Team Notes week 9 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 2 November 2016
The Arizona Cardinals' bye week is coming just in the nick of time.
As ESPN.com's Josh Weinfuss noted, they need to lick their wounds after getting dominated by the Carolina Panthers up front. The Cardinals rushed for six yards in the first 30 minutes and couldn't protect quarterback Carson Palmer. Running back David Johnson can get six yards in his sleep.
But the Cardinals need to regroup and get healthy if they want to save their season, which took another hit Sunday in a 30-20 loss.
The Cardinals are 3-4-1, and while the playoffs sound like a long shot, there's still an outside chance they can make the wild-card round. But it's not like outside on the patio; it's like outside at the end of the driveway.
Arizona suffered nearly as many injuries in Sunday's loss at Carolina as times that Palmer was sacked. That was eight, for those counting at home. Safety Tyrann Mathieu left the game with a shoulder injury. Left tackle Jared Veldheer left the game with an arm injury. Cornerback Tharold Simon suffered an ankle injury. Larry Fitzgerald also left the game with an injury, but he returned in the second half.
But even more than getting healthy, the Cardinals need to fix serious issues on both sides of the ball. While the kicking game wasn't an issue Sunday, offensive and defensive problems persisted.
The Cardinals' offensive line regularly gave up pressures in the first half, allowing the Panthers to get to Palmer with relative ease. The offensive line called the eight sacks they allowed unacceptable and said fixing the problems that plagued it on Sunday will be a priority during the bye week.
As Weinfuss pointed out, when the line was able to give Palmer time, the offense started resembling something the Cardinals had seen before. Seven of Palmer's eight sacks were allowed by the 5:21 mark of the third quarter, when Arizona trailed 30-7.
From there, the Cardinals scored 13 unanswered points, putting them in a position to potentially come back had they been able to make a few more plays late in the fourth quarter and avoid an interception thrown by Palmer.
In the final 20:21 of the game, Palmer went 18-for-23 for 203 yards with two touchdowns and an interception.
He was sacked only once during that stretch.
In Arizona's three wins this season, the Cards gave up two sacks. The other 23 allowed have come in their four losses and the tie. In each loss this season, Arizona has allowed Palmer to be sacked at least three times.
Sunday wasn't an anomaly, but it was a turn from the recent stabilization of the offensive line. The Cardinals gave up five sacks in their last three games combined and five in the first half Sunday.
In addition, missed tackles plagued the defense throughout Sunday's loss. And Arizona gave up more than 100 yards rushing for the fourth time this season.
Then, regardless of how much the Cardinals deny a connection between cross-country trips and poor play, there's the issue of the team playing on the East Coast. They've lost the past three games they've played in the Eastern time zone -- to Carolina in January's NFC Championship Game, to Buffalo in Week 3 and Sunday again to the Panthers. All three times their offense took at least a half to wake up, if it ever did.
The Cardinals have three more long trips this season, to Minnesota, to Atlanta and to Miami.
They have two weeks to figure out how to fix it and save their season. ...
Meanwhile, J.J. Nelson had a great game for a backup on Sunday against the Panthers.
So good, in fact, he's now a starter.
The second-year wideout hauled in eight catches for 79 yards and a pair of touchdowns, showing his talent as an intermediate receiver rather than just a deep threat.
Nelson saw a lot of time because of hamstring injuries to Brown and Floyd, but coach Bruce Arians didn't want him referred to as a fill-in.
"J.J. didn't step in," Arians said. "That's his job right now, and somebody is going to have to take it back from him."
Nelson has seen his production increase over the past three games after being dogged by injuries early in the season. The Cardinals have a deep receiving corps, and it seemed like Nelson would be relegated to spot duty for one more season because of the presence of Floyd, Brown and Fitzgerald, but he could be a bigger part of the offense moving forward.
"I feel comfortable right now," Nelson said. "I know all the plays. I've just got to cut down on the mental errors, continue to stay healthy and get my body right."
As for the injuries. … Arians says Veldheer will be placed on injured reserve with a torn triceps and Mathieu will be out three to six weeks with a shoulder injury.
The 6-foot-8, 321-pound Veldheer was the anchor of Arizona's offensive line and is in the third year of a five-year free agent deal he signed with the Cardinals in 2014.
Arians said John Wetzel will move into Veldheer's spot. The Cardinals already had lost starting right guard Evan Mathis to a season-ending ankle injury.
Mathieu was working his way back to his old All-Pro form after undergoing knee surgery in the offseason. Before the season began, Mathieu signed a five-year, $62.5 million contract with the Cardinals, with $21.5 million guaranteed.
Fitzgerald dealt with an ankle injury. Arians said the team won't practice Tuesday and Wednesday as scheduled, instead they'll get a lot of film study. ...
Despite playing with a sprained ankle, Fitzgerald caught a game-high 10 passes for 74 yards and with his seventh of the game, he surpassed Reggie Wayne (1,070) for seventh place on the NFL's career receptions list. Fitzgerald, 33, now has 1,074 career catches. With five more, he will also surpass Terrell Owens for sixth place all time.
Palmer, with his 363 passing yards, now has 19 career, 300-yard passing games for the Cardinals. That ties him with Neil Lomax for the second-most such games in Cardinals history. What took Lomax 108 games to achieve, however, took Palmer just 45 games. Kurt Warner has the most career 300-yard passing games in team history (22), which he accomplished in 61 games with Arizona.
TE Ifeanyi Momah suffered a broken wrist against the Panthers and coach Bruce Arians said the team will likely reach an injury settlement with the second-year pro. He was placed on injured reserve on Tuesday.
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 2 November 2016
Matt Ryan insisted the Atlanta Falcons were mentally tougher than they were last season.
The veteran quarterback went out and showed it Sunday.
Ryan completed 9 of 11 passes for 75 yards on a game-winning drive that ended with his 11-yard touchdown pass to Mohamed Sanu down the seam. It marked Ryan's 34th career game-winning drive in the fourth quarter or overtime, giving the Falcons a 33-32 win over the Packers.
As ESPN.com's Vaughn McClure noted, the Falcons sorely needed this one after losing the previous two weeks to the Seahawks (26-24) and Chargers (33-30 overtime).
Falcons coach Dan Quinn showed his team a tape after the San Diego loss of boxer Marvin Hagler winning a championship bout after losing the first matchup by decision. The point of the clip was to emphasize not letting someone else decide the outcome for you.
Ryan obviously took the message to heart. He zipped a perfect pass to Sanu with Julio Jones drawing double coverage, as usual.
Ryan finished the game completing 28 of 35 passes for 288 yards with three touchdowns and a passer rating for 129.5. He did all that with Jones catching just three passes for 29 yards, all in the first half.
The defensive issues the Falcons had against Aaron Rodgers and a depleted Packers offense emphasized how Atlanta has to win with its offense. Ryan said prior to the season the Falcons have the ability to average 30 points per game. They'll need to keep up that pace to close out the second half the schedule and make the playoffs for the first time since 2012.
The quick turnaround to a Thursday game against a Buccaneers team the Falcons already lost to in the season opener won't make things any easier, especially with it coming on the road. The Falcons then play at Philadelphia before a much-needed bye week that is followed by home matchups with Kansas City and Arizona.
Ryan has to play like the MVP candidate he looked to be during four-game winning streak, especially with the attention the team's best player, Jones, is destined to draw on a weekly basis.
Meanwhile, Thursday's game is crucial for an Atlanta team trying to hold on to its division lead with a 5-3 mark. The Buccaneers are now 3-4 and 0-3 at home but already beat the Falcons 31-24 in the season opener.
The Falcons will have little time to rest their bodies, with guys such as tight end Jacob Tamme (shoulder), pass-rushers Vic Beasley Jr. and (triceps), Dwight Freeney (quad), running back Tevin Coleman (hamstring), and Jones (knee, ankle) recovering from injuries.
Head coach Dan Quinn said Tamme's injury doesn't appear to be anything long-term, but the veteran tight end will miss Thursday's game.
Tamme was injured early in the game vs. the Packers and did not return. His absence should mean more opportunities for Austin Hooper, a rookie third-round pick who has 11 receptions on the season. Hooper has caught 11 passes for 195 yards and one touchdown. Also, Levin Toilolo will be used in the double-tight end formations. Joshua Perkins, who has been inactive for all eight games, will likely be activated.
Freeney and Coleman were ruled out on Wednesday.
Jones pulled himself out of the game twice in the first half.
The first time, he was grabbing his hand, but returned after a few plays.
In the second quarter, Jones came out and was flexing his right leg on the sideline behind the bench. He was later taken to the training table and was examined by the doctors.
He returned to the game, but came out again during the Falcons' first possession of the second half.
Jones had three catches for 29 yards in the first half.
Concerning Jones, Quinn said he hadn't visited with the medical staff about Jones' status but figured Jones would be "ready to rock" Thursday night.
"No concerns," Jones told the Atlanta Journal Constitution. "It was just [hurting] in-game, and it wears off. It's just a little pain, but it's gone. I'm good. I'm 100 percent. There's no need to even talk about it. There's nothing going to hold me back. ..."
If nothing else, Ryan engineering yet another game-winning drive should give the Falcons a little more confidence against the Buccaneers rather than riding into Tampa bogged down by a three-game losing streak.
As McClure suggested, what the Falcons need moving forward is contributions from everyone, not just their featured players.
On days when Jones is going to be taken out of the equation by relentless double teams or injury, guys such as Sanu and Taylor Gabriel have to step up and make big catches like they did against the Packers. Devonta Freeman, who scored on a touchdown run and touchdown reception against Green Bay, just has to continue to be himself while backfield mate Coleman gets his hamstring back to full strength.
Back-to-back road games at Tampa and Philadelphia will pose quite a challenge before the Falcons can collect themselves during the bye. The final stretch then includes home matchups with a couple playoff teams from a year ago, Arizona (3-4) and Kansas City (5-2), along with back-to-back division games to end the season against Carolina (2-5) and New Orleans (3-4). ...
A few final notes. ... According to the Sports Xchange, Ryan moved his 200-plus passing-yards streak to an all-time NFL-high 47 games. Ryan currently leads the NFL in passing yards and passing touchdowns. He produced his 34th game-winning drive in the fourth quarter or overtime of his career. It's the third time Ryan has thrown a game-winning touchdown pass inside the final two minutes of the fourth quarter.
This game was also his 69th multi-touchdown game, and he has led the Falcons to a 23-5 record when he throws three or more touchdown passes. Ryan currently leads the NFL in passing yards and passing touchdowns.
Devonta Freeman finished the game with 58 total yards and two touchdowns one rushing and one receiving. This is the second time in his career that he recorded a rushing and receiving touchdown in the same game -- the other time being at New Orleans last season. Freeman now has 21 total touchdowns 10th most by a running back in franchise history. He also has six career receiving touchdowns, which are tied for the fifth most by a running back in franchise history.
With Coleman out again this week, a heavy workload in a favorable matchup should please those invested in him. ...
Gabriel recorded his first receiving touchdown in a Falcons uniform. The 47-yard reception was his longest touchdown reception of his career. He finished the game with three receptions for a season-high 68 yards. Sanu finished the game with a season-high nine receptions for 84 yards and the go-ahead touchdown reception. His nine receptions are the second most he has recorded in his career in a single game.
As ESPN.com's Mike Clay notes, Sanu entered the game having failed to eclipse 47 yards in a game since Week 1. In fact, Sanu caught more than three balls in three of his eight outings this season. The inconsistent production is a concern, but Sanu has been on the field for nearly 80 percent of the pass plays run by one of the game's top-scoring offenses. Clay considers him a solid WR3 play against Tampa Bay this week.
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 2 November 2016
According to the Sports Xchange, new offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg used the bye week to iron out several wrinkles, especially with the running game.
Baltimore is ranked 27th in total offense and is averaging 332.4 yards per game. The running attack is also ranked 27th with 604 total yards. A main goal is getting all of the offensive players in sync to avoid some of the careless penalties that have plagued the team.
"Our precision and timing is going to be a key moving forward here," said Mornhinweg, who took over when Marc Trestman was fired Oct 10.
Head coach John Harbaugh expects to see some improvement with the overall play of the offense over the next couple of weeks. Scoring points could be vital this week against the Pittsburgh Steelers, who have one of the most high-powered offenses in the league.
"I just want to go out there and play well," said Harbaugh, whose team is struggling through a four-game losing streak. "I want to knock some of this disappointment off. This is something you carry around with you. It's not what you want. The goal is to win these games and have the record that reflects how hard you worked."
Joe Flacco needs to play better in the second half of the season.
Flacco is ranked 13th overall among all quarterbacks with 1,837 yards. Flacco has thrown for five touchdowns and six interceptions. His passer rating of 75.4 is ranked 29th in the league.
If the Ravens plan to make any type of postseason run, Flacco is going to have to be more productive.
"Joe will take care of what he needs to do," Harbaugh said. "I'm not worried about Joe taking care of what he needs to do. That's something that we all go to work on. Joe works on it harder than anybody cares about it more than anybody. We need to protect him. We need to run routes. We need to create confidence in our passing game. We need to run the ball well. We need to do the things we need to do to make the offense work, and Joe will make the offense work."
Flacco was dealing with a right shoulder issue prior to the bye week. He also suffered a season-ending knee injury in 2015. The Ravens are confident the week off helped him get healthier and in position to make more plays in the second half of the season.
One way to help Flacco is for the Ravens to get more production from the run game, which is ranked 27th in the league.
"When you are an offense in this league and things are not going great, a lot of the times you can be so close," Flacco said. "I think we are on that verge of being really close. But it is a bunch of little things, and it is not just one thing; it is things that add up. It is the short passing game that you are not always just completing with your eyes closed. Every now and then, you miss one, and it stops your drive. It is penalties. It is a little bit of protection. It is a little bit of run game.
Terrance Wert is the leading rusher with 424 yards in 96 carries with three touchdowns. The Ravens, however, said they plan to get rookie Kenneth Dixon more involved in the second half of the season.
As ESPN's Mike Clay noted last week, after missing over one calendar year of action due to injury, Lorenzo Taliaferro returned to action in Week 7. The 6-4, 225-pounder was limited to 10 yards on four touches, but played 11 snaps to Dixon's four. Javorius Allen was inactive.
Still, Harbaugh said that he wanted Dixon to get more involved. Dixon is getting stronger after missing a chunk of the season because of a sprained knee. How involved he becomes depends on the severity of Terrance West's ankle injury. West remains the featured back.
Meanwhile, the Ravens hope to have most of their key players back against the Pittsburgh Steelers in a battle for first-place in the AFC North on Sunday.
Harbaugh admitted the bye week came at a good time because of the number of injuries on both sides of the ball.
Despite a four-game losing streak, Baltimore can get back on track by beating the Steelers at home.
Baltimore gets two consecutive games at home before travelling to Dallas on Nov. 20. The Ravens also have to play at New England (Dec. 12), Pittsburgh (Dec. 25) and Cincinnati (Jan. 1). Baltimore also has a tough home game against Philadelphia (Dec. 18).
Smith was not practicing Wednesday; I'll have more on his status via Late-Breaking Update as the week progresses.
QBs: Joe Flacco, Ryan Mallett, Dustin Vaughan, Robert Griffin III
RBs: Terrance West, Javorius Allen
WRs: Michael Crabtree, John Brown, Willie Snead, Breshad Perriman, Chris Moore, Kenny Bell
TEs: Maxx Williams, Nick Boyle
Buffalo BillsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 2 November 2016
Early last week, head coach Rex Ryan couldn't overstate the importance of Sunday's game against the New England Patriots, saying, "Does it break your season if you lose? I hope I don't have to worry about that."
Now Ryan has to worry about what the Bills' 41-25 loss means for a season that seems to be unraveling quickly.
By Ryan's own admission last week, the Bills have little chance at stopping the Patriots from capturing their eighth consecutive division title. The 4-4 Bills are effectively playing for a wild-card spot, and their loss to Tom Brady -- his 26th career win over Buffalo -- only puts Buffalo in a deeper hole in a potential playoff tiebreaker. Buffalo is now 1-4 in AFC games after losses to the Ravens, Jets, Dolphins and Patriots.
According to ESPN.com's Mike Rodak, the Bills aren't in must-win territory yet, but life will not be easy over the second half of their schedule. They next play the Seattle Seahawks on Monday Night Football, a road contest that might be tougher than Sunday's home meeting with the Patriots, who are now 7-1. The Bills will get some much-needed rest after returning from Seattle, but the Bills are back on the road in Cincinnati after their bye week.
Winning against the Seahawks would help, but the Bills essentially would be toast in wild-card tiebreakers if they drop the Bengals game. Losing in Cincinnati would give the Bills a 1-5 conference record -- the second tiebreaker after head-to-head record -- and put them in a deep hole entering the homestretch of the season.
In other words, it's close to desperation time for the Bills. After they showed so much promise during their four-game winning streak, what changed? Brady proved too much for Ryan's defense, a mediocre unit that might have fed off poor quarterback play through its first seven games. Prior to Brady's four-touchdown afternoon Sunday, the Bills had not faced a quarterback this season who ranked better than 17th in Total QBR.
Offensively, the Bills can't catch a break. With LeSean McCoy (hamstring) sidelined Sunday and Sammy Watkins (foot/injured reserve) not eligible to play until Nov. 27, the Bills were without their top two playmakers against New England. Receiver Robert Woods saw limited action because of a foot injury, while Charles Clay (shoulder) and Mike Gillislee (foot) also played through physical ailments. Marquise Goodwin was out due to a concussion.
But as NFL.com's Chris Wesseling advised readers, McCoy and Watkins are Buffalo's franchise players. When they are both missing from the lineup, Tyrod Taylor simply doesn't have the firepower to keep up with Brady's full arsenal. It didn't help that Taylor was off target most of the afternoon, turning in his worst passing performance of the season.
With McCoy and NFL sack leader Lorenzo Alexander each nursing hamstring injuries leading up to this week's tough matchup at Seattle, the Bills are in danger of falling below .500 in a tight AFC wild-card race.
Meanwhile, as Rodak noted, a year after Brady threw for 466 yards in Buffalo, the most ever against the Bills' defense, he looked equally comfortable Sunday. Brady completed 22 of 33 passes for 315 yards and four touchdowns before being pulled from the blowout in the fourth quarter.
"We made way too many mistakes, mistakes we haven't made all season," Ryan said after the game. "Against a guy like Brady, he makes you pay anytime you have a mistake."
Ryan is right about Brady, but the coach was brought to Buffalo as a defensive guru, and he sold his twin brother Rob -- an addition to his staff this season -- as a top-tier coach. When Ryan and Ryan faced their biggest test of the season in Brady, they failed.
But it's the offense fantasy owners are most interested in. And there are issues.
As the Sports Xchange suggested, "the passing game is barely college level, and that might be generous."
They rank 31st in the league at 179.4 yards per game and present almost no threat to opposing defenses. Taylor continues to be inaccurate on the most basic of throws, and the only aspect of the passing game that works is when Taylor takes off on scrambles because he's one of the best running QBs in the league, evidenced by the fact that he leads the NFL in QB rushing yards with 319.
One of the big issues, though, has nothing to do with Taylor.
The receiving corps is shredded by injuries including the best of the bunch, Watkins, who has played just two games. Woods, Goodwin, Justin Hunter, Walter Powell and Brandon Tate don't cut it. Also, Clay has been a disappointment.
Perhaps all the above explains the sudden return of Percy Harvin.
Harvin, the always unpredictable on-again, off-again receiver/running back/return man is back on the Bills again. Harvin's agent announced that he has decided to end his retirement and play for the Bills for the rest of the season. Reports suggest this came about after the Bills called Harvin to gauge his interest in returning.
The news may seem like a surprise, but it probably shouldn't. Profootballtalk.com noted in April, when talk first surfaced that Harvin was planning to walk away, that he has a penchant for changing his mind. His un-retirement is just the latest example of that.
It remains to be seen what kind of shape the 28-year-old Harvin is in, but when he's healthy and motivated, he's a big-time playmaker with the ball in his hands. The Bills could use that.
Last year Harvin started five games for the Bills, catching 19 passes for 218 yards, running five times for 31 yards and returning five kickoffs for 108 yards. He has previously played for the Jets, Seahawks and Vikings.
"Percy is a guy that worked so hard," Ryan said, via the team's website. "It's either full speed [or nothing], and sometimes you try to back him down a little bit, but that's why last year he was so frustrated that he wasn't able to contribute more to our team. He just needed some time away from the game to get healed up. So hopefully we catch lightning in a bottle so to speak and Percy is back to himself."
Harvin hasn't played for the Bills since they changed offensive coordinators early this year, however, but the hope is that he'll be familiar enough with the scheme to be on the field in Seattle next Monday.
But it seems unlikely the pass-catcher will be much help this week after not taking a snap in 13 months.
With Buffalo's bye coming up in Week 10, it's more likely we'll see Harvin eased into action the following week against the Bengals. From there, the Bills face tilts with the Jaguars, Raiders, Steelers and Browns.
