NFL and NCAA Football News

Film Study: Belichick’s plan mostly tamed Mahomes

Film Study: Belichick's plan mostly tamed Mahomes

Film Study: Belichick’s plan mostly tamed Mahomes

Bill Belichick will be enshrined in Canton one day, but one of his defensive game plans — for the New York Giants against the Buffalo Bills in Super Bowl XXV — is famously already there.

Eleven years after containing the Bills’ K-Gun attack, Belichick crafted another game plan that became part of Super Bowl lore, mashing Marshall Faulk at every available chance as the New England Patriots kick-started a dynasty by beating the then-St. Louis Rams in Super Bowl XXXVI.

Sunday’s plan against Andy Reid’s Kansas City Chiefs might not earn that legacy — and with a different bounce or two, it wouldn’t have been enough — but it managed to flummox the best offense in football for three quarters, a tremendous feat.

Belichick’s intentions were clearly defined from the outset.

The Patriots planned a ball-control offensive approach to bleed time and keep the ball out of Patrick Mahomes’ hands. That couldn’t have gone better, as Mahomes didn’t touch the ball until the 6:50 mark of the first quarter and had just three possessions before halftime (besides one snap 21 seconds before the break). The Chiefs finished with just 47 plays, exactly half of the Pats’ total.

Next, Belichick sought to stop Tyreek Hill at all costs, even at the expense of doubling Travis Kelce.

New England played almost all man coverage — emphasizing physicality without worrying about drawing a flag or two — mostly out of dime personnel, with four cornerbacks and two safeties instead of their usual three of each. Top corner Stephon Gilmore took Sammy Watkins, while impressive rookie corner J.C. Jackson matched Kelce (until Gilmore and Jackson swapped assignments late), with Jason McCourty on the Chiefs’ third receiver. The fourth corner — Jonathan Jones and Keion Crossen alternated, perhaps to stay fresh against the speedster — tracked Hill underneath while free safety Devin McCourty bracketed him over the top, essentially leaving Cover-0 everywhere else.

With more two-high safety looks, the Patriots could have doubled Kelce and/or Watkins selectively, but that didn’t fit Belichick’s plan up front. He found it more important to use four- and (mostly) five-man rushes with a slew of blitzers, stunts and twists to flush Mahomes with one rusher into the arms of another.

New England incorporated edge rushers, inside linebackers and safety Patrick Chung (while one such player covered the running back), stunting them relentlessly to break down the Chiefs’ normally trustworthy protection. When only four rushed, the fifth was a lurker/spy, taking away inside routes and chasing down Mahomes if he fled the pocket. These designs shined early, producing four sacks for 46 yards lost.

Altogether, the plan was starkly different from the teams’ Week 6 meeting. Belichick used plenty of stunts and twists in that game, but not to the degree he did Sunday. Meanwhile, the coverage plan was completely overhauled. After keying heavily on Kelce — often doubling after a third defender jammed him at the line — in Foxborough, Belichick sold out to stop Hill at Arrowhead, ditching zone coverage almost entirely to do so. Hill managed one 42-yard catch, a far cry from his Week 6 output (seven catches, 142 yards, three scores). Kelce beat Jackson for a 12-yard touchdown and a 13-yard pass-interference call but finished with just three catches for 23 yards.

One of the few common threads between the plans was the use of Cover-0 double lurk — which we detailed in Thursday’s preview — though the Patriots called it only twice all game. The first was undermined by Mahomes’ sidearm throw (while getting crushed by Adrian Clayborn), converting a third-and-3 late in the third. The second forced a deep incompletion to Hill as Devin McCourty hit Mahomes on third-and-8 midway through the fourth.

As effective as Belichick’s strategy was, it couldn’t pin Mahomes down forever. The gunslinger escaped and hit Watkins for 54 yards off-schedule to set up the first touchdown. Starting late in the third, Mahomes was finally able to beat man coverage, with the help of a few pick plays from Reid.

Reid actually had several terrific designs, but many fell by the wayside amid the offense’s struggles. Hill’s 42-yarder was catered perfectly to beating double coverage, as the slow-developing post-corner forced McCourty to turn his hips the wrong way before Hill broke out. On the next snap, Reid called one of the Patriots’ favorite plays, a wheel route with legal offensive pass interference (within 1 yard of the line of scrimmage) by the tight end. Williams came wide open, only for Mahomes to air-mail a would-be 23-yard touchdown.

Reid featured Williams in several other ways. Late in the third, he used star motion to send Williams on a wheel up the sideline as Hill picked man-coverage mark Kyle Van Noy, creating a 33-yard gain. One play later, Williams zipped by Dont’a Hightower on a corner route from the backfield — a very uncommon route — but Mahomes overthrew him again. (The Chiefs scored two plays later.)

Williams’ 23-yard TD was also genius from Reid, a screen off outside-zone play-action that perfectly complemented a first-quarter design. In the first, Mahomes hit Kelce as he leaked out opposite the zone run fake; the second time around, Reid used Kelce’s route as misdirection to free Williams on the screen.

As we wondered in Thursday’s preview, Reid even broke out the halfback seam, a concept he used in Foxborough in the 2017 season opener (for Kareem Hunt’s 78-yard TD) and in Week 6 (Mahomes missed Hunt for a wide-open 26-yard TD). Late in the third, Reid sent Williams from the backfield up the left seam, where he ran away from John Simon as McCourty shaded heavily to Hill’s route out wide. But pressure intervened, as Van Noy blitzed around the edge (helped by a crafty hold from Malcom Brown) and forced Mahomes to move and run for 9 yards. Reid called another variant of the concept midway through the fourth, but the Patriots happened to be in a rare Cover-2 zone, and Elandon Roberts read the play and broke it up.

What will haunt K.C. most — besides Dee Ford lining up offsides on the would-be game-clinching interception — are the designs that worked but weren’t executed. The missed throw on Williams’ wheel route cost the Chiefs seven points (not just four) after a sack put them out of field-goal range. If Mahomes had time, the first HB seam might have been a 75-yard TD.

But Belichick’s plan was critical in shrinking the Chiefs’ margin for error.

Pressure from stunts and twists were responsible for K.C.’s biggest missed opportunities. Two men on Hill and a cornerback on Kelce limited the Chiefs’ best weapons to four total touches for 65 yards. And of course, the offense’s control of possession (43:59 of the game’s 64:52) limited Mahomes & Co. just 47 plays.

The Patriots needed every bit of those edges to survive, a credit to the coach who finds his team more tiny advantages than perhaps any coach in NFL history.

-Resourceful Rams’ offense found a way

Sean McVay’s staple offensive concepts weren’t working.

The New Orleans Saints’ defense gobbled up the Rams’ bread and butter for most of Sunday’s NFC Championship Game, forcing L.A. to find success in less familiar ways. Had a certain flag been thrown on the other side of the ball, it wouldn’t have been enough, but given a break, the Rams’ offense took advantage by doing just enough to reach Super Bowl LIII.

For all of its brilliance, McVay’s scheme isn’t especially complicated. It’s built on a zone running game — which operates almost entirely from under center — and heavy downfield play-action off of those runs, all while using the same personnel on almost every snap.

For whatever reason, McVay changed up personnel Sunday more than he has almost all year, using two tight ends (instead of three wide receivers) on 17 snaps and favoring C.J. Anderson over Todd Gurley.

Gurley’s shrunken role was particularly shocking, as he received just four carries despite two of them going for 6 yards (and one for a touchdown). McVay suggested afterward he preferred Anderson’s grinding style, but Gurley is certainly capable of getting tough yards. Some have theorized McVay used Anderson to run inside instead Gurley’s preferred perimeter runs, but the Rams still ran plenty of outside zone with Anderson.

dRegardless, neither back was particularly successful. The Saints’ front seven squashed the run game by ignoring the bells and whistles (i.e. jet-sweep action), olding the pair to 54 yards on 20 carries (2.7 average).

Meanwhile, trusting that the run could be stopped without safety help, New Orleans employed a steady diet of zones — mostly Cover-2, sometimes with late rotations to get there — that diligently keyed on downfield routes. The deeper play-action concepts that the Rams feasted on in the teams’ Week 9 meeting simply weren’t there. Jared Goff routinely turned around from his play-fake and scanned the field to find no open targets, forcing him to hold the ball, check it down or throw it away.

Many of these plays were hopeless — one turned into the Saints’ only sack — but Goff scratched out a profit. Early on, he took what was available in the flat, throwing for pickups of 7, 6 and 4 yards and scrambling for 7 — modest but useful gains, considering L.A. had done little besides Johnny Hekker’s fake punt.

After halftime, the Rams adapted and attacked the flat off play-action by design, knowing they had to eat around the edges as the Saints’ zones keyed on deeper routes. Late in the third quarter, McVay sprung Brandin Cooks for 25 yards by having him cross the formation behind the line after the snap (called a “hide boot”), creating an easy dump-off and room to run after Robert Woods cleared out coverage. L.A. capped that drive with a play-action flat route to Tyler Higbee for a 1-yard touchdown. Then, twice in a three-play span in overtime, the Rams ran bootlegs with Higbee releasing into the flat. Goff found him despite getting clobbered on both, producing gains of 12 and 6 yards to get Greg Zuerlein in range for the game-winner.

Perhaps more impressive was how resourceful Goff was on straight dropbacks, an area in which he struggled mightily late in the year. After missing (with vision or accuracy) a few open targets on early third downs, Goff began attacking voids in zones with precision, moving the ball despite a few drops

During a two-minute touchdown drive to cap the first half, he delivered back-to-back dimes to Cooks for 17 yards (on a deep curl in a zone void) and 36 yards (on a slot fade against man coverage).

With everyone blanketed initially on third-and-3 early in the fourth, Goff bought time to his right and roped a throw to Gerald Everett, who came open late and collected 21 yards after the catch to gain 39. That kick-started a game-tying 85-yard drive.

Goff was sharp again when forced to throw in the final two minutes of regulation with the Rams down three. On eight straight dropbacks without play-action, he connected on five passes for 45 yards (despite a drop), including a laser 19-yarder to Josh Reynolds. Despite the deafening crowd, Goff orchestrated protections effectively during both two-minute drills, as the Rams were sharp picking up several Saints blitzes.

Of course, McVay did his part, too. With the run game struggling, he called a rare reverse — playing off jet-sweep tendencies by sending jet motion one way and the reverse the other — in the third quarter. The design, which kept offensive linemen blocking play-side and got Higbee out front as a lead blocker, was terrific, and Reynolds picked up 16.

McVay also sprung Reynolds on the only play-action deep shot that worked all game, a design that was simply too tricky for the Saints to cover. After New Orleans blanketed a throwback concept midway through the second, McVay called a similar play midway through the fourth. This time, McVay had Woods run a jet sweep to the left, flaring out to occupy the flat defender (safety Vonn Bell), while Cooks released vertically and broke inside on a dig to remove Marshon Lattimore’s coverage. Reynolds ran and out-and-up into Lattimore’s Cover-3 void, and with Bell eyeing Woods, only linebacker Demario Davis could cover Reynolds. The result was a 33-yard gain, which would have been a 40-yard TD with a better throw.

The sledding was tough, and the Saints made the Rams earn every inch. But L.A. ultimately managed just enough to earn a Super Bowl trip, despite a horrid start (including an interception deep in its own end), a career-worst outing for Gurley and the core of McVay’s offense getting stymied.

Perhaps it was good practice, considering Belichick is known for taking away what his opponent does best.

–David DeChant, Field Level Media

Read More 2067 Words

Super Bowl food will be a super bargain in Atlanta

Super Bowl food will be a super bargain in Atlanta

Super Bowl food will be a super bargain in Atlanta

The fan-friendly menu prices at Atlanta’s Mercedes-Benz Stadium will remain intact for the Super Bowl.

A ticket to the game might cost more than a monthly mortgage payment, but fans watching the New England Patriots and Los Angeles Rams in Super Bowl LIII next month can save some money by eating $2 hot dogs and $3 nachos and washing it down with some $5 beer.

The Atlanta Falcons instituted “Fan First Menu Pricing” when they moved into the new stadium in 2017, and team president and CEO Rich McKay told ESPN the prices of the 12 items on the menu will stay as is for the game, just as they have for other big events there.

“We said this in our negotiations with the SEC, the college football championship, the Super Bowl, and the Final Four … what we basically said is every customer that comes through that door is our customer,” McKay said.

McKay said the menu has been a hit since Arthur Blank, the Falcons’ billionaire owner, introduced the idea and the team implemented it. Between the final season the Falcons played at the Georgia Dome, and their first season at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, per-customer spending rose 16 percent even though prices dropped 55 percent, according to ESPN.

“So that just shows you the amount of volume that took place,” McKay said, adding other teams are starting to follow the Falcons’ model.

Other prices? A refillable soda, popcorn, pretzel or bottle of water costs $2. Waffle fries and a pizza slice are $3, and cheeseburgers sell for $5. For those who want to splurge, a basket of chicken fingers and fries goes for $6.

–Field Level Media

Read More 217 Words

Former NFL RB McFadden arrested for DWI

Former NFL RB McFadden arrested for DWI

Former NFL running back Darren McFadden was arrested early Monday

Former NFL RB McFadden arrested for DWI

Former NFL running back Darren McFadden was arrested early Monday in Texas on charges of driving while intoxicated and resisting arrest.

TMZ reported that the 31-year-old McFadden fell asleep in his SUV outside the drive-thru window of a Whataburger fast-food restaurant in suburban Dallas.

According to TMZ, McFadden resisted officers and that the driver’s side and passenger windows in his vehicle were both smashed.

McFadden was released on his own recognizance from Collin County jail a short time later, according to the Dallas Morning News.

McFadden played 10 seasons in the NFL after an All-American career at Arkansas. He rushed for 4,247 yards in 83 games with the Oakland Raiders (2008-14) and ran for 1,174 yards in 20 games with the Dallas Cowboys (2015-17).

