NFL Articles

NFL Articles

Seven From Sunday – Week 15

Press Release

Seven From Sunday - Week 15

A look at seven statistical highlights from games played at 1:00 p.m. and 4:00 p.m. ET on Sunday, December 16, the 15th week of the 2018 season.

  • The CHICAGO BEARS defeated Green Bay,

Press Release

Seven From Sunday – Week 15

A look at seven statistical highlights from games played at 1:00 p.m. and 4:00 p.m. ET on Sunday, December 16, the 15th week of the 2018 season.

  • The CHICAGO BEARS defeated Green Bay, 24-17, and clinched the NFC North division title for the first time since 2010.

    The Bears, who finished in fourth place in the NFC North last season, completed a “worst-to-first” turnaround in 2018. In 15 of the past 16 seasons, at least one team has finished in first place in its division the season after finishing in last or tied for last place.
     
    The LOS ANGELES CHARGERS, who defeated Kansas City 29-28 on Thursday night, clinched a playoff berth for the first time since 2013.
     

  • Tennessee running back DERRICK HENRY rushed for 170 yards and two touchdowns in the Titans’ 17-0 victory over the New York Giants at MetLife Stadium.

    Henry, who rushed for 238 yards and four touchdowns in Week 14, is the fifth player since 2002 to record at least 170 rushing yards and two touchdown runs in consecutive games, joining Pro Football Hall of Famer LA DAINIAN TOMLINSON (2006), DEUCE MC ALLISTER (2003), CLINTON PORTIS (2003) and RICKY WILLIAMS (2002).

    Henry’s 408 rushing yards since Week 14 are the most by a player over a two-game span in franchise history, surpassing the previous high of 405 yards set by Pro Football Hall of Famer EARL CAMPBELL in Weeks 7-8 for the 1980 Houston Oilers. His six rushing touchdowns are the most by a player in team history over any two-game span.
     

  • Chicago quarterback MITCHELL TRUBISKY completed 20 of 28 passes (71.4 percent) for 235 yards with two touchdowns and zero interceptions for a 120.4 passer rating in the Bears’ 24-17 victory over Green Bay.
     
    Trubisky has recorded a passer rating of at least 120 (minimum 15 attempts) in four games this season, surpassing Pro Football Hall of Famer SID LUCKMAN (three games in 1943), RUDY BUKICH (three in 1965) and ERIK KRAMER (three in 1995) for the most such games by a quarterback in a single season in franchise history.
     
  • Atlanta wide receiver JULIO JONES had 82 receiving yards and a touchdown in the Falcons’ 40-14 victory over Arizona.

    Jones, who leads the NFL with 1,511 receiving yards, is the fifth player in NFL history with at least three career seasons with 1,500+ receiving yards, joining Pro Football Hall of Famers JERRY RICE (four seasons) and MARVIN HARRISON (three), and ANTONIO BROWN (three) and ANDRE JOHNSON (three).

    Jones, who also has 100 receptions this season, joined Harrison (three), Brown (three) and Johnson (three) as the only players in NFL history with at least 100 catches and 1,500 receiving yards in three career seasons.
                                                      

  • The BALTIMORE RAVENS, led by rookie running back GUS EDWARDS (104 rushing yards) and rookie quarterback LAMAR JACKSON (95 rushing yards), recorded 242 rushing yards in the Ravens’ 20-12 victory over Tampa Bay.

    Baltimore has rushed for at least 190 yards in five consecutive games and is the first team to accomplish the feat since the 1976 PITTSBURGH STEELERS (five consecutive games from October 17 to November 14).
     

  • Indianapolis running back MARLON MACK rushed for 139 yards and two touchdowns in the Colts’ 23-0 victory over Dallas. 

    Mack, who also rushed for 132 yards and two scores in the Colts’ Week 8 victory over Oakland, is the third player in franchise history to record multiple games with at least 125 rushing yards and two rushing touchdowns in a single season, joining Pro Football Hall of Famer ERIC DICKERSON (two games in 1987) and EDGERRIN JAMES (two games in both 1999 and 2005).
     

  • The MINNESOTA VIKINGS recorded nine sacks, including two sacks each from defensive end DANIELLE HUNTER and linebacker ANTHONY BARR, in the team’s 41-17 victory over Miami. 

    Minnesota, which recorded 10 sacks in the team’s Week 9 victory over Detroit, are the second team since 1990 to register at least nine sacks in multiple games in a single season, joining the 2017 JACKSONVILLE JAGUARS (two games). The Vikings are the seventh team since the 1970 merger to record multiple such games in a single season.

Read More 580 Words

NFL roundup: Steelers knock off Brady, Patriots

 

 

Ben Roethlisberger threw two touchdown passes, and the Pittsburgh Steelers’ defense stopped Tom Brady and the visiting New England Patriots twice in the red zone in the fourth quarter to seal a 17-10 win Sunday.

 

The Steelers (8-5-1) ended a three-game losing streak. New England (9-5) lost its second straight and missed a chance to clinch the AFC East title. It was Pittsburgh’s first win against New England since October of 2011, with the Patriots winning the previous five meetings (including playoffs).

 

Roethlisberger threw for 235 yards, with scoring passes to Vance McDonald and Antonio Brown, and was intercepted twice by Duron Harmon. Rookie Jaylen Samuels ran for 142 yards on 19 carries (7.5 average).

 

Brady threw for 279 yards, including a touchdown to Chris Hogan, and one interception. Rob Gronkowski, who has been a Steelers-killer, was held to two catches for 21 yards.

