Team Notes week 7 2016
NEWS, NOTES, RUMORS AND OTHER GOOD STUFFDirectly 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. ...
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Arizona CardinalsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 19 October 2016
Johnson scored on runs of 58, 2 and 2 yards while becoming the first player to rush for three scores against the Jets since LeSean McCoy did it five years ago.
According to NFL.com's Conor Orr, Johnson's 111-yard, three-touchdown game was "simply balletic at times." His 58-yard touchdown run in the first quarter was patient and punishing. In the face of another Jets blitz, it seemed to peel off in slow motion. The Jets have not been completely healthy on defense at times, but this is a star-studded defensive line that was shoved around and pushed aside at will on some key plays Monday.
Johnson's ability to find open space and accelerate is stunning for a player his size.
For all the accolades the former third-round pick out of Northern Iowa has achieved since arriving in the NFL from player of the week and player of the month honors to already having his jersey and a pair of cleats placed into the Pro Football Hall of Fame Johnson rarely has received many kudos from head coach Bruce Arians.
Not only does he not want Johnson to get a big head and start to lose focus, but Arians grinds on the player all the time because he know Johnson can be even better than he has shown as one of the league's most versatile and dangerous backs.
That's why Arians has yet to present Johnson with a game ball, even though Johnson has scored 21 career touchdowns the most by any player in Cardinals' history in his first two NFL seasons. And Johnson still has 10 games left to play in 2016.
"That's all Fitz was saying to me today," Johnson said Monday night, referring to teammate Larry Fitzgerald. "It's not crazy at all. Last week I had those mental-error breakdowns and the fumble didn't help. I didn't deserve it. It feels good because they expect me to have that kind of game."
Even afterward, Arians refused to gush over Johnson's efforts.
"I thought he played extremely well," Arians said. "I'll grade the tape, but nothing glaring other than one missed blitz pickup."
On Monday, he cracked, "I might give him a game ball."
As the Sports Xchange noted, it's always something with Arians when it comes to Johnson. Arians keeps saying that Johnson leaves too many yards and touchdowns out on the field, that he is not taking full advantage of his situations.
Quarterback Carson Palmer was asked how much of that is legitimate and how much of it is bluster by Arians to keep the humble and unassuming Johnson from getting cocky.
"Probably a little bit of both," Palmer said. "I think when a young guy has a lot of success, you've got to find ways to make sure he realizes how he got that success is from hard work. Especially with Dave. He works as hard as anybody. So, I'm sure it's a little of that, and there are always yards left on the field with Bruce. There's no doubt about that."
Meanwhile, he Cardinals (3-3) won their second in a row to climb back to .500. New York (1-5) lost its fourth straight in a rough return to Arizona for Todd Bowles, who was defensive coordinator for the Cardinals for two seasons before getting the Jets coaching job two years ago.
Palmer, back after missing the 49ers game with a concussion, completed 23 of 34 passes for 213 yards and left the game with a hamstring strain after throwing a 9-yard TD pass to Michael Floyd with 8:20 remaining.
Arizona scored in the first quarter for the first time this season on the second time Johnson touched the ball.
The Jets entered the game second in the NFL in rushing defense at 68 yards per game. They were outgained on the ground 171-33.
Arizona scored on a pair of 14-play drives in the second half. Johnson got his second 2-yard TD run up the middle, and the Palmer pass to Floyd.
At times, it seemed as though Arians was trolling his former coordinator. Throughout the second, third and fourth quarters, his receivers seemed to threaten a ton of deep routes -- the Jets' Achilles' heel throughout the season -- only to snap the routes back toward the first-down marker.
This might have been the most potent passing game we've seen from a team all season that did not finish with a 100-yard receiver (or 60-yard receiver).
Meanwhile, the hamstring issue that sidelined Palmer late in the four quarter turned out to only be cramping. Palmer remained on the sideline after the official press box announcement but had his game gear on and did not finish the game in the locker room.
Palmer said he was dehydrated because he was on the field so long during three touchdown drives of 14 plays, 11 plays and 11 plays. ...
Other notes of interest. ... Floyd didn't have a huge night in the stats department, but general manager Steve Keim thinks Floyd is starting to return to the player the Cardinals thought he can be.
"Well, it's great to see," Keim said, "and I think it's one of the things, I don't know if it's confidence or not but, just to be able to have the opportunity and get him going is going to be a huge benefit for us in the second half of the season, as well as John Brown and everybody else on our offense; Jaron Brown continues to show up. Last night I was extremely impressed with the energy that J.J. Nelson showed when he came in. There was a series where he made two or three huge plays and put us in a position to score. So we have a lot of different players that can affect the game and that's a good problem to have."
Receiver Jaron Brown suffered a knee injury during Monday night's game, and according to Arians, he will be day-to-day leading up to Sunday night's game against the visiting Seahawks.
"We'll see if he needs a brace," Arians said.
QBs: Drew Stanton, Mike Glennon, Sam Bradford
RBs: Elijhaa Penny
WRs: Larry Fitzgerald, J.J. Nelson, Brice Butler, Chad Williams
TEs: Jermaine Gresham, Ricky Seals-Jones
Atlanta FalconsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 19 October 2016
Atlanta's high-flying offensive attack slogged through the first half, woke up during a 21-point third quarter, and made critical mistakes in the fourth quarter that allowed Seattle to rally in a 26-24 loss on Sunday.
Rather than walking away from a two-game road trip with wins at Denver and at Seattle, the Falcons are headed home realizing their missed opportunity.
"We didn't start the way we wanted to in the first half, but I thought we responded really well in the second half and continued to battle," Matt Ryan said. "We just didn't finish the way we wanted to."
As ESPN.com's Vaughn McClure noted, the NFL's leading passer showed great resolve in the loss. Despite being sacked four times, being hit 13 times, and having two costly turnovers, Ryan managed 335 passing yards and three touchdowns with a passer rating of 102.8.
In fact, for one 15-minute stretch, Ryan could do little wrong.
He was 13 of 17 for 220 yards, three touchdowns and a quarterback rating of 157.5 in the third quarter. He hit Julio Jones for a 36-yard score on the first drive of the second half; found Mohamed Sanu on a 10-yard TD; and later connected with Levine Toilolo on a 46-yarder during the rally.
How rare was Ryan's performance? Since the start of the 2014 season, the Seahawks have held 25 teams to less than 220 yards passing for a game. Ryan needed just three possessions to accumulate that many yards.
This was the 27th time Ryan has thrown for three or more touchdowns, and the 39th time in his career he threw for 300 yards. Ryan is the first 300-yard passer the Seahawks have allowed all season, and his 220 passing yards in the third quarter are the most passing yards allowed by a quarterback facing Seattle since week five of 2011 (Eli Manning 236 fourth quarter).
He also tied former QB Dan Fouts for an NFL-record 45 straight games of 200-plus passing yards.
The Seahawks took notice.
"He's definitely one of the league's elite quarterbacks," Seahawks defensive lineman Michael Bennett said of Ryan. "Just like Julio Jones is an elite receiver. But, we won the game, so that's all that matters at the end of the day."
The hits he absorbed might have had others cringing and gun-shy, but Ryan stepped up and made plays under adversity.
"He showed a lot," head coach Dan Quinn said of Ryan. "I think it was one of the tougher games for him. Just standing up, staying right in there. He has a real focus about him."
Ryan now has league-leading 2,075 passing yards and is second in the league with 15 touchdown passes behind Pittsburgh's Ben Roethlisberger (16). The Falcons should feel pretty good about Ryan coming off another 300-plus-yard performance against an elite defense. There's no telling what Ryan will do against other opponents, starting with the San Diego Chargers next Sunday at the Georgia Dome.
Of course, Ryan can't continue to take hits like he did against the Seahawks.
But if the Falcons show the same type of resolve as a whole as Ryan has through six games, there's no reason why the postseason shouldn't be in their future.
Other notes of interest. ... Jones was incredulous about a non-call on an apparent pass interference by Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman that foiled the Falcons' last-ditch drive on fourth-and-10 after they'd lost the lead.
"That was crazy," said Jones, who then flashed a quizzical look.
Jones confirmed what replays tended to show what the NFL officials ignored: He was interfered with by Sherman on the play.
"I had a seam route on the play," Jones said. "It was fourth down. Matt (Ryan) just threw the ball up and gave me an opportunity to make a play on the ball. We desperately needed it to try to go down there, first of all to get the first down and potentially get a field goal."
Jones almost made the catch one-handed, but the ball hit the ground.
Jones was held in check in the first half as he had just two catches for 25 yards. He broke loose in the third quarter as he was moved into the slot. He caught five pass for 119 yards to power the Falcons' rally.
Toilolo's touchdown was his first of the season fifth of his career. Sanu's touchdown was his second of the year. He finished the game with five receptions for 47 yards while getting one more target (10) than Jones (9).
Devonta Freeman rushed for 40 yards and had 10 yards receiving against Seattle. The 40 yards were his second-lowest output of the season. He rushed for just 20 yards against Tampa Bay on Sept. 11. Tevin Coleman was held to 17 yards from scrimmage. ...
Receiver Taylor Gabriel suffered a concussion and did not return to the game. Quinn didn't have an update on Monday.
And finally. ... The Falcons' defense held the Seahawks to 2.7 yards per carry.
The defense hasn't allowed a 100-yard rusher in 11 straight weeks. The defense also held Seattle to a 36-percent conversion rate on third downs. The Falcons' defense held the Seahawks to 2.7 yards per carry. The defense hasn't allowed a 100-yard rusher in 11 straight weeks. The defense also held Seattle to 36 percent conversion rate on third downs.
QBs: Matt Ryan, Matt Schaub, Matt Simms
RBs: Devonta Freeman, Tevin Coleman, Terron Ward
WRs: Julio Jones, Mohamed Sanu, Justin Hardy, Nick Williams
TEs: Austin Hooper, Eric Saubert, Logan Paulsen
Baltimore RavensCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 19 October 2016
As Baltimore Sun staffer Jeff Zrebiec noted, the Ravens changed their offensive coordinator during the week, but Sunday's game played out familiarly.
Zrebiec went on to explain that for one week, John Harbaugh's decision to replace offensive coordinator Marc Trestman with Marty Mornhinweg led to a slightly larger run/pass ratio, more deep shots down the field and the offense playing with a little more rhythm and decisiveness.
It, however, didn't cure everything that ails these Ravens.
Those factors — too many penalties, not enough of a pass rush, an onslaught of injuries to prominent players — are arising every week. They cost the Ravens in a 27-23 loss to the New York Giants, and they are threatening to ruin the team's 2016 season.
More and more, they are resembling their 5-11 team from last year, rather than a group of players that learned valuable lessons from the 2015 debacle and was ready to alter the narrative.
"We've been there before, man," Joe Flacco said. "It's a tough league. It's a lot of tough games and a long road again. We've got to stay as confident as we can and we've got to move forward and just keep our head down. Our division is still up for grabs."
However, it seems silly to be thinking about that prize as they continually make the same mistakes every week. Those indiscretions Sunday included 15 penalties for 111 yards.
They continually set themselves back with special teams or offensive penalties.
"That's our season, honestly. We eliminate those and we're, like, 6-0. We do that every single game," said wide receiver Mike Wallace, who had four catches for 97 yards. "Honestly, we're so close. We can be the best team in the league and we can be the worst team in the league. It's up to us and stopping these penalties."
The injuries are more difficult to eliminate.
Cornerback Jimmy Smith (concussion) and linebacker Terrell Suggs (left arm) left Sunday's game and didn't return. These injuries are compounded by the fact that the Ravens entered the game with five banged-up Pro Bowl players on the sideline. With three starting offensive linemen sidelined along with Steve Smith 0ut, Baltimore struggled to punch the ball in the red zone.
The Ravens tried to change their fortunes by firing Trestman. But all of these injuries and mistakes proved too big of a challenge for even Mornhinweg to make a difference.
Baltimore returns to MetLife Stadium this Sunday to play the New York Jets before heading to its bye. ...
West ran the ball 23 times for 87 yards, including a key 33-yard scamper, with two touchdowns in Week 6. Harbaugh has admitted the team needs to run more to take some of the pressure off Flacco. West has answered the call.
Worth noting: Harbaugh told reporters that Lorenzo Taliaferro will return to practice this week after opening the season on the PUP list. ...
As noted above, Steve Smith (ankle) was held out against the Giants. Smith had expressed optimism earlier in the week that he would be able to play. Smith's status for this week's game against the Jets is uncertain. He did not practice Wednesday. With Smith out of the lineup, Kamar Aiken got extended playing time and caught a season-high four passes for 64 yards.
Harmon further pointed out the Ravens did indeed try to push the ball downfield more with Trestman out of the picture. Joe Flacco had a 7.9 average depth of aimed throw in Weeks 4 and 5 but that jumped to 9.0 in Week 6 as the team took a few shot plays to both Wallace and Perriman.
This offense could be more explosive going forward, especially with Terrance West showing well as the feature back after complementing his solid rushing with four catches. That is, of course, when Flacco actually plays well.
Instead. Flacco had his worst game of the season. He had two inexplicable delay of game penalties and overthrew receivers. He completed 26 of 48 passes for 307 yards with no touchdowns.
Flacco played the entire game without suffering any apparent injury and there was no word of one when he spoke to the media after the game. But the team announced Wednesday morning that Flacco was not taking part in the team’s first practice ahead of this Sunday’s game against the Jets.
Harbaugh announced after practice that Flacco was dealing with a right shoulder issue. "He has a legitimate shot at playing Sunday. I don't know what the percentage is, " Harbaugh said.
It's safe to say I'll have a close eye on this one and report back via Late-Breaking Update as the sitaution becomes clearer. ...
Ryan Mallett is the No. 2 quarterback for Baltimore.
LT Ronnie Stanley (foot) missed his third consecutive game despite being able to practice earlier in the week. Fellow rookie Alex Lewis took over left tackle. Stanley could be back against the Jets. RG Marshal Yanda (shoulder) missed practice last week and did not play. Yanda's status this week is uncertain, and he declined to speculate whether he would be ready to return.
Harbaugh was not optimistic Yanda would be ready this week. Ryan Jensen got the start without Yanda in the lineup.
Suggs will not need season-ending injury, Harbaugh said. The coach added, however, it would be difficult for Suggs to return this week against the Jets. "He has a chance to come back soon," Harbaugh said. "How soon remain to be determined. I think this week will be tough for him."
Jimmy Smith's status this week is uncertain.
LB C.J. Mosley (hamstring) missed his first game of the season and his status is uncertain as well. Mosley's absence was a major blow to the Ravens, who struggled with coverage and putting together an effective pass rush. LB Elvis Dumervil (foot) was held out of lineup Week 6 against the New York Giants. He underwent offseason surgery on the injured foot, and it has hampered him most of the season. Dumervil has appeared in just two games and does not have a sack.
I'll be following up on all the injured Ravens via Late-Breaking Update in coming days.
QBs: Joe Flacco, Ryan Mallett, Dustin Vaughan, Robert Griffin III
RBs: Terrance West, Javorius Allen
WRs: Michael Crabtree, John Brown, Breshad Perriman, Chris Moore, Kenny Bell
TEs: Maxx Williams, Nick Boyle
Buffalo BillsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 19 October 2016
As ESPN.com's Mike Rodak suggested, maybe the Buffalo Bills appeared to be catching a break.
Fantasy owners too.
After an offseason deflated by injuries to star receiver Sammy Watkins and top draft choices Shaq Lawson and Reggie Ragland, good luck finally found the Bills while running back LeSean McCoy laid on the turf -- apparently hurt -- during the second quarter of Sunday's 45-16 win over the San Francisco 49ers.
Fortunately for the Bills -- and that's a rare phrase -- McCoy dodged injury on the play, returning to the game and avoiding catastrophe in Buffalo. With the blowout win, the Bills have now won four consecutive games for the first time since 2008. A victory next week in Miami would mean first place in the AFC East could be on the line Oct. 30 when the Bills host the New England Patriots.
But after McCoy caught a 2-yard pass from quarterback Tyrod Taylor in the second quarter and took a hard hit from 49ers linebacker Nick Bellore, the running back immediately grabbed his right knee. For several moments, as trainers huddled over McCoy on the ground, it appeared the health of the Bills' best offensive player was in jeopardy.
But then McCoy hopped up and started walking slowly to the sideline. His steps became brisker, and within minutes, McCoy was jogging around the sideline, interacting with teammates and readying to return to the game.
McCoy's impact on Sunday's game was enormous: He rushed 19 times for 140 yards and three touchdowns, his first three-touchdown game since Dec. 18, 2011. It was also the most rushing touchdowns for a Bills player in a game since Willis McGahee scored four times against Seattle in 2004.
After the game, McCoy finally came clean about the bitter feelings he once had toward 49ers coach Chip Kelly.
As the Associated Press reported, the veteran running back acknowledged he was stung by how Kelly, during his tenure coaching the Eagles, discarded McCoy by trading him to Buffalo in February 2014.
"To sit here and tell you that it didn't affect me last year, I would be lying," he said. "But I'm passed that."
McCoy is on a roll having combined for 470 yards rushing and six touchdowns (including one receiving) over his past four games.
It's a stretch that coincides with head coach Rex Ryan firing offensive coordinator Greg Roman following an 0-2 start and promoting running backs coach Anthony Lynn.
Since the firing of Roman, McCoy looks like a different back as Lynn has simplified the run calls, but also added a few new wrinkles that have greatly helped McCoy.
There have been more between the tackles runs where the offensive line opens a crack and McCoy makes one cut and goes. The Bills have used some college-style option, and they have also used some wildcat formations. McCoy scored once on an option pitch, one on a wildcat play, and once on a quick hitter up the middle against the 49ers.
While McCoy's final numbers Sunday were eye-opening, the result was hardly unexpected against a 49ers defense that entered Sunday with the NFL's second-worst rushing defense, allowing 146 yards per game.
The Bills more than doubled that average, rushing for 312 rushing yards Sunday -- their most since Nov. 11, 1992, when the Bills gained 315 rushing yards against the Atlanta Falcons.
Heading into Week 7, McCoy trails only Dallas rookie Ezekiel Elliott in yards (703 to 587), but the Bills have now surpassed the Cowboys as the No. 1 rushing offense in the league, averaging 166.1 yards per game, including 211.8 the last four games.
But there's a problem.
Ryan announced that McCoy injured his hamstring in Wednesday's practice and did not finish and the Bills are awaiting results of medical evaluation to determine severity.
I'll have more on McCoy when Late-Breaking Updates commence early Wednesday. ...
Although McCoy has been the only fantasy-relevant back up to this point, Mike Gillislee ripped off a 44-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter (three of his six career touchdowns have been for at least 40 yards). Rookie Jonathan Williams saw some playing time at the end of the game, but he coughed up a fumble deep in Bills territory.
Somebody will have to pick up the pace if McCoy can't go. I'll have more on that as well
Other notes of interest. ... While the Bills are leading the NFL in rushing, their passing game is the second-worst in the NFL at 171 yards per game. The Bills don't have Watkins, meaning they have no threats at the wide receiver position. Justin Hunter is trying to change that.
Signed as a free agent a few weeks ago after being cut by the Titans, the former second-round pick from Tennessee is trying to resurrect his career, and so far, he has two catches for Buffalo, and both have gone for touchdowns. The previous week in Los Angeles he caught a four-yard scoring pass from Tyrod Taylor, and Sunday against the 49ers he caught a 30-yarder.
After playing very little against the Rams, Hunter was on the field for 58 percent of the snaps against the 49ers. He was targeted only twice, but at least he's making plays when given the chance.
Taylor completed 17 of 26 passes for 179 yards and one touchdown, and played turnover-free for the third game in a row.
Tight end Charles Clay led the Bills with five catches for 52 yards, but did not finish the game due to an ankle injury. Receiver Robert Woods caught five passes for 44 yards and a touchdown, his first of the season.
Dan Carpenter made a 40-yard field goal and all six of his extra point attempts on a gusty day.