McFadden rushed for 1,157 yards with the Raiders in 2010 and for 1,089 yards with the Cowboys in 2015.

–Field Level Media

Read More 84 Words

Saints’ owner issues statement on controversial loss

Saints' owner issues statement on controversial loss

A

Saints’ owner issues statement on controversial loss

A day after her New Orleans Saints lost the NFC Championship Game due, in part, to a missed call by the officials, team owner Gayle Benson issued a strong statement of disapproval on Monday.

“I am thoroughly disappointed by the events that led to the outcome of yesterday’s game,” the statement said, in part. “Getting to the Super Bowl is incredibly difficult to do and takes such an unbelievable commitment from a team and support from its fans. No team should ever be denied the opportunity to reach the title game (or simply win a game) based on the actions, or inactions, of those charged with creating a fair and equitable playing field. As is clear to all who watched the game, it is undeniable that our team and fans were unfairly deprived of that opportunity yesterday.

“I have been in touch with the NFL regarding yesterday’s events and will aggressively pursue changes in NFL policies to ensure no team and fan base is ever put in a similar position again. It is a disservice to our coaches, players, employees and, most importantly, the fans who make our game possible. The NFL must always commit to providing the most basic of expectations — fairness and integrity.”

Officials declined to throw a flag after Los Angeles Rams cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman clearly hit Saints wide receiver Tommylee Lewis before the ball arrived on a third-and-10 pass. Had a penalty been called, the Saints would have been able to run the clock down before kicking a 31-yard field goal as time expired, which would have won the game and sent them to the Super Bowl.

Instead, they were forced to kick a field goal with 1:41 remaining, leaving time for the Rams to tie and force overtime, where the Saints went on to lose.

Saints head coach Sean Payton told reporters after the game he spoke with Alberto Riveron, the NFL’s senior vice president of officiating, who confirmed the incorrect non-call.

Robey-Coleman admitted afterward he made contact before Lewis had a chance to catch the pass.

“Yes, I got there too early,” he said. “I was beat, and I was trying to save the touchdown.”

Referee Bill Vinovich briefly addressed the play during a postgame interview with a pool reporter.

“It was a judgment call by the covering official,” Vinovich said. “I personally have not seen the play. … It is not a reviewable play.”

The Washington Post reported Monday that the NFL will consider making pass interference a reviewable play this offseason.

“It will be discussed at length along with additional fouls that coaches feel should be subject to review,” a person familiar with the NFL’s inner workings told the Post.

Replay is not an option for pass interference and other “judgment calls” but was discussed as recently as March.

To implement a rule allowing for pass interference to be validated by replay or expose this and other judgment calls to a coach’s challenge, at least three-quarters of the 32 owners must vote to approve it.

–Field Level Media

Read More 451 Words

Bears QB Trubisky tagged in for Goff at Pro Bowl

Bears QB Trubisky tagged in for Goff at Pro Bowl

Bears QB Trubisky tagged in for Goff at Pro Bowl

Jared Goff has plans, opening his Pro Bowl roster spot for Chicago Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky.

Goff and the Los Angeles Rams are bound for Super Bowl LIII in Atlanta, winning the NFC Championship game on Sunday at New Orleans.

Trubisky, whose Bears won the NFC North, guided Chicago to a win over Goff’s Rams in December.

Pro Bowl practice begins Wednesday and the all-star game will be played Sunday in Orlando, Fla.

The Bears haven’t sent a quarterback to the Pro Bowl since Jim McMahon in 1986.

Running back and return man Tarik Cohen, safety Eddie Jackson, cornerback Kyle Fuller, linebacker Khalil Mack and defensive lineman Akiem Hicks were voted into the Pro Bowl. Mack is sitting out due to a sprained knee.

–Field Level Media

Read More 76 Words

Trubisky, Watson to replace Goff, Brady in Pro Bowl

Trubisky, Watson to replace Goff, Brady in Pro Bowl

Trubisky, Watson to replace Goff, Brady in Pro Bowl

Jared Goff and Tom Brady have plans, opening Pro Bowl roster spots for Chicago quarterback Mitchell Trubisky and Houston’s Deshaun Watson to participate in the all-star game in Florida this weekend.

Goff and the Los Angeles Rams are bound for Super Bowl LIII in Atlanta, winning the NFC Championship game on Sunday in New Orleans. Brady and the New England Patriots are making the familiar trip for the AFC after a victory in Kansas City.

Trubisky, whose Bears won the NFC North, guided Chicago to a win over Goff’s Rams in December.

Watson and the Texans lost to Brady’s Patriots in Week 3.

It is the first Pro Bowl for both quarterbacks, who were both drafted in the first round in 2017.

Pro Bowl practice begins Wednesday and the game will be played Sunday in Orlando, Fla.

In 2018, Watson became the first player with 4,000 passing yards, 25 passing touchdowns, 500 rushing yards and five rushing touchdowns in a single season in NFL history.

Trubisky is the first Bears quarterback to make the Pro Bowl since Jim McMahon in 1986. He passed for 3,223 yards and 24 touchdowns and rushed for 421 yards and three scores.

–Field Level Media

Read More 139 Words

Report: NFL puts PI on review to-do list

Report: NFL puts PI on review to-do list

Report: NFL puts PI on review to-do list

Pass interference soon could be a reviewable play in the NFL, according to sources cited by The Washington Post on Monday.

That’s not soon enough from the perspective of the New Orleans Saints, who would have been in position to put the NFC championship game on ice late in the fourth quarter Sunday had a collision prior to the ball arriving — textbook pass interference in the NFL rulebook — not been a non-call.

Saints head coach Sean Payton erupted on the sideline and appeared to scold game officials for blowing “a Super Bowl call.”

Payton said after the game the missed call is something New Orleans will “probably never get over.”

“It will be discussed at length along with additional fouls that coaches feel should be subject to review,” a person familiar with the NFL’s inner workings told The Washington Post on Monday.

Replay is not an option for pass interference and other “judgment calls” but was discussed as recently as March.

To implement a rule allowing for pass interference to be validated by replay or expose this and other judgment calls to a coach’s challenge, at least three-quarters of the 32 owners must vote to approve it.

“They blew the call,” Payton said Sunday night. “It’s a game-changing call – third down with 1:45 left. A tough one to swallow. My problem with it is, if we’re playing pickup football in the backyard, it was as obvious a call. How two guys can look at that and come up with their decision – we’ll probably never get over it. The truth is, some of these losses … one like that, it’s too bad.”

Rams nickel cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman blasted Saints wide receiver Tommylee Lewis and admitted after the game he wasn’t concerned about the penalty — he thought is was a certainty — but was focused solely on not allowing a game-ending touchdown.

“Hell yeah,” Robey-Coleman said Sunday. “That was PI.”

No penalty was called. Instead, the Saints attempted and made a go-ahead field goal with 1:41 on the clock.

The Rams tied the game with their own field goal and then won it on a 57-yarder in overtime.

–Field Level Media

Read More 308 Words

Eagles defend QB Wentz from anonymous critics

Eagles defend QB Wentz from anonymous critics

Philadelphia players rallied to Carson Wentz's defense Monday after unnamed teammates reportedly called the Eagles quarterback "selfish" and "egotistical."

A report criticizing Wentz

Eagles defend QB Wentz from anonymous critics

Philadelphia players rallied to Carson Wentz’s defense Monday after unnamed teammates reportedly called the Eagles quarterback “selfish” and “egotistical.”

A report criticizing Wentz by PhillyVoice.com cited “more than a half dozen” players who requested to remain anonymous, “fearing repercussions.”

Among the claims in the report were that Wentz “bullied” offensive coordinator Mike Groh, played “favorites” by over-targeting Pro Bowl tight end Zach Ertz, and generally acted “like he’s won 10 Super Bowls.”

Wentz, 26, received immediate support on social media from All-Pro defensive tackle Fletcher Cox, offensive linemen Lane Johnson and Brandon Brooks, and Ertz.

“None of that is true,” Cox wrote on Twitter. “We are all behind him 100 percent.”

“Don’t believe everything you read!!!” Ertz tweeted. “Carson has been nothing but a GREAT person, GREAT teammate and GREAT leader since Day 1.”

Johnson tweeted that “whoever wrote that article needs to check their ‘sources.'”

The No. 2 overall draft pick in 2016, Wentz is 23-17 in three seasons as the starter in Philadelphia. His last two regular seasons have ended with injuries, but head coach Doug Pederson confirmed last month that Wentz is “our guy” heading into 2019.

–Field Level Media

Read More 135 Words

Lowry back in top 50, Long vaults to No. 133

Lowry back in top 50, Long vaults to No. 133

Lowry back in top 50, Long vaults to No. 133

Adam Long skyrocketed 284 spots while Ireland’s Shane Lowry re-entered the top 50 in the official world golf rankings following victories over the weekend.

Long, 31, earned his first PGA Tour victory with a come-from-behind win at The Desert Classic – only the second made cut of his brief Tour career. Lowry rose 34 spots to No. 41 with his wire-to-wire victory in Abu Dhabi, his first worldwide win since 2015.

Thailand’s Jazz Janewattananond also reaped the rewards of his victory at the SMBC Singapore Open, moving to a career-high 74th and earning a spot in The Open Championship this summer.

England’s Justin Rose retained the No. 1 spot for the seventh week in his career following his tie for 34th in La Quinta, Calif. There were no changes in the top 10, with Brooks Koepka, Dustin Johnson, Justin Thomas and Bryson DeChambeau rounding out the top five.

They are followed by Xander Schauffele, Spain’s Jon Rahm – who finished sixth in his title defense at the Desert Classic – Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy, Italy’s Francesco Molinari and Tony Finau.

Rickie Fowler moved up two spots to No. 11 despite having not played a competitive round since the Hero World Challenge last month. He moved past Australia’s Jason Day and Tiger Woods, who will make his 2019 debut at this week’s Farmers Insurance Open.

Phil Mickelson, who is not playing at Torrey Pines this week, moved up eight spots to No. 26 after tying for second at the Desert Classic, where he held the lead after each of the first three rounds.

–Field Level Media

Read More 202 Words

Brady sought out Mahomes for postgame chat

Brady sought out Mahomes for postgame chat

Brady sought out Mahomes for postgame chat

Shortly after the New England Patriots won Sunday’s AFC championship game, and after quarterback Tom Brady had finished his obligatory meetings with the media, he had one thing he wanted to do.

The 18-year veteran left his teammates and wandered to the home locker room at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City, seeking a few moments with the Chiefs’ second-year quarterback, Patrick Mahomes, according to multiple reports.

“Tom Brady just quietly approached a security guard waiting outside the Chiefs’ locker room – and asked if he could see Patrick Mahomes,” ESPN’s Jeff Darlington tweeted. “Brady was escorted into a room where he spoke briefly with him. A very clear display of respect from one incredible quarterback to another.”

The Patriots defeated the Chiefs 37-31 in overtime and are headed to Super Bowl LIII in Atlanta on Feb. 3. This will be Brady’s ninth appearance in the game, which his Patriots have won five times.

Of the gesture, Brady told Peter King of Football Morning In America: “I just went and saw him. I mean, he’s feeling like you think he’d feel when you lose a game like this. It hurts. He’s a hell of a … I mean, what a great young player. So impressed with his poise, his leadership. He is spectacular.”

Mahomes led a furious fourth-quarter comeback as the Chiefs scored 24 points to send the game to overtime. New England won the coin toss and never relinquished the ball, scoring a touchdown to win.

Mahomes was 16-of-31 passing for 295 yards and three touchdowns. Brady completed 30 of 46 passes for 348 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions.

–Field Level Media

Read More 213 Words

Titans promote tight ends coach Smith to OC

Titans promote tight ends coach Smith to OC

Titans promote tight ends coach Smith to OC

The Tennessee Titans have promoted tight ends coach Arthur Smith to offensive coordinator, the team announced Monday.

Smith joined the Titans’ staff in 2011 and has coached the tight ends since midway through the 2015 campaign.

Smith replaces Matt LaFleur, who was named head coach of the Green Bay Packers earlier this month.

“I am excited for Arthur and for our team to be able to elevate a deserving coach,” said Titans head coach Mike Vrabel. “I was impressed throughout the season in gameplan meetings with his ideas, in-game with his understanding of situations and the ability to get the most out of his position group.

“We spent a good bit of time last week talking about this opportunity. He has a great deal of familiarity with our players and the continuity of the offense will allow our players to continue to develop and improve.”

Smith’s success and reputation have kept him on the Tennessee payroll under four different head coaches: Vrabel, Mike Munchak, Ken Whisenhunt and Mike Mularkey.

Under Smith, Tennessee tight end Delanie Walker made three straight Pro Bowls (2015-17). After Walker went down with a season-ending injury in the 2018 opener, second-year tight end Jonnu Smith stepped up with 20 catches for 258 yards and three touchdowns.

The biggest challenge facing Smith after his big promotion is getting the most out of quarterback Marcus Mariota. Smith will be Mariota’s fifth OC in five seasons.

–Field Level Media

Read More 183 Words

Chiefs-Chargers, Bengals-Rams highlight International Series

Chiefs-Chargers, Bengals-Rams highlight International Series

Chiefs-Chargers, Bengals-Rams highlight International Series

The Kansas City Chiefs and Los Angeles Chargers will play one of three divisional games on international soil next season when the AFC West rivals face off in Mexico City.

The Chiefs and Patriots were scheduled to play in Mexico City last season, but the game was played in the United States due to field conditions.

Jacksonville is playing a home game in London for the seventh consecutive season. The Jaguars will play the Houston Texans in an AFC South matchup.

Dates, kickoff times and venues for each game are to be announced when the NFL releases its full schedule in April.