 

Bears 24, Packers 17

 

Mitchell Trubisky completed 20 of 28 passes for 235 yards and two touchdowns, and Chicago clinched its first NFC North division title since 2010 with a win over visiting Green Bay.

 

Tarik Cohen and Trey Burton each hauled in touchdowns for the Bears, and Jordan Howard scored on the ground. Chicago (10-4) snapped a five-game skid against Green Bay and clinched its first division crown at home since 2006.

 

Aaron Rodgers completed 25 of 42 passes for 274 yards, no touchdowns and one interception. Jamaal Williams scored the lone touchdown for Green Bay (5-8-1), which dropped to 1-1 under interim head coach Joe Philbin and was eliminated from postseason contention.

 

Colts 23, Cowboys 0

 

Marlon Mack rushed 27 times for 139 yards and two touchdowns as host Indianapolis ended Dallas’ five-game winning streak in emphatic fashion with a shutout at Lucas Oil Stadium.

 

Adam Vinatieri added three field goals for Indianapolis (8-6), which remains in contention for the AFC’s second wild-card spot. The Colts, Baltimore Ravens and Tennessee Titans are tied at 8-6.

 

Dallas (8-6) could have wrapped up the NFC East title with a win but will have to wait for a Week 16 home game with Tampa Bay. The Cowboys were shut out for the first time since Nov. 16, 2003, when they fell 12-0 at New England.

 

Ravens 20, Buccaneers 12

 

Gus Edwards rushed for 104 yards and a touchdown as Baltimore topped Tampa Bay on a cold and rainy afternoon in Baltimore.

 

The Ravens (8-6) remain in control of the second AFC wild-card spot and in contention for the AFC North crown, rushing for 242 yards to become the first team since the 1976 Steelers with five straight games with 190 or more rushing yards.

 

Jameis Winston completed 13 of 25 passes for 157 yards and one interception for Tampa Bay (5-9). Peyton Barber rushed for 85 yards and a touchdown. Mike Evans had four catches for 121 yards.

 

49ers 26, Seahawks 23 (OT)

 

Robbie Gould’s fourth field goal of the day, a 36-yard kick with 3:06 remaining in overtime, gave San Francisco the victory over Seattle in rainy Santa Clara, Calif., denying the Seahawks an opportunity to clinch a playoff spot.

 

Doug Baldwin caught two touchdown passes for Seattle (8-6), which can clinch a playoff spot with a win against Kansas City or Arizona in the next two weeks. It would be the Seahawks’ sixth playoff berth in the last seven seasons.

 

The win was the first for the 49ers (4-10) over their NFC West rival since December of 2013, snapping a nine-game, regular-season losing streak against Seattle. San Francisco, which surprised Denver 20-14 last week, won its second straight.

 

Titans 17, Giants 0

 

Derrick Henry followed up a record-setting performance with 170 yards and a pair of short touchdown runs as Tennessee eliminated New York from postseason contention with a shutout in East Rutherford, N.J.

 

A week after setting a franchise record with 238 yards in a Thursday night game against the Jacksonville Jaguars, Henry recorded his second 100-yard game of the season and fourth of his career as the Titans (8-6) are tied for the sixth seed along with Baltimore and Indianapolis.

 

The Giants (5-9) had won four of their last five games but could never develop a consistent rhythm while playing without Odell Beckham Jr., who missed his second straight game with a quadriceps injury. New York was shut out at home for the first time since Dec. 15, 2013, against Seattle.

 

Vikings 41, Dolphins 17

 

Minnesota set the tone in the first quarter with a three-touchdown outburst on the way to an easy win over visiting Miami.

 

Quarterback Kirk Cousins threw touchdown passes to Stefon Diggs and Aldrick Robinson, and Dalvin Cook rushed for two scores and Latavius Murray ran for another as the Vikings (7-6-1) set a season high in points scored.

 

Minkah Fitzpatrick and Kalen Ballage scored touchdowns, and Jason Sanders added a 25-yard field goal for Miami (7-7), which lost for the sixth time in seven road games.

 

Redskins 16, Jaguars 13

 

In a game lacking offense, visiting Washington put together two late scoring drives and got a Dustin Hopkins field goal as time expired to earn a win over disappointing Jacksonville.

 

The win ended a four-game losing streak for Washington (7-7) and keeps the Redskins alive in the NFC playoff picture.

 

In his first NFL start since 2011, Redskins quarterback Josh Johnson was 16-of-25 passing for 151 yards and a touchdown. Cody Kessler had just 57 yards passing as the Jaguars (4-10) lost for the ninth time in the past 10 games.

 

Falcons 40, Cardinals 14

 

Linebacker Deion Jones began a 26-point first-half outburst with a 41-yard interception return for a touchdown and Atlanta ended its five-game losing streak with a blowout over visiting Arizona.

 

Atlanta (5-9) was led by quarterback Matt Ryan, who was 22 for 36 for 231 yards and two touchdowns. He also ran three times for 18 yards and one touchdown. Tailback Tevin Coleman rushed 11 times for a career-best 145 yards and one touchdown. He had a career-long 65-yard run.

 

Rookie Josh Rosen suffered a long afternoon for the Cardinals (3-11). He was 13 for 22 for 132 yards and two interceptions, getting lifted midway in the fourth quarter for backup Mike Glennon.

 

Bills 14, Lions 13

 

Josh Allen threw for 204 yards and accounted for a touchdown with his arm and another with his legs to help Buffalo squeak by Detroit in Orchard Park, N.Y.

 

The Bills rookie quarterback completed 13 of 26 passes without a turnover and notched his second fourth-quarter comeback. He gained 16 yards on nine carries, giving him 351 rushing yards over his past four games as the Bills (5-9) snapped a two-game losing streak.

