Team Notes week 9 2019
NEWS, NOTES, RUMORS AND OTHER GOOD STUFF
Directly from the desk of FlashUpdate Editor Bob Harris. The good; the bad; and yes. ... Even the Bears. There is no better way to jump start your weekend than browsing these always educational -- often irreverent -- team-by-team, Fantasy-specific offerings. ...
Access specific teams by clicking on a team name in the schedule appearing directly to your left or by clicking on a helmet below; return to the helmets by hitting the link labeled "Menu" following each teams notes. ...
Arizona CardinalsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 29 October 2019
One play and one decision changed the direction of the Arizona Cardinals' 31-9 blowout loss to the New Orleans Saints on Sunday.
The Cardinals were trailing 10-6 with 7:40 left in the third quarter. Their offense had been stale and ineffective, but the defense had, for the most part, kept the Saints and quarterback Drew Brees -- in his first game back from thumb surgery -- in check. On third-and-1 from the Cardinals' 30, Cardinals coach Kliff Kingsbury called a bootleg pass to wide receiver Christian Kirk. Kyler Murray was under center and rolled to his right but had to throw the pass away.
Instead of punting, Kingsbury decided to go for it on fourth-and-1 in his own territory, but running back Chase Edmonds was stonewalled and the Cardinals turned the ball over on downs.
Four plays later, the Saints scored to go up 17-6, kick-starting their offense on the way to a blowout win.
Hindsight is 20-20, but had the Cardinals ran the ball on third down and not converted the first down, their fourth-down run could've been a bit easier. Or if Kingsbury had called for a punt instead of trying to go for it, then the Cardinals wouldn't have had to defend a short field against Brees and Co.
Either way, that play and decision changed the trajectory of the game and led to an end of the Cardinals' three-game winning streak.
But wait. It gets worse. ...
Edmonds left the game with a hamstring injury in the third quarter and did not return. Kingsbury told reporters after the game there's "definitely concern" that Edmonds might not play Thursday night against the 49ers.
The Cardinals were already without running back David Johnson on Sunday, and it's not clear he'll be ready to play Thursday night, either. "We're not going to put him back out there unless he's 100 percent," Kingsbury said of Johnson.
D.J. Foster has been sidelined by a hamstring injury recently and the team announced Monday that he has been placed on injured reserve.
Arizona signed running backs Zach Zenner and Alfred Morris on Wednesday to provide backup for Edmonds during practice. Zenner played just one offensive snap before Edmonds' injury Sunday, according to NFL Next Gen Stats. He finished with 19 offensive snaps. Morris, however, was a healthy scratch.
So what's Plan B?
The Cardinals called the Dolphins and acquired Kenyan Drake via trade.
The Cardinals give up a conditional 2020 draft pick. NFL Network's Ian Rapoport added that the pick is a sixth-rounder that can become a fifth-round pick.
Drake heading to Kingsbury's offense could be a boon for the soon-to-be free agent. The 25-year-old always seemed to be underutilized during his four-years in Miami. Most recently, the Dolphins elevated Mark Walton over Drake in recent weeks.
Perhaps Drake will find a play-caller in Arizona who can get him in open space more frequently. The running back combines shiftiness in the second-level, speed to hit the edge, and is a mismatch in the passing game against linebackers.
For all the talent, the previous two coaching staffs didn't view Drake as an every-down player.
We'll see how quickly the Cardinals can get Drake up to speed, but NFL Network's Tom Pelissero reports the newcomer is in line for a big role this week.
He kind of has to be.
"I think Kenyan can come in and do some things that can fit what we need right now," Kingsbury said.
Drake went through drills Tuesday with Kingsbury telling reporters the newcomer will be given a manageable workload Thursday to help his transition to a new team and a new offense on a short week.
That said, Zenner and Morris are a little further along the learning curve.
But just little.
And that's part of what was concerning to Kingsbury.
Murray said Zenner did a "pretty good" job of understanding the offense Sunday. Zenner didn't need much help from Murray, the quarterback said. However, Murray said he's also concerned with the Cardinals' running back situation.
"It's just tough when you lose Chase, and [are playing] a guy that hasn't been here but a couple days," Murray said. "He hasn't played, so it's tough with Dave out as well, but we got to find a way."
As of Wednesday afternoon, the word on Edmonds is he won't play but Kinsbury added Johnson is "still working through it.”
Regardless it’ll be “running back by committee.” Morris will be active.
Check the Late-Breaking Updates section early Thursday for as comprehensive a preview of the situation I can give you at that point. ...
Other notes of interest. ... Murray had a tough day against the Saints' top-10 defense. He was 19-for-33 passing for 220 yards but didn't throw a touchdown and ran for 13 yards on two carries. He was sacked four times before getting pulled late in the fourth quarter. Murray struggled to find a rhythm and was forced to throw the ball away at least four times.
According to Weinfuss, the Cardinals' offense reverted to their early-season ways by not scoring touchdowns in the red zone Sunday, going 0-for-2.
Entering Sunday, the Cardinals scored a touchdown on 35 percent of their drives that reached the red zone, the second-worst rate in the NFL, according to ESPN Stats and Information. That rate didn't improve Sunday.
On a more positive note. ... Kirk returned from a high-ankle sprain against the Saints and made an immediate impact. He had eight catches for 79 yards and added 19 rushing yards on an end-around.
Kirk had an encouraging start to the season, and even at less than full strength against New Orleans, he looked like the team's most explosive skill player.
Kirk would have surpassed 100 receiving yards in the game if Murray didn't leave an easy completion short after a nice scramble in the second half.
"He brings a real explosiveness to the passing game," Kingsbury said. "We had him on a couple of other things, I felt like -- I'll have to watch the tape -- but we weren't able to get it to him. But he plays hard, plays the game the right way, and brings that element of speed down the middle of the field."
Kirk was cognizant of the ankle but didn't feel like it hampered him in the contest.
"I'd love to say I'm that I'm 100 percent, but when you recover from the injury I got, there are still some minor things you can't really recreate during physical therapy," Kirk said. "But the pain was fine, and I felt that I could do everything I was normally able to do. I feel good. ..."
Larry Fitzgerald had a quiet day, finishing with only two catches for eight yards. He nearly had a critical touchdown 13-yard touchdown reception in the first half on a fade pass but couldn't get his second foot in-bounds.
Fitzgerald was shoved out before the foot landed but took responsibility for the incompletion.
"I would've loved to get the other foot down," Fitzgerald said. "That would have been a decisive play in the game. I haven't seen (the replay) yet. When I get on the plan and watch the tape, I'll see what I could have done better. Kyler put a great ball on me, and I expect to make those plays."
The Cardinals settled for a field goal one play later, cutting New Orleans' lead to 10-6 at that point.
And finally. ... Other players of interest on the injury report including tight end Charles Clay (back), tight end Darrell Daniels (ankle) and wide receiver Trent Sherfield (knee).
QBs: Kyler Murray, Brett Hundley
RBs: Kenyan Drake, David Johnson, Chase Edmonds
WRs: Christian Kirk, Larry Fitzgerald, Damiere Byrd, Pharoh Cooper, Andy Isabella, Trent Sherfield, KeeSean Johnson
TEs: Charles Clay, Maxx Williams, Dan Arnold
Atlanta FalconsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 29 October 2019
According to ESPN.com's Vaughn McClure, owner Arthur Blank said he plans to evaluate coach Dan Quinn's status over the next few weeks after a 1-7 start, but also stated he has no immediate plans to make a coaching change.
Blank addressed the media in the hallway following Sunday's 27-20 loss to the Seattle Seahawks, the Falcons' sixth consecutive loss.
"I would say, much like the coaches said, I'm extraordinarily disappointed in the season," Blank said. "Nobody would have anticipated 1-7, and the lack of consistency. Today was a prime example of that. ... So, we'll take the next couple of weeks during this bye period of time and evaluate where we are. Whatever decision we have to make will be made for the right reasons for the long term."
Asked to clarify if a coaching change is not going to be made for a least a couple of weeks, Blank reiterated his initial statement.
"We are going to do something: We're going to continue to think really hard and evaluate everything that we can do, as an owner and as a senior management team, and figure out if there's anything we can do to make some decisions any earlier or any later that would help the process. But we have no plans of making any change right now."
Blank naturally is disappointed to see as many empty seats in Mercedes-Benz Stadium as he has seen in recent weeks.
"It's very painful," Blank said. "I understand that. I'm always going to be here. I'm going to be in my seat. And hopefully, the great majority of our fans will as well. I think they understand our ownership has re-committed for almost 20 years now in doing the right things for the franchise. Look at our record over that period of time compared to the prior 36 years and it's extraordinary good.
"And even for this staff, it's hard to imagine, but we played in the Super Bowl two and half years ago and the year following, when we weren't supposed to be competitive, we were 5 yards away from playing for the NFC Championship Game. And last, we had a number of injuries. That's all history. It's nice to understand that and appreciate that. But this is a now business, and it's a now game."
Blank went on to say the players believe in Quinn, although the results aren't there. He praised Julio Jones for making an emotional speech about accountability after last week's loss to the Los Angeles Rams.
"I think he touched a lot of players and the whole staff by doing that," said Blank, who was in the locker room for the speech. "But that has to convert to a different record."
Faster starts would help.
Atlanta has been outscored 144-50 in the first half this season. The Falcons have faced six double-digit halftime deficits. ...
Beyond that, they were playing without Matt Ryan, who missed his first game since Week 14 of the 2009 season due to a high-ankle sprain (his 154-game streak was the second longest in the league among active NFL quarterbacks).
Starting in Ryan's place, Matt Schaub passed for 460 yards in his first start since 2015 with Baltimore. The Falcons announced Saturday that Ryan would not play, and Seattle cornerback Shaquill Griffin said he knew Schaub would be ready.
"I honestly didn't expect a downgrade," Griffin said. "The guy has been in the league for 15-plus years. He's going to make the same kind of plays that Matt can make."
Schaub's passing in the second half helped the Falcons make the final score respectable.
"We have to come out for the second half of the season the way we came out for the second half of the game today," Quinn said.
Schaub completed 39 of 52 passes. Jones had 10 catches for 152 yards.
"We wanted to contain and keep him underneath us, so we did that, but man he got a million yards," Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said of Jones.
Matt Bryant missed two field goals beyond 50 yards in the second quarter. He was wide left on a 51-yarder on the first play of the quarter and was wide right from 53 yards, triggering boos from the home fans.
Bryant made a 47-yarder in the third quarter which cut Seattle's lead to 24-11. Brian Hill's 23-yard touchdown run on his first carry of the game gave the Falcons their first points.
The Falcons had an opportunity to cut the lead to six points before committing a key turnover early in the fourth quarter.
Devonta Freeman, reaching back for the goal line following a reception, fumbled. Seattle safety Marquise Blair, who was reaching for the ball, forced the fumble and Bobby Wagner recovered at the 1-yard line for the Seahawks.
A review confirmed the fumble call on the field.
Schaub's 1-yard touchdown pass to Austin Hooper cut the lead to 27-17. The 2-point pass to Hooper was no good.
According to McClure, it would be nice to buy Schaub's performance, but this might be the only time he sees the field this season. Schaub ran the offense well. He was sacked twice. Schaub's career-high for passing yards, by the way, is 527 against Jacksonville in 2012 while with the Houston Texans.
But the starting assignment will be short-lived.
Quinn told reporters on Monday Ryan is expected to play against the Saints following the bye. Quinn added that Ryan would probably play if the Falcons had a game this week.
That will push Schaub back to the No. 2 job, which is why the Falcons waived Danny Etling on Monday.
Etling had been on the practice squad and seems likely to return now that his time on the active roster is done.
A few final notes here. ... The Falcons appeared to make it a point to get Hooper involved early against the Seahawks and the fourth-year tight end responded with another strong outing, making six catches for 65 yards and the above-mentioned touchdown.
Hooper, who came into Sunday's game with 46 catches for 526 yards and four scores, is on pace to have his best season in a Falcons uniform. ...
Bryant's return engagement with the Falcons wasn't nearly as successful as his initial 10-year run with the team.
The Falcons announced Bryant's release on Tuesday.
The Falcons also announced the signing of Younghoe Koo. He was 3-of-6 on field goals and 9-of-9 on extra points in four appearances for the Chargers in 2017.
The team worked out Elliott Fry on Monday at the same time they took a look at Koo.
Including his two misses against the Seahawks, Bryant made 9-of-14 on the season. He also missed an extra point that would have tied the Cardinals late in the fourth quarter of a 34-33 loss.
NFL Network's Ian Rapoport reported Wednesday that the Lions heavily discussed a trade with the Falcons for Freeman.
Per Rapoport, sides talked about a possible deal at length, but ultimately Atlanta decided to hang on to the veteran running back.
Given their need at the position and the fact that Freeman, under contract through 2022, isn't a one-year rental, it made sense for the Lions to sniff around.
Atlanta handed Freeman a $41.25 million contract extension in 2017. With cap hits north of $9 million the next two seasons, the cap-strapped Falcons could have considered unloading the NFL's fifth-highest paid running back.
The contract and Freeman's injury history could have come into play in trade compensation discussions.
The running back is averaging just 3.4 yards per carry on 97 totes with no rushing TDs for a disappointing 1-7 Falcons squad this season. If Freeman's play doesn't pick up down the stretch, he could become a trade candidate again, or a cut possibility, next offseason. ...
And finally. ... Asked Monday if he expected to be the Falcons' coach for the remainder of the season, Quinn responded, "Well, I can honestly say all the time and all the attention I have, I couldn't think of a bigger waste of my mental health and space ... all I want to do is see if we can get it right. That's what we want to deliver for [Blank]. That's what we want to deliver for the fans, for the team. [To] have performances that the city deserves, that's really important.
"So to spend any time or moments thinking, 'What if I don't?' that would only take away from that."
QBs: Matt Ryan, Matt Schaub
RBs: Devonta Freeman, Brian Hill, Qadree Ollison, Kenjon Barner
WRs: Julio Jones, Russell Gage, Justin Hardy, Olamide Zaccheaus, Christian Blake
TEs: Austin Hooper, Jaeden Graham, Luke Stocker
Baltimore RavensCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 29 October 2019
As the Associated Press framed it, "Darting between and past would-be tacklers with uncanny guile and deceptive quickness," Lamar Jackson is the focal point of a run-oriented offense in the NFL's pass-happy world.
Head coach John Harbaugh and offensive coordinator Greg Roman overhauled the playbook during the offseason, gearing virtually every facet of the attack to take advantage of Jackson's extraordinary skills. The finished product is not only unique, but exceedingly productive.
The Ravens (5-2) entered their bye week with more points than any team but the Patriots. And, even though Baltimore owns the NFL's top rushing attack, Jackson has proven to be an adept passer, too: He threw five touchdown passes and registered a perfect quarterback rating in a 59-10 season-opening rout of Miami.
"The revolution is on," Harbaugh declared last Monday. "For those who are paying attention, there's something pretty cool going on, and it's right here in Baltimore."
Jackson went into the weekend ranked fifth in the NFL with 576 yards rushing, more than the combined total of seven teams. The 2018 first-round pick out of Louisville has three 100-yard games and is averaging a robust 6.9 yards per carry.
"You've got to respect that man's game. He's one of a kind. You don't see a lot of quarterbacks like that," Seattle's Chris Carson said after Jackson ran for 116 yards and a touchdown to lead the Ravens past the Seahawks in Week 7.
From 2008 to the middle part of last season, Harbaugh put his faith in strong-armed quarterback Joe Flacco. The duo paired to reach the playoffs six times and won a Super Bowl together in 2012. But after Flacco sustained a hip injury last year, Harbaugh turned to Jackson, who stayed on after Flacco got healthy and led a late charge that earned the Ravens the AFC North title.
Flacco was subsequently traded to Denver, and now Harbaugh's all-in on the slick-footed Jackson.
"He always impresses me," Harbaugh said. "I love the guy. I love the person, the player."
Jackson will run when necessary and throw if dared. Stack the line, and he'll fling the ball downfield. Whatever it takes to win.
Against Miami, Jackson ran three times for 6 yards because the pass was there. The following week, he ran for 120 yards against Arizona -- because he could.
"Defenses approach me different, so I just have to play off of them and take advantage of them," he said.
The 2016 Heisman Trophy winner's competitive nature was on full display in noisy Seattle. When center Matt Skura failed to snap the ball as Jackson adamantly clamored for it from the shotgun formation, the Ravens drew a delay of game penalty. Jackson slammed the ball to the ground in disgust but followed up with a good-natured tap on the helmet to Skura, letting him know all was forgiven.
"He's very focused on one thing, and that is winning this football game," Ravens quarterbacks coach James Urban said of Jackson. "He's very, very competitive."
Although Jackson is the main reason why Baltimore has won three straight and owns a huge lead in the AFC North, he's had plenty of help.
After replacing Ozzie Newsome, the only general manager the Ravens ever had, rookie GM Eric DeCosta has done a solid job. Not only did he sign free agent running back Mark Ingram, who's turned out to be a bruising contributor, but DeCosta shored up a defense that lost free agent linebackers Terrell Suggs, C.J. Mosley and Za'Darius Smith.
Safety Earl Thomas was obtained during the offseason and has since been joined by cornerback Marcus Peters and linebackers L.J. Fort and Josh Bynes, providing defensive coordinator Don Martindale plenty of options.
The depth chart will expand when Baltimore returns from the bye to face New England at home in a highly anticipated showdown between two of the best teams in the conference. If all goes as planned, injured linebacker Patrick Onwuasor (ankle) and cornerback Jimmy Smith (knee) should be healthy enough to contribute the rest of the way.
For decades, the Ravens relied on their defense to win. This year, the unit is playing a supporting role to an offense led by a slashing, dashing quarterback.
"Lamar put the team on his back, scrambling when it's third-and-long, third-and-short, staying inbounds, leaning on the ankle," Ingram said after Baltimore's statement win in Seattle. "I don't know how he does it, but man, he's a beast. I feel like he's going to be the greatest one day. ..."
Also on the injury front. ... Rookie receiver Marquise Brown is expected to return after missing the past two games with an ankle injury.
According to ESPN.com's Jamison Hensley, Brown was on the field Wednesday, as expected. Per Hensley, Brown walked with a limp but he ran fine and showed a burst.
Despite the absence, Brown still leads Baltimore wide receivers with 21 catches for 326 yards and three touchdowns. "[I'm] very optimistic that we'll be full strength coming out of the bye," Harbaugh said.
Also of interest. ... As ESPN's Mike Clay notes, since scoring five touchdowns during his first three games with Baltimore, Ingram has predictably regressed to the mean, finding the end zone twice during his past four outings. Ingram has reached 12 carries in all seven games, but he continues to play a small role as a receiver; Ingram has cleared two targets in only one game and sports a 12-96-0 receiving line on 12 targets.
Ingram has four Top 25 fantasy weeks to his name this season, but only one was a top 10. He's settled in as a back-end RB2.
And finally. ... Receiver Willie Snead will be back in 2020.
Snead, who had been slated to hit free agency in March, has signed a one-year, $6 million extension, a league source tells PFT.
After originally entering the NFL as an undrafted free agent and getting cut by both the Browns and the Panthers, Snead burst onto the scene with the Saints in 2015 with a 984-yard season. His career has been up and down since then, and that remains his career high in receiving yards, but the Ravens consider him a core member of their offense.
The 27-year-old Snead is the Ravens' No. 2 wide receiver and has 15 catches for 223 yards and two touchdowns this season.
QBs: Lamar Jackson, Robert Griffin III, Trace McSorley
RBs: Mark Ingram, Gus Edwards, Justice Hill
WRs: Marquise Brown, Willie Snead, Seth Roberts, Miles Boykin, Chris Moore, Jaleel Scott
TEs: Mark Andrews, Nick Boyle, Hayden Hurst
Buffalo BillsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 29 October 2019
As ESPN.com's Marcel Louis-Jacques notes, Week 8 was an opportunity for the Bills to silence a few more critics against a battered but talented opponent.
Instead, the Bills will have a few more critics to face come Monday morning.
After a surprising 5-1 start, the Bills received a wake-up call in a 31-13 loss to the Eagles on Sunday. It was an afternoon where the Bills were dominated on both sides of the ball, leading to far more questions than answers.
"They punched us in the mouth and we have to answer a little better than that," said quarterback Josh Allen.
The Bills now have a long way to go to show whether they're for real.
The loss was a missed opportunity for a franchise that has routinely struggled to turn the corner with just one playoff appearance since 2000.
The dud against the Eagles follows a recent trend in which the Bills have missed the playoffs each of the past two times they've opened at 4-1 or better, including turning a 5-1 start into a 7-9 finish in 2008.
"It's frustrating. There's no fingers pointed," center Mitch Morse said. "I think the whole team knows that there's a sense of urgency that every person has a part to play in executing better. For right now there's no panic, it's just a sense of urgency."
According to Associated Press sports writer Mark Ludwiczak, the Bills were undone at both lines of scrimmage. They couldn't run the ball and couldn't stop the run.
Buffalo, which entered the game with the NFL's third-best defense, allowed 371 yards offense, including a season-worst 218 yards rushing. The Eagles' three touchdowns rushing were the most Buffalo's allowed since a 2018 season-opening 47-3 loss at Baltimore. The 156 yards rushing the Bills allowed in the second half alone were more than they've surrendered in one game this season.
And it came on a wet, windy day in which both teams were expected to run the ball.
"They controlled the line of scrimmage," head coach Sean McDermott said. "I'm concerned any time a team can run the ball like that on our football team. It's concerning."
After opening 13 of 21 for 160 yards and two touchdowns, Allen closed completing 3 of 13 attempts for 9 yards over Buffalo's final six possessions.
Allen also lost a fumble at his own 24, late in the first half which led directly to Carson Wentz hitting Dallas Goedert for a 5-yard touchdown pass to put the Eagles up for good.
"I have to find a way to allow ourselves to get better moving the ball and then putting some points on the board, and a performance like this won't cut it," Allen said.
Of Buffalo's first seven opponents, the AFC-leading New England Patriots were the only ones to enter this weekend with a winning record. The Bills' schedule remains favorable, with their next four games against Washington, Cleveland, Miami and Denver.
"We lost a game, man. It happens," receiver Cole Beasley said. "You're in the NFL. There's not many teams that win every game in the NFL. I don't know, maybe there's been two in a season? It happens."
Indeed, while temporarily deflating, the loss puts Buffalo at 5-2 entering its Week 9 game against the 1-7 Redskins -- a record that keeps the Bills in the hunt for one of the AFC's two wild-card spots.