On the injury front, Clay (knee) and Wood (foot) were not practicing Wednesday, though Ryan expects both to play. I'll follow up via Late-Breaking Update as the week progresses. ...
And finally. ... As the Xchange suggested, it is happening a year later than Ryan said it would, but his defense is playing great. Not No. 1 in the league great, as Ryan boasted the Bills would be when he took the head coaching job in Buffalo, but pretty effective.
Only once this season have the Bills given up more than 20 points, that in the puzzling 37-31 loss to the Jets in the Week 2 home opener on a Thursday night. They are now allowing just 17.2 points per game, which ranks fifth in the NFL.
QBs: AJ McCarron, Nathan Peterman
RBs: LeSean McCoy, Chris Ivory, Mike Tolbert, Joe Banyard, Taiwan Jones
WRs: Kelvin Benjamin, Zay Jones, Andre Holmes, Corey Brown, Brandon Tate
TEs: Charles Clay, Nick O'Leary, Logan Thomas
Carolina PanthersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 19 October 2016
Head coach Ron Rivera is hoping a bye week and some in-depth self-scouting will help the defending NFC champions salvage what is quickly becoming a lost season.
Carolina (1-5) is marred in a four-game losing streak following a 41-38 loss to the New Orleans Saints on Sunday, a game in which his young secondary was shredded for the second time in the last three weeks.
"Oh, yeah. It really is a big challenge," Rivera said Monday. "The easiest thing to do is quit, but shoot, we've got 10 games to play. Atlanta lost (Sunday). So heck, we're not in a bad spot. What we've got to do is take care of our business and doing the things we're capable of. That starts now."
As Associated Press sports writer Steve Reed suggests, "Big challenge might be an understatement."
The Panthers are three games behind the Falcons (4-2) in the NFC South -- and 0-3 in division play. They've matched the worst record through six games for teams coming off a Super Bowl appearance, joining the 1987 New York Giants, 1999 Atlanta Falcons, 2002 St. Louis Rams and 2004 Panthers, who also started 1-5.
Rivera encouraged players to "get away" from football following their practice on Tuesday.
The Panthers are obviously frustrated as evidenced by Cam Newton's brief postgame interview Sunday -- which he ended after about one minute.
During their time off, the coaching staff plans to do extra self-scouting to figure out how a team that went 17-2 last season and reached the Super Bowl has fallen off course.
"Hopefully we get some answers," Rivera said.
As ESPN.com's David Newton noted, the Panthers pulled out all stops to get back into Sunday's loss. They called a pass from wide receiver Ted Ginn to little-used receiver Brenton Bersin, who drew a pass interference penalty at the 2-yard line to set up a touchdown.
They lined up Cam Newton wide as a receiver and let running back Jonathan Stewart take the snap out of the Wildcat on another drive.
They gambled twice on fourth down on another drive to set up a touchdown.
They finally turned Newton loose to run. His 2-yard touchdown rush and ensuing two-point conversion pass to Devin Funchess tied it at 38.
Kicker Graham Gano, who missed a game-winning field goal in the opener and missed critical field goals in two other games, missed the tying extra point.
The Panthers even overcame that.
But in the end, the Panthers couldn't stop Brees with a makeshift secondary and they couldn't stop making the kind of mistakes that has put their season on the brink.
So the biggest focus will be the team's pass defense, which is allowing 282 yards per game and has surrendered 13 touchdowns through the air since jettisoning All-Pro cornerback Josh Norman.
The Panthers have failed to generate much of a pass rush with their starting defensive ends Charles Johnson and Kony Ealy combining for one-half sack this season. That, combined with a young secondary that has been riddled by injuries and lacks game experience, has led to some poor results.
Atlanta's Matt Ryan threw for 503 yards and Drew Brees put up 465 against the Panthers, the two biggest totals by an opposing quarterback in the franchise's 22-year history. Both threw for four touchdowns.
"Well, that's probably the biggest disappointment is we haven't had the production we would have liked out of the front," Rivera said. "The front has done a nice job. We've done a good job stopping the run. But (the run defense) is not what's killing us."
Rivera said the Panthers will look at ways of being more creative on defense to get additional pressure on opposing QBs. ...
A few final notes. .. Lost in the loss to New Orleans was Newton surpassed Jake Delhomme for the Panthers' career passing yards leader. With 322 yards in the 41-38 setback Newton has 19,559 passing yards. Delhomme, who was in attendance at the Superdome, had 19,258 yards from 2003-09.
Devin Funchess caught two of his six targets for 28 yards and a touchdown. So far this season, Funchess has caught just seven of his 19 targets.
Greg Olsen caught six of his seven targets for 94 yards. Through Sunday's games, he ranks second in the NFL with 610 receiving yards. Fellow tight end Ed Dickson scored his first touchdown since a 4-yard snag against the Falcons in Week 14 last year.
After digging themselves a 21-0 hole, the Panthers weren't able to run as much as they would have liked. But they still cracked the 100-yard mark. Jonathan Stewart, who missed three games with a sprained hamstring, gained 85 of the Panthers' 103 rushing yards.
On Tuesday the Panthers re-signed tight end Scott Simonson and waived defensive end Lavar Edwards. This came a day after they waived cornerback Lou Young and claimed tight end Chris Manhertzon, who was released by New Orleans. Carolina now has four tight ends on the 53-man roster.
QBs: Cam Newton, Derek Anderson
RBs: Christian McCaffrey, Fozzy Whittaker, Cameron Artis-Payne
WRs: Devin Funchess, Russell Shepard, Torrey Smith, Brenton Bersin
TEs: Greg Olsen
Chicago BearsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 19 October 2016
According to Associated Press sports writer Andrew Seligman, the more the Bears think they've found answers to their struggles, the more their losses and frustration build.
After starting 1-5 for the first time since 2004, the Bears are heading to Green Bay for a Thursday night game with their biggest disappointment still fresh in their memories -- Sunday's blown fourth-quarter lead in a 17-16 loss to Jacksonville.
"I don't know what it is, but I know that there are spurts where we play well enough to win, and there are spurts where it looks like we don't know what the hell we're doing," guard Kyle Long said.
They've done a lot right, but two losses in three winnable games leaves them looking for ways to keep from packing it in early.
Jeffery averaged only six targets over the three-week stretch prior to Sunday, but Hoyer got him going early.
Unlike in past games, Jeffery faced a lot more single coverage from the Jaguars, who tried to neutralize him with fifth overall pick Jalen Ramsey.
Jeffery had little trouble against the highly touted rookie, catching six passes for 90 yards on seven targets before halftime. Jeffery only had one reception in the second half, but the Bears went to him a couple of times.
Throughout the week, the Bears publicly downplayed any storyline that questioned Jeffery's usage. But Jeffery looked incredibly frustrated in Chicago's Week 5 loss in Indianapolis, which ended in him throwing up his arms in anger and slamming his helmet on the bench after Hoyer missed Jeffery on the final play of the game.
As ESPN.com's Jeff Dickerson pointed out, Jeffery makes $14.599 million. He should be upset.
The Bears will not beat good teams without Jeffery playing a large role. Still, Cameron Meredith led the team in receiving yards and targets for the second week in a row. The former Illinois State quarterback, caught a career-high 11 passes (on 15 targets) for 113 yards one week after hauling in nine for a career-high 130 against the Colts.
But Jeffery, who isn't on the injury report this week for the first time since early in the year, led the team in snaps and saw more than seven targets for the first time all year. According to NFL.com's Matt Harmon, this could be a good indicator for his future outlook. ...
The defense stopped Jacksonville on third down eight out of 10 times and forced two turnovers. Yet they saw a 13-0 lead after three quarters disintegrate.
"I think our guys can see how close we are," head coach John Fox said Monday. "Yesterday was no different than the week before against Indy."
The Bears lost that one in the final four minutes.
The Bears' defense is hoping to get a major asset back this week.
Linebacker Pernell McPhee on Friday became eligible to be considered for activation to the 53-man roster from the physically unable to perform list. McPhee has been recovering from offseason knee surgery.
If McPhee is deemed able to play against the Packers, it will be on only two practices since there was no practice held Monday.
"He'll do some stuff with the training staff and some of the coaching staff, and we'll just have to get a feel, and make a decision before Thursday," Fox said.
The Bears will closely watch several other defensive injuries, including starting cornerbacks Tracy Porter (knee) and Bryce Callahan (hamstring).
In addition, guard Josh Sitton was hoping to face his former team after being signed off waivers by the Bears just before the start of the regular season.
But Sitton, who already had a shoulder injury, suffered an ankle injury in the fourth quarter against Jacksonville and Fox said he wouldn't have practiced Monday if a practice had been held.
Jay Cutler (thumb sprain) remains sidelined, as well, but with Hoyer having gone 189 throws without an interception, the Bears have avoided pushing their starter into returning too soon.
The Bears haven't started 1-6 since 2000.
Fox is doing what he can to keep morale high, including citing recent NFL history.
"You know, a team a year ago, the Kansas City Chiefs, started 1-5 and they made the playoffs," Fox said. "So all of those things are possible but if you lay down your sword, not so much."
But the Bears are in big trouble. Their next two opponents: Green Bay and Minnesota.
Barring an unforeseen turn of events, the Bears will be 1-7 at the bye week.
Forget about finishing 7-9, at this rate, the Bears may own the No. 1 pick in next spring's draft.
A few final notes here. ... Rookie Jordan Howard has been dominating the snaps in Chicago's backfield the past two weeks, so a dip in his workload seemed to be coming. And while Howard did lead the team with 15 carries and scored a touchdown, Ka'Deem Carey rushed nine times and had more yardage than his rookie teammate.
That said, As NFL.com's Matt Franciscovich believes Howard is still the guy fantasy owners will want to start every week. Just factor in the slight decrease in playing time. ...
Eddie Royal (toe) left Sunday's game with Jacksonville and did not return. He was officially ruled out Wednesday.
Royal was replaced as slot receiver by Josh Bellamy.
Jeremy Langford (ankle) missed his third straight game. Langford's injury has been labeled a high ankle sprain. He is week to week.
Lanford and Cutler are officially listed as questionable.
And finally. ... GM Ryan Pace said he is "eyeballing" Week 13 for White's return. That would be the earliest possible return. White underwent surgery after suffering a fracture of his fibula in Week 4 and was placed on injured reserve.
QBs: Mitchell Trubisky, Chase Daniel, Mark Sanchez
RBs: Jordan Howard, Tarik Cohen, Benny Cunningham
WRs: Josh Bellamy, Markus Wheaton, Bennie Fowler, Taylor Gabriel, Dontrelle Inman, Kevin White
TEs: Dion Sims, Trey Burton, Adam Shaheen, Daniel Brown, Ben Braunecker
Cincinnati BengalsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 19 October 2016
As the Sports Xchange framed it this week: "The Red zone remains a dead zone for the Bengals. ..."
Cincinnati needed to respond positively after their Week 6 thrashing at Dallas, but they knew even considerable improvement might not translate into a win at New England on Sunday. It didn't.
The four-time Super Bowl champions are tough enough to beat at Gillette Stadium. But, Sunday was quarterback Tom Brady's season debut at home coming off a four-game suspension the previous week, and the crowd was juiced from the outset.
In what's been seemingly a weekly occurrence this season, Cincinnati was left to lament its missed opportunities. For the better part of three quarters, the Bengals went toe-to-toe with the Patriots, and in the first half an argument could be made that they were the better team. New England, though, scored 25 second-half points, including 10 in the fourth quarter, to pull away for a 35-17 win.
While last week's 28-14 loss to the Cowboys wasn't nearly as close as the score might indicate, the setback at New England actually was rather competitive. Momentum shifted when quarterback Andy Dalton was sacked for a safety, resulting in a nine-point run for the Patriots. And, the red zone again was a dead zone for Cincinnati.
"I felt like we stopped ourselves," said receiver A.J. Green. "We were getting whatever we wanted, but we just weren't capitalizing in the red zone. That has been our Achilles' heel all season. That's tough. Especially when you are playing a team like that. When you have Tom Brady across the field, you need all the points you can."
Cincinnati converted on two of its four red-zone trips on Sunday, but failed to convert a fourth-and-1 from inside the 1-yard line and Dalton missed a throw to Green after checking to a fade route in the corner of the end zone.
"When you have chances, you want to make and you want to make plays," said Dalton, who had another solid outing, passing for 254 yards and a TD. "We have a lot of season left and we've got to get back on track this week."
The Bengals (2-4) got a break with every team in the AFC North losing on Sunday. They host the Cleveland Browns this Sunday with a good chance to get a win, move back on the doorstep of .500 and begin to right the ship.
Aside from tight end Tyler Eifert, and a third-quarter leg injury to center Russell Bodine on Sunday, the Bengals are as healthy as they've been all season. But, they can't keep leaving points on the field.
"We've got to start maximizing those possessions," said head coach Marvin Lewis. "We've got to coach it out of us and keep grinding. We aren't executing the way we need to in order to beat a good football team right now.
There are other problems. The most glaring among them have been on the offensive line. Right tackle Cedric Ogbuehi got benched during the third quarter in New England, though he was back for the final series. Ogbuehi, a first-round pick last season, has struggled in his past two games. Lewis said Ogbuehi would start against the Browns.
Center Russell Bodine left in the third quarter because of a sprained ankle. His status for the Browns game is uncertain.
Dalton got sacked for a safety in the second half and was under consistent pressure. He's been sacked 19 times, tied for second-most in the league.
The defense has major issues, too. It gave up three more touchdown passes on Sunday and now has allowed 14 overall, trailing Detroit (17) and Cleveland (16) for most in the NFL.
Last season, the Bengals allowed only 18 touchdown passes in 16 regular-season games. ...
Other notes of interest. ... Dalton continues to play well despite being minus his Pro Bowl tight end, an inconsistent running game, poor offensive line play and largely a new receiving corps. Dalton completed his first 10 passes on Sunday and finished 21 of 31 for 254 yards and touchdown without an interception.
The one throw he would like to have back is a poorly-place toss on fade route to Green in the corner of the end zone.
NFL.com's Matt Harmon notes that in an effort to keep pace with the high-flying Patriots, the Bengals deployed three wide receivers on 81.5 percent of their plays. As a result, Tyler Boyd saw the field more than usual, taking 80 percent of the team snaps and making a few solid catches for a season-high 79 yards. He still played behind Brandon LaFell (91 percent), who snared his third red=zone touchdown in two weeks.
On the ground. ... The Bengals were productive on first down early in Sunday's game which contributed to their fast start. Giovani Bernard had 49 yards on 15 carries. But, again, the running game failed them in the red zone. Cincinnati was stuffed on fourth-and-goal from inside the 1-yard line, denying them what would have been a momentum-snatching score in the first half.
Despite his chest injury, Jeremy Hill had 13 carries against the Patriots, but managed just 38 yards. As NFL.com's Matt Franciscovich suggests, Hill's status as a touchdown-dependent fantasy back was further solidified here.
Bernard, who has now been the starter for two straight weeks, totaled 19 touches in the game and fell just shy of 100 scrimmage yards. In addition, Bernard far out-snapped Hill by a count of 44 to 18 (68 percent to 29 percent).
The Bengals backfield has a great matchup against the Brown and Franciscovich believes Bernard should be considered an upside flex play and a must-start in PPR formats.
And finally. ... I'll be watching for more on Eifert in coming days, but Lewis told reporters the tight end would practice Wednesday. I'll have more on that when Late-Breaking Updates commence early Thursday.
QBs: Andy Dalton, Jeff Driskel
RBs: Joe Mixon, Giovani Bernard, Brian Hill, Thomas Jones
WRs: A.J. Green, Brandon LaFell, Tyler Boyd, John Ross, Josh Malone, Alex Erickson, Cody Core
TEs: Tyler Kroft, Ryan Hewitt, C.J. Uzomah
Cleveland BrownsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 19 October 2016
As Associated Press sports writer Tom Withers suggested, that head coach Hue Jackson is having trouble sleeping is understandable given his team is 0-6, riddled with injuries, starting a rookie quarterback, and has lost nine in a row and 16 of 17 overall since last season.
Jackson, though, believes the Browns are on the cusp of victory.
"We know it is coming," he said.
A day after Cleveland's comeback in the fourth quarter fell short in a 28-26 loss at Tennessee , Jackson, whose decision to go for a 2-point conversion has divided pundits and Browns fans, remains confident his young team is improving despite the litany of losses.
"We continue to stub our toe a little bit in some areas," said Jackson. "We just have to continue to fight to get over that hump. We are not going to stop doing what we do. I'm more determined -- I say that every week -- than ever before."
As has been the case in most of their games this season, the Browns had their share of bright spots, none shinier on Sunday than rookie quarterback Cody Kessler, who completed 26 of 41 passes for 336 yards and two touchdowns. In his fourth start, Kessler didn't make any major mistakes, survived being sacked six times, and showed poise and playmaking ability outside the pocket.
Jackson feels Kessler, who had to be rushed into the lineup after injuries to Robert Griffin II and Josh McCown, is steadily improving.
"He continues to impress with his courage," Jackson said. "He stands in there. He gets walloped a few times. He gets back up. He stands up and on he goes. That is pro football. Nobody likes their quarterback getting hit that much. I know I don't. There are some third down things we can do better and need to do better, but I think he's growing week by week, moment by moment, play by play."
As the Sports Xchange suggests, whether they can ever ride Kessler to the playoffs is a question that can't be answered yet, but in just his fourth NFL start, playing with a chest injury and playing behind an offensive line that did not protect him well, Kessler on Sunday passed for 336 yards and two touchdowns in Nashville.
His performance against the Titans earned Kessler the start against the Bengals this Sunday in Cincinnati, Jackson said on Monday.
Josh McCown will continue to practice but has not been cleared to play. He is recovering from a broken collarbone suffered Sept. 18 in a game with the Ravens.
The loss to Tennessee exposed warts other than quarterback. The Browns put very little pressure on Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota. They gave up three more passing touchdowns and have now given up 16 for the season. They gave up 34 touchdowns through the air last year.
In addition, the Browns averaged 149 yards a game rushing through four games. At the time it was the best in the league. They have rushed for a total of 67 yards on 37 carries in the last two games.
"We didn't block them very well," Jackson said. "They played better than us."
Isaiah Crowell had nine carries for 16 yards against the Titans. He carried 13 times for 22 yards against New England on Oct. 2. Duke Johnson scored a touchdown in this game, but he got in on just eight touches, which isn't sufficient to make him a viable fantasy play.
Touches for both backs notwithstanding, opponents are filling the running lanes better than they did earlier in the season and the Browns haven't responded. That needs to change -- but it won't be easy against the Bengals. ...
Other notes of interest. ... Jackson said Terrelle Pryor injured his hamstring and will be assessed later in the week. He did not practice Wednesday.
Pryor had nine catches for 75 yards and two TDs against the Titans.
As NFL.com's Matt Harmon pointed out, this was the third game in which Pryor saw double-digit targets and he is now on pace for 157 for the season. He's now officially a No. 1 receiver in the NFL.
Jackson said he is hopeful Pryor's isn't "a big issue."
I'll obviously be following up on his status via Late-Breaking Update in coming days. ...
Gary Barnidge caught four passes for 59 yards against the Titans. One of the receptions, for 49 yards, was his longest since catching a pass for 55 yards on Dec. 20, 2009, when he played for Carolina.
Cody Parkey has hit four straight field goals after missing an attempt from 46 yards on the final play of regulation against the Dolphins on Sept. 25 just one day after being signed. He hit from 51 and yards against the Redskins. He did not attempt a field goal against the Patriots. He kicked field goals of 45 and 37 yards against the Titans. ...
A few final items. ... The Browns injured reserve list just keeps getting longer. The team announced on Tuesday that safety Jordan Poyer is the latest player to go on IR. He suffered a lacerated kidney in Sunday's loss to the Titans.
The Browns elevated defensive back Ed Reynolds from the practice squad to take Poyer's place. Reynolds is 6-foot-1, 207 pounds and officially in his second NFL season out of Stanford.
