's played this year)," Bevell said, via Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press. "But I think when you simplify it as easy you can for the quarterback, I had a small conversation with him about it, I think it usually goes back to your feet, because your feet really tell you the story. Your feet is what gets you through your progressions, gets you through the play, and I think that we can continue (to get better there)."
Stafford isn't playing terrible football, but he isn't excelling either in a year where offenses are burning out the scoreboards. In four games this season, Stafford has thrown for 1,017 yards and eight touchdowns with three interceptions and has a 93.8 passer rating. While the Lions have played one fewer game than most of the league at this stage, Stafford ranks 16th in passing yards per game among quarterbacks with at least four starts. He also ranks 18th in passer rating and his completion percentage of 60.6 percent is in the bottom third of starters.
But Bevell was insistent that there have been no concerns about Stafford's back issues lingering or being a problem.
"That hasn't been brought up even once this year," he said. ...
The issues on offense also include Marvin Jones Jr. coming up short. The return of standout receiver Kenny Golladay in Week 3 has not opened up opportunities for Jones, who was limited to one catch for 9 yards against the Saints and three receptions in the win at Arizona.
The wide receiver just hasn't had that big-game pop people are used to yet.
As ESPN.com's Michael Rothstein notes, Jones has had stretches like this almost every season with the Lions, including the final games he played in before injury in 2019 -- when he didn't have more than five catches for 46 yards in a game. So far this season he has topped 50 yards twice. His targets have been somewhat down, but they are not grossly out of line from the majority of his games in the past.
Where he's potentially getting hurt is the emergence of tight end T.J. Hockenson as an all-field threat. Rothstein believes Jones will have good games this season. It wouldn't shock Rothstein to see Jones have one in the next couple of weeks.
But if you look at the span of his time in Detroit, these statistical stretches are not out of the ordinary.
QBs: Jared Goff, David Blough
RBs: D'Andre Swift, Jamaal Williams, Jermar Jefferson
WRs: Quintez Cephus, Kalif Raymond, Amon-Ra St. Brown, Trinity Benson, KhaDarel Hodge, Tyrell Williams
TEs: T.J. Hockenson, Darren Fells
Green Bay PackersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 13 October 2020
Aaron Rodgers has his offense clicking at an impressive rate.
The Packers have scored at least 30 points in every game so far this season, a feat that bodes well based on history.
Since 1990, only nine teams before this season had scored at least 30 points in each of their first four games. Seven of those nine teams made it to the Super Bowl, but only Washington won it all in the 1991 season. The other two made the playoffs.
The Rams in 2018, Broncos in 2013 and Patriots in 2011 are the last three teams to do it and they all ended the season as runners-up.
Rodgers and the Packers have fared well even without some of their top downfield threats in the fold all four weeks.
That includes Davante Adams and Allen Lazard.
Adams was listed as questionable to play in Week 4 against the Falcons, but wound up not playing in the Green Bay victory.
Adams didn't sound thrilled about that decision as he was able to practice in a limited fashion in the days leading up to the game, but the Packers opted to give him their bye week to continue healing ahead of their Week 6 game against the Buccaneers.
It looks like all's going according to plan on that front.
The Packers returned from their bye with a practice on Monday and Rob Demovsky of ESPN.com reports that Adams took part in the session.
Demovsky reports that linebacker Rashan Gary, tight end Marcedes Lewis, and defensive back Chandon Sullivan also took part in the practice. Gary and Lewis did not play in Week 4 while Sullivan was hurt in the win over Atlanta.
Lazard will likely miss another two to four weeks following core muscle surgery.
Meanwhile, tight end Robert Tonyan has scored in each of his last three games and has five touchdown catches, one behind NFL leader Mike Evans of Tampa Bay. He's a major reason why the Packers are unbeaten.
"Constantly I'm thinking about making plays, all day," Tonyan said. "Whether I'm at home on my couch, sitting, I'm just thinking about making plays, just playing the game over and over in my head. I think the game has slowed down for me and is coming to me a lot easier."
Tonyan made those comments after catching six passes for 98 yards and three touchdowns -- all career highs -- against the Falcons.
Tonyan now is the first Packers tight end in the Super Bowl era to have five touchdown catches through the first four games of a season.
"There are a lot of things I want to keep improving on and getting better at and change, but being mentally at peace when I go out on that field, it's so relieving," Tonyan said. "That's really like my getaway, is just to get out on that field and play football and be happy."
Head coach Matt LaFleur notes that Tonyan has become more than just a pass-catching threat.
"I love his mentality right now," LaFleur said. "He's willing to stick his face in there and become a better run blocker, as well."
LaFleur pointed out how Tonyan reshaped his body and "came back bigger, stronger, faster."
Meanwhile, as ESPN's Field Yates notes, Jamaal Williams is a really steady player for the Green Bay offense and an exceptional pass-catcher, as he picked up eight catches in Week 4 to go along with eight rushing attempts.
He's not the touchdown scorer in the backfield, but a name to consider in deeper leagues and an insurance add in all leagues. We saw him carve out some fantasy utility in 2019, even when running behind Aaron Jones on the Green Bay depth chart. ...
The Packers got through their bye week without any COVID-related issues for players and football staff, according to LaFleur. But he added, "really you're never in the clear, especially where we're living," referring to the high case numbers in the Green Bay area.
One last note here. ... Tight end Josiah Deguara tore his ACL in Atlanta. .
"Unfortunately it looks to be a pretty bad one," LaFleur said. "We expect him to bounce back from it, and we still think he's got a really bright future."
Deguara was a third-round pick in April after playing college football at Cincinnati. Deguara played seven offensive snaps against the Falcons and didn't catch any passes. The lone reception of his rookie year was a 12-yard gain against the Vikings in the opener.
The Packers still have Tonyan, Marcedes Lewis, Jace Sternberger, and John Lovett at tight end.
QBs: Aaron Rodgers, Jordan Love
RBs: Aaron Jones, A.J. Dillon, Kylin Hill
WRs: Davante Adams, Randall Cobb, Allen Lazard, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Amari Rodgers, Malik Taylor
TEs: Robert Tonyan, Marcedes Lewis, Josiah Deguara
Houston TexansCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 13 October 2020
Less than a week after the Texans fired head coach and general manager Bill O'Brien, the team got its first victory of the season, beating the Jacksonville Jaguars 30-14.
According to ESPN.com's Sarah Barshop, interim head coach Romeo Crennel became the oldest coach to win a game after he took over for O'Brien this week, coaching in the game at 73 years and 115 days old. He is now 3-1 as an interim head coach in his career.
"I told them that they were better than their record showed going into the game. And I think they believed that, to a degree. And then they won the game, so now they might believe everything I tell them," Crennel said with a smile.
After he took over for O'Brien, Crennel said he wanted to see a different attitude and energy from his players. He said he got that on Sunday.
"I saw the fight during the course of the game," Crennel said. "I didn't see anybody going to the tank when things went wrong. They said, 'let's go, let's pick it up,' and then boom. And that's what they did. They picked it up and they fought all the way to the end."
Despite throwing two interceptions, quarterback Deshaun Watson's 359 passing yards were his most this season. It's also the first time he has thrown for more than 300 yards in the regular season since Week 7 of 2019.
"We wanted to set the tone from the jump and get myself in a rhythm, because as far as I go, the offense goes," Watson said.
A week after targeting Brandin Cooks only three times, Watson leaned on the veteran wide receiver. Cooks started the game with a 36-yard catch and had his best game with the Texans, finishing with eight catches for 161 yards and a touchdown on 12 targets.
"The reason he's here is because he has ability and has produced in this league, and so today we were able to see what he can do," Crennel said. "In the past four games, I know Deshaun has said when he made his read, Cooks wasn't there, but today Cooks was there and they connected, and then once they started connecting, you keep feeding him. He had a great game."
According to ESPN Stats and Information, Watson completed seven passes that traveled at least 15 yards downfield, his most since Week 16 of the 2018 season. Four of those were to Cooks. Entering the game, Cooks had three such catches all year.
Despite the huge game for Cooks, Watson spread the ball to eight different pass-catchers. Wide receiver Will Fuller, who had four catches for 58 yards and a touchdown, has now scored in three straight games.
Running back David Johnson, who was acquired in a trade for DeAndre Hopkins in March, also had his best game of the season, running for 96 yards on 17 carries, including a 30-yard rush that came as the Texans were trying to put away the game with less than two minutes remaining.
Houston also played much better against the run in the first game under Crennel, a former defensive coordinator. They entered the game allowing an NFL-worst 181.8 yards a game, but limited the Jaguars to 75 on Sunday.
Next up. ... The Texans visit the Titans on Sunday.
Also of interest. ... Asked about Duke Johnson on Tuesday, Crennel suggested an increased workload is possible.
"We know what Duke brings to the table," Crennel said. "We like what Duke brings to the table. Next week, Duke might be the guy who shows up more in the receiving game and running game as well."
I'll be watching for more on this. ...
One last note here. ... Darren Fells caught two passes for 57 yards and a touchdown against the Jags with Jordan Akins inactive coming off a concussion and dealing with an ankle injury.
Fells' touchdown was a 44-yard catch against broken coverage -- the Texans' longest play of the season. Rotoworld.com reports that Akins looks likely to be back the week, but Fells will remain a TD-dependent streaming option against the Titans.
QBs: Davis Mills, Jeff Driskel, Deshaun Watson, Tyrod Taylor
RBs: Mark Ingram, Phillip Lindsay, David Johnson, Rex Burkhead, Scottie Phillips
WRs: Brandin Cooks, Chris Conley, Anthony Miller, Danny Amendola, Nico Collins, Andre Roberts
TEs: Jordan Akins, Pharaoh Brown, Brevin Jordan
Indianapolis ColtsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 13 October 2020
As NFL.com framed it, "Philip Rivers played his worst game in a Colts jersey during Sunday's 32-23 loss to the Cleveland Browns. ..."
Rivers tossed a costly pick-six (the 25th interception returned for a touchdown in Rivers' 17-yard NFL career), struggled with pressure, took a massive safety on a throwaway in the end zone and threw another interception that essentially squelched any comeback attempt.
"The interception for a touchdown killed us," said Rivers said. "The other one, I wish had back as well. ... Obviously, the safety hurt as well. Give a good team, especially that offense, nine [points], and then our D really bowed up in the second half and played well enough to win. Offensively, we didn't do enough to win."
Rivers finished 21-of-33 passing for 243 yards and the two picks for a 60.5 passer rating. It was the first time in Indy he hadn't thrown a TD pass in a game.
Despite the struggles, head coach Frank Reich defended his veteran QB.
"You lose a game like this, and we all share in it," Reich said. "Everyone shares in it."
It's true that no loss is 100 percent on one player. The Colts' heretofore stifling defense allowed Cleveland to score on its first four possessions to take a double-digit lead. The O-line uncharacteristically gave up pressure. Nyheim Hines fair-caught a punt inside the 5-yard-line setting up the safety that made it a two-score game early in the fourth quarter after Indy fought back into the contest.
"Philip is playing really good football. That is the least of my worries," Reich said in defending his QB. "Philip is playing good football. You are going to have mistakes when you get in situations like that. I know we would want the interception back, but the safety, is on me.
"You take that away and you get that one mistake, in my mind, that was the big factor. That mistake was not the big factor, the safety, but the one big mistake with Philip was the interception. That is it."
No one expects Reich to blast his QB. Not after the veteran was imported specifically to upgrade the position.
Sunday's game, however, underscored the limitations of the 38-year-old.
Through the first four weeks, Rivers mostly played the good point guard, distributing the ball where it needed to go and moving the ball between the 20s. The lack of big plays and the red-zone struggles, however, underscored that the 17th-year-pro doesn't have the liveliest arm.
Rivers showed Sunday that, like his past few seasons in L.A., when he's pressured, prayer heaves turn into INTs. Per Next Gen Stats, Rivers was pressured on 10 of 34 dropbacks (29.4 percent). In Weeks 1-4, he was pressured on only 18.5 percent of dropbacks (6th-lowest in NFL). Against better pass rushes, the Colts will need to build a wall around Rivers or we're likely to see similar results to Sunday.
We saw the positives in the first four weeks to having an aging veteran who can get into the right play and manage an offense while leaning on a stout D. In Week 5, the negative showed up, and it cost the Colts.
As ESPN.com's Mike Wells put it, "The Colts can handle mistakes by their rookies and younger players. Having Rivers continue to make those kind of mistakes is inexcusable, especially if they expect to make the playoffs. ..."
Still, Reich reiterated his stance on Monday.
"No consideration for that," Reich said when asked about a quarterback change in a Monday conference call, via Mike Chappell of FOX 59. "Philip is our quarterback."
Rivers did make some history. He started his 229th consecutive game, tying him with Hall of Fame lineman Bruce Matthews for the second longest in league history. Brett Favre started 297 games in a row.
Rivers also became the fifth quarterback with 5,000 career completions, joining Favre, Drew Brees, Tom Brady and Peyton Manning.