Otherwise, Gillislee started in place of McCoy and carried 12 times for 85 yards and scored a touchdown.
McCoy was off to a Pro Bowl-level start with 587 yards in the first six games, but then he suffered a hamstring injury and has missed the last 1 1/2 games. The Bills hope he can return for next Monday night's game in Seattle.
"I know he's progressing," Ryan said. "Hopefully [he's back at practice Thursday]."
I'll be following up on Harvin's return, McCoy and the rest of the walking wounded when Late-Breaking Updates commence early Thursday.
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 2 November 2016
Head coach Ron Rivera said he's involved in ongoing discussions with the NFL and the Players Association about ways to make sure league MVP Cam Newton is given the same protection in the pocket as other smaller quarterbacks.
Newton blasted NFL officiating following Sunday's game against the Arizona Cardinals after taking a shot to his lower right leg from defensive tackle Calais Campbell as he was releasing the ball. Campbell was not flagged for the hit and the Panthers settled for a short field goal rather than an automatic first down.
Newton said after the game, "I could have torn my ACL."
"I would like to see our quarterback get those calls," a calm, but stern Rivera said Monday.
Newton said Sunday that officials aren't doing enough to protect him and he "doesn't feel safe" on the field, which is taking the fun out of the game for him.
Rivera stood behind his quarterback on Monday, saying Newton's comments are "correct" and he supports him 100 percent.
Rivera reiterated what he said in September after his QB took four helmet-to-helmet hits in a loss to the Denver Broncos -- that Newton doesn't get the calls because of his 6-foot-5, 245-pound frame.
"When (smaller quarterbacks) get hit, they roll around on the ground. When he gets hit, he absorbs them -- and it doesn't look as bad," Rivera said. "... It's about making sure he is getting the equal treatment he deserves as a quarterback in the pocket."
Rivera was criticized for not being more vocal on the sideline and during postgame press conferences about the hits Newton has absorbed.
Former NFL coach Tony Dungy said on NBC's Football Night in America on Sunday that "Cam should not have to be the one saying this. His head coach, his owner and everybody in the organization should be saying this."
Rivera said he doesn't get upset on the sideline because he knows game officials have a difficult job to do and he appreciates "meaningful conversations" rather than engaging in a shouting match.
But Rivera said he has been constantly working behind the scenes with the NFL and the Players Association on resolving the issue. He and general manager Dave Gettleman had another conversation with the league office on Monday morning.
Rivera suggested the NFL needs to add an eighth referee to help monitor hits on the quarterback. He said using replay would be a good option for reviewing questionable hits.
That is something he's expected to raise in the NFL competition committee meeting next spring. In the meantime, Rivera said he's confident the league and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell will do everything they can to protect Newton this season.
"The league is looking into these things -- and not just for Cam but for all quarterbacks," Rivera said.
Newton suggested after the game that he would like to talk personally to Goodell about his concerns.
In fact, Goodell spoke to Newton on Tuesday, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported per a source informed of the situation.
Newton told reporters after that conversation, he understands when he runs, "I'm on my own" with regard to no special protection. "In the pocket, that's all I'm asking for."
All this after Newton said Sunday that he's tired of officials telling him they missed a call.
"Enough is enough," Newton said Sunday. "I don't know what I have to do. ... I don't think there is a person that can go through what I go through and still keep their head."
Meanwhile, the Panthers have an uphill climb to make the playoffs, but the road won't look quite as steep if they can string together performances like this. They'll likely be favored in their next three games against the Rams, Chiefs and Saints. And the Panthers' NFC South opponents -- Atlanta, Tampa Bay and New Orleans -- still haven't proved that they can consistently play defense well enough to win.
And against the Cardinals, the Panthers looked like the Rivera envisioned during training camp. For a day, the Panthers showed they may be ready to make a run.
They were focused on forcing turnovers as they did last year when they led the NFL with a plus-20 ratio. The Panthers were focused on pressuring the quarterback after collecting only 12 sacks in the first six games. Their eight sacks Sunday were their most in a game since recording a team-best nine against Atlanta in 2013.
On offense, the Panthers were focused on getting Newton move involved as a dual threat. Newton's 22 rushing yards on Carolina's second possession led to the first of two rushing touchdowns by Jonathan Stewart.
Newton finished with 43 yards rushing on seven carries after carrying only twice for 1 yard in his last game, his first back from a concussion.
But all is not great.
Newton, who vowed to take "more layups" this season instead has one of the league's worst completion percentage (57.0). Greg Olsen is having another Pro Bowl season, but Kelvin Benjamin hasn't been the unstoppable force many believed he'd be after missing the entire 2015 season.
The Panthers allowed 12 sacks in their first three games, but have settled down, allowing just four in their past four.
Against the Cardinals, neither Olsen nor Benjamin were as involved as fantasy owners would like them to be.
In fact, as the Sports Xchange notes, the last time Olsen was so uninvolved in a game, the Panthers were eking out a season-opening win last year in Jacksonville.
But as both of those one-reception-on-three-target games have shown, Olsen doesn't have to catch at least a half dozen balls every time out.
"I've told you guys forever -- sometimes when you play tight end, that's the way the game goes," he said. "Obviously they had a plan, but you could see there were a lot of other openings. We hit Benjamin on some big ones. We got (Devin Funchess) going, Ted Ginn."
Benjamin had just two catches, but the first -- a 50-yarder -- was the second-longest of his career. Funchess' three receptions were his most this year while Ginn matched his season high.
"I've said that for years -- catches come in spurts. Sometimes they don't come," Olsen said. "You just keep going and you can impact the game without the ball. I feel like I was able to do that and we were able to win."
Meanwhile, Jonathan Stewart carried 25 times for 95 yards with two touchdowns and pulled in a Newton pass for another 25 yards.
As NFL.com's Matt Franciscovich put it, "When Stewart is healthy, he owns the Carolina backfield."
Franciscovich went on to note the team is giving him more opportunities near the goal line as he had 10 carries inside the 10-yard line against the Cardinals). Newton is still seeing some looks in that space as well, but Franciscovich contends that Stewart's locked-in volume and touchdown upside is making him look more like a fringe RB1 the rest of the way instead of a low-ceiling RB2 or flex as he has traditionally been viewed.
Kicker Graham Gano appears to be back on track after hitting a 52-yard field goal. His miss on a 50-yarder at the end of the opener at Denver started Carolina's season on a losing note.
QBs: Cam Newton, Derek Anderson
RBs: C.J. Anderson, 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 2 November 2016
True to his word, Cutler, who returned to the lineup on Monday, prioritized Jeffery to begin the third quarter of the Chicago Bears' unexpected 20-10 victory over the Vikings, connecting with his top receiver for three receptions for 52 yards and a touchdown -- Jeffery's first score of the season.
It was vintage Cutler against the Vikings. The veteran quarterback flirted with danger throughout the evening but never got burned. On several occasions, Minnesota nearly came up with interceptions, only to have the ball harmlessly fall to the turf.
More times than not, Cutler delivered in key moments, none more so than when he found Jeffery for the 11-yard touchdown that extended the Bears' lead to 17 points. Cutler finished the game with 252 passing yards and a passer-rating of 100.5.
Cutler, though, hardly did it alone. The Bears received outstanding efforts by rookie running back Jordan Howard, and from the defense, which battered and bruised Minnesota quarterback Sam Bradford, sacking him five times and knocking him down countless others.
For one night, the stars aligned for the Bears, who played in front of a lot of empty seats at Soldier Field.
Of course, there will be no happy endings in 2016.
The Bears (2-6) aren't going anywhere in the second half, but a rejuvenated Cutler could mean Chicago picks up second-half wins over teams such as Tampa Bay, Tennessee, San Francisco or Detroit. There are enough bad teams in the NFL that the Bears can challenge to win six games again in 2016. It's not exactly progress, but not nearly as depressing as the 2-14 or 3-13 record the club looked destined for prior to the upset over Minnesota. ...
Meanwhile, Dickerson reports that not even Howard anticipated the heavy workload he received in Monday night's win.
The debate heading into Week 8 centered on how the Chicago Bears would divvy up playing time in the backfield between Howard, Ka'Deem Carey and Jeremy Langford, who returned from a high-ankle sprain after missing a month.
All of the pregame chatter proved meaningless.
Howard played 50 snaps on offense (82 percent), while Carey (six) and Langford (five) combined for just 11 reps.
"I definitely didn't think they were going to lean on me that often," Howard said. "But I guess I started with the hot hand, and they just stuck with me."
Howard rewarded the Bears' faith with 202 all-purpose yards and a touchdown. He was named NFC Offensive Player of the Week for this efforts.
"I didn't really know how we were going to go this game, with just having Jeremy back and just having three running backs," Howard said. "Coach told me that I was going to be starting and that this is my type of game and he told me to attack it. I rolled with it."
Running backs coach Stan Drayton said Howard earned the extra reps because of his attention to detail, which Drayton observed from the sidelines.
"It was a matter of him showing patience to allow plays to develop," Drayton said. "The conversations we had in between series on the sidelines -- the things he was seeing and the things he was telling me -- told me all that I needed to know that this kid was wired in right and ready for the moment."
At the midway point, Howard leads the Bears with 505 rushing yards on 99 carries (5.1 yards per carry). An added bonus, Howard can catch the ball out of the backfield, and is sixth on the club with 18 receptions for 177 yards.
According to Dickerson, the Bears will not ignore Carey and Langford in the second half. Both will contribute in the natural flow of a game, but Howard is positioned at the front of the pack. That is not expected to change unless he suffers from an unforeseen dip in production.
Remember: Howard's big night came with both the team's starting guards out.
Josh Sitton (ankle) is week-to-week. He had improved enough to be questionable for Monday's game after he was doubtful the previous week. It was Sitton's second straight missed game. Kyle Long (triceps) was doubtful for the game. He is day-to-day.
One last note here. ... People have questioned Cutler's leadership from virtually the moment he arrived in town. But Jeffery revealed that Cutler delivered a pregame speech to the entire team that resonated throughout the locker room.
"He was talking about giving relentless effort," Jeffery said. "He said to give it everything you got and play for each other."
Whether he quieted fans who thought the Bears were better off with Brian Hoyer is another issue. But that became a moot point when Hoyer broke his left arm last week in a Thursday night loss at Green Bay.
"I was so happy [to have Cutler back]," tight end Zach Miller said. "He's the emotion on the football field. To have him back means a lot. We play well around him. Everybody played well. It was just good to get a win."
QBs: Mitchell Trubisky, Chase Daniel, Mark Sanchez
RBs: Jordan Howard, Tarik Cohen, Benny Cunningham
WRs: Josh Bellamy, 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 2 November 2016
The Bengals flew more than 8,000 miles round-trip only to come away with a 27-27 tie against the Washington Redskins at Wembley Stadium in London.
As the Sports Xchange suggested, while it was neither a win nor a loss, Cincinnati is left with something to build upon heading into the second half of the season. At 3-4-1, the Bengals' playoff chances are in flux. But, a more promising schedule awaits.
"You don't get the win but you don't get a loss either," said head coach Marvin Lewis. "We know at the end of the year that pays dividends. We just handle our business. If we still handle our business, we're fine."
With the return of tight end Tyler Eifert, the Cincinnati's offense will be more like business as usual over the next eight weeks.
Eifert had nine catches for 102 yards and a touchdown on Sunday in his first extended outing since returning a week ago from offseason ankle surgery.
His presence impacts almost every aspect of the offense, most notably drawing the attention of safeties away from A.J. Green, who with Eifert back in the fold caught nine passes for 121 yards on Sunday.
"Tyler, he's so big, runs such good routes, that you just got to put it around him, make good plays," quarterback Andy Dalton said. "His ability that he can do everything from the tight end position is a big matchup for us. I mean, I feel like we can try to get him involved as much as we can."
Dalton didn't have his best game on Sunday in England, going 27 of 42 for 284 yards and a touchdown with an interception and nearly a crucial fumble in overtime.
Despite being without Eifert for the first six weeks and being sacked 25 times, Dalton managed to have a solid first half, passing for 2,349 yards with nine TDs and three interceptions for a 98 rating.
After not scoring more than 23 points in any of the first six games, the Bengals have scored 31 and 27 points in consecutive weeks. It's no coincidence that the spike in points coincides with the return of Eifert.
But as ESPN.com's Katherine Terrell suggested, Eifert is not the magic fix to the Bengals' season. He doesn't play defense, and he couldn't fix several problems that occurred throughout Sunday's game.
He couldn't fix a blown assignment that led to a touchdown by a wide-open Jamison Crowder. Nor could he control some of the head-scratching penalties -- one on safety Shawn Williams for unnecessary roughness in the first quarter and another one for the same offense by Domata Peko in the third quarter (the Redskins scored just three plays later).
Eifert is not going to help 34-year-old linebacker Karlos Dansby's troubles in coverage, which were highlighted when Dansby trailed 32-year-old tight end Vernon Davis by several steps as Davis hauled in a 44-yard gain in the first quarter.
Cincinnati ranks 24th in rushing defense, allowing more than 116 yards per game, and 12th against the pass. The Bengals allowed 458 passing yards by Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins on Sunday in London, but played better late to help preserve the tie.
In addition, there are continuing woes on special teams (a missed field goal and missed extra point) and on the offensive line, which allowed three sacks Sunday.
But with a bye week up next and a second-half schedule that at first glance seems to ease up for Cincinnati, the Bengals have the luxury of figuring that out. ...
A few final notes. ...
Dalton had a streak of 165 straight pass completions without an interception snapped when he was picked off by Will Compton on Sunday against the Washington Redskins.
"I was just trying to get the ball out of my hands," Dalton said. "Bad play on my part. I've got to put it in a safer spot."
The pick led to a go-ahead score for the Redskins. It was only the third interceptions for Dalton in 288 pass attempts
For much of the first eight weeks, the offensive line struggled to open holes and Jeremy Hill struggled to get his shoulders up the field. But, Hill showed some improvement, rushing for a career-high 168 yards against Cleveland on Oct. 23. Hill has 515 yards and five TDs through eight games.
Giovani Bernard has been productive as well.
In fact, as NFL.com's Matt Franciscovich put it, "This looks more like the Cincinnati backfield fantasy owners had grown to love in recent years.:
Franciscovich explained the backs split goal-line work pretty evenly, and each found the end zone against Washington. Hill ran confidently and powerfully for the second week in a row -- a welcome change from how he started the season. And with a favorable schedule ahead, both should continue to meet the expectations of fantasy owners down the stretch when it matters the most.
With Green and Eifert combining to control 71.5 percent of the Bengals passing targets in London, NFL.com's Matt Harmon notes the only other player to see any meaningful volume was rookie Tyler Boyd, who played 83 percent of the snaps as the third receiver. Boyd checked in with an average depth of target under seven yards.
One last note here. ... As mentioned above, Mike Nugent had a chance to tie Sunday's game at 10, but his low-trajectory 51-yarder spun wide left. As Terrell reminded readers, Nugent has often struggled from long range throughout his 12-year career. He has yet to convert a field goal beyond 47 yards this year, and fell to 0-for-3 from 50 yards or more.
Nugent then missed his first extra point of the season, wide left following the Bengals' go-ahead drive of the second half.
Given that they're in their bye week, it might not lead to an immediate transaction. But as Profootballtalk.com suggested, it also sends the unmistakable message that Nugent needs to pick up the pace.
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 2 November 2016
As ESPN.com's Pat McManamon framed it: "A mess of a Cleveland Browns season fell into a swampy quagmire Sunday.
"A winless team blew a 20-7 halftime lead to the New York Jets at home. On a day when the Cleveland Indians play to win the World Series, the Browns welcomed thousands of empty seats (attendance was announced at 67,000; perhaps 40,000 were present) and played a miserable second half in losing 31-28.
"Don't be fooled by the final score. The Browns' last eight points came with 12 seconds left. At that point, the Jets wanted to run out the clock and the Browns were in desperation mode. ..."
At this point, McManamon contends, it's fair to say that the Browns have earned every bit of this 0-8 record. The defense has been poor, the offense inconsistent and the team does not know what to do with a lead. It started the second half playing like it was up 30-0.
There have been injuries, yes, but the Browns had their veteran quarterback Josh McCown back. This was supposed to be a winnable game for a winless team. Instead, it seemed that the Jets went in the locker room, looked at each other and said: "Do we realize who is beating us?"
"We own the record, and we have to play better," head coach Hue Jackson said. "It is just that simple."
McCown returned from a broken collarbone and threw for 228 yards in the first half, but had just 113 and two interceptions in the second.
Meanwhile, Cleveland Plain Dealer staffer Mary Kay Cabot reported that Cody Kessler, who suffered a concussion Oct. 23 in Cincinnati, was cleared from the protocol on Monday and is available to start Sunday against the Cowboys.
The Browns listed McCown and Kessler as co-starters at quarterback on the unofficial depth chart they released Tuesday.
If Jackson picks him over McCown, it will set up a showdown between Kessler and fellow rookie Dak Prescott, who's won six straight games for the Cowboys.
But just like last week with McCown, Jackson is in no hurry to announce to the world, or to the Cowboys, who will be under center on Sunday. In addition to needing to see Kessler operate, he needs every little bit of competitive advantage he can get.
"I think it's too early to talk about those things," said Jackson. "Obviously, Josh was the starter last week and we have to make sure Cody is ready to go. He's out of the concussion protocol, but he has to practice football. I will worry about that as we kind of move through the week."
Pressed on when he'll name his man, Jackson said, "I don't think it matters today. I'm not going to tell you the day I'm making that decision. I don't know. We're going to go practice and I am going to let Cody practice and Josh is going to practice, and then we will figure it out from there."
Even though Kessler has shown tremendous progress each week, Jackson insisted it's all about "W."
"My No. 1 goal is to win football games," he said. "This is not a popularity contest to me or this or that. I'm trying to win games because that is what my mission is with our players and our coaches: win as many games as we can. I'm not trying to see this or that. We have done that – but at the same time, the No. 1 goal is to try to win."
As the Sports Xchange notes, Kessler did not produce any victories in his five starts, but the third-round pick from USC did show enough to prove he belongs in the NFL. Kessler has a 94.4 passer rating while completing 89 of 133 passes for 947 yards with four touchdown passes and only one interception.
Regardless of who starts at quarterback, he'll have No. 15 overall pick Corey Coleman at his disposal. Coleman has been cleared to play, and should provide a boost to the offense.
"That's exciting to get him back," said Jackson. "Totally looking forward to having Corey back out there. He's been around, running around a little bit in shoulder pads and those things but he's chomping at the bit to get back out there and play with his teammates. That will help us on offense."
"I know I can contribute," said Coleman. "It's tough, but no one's giving up."
McManamon told ESPN's Mike Clay on SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio on Wednesday that he expects Coleman to play and start against the Cowboys.
Coleman and Terrelle Pryor have the potential to provide the Browns with a potent receiving tandem.
For the record, Pryor was limited in Wednesday's practice with the same hasmstring injury he's played through the last two weeks -- last week without any noticeable impact.
Against the Jets, Darrelle Revis covered Pryor on 49 pass plays, and the converted quarterback stung him for six catches and 101 yards on 13 targets.
Pryor did most of his damage in the first half but NFL.com's Matt Harmon considers the performance another reminder of how far along he has come in his transformation. In addition, Harmon noted that McCown being back under center brought some life back to Duke Johnson's stock. His 87 receiving yards were a season-high.
Gary Barnidge, on the other hand, didn't follow up on the trend of his production sharply increasing when paired with McCown. "The volume is just too spread out," Harmon explained, "with eight players garnering more than one target. ..."
Meanwhile, the same people blocking for the quarterbacks have been inconsistent opening holes for running backs Isaiah Crowell and Duke Johnson. The Browns averaged 149 yards a game on the ground through the first four weeks, but then they played the Patriots in Week 5.
The Patriots keyed on the running attack and the Browns had no counterpunch.
Still, after eight weeks the Browns are averaging 4.9 yards a carry (185 rushes for 912 yards). That puts them ahead of the pace they set last year when they rushed for 1,529 yards and scored five rushing touchdowns all season. They have eight rushing touchdowns this season.
The Browns acquired New England linebacker Jamie Collins on Monday for what will either be a fourth-round pick or a compensatory third-round pick (if the NFL awards that third-round choice to the Browns).
Collins' athleticism is considered unique. He covers, rushes and in an Oct. 18 game against the Colts, jumped over the line to block a field goal. The knock against Collins would be his tendency to freelance, but Jackson doesn't seem worried about that.
The Browns intend to have him on the field Sunday against Dallas.
Why would New England trade Collins?
Two reasons: Collins' contract expires after this season, and the Patriots had made little progress toward an extension. Bill Belichick does not waste time with players he feels overvalue themselves. He gets what he can and moves on.
And finally. ... Josh Gordon has finished his recent 30-day rehabilitation stay. Gordon said he was entering rehab at the end of September, just after he became eligible to return to the Browns.
Gordon currently is suspended indefinitely by the NFL, and while technically still Browns property, the team has said it has "closed that chapter."