Remember, CB Marcus Burley suffered a hamstring injury in Tennessee and will be out indefinitely. CB Joe Haden was inactive against the Titans with a groin injury and his status for this week is unclear.
Last but not least, Griffin fractured coracoid bone in his left shoulder is showing signs of healing, sources told ESPN's Jeff Darlington Tuesday, and doctors believe the quarterback, barring any setbacks, will not require surgery. The Browns placed him on injured reserve, hoping proper healing could mean an earlier comeback.
The IR designation means Griffin still wouldn't be able to return to action until Nov. 10 against Baltimore. It is still to be determined whether that is a realistic timeline, in terms of the healing process.
A source close to the player told Darlington that Griffin plans to be extremely patient with his return and has not placed a timeline on when he'll be back.
QBs: Tyrod Taylor
RBs: Carlos Hyde, Duke Johnson, Matt Dayes
WRs: Josh Gordon, Jarvis Landry, Corey Coleman, Ricardo Louis, Rashard Higgins, Jeff Janis, Bryce Treggs
TEs: Darren Fells, David Njoku, Seth DeValve, Randall Telfer
Dallas CowboysCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 19 October 2016
The Dallas Cowboys' dynamic rookie duo is showing no signs of slowing down.
Prescott threw three touchdown passes and Elliott pounded away at the Packers for 157 yards on 28 carries in Dallas' 30-16 road win Sunday.
"That's how we play with our physical style," Elliott said. "A lot of teams, they don't want to bang in there for four quarters and as the game goes on, we get stronger and they get a little bit weaker."
The surging Cowboys (5-1) won their fifth straight with Prescott and Elliott reaching new milestones.
Elliott now has 703 yards rushing, the second-most in a player's first six career games behind only Eric Dickerson (787). Elliott also became the only rookie to rush for at least 130 yards in four consecutive games.
Prescott was 18 of 27 for 247 yards. He shook off two fumbles -- losing one -- and an interception to lead Dallas on a seven-play, 75-yard touchdown drive that ended with a 4-yard touchdown pass to Cole Beasley for an 18-point lead with 10:26 left over Green Bay (3-2).
Prescott is starting for veteran Tony Romo, who injured his back in the preseason. Romo seems to be getting healthier and could be close to returning. Following a bye, the Cowboys next play on Oct. 30 against the Philadelphia Eagles.
NFL Network's Ian Rapoport reported Wednesday that Prescott will start against Eagles. Rapoport added that Romo might not be physically ready to play versus the Cleveland Browns in Week 9.
And health is a convenient excuse for Dallas to keep Romo on the sideline.
In the meantime, Prescott is making head coach Jason Garrett's impending decision on whether to go back to Romo tougher every week.
"This is his team. This is Tony's team and I'm just here to help my team win each and every game that I can," Prescott said.
Of course, Dallas has this touchy subject because of a surge to the second-best record in the NFC entirely without Romo, sidelined by a preseason back injury, and minus 2014 All-Pro receiver Bryant for three games.
And, yes, Garrett considers it a touchy subject.
"Does this microphone work?" a somewhat exasperated Garrett asked Monday when he'd had enough of the questions about Romo, prompting laughter as reporters got the hint.
The Cowboys (5-1) are winning the same way they did in 2014, when they also dropped the season opener at home and won the next six on the way to the NFC East title at 12-4. Dallas is getting efficient play at quarterback and dominating the running game, which is helping an opportunistic defense.
But instead of Romo and 2014 NFL rushing champion DeMarco Murray, it's Prescott and Elliott carrying the load.
"I'm surprised that we're playing as well as we've played," owner Jerry Jones said after watching his team beat the Packers , just the second ever for Dallas in Green Bay. "We just want to keep this thing going forward, knowing in the NFL that the wheels could come off at any minute."
If the wheels don't come off, Garrett will eventually have to answer questions about Romo vs. Prescott.
Garrett said he didn't anticipate the 36-year-old Romo for the only practice this week on Wednesday, which means the earliest Dallas' 10-year starter could practice would be four days before the Philadelphia game. In that case, the Nov. 6 visit to Cleveland is a more likely potential return date.
Meanwhile, Dez Bryant should be ready to return from a knee injury when Dallas comes back from the bye for a key game against Philadelphia in the suddenly difficult NFC East.
Bryant returned to practice last week and wanted to play against the Packers, but doctors ruled otherwise.
Assuming he returns against the Eagles, it will be five weeks since he sustained a hairline fracture in a bone in his right knee against Chicago. Bryant returned to the game after getting hurt and had his only touchdown of the season.
Garrett happily addressed questions about Bryant. Romo, not so much.
"We don't deal a whole lot in hypotheticals," Garrett said. "What we try to do is we try to focus on what's in front of us right now and do the best job we can as players and coaches. Tony has done a really good job with his rehab, and he's getting better and better every day."
The question won't be hypothetical much longer. ...
A few final notes here. ... Prescott threw the first interception of his career after he was picked off on third-and-8 from the Dallas 6, throwing out of his end zone with 20 seconds left in third quarter. Safety Morgan Burnett had the diving interception.
Prescott's NFL record streak for a quarterback at the start of his career without an interception ends at 176 pass attempts. He broke the mark of 162 previously held by New England's Tom Brady earlier in the game.
And finally, as NFL.com's Matt Harmon pointed out, Prescott continued to keep the distribution and production rather even in Dallas. Cole Beasley and Jason Witten compete for the team lead in targets and operate underneath, while Terrance Williams and Brice Butler pick up the scraps at the outside receiver positions.
We'll see how that changes when Bryant returns, but Beasley's role seems fairly sustainable -- although the TDs (two in Green Bay) probably aren't.
One last note here: Bryant told reporters he cut his fingers while slicing carrots during the preparation of some homemade soup, according to NFL Network's Jane Slater. This after he was spotted at practice on Wednesday catching passes with the tips of his right middle and ring fingers taped.
Bryant called the injury "extremely, extremely minor."
QBs: Dak Prescott, Cooper Rush
RBs: Alfred Morris, Rod Smith
WRs: Terrance Williams, Cole Beasley, Deonte Thompson, Allen Hurns, Ryan Switzer, Noah Brown
TEs: Jason Witten, Geoff Swaim, Rico Gathers
Denver BroncosCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 19 October 2016
According to Associated Press sports writer Arnie Stapleton, Gary Kubiak bristled at the suggestion he might still be worn down after a week away from football.
"No, do I look weak?" the coach said.
Well, truthfully, his voice was a little bit faint.
"That's probably because I've been hollering a lot this morning," Kubiak said. "But, no, I feel good. And I feel really good just getting out here and getting going again."
Kubiak, 55, returned to work Monday, a week after his doctor ordered him to take time off after he suffered a complex migraine and was hospitalized overnight following Denver's loss to the Atlanta Falcons on Oct. 9.
Kubiak certainly had plenty to howl about.
During his absence, the Broncos, led by special teams coach Joe DeCamillis, were beaten 21-13 by the San Diego Chargers, who snapped their 10-game losing streak in the AFC West and Denver's NFL record 15-game divisional road winning streak.
The loss followed a familiar script: slow start, poor play up front, conservative calls.
The Broncos (4-2) host Houston (4-2) on Monday night in Denver's first game against former longtime backup QB Brock Osweiler and Kubiak's first game against his former team.
Kubiak was coach of the Texans in 2013 when he had his first health scare, suffering a mini-stroke during halftime of a game against the Colts. He missed 10 days then and returned, to the coaching box at first.
He's expected to be on the sideline Monday night.
Kubiak said his doctors in Denver and Houston have compared notes but he doesn't believe the two medical incidents are related. He said his latest health scare was basically a warning sign that he needs to get more sleep.
"I feel really good," Kubiak said. "I got too much rest, unfortunately. I didn't want it. But I got it. I feel very good. ... All my tests came back great. So, it's good to be back to work. I really missed a few days there. It was really tough to watch, so I'm glad to be back."
Near or at the top of his to-do list was to be better in the run game, and to that end rookie running back Devontae Booker can expect to get the ball in his hands more.
"We've got to give Book some opportunities, he's doing some good stuff," Kubiak said after Monday's practice.
C.J. Anderson currently leads the team in rushing with 330 yards to go with three rushing touchdowns, but Booker has provided a spark at times for an attack that hasn't been as consistent as Kubiak would like. Booker is averaging 4.7 yards per carry, over a yard per carry more than Anderson at the moment.
As ESPN.com's Jeff Legwold notes, against the Chargers, Booker helped snap the offense out of the doldrums in the third quarter when he had carries of 17 and 16 yards to go with a 5-yard reception on a drive. While the drive ended with a missed field goal -- Brandon McManus was wide right from 56 yards -- the Broncos' offense moved the ball far more efficiently after that drive than it had before it.
Kubiak said Anderson will still be involved plenty, but that Booker had simply earned more touches. In the loss to the Chargers, Booker got just five carries but he turned those into 46 rushing yards as he had two of the Broncos' three longest plays from scrimmage in the game.
"When he's had some opportunities he's done some really good things," Kubiak said. "As a young player, we're trying to get him going as far as protection and those type of things, and he's starting to handle himself better. I think he deserves some more opportunities to touch the football. And when he's had the opportunity, he's done some good stuff."
Kubiak also said the Broncos have already had plenty of discussion about improving the play up front in the offensive line. The Broncos are 20th in the league in rushing yards per game (98.5) and tied for 21st in the league at 3.8 yards per carry.
Monday, the Broncos released tackle/guard Darrion Weems and claimed tackle Billy Turner off waivers. Left tackle Russell Okung, who was taken to the hospital following the game in San Diego, is in the concussion protocol and did not participate in Monday's practice.
Kubiak said Okung "tested very well" in the protocol and would continue to be evaluated this week. Okung's injury is the latest in the line that saw right tackle Donald Stephenson miss three games with calf injury.
"Up front we've had some things going on ... we've lost some continuity upfront," Kubiak said. " ... We've got to get back on track here and stay away from negative football plays, we've got to give our quarterback a chance to operate."
Other notes of interest. ... Trevor Siemian threw 50 times, which is hardly what the Broncos want from their offense, and was mainly limited to short passes against a Chargers defense that was besieged by injuries in the secondary, but has found a strong pass rush since rookie Joey Bosa broke into the lineup.
Siemian didn't make any glaring mistakes, but receivers Jordan Taylor and Demaryius Thomas coughed up the football. Taylor's fumble led to a San Diego field goal; Thomas' miscue effectively ended any realistic hopes of a comeback.
Emmanuel Sanders left in the fourth quarter because of a hip injury, but was doing much better Friday, interim coach Joe DeCamillis said.
Virgil Green returned to the lineup after missing three games with a calf injury. He caught three passes for 21 yards. Fellow tight end Jeff Heuerman was inactive as Green returned to the lineup. Heuerman had played since making his NFL debut in Week 3 when Green was injured.
QBs: Case Keenum, Trevor Siemian, Paxton Lynch, Chad Kelly
RBs: Devontae Booker, Jamaal Charles, De'Angelo Henderson
WRs: Demaryius Thomas, Emmanuel Sanders, Cody Latimer, Isaiah McKenzie, Jordan Taylor
TEs: Virgil Green, Jeff Heuerman, Jake Butt
Detroit LionsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 19 October 2016
Golden Tate is back and the Lions are reaping the benefits.
Tate, who struggled during the Lions' 1-3 start, has played an important role in Detroit's two-game winning streak, finishing with a career-high 165 receiving yards Sunday in a 31-28 win over the Rams. His 23-yard touchdown tied the score at 28-28 in the fourth quarter.
As ESPN.com's Michael Rothstein suggested, this was the Tate with which the Lions are familiar: a shifty, slithery, elusive yards-after-catch monster who was the perfect underneath and midrange receiver to take advantage of teams playing Detroit's deep threats, be it Calvin Johnson or Marvin Jones.
"I just want to win," Tate said. "I was on the sideline, I knew I had a decent game, obviously things that I did not so well stick out. I was thinking, with this, had a touchdown and a few yards, but it doesn't matter if we don't win. I mean, it's deeper than just me having a good game, man.
"If we were sitting 6-0 and I was catching two passes for 10 yards, then I'm not even sure we'd be talking about me needing this game or not."
"Obviously, it's great to see him have a big game," head coach Jim Caldwell said Monday. "He had a really fine game and you know he's capable of it. He's a talented, talented guy. I anticipate he's going to have more of those."
Tate never got discouraged, despite a rough opening four games in which he had 14 receptions for 95 yards and no touchdowns. He finished with one catch for one yard in Detroit's 17-14 loss at Chicago in Week 4.
As the Associated Press notes, the Lions have been calling his number more often. In the victory over Philadelphia two weeks ago, Tate had three catches for 39 yards, including a third-down reception that helped set up the game-winning field goal. He was targeted 10 times against the Rams, finishing with a season-high eight receptions.
Tate, who averaged 20.6 yards per catch Sunday, also had a touchdown overturned in the third quarter when officials ruled he was down by contact near the end zone. The 61-yard reception set up Stafford's scoring pass to Anquan Boldin two plays later, giving Detroit a 21-14 lead.
With the Lions (3-3) potentially saving their season with two straight wins, things don't get easier. Detroit hosts Washington (4-2) on Sunday, and the Redskins enter on a four-game winning streak.
All of Detroit's games have been decided by seven points or fewer, including one-point and three-point wins the past two weeks.
Stafford has been pleased with the Lions' ability to handle adversity.
"Whether it's Week 1 in that situation that we had to come from behind and win (against Indianapolis), or these late fourth-quarter comebacks that we had these last couple weeks, we just seem to rise to the occasion," Stafford said. "That's the NFL and it comes down to the fourth quarter more often than it doesn't. You've got to make the plays to win it."
Along those lines, Caldwell went for and the Lions converted four fourth-down attempts in the past two weeks.
While some of Caldwell's decisions fly in the face of conventional wisdom two of his recent attempts came inside his own territory, and the Lions aren't known for their power rushing attack the Lions have been forced to be more aggressive because of the state of their short-handed defense.
In the past seven quarters, the Lions have given up 51 points and forced just three punts, and for the season they are allowing opposing quarterbacks to complete 73.7 percent of their passes with a whopping 119.3 passer rating.
Given their defensive struggles, the Lions have been bracing for high-scoring games recently, and this week's battle against the Redskins should be no different.
Other notes of interest. ... The Lions failed to top 100 yards rushing for the fourth straight game, but they got good production from Zenner (14 carries, 58 yards). Zach Zenner had two big runs and got positive yards on a handful of plays even when the blocking wasn't there.
Justin Forsett had just five carries for 5 yards in his Lions debut, again behind less than desirable blocking, but the Lions were efficient with their runs overall.
Their efforts came with Theo Riddick (ankle) and Dwayne Washington (ankle) sidelined by injury. The status of the top two backs, along with that of tight end Eric Ebron, who missed a second-straight game with knee and ankle injuries, will be ongoing issues this week.
Hopefully, we receive some clarity this week since the Lions face one of the worst run defenses in the NFL in the Redskins. According to NFL.com's Matt Franciscovich, if Zenner is projected to be the primary back again, he'll be a sneaky waiver add.
For the record, Ebron and Riddick were both held out on Wednesday; Washington was limited.
I'll be following up via Late-Breaking Update in coming days. ...
Also according to Rothstein, Anquan Boldin has moved up the NFL's all-time receiving charts. With an 8-yard catch in the first quarter, Boldin passed former St. Louis Rams receiver Torry Holt for No. 15 in league history in receiving yards. Boldin entered the game with 13,379 receiving yards -- 3 behind Holt, who had 13,382 yards from 1999 to 2009. He finished Sunday with eight catches for 60 yards and a touchdown.
Boldin is one of 13 NFL receivers with over 1,000 receptions -- currently in 11th.
Stafford passed Jeff George on the all-time passing yardage list. Stafford now has 27,624 yards, good for No. 59 all-time. George had 27,602 career yards. Next up is a big one -- Joe Namath with 27,663 yards.
QBs: Matthew Stafford, Jake Rudock, Matt Cassel
RBs: LeGarrette Blount, Ameer Abdullah, Theo Riddick, Dwayne Washington, Tion Green, Zach Zenner
WRs: Golden Tate, Marvin Jones, Kenny Golladay, Jared Abbrederis, TJ Jones
TEs: Luke Willson, Michael Roberts, Levine Toilolo
Green Bay PackersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 19 October 2016
Yes, Aaron Rodgers was 31 of 42 for 294 yards. But a season-high four turnovers doomed Green Bay in a 30-16 loss on Sunday to the Dallas Cowboys, and Rodgers was responsible for two of them.
It made for choppy night again for the Packers' offense.
"I don't know if I agree with 'broken.' It's definitely not clean in some areas," head coach Mike McCarthy said.
The Packers planned for a long night of studying film before turning their attention right away on Monday to the Bears, their opponent on Thursday night.
"Have a glass of scotch and chill out a little bit, watch the film," Rodgers said about his plans for Sunday night. "I'm my biggest critic, and I look at this as finely as I look at every other game and improve."
Rodgers' fantasy owners will likely join him in having that drink.
As ESPN.com's Rob Demovsky notes, Rodgers, who came in as the NFL's least accurate passer, at 56.1 percent, once again looked out of sync with his receivers, who deserve some of the blame for failing to get consistent separation from their defenders. Jordy Nelson's first-quarter fumble didn't help matters.
There's plenty of evidence that Rodgers isn't the same quarterback who came into the game without an interception -- and with 10 touchdown passes -- in six career games against the Cowboys, including playoffs.
"This was not that Rodgers," Demovsky wrote. "This was the Rodgers who had gone 13 straight games without a 300-yard passing game, including playoffs."
Make that 14 after Sunday, when Rodgers threw for 294 on 31-of-42 passing. Rodgers turned the ball over twice on his own, with an interception by Barry Church that never should have been attempted and a fumble on a bizarre-looking sequence, either a broken-play or a surprising quarterback draw, on first-and-goal from the 1.
Perhaps most troubling was that the Packers set out this week to fix their passing game, which came into the game ranked 27th in the NFL.
"You get what you emphasize," McCarthy said earlier in the week.
Not this time. It took Rodgers until there was 6:53 left in the game to throw his first touchdown pass, a 6-yarder to Randall Cobb, which, unfathomably, was Rodgers' first touchdown in the second half of a game this season.
The turnovers especially hurt. The Packers had five fumbles, losing three.
"We're down," Nelson said. "Offensively, we didn't play the way we need to. We made some plays, didn't make enough, didn't take care of the ball, and that's not us."
Fans at Lambeau Field booed at times. Even Rodgers, the two-time NFL MVP, wasn't immune from the jeering.
"Look, we're upset, they're upset, it's part of it," Rodgers said of the booing. "It's not the first time. Probably won't be the last time."
As the Associated Press suggested, there are some positives on which to build.
Rodgers was sacked just once. Eddie Lacy ran for 65 yards on 17 carries in spite of a sprained left ankle. Second-year receiver Ty Montgomery proved to be the Packers' best receiver with 98 yards on 10 catches, with a team-high 12 targets.
With backup running back James Starks out with a knee injury, Montgomery ended up taking three carries in the backfield, too, for 6 yards.
"I felt my movement was good tonight," Rodgers said. "I felt the line blocked really well. We've got to do a better job of hitting the ones we're used to hitting."
The output just doesn't match the high bar that the Packers have set in recent years.
"To keep comparing it to the past is a benefit to us because we know what it looks like. We have people that were here in the past that were a part of that," McCarthy said. "But at the end of the day, we obviously have work to do, and that will be our approach."
Meanwhile, the Chiefs traded running back Knile Davis to Green Bay on Tuesday, reportedly for a conditional late-round draft pick.
Davis, who has been effective as a receiver out of the backfield, should be a decent complement to Lacy. Davis has also been a good kickoff returner, with a career average of 27.2 yards and two touchdowns, and the Packers may use him there as well.
The Packers think Davis can be effective in Green Bay, and he'll almost certainly get more playing time than he was getting in Kansas City.
Perhaps as soon as Thursday night against the Bears. Lacy was officially ruled out on Wednesday.