Also of interest. ... Sunday was a significant test for the Colts defense. They were no longer facing the likes of the Jaguars, Jets or Bears, teams whose offenses have struggled this season. The Colts, who went into Sunday with the NFL's No. 1-ranked defense, were facing a team with a legitimate offense in the Browns.
Cleveland went into Sunday with the league's top rushing offense and a passing threat that featured receivers Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry.
The Colts didn't have All-Pro linebacker Darius Leonard (groin), but that's still no excuse for not forcing the Browns to punt until the fourth quarter or for giving up 284 yards of offense in the first half after giving up just 269 yards in four quarters to the Bears the previous week.
Cleveland finished with 385 yards and was 10-of-17 on third down. Sunday was just the first of several more tests the Colts will deal with this season.
They still have Baltimore (4-1), Green Bay (4-0), Pittsburgh (4-0) and two games against Tennessee (3-0) on the schedule this season.
If Sunday was a contender-or-pretender contest for the Colts defense, they looked more like pretenders against the Browns. They should be fine this week, however, as they host Cincinnati before their bye week.
As for the skill players. ... Mo Alie-Cox (knee) did not practice Wednesday. Alie-Cox and Jack Doyle have both fallen behind Trey Burton when it comes to opportunities.
QBs: Carson Wentz, Jacob Eason, Sam Ehlinger
RBs: Jonathan Taylor, Nyheim Hines, Marlon Mack, Jordan Wilkins
WRs: Michael Pittman Jr., Zach Pascal, Parris Campbell, Ashton Dulin, Mike Strachan, T.Y. Hilton
TEs: Jack Doyle, Mo Alie-Cox, Kylen Granson
Jacksonville JaguarsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 13 October 2020
Somehow, despite missing three starters and losing two more during the game, the Jaguars' defense cobbled together a respectable performance for much of the game against the Houston Texans.
But as ESPN.com's Mike DiRocco notes, the offense and special teams stumbled around in a 30-14 loss to the Texans at NRG Stadium.
Kicker Stephen Hauschka missed two field goals, running back James Robinson fumbled on a fourth-down play inside the 10-yard line, and Gardner Minshew lost another fumble. Both of those turnovers led to Texans touchdowns and it's just another week in which the Jaguars couldn't put together anything resembling a complete game.
But that's what bad teams do, and the Jaguars, at 1-4 after their fourth consecutive loss, are definitely a bad team.
"I'm pulling for these three phases to come together and we're working on that and we talk about that, but we're not able to do that, play in and play out right now," head coach Doug Marrone said. "And it's not like we don't have opportunities. There's opportunities out there. We just haven't been able to take advantage of it."
Even when LB Myles Jack, DE Josh Allen and CB CJ Henderson have been on the field, the Jaguars haven't been very good on defense, allowing opposing quarterbacks to complete 77 percent of their passes. But the offense, for the most part, had shown it was productive enough to win games.
And the Jaguars did compile 364 yards and Minshew threw for 301 yards (going back to 2019, the Jags are 0-5 when he throws for 300 or more yards), but it wasn't anywhere close to good enough because of the miscues. The Jaguars just don't have much margin for error.
Unfortunately, that's the one area in which they've been pretty consistent.
The Texans were last in the NFL in rush defense (181.8 yards per game) entering the weekend, but the Jaguars managed just 75 yards on the ground on Sunday. Robinson had 13 carries for 48 yards. The Jaguars did a good job of mixing things up in the first half, with Robinson running for 43 yards on eight carries, but falling behind by double digits again meant dumping the run game.
That's pretty much been the issue the past several weeks. They also fell behind against Miami and Cincinnati and got one-dimensional.
Robinson has been a pleasant surprise for the Jaguars and one of the league's best rookies. He's a tough runner with more elusiveness than expected and he's shown he's a good pass-catcher. The Jaguars just haven't given him the chance to grind clock with a lead in the fourth quarter.
With Houston and Atlanta already cleaning house, could Jacksonville be next?
As Associated Press sports writer Mark Long suggests, no one would be surprised after the team's latest disappointing start, which includes consecutive losses to three previously winless teams.
The Jaguars have allowed 30 or more points in four straight games for just the third time in franchise history. They also did it in 2013 and 2014, which were general manager Dave Caldwell's first two years and the start of a major rebuilding project.
He insisted that wasn't the case this time around, believing this team would surprise outsiders. Head coach Doug Marrone even suggested this group could be special.
Instead, the Jaguars look much more like what oddsmakers envisioned when they installed them as the longest of long shots to win the Super Bowl.
Jacksonville will try to end its four-game skid against Detroit on Sunday.
Other notes of interest. ... The Jaguars are changing kickers. Again.
Hauschka was released a day after he went 0-for-2 against the Texans.
The Jaguars also promoted kicker Jon Brown from the practice squad to the active roster. Brown will be the Jaguars' fourth kicker this year, following Hauschka, Josh Lambo and Brandon Wright.
They have already missed four field goal attempts this season. They missed two in 2019.
They could use Lambo (hip), but it's not clear when he'll return. ...
Rookie receiver Laviska Shenault, a second-round draft pick from Colorado, has 12 catches for 165 yards in the last two games. He's quickly becoming a dependable threat opposite D.J. Chark, who left Sunday's loss with a sprained ankle.
On the injury front. ... The Jaguars hope to get Allen, Jack and Henderson back against the Lions. Chark (ankle) was being re-evaluated Monday along with tight end Tyler Eifert (neck) and backup safety Andrew Wingard (core muscle).
Shenault, who has been nursing a tender hamstring in recent days, Chark and Eifert did not practice Wednesday; I'll follow up on all three as needed via Late-Breaking Update as the week progresses..
Everyone else on the previous injury report was slated to practice in some form - including Jack, Allen and Henderson. ...
The Jaguars designated RB Devine Ozigbo (hamstring) to return from injured reserve.
It opens a 21-day practice window for Ozigbo. Out since Week 1, Ozigbo will return as the early down backup to Robinson when healthy. ...
And finally. ... Hours after linebacker Kamalei Correa asked the Titans to trade him, the team obliged.
The Titans have traded Correa to the Jaguars, NFL Network reports.
QBs: Trevor Lawrence, C.J. Beathard
RBs: James Robinson, Carlos Hyde, Dare Ogunbowale
WRs: D.J. Chark, Marvin Jones, Laviska Shenault, Tyron Johnson, Jamal Agnew
TEs: Chris Manhertz, Jacob Hollister, Luke Farrell, James O'Shaughnessy
Kansas City ChiefsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 13 October 2020
As ESPN.com's Adam Teicher suggested, the Kansas City Chiefs can only hope that Sunday's visit to a very uncomfortable place is only temporary.
Their 40-32 loss to the Las Vegas Raiders suggested that the Chiefs will have to win a lot of shootouts in order to repeat as Super Bowl champions, earn the AFC's No. 1 playoff seed or even capture a fifth straight AFC West championship. Having to outscore opponents in high-scoring games was the story of the Chiefs 2018 season, when they lost regular-season games while scoring 51 and 40 points and the AFC title game while scoring 31.
On Sunday, the Chiefs allowed 490 yards of total offense against the Raiders, who had five plays of at least 40 yards. It was a regression for a defense that helped carry Kansas City through the latter part of the 2019 regular season.
Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs' offense couldn't keep up with the Las Vegas scoring.
The game was tied 24-24 at halftime but Mahomes threw his first interception of the season in the fourth quarter, leading to a Raiders touchdown.
The offense may have struggled in the third quarter, but it still showed how dynamic it can be in marching 75 yards in 1:29 for a fourth-quarter touchdown that gave them a chance. Eight players caught passes, Clyde Edwards-Helaire averaged a respectable 4 yards per carry and Mahomes still finished with 340 yards passing and two TDs.
Mahomes and the offense did all that despite a line that couldn't stop the Las Vegas defensive front, even though the Raiders almost never rushed more than four. Mahomes has shredded defenses that have tried to blitz him into mistakes, but the Raiders got enough pressure out of their base defense that it took much of the pressure off their secondary.
The Chiefs made a concerted effort to get Tyreek Hill more involved in the game plan. He had three catches for 78 yards and three carries for 15 yards and a score. He also caught a 58-yard TD pass that was wiped out by a holding penalty and nearly had a 72-yard touchdown catch -- a questionable no-call on pass interference caused him to drop it.
Mahomes is now 13-2 against AFC West opponents since becoming a starter. That ties him for the best record after the first 15 divisional games of a career since 1970. Kurt Warner, Andrew Luck and former Chiefs quarterback Steve Bono also were 13-2.
The only other loss for Mahomes against an AFC West rival came in 2018 against the Chargers. The Chiefs lost 29-28 on a touchdown and two-point conversion with 4 seconds left.
The Chiefs were supposed to visit Buffalo on Thursday night, but the NFL juggled the schedule Sunday because of COVID-19 protocols and pushed their game to next Monday night. That gives the Chiefs three extra days to fix the many issues that popped up against Las Vegas, including penalties -- they had 10 of them and two that wiped out touchdowns. ...
Worth noting, Mahomes lost a game by at least eight points as the starting quarterback for the first time since 2016, when he played at Texas Tech. The Red Raiders that day lost to Iowa State 66-10.
Tight end Travis Kelce had eight catches for 108 yards and a score, giving him 539 catches for his career and moving him past Dwayne Bowe for the second most in Chiefs history. Tony Gonzalez had 916 catches from 1997 to 2008.
On the injury front. ... Guard Kelechi Osemele, who already was replacing the opted-out Laurence Duvernay-Tardif, will miss the rest of the season after tearing ligaments in his right knee. Middle linebacker Anthony Hitchens spent much of the game in and out of the lineup because of a hand injury, and wide receiver Sammy Watkins left with a hamstring injury.
Watkins, who caught both of his targets for 24 yards and a touchdown before leaving, is expected to miss time, "possibly a couple weeks" with the injury that doctors still are evaluating, a source told ESPN's Adam Schefter.
I'll have more on his status via Late-Breaking Update as the week progresses.
And finally. ... There's been no word of any positive COVID-19 tests for the Chiefs since practice squad quarterback Jordan Ta'amu was placed on the list 10 days ago, but the team did put another player on the reserve/COVID-19 list on Tuesday.
The NFL's transaction wire showed that the team placed fullback Anthony Sherman on the list. The list is for players who test positive or have had close contact with someone who has been infected.
Albert Breer of SI.com reports that Sherman is on the list for the second reason. He'll continue to be tested and repeated negatives would likely lead to him coming off the list in the near future.
Sherman has played in every game for the Chiefs this season. He has caught a five-yard touchdown and run twice for two yards.
QBs: Patrick Mahomes, Chad Henne
RBs: Clyde Edwards-Helaire, Darrel Williams, Jerick McKinnon
WRs: Tyreek Hill, Mecole Hardman, Demarcus Robinson, Byron Pringle, Daurice Fountain, Marcus Kemp
TEs: Travis Kelce, Noah Gray, Blake Bell
Las Vegas RaidersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 13 October 2020
As ESPN.com's Paul Gutierrez reported, Derek Carr outplayed Patrick Mahomes to exorcise his Arrowhead Stadium demons, and the Las Vegas Raiders ended a seven-game losing streak in Kansas City to give the Super Bowl champion Chiefs their first loss since Nov. 10, 2019, with a 40-32 upset win Sunday.
The Raiders improved to 3-2 as they enter their bye week, while the Chiefs, who were 11-point favorites, fell to 4-1.
"I've taken a lot of sad walks up that ramp," Carr said. "But not today. I'm going to enjoy this one."
Carr, who entered the game having lost all six of his career games at Kansas City by an average score of 17 points, engineered an efficient, ball-control offense that showed just enough explosiveness to keep the Chiefs honest ... and off the field. Carr completed 22 of 31 passes for 347 yards with three touchdowns and an interception for a passer rating of 126.7. Carr, who also had two key fourth-down QB sneaks to convert first downs, became the first Raiders quarterback to throw for at least 300 yards at Arrowhead Stadium since Rich Gannon passed for 334 there in a 20-10 loss on Oct. 27, 2002.
"What we were able to do today, I'm so proud," said Carr, who also tied Hall of Famer Ken Stabler for the most three-TD passing games in franchise history with his 20th. "Lose two in a row, be able to play the world champs and be able to score some points and our defense getting the stops. I hope they give [Raiders defensive coordinator Paul] Guenther a lot of credit. He had a tough week; I've had tough weeks around here, too. It is what it is -- it's part of the business.
"Again, we have to be able to win football games against these guys to make it a rivalry. We haven't done that in a long time."
The Raiders' offense was buoyed by the return of speedy rookie receiver Henry Ruggs III, who missed the previous two games with hamstring and knee issues, and right tackle Trent Brown, who had only played in the first series of the season opener because of a right calf injury.
Carr had first-half touchdown passes of 59 and 72 yards to Nelson Agholor and Ruggs, respectively. He also hit Ruggs (two catches, 118 yards) for a 46-yard pickup.