 

Matt Stafford threw for 208 yards and a touchdown, Kenny Golladay caught seven passes for a career-high 146 yards, Theo Riddick rushed for 47 yards and Zach Zenner contributed for 45 yards and a rushing touchdown, but Detroit (5-9) still lost for the third time in four games and was officially eliminated from playoff contention.

 

Bengals 30, Raiders 16

 

Joe Mixon ran for two touchdowns, Cincinnati converted two fourth-down conversions that led to two first-half touchdowns, and the Bengals defeated Oakland in the Bengals’ final home game of the season, and perhaps Marvin Lewis’ final home game as head coach.

 

Rumors have circulated for weeks that Lewis’ 16th season as head coach of the Bengals will be his last. Cincinnati (6-8) has been hurt by injuries, with 14 players — including Andy Dalton and A.J. Green — on injured reserve.

 

The Raiders (3-11) couldn’t get their offense on track. In their first five possessions, they punted three times and fumbled twice. Not having starting guards Kelechi Osemele and Gabe Jackson didn’t help quarterback Derek Carr, as Bengals defensive tackle Geno Atkins had three sacks.

 

–Field Level Media

Read More 1205 Words

Eagles QB Wentz won’t practice Wednesday, could miss Rams matchup

The Philadelphia Eagles could be without quarterback Carson Wentz on Sunday when they travel to face the Los Angeles Rams.

 

Head coach Doug Pederson announced Wednesday morning that Wentz would miss practice due to back soreness.

 

"Sometimes he just gets a little sore, a little tight, so we're just going to rest him

The Philadelphia Eagles could be without quarterback Carson Wentz on Sunday when they travel to face the Los Angeles Rams.

 

Head coach Doug Pederson announced Wednesday morning that Wentz would miss practice due to back soreness.

 

“Sometimes he just gets a little sore, a little tight, so we’re just going to rest him today and evaluate him further,” said Pederson. “Nothing game-related. He’s dealt with it so we’re just going to evaluate him further.”

 

Pederson did not confirm if Wentz would play Sunday at Los Angeles.

 

“Again, we’re going to focus on today, get through today, and see where he’s at at the end of the day,” he said.

 

NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported Wentz is not likely to play Sunday and may not play again in 2018 as the team continues to gather information on his health.

 

Without Wentz, Super Bowl MVP Nick Foles would take over for the 6-7 Eagles. Foles started the first two games of the season as Wentz recovered from ACL surgery. He completed 65 percent of his passes with one touchdown and one interception in the Eagles’ 1-1 start.

 

–Field Level Media

Read More 134 Words

Raiders owner responds to city’s lawsuit

Oakland Raiders owner Mark Davis called a lawsuit filed against the team by the city of Oakland, Calif., "meritless and malicious" at the NFL owners meetings on Tuesday night, according to ESPN.

 

The federal lawsuit, announced by Oakland City Attorney Barbara J. Parker, alleges antitrust violations and breach of contract, and names the Raiders,

Oakland Raiders owner Mark Davis called a lawsuit filed against the team by the city of Oakland, Calif., “meritless and malicious” at the NFL owners meetings on Tuesday night, according to ESPN.

 

The federal lawsuit, announced by Oakland City Attorney Barbara J. Parker, alleges antitrust violations and breach of contract, and names the Raiders, the NFL and every other team in the league.

 

While the city does not demand that the Raiders be forced to remain in Oakland, the seven-count filing in district court does seek restitution in the form of lost revenue, remaining debt on renovations to the Oakland Coliseum, court costs and fees, plus punitive damages.

 

“The City will seek a resolution for the maximum amount of damages available,” Parker said in a news release shortly before filing the lawsuit. “The lawsuit will not ask the court to prevent the Raiders’ move to Las Vegas or keep the team in Oakland.”

 

Davis told ESPN he’d leave further comment to lawyers.

 

“My feeling is we’re 3-10 and we’re still relevant,” said Davis. “It’s a legal issue, and I’ll let the attorneys make any further comment.”

 

The Raiders received league approval to relocate to Las Vegas in March 2017. They are expected to begin playing in Las Vegas when a new stadium opens in 2020. The team still does not know where it will play in 2019, though it has proposed a lease to remain in the Oakland Coliseum for one more season.

 

One of the main cruxes of the city’s argument is that the NFL’s relocation policy is “skewed” in the favor of cities looking to get a team and biased against current host cities because each team shares a part of the moving team’s relocation fee.

 

The suit also alleges the NFL uses its relocation policy to in essence strong-arm host cities into ponying up money for a new stadium, threatening to move a team out of that city should the funds not be raised.

 

The city is seeking a jury trial but makes no specific monetary demand other than amounts to be determined at trial.

 

–Field Level Media

Read More 298 Words

NFL Week 15: Over and Under Best 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

Over of

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

Over of the week: Tennessee Titans at New York Giants

Total: 43.5

The Titans and Giants don’t scream OFFENSE, which is why this total remains below the season average. But look closely.

The Titans have scored 56 points in their last two games, and they’re well-rested following a Thursday Night Football romp in Week 14. Those two high-scoring performances came at home, but if we’re considering sites it should be noted that Tennessee has also allowed 72 points on defense in its last two road games.

Meanwhile, the Giants offense has exploded since their Week 9 bye. Saquon Barkley and Odell Beckham Jr. have often been unstoppable for a team that has averaged 31.4 points per game dating back to Week 10. Sure, they surrendered just 16 points last Sunday in Washington, but that was more about the Redskins’ problems than New York’s defensive prowess. The Giants have still allowed 25.1 points per game during that post-bye run.