NFL Network's Ian Rapoport has reported that Lacy could miss several weeks, not just Thursday night's game. Rapoport added that Lacy's ailment is "more than a sprained ankle." ESPN's Adam Schefter reported later Tuesday that Lacy is getting a second opinion from Dr. Robert Anderson.
On Tuesday, Davis arrived from Kansas City around 10 a.m., giving him about just a few hours to take his physical, meet with his coaches, get fitted for practice gear and get down to Clarke Hinkle Field. According to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel, with Lacy on the field watching and lending support, Davis mostly just watched the No. 1 offense operate with practice squad running back Don Jackson and Montgomery at Lacy's position.
"I did scout team, that was good to get my feet wet," Davis said after practice. "I did special teams. It was cool. All day today, all day tomorrow, before the game, (I'll be) trying to learn as much as I can."
It's not clear how much that might be in advance of Thursday night's game.
In addition, Adams left Sunday's loss in the third quarter and didn't return as he was evaluate for a concussion. The team's medical staff told McCarthy on Monday that Adams was "feeling pretty good."
Adams is officially listed as questionable.
Jared Cook was seen without a walking boot Tuesday, a sign his recovery from a right ankle injury is progressing.
Cook would not say when the boot was removed, indicating only that it was recent. The Packers' first-year tight end said he has started workouts, but is not yet running.
Running full speed will be the next step in a rehabilitation process Cook said is "not far off" from completion, though he gave no indication of when he might return.
On a more positive note, Cobb (back) returned to Packers practice Tuesday and was removed from the final injury report on Wednesday.
I'll have more on the running back situation and Adams via Late-Breaking Update in advance of Thursday night's game. ...
A few final notes. ... Starks is expected to have a quick recovery, McCarthy said Monday, after the seventh-year pro underwent knee surgery over the weekend for what was reported as a torn meniscus.
On the other side of the ball, the Packers started Sunday's loss without two of their top three cornerbacks Sam Shields and Quinten Rollins and then lost their other preferred starter, Damarious Randall, to an aggravated groin injury in the second quarter.
The short turnaround this week isn't helping the Secondary any.
McCarthy already ruled out Rollins, who suffered a groin injury in practice Saturday and didn't play the next day. Shields, the team's top cornerback, has yet to be cleared from a concussion he sustained in the season-opening win at the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sept. 11 and he was placed on IR Tuesday.
For most of Sunday's game, the Packers had to rely on the young pair of LaDarius Gunter and newly activated Demetri Goodson, who missed the first four games because of an NFL suspension.
The end results weren't pretty.
QBs: DeShone Kizer, Brett Hundley, Joe Callahan
RBs: Jamaal Williams, Aaron Jones, Devante Mays, Ty Montgomery
WRs: Davante Adams, Randall Cobb, Geronimo Allison, Trevor Davis
TEs: Jimmy Graham, Lance Kendricks
Houston TexansCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 19 October 2016
The Texans are 4-2 and remain atop the AFC South standings after rallying for an overtime win against the Colts on Sunday night.
But as Associated Press sports writer Kristie Rieken suggested this week, there are plenty of ways they can improve before Monday's trip to Denver after playing three lackluster quarters in the victory.
Quarterback Brock Osweiler and the offense struggled to get going early for the second straight game, falling behind 13-0 after trailing 24-0 early last week in a loss to Minnesota. Questions remain about Osweiler after he's thrown as many interceptions (8) as touchdowns this season.
But the offense rebounded late on Sunday, with Osweiler throwing two touchdown passes in the last three minutes to erase a 14-point deficit and force overtime. He then directed a drive that ended with the winning field goal.
Critics have been hard on Osweiler because of his inconsistent play after he signed a $72 million contract to join the Texans. He isn't sure what Sunday's comeback win showed about him, but hopes people understand the work he's putting in to get better.
"The struggles we've had aren't due to a lack of preparation or a lack of confidence or anything like that," he said. "We come in here. ... And we prepare extremely hard all week long to be successful. I understand there (have) been some frustrating moments, but this team showed a lot of heart (Sunday), and I hope people saw that, as well."
Head coach Bill O'Brien thinks a key to the offense improving is getting running back Lamar Miller more touches.
That's saying something.
This after Miller was the star of the win over the Colts, finishing with a season-high 149 yards rushing with a touchdown and adding a receiving score. He's already been very involved in the offense and his 125 carries rank second in the NFL, but O'Brien still want to give him more opportunities.
"The more we get Lamar the ball, probably the better," O'Brien said. "Because I think when he touches the ball usually good things happen. Whether it's in the run or the passing game or screens or however we get him the ball, I think it's probably going to be good for the Houston Texans."
Miller's teammates raved about his performance.
"Lamar ran his tail off tonight," left tackle Duane Brown said. "We knew it wasn't going to be that easy early on, but we just wanted to keep chipping away at it, and eventually we could break open some big runs. We were able to that."
Miller was especially effective after halftime when he piled up 83 yards rushing.
"We felt like he was the guy throughout the game that was probably playing the best on offense, so at halftime we said, 'Look, we've got to keep finding ways to get this guy the ball,"' O'Brien said. ...
But the big news here is the Texans (4-2) have a lot more reason to be hopeful about Osweiler after a shaky start to the season in which he threw eight interceptions and just six touchdowns in his first five games.
Osweiler just changed the conversation about him from a quarterback who looked uncomfortable in the pocket in his early tenure with the Texans to someone the defending AFC South champions might be able to grow with as they try to upgrade one of the lowest-scoring offenses in the league.
Regardless of what Osweiler does going forward, he looked much better in the second half as he capitalized on competing against the NFL's 30th-ranked defense.
Teammates made it a point to congratulate Osweiler throughout the comeback, feeding off his newly discovered confidence and accuracy.
"He had a lot of confidence," Miller said of Osweiler. "He kept us going in the huddle. He made the right reads and kept us moving down the field. ..."
Other notes of interest. ... Receiver Jaelen Strong didn't have a reception in regulation but had perhaps the biggest catch of the night when he hauled in a 36-yard reception in overtime that set up the winning field goal.
Strong, who is in his second season, has had limited playing time this year with the emergence of rookie first-round pick Will Fuller.
Fuller was active for this game, but did not play a single snap and Strong came through with the big grab.
"He just kept fighting," Osweiler said. "He kept doing his job, and I'm so proud of his effort."
I'll be following up on Fuller's status via Late-Breaking Update in coming days, but the rookie wideout expects to be back in the mix Monday night and he was on the practice field Wednesday. ...
As NFL.com's Matt Harmon noted this week, the tight ends for Houston are starting to get more involved in the offense, as well. C.J. Fiedorowicz is second on the team in targets (19) over the last three games and has a team-leading 185 yards and two touchdowns over that span. Additionally, he has a team-high three red zone targets. Harmon advised his readers it's time for Fiedorowicz to be on the streaming radar.
Meanwhile, cornerback Kevin Johnson broke his foot against the Indianapolis Colts on Sunday night. Johnson is expected to be placed on injured reserve and will miss the remainder of the season.
The injury represents a major blow to the Houston secondary, which loses a talented young player. The Texans are already dealing with injuries to veteran cornerbacks Johnathan Joseph (forearm) and Kareem Jackson (hamstring).Joseph played through the injury one week after dealing with a concussion that sidelined him against the Minnesota Vikings. He is expected to be able to return soon.
Jackson missed his second consecutive game, but he could return for the Broncos Monday.
In addition, rookie strong safety K.J. Dillon tore his anterior cruciate ligament against the Colts.
QBs: T.J. Yates, Brandon Weeden
RBs: Lamar Miller, Andre Ellington, Alfred Blue, Tyler Ervin
WRs: DeAndre Hopkins, Will Fuller, Braxton Miller, DeAndrew White
TEs: Stephen Anderson, Evan Baylis, MyCole Pruitt
Indianapolis ColtsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 19 October 2016
Head coach Chuck Pagano took advantage of his second chance Monday.
Less than 24 hours after imploring his players to develop a knockout punch, Pagano walked back his postgame comments and tried to put a more positive spin on what happened Sunday night in Houston.
"If I could say it over again, I would probably word it differently because we've done it so many times before and they know how to get the job done," he said. "Just because you get into a situation where you're up 14 or down 14, you don't change the way you play."
There's no way to sugarcoat how the Colts (2-4) wound up in the AFC South basement after seemingly have sewn up a share of the division lead.
For three-plus quarters, the Colts played their most complete game of the season. The offensive line cleared running lanes and protected Andrew Luck relatively well, the defense held Houston in check and they extended the lead to 14 with 7:04 to go.
With Luck down to only two healthy receivers and two healthy tight ends and the Colts' injury-riddled secondary getting thinner as the game wore on, Houston rallied to tie the score in the final three minutes before winning in overtime.
Afterward, Pagano told reporters that the Colts must do a better job finishing. And when he was asked if the problem was a lack of mental toughness, Pagano responded: "It's about having a killer instinct."
With a little rest and some time to reflect on what went wrong, Pagano adjusted those comments.
"I think what we are right now is a three-quarter team and we've got to find a way to become a four-quarter team," Pagano said "We start some games slow and finish strong. This one, we started fast and didn't finish well."
Either way, the poor results keep coming.
In almost three-plus seasons, Luck has 37 regular-season wins. Sixteen, or 43.2 percent, came courtesy of fourth-quarter or overtime comebacks. This season's only two victories, over the two-win Chargers and one-win Bears, came as a result of long touchdown passes in the final four minutes.
According to Associated Press sports writer Michael Marot, the latest debacle has raised more questions outside the team complex about whether the Colts can close out games. Inside the locker room, it was tough to handle.
"Knowing if we won this, we'd be tied for first," running back Frank Gore said. "We were up, the way we were up, dominating the game, but we didn't get the job done. That's tough."
So Pagano will spend the next few days trying to piece things back together before heading to Tennessee (3-3) this weekend.
"The expectations are the expectations, those never change. This is a winning, winning organization," Pagano said. "They won a ton (of games) long before I got here. We've had good success since I've been here and the expectation is to win. ..."
For the record, Luck completed 21 of 32 passes for 252 yards, one touchdown and one interception for an 87.0 passer rating. Luck was also sacked three times. His interception occurred deep in Houston territory late in the second quarter and thwarted a potential Colts scoring drive.
Chester Rogers led the Colts in receiving and set season highs with four receptions and 63 yards. Jack Doyle finished with four catches for 53 yards and one touchdown. TY Hilton caught three passes for 49 yards with a long reception of 31 yards.
Phillip Dorsett (hamstring) underwent an MRI Monday. Dorsett did not practice Wednesday and is considered day to day.
Dwayne Allen (ankle) also underwent an MRI Monday and there are reports suggesting he has a high sprain.
The Colts signed free-agent tight end Chase Coffman on Tuesday. Coffman has played in 37 games in his career where he's totaled 18 receptions for 177 yards and two touchdowns while making stops with Seattle, Tennessee, Atlanta and Cincinnati.
ESPN's Adam Caplan reported that the Colts also visited with veteran wide receiver Aaron Dobson Tuesday. The promotion of Smith probably means that no signing is imminent.
As NFL.com's Matt Harmon suggested, Dorsett has been a huge disappointment for the team, recording just eight catches for 129 yards in four game without Donte Moncrief. He has a way to go before being considered a full-time receiver.
Meanwhile, Moncrief (shoulder) continues to show improvement but there is no date given for a possible return to practice. Moncrief was injured against Denver this season in the second game of the year and was slated to miss four to six weeks.
And finally. ... The Colts finished the game with 161 rushing yards, the most for the team this season and the most dating back to Nov. 23, 2014, against Jacksonville (175).
Gore totaled 106 rushing yards, breaking a Colts streak of 55 consecutive regular-season games without a 100-yard rusher.
The last Colts 100-yard rusher prior to the Texans' game was Vick Ballard on Dec. 16, 2012, at Houston (105 yards). Luck added seven carries for 53 yards and one rushing touchdown. The 53 rushing yards are his most for a single game in his career and the most for a Colts quarterback dating back to Oct. 30, 2011 (Curtis Painter, 79 against Tennessee).
QBs: Jacoby Brissett, Scott Tolzien
RBs: Marlon Mack, Christine Michael, Matt Jones, Robert Turbin
WRs: T.Y. Hilton, Ryan Grant, Chester Rogers, Kamar Aiken
TEs: Jack Doyle, Eric Ebron, Ross Travis, Jason Vander Laan
Jacksonville JaguarsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 19 October 2016
As ESPN.com's Mike DiRocco pointed out, the Jaguars don't typically rally from double-digit deficits in the fourth quarter.
They don't make big plays when their best players aren't on the field.
They certainly don't do those things on the road.
Yet that's what happened on Sunday against the Chicago Bears when the Jaguars rallied from a 13-0 fourth-quarter deficit to win 17-16 at Soldier Field. Arrelious Benn had a 51-yard catch-and-run for a touchdown while subbing for Allen Robinson.
It was only the Jaguars' fifth victory in 26 road games under head coach Gus Bradley and was arguably the biggest win in his three-plus-years career. And it might be a sign that things finally are turning around for a franchise that hasn't had a winning season since 2007. The Jaguars (2-3) have won back-to-back games and are still alive in a mediocre AFC South.
Once again, and it sounds like a broken record, the Jaguars are as good as Bortles is good. When he plays well, the team has a good chance of winning. When Bortles is off his game, the Jaguars are in trouble.
That couldn't have been more on the mark in this game. When Bortles finally got his act together and began hitting receivers in the fourth quarter, the Jaguars' offense looked like it was a well-tuned machine.
Before that, it was anything but.
Bradley will be the first to admit the Jaguars succeed when Bortles succeeds.
"I thought he played pretty well," Bradley said. "When you see him, especially in that situation where it was no-huddle, I thought he played pretty well in that area,
"Overall play, I know there were some drops that took place. I don't look at his performance and go, 'Boy he is really struggling or he is really frustrated.' I don't see that. I thought we were down in the game and he brought us back as the leader of the offense. We only had limited possessions and we scored on those three possessions. Pretty good."
Bottom line is the Jaguars needed this win over Chicago if they are to have any hope of being a factor in the AFC South title picture. Once again, the rest of the division showed that it's mediocre at best with any of the four teams in a position to get hot the rest of the way and come out on top in the division.
For the Jaguars to do so, they must get more consistency. They can ill afford to play like teams on the bottom of the standings for three quarters and then turn a switch and play like they're contenders to be reckoned with.
The next three games on the schedule are against teams that the Jaguars are essentially on their level and will have a chance to beat
Other notes of interest. ... Jacksonville's running game continues to be a mystery. A mystery as to why it's not better.
The Jaguars have two quality backs in T.J. Yeldon and Chris Ivory, yet neither player has enjoyed much success. Neither has been close to a 100-yard effort this year. For the fourth time in their five games, the Jaguars failed to rush for 70 yards in the game. It has Bradley as perplexed as anyone.
"It's hard. Sometimes you're searching for answers, and you go, there it is," Bradley said. "Sometimes you might not find the truth, but the journey to find the truth. You keep having conversations, hey, that's the answer? Well, what happened on the first series?
"We moved the ball well and we huddled and we took our time, and we come out and we had great execution. What is the answer? It is no-huddle? Is it something within both segments that's showing up as consistent?
"I think that's what we're looking at to see maybe, hey, we had the first 15 plays scripted and the guys really know those plays and they're on it and execute them really well. We're in a no-huddle situation, there's very few plays that we run in that, they're able to play fast because of the limited plays. That's the consistent things that show up in both."
Ivory gained 32 yards on 11 carries. Yeldon wasn't much better with 21 yards on six tries.
Ivory was a 1,000-yard rusher for the New York Jets a year ago. Yeldon was headed for the 1,000-yard mark when he suffered an injury and missed the last four games, finishing with 740 yards.
Neither player is averaging 40 yards per game.
As NFL.com's Matt Franciscovich put it, "the overall production here was not encouraging. Ivory will be a touchdown-dependent RB3 going forward while Yeldon, who had just 26 yards, will be nothing more than a matchup-based flex. ..."
A few final notes. ... Benn had just one catch in Sunday's game, but it might have been the biggest of his career and was certainly the most important one for the Jaguars. As noted above, it was a 51-yard reception on which Benn made a sliding catch, then got up and ran to the end zone for what proved to be the winning score.
It was the first touchdown for Benn in five years dating to 2011 when he was with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Allen Hurns took a hard hit in the first half of Sunday's game but was able to later return to the game. He finished as the Jaguars leading receiver with 74 yards. This was just the second time this season where Hurns had double-digit targets and just the second game where he's crossed 70 yards.
Hurns was limited in Wednesday's practice.
And finally. ... Marqise Lee is on pace to have the best season of his career by a wide margin. He has 22 catches for 230 yards in five games -- only Robinson has more (24) -- and that puts Lee on pace to catch 70 passes for 736 yards should he stay healthy for 16 games. That would blow his best season (37 catches for 422 yards as a rookie in 2014) out of the water.
QBs: Blake Bortles, Cody Kessler, Brandon Allen
RBs: Leonard Fournette, T.J. Yeldon, Corey Grant
WRs: Donte Moncrief, Keelan Cole, Dede Westbrook, Max McCaffrey, Jaelen Strong, Marqise Lee
TEs: Austin Seferian-Jenkins, Ben Koyack, Niles Paul
Kansas City ChiefsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 19 October 2016
It took the Kansas City Chiefs four games and a bye week ruminating over an embarrassing loss to Pittsburgh before they finally were able to execute their blueprint for victory.
The Oakland Raiders wound up on the receiving end of it.
As ESPN.com's Adam Teicher notes, after going through four games with a mostly sluggish offense, the Chiefs roared to life Sunday against the Oakland Raiders. Their roars have already been felt in the AFC West and may soon be heard around the rest of the conference.
The Chiefs shook up the division race and saved their season with a 26-10 win that seemingly came from nowhere. Perhaps it was the result of last week's bye. Andy Reid's teams are now 16-2 in his career after the week off.
Whatever the reason, the Chiefs in moving to 3-2 showed previously unforeseen offensive might as they totaled more than 400 yards on the day.
The Chiefs had enough different threats Sunday they felt comfortable giving the ball to 345-pound nose tackle Dontari Poe. Poe, in the game in theory as a blocker, scored on a 1-yard touchdown run.
The Chiefs were impressive enough to open up a lot of possibilities in a season that looked like it might be a 16-game struggle. But if they continue to play offense as they did against the Raiders, they'll be serious contenders to not only win the AFC West but advance deep in the playoffs. The Chiefs are a half-game behind the Raiders and Denver Broncos, both 4-2.
The featured back combination of Jamaal Charles and Spencer Ware was effective for the Chiefs and there's no reason that shouldn't continue. They combined for 164 yards and two touchdowns on 33 rushing attempts.
Ware carried 24 times for 131 yards and a touchdown, while Charles ran for another 33 yards and a score as he continued to get more work in his second game back from ACL surgery.
As a team, the Chiefs averaged 4.6 yards per carry and scored three touchdowns on the ground.
"I've mentioned this before that we've been kind of shooting ourselves in the foot," head coach Andy Reid said. "If we ever get those things straightened out we have a better chance of doing OK."
The Chiefs took pressure off what had been a struggling passing game by balancing their offense. They protected quarterback Alex Smith better than they had all season in large part because they kept the Raiders guessing. The Chiefs had 40 running plays and 23 passing plays.
It's tempting to think the offensive outburst happened because it was the Raiders, who were last in the league entering the game in total defense and passing defense.
But that's not giving enough credit to Kansas City, which even left some points on the field with a missed field goal and missed PAT.
The Chiefs looked strong enough offensively Sunday to make their way against any opponent. The Chiefs didn't have a turnover despite sloppy conditions. They were penalized just twice for 10 yards. And they dominated time of possession, holding the ball for 36 minutes, 45 seconds.
All of those contributed to a strong performance by the defense, too.