Gordon has been suspended several times for violating the NFL's substance abuse policy.
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 2 November 2016
That's what owner Jerry Jones said after the 29-23 victory against the Eagles that put Dallas two games up in the NFC East.
But as Associated Press sports writer Schuyler Dixon stressed, Jones wasn't saying Prescott is taking Romo's job. The owner simply said the Cowboys' 10-year starter won't be ready Sunday at Cleveland as he works his way back into shape after breaking a bone in his back in the preseason.
"My opinion is that we would want him to have more strength and work done," Jones said Sunday night. "He's really doing well, probably as well as anytime last year as far as aspects of strength in his back is concerned, but he's got some more to do."
So the Cowboys can continue to delay the question of what happens when Romo is ready. But with Prescott having a good shot at a seventh straight victory against the winless Browns, it's unlikely that the issue will get any less complicated.
Prescott has won games coming from behind and comfortably leading. He played well in his only loss, by a point to the New York Giants in the opener.
According to Dixon, what was impressive about his latest outing was how unimpressive Prescott was most of the game.
The 23-year-old bounced multiple throws and tossed an end-zone interception -- just his second pick of the season -- that ended up putting Dallas behind at halftime. Yet he found a way to get even with a 22-yard touchdown throw to Dez Bryant late in regulation to cap a 90-yard drive, and led a winning 75-yard march to start the extra period, capped by a 5-yard scoring pass to Jason Witten.
Once again, he showed all the attributes that have had his coaches and teammates raving for weeks.
"I'm not going to stop," said Prescott, who completed all five passes in overtime to finish 19 of 39 for 287 yards. "I don't care how bad I play early on. I don't care what I do. I'm not going to give up."
Prescott's mobility is noteworthy as well, particularly with Romo looking less and less mobile as the back injuries (four in less than four years) pile up. The injury in a preseason game at Seattle came when Romo tried to escape the pocket and was tackled awkwardly from behind.
In the win over the Eagles, the Cowboys got their first touchdown on a zone read when Prescott kept and scored untouched from 7 yards. It was his fourth rushing TD, the most for a Dallas quarterback since Danny White had four in 1983. The franchise record for a quarterback is five.
On the tying drive in regulation, Prescott had a 12-yard scramble that was yet another example of a play the 36-year-old Romo likely can't make anymore.
Or as Jones would put it, he looked like a younger Romo, including on the winning throw to Witten when Prescott spun to his left and created enough confusion for the defense to leave Witten wide open in the end zone.
"All of that reminded me of what we've had the luxury with Romo for years and years," Jones said. "What I did see him do that we're not used to is tuck that ball in and make some significant gains running the ball. That's what you get with him."
What head coach Jason Garrett gets is a controversy, regardless of whether he wants to acknowledge it, which he hasn't.
After Cleveland (0-8), the Cowboys visit Pittsburgh before consecutive home games against Baltimore and Washington. The Redskins visit on Thanksgiving, which will mark a year since Romo's last game.
That wasn't a pretty game either. In his second game back from a broken left collarbone, Romo threw three interceptions in the first half, two returned for touchdowns by Carolina. And he broke his left collarbone again in the third quarter of the 33-14 loss.
"We're a close group of guys," said rookie running back Ezekiel Elliott, who had a four-game streak of 100-yard games snapped, finishing with 96. "We're not going to let anything come between us."
Bottom line? The Cowboys are 6-1 and riding a six-game winning streak because of the outstanding play of Prescott and Elliott. But they also have the best record in the NFC and sit atop the NFC East because of the coaching of Garrett.
Garrett's trust and confidence in his team has grown with each victory and his aggressive decisions have helped push the team along.
In Sunday's 29-23 victory over the Philadelphia Eagles, Garrett called for a fake punt in the third quarter and the Cowboys went for it on a fourth down in overtime. The gambling mentality of Garrett goes against the reputation he had built since he took over as Cowboys coach in 2010. He has often shunned trick plays and played it close the vest.
This year he has taken more risks and been more aggressive. His belief in his players has allowed Garrett to attack.
The Cowboys lead the league in rushing, averaging 164.9 yards per game. Elliott leads the league with 799 yards and is averaging 5.0 yards per carry. The offensive line has been down right dominant as well. Prescott has four rushing touchdowns, trailing only Elliott who has five.
Cole Beasley leads them with 37 catches for 443 yards and three touchdowns, but Bryant led the wide receivers with an 88 percent snap share and completely dominated the target share. According to NFL.com's Matt Harmon, "Dallas built up a solid 'death by 1,000 paper cuts' style of offense while he was out with an injury, but it's clear Bryant's presence will now be used to take the unit over the top."
Harmon added that Bryant led all receivers in with Week 8 with 24.1 average air yards per reception.
Witten, who caught the above-mentioned, game-winning TD pass from Prescott, made his 204th career start against the Eagles, breaking the Cowboys' franchise record he shared with Ed Jones. It was also Witten's 154th consecutive start, tying a team record with Lee Roy Jordan.
For the record, Romo did not practice Wednesday; Bryant (knee) was limited; Lance Dunbar (knee) worked fully. ...
One last note here. ... Executive vice president of personnel Stephen Jones said on his radio show that safety Barry Church will miss three to five weeks with a broken arm, and oft-injured cornerback Morris Claiborne is being evaluated from a possible sports hernia that could sideline him long term.
QBs: Dak Prescott, Cooper Rush
RBs: Alfred Morris, Rod Smith
WRs: Terrance Williams, Cole Beasley, Deonte Thompson, Tavon Austin, Allen Hurns, Noah Brown
TEs: Geoff Swaim, Rico Gathers
Denver BroncosCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 2 November 2016
As ESPN.com's Jeff Legwold put it, "Suddenly, the Denver Broncos' run game is on repeat. ..."
As in 2015, when head coach Gary Kubiak talked plenty about the need to run the ball better and play more consistently up front in the offensive line. Still, the Broncos won and kept winning, right up to the point when there were no more games to win.
And welcome to 2016, where the Broncos are 6-2 at the season's halfway point, and year after year, the names changed, but the results didn't. From his time on Mike Shanahan's staff in Denver to his time as the Texans' head coach to even his one year as the Baltimore Ravens' offensive coordinator, it was more of the same.
For 15 seasons in a 20-season span, Kubiak's offense had a 1,000-yard rusher in it. And then in season 21, the Broncos' Super Bowl season in 2015, injuries in the offensive line started when Ryan Clady suffered a season-ending knee injury during the offseason program and the team fought for a run-pass balance all year long.
After the Broncos reached this season's halfway point with Sunday's 27-19 victory over the San Diego Chargers, they find themselves in the same spot. They've had some injuries in the offensive line, including right tackle Donald Stephenson having missed three games and center Matt Paradis being held out of three days' worth of practice last week.
Running back C.J. Anderson also was placed on injured reserve last week as the Broncos continue to seek ways to pick up the pace on offense.
With Anderson out, rookie Devontae Booker made his first career start Sunday, rushing for a touchdown and 54 yards on 19 carries. Booker also caught five passes for 30 yards and received nearly all of the work despite dealing with a shoulder injury sustained in the first quarter.
As NFL.com's Matt Franciscovich noted, Denver was clearly comfortable with Booker in a featured role, as the rookie handled an impressive 89 percent of the backfield touches despite the injury. He did fumble on what could have been his second touchdown of the game, but overall played with the decisiveness and tenacity of a workhorse runner.
Franciscovich added that Kapri Bibbs is simply a handcuff at this point, while Booker will be an RB1 in Week 9 as the Broncos travel to face the Raiders' leaky defense.
And Kubiak will be running -- or least making a concerted effort to do so.
"The key to being balanced in football is staying on the field, getting first downs," Kubiak said. "I think at the end of the first half [Sunday], we might have had six [first downs]. ... The balance, to me, comes through ball movement and we have to find it."
Last season, the Broncos had seven games of fewer than 70 yards rushing and had seven games with at least 130 yards rushing. They have lived the same kind of either-or life this season as well.
They have three games of at least 134 yards rushing to go with the five games where they haven't hit 90 yards rushing. Even week to week it has been wildly different, with 190 yards rushing in a win over the Texans two games ago to go with 57 yards rushing Sunday against the Chargers.
There are no makeovers to be had halfway through a season, but the Broncos know that things can turn out OK despite having the same types of questions on offense as last season.
"It's all of us," wide receiver Demaryius Thomas said. "We have to figure out a way to have drives and put the ball in the end zone, running it or passing it. ..."
For the record, Anderson was placed on injured reserve last Saturday following surgery to repair torn meniscus in his knee. Anderson is not eligible to be activated from injured reserve until the final week of the regular season, although he can begin practicing before then if he has healed.
Meanwhile, Trevor Siemian has displayed composure under the rush and an improved deep ball that resulted in two long touchdown passes at Cincinnati in Week 3 and downfield connections against San Diego in Week 8.
Siemian's yardage per attempt needs to improve; at just 6.9 yards, he ranks 28th among quarterbacks with at least 50 attempts this season. He's only thrown four interceptions and had a streak of 167 passes without an interception, the fifth longest in Broncos history. But he also had a slew of near-interceptions in that span, including three in Week 8.
On the injury front. ... Legwold reports Booker got treatment following the game and had some additional exams Monday morning but he was on the practice field Wednesday.
"Everything sounds good, he's sore," Kubiak on Monday. "We'll see. ... The fact he was able to come back and play makes us feel better about it."
I'll be following up via Late-Breaking Update in coming days.
QBs: Case Keenum, Paxton Lynch, Chad Kelly
RBs: Devontae Booker, Jamaal Charles, De'Angelo Henderson
WRs: Demaryius Thomas, Emmanuel Sanders, Isaiah McKenzie, Jordan Taylor
TEs: Virgil Green, Jeff Heuerman, Jake Butt
Detroit LionsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 2 November 2016
As MLive.com's Kyle Meinke noted, Matthew Stafford has been a top-five NFL quarterback. Houston has the league's second-ranked pass defense.
This was a strength-on-strength matchup, and it was one the Texans won during their 20-13 victory Sunday against the Detroit Lions. Marvin Jones, Golden Tate and Anquan Boldin combined for just 79 yards.
Yet Stafford still managed to complete 27 of 41 passes for 240 yards, one touchdown and a QB rating of 89.5.
How did he do it?
Ebron missed three games because of knee and ankle injuries, but picked up where he left off by racking up a career-high seven catches for 79 yards. That matched the production of Detroit's top three wideouts combined.
Ebron did have one drop, but he was one of the Lions' most effective players on offense and drew a pass interference penalty in the end zone to set up their only touchdown.
Riddick finished with a team-best 133 total yards from scrimmage, 56 of which were accrued on the ground. That was a career high -- and he did it on just 11 carries. That's 5.1 yards a pop. He also scored the above-mentioned touchdown.
Detroit finished with just 58 rushing yards, but had one of its most efficient days on the ground because of the return of the shifty Riddick.
Outside of Ebron and Riddick, though, Detroit struggled on offense.
Tate had seven receptions, but just 42 yards. Jones was even worse than that, at three catches for 33 yards, and Boldin worse yet, with a season-low one catch for 4 yards. In general, the receivers have had too many drops, and as Sunday's loss proved, they still have trouble getting separation against good cornerbacks.
As a result, the Lions as an offense managed just two field goals and one touchdown.
Players blamed the rash of penalties, which put the Lions in third-and-long situations that were difficult to convert. There were also penalties that wiped out a big punt and kick return from Andre Roberts, which hurt field position.
"Obviously penalties were a problem," Tate said. "(Roberts) did a phenomenal job at returning, and goes back. The next thing you know, we are starting inside the 10. We have to limit those. We know we can, and those are the problems we know we can fix."
Third downs in general were an issue, as they only converted 3 of 11 attempts on third downs. And that is a way Detroit has been able to sustain drives that eventually would lead to points. On Sunday, they couldn't do that.
"It certainly didn't get to the kind of conversions that we're looking for," head coach Jim Caldwell said. "We'll look at the film and see the reasons why. We know there are things we can do. We've done them before. It was just one of those games we just didn't play well enough."
It was particularly rough for the Lions on Sunday because for the first time in a while, the defense held up for much of the game. It had an effective pass rush. It forced a turnover. It was reasonably able to deal with Houston's offense until the last two drives of the game, when the defense had been on the field for far too long.
The Lions had been pulling out comebacks because of their quarterback, who had no fear but lots of confidence that he'd always win the game. But not with the way Detroit played Sunday.
While the Lions had been a pass-happy team, Sunday's game featured the largest disparity between passing attempts (41) and carries (14) all season. They couldn't get much going on the ground, hurting their chances to catch Houston off balance to take advantage of bigger opportunities downfield.
Of course, as the Sports Xchange noted, running the football has been a chore for the Lions since Ameer Abdullah was lost to a foot injury in Week 2.
Abdullah looked poised for a big year before he got hurt, but the Lions rank 27th in the NFL in rushing offense (85.5 yards per game) overall. Riddick, when healthy, has handled the bulk of the backfield load with Abdullah out. He's flashed his big-play potential at time, but hasn't gotten a ton of volume. The Lions' offensive line is partly to blame for the struggles in the run game but backup running backs Dwayne Washington and Zach Zenner haven't done enough to make an impact.
Washington, in fact, was a healthy scratch against the Texans.
Riddick played 85 percent of the snaps with Zenner playing the other 15 percent. Justin Forsett was active but did not play leading to a question why he was active over Washington. ...
Meanwhile, Stafford surpassed the career passing yards of two more Hall of Fame quarterbacks: Ken Stabler and Terry Bradshaw (in addition to passing Craig Morton).
He entered Sunday's game against the Texans needing 100 yards to pass both Stabler and Bradshaw on the all-time list and with a 33-yard pass to Ebron in the second quarter, he pulled it off. He is now No. 55 all time. Stafford entered Sunday at No. 58 with 27,890 yards and finished with 28,130.
Stafford could make one more move up the list Sunday. Current ESPN analyst and former quarterback Ron Jaworski is next up at No. 54 with 28,190 yards.
A few final notes here. ... Jones was limited by a foot injury in Wednesday's practice; Riddick (ankle) was also limited (I'll follow up via Late-Breaking Update); and the Lions placed tight end Cole Wick (knee) on injured reserve Tuesday.
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 2 November 2016
Even in defeat, quarterback Aaron Rodgers was sharp when the Packers needed him most.
Despite the Packers' 33-32 loss to Atlanta on Sunday, there were other positives from the passing game.
Most important was the play of Rodgers, who had one of his best performances of the season despite the injuries the Packers had on offense.
Rodgers threw for 246 yards and four touchdowns and added a career-high 60 rushing yards to pace an offense without receivers Randall Cobb and Ty Montgomery, running backs Eddie Lacy and James Starks, and tight end Jared Cook.
"I think he did a really good job of taking what they gave us," head coach Mike McCarthy said on Monday.
"The three-man rush, he extended plays and ran it for first downs, so that was very important. The rushing yards are what they are. You don't want your quarterback to be your leading rusher, but it was still extremely productive for us.
Rodgers had a 100-plus passer rating in each of the past two games, a first since the first three weeks of the 2015 season.
He did it on Sunday without Montgomery and Cobb, who combined for 21 receptions in the victory over Chicago on Oct. 20, and without the benefit of a running game with Lacy (ankle) and Starks (knee) sidelined.
Receiver Davante Adams caught 12 passes for 74 yards after making 13 receptions the previous week against Chicago.
"We'd love to get Jared back soon (and), obviously, Randall and Ty, getting those guys back would help," Rodgers said after the game. "Personally, I'm just really proud of those guys who made plays today."
Cook might help open up the middle of the field. Rodgers has thrown 94 passes in the last two games combined. He targeted a tight end, Richard Rodgers, only once for a 7-yard completion against the Bears.
McCarthy said Cook made a "big step toward getting back" last week as he recovers from an ankle injury sustained in Week 3 vs. Detroit, though it's unclear if the tight end will start practicing this week.
Cobb has a hamstring injury, while Montgomery was held out for precautionary reasons because of a reported kidney-related ailment that kept him off the field last week and produced blood in his urine. Montgomery said Monday his condition is symptomatic of a sickle-cell trait.
"It doesn't concern me," Montgomery, 23, said. "A lot of people have sickle-cell trait, and some of them don't even know, and not everybody experiences symptoms of it. I'm not concerned about anything."
Montgomery is hopeful about being cleared to return to the practice field later this week and play Sunday against the Colts.
"We're just going to take it day by day," he said. "So far, all signs lead to we feel confident to just take it day by day and play this week. So, we'll see."
McCarthy wouldn't speculate Monday on Montgomery's status for the next game -- although he did begin practicing on a limited basis Wednesday.
"It's something we're working through, obviously definitely aware of," McCarthy said. "I think our history medically is we play the high side of caution when we get into these types of situations. But, he's doing great. If you asked Ty (on) Sunday if he could play he wanted to play. But, this is just gathering all of the information and making the right decision."
Meanwhile, the Packers cut running back Knile Davis on Monday, less than 24 hours after he did little against the Falcons and less than two weeks after Green Bay acquired him in a trade with the Kansas City Chiefs.
"We appreciate everything that Knile did," offensive coordinator Edgar Bennett said after the team announced the transaction. "Outstanding work ethic and really good young man, so we wish him the best."
Davis' abbreviated tenure with the Packers amounted to five carries for only 5 yards and two catches for 4 yards in two games. That nullifies the seventh-round draft pick in 2018 they would have owed the Chiefs had Davis reached certain playing conditions with Green Bay.
Of the four Packers who carried the football at the Georgia Dome on Sunday, Davis was at the bottom of the statistics sheet with three carries for 4 yards.
The team's rushing leader? Rodgers, whose 60 yards were a career-high rushing output during the regular season.
The Packers ran for 108 yards, their third-highest total of the season, despite playing a second straight game with undrafted rookie Don Jackson and Davis instead of the injured halfback duo of Lacy and Starks (knee).
Jackson made his starting debut Sunday but was barely more effective than Davis, finishing with four carries for 10 yards.
Fullback Aaron Ripkowski was Green Bay's second-leading ball carrier with six carries for 34 yards. The second-year pro went into the game with six carries for 25 yards in his career.
"Coach called my name a few times, and I did the best I could with it," Ripkowski said.
The quick departure of Davis could signal an impending return for Starks, who has missed the last three games as he recovered from a minor procedure on his injured knee.
"It's early in the process to be able to just give you a flat-out decision as far as who's doing what this week," said Bennett, who indicated Jackson would get more opportunities Sunday, when the Packers host the Indianapolis Colts.
The Packers host Indianapolis on Sunday before a stretch of three straight road games: Tennessee, Washington and Philadelphia.
A few final notes here. ... Jordy Nelson was limited by a hand injury in Wednesday's practice; Cobb continued to work on a limited basis, as he did all last week before being scratched on Sunday.
I'll have more on Nelson, Starks, Cobb, Montgomery and Cook via Late-Breaking Update as the week progresses.
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 2 November 2016
According to ESPN.com's Sara Barshop, it turns out that playing the Lions' 25th-ranked defense was just what Brock Osweiler needed.
In Sunday's 20-13 victory over the Lions, Osweiler finished 20-of-29 for 186 yards with a touchdown and an interception.
There were still plenty of mistakes -- including a third-down interception deep in Lions territory with less than a minute to go in the first half where he forced the ball to wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins.
It was Osweiler's ninth interception of the season, and after a five-play, 52-yard drive, Detroit kicked a field goal to complete a possible six-point swing to close the half.
Though Osweiler targeted Hopkins seven times, the Texans' game plan seemed focused on the Texans' tight ends, especially early when the game was being decided. For the first time since Week 2, all three tight ends -- C.J. Fiedorowicz, Ryan Griffin and Stephen Anderson -- had at least one catch in the game.
The group totaled 10 catches for 94 yards, all of which came in the first half when the Texans got out to a 14-3 lead. According to ESPN Stats and Information, Houston entered Sunday with 47 tight-end receptions, third-most in the NFL. Last year, the Texans tight ends had 41 receptions all season, which was the second-fewest in the NFL.
Head coach Bill O'Brien said focusing on the tight ends was part of the game plan, but that he thought Osweiler "did a nice job of delivering the ball to those guys, and those guys did a nice job of getting open."
Houston went with a pass-heavy offense through most of the game, as running backs Lamar Miller, Alfred Blue and Jonathan Grimes combined for just 29 yards on 17 carries through three quarters. But with a 17-3 lead entering the fourth quarter, O'Brien ran the ball more, and the group finished with 108 yards on 28 carries.
"To be able to run the ball when they know we're running the ball that speaks volumes about our offensive line and the work they put in during the week," Hopkins said.
The increased presence of tight ends also underscores how Osweiler has been unable to get the ball to Hopkins. This inability to connect on the field with Hopkins has been a story this season, especially after the receiver's breakout season last year when he had 111 catches for 1,521 yards and 11 touchdowns while the Texans started four different quarterbacks.
