Team Notes week 3 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 17 September 2019
The Cardinals were heavy underdogs going into Sunday's game against the Ravens, and there is no question Baltimore is a good team. But according to ArizonaCardinals.com's Darren Urban, there is also no question the Cards felt like they let one get away in a 23-17 loss.
The good news is that, while there are still hiccups, the offense can move the ball. Against the Ravens, that even meant despite being one-dimensional, with only 20 yards rushing total.
And for a second-straight week, the Cardinals' offense didn't find its rhythm until the fourth quarter.
But this time it was too little, too late. On Sunday, the magic Kyler Murray showed a week ago didn't work against the Ravens.
Arizona couldn't find the end zone for the first three quarters despite three trips inside the 5-yard-line, all of which produced three field goals. Murray threw for 349 yards and receivers Larry Fitzgerald and Christian Kirk each had more than 100 yards, allowing the Cardinals to hang around until the end.
According to ESPN.com's Josh Weinfuss, head coach Kliff Kingsbury wasn't as "cute" this week with his creativity but a constant dose of passes deep inside the red zone didn't lead to any touchdowns until the fourth quarter.
Murray finished with 349 yards and no touchdowns or interceptions on 25-for-40 passing to join Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton in the league's history books. Murray threw for 308 yards in a 27-27 Week 1 tie with the Detroit Lions.
Newton threw for 422 and 432 yards in his first two NFL games, respectively, in 2011.
Murray was on pace for almost 400 yards Sunday when he finished the first half with 192. He was 16-for-19 midway through the second quarter.
He was hit nine times and sacked three times. Murray averaged 2.36 seconds per play from snap to throw, almost a half-second faster than in Week 1, according to NFL Next Gen Stats.
Kirk, who played with Murray at Texas A and M in 2015, wasn't shocked by Murray's feat.
"It doesn't surprise me," Kirk said. "With what he's able to do, where he's able to put the ball, what he's able to do with his feet, it's what the guy does. And he's a winner. He's always going to give you the best position and put you in the right place to go win a football game."
For what it's worth, Kingsbury says it may take a full year to see Murray develop into the kind of quarterback the Cardinals wanted him to be when they chose him with the first pick in the draft.
"Next season," Kingsbury told the Arizona Republic. "I think this year as a rookie quarterback -- I didn't ever start in the NFL, but I've talked to enough guys that say every one of those reps is so valuable as they grow up and how much the game slows down going into Year 2 as the guy and all the offseason preparation and reps that come with it. We're going to continue to grow and do the best we can throughout the season.
"The entire 16-game [season] is going to be one big learning experience for him, and we all know that."
That doesn't mean Murry won't be fantasy relevant, but there have been some problems -- especially in the red zone.
Arizona had to settle for field goals three times despite advancing the ball inside Baltimore's 5-yard line. That's obviously not ideal.
Kingsbury's charge is to find answers.
"Kyler's a rookie quarterback, this is my first time calling plays in the league, so I have to wrap my mind around that and find matchups and find concepts that work and we can be efficient at," Kingsbury said on Monday. "I obviously haven't done a great job at that so far. ..."
On a more positive note. ... Fitzgerald is going to have a huge year. He had another five catches for 104 yards, he had a 54-yard catch -- after two 40-plus yarders last week after not having one that long since 2015 -- and has had 100-yard games each of the first two weeks.
Fitz hadn't had back-to-back 100-yard games since Week 2 (at Chicago) and Week 3 (home against San Francisco) in 2015. He's really timeless.
Worth noting. ... Fitzgerald (11 targets) and Kirk (eight) continued to work as Murray's top-two receiving options, but Damiere Byrd somewhat was busy as well, pulling in six of seven targets in Baltimore. As Rotoworld.com noted, Byrd (54 snaps) worked ahead of fellow outside wideout Michael Crabtree (17) and KeeSean Johnson (19)
Meanwhile, the inability to run is a concern -- especially in the scoring position.
Weinfuss notes the Cardinals were 0-for-3 on their first three trips to the red zone mainly because Kingsbury was calling fade routes to Fitzgerald inside the 5-yard-line instead of pounding the ball with either David Johnson or Chase Edmonds. In those first three red zone trips, the Cardinals threw eight times and ran once.
And even when they were at the 1-yard-line early in the fourth quarter, Murray tried to throw it but a pass interference penalty negated the play. Johnson ran it in for a touchdown on the next play.
Johnson injured his wrist in the first quarter. It was a scare for everyone in Arizona, including Johnson, considering the running back missed 15 games in 2017 with a dislocated wrist.
"I was a little nervous, but once I calmed down, I realized it wasn't bad," Johnson told Kyle Odegard of the team website.
Johnson returned in the second quarter, but he did not have much of an impact. He finished with seven carries for 14 yards and a touchdown, while catching one pass for no gain.
He had 24 touches for 137 yards and a touchdown in the season opener.
"The first two weeks we've been down, so we've thrown it," Kingsbury said. "We'd like to get him going more in the run game."
Kingsbury said on Monday that Johnson (wrist) is fine to play Sunday against the Panthers, but I'll continued to follow up as needed via Late-Breaking Update in coming days.
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 17 September 2019
As ESPN.com's Vaughn McClure reported, Julio Jones came through when it counted most.
The Falcons' star receiver's 54-yard, catch-and-run touchdown proved to be the difference in Atlanta's 24-20 win over the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday night.
"My team needed me in that situation and I came through for them," Jones said of the winning catch.
The fourth-quarter play came after quarterback Matt Ryan recognized the coverage and got everyone in position to throw the screen to Jones on the right. Jones took the ball, followed great blocks from receiver Mohamed Sanu and tackle Jake Matthews, and sprinted to the end zone for the deciding score.
In the process, Jones became the franchise's all-time leading receiver in yardage, surpassing Roddy White.
Jones promised he would play much better after struggling a bit against the Vikings in the opener. He responded with five catches for 106 yards. This is his sixth straight game with a touchdown, which is the longest active streak in the NFL.
Jones' efforts saved the Falcons (1-1) from having to answer questions about a winless start. Instead, they can ride that momentum into next week's game at Indianapolis.
But Jones wasn't the only wideout to get the job done.
Calvin Ridley had eight catches for 105 yards and a touchdown to give him his second 100-yard game of his young career. It's his second straight game with a touchdown after his 10 scoring catches as a rookie in 2018. Head coach Dan Quinn said leading into the game that Ridley had a great week of practice, which set the stage for what was to come. Ridley certainly benefited from Jones drawing bracket coverage from the Eagles.
Whenever Ridley gets one-on-one opportunities, he typically has a step on the competition because of his sharp route running and speed.
Tight end Luke Stocker lost a fumble, recovered by Sanu, following his only catch. ...
Despite the game-winning connection with Jones, Ryan would be the first to say he had an off night. Fortunately, the signal caller's early lead on the NFL interceptions list may not mean it's time for the Atlanta Falcons to worry about their quarterback.
Instead, Ryan's uncharacteristic bad decisions and rushed passes are evidence the Falcons better brace for continued all-out pressure from opposing pass rushes. Until Atlanta's overhauled offensive line provides consistent protection, the quarterback can expect to see more blitzes like he faced against Philadelphia on Sunday night.
Ryan has thrown five interceptions through two games after throwing only seven in 2018. He was sacked four times and threw two interceptions in Atlanta's opening loss at Minnesota on Sept. 8.
Ryan, 34, said the pressure he faced from the Philadelphia pass rush was unprecedented in his 12-year career. He matched his three touchdown passes with three interceptions.
"It's probably the most all-out pressure I've seen in my entire career, consistently throughout the course of the game, and so when you're going against that, there's going to be feast and famine," he said.
Coach Dan Quinn dismissed Ryan's early problems with interceptions.
"I'm not concerned because I don't think that's going to be the norm," Quinn said. "It hasn't been his history."
While Ryan made some questionable throws, he also came up with the adjustment he needed in the crunch and allowed his playmakers, Jones and Ridley, to make plays. Ryan might have had a 79.6 passer rating, but he's now 11-1 in home openers.
In addition, Ryan became just the 12th quarterback ever to throw for 300 career touchdown passes. The former NFL MVP passed Carson Palmer in Atlanta's final game of 2018 to move to 12th on the all-time passing touchdowns list, and he is now tied with John Elway at No. 11. ...
Devonta Freeman has a combined 41 yards rushing with no run longer than 9 yards through two games. As the Associated Press suggested, if defenses don't respect Freeman as a runner, it will become increasingly difficult for Ryan to have success with his play-action passes -- a staple of the offense. Freeman had three carries for 18 yards in Atlanta's first five plays against the Eagles. His next two carries were for losses and he became an afterthought in the game plan.
Ito Smith had a 28-yard run on one of his four carries and could soon earn a bigger role if Freeman can't rediscover the form that produced back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons in 2015 and 2016. Freeman needs a better commitment from offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter.
On the injury front. ... Punter Matt Bosher was unavailable for his normal kickoff duty after straining his groin in pregame drills. Sanu practiced his kickoffs following Bosher's injury, but instead Matt Bryant kicked off and Bosher punted. Bosher obviously was not at full strength; his longest of three punts carried only 42 yards.
Rookie right tackle Kaleb McGary returned after leaving the game with a knee injury. The Falcons already have lost their other first-round pick, guard Chris Lindstrom, for at least eight weeks with a broken foot. Tackle Matt Gono missed his second straight game with a back injury.
Quinn said tests came back "clean" on McGary's knee.
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 17 September 2019
According to ESPN.com's Jamison Hensley, Lamar Jackson set a new standard for dual-threat quarterbacks in the Baltimore Ravens' 23-17 win over the Arizona Cardinals on Sunday.
Jackson produced the most rushing yards (120) ever for a player who threw for over 250 yards in the same game, according to ESPN Stats and Information.
Asked what opposing defenses can do when Jackson is both throwing and running effectively, head coach John Harbaugh said, "It's just going to be a real conundrum for [opposing defenses]. It's going to be a real challenge for them to figure that out."
In his ninth NFL start, Jackson became the sixth player since the 1970 merger to record at least 250 passing yards and 100 rushing yards in a single game. He joins Cam Newton (who did it three times), Colin Kaepernick, Marcus Mariota, Russell Wilson and Michael Vick.
Jackson completed 24 of 37 passes (64.9 percent) for 272 yards and two touchdowns. His best throw came in the fourth quarter, when he converted a third-and-11 with a 41-yard strike to Marquise Brown that sealed the win with 2 minutes, 57 seconds remaining.
"He couldn't have thrown it any better than that," Brown said. "He put it in a great spot, and all I had to do was hold my line."
Jackson's runs were the biggest difference from the season opener in Miami, where he carried the ball three times. On Sunday, Jackson ran for 120 yards on 16 carries.
More than once, Jackson sprinted toward the sideline and appeared to have nowhere to go before a burst of speed allowed him turn the corner for good yardage.
The first time was a 19-yard gain in the opening drive, the last that pivotal 14-yard run in the closing minutes.
So, how fast is this guy?
"I asked him," Harbaugh said, "And he said, `Fast. I'm fast."
"I just had to take what the defense gave me, and sometimes I had to run," Jackson said. "Sometimes I had to make scrambles because they had a great coverage, and some of our guys weren't open. I just had to move the sticks."
What does Jackson prefer: Success throwing like he had last week or running like did Sunday?
"I'd rather throw," Jackson said. "That's what my job is; just get the ball to my guys. I'd rather throw than run."
Jackson continued to drive the point that he can be an effective passer in the NFL with another passing record.
Jackson threw his seventh touchdown pass in just his fifth quarter of work this year, surpassing his entire total (six) from last season. That also ranks as the most touchdown passes through the team's first two games in franchise history.
After throwing five touchdowns in three quarters last Sunday, Jackson connected on a 27-yard touchdown pass to tight end Mark Andrews and hit tight end Hayden Hurst for a 1-yard score in the first half this week.
Jackson threw his seventh touchdown pass on his 36th pass attempt of the season. Last season, Jackson recorded six touchdown passes on 170 attempts.
"It was good to see how much he has grown from last year," said linebacker Terrell Suggs, who is now with the Cardinals. "He's an NFL quarterback now, and he's phenomenal."
Jackson improved to 8-1 as a starting quarterback. Only 12 other quarterbacks in the Super Bowl era started their careers 8-1 or better through nine starts. ...
This week, the Ravens travel to Kansas City for rematch of last December's thriller, won by the Chiefs 27-24 in OT, Baltimore's lone loss over the final seven regular-season games. ...
Expect more scoring in this one.
As Pro Football Focus' Gordon McGuinness put it, "People are going to worry about the Ravens secondary against Mahomes all week. It wouldn't matter if they had everyone healthy, that Chiefs offense is going to score. It's more about if the new Ravens offense can win a track meet. ..."
Meanwhile, Brown continued to build off his standout Week 1 performance with a strong showing in the home opener, including a 41-yard catch to seal Sunday's victory.
It's safe to say Brown's adjustment to the NFL has been rapid.
He showed off the big-play ability against Miami last week by taking his first two catches to the house. He took another step in his progression Sunday by delivering in a huge moment.
"For Marquise to go up and make that play, it's incredible," said Andrews, who played with Brown at Oklahoma. "It's a huge play. That can't be overlooked, especially as a rookie going up and making that play and sealing the game for us."
Brown's immediate impact has been somewhat surprising considering the uphill road he had to take after suffering a serious Lisfranc foot injury in his final college game. He couldn't even run full speed until just before training camp, and the Ravens eased him into action throughout the summer. Brown still says he's not at top speed.
But he's quickly established himself as the team's top receiver. His breakaway speed is immediately evident, but he can also work the underneath routes like he did against the Cardinals. He finished the game with eight catches for 86 yards.
"He has special hands, no doubt about it," Harbaugh said. "He can track really well. It's not just that he can run fast. He's a receiver."
Brown has been a game-changer for Baltimore's offense through the first two games.
He's provided a much-needed deep threat for Jackson, and his role looks like it's just going to continue to grow throughout the year.
"You take plays and you make plays," Harbaugh said. "You also create plays. I think in that situation between Lamar Jackson and Marquise Brown. ... [The Cardinals] had pretty good coverage right there. They made a big play. They made a play in a critical situation. That's something that, man, that's pretty special."
Speaking of Andrews, ESPN.com's Tristan H. Cockcroft offered up this: The most PPR fantasy points by a tight end through his team's first two games of a season (since 1950): 67.5 Ben Coates, 1994; 56.7 Rob Gronkowski, 2015; 54.5 Bob Shaw, 1950; 52.0 Pete Retzlaff, 1964' 50.0 Jimmy Graham, 2014; and 50.0 for Andrews this season.
By the way. ... Andrews (foot) did not practice Wednesday. He missed time with the same issue last week and local observers reported at the time it was more rest and maintenance than an injury issue. I'll continue to follow up via Late-Breaking Update, but early indications are there's not great concern here.
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 17 September 2019
Last week, the Bills' defense was stout even when the team fell behind 16-0. With a two-score lead Sunday against the New York Giants, it was essentially impregnable.
Josh Allen's 210 passing yards and two total touchdowns in the first half helped the Bills build a 21-7 lead before leaving MetLife Stadium with a 28-14 victory -- the Bills' second win in the stadium in as many weeks. After becoming the first team in NFL history to play the Jets and Giants on the road to start the season, Buffalo became the fourth team in league history to record road wins in consecutive weeks against the New York City-area teams at any point in a season.
Riding the wave of a three-game winning streak dating back to the 2018 season, Allen had some fun with a question asked during his postgame news conference after Sunday's 28-14 victory over the Giants.
A reporter began a question by pointing out to Allen there was a chance he "could have ended up in New York," given the Jets' and Giants' interest in him during the 2018 draft process.
Allen smiled before interrupting the question.
"I am in New York," he said.
After a brief laugh, Allen was asked what he thought he proved to "the New York City fans" and "the New York teams."
Once again, Allen offered a quick-witted response.
"Um, [there's] one New York team," he said, pointing and winking at the reporter. "I'm just kidding. But I care about what the Bills are doing, how our teammates respond, how I play. To have a 'C' on my chest and to go out there and put everything on the line for those guys is what I'm striving to do."
Regardless of where the Bills' past two games were played, Allen looked comfortable, starting his second NFL season by setting a career high over a two-game span with 507 combined passing yards.
Allen is Buffalo's first quarterback to pass for 200 or more yards in seven straight games since Hall of Famer Jim Kelly in 1992. He is the first Bill to run for a touchdown in three straight games since LeSean McCoy in 2016. His 192 yards in the first half were the most in his career, topping 179 against Miami last season.
And Sunday was also the first time three Bills scored a rushing TD since October 2016.
That's a big change.
In 2018, the Bills ranked 16th in the NFL with a red zone touchdown percentage of 59.5 percent. Through the first two games of the 2019 season the Bills have been perfect. Buffalo converted its only red zone opportunity in Week 1 for a touchdown, and on Sunday the Bills were a perfect four-for-four in their 28-14 victory.
"That's been big for us. To go into the red zone and go in and get seven has been big for us," said head coach Sean McDermott. "Those are obviously difference makers in the game because of the point spread at that point."
Allen opened the scoring with a six-yard touchdown run as he got a quality block from Dawson Knox.
On the team's second possession in the red zone, Allen handed off to Devin Singletary who got a lane outside and exploited it for a 14-yard touchdown.
Finishing off the Bills' third red zone possession was Allen, who delivered a shovel pass to Isaiah McKenzie, and the receiver streaked around the formation to the end zone for the team's third touchdown.
"We're just doing a good job of executing," said Allen. "Everybody knows their assignments. We've been well coached, especially our O-line by (offensive line coach) Bobby (Johnson). Just making sure that our keys are where they need to be and our running backs are doing a good job of finding the end zone."
Buffalo's final red zone score came thanks in part to a Giants penalty on a short field goal attempt by Stephen Hauschka. The kick was good, but a personal foul by the Giants gave the Bills a fresh set of downs and a second shot at a touchdown.
The Bills converted as Frank Gore pounded a carry in from a yard out to keep their perfect touchdown scoring percentage intact.
"We practice the right way during the week," said Gore of the team's success inside the 20. "Trying to do it right in practice and it carries over into the game."
Allen with a rushing and passing touchdown in the red zone has now had at least one of each over his last three games. It's the longest streak by an NFL quarterback since Cam Newton's three-game streak in 2014. His rushing touchdown also made him just the second quarterback in NFL history to score 10 rushing touchdowns in 14 games or less joining Newton (11 games).
Allen went 19-30 passing for 253 yards with a touchdown pass for a final passer rating of 101.1.
Allen was able to take advantage of New York's troubled secondary. Using the separation ability of Cole Beasley and John Brown, Buffalo converted four of their first five third down opportunities.
In the first half alone, Beasley and Brown combined for seven receptions for 112 yards and all four of the team's third down conversions. Their ability to get consistent separation was a big reason why Buffalo was three for three in the red zone in the first half.
"As long as we separate he's going to find us," said Beasley of Allen. "That's our job to do that for him. He's got the skill set and he's great at finding open receivers. So we just do our part and he'll do his."
Brown and Beasley finished with a combined 11 receptions for 155 yards and all five of the team's third down conversions.
"We got open in the passing game and made some plays," said Allen. "I think it goes back to practice. Just how we practice. They work extremely hard, all of our receivers, tight ends, running backs, our O-line. Everybody works extremely hard. When you can do that and see the results it makes you want to work that much harder. That's something we've been able to do in practice and translate it to the game."
According to ESPN.com's Marcel Louis-Jacques, Beasley's 6.91 average yards of separation at the time of the catch deserves recognition, but is somewhat skewed by his 51-yard catch-and-run in which the Giants left him in his own ZIP code. ...
Also according to Louis-Jacques, Singletary has done the most with his limited workload.
He went for 57 yards and his first career touchdown on six carries Sunday to bring his season total to 155 total yards on 15 touches. Gore out-touched Singletary with 12 carries for 46 yards and a score of his own -- the future Hall of Famer is not going anywhere, and it appears Daboll is committed to assigning matchup-specific workloads. It is promising that the rookie has been so efficient whenever his number is called.
Now, though, the Bills are waiting to find out if Singletary will be able to be in the lineup for against the Bengals this weekend.
Singletary injured his hamstring in the second half of Sunday's game and McDermott said on Monday that the team considers him day-to-day while "gathering information" about how seriously he's injured.
"Still don't know definitively at this point what's going on there," McDermott told the Buffalo News.
Singletary did not practice Wednesday, however.
The youngster has 10 carries for 128 yards and a touchdown and five catches for 28 yards through the first two weeks. T.J. Yeldon would be in line for more playing time alongside Gore if Singletary can't make it back into the lineup.
Meanwhile, receiver/return man Andre Roberts was limited Wednesday after missing the past two weeks with a quad injury; tight end Tyler Kroft practiced in full for the first time since breaking his foot in May -- although he returned to the lineup against the Giants after working on a limited basis all last week.
I'll have more on Singletary via Late-Breaking Update as the week progresses.
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 17 September 2019
As Associated Press sports writer Steve Reed noted last week, Cam Newton has lost his last eight starts, and it's becoming increasingly obvious the Panthers' hopes of turning him into a pocket passer are failing.
That raises questions about the former No. 1 pick's long-term future in Carolina.