Other notes of interest. .. If you're looking for positives, wide receiver John Brown continued his trek toward a career season with five catches for 54 yards against Philadelphia.
He's still on pace for 1,204 receiving yards in his first season with the Bills.
Also, it seems like every week Frank Gore reaches a new milestone. That will happen when you've played 216 games, the third-most of any running back in history. On Sunday, Gore became the fifth player in NFL history to accumulate 19,000 yards from scrimmage for his career.
Gore has the most yards from scrimmage of any active NFL player and sits behind the group of Jerry Rice, Emmitt Smith, Walter Payton and Marshall Faulk on the list. Gore only needs 140 more yards to surpass Faulk's total of 19,154.
Gore remains fourth on the NFL all-time list in rushing yards with his 34-yard performance to put him at 15,170 yards. He's 99 yards behind Barry Sanders for the number three spot. Gore will likely pass that this season. ...
In a related note. ... Offensive coordinator Brian Daboll is being second-guessed for a pass-heavy game plan on a wet and windy day, with gusts approaching 40 mph. Gore was the lone running back to carry the ball in the first half, with seven carries for 20 yards. Gore and backup and Devin Singletary combined for just five carries for 33 yards in the second half.
Singletary had a 28-yard touchdown catch. ...
And finally. ... Tight end Tyler Kroft finished with two catches for 32 yards in his second game after missing the entire offseason and first five games with ankle and foot injuries. Increased his snap count from 24 the previous week against Miami to 36, eight more than rookie Dawson Knox. ...
QBs: Josh Allen, Matt Barkley
RBs: Devin Singletary, Frank Gore, T.J. Yeldon
WRs: John Brown, Cole Beasley, Isaiah McKenzie, Andre Roberts, Duke Williams, Robert Foster
TEs: Dawson Knox, Tyler Kroft, Tommy Sweeney, Lee Smith, Jason Croom
Carolina PanthersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 29 October 2019
As Associated Press sports writer Steve Reed reported, one bad game and loss by Kyle Allen isn't enough for the Panthers to rush quarterback Cam Newton back into the starting lineup.
Head coach Ron Rivera said on Monday that Allen would start his sixth straight game on Sunday when the Panthers, 4-3 after a 51-13 loss at San Francisco, face the Tennessee Titans at Bank of America Stadium.
"We've got to make sure he's ready," Rivera said of Newton, who hasn't played since aggravating a left foot Lisfranc injury in a Week 2 loss to Tampa Bay. "The last update I got, more so than anything else is he's going through his rehab.
"We'll see. Right now, we're going into this game with Kyle as the starter."
Allen was 4-0 as the starter this season and 5-0 overall without throwing an interception before throwing three against the 49ers (7-0). Rivera said the second-year undrafted quarterback lost some of the patience he showed in his previous starts.
"Kyle sped some things up when he didn't have to," Rivera said. "He had a little bit more time. He probably anticipated a little too much. He needed at times to take what they gave him.
"Probably one of the disappointments is we ran the ball effectively. If we do some other things, we give ourselves an opportunity to run more. Christian McCaffrey was having a good day."
McCaffrey rushed for 117 yards and a touchdown on 14 carries and had a 43-yard run called back because of a holding penalty. He also caught four passes for 38 yards.
Allen completed 19 of 37 pass attempts for 158 yards and no touchdowns. He was under duress from the start against the NFL's top-ranked defense, which sacked him six times in the first half and seven times for the game.
"I think his internal clock was going fast to begin with," Rivera said of Allen. "He tried to do more than he needed to. He got out of his comfort level. We saw how very cool and calm he'd been for the most part. We saw him taking the opportunities he had in front of him. We saw more throws downfield than we had the last four weeks, from my perspective.
"He's a guy that when he stays within his own abilities, he can help us a lot."
While Newton was on the sideline for the first time since being shut down, Rivera didn't sound optimistic that his franchise quarterback was close to a return.
"Cam's in the middle of his rehab program," he said. "He's doing what we're asking of him. ..."
Worth noting. ... The Panthers suffered a similar blowout loss (52-21) last year to the Steelers after starting the season 6-2.
What happened after the Pittsburgh loss last season was catastrophic. The Panthers lost seven straight and went from a 6-2 playoff contender to a 7-9 also-ran.
As ESPN.com's David Newton reminded readers, they were in such disarray that Rivera took over the defensive play calling and Newton was shut down the final two games because of his ailing right shoulder.
That defeat seemed to affect the team's confidence and proved to be a turning point in the season, as the Panthers lost seven straight games and missed the playoffs.
"We need to hold ourselves accountable," offensive guard Greg Van Roten said. "We need to be very honest with the film, we need to make the corrections that are necessary and we need to re-focus. At the end of the day, this is one loss, but it can turn into two and it can turn into three like it did last year. ..."
Other notes of interest. ... Reggie Bonnafon (12 snaps) and Jordan Scarlett (4 snaps) saw action at running back as McCaffrey played just 78 percent of the offensive snaps, a new season low.
DeAndrew White (10 snaps) and Brandon Zylstra (8 snaps) had their first action at wide receiver for the Panthers as White recorded his first reception in two seasons. ...
According to Reed, the Panthers need to settle on a left tackle, and it needs to happen soon.
Rookie Dennis Daley had started the last few games at left tackle, but the Panthers decided to move right tackle Taylor Moton to the left side on Sunday and start Daryl Williams at right tackle. That experiment lasted just one series; Williams was benched after giving up a sack.
At that point, Daley entered the game at left tackle and Moten shifted back to right. But it didn't matter who was playing left tackle; the Panthers allowed seven sacks on the day.
The Panthers let kick returner Ray-Ray McCloud go after he fumbled a punt against Tampa Bay in London. They signed Greg Dortch, then made him inactive and the return game still had two fumbled kicks. Although both were recovered, this team isn't good enough to survive big mistakes on special teams.
On the injury front. ... Receiver Jarius Wright injured his knee against the 49ers, though he did return to the game. But it is something to monitor moving forward. Left tackle Greg Little, the team's second-round draft pick, remains in the concussion protocol.
In addition, Newton, who worked on the side last week, was not at practice on a wet Wednesday. Also not practicing were Little (concussion) , LB Shaq Thompson, WR Curtis Samuel (shoulder), SS Eric Reid, DT Vernon Butler and Wright.
Samuel did not practice at all Wednesday while McCaffrey (knee) was limited, but Rivera calls the running back's listing on the injury report a “precaution." Indeed, Rivera said last month that resting McCaffrey on Wednesday's would be the norm going forward.
I'll be following up as needed via Late-Breaking Update.
QBs: Will Grier, Kyle Allen, Cam Newton
RBs: Christian McCaffrey, Reggie Bonnafon, Mike Davis, Jordan Scarlett, Elijah Holyfield
WRs: D.J. Moore, Curtis Samuel, Jarius Wright, Brandon Zylstra, Chris Hogan
TEs: Greg Olsen, Ian Thomas, Chris Manhertz
Chicago BearsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 29 October 2019
According to Associated Press sports writer Jay Cohen, David Montgomery showed all the reasons why he was one of the top running backs in this year's NFL draft.
Patience. Vision. Toughness.
A few more carries at the right time, and the Chicago Bears might have won Sunday.
Montgomery broke out with a career-high 135 yards rushing in his seventh NFL game, but he only touched the ball once inside the 20 on Chicago's first three drives to the red zone- part of a day full of curious decisions in a 17-16 loss to the Los Angeles Chargers.
"We were just going with the game," Montgomery said. "Some games are run. Some games are pass. You just go with what works. The play-calling was awesome today. Everybody did their part. The ball just didn't roll in our corner."
One week after Chicago managed just 17 yards rushing on a franchise-low seven attempts in a 36-25 loss to New Orleans, Montgomery had 27 of the Bears' 38 carries. He scored his third career touchdown on a 4-yard run in the third quarter, giving Chicago a 16-7 lead.
But the Bears (3-4) were unable to close out the Chargers, who had dropped three in a row and five of six.
Mitchell Trubisky threw an interception and lost a fumble, helping Los Angeles rally. But he scrambled for 11 yards to move the Bears to the Chargers 21 with about 40 seconds left.
Rather than try to move closer, head coach Matt Nagy had Trubisky take a knee and called his last timeout with 4 seconds left. Eddy Pineiro then missed a 41-yard field goal as time expired, giving the Chargers the dramatic victory.
"I have zero thought of running the ball and taking the chance of fumbling the football," Nagy said. "They know you're running the football, so you lose 3, 4 yards, so that wasn't even in our process as coaches to think about that.
"We were in field goal range before the scramble, and then we got the scramble, so that didn't even cross my mind."
Los Angeles played without starting defensive linemen Brandon Mebane and Justin Jones due to injuries, and Chicago looked to take advantage of their absence right from the beginning.
Montgomery rushed for 10 yards on the Bears' first play from scrimmage. He had 12 carries for 85 yards at halftime, including a 55-yarder for the team's first run of at least 50 yards since Jordan Howard's 53-yard rush during a 27-24 overtime win at Baltimore on Oct. 15, 2017.
"Whenever your opportunity comes you've got to try to be ready for it," said Montgomery, a third-round pick out of Iowa State. "I just tried to make sure I took advantage of every opportunity today."
But Chicago was held to four field-goal tries in its four trips to the red zone in the first half. Pineiro hit the right upright on a 33-yarder in the first quarter, and then connected from 22, 25 and 19 yards.
The first three times the Bears drove inside the 20, Montgomery had one carry for a 2-yard loss in the red zone. After his long run in the second quarter, he touched the ball three times inside the 20 and got stuffed on each carry.
"It seemed like they made the plays in the red zone and we didn't," Trubisky said. "I thought we had a good plan this week to get it in there. They just made plays in the red zone and we weren't connecting. So credit to them."
According to ESPN.com's Jeff Dickerson, Trubisky said he didn't think twice when Nagy called for the kneel down with so much time left on the clock.
"No, not surprised. ... I mean, it's coach's call," Trubisky said. "He knows what's best for this team. Whatever he calls, that's what we're going to do. We're going to stick behind it. And we know -- I felt like if we crossed the 40, no matter where the ball was at, that Eddy was going to be able to put it through, so we've just got to have that faith, and you can question it all you want, but whatever he calls, that's what we're going to do, and we're going to believe in it."
Pineiro entered Week 8 as one of Chicago's most consistent offensive weapons. The 24-year old kicker had missed just one field goal all year prior to facing Los Angeles.
On Sunday, Pineiro went 3-for-5, including a misfire from 33 yards that bounced off the right upright.
"I really like where we're at with Eddy," Nagy said. "I have ultimate faith in him. I do. It just happens to be in our situation, it just gets completely magnified because of where we've been before. But I have ultimate trust in him. He's going to be the one that wants another opportunity at that shot, at that kick. So that's all we can do is next time he gets that chance, he puts it right down the middle."
Pineiro won the Bears' highly-publicized offseason kicker competition to replace Cody Parker, who missed seven regular-season field goals in 2018 and the infamous double doink from 43 yards with no time left in Chicago's playoff loss to the Eagles.
The Bears are no longer in the NFC playoff conversation. In fact, Chicago is now in last place in the NFC North following Detroit's win over the New York Giants. The Bears are also way behind Minnesota (6-2) and Green Bay (6-1 going into their Sunday night game against the Chiefs).
"The Bears may be on the verge of going worst-to-first and then back-to-worst in the division in back-to-back seasons," Dickerson added. "Better days do not appear on the horizon. ..."
Worth noting. ... According to Profootballtalk.com's Josh Alper, Nagy's decision to take a knee rather than try to get a closer field goal or into the end zone has largely been seen as a sign of low confidence in the offense's ability with Trubisky at quarterback.
If that's the case, the confidence level isn't low enough to replace Trubisky with Chase Daniel.
Nagy said on Monday that Trubisky will start against the Eagles in Week 9.
Nagy also said that Trubisky made "a lot of really good throws" while posting a line of 23-of-35 for 253 yards, zero touchdowns and one interception. The coach saw one bad miss to wide receiver Taylor Gabriel, but added that he believes there's time left for Trubisky to show the improvement that the Bears have been looking for all season.
"Yes, there is," Nagy said. "And we understand that we didn't get the win, but we felt there was definitely an improvement. We're going to make sure that we keep our noses to the grind, we stay positive, we stay really positive because that's who we are."
To be fair, Trubisky played better than he did in previous weeks.
The 25-year-old quarterback hit on some plays in the vertical passing game to Anthony Miller (35-yard reception), Tarik Cohen (31 yards) and Allen Robinson (31 yards). On the final drive, Trubisky connected with Gabriel on a nice throw and scrambled for 11 yards to set up Pineiro's kick.
But the overall body of work just isn't good enough. The Bears remain limited on offense when Trubisky is the quarterback.
QBs: Mitchell Trubisky, Chase Daniel
RBs: David Montgomery, Tarik Cohen
WRs: Allen Robinson, Anthony Miller, Cordarrelle Patterson, Javon Wims, Riley Ridley, Taylor Gabriel
TEs: Jesper Horsted, J.P. Holtz, Bradley Sowell, Eric Saubert
Cincinnati BengalsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 29 October 2019
As ESPN.com's Ben Baby noted, throughout the Bengals' winless start, their defense had trouble keeping opponents from racking up yards on the ground.
On Sunday in London, run defense wasn't Cincinnati's issue. It was trying to keep the Rams from reeling off big plays through the air. As one might expect given the state of both teams, it did not go well for the Bengals in the 24-10 loss at Wembley Stadium.
The Bengals allowed a season-high 372 passing yards, a number that could have been much higher had the game not slowed down in the second half. Rams wide receiver Cooper Kupp accounted for 220 of those yards, which is tied for the third-best performance by an opponent in franchise history.
In Cincinnati's previous seven losses, offenses opted to attack the NFL's worst rushing defense with a slew of carries. But even with running back Todd Gurley on the roster, the Rams relied on quarterback Jared Goff to find the holes in the secondary. It didn't help that Cincinnati was without two Dre Kirkpatrick and Darqueze Dennard.
The pass defense resembled the one that struggled often in 2018. During the Bengals' final eight games of the season, figuring out if the defense has any strengths will be a top priority for a franchise that should be making evaluations across the roster.
Against the Rams, the pass defense was one of the reasons Cincinnati suffered its eighth loss in as many games, matching the franchise's worst start to a season since 2008.
Yet the first head to roll was not on the defensive side of the football.
While the Bengals weren't ready to consider starting rookie Ryan Finley at quarterback after losing in Week 7, it seems going winless throughout the first half of their schedule was enough to make head coach Zac Taylor change his mind.
Following the bye week, Finley will get the start in Week 10 against the first-place Ravens with Andy Dalton taking a back seat in the midst of his ninth season with the Bengals. The Bengals confirmed the move to Finley.
"Let's go ahead and make the switch and get behind Ryan and try to go win these next couple of games,” Taylor of the reasoning behind the move and its timing. "This is not an easy decision to make. We're not 0-8 because of Andy. Andy has worked harder than anyone else in this building to help us win football games. Just a decision I made."
Selected in the second round of the 2011 NFL Draft, Dalton has started all 128 games he's played in for the Bengals, having missed only three games in 2015 and five last season due to injury.
"Andy's been a great representative," Taylor said. "He's been awesome in the locker room. He's still gonna be a great leader for us."
Over the last three games, Dalton has just two touchdowns and four interceptions as the Bengals are mired in a winless start over eight games. It's the franchise's worst beginning to a season in 11 years and it comes in the first year under Taylor.
With a meager 317.2 yards of offense per game, Dalton was the quarterback for the 25th-ranked offense -- though it was 12th in passing (257.8 per game) and dead last in rushing (59.5). Having leaned heavily on the ginger gunslinger, Cincy continually came up empty on offense, having failed to score more than 23 points in a game this season and falling under 20 points in each of the last three weeks.
Dalton, who leads the NFL with 204 attempts and 338 completions, has nine touchdowns, eight interceptions and a 79.2 passer rating on the season. He's coming off a 24-10 loss to the Rams in which he had 329 yards, a TD and no picks. The duration of the season for Dalton and the Bengals has also been without No. 1 receiver A.J. Green, who subsequently told NFL Network's Omar Ruiz on Sunday that he was aiming at returning for the Ravens game -- which is at least a positive for Finley.
Finley, a North Carolina State product, has yet to play in a game during the regular season. During the preseason, he saw action in three games and did well, completing 47-of-64 passes (73.4 completion percentage) for 414 yards, three touchdowns, an interception and a 99.3 rating.
"I just know that we need to see what Ryan Finley can do and what he can provide for us," Taylor said. "Since we drafted him, he's shown well in training camp, his opportunities in the preseason games were very impressive. And, so we've felt like there's a talent there and you don't know what you've got until you see it live. And so, that's where we're at right now and we'll give him an opportunity to showcase what he can do."
Despite being winless, teammates defended the veteran quarterback, noting their record isn't on his shoulders alone.
"Nothing seems to be going right this season. It's not Andy's fault," receiver Tyler Boyd said Tuesday, via the team's official website. "There are plays he wishes he had back out there and every guy in this locker room feels the same way. The quarterback is just the most pressured position. I praise Andy for doing what he's done here. He's got great numbers. A Pro Bowler. He's a No. 1 quarterback in my eyes."
Dalton, who turned 32 on the day he was benched, spoke to reporters on Wednesday.
“I don’t agree with the decision but I’m going do everything I can to help the team,” Dalton said, via Paul Dehner of the Athletic.com.
While Dalton wouldn’t have agreed with the decision at any point, a little more notice would have been appreciated. He said that his agent tried to facilitate a deal that would send him to another team where he’d still have a chance to play, but there was a time crunch given the timing of the team’s announcement.
It’s impossible to know if more time would have led to a trade, but it seems clear that Dalton will get a chance to move elsewhere via a trade or as a free agent following his release once the end of the season.
For what it's worth, Taylor also confirmed that team wasn't looking to make any major trades before Tuesday's deadline -- even though other teams were interested in snapping up some of their players.
"There are some key players that we feel like are critical to our success this year, critical to our future," he said. "So that makes for an easy decision. ..."
And nobody was traded. ...
In a few semi-positive notes. ... Mixon ran for 66 yards on 17 attempts and added 11 yards and a touchdown on four catches in this one.
As CBSSports.com noted, Mixon tied up the game midway through the second quarter, slipping out of the backfield on the rollout and connecting with Dalton for a one-yard touchdown. It was Mixon's second receiving touchdown in as many weeks and third overall despite not recording a rushing touchdown this season. Mixon has been the bell-cow back for Cincinnati, including Sunday's season-high 21 touches.
However, in averaging just 3.2 yards per carry and 5.8 yards per catch, CBSSports suggested Mixon is the equivalent to a "volume scorer" in the NBA.
After the bye, he'll take on a Ravens defense that held him to 39 total yards in Week 6. ...
The biggest positive for the Bengals may be that Green is getting closer to a comeback. The star wide receiver has yet to play this season after having ankle surgery during training camp but could be ready after the bye week.
"I think he feels encouraged that he's headed in the right direction, but I don't want to put a timetable on it, guarantee anything," Taylor said. "But he's making good progress."
One other encouraging note: Tight end Tyler Eifert enjoyed his best game of the season -- even if it happened while he sat on the bench for those of us still holding him in hopes of a turnaround. The injury-prone veteran caught six passes for a season-high 74 yards.
It was Eifert's highest total since he tallied 74 yards in last year's Week 3 game at Carolina.
QBs: Andy Dalton, Ryan Finley, Jake Dolegala
RBs: Joe Mixon, Giovani Bernard, Trayveon Williams
WRs: Tyler Boyd, John Ross, Alex Erickson, Stanley Morgan Jr., Damion Willis
TEs: Tyler Eifert, C.J. Uzomah, Cethan Carter, Drew Sample
Cleveland BrownsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 29 October 2019
This one slipped out of Cleveland's hands.
On three plays in a row.
The Browns turned the ball over on back-to-back-to-back plays in the first quarter on a rainy New England Sunday, leading to a pair of Patriots touchdowns that changed a three-point lead into a runaway and a 27-13 victory for the defending Super Bowl champions.
According to ESPN.com's Jake Trotter, the Browns became the first NFL team this season to turn the ball over three times in a first quarter. And Cleveland running back Nick Chubb became the first NFL player to fumble on consecutive plays from scrimmage since former Browns QB DeShone Kizer achieved the ignominious feat two years ago, according to Elias Sports.
As noted above, the Patriots scored two touchdowns off the turnovers, including Dont'a Hightower's 26-yard scoop-and-score off Chubb's first fumble. Chubb's second fumble came on Cleveland's next snap after a 44-yard run, in which Devin McCourty stripped Chubb from behind, robbing the Browns of a prime opportunity to counter with a touchdown of their own.
On the Browns' ensuing possession, Baker Mayfield's shovel pass intended for Jarvis Landry was intercepted behind the line of scrimmage by defensive end Lawrence Guy. Two plays later, Tom Brady found Julian Edelman in the end zone, giving the Patriots a commanding 17-0 lead they would not relinquish.
"Everything that we said we couldn't do and win the game, we did. And it all happened in the first quarter," said head coach Freddie Kitchens, who also lamented his team's 13 penalties -- six of them for false starts. "That's what's getting us beat, turnovers and penalties. That's it: turnovers and penalties."
Worth noting, Chubb, did not fumble at all in 192 carries as a rookie last year, but he has now fumbled three times in the past two games.
"I'm just going through the spell right now," he said. "The guys had my back. I was down. I was down bad. It was two in a row and that's just something that I don't do often, so it was kind of new to me. I feel like I let the team down, but the guys and the coaches had my back."
The turnovers shrouded Chubb's continued excellence. He gained 131 yards on 20 attempts against the league's top defense.
As Associated Press sports writer Tom Withers suggested, "It's long past time for the Browns to make him their primary weapon and get him more touches."
Also worth noting, through seven games for Odell Beckham Jr. and Landry, two of the NFL's best receivers, who were supposed to take Cleveland's offense to new heights, have combined for one touchdown.
Mayfield and his team came into the season with high expectations following an 0-16 season in 2017 with a 7-8-1 record last year that was their best since 2007.
But they have lost three straight games, falling three games behind the Baltimore Ravens in the AFC North.
As you'd imagine, both of those things came up during Kitchens' postgame press conference.
Kitchens said it is "very evident that that's what's getting us beat" while pointing to those things and drew a negative comparison between his team's work and how their hosts on Sunday take care of business.
"There's a lot of banners up there," Kitchens said. "They don't beat themselves. We beat ourselves. Everybody in the locker room understands what needs to change."
Mayfield was on a similar page as his coach after the game.