Running back Josh Jacobs had two touchdown runs, and the Raiders led the time-of-possession battle by more than 10 minutes, 35:17-24:43.
A rested Las Vegas defense, criticized mightily of late, was able to keep Mahomes in check.
On this day, though, it was about Carr, who was playing at Arrowhead Stadium for the first time in a game not played in December or January.
"I'm just happy Derek got a big win," said Raiders coach Jon Gruden, "when it didn't look good early.
"I give Derek a lot of credit; he's been through a lot here as a Raider. This was certainly a big win for him and hopefully, we got a lot more big wins to come."
It was Carr's QB sneak on 4th and inches with 2 minutes to play at the Kansas City 44-yard line that sealed the win. And no, the normally conservative Gruden did not contemplate punting away.
"Not with [No.] 15 standing over there," Gruden said. "We just did not want to give Mahomes another crack at it. I marveled at a lot of the plays Derek made and I certainly marvel at what Mahomes is able to do. A lot of his offense is unscripted and very creative and created by him. Thank God we don't have to see them for a few weeks."
The AFC West rematch in Las Vegas is scheduled for Nov. 22.
QBs: Derek Carr, Marcus Mariota, Nathan Peterman
RBs: Josh Jacobs, Kenyan Drake, Peyton Barber
WRs: Henry Ruggs III, Bryan Edwards, Hunter Renfrow, Zay Jones, Willie Snead
TEs: Darren Waller, Foster Moreau, Derek Carrier, Nick Bowers
Los Angeles ChargersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 13 October 2020
Anthony Lynn's Chargers have played admirably in 2020, but have just one win to show for it in their first five weeks.
In the aftermath of Los Angeles' heartbreaking overtime loss to the New Orleans Saints, Lynn told reporters he "never thought" this team would lose four in a row. The fashion in which they've lost them, though, has been rather familiar, with each coming by a margin of one possession.
That was the tale of the 2019 Chargers as well, who lost nine of 11 games by one possession. But these Chargers -- who have seen all five of their games come down to one possession, and are 0-2 in overtime games -- are doing it in a different fashion. First, instead of hanging on to an over-the-hill veteran in Philip Rivers, they're competitive while running with rookie quarterback Justin Herbert, who is dazzling onlookers, including those who doubted him coming out of Oregon. And they're also doing it while dealing with a bevy of injuries.
Unfortunately for Lynn, the results are still the same. Moral victories don't count in the standings.
"It's frustrating because the guys are putting themselves in position to win these games and we're just not finishing the games," Lynn said late Monday night. "It's not one thing here or there -- I could give you a ton of excuses, but I'm not about excuses. At the end of the day, we've just got to get it done, and that's on me."
If Mike Badgley's field goal sneaks inside the right upright instead of clanging off of it, we're singing the praises of the Chargers and especially of Herbert, who has been poised and downright exciting to watch since his debut in Week 2, and nearly led a game-winning drive Monday night. That's the margin of error in the NFL these days, though, and right now it has the Chargers at 1-4 staring up at the rest of their division.
"We know we can play with anybody, because we've been doing it," Lynn said. "We've just got to finish these damn games."
But the good news is obvious. It was just as obviously demonstrated when Herbert became the first rookie to throw four touchdown passes on Monday Night Football.
The No. 6 pick this past April's draft was named the permanent starter this week by impressing Lynn after stepping in for veteran Tyrod Taylor, whose lung collapsed after being given a pain-killing injection prior to the Chargers' Week 2 loss to the Chiefs.
Herbert was magnificent throughout the game, his fourth straight start. He put the Chargers ahead 27-20 with a 64-yard touchdown pass to Mike Williams with 3:40 left. It was his second touchdown pass to Williams and his fourth overall, as Herbert finished 20-of-34 passing for 264 yards.
So there's plenty to build on as the Chargers head into a bye week because of COVID-19 scheduling.
And as ESPN.com's Shelley Smith suggests, Lynn obviously made the right choice in starting the rookie and has to be enthused by yet another strong performance. They play the Jaguars and Broncos -- also both 1-4 -- after the bye week, giving Herbert a good chance to get his first win.
The off week will also help Keenan Allen, the Chargers' most reliable receiver, was knocked out of the game in the first half with a back spasms and did not return. No word on if the injury will keep him out or for how long.
"Keenan went out with lower back spasms and that's the last I've heard," Lynn explained after the game. "I know he couldn't go and believe me, he came back in, he tried but he just couldn't go."
NFL Network's James Palmer reported shortly after Allen's exit that the receiver was sitting alone on the bench with no trainers or anyone tending to him. He later added that Allen continued to stretch out on his own on the Chargers sideline before a trainer came over to assist him.
Allen caught a 17-yard touchdown pass from Herbert in the first quarter. Allen finished the game with two catches for 29 yards.
He had 104 receptions in 16 games in 2019. This season, he has caught 32 passes for 327 yards. He was expected to be a larger part of the offense with running back Austin Ekeler injured.
I'll be watching for developments here over the course of the bye week; check the Late-Breaking Updates section for more. ...
Meanwhile, Justin Jackson rushed 15 times for 71 yards and caught five of his six targets for 23 yards against the Saints.
Jackson broke free for 36 yards on a run during the first quarter, which set him up to lead the Chargers' backfield attack. Although the Saints made it tough to run afterward, Jackson at least commanded volume and pitched in with a handful of catches as well. In comparison, fellow tailback Joshua Kelley only managed 29 yards on 11 carries and caught just one pass for nine yards.
Given that discrepancy, CBSSports.com believes it wouldn't be surprising if the veteran Jackson earns a more sizeable workload going forward. But this could be a week-to-week situation.
QBs: Justin Herbert, Chase Daniel, Easton Stick
RBs: Austin Ekeler, Justin Jackson, Larry Rountree III, Joshua Kelley
WRs: Keenan Allen, Mike Williams, Jalen Guyton, Josh Palmer, K.J. Hill, Josh Reed
TEs: Jared Cook, Donald Parham, Tre' McKitty, Stephen Anderson
Los Angeles RamsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 13 October 2020
The ball slipped out of Jared Goff's right hand trying to spike it after a touchdown. According to Associated Press sports writer Stephen Whyno, that was about the only time he wasn't in control.
"It wasn't great," he said. "I have the excuse that it was wet."
Goff threw for 309 yards and two touchdowns and ran for another, and the Los Angeles Rams improved to 4-1 by beating Washington 30-10 on Sunday.
The Rams are thrilled with such a strong start in a tough NFC West after missing the playoffs last season. They've swept the NFC East and are only a three-point loss on a questionable pass interference call away from being undefeated.
"It's a great thing for our momentum," said receiver Cooper Kupp, who had five catches for 66 yards. "Feel great about being 4-1 but by no means does it mean we can be complacent. Making sure we continue to improve and trend upwards."
Led by Aaron Donald's four sacks and blanket coverage, the Rams clamped down on defense and ran it up in the rain on offense. Against the team he spent seven seasons with as an assistant, head coach Sean McVay dialed up a lot of play-action early, and unleashed Goff's long-range passing game that had been largely absent through four games.
"I think we're just waiting for opportunities," Goff said. "This one was there, made a throw, made a catch. We've always known what our offense is capable down the field, and today we were able to show it."
Goff led the Rams on a methodical, 10-play, 76-yard opening scoring drive that finished with a 1-yard TD run by Darrell Henderson. He connected with Robert Woods on a 56-yard touchdown, his longest completion of the season, and started the game a perfect 10 of 10 against a porous Washington defense.
Goff completed 21 of 30 passes for 209 yards and two touchdowns, with an interception. He also rushed for a 2-yard score. He went 7-of-7 on the Rams' opening touchdown drive and has now completed 20 of 21 (95 percent) of his opening-drive passes this season. Goff kept the defense on its heels on that opening drive, utilizing two tight ends, two receivers and two running backs in the passing game.
The above-mentioned 56-yard touchdown pass to Woods in the second quarter was his first passing touchdown of 30-plus air yards since Week 4 of 2018.
When weather conditions deteriorated, the Rams kept it on the ground and continued to march down the field.
Henderson rushed 15 times for 38 yards for the above-mentioned touchdown and brought in three of four targets for 30 yards and another score.
As CBSSports.com notes, the second-year pro paced the backfield in rushing touches, but he saw rookie teammate Cam Akers lead the way with 61 rushing yards.
Stu Jackson of the team's official website contends that -- considering how his rib injury occurred -- Akers' burst, explosiveness and ability to absorb contact was rather impressive.
In Week 2 at Philadelphia, Akers' separated rib cartilage came from landing on the pointed end of the football after a carry, then having three bodies land on top of him.
"Yes, it was painful," Akers said during a video conference with reporters Monday morning.
Collectively, Akers, Henderson and Malcolm Brown helped the Rams rush for 129 yards as a team.
From a playing time standpoint, Akers received 13 of the team's 68 offensive snaps, while Brown got 26 and Henderson 29.
Henderson managed a long run of just seven yards and averaged under 3.0 yards per carry for the second straight game and third overall this season. The pair of scores certainly validated him from a fantasy perspective Sunday, but after the game, Lindsey Thiry of ESPN.com reports McVay noted that Akers would be in line for more than the nine carries he logged Sunday in next Sunday night's divisional battle against the 49ers.
I'll be watching for more on that in coming days; watch the Late-Breaking Updates section for more.
QBs: Matthew Stafford, John Wolford, Bryce Perkins
RBs: Darrell Henderson, Sony Michel, Jake Funk
WRs: Cooper Kupp, Robert Woods, Van Jefferson, DeSean Jackson, Tutu Atwell
TEs: Tyler Higbee, Johnny Mundt, Jacob Harris, Brycen Hopkins
Miami DolphinsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 13 October 2020
As Palm Beach Post beat writer Hal Habib noted, besides having the most distinctive beard around, Ryan Fitzpatrick has started a new tradition of celebrating big wins with a loud shirt opened about as wide as his grin. It happened in Jacksonville. After Sunday's 43-17 shellacking of the host San Francisco 49ers, there could be no doubt a fashion statement was forthcoming.
"This one is actually my favorite," Fitzpatrick said.
He was talking about his shirt. He just as well may have been talking about his performance and where it ranks in his two-year Dolphins career.
Fitzpatrick went 22 of 28 (78.6 percent) for 350 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions for a near-perfect quarterback rating of 154.4, third-highest of his career.
Fitzpatrick became the second Dolphins player to total 350 passing yards, three touchdowns and zero interceptions. The first? Dan Marino four times.
This was also Fitzpatrick's 12th game with 300-plus yards and three-plus touchdowns in his career, more than Pro Football Hall of Fame QB John Elway.
Fitting for the way his 16-year NFL career has gone, it came one week after he left Hard Rock Stadium "feeling terrible" after a 31-23 loss to the Seattle Seahawks.
Receiver Preston Williams, who enjoyed a similar turnaround in fortunes with four receptions for 106 yards and a TD, said he could sense his quarterback was having a FitzMagic kind of day. When?
"Pregame," Williams said.
It's almost no exaggeration.
Fitzpatrick came out flinging and never let up as the Dolphins scored touchdowns on three of their first four drives and produced points on six of their first seven possessions.
The Dolphins' first snap resulted in a 47-yard completion to Williams, setting up a 3-yard TD pass to tight end Adam Shaheen. The Dolphins never looked back.
"I thought obviously we got off to a great start with the deep one to Preston," Fitzpatrick said. "And I think just evaluating the few games before that, we haven't taken enough shots down the field and given our guys chances. And we've got some pretty big targets out there and guys that can really run. That was a big part of today's game plan. Those guys made some good plays."
The term "complete game" was uttered several times during postgame interviews. Coach Brian Flores, who fends off contentment as if it were kryptonite, was asked if this was the most complete performance the Dolphins have had under him.
"It's right at the top," Flores said. "Offensively, defensively and the kicking game. We started fast and made plays in all three phases."
"I think he's played well most of the year," Flores said. "He's had some bad moments. I think we've all had some bad moments. I think he's been pretty consistent the whole way through. We said all week we think he gives us the best chance to win."
Fitzpatrick showed that first drive was no outlier. He hit DeVante Parker for 28 yards to kick-start the second possession. The 49ers had three members of their secondary out with injuries, so Fitzpatrick constantly targeted whoever fill-in cornerback Brian Allen was covering.
By the time it was over, Fitzpatrick had completions of 70 yards to tight end Mike Gesicki, 31 to running back Matt Breida and 32 to Williams for a score. His other touchdown came on a 22-yarder to Parker.
All this after a week of speculation that Fitzpatrick may have been one poor performance away from getting yanked in favor of rookie Tua Tagovailoa.
"I've been called every name in the book," Fitzpatrick said. "People hate me, people love me, depending on the week. I'm just trying to stay steady, knowing all that outside noise isn't important. Now, everybody is going to be patting us on the back."
It's still a mystery, and will always be a mystery, how Fitzpatrick can experience such highs and lows.
"Playing quarterback in this league is hard, and I still after 16 years can't figure it out," Fitzpatrick said.