The NFL announced all five international series games on Monday:

Carolina Panthers at Tampa Bay Buccaneers in London

Chicago Bears at Oakland Raiders in London

Cincinnati Bengals at Los Angeles Rams in London

Houston Texans at Jacksonville Jaguars in London

Kansas City Chiefs at Los Angeles Chargers in Mexico City

–Field Level Media

Read More 100 Words

Reports: Dolphins hiring Packers’ Graham as DC

Reports: Dolphins hiring Packers' Graham as DC

The Miami Dolphins are expected to name

Reports: Dolphins hiring Packers’ Graham as DC

The Miami Dolphins are expected to name Green Bay assistant coach Patrick Graham as their new defensive coordinator, according to multiple reports Monday.

ESPN’s Adam Schefter and NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport both reported that the Packers’ defensive run-game coordinator and inside linebackers coach will join the staff of future Dolphins head coach Brian Flores.

Miami has to wait until after Super Bowl LIII to officially hire Flores, the New England defensive coordinator whose Patriots will face the Los Angeles Rams in Atlanta on Feb. 3.

Graham, 39, has been an NFL assistant for 10 seasons. He worked for Bill Belichick and the Patriots from 2009-15, climbing the ladder from defensive assistant to linebackers coach to defensive line coach. He coached the defensive line of the New York Giants from 2016-17 before joining the Packers in 2018.

–Field Level Media

Read More 82 Words

Bettors quickly make Patriots slight favorite to beat Rams

Bettors quickly make Patriots slight favorite to beat Rams

Bettors quickly make Patriots slight favorite to beat Rams

The New England Patriots opened as a slight underdog to the Los Angeles Rams at some Las Vegas sports books, but it didn’t take long — mere minutes, actually — for bettors to make them the favorite.

The Patriots, who defeated the host Kansas City Chiefs for the AFC title on Sunday evening, opened as a slight favorite at some books and as a tossup or slight underdog at others. New England settled as a 1 1/2-point favorite around Las Vegas late Sunday.

The Rams advanced to the Super Bowl, set for Feb. 3 in Atlanta, by knocking off the host New Orleans Saints 26-23, also in overtime, earlier Sunday.

The over/under for total points scored hovered at 58-59. If it stays there, it would be the highest total for a Super Bowl, according to an ESPN report.

While both teams were underdogs entering Sunday’s games, neither team was considered a surprise to make the Super Bowl before the season.

Bettors made the Patriots the consensus favorite to win their fifth NFL title, and the Rams were among other top contenders, aided by their strong showing a season ago and also no doubt by Las Vegas’ proximity to Los Angeles.

The Patriots will be making their 11th appearance in the Super Bowl, and the Rams will be making their fourth.

New England will be playing in the Super Bowl for the third straight year, having beaten the Atlanta Falcons two years ago and lost to the Philadelphia Eagles last year.

The Patriots are 5-5 in past Super Bowl appearances, including a win over the then-St. Louis Rams in Super Bowl XXXVI in February 2002.

The Rams won their only NFL title by defeating the Tennessee Titans in January 2000 in Super Bowl XXXIV.

–Field Level Media

Read More 242 Words

Patriots outlast Chiefs in OT thriller to reach SB LIII

Patriots outlast Chiefs in OT thriller to reach SB LIII

Patriots outlast Chiefs in OT thriller to reach SB LIII

The best move made Sunday by the New England Patriots may have been calling heads.

The visiting Patriots won the coin toss to begin overtime, then marched 75 yards in 13 plays for Rex Burkhead’s 2-yard rushing touchdown, which kept the Kansas City Chiefs’ offense from having a chance as New England prevailed 37-31.

New England advances to face the Los Angeles Rams in Super Bowl LIII in two weeks at Atlanta, after the Rams survived an overtime thriller against the New Orleans Saints earlier Sunday for the NFC crown.

Quarterback Tom Brady, coupled with coach Bill Belichick, executed a ninth AFC title for New England, and the pair will have a chance at their sixth Super Bowl title. The Patriots are the third team in history — joining the Miami Dolphins (VI-VIII) and Buffalo Bills (XXV-XXVIII) — to reach three consecutive Super Bowls.

Brady passed for 348 yards, going 30 of 46 with one touchdown, and overcame two interceptions.

“Happy we won the (overtime) toss,” Brady said. “We got it and we took it down the field and scored. What a game.”

Indeed, it was. The teams combined for a whopping 38 fourth-quarter points, including 24 by the host Chiefs as they forged a 31-31 tie at the end of regulation while seeking an improbable comeback after trailing 14-0 at halftime.

First-year starting quarterback Patrick Mahomes passed for 295 yards, going 16 of 31, but the withered Kansas City defense could not give him an opportunity in overtime.

Taking possession with 32 seconds left in regulation, Mahomes completed passes of 21 yards to Spencer Ware and 27 yards to Demarcus Robinson to set up Harrison Butker for a 39-yard field goal with eight seconds left to forge a 31-31 tie to force overtime.

Then the Patriots won the overtime coin flip, and Brady consulted with offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels.

“I looked at Josh and said, ‘You got any touchdown plays still on that call sheet? He said, ‘Yes, we do,'” Brady recounted.

New England converted three third downs in overtime on completions of 20, 15 and 15 yards, the first two to Julian Edelman and the third to Rob Gronkowski. For the game, the Patriots were 13 of 19 on third down and amassed 524 yards and 36 first downs.

“These guys just competed and competed,” Belichick said. “We said 60 minutes, but what did it take? Seventy?”

Before Mahomes’ late drive, Brady actually appeared to have won the game with one of his patented late-game drives.

He got a break when an interception was wiped away because Chiefs linebacker Dee Ford lined up in the neutral zone and was ruled offsides. A 25-yard strike to Gronkowski on the next play set up a 4-yard touchdown rush by Burkhead with 39 seconds left in regulation for a 31-28 lead.

Burkhead finished with 12 carries for 41 yards and two scores, while rookie Sony Michel added 113 yards on 29 carries, including two touchdowns. Edelman led the New England receivers with 96 yards on seven grabs.

Sammy Watkins caught four passes for a whopping 114 yards to lead the Chiefs’ receivers. Running back Damien Williams scored three touchdowns, two off receptions and one off a rush as he added 96 yards from scrimmage.

“It was back and forth and we had opportunities,” Chiefs coach Andy Reid said. “We’ll figure out a way to take advantage of those down the road. You’re sitting here thinking it was a pretty good year, but it’s going to hurt here for a little bit.”

The AFC Championship appearance was the first ever at home for Kansas City, which participated in Super Bowl I and won Super Bowl IV, both of which were played before the AFL-NFL merger.

“We wanted to bring the Hunt Trophy home,” Reid said of the hardware awarded to the AFC champion. “We’re going to get that son of a gun. We’re going to have to bear down this offseason.”

The Patriots took a 14-0 halftime lead, beginning with a 15-play, 80-yard touchdown drive on the first possession. The march, which began after the Chiefs won the coin toss and deferred, took 8:05, the most time-consuming playoff drive ever engineered by Brady. Michel scored on a 1-yard plunge.

New England, which outgained Kansas City 245-32 in the half and held a 16-3 advantage in first downs, was again at the Chiefs 1 on its second possession. Linebacker Reggie Ragland, however, intercepted a pass in the end zone, ending a playoff-record streak of 237 pass attempts without an interception by Brady.

The Chiefs blew an opportunity to score midway through the second quarter. Mahomes connected with Tyreek Hill for a 42-yard strike to the New England 23. On the next play, Williams broke wide open on a wheel route, but Mahomes overthrew him. Field-goal range was squandered when Mahomes was sacked for a 14-yard loss by Trey Flowers.

Phillip Dorsett tacked on a 29-yard TD snag with 27 seconds left in the half to cap a 90-yard drive by the Pats. Brady went in at the break with 146 yards passing, while Michel had 75 rushing.

It was the second time in history the AFC Championship Game went to overtime, joining the Denver Broncos’ victory over the Cleveland Browns in January of 1987. Never before had both conference championship games gone to overtime in the same year.

–Field Level Media

Read More 822 Words

Saints coach Payton: NFL admitted blown non-call

Saints coach Payton: NFL admitted blown non-call

Saints coach Payton: NFL admitted blown non-call

New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton said the NFL admitted that its officials missed a critical pass interference call late in the fourth quarter of Sunday’s NFC Championship Game.

The Los Angeles Rams capitalized on the lack of a flag, which forced the Saints to settle for a field goal and a 23-20 lead with 1:41 remaining, rather than running the clock down before kicking what would have been the game winner as time expired. With the extra time, the Rams forced overtime with a 48-yard field goal and won the game in the extra session to advance to the Super Bowl.

“The explanation … it was simple,” said Payton, who said he spoke with Alberto Riveron, the NFL’s senior vice president of officiating, on the phone shortly after the game. “They blew the call. Not only was it (pass) interference, but it was helmet-to-helmet (contact). That was the first thing Al said.

“…I don’t know if there was ever a more obvious pass interference call. That’s a tough one to swallow.”

On third-and-10 with 1:49 remaining, quarterback Drew Brees lofted a pass for wide receiver Tommylee Lewis. Rams cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman had his back turned to the ball and ran helmet-first into Lewis, clearly before the ball arrived. Lewis was knocked to the ground, away from the ball.

Robey-Coleman admitted that he made contact before Lewis had a chance to catch the pass.

“Yes, I got there too early,” he said. “I was beat, and I was trying to save the touchdown.”

Referee Bill Vinovich briefly addressed the play during a postgame interview with a pool reporter.

“It was a judgment call by the covering official,” Vinovich said. “I personally have not seen the play. …It is not a reviewable play.”

Considering the prominence of the non-call, Brees suggested it could lead to rules changes about reviewable plays in the future.

“I’m sure that because of this, as a result of this, there’s going to be a lot of talk about (reviewing) game-changing plays within two minutes,” he said. “Maybe that’s something that will happen.”

But Brees and others said that one play did not define the entire game. The Saints failed to score touchdowns on a pair of early red-zone drives, instead settling for field goals, and the Rams picked off a pass in overtime to set up the win.

For his part, Rams coach Sean McVay said he could understand the non-call.

“I just thought it was a bang-bang type play,” he said. “One of the things I respected about the refs is that they let the guys play. I thought it was a competitive-type play. I’m certainly not going to complain about the way the play was officiated.”

The NFL might want to move on from the controversial call as quickly as possible, but Rams running back Todd Gurley has other ideas. He posted a doctored photo on his Instagram account after the game that depicted him exchanging jerseys with Vinovich.

Gurley, who has 1.4 million Instagram followers, accompanied the photo with three skull emojis and four laughing emojis.

The photo appeared to be edited from an original photo following a 2016 game, in which Gurley and Saints running back Mark Ingram were swapping jerseys on the field at the Superdome.

Meanwhile, an electronic sign over the Pontchartrain Causeway near New Orleans offered a different message shortly after the game. Drivers who looked up at the sign saw three simple words in all-caps: “WE WERE ROBBED.”

–Field Level Media

Read More 525 Words

Saints QB Brees confirms he will return next season

Saints QB Brees confirms he will return next season

Saints QB Brees confirms he will return next season

Drew Brees has some unfinished business he would like to address.

The New Orleans Saints’ veteran quarterback confirmed Sunday that he plans to return for his 19th NFL season in the fall. The 40-year-old addressed questions about his future shortly after the Saints were eliminated by the Los Angeles Rams in the NFC Championship Game.

“I plan on being here next season and making another run at it,” said Brees, who had previously voiced plans to play at least another season or two.

Brees, whose 40th birthday was Tuesday, already is No. 1 on the all-time list with 74,437 career passing yards. He needs 563 more yards to become the first signal-caller in league history to reach the 75,000-yard milestone.

The Purdue product figures to climb other charts, as well. He is No. 2 on the all-time list for passing touchdowns with 520 — only 19 scores behind the Peyton Manning (539) for the top spot.

Brees passed for 3,992 yards, 32 touchdowns and five interceptions in 15 games this season, setting a single-season record by completing 74.4 percent of his passes. He is under contract through 2019, as he’ll make $23 million between base salary and a roster bonus next year, while counting $33.5 million against the cap.

–Field Level Media

Read More 147 Words

Broncos CB Harris will replace Gilmore in Pro Bowl

Broncos CB Harris will replace Gilmore in Pro Bowl

Denver Broncos cornerback Chris

Broncos CB Harris will replace Gilmore in Pro Bowl

Denver Broncos cornerback Chris Harris Jr. is headed to the Pro Bowl to replace New England Patriots cornerback Stephon Gilmore, according to a report Sunday night from KUSA-TV in Denver.

Gilmore has a good reason to miss the game in Orlando: He will be preparing for the Patriots’ Super Bowl LIII showdown against the Los Angeles Rams.

Harris, named a first alternate for the game, said earlier this week that he would be ready to play if called upon. He broke his fibula and missed the final four games of the regular season, but he told KUSA-TV that he would be able to play in the Pro Bowl if asked, which would be his fourth such selection.

“I’m cleared, I’m ready to roll,” Harris said. “I’ve been training and everything.”

In 12 games, all starts, Harris finished this season with 49 tackles to go along with three interceptions (one returned for at touchdown), 10 pass break-ups, one sack. He has 19 interceptions in eight seasons with Denver, earning Pro Bowl honors from 2014-16.

–Field Level Media

Read More 121 Words

Zuerlein kicks Rams past Saints in OT, into SB LIII

Zuerlein kicks Rams past Saints in OT, into SB LIII

Zuerlein kicks Rams past Saints in OT, into SB LIII

After forcing overtime with a 48-yard field goal with 15 seconds left in regulation, Greg Zuerlein nailed a 57-yard field goal 4:17 into overtime to lift the visiting Los Angeles Rams to a controversial 26-23 victory over the New Orleans Saints in the NFC Championship Game on Sunday and a berth in Super Bowl LIII.