The Raiders only managed 286 yards of total offense , converted just four third downs and failed to convert either of their fourth-down attempts. Carr was sacked twice, threw an interception and then lost a fumble in the fourth quarter, when the Raiders were trying to rally.
Getting back to the running backs. ... As NFL.com's Matt Franciscovich put it, "Hopefully, Charles' playing time increases as the season goes on, and as we've seen his entire career, Charles is not the kind of player that needs a huge workload to produce elite fantasy numbers. But we have to face the fact that Ware is a real thing, and he's not going away."
The Chiefs face the Saints at home this week and there will plenty of room for both to produce. ...
Other notes of interest. ... Alex Smith was 19-of-22 for 224 yards in a win over the Raiders. Smith's 86.4 percent completion percentage is the highest in a game in Chiefs history (minimum 20 attempts). Smith has the Chiefs' top 4 games in terms of completion percentage.
But with the Chief controlling the game on the ground, the receiving corps wasn't of much use to fantasy owners. According to NFL.com's Matt Harmon, these sort of scripts will happen when Kansas City can play to their strengths. What is concerning for a player like Jeremy Maclin is how widely distributed this passing game has become.
What was a highly-concentrated focus between Maclin, Travis Kelce and the running backs last year suddenly has a wide variety of interesting options. Ten Chiefs players recorded a catch on Sunday.
One of them was Dontari Poe, a 346-pound defensive lineman who last year became the heaviest player in NFL history to score an offensive touchdown, hitting the end zone on a 1-yard run.
Now he's the biggest player in NFL history to catch a touchdown pass, only it won't go down as a catch. The short connection between Smith and Poe in the third quarter in Oakland was deemed a lateral.
Nevertheless, Poe grabbed the throw/toss, secured the ball and ran behind three teammates across the goal line for a second career touchdown.
And finally. ... Reid said Justin Houston would practice Wednesday. "We just need to see what he can do out here," Reid said.
This will be the star linebacker's first session coming off the PUP list.
QBs: Patrick Mahomes, Chad Henne, Tyler Bray
RBs: Kareem Hunt, Charcandrick West, Kerwynn Williams, Damien Williams, Akeem Hunt
WRs: Tyreek Hill, Sammy Watkins, De'Anthony Thomas, Jehu Chesson, Demarcus Robinson
TEs: Travis Kelce, Demetrius Harris
Los Angeles RamsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 19 October 2016
The Los Angeles Rams' flight from Detroit to London was a breeze, and the team arrived in England ready to start work for the upcoming week.
But as the Associated Press suggested, fixing the problems revealed in Sunday's loss to the Lions will take a bit longer.
The Rams (3-3) have lost two straight heading into their game against the New York Giants at Twickenham Stadium this weekend, erasing their strongest start to a season in a decade.
A trip to London is an added complication for a team that has seemingly spent most of 2016 in transit, but the NFL and the Rams' support staff are making this journey as manageable as possible. The Rams had a team meal with their families at Ford Field before boarding their flight and touching down across the Atlantic on Monday.
"We came in this morning, and everything is set up," coach Jeff Fisher said in a phone interview from London. "We're ready to go. The coaches, as we speak, are game-planning downstairs. They haven't had a whole lot of sleep, but I think by Wednesday, we'll be OK. The players will be the same way. We're encouraging them to eat and take care of themselves."
The players have Tuesday off before returning to practice Wednesday, so the coaches have only a few days to address the shift in the Rams' problems revealed in Detroit.
After five weeks of the Los Angeles defense soundly outplaying the offense, quarterback Case Keenum set a franchise record for consecutive completions during an impressive offensive day in Detroit -- only to be let down by the defense giving up 348 yards and 31 points.
In fact, as ESPN.com's Alden Gonzalez noted, Keenum played the game of his life -- right up until the very end.
Down three with just over a minute left in a back-and-forth contest, Keenum tried to hit tight end Lance Kendricks deep down the middle of the field and threw into triple coverage, leading to a game-ending interception by Rafael Bush and a disheartening 31-28 loss, the Rams' second in a row.
"We did some good things offensively," Keenum said. "Unfortunately, it was a couple plays too short."
Earlier, Keenum had completed 19 consecutive passes, breaking a franchise record of 18 that was previously set by Jim Everett in 1989. He finished 27-of-32 for 321 yards and three passing touchdowns, plus an additional rushing touchdown.
And he benefited from a big day by veteran receiver Kenny Britt, who hauled in seven of his eight targets, gained 136 yards and scored twice, one of which came on a 9-yard pass that saw him absorb four hits.
As NFL.com's Matt Harmon pointed out this week, Britt had registered just one game with fewer than six targets and came in with a 21 percent share of the team total, second to Tavon Austin's 30 percent. Britt has at least four catches in every single game and is now on pace for 1,300 receiving yards.
Whatever the case, we're seeing improvement.
"The offense did their job, and that's what the focus has been over the past month," Fisher said. "We're improving. We just need to keep it going. ... (Keenum) had a great day. It obviously wasn't enough to win. The difficulty we had in the game was keeping Detroit out of the end zone and 31 points is unacceptable from a defensive (standpoint). We had some opportunities to change the game. We just couldn't make the play we needed to make on defense."
The Rams also continued to be plagued by penalties. They're third in the NFL with 50 penalties for 435 yards. Still, Fisher insists: "I'm not overly concerned right now. Penalties aren't our problem."
He's more concerned about getting execution from a defense that was missing two of its best players in Detroit: defensive end Robert Quinn and cornerback Trumaine Johnson. Los Angeles then lost defensive lineman Michael Brockers and defensive back Lamarcus Joyner to injuries during the game, and it's too early in the week to know who will be back this weekend at Twickenham.
"I expect our defense to bounce back as the health factor improves," Fisher said.
But the headline here is the Rams no longer have the NFL's 32nd-ranked offense, even if only for a week. After finishing last in 2015 and ranking last again this season, Los Angeles moved up to 31st with 387 yards at Detroit, boosting its average to 301.3 yards per game. ...
Other notes of interest. ... Todd Gurley averaged 4.1 yards on 14 carries covering 58 yards, but the Rams went away from the run in favor of the pass. Statistically that was a sound move as the pass offense was on point, but when the Rams had to run the ball on fourth-and-goal from inside the 1-yard-line at the end of the first half and to close out the game in the fourth quarter they couldn't get Gurley re-activated.
The better news here, as NFL.com's Matt Franciscovich pointed out, it seems like the Rams have finally figured out that one of the most athletic players in the NFL actually can catch the ball since Gurley now has 124 receiving yards in his last three games. That receiving production will help boost his floor when he's unable to get into the end zone and today was a perfect example of that as he finished with nine fantasy points despite zero touchdowns.
This week, Gurley faces a Giants defense that has had a tough time stopping running backs the last few games.
And finally. ... Fisher said he apologized to Detroit coach Jim Caldwell after the Rams attempted to break through the Lions' offensive line on the final two plays, attempting to force a turnover in the Victory formation. Fisher indicated star DL Aaron Donald was upset about the Detroit offensive line's behavior earlier in the game, but didn't use it as an excuse.
"When the game's over, the game's over," Fisher said. "Pay respect to your opponent. ... We'll address it, and it's unlikely it will happen again."
QBs: Jared Goff, Sean Mannion
RBs: Todd Gurley, Malcolm Brown, Lance Dunbar
WRs: Robert Woods, Brandin Cooks, Cooper Kupp, Tavon Austin, Pharoh Cooper, Josh Reynolds
TEs: Tyler Higbee, Gerald Everett
Miami DolphinsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 19 October 2016
As Associated Press sports writer Steven Wine noted, for the first time all season, the Dolphins' offensive line consistently put opposing players on their backsides, leaving the impression coach Adam Gase's team is finally headed in the right direction.
And it wasn't just better blocking.
Ryan Tannehill was efficient, Jay Ajayi ran hard, the defense tackled well and the secondary smothered. Many of the problems that have plagued Miami under their first-year coach were eliminated -- for one week, at least.
The Dolphins (2-4) regard their 30-15 victory over Pittsburgh as the start of a turnaround, rather than an aberration.
"A lot of guys will build off this," Gase said Monday.
Not all of them. Safety Reshad Jones made an interception but suffered a shoulder injury that could end his season, and he plans to seek a second opinion.
The Dolphins will be at home for the third week in a row Sunday against Buffalo (4-2), eager to sustain what they began against the favored Steelers.
The foundation for success Sunday was the offensive line, where the Dolphins were finally healthy and able to start their five best players for the first time. From left to right that was Branden Albert, Laremy Tunsil, Mike Pouncey, Jermon Bushrod and Ja'Wuan James.
In the first five games, because of injuries up front, Miami started three different players at each of three positions -- left tackle, left guard and center. The lineup against Pittsburgh featured four former first-round draft picks, and a group eager to show what it could do.
Ryan Tannehill, sacked 17 times in the first five games, wasn't sacked once or pressured much in 32 pass plays. He threw for 252 yards without a turnover.
As ESPN.com's James Walker noted, throughout Tannehill's struggles, head coach Adam Gase continued to back his quarterback and proclaim that things will "look different" once he gets solid pass protection and other parts start clicking around him. Gase was correct on Sunday.
"They kept me clean," Tannehill said. "I was able to go one-two in my progressions, and when you're able to do that, you can actually throw the football and make a few plays."
Ajayi benefited from huge holes and was named AFC offensive player of the week after rambling for 204 yards and two touchdowns.
Ajayi got 25 carries, even after veteran Arian Foster came back from his latest injury, which speaks to the faith the Dolphins are developing in him.
It was an eye-opening performance for Ajayi, whose previous high game this year was a 13-carry, 42-yard day against the Titans.
"All year we've been looking for our offense to come out, play well and keep the defense off the field," Tannehill said. "We've had our defense on the field way too much."
The challenge now is sticking to the formula for success.
In Ajayi's locker Monday, a teammate hung a gas can labeled, "Can you fill up your gas tank every single week?"
That's now the question for all of the Dolphins.
And what about for fantasy owners?
As NFL.com's Matt Franciscovich put it: "Nobody saw this coming. The Dolphins rode the Jay-Train on Sunday."
We thought things would look different with Foster back on the field, but this was Ajayi's breakthrough week. Ajayi stated his case as to why the team should feature him on a weekly basis and has now led the team's running backs in touches for three weeks in a row.
Foster (three carries, three yards), who had missed the previous three games due to hamstring/groin ailments, didn't start against Pittsburgh and played very little. It's unclear how Foster, the starter until he was injured, will be used in the future, including this week against Buffalo.
The Dolphins face Buffalo this week, so while it's not a great matchup, Ajayi is still the back we'll want to consider as the top weapon here. ...
Meanwhile, Miami's offense, which has sputtered in a number of areas, was proficient against Pittsburgh in one troublesome category (third down conversions) but still had issues in another (red zone touchdowns). The Dolphins, who entered among the NFL's worst on third downs, went 7 for 14 against the Steelers.
That allowed Miami to run a season-best 68 plays and keep the ball for a season-high 36 minutes, 30 seconds.
As the Sports Xchange pointed out, the Dolphins didn't fare as well in the red zone, going 2 of 6 while settling for four field goal attempts of 30 yards or fewer (they successfully converted three). The Dolphins had one potential red zone touchdown dropped when DeVante Parker couldn't haul in a pass, and another was wiped out due to an illegal formation penalty. ...
Other notes of interest. ... Tight end Dion Sims might have sustained a concussion and didn't return to the Pittsburgh game. Sims' possible absence could mean two Miami TEs have concussion issues. Jordan Cameron (concussion) is also sidelined.
Given those injuries, MarQueis Gray ended with three receptions for 81 yards, including a 53-yarder in the second quarter. Gray, more of an H-back type, has showed good hands and receiving skills in the last few weeks when his snap count has increased. That trend is likely to continue.
Kenny Stills (two receptions, 12 yards) had a low-profile role in Sunday's win. Stills, in the final year of his contract, has 11 receptions for 217 yards (19.7 yards per reception) and one TD on the season.
Meanwhile, Parker turned five catches targets on seven targets into a measly 28 yards. NFL.com's Matt Harmon reminded readers that outside of the second half against the Patriots (which the Dolphins began trailing 24-3) Parker has just 12 catches for 169 yards and one touchdown this year. Parker's presence continues to open up the field for Jarvis Landry, who is on pace for a career-high in receiving yards (1,316) and maintains the highest yards per reception average of his career.
And finally. ... Pro Bowl safety Reshad Jones suffered a torn rotator cuff in Sunday's win over the Pittsburgh Steelers, a league source told Walker, and Jones will be sidelined for the rest of the season.
QBs: Jay Cutler, Matt Moore, Brock Osweiler, Brandon Doughty
RBs: Frank Gore, Kenyan Drake
WRs: DeVante Parker, Danny Amendola, Kenny Stills, Albert Wilson, Leonte Carroo, Jakeem Grant
TEs: Anthony Fasano, MarQueis Gray, Gavin Escobar
Minnesota VikingsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 19 October 2016
As Associated Press sports writer Dave Campbell noted on Monday, as welcomed as the bye week is in the NFL for the rare in-season opportunity for healing and rest, that hole in the schedule can be a momentum-halter too.
The Vikings returned from their brief vacation with the best antidote on the market for post-break complacency: An unbeaten record.
Head coach Mike Zimmer has rarely missed an opportunity to remind his players of the imprudence of becoming comfortable. So there was no mystery whether his pre-bye message to the team included an exhortation to continue striving for improvement. To reporters, Zimmer cited more consistent fulfillment of pass coverage assignments by the defense and eliminating lost-yardage plays by the offense.
"I talked to them about making sure when you come back that you don't come out here and pull muscles, get some workouts in, watch some tape," Zimmer said. "They did a good job in meetings today. For the most part, they did a good job in practice as far as being on point with things. There were a couple things I had to mention to them that we need to do better today, but I think overall, these guys are pretty focused most of the time."
Quarterback Taylor Heinicke has been cleared to return to practice on Wednesday. He's been on the non-football injury reserve list since the start of training camp, the result of severed tendons in his left foot from an ill-fated kick of a glass door attempting to help a locked-out friend enter his apartment.
Once he takes the field, the Vikings will have up to three weeks to decide whether to add him to the active roster as a third quarterback this season.
"I don't think our team ever thought of us as kind of being written off. Maybe other people did, but I don't think our team did," Zimmer said after the Vikings sailed into their bye week on the strength of a 31-13 victory over Houston.
No team is ever immune to injuries, and plenty of Super Bowl winners have survived the loss of multiple starters over the course of a 16-game schedule and the playoffs. That's not a novel feat in this brutal sport.
Few outfits are as well-built as this edition of the Vikings is, though, to withstand such an early onslaught.
The franchise quarterback (Teddy Bridgewater), the reigning NFL rushing leader (Adrian Peterson), both starting offensive tackles (Matt Kalil and Andre Smith) and a starting defensive tackle (Sharrif Floyd), all former first-round draft picks, are recovering from surgeries after suffering long-term injuries. Floyd is expected back this year, and perhaps Peterson, but the depth of the roster and the resilience of the players have been tested hard.
The trade general manager Rick Spielman made for Sam Bradford gave the players an emotional lift four days after Bridgewater went down, but the boost Bradford has provided the offense has been just as big. He has attempted 125 passes without an interception, displaying the quick release, confident touch and strong arm befitting the first overall pick in the 2010 draft. The offense has run 310 plays without a turnover.
According to the Sports Xchange, Zimmer said the coaching staff did its usual bye-week self-scouting to identify areas that need attention. Offensively, the league's worst running game (70.6 yards per game) is the top priority. Defensively, it's hard to find any glaring blemishes, but the team wants to improve on its No. 23 ranking in red-zone touchdown percentage of 63.6.
The bye also allowed some players to heal. Right guard Brandon Fusco, who was knocked out of the Oct. 9 Houston game with a concussion on the first series, returned to practice. But Stefon Diggs, who was inactive for the Texans game on Oct. 9, has not returned to full strength from his groin injury. He sat out of Monday's light workout as the team returned from its bye. But Diggs was on the field Wednesday.
Jarius Wright, who caught his first four passes of the season in the Houston game, did not practice on Monday because of an undisclosed injury. It's not expected to be serious.
Adam Thielen posted his first career 100-yard receiving game with career highs of seven catches and 127 yards in the Vikings' 31-13 win over Houston on Oct. 9. Thielen and Diggs are the only Vikings with 100-yard receiving games this season.
Thielen also caught the second touchdown pass of his career. He has three career touchdowns, including a return of a blocked punt.
Meanwhile, ESPN.com's Ben Goessling expects Laquon Treadwell to play a bigger role at some point, though Goessling isn't sure it's coming immediately.
Goessling explained the Vikings' coaching staff likes to make players prove they deserve playing time, as Zimmer has talked about, and they're still waiting to see Treadwell show a more innate knowledge of the scheme before giving him a bigger role in the offense. The contributions they're getting from players like Thielen and Cordarrelle Patterson means they don't need to be in a hurry with their first-round pick, either.
In other words, don't assume a breakout is imminent.
QBs: Kirk Cousins
RBs: Latavius Murray, Mack Brown, C.J. Ham
WRs: Kendall Wright, Stefon Diggs, Adam Thielen, Tavarres King, Laquon Treadwell, Michael Floyd, Rodney Adams, Stacy Coley
TEs: Kyle Rudolph, David Morgan, Blake Bell
New England PatriotsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 19 October 2016
As ESPN.com's Mike Reiss understated, Tom Brady is back, which has been a storyline well covered the past two weeks.
But know who else is back?
Tight end Rob Gronkowski. In a big way.
Brady's return has coincided with Gronkowski's breakout. In Sunday's 35-17 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals at Gillette Stadium, Gronkowski set a career high with 162 receiving yards, besting his previous mark of 160 (Dec. 11, 2011, vs. Washington).
"He's only gotten better as he's gotten older and understood more about the game," Brady said of Gronkowski. "He makes any quarterback look good. If he's uncovered, he's going to get it, and there was plenty of time when he was uncovered today."
As it turned out, there were other fireworks involving Gronkowski, who was penalized for taunting in the fourth quarter after knocking helmets with Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict and then bobbing his head in the direction of the Cincinnati bench.
Gronkowski left the field for one play, got an earful from Patriots coach Bill Belichick, then ran back on the field the next play to wild cheers from the home crowd. He later said he took full responsibility for the penalty.
The crowd, which serenaded its quarterback with chants of "Brady! Brady! Brady!" throughout the day, had previously roared after Gronkowski's first touchdown catch of the season (a 4-yarder in the third quarter) that was followed by one of his trademark power spikes.
The touchdown was Gronkowski's 67th of his career, now one shy of Stanley Morgan's Patriots franchise record.
Gronkowski was coming off a five-catch, 109-yard performance on Oct. 9 against the Cleveland Browns, and as he had walked back to the locker room after that win, he turned to one reporter and yelled, "Just got to get me healthy. That's all, baby!"
Indeed, Gronkowski's return to health from a hamstring injury first sustained Aug. 15 in a joint practice against the Chicago Bears has been another big reason for his resurgence, as he said Sunday that he now has "two wheels" under him. Gronkowski had been held out of the first two games of the season, played just 14 snaps upon his return Sept. 22 and then was up to 39 in an Oct. 2 loss to Buffalo in which he was sent out on just 13 pass routes.
After that game, Gronkowski said it almost felt like "go time" for him with the hamstring, and with that, his snap counts spiked and he started to be sent into pass routes more often.
That, of course, coincided with Brady's return.
A week after a 400-yard, three touchdown debut in Cleveland, Brady completed 29 of 35 passes (83 percent) for 376 yards with three more touchdowns and no interceptions for a 140.0 passer rating to beat the Bengals.
It wasn't easy, though. Brady was sacked three times, hit six times and under presser for much of the day. New England's high-powered offense had just one third-down conversion in the first half and needed a questionable illegal contact penalty to extend a drive that ended with a touchdown late in the second quarter to take a 10-7 lead at the break.
Still, Brady has played in two games, both wins. He helped New England score 33 and 35 points in those contests while throwing for nearly 800 yards and six touchdowns.