And they scored 40 in D.C. despite not having Beckham, who should be good to return from a quad injury on Sunday.

Look for both teams to easily hit the 20-point mark in Week 15.

Predicted score: Giants 30, Titans 27

Under of the week: Dallas Cowboys at Indianapolis Colts

Total: 47

Why in the world do oddsmakers think the Cowboys and Colts will combine for 47 points Sunday in Indianapolis? Both defenses have been stout, while both offenses have lacked consistency.

The Dallas D hasn’t surrendered more than 23 points in five consecutive weeks, and that’s a stretch that includes matchups with talented offenses like Philadelphia, New Orleans and Atlanta.

Meanwhile, the Colts D has allowed just 17.1 points per game in their last seven outings, with Jabaal Sheard, Darius Leonard and Margus Hunt killing it.

It’s true that both offenses have the ability to explode at any moment, but this doesn’t look like the time or place. Both teams should be tight for an important game, the Colts are two weeks removed from a zero-point performance in Jacksonville, and the Cowboys’ bread-and-butter offensive line is dealing with multiple injuries to key players.

This should be a tense, low-scoring battle.

Predicted score: Colts 20, Cowboys 17

Good luck, we’re all counting on you. 

Previous results
Last week: 1-1
2018 season: 18-9-1

Brad Gagnon has covered the NFL since 2007 and is a member of the Professional Football Writers of America, despite the fact he actually lives in Canada. The Toronto-based sports journalist’s work can also be seen at Bleacher Report, CBS Sports, Awful Announcing and The Guardian. He can be found on Twitter @brad_gagnon

Read More 360 Words

Chiefs can lock up West with win over Chargers

An unexpected toss with his left hand, a no-look pass to a crossing receiver and -- most importantly -- a run toward home-field advantage in the AFC playoffs.

 

All that and so much more has defined record-setting Patrick Mahomes as a first-year starter in the NFL this season. Yet the Kansas City Chiefs quarterback

An unexpected toss with his left hand, a no-look pass to a crossing receiver and — most importantly — a run toward home-field advantage in the AFC playoffs.

 

All that and so much more has defined record-setting Patrick Mahomes as a first-year starter in the NFL this season. Yet the Kansas City Chiefs quarterback must be on top of his game again Thursday night when the streaking Los Angeles Chargers look to tighten the AFC West division race.

 

Kansas City (11-2) last weekend qualified for the playoffs for the fifth time under sixth-year coach Andy Reid, using a madcap rally Mahomes engineered Sunday to hold off the Baltimore Ravens 27-24 in overtime. But after burning the NFL’s top defense entering the game for 377 yards passing and two touchdowns, the no-look pass was all the rage.

 

Hey, it’s always something radical with Mahomes.

 

“I worked with him real hard on that. I built that right into the offense,” Reid cracked. “He has a knack for that. He is comfortable doing it. This is the NFL and he is doing it. That’s something to do it in practice, but when you start throwing it in a game against the No. 1 defense in the National Football League, that is a little different.”

 

Confidence oozes from Mahomes, whose plus-32 touchdown-to-interception mark leads the NFL, as do his 43 touchdown passes and 45 completions of 25-plus yards. The Chiefs average 437.5 yards and 36.2 points per game, along with 6.86 yards per play, all of which lead the league.

 

“I have built that chemistry with guys like D-Rob,” Mahomes said of Demarcus Robinson, recipient of the no-look pass, “through training camp and through last year. I know that the guys are going to know what I’m thinking and trust that they are going to keep running the route the same way. Then, I put the ball out there for them.”

 

Los Angeles (10-3) will counter with pressure off both edges from defensive ends Melvin Ingram and Joey Bosa. Bosa was injured and missed the first matchup, a 38-28 Week 1 win for the Chiefs to account for Kansas City’s one-game lead over the Chargers.

 

Los Angeles has won nine of its last 10 games, including three straight. Its only road defeat was against the crosstown Rams.

 

Kansas City, however, has won 20 of its last 21 against AFC West rivals and is looking to secure a third consecutive division title. A better divisional record gives the Chiefs the tiebreaker over the Chargers should Los Angeles win Thursday.

 

Veteran quarterback Philip Rivers is having an exceptional season for the Chargers but may need to come up even bigger against the Chiefs. Running backs Melvin Gordon (knee) and Austin Ekeler (neck) are dealing with injuries. Two rookies who have combined for 32 carries, Justin Jackson and Detrez Newsome, are next in line.

 

“It’s important to just get back to being healthy,” said Michael Badgley, a rookie kicker who set a Chargers record with a 59-yard field goal while going 4-for-4 Sunday in a win over Cincinnati. “Get back in there, go through all of our recovery, and it will be a short week, so a big mental week.”

 

The Chiefs also must deal with injuries to offensive threats.

 

Speedy receiver Tyreek Hill limped through a heel injury against the Ravens but is expected to be available. Another receiver, Sammy Watkins (foot) is likely out. Running back Spencer Ware (shoulder) is also hobbled.

 

–Field Level Media

Read More 522 Words

Chiefs, Mahomes can lock up West with win over Chargers

An unexpected toss with his left hand, a no-look pass to a crossing receiver and -- most importantly -- a run toward home-field advantage in the AFC playoffs.

 

All that and so much more has defined record-setting Patrick Mahomes as a first-year starter in the NFL this season. Yet the Kansas City Chiefs quarterback

An unexpected toss with his left hand, a no-look pass to a crossing receiver and — most importantly — a run toward home-field advantage in the AFC playoffs.