Against the 49ers, the Dolphins got five field goals from Jason Sanders. Against the Seahawks, the Dolphins got five field goals from Sanders. The difference is this week they also scored bunches of touchdowns.
"I couldn't wait to get back out there on the field," Fitzpatrick said. "The fact that Flo has as much confidence as he does in me, that goes a long way for me."
The Dolphins came in as 8 1/2-point underdogs. They came out 2-3.
"It didn't surprise us at all," Fitzpatrick said. "I think this was expected for us."
Fitzpatrick. There aren't many quarterbacks who have had a career like Fitzpatrick has in 16 seasons.
Flores doesn't have to indicate that Fitzpatrick, who reached 3,000 career completions on Sunday becoming the 27th player in league history to do so, will remain the Dolphins' starter this week because the quarterback's play did.
So while everybody might be looking ahead to 2021, the Dolphins' performance Sunday screamed they're still playing for 2020.
The Dolphins face the New York Jets at home next thanks to a remade schedule, and there is a good chance for them to get back to .500 headed into their Week 7 bye week.
Other notes of interest. ... Flores says he didn't see any point playing Tagovailoa in garbage time so he can hand the ball off. He noted it might have made people happy but he really didn't see any benefit to it.
"Tua is our No.2. He'll be ready to go when his number is called."
As ESPN.com's Cameron Wolfe notes, expectations were high of Williams coming off his impressive injury-shortened rookie season, but his 2020 season started slow as he tried to regain explosiveness following a November ACL tear. When Williams is playing well, the Dolphins' offense is next level.
Get ready for more of Parker, Williams and Gesicki making plays the rest of the season.
As Rotowold.com noted, Myles Gaskin rushed 16 times for 57 yards and a touchdown against the 49ers, adding five receptions for 34 additional yards.
The biggest news for Gaskin came before the first snap, as the Dolphins made Jordan Howard a healthy scratch. Gaskin did cede nine carries to Matt Breida, but the Dolphins attempted 33 runs in a blowout. Gaskin out-touched Breida 21-10. ...
And finally. ... Sanders kicked three field goals in the final two minutes of the first half, something that hasn't been done since at least 2000. He made a 26-yarder with 2:00 remaining to give Miami a 24-7 lead. Garoppolo then threw interceptions to Bobby McCain and Xavien Howard on the next two drives to set up kicks from 50 and 29 yards.
As noted above, Sanders, who was named AFC Special Teams Player of the Week on Wednesday, made five field goals overall, giving him a franchise record 14 straight to open the season.
QBs: Jacoby Brissett, Reid Sinnett, Tua Tagovailoa
RBs: Myles Gaskin, Salvon Ahmed, Malcolm Brown
WRs: DeVante Parker, Jaylen Waddle, Will Fuller, Jakeem Grant, Albert Wilson, Preston Williams, Mack Hollins
TEs: Mike Gesicki, Durham Smythe, Hunter Long, Adam Shaheen
Minnesota VikingsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 13 October 2020
For the second straight year, running back Dalvin Cook was injured at Seattle. And for the second straight year, things went sideways in a hurry.
Cook last December left a Week 13 game at CenturyLink Field with a chest injury early in the third quarter.
The score was tied 17-17, then Seattle scored 17 straight points en route to a 37-30 win.
It looked like more of the same Sunday night after Cook suffered a groin strain on the Vikings' first offensive play of the second half. Minnesota was leading 13-0 before Seattle scored 21 straight points to go up 21-13. This time, the Vikings at least were able to come back and take a 26-21 lead. But they lost 27-26 after Russell Wilson threw a six-yard touchdown pass to DK Metcalf on fourth-and-goal with 15 seconds left.
Now, Cook has an adductor strain, a source told ESPN's Adam Schefter.
Head coach Mike Zimmer said the running back had an MRI on Monday that "went pretty well, so we'll see how he does this week."
Cook told reporters on Wednesday he was feeling better, but that it was too soon to rule him in or out.
Should Cook need to miss the Vikings' Week 6 game against Atlanta, Alexander Mattison will start at running back, a role he's filled previously in Cook's absence.
That outcome seems likely since Minnesota is on bye Week 7.
Mattison replaced Cook and rushed for a career-high 112 yards on 20 carries. But with Minnesota up 26-21, Mattison was stopped for no gain on fourth-and-1 at the Seattle 6 on the first play after the two-minute warning. Taking over with 1:57 left, Wilson then led the Seahawks on a 94-yard drive for the winning points.
"Obviously, you don't want to lose a guy like Dalvin," said wide receiver Adam Thielen. "He's such a good football player. He means so much to this offense. But at the end of the day, we've got to go to work, and it doesn't matter who's in there. We've got to find a way."
Cook carried 14 times for 65 yards in the first half, including an 8-yard touchdown run in the first quarter, which put Minnesota up 7-0. At halftime, he had 376 yards over three games, the most in such a span in his four-year career. He gained 375 yards in the first three games last season.
Cook's 489 rushing yards leads the league, and he has seven rushing touchdowns on his 92 carries.
But on the first play of the second half, after catching a screen pass, Cook grabbed his left thigh in pain. He then ran out of bounds for a five-yard loss. Cook went to the locker room before returning. He returned for one play after the Vikings fell behind 14-13 before being sat down for the night.
"He wanted to try to get in there and play again," Zimmer said of the one play.
As St. Paul Pioneer Press staffer Chris Tomasson reminded us, injuries have been an issue for Cook in each of his four seasons. He missed the final 12 games as a rookie in 2017 due to a torn anterior cruciate ligament, sat out five games in 2018 with hamstring issues and missed two games and nearly two full halves of two others last year with chest and shoulder injuries.
If Cook misses time again, at least the Vikings have Mattison. During much of the time when Cook was hurt last year, Mattison also had injury issues, and Minnesota had to turn to third-string running back Mike Boone. And Mattison looks to be even better now than he was last year as a rookie.
"He's a good back," Zimmer said. "I think our offensive line blocked pretty well for him."
The Vikings lead the NFC with 160.6 rushing yards per game, with offensive line coach/running game coordinator Rick Dennison contributing meaningful behind-the-scenes work on scheme and technique.
Pass protection is a much different story for the offensive line, and right guard Dru Samia's vulnerability was glaring in his fourth game filling in for Pat Elflein. Samia was consistently overpowered by DT Jarran Reed and penalized three times for holding, twice on passing plays.
Meanwhile, getting Cook's groin back to full strength will be the top priority to help keep an offense that has averaged 441 yards and 29 points over the last three games in rhythm. Again, with the bye conveniently waiting after a visit by winless Atlanta, the Vikings could give Cook three weeks to rest before the game at Green Bay on Nov. 1.
I'll be following up on Cook via Late-Breaking Update in coming days, but the expectation currently has him sitting this one out. ...
Other notes of interest. ... Tight end Kyle Rudolph has continued to hold a critical blocking role, but the 10th-year veteran has only been targeted on 10 passes over five games for seven receptions and 76 yards. Cousins made a concerted effort to get tight end Irv Smith Jr. more involved, connecting with the second-year player four times for 64 yards.
According to Rotoworld.com, Smith ran a pass route on 72.7 percent of the team's pass plays against the Seahawks. His usage against Seattle was a far cry from Week 4, when Smith ran a mere 12 pass routes against Houston.
QBs: Kirk Cousins, Kellen Mond
RBs: Dalvin Cook, Alexander Mattison
WRs: Justin Jefferson, Adam Thielen, K.J. Osborn, Dede Westbrook, Ihmir Smith-Marsette
TEs: Tyler Conklin, Chris Herndon, Brandon Dillon, Ben Ellefson, Irv Smith Jr.
New England PatriotsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 13 October 2020
On Sunday, a positive test from the Patriots led the NFL to postpone the Week 5 game between the Patriots and Denver Broncos that was scheduled for Monday. The postponement was part of a significant revamping of the NFL schedule that affected eight teams.
The Patriots will now host the Broncos this coming Sunday at 1 pm ET.
Quarterback Cam Newton, cornerback Stephon Gilmore and practice-squad defensive tackle Bill Murray currently remain on the reserve/COVID-19 list, with the fourth individual who tested positive Saturday still to be added.
Patriots players are scheduled to be off for at least the next two days.
Meanwhile, Newton tested positive for COVID-19 on Oct. 3. Head coach Bill Belichick continues to be evasive about the quarterback's return.
"Whatever the league protocol is, it is," Belichick said on WEEI on Monday, via Mark Daniels of the Providence Journal.
The evasion ended Wednesday when the league's official transaction report noted that Newton has been removed from the Reserve/COVID-19 list and ESPN's Field Yates reports that hen the Patriots return to practice on Thursday, Newton will rejoin the team. That would put Newton on track to start Sunday against the Broncos.
I'll obviously be watching for more on Newton in coming days; watch the Late-Breaking Updates section for more. ...
Meanwhile, as ESPN.com's Mike Reiss notes, the running game has been one of the Patriots' top assets at the quarter mark of the season, and it has a chance to join some esteemed company against Denver.
If the Patriots rush for 200 yards or more, it would mark the third straight home game they have hit that mark, joining the 1976 and 1978 squads as the only units to accomplish the feat.
Longtime Patriots followers know what that means. The '76 and '78 squads have long been held as the standard of excellence in that area, led by Hall of Fame left guard John Hannah and recent Patriots Hall of Fame inductee Leon Gray (left tackle) up front, and Sam "Bam" Cunningham at running back. The '78 squad holds the franchise single-season rushing record (3,165), followed by the '76 unit (2,948).
This year's Patriots attack, which was bolstered by the return of running back Damien Harris in Week 4, totaled 217 rushing yards in a Week 1 win against the Miami Dolphins, and 250 in a Week 3 victory against the Las Vegas Raiders.
Overall, the Patriots have eight rushing plays of 15 yards or more, tied for third most in the league behind the Cleveland Browns (12) and Baltimore Ravens (10). Their team block-run-win-rate, a statistic measured using player tracking devices/NFL Next Gen stats, is 74 percent (third best in the NFL).
Also worth noting. ... Gunner Olszewski's return to the roster from injured reserve provided a spark on punt returns, where he took over for Damiere Byrd (2 returns for 0 yards; with 5 fair catches). Olszewski had a 12-yard return and a fair catch, with Belichick noting on sports radio WEEI that conditions were challenging at Arrowhead Stadium with some wind.
Look for more Olszewski in that role going forward, with special-teams coordinator Cam Achord saying, "Gunner did a good job for us, tracking the ball. One of the things that goes unnoticed is that hidden yardage as a punt returner."
QBs: Mac Jones, Brian Hoyer
RBs: Damien Harris, James White, J.J. Taylor, Rhamondre Stevenson
WRs: Jakobi Meyers, Nelson Agholor, Kendrick Bourne, Gunner Olszewski, N'Keal Harry
TEs: Jonnu Smith, Hunter Henry, Devin Asiasi
New Orleans SaintsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 13 October 2020
Chalk up another rare milestone for Drew Brees on Monday Night Football.
As ESPN.com's Mike Triplett reported, Brees and the New Orleans Saints rallied from a 20-3 deficit on Monday night to beat the Los Angeles Chargers 30-27 in overtime -- just the second time in Brees' career that he had rallied from a 17-point or greater deficit.
Brees was previously 1-48 in such situations, according to ESPN Stats & Information research. The other win? A thrilling 46-34 victory at Miami in 2009 during the Saints' Super Bowl season, in which New Orleans trailed by 21.
"Yeah, this was a wild one," Brees, 41, said on the ESPN broadcast after finishing with 325 yards, a touchdown pass and a TD run. "Listen, we did not play very well for the first half of this football game, obviously. ... We were able to go and get some points before the half. But really I think at halftime it was just, 'Guys, come out and execute, do the things that win football games, not the things that get you beat.'"
Now, no one is exactly suggesting that these Saints (3-2) look ready to make another Super Bowl run just yet after an ugly start to this season and an even uglier start to Monday night's game, which included way too many defensive breakdowns.
But they also overcame a 14-0 deficit in Detroit last week. And now they get a chance at a much-needed reboot after the Week 6 bye, which should include the return of star wide receiver Michael Thomas.
Thomas missed three games with an ankle injury before being benched on Friday for throwing a punch at a teammate in practice.
Brees and the Saints' offense were off to a lackluster start Monday night before they finally caught fire during a two-minute touchdown drill before halftime.
Brees started the game 7-of-15 passing for 43 yards with an interception before his strong finish. His 41-yard TD pass to tight end Jared Cook included the second-most air yards of any of his throws this season. He also led the Saints downfield for kicker Wil Lutz's 36-yard field goal to start overtime before the Saints' defense came up with a game-winning stop.
Brees has had some memorable Monday Night Football performances, including games in which he set the NFL career passing yardage record, the NFL career TD pass record, the NFL single-season passing yardage record and the NFL single-game completion percentage record.
Brees has a total of 18 300-yard passing games and six games with at least four touchdown passes on Monday nights -- both the most in league history.