Mayfield called "consistency, discipline and lack of accountability" the biggest problems for the 2-5 Browns as they try to move forward from a three-game losing streak.
"I hate to keep saying it again, but everything's in front of us. I still think we can turn it around," Mayfield said. "There's no finger-pointing going on. That's not the type of team we are. We know exactly what's wrong. We know the problem."
As Trotter summed up, identifying what's wrong is one thing. Fixing it is another and it remains to be seen if this Browns team can correct the issues that have caused them problems all season.
A reasonable starting point? The NFL's most penalized team coming into the weekend was flagged 13 more times for 85 yards.
Kitchens has been saying since the opener, when the Browns committed 18 penalties in a loss to the Tennessee Titans, that his team had to eliminate penalties. But almost two months later, committing crucial penalties remains a huge problem for a team that still can't get out of its own way.
The good news?
The schedule gets much more favorable -- Cincinnati (0-8) twice, Miami (0-6), Pittsburgh (2-4) -- after the Browns visit Denver (2-6) on Sunday. The Broncos will be missing quarterback Joe Flacco because of a herniated neck disk. The Browns have only two games left against opponents with winning records (Buffalo Bills, Baltimore Ravens). The rest are a combined 9-40-1.
The opportunity for a late-season surge is there. ...
On the injury front. ... Mayfield and Landry took hard hits in the fourth quarter, but Kitchens said both "will be fine." that said, Landry (shoulder) and Beckham (groin) were limited Wednesday.
And finally. ... Mayfield's relationship with some members of the media will not be.
The QB was speaking with the media Wednesday when longtime Cleveland sports reporter Tony Grossi questioned him about a Browns drive that stalled in Sunday’s loss to the Patriots. As Grossi interjected with a question, Mayfield got short with him.
“Stop saying but,” Mayfield told Grossi. “I just told you the clock was running and we have a penalty. You want to give them the ball back? No. You don’t play, you don’t know. That’s just plain and simple.”
Grossi asked, “Were you happy with that drive?”
“Was I happy with the drive? No, we didn’t score points,” Mayfield said. “That’s the dumbest question you could ask.”
With that, Mayfield walked off, ending his media session.
The Browns are struggling on the field, and some saltiness is to be expected.
QBs: Baker Mayfield, Garrett Gilbert, Drew Stanton
RBs: Nick Chubb, Kareem Hunt, D'Ernest Johnson
WRs: Odell Beckham, Jarvis Landry, Damion Ratley, Taywan Taylor, Rashard Higgins, Derrick Willies
TEs: Demetrius Harris, Ricky Seals-Jones, David Njoku, Stephen Carlson, Pharaoh Brown
Dallas CowboysCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 29 October 2019
According to Associated Press sports writer Schulyer Dixon, Dak Prescott wasn't particularly distressed about the three-game losing streak that followed a 3-0 start with Dallas carrying lofty expectations.
It's a matter of timing for the star quarterback, particularly since the Cowboys had a three-game skid later in the one year out of three they missed the playoffs with Prescott.
After bouncing back with a 37-10 blowout of Philadelphia for control of the NFC East, Dallas (4-3) goes into the open week and the nine games remaining afterward looking to replace the see-saw with a merry-go-round that stops in the playoffs for the fourth time in six seasons.
The Cowboys next play at the New York Giants in another division game in their only "Monday Night Football" appearance Nov. 4.
"I have a weird way of looking at things," the star quarterback said before beating the Eagles. "Yeah, the timing, it's never good to lose three, never ever, but if there ever was an ideal time I'd say it's now."
Even though Prescott and fellow 2016 rookie sensation Ezekiel Elliott are young players in their fourth seasons, they've experienced just about everything short of making a run to the Super Bowl.
In a remarkable debut that included the first of Elliott's two NFL rushing titles, the Cowboys set a franchise record with 11 straight victories and had a first-round bye before losing the first postseason game for Prescott and Elliott in the divisional round to Green Bay.
When Elliott was suspended six games over domestic violence allegations halfway through his second season, Dallas lost the first three games without him. The Cowboys had to win all five remaining games to return to the playoffs, falling short when they lost in Elliott's return.
Now they've run the gamut of emotions less than halfway through a season that started with players, coaches and the front office believing they had a team capable of ending a nearly 25-year stretch without the proud franchise even reaching the NFC championship game.
"I think what we're really fortunate to have here is a young team that's hungry. ... But also a group that has a lot of experience," said center Travis Frederick, who was a rookie the year before the Cowboys made the first of three playoff trips in five years.
"It's a unique mixture. I think that experience is something that we can lean on in situations like this. I think guys are pretty level-headed, pretty even keel through those ups and downs."
The first three wins were over teams that entered this week with just three victories between them in the New York Giants, Washington and Miami -- and one of those was the Redskins beating the Dolphins.
The first two losses were against a pair of one-loss division leaders in New Orleans and Green Bay, followed by what the Cowboys hope is their low point this season -- a loss to the previously winless Jets a week before New York was blown out by New England.
The victory over the Eagles with the teams tied atop the NFC East was thorough. Elliott led a dominant run game, and Prescott was efficient except for an overly aggressive throw with a big lead in the fourth quarter.
"I'd like to think the way we approach it every week is providing some sort of inspiration and motivation for our team," head coach Jason Garrett said. "That is something we take pride in. Try to get our guys' minds right, their mentality right to play their best football."
The defense had been mediocre enough through six games that Dallas was the only remaining team in the NFL that hadn't started a possession on the opponent's side of the 50-yard line.
That changed immediately against the Eagles with fumbles on Philadelphia's first two possessions, leading to a 14-0 lead for the Cowboys. Dallas forced four turnovers -- three of them by Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz.
"I think a big win for us, going into the bye week, I think a big confidence boost for our locker room," right guard Zack Martin said. "But I think we're very aware that that's just one game. We still have a long way to go."
During the open week last year, the Cowboys gave up this year's first-round draft pick to get No. 1 receiver Amari Cooper in a trade with Oakland. Dallas did it again this year, although with not nearly quite as bold a move and with the focus on defense instead.
A person with direct knowledge of the deal says the Cowboys acquired defensive lineman Michael Bennett from New England for a conditional late-round pick in 2021. The person spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity Thursday because the deal hasn't been announced.
After the loss to the Packers, Prescott acknowledged the Cowboys might have "sniffed ourselves a little bit too much" coming off the 3-0 start.
But when asked after the embarrassing loss to the Jets if he still thought he had a great team, Prescott responded swiftly, "I know we have a great team. I know it."
Now the Cowboys are looking for the consistency to show it. ...
One last note here. ... As ESPN's Mike Clay reminded readers, Randall Cobb played through a questionable tag in Week 7, but the veteran slot receiver was limited to 47 percent of the snaps and three targets. Cobb played 76 percent of the snaps and had seen exactly five or six targets during his first five games with Dallas, though the usage didn't lead to much fantasy production.
Cobb posted a 4-69-1 receiving line in Week 1, but he totaled 13 catches for 141 yards and zero scores during the four games that followed.
On the injury front. ... The Cowboys had Cooper (ankle/quad), Leighton Vander Esch (neck), Robert Quinn (ribs), La'el Collins (knee) and Tyron Smith (ankle) available for practice, Garrett told the media.
There were three absences with Cam Fleming (calf), Trysten Hill and Antwaun Woods. Woods and Hill's absences were for an unspecified reason. Defensive lineman Michael Bennett, who was acquired during last week's bye week, was also at Cowboys practice for the first time.
QBs: Dak Prescott, Cooper Rush
RBs: Ezekiel Elliott, Tony Pollard
WRs: Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup, Randall Cobb, Tavon Austin, Devin Smith, Ventell Bryant
TEs: Jason Witten, Blake Jarwin, Dalton Schultz
Denver BroncosCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 29 October 2019
Joe Flacco will miss Sunday's game against the Browns with a herniated disk in his neck, and his season could be in jeopardy if the Broncos don't get a favorable medical report after the team's Nov. 10 bye.
Brandon Allen, claimed off waivers Sept. 1 from the Los Angeles Rams, will start against Cleveland. Head coach Vic Fangio said Monday the team will decide later this week if Brett Rypien will be signed and elevated to the roster from the practice squad, or if fellow rookie Drew Lock will be activated from injured reserve to be Allen's backup.
"Joe's not going to play this week. He's got a disk or neck injury," Fangio said. "He'll definitely miss this week and then we'll reevaluate after the bye and see where it's at."
NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported Tuesday that Flacco is getting a second opinion, but based on the initial read, he could be out as long as five to six weeks, according to a source informed of the situation.
As ESPN.com's Jeff Legwold notes, during the second half of Sunday's 15-13 loss to the Indianapolis Colts, Flacco spent much of his time in between Denver's offensive series getting his neck attended to by the medical staff. After the game, Flacco said he first felt at least some neck pain "a couple weeks ago" and that "I don't know if I got hit on it [Sunday] or not."
Flacco was sacked three times by the Colts, including on the game's final play, and 11 times in the past two games. He has been sacked 26 times in eight starts this season. Only two quarterbacks have been sacked more often -- Cincinnati's Andy Dalton and Tampa Bay's Jameis Winston.
When asked whether Flacco would need surgery, Fangio said: "They don't know that yet. I think right at this minute they don't think, but those things are fluid."
Asked if Flacco could potentially move to injured reserve, Fangio said: "Not [as of Monday], but possibly, you know, we're still gathering the information."
The Broncos' struggles on offense have grown as the season has worn on. Denver is 22nd in total offense, 28th in scoring offense and 26th in passing offense, and has scored more than 16 points just once this season. The Broncos haven't scored more than 24 points since Week 7 of last season.
The three quarterbacks behind Flacco have not played a snap in an NFL regular-season game.
The Broncos claimed Allen off waivers after Lock suffered a right thumb injury during the preseason. They liked Allen's work in a similar scheme with the Rams, and he threw for 162 yards against the Broncos on Aug. 24 in the preseason in a little over a quarter or work.
"I think the guy has a little something to him and we'll devise a plan for him," Fangio said.
Although Fangio said Lock is essentially healed from the thumb injury, the rookie has not practiced in full-team drills since Aug. 17, two days before he suffered his injury against the San Francisco 49ers. Lock, who was selected with the 42nd pick of this past April's draft, has been on injured reserve since rosters were cut to 53 players just before the regular season began.
On Sunday, Flacco criticized Denver's conservative approach on offense, especially on a third-and-5 just after the two-minute warning with the Broncos clinging to a 13-12 lead. Running back Phillip Lindsay was stopped for no gain on the play, the Broncos punted and the Colts used a seven-play drive for Adam Vinatieri's 51-yard field goal to win.
"I just look at it like we're now a 2-6 football team and we're, like, afraid to go for it in a two-minute drill, you know?" Flacco said Sunday. "Who cares if you give the ball back with a minute [and] 40 seconds left? They've obviously got the field goal anyway."
Pushed on the Broncos' late-game offense, Flacco added: "Once again, we're a 2-6 football team and it just feels like we're kind of afraid to lose a game. It's third-and-5 at the end of a game; who care if they have a timeout at the end or not? Getting in field goal range isn't that tough. You're just putting your defense in these bad situations and I just felt like, what do we have to lose? Why can't we be aggressive in some of these situations? That's kind of how I feel a lot about the game today."
"He's just frustrated, like the rest of us," Fangio said Monday. "Upset and mad about the game, the way it went. I think he's talking about the whole fourth quarter, second half, when we struggled, not so much the last drive. ... I think his comments are more applicable to the whole second half."
Meanwhile, the as Associated Press sports writer Michael Marot noted, the Broncos' troubles go well beyond play-calling and the failures are taking a toll.
The Broncos have now scored 24 or fewer points in 17 consecutive games, the longest stretch in the league over that span and they have scored more than 16 points just twice this season -- a 26-24 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars in Week 4 as well as a 20-13 win over the Los Angeles Chargers in Week 5.
Scangarello is in his first season as an NFL play caller after serving as the San Francisco 49ers' quarterbacks coach the previous two years.
He also worked with 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan when the two were with the Atlanta Falcons.
Worth noting, Sunday was the Broncos' first outing since they traded unhappy wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders to the San Francisco 49ers. Sutton again flashed his capabilities, but the Broncos could not consistently move the ball through the air. How production in the passing game will be dispersed in the post-Sanders future is still to be determined.
The Broncos used Sutton, Diontae Spencer and Fred Brown much of the time in the three-wide-receiver set, but overall the Broncos will need somebody -- receivers, tight end Noah Fant, Lindsay or running back Royce Freeman -- to get more involved, or Sutton will soon see plenty of double coverage.
Sutton finished with three catches for 72 yards. No other Broncos player had more than 26 yards receiving Sunday.
DaeSean Hamilton was on the field for 62 percent of the snaps, but was clearly working behind Brown (who started opposite Sutton). ...
The offensive line was an issue.
According to Legwold, there was a concerted effort to get the ball out of Flacco's hand more quickly, but there is plenty of work to be done given that the Broncos couldn't get a first down when they needed it most in the closing minutes. Right tackle Ja'Wuan James' knee injury could affect what the Broncos believe they can and cannot do on offense moving forward. In what was his first game back since the opener, James left Sunday's game with a left knee injury -- the same knee he injured in the season-opening loss to the Oakland Raiders.
On the injury front beyond Flacco, tight end Jeff Heuerman suffered a knee injury. "We'll see how he does," Fangio said. "There's a chance he could miss this week."
According to 9News.com's Mike Klis, for first time since suffering broken hand in Week 1, Tim Patrick started catching the ball yesterday and today. The wideout still has not received word he will start practicing Wednesday with intention to be activated on 53-man roster after next week's bye.
I'll follow up via Late-Breaking Update as needed.
QBs: Drew Lock, Brandon Allen
RBs: Phillip Lindsay, Royce Freeman, Devontae Booker, Theo Riddick
WRs: Courtland Sutton, Tim Patrick, Daesean Hamilton, Fred Brown, Juwann Winfree, Diontae Spencer
TEs: Noah Fant, Jeff Heuerman, Troy Fumagalli
Detroit LionsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 29 October 2019
The Lions had lost three games in a row, and last Tuesday, they announced that second-year running back Kerryon Johnson was going on injured reserve with a knee injury. That same day, Detroit traded defensive back Quandre Diggs to Seattle.
But the team wrapped up a turbulent week with an important victory -- thanks to another sharp performance by Matthew Stafford.
As ESPN.com's Michael Rothstein noted, Stafford entered Sunday with numbers befitting a top-10 quarterback. He ranked in the statistical categories of yards per game, yards per completion and first down percentage. His team might not always play like it, but the Detroit Lions quarterback had been having one of the best seasons of his career.
And on Sunday, in a 31-26 win over the New York Giants that Detroit had to have to keep within striking distance in a tough NFC North, he might have had his best performance of the year.
He completed 25 of 32 passes for 342 yards, three touchdowns and one interception -- a bad throw, for sure -- but his only truly bad read on the day. He lofted the ball over Giants defenders. Threw balls into tight windows, including on Kenny Golladay's first touchdown catch, where he squeezed it into a place where only Golladay could grab it.
Beyond those plays, though, it's how this offense fits him midway into his first season with Darrell Bevell that stands out the most. The Lions use play-action enough for it to be effective for him (it was always a strength).
They also are willing to take the deep shots -- he completed 2 of 6 passes 20 yards or further, including two touchdowns -- and was 6 of 7 when he worked between 10-and-20 yards.
Stafford has 16 touchdown passes and only four interceptions.
"He is just a competitive, competitive guy. He always wants to be the best, and he's great," head coach Matt Patricia said. "He works really hard, he's competitive, he's tough, he's grinding it out every single day."
Stafford had complete command of the offense, leading to his best passer rating of the season (129.4) and yet another reason why his game is continuing to grow in his relationship with his new coordinator.
According to Pro Football Focus statistics, the Giants blitzed Stafford on eight of his drop backs. They sacked him twice. The other six times Stafford was 6-of-6 passing for 123 yards (20.5 average) with a touchdown and a passer rating of 158.3.
In case you missed it, the Lions put Kerryon Johnson on IR this week with the hope he can return later this season. In the meantime, however, Tra Carson, Ty Johnson, J.D. McKissic and Paul Perkins combined to rush 23 times for 56 yards (2.4 average) Sunday against a Giants defense that came into the game ranked 26th in the NFL.
Carson (12 carries, 34 yards) got the surprise start and had runs of 7 and 12 yards on the opening drive. Johnson showed his speed getting to the edge on a 14-yard gain, but had just six carries for 11 yards otherwise. McKissic and Perkins were largely non-factors.
Detroit's rushed for just four first downs over the last two weeks combined since Kerryon got hurt.
The 10 longest plays for the Lions Sunday were all pass plays. In fact, the longest run on the day was 14 yards from Ty Johnson, which means the Lions still don't have a run of 15-plus yards on the season. ...
For what it's worth, NFL Network's Ian Rapoport reported Wednesday that the Lions heavily discussed a trade with the Atlanta Falcons for running back Devonta Freeman, per sources informed of the talks.
Per Rapoport, sides talked about a possible deal at length, but ultimately Atlanta decided to hang on to the veteran running back. ...
Golladay had 123 yards receiving and two scores on six catches. Danny Amendola caught eight passes for 95 yards. Carson had a career-high 34 yards on 12 carries, starting in place of Johnson.
Wide receiver Marvin Hall notched a reception of 45-plus yards for the third straight game, becoming the first Lions player to reach this mark since Bill Schroeder in 2002.
Hall has 201 yards on only five receptions this season, giving him an average of better than 40 yards per catch. ..
The Lions play their next two games on the road, starting this weekend against the Oakland Raiders.
QBs: David Blough, Kyle Sloter
RBs: Kerryon Johnson, Bo Scarbrough, Ty Johnson, J.D. McKissic, Paul Perkins
WRs: Kenny Golladay, Danny Amendola, Chris Lacy, Travis Fulgham
TEs: Jesse James, Logan Thomas
Green Bay PackersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 29 October 2019
According to ESPN.com's Rob Demovsky, Aaron Jones has his individual goals written on the mirror at his apartment back in Green Bay. Nowhere on it does it say anything about becoming the first Packers running back since the AFL-NFL merger in 1970 to have a game with at least 150 yards as a receiver.
But his list does include touchdowns.
After Jones set career highs in receiving yards (159 on seven catches) and touchdown catches (two) in Sunday's 31-24 win over the Kansas City Chiefs -- and in the process became just the fifth running back in the last 30 years with at least 150 yards and two receiving touchdowns -- he leads the NFL in total touchdowns with 11, one more than Carolina's Christian McCaffrey.
"No, it's not a surprise to me," Jones said. "That's one of my goals. I write down my goals there on my mirror at home, so you've just got to keep working toward that. Should've had two more. Got called back."
The three goals on his mirror are: lead the league in total touchdowns, rushing touchdowns and receiving touchdowns. He currently can check off the first of the three, and he's second in rushing touchdowns.
"Maybe not leading the league in touchdowns, but he's pretty talented," quarterback Aaron Rodgers said when asked if he envisioned that from Jones. "I think the scheme is obviously giving him opportunities to do a lot more out of the backfield. We're splitting him out and throwing the ball to him. We kind of caught lightning in a bottle a couple times. We hit him on a 50-yard slant and go and then hit a screen pass for 70 or whatever. He's a talented guy. Very proud of him and Jamaal [Williams], those guys have got a bunch of touchdowns this year. They've got to be feeling pretty good."
In between Jones' two touchdown catches, he went to the locker room for X-rays on his shoulder that turned out to be nothing more than a scare.
Jones totaled 226 yards of offense and combined with fellow running back Williams for three touchdowns -- all receiving.
What's more, Jones capped his record-setting receiving day with an 8-yard catch to convert on a third-down that allowed them to run out the clock. Usually that would be a run call but, as Rodgers said: "The consensus was let's throw it to Jonesy. That says a lot about the kind of player that he is."
On Wednesday, Jones was named NFC Offensive Player of the Week. This is Jones' second Player of the Week honor in four weeks; he earned his first ever in Week 5 after scored four TDs against the Dallas Cowboys.
For Rodgers, it was his first game with three touchdowns to running backs, and the one to Williams -- a 3-yarder in the back of the end zone in the fourth quarter to tie the game at 24-24 -- looked like a desperation heave. Rodgers rolled to his right to avoid pressure and was hit as he threw.
"That was one of the best, if not the best pass I've ever seen live, in person," LaFleur said. "That was incredible. I couldn't believe it. Just a great play because he was under duress, too. I think he, I know he ended up on the ground. But credit to Jamaal man. He kept working for him and it was just one of those plays that kind of leaves you speechless."
Even Rodgers wouldn't say definitively whether he was throwing for Williams or tight end Jimmy Graham.
"I was actually throwing a ball that I thought maybe Jimmy could go up and get if he wanted to and, if he didn't, the guy behind him might be able to get it," Rodgers said. "Luckily, the guy behind him got it."
Williams claimed he and Rodgers locked eyes before he threw it, but Rodgers could barely see him.
"I'm not sure if we locked eyes; that's probably a little bit of a stretch, but I did see him," Rodgers said. "The wind probably helped out a little bit on that one."
After throwing eight touchdown passes in the first six games, Rodgers has thrown eight the past two games. His strong play has helped the Packers (7-1) to their best start since opening 13-0 in 2011.
"Some of those throws just leave you speechless, to be honest with you," head coach Matt LaFleur said.
Making Rodgers' performances all the more impressive is he's done it without star receiver Davante Adams, who missed his fourth consecutive game with turf toe.
The Packers are 4-0 without Adams but the contributions from the rest of the receiver group have been sporadic.
Regular starters Marquez Valdes-Scantling (one catch, 4 yards) and Geronimo Allison (one catch, 7 yards) combined to catch two of five targeted passes for 11 yards.
Jake Kumerow had quite a week. Last Sunday against the Raiders, he caught one of Rodgers' five touchdown passes. In Kansas City, he opened the game with two catches on the first drive for 48 yards, including a 34-yarder on a deep corner route.
The reception on third-and-9 was Rodgers' fourth pass this season that was both 30-plus yards in the air and into a tight window.
It had 42.1 yards of air distance, and Kumerow had a separation of just 0.6 yards. Kumerow covered nearly 47 yards and reached a max speed of 20.55 mph. ...
On the injury front. ... With NFL Network's Ian Rapoport reporting Wednesday that Adams is close to making a return, his status will be something I continue to watch closely; check the Late-Breaking Updates section for more as the week progresses.
Also. ... Right tackle Bryan Bulaga, who had not allowed a sack in the first seven weeks but gave up one on Sunday, missed the final two series with an injured right ring finger. Alex Light replaced him, with the Packers scoring a touchdown on his first possession and running out the final five-plus minutes on the second.