Zuerlein’s game-winning field goal came after the Rams intercepted a Drew Brees pass on the fourth snap of overtime. Brees’ right arm was hit by linebacker Dante Fowler Jr., and his fluttering pass was picked off by safety John Johnson at the Los Angeles 46.

Jared Goff found tight end Tyler Higbee for a 12-yard gain on first down to the New Orleans 42, and the Rams got 3 more yards in three plays before Zuerlein, who has career field goals of 60 and 61 yards, came in to connect on the game winner.

Overtime came after a wild final two minutes in regulation.

With the game tied at 20 with 4:57 left, the Saints drove inside the Rams’ 15 — with Ted Ginn Jr. outleaping safety Lamarcus Joyner for a 43-yard catch.

Three plays later, New Orleans appeared to be the victim of a blown pass-interference call that would have allowed them to run the clock down and kick a game-winning, chip-shot field goal. On third-and-10 from the Los Angeles 13, Brees threw for Tommylee Lewis on the right side, who was clobbered by safety Nickell Robey-Coleman just before the ball arrived. The ball fell incomplete, and no penalty was called.

Instead, the Saints had to settle for a 31-yard field goal by Wil Lutz, for a 23-20, lead with 1:41 left.

The Rams then drove 45 yards to the New Orleans 30, where Zuerlein tied it with 15 seconds left with a 48-yard field goal, sending the game to overtime.

Brees put the Saints up 20-10 midway through the third quarter with a 2-yard screen pass to Taysom Hill, Hill’s first career TD reception. But the Rams came right back to make it 20-17 on Goff’s 1-yard toss to a wide-open tight end, Tyler Higbee, on third down.

The Saints wasted a great scoring opportunity after taking over at the Rams’ 46 with 12:22 left, but they could not overcome a first-down holding penalty on left tackle Terron Armstead.

Goff then drove the Rams 90 yards to the Saints’ 1. Instead of gambling for the touchdown on fourth-and-goal from the 1, Rams coach Sean McVay sent in Zuerlein for the tying 24-yard field goal, 24-24, with 5:03 left.

Goff converted two big throws on the drive — for 39 yards to tight end Gerald Everett and 33 yards to wide receiver Josh Reynolds.

The Saints jumped out to a 13-0 lead with field goals of 37 and 29 yards Wil Lutz and a 5-yard touchdown pass from Brees to tight end Garrett Griffin, but the Rams settled in and scored 10 straight points to make it 13-10 at halftime.

Goff seemed rattled by the crowd noise in the first quarter, but he led the Rams 81 yards in seven plays just before halftime to set up Todd Gurley’s 6-yard touchdown run 23 seconds before intermission.

Goff set up the touchdown with two tough throws to former Saints wide receiver Brandin Cooks — a 17-yard completion on third-and-10 and a 36-yarder down the left sideline to the New Orleans 6, where Gurley scored on the next play.

Gurley’s jitters had a lot to do with the Rams’ 13-0 hole. Trailing 3-0, Gurley dropped a pass from Goff that fell into the arms of Saints linebacker Demario Davis at the Los Angeles 16. But the Rams’ defense held the Saints to a field goal, and a 6-0 lead.

Brees made it 13-0, driving the Saints 68 yards in eight plays, and finding the little used Griffin for the score. It was Griffin’s second career reception and first TD catch.

Trailing 13-0 and faced with a fourth-and-5 from their own 30, the Rams had punter Johnny Hekker throw a sideline pass to cornerback Sam Shields for 12 yards and a first down.

The fake punt extended the drive and led to Zuerlein’s 36-yard field goal, cutting the deficit to 13-3 and giving the Rams some momentum.

–Field Level Media

Read More 630 Words

Long birdies 18 at Desert Classic for first career win

Long birdies 18 at Desert Classic for first career win

Adam

Long birdies 18 at Desert Classic for first career win

Adam Long sunk a 14-foot birdie putt at No. 18 to clip Phil Mickelson and Canada’s Adam Hadwin on the final hole Sunday at the Desert Classic in La Quinta, Calif., claiming his first title in his sixth career start on the PGA Tour.

The trio came to the 18th hole on the Stadium Course — the site for Sunday’s action after three courses were used on Thursday, Friday and Saturday — tied at 25 under. Hadwin’s approach found the back left bunker, while Mickelson, from the right rough, put his approach to 38 feet. Approaching from the left rough and about 35 yards closer than Mickelson, Long dropped his shot to 14 feet.

After Mickelson missed, Long buried a slight right-to-left breaker in the center of the cup, capping a bogey-free round of 7-under-par 65, Long’s lowest career round on the PGA Tour.

“Honestly, I got a pretty good read off Phil’s putt,” Long said afterward. “It was one of those putts that you just stand over it and you just know you’re gonna make it. You can’t control that, but when you have that feeling, it’s a good one, and I’m in disbelief right now.”

The 31-year-old Long turned pro in 2010 but made just one PGA Tour start — a missed cut at the 2011 U.S. Open — before October. He tied for 63rd at the Safeway Open in October and was cut in all three events since before this week. Ranked 417th in the world entering the tournament, Long is projected to jump to No. 205 and to No. 12 in the FedEx Cup Standings. He also will take home winnings of $1.063 million after earning $13,568 the rest of the season to date.

Long had to be resourceful to chase down Hadwin, who used a 5-under 31 on the front nine to get to 25 under and take a two-stroke lead over Mickelson, who was 1 under on the front. Three strokes off the pace entering the back nine, Long chipped in from 16 feet for birdie at the 12th and then again from 20 feet at No. 15, which came just after he sunk a short putt for birdie at the 14th.

“The chip-ins were huge, and some putts on the front nine as well to just hang in there,” Long said. “It was a huge thrill to play with Phil obviously. I’ve looked up to him my whole life, and I’m a big fan of his and he couldn’t have been greater to me.”

Mickelson began the day with a two-shot lead, but he opened and closed his front nine with bogeys, including a three-putt at No. 1. With two precise approaches, he made short birdie putts at Nos. 15 and 16 to regain a share of the lead, before a par-par finish left him a stroke short.

“I had a terrible putting day, I mean, one of the worst I can recall in a while,” said Mickelson, who matched his career-low score with a 12-under 60 at La Quinta Country Club in the opening round. “…I missed a bunch of short ones on the front and some birdie opportunities. It felt awful with the putter. I hit a lotta good shots today, though. I just couldn’t get the ball to go in the hole.”

Hadwin went cold after the turn, following a birdie at No. 11 with a bogey at No. 13 before five pars to finish. He missed birdie opportunities from five feet on No. 12 and just under 10 feet on No. 15.

Talor Gooch, the only player to go lower than Long on Sunday, fired an 8-under 64 to claim fourth place alone at 24 under for the tournament.

Dominic Bozzelli (66) finished two strokes back in fifth, with defending champion Jon Rahm (67) at 21 under for sixth place.

–Field Level Media

Read More 562 Words

Report: Mahomes could sign $200M deal

Report: Mahomes could sign $200M deal

Report: Mahomes could sign $200M deal

Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes is in just his second year in the NFL, but the talk already has started that he could become the league’s first $200 million man.

ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported Sunday that the Chiefs are expected to extend Mahomes’ rookie contract after the 2019 season and that the deal could break league records. He said it likely would eclipse Packers’ quarterback Aaron Rodgers’ contract, which has an annual average payout of $33.5 million.

After next season, Mahomes will have two years left on his contract, including the fifth-year team option.

And regardless of whether the Chiefs beat the New England Patriots in Sunday’s AFC championship game to earn a berth in the Super Bowl, Mahomes will be more visible this offseason. His agent, Leigh Steinberg, wanted him to stay in the background until he’d proved himself on the field, Schefter said. In his rookie year, he backed up Alex Smith.

“He’s a fresh face,” Steinberg told ESPN this weekend. “By holding him back, we haven’t overexposed him.”

Steinberg said Mahomes will be seen more in the offseason with new television commercials and marketing deals.

The 23-year-old Mahomes in an MVP candidate. He led the Chiefs to a 12-4 record and threw for 5,097 yards. His 50 touchdown passes led the league, and only Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger (5,129) threw for more yards.

–Field Level Media

Read More 170 Words

Report: Kitna to become Cowboys QB coach

Report: Kitna to become Cowboys QB coach

Former NFL quarterback Jon Kitna is in line to become the new

Report: Kitna to become Cowboys QB coach

Former NFL quarterback Jon Kitna is in line to become the new quarterbacks coach of the Dallas Cowboys, ESPN reported Sunday.

Kitna is currently the offensive coordinator for the San Diego Fleet in the Alliance of American Football, a league that begins play next month.

Current Cowboys quarterbacks coach Kellen Moore is the leading candidate to become the Cowboys’ offensive coordinator, according to ESPN.

Dallas recently parted ways with offensive coordinator Scott Linehan after four seasons in that role. Linehan spent five seasons as the primary play caller.

There is a possibility that Cowboys coach Jason Garrett will call plays in 2019.

Kitna spent seven seasons as a high school football coach before agreeing to join the Fleet, who are coached by former NFL head coach Mike Martz.

Kitna, 46, played 14 NFL seasons, including two with the Cowboys in 2010-11. He also came out of retirement to be on the roster for one game in 2013. He passed for 29,745 yards, 169 touchdowns and 165 interceptions with the Seattle Seahawks, Cincinnati Bengals, Detroit Lions and Cowboys.

The 2018 season was Moore’s first as quarterbacks coach after retiring as a player.

Moore, 29, played in three NFL games for Dallas in 2015 and passed for 779 yards, four touchdowns and six interceptions in 104 passing attempts.

–Field Level Media

Read More 154 Words

Report: NFL to wrap up Hunt investigation by March

Report: NFL to wrap up Hunt investigation by March

Report: NFL to wrap up Hunt investigation by March

The NFL is expected to finish its investigation into three different off-field incidents involving running back Kareem Hunt and decide on a final punishment before free agency opens in March, according to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport.

Rapoport reported Sunday that Hunt is expected to face a suspension of six-plus games but is likely to be back on the field at some point in the 2019 season.

The former Kansas City Chiefs running back was released by the team in November after TMZ released a video showing Hunt pushing and kicking then-19-year-old Abigail Ottinger from Berea, Ohio, in Cleveland last February.

Hunt also allegedly was involved in an altercation at a restaurant last June, an incident the NFL was aware of and questioned the running back about. However, TMZ also reported that Hunt was involved in a violent incident last January at a nightclub in Kansas City, an altercation the NFL did not previously know about, according to ESPN.

In that incident, TMZ reported that Hunt and others — including then-Chiefs running back George Atkinson — beat a man to the point of unconsciousness at a nightclub in Kansas City on Jan. 11.

The NFL placed Hunt, the 2017 rushing leader, on the commissioner’s exempt list while it investigates all three incidents, meaning Hunt is unable to play for any team that might sign him.

Hunt went unclaimed on waivers and is officially a free agent.

Hunt, 23, is from the Cleveland suburb of Willoughby and spends a significant part of his offseason in the area. He played college football at Toledo and burst onto the scene as a third-round draft pick in 2017.

Hunt rushed for an NFL-best 1,327 yards as a rookie. He had 824 yards through 11 games this season.

–Field Level Media

Read More 237 Words

Report: Berry to play, but surgery likely after season

Report: Berry to play, but surgery likely after season

Report: Berry to play, but surgery likely after season

Kansas City Chiefs safety Eric Berry is expected to play in Sunday’s AFC Championship Game against the New England Patriots, but he’ll likely need surgery to repair a lingering heel injury after the season, NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported Sunday.

Rapoport said the heel will be examined further whenever the Chiefs’ season ends, and that corrective surgery is the likely outcome.

Berry was removed from the injury report following Friday’s practice, his third straight day as a full participant.

“I feel pretty good,” Berry told reporters after the practice.

The five-time Pro Bowl selection missed the preseason and the first 13 regular-season games because of the heel injury. He played in two regular-season games in December before missing the finale after reinjuring it, and he also missed last weekend’s divisional-round victory over the Indianapolis Colts.

“I wanted to go in that game,” Berry told reporters of the Colts’ game. “Just a lot of complications that I can’t really explain. Hopefully this weekend it will be different.

“Right now, I just know it’s moving in the right direction and I want to get on the field on Sunday.”

–Field Level Media

Read More 138 Words

NFL fines Colts DL Autry, Rams CB Peters

NFL fines Colts DL Autry, Rams CB Peters

The NFL has

NFL fines Colts DL Autry, Rams CB Peters

The NFL has fined Indianapolis Colts defensive lineman Denico Autry and Los Angeles Rams cornerback Marcus Peters for separate incidents in last weekend’s divisional playoffs, NFL Network reported Saturday.

Autry was fined $13,369 for his hip-swiveling celebratory dance after sacking Kansas City quarterback Patrick Mahomes in the third quarter of the Colts’ 31-13 loss, according to NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero.

Autry, whose performed his celebration directly in front of an official, was also penalized 15 yards for unsportsmanlike conduct.

Peters was fined $10,026 for unnecessary roughness during the Rams’ 30-22 win against the Dallas Cowboys, according to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport.

Peters drew a 15-yard flag after shoving receiver Amari Cooper out of bounds after a fourth-down run by Ezekiel Elliott.

–Field Level Media

Read More 69 Words

Report: Cardinals hire Clements, won’t have OC

Report: Cardinals hire Clements, won't have OC

The Arizona Cardinals will hire former

Report: Cardinals hire Clements, won’t have OC

The Arizona Cardinals will hire former Green Bay Packers assistant Tom Clements as their passing game coordinator/quarterbacks coach, NFL Network reported Saturday.

The network also reported the Cardinals are not expected to hire an offensive coordinator, despite interviewing a number of candidates.

New head coach Kliff Kingsbury will run his own offense and call plays, but he said at his introductory press conference he hoped to hired a veteran coordinator with NFL experience. Clements, who was the Packers’ OC from 2012-2014 and led the Buffalo Bills’ offense from 2004-05, brings experience to the staff, without the coordinator title.