"I know how talented DeAndre is, and I know how hard he works every single day," Osweiler said. "Trust me, every time I break the huddle, I'm looking to see where he's at -- the matchup, the coverage -- trying to see if I can get him the football.
"I think we both have great confidence in each other. We have great belief in each other. He and I are working every single day to develop chemistry and really get this thing rolling."
O'Brien and Osweiler have said this season that they are focused on getting Hopkins the ball. He finished with four catches for 44 yards Sunday.
After Sunday's win, owner Bob McNair defended his $72 million quarterback's progress, noting that Osweiler hasn't started the equivalent of a full season.
"He's still basically a rookie," McNair told the Houston Chronicle. "He's going to make some mistakes, but he shows that he has the talent, he has the ability and has the leadership that the team has confidence in him."
It's fair to note that Osweiler has just 15 starts, but he's been on an NFL team since 2012.
As NFL.com's Kevin Patra suggested, McNair's defense of his quarterback is understandable, given that he signed off on giving Osweiler $37 million guaranteed.
Osweiler emphasized that he doesn't have any confidence issues as he struck an upbeat stance at the midway point of the regular season.
"At the end of the day, I have great confidence in myself," Osweiler said. "I have great belief in myself. I'm my own biggest critic, if you will. When the game doesn't go how maybe I want it to or how this team wants it to, I examine that film very hard. I'm very hard on myself to improve."
Overall, it hasn't been the prettiest 5-3 start for Osweiler and the Texans. They are averaging 313.3 yards of total offense per game, including 199.3 passing yards per game. And they have scored just 12 touchdowns.
"Specifically, I would like to find a way to get this offense into the end zone more often," Osweiler said. "We just need to find a way to get into the end zone more often, and it starts with me."
The Texans will enter their bye week leading the AFC South and sitting 2-0 in the division.
Worth noting. ... Miller said his shoulder hurt all game. He said every time he got hit, it bothered him and he had to come out for a couple plays. He still finished with 17 carries for 56 yards and a touchdown.
Strong's injury is regarded as more serious. He was in a walking boot to protect his sprained left ankle and underwent a MRI exam Monday. Fuller has been dealing with a hamstring injury.
"Jaelen might be a little bit longer, hopefully not," O'Brien said. "Hopefully the bye helps him. I think Will may not be as long."
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 2 November 2016
As ESPN.com's Mike Wells noted, there were no late-game heroics from Andrew Luck. The Colts, like they were the last time they faced the Chiefs, were down by double digits in the second half.
The reason for the early hole?
The quarterback played his worst half of football this season in the Colts' 30-14 loss at Lucas Oil Stadium on Sunday.
"I know I struggled," Luck said. "I think every offensive player in the room feels like we let each other down in a sense. In my mind, I feel like I let the team down. Turnovers bad. Simple things that you can't do in the NFL and expect to win games."
Wells went on to suggest the Colts (3-5) can have their faults on defense and on the offensive line, but they can't have Luck struggling. He's the one player who has to consistently play well every week, especially if they expect to take advantage of what little bit of opportunity they have remaining to catch the Houston Texans (5-3) in the AFC South.
Is that fair?
No, but that's how it is when you look at how the Colts' roster is currently made up.
Unfortunately for the Colts, Luck committed two turnovers and was off target to his receivers in a first half in which he was 9-of-17 for 103 yards when they could have led because their defense was doing its part to slow the Chiefs down.
The Colts got away with Luck's first turnover -- a fumble after botching the snap -- when Chiefs kicker Cairo Santos' 28-yard field goal attempt bounced off the right upright.
The same couldn't be said about Luck's second turnover.
The Colts got the ball back at their own 29-yard line down 10-7 with 42 seconds left in the first half. They went with an aggressive approach because they had all three timeouts left. If the Colts scored, they would go into the locker room with at least a 10-10 tie and they would get the ball at the start of the third quarter.
It took all of one play to squash that thought.
Luck attempted to throw a pass to receiver Donte Moncrief along the sideline, but the ball was too far inside and Chiefs cornerback Phillip Gaines intercepted it at the Colts' 36-yard line.
"Good break by the corner, probably not a very good ball and just a poor decision for that matter and he made a heck of a play," Luck said. "One of those that you wish you can have back, but you can't and you learn from it."
Kansas City used the short field to score a touchdown on a 19-yard reception by receiver Jeremy Maclin to take a 17-7 lead.
Luck's eight turnovers have now accounted for 38 points for opponents this season.
"I know, obviously, the turnovers, you can't have the turnovers," head coach Chuck Pagano said.
The Chiefs did an excellent job eliminating big plays by the Colts. Receiver T.Y. Hilton had only one catch -- with less than 90 seconds remaining in the game -- on five targets and the receiving group had at least four drops.
Luck didn't help out the cause by throwing behind or too high on some throws. He threw too high to Hilton on the possession prior to his interception. Hilton would have had a big gain had Luck been on target on the throw.
Those are the types of errors Luck, who finished 19-of-35 for 210 yards with two touchdowns while being sacked six times, and the Colts can't afford going forward.
"I know we had some guys running open and for whatever reason we didn't make those plays," Pagano said.
All that said, the Colts offensive line allowed a season-high 25 pressures on 48 snaps against Kansas City. Luck was sacked six times.
Luck has been sacked a league-high 31 times in eight games this season. Former Colts quarterback Peyton Manning was sacked 31 times total during the 2003-04 and 2005-06 seasons.
The Colts have allowed 31 sacks in 2016. Indianapolis is on pace to tie the team record of 62 sacks allowed in 1997.
Luck was brutally honest when discussing the current status of the Colts.
"Right now, it feels like we've moved backwards (after the loss to Kansas City)," Luck said. "It feels like we were making progress and then we step backward and we're sick of it. It's on us. No one else to blame. It's on us.
Statistically speaking, Luck is having one of the best years of his five-year NFL career. But those stats could even be better if not for dropped passes (the Colts lead the league in that category) and the sacks.
Hilton is having a good start with 46 receptions for 709 yards and four TDs. But he has not been immune to drops. Tight end Jack Doyle has stepped up in the absence of injured starter Dwayne Allen (ankle), hauling in 31 passes for 318 yards and four touchdowns.
Allen was on the practice field Wednesday, but Doyle seems like he'll continue to provide some value even when the starter returns.
In addition to not having Allen in the lineup, Indianapolis also missed Moncrief, who was out six game with a shoulder injury before returning against the Chiefs. According to NFL.com's Matt Harmon, Moncrief handled a team-high nine targets and played the most snaps (89 percent) among the position group.
Second-year man Phillip Dorsett has also missed playing time with injury issues.
Dorsett was shaken up near the end of the Chiefs game. Dorsett was able to walk off the field under his own power. No injury was announced.
Worth noting, Hilton (hamstring) was not practicing Wednesday and the issue appears to be more serious than issues that have cost him practice time in recent weeks.
Chester Rogers (hamstring/ankle) was a pregame inactive against the Chiefs. Rogers' availability for practice this week remains undecided although he was on the field Wednesday.
I'll have more on Hilton, Allen, Rodgers and Dorsett (if need be) when Late-Breaking Updates begin early Thursday.
One last note here. ... Frank Gore is on pace for a 1,000-yard rushing season, something a Colts running back hasn't accomplished since 2007 (Joseph Addai, 1,072). Gore is averaging 4.2 yards per carry as he has rushed for 532 yards on 126 carries and has a pair of touchdowns.
That's the good news.
Primary backup Robert Turbin has been used in spot duty, primarily in short yardage and goal line situations. Luck is the team's No. 2 rusher for 209 yards in 36 carries and has one TD. Indianapolis has shown signs of improvement but, once again, consistency in run blocking remains a major issue.
And finally. ... The Colts were faced with a possible shortage in the secondary, so they addressed it early in the week.
The team announced they had promoted cornerback Frankie Williams from the practice squad, and released tight end Chase Coffman.
Coffman was brought back two weeks ago when the Colts ran short at that position, but other needs became more important.
Cornerback Vontae Davis suffered a concussion last week, and as they prepare for the Packers, the Colts need all the help they can get in the secondary.
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 2 November 2016
The Jaguars fired offensive coordinator Greg Olson, the team announced lat Saturday. Quarterbacks coach Nathaniel Hackett was promoted to assume the role of offensive coordinator. Olson had held the position since 2015.
NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported that there had been a disconnect between Olson and head coach Gus Bradley for some time with a lack of focus on the run being one point of contention.
"Tough day. ... But regression offensively was the reason," Olson told Rapoport of his firing. "Couldn't find an identity in the run game which significantly hurts (Blake Bortles') strengths as a QB. ... Made great strides last year but didn't follow up on the expectations. ... Would be easy to look for excuses and it hurts, but part of the responsibility of being an OC."
"Greg was a tremendous asset and always put all of his effort in doing everything he can to help in his players' improvement," Bradley said in a team statement. "He did some great things with our offense over the past two seasons, and for that, we are very appreciative.
Bradley addressed the move Monday, calling it difficult but necessary. The coach said: "I just couldn't grasp in my mind that the results are going to change if we continue going in this direction. And I just didn't feel like personality- and philosophy -wise the change would take place."
The Jaguars rank 26th in the NFL in total offense. They are 31st in rushing and last in third-down percentage.
Olson's exit comes on the heels of Jacksonville's 36-22 loss to the Titans on Thursday Night Football in which the Jags were held scoreless at halftime, having run just 22 plays and earned three first downs. On the night, Jacksonville earned just 26 rushing yards out of Chris Ivory and T.J. Yeldon.
A second-half surge, during which Bortles threw three touchdowns in what amounted to garbage time, was not enough to save Olson's job.
Hackett spent two years (2013-14) as Buffalo's offensive coordinator. Now, he's the third in three years for Bortles.
"It's been crazy. It's been an emotional roller-coaster," Hackett said. "It's hard to have him go. And then it's almost hard that I'm also very excited, 'Oh wow, this is exciting!' And then you feel guilty being excited and then you realized we have a game in seven days and the players are like, 'Oh gosh, who's this guy? What's he going to be doing?"'
Hackett brings a little more energy to the offensive meeting room. He also is expected to put more emphasis on the run game. The Jaguars have run the ball just 47 times for 207 yards in the last three games -- not nearly enough for a team that invested in the ground game by drafting Yeldon in 2015 and then signing Ivory in free agency in March.
And Hackett was quick to point out problems with the offense beyond Bortles.
"I think when you look at that, there's always things he's dealing with that maybe there's an issue across the board from offensive line, running backs, wide receivers, tight ends," Hackett said. "There's so many things that go into it; to say Blake is just playing horrible, it's really we're all in on this together. I mean, we're all in it from the whole offense and I think that's one thing I really want to make sure they all know that it's not just Blake, it's not just this person or this person, it's all of us.
"I have always felt the best thing in the world for a quarterback is the run game. I have always absolutely loved running the ball. I remember my first year at the Bills. I believe we were like one of the tops in the league. ... I think that you always are going to want to try and run the ball as much as you can and try to force that envelope."
While many expected a coaching move in Jacksonville, Olson's exit comes as a surprise only because it had been his boss on the hot seat.
And while Jaguars owner Shad Khan told the Florida Times-Union after the game that he would not fire Bradley, he did imply change was need: "Actions speak louder than words." Khan also sat in on meetings ahead of his team's loss on Thursday night to "get a little bit better of a look at what is actually going on with the team", per Rapoport.
Bradley wasn't worried about his job status after the game, adding, "I worry about this team and why did we perform like that in the first half, and figuring out, OK, how can we get it right?"
Changing the play-caller appears to be his first step.
Will promoting the QB coach in charge of Bortles' progress help the offense as a whole? Bradley is betting his job on it.
If Jacksonville can't turn its offense around, like the Bills did after firing Greg Roman, then Olson won't be alone on the chopping block.
Meanwhile, as ESPN.com's Mike DiRocco noted, it's hard to find anything good in what happened against the Titans, but garbage-time stats count in fantasy football. Bortles ended up with 270 yards and two touchdown passes, so from a fantasy standpoint he was OK. Most of it was compiled in the second half when they trailed by double digits.
That's how he compiled a lot of his fantasy stats last season, and if the Jaguars continue to play the way they have the past few games, Bortles will have more chances to do that the rest of the season.
Equally important to fixing the team's sputtering running game is getting Bortles back to his 2015 form.
He is struggling to find his throwing motion and hasn't become the franchise-stabilizing presence this roster deserves. Allen Robinson, a wideout on the rise, is M.I.A.
Bortles has completed 60 percent of his passes this season for 1,904 yards, with 12 touchdowns and nine interceptions. He has struggled with his accuracy, partly because his motion has become so elongated that defensive backs are breaking on passes and linemen are batting down balls.
He's hardly looked like the same guy who ranked second in the NFL with 35 TD passes last season. Bortles said Monday he's bringing in QB guru Adam Dedeaux to spend two days fine-tuning his throwing motion.
Bortles said the two-day session will focus on footwork, which should translate to better upper-body mechanics.
"Everybody keeps telling me there are things wrong with him and I understand that because we're not winning, but he's also done a lot of really good things," Hackett said. "Sometimes people try to focus on all the negative things with Blake. I don't really do that. I try to look at more of the positive things and see how we can do those more to get him into a more comfort level.
"If you don't have the run game, you put a lot more on him to try and throw the ball so many times and you're in those situations. It's not good for any quarterback, let alone a third-year quarterback, and that's now going to be on his third coordinator. ... We have to just be better on getting on the same page and helping him, which would then help everyone and everybody will be like, 'Oh he's great."'
Worth noting. ... Allen Hurns took a hard shot in the fourth quarter of the Tennessee game and was assisted off the field. He was able to return later in the game.
"Yeah, I'm OK. I just got the wind knocked out of me," Hurns said.
Tight end Julius Thomas did not practice Wednesday due to the ankle injury he's been dealing with the last two weeks.
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 2 November 2016
According to Associated Press sports writer Dave Skretta, the Chiefs defended their treatment of Alex Smith after he twice had his head slam into the turf in Indianapolis, saying Monday that their quarterback passed concussion tests on the sideline and in the locker room after both of the hits.
Chiefs trainer Rick Burkholder also said team physicians and an independent neurologist do not believe that Smith sustained a concussion.
Still, he was evaluated by another neurologist in Kansas City this week before determining whether he can play against Jacksonville on Sunday.
Apparently, that exam didn't go well.
Head coach Andy Reid said Wednesday that Nick Foles will get the start because Smith remains in the "return-to-play protocol." The team said Smith was "asymptomatic" of a concussion during or after the game and Smith said, via Terez Paylor of the Kansas City Star, that his previous experiences with concussions leaves him confident he didn't suffer one this time.
Reid said that he expects Smith will practice in some fashion this week, but that the team thinks it's best for him to miss the game. Tyler Bray will back up Foles.
Foles proved to be everything the Chiefs hoped for as a backup. He finished 16 of 22 for 223 yards without an interception in leading Kansas City to a 30-14 victory.
He threw two touchdown passes, with scoring tosses of 14 yards to tight end Travis Kelce and 34 yards to wide receiver Tyreek Hill. He completed 72.7 percent of his throws with an average per attempt of 10.1 yards, and posted a 135.2 passer rating
"I thought Nick did a nice job," Reid said. "He did it the first time Alex was out and did it well the second time. He wasn't shy that's for sure; he slung it around there pretty good. He has pretty good feel for the offense; he has been in it before. You know that he studied it and that he is prepared for the game and understands how to go about doing that."
Smith isn't the only Chiefs player dealing with injury issues.
Running back Spencer Ware did not return to the Colts game after sustaining a concussion -- Burkholder said he did not sufficiently pass the same tests that Smith went through. And at this point, it appears unlikely Ware will be available against the Jaguars. He did not pratice on Wednesday.
That leaves the Chiefs even thinner at running back after Jamaal Charles was placed on injured reserve Tuesday. Charles needs a second surgery on his ailing knee, though the severity of his injury remains unclear.
The earliest Charles can return is Kansas City's Week 17 game against the Chargers, a game that could very well decide playoff seeding and/or the champion of the wild AFC West. The running back, if healthy, would then be available for a postseason run.
Tuesday's news is the latest in a string of setbacks for Charles, who has yet to fully recover from his second ACL tear suffered last season. Charles returned to the field in Week 5, but never regained the starting tailback role from Ware. The veteran back ran for just 40 yards on 12 carries in three games this season.
After suffering a setback with his knee last week in preparation for Kansas City's game with the Colts, Charles was listed as inactive. Immediately after the game, coach Andy Reid said Charles would see the highly-regarded Dr. James Andrews for an opinion on his knee.
Charles obviously did not receive good news.
If Ware is unable to play, Charcandrick West would be the top back on the roster.
Meanwhile, offensive lineman Parker Ehinger sprained his knee and did not return against the Colts. If he's unable to play this week, Zach Fulton would pick up where he left off Sunday.
One bit of positive news was the progress of outside linebacker Justin Houston, who is coming back from ACL surgery. The star pass rusher returned to practice two weeks ago and has made noteworthy improvement, though it remains uncertain when Houston will be able to play in a game.
Reid said it would be "a stretch" for him to play against Jacksonville.
"What we're going to do is take it like we have been, see how he does this week," Reid said. "If he is ready to go, he can go. I'll listen to the docs and talk to Justin and see how he's doing.
"I can tell you he's made tremendous strides from that first week to last week."
Stay tuned. ... I'll have more on Smith and Ware via Late-Breaking Update in coming days.
Other notes of interest. ... As NFL.com's Matt Harmon noted, both Kelce and Jeremy Maclin progressed their numbers back to more traditional expectations. They both saw 10 targets after volume was a growing concern over the last few weeks. Hill played on just 30 percent of the team snaps and his 21 total snaps were a season-high. The miniscule playing time is concerning, but at the same time, he has added his fourth receiving touchdown of the season and it is clear that the team wants to get him the ball when he's on the field.
According to Harmon, not only does Hill take some of the high-concentration of targets appeal off of Kelce and Maclin, he now has appeal as an upside dart throw during the bye weeks.
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 2 November 2016
As ESPN.com's Alden Gonzalez suggested, the Rams are in a dark place, having followed three straight wins with three consecutive losses to fall below .500 through seven games for the ninth time in the past 10 years.
But reasons for optimism loom.
Coming out of their bye week, the Rams have two critical factors in their favor: A soft schedule and uncommon health. There's at least a slight chance that every single one of their players will be healthy by the time they play again on Nov. 6. And that day will mark the beginning of a four-week stretch against four teams -- the Carolina Panthers, New York Jets, Miami Dolphins and New Orleans Saints -- that sit a combined 8-18.
What that stretch will mean for general manager Les Snead and head coach Jeff Fisher, two men nearing the end of their current contracts, or for Jared Goff, the No. 1 overall pick who remains a backup, remains a bit muddled. But it could mean a lot. And if the Rams take advantage, these next four weeks could greatly alter the course of their season in a positive way.
That may require some soul searching.
"This week is about resting; it's about recovering," Fisher said last Monday. "It's also about getting away and coming back recharged. That's probably the most important thing."
The Rams' primary cornerback, Trumaine Johnson, has missed the past two games with a sprained right ankle. One of their starting defensive tackles, Michael Brockers, has missed two of the past three, first with an injury to his hip and then with an injury to his thigh.
Both have "a chance" to be ready for the Week 9 matchup against the Panthers from Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, Fisher said during his weekly radio show on ESPN LA 710.
Defensive end Robert Quinn returned for the team's loss against the New York Giants after a two-week absence that stemmed from a shoulder injury, but he took only 19 percent of the defensive snaps. He'll benefit greatly from the bye week.
Jamon Brown, who has essentially rotated with Cody Wichmann as the starting right guard, recently underwent surgery on his hand, but he should also be ready by the time the Rams play again, Fisher said. And that's it.
Everybody else is currently available.
"We have a chance to be extremely healthy, if you compare the roster after this bye week to the start of the regular season," Fisher said. "So, that's encouraging."
Also encouraging: Three of the Rams' next four opponents (Panthers, Jets, Saints) rank within the bottom seven in pass defense, vulnerable in the area that most directly impacts the Rams' success. The other (the Dolphins) ranks 30th defending against the rush, a good sign for an increasingly impatient Todd Gurley.
Meanwhile, after the loss in London, Gurley went around the room to each of his teammates "to tell them I love them and to stay together."
As the Sports Xchange notes, the ground attack was expected to be the Rams' strength, but it's been anything but. Gurley has just 403 yards through seven games and is averaging just 3.0 yards per carry.
That's a complete fail considering the Rams were counting so much on Gurley carrying the offense.
They'll have to play more disciplined, given their 58 penalties, tied for third-most in the NFL. And they'll have to get more consistency out of their defense, which helped give up a combined 61 points over a recent two-week stretch.
Otherwise, Fisher has stated that he is not ready to make a change at quarterback but the coach dismissed a report that Goff was a long way from being ready to start.
"If he wasn't making progress," Fisher said of Goff, "he'd be a No. 3."
Fisher felt Goff "did a nice job" with additional reps in recent practices.