With Thomas absent for a fourth straight week, Emmanuel Sanders has emerged as the interim No. 1 and the potential No. 2 upon Thomas' return that New Orleans hoped for when it signed him ahead of the season.
Following a six-catch, 93-yard outing a week prior, Sanders was the leading man in the Saints WR corps on Monday, grabbing 12 catches for 122 yards, each of them season-highs and therefore his best numbers with the Saints. It was a great compliment on a night in which the Chargers D held Alvin Kamara in check for much of the night.
Of course much of the night isn't the whole game as Kamara made a spectacular juggling catch on the game-tying drive and had 119 scrimmage yards.
Obviously the Saints want Thomas back in a hurry (though head coach Sean Payton offered no specifics on the disciplinary situation that had him ruled out for Week 5), but Sanders has emerged into exactly the receiving option the Saints were hoping to get with the veteran's arrival.
While Payton declined to elaborate on the nature of Thomas' suspension, Brees said that he's confident the issue will be put behind them.
"I've spoken with Mike," Brees said, via Luke Johnson of NOLA.com. "Mike and I talk a lot, both personally in the locker room, by text message -- we're always communicating. So at the end of the day, Mike has been part of this team, he's going to be a big part of this team moving forward.
"We had an incident and Sean addressed it and many of the leaders have spoken with Mike as well. We're going to be all good."
All Payton said was that he wouldn't speak further about it until "the time is right" and that he only would speak about players that played in the win over the Chargers.
Thomas allegedly punched Gardner-Johnson during a fight in practice and was suspended by the team for the action.
Thomas had three catches for 17 yards against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in the team's season opener. I'll be watching for more about his chances of returning against the Carolina Panthers after the break in coming days. I'll report back via Late-Breaking Update if that's the case. ...
As noted above, Lutz nailed the game-winning field goal on Monday Night Football, and he's being recognized for it Wednesday.
Lutz was named the NFC Special Teams Player of the Week for his performance in Monday night's win over the Chargers.
In addition to the 36-yarder in overtime, Lutz connected on 48- and 53-yard field goals in regulation. He also made all three of his extra points, which was big considering that the Chargers missed an extra point, which allowed the Saints to force overtime.
Lutz is perfect on the season, 9-for-9 on field goals and 18-for-18 on extra points.
QBs: Jameis Winston, Taysom Hill, Trevor Siemian, Ian Book
RBs: Alvin Kamara, Tony Jones Jr., Dwayne Washington
WRs: Marquez Callaway, Deonte Harris, Chris Hogan, Lil'Jordan Humphrey, Ty Montgomery, Michael Thomas, Tre'quan Smith
TEs: Adam Trautman, Juwan Johnson, Garrett Griffin
New York GiantsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 13 October 2020
Daniel Jones and the New York Giants ended a two-game streak without a touchdown on the first drive in offensive coordinator Jason Garrett's return to the home of the Cowboys after nearly a decade as their head coach.
The Giants more than doubled their previous season high in points, had a two-touchdown lead in the first half and were up three in the fourth quarter after Dallas quarterback Dak Prescott sustained a gruesome season-ending ankle injury.
Still, New York couldn't escape its second 0-5 start in four seasons, allowing backup Andy Dalton's drive to a game-winning field goal after a couple of nifty touchdowns were called back by penalties in a 37-34 loss Sunday.
"That's all that really matters to us, to be honest with you, is the progress that's being made right now," first-year coach Joe Judge said. "The record will come in time. Obviously we're not happy about losses, that's not what we do. But I've seen a lot of progress on all fronts, in all games."
Evan Engram scored on a 3-yard reverse on the opening possession, Kyler Fackrell returned an interception of Prescott 46 yards for a touchdown and a 14-3 lead and Darius Slayton had eight catches for 128 yards.
For a team that came in averaging barely 11 points per game, setting a season high in points before halftime while Jones avoided an interception for the first time will be a slight tonic.
Then there were the mistakes that seem to haunt winless teams, such as Jones' fumble on a sack by DeMarcus Lawrence that was returned 29 yards for a touchdown by Anthony Brown.
Lineman Nick Gates was called for an illegal shift in the second quarter when a fake field goal completely fooled Dallas and holder Riley Dixon popped up to throw a 27-yard scoring pass to Engram, who was all alone. The Giants had to settle for a 50-yard field goal from Graham Gano, one of three from at least that far (the others were 55 and 54).
In the third quarter, Slayton had a 31-yard touchdown pass wiped out on offensive pass interference against Damion Ratley, who ran into Dallas cornerback Jourdan Lewis a few yards past the line of scrimmage to turn Slayton loose.
"I want to go back and look at it on tape to see exactly how far down field. ... To me, on those plays, sometimes it's up to us to execute the right way," Judge said. "I want to make sure I get a good shot of that on film before I make any comments."
Judge was shown on TV yelling on the sideline and appeared to be furious with an official, but he said after the game he was more angry at his own team.
"I was mad at our execution that we took points off the board," Judge said, via the New York Post. "That was it. You prepare for something like that, you call it at a certain time and you want to see it work."
Judge said the Giants' penalties are a problem that need to be solved.
"We've got to be better than that with the penalties," Judge said. "I'm not going to get into too much debate with the officials."
Engram believe this Giants team has the talent to win. "We're beating ourselves," he said. Added that they are "pissed off" with the results and constant losing
As ESPN.com's Jordan Raanan noted, they are a team that is competing under Judge. They seem to be making improvements. Judge said prior to this week that he viewed his team as 0-0 after four weeks. The Giants were just trying to be 1-0 after playing the Cowboys.
But they still can't find a way to win. The worst team since the start of the 2017 season (12-41) must find its formula soon. ...
For the record. ... Jones completed 22 of 30 passes for 222 yards but did not throw a touchdown pass for the fourth consecutive game. The yardage total was his highest since he threw for 241 yards at Chicago on Sept. 27. Jones did not throw an interception but lost a fumble in the second quarter that was returned for a touchdown.
Devonta Freeman led the Giants with 60 rushing yards on 17 carries, including a four-yard touchdown in the fourth quarter that gave the Giants a 34-31 lead. It was his first touchdown since he scored on both a run and a reception for Atlanta against Jacksonville on Dec. 22, 2019. Freeman also caught two passes for 27 yards. ...
On the injury front. ... Slayton (foot) was limited in Wednesday's practice; I'll follow up via Late-Breaking Update as needed in coming days. ...
Gano tied an NFL record by becoming the first player in Giants history to kick three field goals of 50 or more yards in a game. As noted above, the first-year Giant kicked field goals of 55, 50 and 54 yards, plus a 28-yarder.
The Giants lost a member of their starting defense in Sunday's loss. Linebacker Lorenzo Carter left the game after playing 10 snaps with what looked like a severe injury. Mike Garafolo of NFL Media reports that it's a ruptured Achilles and Carter will miss the rest of the season as a result.
Markus Golden and Kyler Fackrell are now the veteran options at outside linebacker. Carter Coughlin, Cam Brown and Devante Downs are also on hand for the Giants.
QBs: Daniel Jones, Mike Glennon
RBs: Saquon Barkley, Devontae Booker, Gary Brightwell
WRs: Kenny Golladay, Sterling Shepard, Darius Slayton, C.J. Board, Kadarius Toney, John Ross
TEs: Evan Engram, Kyle Rudolph, Kaden Smith
New York JetsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 13 October 2020
Five games into the 2020 season, the New York Jets decided to release star running back Le'Veon Bell.
General manager Joe Douglas announced the end to Bell's tumultuous Jets tenure Tuesday night.
Douglas cited that the team came to the decision after speaking with Bell and his agent and exploring trade options over the past couple of days.
"The Jets organization appreciates Le'Veon's efforts during his time here and we know he worked hard to make significant contributions to this team," Douglas said in the statement. "We believe this decision is in the best interests of both parties and wish him future success."
The team owed Bell another $6 million in guaranteed base salary this season. Pelissero added that Bell's $8 million base salary for 2021 was guaranteed for injury only, and noted that the contract was "virtually impossible" to trade despite New York's best efforts.
As NFL.com's Jelani Scott reminded readers, from nearly the onset, Bell's time with the club was filled with speed bumps. The 28-year-old recently returned from a hamstring injury that landed him on injured reserve for three weeks. His hamstring issues sparked a much-publicized dispute with head coach Adam Gase in late August.
Against the Cardinals in Week 5, Bell rushed 13 times for 60 yards and caught one pass for seven yards in a 30-10 loss. Prior to that, Bell compiled six carries for 14 yards and two catches for 32 yards against the Bills in Week 1 before exiting in the third quarter due to the hamstring injury.
On Monday, Gase voiced his concern over Bell's decision to like tweets related to how he was utilized in Sunday's loss.
"I hate that that's the route that we go with all of this instead of just talking to me about it. But seems the way that guys want to do it nowadays," Gase said.
The former Steelers star came to the Big Apple in March 2019 after signing a four-year, $52.5 million contract ($35 million guaranteed), a deal that made him, at the time, the second-highest paid running back in the NFL. He sat out the 2018 season amid contract issues with Pittsburgh.
He would go on to turn in one of his worst seasons, rushing for a career-low 3.2 yards per carry in 15 games. He finished the year with 245 carries for 789 rushing yards -- his fewest since 2015 -- and three touchdowns to go with 66 receptions for 461 yards and a score.
With this latest chapter now in the rear view, Bell faces the task of finding a new home. The dual-threat back has yet to recapture the magic that made him a three-time Pro Bowl and All-Pro selection during his five-year stretch in the Steel City when he was considered one of the league's best.
He's been banged up in recent years and has notably butted heads with two organizations, but he still has potential to make a difference on whatever team he lands on.
In the short-term, Bell -- and the Jets organization -- seems thankful for a new start.
Frank Gore is next man up at running back, but prior to releasing Bell, Gase said he'd like to give more carries to rookie LaMical Perine.
Of course, running back isn't the only issue here.
A rusty Joe Flacco provided no spark whatsoever, as the Jets suffered their fourth double-digit loss of the season -- the 11th in 21 games under Gase. So it's also safe to say the problems run a lot deeper than starting QB Sam Darnold, who sat out with a sprained right shoulder.
Six touchdowns in five games, three of which came on broken plays, is an indictment of Gase, whose boss recently called him a "brilliant offensive mind."
With this season already in the dumpster, the only questions that remain are: Will Gase survive the season? Will the Jets actually go 0-16? Will they land the No. 1 overall pick, with a chance to draft Clemson star Trevor Lawrence?
As ESPN.com's Rich Cimini put it, you can't win if you can't score, and right now their offense is as bad as it's ever been.
The offensive struggles have seen the Jets score 20-plus points just once this season, tying their New York counterparts for the most games with fewer than 20 points in 2020 (4).
According to Cimini, Gase deserves his share of the blame, but this is an organizational failure, including the front office and ownership. You don't get this bad with only one person not doing his job.
"We're letting it get away at a certain point in the game," Gase said of the blowout losses. "I mean, those first two games, it's hard to even look at those. Those got away too early. In these last two, when we had an opportunity to swing the game, we couldn't do it."
Beyond all that, Gase also admitted Monday he's considered giving up play-calling duties in order to better manage games as a head coach with his team still without a win after five weeks.
"For the last four years, I've toyed with the idea every once in a while," Gase said of handing play-calling duties to an assistant. "I don't think I'm ever opposed to try something to change things up. I'd say everything is on the table at this point."
The road ahead doesn't appear to get any smoother for the Jets, who will continue to be without Darnold, who was ruled out for this week on Wednesday, and first-round tackle Mekhi Becton (shoulder). Flacco completed 18 of 33 passes for 195 yards and a touchdown, but it remains clear the Jets -- who own an 11-19 record with Darnold and are 0-7 without him -- could use the former USC star.
Gase said Darnold's return isn't as simple as deciding to push his injury, but is a case of testing it out as the healing process continues. Right now, it's a weekly process.
"It's really just the healing process that he's going through right now and kind of how he'd feel going out to practice and throwing, and how far he can throw and kind of really how that would look," Gase explained. "I know they're kind of trying to proceed with that just to kind of determine where he's at with all of that. The next few days will be critical with all of that.
"I think it'd be really hard to convince him 'hey, you know, let's take this amount of time.' I think we just gotta keep going week to week and just see how he feels. Sam does do a good job of really wiring in on his rehab and putting in a lot of work. He's a pretty quick healer."
Gase's Jets will need quick healing if they hope to turn this season around. The coach's seat is already hot and the temperature will only further intensify with each loss.
The best player on the field has been wide receiver Jamison Crowder, despite his missing two games with a hamstring injury.
As Associated Press sports writer Dennis Waszak Jr. noted, whether it has been Darnold or Flacco under center, Crowder has been consistently reliable. He has three straight games with 100 or more yards receiving and leads the Jets with 22 catches. The next closest players in receptions are Chris Hogan (14 receptions) and Chris Herndon (13) -- and they've played in all five games.
On the other hand, Cimini contends that tight end Chris Herndon, who continued his nightmarish season with another open-field drop, should be benched. He was quasi-demoted, as Ryan Griffin started in the base offense, but Herndon wound up with two catches for 24 yards.