 

All that and so much more has defined record-setting Patrick Mahomes as a first-year starter in the NFL this season. Yet the Kansas City Chiefs quarterback must be on top of his game again Thursday night when the streaking Los Angeles Chargers look to tighten the West Division race.

 

Kansas City (11-2) last weekend qualified for the playoffs for the fifth time under sixth-year coach Andy Reid, using a madcap rally Mahomes engineered Sunday to hold off the Baltimore Ravens 27-24 in overtime. But after burning the NFL’s top defense entering the game for 377 yards passing and two touchdowns, the no-look pass was all the rage.

 

Hey, it’s always something radical with Mahomes.

 

“I worked with him real hard on that. I built that right into the offense,” Reid cracked. “He has a knack for that. He is comfortable doing it. This is the NFL and he is doing it. That’s something to do it in practice, but when you start throwing it in a game against the No. 1 defense in the National Football League, that is a little different.”

 

Confidence oozes from Mahomes, whose plus-32 touchdown-to-interception mark leads the NFL along, as do his 43 touchdown passes and 45 completions of 25-plus yards. The Chiefs average 437.5 yards and 36.2 points per game, along with 6.86 yards per play, all of which lead the league.

 

“I have built that chemistry with guys like D-Rob,” Mahomes said of Demarcus Robinson, recipient of the no-look pass, “through training camp and through last year. I know that the guys are going to know what I’m thinking and trust that they are going to keep running the route the same way. Then, I put the ball out there for them.”

 

Los Angeles (10-3) will counter with pressure off both edges from defensive ends Melvin Ingram and Joey Bosa. Bosa was injured and missed the first matchup, a 38-28 Week 1 win for the Chiefs to account for Kansas City’s one-game lead over the Chargers.

 

Los Angeles has won nine of its last 10 games, including three straight. Its only road defeat was against the crosstown Rams.

 

Kansas City, however, has won 20 of its last 21 against AFC West rivals and is looking to secure a third consecutive division title. A better divisional record gives the Chiefs the tiebreaker over the Chargers should Los Angeles win Thursday.

 

Veteran quarterback Philip Rivers is having an exceptional season for the Chargers but may need to come up even bigger against the Chiefs. Running backs Melvin Gordon (knee) and Austin Ekeler (neck) are dealing with injuries. Two rookies who have combined for 32 carries, Justin Jackson and Detrez Newsome, are next in line.

 

“It’s important to just get back to being healthy,” said Michael Badgley, a rookie kicker who set a Chargers record with a 59-yard field goal while going 4 for 4 Sunday in a win over Cincinnati. “Get back in there, go through all of our recovery, and it will be a short week, so a big mental week.”

 

The Chiefs also must deal with injuries to offensive threats.

 

Speedy receiver Tyreek Hill limped through a heel injury against the Ravens but is expected to be available. Another receiver, Sammy Watkins (foot) is likely out. Running back Spencer Ware (shoulder) is also hobbled.

 

–Field Level Media

Read More 522 Words

Texans look to bounce back vs. Jets, Darnold

The Houston Texans went from 0-3 to first place in the AFC South Division, a nine-game winning streak making them one of the hottest teams in the NFL.

 

That streak came to a crashing halt in a three-point loss at home to the Indianapolis Colts last weekend.

 

Now Houston gets a chance to

The Houston Texans went from 0-3 to first place in the AFC South Division, a nine-game winning streak making them one of the hottest teams in the NFL.

 

That streak came to a crashing halt in a three-point loss at home to the Indianapolis Colts last weekend.

 

Now Houston gets a chance to rebound from its first loss in two-and-a-half months Saturday afternoon when it visits the New York Jets.

 

The Texans head to East Rutherford still holding a two-game division lead over the Colts and Tennessee Titans with three weeks remaining. While Houston visits the 4-9 Jets, the Colts host the Dallas Cowboys — owners of the NFL’s longest current winning streak at five games — while the Titans visit the New York Giants.

 

During their winning streak, the Texans won five games by a touchdown or less and led at halftime of each game. On Sunday, they spent much of the game trying to rally only to come up short.

 

DeShaun Watson finished 27 of 38 for 267 yards with a touchdown pass, his 7-yard strike to DeAndre Hopkins with 2:37 left moving the Texans to within 24-21. But an offside penalty against Jadeveon Clowney on third-and-1 with two minutes remaining gave the Colts a first down and killed the Texans’ chances at completing the comeback.

 

In reality, the Texans’ inability to protect Watson (five sacks) did them in. Pass protection has been one of Houston’s biggest issues of late with opponents sacking Watson 20 times in his last five games.

 

“We didn’t play well as an offense, it is always going to be the quarterback, the head coach,” Houston coach Bill O’Brien told the media after his team’s first loss since a 27-22 setback against the Giants on Sept. 23. “I totally understand that but it just wasn’t very good as an offense. We were not able to get into a rhythm; our first-down offense was terrible. It was awful.”

 

Now the Texans will hope to correct everything against a team coming off a rare win thanks to some late-game clutch plays by rookie quarterback Sam Darnold.

 

“You let him escape, you let him start making plays, you’re going to be in a bind,” O’Brien said of the Jets’ first-round pick. “You got to stop the run. So, it’s a big challenge, but I know our guys are excited for it and we’ve got to have a good week here.”

 

The Jets were eliminated from the playoffs before taking the field in Buffalo last week but halted a six-game losing streak with a thrilling 27-23 victory thanks to Darnold’s first game-winning, fourth-quarter drive.