Goff's work with the first team isn't a surprise and isn't necessarily telling. Fisher said last Monday that the bye week would allow all Rams rookies to get more practice time, especially Goff, who has been working mostly with the scout team since the start of the regular season.
The Rams sent an assortment of high-round draft picks to the Tennessee Titans in order to move up 14 spots and select Goff out of Cal.
But he struggled in the preseason, completing only 45 percent of his passes while committing four turnovers, and he never really challenged Keenum for the starting job. Goff was inactive for the Monday Night Football opener against the San Francisco 49ers, slotted behind Sean Mannion as the third-string quarterback, then served as the backup over the next six weeks.
"It's part of the process; it's part of what's going on," Goff, a couple of weeks removed from his 22nd birthday, said of sitting. "I'm not going to sit here and complain or gripe. I'm going to support Case and continue to get ready and be ready."
The Rams won three straight games earlier this season, giving Keenum six wins over his previous eight games as the Rams' starter, though he hardly ever shined. Keenum played very well in Weeks 5 and 6, completing 76.2 percent of his passes and throwing for 592 yards.
But the Rams lost both times, and Keenum didn't take advantage of late drives that would've tied or won games.
Keenum then struggled in London in Week 7, though Fisher noted that half of his four interceptions were the fault of his receivers, saying: "We'll make changes at receiver before I make changes at quarterback."
If Goff were to start, Fisher said he "would not change a thing" with his offense.
"We wouldn't scale anything back, we wouldn't change a thing," he added. "He's got that good of a feel for what we're doing."
But Fisher is clearly more comfortable with Keenum's feel for the offense. Otherwise, there's little sense in not starting Goff now, especially coming out of the bye week and with the above-mentioned string of less-than-intimidating opponents ahead.
One last note here. ... Tavon Austin is averaging a dismal 4.7 yards per attempt, but is seeing a massive 28 percent target share.
Don't look for the role to change despite the lack of production.
As Gonzalez notes, the four-year, $42 million extension he signed in late August makes one believe the Rams will continue to try to squeeze every drop out of Austin. But he simply hasn't taken advantage of constant attempts to get him in open space, and Pharoh Cooper's presence lingers. Cooper, a fourth-round draft pick who spent the first three games recovering from a shoulder injury, has a very similar skill set to Austin and will start to get more integrated into the offense coming out of the bye week.
It'll be interesting to see how it plays out.
QBs: Jared Goff, Sean Mannion
RBs: Todd Gurley, Malcolm Brown, Lance Dunbar
WRs: Robert Woods, Brandin Cooks, Cooper Kupp, Pharoh Cooper, Josh Reynolds
TEs: Tyler Higbee, Gerald Everett
Miami DolphinsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 2 November 2016
As the Sports Xchange notes, Miami (3-4) opens the second part of its season with the finale of its four-game home stand Sunday against the New York Jets (3-5).
But to get the victory the Dolphins will have to match their strength, the run game, led by running back Jay Ajayi, who has back-to-back 200-yard games, against the Jets' strength, their run defense, which is No. 1 in the NFL at 74 yards per game.
As ESPN's Mike Clay noted last week, the second-year back is averaging 6.4 yards per carry and 3.1 yards after contact per attempt, both of which lead the NFL among players with at least 50 carries. Ajayi doesn't add much as a receiver, but Ajayi is playing at such a high level that he belongs in the RB1 conversation moving forward -- even against a tough run defense like New York's.
The last Dolphins running back to have 54 carries over a two-week span was Ronnie Brown in 2006. He totaled 246 yards and one touchdown.
Ajayi, though one carry short of Brown's total, has 418 yards and three touchdowns in the past two weeks.
If Ajayi gets 16 carries against the New York Jets this week, he'll equal Ricky Williams' three-game total of 69 carries in 2009. Williams had 336 yards rushing and three touchdowns in those three games.
As ESPN.com's James Walker notes, Ajayi has become one of the league's best stories this season. He lost his starting job in training camp to veteran Arian Foster, who recently retired, and handled it so poorly the Dolphins left Ajayi home for their Week 1 road game against the Seattle Seahawks.
Instead of sulking, Ajayi did the right things and worked his way back into Miami's tailback rotation. Once Foster was injured in Week 2, Ajayi's role gradually increased. That eventually led to Ajayi exploding in Week 6 and Week 7.
Ajayi seems to have the right mindset to keep the "J-Train" rolling. He says he's staying humble and focused on each game individually. His goal is to get 1,000 rushing yards for the season, which seems very reachable at Ajayi's torrid pace.
The second-year player has come a long way from being a fifth-round pick in 2015, especially when factoring in his recent adversity early in the season.
"My whole mentality is to just keep playing and keep proving all the doubters wrong," Ajayi said. "There were doubters, not just about injury, but whether I could even play in the NFL, whether I was good enough to be a starting running back in the NFL. All of that stuff fuels me."
In additino to Ajayai's play, head coach Adam Gase thinks focus is a major reason why the Dolphins have won back-to-back games.
"They've amped it up as far as how they've gone about their business and not listening to outside noise and staying together as a group, and they kept fighting," Gase said. "That has really been our main reason for improving on Sundays."
There are big stakes riding on this Jets game.
Consider this: a victory gives Miami a 4-3 record against AFC opponents and a 2-1 record against AFC East opponents, both of which could go a long way toward settling playoff tiebreakers, should the Dolphins be in such a position.
But there's more. Miami is trying to finish off of its extended home stand in grand fashion against the Jets.
The Dolphins will have 44 days between road games, the longest time since the 1970 merger, according to the Elias Sports Bureau, excluding the 1982 season which was interrupted by a work stoppage.
The Dolphins are 2-1 on the home stand so far having lost to the Tennessee Titans and beating the Pittsburgh Steelers and Buffalo Bills.
Gase is hoping the attitude the Dolphins have adopted the last two games stays around for the rest of the season.
"You just saw guys kept plugging along, understanding it's a 60-minute game," Gase said of the last two games. "It's a new series every time we go out on the field and what happened the last series is irrelevant.
Other notes of interest. ... Ryan Tannehill has 20 carries for 78 yards rushing. At this pace he'd finish with 178 yards rushing, the second-lowest total of his career after last season's 148 yards rushing. Tannehill is athletic, having played WR in college, but he's become more reluctant to run the last season-plus.
DeVante Parker (20 receptions, 275 yards, 1 TD) could become a bigger factor down the stretch. Miami will likely face lots of eight-man fronts the rest of the way as teams become more determined to stop Ajayi. That should give Parker a fair amount of one-on-one coverage and he should be able to take advantage.
Jordan Cameron (concussion) doesn't appear he'll be cleared to play this week. Cameron has missed the last four games. Fellow tight end Dion Sims (concussion) is questionable for this week's game against the Jets. Sims, who had a concussion last season, missed the Bills game but was working fully on Wednesday.
There's a chance offensive tackle Sam Young is used as a sixth offensive linemen against this week. With Cameron and Sims out, Miami used tight ends MarQueis Gray and Dominique Jones against Buffalo and brought in Young for short-yardage situations. Asked whether Young could run a seam route, Gase had a one-word answer.
"No," he said.
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 2 November 2016
This time there were no strong words from a coach with a reputation for being blunt, at least not publicly. Eight days after calling out his offensive line for being "soft," head coach Mike Zimmer took a more muted and pragmatic approach to explaining a worse-than-the-score-would-suggest 20-10 loss to the Bears.
"Well, we didn't make any plays," Zimmer told reporters. "We didn't make any plays. They made them all. When it was our opportunity to make plays, they made all the plays."
So what happened to the team that went 5-0? Again, pragmatic.
"We've lost the past two games," Zimmer said. "They played better than us. ... Sometimes you get beat. The other team beat us tonight. We didn't play good enough. They played better than we did. Simple as that."
As Profootballtalk.com suggested, maybe Zimmer is opting for a different approach. Or maybe he already has processed anger, denial, bargaining, and depression before accepting the fact that his team simply isn't as good as everyone thought it was.
There's no doubt the offensive line isn't what anybody hoped it would be. Or the offense in general for that matter.
Maybe that explains why Norv Turner, the offensive coordinator of the 5-2, first-place Vikings, has resigned in the middle of the season.
As NFL.com's Conor Orr suggests, the stunning news, confirmed by the club on Wednesday morning, leaves one of the league's brightest Super Bowl contenders without one of their most important architects.
Turner issued a statement about his resignation on Wednesday that didn't provide a great deal of insight into why Turner chose this moment to walk away.
"I have tremendous respect for Mike Zimmer, our coaching staff, and our players and at this time I think it is in the best interest of the team to step down," Shurmur said. "I thank the Wilf family for my time here in Minnesota and want to see our players and coaches achieve success."
Current tight ends coach Pat Shurmur will take over as offensive coordinator, according to the team. Shurmur was Vikings quarterback Sam Bradford's offensive coordinator at two different stops in St. Louis and Philadelphia.
Turner, 64, has been in Minnesota for the entire Zimmer era, which saw the Vikings rise to power in the NFC North behind the development of a brutal defense and young quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. With expectations at their highest in 2016, the Vikings have played some of the league's best football save for a stagnant performance against the Chicago Bears on Monday Night Football this past week.
Minnesota is currently 31st in total yards per game (293.3) and 23rd in points per game (19.9).
Speculation will likely run rampant in Winter Park this week. Was it a coincidence after the team's second-worst offensive output of the season? Was it a reflection of the scheme not covering for a deficient offensive line? Was it a nod to Shurmur, who has more experience with Bradford? Was Turner simply tired of the grind?
NFL Network's Mike Garafolo noted Wednesday that a potential resignation has been rumbling for some time. The initial plan was for Turner to say one season in the new stadium, though its ultimately unclear why the decision was made in the middle of arguably the most important year in recent franchise history.
Meanwhile, as ESPN.com's Ben Goessling reminded readers, the issues in pass protection against Philadelphia in Week 7, in a game in which Bradford was sacked six times, came in part through zone blitzes they were unable to block. On Monday night, the Chicago Bears didn't have to work that hard to pressure Bradford.
According to ESPN Stats and Information, the Bears blitzed Bradford on just three of his 42 dropbacks Monday night, but pressured him on 12 of them. They sacked him five times, hit him on nine others and limited him to 116 passing yards on 23 attempts in the first three quarters.
During that time, the Bears built a 20-3 lead.
Bradford began his postgame news conference by saying, "I think I missed some things early that could have changed it for us," and noted the deep throw he left just a little too far in front of Stefon Diggs in the first quarter. But while the quarterback was pressured on just 23 percent of his dropbacks during his first four starts with the Vikings -- all wins -- he's seen pressure on 32.6 percent of his dropbacks during the Vikings' past two losses.
"It's difficult right now," Zimmer said, when asked if he was hopeful the line would play better. "I mean, we haven't proven it yet. So, I don't know if hopeful is the right word right at this second. We've got to get it fixed, though."
Bradford's quick release in his first four games might have contributed to why the Vikings were able to mask some of their protection issues.
On average, he released the ball in 2.3 seconds during those games, posting the fourth-fastest release in the NFL. That figure jumped to 2.52 seconds against the Eagles, and the Bears were able to take away some of Bradford's first reads by keeping players in zone coverage while they got to the quarterback with a standard rush.
Goessling went on to note whether they figure out how to beat the coverages they're seeing or buy more time for Bradford, their pass protection remained an issue Monday night. They'd been able to minimize it during their five-game winning streak to start the season, but against the Bears, the Vikings found themselves in one of pro football's toughest binds: unable to keep a quarterback upright against a four-man rush.
Howe bad is it?
As NFL.com's Chris Wesseling pointed out, the Bears had surrendered a touchdown in 66 consecutive games entering Monday night. Prior to Sam Bradford's late-game, fourth-down desperation heave to Stefon Diggs, that streak was in serious jeopardy at the hands of a dysfunctional, injury-ravaged Vikings offense.
The historically inept ground attack leaves Bradford in predictable passing situations behind a patchwork offensive line that simply can't protect him.
Over the past two weeks, the Eagles and Bears have combined for 26 QB hits, 11 sacks, 12 tackles for loss and 14 passes defensed. At this point, it's fair to wonder if Bradford will survive intact before the Vikings find a fix for overmatched tackles Jake Long and Clemmings.
Now we'll see if a change of coordinator provides a sufficient shakeup to get the offense back on track. ...
Adding to the offensive line woes, left guard Alex Boone left in the second half of Monday's game because of concussion symptoms. He was replaced by Jeremiah Sirles, who started the previous two games at right tackle.
Jerick McKinnon (knee) didn't play Monday, but claimed he felt better on Wednesday and he hopes to play this week.
And finally. ... Zimmer is recovering from surgery to repair a torn retina in one of his eyes.
Wearing sunglasses to limit the outside light at his news conference Wednesday next to the team's practice fields, Zimmer said he'd had vision trouble for a couple of days before scratching his eye during the game Monday in Chicago. He was sent for further examination and a procedure done Tuesday by doctors who warned him he risked blindness if he didn't address the problem.
Zimmer said he's been watching film with his good eye, using reading glasses so he can write down notes.
The Vikings play Sunday at home against Detroit.
QBs: Kirk Cousins, Trevor Siemian
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 2 November 2016
As Profootballtalk.com's Mike Florio reminded readers, with a rookie quarterback dealing with a bad thumb, the Bills shut out the Patriots in Week 4. With a veteran quarterback who happens to be one of the best players in league history back on the field, the Patriots scored a few more points.
The 41-25 victory by the 7-1 Patriots was Tom Brady's fourth game of the year.
Via Elias, he becomes only the third player in NFL history to throw for 12 or more touchdowns and no interceptions in his first four games of the season.
In a campaign devoid of superstars, Brady could be positioning himself for MVP votes despite missing 25 percent of the season. He still has 50 percent of the season left in order to make the case even stronger.
On Sunday, Brady completed 22 of 33 passes for 315 yards and four touchdowns. For the year, he has completed 98 of 134 passes for 1,319 yards, 12 touchdowns, and zero interceptions.
And Brady should have had a fifth touchdown pass against Buffalo, but a wide open James White dropped a pass on the doorstep of the end zone in the middle of the fourth quarter.
Brady is currently on pace for the greatest age-39 season in NFL history, leading Bills coach Rex Ryan to concede at midweek, "I don't know if I've ever seen him better."
His pass protection hasn't been great, but Brady is compensating with excellent pocket movement while spreading the ball around to a half-dozen receivers until an unstoppable Rob Gronkowski inevitably blows the game wide open with a flurry of big plays.
Through four games, Brady is completing 73.1 percent of his passes at 9.84 yards per attempt for a cool 133.9 passer rating -- career-best marks across the board.
Did I mention the unstoppable Gronkowski?
As ESPN.com's Mike Reiss noted, the headline news from Sunday isn't necessarily Brady's big day. It might be the fact that Gronkowski became the Patriots' all-time franchise leader for touchdowns with 69. In just his seventh NFL season, he broke a tie with wide receiver Stanley Morgan (1977-1989) by streaking up the right seam and hauling in a 53-yard scoring pass.
"Good luck covering that," Reiss wrote, "as the Pittsburgh Steelers also learned the week before."
"It's a great accomplishment and he's a dynamic player for us, there's no doubt," Brady said. "He makes great plays in the pass game -- down the field, intermediate, short -- and he's tough to tackle. He's got a great enthusiasm about him. He's just done an amazing job since he's been here. It's a credit to him and his mental toughness; I've always talked about that with him, to overcome the difficulties that he's faced in his career to get to this point."
After breaking the franchise record in his native Western New York on Sunday, Gronkowski added an athletic toe-tap reception for 18 yards along the left sideline in the third quarter, before contributing one of his trademark I'll-carry-the-defense-on-my-back catch-and-run plays for 33 yards in the fourth quarter. On that play, Gronkowski rang up 21 yards after the catch as the football arrived quickly after he turned.
Gronkowski's five-catch, 109-yard performance came in addition to his usual solid blocking work, as he played every snap but two until the outcome was decided late in the fourth quarter.
So as the Patriots enter their bye week at 7-1, in command of the AFC East (Buffalo is next at 4-4) and among the NFL's few elite teams, it provides an opportunity to take a bigger-picture view of things in relation to players like Gronkowski.
The way he's playing -- in terms of being a difference-maker both as a blocker and pass-catcher -- puts him in the discussion among the NFL's best ever in terms of "true" tight ends who aren't glorified wide receivers.
"There are a lot of great players in this league, and there have been a lot of great players. Rob does a good job, he competes hard, makes plays in the passing game, blocks in the running game, and does whatever you ask him to do. A very unselfish player," head coach Bill Belichick said Sunday, when asked if he's ever seen a player like Gronkowski. "He's great to coach."
Gronkowski already ranks third behind only Tony Gonzalez (111) and Antonio Gates (106) for touchdowns among tight ends. Leading the NFL in yards per reception this season, the perennial All Pro is playing better than ever. He's averaging 118.3 yards over the past four weeks -- the most productive month-long stretch of his career.
In fact, since Brady's return in Week 5, which coincided with Gronkowski's return to full health from a hamstring injury, the numbers have been off the charts: 21 catches for 473 yards and three touchdowns. It's no wonder Belichick was also raving about his technical route-running ability last week.
Add in Gronkowski's blocking presence, and the question comes up again: The best ever?
He just might be -- even if the Bills won't admit it.
Buffalo cornerback Corey Graham said Gronkowski uses his body well, but gave Brady the credit for his receiver's success. Bills linebacker Zach Brown wouldn't even give Gronkowski credit for the way he uses his own body.
"I'm more impressed with Martellus Bennett than Gronk," Brown told the Boston Globe. "When Tom Brady wasn't here, you didn't hear [Gronkowski]. But when Tom Brady comes back he knows where to place it, how to place it, and he uses Gronk's size to his advantage. As far as blocking, no, I do not think he's one of the best. Bennett is probably a better blocker."
Other notes of interest heading into the bye. ... Former Buffalo wideout Chris Hogan has been a major upgrade on Brandon LaFell outside the numbers and down the field. He has outplayed nominal No. 1 receiver Julian Edelman, who hasn't been as elusive with the ball in his hands coming off of offseason foot surgery.
Entering the bye week, though, Edelman provided reason to believe he's recapturing early 2015 form with an athletic, tackle-breaking 12-yard touchdown early in the third quarter.
Playing a bit more on offense as the No. 3 option with rookie Malcolm Mitchell (hamstring) inactive, Danny Amendola contributed with a 9-yard touchdown catch and a 73-yard kickoff return to open the second half that was called a "huge play" by Belichick.
LeGarrette Blount is on pace for 18 touchdowns this season. His previous single-season career high was seven, back in 2013.
Sunday could have been the game that helps kicker Stephen Gostkowski snap out of his recent funk as he was 2-of-2 on field goals (51 and 32 yards) and 5-of-5 on extra points in some challenging conditions.
"Steve is one of the best kickers in the league. We have a lot of confidence in him," Belichick said. "When we need a kick, there's nobody I'd rather send out there than Steve."
And finally. ... Belichick made a move on Monday that sent shockwaves through not just his legions of fans but the entire NFL when he traded Pro Bowl fourth-year linebacker Jamie Collins to the Browns in exchange for a conditional third-round pick. Collins is a former second-round pick who is a freakish athlete with the ability to make plays a pass rusher, in coverage and against the run.
At his best, he's one of the handful of top all-around linebackers in the game.
He's set to be a free agent at the end of the season. In the wake of the trade, reports began to swiftly surface that the linebacker was looking for "Von Miller money" and that his contract desires were far out of whack from New England's views.
So, as he's done so many times, Belichick decisively moved on and made what he thinks is the best of the situation.
"I mean, look, we're 7-1 so there's always things we can do better," Belichick told WEEI. "Believe me, I've been a lot more frustrated than what our record is now."
Is the Patriots defense worse off and lacking depth without Collins? No question. Are the Patriots still the team to beat not just in the AFC but maybe in all of football? Again, no question.
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 2 November 2016
As ESPN.com's Mike Triplett noted, the Saints had no patience for Mark Ingram after his fumble Sunday -- because their plan was to have a whole lot of patience against a worn-out Seahawks defense.
The Saints benched Ingram after his early fumble was returned 34 yards for a touchdown by Seattle safety Earl Thomas.
They rallied, though, and barely outlasted Seattle in a much-needed 25-20 victory.
Ingram's backup, Tim Hightower, ran the ball 26 times for 102 yards as the Saints ball-controlled the Seahawks into submission.
In the process, the Saints (3-4) kept hope alive in their up-and-down 2016 season. They now have an excellent chance to reach .500 with a trip to San Francisco on the horizon next week -- and the possible returns of key defensive players Delvin Breaux and Sheldon Rankins.
"The big thing about what we did today was, when things didn't go well early, we stuck to it. We stuck to the game plan," Hightower said. "Man, they gave us some tough looks running the football, but we stuck to it.