While receiver Breshad Perriman could return from an ankle sprain this week. Hogan won't. The veteran receiver was placed on injured reserve Tuesday.
Hogan has 14 catches for 118 yards so far this season. He will be eligible to return after missing three games.
Gase was noncommittal on Wednesday whether Denzel Mims (hamstrings) will come off IR this week.
I'll have more Perriman, who worked on a limited basis Wednesday, via Late-Breaking Update in coming days. ...
One last note here. ... The NFL shuffled the schedule because of coronavirus outbreaks with Tennessee and New England, so the Jets will head to AFC East-rival Miami Sunday instead of Los Angeles to face the Chargers. Rather than face a rookie quarterback in Justin Herbert, New York will take on a familiar face in veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick, who led the Dolphins to a stunning 43-17 win at San Francisco.
The 37-year-old Fitzpatrick spent two years as Jets starter and could be in for another big day against a leaky New York defense.
QBs: Zach Wilson, Mike White
RBs: Ty Johnson, Michael Carter, Tevin Coleman, Lamical Perine, Josh Adams
WRs: Corey Davis, Jamison Crowder, Elijah Moore, Keelan Cole, Braxton Berrios, Denzel Mims, Jeff Smith
TEs: Tyler Kroft, Ryan Griffin, Daniel Brown, Trevon Wesco
Philadelphia EaglesCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 13 October 2020
According to Associated Press sports writer Rob Maaddi, a 1-3-1 start has coach Doug Pederson channeling Bill Belichick.
"I don't care about the rest of the league. I care about the Philadelphia Eagles," Pederson said Monday. "Our division, what are we, still a half-game back? Look, it is what it is. I'm going to pull out my inner Bill Belichick and say I'm focused on Baltimore."
Pederson beat Belichick and the Patriots to win Philadelphia's only Super Bowl title three years ago.
The Eagles host the Ravens (4-1) after losing 38-29 at Pittsburgh on Sunday. The Ravens have won two in a row over Washington and Cincinnati. The Eagles lost to Washington and tied the Bengals.
The good news is the NFC East is weak and winnable. The Dallas Cowboys (2-3) lead the division but lost quarterback Dak Prescott to a season-ending ankle injury and have struggled every week.
"My heart goes out to Dak and obviously his family," Pederson said. "You never want to see anybody, whether it be on your own team or even a rival or anybody in the league, suffer these types of injuries. We know that this game is hard enough. Injuries are a part of the game. But these types of injuries, where he could miss the remainder of the season, multiple weeks for sure, it's terrible."
Meanwhile, Carson Wentz to Travis Fulgham has turned into Philadelphia's best option in the air. Fulgham had 10 catches for 152 yards and one touchdown against the Steelers. Nine of Fulgham's 10 catches resulted in first downs, including five on third downs.
According to ESPN.com's Tim McManus, Fulgham's encouraging play is starting to feel like more than a fluke, and that's huge for the Eagles, who have been snakebit at receiver the past couple seasons. With his emergence, Philadelphia suddenly has a potentially promising one-two punch for the near future once first-round pick Jalen Reagor returns from a UCL tear in his thumb.
And it lessens the need for the Eagles to depend on the health and production of 33-year-old DeSean Jackson (hamstring) and 30-year-old Alshon Jeffery (Lisfranc).
"I'm just trying to do what I can. If Carson throws me the ball, just come down with it and make the play," Fulgham said. "Unfortunately, it wasn't enough to get the win, but we'll keep building on it. Carson's a great quarterback. He's putting the ball on the money and I'm just coming up with the play."
Fulgham is so confident he thought he should've made the play on a third-and-5 pass late in the game that fell incomplete. Steelers cornerback Joe Haden knocked the ball away, making contact that warranted a penalty.
"I absolutely should have made that play," Fulgham said. "That's on me. I should have come up with that play to continue the drive and hopefully give the team the win."
Fulgham has been cut four times by three teams since Detroit selected him in the sixth round of the 2019 draft. He was waived by Green Bay in August and the Eagles in September. He was elevated from the practice squad on Oct. 3, made his first two career receptions last week at San Francisco, including a 45-yard TD for the go-ahead score. Now, he's Philadelphia's best receiver and Wentz's only reliable target.
"He's a beast," Wentz said. "I mean he showed up (Sunday) and showed really last week that the two big plays he had, they weren't a fluke. Kid's a baller. He made a lot of big plays. I was really proud of him and pumped for him."
Conversely, rookie wide receiver John Hightower couldn't make the catch in the back of the end zone on a perfect 49-yard pass from Wentz that sailed right through his hands. Earlier in the drive, he wasted time trying to get extra yards instead of going out of bounds following a 9-yard catch, and that forced the Eagles to use a timeout. They ended up running out of time at the Steelers 12 and couldn't try a field goal.
It's been a slog on offense for much of the season to date this season, just as it was in 2019.
There was some electricity running through it thanks to Fulgham and running back Miles Sanders, who had two touchdowns, including a 74-yard touchdown run, in his return to his hometown of Pittsburgh. That's a significant development even in a loss for a team that still has a decent chance of winning the division title if their offense can keep pace. ...
On the injury front. ... Jackson and Jeffery are getting closer to a return. I'll have more on their progress ahead of this week's game via Late-Breaking Update in coming days.
Right tackle Lane Johnson was carted off the field because of an ankle injury that's troubled him throughout the season. Johnson had surgery on the ankle during training camp. Pederson said on Monday the team is waiting on a second opinion. Pederson wouldn't comment on the second opinion on Wednesday, noting only that the veteran won't practice Wednesday and is day to day.
Cornerback Darius Slay was also forced out of Sunday's game. He is in the concussion protocol and the team will have to wait to see if he's cleared in time to face the Ravens in Week 6.
QBs: Jalen Hurts, Joe Flacco, Gardner Minshew
RBs: Miles Sanders, Kenneth Gainwell, Boston Scott
WRs: DeVonta Smith, Jalen Reagor, Quez Watkins, Greg Ward, JJ Arcega-Whiteside
TEs: Dallas Goedert, Zach Ertz, Jack Stoll
Pittsburgh SteelersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 13 October 2020
As Associated Press sports writer Will Graves suggested, stylistically, there are issues. A running game that seems to be all or nothing. A secondary that hasn't been nearly as consistent as it was in 2019. A defense that seemed to have a strange aversion to getting off the field on third down.
And an early schedule littered with teams either rebuilding or underachieving or both.
Yet Mike Tomlin doesn't get caught up in style points. All the Steelers coach knows is his team is undefeated through four games for the first time in 41 years after a 38-29 victory over Philadelphia on Sunday.
"It wasn't a perfect performance by any stretch," Tomlin said. "But we're not looking for perfect. We're looking to be good enough to win."
That's something that hasn't always been the case for Pittsburgh during the opening quarter of the season in Tomlin's highly successful tenure. The Steelers have frequently stubbed their toe in September and early October during his 13-plus years on the job.
In 2017, a team that finished 13-3 fell on the road in Week 3 to a Bears club that went 5-11. In 2016, a group that captured 11 games and reached the AFC championship was blown out in Week 3 by an Eagles team that wound up 7-9 under first-year head coach Doug Pederson and rookie quarterback Carson Wentz. In 2014, the eventual AFC North champions were stunned at home in Week 4 by a Tampa Bay team that earned the No. 1 pick in the 2015 draft after going 2-14.
Tomlin likes to describe the momentum of each season as a "moving train." Typically Pittsburgh takes its time getting it together. Not so much in 2020. Sure, the combined record of the four teams they've played so far is 3-15-1. Given their track record of occasionally spotty work against seemingly overmatched opponents, they'll take it.
So forgive cornerback Steven Nelson if he isn't losing sleep over how the secondary has looked vulnerable, including a curious performance against an undermanned Philadelphia wide receiving corps missing DeSean Jackson and Alshon Jeffery. Travis Fulgham caught 10 passes for 152 yards and the Eagles converted 10 straight third downs at one point to rally from 17 points in the third quarter to nearly steal it late.
"We'll clean it up," said Nelson, who picked off Wentz twice, including a desperation heave in the final minutes to seal it. "We got the win, that's all that matters."
The task figures to get tougher starting next Sunday when the surging -- yes, surging -- Cleveland Browns (4-1) visit. Pittsburgh's next four games are against competition that is a combined 13-5. The Steelers' strong start has given them a little wiggle room in case they stumble a bit down the line.
Other notes of interest. ... Also according to Graves, first-year quarterbacks coach Matt Canada's influence has been noticeable.
When he's not helping Ben Roethlisberger with his footwork or developing Roethlisberger's three backups, he's kicking around concepts with offensive coordinator Randy Fichtner. The little tweaks, including increased use of jet sweeps, end-arounds and unbalanced offensive sets, kept Philadelphia's aggressive front seven off-balance and allowed Roethlisberger to throw 34 passes while getting sacked once.
The Steelers also put up over 30 points for the first time since 2018 and have topped 26 points or more in each of their first four games for the first time in franchise history.
Meanwhile, only three rookie wide receivers in NFL history to score four touchdowns in a single game; Steelers second-round pick Chase Claypool is one of them after finding the end zone four times against the Eagles. He also became the first rookie in NFL history with three receiving touchdowns and a rushing score in one game.
On Wednesday, Claypool was named AFC Offensive Player of the Week.
"He's talented," Roethlisberger said of Claypool. "He has got some God-given abilities that not many people in this world have. He's big, fast and strong, and he's very, very smart. So we're able to do those things like move him around and do some things with him. That last touchdown is a perfect example. Changed the play, and he makes it happen. I just have to give him a little bit of a cue, and it's awesome."
Claypool took to social media after the game, posting a picture of him and Roethlisberger with the message "7/11 ... always open" -- a nod to their uniform numbers.
His monster afternoon -- which included 7 receptions, 110 receiving yards and 6 rushing yards -- got started early when he ran into the end zone on a jet sweep for a 2-yard score after a seven-minute drive in the first quarter. He scored the Steelers' next touchdown a quarter later when Roethlisberger found him for a third-down completion that turned into a 32-yard score and a 14-7 lead.
He added a third score on the Steelers' first drive of the third quarter on a 5-yard reception coming out of a bunched four-man formation on the left side -- a play they've run in practice each week for the past month, but with a new wrinkle Sunday.
"Every single time I've thrown it to Eric Ebron to the other side," Roethlisberger said. "Today they kind of had two guys over there, so I threw it to Chase. We have had that in in practice, and we practice it at least once a week, but I've never thrown it to Chase yet."
According to ESPN.com's Brooke Pryor, as the game progressed, Roethlisberger's trust in the rookie out of Notre Dame was obvious. He looked for him on third downs and gave him a chance to make tough catches. One would-be touchdown got called back when the officials whistled Claypool for offensive pass interference on a sideline reception, and another catch got wiped out when replay determined he got only one foot down on the sideline.
"You've got to make those plays," Claypool said of his third-down conversions. "He's trusting you. He puts a ball right where it needs to be and he's trusting you to make those plays. You make those plays and the trust builds faster than it would."
The fact that Roethlisberger targeted Claypool 11 times -- nearly double the next-most-targeted player (Ebron, six) -- shows the fast rapport the veteran quarterback has built with the rookie, whom he and Tomlin consistently praised during training camp.
Claypool had a limited role in his first two games as a Steeler, but he was efficient with his touches. He caught all five targets in the first two weeks -- including an 84-yard catch-and-run against the Denver Broncos in Week 2. In Week 3, Claypool's snaps increased dramatically after wide receiver Diontae Johnson left with a concussion. Claypool wound up playing 76 percent of snaps in his absence.
A similar thing happened for Claypool against the Eagles on Sunday when Johnson went down with a back injury on a punt return early. Claypool absorbed his snaps and more than made the most of them.
His breakout performance puts him in the conversation with other Steelers such as Antonio Brown and Le'Veon Bell, who are the only other Steelers players with at least three touchdowns and 100 scrimmage yards in a single game.
But even after such a dynamic and game-changing performance from his rookie, Tomlin downplayed Claypool's day.
"A lot of it may not have to do with him and his skill set," Tomlin said. "We just have a well-balanced attack. We have guys the people have to account for, guys like JuJu Smith-Schuster, guys like Diontae, and Ebron, and I just think that he's probably a good matchup for whoever people have assigned up [on] him from a man-to-man standpoint ... and that's the strength of having a deep group of guys that are capable of making plays. Week in and week out there are going to be different guys that step up and ascend based off the matchups that are presented, and he had a good matchup this week."
Claypool said he appreciated Tomlin keeping his ego in check.
"He definitely kept telling me to stay humble," he said. "That's something I always do in my life. He doesn't have to worry about that. I do appreciate him keeping me grounded because in times like this, you can definitely lose sight of important things. I was staying level headed. I'm enjoying the moment, for sure, but I'm not letting it get to me."
Beyond that, Pryor notes that on the surface, the running game looks like it's doing fine.