Clements, 65, helped groom Aaron Rodgers while serving as the Packers’ quarterbacks coach from 2006-11 before his promotion to coordinator, and he was the team’s assistant head coach from 2015-16. Clements will now be charged with developing 2018 first-round pick Josh Rosen, a friend of Rodgers’ who struggled behind a poor offensive line as a rookie.

According to various reports, the Cardinals interviewed at least five other former offensive coordinators before hiring Clements:

–Jim Bob Cooter, ex-Detroit coordinator, whose contract was not renewed by the Lions.

–John DeFilippo, fired by Minnesota late in the season but hired by Jacksonville to be OC.

–Steve Sarkisian, ex-Atlanta coordinator who reportedly turned down the Cardinals’ job to return to Alabama.

–Ben McAdoo, former coordinator and head coach with New York Giants.

–Hue Jackson, former Cleveland head coach and Cincinnati coordinator.

Jackson reportedly interviewed for the job on Friday. He spent the second half of the 2018 season with the Bengals after being fired in October by the Browns, ending a tenure of two-plus years in which he went 3-36-1.

–Field Level Media

Read More 223 Words

Jaguars sign S Wilson to 3-year extension

Jaguars sign S Wilson to 3-year extension

The Jacksonville Jaguars have

Jaguars sign S Wilson to 3-year extension

The Jacksonville Jaguars have signed safety Jarrod Wilson to a three-year contract extension, the team announced Saturday.

Wilson, who turns 25 next month, was set to become a restricted free agent in March.

Originally signed by the Jaguars as an undrafted free agent in May 2016, Wilson has appeared in 47 games and has 26 tackles, two passes defensed, two tackles for loss and one forced fumble in his career.

Wilson played all 16 games in 2018, starting the last two. He played 222 snaps on defense and 262 snaps on special teams, after logging 592 of his 673 snaps from 2016-17 on special teams.

–Field Level Media

Read More 45 Words

S Burnett seeking release from Steelers

S Burnett seeking release from Steelers

S Burnett seeking release from Steelers

Pittsburgh Steelers safety Morgan Burnett told NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport on Saturday he would like the team to release him before free agency.

Per Rapoport, Burnett wants to join a team that will use him in a pure safety role, after he played what he believes was out of position at dime linebacker in Pittsburgh.

Burnett, who turned 30 last Sunday, joined the Steelers on a three-year, $14.4 million deal as a free agent last March, but he started just two of 11 games this season as the third safety. Sean Davis primarily played free safety, with rookie first-rounder Terrell Edmunds at strong safety and Burnett playing in sub packages, logging 55.7 percent of the defensive snaps.

Burnett is set to cost just under $6.5 million against the cap in 2019. His release would save Pittsburgh about $3.6 million in cap space, while bringing a $2.8 million dead-money hit.

After eight seasons with the Green Bay Packers, Burnett registered 30 tackles and six passes defensed in his first season with the Steelers in 2018. In 113 career games (104 starts), he has 747 tackles, 50 passes defensed and nine interceptions.

–Field Level Media

Read More 125 Words

Texans sign RT Henderson to 1-year extension

Texans sign RT Henderson to 1-year extension

Texans sign RT Henderson to 1-year extension

The Houston Texans have signed right tackle Seantrel Henderson to a one-year contract extension, the team announced Saturday.

NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported the deal was worth a maximum value of $4.5 million.

Henderson started the Texans’ 2018 season opener at New England, but suffered a broken left ankle in the first quarter and missed the rest of the season.

Henderson, who turns 27 on Monday, played the previous four seasons with Buffalo. A seventh-round pick out of Miami in 2014, he appeared in 34 games for the Bills with 27 starts from 2014-17.

–Field Level Media

Read More 38 Words

Reports: Ravens, Harbaugh finalizing extension

Reports: Ravens, Harbaugh finalizing extension

Reports: Ravens, Harbaugh finalizing extension

The Baltimore Ravens are finalizing an extension with head coach John Harbaugh, according to multiple reports Saturday, a month after the team announced its plans to retain him and work on a new deal.

Harbaugh was set to enter the final year of his contract, but the Ravens announced Dec. 21 that they planned to keep him and begin discussing an extension. Prior to that announcement, many had speculated about Harbaugh’s job security, and some had speculated in the weeks since that another team might pursue him via trade.

Harbaugh, 56, has spent 11 seasons with the Ravens, making him the fourth-longest-tenured head coach in the NFL behind Bill Belichick (19 years), Mike Tomlin and Sean Payton (12 each). The Ravens have had just three head coaches since arriving in Baltimore in 1996.

After winning a playoff game in each of his first five seasons at the helm — culminating in a Super Bowl XLVII victory — Harbaugh and the Ravens had missed the playoffs in four of the last five seasons, including three straight years, before winning the AFC North in 2018. After winning six of their final seven regular-season games behind quarterback Lamar Jackson, they were bounced in the first round of the playoffs by the Los Angeles Chargers.

Harbaugh is 114-78 with the Ravens, including 10-6 in the postseason.

His extension will maintain some continuity as the team undergoes its first change at general manager since it arrived in Baltimore. Longtime assistant GM Eric DeCosta took over the lead job last week as Ozzie Newsome retired to take a smaller advisory role in the organization.

–Field Level Media

Read More 209 Words

NFL notebook: Ravens, Harbaugh reportedly near extension

NFL notebook: Ravens, Harbaugh reportedly near extension

The Baltimore Ravens are

NFL notebook: Ravens, Harbaugh reportedly near extension

The Baltimore Ravens are finalizing an extension with head coach John Harbaugh, according to multiple reports Saturday, a month after the team announced its plans to retain him and work on a new deal.

Harbaugh was set to enter the final year of his contract, but the Ravens announced Dec. 21 that they planned to keep him and begin discussing an extension. Prior to that announcement, many had speculated about Harbaugh’s job security, and some had speculated in the weeks since that another team might pursue him via trade.

Harbaugh, 56, has spent 11 seasons with the Ravens, making him the fourth-longest-tenured head coach in the NFL behind Bill Belichick (19 years), Mike Tomlin and Sean Payton (12 each).

After winning a playoff game in each of his first five seasons at the helm — culminating in a Super Bowl XLVII victory — Harbaugh and the Ravens had missed the playoffs in four of the last five seasons, including three straight years, before winning the AFC North in 2018. They were bounced in the first round of the playoffs by the Los Angeles Chargers.

–Philadelphia quarterback Nick Foles fell four snaps shy of earning a $1 million bonus this season, but the Eagles reportedly paid him anyway in a good faith gesture.

Playing for injured starter Carson Wentz, Foles went 4-1 in five regular-season starts and finished with 357 snaps — 32.69 percent of the team’s 2018 total. He needed to play 33 percent of the snaps to earn the $1 million incentive, leaving him four snaps short.

ESPN’s Field Yates reported Philadelphia opted to pay the Super Bowl LII MVP despite the shortfall.

–The Arizona Cardinals will hire former Green Bay Packers assistant Tom Clements as their passing game coordinator/quarterbacks coach, NFL Network reported.

The network also reported the Cardinals are not expected to hire an offensive coordinator, despite interviewing a number of candidates.

New head coach Kliff Kingsbury will run his own offense and call plays, but he said at his introductory press conference he hoped to hired a veteran coordinator with NFL experience. Clements, who was the Packers’ OC from 2012-2014 and led the Buffalo Bills’ offense from 2004-05, brings experience to the staff, without the coordinator title.

–Pittsburgh Steelers safety Morgan Burnett told NFL Network he would like the team to release him before free agency.

Per Rapoport, Burnett wants to join a team that will use him in a pure safety role, after he played what he believes was out of position at dime linebacker in Pittsburgh.

Burnett, who turned 30 last Sunday, joined the Steelers on a three-year, $14.4 million deal as a free agent last March, but he started just two of 11 games this season as the third safety.

–The Houston Texans have signed right tackle Seantrel Henderson to a one-year contract extension, the team announced.

NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported the deal was worth a maximum value of $4.5 million.

Henderson started the Texans’ 2018 season opener at New England, but suffered a broken left ankle in the first quarter and missed the rest of the season.

–The Jacksonville Jaguars have signed safety Jarrod Wilson to a three-year contract extension, the team announced.

Wilson, who turns 25 next month, was set to become a restricted free agent in March.

–The NFL has fined Indianapolis Colts defensive lineman Denico Autry and Los Angeles Rams cornerback Marcus Peters for separate incidents in last weekend’s divisional playoffs, NFL Network reported.

Autry was fined $13,369 for his hip-swiveling celebratory dance after sacking Kansas City quarterback Patrick Mahomes in the third quarter of the Colts’ 31-13 loss, according to NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero.

Peters was fined $10,026 for unnecessary roughness during the Rams’ 30-22 win against the Dallas Cowboys, according to Rapoport.

–Field Level Media

Read More 557 Words

Mickelson maintains 2-stroke lead at Desert Classic

Mickelson maintains 2-stroke lead at Desert Classic

Mickelson maintains 2-stroke lead at Desert Classic

Phil Mickelson’s strategy for the third round at the Desert Classic on Saturday was a simple one: use his driver off the tee whenever he could to hit the ball as far as possible, then go find it and try to score.

That approach worked well for Mickelson, who fired a bogey-free 6-under-par 66 to maintain a two-shot lead after 54 holes of play at the 60th edition of this event, contested at a trio of courses in La Quinta, Calif.

Mickelson, playing for the first time this week at the Stadium Course at PGA West, enters the final round at 22-under-par 194. He had three straight birdies on holes six through eight and two more on the 13th and 14th before making a gutsy 6-foot putt for par on the 15th.

Mickelson then rolled in a 45-foot putt for birdie on the daunting par-3 17th hole, the water- and rock-surrounded “Alcatraz,” to re-establish the two-shot advantage he held after 36 holes. Sunday’s final round will be held on the Stadium Course.

“I played okay,” Mickelson explained. “My goal or game plan was to hit drivers and bomb the ball down there as far as I could to set up wedges or short irons in, even if I was off the fairway. It seemed to play out okay. I missed some putts, but I also made some long ones that were little bonuses.”

Canadian Adam Hadwin fired a 7-under 65 at the Nicklaus Tournament Course to pull into solo second place while rookie Adam Long ripped off a 9-under 63 at La Quinta Country Club to move into third at 19 under.

Steve Marino carded a 5-under 67 at Nicklaus to end up alone in fourth, four shots off Mickelson’s lead. Michael Thompson (65 at Stadium) and Patrick Cantlay (66 at La Quinta CC) are tied for fifth five shots back.

The 48-year-old Mickelson matched his career-low score with 12-under 60 at La Quinta CC in the opening round and had a 68 at Nicklaus to reach 16 under after 36 holes.

Mickelson, whose most recent win was at the World Golf Championships-Mexico Championship last year for his 43rd PGA Tour title and first since the 2013 British Open, will sleep on the lead for the 38th time in his career.

He will stick to his third-round strategy for the final 18 holes Sunday.

“This is a course you don’t have to be perfect on,” Mickelson said. “You have to hit a lot of good shots in certain spots, but if you miss it and miss it properly, you can still play this course. I want to come out and play aggressive and get as close to the greens as possible to make some more birdies.”

If there is a horse for the course, or courses in this case, this week, it’s Hadwin. He began Saturday’s round three shots behind Mickelson and took advantage of the easiest of the three courses in use this week to sweep to the lead while Mickelson was making the turn at Stadium.

This is the fourth consecutive year Hadwin has been in contention in the Coachella Valley, after finishing sixth in 2016, runner-up in 2017 (after shooting a third-round 59 at La Quinta) and third last year.

“I was playing one of the easier golf courses, so I knew I had to keep the pedal down,” Hadwin said after his Saturday round. “I had kind of a slowish start, and then just kind of caught fire midway, made a couple putts, hit some good shots. I’ve been playing really solid all week, and luckily I’ve got a chance going into Sunday.”

Defending champion Jon Rahm of Spain opened with back-to-back 66s in a bid to join Johnny Miller as the only player to successfully defend his tournament title (1975-76) at the event. Rahm fired a 68 on Saturday at Stadium to finish in a tie for seventh at 16 under.

“I played solid, but didn’t take advantage of chances, especially early on in the round,” Rahm said. “I’m not surprised I’m as far back as I am, but it makes me think about the shots I missed during today’s round that could have made a difference. The course is there for the taking.”

Curtis Luck, the 2016 U.S. Amateur champion from Australia who was second after a 66 at Nicklaus on Friday, struggled to a 4-over 76 at Stadium on Saturday, finishing the third round at 10 under and tied for 46th.

The field was cut to the top 73 players at 9 under after 54 holes rather than after the first two rounds as in most PGA Tour events. Jamie Lovemark withdrew from the event before start of the third round. Former Desert Classic champion Pat Perez also withdrew after four holes of the third round with a thumb injury.

–Field Level Media

Read More 730 Words

Report: Eagles pay Foles $1M bonus despite shortfall

Report: Eagles pay Foles $1M bonus despite shortfall

Report: Eagles pay Foles $1M bonus despite shortfall

Philadelphia quarterback Nick Foles fell four snaps shy of earning a $1 million bonus this season, but the Eagles reportedly paid him anyway in a good faith gesture.

Playing for injured starter Carson Wentz, Foles went 4-1 in five regular-season starts and finished with 357 snaps — 32.69 percent of the team’s 2018 total. He needed to play 33 percent of the snaps to earn the $1 million incentive, leaving him four snaps short.

ESPN’s Field Yates reported Saturday that Philadelphia opted to pay the Super Bowl LII MVP despite the shortfall.

“Philly does right by the clutch QB,” Yates tweeted.

Foles completed 72.3 percent of his passes for 1,413 yards with seven touchdowns and four interceptions in the regular season. He set a franchise record with 471 passing yards in a Week 16 win against Houston and tied an NFL record with 25 consecutive completions at Washington in a Week 17 win.