Whether it's a matter of coaches not wanting to jeopardize Newton reinjuring his right shoulder or sprained foot or Newton not wanting to run as much, it is clear the 2015 NFL league MVP is no longer the dominant multidimensional quarterback he once was. He's run five times this season for minus-2 yards, fumbling twice.
Newton was once one of the toughest and most dangerous quarterbacks in the league when he combined running with passing. But with the Panthers getting away from using the 6-foot-5, 245-pounder in read option plays, Newton is among NFL's bottom tier quarterbacks. Accuracy has never been his strength -- he's a 59.6 percent career passer.
Newton completed 25 of 51 passes for 324 yards in Carolina's 20-14 loss to Tampa Bay last Thursday night. But he missed 15 open receivers -- 10 passes overthrown, five underthrown -- according to ESPN Stats and Information research. ESPN also cited Newton being 0 for 10 passing while under duress, along with taking three sacks.
"All fingers are just pointing back to me specifically on offense," said Newton, who has not thrown or run for a touchdown in his last four starts.
The bottom line is this: For Newton to be effective he needs to be able to run. But in his last six starts he's run for more than 35 yards only once and hasn't run for a score since Oct. 28, 2018. The Panthers are 0-7 when Newton runs twice or less in a game.
And even though head coach Ron Rivera bristled at post-game questions about a foot that Newton injured in the preseason, insisting the "foot's got nothing to do" with the decision to not call a quarterback sneak late in the game, the foot had something to do with Newton's poor showing.
This after we learned that Newton was not at practice Tuesday when the session opened.
NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport and NFL Network's Tom Pelissero report that Newton's status is up in the air for Sunday against the Cardinals after he aggravated the foot injury.
General manager Marty Hurney confirmed Newton aggravated the left foot injury and added the QB told the team after the game.
While Hurney said Newton is day-to-day, he also intimated there's no firm timeline currently for Cam, per Jourdan Rodrigue of The Athletic. Indeed, Newton remained in a walking boot Wednesday and NFL Network's Ian Rapoport advised his readers the team will know more about his status soon. If Newton can practice, he's got a shot at Sunday.
If he doesn't practice, it's unlikely he plays.
Rivera said that Kyle Allen would start if Newton's not able to recover in time, leaving rookie Will Grier as the backup.
"I have no idea," Rivera replied when asked if he thought Newton could go this week. Rivera added he only found out about the problem after the game (presumably after he met with reporters), and said he didn't have a timeline for Newton's recovery.
I'll obviously be following his status closely in coming day; watch the Late-Breaking Updates section for more. ...
Beyond the immediate issue, what if Newton can't make the transition to being primarily a pocket passer?
The Panthers could have a tough decision to make after the season.
Newton is scheduled to cost $21 million under the 2020 salary cap. The Panthers, however, could save $19 million under the cap by releasing him and dealing only with $2 million in dead cap space, according to Sportrac.
The options behind Newton remain unproven.
Allen is the 2 quarterback. He led the Panthers to a 33-14 win over the Saints in Week 17 last year but looked shaky in the preseason. The Panthers drafted Grier from West Virginia in the third round, and while they're high on him as a long-term replacement he's not yet taken the next step to being NFL ready. He has been listed as inactive the last two games.
The best immediate option may be letting Newton do what he does best -- run the football. But that won't happen if he's ailing.
Whatever the case, offensive coordinator Norv Turner must figure out a way to get Newton going -- assuming he plays -- and find more ways to protect him.
Other notes of interest. ... As Profootballtalk.com reminded readers, Christian McCaffrey played the most snaps of any running back in the NFL last season, which led the Panthers to talk about cutting back on his snaps at various points in the offseason.
Through two games, that's been all talk and no action.
McCaffrey has played all 146 offensive snaps that Carolina has taken over the first two weeks of the season.
McCaffrey had 29 touches against the Rams in the season-opening loss and 18 against the Buccaneers. That puts him on pace for 376 touches over the entire season, which is up from last year and in line with Turner's vow not to "minimize" McCaffrey's workload.
Turner and Rivera also said that the team needs to get others on the field to spell McCaffrey, however, and the Panthers haven't found that person yet. Jordan Scarlett played five snaps alongside McCaffrey in the opener, but the team has otherwise avoided using other tailbacks in the opening stages of the 2019 season.
Of course, the problem last Thursday was McCaffrey finished with 56 total yards, spending much of the night drawn into blocking blitzing defenders.
He had a career-high 15 pass-block snaps, according to Pro Football Focus stats.
"They do what we call a green dog, because they bring a guy up inside," Rivera explained. "The idea [is] he has him in man coverage, but it looks like they're blitzing, so Christian had to step up."
That's something the coaching staff must examine as the Panthers prepare for consecutive road games against Arizona and Houston.
On last note here. ... Despite the loss to the Bucs, Carolina's defense was strong for most of the game, particularly linebacker Luke Kuechly. He finished with 17 tackles, including two for a loss, one of resulting in a safety when he dragged down Peyton Barber in the end zone. But the defense could certainly use help in the form of points from the offense, which failed to score a touchdown against the Bucs.
Also. ... Undrafted rookie kicker Joey Slye is doing a nice job filling in for Graham Gano, who is on injured reserve. Slye is 6 of 7 on field goal attempts, including 3 of 3 on kicks of longer than 50 yards.
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 17 September 2019
Eddy Pineiro kicked a 53-yard field goal as time expired to propel Chicago to a 16-14 victory over the Broncos.
Pineiro finished the game 3-for-3 on field goal attempts, including a 52-yard conversion in the second quarter.
"It felt different. This was an emotional kick," Pineiro said afterwards. "With everything I've been through. The whole kicking situation. The Augusta silence. The media, everybody piling on."
The Bears (1-1) went 1-of-2 on 50-yard field goals last season. The last time Chicago made two 50-yard field goals in the same game was 2011 at the Oakland Raiders, according to ESPN Stats and Information.
On Wednesday, Pineiro was named NFC Special Teams Player of the Week.
As ESPN.com's Jeff Dickerson reminded readers, the Bears settled on Pineiro to replace Cody Parkey after an exhaustive offseason search that at one point included nine place-kickers at the club's annual rookie minicamp in May.
The Bears traded for Pineiro in the spring after he spent last year on the Oakland Raiders' injured reserve list.
"I like rooting for good people and he's a good person," head coach Matt Nagy said. "He fought for a lot to get to this point. He listened to coaches, he trusted himself, and teammates that believe in him. Good things happen to good people. 42-yarder, 52-yarder, 53 to win the game. Can't make that up."
Pineiro, 24, is a perfect 4-for-4 on the season after nailing his lone attempt in last week's season-opening loss to the Green Bay Packers.
"Whenever you have a new guy come in, you want to see if that particular player has the 'dawg' in him -- meaning that raw, doesn't care, just going to go in there and compete persona," Bears cornerback Prince Amukamara said. "All throughout training camp, OTAs, we've just seen that in Eddy. He's always had ice in his veins. When he missed one, he was never shaken over it."
Bears guard Kyle Long compared Pineiro's game-winning field goal to the last-second 58-yarder kicked by the New Orleans Saints' Wil Lutz to beat the Houston Texans in Week 1.
"The 30 other teams not involved in that all watched that clip this week. We said before Eddy took the field for that game-winning kick, why not us?" Long said. ...
Of course, the fact that this week's Chicago Team Notes opened with kicker news is not insignificant.
It's an indication of where the team's offense is right.
Chicago finally reached the end zone for the first time this season -- by the nose of the football -- with 1:14 left in the third quarter when running back David Montgomery scored from a yard out on the Bears' sixth snap from inside the 5 and fifth straight from the 1 or 2.
And it should be noted the Bears were significantly more balanced on offense Sunday than they had been in their Week 1 loss to the Packers. They rushed for 153 yards and one TD on 29 carries, while Mitchell Trubisky completed 16 of 27 passes for 120 yards.
Montgomery rushed for 62 yards and that touchdown on 18 carries.
The TD came on Montgomery's third straight rush after a defensive holding penalty had given the Bears a first down at the 1. He lost one yard on his first carry and then gained the yard back on second down. On Montgomery's TD, he powered up the middle and barely broke the plane by extending the ball.
"It was good," Montgomery said. "It's always good to try to gain the coaches' trust. I go out to practice every day trying to do that and getting in the game whenever my opportunity comes up, I try to take full advantage of it."
Montgomery was undeterred by the heat in Denver, where the game-time temperature was 87 degrees.
"It was hot," Montgomery said. "But I drank a lot of Pedialyte last night, a lot of water. I hydrated throughout the whole week. I was preparing early on in the week for this day."
"I'm proud of our offensive line and our running backs and our tight ends running and balling right there," Nagy said. "That was a bit of a mindset deal that we're not throwing this football. We're going to run it in until we run it in."
The Bears began the season looking for bigger things from Trubisky in his third year in the league and second in Nagy's system. But he was erratic against Green Bay and no better against Denver. To be fair, he has faced two tough defenses. And facing Von Miller and Bradley Chubb was not going to be an easy task, particularly with former defensive coordinator Vic Fangio now scheming against Chicago.
Still, the Bears expect to make a big jump on offense in their second season under Nagy. So far, it's not happening.
Chicago ranked 30th on offense in the league through Sunday's game.
"We know we need to be better," Nagy said. "As the season goes on, we really feel like -- and we have an amount of trust in ourselves -- that we as coaches and we as an offense will get going here. We feel really good that when we do get this thing going, it's going to be a lot of fun."
Trubisky and the offense will try to get in gear when the Bears visit the Washington Redskins on Monday night. ...
Worth noting. ... The Bears signed veteran Cordarrelle Patterson because he's a triple threat. Patterson has impacted games as a wide receiver, running back and kickoff returner over the course of a seven-year NFL career.
On Sunday, Patterson breathed life into an otherwise listless Bears offense when he lined up in the backfield, took a simple toss left, and galloped 46 yards deep into Denver territory.
Patterson reached 22.23 mph on the run, the fastest speed reached by a ball carrier over the past two seasons, according to NFL Next Gen stats.
Eight plays after Patterson's run, Montgomery scored. ...
Tarik Cohen, who had two catches for seven yards, now has a reception in all 34 regular-season games he's played with the Bears. ... Allen Robinson has now caught a pass in all 58 regular-season contests he's played with the Jaguars and Bears.
Tight end Trey Burton made his 2019 debut after missing the season opener against the Packers with a groin injury, catching two passes for five yards.
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 17 September 2019
As Associated Press sports writer Joe Kay put it, "Turns out that the Bengals' solid showing in Seattle was more of a mirage. ..."
Kay went on to explain that given a chance to show they're a team on the upswing, the Bengals imploded every which way Sunday in their home opener. Their 41-17 loss to the 49ers was reminiscent of their many bad moments during the last three losing seasons.
Instead of seeing a fresh start, the crowd of 50,666 got more of the same.
The Bengals had a solid showing overall during a 21-20 loss in Seattle a week earlier that suggested they were making progress under first-year head coach Zac Taylor. A banner in the upper deck at Paul Brown Stadium read: "ZAC-tly What the DR ordered."
In his regular-season home debut, Taylor's team fell apart quickly, especially on defense. The 49ers piled up the big plays and 572 yards overall while scoring the most points against the Bengals in a home opener. Now they're 0-2 for the second time in three years.
"We didn't see that coming," Taylor said.
The mistakes came from all directions.
The defense got caught out of position and repeatedly missed tackles. The offense struggled again to run the ball, managing 25 net yards on 19 carries.
ESPN.com's Ben Baby notes the coaching staff wasn't concerned about the absence of a rushing attack in the preseason. But after two games in the regular season, it's a major issue. Cincinnati struggled at the line of scrimmage and lost another starter when left guard Michael Jordan was carted off the field with a left knee injury.
Jordan is expected to be out for Cincinnati's Week 3 game at Buffalo, Taylor said on Monday.
Backup center Billy Price, the team's first-round pick in 2018, played at left guard in Jordan's absence. However, Taylor was hesitant to say Price will start at left guard against the Bills.
"That's a conversation we're still having upstairs to make sure we have the right depth at spots and we're putting everybody where they need to go," Taylor said.
The line was already depleted by injuries, and it took a few more hits. Left tackle Cordy Glenn missed a second game in concussion protocol. Backup Andre Smith went out with a groin injury in the second quarter.
The line fluctuation has to be a reason running back Joe Mixon is trying to find room after his first 17 carries of the season have gone for 27 yards. That's after 17 on 11 carries Sunday, which was better Giovani Bernard's six-for-six.
And the defending AFC North rushing champion is frustrated.
"For me, I have a lot of catching up to do. I have goals for myself and the team that I want to hit," Mixon said. "Everybody as a team has to come together. We all have to take looks in the mirror."
To state the obvious: The Bengals will need to find a way to move the ball on the ground for Taylor's offense to be effective.
The running game also was nonexistent in Seattle, forcing Dalton to carry the load. On Sunday, he was 26 of 42 for 311 yards with four sacks, an interception and two touchdowns, including a 66-yarder to John Ross with 45 seconds left.
"It's Week 2, so that's a positive thing," center Trey Hopkins said. "But we can't put a product like that on the field ever again."
By the way. ... Randy Bullock missed another field goal.
"Poor," quarterback Andy Dalton said, summing it up. "They took it to us today, and it's disappointing. ..."
On a more positive note. ... Wide receiver Tyler Boyd had the fourth 100-yard game of his career with 10 catches for 122 yards and wide receiver Jon Ross became the first Bengals' wide receiver to have back-to-back 100-yard games since Boyd last season when his 66-yard touchdown catch with 45 seconds left gave him 112 on four catches.
That's the first time the Bengals have had two 100-yard receivers since wide receiver A.J. Green and tight end Tyler Eifert in the 2016 tie with Washington in London and the first time two wide receivers did it since Green and Marvin Jones in the 49-9 Paul Brown Stadium win over the Jets in 2013.
Ross, who came into the season with 210 career yards, has 270 this year.
But Ross was thinking about a long ball he could have caught earlier.
"I blew it. I slowed down, and sometimes I just need to trust my speed," Ross said. "I got a second chance at the end of the game. The coaches told me, 'When you catch something like that, just run through it.' In college, my coaches always told me to run through the smoke. I got another chance, but I should have broke the first one, in my opinion. I tried to make a move, and that wasn't a good idea."
On the injury front. ... While he struggled behind that O-line, Mixon made it through the game without any reported setbacks to the ankle sprain that limited him practice last week. Green ditched the walking boot he's worn since early August, but still appears to have a ways to go before he's ready for game action.
Green talked for the first time since the injury before last Wednesday's practice, ending his 46-day silence a few days shy of seven weeks.
He was asked about the initial timetable that suggested a six to eight week absence?
"I don't know where they got the six to eight weeks from. It's going to be longer than that," Green said. "It's just one of those things that has to heal on its own. When I feel I'm healthy enough to play at the level I'm used to playing, I just want to make sure it's at 100 percent."
Check the Late-Breaking Updates section of the site for more on Green's progress in coming days. ...
And finally. ... The Bengals announced they waived receiver Pharoh Cooper on Tuesday. They promoted offensive guard Keaton Sutherland from the practice squad to fill his roster spot.
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 17 September 2019
As NFL.com's Jelani Scott framed it: "In his triumphant return to MetLife Stadium, Odell Beckham soundly answered the sports world's most pressing question.
Scott went on to explain the inquiry wasn't being asked by any talking heads or opposing players but by Jets defensive coordinator Gregg Williams, whose comments about the star Cleveland Browns wideout not being one of the most dynamic players in the NFL capped off a week-long war of words prior to Monday night's clash.
All of the chatter helped set the stage for the accomplished, uber-talented receiver to show Williams (and the Jets' secondary who had the displeasure of covering him) what he's capable of. Pretty sure you can guess where this goes.
By the time the dust literally settled after Beckham (6 receptions, 161 yards) torched the Jets for an epic 89-yard catch-and-run touchdown in the third quarter, the Browns were comfortably ahead en route to a 23-3 win, affording OBJ the chance to finally answer Williams' retort with one of his own.
On his touchdown, Beckham reached a maximum speed of 21.7 mph, the fastest any player has run while scoring this season, according to NFL Next Gen Stats.
"Who? Who is it? Oh. Everybody has their right to their own opinion," Beckham said following the game when asked about Williams' jab. "He's a phenomenal coach and he's got a great defense, but I'm done talking about it. We won, so I just try to make plays to help the team."
The comebacks didn't stop there as Baker Mayfield and Jarvis Landry had some fun talking about how dynamic they think the wideout is.
"He said that? Jesus," Mayfield said in disbelief about Williams. "That's. ... Next question. Not a dynamic football player? OK." He followed that shot by calling OBJ's jaw-dropping one-handed catch along the sideline in the first quarter "pretty dynamic."
Regarding the speedy TD run, Beckham's long-time friend Landry was beaming with pride, saying post-game, "I mean, it's perfect for a guy of his caliber. I heard he wasn't the most dynamic player in the NFL. And he does things like that on a daily basis and it's what to expect to come."
Beckham would later tell NFL Network's Kimberly Jones that, unlike what he told reporters at the podium, Williams' words added fuel to his fire.
"I just want to thank him, you know," OBJ said. "Just thank him for inspiring me and motivating me to show people who I really am. I'm just happy I can make plays to help this team."
With Week 2 in the books, Beckham added that he now has the closure he felt he needed on the New York chapter of his life and the evening will endure as both a cherished celebration and a moment of growth.
"It'll be a night that I won't forget. As you grow, you have different life experiences, you see things differently," he said. "Just being able to come out the same tunnel, different team against the Jets, having the Jets fans welcoming me. ... It was a lot of love in here tonight, and it was a truly special moment for me. ..."
Well. ... It wasn't all love. Officials took away another opportunity to reach the end zone. Two plays after his one-handed catch, officials removed Beckham from the field on third-and-goal, saying his visor was too reflective. Without Beckham in the game, Mayfield threw an incompletion, and Cleveland had to settle for a field goal.
"It's just frustrating. I feel like I've grown a lot, to be better, do better, and it's always something," said Beckham, who admitted he doesn't know what visor he'll be wearing going forward. "I don't want to break any rules. I just want to play football."
Beckham also complained last week about being singled out by the league for wearing a $189,500 Richard Mille watch during the season opener. The NFL said the watch violated a league rule against players wearing "hard objects." Beckham didn't wear a watch in Monday's game, though he did warm up with a different designer watch. When asked about it after the game -- and whether it actually cost $2 million, as some had speculated on social media -- Beckham played it coy.
"I'm off of it," he said of the watch. "I don't really have any comment about it.
"I'm just blessed. ..."
Other notes of interest. ... Against the team he debuted against as a rookie last year, Mayfield didn't have his sharpest stuff. He completed 54 percent of his passes, took three sacks and threw a pick. Mayfield made enough plays to defeat a hobbled team in the Jets.
But he'll need to be more efficient with the schedule about to stiffen, starting next Sunday night against the Los Angeles Rams.
In addition, head coach Freddie Kitchens told reporters he needs to put Mayfield in better position to get ball out of his hand quicker because he's taking too many hits. That'll be even more important this week. ...
Other notes of interest. ... Nick Chubb carried the ball 18 times for 62 rushing yards and one touchdown, while adding four receptions for 36 yards against the Jets.
As CBSSports.com notes, Cleveland's offensive line remains a question mark on an otherwise superbly-talented roster, after highly-touted guard Kevin Zeitler was traded to the Giants this offseason in exchange for defensive end Oliver Vernon. That rearrangement of capital may become evident against stout front sevens as the season wears on, and it sprouted up Monday with Chubb managing just 3.0 yards per carry on eight attempts while the game was within one possession.
This week he'll face a Rams defense that was scorched by Christian McCaffrey for 209 scrimmage yards and two touchdowns in the opener, but bounced back by holding Alvin Kamara to 60 total yards on 14 touches Sunday. ...
On the injury front. ... Tight end David Njoku sustained a concussion in the opening quarter and didn't return; he did not practice Wednesday. ... S Morgan Burnett injured his quadriceps. In addition, Dontrell Hilliard (concussion) and Rashard Higgins (ankle) were inactive against the Jets.
I'll have more on their status via Late-Breaking Update as the week progresses, although Higgins practiced on a limited basis Wednesday and Kitchens announced that Hilliard has been cleared from concussion protocol and would practice as well. ...
One last note here. ... The Browns confirmed a report that they were promoting running back Elijah McGuire to the active roster on Monday afternoon. They also announced that they placed quarterback Drew Stanton on injured reserve. Stanton popped up on the injury report with a knee injury on Friday and was a limited participant in Saturday's practice before being listed as questionable for Monday night's game against the Jets.
Stanton was in the No. 2 spot on the depth chart behind Mayfield. Garrett Gilbert is now Mayfield's backup.
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 17 September 2019
According to ESPN.com's Todd Archer, it didn't matter that Michael Gallup was on the sideline, Dak Prescott was going to Devin Smith. If the Redskins were going to bite on Prescott's play-action fake, the quarterback was going to throw the ball deep to Smith because that was the correct read.
You remember Smith, right?
He was a 2015 second-round pick of the New York Jets, but his career never got going because twice he tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his right knee. Smith was out of football last season and, truthfully, opened training camp deep down the Cowboys' depth chart.