"I told the O-line, ‘Keep working for me. I'm gonna keep running hard, they're gonna get tired.' And that fourth quarter, I looked over on that sideline and saw a couple of those guys on their knees and I said, ‘This is exactly where we want 'em.'"
The Saints' plan was clear. One week after Seattle's defense was on the field for 95 snaps in a 6-6 tie with the Arizona Cardinals, the Saints wanted to keep them on the field as much as possible.
New Orleans held the ball for more than 36 minutes and kept Seattle's D on the field for another 72 plays.
They finished with exactly 35 rushing attempts and 35 pass attempts by Drew Brees.
"Where's the stat guy in the room to say the last time that happened?" Brees joked. (It was at Carolina in 2014.) "Hey, 50-50, that's good stuff. ... That was the formula for today. And I'd say against that defense, that was pretty stout."
Head coach Sean Payton stressed the importance of the turnover battle and time of possession after the game, saying Hightower's performance was "tough" and "gutsy" while stressing that Ingram is thick-skinned and will bounce back.
"Those guys do as good a job [ripping the ball loose] as anyone," Payton said of Ingram's fumble. "He wasn't carrying it loose. They were just able to pull it free. So we'll be back to work with him. He knows that. He'll grind through it, we'll go through some ball-security situations, like we do each week, but that'll be that much more important."
Apparently, Ingram's benching was meant to be more temporary than it was, but lasted the whole game, Payton said, because "the way Tim was running, he was getting into a pretty good groove."
Ingram didn't speak to reporters after the game. Hightower said he "absolutely" offered encouragement to Ingram.
"I've been in his shoes, man. I've had some of those rough games. And it hurts," Hightower said. "But when one of us is down, the rest of us have to pick each other up. ... We're gonna need him just like today they needed me."
It's unclear what the pecking order will be in New Orleans' backfield next week. Ingram has had a rough stretch -- he also lost a critical fumble in the fourth quarter at Kansas City last week that stalled the Saints' comeback attempt in a 27-21 loss to the Chiefs.
But this is the first time Ingram has lost two fumbles in a season in his career. And he probably was benched because ball security was such a tremendous priority in this particular game.
Payton also showed patience Sunday by settling for field goals twice inside the 4-yard line as the Saints slowly chipped away at Seattle's early 14-3 lead.
Ultimately, though, the Saints' offense made enough plays to win, with Brees throwing for 265 yards and one touchdown and leaping in for another TD.
And the Saints' defense did more than enough, allowing only 13 points.
Kicker Wil Lutz also was clutch, making all four of his field goal attempts, including a 53-yarder in the second quarter and a 41-yarder with 2:00 remaining to force Seattle to go for a touchdown on its final drive.
Lutz was named NFC Special Teams Player of the Week for his efforts.
Last but not least, the Saints didn't kill themselves with penalties, which they did in last week's loss. The Saints had just two penalties for 10 yards, while Seattle drew 11 flags for 76 yards.
With Brees continuing to operate one of the perennially elite passing games in the NFL, the improved running game and defense have New Orleans making the kind of comprehensive progress they hoped to see heading into the second half of the season.
For the record, I'll be looking for more on the team's plans at halfback via Late-Breaking Update as the week progresses. ...
Meanwhile, as New Orleans Times-Picayune staffer Josh Katzenstein suggested, in today's pass-happy NFL, a wide receiver posting six catches for 63 yards is typically nothing special, but the circumstances made rookie Michael Thomas' performance significantly more impressive.
On his first two catches, one on each of the Saints' first two drives, Thomas created separation against Seattle Seahawks star cornerback Richard Sherman. It quickly became apparent the Saints and Brees could trust him in just about any situation.
Thomas played 61 of 76 snaps (80 percent) against the Seahawks. It was just the second time this season Thomas led the wide receivers in snaps, also doing so in Week 4 in San Diego, and his 63 yards were a team high, marking the second straight week he led the team in receiving yards.
"It's one step at a time, and we've continued to just evolve and grow the game plan for him," Brees said of Thomas. "I know this, though; the guy loves to work, he loves to compete, he loves the game of football and he wants to be a great player.
"I love guys like that, and I couldn't ask for anything more out of a rookie wide receiver."
Behind the rookie, Willie Snead played 56 snaps (74 percent) as the Saints utilized their two most physical receivers against the stingy Seahawks secondary. Brees said the team knew the physicality of the receivers "would be a factor in the game," and the Saints adjusted their game plan specifically to the opponent.
As is the case most weeks, the Saints received contributions from all receivers. Snead had six catches for 56 yards. Cooks added four for 44, including the go-ahead 2-yard touchdown. Coleman had two for 44, including a career-high 38-yarder on a flea flicker.
But, against the tall and rangy Seahawks cornerbacks, the Saints leaned most on the 6-3 rookie, and Thomas caught all six of his targets, rewarding the coaches and Brees for continuing to trust him in key situations.
"What I love about him is just his hunger, and he's hungry to be a great player," Brees said. "He wants you to kind of fill up his plate."
For the season, Brees has completed 214 of 308 passes for 2,366 yards. He is completing 69.5 percent of his attempts with 18 TDs and five interceptions and has a passer rating of 104.7. Thomas has been a big hit with a club-best 42 receptions for 500 yards and three TDs, and Cooks, the deep threat, has 36 catches for 530 yards and five scores. Snead has added 34 grabs for 439 yards and two TDs and tight end Coby Fleener, after a slow start, has 25 receptions for 317 yards and two scores.
QBs: Drew Brees, Tom Savage
RBs: Mark Ingram, Jonathan Williams, Alvin Kamara, Daniel Lasco
WRs: Michael Thomas, Ted Ginn, Brandon Coleman, TommyLee Lewis
TEs: Ben Watson, Josh Hill, Michael Hoomanawanui
New York GiantsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 2 November 2016
According to the Sports Xchange, the New York Giants returned to work following their bye week having jumped into second place in the NFC East despite having not played a down this weekend.
With the Cowboys defeating the Eagles in overtime Sunday night and Washington tying with the Bengals Sunday in London, the Giants (4-3) are currently in second place in the division with a huge divisional matchup coming this weekend against the Eagles, who at 4-3 are behind the Giants in the standings because New York is 1-1 in the division whereas the Eagles are 0-2.
Thus, if ever there was a "must win" game for the Giants, who hope to snap a four-year playoff-less drought, this Sunday's clash with the Eagles is it.
"I feel like the division is like this every year," receiver Victor Cruz said last week.
"I feel like it always comes down to those final two months of the season, almost the final month, almost the final game of the year to decide who's going to win this division. We just got to understand that we need to keep pushing the envelope. Continue to be 1-0 each week and that's what we strive and then we'll take it from there."
That might be asking a lot from a Giants team whose offense struggled to score in its first seven games. Despite their 4-3 mark, New York is being outscored by opponents 141-133, the minus-8 scoring differential standing as the largest in the division.
It remains to be seen what, if any, changes head coach Ben McAdoo and his staff have identified need to be made moving forward. McAdoo was, predictably, mum on any such changes when he met with the media on the team's first day back from the bye.
Clearly, one thing that must change is the Giants' struggles to score a challenge against an Eagles defense that is allowing an average of 16.7 points per game, the fourth lowest average in the NFL.
"It's going to be a test for us," Cruz said of facing the Eagles. "I think coming off a bye week is perfect for us to kind of get all our legs up under us and attack this game head on."
Quarterback Eli Manning believes New York needs to put any thought of the playoffs out of its mind for now and take it one week at a time, starting this week against an opponent that won 13 of the last 16 meetings and the last four in a row.
"It's just a matter of how we play. You can't start dreaming about playoff time right now," Manning said. "We have to have our focus on Philadelphia. We have three home games coming in after the bye. Philadelphia is the next one. That's who are focus is on. Keep finding ways to get wins and it'll all work itself out."
As ESPN.com's Jordan Raanan suggested, it has been an interesting first seven games for McAdoo's head coach tenure, to say the least. His team has been woefully undisciplined at times and consistently out of sync offensively. It's not exactly what anybody anticipated with the former offensive coordinator shifting into the head coach role.
The Giants offense was supposed to be the strength of the team. Instead, it has been the problem. It has made the evaluation of the first seven games of McAdoo's tenure complicated, even if he tried to simplify it.
"You are what your record says you are," McAdoo said. "We're 4-3, so a shade above .500."
They are a shade above .500. But what McAdoo has shown as a head coach is much more difficult to define.
One thing is certain: The locker room has remained loyal to their new coach even as the offense stumbled and they went through a losing streak. This is saying something. McAdoo is a 39-year-old NFL head coach. Players easily could have turned on him when things went sour based on the belief that he's overmatched in his new position.
But McAdoo seems to have the respect of the players, which is something that helped him earn the head coach job in the first place. Players like him. Behind closed doors, he's open and accessible. He's a big believer in having open communication with his players.
That has been evident with his handling of star wide receiver Odell Beckham. McAdoo has consistently spoken with Beckham, who has been under constant fire for his behavior and actions. And McAdoo has been able to keep the respect of his top playmaker.
This has been crucial. If McAdoo lost Beckham – which could have happened – the locker room likely would have gone with him. The explosive wide receiver is very popular and influential among his teammates.
But Raanan contends the offense has slipped badly this season in part because of the offense's predictability.
They've had three wide receivers in the formation on more than 90 percent of the offensive snaps. They've run the ball on six of seven plays to start the second half of games. They run the same two running plays (inside zone and power) over and over.
Opposing defenses haven't had trouble with the Giants offense this season. They seem to know what is coming.
Maybe this has to do with McAdoo's increased responsibilities outside of the offense? As head coach, his job is significantly more wide-reaching. He can no longer concentrate exclusively on one unit.
Whatever the reason, his offense hasn't looked right this season.
The Giants are averaging 19.0 points per game. That's more than a touchdown less than last year, when they had the same offense minus wide receivers Cruz and Sterling Shepard.
The Giants are also the league's worst running team through eight weeks.
Could we see adjustments?
Well, the team's 3.3 yards per carry is fourth-worst in the league and Paul Perkins played a career high 15 snaps in Week 7.
The Giants went into the bye week and said "everything is on the table" when it comes to offensive changes. Jump-starting the running game should be atop the list, and one way to do that is by increasing Perkins' role.
According to Raanan, that seems likely to happen. He's averaging 1.2 more yards per carry than starter Rashad Jennings. Expect Perkins' role to increase in the second half of the season, even if it's not immediately.
One last note here. ... All 53 active Giants were on the practice field Monday. Beckham (hip) appeared to be somewhat limited but was moving well.
QBs: Eli Manning, Davis Webb
RBs: Orleans Darkwa, Jonathan Stewart, Wayne Gallman, Shane Vereen, Paul Perkins
WRs: Sterling Shepard, Roger Lewis, Travis Rudolph, Cody Latimer, Ed Eagan
TEs: Evan Engram, Jerell Adams, Rhett Ellison
New York JetsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 2 November 2016
As Associated Press sports writer Dennis Waszak Jr. notes, there's plenty of blame to go around for the New York Jets' 3-5 start. But Ryan Fitzpatrick points the finger solely at himself.
The veteran quarterback has been bad, benched -- and, lately, bounced back.
Fitzpatrick has helped lead the Jets to two straight wins and he knows it's on him to be a lot better in the last eight games if New York has any chance of making the playoffs.
"I think the biggest thing is that I haven't played well, and I think that's where it starts," Fitzpatrick said during a conference call Monday. "Offensively, if your quarterback's not playing well, then you're not going to play well on offense."
The offense is ranked 22nd overall, up a spot from last week. The running game has gotten in gear, with Matt Forte running for 82 yards in a 24-16 win over Baltimore and Bilal Powell adding 76. The passing game, which was such a force last season, has been mostly grounded, although Quincy Enunwa has emerged as a legitimate playmaker in Eric Decker's absence.
"I think we definitely played below expectations, especially speaking for the offense and myself," Fitzpatrick said. "There's a lot of things that we need to do better if we're going to continue this winning streak and continue to win games, but I think it's been a huge disappointment."
Fitzpatrick went on to say that he's "proud" of his teammates' resolve during the rough start -- which can only help turn things around.
"I think we have the right guys in the locker room to do it," he said. "I think that's what everybody feels. I think the confidence is up. Winning two games in a row, guys remember what it feels like."
Fitzpatrick threw 11 interceptions in the first six games with just five touchdowns. Head coach Todd Bowles sat him last week in favor of Geno Smith, who didn't even last a half because of what turned out to be a season-ending knee injury.
So Bowles turned back to Fitzpatrick, who did just enough -- no turnovers -- in the Jets' 24-16 win over Baltimore. He chided the front office for losing faith in him, and insisted his confidence was still strong.
"He's a quarterback, so any time it goes good or bad, the quarterback is the focal point, but there are a lot of reasons why we haven't played well the first half of the season," Bowles said. "Either it's a guy here or a guy there. It's not necessarily the quarterback at all."
On Sunday, Fitzpatrick shook off an awful first half in which he was 3 of 14 for 30 yards and rebounded with an efficient final two quarters in which New York rallied to a 31-28 victory at winless Cleveland.
Fitzpatrick finished 16 of 34 for 228 yards with a touchdown pass to Enunwa -- and, again, with no turnovers. The final numbers were hardly eye-popping, but they're at least on the right track.
Fitzpatrick won over his teammates and many Jets fans with a franchise-record 31 touchdown passes last season. He re-signed for one year and $12 million just before training camp opened, satisfying many teammates who thought the offense could hum with their QB back under center. Fitzpatrick's early-season struggles, however, helped put the Jets in a 1-5 hole that he is slowly trying to help them dig out of.
"Whether it's fundamentals or thought process, whether it's physical or mental, I just have to continue to work every day and try to be a better player," he said. "I think as I play better, the offense will do the same."
In response to questions about whether he considered benching Fitzpatrick at the half, Bowles said that he didn't and said that his message to the team at halftime didn't involve any big changes to what they were doing on the field.
Bowles told the team not to come back to the locker room without a win, per defensive tackle Steve McLendon, and Bowles told reporters that it was a mental adjustment rather than a tactical one that led to the victory.
"There's no big speech to be made," Bowles said, via NJ.com. "You've got to have a f—ing attitude when you're getting your ass kicked."
The Jets have now won two straight games and travel to Miami this weekend for a game that will likely decide which of the AFC East teams can continue to harbor notions of making a second-half bid for playoff contention. Having that attitude in place from the first play rather than waiting to go down a couple of scores would be a good way for the Jets to keep their winning streak alive. ...
Meanwhile, Matt Forte continued to join some select company Sunday when he rushed for 82 yards and two touchdowns on 25 carries against the Browns.
With his first touchdown of the afternoon, Forte became only the sixth running back in history to collect at least 9,000 rushing yards, 500 receptions and 50 rushing touchdowns. Of Forte's five predecessors, three are in the Hall of Fame (Emmitt Smith, Marshall Faulk and Marcus Allen) and LaDainian Tomlinson is expected to be enshrined when he becomes eligible in 2017.
In addition, Forte surpassed Marshawn Lynch for 36th on the career rushing list with 9,144 yards.
In addition to Forte's two-touchdown outing, Powell took a 35-yard run to the house.
As NFL.com's Matt Franciscovich suggested, "It was good to see both backs producing, even if they didn't do much in the passing game. Forte will be a volume-based RB2 until further notice, while Powell will be a boom-or-bust flex play with added value in PPR."
The Jets plan to sign veteran running back C.J. Spiller, NFL Network reported Tuesday evening.
The Jets will cut Knile Davis to make room for Spiller on the roster, the report said. They just claimed Davis earlier Tuesday, and the Jets waiving him means he'll be back on the waiver wire Wednesday.
After being cut by the Saints in September, Spiller played in two games this season for the Seahawks before being released. A seventh-year pro and former first-round pick, Spiller has 12 career rushing touchdowns and nine career receiving touchdowns. ...
One last note here, Bowles said that tight end Kellen Davis had a sore elbow, but was having X-rays taken after he was injured during one of Forte's touchdown runs. That was the Jets' only significant injury. Fellow tight end Austin Seferian-Jenkins missed his second-straight game with an ankle injury; there is no timetable for his return.
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 2 November 2016
As ESPN.com's Paul Gutierrez noted, the Raiders chose to stay in Florida for 10 days in an attempt to eliminate outside noise and distractions.
How'd that turn out for them?
An NFL-record 23 penalties, for a franchise-record 200 yards and yet, somehow, someway, the Raiders prevailed on Seth Roberts' 41-yard catch and run on fourth-and-3 with 1:45 left in overtime, giving Oakland a 30-24 victory.
The Raiders improved to 6-2 for the first time since 2001 and they are 5-0 on the road to start a season for the first time since 1977.
"For us, it's all about finding a way to win; whatever it takes," said head coach Jack Del Rio. "We want to come out of here with a smile on our face.
"I thought our guys kept a really positive spirit on how we were going to respond to things, how we were going to continue to play and how we were going to continue to expect good things. ... We believe that we're going to find a way somehow."
Derek Carr passing for a franchise-record 513 yards with four touchdowns while completing 40 of 59 passes without an interception had something to do with that as well.
Amazingly, the Raiders did not have one of the 19 previous 500-yard games in AFL or NFL history. The previous single-game record of 427 was set by Cotton Davidson in 1964.
Carr became the third player in NFL history to have 500 passing yards, four touchdown passes and no interceptions in a game, joining Y.A. Tittle for the Giants against the Redskins in 1962 and Ben Roethlisberger for the Steelers against the Colts in 2014.
He was 6-of-12 for 203 yards and a touchdown on passes traveling at least 15 yards downfield. The six completions match a career high.
The Raiders had 270 yards after the catch, their most in a game in the last 10 seasons. Roberts had 29 on the final play of the game.
Through eight games, Carr is on pace for 34 touchdowns, six interceptions and 18 sacks. No quarterback has thrown that many touchdown passes and had that few interceptions and sacks in a single season.
Carr was named AFC Offensive Player of the Week for the performance.
The Raiders outgained the Buccaneers 626-270. So how and why did this game need OT?
It was the mistakes and penalties, of course.
On the second play on offense, Michael Crabtree was called for taunting, a 15-yard personal foul, after a 1-yard catch. It put Crabtree in danger of ejection since another personal foul, like the ones he has been flagged for on his touchdown celebrations, would have ended his day.
Then there was Sebastian Janikowski missing from 50 yards at the end of regulation and from 52 yards in overtime, after a bad personal foul on Cooper for throwing a punch after a big catch.
The Raiders' previous franchise record for penalties in a game had been 20 (at the Denver Broncos on Dec. 15, 1996), and the most penalty yards they had ever had was 186 (at the San Diego Chargers on Nov. 15, 1987).
With 86 penalties through eight games, Oakland is on pace to break the record of 163 penalties in a season the franchise set just five years ago. Of those, 29 of the infractions have come on pre-snap penalties.
"I coach discipline," Del Rio said. "We're a discipline team. Because I know that and I know we coach it and stress it and I know our guys buy into it I'm not going to overreact to circumstances that are occurring that might indicate otherwise because I know the truth. I know what it really is. We are a disciplined team. It may take a while for others to recognize that."
Del Rio's previous teams in Jacksonville did manage to avoid infractions. The Jaguars were tied for the 22nd most penalties during his tenure there from 2003-11. But in his two seasons with the Raiders, Oakland has the most penalties in the NFL.
That has long been a problem for the Raiders, who have had an outlaw image since the 1970s and are often at or near the top of the charts when it comes to penalties in the NFL.
But it hasn't stopped Oakland from getting off to its best start since 2001 as the Raiders look to end a 13-year playoff drought.
Other notes of interest. ... Cooper finished with career highs with 12 reception for 173 yards after catching the first nine passes thrown in his direction for 142 yards and a touchdown.
According to NFL.com's Matt Harmon, the Raiders receivers are becoming easier to project in terms of individual matchups. In a trend that's been developing all season, Cooper nabbed 71 percent of his receiving yards when lined up at left wide receiver. Cooper has racked up 53 percent of his yards, and 50 percent of both his targets and receptions from that position this season.
In a matchup with a team that has a weaker right cornerback, Cooper has a strong chance to go off.
Del Rio promised to get the tight ends more involved during Twitter interaction with fans, and it came true when Mychal Rivera caught three passes for 36 yards, including a sliding touchdown catch that tied the game with 1:38 to play.
Rivera, a prominent complementary piece his first three seasons, started the season on the inactive list but has lately received more time as Clive Walford has been banged up and not produced as hoped.
As the Sports Xchange suggests, Oakland's is a complementary running game in every sense, but effective. The Raiders do just enough damage on the ground to enhance Carr and the passing game. The Raiders are eighth in rushing offense at 116.5 points per game, with a three-headed backfield of Latavius Murray (279 yards), DeAndre Washington (267) and Jalen Richard (217).
Murray, the most powerful of the trio, has five rushing touchdowns despite missing two games.
Fullback Jamize Olawale got loose for a 68-yard pass reception against Tampa Bay, the Raiders longest pass play of the season.
Left tackle Donald Penn, lined up at tight end for a goal line play, wasn't above gloating about his 1-yard touchdown reception from Carr.