The Steelers have topped 100 yards each week but it's been largely hit and miss. Benny Snell Jr. had runs of 30 and 21 yards to top the century mark in the opener. James Conner needed a late 59-yarder to edge over 100 in Week 2. The leading rusher against the Eagles wasn't Conner or Snell but wide receiver Ray-Ray McCloud, who picked up 63 yards on a couple of reverses. ...
On the injury front. ... Pro Bowl guard David DeCastro's bumpy 2020 continued when he left in the first quarter with what Tomlin called an abdominal injury. DeCastro missed the first two games due to a knee issue. Center Maurkice Pouncey left in the fourth quarter with a foot problem and Johnson, who left a win over Houston two weeks ago due to a possible concussion, departed in the first quarter with a back injury sustained on a punt return.
Tomlin said on Tuesday that Pouncey's injury should not keep him out. Same with Johnson
That said, Johnson, Smith-Schuster (knee) and Ebron (hand) were all held out of Wednesday's practice.
I'll have more on Johnson via Late-Breaking Update in coming days.
QBs: Ben Roethlisberger, Mason Rudolph, Dwayne Haskins
RBs: Najee Harris, Benny Snell, Kalen Ballage, Anthony McFarland Jr.
WRs: Diontae Johnson, Chase Claypool, JuJu Smith-Schuster, James Washington, Ray-Ray McCloud
TEs: Eric Ebron, Pat Freiermuth, Zach Gentry
San Francisco 49ersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 13 October 2020
Jimmy Garoppolo dropped back to pass and was unable to push off his injured right ankle. The ball sailed high for his second interception in the closing minutes of the first half and was just one of many forgettable plays for the San Francisco 49ers.
The offensive line struggled in protection and allowed five sacks. The banged-up defense that began the day with a practice squad player at cornerback was gashed for 350 yards by Ryan Fitzpatrick. Garoppolo played his worst game as a pro before getting benched.
It all added to a 43-17 defeat Sunday that sent the defending NFC champion 49ers to their third straight home loss to begin the season.
"Obviously the mood's pretty down right now, we're pretty low," fullback Kyle Juszczyk said. "That's really embarrassing what we did out there. Everyone sets a standard here and that wasn't even close to it."
It started with Garoppolo, who returned to the lineup after missing two games with a sprained ankle. He didn't look like himself from the start and was pulled at halftime.
"Watching how we were playing as a whole [and] watching how he was playing, you can tell he was affected by his ankle," head coach Kyle Shanahan said, via the team's website. "I know he doesn't normally throw the ball that way and I think he was struggling a little bit because of it. The way the game was going, I wasn't going to keep putting him in those positions knowing we were going to have to throw it a lot to come back. I think it hurt him from being at his best."
Garoppolo finished 7 for 17 for 77 yards, two interceptions and a 15.7 rating. He threw two interceptions in the final two minutes of the first half to set up two Miami field goals that sent the Dolphins to the blowout.
"I felt it," Garoppolo said of his ankle that he hurt in Week 2 against the Jets. "I wouldn't say it affected everything. It's one of those things you have to deal with. Tough one today. I wanted to be out there with the guys and wanted to get the win today. A lot of things didn't go well for us."
As bad as Garoppolo was, he had plenty of company on a day that started with the Niners having all their offensive skill position players available for the first time all season.
The line struggled for a second straight week, allowing too much pressure and failing to move the defense on a failed fourth-and-1 attempt in the first quarter.
The passing game averaged just 3.2 yards per dropback in the second worst performance since coach Kyle Shanahan arrived in 2017.
"Our vets have to play better," tight end George Kittle said. "It starts with me. Just our whole unit is not playing very well together. We have the guys to right the ship. No one is jumping off, no one is pointing fingers."
The defense had it's own issues on a day when the three starting cornerbacks were all out with injuries. The top backup, Ahkello Witherspoon, was also dealing with a hamstring injury and was only supposed to be used in an emergency.
That emergency came after four possessions as Fitzpatrick repeatedly picked on Brian Allen, who was called up on the practice squad on Saturday.
A 22-yard TD pass to DeVante Parker that made it 21-7 was the final straw and Witherspoon told the coaches he could play and went in after that.
By then it was too late to do much. C.J. Beathard led two scoring drives in the third quarter before the Niners stumbled to the finish
"No one likes getting embarrassed, and that's kind of what I said at halftime," Shanahan said. "When you're getting embarrassed, you go out there and fight and I thought we started to. But we made too many mistakes to where it obviously didn't look like much of a fight."
Now, they enter what is arguably the most difficult stretch of schedule any team will play this season. Over the next seven games, the 49ers will host the Los Angeles Rams, travel to play the New England Patriots and Seattle Seahawks, return home against the Green Bay Packers, go to the New Orleans Saints and Rams and host the Buffalo Bills.
The Niners believe they have built something special and sustainable in the past few years. If that's true, they'll have ample opportunity to prove it in the coming weeks. ...
For the record, n the two games Garoppolo has played in this season, he has passed for 390 total yards and four touchdowns. He had yet to throw an interception this season, but as previously mentioned, threw two in the opening half against the Dolphins on Sunday.
Moving forward, Garoppolo said his confidence is unshaken by Sunday's outing but he was unsure of his status for next week's game against the Los Angeles Rams.
"I really haven't thought that far ahead," Garoppolo said. "I guess we'll just take it day by day with the ankle and see how it goes."
Shanahan told reporters on Monday that Garoppolo will practice this week and the coach hopes he will start Sunday against the Rams.
"Jimmy came in good (on Monday)," Shanahan said. "I know he's sore from the first half. I think his ankle is a little bit sore and his body a little bit from some of the hits that he had. But nothing that made it worse. It was like you would expect after a game. Nothing too bad happened. We got him out of there before that did."
Garoppolo practiced fully Wednesday.
Richard Sherman (calf) is not expected back this week as he's experienced some setbacks, Shanahan said.
I'll have more on that via Late-Breaking Update in coming days. ...
Also worth noting. ... Raheem Mostert (knee) immediately resumed lead back duties yesterday after missing two games.
Mostert carried 11 times for 90 yards and added 29 yards on three receptions (on three targets) in his first game back from a two-game absence.
More importantly, Mostert out-snapped Jerick McKinnon 31-16, out-touched him 14-3.
Mostert gashed the Dolphins defense for 8.2 yards per carry but saw his work on the ground limited by a surprisingly lopsided score. He produced effectively with the targets he received but didn't have many red zone opportunities. Mostert looked strong after recovering from a recent knee injury and will hope for a more favorable game script in next Sunday's matchup with the Rams.
QBs: Jimmy Garoppolo, Trey Lance
RBs: Elijah Mitchell, Trenton Cannon, Trey Sermon, JaMycal Hasty, Jeff Wilson, Raheem Mostert
WRs: Deebo Samuel, Brandon Aiyuk, Trent Sherfield, Mohamed Sanu, Jauan Jennings, Jalen Hurd
TEs: George Kittle, Ross Dwelley, Charlie Woerner, Daniel Helm
Seattle SeahawksCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 13 October 2020
The Seahawks were the first team in the league to reach 5-0 after Sunday's 27-26 victory over Minnesota. It was another night filled with last-second drama, this time capped by Russell Wilson's fourth-and-goal dart to DK Metcalf with 15 seconds left for the winning touchdown.
Despite some major flaws, especially on the defensive side, the Seahawks have taken control of the toughest division in the league. Wilson has been the elixir for all of Seattle's ailments with five sterling weeks that put him at the head of the MVP conversation, and landed the Seahawks among the favorites in the NFC.
Wilson has 19 touchdown passes through five games, second most in league history. But the stats are secondary. Wilson's play has given the Seahawks a level of belief that no matter the situation, they'll find a way to pull it out -- whether it's a maligned defense stopping Cam Newton at the 1-yard line in Week 2 to beat the Patriots, or driving 94 yards for the winning score against the Vikings.
"It was really special that we were able to just keep believing," Wilson said. "That's what I always told you guys, to have no doubt, just keep believing, something great's going to happen."
For the 34th time in his career, Wilson led a winning drive in the fourth quarter or overtime with the Seahawks either tied or trailing. It's a remarkable number when considering it's one-third of all the victories in his career. Sunday was Wilson's 100th win, regular season and playoffs combined.
What he did Sunday will rank among his best, going 94 yards with less than two minutes remaining. It was the second time in his career Wilson has led a winning TD drive of 80 or more yards with less than two minutes remaining.
Wilson finished 20-of-32 for 217 yards, three touchdowns and an interception. According to research by the Elias Sports Bureau, he is 28-7-1 in his career in night games (defined as 5 p.m. or later local time) for a .792 winning percentage, the best by any quarterback with 10 or more such starts since the 1970 merger.
He started the game-winning drive with a 17-yard scramble, then missed on three straight throws, setting up the fourth-and-10 play that Metcalf converted with a 39-yard catch down the sideline. Metcalf had another reception for 15 yards on that drive, then had the would-be game winner knocked out of his hands by cornerback Mike Hughes. He hung on when Wilson found him two plays later.
According to Elias, it was the third-longest go-ahead touchdown drive that began in the final two minutes of a game over the past 40 seasons. The two that were longer were led by Jameis Winston in 2017 (95 yards) and Brian Griese in 2007 (97 yards).
"With the quarterback we have, there's no doubt in our minds that we're. ... Going to go down here and score," Metcalf said. "Any time we're in that moment, it's easy for us to just go out there and play our football because we know we've got a quarterback that can make anything possible. Anything can happen. He can deliver when the game is on the line."
Metcalf led Seattle with six catches (on 11 targets) for 93 yards. He has five touchdown catches on the season.
"DK did a great job of running away from his guy, closing off the window," Wilson said of the winning TD. "All those reps that we've practiced in the offseason, in the summer, all the time just together one-on-one, it really showed up tonight, for sure, in that special moment."
Seattle went 0-for-7 on third downs in its 27-26 win over Minnesota, making the Seahawks the first team in the NFL this season to fail to convert a single third down in a game.
As Profootballtalk.com's Michael David Smith notes, it's rare that a team goes through a game without picking up a first down on third down, but it's extremely rare to win a game when failing to convert a third down. It never happened in 2019 and only happened once in 2018 -- when the Seahawks beat the Cardinals 20-17 despite going 0-for-10 on third downs.
Games that come down to the wire are nothing new for the Seahawks. They beat the New England Patriots and Dallas Cowboys in similar fashion in Weeks 2 and 3.
According to ESPN Stats & Information research, this was the 14th win by the Seahawks in a one-possession game since the start of last season. They're 14-2 in such games. No other team has more than 10 wins in one-possession games in that span.
Seattle will get a needed week off in order to get some key players healthy. The Seahawks will need it with the most challenging stretch of their schedule upcoming beginning Oct. 25 at Arizona. ...
Meanwhile, it's getting harder for Metcalf to match the growing expectations, but the second-year receiver seems on the verge of becoming a league-wide star. He's second in the league behind Arizona's DeAndre Hopkins for most yards receiving through five weeks, but he's still averaging a whopping 22.5 yards per reception.
Sunday was his second winning touchdown catch of the season after grabbing the decisive score in Week 3 against Dallas.
"That's what Russ keeps harping on. There's going to be a game changer. When the ball is in the air it's always mine," Metcalf said. "That was my thought process the entire drive."
Finally. ... Head coach Pete Carroll said the Seahawks suffered no major injuries Sunday. He said he isn't sure about the chances of injured players being ready after this week's bye. He previously said star safety Jamal Adams would be back next week as would DE Rasheem Green and WR Phillip Dorsett, who will be eligible to come off IR.
Adams, LB Jordyn Brooks and RB Carlos Hyde missed the last two games. RB Rashaad Penny, DE Darrell Taylor and TE Colby Parkinson (on PUP or NFI) will be eligible to practice starting next week.
QBs: Russell Wilson, Geno Smith, Jake Luton
RBs: Chris Carson, Alex Collins, DeeJay Dallas, Travis Homer, Rashaad Penny
WRs: DK Metcalf, Tyler Lockett, D'Wayne Eskridge, Freddie Swain, Penny Hart
TEs: Gerald Everett, Will Dissly, Colby Parkinson
Tampa Bay BuccaneersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 13 October 2020
If Tom Brady lost track of what down it was on the final play of a failed comeback bid against the Chicago Bears, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback is keeping it to himself.
And head coach Bruce Arians is steering clear of speaking for the six-time Super Bowl champion, whose fourth-down incompletion sealed the team's fate in an error-filled 20-19 loss at Soldier Field on Thursday night.
"I don't know how to answer it for him," Arians said last Friday, reflecting on Brady's decision to try to move the Bucs closer to field goal range rather than attempt a shorter throw to pick up a first down on fourth-and-6 from the Tampa Bay 41.
"We all knew it was fourth down," the coach added. "I think he saw what he saw."
After the throw intended for tight end Cameron Brate was broken up by Bears safety DeAndre Houston-Carson, Brady raised four fingers in the air and appeared to be surprised Tampa Bay had turned over the ball on downs with 33 seconds remaining.