Bulaga expects to play on Sunday against Chargers once he and the trainers can settle on a protective device.
And finally. ... After a home-heavy schedule to start the season, the Packers will play a second consecutive road game, this one at the Chargers.
QBs: Aaron Rodgers, Tim Boyle
RBs: Aaron Jones, Jamaal Williams, Tyler Ervin, Dexter Williams
WRs: Davante Adams, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Geronimo Allison, Allen Lazard, Jake Kumerow
TEs: Jimmy Graham, Marcedes Lewis, Robert Tonyan, Jace Sternberger
Houston TexansCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 29 October 2019
When Deshaun Watson threw a game-winning touchdown against the Oakland Raiders on Sunday, he said he "kind of threw it blind" because he took a cleat to the eye while trying to make the play.
"I had to readjust my helmet, and then this eye was actually going closed, too, so I kind of threw it blind," Watson said. "But I kind of assumed where he was going and kind of adjusted and let my arm guide it. And then I didn't even see the play until after the game. I just kind of just laid there and heard the crowd go crazy and knew we scored."
Texans head coach Bill O'Brien said the play that was called "wasn't open initially," but Watson broke a tackle and threw a touchdown to tight end Darren Fells.
"You see him do it time and time again," O'Brien said. "And then [he] delivered the ball and ended up taking an -- accidentally -- taking a foot in the eye and just came back and finished the game. That's who he is. He's a winner. We're thrilled that he's on our team. He's a great player, and he's a great leader."
After the game, Watson said his eye is "fine." The quarterback was checked out on the field by the Texans' medical staff after the play and went into the blue medical tent. He came back in for Houston's final offensive drive to seal the game for the Texans.
Watson completed 27 of 39 passes for 279 yards and three touchdowns against the Raiders.
"Deshaun's a warrior," wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins said. "I knew he was going to come back and help us finish that last drive that we needed, and that's exactly what he did. I wasn't worried at all. I think even if he couldn't see out [of] that eye, he was still going to come out there."
Fells had 58 yards receiving and two touchdowns and Hopkins grabbed 11 catches for 109 yards.
When Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney was making the case for Watson to be the first overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft, he said any team that passes on Watson will be passing on Michael Jordan.
Eleven teams passed on Watson before the Texans traded up to get him and many of them surely regret that decision after seeing how Watson has developed since coming to the NFL. Raiders coach Jon Gruden got a close look at Watson and he borrowed a page from Swinney when talking about Watson after the game.
"He wills it out of his team. He makes something out of nothing . . . it's like going against Michael Jordan," Gruden said, via Vic Tafur of TheAthletic.com.
It's worth noting signal caller had to bow out of an appearance at Minute Maid Park to play a role in the pregame festivities before Game Seven of the World Series on Wednesday night.
Watson was supposed to call “play ball” before the first pitch of the deciding game between the Astros and Nationals on Wednesday night, but John McClain of the Houston Chronicle reports that a “minor setback” with his swollen eye has forced a change in plans. Watson has been advised to rest instead of taking in the game.
McClain adds that Watson remains on track to travel to London and play in Sunday’s game against the Jaguars; I'll be watching for more on that and will report back as needed via Late-Breaking Update
Overall, the injuries continued to pile up in their 27-24 victory over the Raiders.
J.J. Watt was injured in the second quarter and tweeted afterward that he was done for the season.
His tweet said: "This game can be beautiful and it can also be brutal. Absolutely gutted that I won't be able to finish the season with my guys and give the fans what they deserve. I truly love this game and can't stand letting you guys down. Thank you for all of the thoughts and well-wishes."
That tweet came after he retweeted a video of him making a tackle for a loss. The caption on the tweet read: "Look out for No. 99," and he added the comment: "Shoulda told my pec to look out lol."
Watt had three tackles, including one for a loss, and swatted down a pass before he was injured.
The Texans' secondary was thin entering the game, with cornerbacks Johnathan Joseph (hamstring/neck) and Bradley Roby (hamstring) inactive, and Houston ran into even more injury trouble against the Raiders. Cornerback Lonnie Johnson was evaluated for a concussion in the second quarter, and was later ruled out for the rest of the game.
Houston traded for cornerback Gareon Conley on Monday and cut rookie cornerback Xavier Crawford, a sixth-round pick, later in the week.
Hopkins had 109 yards receiving on Sunday for his second straight game with at least 100 yards receiving and the third this season. His two big games come after he failed to reach 70 yards receiving in four of the previous five games. His performance on Sunday gave him 8,054 yards receiving to make the 27-year-old the third-youngest player in NFL history to reach 8,000 yards receiving behind Randy Moss and Larry Fitzgerald. ...
Sunday was Fells' second multi-touchdown effort of the season, giving him a career-high five over eight games, tops on the Texans. The 33-year-old tight end has caught all seven of his red-zone targets for 75 yards and five scores. ...
Carlos Hyde rushed 19 times for 83 yards against the Raiders. As CBSSports.com notes, Hyde's 19 carries was his fourth-highest total, while the 83 yards were his third highest. He once again out-touched backfield mate Duke Johnson by a wide margin, 19-7, although it was Johnson that had the lone touchdown scored by a running back. ...
And finally. ... After scoring a touchdown with 14:56 left in the game, the Texans kicked an extra point while trailing by two, rather than try a two-point conversion. According to ESPN Stats and Information, since 2016, there had been 29 times a team scored a touchdown in the fourth quarter when down by eight points.
All 29 went for two.
Houston is the first team to kick the extra point in that spot since the Bears in 2015 against the Lions. The Texans went on to score another touchdown with less than seven minutes left in the game, and did not trail again.
QBs: Deshaun Watson, AJ McCarron
RBs: Carlos Hyde, Duke Johnson, Buddy Howell, Taiwan Jones
WRs: DeAndre Hopkins, Will Fuller, Kenny Stills, DeAndre Carter, Keke Coutee
TEs: Darren Fells, Jordan Akins, Jordan Thomas
Indianapolis ColtsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 29 October 2019
Head coach Frank Reich was so confident in Adam Vinatieri, he opted to play for a long field goal Sunday.
Even after the NFL's career scoring leader opened the game by missing a 45-yard field goal wide right. Even after the league's best clutch kicker missed the tying extra point in the third quarter.
Eventually, Vinatieri rewarded Reich's faith. In his 200th career game with the Colts, Vinatieri made a 51-yard field goal with 22 seconds left to give Indy a 15-13 come-from-behind victory over the Denver Broncos.
"I knew we were inside Vinny's range," Reich said. "I knew that was money for Adam. I knew that."
For most of Vinatieri's first 23 seasons, every coach in the league would have agreed with Reich's statement.
This season has made some wonder about Vinatieri's reliability. He missed five of eight kicks in the first two weeks before seemingly settling with only one miss -- a long field goal -- in Indy's next four games.
Then came the two misses Sunday and suddenly everyone outside the Colts' organization held their collective breath when Reich called two runs from just inside the Broncos 35 in the final 73 seconds. But Vinatieri delivered by again living up to his reputation.
"Honestly, you have to have a short memory, good or bad," he said. "I guess for me, the only thing I try to think about is my fundamentals and what I need to do right there at that moment and try not to think about the situation in the game and what it means. I just try to focus in on my little world."
Teammates were all in like Reich, however.
"We all knew it was going in," receiver T.Y. Hilton said. "He's made countless kicks like that throughout his career. That's why he's the G.O.A.T."
The Colts (5-2), who lost quarterback Andrew Luck to retirement two weeks before the start of the regular season, are on a three-game winning streak and are 14-3 in their past 17 regular-season games going back to last season.
There was no guarantee Vinatieri was going to have a chance to redeem himself after the Colts started the winning drive at their own 11-yard line with less than two minutes remaining in the game. They got a 35-yard completion from quarterback Jacoby Brissett to Hilton where Brissett broke free from the grasp of Denver pass rusher Von Miller at the 1-yard line before escaping to find Hilton along the sideline.
"There's maybe a couple of quarterbacks in the league that can make that play, we have one of them," Reich said. "That's twofold. Get away from Von Miller in the end zone and then the throw, on the run to the right, getting it that far down the field inbounds to T.Y."
After a 15-yard horse-collar penalty by Broncos linebacker Alexander Johnson on running back Nyheim Hines helped the Colts them get into field goal range, Reich showed his faith in Vinatieri when he called back-to-back running plays to ensure they were in the middle of the field for the future Hall of Famer to make the kick.
"Had all the confidence Adam was going to make it," Reich said. "We threw it on first down, called a naked (bootleg) and they covered it up pretty well. I thought we could sneak one in there and get some big yards. Once we didn't get that, I wasn't going to take a chance on a sack or holding penalty that would put us out of field goal range. Run it twice and let Adam win the game."
As ESPN.com's Mike Wells noted, questions about Vinatieri's future with the Colts would have been raised had he missed the 51-yard attempt. Vinatieri missed a 45-yard field goal attempt where he had to rush the kick because Denver brought pressure right up the middle on the Colts' opening drive of the game and then missed an extra point that would have tied the game at 13-13 late in the third quarter. He made a 55-yard field goal, which tied for the second longest of his career, in the first half.
"Missing two kicks, I'm not happy about," Vinatieri said. "I'm pretty happy about a 50-plus game winner, a 55, so it wasn't a complete catastrophe. But I expect to make every kick every time I step on the field. I like to have every one of them, but as long as we win, that's the most important thing."
Sunday's struggles added on to a season of inconsistency for the 46-year-old Vinatieri.
He missed three kicks against the Los Angeles Chargers in Week 1. Vinatieri immediately took complete blame for the loss to the Chargers after the game. Vinatieri then missed two more extra points in Week 2 against the Tennessee Titans to bring his total of missed kicks inside of the 35-yard line over a five-game span up to seven.
Vinatieri said later that week he was working to the "demons" out so that he could clear his head. Colts general manager Chris Ballard worked out six kickers as potential replacements for Vinatieri that same week.
Vinatieri has missed a career-high four extra points this season. Two of those missed extra points would have tied the game. The rest of the league went into Sunday with a combined four misses, according to ESPN Stats and Information.
Reich said the overall success Vinatieri has had in his career is why he's had no problem sticking with him as their kicker.
"It's 100 percent his track record, it's 100 percent talking to him every day," Reich said. "You know I am not just looking at the numbers, or evaluating the times and the kicks, how far he missed here or there, you look a guy in the eye and you know that this is the greatest kicker of all time, and I see every day what he does in practice, and our team has so much belief and confidence in him, I was real happy for him (Sunday), obviously, although he's done this quite a few times, but good for him and good for us that he is on our team."
The final kick gave Indy (5-2) a third straight win and kept it atop the AFC South heading into this week's game in Pittsburgh.
On Wednesday, Vinatiere was named AFC Special Teams Player of the Week. This is his 19th Player of the Week honor of his career. ...
A few final notes. ... Brissett completed 15-of-25 passes for 202 yards for an 85.8 passer rating. He also totaled six carries for 34 yards.
Marlon Mack's rollercoaster season continued. After being held in check by Houston, Mack produced 76 yards on 19 carries against Denver and scored Indy's only TD. It was his third touchdown of the season and the 15th of his career. ...
Tight end Jack Doyle led the team in receiving with four catches for 61 yards (15.3 avg.).
His 61 receiving yards are tied for the eighth-highest total in a game for his career and his most since Oct. 28, 2018 at Oakland (70 yards). ...
Hilton finished with two receptions for 54 yards, including the 35-yard catch that set up Vinatieri's game-winner.
Worth noting. ... Hilton (calf) and center Quenton Nelson (hip) were limited at practice Wednesday. I'll follow up via Late-Breaking Update as needed. ...
Finally. ... Vinatieri joins Reggie Wayne (211), Peyton Manning (208) and Johnny Unitas (206) as the only Colts to appear in 200 games.
QBs: Jacoby Brissett, Brian Hoyer, Chad Kelly
RBs: Marlon Mack, Jordan Wilkins, Nyheim Hines, Jonathan Williams
WRs: T.Y. Hilton, Zach Pascal, Marcus Johnson, Dontrelle Inman, Ashton Dulin, Chad Williams
TEs: Jack Doyle, Mo Alie-Cox
Jacksonville JaguarsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 29 October 2019
As ESPN.com's Michael DiRocco noted, Gardner Minshew is doing his best to make a permanent claim to remain the Jacksonville Jaguars' starting quarterback when Nick Foles is cleared to return next month.
It's not just that the rookie sixth-round pick threw for 279 yards and three touchdowns in the Jaguars' 29-15 victory against the New York Jets. It's that he continues to make plays with his legs, scrambling for first downs and to avoid pressure and find a receiver. Foles definitely has the edge in experience and accomplishments (a Super Bowl MVP) but it's that ability to elude and create that brings an extra element to the Jaguars' offense, especially on days when the run game just isn't working.
The Jaguars reached .500 with Sunday's victory (4-4) and have one more game (against Houston, in London) before the bye.
The possibility of being above .500 at the break seemed remote at best the moment Foles suffered a broken collarbone in the season opener, but that was before Minshew started playing like a veteran starter. What Minshew has done since then -- 1,976 yards, 13 TDs, 2 INTs -- has to at least make the coaching staff think about keeping him on the field, especially if he plays well again next week in London.
Now the Jaguars hope to carry their momentum across the pond.
The Jaguars (4-4) have won consecutive games and four of six as they head to London to face Houston. Jacksonville has played annually at Wembley Stadium since 2013, and the overseas trip has become an integral part of the team's financial stability.
This year, though, it could be the key to a successful season.
The Jaguars need a victory to avoid getting swept by the Texans (5-3) and falling two games behind the AFC South rival with seven to play. ...
Other notes of interest. ... Leonard Fournette ran for 66 yards on the second play of the game. He gained 10 yards on 18 carries the rest of the day while dealing with a stomach virus.
Fournette expressed his frustration late, pulling his helmet off and pointing and shouting toward the sideline following a pitch on second-and-goal from inside the 1. Fournette had no chance and lost 7 yards.
It was an odd call, no doubt, given the down and distance. But the Jets have one of the best run defenses in the NFL and stopped Fournette on first down.
Still, Fournette believed he should have been given the ball three or four times straight ahead, between the tackles, where he does his best work.
Head coach Doug Marrone agreed, saying his father-in-law -- College Football Hall of Fame coach Boots Donnelly -- was "going to kill me if this play doesn't score."
"I know better than to toss the ball at the goal line. I know better," Marrone said. "I've got to do a better job with that, same with the red zone. ..."
1010XL Radio's s Hays Carlyon expects TE Josh Oliver's role to "continue to increase."
As Rotoworld.com notes, Oliver played 30 snaps and was targeted twice in Sunday's win over the Jets. He's quickly been established as Jacksonville's move tight end after missing the first six weeks. Oliver has the talent to carve out a role as he gets more acclimated to the offense. He's worth stashing in Dynasty leagues.
On the injury front. ... Dede Westbrook, who went into the game listed as questionable with neck and shoulder injuries, was held without a catch for the first time this season. He also fumbled on a punt return -- he recovered it -- and re-injured his shoulder during the scramble for the loose ball.
I'll have more on Westbrook via Late-Breaking Update in coming days, but there will be no follow-up on Marqise Lee.
The Jaguars placed him on IR Tuesday due to a shoulder injury; the move essentially ends Lee's season. ...
Cornerback D.J. Hayden (shoulder) and safety Ronnie Harrison (neck) left Sunday's game, but both are expected to practice this week. Three linebackers -- Najee Goode, Leon Jacobs and Quincy Williams -- are more likely to return after the team's Week 10 bye. ...
For the record, Foles returned to practice last week and has another week of practice before the earliest that he is eligible to return to the active roster. Since the Jaguars have a bye following the Houston game, that would put Foles on track to return for the Nov. 17 game at Indianapolis -- though that timeline could get pushed back another week if the Jaguars feel Foles needs additional time.
And finally. ... The Jaguars have released RB Alfred Blue, who had been on IR since Sept. 1 because of a left ankle injury. Blue signed a one-year, $895,000 contract with $250,000 guaranteed with the Jaguars in March.
QBs: Gardner Minshew, Nick Foles, Josh Dobbs, Phillip Walker
RBs: Leonard Fournette, Ryquell Armstead, Devine Ozigbo
WRs: D.J. Chark, Dede Westbrook, Chris Conley, Keelan Cole
TEs: Ben Koyack, Nick O'Leary, Seth DeValve
Kansas City ChiefsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 29 October 2019
The Kansas City Chiefs are hopeful that Patrick Mahomes will be able to play this week against Minnesota, especially having practiced on a limited basis just days after dislocating his kneecap.
But hope is not lost if the reigning league MVP misses a second consecutive game.
According to ESPN.com's Adam Teicher, the Chiefs' worst nightmare developed in the early minutes of Sunday night's game against the Green Bay Packers. They fell behind by two touchdowns in the first quarter and didn't have the injured Mahomes to help bail them out.
What happened next was enough to give the Chiefs hope for as long as they'll have to play without Mahomes. They rallied behind veteran backup Matt Moore.
They rallied twice, in fact, but still lost 31-24.
Still, the Chiefs have reason to believe they can score enough points to win against the Vikings if Moore is again their starting quarterback.
Moore completed 24 of 36 passes for 267 yards and two touchdowns and his teammates didn't help at times. LeSean McCoy lost a fumble that led to a Green Bay touchdown. Sammy Watkins dropped a pass that could have been a big play. Travis Kelce dropped a pass in the end zone.
"It's not just on Matt," Watkins said. "His job is to control the game and help us win the game. ... We've all got to make plays. We can't just single [him] out and say, 'Matt, Matt, Matt,' and make it about Matt.
"Of course we're more comfortable with Pat out there but we had a whole week of practice with [Moore] and I honestly feel like he played well."
Even when Mahomes went down in Denver, the Chiefs asked little of Moore.
He entered the game with the Chiefs holding a lead they quickly expanded, mostly due to a defensive touchdown. So the Chiefs didn't need Moore to be productive against the Broncos.
They needed everything he could deliver against the Packers, and Moore gave them more than could reasonably be expected from a quarterback who two months ago was helping coach his former high school team in California. He threw touchdown passes of 29 yards to Kelce and 30 yards to Mecole Hardman as part of a 17-point second quarter to give the Chiefs a lead at halftime.
On both plays, Moore used the abilities of his teammates. On the Kelce touchdown, Moore had to get rid of the ball because of pressure before he was set. But Kelce was uncovered, so he arched the ball into the air at his last available moment, which allowed Kelce time to run underneath it and make the catch.
Hardman, one of the fastest Chiefs, scored on a jet sweep.
"Those were nice," Moore said. "It's just letting guys do their thing."
Moore helped rally the Chiefs a second time in the fourth quarter, after the Chiefs had fallen behind 24-17. He threw what would have been a third scoring pass had Kelce not dropped a throw in the end zone, but the Chiefs scored on the drive anyway on a Damien Williams run.
Moore and the Chiefs finally ran out of gas, after the Packers scored again to take a 31-24 lead.
"There's always going to be something," Moore said when asked what he reasonably could have done better. "In every game, it's never as good as you think and it's never as bad as you think. That's true for everybody."
Meanwhile, the Chiefs have lost three straight games at Arrowhead Stadium, a surprising slide given the way their fans provide a raucous home field atmosphere. But they are still in control of their AFC West title hopes, and that means they still have plenty to play for this season.
Especially if Moore and their defense can hold the fort until reinforcements arrive.
Yes, getting Mahomes back will be a huge boon to the offense. But so would the return of left tackle Eric Fisher (groin) and left guard Andrew Wylie (ankle), just as the return of defensive tackle Chris Jones (groin) and defensive end Frank Clark (neck) would help out that side of the ball.
"We've got to get the numbers back," head coach Andy Reid said. "Get a few guys healthy here."
And what about Mahomes?
It looked for a day or two last week as if he would return to action only 10 days after dislocating his kneecap.
And apparently, Mahomes would have been back, if the game were being played in January. Mahomes told Michele Tafoya of NBC's Sunday Night Football that he'd be playing tonight, if it were a playoff game.
That's an interesting position to take, since Sunday's game against the Vikings could be the closest thing a regular-season game ever gets to being a playoff game.
Losing to the Packers dropped the Chiefs (5-3), behind the 5-2 Ravens and the 5-3 Colts (who hold the tiebreaker) for the second seed in the AFC. This week, in a game that could run Kansas City's home losing streak to four, maybe Mahomes gets his way and forces his way onto the field, replacing Moore.
Mahomes originally had a timeline of 3-6 weeks. But he apparently is healing faster than expected, and perhaps he could be back in only seven days.
For what it's worth, Reid also said Mahomes wanted to play against the Packers.
The Chiefs told him no but Reid said he appreciated Mahomes' offer.
"Isn't that what you love about him?" Reid told the Kansas City Star. "I mean, he was telling me that he wanted to go back in when he hurt it the first time in the Denver game. So, that's him. Who wants to slow that down -- that thinking at least -- and then it's important the medical people take care of it from there."
In addition to the medical evaluation, Reid said he'll be looking to see if Mahomes, who will do more in practice this week than he did last week, can "do the things that he needs to be able to do to play in the game."
Should he clear both of those hurdles, Mahomes will be back in the saddle this weekend.
It's something I'll be watching closely in coming days; check the Late-Breaking Updates section for more. ...
Also on the injury front. ... Right guard Laurent Duvernay-Tardif and defensive end Alex Okafor left with ankle injuries. That further depletes two areas in which Kansas City is already dealing with attrition.
Other notes of interest. ... The Chiefs' pass catchers could use some stickier gloves. As noted above, Watkins dropped an easy throw over the middle, Travis Kelce had a throw go between his hands in the end zone and fellow tight end Blake Bell dropped another pass from Moore when he was wide open in the flat.
Damien Williams was the starter this season, dealt with injuries and fell behind McCoy on the pecking order. But he finally got going against Green Bay, getting the bulk of the carries after McCoy's costly second-half fumble and finishing with 30 yards rushing and a TD.
McCoy has a reputation for carrying the ball loose, but he hasn't been known for fumbling in his college and pro career. The ball he coughed up against Green Bay, deep in Chiefs territory, was knocked out from behind while he was running through traffic at the line of scrimmage.
QBs: Patrick Mahomes, Matt Moore, Chad Henne
RBs: Damien Williams, LeSean McCoy, Darwin Thompson
WRs: Tyreek Hill, Sammy Watkins, Demarcus Robinson, Mecole Hardman, Byron Pringle
TEs: Travis Kelce, Blake Bell, Deon Yelder
Los Angeles ChargersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 29 October 2019
The Chargers fired offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt on Monday night, shaking up the coaching staff after a disappointing first half of the season.