But Prescott was going to him even though the Cowboys were trailing 7-0 and did not really have much going offensively to start the game. When safeties stepped up and Smith ran by Redskins cornerback Josh Norman, Prescott had his 51-yard touchdown.
"It was great just to see him get out there and put the boosters on and throw the ball out there and he went under it and it was great," Prescott said. "I'm happy for a guy like that who's had a great camp. Obviously done a really good job up to this point. Now he's going to just help us out. As you said, he's got some speed. He can do a lot of things. He's going to be a big help to this offense."
The importance of the play mattered in two ways: It tied the score in the second quarter and showed the Cowboys have multiple players who can win. Dallas beat Washington 31-21, improving to 2-0.
"Attack different ways," head coach Jason Garrett said. "Everybody's alive."
The Cowboys have plenty of proven players on offense.
Running back Ezekiel Elliott led the league in rushing in two of his first three seasons. Wide receiver Amari Cooper has played at a Pro Bowl level since the Cowboys sent a first-round pick to the Oakland Raiders for him last October. Tight end Jason Witten might not have a 100-catch season in him, but he remains a threat. Same for wide receiver Randall Cobb, who spent his first seven seasons with the Green Bay Packers.
On Sunday, Prescott completed throws to eight different pass-catchers. Smith had three catches for 74 yards. Backup tight end Blake Jarwin had one catch, but for the second straight week he had a reception of more than 20 yards. Rookie Tony Pollard caught one pass.
In the season-opening win against the New York Giants, Prescott completed throws to seven different pass-catchers.
"It starts with the guys protecting up front, and then the quarterback makes great decisions," Garrett said. "You want to be able to feature certain guys in your offense, but we also want to be able to say, 'Hey, I'll throw it to this guy. He's open, let's give him a chance.' I thought that showed up this week and that showed up last week. When you're doing that, you become a really difficult offense to stop."
For what it's worth, Prescott entered Sunday's game without an interception in 164 passes in six games against the Redskins. On Sunday, Prescott was intercepted on his sixth pass in the first quarter, but after that he was virtually flawless.
After the turnover, Prescott completed all but three of his passes and threw touchdown passes to Smith, Witten and Cooper. Prescott did not miss a pass in the second half of the game either, on his way to tying a personal best with 18 straight completions.
In case you're wondering, Brandon Weeden holds the team record with 21 straight completions.
Clearly, Prescott is no Weeden.
Prescott finished with 26-of-30 for 269 yards with three touchdowns and also ran for 60 yards, including a career-long 42-yarder.
Through two games, he has completed a ridiculous 82.2 percent of his passes.
Prescott's seven touchdown passes through two games are tied for the most in Cowboys history. In 1966, Don Meredith opened the season with seven touchdown passes in two games. Prescott did not throw his seventh touchdown pass last season until the sixth game of the year.
"If Dak could run the ball well and he can pass the ball well like he showed today, how can you prepare for us?" Cooper said. "We as a team can run the ball well and pass the ball well. It's hard to prepare for that."
"It's just about being in the groove, offense working together," said Prescott, who became the first Cowboys quarterback to compile seven touchdown passes in the first two games of the season since Don Meredith in 1966. "The run game was happening, we were able to throw the ball, receivers were making great catches and you just look up and it's like that."
The Cowboys have said they will be an Elliott-led offense, but through two games Prescott is changing perceptions about what not only the passing game can be, but what he can be as the quarterback.
"I sure haven't seen him [play better] with the Dallas Cowboys," Jerry Jones said. "Now they've got a statue for him over at Mississippi State, so he might've had back-to-back games over there that we haven't seen. He earned some accolades while he was in college, and he played pretty good."
Expecting Prescott to play even better this week is no reach.
The Cowboys are 2-0 and have scored 66 points in two games. The Dolphins are 0-2 and been outscored, 102-10, in their first two games. In Sunday's matchup between the two teams, the Cowboys are a 21-point favorite. What will be Jason Garrett's message the players when they arrive for work Wednesday?
"We've never talked about lines, good, bad or indifferent," Garrett said. "The biggest thing we talk about is us and what we need to do. The players, when they watch this tape, they're going to see some good things we can build on, and they're going to see plenty of stuff that we've got to better at. So we'll lock into that, trying to improve each and every day. We have great respect for any team we play, any coaches we go against. They're here for a reason.
"We have to be our best, prepare the right way and play our best on Sunday. ..."
Meanwhile, a week ago, Jones said a deal for Prescott was "imminent," but a few days later acknowledged just because he thinks it is imminent doesn't mean the quarterback thinks it is imminent.
After Sunday's win against Washington, Jones continued to display his belief a deal will get done.
"I have no hesitation about it. I'm very comfortable. He's very comfortable," Jones said. "The way it is, he's very comfortable. Those are things we re-emphasize a timeframe in anything that requires two people. ... And I'm not trying to be talking riddles here.
"Certainly from the standpoint of where we've been from talking about, his business, talking about the Cowboys' business, we have a lot of water under the bridge."
Again, the price is not going down. ...
One player less likely to re-sign this season Cooper, league sources told ESPN's Adam Schefter.
Cooper would like to be in Dallas, and the Cowboys would like him there. But of all the Cowboys entering the last year of their contracts and connected to a new deal, none has been more patient than Cooper -- and this strategy has worked out well so far.
Cooper has watched Saints receiver Michael Thomas land a deal that pays him $20 million per season, and Falcons receiver Julio Jones top that with a deal that pays him $22 million per season.
The money paid to the league's top receivers has gone up, and Cooper has been intentionally patient, according to sources.
Cooper, 25, had an excellent start to his season against the Giants in Week 1, when he had six catches for 106 yards and a touchdown in Dallas' 35-17 victory.
Also of interest. ... It didn't take Elliott long to get up to speed. Just six practices, two in pads, and a regular-season game. After being mindful of his work in the season opener because of his summer holdout, the Cowboys used Elliott in 28 of 30 first-half snaps.
And after giving him a breather in the third quarter, they went back to Elliott in the fourth and he clinched the game with a 2-yard touchdown run with 5:07 to play. He finished with 111 yards rushing.
Elliott said he was ready for a larger workload in Week 2, and he got it. Elliott had 23 carries for 111 yards and the above-mentioned score. He also caught two passes for 9 yards. Overall, he played in 50 of 65 plays Sunday after playing in 37 snaps in the season opener.
"It felt good," Elliott said. "It's normal. That's my normal workload, so I'm used to that. But it definitely feels good to be back out there and getting that normal workload."
Witten has touchdown catches in consecutive games for the second time in his past two seasons. He had three in 2017, his last season with the Cowboys before his one-year retirement to ESPN's Monday Night Football booth. It is the fourth time he and Prescott have connected for scores in back-to-back games since 2016. Witten's snaps might not be the same as they had been in his first 15 seasons, but he figures to be a big part of the red zone offense. He now has 70 career touchdowns, just three off Dez Bryant's franchise record.
On the injury front. ... Gallup leads the Cowboys in catches (13) and yards (226) through two games, but he is set for surgery on his left knee Tuesday and could miss up to a month. According to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport, there is no structural damage besides the meniscus tear, so the return should be quick.
Garrett expressed confidence in the receivers ready to replace Gallup, like Smith, who had a 51-yard touchdown against Washington.
"(We) feel good about the guys we have. Devin obviously will play more. Cedrick Wilson will have an opportunity. We're still waiting on Tavon Austin, so hopefully Tavon is back and those guys can just step into those roles. I think we feel good about how those two guys performed yesterday. They got a chance to go in there and play and they stepped up and you just have to keep kind of giving them shots and hopefully they're confidence will build as they go."
Austin missed last week's game with a concussion. I'll have more on his status via Late-Breaking Update as the week progresses.
Safety Xavier Woods is expected to miss four to six weeks with a high ankle sprain. The injury is a big loss to the secondary as tough matchups loom for Dallas.
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 17 September 2019
After a debut in Oakland in which the Broncos struggled to string together effective drives, the challenge in facing Chicago's defense seemed beyond daunting. As DenverBroncos.com's Ben Swanson suggested, fixing what ails you against an average offense is one thing; doing so against a defense that has Khalil Mack and three other Pro Bowlers is another.
Yet against the Bears, the offense appeared at times to have some of those problems solved. At others, they certainly were not.
And in that conundrum lies the ceiling the Broncos' offense must reach and the floor it must move beyond.
There is perhaps no better place to see this than in the Broncos' next-to-last drive, a grinding 16-play, 74-yard march that ended in heartbreaking interception at the 2-yard line. Though the drive that followed would be more successful, this one showed the ability to keep a top-level defense on its heels with a run-pass combination that almost succeeded in tying the game about four minutes earlier.
In the midst of that drive, the Broncos also faced their demons: penalties and struggles in the red zone. They were able to overcome a holding penalty that erased a 13-yard gain and backed them up 4 yards instead, but that problem ended a few of their earlier drives into Bears territory.
"When you're going against a tough defense and you're not having four-play touchdown drives, you're going to have these long drives if you want to score the ball," Joe Flacco said. "You have to make sure that you can stay within yourself and not make mistakes if you're having a 12-play drive, and we're just not there yet."
The penalties prior to that drive were frustrating. In these first two games, they've pushed the Broncos out of vital scoring opportunities or taken away big plays that could have had them knocking on the door. Instead, they put the offense behind the sticks and force them to predictably try to make up the yards through the air.
"I've played in plenty of football games, obviously," Emmanuel Sanders said. "Penalties are going to occur. You've got to be able to bounce back from those. But it sucks when you've got a 20-yard gain and then it's a penalty. It sucks when you're in field-goal range and you get a penalty. The penalties that we are having are happening in crucial moments, so we've got to stop doing that."
Still, with the promising play of Flacco and the rest of the offense, there's a little optimism in the air. The Broncos simply must not let it slip away.
"We've got a good quarterback," Sanders said. "We've got a good system. We were moving the ball up and down the field. We can't keep hurting ourselves. ... Obviously the past two games, we've been shooting ourselves in the foot. I don't know exactly what it is -- whether we're young, or we're not listening or we're not disciplined -- but [there's] something going on, because we've definitely got talent. It's just a lack of discipline right now and we've got to get better."
Sanders led all receivers with 11 catches for 98 yards and a touchdown against Chicago.
Fangio identified avoiding penalties as a key for the offense, but added that there was more behind the success they were able to have on Sunday -- particularly their ability to gain significant yards on first and second down. The Broncos averaged 5.9 yards on first downs, compared to 4.8 yards for the Bears' offense, and had only one three-and-out.
"Not having penalties is one," Fangio said, "not getting into third-and-longs, getting into more third-and-manageables and keep the drive going, because when we get near the 50, we only need a little bit more with our field-goal kicker. A couple of those [drives] ended poorly."
With a trip to Lambeau Field to play the Packers coming up, the Broncos must continue to make meaningful strides on offense. Against Green Bay's defense on Sunday, the Vikings converted just 4-of-13 third-down attempts, were penalized six times on offense for 65 yards and failed to score a touchdown on either of their two red-zone trips -- which proved pivotal in a five-point loss.
"You've got to have resilience," Sanders said. "You've got to be able to bounce back. We were able to do that, but we weren't able to close this game out, so it really doesn't matter. We lost. So we're sitting here 0-2, which is very disappointing, and so hopefully we can turn this thing around."
If the Broncos' final two drives were any indication, they'll have a chance.
That said, ESPN.com's Jeff Legwold advised readers the Broncos won't get much accomplished on offense if they can't find some kind of combination that works up front. Right tackle Ja'Wuan James' knee injury in the season opener hasn't helped matters given Elijah Wilkinson has had to replace James in the lineup.
Wilkinson is the guy the Broncos would use if they wanted to move left tackle Garett Bolles out of the lineup. And Bolles has struggled plenty thus far given he has been flagged five times for holding in the first two games combined -- three have been declined. Four of those holding flags were against the Bears.
Flacco was certainly accurate and has operated well in the offense, but the Broncos can't consistently give Flacco enough time to let routes develop and defenses know it. Much of the time the Broncos are a dump-off affair in the passing game and both the Raiders and Bears have been free to crowd the line of scrimmage.
The Broncos had clearly decided to get the ball out of Flacco's hands quickly -- he averaged just over 8 yards a completion through three quarters -- and he was efficient and calm, including on the last possession that should have been good enough to win the game.
But efficient isn't going to get the ball in the end zone enough.
The Broncos struggled to consistently run the ball against the Bears defense so their play-action game was muted. The big plays in this offense are going to come out of the play-action, so the rushing totals need to rise before the downfield plays will follow.
Other notes of interest. ... According to Legwold, 40 of Flacco's 56 completions in the first two games have gone for 10 or fewer yards. ... Of the five sacks the team has surrendered (a sixth was negated by a defensive penalty on the Raiders), four have come when the Broncos were in their three-wide set, as have most of their pass attempts (the other sack allowed was in a two-tight end set when both tight ends were out in routes without chipping a defender) and three of the five sacks allowed have come when Flacco has been in the shotgun.
Monday, Fangio said on one hand he was happy the Broncos were able to "methodically" move the ball against a defense like the Bears' as the Broncos finished with 372 total yards and 27 first downs, but at the same time Fangio added: "I think Joe played well (Sunday) overall. Now, it's hard to say you've played well, but you only scored 14 points. We're not getting the points that we need to get out of our first downs. We had I believe 27 first downs (Sunday) and you should get more than 14 points with 27 first downs."
And finally. ... Royce Freeman carried the ball 11 times for 54 yards and caught five of seven targets for 48 yards against the Bears. As CBSSports.com notes, the second-year back outgained Phillip Lindsay both on the ground and through the air despite seeing one fewer touch than his backfield mate.
Denver appears content to stick with a timeshare between Freeman and Lindsay for now, but if Freeman continues to be the more effective back, he could claim the starting job outright -- especially with the 0-2 Broncos looking for some kind of spark on offense.
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 17 September 2019
It was redemption at the very least, and maybe a lot more in the long run, in what the Detroit Lions accomplished Sunday in what has been a strange two weeks of the NFL season.
They stopped the downhill slide before it really gained any momentum in their 13-10 win over the Los Angeles Chargers in a bounce-back game from the disappointing tie with the Cardinals in Week 1.
The needed a lift, and they got it the only way they could -- by winning.
"Everyone was kind of down," said running back Kerryon Johnson. "But we had to rebound and come back and win. This one ... it was nice."
The Lions are still searching to get the running game going. After 16 carries for 49 yards against the Cardinals, Johnson came back with 12 carries for 41 yards against the Chargers.
His longest run both weeks was nine yards.
According to DetroitLions.com's Mike O'Hara, Johnson will get his yards -- eventually. His 36-yard run with a screen pass for the Lions' first TD -- that cut the Chargers' lead to 7-6 when Prater missed the extra point -- showed that he hasn't lost any speed or elusiveness.
It looked like a simple throw from Stafford to Johnson. It wasn't. Stafford gunned it through a slight opening, and Johnson said he bobbled it briefly because a Chargers' defender nearly got an arm on it.
What did he think at the time?
"I better catch it," he said. "Because if you drop it, and then you look up and see the whole open lane, you're like, 'That's it for me. I have to walk off the field now.' You better catch it. You have to recover.
"I've got Stafford as a quarterback. He's going to find a way to get it in there."
Stafford's passing stats for the game were good overall -- 22 of 30 (73.3 percent) for 245 yards and two touchdowns.
His 31-yarder to wide receiver Kenny Golladay through a tiny crack in coverage midway through the fourth quarter proved to be the winning touchdown. It came after two interceptions in the third quarter that took the luster off his game.
One pick was in the end zone by cornerback Casey Hayward on a pass meant for Golladay. The second was a deep throw down the middle meant for Marvin Jones Jr. that safety Rayshawn Jenkins tracked down for the second pick.
So, did Stafford go in a shell?
Not a chance.
"He's not going to come back and get down," Johnson said. "He's going to sling it."
On the drive to Golladay's winning catch, Stafford completed all four of his passes. One was a four-yard throw to Jones on fourth and one.
A seven-yard pass to tight end Jesse James clinched the game on the final three-play possession to set up the kneel down.
That's five for five on the last two possessions for the go-ahead TD and the game clincher.
Stafford finished the game 22-of-30 passing for 245 yards with two touchdowns, two interceptions and a passer rating of 91.7.
Meanwhile, ESPN.com's Michael Rothstein advised readers this is what the Lions hoped Golladay would become when they took him in the third round of the 2017 draft -- a long receiver with extreme high-point skills and the ability to beat most cornerbacks in single coverage. He managed that Sunday on the 31-yard post route he caught for the go-ahead touchdown against the Chargers.
As Yahoo's Matt Harmon notes, Golladay beat one of the top cover corners in the NFL. He got over Casey Hayward for multiple catches on Sunday, including his deep touchdown. "Thriving despite tough matchups; that's what the best receivers in the game do and Golladay is on that path," Harmon added.
Golladay finished with eight catches, 117 yards and the score. He has become the guy Stafford goes to in tight spaces with the belief he's going to come down with the catch.
It doesn't always work out -- evidenced by that third-quarter interception where Golladay was one-on-one -- but more often than not, Golladay is going to win. And it's elevated him to the point where he should be in the conversation about the better receivers in the league. ...
Worth noting. ... Stafford has thrown the most 20-plus-yard passes in the NFL through the first two weeks of the season (17). He's connected on eight of them for 220 yards with three touchdowns and two interceptions for a passer rating of 93.1. This isn't the dink and dunk offense of last season. This offense likes to push the ball down the field. ...
As CBSSports.com put it, "A week after making headlines in the season opener, T.J. Hockenson crashed back down to Earth and ultimately finished with six fewer targets than last week and one less than James."
Hockenson caught one of three targets for seven yards against the Chargers.
It was interesting that the rookie wasn't used more against a team dealing with injuries at the safety position, but pretty much every Lions receiver took a clear back seat to Golladay in this one. Hockenson will look to get back on track this Sunday against an Eagles defense that let the 35-year-old Vernon Davis find the end zone in Week 1. ...
The Lions aren't getting much from their return game either, and even made a move to replace Jamal Agnew after he fumbled for a second straight week. Danny Amendola took over punt duties and Johnson was back for a kickoff.
Matt Patricia said the benching of Agnew was an "in-game adjustment" when asked if it would be a long-term switch. Special teams have been rough to start the year for the Lions.
The Lions announced Tuesday that they released C.J. Anderson, signaling Johnson has won the backup job.
Anderson did not start either of the Lions games, played only 36 snaps and gained only 43 yards on 16 carries while rookie sixth-round pick Ty Johnson continued to take on a bigger role against the Chargers. Ty Johnson played eight snaps in Week 1 and had one carry for six yards. He had 13 snaps Sunday and had five carries for 30 yards, and two catches for six. ...
Anderson released came with the team needing his roster spot after claiming Paul Perkins off waivers from the Giants.
Perkins, a fifth-round choice of the Giants in 2016, played 25 games with five starts his first two seasons in New York. He gained 546 rushing yards on 153 carries and caught 23 passes for 208 yards. ...
The Lions aren't getting much from their return game either, and even made a move to replace Jamal Agnew after he fumbled for a second straight week. Danny Amendola took over punt duties and Ty Johnson was back for a kickoff.
Patricia said the benching of Agnew was an "in-game adjustment" when asked if it would be a long-term switch. Special teams have been rough to start the year for the Lions. ...
And finally. ... The Lions signed former Bengals backup quarterback Jeff Driskel on Tuesday; they released Josh Johnson. He joins David Blough on the depth chart behind Stafford.
Driskel was placed on injured reserve by the Bengals this summer due to a hamstring injury and he was released off of that list recently. Driskel started five games for the Bengals last season and completed 105-of-176 passes for 1,003 yards, six touchdowns and two interceptions. He also ran 25 times for 130 yards and two touchdowns.
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 17 September 2019
As ESPN.com's Rob Demovsky framed it, "The calmness in Matt LaFleur's voice and the smile on Aaron Rodgers' face was all that was left of the first animated sideline interaction between the Green Bay Packers' new head coach and the veteran quarterback in Sunday's 21-16 win over the Minnesota Vikings. ..."
The exchange occurred when Rodgers came off the field after the final possession of the first half, a three-and-out that ended with a Rodgers throwaway on third-and-16.
"It was about the look on defense," Rodgers said. "I was actually kind of surprised that he was coming over to talk about that, but we got it all sorted out over there on the sideline. It actually wasn't a big deal. ... We're a little animated at times. I can't say we were yelling how much we love each other, but we definitely weren't MF-ing each other or anything. It was talking about the look there and getting on the same page."
After another unsuccessful drive to start the second half -- one that ended when Rodgers lost a fumble on the snap -- LaFleur sat next to Rodgers on the bench while the Packers' defense was on the field. Rodgers couldn't remember many times when his head coach sat next to him on the bench while the game was going on.
"It's different," he said, noting that interim coach Joe Philbin did it a couple of times last year in the final four games after Mike McCarthy was fired.
"It's definitely helpful, when he's bouncing stuff off -- 'Do you like this? Do you like that? Do you want to start with this? You want to get to this?'" Rodgers added. "Obviously I did that with Mike a bunch, I'd kind of go to over where he was at, but Matt likes to get cozy on the bench."
Neither Rodgers nor LaFleur were surprised or seemed annoyed by the line of questioning -- a sign they had already moved on from the exchange.