If the potential winning drive ended with Brady mistakenly thinking he had another down to try to keep his team's hopes alive, it wasn't the only miscue on offense that affected the chances for what would have been a fourth consecutive win.
Brady was sacked three times and knocked down another eight by the Bears (4-1), who overcame three deficits to take the lead for good on Cairo Santos' 38-yard field goal with 1:13 remaining. The Bucs also hurt themselves with a critical first-half fumble and accumulated 11 accepted penalties for 109 yards.
Arians, who on Thursday night initially said Brady knew it was fourth down, pinned the loss on poor coaching.
While Brady talked about the need to correct mistakes and eliminate turnovers and costly penalties, the 43-year-old quarterback did not say if he lost track of what down it was on Tampa Bay's final offensive play.
"I knew we needed a chunk and I was thinking about more yardage. It was just bad execution," Brady said.
"You're up against the clock. I knew we had to gain a chunk, so I should have been thinking more first down instead of chunk in that situation," the quarterback responded when asked a second time about the final play.
The Bucs were the NFL's most penalized team last season. They're on course to rank among the league leaders again.
"Just gotta do a better job of coaching. It all falls on the staff -- mistakes that we're making in ballgames that shouldn't be made," Arians said. "And they're not every week. ... That was one of those games where there were a bunch of them. Penalties, technique errors, things that we should have coached better."
Meanwhile, despite Leonard Fournette and LeSean McCoy being sidelined by injuries, the Bucs continue to run the ball effectively. Ronald Jones topped 100-yards rushing for the second straight week, averaging 6.24 yards per carry while gaining 106 on 17 attempts.
The Bucs were the third-most penalized team in the league entering Thursday night's game and didn't do anything to improve that standing. The offensive line was flagged five times on one third-quarter drive alone, prompting a sideline verbal scolding from Brady following a punt.
Arians has called the offensive line the most improved component of the team. While the Bucs did run the ball well against the Bears, the unit took a step back in pass protection, especially in the second half when Khalil Mack was all over Brady.
Arians hoped the "mini-bye" that follows playing on Thursday night will give the Bucs a chance to get healthy, particularly on offense, where receivers Mike Evans, Scotty Miller and Justin Watson also have been slowed by injuries, before Sunday's home game against Green Bay.
The coach said it's too soon to speculate on when WR Chris Godwin (hamstring) might return to the lineup. He's missed three of the past four games.
Worth noting, Tyler Johnson played very well against the Bears, and ESPN.com's Jenna Laine thinks the rookie wideout has a lot of traits similar to Godwin's that will really help him flourish in this offense with Brady -- his biggest being the way he competes for the ball and his concentration level on difficult catches.
Defensive tackle Vita Vea, carted off the field in the fourth quarter Thursday night, broke his right leg and probably will miss the remainder of the season. Last week, the Bucs lost tight end O.J. Howard (ruptured Achilles tendon) for the year.
"It's a big big loss because you lose players like O.J. and Vita, you plug the next man in but they're not the same," Arians said. "I hate it for (Vea). He was having such a great year."
QBs: Tom Brady, Blaine Gabbert, Kyle Trask
RBs: Leonard Fournette, Ronald Jones, Giovani Bernard, Ke'Shawn Vaughn
WRs: Chris Godwin, Mike Evans, Antonio Brown, Scott Miller, Jaelon Darden, Tyler Johnson
TEs: Rob Gronkowski, O.J. Howard, Cameron Brate
Tennessee TitansCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 13 October 2020
Ravaged by positive COVID-19 tests, and without several key players on the team's 53-man roster, the Titans beat the Bills 42-16 with an inspired effort on Tuesday night in the first game with fans present at Nissan Stadium during the 2020 season.
The Titans gave fans plenty to cheer about while improving to 4-0.
It was the team's first game in 16 days after having back-to-back games rescheduled, and it came after only one full practice during the week leading up to the contest.
"All the credit goes to the players for sticking together, and playing in the manner in which they did," head coach Mike Vrabel said. "I am never going to question this football team. I am never going to question the effort. … I expect us to win and play with great effort."
Vrabel said the Titans have proven to be a resilient team, long before the recent adversity.
"You don't all of a sudden galvanize when things are bad, and I think that is a testament to these players and what we've tried to build here," Vrabel said. "You don't (all of a sudden) say, "There's a s&*t storm, we better galvanize.' You stay tight throughout and hope your core values and core beliefs can take over when things get difficult."
These Titans showed a lot of fight in this one.
Titans quarterback Ryan Tannehill completed 21-of-28 passes for 195 yards and three touchdowns, and he also ran for a score.
Running back Derrick Henry carried the ball 19 times for 57 yards and two touchdowns. It was Henry's ninth game with multiple rushing TDs since 2018, second most in the NFL behind Falcons running back Todd Gurley II (10).
Receiver A.J. Brown had seven catches for 82 yards and a touchdown, and tight end Jonnu Smith caught two touchdown passes. The Bills had veteran cornerback Josh Norman shadow Brown, but that plan failed.
Cornerback Malcolm Butler had two interceptions.
"I'm going to keep it plain and simple: We expected to win," Butler said. "We don't need nobody to give us a chance, we give ourselves a chance, and that's exactly what we did tonight."
According to the NFL, the Titans became the first team to score a touchdown on every red-zone possession (minimum 6 red zone drives), have zero turnovers, and allow no sacks since the Patriots defeated the Bills, 56-10, in Week 11 of their undefeated 2007 season.
"I felt really good coming in," Tannehill said. "There was great energy coming in, and guys were excited to come out and play. It's been a long couple of weeks, with ups and downs. We're playing, we're not playing. We're practicing, we're not practicing. We're on Zoom. We're in the building and out of the building. It's been a roller coaster in every which way. But our guys believe in each other, we stuck to the process. ... And we came out and believed in each other and made plays when we need to and won the game."
Vrabel announced at his post-game press conference that all members of the organization will receive the honor -- all players on the active roster and the practice squad, all cafeteria workers, every member of the cleaning crew. Everyone.
The team has been through plenty the past two 16 days, capped by a very real belief in league circles last week that the league would impose "historic" punishment on the Titans for violating COVID-19 protocols.
Apart from Tuesday's win, the best news could be that the NFL apparently won't punish the Titans at all, a notion punctuated by the Commissioner's comment to Jay Feely of CBS that no one from the Titans "willingly" broke the rules. ...
The Titans face the Houston Texans on Sunday at Nissan Stadium. ...
Worth noting. ... Brown will continue where he left off and have a field day against the Houston Texans. Look for him to have his first 100-yard receiving game of the year and chip in with a couple of touchdown receptions.
Meanwhile, Corey Davis and Adam Humphries remain on the Reserve/COVID-19 list. I'll be watching for more on their status as the week progresses. ...
Hours after linebacker Kamalei Correa asked the Titans to trade him, the team obliged.
The Titans have traded Correa to the Jaguars, NFL Network reports. ...
And finally. ... As Profootballtalk.com notes, the Titans made a lot of big plays in their beatdown of the Bills on Tuesday night, but Tannehill could only rave about one after the game.
That one was Henry's stiff arm that sent Norman flying, a play that Tannehill thought was both amazing, and par for the course for Henry.
"I screamed, 'holy crap,'" Tannehill said, via SI.com. "That was unbelievable just to see the way he tossed that guy. Derrick is a special player. We've seen the stiff arm from him. I saw it all last year. I've seen it before I got here, highlights of it. Obviously, he's strong, physically a tough runner. That was probably one of the meanest stiff arms I've ever seen, no doubt."
Henry had a simple explanation for how he was able to stiff-arm a grown man into another dimension.
"I have been doing too many curls," Henry said. "I have to lay off the arms."
QBs: Ryan Tannehill, Logan Woodside
RBs: Derrick Henry, Jeremy McNichols, Khari Blasingame, Mekhi Sargent, Darrynton Evans
WRs: A.J. Brown, Julio Jones, Josh Reynolds, Nick Westbrook_Ikhine, Racey McMath, Cameron Batson
TEs: Anthony Firkser, Geoff Swaim, Tanner Hudson
Washington Football TeamCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 13 October 2020
As ESPN.com's John Keim suggested, the fairy tale return didn't develop. But, if nothing else, Alex Smith proved one thing in his return two years after his gruesome leg injury: He can take a hit. Unfortunately for Smith, he proved that over and over.
"Very surreal," Smith said.
With two minutes left in the second quarter, Smith entered Washington's 30-10 loss to the Los Angeles Rams when starter Kyle Allen was hurt. He had a promising second series, leading Washington on a field goal drive. But from there it got worse -- for him and Washington.
Smith completed 9 of 17 passes for 37 yards and was sacked six times in his first action since Nov. 18, 2018. Washington gained a total of minus-6 net yards in the second half.
"It was great to be out there, the feeling, the range of emotions, the good and the bad," Smith said. "It's why I fought so hard to come back. Sometimes you can take it for granted. Certainly to be away from it for a couple years, I've missed it."
Allen injured his arm and was cleared to return, but head coach Ron Rivera said they kept him out for an "abundance of caution."
Rivera said as long as Allen is healthy, he'll return to the starting lineup with Smith remaining the backup.
But the moment was less about Smith's future than about the return from a two-year absence.
"I realized the gravity of it," Rivera said of Smith's return, "but I also realized he's a football player who has been waiting for his opportunity, he got his opportunity and he did a good job. I was very pleased with what I saw. He was put in a very difficult position, and I thought he handled himself very well."
With family allowed to attend games for the first time this season at FedEx Field, Smith's wife and children gave him a standing ovation in the rain as he sprinted onto the field following Allen's injury.
Smith was harassed in the pocket much of the time and a player once known for his mobility struggled to escape the pressure. But he moved freely and didn't flinch from the pressure, either. He moved up in the pocket and ran -- and took one hit after another. A key moment: When Rams defensive tackle Aaron Donald hopped on Smith's back, collapsing him to the ground for a sack to end Smith's first series.
"Well it was good to see, to be honest, because now you know he can handle it," Rivera said of Smith getting hit. "That's the one thing we couldn't see in training camp was whether or not he could take the hit. He handled it very well. He's done a great job and it's a hell of a story."
Smith said he had been waiting to get hit "for a long time," adding, "It was nice to know you're fine and it was nice to knock the cobwebs off."
Those cobwebs were knocked off a few times as the Rams took advantage.
Still, that Smith, who required 17 surgeries to repair the injury and to fight an infection that nearly caused doctors to amputate his leg, made it back on the field is remarkable.
Meanwhile, Allen, who replaced Dwayne Haskins as the starting quarterback last week, completed 9 of 13 passes for 74 yards and ran for one touchdown.
"He delivered a good ball for the most part," Rivera said. "He managed well. We'll see how things go if he's healthy."
Allen also scrambled for a 7-yard touchdown run; his mobility adds a different aspect to Washington's offense. That play stood out to Rivera because of what it showed.
"He saw man coverage, he saw the defenders had their backs turned and he knew he had the opportunity to tuck the ball and run," Rivera said. "That was a good decision on his part."
In general, a lot of blame will be placed on Washington's offensive line, which gave up eight sacks Sunday. But to Rivera, the more concerning part was the defense's struggles early on. Once the Rams were ahead, they could get after the quarterback without fear of losing the lead or falling further behind. "Anytime a team can pin their ears back, it's tough to protect."
Still, the offense could not get anything going aside from its 10-play, 73-yard drive towards the end of the first quarter. Following Allen's rushing touchdown, which put Washington ahead, 7-6, the team punted on nine of its final 11 possessions and finished with just 108 total yards.
"They got the lead, and it was raining pretty good," said running back J.D. McKissic, who led Washington in targets (eight), receptions (six) and yards (46). "We couldn't pass how we wanted to. It was a lot of things that played a role. A rainy game, trying to throw the ball the way we wanted to with wet balls was difficult."
Running back Antonio Gibson rushed for 27 yards on 11 carries. He added 24 yards through the air on five receptions. Wide receiver Terry McLaurin caught three passes for 26 yards.
Fantasy managers with Football Team players on their rosters need to set their expectations in line for all involved.
For the record, a source told NBCSports.com's JP Finlay that Allen is medically cleared and he was back at practice Wednesday. In addition, Gibson (toe) was limited in Wednesday's practice. I'll follow up via Late-Breaking Update as needed, but Allen will be good to go for Sunday's game. ...
One last note here. ... The team announced that Haskins was not at practice Wednesday. He's still not feeling well (he was not present for Sunday's game due to the same issue). He's been home with medication and has tested for COVID-19 repeatedly and all tests have come back negative.
QBs: Taylor Heinicke, Kyle Allen, Ryan Fitzpatrick
RBs: Antonio Gibson, J.D. McKissic, Jaret Patterson
WRs: Terry McLaurin, Dyami Brown, Adam Humphries, Cam Sims, Curtis Samuel
TEs: Logan Thomas, Ricky Seals-Jones, John Bates, Sammis Reyes