 

Darnold missed the previous three games because of foot sprain sustained Nov. 4 in Miami — a 13-6 loss in which he was intercepted four times. He briefly left the game against the Bills in the first half but returned and capped the comeback with a nine-play, 61-yard drive culminating in Elijah McGuire’s 1-yard run on fourth down with 1:17 remaining.

 

“It’s great for his first game back,” Jets coach Todd Bowles said on a conference call Monday. “Obviously, he was confident before the fourth-quarter comeback. But it just helps him, it just helps him be himself a little more, which he’s comfortable with being anyway, but that’s really all it does for him.”

 

Darnold finished 16 of 24 for 170 yards and highlighted by his first game-winning drive with a 37-yard pass to Robby Anderson that put the ball on the Buffalo 5-yard line.

 

“As a kid, you dream of converting two-minute drives and going down there and scoring,” Darnold told the media after the game. “To be able to score a touchdown and put the ball in their hands at the end of the game was awesome.”

 

Darnold actually nicked up his foot again at Buffalo and was limping on the game-winning drive. Bowles said he expects Darnold to play Sunday.

 

The Jets are 5-2 in seven all-time meetings with the Texans.

 

–Field Level Media

Read More 609 Words

Steelers QB Roethlisberger expects to play vs. Patriots

 

Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is banged up but hurting ribs won't keep him from playing when the Steelers play host to the New England Patriots on Sunday.

 

Roethlisberger required a pain-killing injection to deal with a rib injury suffered in the second quarter last week in Pittsburgh's loss to the Oakland Raiders.

 

Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is banged up but hurting ribs won’t keep him from playing when the Steelers play host to the New England Patriots on Sunday.

 

Roethlisberger required a pain-killing injection to deal with a rib injury suffered in the second quarter last week in Pittsburgh’s loss to the Oakland Raiders. He returned to the game in the third quarter.

 

Roethlisberger said during his weekly radio spot on Tuesday that he required X-rays in the locker room, but the tests were inconclusive. He said he was not confident he would be helping the team by returning, but opted to play.

 

“Let’s see how this plays out,” Roethlisberger said Tuesday of what he told head coach Mike Tomlin to be allowed back in the game.

 

Roethlisberger said team doctors cleared him to play, and his performance indicated he was fine. Roethlisberger completed 25 of 29 passes for 282 yards and two touchdowns.

 

Asked if there’s any reason to think he wouldn’t play against the Patriots, Roethlisberger said, “No, no, I don’t think so.”

 

The Steelers have lost three consecutive games and at 7-5-1 hold a slim lead over the 7-6 Baltimore Ravens in the AFC North.

 

–Field Level Media

Read More 144 Words

Film study: How Ravens bent (but couldn’t break) Mahomes

It was a heavyweight prizefight.

 

The Baltimore Ravens' top-ranked defense and coordinator Wink Martindale threw everything they had at quarterback Patrick Mahomes, and landed several heavy blows. The youngster staggered but somehow stayed off the mat long enough to win the decision and lift the Kansas City Chiefs to an overtime win.

 

Martindale's

It was a heavyweight prizefight.

 

The Baltimore Ravens’ top-ranked defense and coordinator Wink Martindale threw everything they had at quarterback Patrick Mahomes, and landed several heavy blows. The youngster staggered but somehow stayed off the mat long enough to win the decision and lift the Kansas City Chiefs to an overtime win.

 

Martindale’s repertoire is as diverse as any, and he broke out all the tricks, changing up coverages and pass-rush looks almost constantly. He included many of Baltimore’s traditional amoeba fronts and fire zone blitzes, but deployed them at both traditional and untraditional moments, basically on any down at any time. Always well coached, the Ravens held their disguises with excellent discipline despite Mahomes’ hard count, and their post-snap rotations often made him a beat late.

 

At times, Baltimore showed man coverage pre-snap, by traveling with a man in motion, but then played zone after the snap. One such example froze Mahomes as Matt Judon won inside Mitchell Schwartz for a 9-yard sack.

 

The Ravens also routinely brought multiple second-level defenders as part of the rush, breaking down the Chiefs’ protection for huge hits. Judon came clean for one early, and C.J. Mosley and Patrick Onwuasor each hammered Mahomes as well. Mosley’s hit produced an intentional-grounding flag, while Onwuasor forced a fluttering duck as Mahomes heaved downfield, a likely interception if Eric Weddle had turned around. (To be fair, he was frantically chasing Tyreek Hill, not knowing Mahomes had been hit.)

 

When they didn’t get there, the Ravens’ combination of coverage change-ups and exotic rushes forced Mahomes to hold the ball, creating takeaway opportunities. His interception was a wild, ill-advised lob while getting hit after dancing in the pocket. The QB nearly gave the game away with a self-forced fumble while scrambling in the red zone in overtime. (The loose ball somehow evaded the grasp of Terrell Suggs, who early dropped a pick on a screen pass.)

 

Of course, forcing Mahomes to extend plays is a dangerous game. What he lacked in coverage recognition and ball security on Sunday he made up for with pure playmaking.

 

A few came outside the pocket late, but early on, Mahomes created from inside the pocket, waiting for the Ravens’ zones to break down over time. On an incredible third-and-19 conversion to Hill, Mahomes calmly stepped up and inside to avoid Judon and flung it to Hill’s deep crosser, which needed time to develop and come open. Mahomes did this several other times, most notably on his no-look throw to Demarcus Robinson, an unbelievably pinpoint flick left while he froze safety Chuck Clark by looking right.

 

Of course, the arm talent did its part. Mahomes dazzled with a slew of gorgeous touch throws to Travis Kelce, including one over terrific coverage from cornerback Brandon Carr and another (the 15-yard TD) after Mahomes looked off Clark, the deep-half safety.