"That's just two competitive guys, and I'm sure it's not going to be the last one we have," LaFleur said. "But you know, just competitors, heat of the moment and it is what it is. I would much rather have that than anything else because you want guys that are extreme competitors, and that's what he is."
A week after the Packers' new offense managed just 213 yards -- 31st in the NFL in Week 1 -- in the 10-3 win at Chicago, Rodgers led touchdown drives on the first three possessions to stake the Packers to a 21-0 lead on Sunday.
For the first time in his NFL career, Rodgers wore a play calling cheat sheet on his wrist to try to help speed up the offensive tempo.
"This is probably the wordiest offense I've been in since Cal," Rodgers said. "At Cal, we would signal from the sideline and if there was ever a play that needed more than seven signals, we'd wristband that one. I think it just helps with the communication, so he doesn't have to say 12 syllables to me and then I say 12 syllables in the huddle. It helped speed things up a little bit. But we didn't use it a whole lot. We only used it probably five or six times."
Still, the offense sputtered after the opening three drives. The Packers totaled 171 yards on those three scoring drives and then just 164 total net yards on their final 11 possessions.
A fumble by Geronimo Allison and a mistake by Rodgers on what he thought was a first down but instead was a fourth-and-1 ended drives in Vikings territory.
"I think they made some adjustments and we did as well," said Rodgers, who completed 22 of 34 passes for 209 yards and two touchdowns. "We just didn't execute. We had some chances at some stuff. I think they just tightened up. They made some good plays on contested balls. We had three or four opportunities for a contested catch and they made plays on the ball, which would have been big plays. Marquez [Valdes-Scantling] had one where he kind of got carried out of bounds.
"Davante Adams had one on their sideline. [Aaron Jones], I underthrew that one. But those plays, not converting them hurt. And then obviously we were driving there and then G-Mo trying to get some extra yards kind of took away some points there. And then my bonehead play took away some points as well."
If ever a 2-0 start to the season could be considered ugly, then this is it. But fantasy owners should expect it to get better.
Green Bay will host the Broncos on Sunday. The Packers are 6-7-1 against Denver, which is 0-2 following a loss to the Raiders in their season opener and a last-second defeat against Chicago in Week 2. ...
Other notes of interest. ... The 5-9, 208-pound Jones rushed a career-high 23 times for 116 yards and a touchdown despite not having a carry of more than 15 yards. He also was the Packers' second-leading catcher with four receptions for 34 yards.
"We were efficient. Our goal is four yards per carry and I think we achieved that," Jones said. "It's just a testament to how hard those guys worked (up front) and a testament to Minnesota's defense. They're always in the right spot. You get to the second level, you make the linebacker miss and boom there's a safety."
The Packers were vocal this offseason about how they planned to incorporate both Jones and Jamaal Williams into the offense, an emphasis that was evident on the opening series when LaFleur played both running backs at the same time.
With Williams in the backfield, Rodgers flicked what was ruled a 6-yard rush for Jones, who was motioning from out wide. After a pitch to Jones for 15 on the next play, Green Bay then used the same jet-sweep look to set up a 15-yard screen pass to Williams for a touchdown.
"It's something new," said Williams, who had 41 yards from scrimmage and the TD on 13 touches. "They ain't used to seeing two backs in there, me and Aaron at the same time. I felt like that right there helps out the offense a little bit more because we can put one in motion, we can have one running the ball (or) have one out on a route and one blocking. It's just pick your poison, really."
Although the Packers' offense sputtered after the score, Jones continued to pile up carries and yards.
Prior to Sunday, the most Jones had ever carried the ball was 19 times during his rookie 2017 season against Dallas. He had 14 carries by halftime. ...
On the injury front. ... Safety Raven Greene (ankle) was placed on injured reserve on Monday. Greene was carted off the field on Sunday following the first play of the second half.
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 17 September 2019
As ESPN.com's Sarah Barshop noted, a week after playing in a shootout against Drew Brees and the New Orleans Saints, the Houston Texans scored only one touchdown in their 13-12 victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday.
The Texans' lone touchdown came in the fourth quarter, when quarterback Deshaun Watson ran for 2 yards on fourth-and-1. Although they had all four receivers (DeAndre Hopkins, Will Fuller, Kenny Stills and Keke Coutee) healthy again, Hopkins was the only one to catch more than four passes.
Instead, the Texans depended on the running game against the Jaguars. For the second week in a row, Houston combined for more than 100 rushing yards.
Watson completed 16 of 29 passes for 159 yards without a passing touchdown or interception. The passing yardage was his fewest since he threw for 139 yards against the Jaguars on Oct. 21, 2018. He did score the Texans' only touchdown of the game, his ninth career rushing touchdown. He now holds the Texans' franchise record for rushing touchdowns by a quarterback, according to ESPN Stats and Information.
"These games are tough," head coach Bill O'Brien said. "We didn't do as well offensively as we want to do, and our defense picked us up. I think that was a really good team win."
After being sacked six times in a loss to New Orleans last week, Watson was sacked four times Sunday -- marking the eighth straight game in which he has been sacked at least four times. That ties him with Blake Bortles (2014-15) and Jeff George (1997-98) for the longest streak of games with at least four sacks since it became an official statistic in 1982.
The Jaguars got to Watson on Sunday after failing to sack Patrick Mahomes in loss to Kansas City last week.
Houston acquired left tackle Laremy Tunsil in a trade with Miami on Aug. 31 after Watson was sacked an NFL-high 62 times last season, but so far he hasn't helped the quarterback take fewer blows.
NFL.com notes that Watson, perhaps due to the pressure, couldn't find the range deep throughout the tilt -- completing just two of 10 passes of 15-plus air-yards, per Next Gen Stats.
According to USA Today, Watson looked off for the entirety of the game. But that's been the norm in games against the Jaguars. His best passer rating performance against Jacksonville was an 89.5 in a Week 17 win in 2018, nearly 13 points below his career average. All four of his match-ups against the Jaguars are among the worst games he's played.
It's fair to say Jacksonville is Watson's weakness as a passer. Nonetheless, he's 3-0 when he faces them as a starter.
In addition, the matchup between Hopkins and Jalen Ramsey went mostly to the Jags corner, who held Nuk (five catches on eight targets for 40 yards) to short gains. Hopkins did much of his damage when Ramsey -- who blew up at the coaching staff on the sideline in the first half -- was in zone coverage.
With Hopkins neutralized, Watson's passing game wilted. Holding on for the win brings a modicum of relief, but the Texans need more when Nuk is negated as he was for the most part by Ramsey Sunday.
As for the above-mentioned rushing attack, USA Today's Mark Lane notes the Texans have a 2018 Cleveland Browns one-two running back combo in Carlos Hyde and Duke Johnson, and O'Brien believes the coaching staff still needs to learn how to use the two backs.
Hyde rushed for 90 yards on 20 carries against the Jaguars. Johnson rushed six times for 31 yards, and the pass-catching back was targeted just once in the air.
"Both of those guys are a pretty good one-two punch," O'Brien told reporters Monday. "I think we need to keep understanding how we can use them, what they can do for our offense, and they need to keep getting better and better in our offense and understanding that you're only as good as your next game. I think they will, they're both good pros, but they both ran hard."
The Texans traded a conditional fourth-round pick to Cleveland that can turn into a third-rounder in 2020 if Johnson plays 10 games for Houston. Originally slated to replaced D'Onta Foreman early in preseason, Johnson quickly became one of the answers at the top of the depth chart once starter Lamar Miller was lost with an ACL injury after the third preseason game.
Houston traded offensive guard Martinas Rankin to the Kansas City Chiefs for Hyde, and it was clear they needed him to make an effort to chair Houston's running back by committee approach. So far, Hyde runs with the ferocity of an every down back.
"He gets his pads down, he runs behind his pads, he does," O'Brien said.
The Texans still have not had a 100-yard rushing performance from a running back through the first two games of the season. Furthermore, they have yet to have a running back score a rushing touchdown. It should be a series of events that gets unlocked the more the coaching staff figures out how to use Hyde and Johnson.
They'll try to unlock the combination to maximize the duo this Sunday against the Chargers.
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 17 September 2019
The Indianapolis Colts have a kicking problem the team said must be addressed immediately.
Veteran kicker Adam Vinatieri, the NFL's all-time leading scorer, missed two more extra-point kicks and almost became the reason the Colts lost for the second straight week in their 19-17 victory over the Tennessee Titans on Sunday.
"Breaks my heart to see it because I know how hard (Vinatieri) works," Colts owner Jim Irsay said outside the locker room after the game. "Of course it's a concern. I can't lie to you guys. Anyone would tell you it's a concern. Adam, coach (Frank Reich), (general manager) Chris (Ballard), me. Yeah, I mean, in this league, it's professional football. We all have to produce.
"The expectation is to win when you're a professional. So we have to figure out where we're at there and see what coach and Chris think is the best direction. And I know Adam will be the most self-honest person of all, so we'll see where we're at."
Vinatieri has lasted 24 years in the NFL by being reliable. But now he's a weak link on the roster for the Colts after the two missed extra points, which are 33-yard kicks. He has already had the same number of missed extra points in two games -- three -- that he missed in all of 2018 on 47 attempts.
"I have zero concern," Reich said. "He hit the upright on the one. You guys probably saw the first one. It was not a good operation. That snap and hold was not clean, the ball barely got on the ground. It was not clean."
Vinatieri took "100 percent" of the blame after missing three kicks in the Colts' Week 1 loss to the Los Angeles Chargers.
Vinatieri has now missed an extra point in three straight regular-season games, going back to last season. That's the longest streak of his NFL career. He has also missed an extra point in four of the past five games overall, which includes the playoffs, and he's missed a total of seven kicks in the past three games.
That's a drastic falloff for a kicker who made winning field goals in Super Bowls XXXVI and XXXVIII and nailed kicks in blizzard conditions during his career with the New England Patriots.
But time has appeared to catch up with the 46-year-old Vinatieri, who re-signed with the Colts last winter because he thought he could still be effective. Vinatieri, a future Hall of Famer, immediately left the locker room Sunday while saying very few words.
"You'll hear from me (Monday)," he said.
When reminded that Monday is the players' day off, Vinatieri reiterated, "Yeah, you will (hear from me)."
Instead we heard from Reich.
"Adam is our kicker," the coach said. "We have zero concern. He's not only our kicker, he's a key leader on our team."
For today. ... And the truth is, it's been more than 20 years since the Colts have had to worry about their kickers. But now might be the time for Ballard to find Vinatieri's replacement -- even with the vote of confidence from Reich.
"This is a man of very tough cloth, and I know all our fans, like I, hurt with Adam," Irsay said. "No one hurts worse than Adam does. ..."
That said, the Colts had six kickers in for tryouts Tuesday. Indianapolis began working on a backup plan it hopes not to use.
The Colts worked out Elliott Fry, Cole Hedlund, Greg Joseph, Younghoe Koo, Chase McLaughlin and Cody Parkey, Field Level Media's Howard Balzer reported. They also reported tryouts with offensive tackles Gerhard deBeer, Christian DiLauro and Brandon Hitner as well as center James Murray. ...
Also of interest. ... Jacoby Brissett led the Colts to his first victory over the Titans in three tries with a fourth-quarter touchdown pass.
According to ESPN.com's Mike Wells, it looked like the Titans had Brissett frustrated, bottled up and on his way to his third straight loss to them. But the Colts, as they did against the Chargers in Week 1, refused to give up on their running game (167 yards) despite being down.
Running back Jordan Wilkins broke free for a 55-yard run to get the ball to Tennessee's 4-yard line on the go-ahead drive. And that's when Brissett shook off his interception and fumble earlier in the game to throw his third touchdown pass of the game Brissett wasn't done; the Colts had the ball at fourth-and-1 in their own territory with less than three minutes left in the game when they called a timeout after a failed attempt to try to draw the Titans offside.
Punt? No chance.
Reich, as he did against Houston last season, brought the offense back on the field and Brissett did just enough to get the first down on a QB sneak.
Wells went on to suggest it's moments like this that are needed for Brissett as he tries to prove he can be the Colts' franchise quarterback in the post-Andrew Luck era. Those moments also helped make up for what was inconsistent play from Brissett in the first three-plus quarters. He was indecisive, holding the ball too long in the pocket, earlier in the game. His interception in the first half ended a string of 167 straight pass attempts without throwing a pick.
Brissett also fumbled while trying to bring the ball back down in the pocket after a pass attempt wasn't there. He finished 17-of-28 for 146 yards with three touchdowns and an interception.
The next step?
According to Associated Press sports writer Michael Marot, Indianapolis needs to give Brissett enough time to make throws down the field. He's been sacked five times in two games and was under duress much of Sunday, forcing him to throw shorter, quicker passes instead of being able to take advantage of the Colts' playmaking deep threats -- starting with this week's home opener against the Falcons. ...
Meanwhile, Reich made one thing perfectly clear during the offseason.
He expected the Colts to finish among the league's top-five rushing offenses. At this rate, they might even exceed Reich's expectations.
Two games into the season, the Colts have the NFL's No. 2 ground game, the No. 3 rusher and a play caller committed to sticking with the game plan under any circumstances. It's making an impact.
Indy rushed for 203 yards, led by Marlon Mack's career-high 174, in a season-opening loss to the Chargers, and 34 times for 167 yards against the Titans. The Colts' 370 rushing yards are the third most in franchise history (most in Indianapolis history) following the first two weeks of a season.
On the injury front. ... Vinatieri will be kicking for the Colts this week, but they may not have Darius Leonard at linebacker against the Falcons. Reich announced on Monday that Leonard has been placed in the concussion protocol. Leonard was not knocked out of the game, but reported symptoms later and was placed in the protocol after consulting with doctors.
Leonard had 10 tackles, a sack and a tackle for loss in Sunday's 19-17 victory over the Titans. Leonard missed one game during his rookie season, although that did not keep him from being named a first-team All-Pro at the end of the year.
Reich also said that cornerback Pierre Desir has a knee injury that the team will monitor throughout the week.
Of greater interest to fantasy owners, Mack, who was spotted walking through the locker room carrying (not wearing) a walking boot on Tuesday, was held out of practice Wednesday due to a calf injury. T.Y. Hilton (quad) was limited. I'll have more on both via Late-Breaking Update in coming days.
And finally. ... The Colts have waived back-up QB Chad Kelly, according to ESPN's Field Yates. He was coming off of a two-game suspension.
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 17 September 2019
Head coach Doug Marrone knew he was going to try a two-point conversion when his offense started its final drive.
Had Dede Westbrook returned the punt for a touchdown, he would have kicked the extra point to tie the game. But when that didn't happen, Marrone decided he was going to go for the win if his offense, which had sputtered for much of the game, somehow put it together and got into the end zone.
"I thought I got in," running back Leonard Fournette said.
"It looked from our angle like he got it," defensive end Calais Campbell said.
According to Jaguars.com's John Oehser, that was the locker-room consensus after the resulting 13-12 loss to the Texans at NRG Field Sunday -- that Fournette crossed the plane of the goal line on that two-point conversion attempt with :30 remaining. Officials ruled otherwise, and the Texans clinched the game by recovering the ensuing onside kick.
A replay review did not overturn the call, though some angles appeared to show the ball may have been over the plane before Fournette was on the ground.
"I know it has to be definitive on those rulings," Campbell said. "I wonder if they had called it a touchdown on the field if it would have stood as a touchdown. I think it would have had to. I don't think they could have changed it either way."
Another thing on which the Jaguars agreed afterward was that going for two in that situation was the right move. Marrone told reporters after the game he had decided to go for two well before quarterback Gardner Minshew II's four-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver D.J. Chark Jr. made it 13-12.
Campbell emphatically supported the decision to go for two.
"Yes," he said. "Yes, yes, yes. ... It hurts, but two yards with Leonard Fournette is doable. Very doable. We're going to win that more than we lose. I like the aggressiveness. I prefer to win the game, but I definitely agree with the call."
Said Fournette: "He [Marrone] believed we could win it. We believed we could win it. It's not just that play. We had a lot of plays before that on both sides. It's football. Things happen."
Marrone said Minshew went to the line of scrimmage with the option of a run or a pass, with the formation of the defense determining the call. If the Jaguars got man-to-man defense, the play called was a draw to Fournette.
"We felt really good about the call," Minshew said. "We had the right look. Leonard was close on the field. I thought he got it. That's how it goes sometimes. I'd bet 10 times out of 10 for him right there to get in there."
Meanwhile, ESPN.com's Michael DiRocco warned readers who thought Minshew Mania was nuts last week that it's only going to ramp up this week.
Indeed, the franchise has to be ecstatic about what Minshew showed Sunday. After an up-and-down performance through the first 3½ quarters, Minshew got hot late in the fourth and led the Jaguars on a 68-yard touchdown drive that included an 18-yard scramble on fourth-and-10.
The Jaguars gained 110 of their 281 total yards on their two scoring drives in the fourth quarter.
The Jaguars won't have Nick Foles until Nov. 17 at the earliest because of a broken collarbone, but Minshew (23-of-33, 213 yards) showed Sunday that he's more than capable of not only keeping the Jaguars' division hopes afloat, but potentially stealing a few games.
He did fumble three times after getting sacked, but the Jaguars were able to recover the first two. The third, however, ended up in the arms of J.J. Watt, and the Texans turned it into a touchdown. However, the blame for that belongs on the offensive line.
As he did against Kansas City, Minshew looked poised, never panicked, and made clutch throws.
NFL.com's Kevin Patra added that Minshew was solid when getting the ball out of his hands quickly and displayed plenty of touch, arm strength and accuracy to complete several long sideline throws. The rookie displayed positive running ability, leading the Jags (0-2) with 56 rushing yards on six carries, including big gains of 21 and 18 yards.
In general, the youngster showed he can be a solid stand-in for Foles if he gets more help from Fournette and company moving forward.
As he gains experience, he should only get better. ...
As for this week. ... Thursday is critical. NFL margins for error get thin in a hurry. The Jaguars season isn't over, and there are more reasons for optimism -- defense, Minshew's play -- than you usually would see from an 0-2 team. Still, the Jaguars need a victory against the Tennessee Titans at home Thursday. ...
Speaking of getting better. ... Chark is definitely taking a step.
According to Oehser, we saw the first signs of this in Week 1. We saw more signs on Sunday. Chark, a second-round selection in the 2018 NFL Draft, in the first two games of this season consistently has shown more and more signs he can make big plays in big situation.
A future No. 1 go-to receiver? It's looking more possible.
"He's someone who's going to keep getting better and better," Marrone said. "The better he becomes, it's going to open up things for everybody else. He's a key player in what we're trying to get done and he's worked extremely hard."
Worth noting. ... Chark (ankle) was listed as a limited participant on the team's estimated practice report Monday. Fellow wideouts Chris Conley (hip) and Marqise Lee (knee) were also listed as limited although the Jaguars didn't actually practice Monday. Chark and Lee were upgraded to full participation Tuesday.
I'll have more on their status when Late-Breaking Updates crank up early Thursday and I'll follow up as needed through the inactive announcement. ...
And finally. ... Cornerback Jalen Ramsey wants out of Jacksonville. Ramsey's agent, David Mulugheta, told ESPN's Adam Schefter and Chris Mortensen on Monday that he asked the Jaguars to trade his client. League sources also told ESPN that the Jaguars have had talks with teams and are asking for at least one first-round pick but would like more than that in return for the two-time Pro Bowl cornerback.
Another league source told Schefter he believes a trade could happen as early as this week because of the damage to the relationship between Ramsey and Marrone after Ramsey's sideline outburst during Sunday's loss to Houston. Ramsey yelled at Marrone as he walked by on the sideline, and moments later, players and coaches had to get between Ramsey and Marrone near the bench.
Marrone said Monday that the team isn't going to discipline Ramsey. He downplayed the sideline incident, which was caught by CBS cameras, in which Ramsey yelled at Marrone because he was upset that Marrone did not challenge a completion to Texans receiver DeAndre Hopkins.
The incident Sunday wasn't the first time Ramsey's discontent with the team spilled over into the public. We'll see if it's the last.
Since the Jaguars are playing the Titans Thursday night and it doesn't look like a deal to send Ramsey elsewhere will happen before that game gets underway. Ian Rapoport of NFL Media reports that Friday is the "likely target date" to get a deal involving Ramsey done.
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 17 September 2019
According to ESPN.com's Adam Teicher, on many teams, wide receiver Demarcus Robinson is a starter and perhaps a star. On the Kansas City Chiefs, he's often a role player who takes the scraps that more well-known receivers Travis Kelce, Tyreek Hill and Sammy Watkins don't get.
"You have to be patient," said Robinson, who joined the Chiefs as a fourth-round draft pick in 2016. "We've got a lot of great guys in the room and they've been here longer than I have and their number gets called more times than mine."
Robinson's wait came to an end on Sunday against the Raiders. He was their receiving star, the way Watkins was in Week 1.
Robinson caught all of the six passes that headed his way for 172 yards and two touchdowns as the Chiefs beat the Raiders 28-10. He lost another long catch because of a holding penalty.
It was a career day for Robinson, who caught 22 passes and four touchdowns last year but has been more known for doing the little things, such as throwing the block that sprung Watkins on his long touchdown catch last week.