So make no mistake, Brady's back. As is Gronkowski.
Martellus Bennett had a quieter day after recording three scores a week earlier against the Browns, tallying five catches for 48 yards against the Bengals. According to MassLive.com's Kevin Duffy, the Patriots only used Gronkowski and Bennett together on 27 of 61 snaps but those were some of their best plays. Regardless of when they're on the field, over the last two weeks Gronkowski and Bennett have combined for 23 receptions for 386 yards and four touchdowns working with Brady as the feared dynamic duo hits its productive stride.
Next stop: Pittsburgh, where the Patriots visit the Steelers, who will be without Ben Roethlisberger, on Sunday. ...
Other notes of interest. ... Though this marks the first week that running back Dion Lewis can begin practicing since opening the season on the physically-unable-to-perform list, Belichick said Tuesday that it is unlikely to happen.
"Probably not this week," Belichick said.
Lewis, who tore his left ACL on Nov. 8 and required a follow-up surgery on the knee (but not specifically the ACL), has been more visible during media-access periods in the locker room in recent weeks.
He was a dynamic option for the Patriots early in 2015, rushing for 234 yards on 49 carries with two touchdowns, and adding 36 receptions for 388 yards with two touchdowns. In his absence, the Patriots have had third-year player James White step into the "passing back" role in the offense.
White caught two touchdowns in Sunday's 34-17 win against Cincinnati.
As the Sports Xchange notes, with Brady back, the running game is subsequently back in a far more complementary role in New England.
That was certainly the case against the Bengals as LeGarrette Blount tied a season-low with 13 attempts for just 50 yards (3.8 average), although he did have a 1-yard touchdown run to close out the win in the fourth quarter. Blount has now has scored in all but one game this season.
As a team New England ran 23 times, one off a season-low, for a season-worst 79 yards (3.4 average) against a Bengals team that came in ranked 19th in the league in rush defense. White wasn't productive in his rushes out of passing sets, the undersized back picking up a mere 19 yards on seven attempts.
The Cincy front got the better of the Patriots offensive line in the running game as well as the passing game.
RB Brandon Bolden (knee) was inactive for the second straight week, though he did return to practice on a limited basis last Friday.
QBs: Tom Brady, Brian Hoyer
RBs: Rex Burkhead, Jeremy Hill, James White, Mike Gillislee, James Develin
WRs: Chris Hogan, Kenny Britt, Cordarrelle Patterson, Phillip Dorsett, Malcolm Mitchell, Matt Slater
TEs: Rob Gronkowski, Troy Niklas, Dwayne Allen
New Orleans SaintsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 19 October 2016
Heading into the Week 6 matchup against the Panther, Drew Brees was averaging 400 yards, 3.5 touchdowns and zero wins in the New Orleans Saints' first two home games of the season.
He needed just 177 passing yards to reach 50,000 yards for his career with the Saints.
As ESPN.com's Mike Triplett noted, the Saints needed more. And they got it.
Brees threw for 465 yards with 4 touchdowns, 1 interception and led a game-winning field-goal drive in the final minute to survive a 41-38 thriller over their reeling rivals from Carolina.
In the process, the 37-year-old Brees moved past Peyton Manning into first place in NFL history with 15 career 400-yard games. Pro Football Hall of Famer Dan Marino authored 13 400-yard passing games during his career with the Miami Dolphins.
Brees, who had 141 passing yards by the end of the first quarter, reached the 50,000-yard milestone with a 16-yard throw down the middle to wide receiver Willie Snead midway through the second quarter.
The completion to Snead pushed Brees' total for the game to 179 yards. He went on to finish the game with 50,288 yards for his career.
Brees became the sixth quarterback in NFL history to reach 50,000 passing yards with one team. The others are Brett Favre, Green Bay (61,655); Dan Marino, Miami (61,361); Tom Brady, New England (58,810); Peyton Manning, Indianapolis (54,828) and John Elway, Denver (51,475).
Thanks to Brees, the Saints (2-3) are now clinging to life after losing their first two games in the final minute and winning their past two in the final two minutes.
"It's good to get one of those wins. We've had a couple now in the last two," head coach Sean Payton said, referring to New Orleans' rally from 13 points down over the final seven minutes at the San Diego Chargers two weeks ago before a bye in Week 5.
There were plenty of heroes on Sunday. Rookie kicker Wil Lutz nailed the clutch 52-yard field goal with 11 seconds left after an up-and-down start to his career that included a 53-yard miss earlier Sunday.
Receiver Brandin Cooks caught seven passes for a career-high 173 yards -- including an 87-yard touchdown in the first quarter while New Orleans was building its early 21-0 lead. Tight end Coby Fleener caught a 50-yard TD pass and ran in a sneaky 2-yard touchdown that he described as a "tight end around."
But Brees was still the driving force, as he has been now for more than a decade in New Orleans.
Astronomical passing numbers have become routine for Brees for two reasons -- because he and the passing offense led by Sean Payton are among the best in NFL history, and because the Saints' defensive woes have forced Brees to throw for 465 yards and 4 touchdowns to win games.
Last year, Brees had to throw for 7 touchdowns in a 52-49 track meet against the New York Giants.
He often does this because the defense gives him no choice.
The Saints gave up 406 total yards to the Panthers and have allowed at least 400 yards in four of their five games. They yielded 346 yards in the other game, which is certainly a cause for concern on that side of the ball.
In fact, no team has gained more yards or allowed more yards than the Saints since the start of the 2012 season -- which is why they have been hovering around .500 for that entire stretch (7-9 in 2012, 11-5 in 2013, 7-9 in 2014, 7-9 in 2015, 2-3 this year).
It's hard to expect any more consistency going forward this year. But the good news is that the defense is getting healthier, with No. 1 cornerback Delvin Breaux expected back soon.
And the better news is that Brees has still got the touch. ...
Other notes of interest. ... Second-round pick Michael Thomas caught all five of his targets for 78 yards and a touchdown against the Panthers' depleted cornerback unit Sunday. As ESPN's Mike Clay noted, Thomas has now caught at least four balls in every game this season and has scored a touchdown in three consecutive outings.
Of course, Snead was out/limited during two of those games and Thomas trailed Cooks (nine), Snead (seven) and Coby Fleener (six) in targets during Sunday's game.
Also not helping Thomas' short-term prospects is a Saints upcoming schedule that includes trips to Kansas City and San Francisco and home affairs against Seattle and Denver.
Thomas has a bright future, but he's no more than a flex at this point in time.
Again, the running game was nothing special for the Saints.
But with the passing game working so well, they only had to run the ball a few times to keep the Panthers' defense honest. The Saints wound up with 63 yards on 21 carries for a 3.0 average with a long gain of 11 yards. Mark Ingram, who had the 11-yard run, finished with 51 yards on 16 attempts. Rookie Daniel Lasco was next with 5 yards on two carries.
Lutz delivered the biggest kick of his young career to beat the Panthers last Sunday, and on Wednesday he was named NFC Special Teams Player of the Week.
He’s now 7-of-11 on field goals for the season.
And finally. ... TE Josh Hill, who had missed three games with a sprained ankle that he suffered in the season opener, returned Sunday and caught a touchdown.
QBs: Drew Brees, Tom Savage
RBs: Mark Ingram, Jonathan Williams, Alvin Kamara, Daniel Lasco
WRs: Michael Thomas, Ted Ginn, Willie Snead, Brandon Coleman, TommyLee Lewis
TEs: Ben Watson, Josh Hill, Michael Hoomanawanui
New York GiantsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 19 October 2016
As ESPN.com's Jordan Raanan noted, the New York Giants desperately needed to make something happen Sunday afternoon in the second half against the Baltimore Ravens. They had struggled offensively early, especially in the first half when they went more than 20 minutes before recording a first down.
But when they needed to make plays in the second half, star wide receiver Odell Beckham came through. He had 211 yards receiving and two mammoth touchdowns in the second half, the final a 66-yard score with 1:36 remaining to put the Giants back in the lead. They held on to win 27-23.
Beckham finished with 222 yards receiving and two touchdowns on eight receptions. His 124 yards after the catch were the most by any player this season, according to ESPN Stats & Information. He was named NFC Offensive Player of the Week for his effort.
"We all know what kind of player he is and he had one of those days [Sunday] where he was just kind of unstoppable," linebacker Jonathan Casillas said. "Hats off to him. He has been getting a lot of criticism lately and he showed up."
Quarterback Eli Manning finished with 403 yards passing -- 296 in the second half -- and three touchdown passes. He finally got it going in the second half after several weeks of sub-par performances.
It was all going poorly for the Giants into the third quarter until, with one snap, everything changed. The Giants' biggest stars combined to make a big play in a game that potentially saved their season.
Manning lofted a perfect pass into Beckham's arms late in the third quarter, after the Ravens had just reclaimed the lead at 13-10. Beckham didn't break stride and went 75 yards for the touchdown.
It was the play the Giants had been waiting five-plus weeks to see, and it turned the tide in a game the Giants desperately needed.
"It was fun," Manning said. "It was fun to get out there and see our guys making the plays that we expect them to do," Manning said. "It was a big win for us."
Beckham and Manning came through Sunday and did it in the clutch. Their top playmakers took advantage of a decimated Ravens team to snap a three-game skid.
Unfortunately, head coach Ben McAdoo is getting his team ready for their trip to London with some uncertainty about the status of Beckham, who is dealing with a hip pointer.
"He's down there getting some treatment," McAdoo said Monday when asked how Beckham felt. "We'll know more when we go to hit the field with him."
McAdoo had no idea how much Beckham would practice this week as the Giants prepared for Sunday's game against the Los Angeles Rams.
"We'll see early in the week," he said. "I'm sure he's going to be sore."
Beckham was not on the field Wednesday.
While Beckham was outstanding, the third-year player still found a way to upset McAdoo. After catching his go-ahead 66-yard touchdown with 1:24 to play, Beckham ran out of the end zone and took off his helmet to celebrate.
It drew a 15-yard penalty and allowed Baltimore to start its final drive at the 32 instead of the 25 had Josh Brown gotten a touchback on the final kickoff.
"We had a discussion about it," McAdoo said. "Can't have it. He knows that. He went out and wanted to fire up the kickoff coverage and the defense. He knows we can't have it."
The Giants will practice Wednesday and Thursday in New Jersey and then head to London after the second practice.
"We've done all of our homework there," McAdoo said. "It's not the first time the Giants have been over there. It's the first time for me. We have some coaches on the staff who have a bunch of experience. As far as the food goes, we've done a lot of our homework there. Made sure we've bridged the gap, so to speak."
McAdoo wants the players to make sure they get their rest early this week, so he pushed back some starting times for team activities. The team will adjust its normal workout on Friday and Saturday to make sure the players recover from the flight.
One last note here. ... The Giants really didn't run the ball much, rushing just 17 times to 46 passes. Still, when they did rush, they managed just 2.2 yards per carry, which is dismal. The going won't be any easier against the Rams this weekend.
QBs: Eli Manning, Davis Webb
RBs: Orleans Darkwa, Jonathan Stewart, Wayne Gallman, Shane Vereen, Paul Perkins
WRs: Sterling Shepard, Roger Lewis, Travis Rudolph, Ed Eagan
TEs: Evan Engram, Jerell Adams, Rhett Ellison
New York JetsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 19 October 2016
As ESPN.com's Rich Cimini first reported it, the Jets, desperate for a spark, are turning to Geno Smith as their quarterback.
League sources told ESPN's Adam Schefter that Smith will replace Ryan Fitzpatrick, who has compiled an 11-11 record as the Jets' starter over two seasons.
Smith will start Sunday against the Ravens, his first start since Dec. 28, 2014. He was the presumptive starter in 2015, but he lost the job in training camp when his jaw was broken in a locker room altercation with then-teammate IK Enemkpali.
Fitzpatrick replaced Smith and enjoyed a career year, but he has reverted to the mistake-prone ways from earlier in his career. He has thrown a league-high 11 interceptions, as the offense has managed only three touchdowns in the past four games -- all losses.
Fitzpatrick was pulled in the fourth quarter of Monday night's 28-3 loss to the Arizona Cardinals. In one series of mop-up work, Smith completed four of six passes, but he fumbled on a sack (the Jets recovered) and threw an interception.
After the game, Bowles gave Fitzpatrick a vote of confidence, saying, "Fitz will be back next week. ... Fitz is our starter." But Tuesday, in a conference call with reporters, he walked back those comments, saying he needed to meet with his staff Tuesday night to discuss the position.
Smith may only be a bridge to one of the young quarterbacks, Bryce Petty or Christian Hackenberg. Bowles admitted it's "definitely possible" that one of them could start by the end of the season. The Jets (1-5) probably would wait until they're mathematically eliminated from playoff contention before turning to an inexperienced quarterback.
They're the only team with four quarterbacks on the roster. Petty and Hackenberg are under contract for 2017; Smith and Fitzpatrick will be free agents.
This is a stunning fall for Fitzpatrick, who, after a long stalemate, signed a one-year, $12 million contract on the eve of training camp. He was considered the missing piece for a team that almost made the playoffs last season, but he hasn't been able to recapture that level of play.
Fitzpatrick passed for 374 yards in a Week 2 win over the Buffalo Bills, but he has managed only two touchdown passes (and 10 interceptions) since then.
Smith, a second-round pick in 2013, compiled an 11-18 starting record in his first two seasons. He flashed occasional glimpses of potential, but he had 34 interceptions and 71 sacks in those two years.
Bowles inherited Smith in 2015 and positioned him to become the starter, but everything changed when Enemkpali punched Smith in a dispute over a $600 plane ticket. By the time his jaw had healed, he was entrenched as the No. 2.
Smith worked with the starters during Fitzpatrick's contract dispute in the offseason, but he went back to bench when Fitzpatrick signed. In several interviews, Smith said he was "pissed off." On Monday night, he told ESPN sideline reporter Lisa Salters he was "getting antsy" to play.
That resulted in a rebuke from Bowles.
"I don't have any thoughts on backup players saying anything," Bowles said Tuesday. "They're backups for a reason. If they get a chance to play, they better prove themselves to be worthy of playing regardless of who that person is."
He's not a backup anymore. ...
Now that the QB change has been made, what would the next step be if Smith comes up short?
Coordinators are often the scapegoat. A handful of coordinators already have been fired across the league, including one move that has worked out brilliantly. Buffalo canned Greg Roman after a Week 2 loss to the Jets, promoting Anthony Lynn to run the offense. Since then, the Bills are 4-0.
Could Bowles go that route?
Cimini believes it would be extreme and out of character for the even-keeled Bowles to throw one of his coordinators overboard, but owner Woody Johnson is said to be upset and frustrated by the team's poor start, as Schefter reported Monday morning.
"There's a whole bunch of things wrong, obviously," Bowles said of his disappearing offense. "It's coaches and players. They're not making plays, we're not putting them in the right position to make plays. They have to do a better job as players, we have to do a better job as coaches."
Bowles has said he has total trust in Gailey, although it should be noted he started spending more time recently in meetings with the offensive coaches.
As Cimini put it, "Gailey is a smart coach who hasn't looked smart for a month."
Gailey hasn't adapted well, showing no creativity in his game plans.
So what else can Bowles do?
There aren't many options. He can increase Bilal Powell's workload. Powell is more elusive than Forte and, the way the line is blocking, a running back with elusiveness is important. They can try to create a role for Austin Seferian-Jenkins, who sat out with ankle injury, even though it would be pretty radical for Gailey to feature the tight end.
Defensively, the Jets took a positive step on Monday night, trying to re-create their old personality -- blitzing and attacking. After a month of playing passively because of the number of big pass plays, Bowles cranked up the heat, blitzing Carson Palmer on 68 percent of his dropbacks, the Jets' second-highest blitz percentage in the past five years.
"We got back to ourselves," Bowles said.
The results weren't there -- no turnovers, no sacks and six penalties by the secondary -- but at least they made a conscious effort to shake up the status quo.
"We've got to get a spark somehow," Bowles said of the team. "We're in games and we're making too many bad mistakes at critical times on both sides of the ball. ... We've got to make plays. We've got to make a play at a critical time to get us going."
"Coaches can do that, too, but the quarterback isn't getting benched," Cimini summed up. "Unless Bowles jettisons an assistant coach, it'll be the same old Jets. ..."
Meanwhile, Decker, awaiting surgery to repair a partially torn rotator cuff, underwent hip surgery Tuesday, the team announced.
Decker's hip injury was discovered during a medical evaluation for his shoulder, which landed him on injured reserve last week.
"The hip surgery was deemed necessary during an evaluation that occurred when Decker was placed on injured reserve for a torn rotator cuff on October 12," the Jets said in a statement.
The hip operation could complicate his timetable for recovery. The Jets said Decker will have the rotator cuff repaired once he's off crutches but did not say when that will be. The recovery time for the hip is six months; it's eight months for the shoulder, the Jets said.
An eight-month timetable puts him in mid-June, which means he likely will miss the Jets' entire offseason program.
QBs: Teddy Bridgewater, Bryce Petty, Christian Hackenberg
RBs: Matt Forte, Isaiah Crowell, Bilal Powell, Elijah McGuire, Thomas Rawls
WRs: Robby Anderson, Jermaine Kearse, Neal Sterling, Andre Roberts, Terrelle Pryor, Chad Hansen, ArDarius Stewart
TEs: Eric Tomlinson, Will Tye, Jordan Leggett
Oakland RaidersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 19 October 2016
According to the Associated Press, a thorough beating by the Kansas City Chiefs did little to change head coach Jack Del Rio's opinion of his Oakland Raiders team.
"We have a real good team," he said Monday. "Had a bad day yesterday."
No doubt about that.
For the first time since Del Rio's first game as coach, the Raiders (4-2) never really had a chance late as they played their first fourth quarter without being within one score at any point since a 33-13 loss to Cincinnati to open the 2015 season.
The defense got gashed by Spencer Ware and Alex Smith in the latest in a run of bad performances, Derek Carr and the offense managed just one field goal after scoring a touchdown on the opening drive, usually reliable kicker Sebastian Janikowski missed a 52-yard field goal and the punt coverage unit allowed Tyreek Hill to have a 50-yard return that set up a Kansas City score.
Add it all up and the Raiders fell 26-10 to the Chiefs and failed in their opportunity to take sole possession of first place in the AFC West.
"When things don't go the way you want, each man looks and sees what he can do better," Del Rio said. "We're going to ask each guy, every play, every coach to do something, do one thing better this week than you did last week."
Del Rio said he believes it is easier to make corrections following a loss instead of a win, when players might get complacent.
It all starts with a defense that is on pace to allow the most yards per play (6.9) in the NFL since the 1970 merger. It has been an equal opportunity defense that ranks 30th in yards per carry allowed (4.81) and 31st in yards per pass attempt (8.9).
Del Rio said the issues start with communication: getting the play from the sideline to the huddle quickly enough and then passing that information on to the 11 defenders on the field. The Raiders are using three rookie starters on defense -- defensive lineman Jihad Ward, linebacker Cory James and safety Karl Joseph -- and three other starters in their first year with the team, possibly adding to the issues.
"When that cleans up, it will alleviate a lot of the issues we're having," Del Rio said. "That's why I remain very confident in this football team and our ability to grow as the year goes on. There are young players. That's not an alibi, that's just reality. I think as they gain confidence, they'll continue to grow and our communication will be better and better."
Despite the myriad problems, the Raiders head into a two-week road trip to Florida tied for first with Denver, a half-game ahead of the Chiefs. The offense has frequently bailed out the struggling defense with Carr leading second-half comebacks to beat New Orleans, Baltimore and San Diego.
Carr just couldn't deliver on Sunday, committing two turnovers in the loss.
"We can't dismiss the fact that yesterday didn't go the way we wanted," Del Rio said. "But we are after six games sitting here 4-2 tied atop our division."
And there are areas where improvement could be coming.
With running back Latavius Murray out for the second game with turf toe, the Raiders couldn't get going on the ground, averaging less than four yards per carry for the second straight week.