Head coach Anthony Lynn said in a statement that it was not an easy decision to let go of Whisenhunt, but that he felt a change was necessary. Lynn did not name an interim coordinator, but he did run Buffalo's offense during most of the 2016 season before coming to Los Angeles in 2017. The Chargers' next game is against Green Bay on Sunday.
As Associated Press sports writer Joe Reedy noted, considered by some to be a Super Bowl contender before the season, the Chargers are 3-5. They needed a missed 41-yard field goal as time expired to beat Chicago 17-16 on Sunday and snap a three-game skid.
Lynn said as recently as two weeks ago that there weren't any disagreements during games between him and his assistants.
"Every plan -- offense, defense and special teams -- crosses my desk before it goes to those players. If there was a disagreement, it would be handled right then and there, not on Sunday," he said.
Los Angeles is ranked 17th in the league in total offense and 28th in rushing. The Chargers have gained less than 40 yards on the ground in four straight games. According to Pro Football Reference, they are the first team since the 1946 Detroit Lions to accomplish that dubious feat.
The running game has been ineffective despite the return of Melvin Gordon, who missed two months while holding out. The two-time Pro Bowler is averaging 2.6 yards per carry and has only one run over 10 yards in four games. He also had a fumble at the goal line on a potential game-winning touchdown on the final drive of a 23-20 loss to Tennessee on Oct. 20.
Injuries on the offensive line haven't helped. Left tackle Russell Okung missed the first seven games with blood clots and center Mike Pouncey suffered a season-ending neck injury on Oct. 6 against Denver.
Philip Rivers is tied for sixth in the league in interceptions with seven after throwing 12 last season.
The Chargers have also been plagued by problems in the red zone. They have five turnovers in goal-to-go situations, including three at the 1-yard line. And they've had six touchdowns nullified because of penalties or replay reversals, including two on the final drive against Tennessee.
Lynn also has not been happy with his team's slow starts. The Chargers have been outscored by 28 points in the first quarter in their last four games and have committed four turnovers. Both are second-worst in the league in October.
Whisenhunt had been the Chargers' offensive coordinator since 2016, their last season in San Diego. He had the same role with the Chargers in 2013 before leaving to spend two seasons as head coach of the Tennessee Titans. He's also been a head coach with Arizona. He was a candidate to be the head coach at Georgia Tech last year before removing his name from consideration at his alma mater.
The Chargers did not name a replacement for Whisenhunt.
Lynn called plays as the offensive coordinator while in Buffalo in 2016, and the organization is high on quarterbacks coach Shane Steichen.
The above-mentioned trouble running the ball must be addressed. While Lynn refused to say it's reached a crisis point, Reedy contends the numbers paint a convincing picture.
"The running game hasn't been good by any means, but I think that's something that's going to get better in this second half of the season," Lynn said Monday. "If the rushing attack can come along, I think that's going to help our team tremendously and I believe it will."
How the running game might be affected by a new voice running the offense will be a major topic going into this week's game against Green Bay.
In losses to Denver and Pittsburgh, the Chargers fell behind by two scores early and had to abandon the running game.
But the last two games have been closer and they have run on only 32.4 percent of their plays. The win against the Bears marked only the sixth time in 28 games since 2000 that the Chargers have passed on 71 percent or more of their plays and won. Los Angeles ran it only 12 of 42 plays.
Lynn said one reason for the lack of run plays against the Bears was they were in no-huddle mode more, which lends itself to the passing attack. ...
Keenan Allen led the NFL in receptions four weeks into the season but has struggled the past four games. He has 17 receptions out of the 33 times he has been targeted in October, compared to his 34 receptions in 47 targets during September.
Allen had seven catches for 53 yards Sunday, but repeatedly slipped on the turf and dropped a touchdown pass during the fourth quarter. ...
It looks like Mike Badgley is ready to start kicking for the Chargers again.
Badgley has missed all eight games this season with a groin injury, but Lynn indicated last week that he was close to returning. The Chargers made a roster move Tuesday that suggests he'll be playing against the Packers this Sunday.
The Chargers announced that they have released kicker Chase McLaughlin. McLaughlin was signed after punter Ty Long did double duty for the first four games of the season. He was 6-of-9 on field goals, including one miss in last Sunday's win over the Bears, and 7-of-7 on extra points. ...
One last note here. ... As noted above, the second half of the season begins with a difficult test against Green Bay (7-1). It will be played in Southern California, but with many expecting at least 80 percent of the fans to be rooting for the Packers, it likely will feel like Lambeau Field West.
QBs: Philip Rivers, Tyrod Taylor, Easton Stick
RBs: Melvin Gordon, Austin Ekeler, Justin Jackson, Detrez Newsome, Troymaine Pope
WRs: Keenan Allen, Mike Williams, Andre Patton, Jason Moore
TEs: Hunter Henry, Virgil Green, Lance Kendricks
Los Angeles RamsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 29 October 2019
The Los Angeles Rams' longest road trip is finally over, and as Associated Press sports writer Greg Beacham put it, "Nothing fights jet lag better than a couple of wins."
The defending NFC champions have hit their bye week at 5-3 after back-to-back victories away from LA. The Rams routed Atlanta at the site of last season's Super Bowl defeat, and they spent the ensuing week in Georgia before crossing the Atlantic for a comfortable 24-10 win over the Cincinnati Bengals in London.
Head coach Sean McVay gave his players a week off after the 10-day trip and the long flight home, providing the chance to focus on what went right during their time away. The Rams are 18-4 in the regular season outside Los Angeles during McVay's tenure, easily the NFL's best away mark in that span.
"I thought it came at a good time to get away and have an almost camp-like setting in the middle of the season where it was just about us," McVay said. "We got a chance to spend a little bit more time together than you would otherwise, and I thought our guys responded in the right way. And to be able to go 2-0 in that stretch is exactly what you can do."
Two wins over opponents with one victory combined this season won't answer every question that arose during the Rams' three-game losing streak, but they showed signs of progress on both sides of the ball.
"It feels good to be going into the bye and building momentum," running back Todd Gurley said.
They also have had two games with new cornerback Jalen Ramsey, whose presence alters the back end of Los Angeles' defense. The Rams have no remaining healthy first-stringers from last season's Super Bowl secondary except nickel back Nickell Robey-Coleman, and the new group needs playing time together.
The Rams have plenty of issues, but they feel they've got time to address them before a December schedule with four NFC West showdowns.
"We are having fun right now," quarterback Jared Goff said. "These last two weeks, we feel like ourselves, and we feel like we're doing what we should be doing offensively, and the defense is coming around and starting to mesh and jell, and it's the perfect time."
On the positive side, the Rams' passing offense is fourth in the league with 287.2 yards per game.
While this ranking comes with the usual caveat about falling behind in games and being forced to throw constantly in comeback mode, Goff and his receivers are having enough success to make up for the Rams' up-and-down running game and inconsistent contributions from Gurley. McVay's offense isn't close to its purring peak, but it's getting the job done in tough circumstances.
Receiver Cooper Kupp had another dominant game, racking up a career-high 220 yards on just seven catches. Kupp's 165 first-half receiving yards were the most by a Rams player since Marshall Faulk had 168 on Dec. 26, 1999, against the Chicago Bears, according to ESPN Stats and Information.
All five of Kupp's first-half receptions went for at least 20 yards, making him the first player to accomplish such a feat in a single half since former Detroit Lions receiver Calvin Johnson in Week 17 of 2011 against the Green Bay Packers.
With five 100-yard games already this season, there's no longer any doubt that Kupp came back stronger and more elusive from the knee injury that ended his 2018 season near the midway point.
He has reached 160 career catches in just 31 games, the quickest by a Rams receiver in the Super Bowl era.
On a less positive note. ... Gurley has gone nine straight games without a 100-yard rushing performance, the longest stretch of his career since early 2017. His only 100-yard game since Dec. 2, 2018, came in the playoffs against Dallas last January.
Despite its recent passing success, McVay's offense has a ceiling on how good it can be if Gurley and his backups aren't running the ball well.
Malcolm Brown's unfortunately timed ankle injury might have ruined his last, best chance to get significant action with the Rams.
Brown was unavailable for most of the past three games, and rookie Darrell Henderson has stepped into the increased role for a backup running back in an offense dominated by Gurley for the past two seasons. Henderson led the Rams with 49 yards rushing against Cincinnati, and Brown might find himself the third option when he returns.
Also on the injury front. ... Receiver Brandin Cooks is in the concussion protocol for the second time this season after being suspected of incurring a head injury for the fourth time in less than two years.
McVay said Tuesday that Cooks was en route to see a specialist in Pittsburgh.
McVay said Cooks is "feeling good," but that there is concern about the frequency in which the concussions are occurring, followed by how quickly Cooks feels asymptomatic. "What's most important is Brandin Cooks the human being right now," McVay said, "not necessarily the football player."
When asked how this could affect the rest of Cooks' season, McVay said: "We just want to take it a day at a time. ... Any time that you have something like this occur, you want to consider the human being first and foremost and that's what we're going to do and we'll take our time. ..."
The Rams will return in Week 10 to begin their second-half stretch with another road trip to Pittsburgh. The schedule gets tougher, but the Rams are hoping they're getting better.
And finally. ... The Rams sent Aqib Talib and a fifth-round pick to the Dolphins for a future pick. It seems likely that the future pick is just a throw in and this is actually the Rams unloading the remainder of Talib's salary this season. Talib is a vested veteran, which means his full salary is guaranteed for the rest of the season, and the Rams would have been on the hook for the rest of his salary if they had released him.
QBs: Jared Goff, Blake Bortles
RBs: Todd Gurley, Malcolm Brown, Darrell Henderson
WRs: Cooper Kupp, Robert Woods, Brandin Cooks, Josh Reynolds, Mike Thomas, Nsimba Webster, JoJo Natson
TEs: Tyler Higbee, Gerald Everett, Johnny Mundt
Miami DolphinsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 29 October 2019
The Miami Dolphins let another one get away.
The Dolphins continue to make progress following a horrific start to the season, but they remain winless after a 27-14 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers on Monday night.
"We just have to continue to keep fighting," Ryan Fitzpatrick said. "That's just kind of the place that we're at right now."
The Dolphins have lost seven consecutive games this season and 10 straight dating to last season. The Dolphins have lost 16 of 20 overall since winning three straight to begin the 2018 season. Miami's last win came at home against New England on Dec. 9, 2018, more than 300 days ago. In 2011, the Dolphins lost their first seven games, but finished 6-10.
"People can say what they want outside, but I think we're a good football team," tight end Mike Gesicki said. "We're making plays, clearly not enough, but I think we're putting some good stuff out there. We just have to be able to finish games."
The Dolphins were outscored 163-26 in their first four games, but their last three losses have come by a combined 24 points. Miami led in the fourth during last week's 10-point loss at Buffalo, and the Dolphins held a 14-0 lead through one quarter until Pittsburgh rallied with the final 27 points.
"We had opportunities two weeks in a row," Fitzpatrick said. "We had a couple nice drives early and good momentum. Guys were out there having fun."
Xavien Howard intercepted Miami's second pass of the season on Mason Rudolph's first throw of the game. The Dolphins capitalized from the Pittsburgh 26, as Fitzpatrick gave Miami an early 7-0 lead with a 5-yard touchdown pass to Albert Wilson. Prior to the touchdown, the Dolphins held a lead for 10 minutes, 48 seconds through six-plus games this season.
Fitzpatrick and the Dolphins capitalized with a second touchdown after the Steelers turned the ball over on downs. Allen Hurns closed the 11-play, six-minute series by bouncing off four Pittsburgh defenders on his way to a 14-0 lead for the Dolphins. It was Miami's first 14-point lead against any opponent since Week 5 of last season, a 10-point loss against Cincinnati.
"We had a great start, but we didn't finish strong," Howard said. "That's how every game has been. We haven't been finishing strong."
Fitzpatrick ended 21 of 34 for 190 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions.
"The first (interception) was unfortunate," Fitzpatrick said. "It got tipped in the air and they made a play. The second one was as good as a punt. I was OK with that one."
"It was 14-10 at halftime, we had opportunities in the second half and we didn't take advantage of them," head coach Brian Flores said. "We turned the ball over four times.
"As a total team, we didn't do enough to win the game."
Could that change next week?
The Dolphins still haven't figured out how to win. But they are playing much better, and as ESPN.com's Cameron Wolfe understated, the Jets are trending in the wrong direction. Playing against former coach Adam Gase adds some juice to the matchup, and a home contest against their rivals gets them in the win column. That said, the 1-6 Jets are favored to beat the 0-7 Dolphins by 5.5 points.
The loser will be mathematically eliminated from winning the NFC East, if the Patriots beat the Ravens.
For the record, Flores told reporters on Wednesday that Fitzpatrick remains the starter, because Flores believes Fitzpatrick gives the team the best chance to win.
On the season, Fitzpatrick has started four games, throwing five touchdown passes and seven interceptions and generating a passer rating of 70.0. ...
A few final notes here. ... With Kenyan Drake traded to the Cardinals earlier Monday, the Mark Walton era officially began in Pittsburgh.
Walton carried the ball 11 times for 35 yards and fumbled once against the Steelers. He also caught three of six targets for 19 yards.
As CBSSports.com noted, rumors of Kalen Ballage drawing the start were greatly exaggerated, as he saw just three carries while Walton logged 11.
Walton appears firmly entrenched as the No. 1 option in Miami's backfield. However, game flow didn't work out in the second-year pro's favor versus Pittsburgh, as the Dolphins spent the second half of the contest playing catch up.
That's a pattern that could continue to play out for Walton (and the winless Miami offense) this season, but he at least has a solid matchup against the Jets' porous defense coming this week. ...
Preston Williams caught 4-of-7 targets for 42 yards while DeVante Parker pulled 5-of-8 targets for 59 yards. Parker failed to extend his three-game touchdown streak to four. ...
On the injury front. ... Howard's return was brief. He left in the second half after aggravating his knee injury and is headed to Injured Reserve. It's not an ACL or MCL, but the team will be cautious as he is part of their future. He also got locked up long-term prior to this. ... CB Ken Webster left with an ankle injury in the first half and did not return.
In related news, Miami announced it had been awarded cornerback Xavier Crawford off waivers from the Texans and released tight end Nick O'Leary. ...
And finally. ... The Dolphins were buyers at the trade deadline. Sort of. The Rams sent Aqib Talib and a fifth-round pick to the Dolphins for a future pick.
As Profootballtalk.com's Michael David Smith suggested, without knowing what the future pick the Dolphins are sending back is, it's hard to assess that trade, but it seems likely that the future pick is actually worse than that fifth-rounder and this is actually the Rams unloading the remainder of Talib's salary this season.
Talib is a vested veteran, which means his full salary is guaranteed for the rest of the season, and the Rams would have been on the hook for the rest of his salary if they had released him.
Talib becomes a free agent after the season.
Whether Talib actually plays for the Dolphins remains to be seen. He's currently on injured reserve, and the Dolphins may just leave him there for the rest of the year and pocket that pick from the Rams.
QBs: Ryan Fitzpatrick, Josh Rosen
RBs: Patrick Laird, Samaje Perine
WRs: DeVante Parker, Albert Wilson, Allen Hurns, Isaiah Ford, Mack Hollins, Trevor Davis
TEs: Mike Gesicki, Durham Smythe
Minnesota VikingsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 29 October 2019
As ESPN.com's Courtney Cronin understated, Dalvin Cook has covered a lot of ground this season, entering and exiting Week 8 leading the NFL in rushing yards (823) and yards from scrimmage (1,116).
When he finds a cutback lane or can bounce his way to the outside, the Vikings running back is nearly unstoppable. According to NFL Next Gen Stats data, Cook's 700 yards gained on outside runs is leaps and bounds ahead of any other back in the league (Cleveland's Nick Chubb is the next closest with 460).
At the midway point of a 6-2 Vikings season, Cook is quietly putting together a breakout season worthy of consideration in the MVP conversation. What he has accomplished in both the running and passing games are on par with the efforts of Carolina all-purpose back Christian McCaffrey, who has been considered among the front-runners for the award in the early portion of the season.
Cook's elusiveness and ability to break off a big play once he gets in space aren't limited to what he's doing on the ground. As Minnesota's first-half opponents have learned, Cook is a legitimate threat when he gets involved in the passing game.
No play better describes the danger Cook presents to defenses than his 31-yard reception in the second quarter of the Vikings' 19-9 win over the Washington Redskins on Thursday. Motioning Cook out of the backfield, quarterback Kirk Cousins threw a screen pass to Cook, who danced around five defenders while spanning 68.6 yards of turf, the most distance covered on a reception in his career, and the third most by a running back on a reception this season.
"When he gets in space he's pretty dangerous," head coach Mike Zimmer said. "I think you've seen that now for several weeks. The offensive line, I think they got out and got a couple guys out in front of him. Once he gets into some clear space, he's got a chance to do a lot of damage."
Like McCaffrey with the Panthers, much of Minnesota's offense runs through Cook. Even with a shift in play calling since Week 5 opening up more opportunities for the Vikings to get ahead in games with a pass-heavy attack, Cook is still producing on the ground (he had 23 carries for 98 yards and a touchdown against Washington), which has helped sell play-action. And he is getting involved as a receiver -- had had five catches for 73 yards in Week 8.
A key to Cousins reaching a single-game franchise-high 88.5 completion percentage (23-of-26) against Washington? Short passes predicated off screens to Cook. Three of his five catches on Thursday came on back-to-back drives in the second half, with those screen plays becoming a staple in this offense.
"You've got to give them credit," Redskins coach Bill Callahan said. "I thought Minnesota made those plays and they were timely plays and they hurt us at a critical point."
The Vikings have the best screen game in the NFL, ranking first in yards (227) and yards per attempt (9.8). Of those 227 yards, 176 have been generated by running back screens, a dangerous weapon the Vikings are utilizing with Cook.
"A couple of those screens were hit in two-minute [situations], so that's a very different situation than a second-and-long when you're selling play-action or whatever it may be," Cousins said. "But we had a couple screens where we were off play-action, a couple were off a dropback, a couple were just in the two-minute. And the key is what those guys do with the ball in their hands once they get it. And then the ability of our linemen to get out on people and our receivers and tight ends to block. So those are big plays throughout the night and really set up that touchdown at the end of the half."
Cook has yet to score a touchdown as a receiver, but he ranks sixth in receiving yards per target (7.9) with him coming out of the backfield (minimum five targets). His 73 receiving yards and 75 yards after the catch were both the second most in his career, and his 11.6 yards after the catch per reception this season is the most in the NFL.
Cook could do some remarkable things in the second half of the season.
The single-season record for yards from scrimmage (2,509) hasn't come close to being touched since Chris Johnson set the mark with the Titans in 2009. Cook is on pace to eclipse 2,220 yards from scrimmage in his third season.
Even with the production the Vikings are generating with their receivers, notably Stefon Diggs' three straight games of 140 yards receiving, Cook is an invaluable part of this scheme who boosts the offense's efficiency whenever he touches the ball.
Finding methods to keep him as involved in the passing game in the second half is vital for the success of this offense and will edge him further to receiving the recognition for the roll he's on.
With four consecutive victories by double-digit points, the Vikings have recovered remarkably from those two defeats on the road by division rivals that raised questions amid the so-so first month of the season about the viability of Cousins and the offense as a whole.
Now comes the hard part.
"Six-and-two doesn't mean a whole lot if you don't turn the last eight games into something special," Cousins said, "and we've got some big-time games up ahead. These aren't going to be easy opponents. We're going to be playing in tough environments against really good football teams."
The second half of the schedule starts with consecutive road games against Kansas City (Nov. 3) and Dallas (Nov. 10), both first-place teams. That daunting third quarter also includes a trip to Seattle (Dec. 1). Though they have three of their last four games at home, avenging those losses to Green Bay (Dec. 23) and Chicago (Dec. 29) will be no automatic.
The defense has largely been as advertised. Kicker Dan Bailey and punter/holder Britton Colquitt have stabilized the special teams. The key to the surge, though, has been the run-pass balance the offense has struck over the last four weeks.
Offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski has made creative, aggressive calls and deftly adapted to the flow of the game.
The offensive line has taken well to the new zone blocking scheme, whether creating cutback lanes for Cook or keeping a clean pocket for Cousins.
Over the last four games, Cousins has completed 91 of 116 passes (78.5 with an average of 10.9 yards per attempt, 10 touchdowns and one fluke interception that occurred when a sideline pass to Diggs bounced off his facemask and back toward the field of play. Cousins was 23 for 26 to set a franchise record (88.5%), with two throwaways under pressure and one drop by Cook accounting for the only incompletions.
"Things are going good, but there was a point where things weren't good, and the house was burning down and everybody was panicking, so at this point we're taking it one minute at a time, one day at a time," Diggs said.
Diggs has 452 receiving yards over the last three games, a franchise record for that span. Randy Moss had 446 yards over a three-game stretch in 2001.
Cook has put himself in the conversation for NFL MVP award candidates, but rookie Alexander Mattison has rather quietly established himself as a reliable reliever. The third-round draft pick from Boise State has 68 carries for 331 yards.
On the injury front. ... Wide receiver Adam Thielen was sidelined on Thursday night for the first time in his NFL career, his streak of 90 consecutive games played stopped by a hamstring injury that had only four days to heal due to the shortened week.
Zimmer said he believes "there's a good chance" Thielen will be ready to play against the Chiefs. I'll have more on that via Late-Breaking Update in coming days. ...
A few finaly items. ... Josh Doctson and Laquon Treadwell went back-to-back in the first round of the 2016 NFL Draft and became further linked earlier this year when the Vikings signed Doctson after releasing Treadwell at the end of August.
Now they may become teammates. Doctson went on injured reserve a little more than a week after signing with the Vikings and they brought Treadwell back to flesh out their wide receiver group later in September, which means Treadwell may still be on hand when Doctson is eligible to return to the active roster.
The Vikings designated Doctson for that return on Wednesday. He’s set to practice with the team for the first time since his hamstring injury knocked him out of action.
Doctson did not play in a game for the Vikings before going on injured reserve. Treadwell has two catches for 16 yards in five appearances.
And last. ... On Wednesday, Bailey was named NFC Special Teams Player of the Week. He hit all five of his kicks (four FGs, one PAT) for the league-high 13 points. This is Bailey's second Player of the Week honor in four weeks and the fifth of his career.