Foles, who turns 30 on Sunday, also led the Eagles to a 16-15 wild-card victory at Chicago. The defending champions fell short in the division round last Sunday, losing 20-14 at New Orleans.

–Field Level Media

Read More 124 Words

Report: Cards interview ex-Browns coach Jackson for OC role

Report: Cards interview ex-Browns coach Jackson for OC role

Report: Cards interview ex-Browns coach Jackson for OC role

The Arizona Cardinals on Friday interviewed former two-time head coach Hue Jackson for their offensive coordinator opening, NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported.

Jackson was fired by the Cleveland Browns midway through this past season after winning just three games in parts of three seasons, going 3-36-1. Jackson also spent one season as head coach of the Oakland Raiders in 2011.

Such a hire by the Cardinals would give the team two deposed head coaches helming both coordinator positions. The Cardinals hired former Denver Broncos head coach Vance Joseph to be their defensive coordinator under new head coach Kliff Kingsbury, who has no coaching experience in the NFL.

Jackson and Joseph worked together for two years in Cincinnati under former Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis.

Though Kingsbury plans to call the plays in Arizona, he has said he would like to hire a veteran offensive coordinator with NFL experience. And the Cardinals have reportedly interviewed a host of former coordinators, including:

–Jim Bob Cooter, ex-Detroit coordinator

–John DeFilippo, fired by Minnesota in midseason but hired by Jacksonville to be OC

–Steve Sarkisian, ex-Atlanta coordinator who returned to Alabama

–Tom Clements, former coordinator in Green Bay

–Ben McAdoo, former coordinator and head coach with New York Giants

Jackson, 53, was hired by Lewis in Cincinnati for the remainder of last season until both were fired by the Bengals.

–Field Level Media

Read More 177 Words

Mickelson to end 28-year streak playing Torrey Pines

Mickelson to end 28-year streak playing Torrey Pines

Mickelson to end 28-year streak playing Torrey Pines

Phil Mickelson is ending his 28-year relationship with Torrey Pines, his hometown course.

The left-handed star will skip next week’s Farmers Insurance Open, the PGA Tour event that will be held at Torrey Pines Golf Course in the La Jolla neighborhood of San Diego. Mickelson has participated in the tournament each year since 1991.

Mickelson, a three-time winner of the event who was born in San Diego in 1970, announced the development Friday on Twitter.

“I want to share my updated tour schedule: this week I will be playing here in the desert, Phoenix, Pebble Beach, and then defending my title in Mexico,” the 44-time PGA Tour winner wrote. “My streak of 28-straight Farmers Insurance Opens will end next week. I will try to make it up to the great community of SD!”

Not counted among the 28-tournament streak is his first appearance there as a 17-year-old amateur in 1988. Mickelson also tied for 18th when the U.S. Open was played at Torrey Pines in 2008.

Since a 2001 redesign of the South course by Rees Jones, Mickelson has not been a winner at Torrey Pines. (His victories there came in 1993, 2000 and earlier in 2001.) He indicated on Thursday that it’s no longer “a good place for him” and that he was not sure if his game could currently handle one of the longest courses on tour.

Not that Lefty is struggling right now. He is leading through two rounds of the Desert Classic in La Quinta, Calif., following up his 12-under 60 on Thursday with a 4-under 68 on Friday for a two-shot cushion.

–Field Level Media

Read More 209 Words

Cardinals’ Fitzgerald one-ups Obama with ace during golf round

Cardinals' Fitzgerald one-ups Obama with ace during golf round

Cardinals’ Fitzgerald one-ups Obama with ace during golf round

Even when he isn’t playing football, Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald knows how to make an impression as a professional athlete. On Friday during a round of golf at Seminole Golf Club near Palm Beach Gardens in Florida, he made a hole-in-one while playing a round of golf with former President Barack Obama.

The news spread quickly as Jimmy Dunne, the president of the golf club, waived a rule and allowed cellphone use so Fitzgerald could reveal his good fortune. His shot turned out to one-up Obama, who hit his approach to 20 feet at the par-3 13th.

Golf Channel analyst Tim Rosaforte offered his quick report on Twitter about Fitzgerald’s ace using an 8-iron on the 162-yard hole, saying in part, “The elation coming from All Pro wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald on the 13th hole at Seminole GC at 1:30 this afternoon was unreal. But it was very real. … ‘I’m playing with the President of the United States and I just made a hole in one!’ shouted the host to Barack Obama’s first go around The ‘Nole. ‘This is unbelievable!'”

Also, according to Rosaforte, “Among the high fives was the one coming from the 44th President of the U.S.”

Fitzgerald was playing in a foursome with Obama, Dunne and Glenn Hutchins, part owner in the Boston Celtics and a board member of Obama Foundation, and recently played golf with Tigers Woods, perhaps in preparation to defend his title next month at the Pebble Beach Pro-Am.

Last February, he teamed with friend and PGA pro Kevin Streelman to win the event with a score of 41-under par, including a 12-under for their final round.

“It was me being completely out of my comfort zone, not being a professional, just dealing with what comes I think that’s what made it special for me,” Fitzgerald told Bay Area News Group then. “This game is so difficult, and I think you even have more respect for the guys who win and play consistently at a high level because this is the hardest game out there.”

Fitzgerald, with 1,303 catches and 16,279 yards, third and second all-time, respectively, hasn’t decided yet whether he’ll continue playing football next season.

He did give thumbs-up to Arizona’s recent hire of Kliff Kingsbury as head coach.

“Hell of a coach,” Fitzgerald told TMZ, via Pro Football Talk. “Look at his resume. He’s innovative offensively. That’s somebody with a future right now. So, I’m excited for the chance to meet him.”

However, the 35-year-old All-Pro could be contemplating another career move after 15 NFL seasons. His opponents on the golf course don’t seem to be nearly as intimidating.

–Field Level Media

Read More 390 Words

Lucas Glover’s wife gets probation in domestic violence case

Lucas Glover's wife gets probation in domestic violence case

Lucas Glover’s wife gets probation in domestic violence case

Krista Glover, the wife of golfer Lucas Glover, agreed to 25 hours of community service and to undergo a substance abuse and mental health evaluation in charges relating to a domestic violence incident in May, multiple news outlets reported Friday.

As part of the deferred prosecution agreement reached Friday, she will be on probation for 12 months — during which she must complete the community service, follow any treatment guidelines and not violate any laws.

Krista Glover was arrested in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla., after her husband missed the 54-hole cut at The Players Championship.

According to the incident report, she attacked her husband’s mother when the latter tried to intervene during an altercation between Lucas Glover and his wife. After being arrested, police said Krista Glover became combative and unruly and repeatedly kicked the car door.

The arrest reports stated that Lucas Glover told the deputy his wife calls him a “loser” among other insults after he plays poorly in a tournament, and that she had been drinking. She was charged with domestic violence battery and resisting an officer without violence.

Lucas Glover won the 2009 U.S. Open and has two other career PGA wins, with the most recent coming at the Wells Fargo Championship in 2011. He is playing at this week’s Desert Classic in La Quinta, Calif.

–Field Level Media

Read More 169 Words

Saints TE Watson could miss NFC title game

Saints TE Watson could miss NFC title game

Saints TE Watson could miss NFC title game

Tight end Benjamin Watson is expected to be inactive when the New Orleans Saints host the Los Angeles Rams in the NFC Championship Game on Sunday, according to a report by ESPN.

ESPN reported that Watson’s missed practices on Wednesday and Thursday were because of appendicitis. He has not had surgery to remove his appendix.

However, the Saints listed Watson as questionable on Friday’s injury report. The team said Watson was a limited practice participant on Friday.

New Orleans ruled out receiver Keith Kirkwood (calf) after he missed the week’s three practices.

Watson, 38, announced in December he planned to retire after this season.

If Watson doesn’t play, that will leave quarterback Drew Brees without one of his offensive weapons. On the season, Watson had 35 catches for 400 yards with two touchdowns.

In his career, he has played in 195 games for the New England Patriots (2004-09), Cleveland Browns (2010-12), New Orleans (2013-15, 2018) and Baltimore Ravens (2017). He has played in 12 playoff games and won a Super Bowl with the Patriots in his rookie season.

The Rams didn’t list any players on Friday’s injury report.

–Field Level Media

Read More 132 Words

NFL notebook: Linehan out as Cowboys offensive coordinator

NFL notebook: Linehan out as Cowboys offensive coordinator

Offensive coordinator Scott Linehan will not

NFL notebook: Linehan out as Cowboys offensive coordinator

Offensive coordinator Scott Linehan will not return to the Dallas Cowboys for the 2019 season, head coach Jason Garrett announced on Friday.

“This was not an easy decision because of how highly we regard Scott Linehan as a football coach and as a person,” said Garrett in a statement. The Cowboys coach described the move as “very much a mutual decision.”

Linehan’s future had been a subject of debate throughout the week in Dallas. On Monday, two days after the Cowboys’ season ended in a playoff loss to the Los Angeles Rams, Garrett told 105.3 FM in Dallas that he expected no changes to his coaching staff, including Linehan.

Later that day, Garrett stepped back from his commitment to Linehan at the Cowboys’ season-ending press conference. Linehan was the focus of fan criticism, especially when the team was 3-5 at the halfway point of the season. Dallas ranked No. 22 in both total and scoring offense in 2018.

–Kansas City Chiefs safety Eric Berry appears to be ready to play in Sunday’s AFC Championship Game against the New England Patriots after the team removed him from the injury report following practice.

Berry, who has a heel injury, was a full participant for the third straight day. The five-time Pro Bowl selection missed the preseason and first 13 regular-season games due to the heel injury. He played in two regular-season games in December before missing the finale after reinjuring it.

Linebacker Dorian O’Daniel (ankle) was ruled out and was the lone player remaining on the injury report on Friday. O’Daniel also missed the game against Indianapolis.

–Tight end Benjamin Watson is expected to be inactive when the New Orleans Saints host the Los Angeles Rams in the NFC Championship Game on Sunday, according to an ESPN report.

ESPN reported that Watson’s missed practices on Wednesday and Thursday were because of appendicitis. He has not had surgery to remove his appendix. However, the Saints listed Watson as questionable on Friday’s injury report after he was a limited practice participant.

Watson, 38, announced in December he planned to retire after this season. New Orleans also ruled out receiver Keith Kirkwood (calf) after he missed the week’s three practices. The Rams didn’t list any players on Friday’s injury report.

–Temperatures during the AFC Championship Game on Sunday night should be much warmer than previously thought.

Earlier this week, predictions were that the Chiefs would host the Patriots at Arrowhead Stadium with arctic game-time temperatures in the single digits and falling to below zero.

On Friday, the Weather Channel forecast a high of 32 degrees on Sunday in Kansas City, Mo., with a low of 21.

–A record 135 college football players are bypassing remaining eligibility to enter the 2019 NFL Draft.

The NFL released the official list on Friday and said 103 players were granted special eligibility. Another 32 players graduated while still having college eligibility. Nine others are eligible without the need for special eligibility.

Among the players who declared prior to Monday’s deadline were Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback Kyler Murray of Oklahoma and quarterback Dwayne Haskins of Ohio State. Murray has previously signed a baseball contract with the Oakland Athletics.

–The Chicago Bears have signed receiver Jordan Williams-Lambert to a contract, the team announced.

Williams-Lambert, a product of Ball State, played in the Canadian Football League in 2018 with the Saskatchewan Roughriders. He caught 62 passes for 764 yards and four touchdowns in 16 games. He was named the most outstanding rookie in the CFL’s West Division.

The 6-3 Williams-Lambert signed with New Orleans as an undrafted free agent in 2016 and spent the season on the practice squad. The Saints waived him in August 2017. He becomes the third player from the CFL to join the Bears this offseason.

–During a round of golf at Seminole Golf Club near Palm Beach Gardens in Florida, Arizona Cardinals wide receiver made a hole-in-one while playing a round of golf with former President Barack Obama.

The news spread quickly as Jimmy Dunne, the president of the golf club, waived a rule and allowed cellphone use so Fitzgerald could reveal his good fortune. His shot turned out to one-up Obama, who hit his approach to 20 feet at the par-3 13th.

Fitzgerald was playing in a foursome with Obama, Dunne and Glenn Hutchins, part owner in the Boston Celtics and a board member of Obama Foundation, and recently played golf with Tigers Woods, perhaps in preparation to defend his title next month at the Pebble Beach Pro-Am.

–Field Level Media

Read More 683 Words

Strong finish keeps Mickelson in front at Desert Classic

Strong finish keeps Mickelson in front at Desert Classic

Strong finish keeps Mickelson in front at Desert Classic

Phil Mickelson followed up his blistering opening-round 60 with a 4-under-par 68 on Friday at PGA West’s Nicklaus Stadium Course to take a two-shot lead into the weekend at the Desert Classic in La Quinta, Calif.

He holds a two-shot lead over Australian Curtis Luck, who sits in second place after shooting a 6-under 66 also on the Nicklaus course.

As on Thursday, when he made 10 birdies and an eagle, Mickelson finished with a birdie on his 18th hole, but that was where the similarities ended. He started on the back nine and turned with an even-par 36 after a double bogey on No. 9, but birdies four of his last five holes to salvage his day.

“I actually felt better striking (the ball). I didn’t putt very well today, certainly relative to yesterday where I was making everything,” said Mickelson, a two-time winner of the Desert Classic (2002, 2014). “But I finished strong. I birdied four of the last five. You know, if you shoot 6 or 7 under par at the Nicklaus course, you feel like OK, that’s a good solid round. I shot 4 (under), I was a few behind, so I’ll just have to come out tomorrow on the Stadium (Course) and shoot 6 or 7 (under) to make up for it.”

Mickelson was even through No. 13 after failing to make birdie on the par-5 fourth. However, a birdie from 8 feet on No. 5 turned the momentum.