The Bucs released Penn before he was signed by the Raiders after they failed to sign incumbent left tackle Jared Veldheer before the 2014 season.
"I had to let them know I was back," Penn said.
Penn now has six career catches for 26 yards, including one earlier touchdown grab with the Raiders and three others with the Bucs.
"He's been bugging us since I got here," Del Rio said. "He was telling me what a great athlete he is, what kind of hands he has, how he played basketball growing up, all those things. The play didn't look great in practice all week, but we executed it a lot better against them than we did against our scout team."
QBs: Derek Carr, E.J. Manuel, Connor Cook
RBs: DeAndre Washington, Jalen Richard, Marshawn Lynch, Doug Martin
WRs: Jordy Nelson, Martavis Bryant, Amari Cooper, Seth Roberts, Ryan Switzer, Johnny Holton
TEs: Jared Cook, Lee Smith
Philadelphia EaglesCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 2 November 2016
As ESPN.com's Tim McManus noted, conservative coaching, poor execution and another fourth-quarter fumble cost the Eagles a chance to be in first place.
After wasting a 10-point lead in a 29-23 overtime loss at Dallas, the Eagles (4-3) fell two games behind the Cowboys (6-1) with another division game on the road coming up against the rested Giants (4-3). It'll be Philadelphia's third straight game playing a team coming off a bye week.
For the third time in four games, a running back fumbled in the final quarter. The Eagles were up 23-13 and had a first down at their 41 a couple minutes into the fourth when rookie Wendell Smallwood fumbled on his only carry of the game. The Cowboys got a field goal out of the ensuing drive.
Head coach Doug Pederson blamed the miscue on the offensive line.
Against Detroit on Oct. 9, Ryan Mathews fumbled in the final minutes when the Eagles were running out the clock and the Lions drove for a winning field goal. Mathews fumbled again in the fourth quarter in a win against Minnesota last week.
He carried only four times against the Cowboys.
Asked on Monday whether Sproles will be the Eagles' featured back moving forward, Pederson sure sounded like he was leaning that way. Or at least seriously considering it.
"I can't say that 100 percent," he said. "It's something we'll evaluate in these next couple of days and make that determination.
"But until then, it's still Mathews and then Darren in those situations. And then we've got to get Wendell [Smallwood] and Kenjon [Barner] going a little bit, too."
Asked again on Wednesday, Pederson said Mathews is "still the guy. We've got to get him going."
Mathews, a two-time 1,000-yard rusher and a Pro Bowler in 2011, leads the Eagles with 71 carries and 272 rushing yards.
As Sproles ran for 86 yards on 15 carries -- his most carries since 2009 and his most rushing yards since 2011.
Sproles is now averaging 5.0 yards per carry and also has 22 catches for 227 yards.
Mathews has four rushing touchdowns this year but is averaging just 3.8 yards per carry and is the only NFL running back with two fourth-quarter fumbles this year.
Pederson said his decision to elevate Sproles over Mathews was not related to Mathews' fumbles.
"It wasn't a reaction," he said. "I just think that Darren had the hot hand [Sunday]. Darren was playing outstanding, and he was doing some great things out there. So, just wanted to keep Darren in the game."
Sproles is on pace for 105 carries, which would be a career high in his 10th NFL season. In addition, no running back in NFL history has ever reached 100 carries for the first time at 33 or older.
With nine games to go, Sproles' 81 touches are already the fifth most in Eagles history by a player 33 or older, and his 455 yards from scrimmage are third most.
Sproles is on pace for 1,040 yards from scrimmage this year. Only nine backs 33 or older have been over 1,000.
Pederson said he's not concerned with overusing Sproles, who has had double-digit carries in only 10 of his 169 career games.
"I definitely think he's capable," Pederson said. "I think you don't want to give him any more than what he got [Sunday], with his role on special teams and all that, too.
"If you know Darren like I know Darren, the way he works during the week and the way he prepares himself and prepares his body and mind, he's definitely capable of handling that type of load."
Smallwood is averaging 3.8 yards on 29 carries but fumbled on his only carry Sunday night. Barner is averaging 5.3 yards per carry on 19 attempts but has only five carries since the bye.
The Eagles and Panthers are the only teams with four backs that have at least 19 carries.
Meanwhile, Pederson said Monday that he is disappointed by receiver Nelson Agholor's dismissive comments about his drop in Sunday's night's loss.
Eagles receivers tied a season high with four drops in the loss, and Agholor's drop was costly. He failed to hold on to a third-down Wentz pass early in the contest that would have given the Eagles a first-and-goal. Instead, they had to settle for a Caleb Sturgis field goal.
"I don't give a damn, man, that [stuff] is nothing," Agholor said when asked about the drops and whether plays were left on the field.
"No one is perfect. I don't look at no drops, or that type of [stuff]. I'm tired of hearing that [stuff]. It's just stupid."
Pederson addressed those comments at his day-after news conference.
"We're disappointed, I'm disappointed in the type of comments," Pederson said. "I think each individual has to be responsible for their own job, obviously. We've got to make good, smart choices. Everybody is mad and disappointed and angry after tough losses like we just came through, and cooler heads prevail. We just have to bite our lip sometimes and just suck it up and get to work. And that's what we've got to do this week."
Agholor finished the game with three catches for 25 yards. He has 216 receiving yards on the season, which ranks 111th in the NFL. It's been an underwhelming start to the 2016 season for the former first-round pick out of USC.
The same can be said for the wide receiver group as a whole. Jordan Matthews ranks 36th in receiving through eight weeks (36 catches, 419 yards), but no other Eagles player is in the top 100.
Still, the team failed to make a move at the position before Tuesday's trade deadline.
The Eagles lack any real difference-making outside receivers, and Wentz has yet to establish any real chemistry with tight end Zach Ertz, who probably is his best pass-catching weapon, but has just nine catches in the last four games.
Wentz continued to be pretty reliable, completing 32-of-43 passes for a somewhat underwhelming 202 yards and a touchdown. He was sacked three times for a loss of eight yards, but he managed to hold on to the football on a late-game tackle from behind that would have likely resulted in Dallas taking a late lead in regulation.
The offensive strategy limited Wentz by relying far too often on bubble screens and horizontal play development that was doomed to work far more often than not.
One last note here. ... Receiver/kick returner Josh Huff was arrested on Tuesday morning.
Officers found him driving under the influence, and in possession of marijuana, a gun and "devices for hollow point bullets," according to Kyle D. Anderson, spokesman for the Delaware River Port Authority.
Huff, in his third season with the Eagles, has been a key special teams player this season, returning a kick 98 yards for a touchdown against the Vikings and returning one 53 yards against the Cowboys.
Huff was also cited for DUI and for having overly tinted windows in addition to the speeding and received a summons for having less than 50 grams on marijuana. Eagles coach Doug Pederson spoke to the media for the first time since the arrest on Wednesday.
"Obviously disappointed," Pederson said in response to the arrest, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer. "Not what you want to see on a player's day off."
Unless new information causes Pederson to change his mind, Huff's arrest won't lead to another day off this Sunday.
Pederson said that he expects Huff will play against the Giants.
QBs: Nick Foles
RBs: Jay Ajayi, Corey Clement, Kenjon Barner, Wendell Smallwood
WRs: Mike Wallace, Alshon Jeffery, Markus Wheaton, Nelson Agholor, Mack Hollins, Shelton Gibson
TEs: Zach Ertz, Richard Rodgers
Pittsburgh SteelersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 2 November 2016
Ben Roethlisberger has a chance to play Sunday against the Ravens, even as a backup quarterback.
Head coach Mike Tomlin was asked Tuesday whether Roethlisberger -- who underwent torn left meniscus surgery Oct. 17 -- could dress but not start in Week 9.
"All the cards are on the table," said Tomlin about Roethlisberger and all his injured players.
In Week 10 last season against the Browns, Roethlisberger was the backup to Landry Jones while nursing a foot injury but threw for 379 yards in relief to guide a 30-9 Steelers win.
Jones might make his second consecutive start after throwing for 281 yards in Week 7 against the New England Patriots. The Steelers and Ravens are both coming off bye weeks.
Roethlisberger, who had surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his left knee two weeks ago, did not speak to reporters after practicing Monday, but his rehabilitation appears to be going well. Roethlisberger threw passes to receivers during the two off-week practices and progressed to the point Monday where he did some work with the first-team offense and the scout team.
Roethlisberger worked on a limited basis again on Wednesday.
Big Ben "looked really good" when he took some first-team reps in Monday's practice, Gilbert said.
"Whenever you have a leader like that, coming off surgery, to come out there and show the team you're willing to do what it takes to play with your brothers, you can really respect that," Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey said. "Everyone knows and can see why he's a leader on this team."
"I thought it was generally positive," said Tomlin about Roethlisberger's practice work Monday. "We hadn't spent a lot of time analyzing it. It's just been giving him the work and him taking the work and he's done a really good job with it."
Ravens coach John Harbaugh said Monday that his team expects Roethlisberger to play Sunday.
"We'll prepare as if he's going to play," Harbaugh said Monday. "We'll operate under that assumption."
Since Roethlisberger entered the league in 2004, the Ravens are 6-1 against the Steelers in the regular season when Roethlisberger doesn't play and 8-9 when he does.
The Steelers are looking to get several key players back, including right tackle Marcus Gilbert (foot, ankle), defensive end Cameron Heyward (hamstring), running back DeAngelo Williams (knee) and safety Shamarko Thomas (groin). Those players have a chance for Sunday, depending on their "reaction" to work in practice and the "quality" of that work.
In addition, tight end Ladarius Green is on the clock for a return in the second half of the season, and likes what he sees so far.
Green is still on the physically unable to perform list but started practicing Oct. 25. The Steelers have a 21-day window from that date to activate Green, who signed a four-year, $20 million deal in the offseason.
Though it's uncertain when Green will be physically ready coming off his ankle injury, Tomlin has noticed Green's preparation.
"It has been a pleasant surprise he's displayed some detail in his work," Tomlin said. "I think we're going to analyze it week to week, with this week being included in that as well."
As ESPN.com's Jeremy Fowler warned readers, don't be surprised if Green stays out of the lineup for this weekend's game against the Baltimore Ravens, with Jesse James and Xavier Grimble remaining the Steelers' top two tight ends. But Green's practice work is a positive sign.
The team had no choice but to move Markus Wheaton to second string after he's missed four games with a shoulder injury and has struggled to find a rhythm in the three games he has played. Plus, Heyward-Bey has been a valuable reserve receiver and special-teamer; he nearly caught two touchdown passes in Week 7 against the New England Patriots.
Sammie Coates will eventually regain a prominent role once his broken finger heals, but he's been listed as a No. 2 all season.
Coates was limited to five routes and Eli Rogers didn't play against New England.
Coates' case is injury-related. That fractured left index finger clearly has affected him the past two weeks. But his downturn in targets is still curious. Jones simply seemed to have more chemistry with Heyward-Bey and Cobi Hamilton, despite Coates' big-play ability. Rogers was in the doghouse for the Patriots game. He was not injured.
Offensive coordinator Todd Haley said Rogers "has to show he's accountable and that we can trust him."
Rogers will return to the game plan as a No. 3 receiving option vs. Baltimore in Week 9.
Williams was limited in Wednesday's practice.
I'll have more on Roethlisberger and the other injured Steelers -- as well as on the receiving rotation -- in the Late-Breaking Updates section as the week progresses. ...
Worth noting. ... The Steelers were top five in the NFL last season in total yards, passing yards and scoring. After seven games this season, they were 10th in yards (372 per game), ninth in passing yards (267), and tied for 11th in scoring (24.3 points per game).
Injuries have played a major factor in the offense's consistency, but offensive coordinator Todd Haley said that can't be an excuse. He said the players who are playing have to perform better.
"It's pretty obvious we need to be more consistent game in and game out," Haley said. "We've shown we're capable of putting up a lot of points when we execute run and pass. In the games we haven't, we haven't executed the finer details of the game plan. We just need to have more consistency across the board. If we do that, we'll make good things happen."
Haley is particularly perturbed with his team's inconsistent scoring. Pittsburgh has been held to 16 points or fewer three times in the first seven games while scoring 31 or more on three other occasions.
"We have to score more points," Haley said. "We've done it in games. When we score points the way we're supposed to, and the way we should in my opinion, we've come out on top. That's the name of the game. We have to do the little things, execute across the board. When we do that we're good enough to score enough points most of the time."
They are averaging just 104 yards on the ground. This is one area where the Steelers have to improve upon greatly in the second half of the season. An improved running game will take some pressure off the passing game, which is a must with so many of the skill players dealing with injuries.
QBs: Ben Roethlisberger, Landry Jones, Josh Dobbs
RBs: Le'Veon Bell, Terrell Watson, Stevan Ridley
WRs: 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 2 November 2016
As ESPN.com's Eric D. Williams noted, down 27-19 with just under three minutes remaining in the game, the San Diego Chargers had a prime opportunity to tie the score.
Melvin Gordon had helped the Chargers get into a first-and-goal with three plays totaling 50 yards on the drive.
Yet the Chargers went shotgun four straight times and failed to score or get the football into the hands of Gordon on any of those plays near the goal line.
Head coach Mike McCoy was stoic when asked why he did not get the ball into the hands of his workhorse running back, who finished the game with 155 yards from scrimmage, at least one time from the 2-yard line in that situation.
"We called the plays we did," McCoy said. "We didn't finish them and we didn't score. It didn't work."
Asked again Monday about the play calls at the goal line, McCoy confirmed that he has veto power over offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt, but offered similar comments that he provided to reporters after the game Sunday.
"Regardless of what we called, I wished we scored," McCoy said. "Whether it's run or pass, you're calling things that you think are going to work and score for you. It didn't work, so we can look at it today and say we should have called this, or we should have called that. We didn't score."
Quarterback Philip Rivers, of course, was a little more talkative in explaining why the Chargers did not run the football near the goal line.
Rivers said he did not change the calls that came in from the sideline from Whisenhunt during that four-play sequence.
"After the fact you kind of go, 'Shoot, maybe we should have ran once or twice down there [in Bronco's territory],'" River said. "But when you're going and you're in the heat of it, you feel like you have a chance to throw it and score with what we called.
"That third down miss to Antonio Gates is what I'm really sick about. They brought up the same coverage four straight plays and are going to have an unblocked defender every time. I was trying to lay that corner out to Gates like I've done a lot of times over the last 10 years, and just missed him. If we hit that there we would have had a chance at a two-point conversion to tie it up."
But as Williams stressed, none of these plays take place in a vacuum. In a similar situation near the goal line two weeks earlier against the Broncos, the Chargers lined up in a heavy run formation and handed the ball to Gordon, who was promptly stopped for a 1-yard loss. The Chargers had to settle for a Josh Lambo field goal.
For some added context, according to ESPN Stats and Information, Gordon has six rushes this season from the opponent's 1- or 2-yard line, second-most in the NFL behind LeGarrette Blount (8). Gordon scored a touchdown on five of those rushes, which is the most in the league.
Overall, the Chargers have run 13 plays from the opponent's 1- or 2-yard line this year, scoring a touchdown on seven of those plays (54 percent), 17th in the NFL.
That means that the Chargers have scored from the 1- or 2-yard line on 2-of-7 plays that weren't a Gordon rush (29 percent), including 0-of-4 on Sunday against the Broncos.
Per ESPN Stats and Information, Denver opponents have now had 10 plays at the Broncos' 1- or 2-yard line this season, scoring a touchdown on two of those plays (20 percent), the lowest percentage in the league.
Gordon was diplomatic when asked about the goal line situation.
"I'm OK with whatever they call," Gordon said. "If we score a touchdown there then no one is talking to me right now. It is what it is. Those were the calls that were made and we've got to live with it."
"Everyone wants the ball (in that situation). That's our job, to put points on the board. So of course I want the ball, but they trust those other guys as well."
Bottom line is the Chargers should have figured out a way to get Gordon the ball in space on a run or a pass during one of the plays in that four-play sequence.
He's the team's best playmaker on offense and has a nose for the end zone, evidenced by the Wisconsin product's 10 total touchdowns this year.
Scheming for mismatches and dealing with the unpredictability of Denver's defense is one thing, but sometimes you just have to keep things simple, give the most talented playmaker the football and hope he makes a play.
Now the team is in a pickle. They were hoping to remain in the AFC West title conversation by sweeping the Broncos for the first time since 2010. At the least, a win would keep them within striking range on the AFC's second wild-card spot.
Instead the Chargers end the first half of the season like they started it: dropping another road game to an AFC West foe. ...
Other notes of interest. ... Gordon ran for 111 yards on Sunday. He was the first back to reach the 100-yard standard against the Broncos in 22 straight games.
Rivers has been spot-on for most of the first half of the season, although, as the Sports Xchange notes, he did have a hiccup in Sunday's loss with a career-high tying three interceptions.
Some weren't all his fault and Rivers is working with a unit that is missing two key targets in wide receiver Keenan Allen and running back Danny Woodhead both gone with knee injuries. Hunter Henry, at tight end, has been a rookie coach-pleaser. Gates doesn't have many receptions (21) but he has three scores. Tyrell Williams leads the team with yards per catch (16.6) and Travis Benjamin in receptions (38).
Pass-blocking has been leaky as the season progress; Rivers sacked 21 times.
Williams (knee) was clearly in distress after Sunday's game. His status is worth watching this week. Benjamin, who has been battling a PCL sprain for weeks, got a second opinion this week and was told no surgery is necessary. He'll be given rest and will rehab the injury. Neither Benjamin nor Williams were practicing Wednesday -- the same as last week.
Henry left Sunday's game after taking a blow to the knee. He did return and while he wasn't practicing Wednesday, San Diego Union-Tribune staffer Michael Gehlken believes it was more a day of rest for the youngster.
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 2 November 2016
In his seven-plus seasons in charge at the college and NFL level, head coach Chip Kelly has never overseen a team on a six-game losing streak -- until now.
It's a feeling for Kelly that's as unfamiliar as it is uncomfortable. But in his job as the leader of the team, Kelly isn't a believer in public displays of emotion or the type of yelling and screaming that might help alleviate some stress but does nothing to help fix the problems that created it.
So when Kelly stands before his team and the media after another loss -- his team hasn't won since Week 1 -- he prefers to keep it even-keeled.
"No, I think anger, it doesn't help you," Kelly said. "What you've got to do is you've got to find the solution. I think if you continue to try to just get mad and get angry and all those other things, it's not going to help you. What you need to do is you need to find a solution to identify what exactly the specific thing that's gone wrong and how do we fix that. That's what we're trying to do right now."
Instead of wallowing in the misery that has accompanied his first season in San Francisco, Kelly prefers to spend his time attempting to fix it. In sticking with his usual bye week mode, Kelly allowed the team to depart for the entire bye week after coming in Monday to review film from the game. According to ESPN.com's Nick Wagoner, Kelly and his staff stayed in their offices at the team facility going through what most teams do at this team of year: self-scouting.
Kelly and the coaches did that through Friday before taking a little bit of a break. Players and coaches re-convened on Tuesday and Kelly hopes they will be well-rested and ready to bounce back before the Nov. 6 game against New Orleans.
The more sobering reality for the Niners is that a week off isn't nearly enough to fix the many problems that ail them. San Francisco ranks last or second-to-last in the league in points allowed, rushing defense, point differential, time of possession, opponent time of possession, yards per game, yards per play, passing yards per game, average drive distance and three-and-out percentage.
Asked if he believes the Niners have enough talent on the team to compete every week, Kelly said he does, though he isn't a believer in playing a game of what if.
"We're a 1-6 team," Kelly said. "You are what you are. You are what you're record says you are. We're 1-6 right now."
So if the talent is in place, why have the results not backed it up? Kelly pointed the finger at himself and his coaches for the letdown.
"That's on us," Kelly said. "Our job is to put our players in position to make plays and we're not doing a good enough job of that right now."
Meanwhile, barring a setback, the 49ers expect to get starting running back Carlos Hyde back from a shoulder injury in time for Sunday's game against New Orleans.
When Hyde first suffered the injury, the 49ers promoted DuJuan Harris to the active roster from the practice squad. Harris not only was moved up, but actually was the team's second running back and its most used in the loss against Tampa Bay. He finished that game with 11 carries for 39 yards and two catches for 18 yards.
That's modest production, to be sure, but it also offered a glimpse into San Francisco's lack of depth behind Hyde.
Though Mike Davis started and Shaun Draughn proved effective in the pass game, it was Harris who got the most opportunities on the ground. Combined with Harris' work on special teams, it might have been enough to keep Harris on the active roster and involved in the game-day plan even after Hyde returns.
"Yeah, he did a really good job," Kelly said. "There's probably about two runs he wants back, but I think overall for his first extended playing time, I think everybody on the offensive side of the staff as we met today and talked about it were impressed with him. I also think (special teams coordinator) Derius (Swinton) felt good with him on special teams, so I think he's playing himself into a role in our offense."