 

The off-schedule playmaking ultimately saved Kansas City, as Baltimore’s coverage won on a would-be game-clinching fourth-and-9 until Mahomes broke contain and chucked to Hill for 48 yards.

 

As usual, Andy Reid helped his QB with brilliant scheming. He manufactured easy yards throughout the game with misdirection on runs, screens and bootlegs. But the most notable design might have been the game-tying TD, a creative yet gutsy call.

 

On fourth-and-3 from the 5 with 57 seconds left, Reid called for a bunch formation to set picks for running back Damien Williams. But instead of having Williams align right (to the bunch side) of Mahomes — which could alert the defense to the design — Reid had him align left and work THROUGH the line after the snap, moving across to the right to get behind the bunch releases.

 

This wrinkle was risky. It takes longer to develop, and if any of the Ravens’ six rushers got in Williams’ way, an unblocked Weddle would have sacked Mahomes, ending the game. But it worked brilliantly — the Chiefs surely drilled the O-line to block just so, clearing a lane for Williams’ route — and produced a walk-in tying TD.

 

Much like K.C.’s Week 4 comeback in Denver, Mahomes gutted through this one with talent far more than polish… which, frankly, is what we expected in his first year as a starter before he lit the league on fire. The Ravens’ designs and execution did enough to win, but Mahomes conjured a few rabbits from hats and (narrowly) avoided a backbreaking turnover.

 

That’s perfectly OK.

 

The 23-year-old has already shown mental acuity well beyond his years, and he’s proven he can compensate with physical gifts when needed. Mahomes traded haymakers with the NFL’s most complex defense and emerged standing, and he’ll learn a ton from Sunday’s film.

 

Meanwhile, Martindale and the Ravens will be sick about this one. They let the Chiefs escape several long down and distances, narrowly missed a few sacks and takeaways, and came away with nothing despite throwing the kitchen sink at Mahomes.

 

That’s tough to swallow. Then again, I suppose that’s how every fighter feels when watching his opponent leave the ring with the belt.

 

-Shanahan pulls all the right strings

 

Kyle Shanahan said this week he was glad the Denver Broncos didn’t hire him after he interviewed for their head-coaching job in January of 2016, but he must have taken some enjoyment in sticking it to Denver on Sunday.

 

He cruelly toyed with a short-handed defense as the San Francisco 49ers pulled the upset and pushed the Broncos to the brink of elimination.

 

Shanahan is as good as any offensive coach at deciphering a defense’s rules and, in turn, blurring defenders’ responsibilities. With the Broncos missing two of their top three cornerbacks — including Swiss Army knife Chris Harris Jr. — and dime linebacker Brandon Marshall, Shanahan preyed on inexperienced fill-ins with a series of route concepts, intertwined releases, pick routes and double moves.

 

Blossoming star tight end George Kittle was central to many designs, scorching Denver for seven catches and 210 yards — 4 yards shy of the single-game tight-end record — all before halftime. (Kittle also drew three holding penalties, including one nullifying a Broncos fumble recovery.)

 

Shanahan and Kittle exploited Denver’s Cover-3 on the first drive with a flood concept (three routes — shallow, intermediate and deep — to the same side of the field, perfect for attacking zone). With Marquise Goodwin releasing in front of him and drawing rookie cornerback Isaac Yiadom, Kittle faked inside and broke out into the void Yiadom vacated. With linebacker Todd Davis fooled by Kittle’s route, the tight end was so open he picked up 31 yards despite the throw being behind him.

 

Kittle’s next big play also came from a stacked release, this time featuring a double move and a rub element to foil man coverage. Shanahan had wideout Kendrick Bourne release vertically in front of Kittle, who broke outside just 4 yards downfield. Kittle’s man, Darian Stewart, recognized Bourne’s pick and fought over it and outside, only to realize Kittle’s route was a double move as the tight end broke back inside. The pass was again behind, but Kittle — a menace after the catch — broke three tackles and picked up 52 yards.

 

Kittle’s 85-yard touchdown highlighted Shanahan’s ability to dress up the same plays to look different (which we covered in Week 3), as Shanahan disguised his signature Yankee concept: a deep post from one side and deep crosser from the other, off play-action. This time, he used a pistol formation with a jet-sweep fake and Kittle aligned as a wing tight end — off the line of scrimmage but inside tight end Garrett Celek, an uncommon spot for a vertical route to release from.

 

At the snap, Kittle started forward and inside like he was double-teaming the 5-technique defensive end, while Celek blocked out to the edge defender. This action, along with the pistol play-fake and jet sweep, made Davis, linebacker Josey Jewell and safety Justin Simmons bite hard downhill to stop the run. Kittle blew right on his deep crosser completely unmarked. With Dante Pettis’ post route clearing out Yiadom and Stewart, Kittle caught the ball with no one within 10 yards and needed one block from Pettis to coast 70 yards to paydirt.

 

Based on the defensive alignment, Kittle appeared to be Davis’ man, but Davis was left pointing at Simmons as the tight end released behind him. That’s exactly the sort of confusion Shanahan creates by stressing a defense’s weak points, and it wasn’t the last such example.

 

Kittle picked up 18 more yards later in the half as dime safety Su’a Cravens tried to pass off a route to Yiadom, who wasn’t prepared or in position to do so. The same mistake happened between Denver’s other dime safety, Will Parks, and Yiadom on the game’s most critical play, this time with Pettis as the beneficiary.