QBs: Kirk Cousins, Sean Mannion
RBs: Dalvin Cook, Alexander Mattison, Mike Boone, Ameer Abdullah
WRs: Adam Thielen, Stefon Diggs, Olabisi Johnson, Laquon Treadwell, Davion Davis
TEs: Kyle Rudolph, Irv Smith Jr., Brandon Dillon, Tyler Conklin
New England PatriotsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 29 October 2019
As ESPN.com's Mike Reiss framed it, "Welcome to the 300 Club, Bill Belichick. ..."
Belichick was 39 years old when he coached the Cleveland Browns to a win over the New England Patriots in 1991 -- his first as an NFL coach.
As Belichick trotted toward the center of the field Sunday, his trademark cutoff hooded sweatshirt soaked in rain following the Patriots' 27-13 win over the Browns, he did so as a member of a small, but elite group of coaches.
Tom Brady threw for 259 yards and two touchdown passes to help Belichick earn his 300th career victory in the Patriots' win.
Belichick sits behind only Don Shula (347) and George Halas (324) on the NFL's all-time list.
"Fortunately I didn't play in any of those games," Belichick said. "I was a part of those, but honestly, players win games in this league and I've been fortunate to coach a lot of great ones."
The Patriots improved to 8-0 for the third time in team history and the first time since 2015, when they started 10-0. The Browns have lost three straight games.
After the Patriots dominated the New York Giants in a 35-14 victory two weeks ago, Brady was asked whether he thought the offense had been good enough to that point.
After a brief pause, he responded, "We'll see. We're 6-0, so try to get to 7-0."
Two wins later the Patriots are still unbeaten. But the question is still a valid one as New England prepares to head into a much tougher schedule in the second half of the season.
The offense has made strides over the past two games.
The offensive line has settled in after having to adjust because of injuries. And running back Sony Michel has rediscovered some of his rookie mojo.
The most welcomed developments, though, have been in the receiving group, which had one of its best performances of the season against Cleveland.
Brady completed passes to seven different receivers in Sunday's 27-13 win over the Browns. Julian Edelman had the most productive game with eight catches for 78 yards and two touchdowns.
But Brady also completed a fourth-quarter pass to Mohamed Sanu, acquired last week in a trade with Atlanta, and another to tight end Ben Watson, who was playing in his second game since re-signing with the team Oct. 15.
Both plays, a 19-yard pass to Sanu and a 26-yarder to Watson helped set up Mike Nugent's 29-yard field goal, which stretched New England's lead to three scores.
In addition, on a fourth-and-4 play in the second quarter, Brady found Sanu for a gain of 4 yards, with Sanu having just enough juice to squeeze his way past the first-down marker. That Brady looked in Sanu's direction in a got-to-have-it moment is something they can build on as they work to build a rapport.
Sanu was charted on the field for 36 of 68 snaps (penalties included). ....
Coupled with another strong performance by Phillip Dorsett (three catches, 43 yards), who is seizing the role as the offense's deep threat, they are all signs that Brady has found trust in a core group of receivers.
"I think we're just going to try to find ways to keep incorporating everybody," Brady said.
That faith and Brady's willingness to spread the ball around couldn't come at a better time.
After playing just one team with a winning record in the first half of the season, five of the Patriots' final eight opponents currently sit above .500. Three of their remaining opponents -- the Ravens, Cowboys and Chiefs currently lead their divisions.
Sanu said though he's just getting settled in with his new team, he already has a sense that this has a chance to be a special group by season's end.
"You can see why they are the way they are," he said. "You can see why they have won as much as they have."
And when the Patriots are at Baltimore this week and they'll likely have a new addition to the receiving corps.
N'Keal Harry, the 32nd overall choice this spring, is eligible to return from injured reserve after missing the first eight games. He returned to practice two weeks ago.
"He's working hard," receivers coach Joe Judge told Zack Cox of NESN on Monday. "He's definitely enthusiastic to be back out there. He's doing everything we ask him to do. We're excited to have him out there, and we'll see how he does this week and how it turns out."
Harry injured his hamstring three snaps into the Patriots' preseason opener. That's all the experience he has.
"He missed a lot of ball from training camp until just recently [getting] back on the field, so there's a lot of things that he had to rework to get back in the flow of things," Judge said. "The speed of the game, the timing of the quarterbacks, reading the coverage and making adjustments -- that's all been something he's had to get back into. You can't just jump back into where you left off when you miss that amount of time. So every day, he's working on just correcting little things here and there and not repeating them the next day."
Harry is a candidate to take over the X receiver spot where Josh Gordon played.
The Patriots have until Nov. 4 to activate him to the 53-player roster or he reverts to IR for the remainder of the season.
I'll have more on that via Late-Breaking Update in coming days, but the release of TE/FB Eric Tomlinson on Tuesday likely opened the door (and a roster spot) for Harry to be activated. ...
Also worth watching, Brady (shoulder) was a limited participant for Wednesday's practice, although there's no reason to believe it's a major issue.
In a semi-related note. ... The Patriots had another welcome addition at practice Wednesday with the return of left tackle Isaiah Wynn.
Wynn suffered a foot injury in New England's Week 2 win over the Miami Dolphins and was placed on injured reserve soon after.
Wynn's return also is a signal that two other Patriots players on injured reserve, fullback James Develin and offensive lineman Yodny Cajuste, won't play again this season. The Patriots can only activate two players from IR or NFI, and it appears Harry and Wynn have been chosen.
Wynn must miss at least eight games because he went on injured reserve. Therefore, the earliest Wynn can return to game action is Week 12 against the Dallas Cowboys. ...
As Rotoworld.com notes, Rex Burkhead played sparingly in his return from a three-week absence, seeing the field on just 13 of New England's 69 offensive snaps compared to 28 each for both James White and Michel.
He didn't exactly distinguish himself, managing a long run of just three yards in the victory, but his return muddies the backfield rotation a bit. ...
While the rainy and windy conditions played a role, the Patriots' kicking game suffered against the Browns. Nugent had a 29-yard attempt blocked and missed another wide left from 34 yards. Since signing with New England Oct. 3 after Stephen Gostkowski was placed on injured reserve, Nugent was just 5 of 8 on field-goal attempts and has a missed extra point.
On Tuesday, the axe fell.
The Patriots released Nugent and are signing kicker Nick Folk.
Folk last kicked for the AAF's Arizona Hotshots. The 34-year-old kicker was last on an NFL roster in Feb. 2018 when he was released by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. An 11-year veteran, Folk has hit 80.3 percent of field goals over his career.
But last he was in the NFL, Folk made just 54.5 percent of his FG tries for Tampa Bay. ...
Through their first eight games, the Patriots have a plus-189 point differential, tied with the 1942 Chicago Bears for the third-highest point differential through a team's first eight games in a season in NFL history. ...
And finally. ... Brady expressed his appreciation for Browns wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr., who had handed him a pair of "GOAT" cleats during postgame activity on the field Sunday.
"That was pretty cool. That was very, very nice of him. Pretty unique," Brady said Monday morning during his weekly appearance on "The Greg Hill Show" on sports radio WEEI.
"I've never had anyone do that for me. That was very thoughtful. I certainly appreciate it."
The cleats have real goat hair on them, with Beckham saying he has a pair himself. He told the Akron Beacon Journal before the game, "I'm gonna give them to him because he's one of the GOATs, and he's more the GOAT than I am."
The two connected near midfield immediately after the Patriots posted a 27-13 victory Sunday.
Shortly thereafter, Brady waited outside the Browns' locker room, along with his son Ben, for Beckham to emerge. They shared an extended conversation.
During his Monday radio interview, Brady said his oldest son, Jack, who lives in New York, is a big fan of Beckham, a former Giants star.
"All the kids at school in New York, after he made that catch [in 2014], it was 'OBJ! OBJ! OBJ!' So then my son Benny, from his older brother, he got to know who [Beckham] was. It was pretty nice," Brady said.
"He's a great player. I always wish him a lot of success."
QBs: Tom Brady, Jarrett Stidham, Cody Kessler
RBs: Sony Michel, James White, Rex Burkhead, Brandon Bolden, Damien Harris
WRs: Julian Edelman, Mohamed Sanu, Phillip Dorsett, N'Keal Harry, Jakobi Meyers
TEs: Ben Watson, Matt LaCosse, Ryan Izzo
New Orleans SaintsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 29 October 2019
As ESPN.com's Mike Triplett reported, Drew Brees didn't miss a beat after the longest absence of his career, throwing for 373 yards and three touchdowns in the New Orleans Saints' 31-9 win over the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday.
Brees returned to the field just five weeks after he underwent surgery to repair the thumb on his right (throwing) hand. He completed 34 of 43 passes while extending his NFL-record total to 117 career 300-yard games.
And the Saints (7-1) won their sixth straight game heading into a Week 9 bye.
"It felt really good," said Brees, who said he had to shake off some early rust and maybe a few more butterflies and extra excitement than usual.
But he said there was never a hesitation about wanting to return this early -- even though he was aware that many fans thought he should wait two more weeks.
"I know the thought would be, 'Hey, why don't you just wait until after the bye week? Everything seems to be going well. So why take the chance?'" Brees said. "But, hey, I'm a football player. ... As soon as I could get back, I was gonna get back."
Brees, who tore the ulnar collateral ligament in his thumb, said this was the week he was targeting "from the moment that I got hurt" even though he said the doctors were also pointing to Week 10 early in the process.
Brees acknowledged his surgically-repaired thumb won't fully heal for three months. But Dr. Steven Shin, who performed the surgery on Brees on Sept. 18, signed off on the quarterback's return.
Shin inserted an internal brace during Brees' surgery to expedite recovery, giving Brees a chance to return in a little less than six weeks.
Some outside the organization wondered aloud whether the Saints should hold out Brees until they took on Atlanta in Week 10, the game after this week's bye week.
The Saints were undefeated with Teddy Bridgewater, after all.
But as soon as Brees "could grip it and rip it" he was going to return.
That was Sunday.
For what it's worth, head coach Sean Payton said there were no limitations on what Brees could do or the plays he called, etc.
"None," Payton said. "He was 100 percent."
Brees looked sharp throughout the day. He completed eight of his first nine pass attempts. Then he completed three second-half TD passes to running back Latavius Murray, backup quarterback Taysom Hill and receiver Michael Thomas.
Brees' one miscue came on a deep interception that was snagged by Cardinals eight-time Pro Bowl cornerback Patrick Peterson in the third quarter. Brees made an ill-advised decision to throw deep to fullback Zach Line on the play even though he was well covered.
Brees said he got "greedy" on the play and called it a "bad decision."
But Peterson wasn't able to put the clamps on Thomas, New Orleans' All-Pro receiver. Thomas finished with 11 catches for 112 yards and a touchdown on 11 targets -- giving him a whopping 73 catches through eight games.
Brees said his overwhelming emotion once game time approached was "gratitude" for everyone who helped him get back on the field -- and for the opportunity to get back to playing with his teammates.
The respect was evident from across the field as well.
"I'm glad to see him back out there playing. He's a great man, and a wonderful ambassador of this league," Cardinals receiver Larry Fitzgerald said. "First-ballot Hall of Famer, competing, taking charge, doing what leaders do. He was Drew Brees. There's a reason he's the all-time leading passer in the history of this game. Been doing this a hundred years, and he's the most to ever do it. So hats off to him and what he's able to accomplish."
Saints fans also showed plenty of love to Bridgewater. The home crowd chanted "Ted-dy! Ted-dy!" when he was shown on the giant scoreboards at one point.
They resurrected the chant when he replaced Brees late in the game.
It proved to be the right decision: Brees looked great and made it out healthy, and the Saints won big.
"Honestly, we talked about this decision and we really just paid attention to the doctors," Saints coach Sean Payton said. "We weren't going to be careless with it.
"I know there's a sentiment of 'Wait until the bye,' but look, if a player is 100 percent healthy and ready to go and someone like him, who I trust, and he looked fabulous all week in practice, this is an important game. Each one of these 16 games has the same value. We're close to the six-week mark now. But, yeah, to have a game like we had today, we scored a lot in the second half. It was a good win."
Meanwhile, with Alvin Kamara sidelined by ankle and knee soreness, Murray had his second straight productive performance. He rushed 21 times for 102 yards and a touchdown and caught nine passes for 55 yards and a score. A week earlier in Chicago, he rushed 27 times for 119 yards and two TDs.
"It felt like he was a great outlet and was getting us a lot of positive yards," Brees said. "The touchdown catch, it was a great all-around play by him to get open and then turn what is normally a 7-yard gain into a (15-yard) touchdown."
Kamara will now have the off week to get healthy. ...
Two Idaho natives with the last name Hill were instrumental in New Orleans' last two touchdowns. Brees' 29-yard pass to tight end Josh Hill set up Taysom Hill's above-mentioned 5-yard TD catch. On the next series, a 36-yarder from Brees to Taysom Hill set up Thomas' 9-yard TD reception.
QBs: Drew Brees, Teddy Bridgewater, Taysom Hill
RBs: Alvin Kamara, Latavius Murray, Dwayne Washington
WRs: Michael Thomas, Ted Ginn, Tre'quan Smith, Deonte Harris, Emmanuel Butler
TEs: Jared Cook, Josh Hill
New York GiantsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 29 October 2019
As Associated Press sports writer Tom Canavan suggested, when the second half of the season opens with a players-only meeting, there is a problem.
Welcome to the New York Giants' locker room.
Pat Shurmur's team is riding a four-game losing streak after Sunday's 31-26 setback in Detroit and the players met Monday to discuss ways to right things after a 2-6 start.
"We got to do some soul-searching inside our building as a team and just figure out what it is and be part of the solution and not the problem," Saquon Barkley said after the game.
"We've always been together," Alec Ogletree said Monday. "It's only us that go out there on the field and play together, so it's just a matter of making sure everybody is still communicating, still on the same page, and trying to fix the problems."
The problems are glaring in a season that had a little hope after Daniel Jones replaced Eli Manning and led the Giants to back-to-back wins, evening their record at 2-2.
The hope is now diminished and the second half of the schedule is tougher.
Dallas (4-3) visits for a Monday night matchup before the Jets (1-6) host a rivalry game the following weekend.
After a bye week, the Giants are at Chicago (3-4), home against Green Bay (7-1) and at Philadelphia (4-4). The season finishes with games at home against winless Miami, at Washington (1-7) and home against Philadelphia.
Shurmur, who posted a 5-11 record in his first season as coach, had no problem with the players-only meeting. He says everyone is disappointed.
"We need to keep working, we have to be very intentional with how we do things, which we have been, but we have to find ways to get better at everything we do so that shows up on game day and we make more plays," Shurmur said.
The most pressing issue for the team is being ready to play from the start. New York has been outscored 38-0 in the first quarter during its losing streak.
Shurmur said the Giants have been finding ways to overcome the early deficits and get back into the game, but they are still not winning.
"But you're right, because what happens is you have to get away from some of the things that you had planned to do when the game was in the balance. You never want to do that," he said.
The Giants also don't want to keep losing.
"I think we certainly came to work ready to fix things today, and I think we'll take that approach the whole week preparing to play Dallas," said Jones, who was 28 of 41 for 322 yards and four touchdowns in Detroit. His passer rating for the day was 124.2 -- easily his best of the season and only the second time he's been over 100 -- but this ended up being New York's fourth straight loss.
"Trying to learn as good as I can, trying to not repeat mistakes," Jones said. "I think I have learned and made some progress, but got to continue to build on that."
Still, as ESPN.com's Jordan Raanan suggested, the Giants aren't just losing. They're barely hanging in games.
This loss to the Lions only became a one-score game with a late touchdown. The previous week they only lost to Arizona by six but that was a game where they never had the lead. Combined with four blowout losses, the Giants aren't really that close. Their losses have been by an average of almost 14 points.
Beyond the slow starts, there are other areas worth focusing on.
As Associated Press sports writer Noah Trister pointed out, taking care of the ball has been a problem for the Giants, who already have 19 turnovers, the same number they had through all of last season.
Jones has thrown seven interceptions, about one for every 31 pass attempts.
He didn't throw any in Detroit, though.
Looking for positives? How about Darius Slayton?
The fifth-round rookie had a pair of touchdown grabs. Both came on leaping grabs over defenders from Jones.
It has reached the point where it's impossible to deny that Slayton is a player. The Giants found something with him in the late rounds of the draft. He has the looks of a solid No. 2, and is becoming a significant part of their offense.
It should come as no surprise that he has chemistry with Jones. Slayton has mentioned that the two worked together plenty this offseason, beginning in the spring when they were with the second-team offense. Now they just so happen to be doing it with the first-string offense during their rookie seasons.
In a related note. ... Sterling Shepard (concussion) was working without the no-contact jersey he's worn since his latest concussion at Wednesday's practice. The Giants don't play until Monday night so their initial injury report won't be relased until Thursday; but it looks like Shepard is trending in a positive direction.
Watch the Late-Breaking Updates for more in coming days. ...
And finally. ... The Jets traded defensive lineman Leonard Williams to the Giants on Monday for a third-round draft pick next year and a fifth-rounder in 2021.
Williams was the No. 6 overall pick of the Jets in 2015 and made the Pro Bowl in his second season, but never truly lived up to his lofty draft status. He has 17 career sacks, but none in seven games this season for the struggling Jets. He actually had one in New York's 29-15 loss at Jacksonville on Sunday that was negated by a penalty on a teammate.
QBs: Daniel Jones, Eli Manning, Alex Tanney
RBs: Saquon Barkley, Wayne Gallman, Javorius Allen, Elijhaa Penny, Austin Walter
WRs: Sterling Shepard, Golden Tate, Darius Slayton, Cody Latimer, Cody Core, Da'Mari Scott
TEs: Kaden Smith, Rhett Ellison, Scott Simonson
New York JetsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 29 October 2019
According to ESPN.com's Rich Cimini, two hours before kickoff, Sam Darnold was mocked in the sky above TIAA Bank Field. A plane circled the stadium with a banner that read: "Gardner Minshew ain't afraid of no ghost!"
With a chance to shut up his critics, Darnold was outplayed by Minshew and experienced a daytime nightmare Sunday, throwing three interceptions and getting sacked eight times in a 29-15 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars. That makes seven interceptions in the past two games.
Yes, it's time to worry about Darnold, who has become the butt of jokes since his "seeing ghosts" moment in last week's loss to the New England Patriots. At the two-minute warning, the stadium played the "Ghostbusters" theme song and showed Darnold's interceptions on the big screen.
Cimini added: "No one knows if he saw ghosts again, but Darnold definitely saw Calais Campbell and Josh Allen and Yannick Ngakoue and. ... You get the picture. He was undermined by an offensive line that continues to embarrass itself on a weekly basis."
The Jets, who dropped to 1-6, have allowed 34 sacks.
Darnold showed plenty of poise on the opening drive, leading a 93-yard touchdown drive -- the team's first opening-drive touchdown in 31 games. The Jaguars adjusted, the Jets didn't. The Jaguars tightened up their coverage and eliminated Darnold's quick throws, and the entire offense self-destructed.
Head coach Adam Gase, whose offense has exceeded 16 points in only one game, had very few answers. He was outcoached -- again.
Darnold didn't look as rattled as he did last week against New England, so, yes, he made progress -- barely. He actually threw for more yards on the opening possession (88) than he did last week, but he didn't fare well against pressure. He managed only 113 yards for the rest of the game.
The Jets' offense is broken, and it's affecting their quarterback's development. That's a scary proposition for the franchise, which has pinned its future to him.
Pass protection was an issue. Gase said Darnold was sacked, hit or touched nine times in a 13-pass span at one point.
"That's going to change how the quarterback plays," Gase said. "We have to do a better job of protecting him. He has to do a better job of protecting himself. I have to do a better job of calling plays."
Darnold said he "just wasn't executing out there," but Gase said he deserved a lot of the blame for what's wrong with the offense.
"I feel like I haven't helped him enough, I haven't put him in good enough position," Gase said in his postgame press conference. "He's doing a lot of really good things. It's just not working the way that it should. There are a lot of things where I'm seeing him make strides and you get excited about it. You see him taking control of the line of scrimmage, making the Mike declarations -- he's on it. But when he's making these changes and he's right, we're just not all on the same page."
As Profootballtalk.com suggested, Gase won't find much argument when it comes to putting the blame for dismal offensive showings on his shoulders.
But biggest issue, however, is getting the most out of Darnold.
After a terrific performance against Dallas in his return from a month-long bout with mononucleosis, it has been downhill in the two games since. He's 32 of 64 for 304 yards and two touchdowns with seven interceptions in that span. Darnold's footwork and timing also have been off, not a good sign for a player expected to be taking the next step at this point.
Assigning blame is less important for the Jets than to fix what's wrong with the unit and the last two weeks have left them with a long list of things that need to get better.
Prepare for ugly ball. The Jets and Miami Dolphins (0-7) might be the two worst offensive teams in the NFL. This is a huge game for Gase, who was fired by the Dolphins. If he loses to his former team, things are going to get interesting. ...
On the injury front. ... Gase said Monday "it looks like" Darnold will be able to play through his latest injury, a sprained left thumb.
What else can possibly go wrong for last year's No.3-overall pick in what is shaping up to be a dismal sophomore season? First mono, then having his toenail being removed last week, and now the thumb injury (to his non-throwing hand) suffered in Jacksonville.
Gase called the sprained thumb a "pain-tolerance thing". Darnold said that he should be fine, although the injury will likely linger for the rest of the 2019 season.
According to Brian Costello of the New York Post, Darnold was expected to practice fully Wednesday, while wearing a splint on his left thumb.
The Jets will be without center Ryan Kalil (knee) and cornerback Trumaine Johnson (both ankles) in practice, and tight end Chris Herndon (hamstring) will be limited, while Kelvin Beachum (ankle) is working on the side with trainers, in hopes of returning this week after missing the last two games.
Gase also said C.J. Mosley (groin) will be out five to six weeks. Mosley met with a specialist but is trying to avoid surgery.
I'll be following up on Darnold and Herndon via Late-Breaking Update in coming days. ...
Other notes of interest. ... Once again, the Jets misused running back Le'Veon Bell. Their best player on offense had only 12 touches -- nine carries for 23 yards and three catches for 12 yards. Facing the league's 21st-ranked run defense, Bell should've been able to dominate. Curiously, he was forgotten for long stretches.
Tight end Ryan Griffin caught two touchdown passes from Darnold, along with a 2-point conversion pass in his best game with the Jets. As noted above, Herndon is working his way back from a hamstring injury and should become a primary target for Darnold, but Griffin showed he also could be a factor in the passing game moving forward.
And finally. ... The New York Jets traded defensive lineman Leonard Williams to the Giants on Monday for a third-round draft pick next year and a fifth-rounder in 2021.