"He's a guy that kind of gets lost in the shuffle of things sometimes," quarterback Patrick Mahomes said. "He's a guy that's super-talented, makes a lot of big plays happen. It's everything from catching the ball on scrambles, catching touchdowns as the last read across the middle of the field or making the blocks and doing whatever he can to help his teammates out."
Head coach Andy Reid said, "He kind of does all the dirty work."
Robinson started the season as the Chiefs' third receiver, inheriting the role that Chris Conley had last season. Conley left the Chiefs as a free agent during the offseason.
He became a starter this week after the injury to Hill, who didn't play against the Raiders.
The Raiders were determined to slow the Chiefs' running game, which they effectively did, and limit the contributions of Watkins and Kelce. They largely succeeded with Watkins (six catches but on 13 targets and for only 49 yards) but Kelce had seven catches for 107 yards and a touchdown.
These defensive efforts left Robinson with a lot of single coverage. He was able to win much of the time, making him the flavor of the week for the Chiefs.
In their system, anyone can be a star.
"That's how we roll as a team in general," Mahomes said. "Whenever guys get their opportunity, they step up and make plays."
For a change, it was Robinson. All he needed was the chance, as it turned out.
"Pat gives everybody a chance to be explosive," Robinson said. "Every week can be a big week for any of us guys."
After wide Watkins' monster 198-yard performance in Week 1, this now marks the first time in Chiefs' history that a pass-catcher has amassed 150-plus receiving yards in each of Kansas City's first two games to begin a season. Meanwhile, Mahomes didn't quite set a record with his huge second quarter in Sunday's game, but what he and the Kansas City Chiefs accomplished was no less impressive.
Mahomes finished 30-of-44 for 443 yards and the four TD passes, but the second quarter was where he did most of his damage. He threw for 278 yards and four touchdowns as the Chiefs erased a 10-point deficit and put themselves on course for the win.
That second quarter was as electric as any period from any quarterback in recent memory. Those 278 yards were the second-most in a quarter in the past 40 seasons, trailing only New Orleans' Drew Brees, who threw for 294 in a period in 2008. The last quarterback to throw four touchdown passes in a quarter was Aaron Rodgers of Green Bay in 2014.
Mahomes' last five pass attempts of the second quarter went for 42 yards and a touchdown to Mecole Hardman to put the Chiefs up for good at 14-10 with 5 minutes, 51 seconds left in the first half, 32 yards to Damien Williams, 43 yards to Robinson, 27 yards and a touchdown to Travis Kelce, and 39 yards and a touchdown to Robinson. The last two touchdowns came in the final two minutes of the quarter and blew open a close game.
Mahomes also had a 72-yard touchdown pass to Hardman in the third quarter called back because of a penalty.
So 19 games into his run as the starter, Mahomes recorded his sixth game with at least 300 passing yards and four TDs, surpassing Hall of Famers Dan Marino (five games) and Kurt Warner (five) for most games with at least 300 yards and four passing TDs in a player's first 40 NFL games.
It also marked the 12th 300-yard game of Mahomes' career, tying Warner for the most such performances through a player's first 20 regular-season games.
All those yards have added up, too, as Mahomes' 821 passing yards this season are the fifth-most in NFL history through Week 2.
His 131.2 passer rating was the third-best mark of his young career. In fact, Mahomes has now amassed the second and third-best passer ratings of his career in the first two weeks of the 2019 campaign.
Mahomes' 443 passing yards were the second-most of his career -- trailing only his 478-yard performance against the Los Angeles Rams in Week 11 of last season -- and now with multiple 400-yard games in the books, Mahomes once again made some history.
He's the only player with multiple 400-yard passing games in Chiefs history.
On Wednesday, Mahomes was named AFC Offensive Player of the Week.
So yeah. ... It's going well.
Kelce caught seven passes for 107 yards and a touchdown on Sunday for yet another big game in Oakland. His last two games in The Black Hole: 19 catches; 275 receiving yards; and three touchdowns.
Kelce and Robinson are the first pair of Chiefs' receivers to each tally triple-digit receiving yards in the same game since Kelce and wide receiver Tyreek Hill accomplished the feat last season against the Rams.
When all was said and done, we can say there has never been an offense as consistently explosive as the 2018-19 Chiefs. Kansas City cemented that fact with their 20th-straight game (including the postseason) of 26 or more points, setting an NFL record.
The Chiefs have also scored at least 26 points in all 21 games of Mahomes' career (including the playoffs). ...
On the injury front. ... Running back LeSean McCoy went for an MRI on Monday after hurting his ankle in Sunday's win over the Raiders and reportedly got back good news.
Tom Pelissero of NFL Media reports that McCoy's scan showed no significant damage. That leaves McCoy with a chance to play against the Ravens.
McCoy has 21 carries for 104 yards and four catches for 12 yards through his first two games with the Chiefs.
Damien Williams also picked up a knee injury in the win over Oakland, so they'll have a couple of injury situations to monitor as they prepare to face Baltimore. Darwin Thompson and Darrel Williams round out the team's running back group.
I'll be following up on McCoy, who was scheduled to get some work in Wednesday, and Williams, who was slated to miss Wednesday's session, as needed via Late-Breaking Update in coming days.
Beyond that, the news isn't great for left tackle Eric Fisher, who was a late addition to last week’s injury report with a groin injury. He wound up being pulled from the win over the Raiders after making it into the lineup to start the game.
But Fisher won’t be back in the lineup to face the Ravens this week. Chiefs trainer Rick Burkholder said on Wednesday that Fisher is headed to Philadelphia to see a specialist for core muscle surgery.
As multipler observers noted, the specialist is likely Dr. William Meyers as he regularly works with NFL players who need the kind of surgery that Fisher requires this week.
Cam Erving will start in place of Fisher and it’s unclear at this point what kind of timeline there is for Fisher’s return to action.
And finally. ... In a bit of a positive, Teicher reported Wednesday that Hill was in Chiefs locker room before practice and he didn’t look like a guy who was going to be out much longer. He no longer had his right arm in a sling and he was dribbling a basketball with each hand.
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 17 September 2019
As ESPN.com's Eric. D. Williams notes, mistakes cost the Los Angeles Chargers, as they let one slip away in a 13-10 loss on the road against the Detroit Lions.
Punter Ty Long was money filling in for regular kicker Michael Badgley last week, earning AFC Special Teams player of the week honors.
However, Long missed two field goals from 40 and 39 yards on Sunday.
The Chargers also had two touchdowns called back due to penalties, and running back Austin Ekeler fumbled at the goal line while trying to dive over the pile.
Philip Rivers led the Chargers on a drive late in the game for the potential winning score, but the Lions secured the victory when Darius Slay picked off a Rivers offering forced into double coverage intended to Allen in the end zone.
The loss came despite Ekeler's second consecutive strong performance.
"It felt like we were moving the ball," said Ekeler. "We were rolling, especially in that second half. But (we) just (came) up empty handed. You got to score points in this league."
Ekeler, who caught the game-winning touchdown in overtime in Week 1 against the Colts, followed up his 154-total yard performance with 133 total yards Sunday, including a touchdown where the 5-foot-9 running back jumped over four Lions defenders.
Ekeler, in tandem with Justin Jackson who had 59 yards rushing on seven carries total (a 60-yard touchdown run by Jackson was one of the two TDs nullified by penalty), created problems for the Lions defense. But their performance was not flawless, as Ekeler fumbled the ball at the Lions' 1-yard line midway through the third quarter.
Ekeler wasn't the only Charger racking up yards, as Rivers connected with wide receiver Keenan Allen all afternoon to the tune of eight receptions for 98 yards.
Allen's 15 more than doubled the next Charger (Ekeler with six) in terms of targets.
As CBSSports.com notes, Allen was helped by an absent Hunter Henry (knee) and a limited Mike Williams, who was active but got just five targets. Still, only two of Allen's catches went for more than 15 yards while nearly half of his targets fell incomplete.
"We made a ton of plays," Rivers said. "But when you have two turnovers in the red zone and two touchdowns called back, you're asking for it."
One of those plays came in the closing moments of the first half when Rivers threw deep to a diving Williams for a 47-yard completion, setting up a 39-yard Long field goal with time expiring in the half.
Rivers became the eighth player in NFL history to reach 55,000 career passing yards on Sunday. Rivers passed the mark with a 35-yard pass to Ekeler. Rivers now has 55,282 passing yards.
Rivers also made his 210th consecutive start against the Lions, tying New York Giants signal-caller Eli Manning for second-most by a quarterback in NFL history.
"I always dreamed of playing quarterback in this league," Rivers said this week of reaching those milestones. "To say it's not special or you don't appreciate it would be lying. It is pretty cool any time any of those things come up."
Still, the Chargers finished with five drops and a forced fumble on the day, one of the reasons the Bolts scored only 10 points. The most glaring of those mistakes was Ekeler fumbling at the goal line while trying to jump over the pile. The Chargers likely will be doing some extra work on ball security this week as they prepare for Sunday's game against the Texans. ...
As noted above, a week being the AFC's Special Teams Player of the Week, Long's charmed NFL start abruptly ended. Long punted well -- 50.5-yard average -- but he was unable to again fill Badgley's right shoe.
As of Sunday night, the Chargers were unsure of Badgley's status regarding their game this weekend against Houston. "He's getting better," head coach Anthony Lynn said. "But he's not quite there yet. ..."
The Chargers signed a tight end with Henry recovering from a tibial plateau fracture, but the new tight end's name is not Antonio Gates.
According to Profootballtalk.com, the team's signing of tight end Lance Kendricks is the surest sign yet that Gates' career might be over.
Kendricks served a one-game suspension to open the season. The Patriots waived him last week to make room for Antonio Brown. Kendricks has appeared in 125 career games, catching 241 passes for 2,505 yards and 19 touchdowns. ...
Beyond that, the secondary took another hit. First, Derwin James. Now, Adrian Phillips.
The Chargers placed James on injured reserve Sept. 2 after he underwent foot surgery. His replacement, Phillips, will join James on IR. Lynn confirmed Phillips broke his forearm in Sunday's loss. Lynn said Phillips could return this season, but the safety will have to miss at least eight weeks.
The Chargers also have cornerback Trevor Williams (quad) on injured reserve. Only two players can return from injured reserve.
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 17 September 2019
As ESPN.com's Lindsey Thiry suggested, at this rate, the controversies between the Los Angeles Rams and New Orleans Saints might never die.
On Sunday at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, in a rematch of last season's NFC Championship Game, the Rams defeated the Saints 27-9. But it wasn't without another botched call from officials, this one costing the Saints a touchdown. In the second quarter, quarterback Jared Goff was sacked and fumbled, and the Saints scooped up the loose ball to score on an apparent 87-yard return. However, officials had whistled the play dead, signaling an incomplete pass.
After review, it was determined Goff fumbled and the Saints took over at their own 13-yard line.
Nevertheless, the Rams -- who have been asked ad nauseum since last January about the botched pass-interference call from the NFC Championship Game -- can finally move on with their season and, as outside linebacker Dante Fowler Jr. hoped earlier this week, put the controversial no-call "to rest for a little bit."
And while it won't go down as their most impressive offensive showing, it wasn't without some impressive moments and performances.
For example, Cooper Kupp caught a short pass, then went to work making New Orleans Saints defenders miss. As Thiry described it, "The slot receiver broke a tackle from cornerback Marshon Lattimore, then quick stepped his way away from cornerback P.J. Williams.
"Kupp spun cornerback Eli Apple around, before Apple fell to the turf of the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum.
"It took linebacker A.J. Klein to finally take Kupp down 66 yards later, and only inches short of the goal line. ..."
"It felt like a movie," Kupp said about his improbable catch-and-run. "It felt like slow motion."
Jared Goff crossed the goal line on the ensuing snap to seal a 27-9 victory and the Rams improved to 2-0.
Count them up, and Kupp made four Saints defenders miss, with some assistance from receivers Robert Woods and Brandin Cooks, who each made their way downfield to throw a block.
According to NFL Next Gen Stats, Kupp has reached a maximum speed of 16.71 miles per hour on the play and traveled a total of 85.38 yards as he zig-zagged his way down the field.
"When it comes to him, the first man never can bring him down," said Cooks, who caught three passes for 74 yards. "When you start seeing the first, second guy, you think, 'OK, we got to come up with some blocks to help him out' -- then he did the rest."
Kupp underwent reconstructive knee surgery 10 months ago after he suffered a torn ACL in a Week 10 victory over the Seattle Seahawks.
He was a limited participant in the offseason program before getting cleared to practice in training camp.
Despite appearing strong through a joint practice against the Los Angeles Chargers and two workouts against the Oakland Raiders, it remained uncertain how Kupp's surgically repaired knee would respond when the season opened.
"He looked awesome and it was incredible," head coach Sean McVay told Thiry after the gamey. "He sure looks good, doesn't he? He looks healthy to me."
Kupp caught five passes for 120 yards against the Saints after making seven catches for 46 yards in Week 1.
In two games, Kupp has 12 catches for 166 yards.
"It feels great," Kupp said, when asked about his return to the lineup. "Going through the recovery was a grind."
Despite the telepathic nature of their relationship, even Goff was a bit stunned to see Kupp's breakthrough catch-and-run.
"I was shocked," Goff said. "He's showing off some speed now. ..."
All that said, for a second consecutive week, Goff had an uneven performance.
He completed 19 of 28 passes for 283 yards and a touchdown, and he also rushed for the above-mentioned score.
In the first quarter, Goff aired out a 57-yard pass to Cooks on third-and-16. According to Thiry, the throw was a perfect example of why the Rams gave Goff a four-year extension worth $134 million, with a record-breaking $110 million guaranteed. But throughout much of the first half, Goff appeared uneasy behind an offensive line that features two first-year starters and lost sturdy right guard Austin Blythe to an ankle injury. Goff had a sack fumble and dealt with pressure in his face.
He also looked out of sync early with usual go-to playmakers Kupp and Woods, as several passes were just out of their reach. ...
Todd Gurley rushed for 63 yards and a touchdown on 16 carries against the Saints. Malcolm Brown rushed for 37 yards on six carries.
McVay was asked if Gurley splitting carries with Brown was the new normal.
"It's hard to say right now," McVay said. "Through two games, I think they both have done a nice job. As the season continues to progress, I think we'll really find out."
When asked what his understanding of his role was, and if this was the new normal, Gurley responded: "Ask Sean. I'm not the head coach. I'm good."
Fantasy owners who invested in Gurley can't say the same at the moment. But there's plenty of season left to get return on it. ...
On the injury front. The Rams were fortunate in 2018 as they suffered few serious injuries throughout the season, with the exception of Kupp's torn ACL. But it doesn't appear they will be as lucky in 2019. On Sunday, defensive tackle Aaron Donald left the game because of a back injury, though he later returned.
However Blythe, their right guard, and tight end Tyler Higbee were not so lucky.
Blythe suffered an ankle injury in the first half; he was carted into the locker room and did not return. Blythe was replaced by Jamil Demby, an inexperienced reserve.
Higbee was initially diagnosed with chest injury but after heading to the hospital as a precaution, it was determined he sustained a lung injury, which caused him to cough up blood, per NFL Network's Ian Rapoport.
Higbee might miss time but it is not considered to be significant. McVay confirmed that Higbee was checked out at a hospital, but is now day-to-day. "Everything's checked out, he's asymptomatic with that in terms of the nuances of those things," McVay said.
The fourth-year tight end finished with two catches for 21 yards and the Rams finished with Gerald Everett as their only available tight end.
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 17 September 2019
As NFL.com's Jeremy Bergman put it, "Two games, 10 points, 23 first downs. All that adds up to no wins in two home games for the Miami Dolphins, and surprisingly, no change at quarterback. ..."
Following Miami's 43-0 defeat to the rival New England Patriots, in which Ryan Fitzpatrick threw not one, but two pick-sixes, head coach Brian Flores told reporters that the journeyman would remain his starting quarterback -- for now.
"Ryan's still the starter. We'll evaluate things over the course of the week," the rookie coach said following Miami's worst home loss since last week. "As of right now, Ryan is still the starter."
Miami travels to Dallas to play the undefeated Cowboys next week.
Named the starter ahead of the season instead of second-year signal-caller Josh Rosen, the 36-year-old Fitzpatrick has done little to earn another shot at leading Miami's roster into Week 3.
In the Dolphins' two losses, Fitzpatrick has completed 25 of 50 attempts for 174 yards, zero touchdowns and four interceptions, including the aforementioned pick-sixes. Under his stewardship, Miami has scored on just two of 18 drives.
"There wasn't a whole lot that was going right on offense today," Fitzpatrick told reporters after Sunday's defeat. "Physically, I feel good. Mentally and emotionally, not so much."
To make matters worse and more complicated, Fitzpatrick has been lifted for Rosen in the third quarter of both games, and his backup has proceeded to throw an interception of his own on both occasions. Rosen, 22, has completed just eight of 21 passes in his garbage-time work for 102 yards and two picks.
Acquired via trade during the draft, Rosen was expected to start for Miami at some point this season. As a former top-10 pick with a season as a starting quarterback under his belt, Rosen still has franchise QB potential and should get the go-ahead from Flores and his staff sooner rather than later.
Despite Miami's two overwhelming season-opening defeats, Fitzpatrick wants to keep his starting job and keep Rosen at bay.
"As a quarterback, everything, at the end of the day, it's all going to fall on you," Fitzpatrick said. "That's why we play the position that we do. That's why I play the position. I want that responsibility. I want that blame. I know I can go out there and do a much better job. Especially, at this position, if you go out there and play better, then the team as a whole does better."
As Profootballtalk.com's Darin Gantt suggested, it's a horrible situation for either of them, without enough help to make a difference. It seems inevitable that a change will come, but they aren't ready to blame it all on any one player at this point.
How bad is it?
According to ESPN.com's Cameron Wolfe, nothing described the day better than Fitzpatrick's last pass, a short swing pass to running back Kalen Ballage who bobbled the ball a few times directly into Patriots linebacker Jaime Collins' hands for one of the above-mentioned pick-sixes.
It was a comedy of errors for an offense that couldn't get of its own way Sunday.
It was a historically bad performance for the Dolphins, who totaled 184 yards and just 11 first downs. Late garbage-time stats let them barely surpass franchise lows in yards (88) and first downs (six). It also served as an early warning sign of just how bad the Dolphins offense could be throughout the rest of the season. Think worst-offense-ever bad.
The Dolphins point differential for the season is -92 after being outscored 102-10 in their first two games. It is the worst point differential since the 1973 New Orleans Saints were outscored by 92 points in their first two games. Miami also matched those 1973 Saints for the second most points allowed through two games (102) behind the 1923 Rochester Jeffersons (116).
Beyond that, the Dolphins' offensive shortcomings relegate all involved with the offense to nothing more than DFS tournament dart tosses from a fantasy perspective. Expecting consistent, reliable week-to-week production from any of the skill players here is unrealistic at this point.
Flores had his defense ready to play until the wheels fell off toward the end. His group allowed 29 points, a noticeable improvement over the 59 allowed last week. Dolphins cornerback Xavien Howard largely kept Josh Gordon in check and linebacker Jerome Baker flashed throughout the game showing there are some young defensive pieces here to build around.
Still, the Dolphins head into Sunday's game against the Cowboys as 21-point underdogs, a number that doesn't seem too far out of line based on what we've seen to date. ...
On the injury front. ... Albert Wilson, who missed Week 2 with the calf injury he suffered in the opener, was not on the field for the start of Wednesday's practice. I'll have more on his status via Late-Breaking Update as the week progresses. ...
And finally. ... The Dolphins traded defensive back Minkah Fitzpatrick to Pittsburgh. Miami acquired a 2020 first-round pick, a 2020 fifth-round pick and a 2021 sixth-round pick from Pittsburgh in exchange for Fitzpatrick, a 2020 fourth-round pick and a 2021 seventh-round pick.
The Dolphins drafted Fitzpatrick with the 11th overall pick last year, but since then they've gone into major rebuilding mode and are selling off all their assets. The Steelers, on the other hand, are eager to improve their secondary with a talented young player.
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 17 September 2019
A disastrous start, a game-changing offensive pass interference call, a bone-headed penalty by a star wide receiver and self-inflicted wounds on offense cost the Minnesota Vikings their first road victory of the season in a 21-16 loss to the Green Bay Packers on Sunday.
But it wasn't all bad -- at least from a fantasy perspective.
That's because Dalvin Cook was off to the races. ... Again.
The running back showed his wheels seemingly all game long, starting with a highlight-reel play in the second quarter. After a disastrous first quarter in which the Packers built a 21-point lead over the Vikings, Minnesota had first-and-10 at its own 25. After an incompletion, quarterback Kirk Cousins handed off to Cook on second down, and No. 33 was gone.
Cook picked up speed and yards simultaneously, making it all the way to the end zone to put the Vikings on the board with a career-long 75-yard touchdown.
The play shifted momentum but the Vikings were unable to prevail in a 21-16 loss.
"Eventually one of us is going to make a play," he said. "We've got guys that can make plays at any moment of the game, and eventually one of us was going to make a play to get this thing rolling. It was just me that made the play."
Even after being down three scores -- and two after Cook's touchdown -- the Vikings showed a commitment to the run. When all was said and done, the team racked up 198 rushing yards on 27 attempts.