"I don't know if it was the field, us, or the players, but any time you have that rain, (the running game) is always going to help," Carr said.
Del Rio said down and distance, as well as the score, helped slow the Raiders' ability to run.
"The running game is about getting opportunities," Del Rio said. "When you're moving the chains, creating first downs, more opportunities to run the ball, that's typically where you start the run game. Without speaking specifically to any one thing, I would venture to say there's a pretty good likelihood that we weren't converting third downs."
The Raiders converted four of their 10 third-down attempts.
Of course, giving up 444.8 yards per game and 6.9 yards per snap, the Raiders continue to have the most porous defense in the NFL and are ranked No. 32 in both categories.
If nothing else, running more effectively and converting more third downs would keep the defense off the field. ...
Looking for positives?
As ESPN.com's Paul Gutierrez notes, Amari Cooper had a couple of sideline catches by dragging his foot -- which he said would be an emphasis in practice -- rather than tapping his toe, and he finished with 10 catches for 129 yards, though he only had one catch in the second half.
In addition, tight end Clive Walford caught two passes for 25 yards, including a 20-yard pass to set up a field goal on the last play of the first half.
But Michael Crabtree had season lows in both receptions (two) and yards (10). ...
As NFL.com's Matt Harmon noted, Cooper has been able to rip through two painfully favorable matchups the last two weeks, and he and Crabtree are both in good positions this week against Jacksonville. It will be interesting, however, to see who draws impressive rookie Jalen Ramsey in coverage.
And finally. ... Murray has not begun to run yet and it's not clear if he'll be ready to against the Jaguars.
"I know he's anxious to return," Del Rio said of Murray. "He's definitely better. So it's just a matter of when he feels like he can fully participate, push off full speed, be ready to go"
I'll have more on his status via Late-Breaking Update as the week progresses.
QBs: Derek Carr, E.J. Manuel, Connor Cook
RBs: DeAndre Washington, Jalen Richard, Marshawn Lynch, Doug Martin
WRs: Jordy Nelson, Amari Cooper, Seth Roberts, Johnny Holton
TEs: Jared Cook, Lee Smith
Philadelphia EaglesCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 19 October 2016
As Associated Press sports writer Rob Maaddi put it, "Suddenly the Eagles are a sloppy, undisciplined and flawed football team. ..."
Carson Wentz and the offense are not in sync, the defense can't stop the run, and the team is committing penalties at an alarming rate.
A 24-23 loss at Detroit last week exposed some weaknesses. Still, the Eagles would've won that game if Ryan Mathews didn't fumble in the final minutes -- or if the play was overturned after a video review.
But the Redskins dominated Philadelphia on Sunday in a 27-20 win that wasn't that close.
"There's no panic, no panic whatsoever," head coach Doug Pederson said Monday.
The offense had no chance to get in a rhythm against Washington. Rookie Halapoulivaati Vaitai made his NFL debut filling in for suspended right tackle Lane Johnson and allowed 2 1/2 sacks and several pressures. He wasn't completely responsible for the sacks because he was supposed to get help on certain plays.
Pederson is sticking with Vaitai despite the fifth-round pick's struggles in his first game.
Overall, Wentz was sacked five times.
But Maaddi contends Wentz held the ball too long on a couple of those in the second half, showing he's still a rookie. He accepted blame like a veteran.
"(Sacks) hurt us early and it was one of those things where it was no one's fault. I should've made the right protection call and could've got the ball out in time better," Wentz said.
As for two sacks late in the game, Wentz said: "I've got to get the ball out. I can't take those sacks and that's definitely on me. The line gave me time on both of them. Those are things I just have to learn."
As ESPN.com's Tim McManus noted, the Eagles were outgained 285-42 over the first two quarters of play. A pair of nontraditional scoring plays -- a Wendell Smallwood kick return touchdown and a Malcolm Jenkins interception return for a touchdown -- kept the Eagles in the game.
It also kept a struggling offense off the field, as Wentz went about a quarter and a half without touching the ball.
He showed a couple of flashes of the play that earned him Rookie of the Week honors in three of his first four games, including a 54-yard bomb down the seam for receiver Jordan Matthews that set up a Caleb Sturgis field goal early in the fourth quarter to cut the deficit to seven.
The biggest concern is the defense, the team's strength the first three games. Defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz's group was flying high after holding Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers to a field goal in a 34-3 rout in Week 3.
Now the Eagles allowed 21 points in the first half in consecutive games. They've played much better in the second half both weeks, but couldn't make key stops in the fourth quarter.
"You can't just be out of control and I think right now we are," safety Malcolm Jenkins said. "The last two games, that's been the story. Collectively, we haven't been doing our job. One play after another and you get beaten."
The schedule isn't going to help Philadelphia. The Eagles host the Vikings (5-0) this week before going back on the road for division games at Dallas (5-1) and the Giants (3-3).
All three opponents will be playing Philadelphia after their bye, so they'll have an extra week to prepare.
As noted above, the Eagles backfield failed to take advantage of a great matchup against one of the worst run defenses in the league. Philly's backs combined for 92 rushing yards with zero touchdowns. Mathews, whose nine carries led the team, did average 6.7 yards per carry which was nice to see considering he's running at a 3.3 yards per carry clip this season.
But as NFL.com's Matt Franciscovich suggested, with Vikings coming up, it will be difficult to recommend starting any Philadelphia running back this week.
On the injury front. ... Matthews has knee tendonitis, the team announced. He was limited on WednesdaY. I'll have more on the wideout's status when Late-Breaking Updates commence early Thursday.
And finally. ... Pederson has been pretty passive in handling the media to this point, but showed that he's not averse to a little light sparring Monday when the topic of Sam Bradford and insider knowledge was brought up.
The Vikings are quarterbacked by Sam Bradford, who was dealt from Philadelphia to Minnesota eight days before the season. Having worked in the Eagles offense all offseason, Bradford knows the playbook inside and out, and will likely be passing some nuggets along to the Vikings coaching staff this week.
Will that at all affect how Pederson puts together the game plan? "One guy has my entire playbook," Pederson responded. "One guy."
He then was asked if Bradford's knowledge would affect how the Eagles put together a game plan.
"We also, back a few years ago, Donovan [McNabb] was in Washington when we played him, and we had a pretty good day. So, listen, I'm not going to change anything. Will we tweak some stuff? Yes."
I'll be looking for any clues that might point to what those tweaks will be in coming days.
QBs: Nick Foles
RBs: Jay Ajayi, Corey Clement, Kenjon Barner, Wendell Smallwood
WRs: Mike Wallace, Alshon Jeffery, Nelson Agholor, Mack Hollins, Shelton Gibson
TEs: Zach Ertz, Richard Rodgers
Pittsburgh SteelersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 19 October 2016
The Steelers will be without starting quarterback Ben Roethlisberger for Week 7 versus the New England Patriots.
Roethlisberger underwent surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his left knee, head coach Mike Tomlin announced Monday via a team statement. Tomlin added no timetable has been set for the veteran quarterback's return, but the Steelers are confident the injury is not long-term.
That said, Roethlisberger told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that surgeons found damage from a bone bruse suffered last year when they trimmed his meniscus. He conceded that damage could add to the recovery time. ESPN's Chris Mortensen subsequently reported the timetable could be four to six week.
This probably isn't what the Steelers or fantasy owners want to hear.
The 34-year-old signal-caller played through pain in the second half of Sunday's loss to the Miami Dolphins after missing part of the second quarter with the injury. Roethlisberger said he "felt something funny" in his knee after the game, per NFL Media's Aditi Kinkhabwala.
After hosting the Pats in Week 7, the Steelers go on bye in Week 8 and travel to Baltimore for a divisional showdown with the Ravens in Week 9.
Stating the obvious, the sooner he Big Ben returns the better.
As NFL.com's Chris Wesseling notes, whereas the Patriots survived Tom Brady's early-season absence with recent high draft picks Jimmy Garoppolo and Jacoby Brissett, the Steelers have neglected to upgrade their quarterback insurance.
Wesseling added: "The dropoff from Roethlisberger to Landry Jones is as steep as any starter-to-backup transition in the league."
Indeed, Jones managed a 58.2 completion rate and 77.3 passer rating on 55 attempts as Roethlisberger's stand-in last season.
Roethlisberger directs a high-octane, pass-heavy attack, relentlessly attacking defenses with accurate strikes down the field. From what we've seen in preseason and regular-season action over the past few seasons, coordinator Todd Haley will scale back the offense for Jones, opting to build game plans around the backfield duo of Le'Veon Bell and DeAngelo Williams.
Since the start of the 2015 season, the Steelers have averaged 27.5 points, 405.4 total yards, 308.1 passing yards and 97.3 rushing yards per game with Roethlisberger under center. Without Roethlisberger, those numbers plummet to 20.5 points, 315.3 total yards, 162.8 passing yards and 152.5 rushing yards, per NFL Research.
The first-place Steelers can survive his absence in the short term. If he ends up missing extended time, though, the AFC North door will swing wide open for the Ravens and Bengals.
Remember, Jones has taken just a handful of snaps this season and threw one incompletion while briefly spelling Roethlisberger in Miami.
He's completed 32 of 56 for 513 yards with three touchdowns and four interceptions in 11 appearances and played extensively with the first team during a preseason in which Roethlisberger made just a token appearance.
"Practice is so different from games, you never know what you're going to get from a guy until you go into the game," Jones said. "Last year I performed pretty well in most of the situations so I feel like I have the confidence of the guys."
If the Steelers want to have any hope of keeping up with the Patriots, they don't really have a choice. Several times over the past three years, Jones has seemingly found his roster spot in jeopardy only to survive and -- in very limited instances -- thrive.
The start also comes at a critical time for Jones, who will be an unrestricted free agent after the season.
With Roethlisberger locked up for the rest of the decade, any chance to be in the mix as a legitimate starter will have to come elsewhere. Not that Jones is concerned with his future at the moment. Figuring out the Patriots is hard enough.
Jones' teammates understand asking Jones to do his best Roethlisberger impersonation is unfair.
"He's not as capable as Ben is," running back Le'Veon Bell said. "Ben's been a longtime starter, been in the league for a long time at a high level. We've got to get (Jones) to the point where he's confident and he feels like he can do no wrong. That's when he can be striking."
Not that it's all on Jones.
Pittsburgh's ugly trip to South Florida included allowing a running back to go over 200 yards rushing for the first time in 16 years and failing to put much pressure on quarterback Ryan Tannehill.
Better defense will be a must. ...
Other notes of interest. ... Pittsburgh has become a pass-first team. That's not necessarily a bad thing, especially when Roethlisberger is on. When he's off, however, it becomes a big issue. Even when they faced the NFL's worst rush defense in Miami Sunday the Steelers didn't change their game plan. The problem when the pass game falters, though, is that it's tough to get back into the game by running the ball.
That fact did not go unnoticed by Bell, regarded by many as the game's top running back, who had just 10 carries for 53 yards.
"I think it's important," Bell said of establishing the run. "Obviously, not just against this team, but any team. I think when we get our running game going it sets up the pass and forces single coverage on A.B. (Antonio Bryant) and Sammie (Coates) and things like that. So, I think definitely it's important."
The Steelers haven't forced the run against any team this season, but they do usually find ways to get Bell more involved than he was Sunday. Bell did have six catches for 53 yards, but he was much more involved in the passing game in the other two games he has played since returning from a three-game suspension.
Worth noting: Wideout Darrius Heyward-Bey gained more rushing yards than Bell on a single, 60-yard touchdown run in the first half.
According to NFL.com's Matt Harmon, Sammie Coates, working with a lacerated and fractured finger, played just 30 percent of the snaps. Eli Rogers played 57 percent of the snaps in his return to action.
Tomlin considers Markus Wheaton (shoulder) questionable for Week 7 against the Patriots. Wheaton didn't play against the Dolphins.
And finally. ... Per Aditi Kinkhabwala of NFL.com, Tomlin says no decision had been made yet on whether tight end Ladarius Green will (finally) practice this week.
Week 7 is the earliest that Green can be activated from the PUP list and his target week to return was this one, so we will have to wait and see what the team decides. As FootballDiehards.com's Armando Marsal notes, Green has a ton of upside, but has dealt with injuries throughout his career.
With Jesse James playing well, the Steelers could ease Green into things and even opt to go with a committee at tight end. Green should be added as a speculative add due to his talents and upside.
QBs: Ben Roethlisberger, Landry Jones, Josh Dobbs
RBs: Le'Veon Bell, Terrell Watson, Stevan Ridley
WRs: Martavis Bryant, Eli Rogers, Darrius Heyward-Bey, Justin Hunter, JuJu Smith-Schuster, Antonio Brown
TEs: Jesse James, Xavier Grimble, Vance McDonald
San Diego ChargersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 19 October 2016
It's October and we are nearing the midpoint of the NFL regular season.
After getting their second win against the Denver Broncos, the San Diego Chargers have two tough road tests ahead.
The Chargers face the Atlanta Falcons next week and then travel to Sports Authority Stadium to take on the Broncos again in two weeks. If San Diego can win one of those games and get to 3-5, the schedule turns in their favor in the month of November.
The Chargers host the Tennessee Titans and Miami Dolphins in back-to-back games before heading into the bye week Nov. 20. After the bye, the Chargers play the Houston Texans on the road, and then host the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Those four teams have a combined record of 9-12, so at 2-4 the Chargers have plenty of time to get back into the postseason conversation if they can win a game on the road in October and take care of business in November.
Meanwhile, according to ESPN.com's Eric D. Williams, head coach Mike McCoy was asked about the team's conservative play-calling during his post-game press conference on Friday, and here's his response.
"As a team you're trying to do what you think gives you the best opportunity to win the game," McCoy said. "Like at the end there, we wanted to make sure they used all of their timeouts.
"We were trying to get a first down there, obviously. But you also think, if they use all of their timeouts and get to a 2-minutes situation, you get to a certain point of the game where you know if you get the ball back, the game is over because they are out of timeouts.
"So there are a number of things that come into that equation of how you want to do certain things and what you think you need to do. There's a certain conversion you have to make -- the short-yardage situation, we have to convert that -- and that's something we have to learn from."
San Diego's conservative strategy is not an issue in Williams' opinion -- it's the team's execution in those situations.
All good teams run the football to close out games when the defense knows they are going to run it. The Chargers have struggled to convert third downs in the fourth quarter, giving the ball back to the opponent's offense in critical moments of the game.
The Chargers have converted third downs just 17 percent of the time in the fourth quarter this season, No. 29 in the NFL.
And San Diego also has turned the ball over six times in the fourth quarter, the fourth-most of any team in the NFL. Opponents have scored 21 points off those miscues
Williams added: "As legendary Ohio State head coach Woody Hayes used to say, only three things can happen when you throw the football, and two of them are bad.
"The Chargers are a young team still figuring out how to close out games. The victory against the Broncos should give them confidence moving forward that they can execute and finish games in those situations. ..."
Other notes of interest. ... A workmanlike performance from Philip Rivers, who stayed away from turnovers and had one scoring heave was a huge factor in last week's win. The numbers were off just 178 yards passing but he managed the game as much as won it, doing his best to help the Chargers avoid another pratfall.
Tight end Hunter Henry was sensational with a team-high six receptions, including the scoring one. Nine different receivers were targeted. Pass-blocking allowed but two sacks against an impressive front seven.
Antonio Gates played in his first game in two weeks and collected a touchdown pass from Rivers. He also had a critical fumble inside the Denver 12.
Gates still has not fully recovered from a hamstring injury he suffered against the Jacksonville Jaguars in Week 2.
"It's very difficult when you're constantly playing on it," Gates said. "This is new for me, to be dealing with a hamstring. So I'm learning a lot about it.
"I'm not at 100 percent. But it's adequate at what I can try and get done, and what we can accomplish as a team from an offensive standpoint. Just being able to be out there, and hopefully they account for me -- that actually helps the play-calling and gives other guys opportunities to make plays."
Gates said it's important for San Diego's offense to play well, with the Chargers facing an Atlanta team with the NFL's top-ranked offense. The Falcons are No. 1 in points scored (33.2) and total yards per game (441.5), and second in passing offense (330).
Travis Benjamin was given another chance at punt-returner and had a bonehead play, with a bouncing ball hitting his leg and the Broncos recovering deep in the Chargers territory. Benjamin has been a disappointment on special teams.
In addition, Benjamin (right leg) was held out of Monday's practice. He worked on a limited basis Wednesday. ...
As the Sports Xchange notes, Melvin Gordon got some tough yards, a career-long with a 48-yard effort for a solid game. He got nicked and came back and showed he can carry the load with 27 carries. The run-blocking was crisp, especially on Gordon's long run. The Chargers were stuffed when looking for a first down on the ground late, but for the most part the running game contributed.
Gordon left the game with an ankle injury. He should be OK for the Falcons game.
QBs: Philip Rivers, Geno Smith, Cardale Jones
RBs: Melvin Gordon, Branden Oliver
WRs: Keenan Allen, Tyrell Williams, Travis Benjamin, Mike Williams, Geremy Davis
TEs: Antonio Gates, Sean McGrath
San Francisco 49ersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 19 October 2016
As the Associated Press noted, Colin Kaepernick showed flashes of the quarterback he used to be in his first start in nearly a year.
He used his athleticism to turn a possible safety into a 10-yard run, connected on a deep touchdown pass to Torrey Smith and scrambled when he had no open receivers for a 29-yard gain.
But far too often in Sunday's 45-16 loss at Buffalo, Kaepernick looked more like the quarterback who lost his starting job a year ago to Blaine Gabbert than the one who went to a Super Bowl and NFC title game in his first two years as starter.
Kaepernick completed just 13 of 29 passes for 187 yards and missed a handful of open receivers with off-target throws as the 49ers (1-5) scored a season-low 16 points on the way to their first five-game losing streak in six years.
Despite all that, head coach Chip Kelly said he saw enough bright spots to give Kaepernick another shot on Sunday against Tampa Bay.
"I think there are some things he did on Sunday that you can build upon," Kelly said Monday. "For his first extended playing time since last year, I thought there were some real positives there that we need to continue to kind of try to build with him and get him going."
After a promising start that included scores on three of his first four drives, including the 53-yard touchdown pass to Smith, Kaepernick generated very little against a Buffalo defense content to let him try to win from the pocket.
Kaepernick got worse as the day went on, completing just 5 of 18 passes for 52 yards in the second half and taking all three sacks as a close game got out of hand in the fourth quarter.
Kaepernick struggled throughout when pressured, going 0-of-6. He finished 13-of-29. His 44.8 percent completion percentage was his third worst in a game in which he threw at least 15 passes.
Kelly blamed a couple of dropped passes, a false start on third-and-short and the failure to convert a fourth-and-1 when the game was still close for those second-half struggles.
Kelly also praised Kaepernick's ability to extend plays with his legs as most of his 66 yards rushing came on scrambles rather than designed runs. Kaepernick also did not commit any turnovers.
The Niners offense was actually slightly more productive in the first game with Kaepernick than in the previous five games with Gabbert, averaging 5.0 yards per play -- up from a league-low 4.5 yards per play the first five games. Gabbert ranked last in the NFL in yards per attempt (5.9) and had the second-worst passer rating (69.6) in the league when he lost his job.
But it looked nothing like the offense Kaepernick led in 2012 and '13, when he helped make the Niners one of the top teams in the NFL. ...
For what it's worth, asked Tuesday if the 49ers ever told him he had to restructure his contract in order to start again, Kaepernick said no.
After Kaepernick signed his new deal last week, ESPN's Adam Schefter reported that the Niners purchased a $7.5 million insurance policy that would cover a long-term injury. Kaepernick's new contract removed the $14.5 million injury guarantee he had for 2017 and gives him the option to become a free agent after the year. ...
Other notes of interest. ... The 49ers returned to the practice field Tuesday afternoon with some players moving closer to return from injury and others working through new ones.
According to ESPN.com's Nick Wagoner, running back Carlos Hyde, who suffered a right shoulder injury against the Bills, was not participating in the portion of practice open to the media, as he had his right arm and shoulder in a sling. Before practice, 49ers offensive coordinator Curtis Modkins said "we'll see" when asked if Hyde would be available this week.