Williams was the No. 6 overall pick of the Jets in 2015 and made the Pro Bowl in his second season, but never truly lived up to his lofty draft status. He has 17 career sacks, but none in seven games this season for the struggling Jets. He actually had one in New York's 29-15 loss at Jacksonville on Sunday that was negated by a penalty on a teammate.
Williams' name had been floated in trade rumors in recent weeks with the Jets off to a 1-6 start and it seeming unlikely they would re-sign him in the offseason.
It's the first major trade by Jets general manager Joe Douglas, who took over for the fired Mike Maccagnan in June.
It was also the only major trade.
Tuesday's trade deadline came and went with safety Jamal Adams, wide receiver Robby Anderson and Bell all reportedly being shopped around, with the third-year Adams the most serious potential trade piece. But the Jets stood pat on all three fronts.
Adams was the centerpiece of trade talks between the Jets and Dallas Cowboys all afternoon.
All three players will remain on New York's roster for the foreseeable future. But how Adams, Anderson and Bell will react in the coming weeks to their rumored departures while the 1-6 Jets attempt to turn their season around will be fascinating.
QBs: Sam Darnold, David Fales
RBs: Le'Veon Bell, Bilal Powell, Ty Montgomery, Kenneth Dixon, Josh Adams
WRs: Robby Anderson, Jamison Crowder, Braxton Berrios, Tim White, Demaryius Thomas
TEs: Daniel Brown, Trevon Wesco
Oakland RaidersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 29 October 2019
The Oakland Raiders lamented their missed opportunities after squandering a fourth quarter lead in a 27-24 loss to the Houston Texans on Sunday.
"This one hurt my heart so much," quarterback Derek Carr said. "We only had three possessions in the second half. ... And got points on two of them. The third one. ... I1 felt like we should still be on the field."
Carr had 285 yards passing with three touchdowns as the Raiders (3-4) lost for the second week in a row.
"No one is hanging their head," Carr said. "We're disappointed, it hurts. ... But everything is still in front of us."
And there's reason for optimism.
Tyrell Williams' return from plantar fasciitis helped jumpstart the Raiders' passing attack.
This was especially true in the third quarter, when he hauled in a 23-yard pass to set Oakland up in Texans territory and then, three snaps later, blew by former teammate Gareon Conley on a crossing route to score on a 46-yard catch-and-run to give the Raiders a 21-13 lead.
But as huge as those catches were, two drops in the fourth quarter were just as, if not more, deflating in the Raiders' eventual loss.
"I know there's two there that he wants back," Carr said of Williams. "Two or three of them. But you guys know me, when Tyrell has been in there, when we had [Amari Cooper] and [Michael Crabtree] rolling, I don't care if they drop the ball, whatever, they're going to get their chances. If we don't connect, if I miss a throw, the ball is still coming with confidence.
"Tyrell did a great job, and there's probably two or three I could have maybe thrown a better ball for him that we could have back."
In fairness, Williams was not signed to a four-year, $44 million free-agent deal with a max value of $47 million and $22 million guaranteed to be the Raiders' No. 1 receiver. He was supposed to be Robin to Antonio Brown's Batman.
And we all know how that worked out.
Plus, it was Williams' first game since Week 4. This week was the first time he had practiced since before the game at the Indianapolis Colts on Sept. 29.
But as any receiver will tell you, if they can get their hands on it, they should catch it.
"I've got to come down with those and be stronger with the ball," said Williams, who finished with three catches, on six targets, for 91 yards and the TD.
"I have to make those plays."
True. And yet, he did set a franchise record by scoring a TD in each of his first five games with the Raiders.
Even if the Raiders only had three possessions -- total -- in the second half.
"We had some chances," head coach Jon Gruden said. "We're playing a team that plays ... man-to-man, really. They're not screwing around. They're playing in-your-grill man-to-man. I wouldn't say 100 percent, but a high percentage, and with that being said, you've got to take some shots and try to win those 50-50-balls."
The key going forward, obviously, is catching them.
Beyond that, as ESPN.com's Paul Gutierrez suggested, the Raiders to be considered playoff contenders, they need to fix their defense. Simply put, they could not get a stop against the Houston Texans when it mattered most in the fourth quarter. And as a result, a golden opportunity for the Silver and Black to win a key AFC game was lost.
All that said, the Raiders went 2-3 on their monster, five-game road trip through Minnesota, Indianapolis, London (vs. Chicago), Green Bay and Houston.
Now, the Raiders get three straight winnable games in Oakland, against the Detroit Lions, Los Angeles Chargers and Cincinnati Bengals.
If the Raiders consider themselves contenders, rather than pretenders, the time is now to make a run.
And there are reasons for optimism.
Carr is playing his best football since 2016, looking extremely comfortable in Gruden's offense.
Carr entered Sunday's game completing an NFL-best 74.1 percent of his passes. ... Then promptly threw incompletions on his first four attempts.
No matter, Carr found his rhythm and had major success when he started hitting his receivers in stride, such as Hunter Renfrow on a slant for a 65-yard catch-and-run touchdown and Williams on that 46-yarder.
He threw for 285 yards and three TDs without a turnover for a passer rating of 125 against the Texans. He ranks second in the league with a 110.1 passer rating over the past six weeks.
Renfrow had his most productive day as a pro. He caught a 65-yard TD pass to open the scoring and added three more catches for 23 yards. ...
Josh Jacobs carried 15 times for 66 yards and caught two passes for an additional 15 yards during loss.
Although Jacobs averaged a respectable 4.4 yards per carry against a solid Texans front, CBSSports.com notes his 15 carries on the day were his fewest since Week 3. He made a slight contribution as a pass-catcher, but his total of 81 scrimmage yards was his second lowest of the season.
While it wasn't his greatest effort to date, Jacobs' high floor for yardage and touches still makes him a solid fantasy play, and he should continue as such Sunday at home against the Lions. ...
On the injury front. ... X-rays on center Rodney Hudson's ankle were negative, but Gruden didn't know how serious the injury was. Linebacker Justin Phillips went down with a season-ending knee injury and DE Josh Mauro (groin) and returner Dwayne Harris (ankle) were getting checked out.
QBs: Derek Carr, Mike Glennon
RBs: Josh Jacobs, Jalen Richard, DeAndre Washington
WRs: Tyrell Williams, Hunter Renfrow, Zay Jones, Keelan Doss
TEs: Darren Waller, Derek Carrier
Philadelphia EaglesCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 29 October 2019
According to the Associated Press, Lane Johnson isn't sure what the Eagles proved except to silence their critics for one week after their run game and defense trampled the Buffalo Bills.
"What are we, 4-4? It looks like we're average," the starting right tackle said, injecting a profanity into his comment for emphasis. "We needed a damn win. That's really what it all boiled down to. It felt good to get one."
Having spent the past week listening to how awful and soft they were following a 37-10 loss at Dallas, the Eagles responded by snapping a two-game skid with a 31-13 win on the road and against a Bills team that dropped to 5-2.
Rookie Miles Sanders scored on a 65-yard run, one of Philadelphia's three touchdowns rushing, on a wet and windy afternoon in which the Eagles finished with 218 yards rushing.
The running game had its most productive output under Doug Pederson as coach, racking up 218 yards and three touchdowns. Sanders was having a breakout game with 118 total yards and a touchdown before he exited in the second half with a shoulder injury. Jordan Howard picked up the slack with 96 rushing yards and a score.
Before he broke loose for his first career score, Sanders had been a bigger weapon as a receiver. He showed off his elite speed in the open field on the long run. The Eagles employed a two-back set on that run, a rare formation for them. It worked nicely as Howard paved the way with a lead block.
Had the Eagles (4-4) lost in Buffalo, the wheels could have come off this season.
But they rose to the occasion and now return home for a key three-game stretch against the Chicago Bears, Patriots and Seattle Seahawks.
Other notes of interest. ... As ESPN.com's Tim McManus notes, it was less than ideal conditions for quarterback play with strong whipping winds throughout. Carson Wentz ended 17-of-24 for 172 yards with a touchdown and a 104.9 QB rating while adding 35 yards on eight carries. He made a few clutch plays, including a 38-yard toss down the right side to Alshon Jeffery that set up a second-half score, and a pair of first-down runs to help ice the game.
Most importantly, the team responded under his leadership in a crucial spot.
With his touchdown pass to Dallas Goedert, Wentz now has 26 pass touchdowns targeting tight ends since the start of 2017.
The only QB with more pass TDs to tight ends in that span is Russell Wilson (27), per ESPN Stats and Information.
The Eagles need more production at wide receiver. Jeffery has 25 catches for 268 yards and two TDs over the past five games. But Nelson Agholor has only 11 receptions, Mack Hollins has one and rookie second-round pick J.J. Arcega-Whiteside has none.
Hollins has played 189 snaps over the past five games and has only one catch. His playing time will decrease once DeSean Jackson returns from an abdomen injury suffered in Week 2.
Pederson said Jackson, who's been sidelined since Week 2 with an abdomen injury, is expected to return to practice this week. Jackson has been limited to running and rehab for the better part of two months. Pederson noted he'll be incorporated Wednesday, which means his status for Sunday's game against the Bears remains unclear.
But the Philadelphia fan favorite must be close to getting back on the field. His Week 1 performance likely provided a lasting memory for an offense that has struggled all season. Jackson led the team with eight catches for 154 yards and two touchdowns in his first game back with the Eagles.
Jackson isn't the only player returning to the fold for Philly. Pederson said running back Darren Sproles will participate Wednesday. Additionally, Sanders is day to day after further tests on his shoulder came back negative.
Unlike Jackson and Sproles (where were limited), however, Sanders wasn't on the field Wednesday; still, the belief remains his injury is minor.
I'll be following up on Jackson, Sanders and Sproles via Late-Breaking Update in coming days. ...
Pederson said offensive tackle Jason Peters (knee) will not practice this week, and linebacker Nigel Bradham (ankle) isn't ready to either.
QBs: Carson Wentz, Nate Sudfeld, Clayton Thorson
RBs: Miles Sanders, Jordan Howard, Boston Scott, Jay Ajayi
WRs: JJ Arcega-Whiteside, Greg Ward, Robert Davis, Nelson Agholor
TEs: Zach Ertz, Dallas Goedert, Josh Perkins
Pittsburgh SteelersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 29 October 2019
Mason Rudolph heard the boos. They were impossible to miss as the minutes passed, the mistakes piled up and the Pittsburgh Steelers found themselves down two scores on Monday night to arguably the worst team in the NFL.
Turnovers. Dropped passes. Penalties. Missed opportunities. For the better part of 30 minutes, it was hard to tell if the Steelers or the Miami Dolphins were the team in the midst of a massive rebuild.
"I would have booed that performance too," Rudolph said. "Coming out slow and it's the Pittsburgh Steelers. There's a standard here and we weren't meeting it at the time."
Fortunately, the Miami defense is a cure-all for all offenses, including Pittsburgh's. Perhaps the return of Roosevelt Nix solved all of the Steelers' woes in the ground games.
Regardless of what caused the renegade resurgence, Pittsburgh will need more of it as it faces tougher competition and looks to get back into the AFC wild-card race.
James Conner rushed for 145 yards and a touchdown and JuJu Smith-Schuster added 103 yards receiving with a score as the Pittsburgh Steelers earned a 27-14 win over the Miami Dolphins on Monday night.
Conner did leave the game in the closing minutes with an apparent shoulder injury sustained on his final carry of the night.
The Steelers spotted the Dolphins are early 14-0 lead as a Rudolph interception and Pittsburgh turnover on downs helped Miami jump out to an early lead. A Xavien Howard interception of Rudolph set up a 5-yard touchdown pass from Ryan Fitzpatrick to Albert Wilson to give the Dolphins a 7-0 advantage. Allen Hurns then scored on a 12-yard reception from Fitzpatrick as the Dolphins took a two touchdown lead late in the first quarter.
But from that point forward, the game was all Steelers.
Fitzpatrick lost a fumble on a sack from T.J. Watt and was twice intercepted by former Dolphins safety Minkah Fitzpatrick. Mark Walton also lost a fumble as a part of four Miami turnovers on the night. Two of Pittsburgh's three touchdowns came directly off of Fitzpatrick interceptions.
After a 42-yard Chris Boswell field goal got the Steelers on the board, Rudolph connected with Diontae Johnson for a 45-yard touchdown right before halftime to close the gap to 14-10 at the break.
As ESPN.com's Brooke Pryor noted, the rookie was wide open as the Dolphins called a zero blitz, dropping three into coverage. Johnson not only got the first down after a wide-open catch on a crossing route, he turned it into a 45-yard score. Not to be lost on that play, wide receiver James Washington executed two downfield blocks to keep Johnson's lane to the end zone clear. The score closed the gap before halftime to four points and gave the Steelers momentum.
Rudolph finished with 251 yards with two touchdowns and an interception.
It was the first time this season Smith-Schuster cracked the 100-yard receiving barrier for Pittsburgh.
But the news wasn't all good.
Conner would exit the game with just over two minutes left to play. Head coach Mike Tomlin said after the game that Conner is getting his AC joint evaluated.
While the biggest headline was Conner leaving in a sling last night, Benny Snell's status bears watching as well as he was being evaluated for a knee injury following the game.
Running back Jaylen Samuels was inactive Monday night as he recovers from a knee scope, leaving the Steelers with Trey Edmunds as the only healthy back on the roster at the moment.
Tomlin didn't have much of an update on Conner's condition Tuesday.
Tomlin said at his press conference that Conner is still being evaluated for what was termed an AC joint injury immediately after the game. That makes it too soon to draw any conclusions about his availability for Week 9, but Tomlin did concede that the injury is "going to limit him early in the week."
Tomlin also confirmed that Samuels is "ready to go" against the Colts on Sunday.
I'll obviously be following up on Conner, who did no practice Wednesday, and Snell in coming days; watch the Late-Breaking Updates section as the week progresses. ...
In non-running back injury news, Tomlin said that left guard Ramon Foster is in the concussion protocol and that center Maurkice Pouncey is dealing with a calf injury.
Remember, even at 3-4, the Steelers remain very much alive in the AFC North.
Baltimore has a 5-2 record, but they host the Patriots on Sunday. If the Ravens lose and the Steelers beat the Colts, the gap would be down to one game.
Baltimore holds the tiebreaker, thanks to a win at Pittsburgh earlier this year. But the Ravens also have a loss to the Browns; if the Steelers, who have beaten the Bengals and have another game at Cincinnati and two against the Browns, win those three games and are one game behind the Ravens (or tied with them or leading by a game) entering Week 17, the rematch would become an AFC North championship game.
Pittsburgh has won each of its last five meetings with the Colts, but the health of Conner and Snell will be worth watching this week.
Keep an eye on the Late-Breaking Updates section for more. ...
One last item here. ... Drug charges against Snell stemming from an August traffic stop have been dismissed, the Harrison County (Ohio) Prosecutor's Office confirmed.
Though he no longer faces a misdemeanor marijuana possession charge, Snell could still be disciplined by the NFL because any illegal drug use is in violation of the league's code of conduct.
"We are aware of the situation regarding Benny Snell, and we alerted the NFL Office when we learned of the incident," Steelers spokesman Burt Lauten said. "We will have no further comment at this time."
QBs: Devlin Hodges, Mason Rudolph, Ben Roethlisberger
RBs: James Conner, Benny Snell, Jaylen Samuels, Trey Edmunds, Kerrith Whyte
WRs: JuJu Smith-Schuster, Diontae Johnson, James Washington, Johnny Holton, Deon Cain, Tevin Jones
TEs: Vance McDonald, Nick Vannett, Zach Gentry
San Francisco 49ersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 29 October 2019
Racing out to six straight wins to open the season against a less than formidable schedule left some people doubting how good the San Francisco 49ers actually are. Blowing out a Carolina team that had won four straight games should quiet some of those critics.
Tevin Coleman scored three of his four touchdowns in the first half, rookie Nick Bosa had three sacks to go along with an acrobatic interception and the 49ers remained unbeaten with a 51-13 victory over the Carolina Panthers on Sunday in their highest-scoring game in 26 years.
"It doesn't really matter what the outside world thinks," said cornerback Richard Sherman, who had an interception. "We know what we have in this building. The same thing we've said since training camp, we'll continue to say. We knew the talent we have, we just have to execute and focus on us and let the chips fall where they may."
The Niners (7-0) are off to their best start since winning their first 10 games in 1990 and now have a second win against a team with a winning record thanks to a complete performance against the Panthers (4-3).
Jimmy Garoppolo and the offense had little trouble carving Carolina's defense with 232 yards rushing and a pair of touchdown passes for San Francisco's most prolific offensive game since beating Detroit 55-17 on Dec. 19, 1993. The Niners stellar defense did the rest.
San Francisco intercepted three passes from Kyle Allen, who came into the game with no interceptions on 153 career attempts while winning his first five starts in place of injured starter Cam Newton. They also had seven sacks, with Bosa getting three of them to go along with his leaping interception and 46-yard return on the final play of the third quarter.
"Whenever your moves are working really good, it's a good feeling," Bosa said. "Once you get a sack early you calm down."
Coleman did most of the rest of the damage. He scored on a 19-yard run in the first quarter, added a 10-yard catch in the second quarter, broke the game open with a 48-yard run late in the first half and added a 1-yard run late in the third quarter.
Coleman finished with 11 carries for 105 yards and two catches for 13 yards. He became just the fourth 49ers player to score at least four touchdowns in a regular-season game, joining Jerry Rice (1993, 1990) and Billy Kilmer (1961). Rice holds the team record with five TDs against Atlanta in 1990.
Coleman also became the first Niner to run for three scores in a regular-season game since Garrison Hearst on Dec. 1, 2002, and the first to rush for 100-plus yards and two-plus touchdowns in a game since Carlos Hyde did it in Week 3 of 2016 against Seattle.
The 49ers signed Coleman as a free agent in the offseason, reuniting him with head coach Kyle Shanahan after their time together in Atlanta.
In a crowded backfield group, Coleman has emerged as one of the Niners' primary weapons.
"From the first time that Tevin came into the building, just watching him run with the ball and how he reads it, how he gets downhill, him taking the edge and then getting vertical is one of the most impressive things I've ever seen, and he does it with zero regard for his body, which is pretty amazing for a running back," tight end George Kittle said. "I just love watching him play. ... He deserves that because he grinds every single day and we're just happy we could help him do that."
"He knows how to play in the offense," Shanahan said. "He had some good looks today, and when Tevin has a good look, he usually can get in the end zone."
Receiver Deebo Samuel added a 20-yard touchdown run on a nifty inside handoff that tricked Carolina and Raheem Mostert scored on a 41-yard run that made it 51-13 in the fourth quarter.
Garoppolo finished 18 for 22 for 175 yards with TD passes to Coleman and Emmanuel Sanders.
The 49ers made a trade earlier in the week to acquire Sanders from Denver and it paid off almost immediately. Sanders caught two passes on the opening drive, including a 4-yard TD from Garoppolo. He finished with four catches for 25 yards.
"It was probably one of the easiest touchdowns I have had," Sanders said. "It was awesome to get on the opening drive to be a newcomer on this team and be able to open up like that is awesome."
Heading into Thursday night's game against the injury-depleted Cardinals, it's safe to say the Niners are on a serious roll.
No less an authority than Hall of Fame quarterback Brett Favre, who was in attendance Sunday, left impressed with what he saw from Bosa, Coleman and Co.
"They're good," Favre said. "The defense, man, is pretty stout. They're good. They're really good. ..."
On the injury front. ... The 49ers, of course, didn't practice Monday, but they still were required to turn in an injury report since they play Thursday.
They estimated running back Matt Breida as limited with an ankle injury that took him out of Sunday's game after 19 snaps. Shanahan was unsure after the game how serious Breida's injury was.
The 49ers are deep at running back. They used four of them Sunday, with Coleman getting 11 carries, Breida 11, Mostert nine and Jeff Wilson two.
Wilson left with a stinger Sunday but did not appear on Monday's report. Mostert (knee) was on it, getting an estimation of a limited practice.
On Tuesday, Shanahan told reporters that Mostert and Breida would miss a second day of practice.
"If we had to go today, it wouldn't be good," Shanahan said of Breida. "But we remain optimistic" for Thursday.
Needless to say, I'll have more on Breida and Mostert via Late-Breaking Update; be sure to check there in advance of kickoff. ...
The 49ers listed fullback Kyle Juszczyk (knee), offensive tackle Mike McGlinchey (knee) and cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon (foot) as out.
Defensive end Dee Ford (quad), offensive tackle Justin Skule (knee, foot), offensive tackle Joe Staley (fibula) and tight end Levine Toilolo (groin) were limited.
And finally. ... Marquise Goodwin is back with the team and is expected to practice this week after he missed Sunday's game and two previous practices for personal reasons.
QBs: Jimmy Garoppolo, Nick Mullens, C.J. Beathard
RBs: Raheem Mostert, Tevin Coleman, Matt Breida, Jeff Wilson
WRs: Emmanuel Sanders, Deebo Samuel, Kendrick Bourne, Dante Pettis, Richie James, Jordan Matthews
TEs: George Kittle, Ross Dwelley, Levine Toilolo
Seattle SeahawksCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 29 October 2019
As Associated Press sports writer Tim Booth framed it, "For one half, the Seattle Seahawks looked like championship contenders. For the other half, they were desperately trying to hold on.
"The Seahawks hope they don't look this way for the rest of the season."
The Seahawks improved to 6-2 with a 27-20 win Sunday over the hapless Atlanta Falcons, building a 24-0 halftime lead then watching most of it get whittled away in the second half before recovering an onside kick in the final moments to seal the victory. They have put themselves in position to be in the conversation with the best teams in the NFC at the halfway point and are definitely a contender for a playoff berth.
But the way they've gotten there has continued to raise questions about whether their record accurately reflect Seattle's ability, or whether it's a mirage created by taking advantage of a favorable schedule. Five of their six wins have come against teams currently below .500 and only one win has come by more than a touchdown.
As ESPN.com's Brady Henderson noted, they might not have gotten completely right, but Russell Wilson threw two touchdown passes to DK Metcalf, Chris Carson ran for 90 yards and a score, and the Seahawks beat the reeling Atlanta Falcons 27-20 on Sunday.
The Seahawks (6-2) improved to 4-0 on the road.
"Today I think the message myself and other guys tried to send was start fast and be as physical as possible," said left tackle Duane Brown.
"We started fast and the defense was getting turnovers and getting off the field and we were getting points on the board."
The Seahawks won the turnover battle 3-0.
Head coach Pete Carroll said the team's record halfway through the season "isn't the best it could have been, but it's pretty darn good."