Cook led all players with 154 yards on 20 rushes for an average of 7.7 yards per carry. He also added 37 yards on three receptions.
From a fantasy perspective, the direction of offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski with significant input from offensive adviser Gary Kubiak has so far yielded superb results for the running attack behind the new zone blocking scheme. Cook leads the NFL with 265 rushing yards.
Not only has Cook displayed the power, vision and explosiveness the Vikings lacked in the 19 games he's missed to injury over his first two years, but Stefanski has stayed committed to the run, even after falling behind 21-0 to the Packers. That was the main reason Zimmer fired offensive coordinator John DeFilippo last season.
But against the Packers, penalties were a greater factor than Cook.
Late in the second quarter and after a 61-yard catch-and-run by receiver Chad Beebe, Cousins found Stefon Diggs for a 3-yard touchdown. The score was nullified, however, when Cook was flagged for offensive pass interference.
The Vikings were unable to get back into the end zone on the drive and instead settled for a 31-yard field goal by Dan Bailey.
Following the game, Cook said he was unable to respond to a question about the penalty.
"I don't know. I can't tell you. I didn't even know it was on me, to be real," Cook said. "I don't know."
Diggs shared his perspective on the play:
"On the replay I saw he got pushed initially, and he made contact with the second defender. I ain't the ref, and I don't call the flags. I have to look at the rulebook. They didn't say [anything]. We just have to eat it."
Pass interference on the offense or defense is reviewable -- and addable even if it is not called on the field because of a rule change this year.
NFL Senior Vice President of Officiating Al Riveron said in a pool report that the review was automatically done because it was a scoring play.
"After we looked at the play, we saw clear and obvious visual evidence that No. 33 significantly hinders the opponent while the ball is still in the air," Riveron said. "Therefore, we negate the score and call offensive pass interference here from New York and penalize them 10 yards."
Cook later added that it's imperative to "clean up the little things" this week in practice heading into next Sunday's home game against Oakland.
First and foremost, Cousins needs to play better.
As ESPN.com's Courtney Cronin put it, Cousins "looked abysmal" for most of Sunday's game, completing 14 of 32 passes for 230 yards, a touchdown and a 52.9 passer rating. By the second quarter, the QB had two fumbles (one lost) and an interception (he would finish with two).
These big games in which Cousins has failed to come through in critical moments is the criticism that has followed him throughout his career.
That's a trend Minnesota hopes he'll be able to buck this season. The instances in which Cousins made miracle plays, such as completing that 61-yard pass to Beebe while getting tackled from behind and dropping a 45-yard bomb into Diggs' bread basket for a touchdown in the third quarter, were spoiled by moments in which he failed to deliver game-changing drives.
Finally, there was the pass Cousins threw off his back-foot for Diggs. Packers defender Kevin King cut in front of Diggs and came down with the underthrown ball for an interception that would stand as the Vikings' final missed opportunity on a day full of them.
"There's no justification [for the pass]," Cousins admitted.
Beyond Cousin's less-than-impressive play (Cousins has a QBR or 15.7 -- second-worst among qualified quarterbacks ahead of only Ryan Fitzpatrick this season), there are other indications of Minnesota's focus on the run. For example, the Vikings had fewer than three wide receivers on the field for 46 of their 60 offensive plays against the Packers, per NFL Next Gen Stats.
Minnesota trailed most of the game.
Minimizing penalties and a return to accuracy for Cousins will be top priorities when the Vikings host the Oakland Raiders next.
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 17 September 2019
When Antonio Brown celebrated his first touchdown with the New England Patriots by vaulting into a first-row luxury box, he didn't linger.
The Patriots had a job to finish.
Determined to play to the final gun after allowing a miracle comeback at Miami last year, the Patriots beat the Dolphins 43-0 Sunday.
Head coach Bill Belichick had Tom Brady still throwing at the end.
"We're playing 60 minutes," Belichick said.
The Pats did that. They scored twice on interception returns in a two-minute fourth-quarter span, and registered their first shutout since Week 3 of 2016.
Brown helped get them going. The Patriots were 18 1/2-point favorites but led only 7-0 late in the first half before Brady hit his newest target for a 20-yard score.
They connected four times in all.
"It was a good start," Brady said. "I was just trying to find an open guy. He was snapping off some routes and did a great job."
Brown, who signed Monday, made an 18-yard catch on his first play and finished with 56 yards receiving, all in the first half. He won raves from teammates for his debut.
"It was awesome," receiver Julian Edelman said. "A lot of energy. He's a playmaker."
Brown's touchdown catch made him the 72nd player to catch a regular-season touchdown pass from Brady, which extends an NFL record for the 42-year-old quarterback. On the play, Brown was covered by cornerback Jomal Wiltz and officials deemed he didn't extend his arms to create separation on a beautiful throw from Brady.
The Patriots are mixing use of their receivers, with Josh Gordon and Edelman starting in the two-receiver package. Phillip Dorsett and Brown rotated as the third receiver, and the team ran two plays with four receivers on the field at the same time in the first half.
One thing Brown didn't do was talk to reporters after the game. The NFL allowed the four-time All-Pro receiver to play despite a civil lawsuit filed Tuesday by his former trainer accusing him of sexually assaulting her on three occasions. Brown has denied the allegations. Not surprisingly, Mike Giardi of the NFL reports that the NFL is looking into Brown's failure to meet the press. The NFL requires all players to be available once during the week and after each game. Brown has not yet spoken to reporters since joining the Patriots.
Whatever the consequence imposed by the league on the Patriots and/or Brown for not taking his turn at the podium, it surely will be deemed by the organization to have been worth it.
As Profootballtalk.com notes, at a time when the league has commenced an investigation into a civil lawsuit filed against Brown for sexual assault and rape, he would have been hounded with questions about it -- and anything he said, every facial expression he displayed, and every aspect of his demeanor in responding to those questions would have potentially been used against him, by the league, by his accuser in civil court, and possibly by the authorities if/when a criminal probe happens.
And that's something we'll be hearing a lot about in coming days after a second set of sexual misconduct allegations have been made against Brown. His legal team has denied all allegations thus far and as of Wednesday, Brown is still expected to play in Week 3.
Remember, the NFL chose not to place him on the Exempt List last week and they have not made any indication that they will do so going forward. But, primary accuser Britney Taylor completed a meeting with league investigators on Monday. Taylor said in the lawsuit that Brown sexually assaulted her on three occasions. Brown has denied the allegations. There is currently no criminal investigation into the accusations.
Washington Post staffer Mark Maske, there is "no timeline" for a decision by the league.
As always, Brown's situation could change at any moment. Keep an eye on the Late-Breaking Updates section for more in coming days. ...
Beyond that, it's safe to say offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels has done a masterful job thus far is mixing up personnel groups and his play calling to take the pressure off his 42-year-old quarterback. The presence of Gordon and now Brown has also helped mask the absence of retired tight end Rob Gronkowski.
Through two games the offense is averaging 6.4 yards per play and has one turnover.
In addition, despite a slow start to the season, second-year running back Sony Michel isn't showing any drop-off from his rookie campaign. He had the game's first touchdown and carried 21 times for 85 yards to lead all rushers.
The one caveat to the Patriots' offensive dominance over the first two games is on the offensive line, which continues to fight through injuries.
The Patriots played without right tackle Marcus Cannon on Sunday and they had left tackle Isaiah Wynn leave the win over the Dolphins with a toe injury, so they're thinner than they'd like to be on the offensive line heading into Week 3. They are signing former Buccaneers lineman Caleb Benenoch to help fill the void with the team placing Wynn on IR. He will miss at least eight weeks.
Benenoch, who worked out for the Patriots recently, started every game of the 2018 season at right guard for Tampa and also has experience at tackle. The 2016 fifth-round pick was released by the Buccaneers last week. ...
Kicker Stephen Gostkowski had a rough day against the Dolphins, missing a pair of extra points and a 48-yard field goal. It marked only the third time in his career he has missed an extra-point and field goal in the same game.
Belichick put his support behind Gostkowski.
"The field-goal operation is a full team play, it's not just one guy. But the most important player is the kicker in that particular play. We just have to do a good job all the way around -- some of it is coaching, timing and execution by the specialists, and protection by the other eight players -- and just work at it. Steve is a good kicker. He's made a lot of big kicks for us. He certainly kicked well last week against Pittsburgh. I have confidence in all the people that are involved here -- coaches, players and specialists and so forth.
"We'll just have to work harder at it, and expect better results. ..."
On the injury front. ... Brady was limited in Wednesday's practice with a calf injury that doesn't seem to be causing much initial concern (though I'll obviously be following up).
Also limited was tight end Matt LaCosse, who has been playing through a tender ankle. Fullback James Devlin (neck) was held out while Brandon Bolden, who sat out last week with an injured hamstring).
And finally. ... New England's defense outscored Miami with interception returns for touchdowns of 54 yards by Stephon Gilmore and 69 yards by Jamie Collins Sr. The Patriots totaled seven sacks and four interceptions and earned their most lopsided win in the 108-game history of the series.
"The defense was spectacular," Brady said.
Brady threw for 264 yards and two scores for the Pats, who are 2-0 for the first time since 2016, winning by a combined score of 76-3.
The Patriots play host to the Jets Sunday. New England has won the past six meetings.
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 17 September 2019
Drew Brees has been diagnosed with a torn ligament near the thumb of his throwing hand that is expected to sideline him at least six weeks, according to multiple reports.
Head coach Sean Payton told reporters that Brees "had one opinion, he's getting a second opinion."
He got it.
The Saints quarterback will have surgery to repair a torn ligament on his throwing thumb by Dr. Steven Shin this week in L.A, NFL Network's Tom Pelissero reported, per a source informed. Shin is the Rams' hand specialist, Pelissero added.
Brees' recovery is still expected to take six to eight weeks. The Saints have not yet made any move to put Brees on injured reserve, which would keep him out at least eight weeks, Pelissero added.
Brees left Sunday's game against the Los Angeles Rams in the first quarter after the thumb on his right hand hit the hand of on-rushing Rams defensive lineman Aaron Donald on the follow trough of a throw.
The Saints lost the game 27-9, with backup Teddy Bridgewater going 17 for 30 passing for 165 yards during the last three-plus quarters.
Brees has missed only one full game because of an injury in his previous 13 seasons with New Orleans. The Saints narrowly lost that game, with Luke McCown at quarterback, at Carolina during the 2015 season.
Brees is the NFL's all-time leader in completions with 6,621 and yards passing with 74,845. His 522 touchdowns tie him for second all-time with New England's Tom Brady, 17 behind retired former Indianapolis Colts and Denver Broncos quarterback Peyton Manning.
The Saints are practicing this week in the Seattle area before playing the Seahawks on Sunday. New Orleans' five games after they play Seattle are against Dallas, Tampa Bay, Jacksonville, Chicago and Arizona, followed by a Week 9 bye.
Bridgewater, who returned this season on a one-year, free-agent deal, is the primary backup. Taysom Hill, who plays a variety of skill positions on offense and also plays on special teams, is the third string QB.
Of great interest, Payton wouldn't commit to Bridgewater as his starter during a Wednesday conference call with reporters.
At 1-1, the Saints are tied for first place in the NFC South. They entered the season with high expectations after advancing to the NFC title game last season, losing to the Rams in a game marred by officials' non-call of pass interference and helmet-to-helmet contact fouls committed by a Rams defensive back Nickell Robey-Coleman against then Saints receiver Tommylee Lewis.
It's worth noting, as NFL.com's Kevin Patra pointed out, the entire Saints offense looked off-kilter following Brees' exit as the Rams defense dominated the line of scrimmage. For much of the contest, Bridgewater seemed hesitant to pull the trigger, holding the ball far too long, and often needing to see the opening before throwing instead of playing with anticipation.
Payton blamed others around Bridgewater for hurting his cause on Sunday.
The offensive line got "whupped" up front, according to Payton, while the Saints ran for just 57 yards on 20 carries. And New Orleans repeatedly killed its own drives with penalties. (The Saints had 11 penalties for 87 yards.)
Of course, it's possible getting regular practice reps will allow the 26-year-old quarterback to perform more relaxed moving forward. The Saints need better play from the QB if they are to remain in the hunt while Brees is out.
Or, as Payton seemed to suggest in that Wednesday conference all, the team could opt to give Hill -- whom the coach has compared to Steve Young -- a bigger workload.
But ESPN.com's Mike Triplett reminded his readers that Bridgewater did look very good at times on the practice field throughout the summer -- just as he did last preseason with the New York Jets and throughout last season while running the Saints' scout-team offense and giving the defense all it could handle. Payton has raved about his intelligence, his poise and "demeanor."
Heading into Sunday, whoever starts at quarterback will have a full complement of skill players around him and a full week of practice and game-planning to get ready.
And that's something I'll be following closely in coming days; watch the Late-Breaking Updates section for more. ...
Of some concern to fantasy owners, Kamara paced the Saints backfield in attempts and rushing yards, but his overall upside was clearly capped by the absence of Bree. As CBSSports.com notes, the dynamic back's game-long run was a modest 12 yards, and Bridgewater undermined Kamara's usually robust pass-catching role by only targeting him on three occasions.
It's something to watch this week. ...
Also on the injury front, in addition to Brees' thumb and Andrus Pete's ankle, receiver Tre'Quan Smith also appeared to have a leg injury in the second half.
Beyond that, the Saints placed receiver Keith Kirkwood on injured reserve, according to the NFL's daily transactions report. Kirkwood injured his hamstring during warmups Sunday. That left New Orleans with only three healthy receivers for the game against the Rams.
The second-year receiver saw time in eight games last season, starting one. He caught 13 passes for 209 yards with two touchdowns in 2018.
On Monday, the Saints placed starting middle linebacker Alex Anzalone on injured reserve Monday with an unspecified injury. It's unclear if there is a chance he could return to the lineup this year, but he will have to miss a minimum of eight weeks.
The good news for the Saints is that they just traded for an experienced veteran inside linebacker in Kiko Alonso earlier this month. ...
And finally. ... Payton signed a five-year extension with the New Orleans Saints, the team announced Sunday, meaning one of the NFL's longest-running partnerships will continue well into its second decade.
Only Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots has been with his team longer than Payton, who was hired in 2006 and has a career record of 119-74 in the regular season heading into Sunday's game at the Los Angeles Rams. His overall record excludes 2012, when he was suspended for the entire season in connection with the NFL's bounty investigation. Payton is 8-6 in the postseason, including a Super Bowl win 10 years ago.
Payton's extension should quash any rumblings that Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones might try to pursue Payton after this season. Payton's previous contract, which was worth more than $9 million per year, was scheduled to run through 2020. Now he'll be in New Orleans through 2024.
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 17 September 2019
Head coach Pat Shurmur initially refused to say whether two-time Super Bowl MVP Eli Manning would continue to start at quarterback for the winless New York Giants.
But on Tuesday, the change was made. The Giants named rookie Daniel Jones as their starting QB against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers this Sunday.
Manning goes to the bench.
It really was just a matter of time, so why not now?
Jones was going to be starting for the Giants sooner rather than later. Now it's sooner.
As ESPN.com's Jordan Raanan put it, the Giants can now spend the rest of 2019 rebuilding like they should have two years ago when they were coming off a 3-13 season. Giving Jones in-game experience is the best way for this organization to become a contender as quickly as possible because it's not happening with the 38-year-old Manning.
"There is no way you can learn how to play this game without playing this game," Hall of Fame quarterback Kurt Warner said during the summer. "You can learn mentally and you can grow, but you can't become the player you're going to be by sitting down and watching. You have to get experience, and you have to face things."
Raanan went on to remind readers that moving on from Manning should have happened two seasons ago when coach Ben McAdoo and general manager Jerry Reese -- both since exiled -- started the ball rolling by benching Manning in favor of Geno Smith in November.
The Giants have gone 6-16 since backtracking on that decision, including losing their first two games this season. They're also 0-2 for the sixth time in seven seasons.
Manning is not fully to blame. His supporting cast isn't enough to carry a quarterback who is merely a passenger rather than a conductor at this point in his career. But Manning hasn't done much to make the pain stop. And to keep trotting him out there on a bad team with a porous defense makes no sense -- especially with the future of the franchise, Jones, who proved in the preseason he wouldn't be completely overwhelmed, sitting on the bench.
The Giants are going nowhere this season. Fast.
Give them credit. They have at least come to this realization. It's really a shame the Giants even reached this point when just about everyone outside their facility understood where they were headed. Manning shouldn't have returned for his 16th season once the Giants drafted Jones with the No. 6 overall pick.
The real mistake was living in a fantasy world and believing this roster put together by GM Dave Gettleman, with Manning as the starter, could be a playoff team. They conjured visions of the Kansas City Chiefs with Alex Smith and Patrick Mahomes and the Green Bay Packers with Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers.
Except the Chiefs were 12-4 the season before they drafted Mahomes and a contender in his rookie year. The Packers were 10-6 before selecting Rodgers.
The Giants were 5-11 prior to taking Jones and got rid of several of their best players this offseason. To put themselves in the same category as those Chiefs or Packers teams, as Gettleman did, was delusional. Owner John Mara should have realized the ideal world in which Manning finished the season and Jones never played a snap wasn't even somewhat realistic.
The Giants basically gave Manning an ultimatum to win or else. And he didn't.
The reality is it took all of two weeks for Shurmur to realize the rookie out of Duke might give the Giants as good a chance -- or better -- to win than Manning.
The time has come to see if Jones has what it takes so the Giants can figure sooner rather than later if he's the quarterback who will make them contenders again.
Remember, Jones led the NFL in the preseason, completing 29 of 34 passes for 416 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions. He has been getting a series or two with the first team in practice to stay ready, but it's not much work.
Jones will need some help.
The Giants' receiving corps appears likely to get reinforcements soon. Sterling Shepard went through a pregame workout Sunday and seems likely (barring a setback) to play this week against the Buccaneers. Golden Tate (suspension) will be back in three weeks.
The Giants' leading receiver in the first half on Sunday was Saquon Barkley (22 yards). Manning was throwing to Cody Latimer (who was dealing with a calf injury), Bennie Fowler and Cody Core. That's not the recipe for a lot of big plays.
No wonder the Giants' longest reception by a wide receiver in the first half went for just 14 yards.
For the record, Barkley capped the opening drive with a 27-yard touchdown, but New York struggled to move the ball after that. As CBSSports.com suggests, it was nice to see Barkley garner 21 touches even with the Giants playing from behind for most of the afternoon, but it's apparent that his scoring opportunities will be limited by the ineffective offense around him.
"Still," CBS added, "Barkley's a special talent who should continue to carry the Giants -- and fantasy teams -- on his back. ..."
Recently signed receiver TJ Jones had a big game in two areas. He had three punt returns for 75 yards, including a 60-yarder late in the first half. He also caught three passes for 38 yards and a touchdown.
Latimer was knocked out of the Bills game with a concussion. Guard Kevin Zeitler has been bothered by a shoulder injury. LB Markus Golden, who had a sack, has soreness after being hit in the throat.
Shepard and Latimer are both in the protocol, but Shepard was on the practice field in a non-contact jersey Wednesday; Latimer was not at practice.
I'll have more on both wideouts via Late-Breaking Update in coming days. And more on the quarterback situation as well. ...
And finally. ... The Giants claimed tight end Kaden Smith off waivers from the 49ers, Field Yates of ESPN reports. The Giants waived running back Paul Perkins in a corresponding move. He was inactive the first two games.
The Giants made Perkins a fifth-round choice in 2016.
He played 25 games with five starts his first two seasons in New York, gaining 546 rushing yards on 153 carries. Perkins also caught 23 passes for 208 yards.
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 17 September 2019
As Associated Press sports writer Dennis Waszak Jr. wrote, "First, Sam Darnold. Then, Trevor Siemian.
"Well, now what?"
That's the question Adam Gase and the struggling and short-handed New York Jets are faced with at the quarterback spot just two games into the season.
"Obviously, it always causes a problem when a quarterback changes," running back Le'Veon Bell said after a 23-3 loss to Cleveland on Monday night. "But it wasn't how the quarterback played. We just didn't execute enough for us to get a win today."
Luke Falk, the Jets' No. 3 quarterback, was promoted a few hours before the game -- and found himself on the field as the only healthy player at the position after Siemian went down with an ankle injury in the second quarter.
"Yeah, it's been a weird week," Falk said. "A week ago, I was on the practice squad and then tonight I'm standing in front of you guys after playing in a game."
It certainly was an unexpected development, and sent the Jets into quite a quarterback quandary. They signed David Fales to be Falk's backup on Wednesday. Fales played in Gase's system in Miami.
Darnold was diagnosed with mononucleosis last week.
That was the reason Siemian got the start against the Browns. But, his Jets debut ended painfully.
Siemian threw a long incomplete pass to Ryan Griffin, but Cleveland's Myles Garrett slammed into him and fell on top of him -- and the Browns defensive end was penalized for roughing the passer.
Siemian stayed down for several minutes as trainers attended to him on the field. The quarterback was able to get up under his own power, but very gingerly and with a limp.
Gase confirmed on Tuesday that Siemian will miss the remainder of the season. Gase added that Siemian, who suffered ligament damage, will likely need surgery.
For Jets fans looking for positive QB news, Darnold was back at the team facility for the first time since his diagnosis. He's targeting Week 5 for his return.