“I just needed one little spark,” Mickelson said. “Once that one went in, I started seeing the ball go in a little bit easier rather than the ball lipping out and I made some putts thereafter. … You just have to keep firing on all cylinders and going after birdies because this is a course where there’s going to be a lot of birdies.”

The Desert Classic is a pro-am format, with players rotating among two courses at PGA West, the Nicklaus Tournament Course and the Stadium Course, and nearby La Quinta Country Club over the first three days. All three courses are par 72. Sunday’s final round will be played at the Stadium Course.

Last season, the Nicklaus Tournament Course yielded the second-lowest average score (69.445) of any par 72 on the PGA Tour last season. La Quinta was No. 1 (68.831), while the Stadium Course yielded an average of 71.181.

Luck, 22, closed with a birdie on the par-4 ninth, taking out some of the sting from a bogey on the par-3 eighth.

“Just like yesterday, very solid, lot of greens, a lot of fairways,” said Luck, the 2016 U.S. Amateur champion. “Just missed a couple of short ones today, unfortunately. But putting’s been great.”

Adam Hadwin (66, La Quinta) and Steve Marino (65, La Quinta) are tied for third at 13 under. Defending champion Jon Rahm of Spain (Nicklaus) fired his second straight 66 to move to 12 under with Wyndham Clark (67, Nicklaus) and Joey Garber (64, La Quinta).

As for the possibility of capturing the title, Mickelson says experience is on his side but he’s taking nothing for granted. He has won 17 of the 32 times on the PGA Tour when he’s held the 36-hole lead.

“This has been a fun if not surprising start for me, and it’s been fun to get in the mix,” he said. “Usually when you play that well the first two rounds, you’re hitting the ball where you want, making some putts, so I just have to keep that going the next couple days.”

–Field Level Media

Read More 509 Words

Bears sign WR Williams-Lambert

Bears sign WR Williams-Lambert

The

Bears sign WR Williams-Lambert

The Chicago Bears have signed receiver Jordan Williams-Lambert to a contract, the team announced Friday.

Williams-Lambert, a product of Ball State, played in the Canadian Football League in 2018 with the Saskatchewan Roughriders. He caught 62 passes for 764 yards and four touchdowns in 16 games. He was named the most outstanding rookie in the CFL’s West Division after catching 62 passes for 764 yards and four touchdowns in 17 games.

The 6-3 Williams-Lambert signed with New Orleans as an undrafted free agent in 2016 and spent the season on the practice squad. The Saints waived him in August 2017.

He becomes the third player from the CFL to join the Bears this offseason. The others are linebackers Jameer Thurman and James Vaughters.

–Field Level Media

Read More 61 Words

Warmer temperatures expected when Chiefs, Patriots meet

Warmer temperatures expected when Chiefs, Patriots meet

Warmer temperatures expected when Chiefs, Patriots meet

Temperatures during the AFC championship game on Sunday night should be much warmer than previously thought.

Earlier this week, predictions were that the Kansas City Chiefs would host the New England Patriots at Arrowhead Stadium with arctic gametime temperatures in the single digits and falling to below zero.

On Friday, the Weather Channel forecast a high of 32 degrees on Sunday in Kansas City, with a low of 21. Kickoff is at 6:40 p.m. ET

The grounds crew at Arrowhead Stadium spent the week getting the field ready. After heavy snowfall fell in Kansas City last weekend, the crew figured the field needed to be replaced for the first-ever AFC championship game at the stadium.

Heads groundskeeper Travis Hogan shared pictures on Twitter on Thursday of the resodded turf.

“We weren’t planning on a resod this week, but Mother Nature had other plans,” Hogan tweeted. “10 inches of snow and all the snow in the stadium being hauled out on the sidelines changed things. My crew did an unbelievable job. They are the BEST! Everyone is tired but we are ready. Let’s Roll!”

–Field Level Media

Read More 130 Words

Record number approved to enter NFL draft

Record number approved to enter NFL draft

Record number approved to enter NFL draft

A record 135 college football players are bypassing remaining eligibility to enter the 2019 NFL Draft.

The NFL released the official list on Friday and said 103 players were granted special eligibility. Another 32 players graduated while still having college eligibility.

Nine others are eligible without the need for special eligibility.

Among the players who declared prior to Monday’s deadline were Heisman Trophy winning quarterback Kyler Murray of Oklahoma and quarterback Dwayne Haskins of Ohio State. Murray has previously signed a baseball contract with the Oakland Athletics.

Others on the list who figure to go early in the draft are Ohio State defensive end Nick Bosa, Michigan defensive end Rashan Gary, Houston defensive tackle Ed Oliver and Alabama defensive tackle Quinnen Williams.

The players granted special eligibility for the 2019 NFL Draft:

Ed Alexander, DT, LSU

Jeff Allison, LB, Fresno State

JJ Arcega-Whiteside, WR, Stanford

Mike Bell, S, Fresno State

Amani Bledsoe, DE, Oklahoma

Nick Bosa, DE, Ohio State

Miles Boykin, WR, Notre Dame

A.J. Brown, WR, Ole Miss

Marquise Brown, WR, Oklahoma

Sean Bunting, CB, Central Michigan

Brian Burns, DE, Florida State

Devin Bush, LB, Michigan

Hamp Cheevers, CB, Boston College

Damarea Crockett, RB, Missouri

Maxx Crosby, DE, Eastern Michigan

Tyrel Dodson, LB, Texas A&M

Greg Dortch, WR, Wake Forest

Clifton Duck, CB, Appalachian State

Jovon Durante, WR, Florida Atlantic

David Edwards, OT, Wisconsin

Bobby Evans, OT, Oklahoma

Datryan Evans, TE, Friends

Noah Fant, TE, Iowa

Jazz Ferguson, WR, Northwestern State

Malik Gant, DB, Marshall

Chauncey Gardner-Johnson, S, Florida

Rashan Gary, DL, Michigan

Zach Gentry, TE, Michigan

Kevin Givens, DT, Penn State

Jalen Guyton, WR, North Texas

Mecole Hardman, WR, Georgia

Kelvin Harmon, WR, N.C. State

N’Keal Harry, WR, Arizona State

Dwayne Haskins, QB, Ohio State

Darrell Henderson, RB, Memphis

Nate Herbig, OG, Stanford

Justice Hill, RB, Oklahoma State

Trysten Hill, DT, Central Florida

T.J. Hockenson, TE, Iowa

Joshuwa Holloman, RB, Eastern Michigan

Elijah Holyfield, RB, Georgia

Travis Homer, RB, Miami

Amani Hooker, DB, Iowa

Lil’Jordan Humphrey, WR, Texas

Joe Jackson, DE, Miami

Josh Jacobs, RB, Alabama

Andre James, OT, UCLA

Darryl Johnson, DE, North Carolina A&T

Diontae Johnson, WR, Toledo

Tyron Johnson, WR, Oklahoma State

Michael Jordan, OG, Ohio State

Vosean Joseph, LB, Florida

Tre Lamar, LB, Clemson

Dexter Lawrence, DT, Clemson

Justin Layne, CB, Michigan State

Greg Little, OT, Ole Miss

David Long, CB, Michigan

Julian Love, CB, Notre Dame

Alize Mack, TE, Notre Dame

Alexander Mattison, RB, Boise State

Connor McGovern, OL, Penn State

D.K. Metcalf, WR, Ole Miss

Shareef Miller, DE, Penn State

Dillon Mitchell, WR, Oregon

David Montgomery, RB, Iowa State

Trayvon Mullen, DB, Clemson

Byron Murphy, CB, Washington

Kyler Murray, QB, Oklahoma

Isaac Nauta, TE, Georgia

Chidi Okeke, OT, Tennessee State

Ed Oliver, DT, Houston

Jachai Polite, DE, Florida

Ryan Pulley, CB, Arkansas

Taylor Rapp, S, Washington

Riley Ridley, WR, Georgia

Tyler Roemer, OT, San Diego State

Miles Sanders, RB, Penn State

Jordan Scarlett, RB, Florida

Kendall Sheffield, DB, Ohio State

Jeffery Simmons, DT, Mississippi State

Devin Singletary, RB, Florida Atlantic

Darius Slayton, WR, Auburn

Irv Smith, TE, Alabama

Kaden Smith, TE, Stanford

Savion Smith, DB, Alabama

Benny Snell, RB, Kentucky

Dredrick Snelson, WR, Central Florida

Jace Sternberger, TE, Texas A&M

Jawaan Taylor, OT, Florida

Darwin Thompson, RB, Utah State

John Ursua, WR, Hawaii

Kahale Warring, TE, San Diego State

Mike Weber, RB, Ohio State

Antoine Wesley, WR, Texas Tech

Devin White, LB, LSU

Kerrith Whyte Jr., RB, Florida Atlantic

Greedy Williams, CB, LSU

James Williams, RB, Washington State

Joejuan Williams, CB, Vanderbilt

Preston Williams, WR, Colorado State

Quinnen Williams, DT, Alabama

Trayveon Williams, RB, Texas A&M

Mack Wilson, LB, Alabama

The following 32 players have in timely fashion under NFL rules officially notified the league office that they have fulfilled their degree requirements. Consequently, they are eligible for selection:

Rodney Anderson, RB, Oklahoma

Alex Barnes, RB, Kansas State

Ryan Bates, OT, Penn State

Venzell Boulware, OL, Miami

Hakeem Butler, WR, Iowa State

Xavier Crawford, CB, Central Michigan

Jamel Dean, CB, Auburn

Clelin Ferrell, DL, Clemson

Cody Ford, OL, Oklahoma

Youhanna Ghaifan, DT, Wyoming

Joe Giles-Harris, LB, Duke

Penny Hart, WR, Georgia State

Tyree Jackson, QB, Buffalo

Daniel Jones, QB, Duke

Dre’Mont Jones, DL, Ohio State

Dawson Knox, TE, Ole Miss

David Long, LB, West Virginia

Erik McCoy, OL, Texas A&M

Jakobi Meyers, WR, N.C. State

Anthony Nelson, DE, Iowa

Tony Pollard, RB, Memphis

Anthony Ratliff-Williams, WR, North Carolina

Dax Raymond, TE, Utah State

Quart’e Sapp, LB, Tennessee

Cortrelle Simpson, WR, Richmond

Sutton Smith, DE, Northern Illinois

Jarrett Stidham, QB, Auburn

William Sweet, OT, North Carolina

Josiah Tauaefa, LB, UTSA

Deionte Thompson, S, Alabama

Jonah Williams, OT, Alabama

Caleb Wilson, TE, UCLA

The following players inquired about their draft status and are eligible for selection without the need for special eligibility:

Sean Adesanya, DE, Central Michigan

Blessuan Austin, DB, Rutgers

Jordan Brailford, DE, Oklahoma State

Keenen Brown, TE, Texas State

Byron Cowart, DE, Maryland

D’Andre Ferby, DE, Western Kentucky

P.J.Johnson, DT, Arizona

Daniel LaCamera, K, Texas A&M

L.J. Scott, RB, Michigan State

–Field Level Media

Read More 793 Words

Report: Saints TE Watson expected to miss NFC title game

Report: Saints TE Watson expected to miss NFC title game

Report: Saints TE Watson expected to miss NFC title game

Tight end Benjamin Watson is expected to be inactive when his New Orleans Saints meet the Los Angeles Rams in the NFC championship game on Sunday.

ESPN reported that Watson has missed practices this week because of appendicitis. He has not had surgery to remove his appendix.

Watson, 38, announced in December he planned to retire after this season.

If he doesn’t play, that will leave quarterback Drew Brees without one of his offensive weapons. On the season, Watson had 35 catches for 400 yards with two touchdowns.

In his career, he has played in 195 games for New England (2004-09), Cleveland (2010-12), New Orleans (2013-15, 2018) and Baltimore (2017). He has played in 12 playoff games and won a Super Bowl with the Patriots in his rookie season.

–Field Level Media

Read More 75 Words

Chiefs S Berry likely to play vs. Patriots

Chiefs S Berry likely to play vs. Patriots

Chiefs S Berry likely to play vs. Patriots

Kansas City Chiefs safety Eric Berry appears to be playing in Sunday’s AFC Championship Game against the New England Patriots after the team removed him from the injury report following Friday’s practice.

Berry, who has a heel injury, was a full participant for the third straight day.

“I feel pretty good,” Berry told reporters after Friday’s practice.

The five-time Pro Bowl selection missed the preseason and the first 13 regular-season games due to the heel injury. He played in two regular-season games in December before missing the finale after reinjuring it, and he also missed last weekend’s divisional-round victory over the Indianapolis Colts.

“I wanted to go in that game,” Berry told reporters of the Colts’ game. “Just a lot of complications that I can’t really explain. Hopefully this weekend it will be different.

“Right now, I just know it’s moving in the right direction and I want to get on the field on Sunday.”

Chiefs defensive coordinator Bob Sutton is looking forward to seeing Berry on the field.

“He has great speed and range,” Sutton told reporters of Berry. “I think he’s our most physical football player. So when you have those qualities and you have playmaking ability, you have a chance to affect the game.

“The one thing about speed on defense is that it isn’t always the plays you make, it’s sometimes the plays you prevent. He has that ability in him. The other part of it that he brings is the players respond to him. They appreciate all he’s been through and what he’s done here and what kind of player he is.”

Linebacker Dorian O’Daniel (ankle) was ruled out and was the lone player remaining on the injury report on Friday. O’Daniel also missed the game against Indianapolis.

–Field Level Media

Read More 243 Words

Chargers GM on Rivers: ‘He’s not going anywhere’

Chargers GM on Rivers: 'He's not going anywhere'

Philip Rivers has said he wants

Chargers GM on Rivers: ‘He’s not going anywhere’

Philip Rivers has said he wants to play beyond next season, the final year on his contract with the Los Angeles Chargers.

Chargers general manager Tom Telesco signaled Thursday that the team is committed to Rivers beyond next season as well.