Wilson completed first-half touchdown passes of 4 and 2 yards to Metcalf. Carson had a 1-yard scoring run.
The Seahawks rushed for 151 yards, including 55 from Rashaad Penny. Wilson completed 14 of 20 passes for 182 yards with no interceptions and they'll head home with a 6-2 record and their first 4-0 road start since 1980.
The Seahawks get arguably their final breather of the season hosting Tampa Bay on Sunday. After that, the Seahawks play six of their final seven games against teams with .500 records or better. That stretch includes two games against unbeaten San Francisco.
What could really hurt them: losing center Justin Britt to a torn ACL.
The Seahawks announced Tuesday that they placed Britt on injured reserve. In a corresponding move, the team promoted guard Jordan Roos from the practice squad.
Whether it's because of injuries that are starting to add up or a need for more quality, Carroll knows the Seahawks must be better for what lies ahead.
"I don't think it's going to entertain me as much as I would like. It seems kind of quiet," Carroll said.
Other notes of interest. ... As Booth suggested, while it's easy to heap praise on Wilson, one of the big keys against the Falcons was the combo of Carson and Penny. The running backs combined for 128 yards rushing in the first half, including 86 yards from Carson.
It's the optimal kind of production and balance Seattle would like to see from the pair, but it has only occasionally shown up. While the second half was mostly forgettable for the Seahawks, what the pair managed to do in the first 30 minutes is a major positive moving forward.
Wilson had his eighth straight road game with at least one TD pass and zero interceptions, breaking a record held by Tom Brady (2010) and Nick Foles (2012-13) at seven straight. In those eight games, Wilson has 18 TD passes and Seattle is 6-2.
And finally. ... Tight end Ed Dickson will practice this week "with a chance to play," Carroll said.
Carroll wouldn't commit to Dickson playing Sunday against Tampa Bay but it sounds like it's not at all off the table. Dickson was officially designated to return on Wednesday. Significant as Seattle only has two true tight ends on its 53-man roster right now.
QBs: Russell Wilson, Geno Smith
RBs: Travis Homer, Marshawn Lynch, Robert Turbin
WRs: Tyler Lockett, DK Metcalf, David Moore, John Ursua, Malik Turner, Jaron Brown
TEs: Jacob Hollister, Luke Willson
Tampa Bay BuccaneersCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 29 October 2019
A shotgun snap off Jameis Winston's face mask, Breshad Perriman running into a teammate just after a handoff 4 yards from a touchdown and passes overthrown to the Titans.
Yes, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers had a lot of issues coming off their bye.
The Bucs wound up losing their third straight and fourth in five Sunday, 27-23 to the Titans, and wide receiver Mike Evans thinks they can look at themselves for this latest loss.
"Obviously, if you watch the game, we're better than them," Evans told Associated Press sports writer Teresa M. Walker. "We gave them the game. We can't do that in the NFL."
The Bucs (2-6) outgained the Titans 389-246 in total offense, and Winston threw for 301 yards while scrambling eight times for 53 more. He threw two touchdown passes to Evans, who finished with 11 catches for 198 yards. But the Titans doubled up their coverage of Evans in the fourth quarter, keeping Winston from throwing to him down the stretch.
The NFL's fourth-highest scoring offense, which had been averaging 28.8 points a game, did not score again after Winston's second TD pass to Evans, a 2-yarder, with 11:11 left in the third quarter. That kept the Bucs from overcoming a combined four turnovers -- two interceptions and a pair of fumbles all by Winston.
Winston also overthrew Chris Godwin in the first quarter, a ball easily intercepted by Malcolm Butler to set up the Titans' second TD and a 14-3 lead.
"We're always communicating things," Winston said of Godwin. So he just thought what he thought and in that case it wasn't the right thing. But Chris is going to be fine."
The other two turnovers came inside the final 6:03, the last with 18 seconds left. The four turnovers give Winston an NFL-worst 90 giveaways since being the No. 1 pick overall in 2015, and this was his sixth game with at least four turnovers. Head coach Bruce Arians made very clear the issue on the interceptions Sunday didn't rest with Winston.
"It's the receivers, not the quarterback," Arians said. "The receivers totally screwed it up."
Winston took the blame also for Perriman essentially tackling Dare Ogunbowale on third-and-4 at the Titans 4 for a 2-yard loss late in the second quarter. Perriman went in motion, running from the right side and into Ogunbowale right after the handoff.
"It's a timing snap," Winston said. "We worked on it in practice. That was the first time that we've done it with him in the game. That one's on me. I've just got to get better timing."
The defense held Tennessee to just 70 yards offense in the first half and finished with three sacks with Jason Pierre-Paul back for his first game of the season.
The Bucs couldn't protect a 23-17 lead as the Titans (4-4) scored the final 10 points with their best drives of the game. The Bucs thought they had an interception twice on Tennessee's first scoring drive by Carlton Davis III only to have each overturned by defensive pass interference penalties.
Arians lost his challenge of the second penalty.
"I challenged because it got flopped (by tight end Anthony Firkser), but I guess New York still thought it was a push," Arians said.
The Bucs coach said his young secondary, which came in part of a defense ranked last in the NFL against the pass, needs to get their heads out of their rears. Arians said the Bucs could have held the Titans to a pair of field goals in the first quarter by playing the right technique.
Asked about Arians' comment, Davis said he gets paid to play and not go back and forth talking.
"Obviously we have to go back to the drawing board," Davis said. "We didn't get the job done here today."
Arians had a simple response when asked what the Bucs can do moving forward.
"Finish a game," he said. ...
The good news?
Winston likes the Buccaneers' chances of rebounding against the Seahawks. Maybe a little too much.
Two weeks ago, it was Eagles coach Doug Pederson. Then, it was Browns receiver Jarvis Landry. Now, Winston has said something that inevitably will be characterized as something other than a guarantee.
"I'm feeling like we're going to get better next week and we will win," Winston said regarding the looming Week 9 trip to Seattle. "That's how I'm feeling. I'm feeling like we will win."
Winston and/or Arians may try to soften that, and the wiggle room already is there. He didn't say we'll definitely win, he said he's feeling like we will win.
Of course, Winston has far bigger issues than whether his words will be characterized as a guarantee. With seven games played and only two wins, he faces a steep uphill climb to convince the Bucs to keep him around for 2020. And if he's not the starter in Tampa Bay, where will Winston get another chance to be the starter?
Other notes of interest. ... Evans has scored 40-plus PPR fantasy points, the second time he has reached that threshold this season. He's only the 11th wide receiver since 1950 to have multiple games with 40-plus AND multiple games with fewer than five PPR fantasy points in a season.
As ESPN's Mike Clay noted this week, Arians just won't hand the keys to Ronald Jones.
Despite the USC product flashing at times throughout his second NFL season, Jones has been limited to 12 or fewer touches in three consecutive games. That includes exactly 12 touches during Sunday's loss to the Titans. Jones played 26 percent of the snaps, compared to 36 percent for Ogunbowale and 32 percent for Peyton Barber.
Jones reached 70 rushing yards during three of his first four games, but he has totaled 80 yards during his past three outings.
Jones is stuck in a committee, has a grand total of 10 targets in seven games and has cleared 35 rushing yards in only four games. ...
Worth noting. ... Arians didn't mince words Monday when he opened his news conference by criticizing officials for an early whistle that cost the Bucs a go-ahead touchdown, Jenna Laine of ESPN reports.
With 3:45 to go in the fourth quarter, the Titans lined up for a field goal and faked it. Bucs linebacker Devin White tackled the holder, Titans punter Brett Kern, stripping him of the ball. Safety Andrew Adams recovered it and ran it in for what would have been a touchdown. But an early whistle blew the play dead, so it was instead ruled a turnover on downs.
"It was more than just one play. Everybody except for one guy saw the ball out. [He] blew a quick whistle," Arians said. "My biggest thing is, referees aren't held accountable. Coaches get fired. General managers get fired. Players get cut. Referees aren't accountable. And it's a shame. It's been that way for 40 years, and now that we've got a new agreement, it'll be that way for 40 more years."
Arians expressed frustration with the lack of consistency across the league.
"Why is it continuing? Since the Rams-Saints game in the second week, when the Saints got a touchdown that they didn't get [a Cameron Jordan fumble recovery returned 87 yards for a touchdown that was called back due to an early whistle], there's been an emphasis on letting the plays go [before blowing them dead]. You can answer why it's not happening. I don't know."
In addition to the quick whistle, Arians cited turnovers and poor red-zone offense and defense as factors in the team's third straight loss.
To have a chance to end the skid at Seattle (6-2), they'll need to be better in all areas.
And finally. ... Laine reported the Buccaneers would only consider trading O.J. Howard for a "substantial" offer.
But NFL Network's Tom Pelissero reported that when one team recently called to inquire on Howard, that team was told he wasn't available.
The Patriots reportedly called about Howard last week and it seemed like he was primed for a move when the Bucs held him out of Sunday's game with a hamstring injury. Turns out it was all for naught.
For the record, Howard remained sidelined by the hamstring in Wednesday's practice; Cameron Brate was also absent. I'll hve more on both via Late-Breaking Update in coming days.
QBs: Jameis Winston, Ryan Griffin
RBs: Ronald Jones, Peyton Barber, Dare Ogunbowale, T.J. Logan
WRs: Breshad Perriman, Justin Watson, Cyril Grayson, Spencer Schnell, Chris Godwin
TEs: Cameron Brate, O.J. Howard, Tanner Hudson
Tennessee TitansCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 29 October 2019
The Titans' 27-23 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers wasn't a pretty one, as they had just 246 yards of offense and made some questionable decisions, but they came through when it mattered most. Quarterback Ryan Tannehill, with help from the Titans defense, was able to help the team come out on top where it mattered most: The scoreboard.
But there was plenty to be encouraged by.
As ESPN.com's Turron Davenport notes, tight end Jonnu Smith is emerging at a critical time with veteran Delanie Walker nursing an ankle injury. Smith was quarterback Ryan Tannehill's favorite target this week, leading the team in receptions (6) and targets (7) and catching a touchdown pass.
But the third-year tight end hasn't ascended just because Walker is out.
"Even with Delanie [Walker] out there, I think Jonnu [Smith] was starting to get a little bit more comfortable," head coach Mike Vrabel said. "I think he was starting to feel good about returning from the injury, what he had done in the offseason, and how hard he had worked. The thing that I appreciate is him attacking the football. He's got a unique skill set -- he's a very fast and powerful player with the ball in his hands."
Smith is less than a year removed from a season-ending MCL injury last December. He toughed out the recovery process and started training camp on the physically unable to perform list before returning to practice in mid-August. Smith had six receptions on eight targets for 92 yards over the first six weeks of the season. In two games with Tannehill under center, Smith has nine receptions on 10 targets for 142 yards and a touchdown.
Tannehill credited Smith for coming on strong in the last couple of weeks, pointing to his 35-yard catch-and-run on third-and-long against the Chargers as an example. Has anything changed for Smith to become a key player in the passing game over the last two weeks? Not according to Smith.
"I am not doing anything different, just going out there with confidence every play," Smith said after Sunday's game against Tampa Bay. "I'm going out there and trying to capitalize on every opportunity I get. I come to work every day and try to prepare so I can be the best player that I can be. I stay faithful.
"I'll build chemistry with whatever QB is back there. Those guys know what I can do with the ball. I am just thankful to be around two great QBs in Ryan and Marcus [Mariota]. Whoever is back there, I know they trust me to catch the ball and make plays."
Smith's five-yard touchdown against Tampa came on a well-designed play call by offensive coordinator Arthur Smith. A.J. Brown lined up in the slot and legally set a pick that freed Smith as he was running a slant from just over top of the numbers.
As the former TE coach and now offensive coordinator, Arthur Smith has gotten to work with Jonnu Smith since the team selected him in the third round of the 2017 NFL draft. He's watched as Jonnu Smith has put in the necessary work to grow from a raw prospect.
Walker blasted draft analysts back in April for projecting a tight end to the Titans in mock drafts. He said it was disrespectful to both himself and to Jonnu Smith.
"Most of them dudes never played football or know what they're talking about. People tend to forget about Jonnu Smith. He was just drafted. It's not even me, it's him. He's going to replace me when I leave. It makes me upset when people forget that we just drafted a tight end," Walker said in May.
The way that Walker has taken Smith under his wing hasn't gone unnoticed by left tackle Taylor Lewan, who said he sees Walker talking to Smith all the time. Walker complimented Smith's work ethic and feels the young tight end is taking advantage of opportunities to show that he's a playmaker.
Smith said he's watched Walker since day one and called him "one of the greatest tight ends in football."
With Smith proving himself to be a playmaker, the two could help form a dangerous 12 personnel package when Walker, who was not on the practice field to open the week on Wednesday, is healthy again.
Meanwhile, the Titans continue to win the turnover battle. Last week they didn't turn the ball over but got an interception. This week, two turnovers led to 14 points for Tennessee. Malcolm Butler had an interception, Harold Landry had a strip sack and recovery, and the special-teams unit recovered a muffed punt. The Titans lost a fumble by Derrick Henry but still had a 4-1 turnover ratio.
Tannehill wasn't highly productive by box-score standards, but he did a solid job working the pocket and staying on schedule with his throws. He found Anthony Firkser for a 23-yard gain on a third-and-long in addition to finding Adam Humphries on quick passes for a couple of first downs as well.
Tannehill finished with three touchdowns passes and he appears to have the Titans heading in a positive direction as they prepare to visit Carolina this week.
The bad news?
The Titans face only one team currently with a losing record the rest of this season.
After Carolina, Kansas City (5-3) visits on Nov. 10 before their bye week and a chance to rest, self-scout and heal up for the final six games. Overall, the Titans have the league's third-toughest schedule down the stretch based on current records. They also play in the AFC South -- the only division where every team is .500 or better.
"November is really when the NFL season begins, and we're in a position to do something with that going forward," Vrabel said Monday.
The good news?
Tannehill's five TD passes in two starts are just two off what Marcus Mariota had through six starts before being benched. ...
Henry ran for 75 yards on 16 carries, while hauling in his only target for eight yards against the Buccaneers.
Just two of Henry's six first-half runs yielded positive yardage, but as CBSSports.com noted, following his lost fumble on Tennessee's opening drive of the second half, he peeled off an 18-yard run on his very next carry, and later in the contest, he added a 15-yard scamper on Tennessee's go-ahead drive.
His pass-catching upside remains low with zero touchdowns and 53 total receiving yards since Week 1, but his 18.9 carries-per-game average and six total touchdowns keep him a viable running back option.
This week, Henry and the Titans' ground attack will be going up against a Panthers defense that only allowed one rusher to exceed 70 yards against them between Weeks 4 and 7 -- but that allowed Tevin Coleman to run for three touchdowns (and score a fourth as a receiver).
And finally. ... Kicker Ryan Succop (knee), designated to come off IR, was practicing Wednesday, but a decision on whether he'll kick on Sunday will remain until later in the week.
QBs: Ryan Tannehill, Marcus Mariota
RBs: Derrick Henry, Dion Lewis, Dalyn Dawkins, David Fluellen
WRs: A.J. Brown, Corey Davis, Tajae Sharpe, Adam Humphries, Kalif Raymond
TEs: Jonnu Smith, Anthony Firkser, MyCole Pruitt
Washington RedskinsCompiled by FootballDiehards Editor Bob Harris | Updated 29 October 2019
The Dwayne Haskins era may be here, but not the way the Redskins wanted it.
Haskins relieved concussed quarterback Case Keenum at halftime of Washington's 19-9 loss at the Minnesota Vikings on Thursday night. And now, with Keenum still in the concussion protocol this week, the youngster could be forced into his first pro start Nov. 3 at the Buffalo Bills.
Washington is 1-7, but there's been zero drive to make Haskins the full-time starter as the team has professed more interest in developing him for next season and beyond.
That may change this week.
The rookie had an opportunity to lead five drives in the second half last Thursday, but never managed to guide the Redskins into the red zone. Those five drives ended with a three-and-out, field goal, interception, three-and-out and the game clock striking zero.
It was the second time Haskins took over for an injured Keenum this season after being drafted 15th overall by the Redskins in April. Callahan named Haskins the backup over veteran Colt McCoy earlier this month, but says he still isn't a refined product at this point in his career.
"I think he needs a little bit more work," Callahan said. "I think time is invaluable where he can sit back and learn from quarterbacks like [Keenum] and [McCoy] as well as players like [QB] [Alex Smith] who is around the building. It is a fine line. We are trying to win games still."
Callahan admitted that he and offensive coordinator Kevin O'Connell have simplified the pre-snap verbiage for Haskins but doesn't attribute his struggles to a lack of preparation. He does, however, want to see Haskins relay calls to the huddle quicker and manage the clock more efficiently.
"When I'm talking about the clock, I am talking about the 40-second clock," Callahan said. "Getting in and getting out of the huddle. Really working the offense at an upbeat tempo where he can have time at the line of scrimmage. Sometimes just not letting the clock run down on him. It is our responsibility as coaches to do a better job of getting the plays into him quicker and faster."
For now, Callahan wants Haskins to focus on his preparation and try to learn as much from his veteran teammates as he can.
"It's very similar to quarterbacks like [Aaron] Rodgers, Steve Young, you know really good quarterbacks in our league that have sat back not only for one season but several and learned and grew and got the experience and the knowledge to go out and execute at a high level," Callahan said. "When you're thrust into a situation as a young rookie, boy it's challenging.
"I mentioned this last night, you could look at Troy Aikman when he was first drafted by Dallas, you can look at Peyton Manning when he came out in Indianapolis, they struggled. They really struggled. You're going to have some growing pains with young quarterbacks and we get that."
To be fair, neither Keenum nor Haskins played well last Thursday night, but Keenum played better.
So if Washington's goal is to win football games, Keenum is the right choice.
But if the goal is to develop Haskins, this year's first-round draft pick, that may change the equation.
Callahan did say that Haskins would start over McCoy if Keenum can't play, so this is not a case of Washington thinking Haskins is so unprepared that putting him on the field would do more harm than good.
Given that, it's hard not to wonder how long Washington can keep going back to Keenum, and prolong giving Haskins some starting experience.
In a related note. ... With all the talk suggesting Haskins isn't learning the professional game fast enough, teammate Adrian Peterson would prefer that none of that talk be attributed to him.
Mike Garafolo reported on NFL Network that Peterson had a talk with Haskins and told him that he needs to dig into the playbook and study more.
Peterson responded on Twitter that he has faith in Haskins.
"If you didn't hear something direct from me, please don't attribute it to me. I believe in Dwayne and his potential. With more time, support and commitment, he can grow like any other rookie player," Peterson said.
That's not actually a denial that he spoke with Haskins about studying more.
Haskins, for his part, tweeted, "Please don't involve me in this bs media narrative," which is also not a denial that he and Peterson had that conversation. ...
Meanwhile, Peterson's still got it.
He ran for 5.4 yards a carry against the team he spent most of his career with and moved into sixth on the rushing list. "The offensive line did it a great job," Peterson said. They were getting some movement up front, and there was a couple of opportunities that I wish I could have back, but I felt like one of was going to break out eventually."
Peterson moved into sixth on the all-time rushing yards list last Thursday, passing Hall of Fame running backs Jerome Bettis and LaDainian Tomlinson in the process.
The Redskins running back passed Tomlinson (13,684 yards) with a 29-yard run in the third quarter; Peterson passed Bettis earlier in the evening. He entered the game with 13,625 rushing yards on his career. Peterson ended the game with 76 yards, boosting his career tally to 13,701 yards.
"It means a lot," Peterson said of the milestone. "I came into this game expecting to climb in the ladder. These guys that I'm passing are the ones that paved the way for me, Bettis, L.T.
"To look up at the screen and to see I passed those guys, it's humbling, but this is what I set forth to accomplish."
Thursday night marked only Peterson's second game back in Minnesota since leaving the franchise that drafted him in 2007. The Vikings made sure to celebrate their former star's accomplishment.
During the final two-minute warning, the patrons at U.S. Bank Stadium gave Peterson a standing ovation when alerted to his latest feat. The gesture moved the veteran Peterson, almost to tears.
"It was special," Peterson told reporters after the game. "Obviously, it was bittersweet because you come here to win a game but just coming back and seeing the love that they still have for me and they showed, it felt good. It was definitely a great home welcome. They welcomed me with open arms and just showed the love that they have and they had for over a decade.
"So it was a special moment. I had to hold tears back, to be honest with you. But yeah, it was special, it was a special moment."
Peterson was so comfortable back in Minneapolis that he told reporters he caught himself whistling the Vikings' "Skol" chant to himself at times during Washington's loss.
"I was here for a decade," Peterson said. "Some things are kind of triggers."
Next up for Peterson on the all-time rushing list: New York Jets great Curtis Martin, who finished his career fifth with 14,101 yards. Peterson is 401 yards away from passing that Hall of Famer.
At his current pace, A.D. could pass Martin by season's end.
Well, unless Derrius Guice puts the kibosh on that.
According to JP Finlay of NBCSportsWashington.com, Callahan said on Monday that Guice remained on track to come back in Week 11.
Guice was placed on IR after Week 1, because of a torn meniscus in his right knee.
He has resumed practicing, but can't be activated for two more weeks.
The 2018 second-round pick has struggled with injuries since he was drafted, with a torn ACL ending his rookie season before it started.
Still, Look for Guice to start siphoning carries away from 34-year-old Peterson when Washington returns from the bye to face the Jets in Week 11. ...
On the more immediate injury front. ... Chris Thompson did not practice Wednesday as he continues to recover from an injured toe; Wendell Smallwood has been filling in behind Peterson and would continue to do so if Thompson remains ou. In addition, Vernon Davis hopes to return from his concussion. I'll have more involved via Late-Breaking Update in coming days. ...
And finally. ... Left tackle Trent Williams reported to Washington after Tuesday’s trade deadline passed without a deal sending him to another team, but he’s not going to be practicing with the team yet.
Callahan said on Wednesday that Williams did not pass his physical with the team. The reason why he didn’t get a thumbs up was because he felt discomfort when he tried to put on his helmet.
Williams had a benign growth removed from his head this offseason. The team’s handling of that growth was at the heart of Williams’s holdout and led to reports that Williams was resolved never to play for the team again.
There was another report since Williams returned to the team that he has no plans to actually play for them this year. Washington currently has a roster exemption for Williams, although the failed physical would complicate his status under any circumstances.
QBs: Case Keenum, Colt McCoy, Dwayne Haskins
RBs: Adrian Peterson, Chris Thompson, Wendell Smallwood
WRs: Terry McLaurin, Steven Sims, Kelvin Harmon
TEs: Jeremy Sprinkle, Hale Hentges