"He's feeling better," Gase said, per the New York Daily News. "The doctors are letting us know how to proceed with him."
Gase also told reporters that linebacker Jordan Jenkins (calf) and wide receiver Demaryius Thomas (knee/hamstring) are week-to-week, while linebacker C.J. Mosley (groin) remains day-to-day (neither Thomas nor Mosley practiced Wednesday).
Meanwhile, Falk replaced Siemian with 7:58 left in the first half and helped the Jets get their first points on a 46-yard field goal by Sam Ficken, the team's fourth kicker since July.
"When we look at it, we're going to have to look at all of our guys and see who's doing their job and who is not," Gase said of his offense. "Do we have to move pieces around? Do we have to change some things up?
"I thought Luke did a really good job tonight. He started off kind of slow. I was just trying to ease him into the game a little bit. He was on the practice squad yesterday."
New York rolled up just 262 total yards, went 2 for 14 on third downs and made it into the red zone just once.
"Luke played well," Bell said. "The quarterback situation wasn't the problem. It's guys getting on the details. ... We were hurting ourselves, that's it."
That meant too many penalties -- 12 for 89 yards -- too many drops, not enough blocks and too few plays made. The Jets also allowed four sacks, and eight quarterback hits.
Offensive tackle Kelvin Beachum put a fine point on the situation
"It's frustrating, but this is the NFL," Beachum said after the, via Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News. "We're in the world of suck right now."
"We have to take a hard look at this," Gase said, "and figure out what's going on."
Of course, Gase knows what it's like to go up against the Patriots while outmanned.
"It's familiar territory for me," Gase said. "We have to get better at what we're doing. We can play so much better than this. The details of what is going on in all three phases can get a lot better, and it's going to have to. We have a long way to go. We have a lot of practice, a lot of games. It's just going back to what we started doing in the spring and making sure we're executing that way."
I'll have more on the quarterback situation and the rest of it via Late-Breaking Update as the week progresses. ...
Ficken was perfect. The kicking carousel stops for at least a week. ...
As for the guy we're all really interested in. ... Bell ran for 68 yards on 21 carries, and hauled in all 10 of his targets for a total of 61 receiving yards. He also coughed up a fumble in the fourth quarter.
Overall, as CBSSports.com notes, Bell is off to a slow start on the ground in the early stages of his 2019 redemption tour, averaging a meager 3.4 yards per rush against Buffalo and Cleveland defenses that last year ranked 16th and 28th against the run, respectively. His receiving production has been what's kept vested fantasy GMs content thus far, as the two-time All-Pro has amassed 16 receptions for 93 yards and one touchdown through his first two regular-season outings for Gang Green.
In Week 3, he'll go up against a New England defense that's been dominant in all facets to this point, ranking top 10 against both the pass and the run, while allowing three combined points to the Steelers and Dolphins. ...
Worth noting. ... Trumaine Johnson was replaced in the starting lineup by Nate Hairston, a move Gase simply said was "just our decision." Johnson entered the season as the Jets' top player at the position, and said he was "in and out" all week with the first-team defense during practice, so he was surprised he didn't play until late in the game.
"Of course I was upset," Johnson said. "But it's not about me. I was supporting my guys out there today."
Gase said Johnson's benching was not disciplinary.
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 17 September 2019
As NBCSports.com's Scott Bair noted, the Raiders' hot start cooled off quickly and eliminated hopes of upsetting the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday at Oakland Coliseum.
MVP quarterback Patrick Mahomes put things out of reach with 28 unanswered points in the second quarter to lock down a 28-10 victory over the Raiders.
The Silver and Black split back-to-back home games and head into a long road stretch at 1-1, following a disappointing performance that proved they don't match up with the NFL's elite.
"I tip my hat to the Chiefs," head coach Jon Gruden said. "They made some great plays, a barrage of plays, in about a five-minute period that really turned this game around. It was a difficult game on a short week for us. I'm proud of our team. We did not quit. We turned the ball over a couple of times in the second half. We had some pre-snap penalties on both sides that are inexcusable."
But there were some positives.
As Bair suggested, Josh Jacobs is an excellent player. That much is clear through two games, with the first-round draft pick showing great burst, vision and toughness despite being a defensive focal point. The Chiefs worked hard to slow him down and he still churned out 99 yards on just 12 carries, buoyed by a 51-yard jaunt in the second half.
ESPN.com's Paul Gutierrez believes Jacobs' workload will be monitored.
The first-round pick, who was never a true feature back at Alabama (he never carried the ball more than 20 times in any college game and had just 251 career carries), had 12 touches against the Chiefs, a week after having 24 against the Broncos.
Jacobs cramped up during the second quarter, and might've generated some offense during a key moment in this game. The attack fell flat then while the Chiefs surged ahead.
Subsequent reporting indicates Jacobs is dealing with a groin injury.
But Derek Carr couldn't sustain his hot start, and sputtered some with Jacobs out and Tyrell Williams missing some time with a hip issue. While the Raiders longed to move on completely from Antonio Brown, his loss can still be felt in the air attack. The Raiders don't have a capable No. 2 receiver at this point, with Ryan Grant struggling in a starting role.
Tight end Darren Waller had six catches for 63 yards but should've been targeted even more. Hunter Renfrow made some rookie mistakes, and the backs aren't involved much in the passing game.
Carr's interception in the end zone, on first-and-goal no less, was a case of the quarterback trying to do too much. The second was a bad pass interference call that was less Carr's fault. The quarterback must be better, however, over the course of four quarters.
After the first quarter, Carr was 17-for-26 for 127 yards and two picks.
That's not good enough.
All of this matters to Jon Gruden. Before the regular season began, the coach made it clear that he wants to get the ball down the field.
As noted by Vic Tafur of the Athletic.com, the Raiders had zero passes on Sunday that traveled more than 25 yards past the line of scrimmage. Making that performance more glaring was that the opponent -- the Chiefs -- had eight of them.
"We called some shots and obviously the ball didn't go down the field," Gruden said Monday, via Tafur. Gruden acknowledged that Kansas City's pass rush put a crimp in those plans. "It's a little bit more challenging than just calling up shots."
Right, but not a single pass thrown more than 25 yards down the field when Gruden was dialing up plays that called for them? As Profootballtalk.com Mike Florio suggested, "It sounds like the kind of thing that could make Gruden wonder whether he's got the right guy in position to turn Gruden's wish into reality, especially if Carr doesn't start finding a way to get the ball down the field. ..."
On the positive side of things, Carr did surpass late Hall of Famer Ken Stabler as the franchise's all-time passing yards leader.
Carr, who was 23-of-38 for 198 yards with a TD and the two picks, finished the day sitting at 19,196 career yards, while Stabler had 19,078 for Oakland.
And with Grant coming up short, what about the WR2?
As Fansided.com's Pete Hernandez III noted, JJ.J Nelson flashed his speed in the preseason but hasn't seen regular-season action due to an ankle injury. Keelan Doss, the hometown hero, still has plenty left to show.
Will any of the above break out and solidify themselves in the number two receiver role? Can we realistically expect them to?
It's early in the season, but the hope is that it does not become a roster hole for very much longer. Williams and Waller will be key this season, but those two alone can't carry the receiving corps. The next man must step up, but who will it be?
Getting back to Jacobs and Williams, there is no indication of how bad their injuries are as Gruden said he was waiting on updates on Monday. Offensive tackle Trent Brown (knee) and returner Dwayne Harris (ankle) also are dealing with injuries.
Williams played 61 of 65 snaps, catching five passes for 46 yards and a touchdown. Jacobs played 30 snaps.
Williams intends to play Sunday against the Vikings despite his painful hip pointer, NFL Network's Tom Pelissero reports, but I'll have more on the status of both via Late-Breaking Update in coming days. ...
And finally. ... The Raiders did see the return of offensive guard Richie Incognito on Monday. He rejoined the team after his suspension ended.
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 17 September 2019
Missing three of their top five receivers, the Philadelphia Eagles were simply undermanned against the Atlanta Falcons.
Carson Wentz almost led them to victory, anyway.
Wentz overcame early struggles and a couple poor throws, absorbed several hits and watched a perfectly thrown pass slip through Nelson Agholor's fingers instead of going for a go-ahead 60-yard touchdown with under two minutes left in a 24-20 loss.
He connected with Agholor for 43 yards on fourth-and-14 later in the drive, but his last pass on fourth down to Zach Ertz was a half-yard short at the Falcons 9.
Now the Eagles (1-1) have to get ready for the Lions (1-0-1) with uncertainty surrounding their receiving corps.
DeSean Jackson played only 11 snaps before a groin injury sent him to the sideline. Alshon Jeffery played only six before a calf injury took him out. Tight end Dallas Goedert didn't play because of a calf injury.
That forced the Eagles to use rookie J.J. Arcega-Whiteside and reserve Mack Hollins at the receiver spots along with Agholor, and tight end Ertz played every snap. Head coach Doug Pederson had to scrap his plan to use two tight ends in several formations and altered his play calling.
"If you were to look at my call sheet this morning, you would see a lot of scratch outs on plays and different things," Pederson said Monday. "If you watch the game as we did this morning, Zach is telling guys where to go. Nelly is telling... we're moving guys. Our pieces are moving and we're putting guys in positions that didn't practice in those positions during the week and still had a chance at the end of the game. Took the lead and had a chance."
Jackson has an abdominal strain that will keep him out for about two weeks, Tim McManus of ESPN reports.
With two games in 10 days, the timing is not good for Philadelphia. The Eagles play the Lions on Sunday and the Packers the following Thursday.
The Eagles also could see Jeffery sit out those two games.
If that's the case, Carson Wentz would have to rely on Agholor, Hollins and Arcega-Whiteside as his wideouts.
Seems like a big if.
Pederson told reporters on Wednesday that Jeffery, Jackson, Goedert and Corey Clement are day-to-day.
Clement (shoulder) had an MRI Monday and is likely out a week or two, NFL Network's Ian Rapoport was told. The team will know more later in the week, but that's the early read.
Defensive tackle Tim Jernigan suffered a foot injury that's considered more serious.
Given all this, they could end up making a move at receiver. That said, Establish the Run's Adam Levitan notes that Arcega-Whiteside was in on 74-of-80 snaps. His production could rise.
Stay tuned. I'll obviously have more on all the walking wounded here as the week progresses.
Worth noting: Instead of a full-blown practice on Wednesday, the Eagles scheduled a walk-through in part because of injuries and in part because they have a Thursday game next week. They've done this some in the past, as well, including late last season. ...
Other notes of interest. ... Rookie running back Miles Sanders has a team-high 21 carries for only 53 yards, an average of 2.5 yards per attempt. He appears to be looking to run outside the tackles and isn't finding the open holes in the middle quickly enough.
Jordan Howard averaged a team-high 7.3 yards per carry, finishing with 44 yards. He also reached down to make a nice grab on one of his two catches for 11 yards. Howard ran hard, was tough to bring down, and could see an increased workload.
The Eagles are having success converting third downs on offense. They were 9 of 18 against the Falcons and are 20 of 35 (57.1 percent) through two games. They were 2 of 3 on fourth downs in Atlanta and are 3 of 5 overall.
And finally here. ... Getting back to the quarterback, teammates gushed about Wentz's leadership and grit on a night otherwise defined by the rash of injuries that hit the Eagles. Wentz absorbed 10 QB hits and was sacked three times. One particularly fierce blow courtesy of Deion Jones had Wentz grabbing at his ribs as he left the field. Another sent him into the blue medical tent to be tested for a concussion.
It served as a notice that for all of the changes Wentz made this offseason in the name of health and career longevity, when things get muddy, he's still going to get knee-deep in the slop.
"I'm going to do everything I can to protect myself, to get the ball out, to play and stay healthy, but [Sunday] was the way it was and we battled and we fought and I did the same, and that's just football," Wentz said. "At the end of the day, I'm not going to lose too much sleep over it."
Game 1 against the Washington Redskins was a much smoother ride. The Eagles' offensive line held up, Wentz got the ball out quickly and he absorbed little punishment. It was a performance that suggested he might be turning over a new leaf, allowing the system and his playmakers to work for him rather than taking on much of the heavy lifting himself.
But when he was stripped of some of those playmakers and the system wasn't operating with the same efficiency, Wentz dove head-first into the slobber-knocker affair.
"Obviously, this is a physical, violent game. Quarterbacks are going to get hit. We saw two quarterbacks in the league yesterday get hit, or one get hit and one on a throw," said Pederson, referencing the injuries to Ben Roethlisberger and Drew Brees. "So it's part of the game."
As McManus put it, "Two games, two different styles of play from Wentz. Both can come in handy, but both can also cause indigestion.
"And that's the deal, it seems, when it comes to Wentz. He's going to continue to toe the line, and at times cross it -- the threat of bodily harm and recent injury history be damned."
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 17 September 2019
Big Ben will be shut down for the rest of 2019.
The Pittsburgh Steelers announced Monday that quarterback Ben Roethlisberger will undergo surgery to his injured right elbow, will be placed on injured reserve and is out for the season.
Surgery was deemed necessary after an MRI on Roethlisberger's elbow Sunday night. The surgery is expected to take place this week, per the team.
The season-ending news is a brutal blow for the 0-2 Steelers, who hoped to bounce back after missing the playoffs in 2018.
As NFL.com's Kevin Patra notes, Roethlisberger repeatedly tried to shake out his injured elbow during the first half of Sunday's home loss versus the Seattle Seahawks. He was taken out of the contest in the second half, replaced by second-year quarterback Mason Rudolph.
The elbow injury that sideswiped Big Ben's 2019 season will mark the first games missed by the quarterback since Week 7 of the 2016 season. The last time the Steelers did not have Roethlisberger for 10-plus games was 2003 (Tommy Maddox was the starting QB and the Steelers went 6-10).
Roethlisberger is coming off of a 2018 campaign in which he led the NFL in passing yards (5,129).
Roethlisberger signed a two-year extension with the Steelers during the offseason and is under contract through the 2021 season. For a 37-year-old quarterback who has contemplated retirement in the past, it will be interesting to see what the future holds for the 16-year pro.
With Big Ben out for the year, the Steelers will turn to Rudolph full-time.
The 2018 third-round pick saw his first pro-action in Sunday's loss, finishing 12-of-19 passing for 112 yards, 5.9 yards per attempt, two touchdown tosses, one interception (which went through the hands of Donte Moncrief) for a 92.4 QB rating and took no sacks in two quarters of play.
As the Steelers head into the unknown sans Roethlisberger for more than a few games for the first time since his rookie season in 2004, the positive is that Rudolph didn't look overwhelmed in his debut.
A personnel man for an opposing team told NFL Network's Mike Garafolo on Monday that Rudolph's display could provide a modicum of hope for the Steelers.
"Obviously it's a huge loss because of (Roethlisberger's) experience and what he's done, but with the way Mason Rudolph played in the preseason and yesterday, they'll be in better shape than a lot of other teams would be," the source told Garafolo.
Rudolph looked comfortable managing the pocket Sunday, displayed poise and ability to get to his second read. There was still some roughness around the edges, but the hope is with regular practice and playing time moving forward, Rudolph could become a potential long-term answer for the Steelers.
The second-year signal-caller already received rave reviews from teammates after the loss for how he handled the situation.
"He handled himself really well," guard David DeCastro said. "Really proud of him, how he came in ready to go. He knew the playbook, had a big command, and he mixed some of the cadences, too. That was impressive."
Roethlisberger released a statement Monday saying he believes he can play, and play better than ever, until his contract expires after the 2021 season.
"I've been informed that I need season ending surgery on my elbow to continue playing football at the level I expect," Roethlisberger said. "This is shocking and heartbreaking for me, to miss this much of a season and feel like I am letting down so many people. I can only trust God's plan, but I am completely determined to battle through this challenge and come back stronger than ever next season. The Steelers committed three years to me this offseason and I fully intend to honor my contract and reward them with championship level play. I will do all I can to support Mason and the team this season to help win games. I love this game, my teammates, the Steelers organization and fans, and I feel in my heart I have a lot left to give."
Roethlisberger has mused at times about retiring soon, but this statement makes clear that he doesn't intend to walk away just yet. He thinks he has unfinished business, and wants to handle that business next season.
With Roethlisberger done for the year, the Steelers will need more impressive play from Rudolph to turn around their season in a hurry. ...
In a related note. ... Paxton Lynch was signed to the practice squad Tuesday.
A 2016 first-round pick of the Broncos, Lynch did not play well in Denver and was released at the start of the 2018 season. He never caught on with anyone that year but signed with the Seahawks early this year and spent the offseason in Seattle. Now Lynch will see if he can give the Steelers a viable option as a backup to Rudolph.
At the moment, Rudolph's backup is undrafted rookie Devlin Hodges. ...
The injury news wasn't all bad for the Steelers.
On Monday, James Conner said on 93.7 The Fan that tests showed no tears or any significant damage. On Wednesday, Conner told reporters he wasn't sure if he would practice to open the week, but the running back remained confident he'll be ready for Sunday against the San Francisco 49ers.
Conner, who became the Steelers' starter during Le'Veon Bell's season-long holdout last year, hasn't been able to do much this year. Through two games he has 21 carries for 54 yards and seven catches for 56 yards.
I'll have more on his status via Late-Breaking Update in coming days. ...
Meanwhile, Joe Rutter of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review reports that Tomlin seemed baffled by the recent struggles of Moncrief.
"I don't know what to make of it," Tomlin said Tuesday. "I know we haven't been able to depend on him to this point. He's got some challenges and we have some challenges moving forward."
Through two games, Moncrief has three receptions for 7 yards. He also has five drops, which is hardly what they were hoping for when he signed a two-year, $9 million contract this offseason.
He was pulled from last week's game after a drop led to an interception, after four drops the week before against the Patriots.
Tomlin was asked if the veteran would get a chance to work through it and replied: "We'll see."
Turning to James Washington (Rudolph's college teammate) and rookie Diontae Johnson would be the obvious moves if they decide they can no longer trust Moncrief.
I'll be watching for more on that as well. ...
And finally. ... The Steelers acquired safety Minkah Fitzpatrick in a trade with the Dolphins. Pittsburgh gave up 2020 first-round pick, a 2020 fifth-round pick and a 2021 sixth-round pick in exchange for Fitzpatrick, a 2020 fourth-round pick and a 2021 seventh-round pick.
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 17 September 2019
A 41-17 victory over the Bengals on Sunday completed the 49ers' long stay on the road and left them in rare air heading back to the West Coast. They're 2-0 for the first time since 2012 and looking very much like a contender.
Jimmy Garoppolo tied his career high with three touchdown passes, Matt Breida ran for 121 yards, and San Francisco pulled off one big play after another while piling up 572 yards for the first time in seven years. The 49ers have opened with back-to-back road wins for the first time since 1989, when Joe Montana's crew was coming off its second Super Bowl win over the Bengals.
They have a fondness for the Buckeye State.
Rather than return to the West Coast after their opening 31-17 win in Tampa Bay, the 49ers headed to Youngstown, where they worked out on a soccer field, enjoyed a local ice cream shop and rested at a Holiday Inn.
"The week in Youngstown definitely paid off," said Garoppolo, who was 17 of 25 for 297 yards. "There was extra time to be around each other and talk about things."
After an unproductive game at Tampa Bay that marked his return from knee surgery, Garoppolo was much sharper the second time around, taking full advantage of numerous breakdowns in the Bengals' coverages. The offense dominated all-around, piling up 259 yards rushing and averaging 6.2 per carry.
"It was an amazing feeling, going out and knowing you can run the ball down their throats," said Breida, who averaged 10.1 yards per carry.
Marquise Goodwin went unguarded for a 38-yard touchdown catch on their opening series, and Raheem Mostert turned a screen pass into an easy 39-yard score. The 49ers piled up 291 yards in the first half -- more than they had in the opener -- with three plays of at least 34 yards.
They had the look of a team excited to be heading home.
"To be on the road for 10 days -- that adds up," head coach Kyle Shanahan said. "I thought our guys were juiced today."
According to ESPN.com's Nick Wagoner, there are many things that can make Garoppolo's return from the torn left ACL that cost him 13 games in 2018 easier, but Sunday's game offered a resounding reminder that Shanahan can play a key role in making that happen.
"It makes my job very easy," Garoppolo said. "His mind is incredible, just how he thinks. He's two plays ahead while we're running the current play and it makes everything so easy. And when he gets in a rhythm like that, it just puts everyone in a good position."
A week after a disappointing offensive performance against Tampa Bay in which Shanahan didn't ask much of Garoppolo, the head coach -- along with assistants Mike LaFleur and Mike McDaniel -- dialed up a creative, balanced game plan.
While Shanahan didn't hesitate to reach into his bag of tricks -- including a throwback pass from receiver Dante Pettis for a 16-yard gain -- the Niners really didn't do all that much different. They just did what they ordinarily do extraordinarily well. "When he gets in a rhythm, whatever personnel is out there -- even if we haven't game planned to go that many plays in a row -- he just keeps it out there and he keeps it going," fullback Kyle Juszczyk said. "He likes to keep his foot on their throat."
Avoiding third down or third-and-long allowed Shanahan to avoid becoming one-dimensional. Garoppolo and the offense reaped the benefits.