“I can tell you he’s not going anywhere,” Telesco said of the 37-year-old Rivers.

“He’s going to be here, but we’ll talk at the right point as far as the moves we need to make in the offseason, the resources we have and kind of see how it all fits in. But yeah, he’s not going anywhere.”

Rivers is due $11 million next season but would count $23 million against the salary cap.

He’s also coming off a 12-4 season that ended just short of the AFC title game with a playoff loss to the New England Patriots.

Rivers threw for 4,308 yards with 32 touchdowns and 12 interceptions this season.

“I couldn’t put a number on it, but I haven’t seen drop off in Philip since I arrived here six years ago,” Telesco said. “In the six years I’ve been here, he’s even playing better now than when I first got here so I guess the sky’s the limit, but for how long he wants to play, you’d have to ask him that but we’re really lucky to have him.”

The Chargers are scheduled to move into their new stadium in time for the 2020 season, which would be Rivers’ 17th in the NFL.

–Field Level Media

Read More 191 Words

Linehan out as Dallas’ offensive coordinator

Linehan out as Dallas' offensive coordinator

Offensive coordinator Scott Linehan will not

Linehan out as Dallas’ offensive coordinator

Offensive coordinator Scott Linehan will not return to the Dallas Cowboys for the 2019 season, head coach Jason Garrett announced in a statement on Friday.

“This was not an easy decision because of how highly we regard Scott Linehan as a football coach and as a person. He and I had some really positive, substantive and open discussions which took place in the latter part of this week, and we ultimately agreed that it would be in the best interest of all of the parties involved if we were to make a change at this position. This was very much a mutual decision,” Garrett’s statement said, in part.

Linehan’s future had been a subject of debate throughout the week in Dallas.

On Monday, two days after the Cowboys’ season ended in a playoff loss to the Los Angeles Rams, Garrett told 105.3 FM in Dallas that he expected no changes to his coaching staff, including Linehan.

Hours later on the same station, vice president Stephen Jones said, “I think it’s a little early to be speculating about players, coaches, anything like that other than I really do think our group overall did a nice job. I know overall it was a good season, but we also know that we’ve had some good teams around here that haven’t taken the next step. We’ve got to figure out what that is. We’re obviously going to be doing a lot of work … to see how we can take that next step.”

Then, Monday afternoon, Garrett seemed to take a step back from his commitment to Linehan at the Cowboys’ season-ending press conference.

“We haven’t had any substantive conversations,” Garrett said. “Scott did an excellent job for us this year. Again, I don’t know how I answered that question this morning. Nothing has changed.”

Linehan was the focus of fan criticism, especially when the team was 3-5 at the halfway point of the season. Dallas was No. 22 in total offense and scoring offense in 2018.

Still, Garrett was a staunch defender of Linehan throughout the season. After a loss to Seattle on Sept. 23, when the Cowboys scored just 13 points, Garrett was asked if he would start calling plays himself. At the time, the Cowboys were 1-2 and averaging 13.7 points per game.

“We’re not going to go down that road right now,” Garrett said then. “I have a lot of confidence in Scott Linehan. He has been an outstanding coordinator in this league for a long time. He’s been an outstanding coordinator for us.”

Linehan joined the Cowboys in 2014 as the passing game coordinator and was promoted to offensive coordinator in 2015. He was head coach of the St. Louis Rams from 2006-08.

The Cowboys scored 339 points this season, their fewest since 2015, when they finished 4-12 and used a revolving door of quarterbacks when injury limited Tony Romo to four games. It was the second-lowest total since 2005.

–Field Level Media

Read More 427 Words

NFL Conference Championship Weekend: Over and Under Bets

This NFL season, with sports betting expected to be a more common and accepted practice, we're making a point to look beyond point spreads and analyze often-neglected totals. As part of that approach, we're offering up our favorite bet over and favorite under each week. 

Over and Under Best Bets

Take the

This NFL season, with sports betting expected to be a more common and accepted practice, we’re making a point to look beyond point spreads and analyze often-neglected totals. As part of that approach, we’re offering up our favorite bet over and favorite under each week. 

Over and Under Best Bets

Take the over: New England Patriots at Kansas City Chiefs

Total: 56.5

The Chiefs remain vulnerable against the run. The Colts averaged 6.2 yards per rush against them but weren’t able to establish the run consistently due to the score.

Meanwhile, the Patriots have really discovered a strong running game thanks to the emergence of Sony Michel. Look for them to keep it on the ground and set things up for the passing game to take advantage of a secondary that is also beatable. 

You know Tom Brady will get some shots in, and there’s little doubt Patrick Mahomes will do the same. New England’s run defense is also vulnerable — only the Rams surrendered more yards per carry than the Pats and Chiefs this season — and Damien Williams and Spencer Ware should have plenty of success setting up the passing game. Kansas City could also get a shot in the arm from the return of injured guard Laurent Duvernay-Tardif. 

These teams combined for 83 points in their first meeting, and this should be another track meet. After initial weather concerns, the latest forecast indicates this game won’t be played in sub-zero temperatures after all, and I think both teams will have just enough in them on offense to push this one into the 60s. 

Predicted score: Chiefs 34, Patriots 28

Take the under: Los Angeles Rams at New Orleans Saints

Total: 56

Dating back to Week 13, the Saints have averaged fewer than 20 points per game. And while they scored 45 points the last time they faced Los Angeles, Rams defensive coordinator Wade Phillips is too smart to let that happen again. Look for Aqib Talib — who didn’t play in that first meeting — to do a better job against productive star Saints receiver Michael Thomas, and don’t be surprised if underrated Rams linebacker Cory Littleton limits Alvin Kamara’s damage. 

That could make life real tough against a defensive front featuring defensive player of the year shoo-in Aaron Donald as well as Ndamukong Suh, who looks inspired thus far in January. 

And while the Rams also scored 35 points in that Week 9 meeting, that offense has also been less stable and consistent without Cooper Kupp down the stretch. 

The Saints defense is certainly beatable, but keep in mind that New Orleans completely shut down the Eagles for three and a half quarters on Sunday and has surrendered 17 or fewer points in seven of its last nine games.

Not even sure this one will hit 50. 

Predicted score: Rams 24, Saints 23

Good luck, we’re all counting on you. 

Previous results
Last week: 2-0
2018 season: 23-14-1

Read More 417 Words

Mickelson flirts with 59 at Desert Classic

Mickelson flirts with 59 at Desert Classic

Mickelson flirts with 59 at Desert Classic

Phil Mickelson flirted with the 11th sub-60 round in the history of the PGA Tour on Thursday before settling for a 12-under 60 at La Quinta Country Club in the first round of the Desert Classic in California.

He holds a three-shot lead over Adam Long, who sits in second place after shooting a 9-under 63 at PGA West’s Nicklaus Tournament Course.

“It was kind of a lucky day for me in the sense that I did not feel sharp coming in,” Mickelson told The Golf Channel after his round, referencing his tweet prior to the round that he was feeling “rusty.” “I did not have the intense practice sessions that I would have liked, but I felt like all parts were OK and it just clicked. …

“It was a fun day. I certainly did not expect this to be the case, but I’m also excited to start the year, so I was fresh.”

Taking advantage of the easiest course on the PGA Tour last season, Mickelson birdied his first two holes and made the turn in 6-under 30. He then reeled off five more birdies over his next seven holes to set up his chance at the elusive 59.

Needing to birdie the final two holes — both par 4s — Mickelson parred the 17th before rolling in a birdie on his final hole. It marked the 37th round of 60 on the PGA Tour and the third of Mickelson’s career. His two previous 60s came at the Waste Management Open in Phoenix, but TPC Scottsdale is a par-71 course.

“I came to the realization (regarding the possibility of shooting 59) on 16 when I had that putt for birdie that if I make that 4-footer and birdie the last two, I would shoot 59 and I gave myself a decent chance,” Mickelson said. “The shot on 17, I was trying to hook a sand wedge and kind of get that thing to side spin towards the pin, and I just didn’t hook it enough. I still had a good look at it, but I just didn’t roll that one in.”

The Desert Classic is a pro-am format, with players rotating among La Quinta, the Nicklaus Tournament Course and the Stadium Course, the latter two at PGA West, over the first three days. All three courses are par 72. Sunday’s final round will be played at the Stadium Course.

La Quinta yielded the lowest average score (68.831) of any par 72 on the PGA Tour last season. The Nicklaus Tournament Course was No. 2 (69.445), while the Stadium Course yielded an average of 71.181.

Mickelson, a two-time winner of the Desert Classic (2002, 2014), did his best to take advantage of the La Quinta course in soft conditions on Thursday. He will play the Nicklaus course on Friday and the Stadium Course in the third round and noted that the pressure was on to perform in Round 2.

“It’s very difficult to start out with a round and go low like this and then follow it up because the expectations are (that) anything short of a victory is a failure,” said the 48-year-old. “Yet we have three full rounds on some challenging golf courses with a lot of potential birdies, so it’s a tough position to be in but it’s one that I thoroughly enjoy.”

Australia’s Curtis Luck sits alone in third place at 8 under after his round at La Quinta.

Trey Mullinax (Nicklaus), Wyndham Clark (La Quinta), Canada’s Adam Hadwin (Stadium) and Scotland’s Martin Laird (Nicklaus) are tied for fourth at 7 under.

Spain’s Jon Rahm, seeking to join Johnny Miller (1975-76) as the only repeat champions of the event, shot 6 under at La Quinta, leaving him in a 10-way tie for eighth place. Rahm beat Andrew Landry on the fourth hole of a sudden-death playoff last year.

Reigning FedExCup champion Justin Rose is the first No. 1-ranked player to compete in the Desert Classic since the world ranking system began in 1986. The Englishman shot 4 under at La Quinta on Thursday, good for a tie for 31st.

Charlie Reiter, who missed the cut as a high school senior last year, is in the field again on a sponsor exemption. Reiter, currently on the University of Southern California team, shot 3 over par at La Quinta on Thursday, better than just eight golfers in the 156-player field.

–Field Level Media

Read More 657 Words

NFL notebook: Chiefs S Berry, RB Ware set to play Sunday

NFL notebook: Chiefs S Berry, RB Ware set to play Sunday

NFL notebook: Chiefs S Berry, RB Ware set to play Sunday

Kansas City Chiefs safety Eric Berry and running back Spencer Ware are trending toward taking the field Sunday in the AFC Championship game against the New England Patriots.

Berry was a full participant in Wednesday’s practice and repeated the session Thursday. He’s been bothered by a heel injury.

“He looked good out there,” head coach Andy Reid said Thursday when asked about the risk of Berry being rusty after playing in just two games this season. “I see him out there looking like Eric Berry.”

Berry has played just 99 snaps across the two games while battling the lingering heel issue, while Ware missed the final three games of the regular season after injuring his hamstring Week 14 in a win over the Ravens.

–Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt had a “minor knee cleanup” after the season, reported NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport.

“Sounds like he’s fine now,” Rapoport tweeted. “Just some maintenance on an injury that bothered him during the season.”

Watt had appeared on Houston’s injury report multiple times during the second half of the season with a knee issue, but he started all 16 regular-season games plus the Texans’ wild-card playoff loss to the Indianapolis Colts this season.

–Jacksonville Jaguars running back Leonard Fournette has filed an official challenge over the team’s decision to take away the guarantees in the final two years of his contract, according to multiple reports, and an arbitrator will determine if Jacksonville is within its rights to do so.

Fournette was scheduled to earn $2.93 million in 2019 and $4.17 million in 2020, but the Jaguars voided the guarantees after he was suspended by the NFL for one game for coming off the bench to fight with Bills defensive lineman Shaq Lawson during the Jaguars’ loss at Buffalo on Nov. 25.

After the game, Fournette apologized, but the Jaguars still took away the remaining guaranteed money in his rookie contract citing a contract clause that allowed them to do so if he missed a game for anything other than a football-related injury.

–The Seattle Seahawks have agreed to a deal with quarterback Paxton Lynch, a first-round draft pick by Denver in 2016, KJR Radio reported.

Lynch, who turns 25 next month, was released by the Broncos before the 2018 season.

He wasn’t able to take hold of the starting job in Denver, appearing in just five games (four starts) and passing for 792 yards with four touchdowns and four interceptions. The Broncos’ signing of Case Keenum last March made Lynch expendable.

–The Chicago Bears’ impressive 2018 turnaround earned Matt Nagy the NFL Coach of the Year and former defensive coordinator Vic Fangio the NFL Assistant Coach of the Year honors from the Pro Football Writers of America.

Indianapolis general manager Chris Ballard, whose moves helped the Colts reach the playoffs for the first time since 2014, was voted NFL Executive of the Year by PFWA members.

Nagy inherited a 5-11 team and compiled a 12-4 record in his first season with the Bears, who won the NFC North and reached the playoffs for the first time since 2010.

–Legendary singer Gladys Knight will perform the national anthem before Super Bowl LIII on Feb. 3, the NFL and CBS announced.

“I am proud to use my voice to unite and represent our country in my hometown of Atlanta,” the 74-year-old Knight said.

Knight is enshrined in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and has won seven Grammy awards. She also has had two No. 1 Billboard Hot 100 singles during her career: “Midnight Train to Georgia” and “That’s What Friends Are For.”

–Former NFL quarterback Turk Schonert has died, according to Fox 19 News in Cincinnati. He was 62. His cause of death was not announced.

Schonert spent eight seasons in Cincinnati (1981-85, 1987-89) and one in Atlanta (1986), largely as a backup quarterback. He compiled a 7-5 record as a starter.

He later served as quarterbacks coach for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, New York Giants, Buffalo Bills, Carolina Panthers and New Orleans Saints. He also was the Bills’ offensive coordinator for one season in 2008. More recently, he was an assistant coach with the Montreal Alouettes of the CFL.

–Field Level Media

Read More 631 Words