Hyde briefly returned from the injury during Sunday's game but ended up walking to the locker room before the contest was over. He was not available on a fourth-and-1 attempt the Niners had when the game was still in reach.
"I think he got injured right at the beginning of the third quarter there on a run, came back and played one series, and then he was out on that last drive of the third quarter," Kelly said. "He was out. So, the third-and-1, the fourth-and-1, he wasn't available to us on those plays."
Kelly added on Wednesday it would be a "stretch" to expect Hyde to play this week.
Davis got some work in Hyde's place against the Bills and could potentially play a more prominent role against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers if Hyde is unable to play this week.
I'll have more on Hyde and his potential replacements via Late-Breaking Update as the week progresses. ...
Smith's TD catch was just his second of the season. He was targeted seven times in the game, catching three, after having been thrown to a total of just six times in Blaine Gabbert's last three starts.
As NFL.com's Matt Harmon noted, Kaepernick's average depth of target (11 yards) ranked third among Week 6 passers and dwarfed Gabbert's 8.7 average this year. More lines like two catches for 12 yards might be in the cards for Jeremy Kerley going forward.
TE Vance McDonald returned from a two-game absence to catch two passes for 25 yards in Sunday's loss at Buffalo. McDonald was targeted just twice.
PK Phil Dawson totaled 10 points on three field goals and a PAT in Sunday's loss at Buffalo. The 10 points increased his total as a 49er to 374, allowing him to pass RB Ken Willard (366) for 11th place on the franchise's all-time list.
QBs: Jimmy Garoppolo, C.J. Beathard
RBs: Jerick McKinnon, Matt Breida, Raheem Mostert, Kyle Juszczyk
WRs: Marquise Goodwin, Aldrick Robinson, Trent Taylor, Kendrick Bourne, Victor Bolden
TEs: George Kittle, Garrett Celek
Seattle SeahawksCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 19 October 2016
According to ESPN.com's Sheil Kapadia, one of the qualities that Pete Carroll is most proud of when it comes to the Seattle Seahawks is that they are difficult to put away.
They proved why once again Sunday in a 26-24 victory over the Atlanta Falcons.
With 4:47 left in the fourth quarter, it looked like this just wasn't going to be the Seahawks' day. Steven Hauschka's potential game-tying extra point was blocked and Seattle trailed 24-23. But Carroll's philosophy is that something good is always just around the corner if the team keeps playing hard.
And with a little help from Julio Jones, his words rang true. Matt Ryan looked for Jones on a slant with 3:57 left, but the ball bounced off the receiver's hands. Richard Sherman then tipped it and Earl Thomas, who played a brilliant game, came down with the interception.
On the Seahawks' ensuing possession, Russell Wilson somehow avoided getting sacked by two Falcons defenders, lofted a pass over Vic Beasley Jr. and connected with Alex Collins for a 9-yard completion. Hauschka went on to kick the game-winning 44-yard field goal.
Atlanta's top-ranked offense was stymied by the league's best defense for a half, only to rally in the third quarter and nearly pull off a sweep of Denver and Seattle.
Seattle dominated the line of scrimmage in the first half, hitting Ryan eight times, sacking him three times and holding the Falcons to 86 total yards. Which made what happened in the second half a shocking turnaround.
It was a rough day for the defense, but with the game on the line, the Seahawks got a stop.
Thomas broke up a pass over the middle. DeShawn Shead forced an incompletion down the sideline. And Sherman broke up a downfield pass intended for Jones.
This was the 93rd consecutive game under Carroll in which the Seahawks either led or were within one score in the fourth quarter. They have proven to be a nearly impossible team to put away. And when breaks go their way, they showed once again that they will capitalize.
Before matchups against the Arizona Cardinals and New Orleans Saints, they have plenty to figure out. For starters, the Seahawks need to figure out what happened in the third quarter when Ryan threw for 220 yards and three touchdowns. They need to address the severity of Michael Bennett's knee injury and Kam Chancellor's groin injury. Offensively, the run game needs to gain a lot more consistency.
But those things will be easier to do with the team possessing a 4-1 record.
Wilson was sacked just once against the Falcons. Wilson spread the ball around effectively and Jimmy Graham posted another strong outing with 89 yards on six catches. Wilson routinely had a clean pocket to work from. A few drops two by C.J. Spiller, one by Graham stunted drives.
Tyler Lockett did indeed see his offensive snaps rise to a 63 percent share, but didn't make much of a dent in the target rotation. NFL.com's Matt Harmon believes Lockett could explode any time, but the situation will need to change for him to break out.
As for the rushing attack, Seattle managed just 72 yards on 27 carries against the Falcons, a team that had been allowing just shy of 100 yards per game through five weeks. Take out Michael's 21-yard carry in the first quarter and Seattle averaged less than two yards a carry.
But Michael now has five touchdowns in his last three games and NFL.com's Matt Franciscovich believe the running back's elite athletic prowess is on display every time he touches the ball. He did have an injury scare in the second quarter and was on the sideline being examined when Collins fell into the end zone from two yards out, which could have been Michael's third score of the day.
But facing Arizona this week, Michael remains a starter but fantasy expectations should be tempered, just a bit.
Bennett had his right knee hyper-extended when Falcons left tackle Jake Matthews used a cut block against him. Matthews hit Bennett on his right knee as Bennett had planted his leg.
"He's doing pretty good. His tests came out clear. He just got banged on his knee," Carroll said Monday.
Bennett was angry about the play and expressed his displeasure with players diving at his knees.
"If you're big in the NFL, you just line up and play. Why do you have to cut somebody?" he said.
Willson had his right knee run into by running back Christine Michael as he plowed into the end zone to pull Seattle within a point with five minutes remaining.
He had surgery on Tuesday the team announced. There is no timetable for his return but IR is a possibility.
Bennett had posted another great game even before leaving in the third quarter. He had five hits on Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan and was a disruptive force in the running game all afternoon.
Willson has six catches for 50 yards this season and has even taken snaps in a fullback role for Seattle.
QBs: Russell Wilson, Austin Davis
RBs: J.D. McKissic, Mike Davis, Eddie Lacy, Tre Madden
WRs: Doug Baldwin, Tyler Lockett, Jaron Brown, Tanner McEvoy, Amara Darboh
TEs: Ed Dickson, Nick Vannett
Tampa Bay BuccaneersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 19 October 2016
Jameis Winston has to play better for the Buccaneers to realize their potential. So does the supporting cast around the young quarterback.
As Associated Press sports writer Fred Goodall notes, the second-year pro's inconsistency has been a focal point during a slow start that's concerning not so much because of a 2-3 record as the way the team performed during a three-game losing streak that followed a season-opening win over the Falcons.
Injuries have been a factor. So have an offense that's turned the ball over too much; a defense that hasn't generated enough pressure on opposing passers; and rookie kicker Roberto Aguayo (4 of 8 on field goals, one missed extra point), who's done little to stop lingering questions about whether it was a mistake to draft him in the second round.
All that said, head coach Dirk Koetter feels good about where the team sits in the NFC South race after beating the first-place Falcons (4-1) and three-time defending division champion Carolina Panthers (1-4) on the road in the first five weeks of the season.
"It probably couldn't be at a better time for us," Koetter said of the break, which comes of the heels of a skid-ending 17-14 win over the Panthers.
"The momentum factor is one thing," the first-year coach added, "but we have a chance to get several key members of our team back."
Tampa Bay has missed the playoffs eight consecutive seasons, finishing last in the NFC South the past five.
Doug Martin's return from a hamstring injury could be essential to Winston, who threw seven interceptions and lost two fumbles during the three-game skid, ending that trend.
But it apparently won't happen this week.
Martin didn't practic on Monday, Tuesday or Wednesday, and Koetter confirmed after Wednesday's session that Martin had a setback in his recovery from a hamstring injury a week ago Sunday.
There is no timetable for return.
Meanwhile, Koetter is pulling from his Falcons days again to add veteran depth at running back, with former Florida State and Atlanta running back Antone Smith being signed to the 53-man roster on Monday.
Smith, 31, had only one carry last season with the Bears and hasn't played in the NFL this season. With Charles Sims on injured reserve and Martin still not ready, Smith represents a more experienced backup option than rookie Russell Hansbrough, who made his NFL debut on special teams in last week's win over Carolina.
Smith is reunited with Jacquizz Rodgers, who was with him in Atlanta when Koetter was the offensive coordinator there in 2012-14.
Remember, with Martin, a two-time Pro Bowler, sidelined for three games and most of a fourth, the Bucs have been unable to run the ball consistently. Martin rushed for 1,402 yards a year ago, finishing second in the NFL behind Adrian Peterson. Through five games, Tampa Bay is averaging 3.3 yards per carry rushing.
That's placed a heavier burden on Winston, who's completed 58.5 percent of his passes for 1,327 yards, nine touchdowns and eight interceptions.
In Tampa Bay's two victories, the Bucs attempted 62 passes. In losses to Arizona, Los Angeles and Denver, Winston threw 145 times.
The importance of a productive rushing attack was evident last Monday against Carolina, the first time this season the Bucs ran the ball more (37 carries, with Rodgers gaining 101 yards on 30 attempts) than Winston threw it (30 times without an interception).
"I feel like I've improved a lot from my first year to my second year," said Winston, who threw for more than 4,000 yards as a rookie. "I just have to protect the football -- that's the main thing. Just put us in better situations to win football games."
Koetter also entered the bye week encouraged about the progress of the defense, which he says has not been nearly as bad as statistics might suggest.
Tampa Bay is tied for 28th in points allowed (142), although Koetter notes opponents have benefited greatly from the Bucs turning over the ball and leaving the defense in bad situations.
In addition, two of Winston's nine turnovers have been returned for touchdowns.
On the downside, an offense riddled with injuries will have to endure yet another.
Tampa Bay placed wide receiver Vincent Jackson on injured reserve on Tuesday after the veteran suffered an ACL injury in the Bucs' win over Carolina in Week 5.
NFL Network's Ian Rapoport reported that Jackson played through an ACL injury, but received no medical attention. Rapoport adds that Jackson realized following the game that it didn't feel right. Jackson finished that game with three catches for 36 yards and will finish his fifth season in Tampa with 15 receptions for 173 yards.
Of course, slot man Adam Humphries was already No. 2 in terms of production. Who lines up outside opposite Evans with Jackson out is still a major question, however.
The Bucs signed receiver Donteea Dye off their practice squad. He saw significant action last season and finished with 11 catches for 132 yards and one touchdown.
Receiver Louis Murphy, who has been on the physically unable to perform list since the beginning of the season, has started his 21-day practice period, the first step toward activation. He was practicing with teammates Monday morning, running routes and catching passes from Winston and Mike Glennon.
Murphy, 29, suffered a torn ACL in his right knee nearly one year ago, on Oct. 26, in a game against the Washington Redskins. In the first quarter, Murphy made a 29-yard catch before Bashaud Breeland tackled him. He underwent surgery for the injury and missed the rest of the season. It was the second straight year his season was cut short by injury. ...
I'll have more on Martin and the situation at wideout when Late-Breaking Updates commence early Thursday.
QBs: Jameis Winston, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Ryan Griffin
RBs: Peyton Barber, Jacquizz Rodgers, Charles Sims
WRs: Mike Evans, DeSean Jackson, Adam Humphries, Chris Godwin, Bernard Reedy
TEs: Cameron Brate, O.J. Howard
Tennessee TitansCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 19 October 2016
Head coach Mike Mularkey and his staff enjoyed a very rare start Monday to the work week with the Titans: The franchise's first winning streak in more than two seasons.
That made looking at mistakes from a 28-26 victory over winless Cleveland much easier coming off a second straight win, the Titans' first back-to-back victories since the end of the 2013 season.
According to Associated Press sports writer Teresa M. Walker, Mularkey, however, made it clear the Titans (3-3) still have room to improve before earning a "Victory Monday" and a day off from meetings.
"The one thing you lose when you do that, you lose the ability to teach off that tape," Mularkey said. "You don't have the time because you're already into the next opponent on Wednesday. It was important we came in here (Monday), and there's some things we definitely could have done better ... Again, we've got work to do."
Still, the Titans took a moment to enjoy their first home win this season along with a winning streak after posting just three victories all of 2015.
Meanwhile, as ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky notes, the quarterbacking equation for the Titans has been simple this season. If Marcus Mariota plays well, they win. If he doesn't, they don't.
He was good Sunday, throwing three touchdown passes, running for 64 yards and surviving a bad interception.
With the Browns focused on slowing the Titans' run game, Tennessee needed to find something new. For Mariota and the Titans, that was Kendall Wright.
With DeMarco Murray not finding much room to run (especially early), Delanie Walker getting kept in check and Tajae Sharpe enduring a drop-off after a promising start to his rookie season, the Titans really needed someone to emerge.
Wright, the veteran slot receiver, had a giant performance in his third game back from preseason hamstring troubles. With 8 catches for 133 yards and a diving 48-yard touchdown reception, Wright filled in the gaps.
"They got the better of us in the run game," said Murray, who carried 21 times for 65 yards. "But Marcus came through, Kendall came through with a lot of huge catches for us."
In the scheme put in place by Mularkey and offensive coordinator Terry Robiskie, they anticipated getting more from Wright by asking less.
He was the slot receiver at the start of camp, but hurt a hamstring on the third day, suffered a setback before the opener and was out of action for the first three games.
Wright was a non-factor in the two games since his return.
But he made a great diving catch of the bomb from Mariota in the first quarter. On the ground in the field of play, he got up and made it into the end zone before a nearby defender was able to touch him.
"There was a lot of, ‘Welcome back, welcome back,'" Wright said. "I've never really went anywhere. I am waiting on my number to be called, week in, week out, so I can try to make big plays."
A franchise that has made a bad habit of losing to other bad teams over the past few years didn't fall into that trap in a matchup with winless Cleveland (now 0-6).
Mariota's play has been a harbinger for the Titans, and he finally had a good game at home -- 17 completions on 24 attempts for 284 yards, 3 touchdowns, an interception and a 132.6 passer rating.
The Titans need him to do it again Sunday against the Colts, and they now have cause to believe Wright can help make that possible.
Other notes of interest. ... As noted above, yards were harder to come by for Murray, who had 65 yards on 21 rushes, that they were as the star halfback went over 100 yards in two of the previous three games. But don't assume the downturn is permanent. Murray will have ample opportunity to get back on track against the Colts.
Finally. ... Tight end Anthony Fasano tweaked his ankle, and he likely will sit out Wednesday but should be OK for this week. Fasano had one catch Sunday for a 15-yard touchdown.
QBs: Marcus Mariota, Blaine Gabbert
RBs: Dion Lewis, Derrick Henry, David Fluellen
WRs: Rishard Matthews, Eric Decker, Taywan Taylor, Eric Weems, Michael Campanaro, Corey Davis
TEs: Delanie Walker, Luke Stocker, Jonnu Smith, Phillip Supernaw
Washington RedskinsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 19 October 2016
According to the Associated Press, Redskins players and coaches say their turnaround from 0-2 to 4-2 is a matter of resilience.
Head coach Jay Gruden and cornerback Bashaud Breeland cited a strong response to "adversity," and quarterback Kirk Cousins said no one hit the panic button. But this four-game winning streak isn't just about next man up, taking it one play at a time, never quitting, always believing or any other sports clich?.
No, Washington has climbed back up the NFC East standings on a foundation of a balanced offense, clutch defense and improved play from Cousins over the past four weeks. The Redskins go into Week 5 at the Detroit Lions feeling good about themselves -- but not too good, knowing how quickly things can change.
"We know we're on fire, but in order to stay on fire in this league you have to take it one day at a time," wide receiver DeSean Jackson said. "You can't peak. We have the Lions ahead of us and that's a big game for us. Every game is big."
After opening with home losses to the Pittsburgh Steelers and Dallas Cowboys, the Redskins have come up big in victories against the New York Giants, Cleveland Browns, Baltimore Ravens and Philadelphia Eagles .
It's no coincidence that three of those four wins came with a heavy emphasis on the running game. The Redskins had 89 passing attempts to 39 rushes in the first two weeks of the season, and since then Cousins has thrown the ball 138 times and handed it off 109 times.
The three-headed running attack of feature back Matt Jones, rookie Robert Kelley and third-down back Chris Thompson has allowed Cousins to get a breather and given him more time to execute the offense.
Jones set a career high Sunday with 135 rushing yards against Philadelphia.
"It benefits everybody when we have good balance," Gruden said Monday. "We love that recipe, man. It's been good to us when we can run the ball as much as we throw it."
Throwing it has been better, too. After one touchdown and three interceptions in the first two games, Cousins has eight touchdowns and three interceptions during the streak.
His QB rating was over 100 against the Giants and Browns, and while the picks have been a problem he has been good enough to make up for his mistakes.
Cousins moved into seventh place on the Redskins' all-time list for passing touchdowns (55) on Sunday against the Eagles.
On the other side of the ball, the defense has withstood a season-ending injury to safety DeAngelo Hall, potentially season-ending ones to safety David Bruton and nose tackle Kedric Golston and injuries to Breeland and cornerback Dashaun Phillips.
After getting torched for 38 points and 437 yards by Ben Roethlisberger and the Steelers, and giving up 27 points to Dak Prescott and the Cowboys, the Redskins' defense hasn't allowed a second-half touchdown in four consecutive games.
On the injury front, tight end Jordan Reed was schedule to see an independent neurologist on Tuesday with the hope that he is cleared to return to practice this week so he potentially could play at Detroit.
Washington put together a solid performance Sunday without Reed. Fellow tight end Vernon Davis caught a touchdown pass and had a 37-yard catch, too. Meanwhile, wide receivers Pierre Garcon, DeSean Jackson and Jamison Crowder combined for 13 receptions, and the running game (230 yards, 33 carries) was dominant.
"We didn't really call it differently," Gruden said. "We had our standard runs. We had a couple more down-down, pull-around schemes maybe in that game than we have had in the past because of all the man coverage. But for the most part, we called our game."
Even with the missed game against Philadelphia on Sunday, Reed still leads Washington in catches (33) and is second in touchdown receptions (two) and receiving yards (316).
Reed has had six documented concussions in his football career dating to college at Florida, so the Redskins are being cautious. Reed can't practice anyway until he remains symptom-free after off-field exercise but he was taking part in individual drill on Wednesday, so that's a good sign.
In addition, Jackson did not practice Wednesday due to a sore shoulder, although Gruden was optimistic about the speedy widoeout
I'll be following up on Reed via Late-Breaking Update as the week progresses. ...
Meanwhile, battling a sore left Achilles tendon since May and limited to just two regular-season games, Redskins rookie wide receiver Josh Doctson will be "immobilized," according to Gruden. That will allow him to take pressure off the tendon for several weeks to see if the inflammation goes down.
"I'm frustrated for him," Gruden said at a Monday afternoon press conference. "I feel bad for him. He wants to play in the worst way. This is the most unique injury that people have seen, you know? Can't put a finger on why he's having pain, but he's having pain. And he wants to play."
If improvement doesn't occur, then Gruden admits injured reserve is a distinct possibility for Doctson, the team's first-round draft pick in 2016, No. 22 overall. Doctson hasn't practiced since the week after the Dallas game on Sept. 18. He was limited all that week and then scratched 90 minutes before the New York Giants game on Sept. 25.
The Redskins picked Doctson hoping he'd be a piece of their offense right away and potentially step into a bigger role in 2017 if either Garcon or Jackson or both leave via free agency. Instead, it's looking like a lost season for Doctson.
And finally. ... Tight end Derek Carrier (knee) is expected to practice this week after opening the season on the PUP list.
QBs: Alex Smith, Colt McCoy, Kevin Hogan
RBs: Samaje Perine, Kapri Bibbs
WRs: Jamison Crowder, Josh Doctson, Paul Richardson, Brian Quick
TEs: Vernon Davis, Jeremy Sprinkle