"When you stay in front of the chains like we did today, Kyle gets to use his whole book, which is dangerous for everybody else in the NFL," right tackle Mike McGlinchey said. "We controlled the chains today, we controlled the ball, we controlled the line of scrimmage, and that's all we want to do. We were able to stay in our base stuff and didn't have to panic or anything like that and that's why we had a lot of success today is because we came out on first and second down and executed well and got the job done."
That's not to say that Garoppolo didn't offer encouraging signs that he's recovered from the torn ACL and poised for further improvement. In a day full of big plays, none stood out more than the first offensive snap of the second half.
On the play, Garoppolo took the snap and dropped back as the Bengals generated some rare pressure. As Cincinnati defensive tackle Ryan Glasgow bore down on Garoppolo, he took a step forward and fired a dart to receiver Deebo Samuel, who gained 39 yards on the play. Garoppolo took the hit, bounced back up and the Niners scored six plays later.
In a day full of bigger, fancier plays, it was a notable moment in Garoppolo's recovery.
"It's good to get hit, I guess," Garoppolo said. "It sounds weird to say, but it's moving in the right direction."
With Shanahan at the helm, Garoppolo's progress might accelerate faster than expected. ...
Of some concern for fantasy owners. ... George Kittle saw his usage take a big hit in this one, as Garoppolo looked to his wideouts and running backs for production in a blowout win.
As CBSSports.com notes, the 25-year-old tight end still posted decent yardage while catching three of three targets, most of which came on a big 36-yard gain in which the tight end stiff armed through two defenders before being brought down. He finished the day with 54 yards.
CBS continued, Kittle remains a high-upside tight end due to his tremendous athleticism, but if the rest of the 49ers' offensive units continue to click like they did Sunday, then they may not need to lean heavily on their star tight end as much.
It is also worth remembering that Kittle had two touchdowns called back on penalties Week 1, so he remains one of the team's better red-zone options, despite having zero scores through two games. ...
Mostert gained 83 yards on 13 carries and added three catches for 68 yards and the above-mentioned touchdown. With Tevin Coleman (ankle) sidelined, Mostert and Breida have had a pretty even split with 28 touches for Breida and 26 for Mostert and both enjoying a big day Sunday.
That said, for fantasy players curious about Jeff Wilson Jr. "vulturing" TDs at goal line, this is what Shanahan said on Monday: "I wouldn't say he's our designated red-zone back, but that was how we planned going into the game.... We tried to do that when we got down there."
Next up is a struggling Steelers squad. Both should continue to be busy. ...
Meanwhile, on a day when not much else went wrong for the 49ers, they lost left tackle Joe Staley to a broken left fibula late in Sunday's game.
The 49ers are expecting Staley to miss six to eight weeks with the injury. But, after the win Sunday, they were optimistic enough that it could be on the lower end of that time frame that they don't believe Staley will land on injured reserve. The early expectation is that the injury will not require surgery.
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 17 September 2019
With Pete Carroll at his side and the rest of the team gathered around him, Russell Wilson stood in the middle of a raucous visitor's locker room inside Heinz Field, minutes after his Seattle Seahawks had improved to 2-0 by escaping with a 28-26 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers.
He held the game ball in his hands, ready to give it to Carroll in celebration of his milestone victory -- his 100th with the Seahawks, counting regular season and playoffs.
But before Wilson mentioned that feat, he made note of another reason why this was a special day for Carroll. He had no sooner told the team that it was the coach's 68th birthday than several players began mobbing Carroll, dousing him with water and Gatorade.
As ESPN.com's Brady Henderson reported, Carroll's milestone win was similar to the Seahawks' season-opening victory and so many others they've had in his tenure, which is to say they overcame a less-than-ideal start and a whole lot of self-inflicted wounds.
The Seahawks committed 10 penalties Sunday, not counting a few more that were declined or offset. They gave up four first-half sacks of Wilson, necessitating a shift to a quick passing attack that got the ball out of his hands before the pass rush could get to him. They came out on the losing end of the turnover battle thanks to a pair of lost fumbles, including one late in the fourth quarter that set up an easy Pittsburgh touchdown when the Seahawks were trying to run out the clock with their four-minute offense.
They eventually did run out the clock after getting the ball back following Pittsburgh's score, but they had to convert a fourth-and-1 from the Steelers' 33-yard line first.
If teams take on the personality of their head coach, then maybe there was a reason why -- to a man -- every player asked about that fourth-down play had zero doubt that Chris Carson would convert it.
The Seahawks have made the playoffs twice under Carroll after starting 0-2, including last season. The only other time they've started 2-0 before this season? In 2013, when they won the only Super Bowl championship in franchise history.
To be sure, no team can expect to keep winning despite making the types of mistakes the Seahawks have overcome in their first two games. On Sunday, they caught a big break when an injury sidelined Ben Roethlisberger for the entire second half.
But here's what matters most: they're 2-0 with a great chance to get to 3-0 this week at home against the New Orleans Saints, who are dealing with an injury to their own quarterback, Drew Brees.
How does 2-0 feel, birthday boy?
"A lot better than last year," Carroll said. "A lot better than last year, I'll tell you that. It's great to be 2-0 and have gone on the road in a place like this against a quarterback and a team like that."
Other notes of interest. ... Wilson said he told DK Metcalf at halftime that he was going to help the Seahawks win the game.
Metcalf had a rough first half with one catch on four targets and a facemask penalty that forced Jason Myers to attempt a 58-yard field goal that he missed. Sure enough, Metcalf's 28-yard touchdown on well-placed deep ball from Wilson put Seattle up by nine points midway through the fourth quarter.
He finished with three catches for 71 yards on seven targets.
Said Wilson: "He kept battling. I told him I'd keep coming to him. He's a star. He's going to be. He works at it."
By the way, Wilson completed 29 of 35 passes Sunday for a career-best 82.85 percent completion rate. He reached that mark with a lot of quick throws, especially in the second half. Carroll gave credit to offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer for an adjustment the Seahawks made in going to more of a quick passing game to counter the Steelers' pass-rush, which notched four sacks of Wilson in the first half.
Wilson wasn't sacked in the second half.
"This was classic taking-what-they're giving," Carroll said. "We had to put Russ really in command of the rhythm of the game and all the quick stuff, he did a great job on. He did a great job throwing the seam routes to [Will Dissly] for the two touchdown passes. Other than that, I thought Russ' rhythm really picked up and the sacks went away in the second half and really cleaned things up."
Wilson's three touchdowns Sunday give him 201 for his career. According to ESPN Stats and Information, Wilson is the fifth-fastest player to reach that mark in terms of games played. The top six: Dan Marino (89), Aaron Rodgers (99), Peyton Manning (106), Brett Favre (107), Wilson (114) and Tom Brady (116).
On Wednesday, Wilson was named NFC Offensive Player of the Week. ...
Tyler Lockett pulled in 10 passes, a new single-game high for the fifth-year receiver.
With two more touchdowns against the Steelers, Dissly now has four touchdowns in six career games. ...
The Seahawks had nine explosive plays in Pittsburgh (runs of 12 or more yards, completions of 16 or more), including a 28-yard Wilson touchdown pass to Metcalf and a 37-yard Rashaad Penny touchdown run. That's an improvement for Seattle, which had five explosive plays in Week 1.
Carson said he appreciated the trust the Seahawks showed in him by calling his number on fourth-and-1 after his two fumbles, adding: "I've got to own it. If I'm going to be the guy around here, I've can't make those mistakes, so it's something I've got to correct." Carson also fumbled in the Seahawks' opener. His second fumble Sunday was the result of a botched handoff with Wilson.
On the injury front. ... Receiver David Moore (shoulder), missed the first two games, practiced well last week and may be back Week 3, Carroll said.
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 17 September 2019
As Tampa Bay Times beat writer Rick Stroud suggested, only through a keyhole have we viewed the Bucs offense under Bruce Arians, the full scope constricted in the first two games by the disappearance of the tight ends in the passing game and a slow start by Breshad Perriman.
A year ago, the Bucs led the NFL in passing offense with 320.3 yards per game. But so far, they are 25th in the league with an average of 181.5.
There are some obvious reasons for the regression. It's a new system for quarterback Jameis Winston and his receivers, putting a lot more emphasis on involving the running backs in the passing game. The big chunk plays just haven't happened as often.
There's only one football and the passing game runs through receivers Mike Evans and Chris Godwin, as it should.
Indeed, one of the real emerging stars in the NFL, O.J. Howard simply isn't playing well. The 2017 first round pick from Alabama has struggled blocking and receiving.
Against the Niners, he had a catchable pass deflect off his hands for an interception. Then he lost a fumble.
Last Thursday night, Howard wasn't much better. He got abused by the Panthers' Gerald McCoy, who beat a Howard block to drop running back Ronald Jones for a 2-yard loss. He also had an offensive pass interference penalty and a false start.
Howard was expected to have an expanded role in the passing game with DeSean Jackson traded to the Eagles and receiver Adam Humphries signing with the Titans. But he's sixth in targets this season, same as last season. He has four catches for 32 yards on five targets, with a long of 16-yards.
Why isn't Howard more involved?
"You'd probably have to ask him," Arians said. "He's got so much talent and he can play a heck of a lot better than he's playing."
In the Week 1 loss to San Francisco, Howard fumbled and allowed a catchable pass to deflect off his hands and to a defender for an interception.
Though Howard was a full participant in practice this week, he was listed on the injury report with ankle injury, but Arians said that played no role in Howard not seeing much involvement.
"No, no," Arians said. "That's just the way the game goes."
Also, Howard is sharing to a degree with Cameron Brown, who had a touchdown reception erased twice on the same drive against the 49ers due to holding calls on tackle Demar Dotson.
Brate went from playing 31 snaps against the Niners (44 percent) to only 18 versus the Panthers (28 percent).
Arians sounds slightly more optimistic on Tuesday when discussing Howard.
"The balls will come," he said. "We don't dictate who gets the ball, the defense does, so sometimes it will spread around for different people every week."
They certainly hope the balls will come.
Howard's rookie deal won't expire for three more seasons, including a club option. Brate is in the second year of a 6-year, $40.8-million contract. But none of his $6-million salary for 2020 is guaranteed, making him a likely candidate for a trade or release down the road.
The speedy free agent was supposed to replace Jackson as the receiver who can take the top off the defense. But so far, Winston has had no success throwing to him. Despite nine targets, Perriman has only two catches for 10 yards. He also let a perfectly thrown pass slip through both hands in the end zone in Thursday's 20-14 win over Carolina. That drive ended with Matt Gay missing a field goal attempt.
If Winston gets that TD and a second that Evans only got one hand on, he could've had a huge passing day at Carolina.
"Yeah, I thought he was going to -- that was a great throw into the end zone and I thought he'd make that catch," Arians said of Perriman's whiff. "He slipped on a couple routes, but we're going to keep targeting him because he was wide open (on a different play) and we underthrew him. It is some new chemistry but it was funny because in the spring it just clicked automatically. Jameis never missed him deep. But in real bullets it's different."
Meanwhile, Evans makes the passing game go. But nobody plays off the attention he receives from the defense better than Godwin. He had eight catches for 121 yards and a touchdown on nine targets in Carolina and leads the team with 11 for 174 yards.
"Obviously, you saw his stats, but he blocked as good as any wide receiver I've ever seen in a game, blocking linebackers, defensive ends, safeties," Arians said. "He was a huge part of our running game."
Suffice to say the Bucs have never had a receiving tandem like Evans and Godwin.
Arians decided to give the play-calling duties to Byron Leftwich in part because he expected it to help him manage the game better.
But that really hasn't happened. The Bucs penalties have piled up, but some are on the operation of the game. The Bucs had 12 men in the huddle Thursday, turning a third-and-1 into third-and-5 which they failed to pick up. Then in what would've been a cataclysmic mistake, the Bucs called back to back timeouts, turning a fourth and 2 at the Tampa Bay 3-yard line into a fourth and 1 at the 2-yard line.
They'll be looking to get that all dialed in going up against the struggling Giants, who made the switch to rookie Daniel Jones at quarterback this week. ...
On the injury front. ... Arians said rookie linebacker Devin White has a Grade 1 MCL sprain and will be "day to day." He is walking around. The initial diagnosis was also a sprain. He has not been ruled out against the Giants but there is the possibility he misses some time.
Winston (foot) showed up on the injury report, but practiced fully Wednesday and will start.
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 17 September 2019
According to Associated Press sports writer Teresa M. Walker, Marcus Mariota finds himself needing a strong performance on a short week to help erase a struggling performance in the Titans' home opener.
The No. 2 overall pick in 2015 may be with his fourth offensive coordinator and fifth play caller, but he too often looked indecisive. He held the ball too long in being sacked four times. He missed check-down options with receivers wide open. He got lucky a Colts defender couldn't catch an interception thrown to him.
The costliest mistakes came in the fourth quarter of a 19-17 loss to the Indianapolis Colts. Mariota was sacked early, costing 7 yards before Cairo Santos missed a 45-yard field goal wide left.
Then the quarterback being paid $20.9 million on the option of his rookie contract had the ball with 67 seconds left needing a field goal. Yet Mariota spiked the ball on third down with 15 seconds left, and he couldn't connect with rookie A.J. Brown on fourth down, sealing the loss.
"Looking back on it, should have had a different play instead of clocking it, and that's totally on me," Mariota said.
Head coach Mike Vrabel said Monday that a lot of things go into negative plays on offense, which they will try to fix as quickly as possible. The Titans (1-1) visit Jacksonville on Thursday night, so Mariota and team have a quick opportunity to bounce back.
"I'm looking forward to the challenge, and we've got to get one back," Mariota said.
The Titans have converted 3 of 20 on third downs on offense through two games; 13 have been at least 10 yards or longer.
In addition, Mariota already has been sacked eight times through two games after being sacked a career-worst 42 times last season. He missed three starts due to injuries.
"That's tough sledding," Vrabel said.
Still, as Walker went on to suggest, there's a reason the Titans haven't signed him to a new deal yet, needing to see their quarterback take control of the offense.
Mariota was a perfect 6 of 6 in the second half of the Titans' opening win in Cleveland, with two TD passes in the fourth quarter. In the final 15 minutes against the Colts, Mariota was 4 of 10 for 32 yards.
He has to get rid of the ball a little bit quicker to his receivers when the offensive line is giving up pressure, as the Titans did against Indianapolis.
Better production on first and second downs would give the Titans more options on third down. Yet Adam Humphries, their big free agent signee in March, has only three catches for 4 yards so far. He was signed to give them another slot option for underneath throws.
Tajae Sharpe had a chance to convert a first down for the Titans, but failed to do so on third-and-10 with 4:28 left in the game. Sharpe picked up nine yards but simply had to fall forward to convert the first down instead of taking a step back. The Colts took over after a 45-yard punt by Brett Kern.
Mariota found Corey Davis a couple of times, including a precise throw on play-action that gained 25 yards. ...
On a more positive note. ... The big question about 2015 Heisman Trophy winner Derrick Henry was whether the running back could start this season as he finished 2018, piling up 625 yards rushing in December for the best month by anyone in the NFL last season.
He's doing that, ranked sixth in the NFL for most yards from scrimmage. He's also averaging 4.9 yards per carry with 165 yards rushing. In addition, his 87 yards through the air is buoyed by one long catch and run but there's been nothing fluky about his performance as a rusher.
As Yahoo's Matt Harmon put it, "Henry has 39 touches thus far. Backup Dion Lewis has just 12. No Titans receiver or tight end has more than nine grabs. It's painfully apparent that the Titans' promise will be kept. Henry will indeed be the engine of this offense."
Harmon went on to explain what you get from Henry isn't as flashy from a box score perspective as other running backs. While he may be the engine of the Titans offense, this is still a slow unit that doesn't have much scoring upside. Henry will have to do the bulk of the work himself while he's not attached to a dynamic passing game.
He also doesn't get much receiving work himself, which makes his floor problematic.
However, all that is more than tolerable from your second fantasy running back. As long as the Titans defense continues to look like a strong swarming unit, their top running backs will remain an every-week start. ...
Guard Kevin Pamphile now has missed the first two games with an injured knee after winning the job. Center Ben Jones was added to the injury report hours before kickoff with an unspecified illness. Monday's injury report featured 11 Titans, including Mariota (quad) and Brown (knee), for a walk-through after the franchise's hottest game since 1999.
Vrabel said at his Tuesday press conference that Mariota would work fully Tuesday. He did. So did Brown. That should mean both will be good to go against the Jaguar.
One last note here. ... The Titans have won four straight and six of their last seven against the Jaguars, who will have rookie Gardner Minshew at quarterback.
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 17 September 2019
As ESPN.com's John Keim wrote: "It's become an annual tradition in Washington: Proclaim this to be the year the defense finally threatens to become a top-10 unit.
"The other part of the tradition has been this: It doesn't happen."
The most disappointing part of the Redskins' 0-2 start following Sunday's 31-21 loss to the Dallas Cowboys has been the play of the defense.
In two games, they have allowed three passing touchdowns of at least 50 yards.
Beyond the defense, the rushing attack is struggling.
In two games the Redskins have run for a combined 75 yards on 30 carries, a terrible amount for a team that must control the ball. They ran 17 times for 47 yards Sunday. Their line and tight ends are inconsistent blockers and they also hurt themselves Sunday by falling behind in the second half and having to abandon any pretense of running the ball.
This isn't about whether Adrian Peterson was active; it's about a run game that lacks a go-to play and often tries to do way too much.
During the Fox broadcast Sunday, there was mention that head coach Jay Gruden struggled with Peterson in this offense because he was a north-south runner.
Gruden, though, on Monday said, "It's good to have a north-south runner. It's good to have variety with Wendell Smallwood and Chris Thompson. They can do some of the other stuff. Adrian did a good job toward the end of the year with some of the east-west stuff where you have to stick your foot in the ground and go north eventually. It's good that we have that because our play-actions are right off those same looks, north-south.
"Those things will open up for us once we get our north-south game going a little better."
And when they start blocking better.
As the Associated Press pointed out, most of the conversation on the Redskins' offensive line has been about missing left tackle Trent Williams, who has been a no-show in a dispute with the team. But right tackle Morgan Moses, who may not be 100 percent, struggled against the Cowboys, and along with right guard Brandon Scherff has been a source of some costly penalties
"We talk about their movement all the time," Gruden said. "Until you have to go block their movement, their stunts, and you have to react and stick your foot in the ground and react and then bounce off the stunt and try to get the other guy, it's easier said than done sometimes. ... A couple holding calls here and there may be understandable, but we've had way too many the first two weeks."
The passing game has been much better than expected thanks in large part to Case Keenum and rookie receiver Terry McLaurin.
Keenum has thrown for 601 yards and five touchdown passes with no interceptions through two games. But there's room for more.
Keenum played especially well in the first half of the opener against the Eagles, but he didn't have any such half against Dallas. Keenum missed on a shot to McLaurin on the opening play. He wasn't as wide open as a week ago vs. the Eagles, but it was enough where they had a chance with a better throw. He failed to see wide-open players down the field -- including Paul Richardson, who had no one near him on a key third-down play in the fourth quarter -- on two occasions, though it's possible on Richardson's play that a collapsing pocket prevented that from happening.
Keenum was forced off his first or second option quite often.
Falling behind in the second half and needing to abandon the running game hasn't helped, and there's more that can be done to open up the field.
"We'll keep getting better at the long ball, but everybody is different," Keenum said. "I overthrew Terry on the deep ball but found some other guys. That's what the NFL season is about. It's about progressing and finding what you do well to be better at it."
It doesn't help that tight end Jordan Reed has missed three weeks with a concussion. His status for Week 3 remains up in the air. ...
In general, Keim believes the passing game design, helped by new offensive coordinator Kevin O'Connell is a plus.
Moving forward, that will help the Redskins, especially once rookie Dwayne Haskins knows more of the offense and can run their entire playbook. Once that happens, it should be an offense well-suited to Haskins' strengths. The problem is, Washington fans will have to sit through a lot of torture before the organization feels Haskins is ready to play.
But O'Connell already has some players excited about the future of the passing attack. ...
A few final notes here. ... With Guice out, the Redskins will kick the tires on a couple of RBs. Ex-Broncos and Jets running back De'Angelo Henderson is working out with Washington, per NFL Network's Mike Garafolo. The Redskins will also work out running back Josh Ferguson.
Meanwhile, Peterson, inactive a week ago, moved up to fifth place on the all-time rushing touchdown list after his 1-yard score in the second quarter of Sunday's loss, snapping a tie with Jim Brown.
Peterson, running out of I-formation, was stuffed for no gain on first down but muscled through for the score on second down for the 107th TD of his career.
"Man, it's a blessing," Peterson said. "It just continues to show me how blessed I am to continue to play this game in year 13, to have the opportunity and ability to pass the greats who paved the way. He was the first one that paved the way for us.
"This one means a lot more than the other ones will when I pass them because Jim Brown is a guy I looked up to. I had the opportunity to talk to him on several occasions and just the look in his eyes when I'm talking to him it's just like. ... It's motivating to me. It feels good to have passed him today but it's bittersweet because we didn't get this divisional win."
Last season, Peterson rushed for 1,042 yards and seven touchdowns while playing in all 16 games. He entered this season eighth on the all-time list with 13,318 yards.
Peterson ran for a team-high 25 yards on 10 carries Sunday.
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