The extent of that role remains to be seen, but any skill position player capable of providing a spark for the 49ers' offense would be a welcome addition.
In 2015, Harris was more effective and productive than Davis and Draughn after Hyde suffered a season-ending foot injury. He finished with 27 carries for 140 yards and nine catches for 97 yards in limited work then.
During the 2016 preseason, Harris again flashed some of that potential, but struggled with ball security. That left him on the fringe of the roster and Harris has seen his name appear almost weekly on the transaction wire between releases, promotions to the active roster and being re-signed to the practice squad.
Now, it seems Harris is positioned to finally find some stability as he gets more opportunities.
Worth noting. ... Hyde was involved the team's first practice last Friday. Although he was wearing a blue no-contact jersey, Hyde participated in the portion of practice open to media.
Earlier, offensive coordinator Curtis Modkins said he was unsure if Hyde would be available against the Saints.
"I'm not sure where Carlos is," Modkins said. "We'll see how it goes today and see how he progresses, but the good thing is that's not a decision that has to be made right now. So, we'll see where he's at."
The fact that Hyde participated Tuesday and Wednesday sessions in some capacity to start this week is a positive sign.
I'll be following up via Late-Breaking Update in coming days. ...
Other notes of interest. ... According to Wagoner, Torrey Smith said he was aware "there were negotiations going on" when it came to a potential trade during the bye week.
He even spent time in Philadelphia, where his in-laws live, which further fueled speculation. In the end, the Niners did not trade Smith, who said this is the first time in his career his name has come up in such talks. "There's a first time for everything but I'm still right here."
Was his production simply a product of Gabbert, or can we expect a rebound?
According to Wagoner, the hope is that Kerley will start producing again because he's a slot receiver in Kelly's offense. But the two-game sample size certainly seems to indicate Kerley's success was more tied to Gabbert than his position. For so long as Kaepernick remains the starting quarterback -- and it's going to be at least one more week -- it's hard to trust Kerley until he and Kaepernick prove to have the same type of success that he had with Gabbert.
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 2 November 2016
To little surprise, Pete Carroll is giving the Seattle Seahawks an extra day of rest this week with a Monday night game coming up.
Seattle's defense has certainly earned the bonus day off. The same can't be said of the Seahawks' offense.
Over the past two weeks, Seattle's been pushed to the limits defensively. After being on the field for 95 plays and more than 46 minutes a week ago against Arizona, the Seahawks defense was on the field for another 76 plays and more than 36 minutes in Sunday's 25-20 loss to New Orleans.
While the opponents are doing their part in exhausting Seattle's defense, one of the major culprits is a struggling Seahawks offense that has one offensive touchdown in the past nine quarters.
In the wake of the loss in New Orleans, Seattle is 23rd in total offense at 339.9 yards per game, 29th in points per game at 18.7 (behind even the New York Jets and Cleveland Browns), 28th in rushing at 81.4 and 31st in yards per carry at 3.2.
And scoring just one offensive touchdown against the Saints meant the Seahawks have scored just one TD in their past nine quarters and their past 23 possessions overall, and have now been held to just one offensive touchdown or less in four of seven games this season.
"We need to get out of what we've been in the past two weeks," Carroll said bluntly during his regular Monday news conference. "This is not the way we want to play football. We need to fix this."
Carroll, though, said he's optimistic that as quarterback Russell Wilson continues to heal, so too will the Seattle offense return to normal.
While Wilson has spent the first seven games of the season dealing with knee, ankle and pectoral injuries, Carroll said he made it through the New Orleans game "without getting nicked at all in any of his multiple areas that we're concerned about. ... He's getting better. I'm really fired up about that and we're going to keep progressing as he is able and do what we can to get back to the kind of mix that we like."
Specifically, Carroll noted Wilson played against the Saints without a brace on his ankle and made it through just fine, meaning he could be even more mobile when the Seahawks host the Bills on Monday. Wilson had also been bothered last week by a sore pectoral muscle that limited his throwing in practice, and which Carroll said contributed to Wilson not throwing deep often against the Saints.
But Carroll said that injury should not linger into this week.
"I'm fired up to see him come back this week and get back after it," Carroll said.
Carroll admitted Monday something that has seemed obvious -- that the team has been intentionally curtailing Wilson's running while he has dealt with injuries.
"We have not allowed Russell to take off and run very much," Carroll said. "He's been very effective for us over the years, so we've had to take care of him and that's just part of the way it is this season."
As Seattle Times staffer Bob Condotta noted, that Wilson has just 44 yards rushing this season after averaging 35 per game for his career is generally considered the biggest reason the running attack has suffered. And that inability to run is generally viewed as the biggest reason the offense is struggling.
Sunday, the Seahawks ran for just 3 yards on three attempts in the first half, when they had 19 plays overall, ultimately finishing with 74 on 17. Seattle's highest rushing total this season is 127 against a 49ers team that is last in the NFL in run defense -- 14 yards below last year's per-game average of 141.
Also contributing is that Thomas Rawls has played just six quarters after suffering a hairline fracture of his fibula against the Rams on Sept. 18 (he's out at least one more week but could return Nov. 13 at New England).
It's led to a Seattle team that from 2012 to 2014 had more rushing attempts than passes, and last year threw it 53 percent of the time, suddenly having thrown 252 passes to just 176 runs.
Carroll insists there has been no shift in philosophy. Instead, he said the way the games have gone -- with the Seahawks playing from behind at times and also going against defenses keyed on stopping the run -- has made it hard to run as much as past seasons.
"We're not stopping with anything that we believe in because we know the formula we want to play with," he said. "We just haven't really settled into it yet."
The ineffectiveness of the running game has also greatly diminished the threat of Seattle's play-action passing attack, from which it has so often gotten so many of its biggest gains.
The Seahawks last year averaged almost 8.5 of what it defines as explosive plays per game -- passes of 16 or more yards and runs of 12 or more yards. Sunday, Seattle had just five, one on a trick play double pass.
Whether Wilson getting healthier will fix all that ails the Seahawks remains to be seen. The offensive line also remains a work in progress, one that is probably not going to get reinforcements when the NFL trade deadline arrives Tuesday as all indications are that Seattle is preparing to stand pat.
Carroll, though, insists the Seahawks offense will soon take off.
"I know it's coming," he said. "So I'm pretty optimistic about it. We just need to keep slugging it out here as we find a way. We're getting close."
Worth noting. ... Rawls had his first full workout on Monday after missing the last six weeks with a hairline fracture in his fibula. Carroll said it went well but Rawls will have to get in better shape first after missing so much time and will not play this week against Buffalo.
Meanwhile, ESPN.com's Sheil Kapadia notes that Christine Michael only played five more snaps than C.J. Prosise Sunday (28 to 23). Michael carried 10 times for 40 yards and had one catch for 2 yards. Prosise carried four times for 23 yards and caught four balls for 80 yards.
Carroll was asked about Prosise Monday and said the team is only "scratching the surface" with how it plans to use the rookie, who is now healthy.
Tight end Luke Willson has a chance to get back this week after having knee surgery two weeks ago.
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 2 November 2016
The Buccaneers only get three days to prepare for the first-place Falcons, so there isn't much time to dwell on the team's latest setback.
Still, head coach Dirk Koetter had to talk Monday about an overtime loss to the Oakland Raiders a day earlier, even if he and his players are in a hurry to move on.
Especially with the Falcons (5-3) coming to town Thursday night.
"We can say we played terrible, we can say we played OK, we can say we played good," Koetter said. "The bottom line is we had chances to win the game and we didn't."
The Bucs sputtered offensively after a strong opening quarter against the Raiders. The defense wilted late, with Oakland dominating time of possession and outgaining Tampa Bay 438 yards to 106 after halftime.
Neither unit capitalized on mistakes by the Raiders, who committed the game's only turnover and overcame an NFL-record 23 accepted penalties for 200 yards.
"There's a lot of examples of things we did wrong in that game," Koetter said.
There's no time for decompressing this week, though. Preparation for the Falcons began Monday, beginning a condensed practice schedule ahead of Thursday.
"The main hurdle by far is the players' bodies recovering and getting ready to play. ... We've got a laundry list of guys with bumps and bruises," Koetter said.
There were three newcomers to the injury report Monday, with running Jacquizz Rodgers (foot), wide receiver Russell Shepard (hip) and defensive end William Gholston (biceps) joining a couple of holdovers who did not play against Oakland -- running back Doug Martin and defensive tackle Clinton McDonald, both out with sore hamstrings.
The Bucs conducted a walk-through on Tuesday and didn't practice. Neither Rodgers nor Shepard practiced. Rodgers underwent an MRI, which revealed no fractures, a source told ESPN.com's Jenna Laine.
Shepard is listed as doubtful; Rodgers has been officially ruled out along with Martin.
Rodgers rushed for 69 yards on 19 carries and scored a 1-yard touchdown to give the Buccaneers the lead with 3:53 remaining in the fourth quarter. His last carry was a 4-yard run up the middle with 1:38 remaining.
"We missed Quizz," quarterback Jameis Winston said after the game. "I didn't even know he was injured until about the third series and I said, 'Where's Quizz?' But man, that's a tough one. We've got to bounce back."
In three starts this season, Rodgers has rushed for 393 yards on 88 carries, averaging 4.5 yards per carry. His 223 rushing yards the past two weeks are third-most of any running back in the NFL.
The Bucs' running back corps has been decimated by injuries. Martin has been out since injuring his hamstring in Week 2, and Charles Sims was placed on injured reserve after injuring a knee.
Koetter alluded to using a committee approach at running back. "When you have three guys who have been here short-term, other than Peyton Barber, your roles aren't very clearly defined right now. We'll try to patch it together one week at a time until we get some reinforcements back."
Antone Smith is among the available options.
As NFL.com's Matt Franciscovich suggested, Smith looks to be the pickup off waivers. He saw three of his five touches in the fourth quarter or overtime, getting work ahead of Barber. This backfield will be worth monitoring as the Falcons give up a ton of points to running backs on passing plays, allowing a league-worst 476 receiving yards to backs prior to Week 8.
Running back Mike James was signed off the Detroit Lions' practice squad. James was waived injured by the Bucs earlier this season. He is Tampa Bay's seventh running back on the active roster this season.
While Smith is most likely the leader of the committee, I'll be looking for more on how the backfield will operate in advance of Thursday night's game. Watch the Late Breaking Updates section for more. ...
Among their checklist of things to improve as an offense -- establish the running game, sustaining drives, getting the ball to Mike Evans (he was targeted 11 times but only managed four catches), and generating more explosive plays, something Koetter and offensive coordinator Todd Monken use as a measuring stick for the offense.
They had six explosive plays on offense through the first touchdown scored, which came on the first play of the second quarter. The remainder of the game? One.
Monken said they have to let those things go, though.
"It does us no good if we go today, in less than an hour, if we go into meetings and we go out and do our walk-throughs and do those things, if half of our mind is still on the mistakes we made, the things we could have done better ..." Monken said. "That's over. It's done. Now everything is about the Falcons."
Winston had another game not throwing the football accurately against the Raiders. He completed only 50 percent of his passes. After Tampa Bay, which blew a 10-point lead, scored on Cameron Brate's 5-yard touchdown reception to make it 17-16 late in the third quarter, Winston went into the tank.
He connected on only 4 of 11 passes for 29 yards the rest of the regulation and overtime.
"I wasn't precise enough. You've got to give guys a chance," Winston said.
According to NFL.com's Matt Harmon, the distribution of targets against Oakland looks like about what you would expect, with Evans dominating the target share and everyone else merely chipping in. Shepard snagged a touchdown for the second-straight week, but still played just 35 percent of the snaps. Cecil Shorts caught zero of his four targets despite playing half of the offensive snaps.
Brate hauled in the above-mentioned red-zone score, but played a smaller percentage of the snaps (56 percent) than he did last week. Not a strong blocker on a run-first team, Brate looks like he will continue to spit snaps with superior in-line players Luke Stocker (55 percent) and Brandon Myers (22 percent).
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 2 November 2016
As ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky notes, halfway through the season, the Titans are half good and half bad.
And that's a lot better.
The conversation comparing this team to the 2015 version that won just three games ended Thursday night at Nissan Stadium with a 36-22 win over the Jacksonville Jaguars -- which wasn't nearly that close -- and moved the Titans to 4-4.
"I felt like that's what we talked about, how we wanted to play," tight end Delanie Walker said. "We played like we were the leaders in our division today. ... It's got to carry on week after week."
Tennessee is a team that doesn't win if it doesn't get good play and limited mistakes from Marcus Mariota.
Against the Jaguars, he became the first Titans quarterback to throw multiple touchdown passes in four consecutive games since Kerry Collins did it in Weeks 14-17 in 2010.
The Miami Dolphins, Cleveland Browns, Indianapolis Colts and Jaguars were hardly a Murderer's Row of defenses. But neither are the San Diego Chargers, Colts again and the Chicago Bears -- three of the Titans' next four opponents.
Last Thursday night, Mariota hit on 18 of 22 passes, making for the second-best completion percentage for a Titans quarterback in the team's Tennessee history.
It stacked perfectly on top of the team's second 200-plus rushing game of the season.
In the past two games, Mariota has 10 touchdowns and only one interception. He's on pace for 3,748 passing yards, 28 touchdown passes and 12 interceptions. That would be the biggest yardage total for a QB with the franchise since Warren Moon in 1991 and the most TDs since Moon in 1990. ...
Other notes of interest. ... Rookie running back Derrick Henry contributed in the team's 214-yard rushing attack on Thursday night, racking up 60 yards and a touchdown. It was his most extensive action of the season.
DeMarco Murray, meanwhile, turned in his fourth 100-yard outing in the last six weeks. Murray gained 123 yards on 21 carries, and scored his sixth touchdown of the season.
Murray played 39 snaps, while Henry played 32.
"I think it was just a flow of how the game was going," head coach Mike Mularkey said when asked about the division of carries moving forward. "I think we have done a good job with these guys in the run game, which is evident. We are running the ball very efficiently. I think it is more of how the game is going along with Derrick."
Mularkey said he likes what he's seen in the running game so far. Murray has 756 yards on the season, while Henry has 221 yards.
"When you watch the tape, there's a lot of yards still that we are leaving out there," Mularkey said. "And players will see that when they come back in here on Monday. ... We could have more yards than we have."
Murray provided a bit of a scare when he left the field before the end of the first half with a foot injury in the 36-22 rout of the Jaguars. But he was in the huddle for the team's first play of the second half. His huge season continues with 21 carries for 123 yards and a touchdown Thursday.
In eight games with Tennesse he has surpassed his season total from 2015 in Philadelphia by 54 yards. Even as Henry got more work, there is no questioning Murray's status as the Titans' workhorse.
Mularkey said both receivers have stepped up on recent weeks.
"I think the way we are handling Kendall right now is good," Mularkey said. "He is a very good slot receiver, third-down receiver. He is getting snaps on first and second down as you saw last night. I like the rotation we have right now. All the receivers are getting a chance to play and make a difference in the game. I think we are playing better as a group, much more consistent than we were earlier.
"(Rishard) has made a lot of plays. In the last four or five games, he's made plays when we needed plays to be made."
And finally. ... Andre Johnson is retiring after 14 seasons in a career mainly spent with the Houston Texans.
The Titans announced Monday that Johnson had informed the team of his decision to retire.
Johnson ranks among the top 10 receivers in NFL history in catches and receiving yards. He had 1,062 catches for 14,185 yards and 70 touchdowns.
After 12 seasons with the Texans, Johnson played for the Indianapolis Colts last season before joining the Titans this season.
Johnson and former Colts receiver Marvin Harrison are the only NFL players to have four seasons of 100-plus receptions and 1,400-plus yards receiving.
The former first-round draft pick from Miami led the NFL in catches in 2006 (103) and in 2008 (115). He led the league in yards receiving in 2008 (1,575) and 2009 (1,569).
Johnson is the leading receiver in Texans history and had 1,012 catches for 13,597 yards and 64 touchdowns in his 12 seasons with the franchise.
Johnson had nine catches for 85 yards and two touchdowns this season, including a game-winning score with 1:13 left in a 16-15 victory over the Detroit Lions during the second week of the season. But he hadn't caught a pass in the Titans' past three games.
The team promoted WR Tre McBride from the practice squad to fill the roster spot left by Johnson's retirement.
The Titans drafted McBride in the seventh round in 2015. He played in seven games last season and was cut in September this year when the Titans trimmed their roster to the regular season size of 53. He led the Titans with 10 catches for 95 yards in the 2016 preseason.
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 2 November 2016
The Redskins didn't lose, but ESPN.com's John Keim believes that's exactly what it should feel like for them. They had a chance for a quality win overseas in a game they dominated early and controlled late. They showed so much on offense to get back in the game after falling behind 20-10 in the third quarter.
It might have been one of the more unusual and wild games given how many plot twists there were, yet a 27-27 tie with the Bengals was all they received for their effort after Dustin Hopkins missed a 34-yard field goal attempt late in overtime.
"I don't know what to say after the game," head coach Jay Gruden said. "Should I be upset or happy or whatever?"
Instead of being 5-3, Washington hits the bye at 4-3-1. Maybe down the road not losing this game will help the Redskins. But the same is true of not winning. They now must live with the what-ifs on a seven-plus-hour flight -- and then for two weeks.
Washington moved the ball well on Sunday, with 546 total yards. Quarterback Kirk Cousins delivered with 458 passing yards and clutch drives in the fourth quarter. But Washington outgained Cincinnati by 144 yards in the first half and led by only three points. The Redskins had lost to Detroit last week after not capitalizing on a strong first half.
The team's inability to get the job done in the red zone has been an issue.
As the Sports Xchange notes, through eight games, the Redskins score a touchdown on just 40.63 percent of their red zone chances. That's 31st in the NFL.
On Sunday, they managed just one touchdown once the offense moved the ball inside the 20.
"We understand the importance of the red zone and converting drives into touchdowns," Gruden said. "Whether it's run or pass, we've got to take a long look at it and find our best ways to get the ball to our best weapons down there and convert."
One thing teams are doing: Dropping eight players into coverage to take away all of Cousins' receiving options. If the Redskins had a more consistent running game, they could take better advantage of the situation. But injured Matt Jones (knee) fumbled inside the 5 in a loss at Detroit the week before and rookie Rob Kelley is untested.
"We have to get better in the red zone, without a doubt. The windows get tighter," Gruden said. "I think the running game will help. ... We understand the importance of the red zone and converting drives into touchdowns. Whether it's run or pass, we've got to take a long look at it and find our best ways to get the ball to our best weapons down there and convert."
The Redskins' defense has struggled against the run all season and was exploited again Sunday. Cincinnati rushed for 152 yards.
But the Redskins also had a lot of costly penalties -- 15 for 106 yards. That's way too many in a league in which so many teams are around the same level. It's the difference between, say, being 4-3-1 and 5-3.
The Redskins have been driving themselves crazy. As usual, they showed resilience in a game and rallied from 10 points down. But they continue to put themselves in bad spots early in games -- just like in last year's playoff loss to Green Bay.
There's more that this offense could be doing. It needed to score more than 10 points in the first half considering how well it moved the ball. There was a failed attempt on a fourth-and-1 at the Bengals' 18. There was a field goal from the 3-yard line. And on defense, there was a dropped interception by Josh Norman that would have been a touchdown.
"It didn't boil down to that [field goal]," Whitner said. "A number of other plays could have been made in the game. A couple of interceptions we should have had from trap coverages. Sometimes the ball doesn't bounce your way."
In a league in which every game seems to be close, the Redskins continue to be their own worst enemy.
That continued on Tuesday, when it was announced that left tackle Trent Williams has been suspended four games for violating the NFL's substance abuse policy.
The suspension begins immediately. Williams can return to practice and the active roster Dec. 5, a day after the Redskins play the Cardinals. He will be permitted to participate in team meetings and work out at the team facility during his suspension.
"The Redskins are counting on Trent to help the team when he returns from suspension," the team said in a statement.
The 4-3-1 Redskins are on bye this week. A four-time Pro Bowler, Williams has been the team's starting left tackle since 2010.
Ty Nsekhe is listed as the backup left tackle on the team's unofficial depth chart, though the Redskins could end up shuffling their line and moving right tackle Morgan Moses and/or right guard Brandon Scherff in Williams' absence.
The Redskins decided to cancel Tuesday's practice. Instead, they'll review film, have some meetings and then take a mini-vacation. They need it with a difficult schedule (Minnesota, Green Bay, at Dallas, at Arizona, at Philadelphia, Carolina) between now and Dec. 19.
A few final notes. ... Jones will have to earn his job back after the bye week. He has some cartilage damage in his knee and missed the Cincinnati game in London on Sunday, but he is expected back at practice next Monday.
Tight end Niles Paul (strained shoulder) needs an MRI to determine how long he will be out. Paul was injured in Sunday's tie with Cincinnati.
Fellow tight end Vernon Davis caught five passes against the Bengals on Sunday and now has 6,157 career receiving yards. That moved him into 12th place in NFL history by a tight end.
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