 

On third-and-7 with 3:41 remaining and the Niners up six, Shanahan called for a pick route from an empty formation with running back Jeff Wilson Jr. split wide. Having already used an almost identical look to get Kyle Juszczyk 17 yards, Shanahan added another wrinkle this time. Wilson ran the same slant Juszczyk did, but Pettis — who simply got in the way the first time — ran a stick-nod (a double move faking a short out route before turning upfield to the post) from the inside slot.

 

Yiadom (aligned over Wilson) and Parks (aligned over Pettis) both took Wilson’s slant, leaving Pettis uncovered for a 31-yard gain to all but seal the game. Had either player taken Pettis, Denver likely would have gotten the ball back, as Von Miller came free on a stunt and clobbered Mullens as he threw.

 

The offense wasn’t pretty all day — it basically took most of the second half off before the key conversion to Pettis — but the bells and whistles were enough to stymie a defense that had quietly been playing like one of the NFL’s best over the last nine weeks.

 

Perhaps most impressive is that Shanahan can manufacture so many big plays with a mostly bare cupboard. Kittle is incredible and hasn’t missed a game, but Jimmy Garoppolo and Jerick McKinnon have barely played, and Goodwin has also missed time. Get everyone healthy and add a receiver or two, and this machine should be whirring week in and week out.

 

–Mayfield keeps silencing doubters

 

Once pegged as the lower-ceiling option among the top 2018 quarterback prospects, Baker Mayfield has proven that label flatly wrong. Week in and week out, he’s delivered more “wow” throws than any of his draft classmates, including a number of doozies on Sunday.

 

On the first play from scrimmage against the Panthers, Mayfield whistled a deep ball 64 yards in the air perfectly to the hands of Breshad Perriman, who couldn’t quite keep his feet, settling for a 66-yard gain instead of a 75-yard touchdown.

 

Mayfield dropped jaws again on third-and-17 midway through the second, as he escaped the pocket left and unleashed a 55-yard rope to Jarvis Landry, who had been covered by two safeties (Mike Adams fell down) and also had cornerback Donte Jackson closing in. Mayfield’s throw was absolutely flawless, threading between Jackson and safety Eric Reid and nestling right into Landry’s chest.

 

Mayfield’s next attempt was another inch-perfect strike, a firm throw with just enough touch to beat linebacker Thomas Davis’ excellent coverage on David Njoku’s corner route for a 28-yard gain. Three plays later, Mayfield whipped a bullet — despite pressure in the six-footer’s face — to Rashard Higgins’ 7-stop route (stem toward the corner before turning around for a deep curl) in a void in Carolina’s zone for 15 yards on third-and-9.

 

There is so much more to get into with Mayfield — who has been playing terrific, despite his three interceptions last week — but for now, suffice it to say he’s put concerns about his arm talent to bed.

 

We’ll take a deeper look later this season at just how great he’s been in other areas.

 

–David DeChant, Field Level Media

Read More 1968 Words

Reports: Raiders GM McKenzie fired

Reggie McKenzie is done as Raiders general manager, reportedly eschewing the opportunity to maintain his role through the end of the regular season in Oakland.

 

Head coach Jon Gruden, in the first year of a 10-year, $100 million contract, and McKenzie reportedly have differed greatly in player evaluation and their vision for the roster

Reggie McKenzie is done as Raiders general manager, reportedly eschewing the opportunity to maintain his role through the end of the regular season in Oakland.

 

Head coach Jon Gruden, in the first year of a 10-year, $100 million contract, and McKenzie reportedly have differed greatly in player evaluation and their vision for the roster going forward.

 

ESPN and NFL Network reported Monday that McKenzie held a meeting with the Raiders’ scouting department on Monday morning to inform them he was fired and would not accept the offer to stay in the role until January.

 

The writing on the wall was revealed with midseason comments from Raiders owner Mark Davis, who responded to questions about the future structure of the front office by saying Gruden “isn’t going anywhere” but not nailing down McKenzie’s role or status.

 

Gruden brought in players he favored and traded away two-time Pro Bowl selection Amari Cooper as well as Khalil Mack, the 2016 Defensive Player of the Year and a two-time, first-team All-Pro. McKenzie used first-round picks on both players.

 

In the offseason, there were rumors that Bruce Allen, who previously worked with Gruden in Tampa Bay as well as during his first stint in Oakland, would join him with the Raiders.

 

Allen is the president of the Washington Redskins, but fans and media have been calling for owner Daniel Snyder to replace Allen when the season ends.

 

The Raiders won their third game of the season Sunday.

 

–Field Level Media

Read More 191 Words

Seven From Sunday – Week 14

PRESS RELEASE

 

Seven From Sunday - Week 14

A look at seven statistical highlights from games played at 1:00 p.m. and 4:00 p.m. ET on Sunday, December 9, the 14th week of the 2018 season.

  • The NEW ORLEANS SAINTS defeated Tampa Bay, 28-14,

PRESS RELEASE

 

Seven From Sunday – Week 14

A look at seven statistical highlights from games played at 1:00 p.m. and 4:00 p.m. ET on Sunday, December 9, the 14th week of the 2018 season.

  • The NEW ORLEANS SAINTS defeated Tampa Bay, 28-14, and clinched the NFC South division title for the second-consecutive season. New Orleans has won back-to-back division titles for the first time in franchise history.
    The KANSAS CITY CHIEFS clinched a playoff berth with a 27-24 overtime victory over Baltimore. The Chiefs advance to the postseason for the fourth-consecutive season.

    The LOS ANGELES RAMS, who clinched the NFC West division title in Week 13 and play at Chicago tonight (8:20 PM ET, NBC), can clinch a first-round bye with a victory over the Bears.
     

  • The MIAMI DOLPHINS defeated New England, 34-33, on the final play from scrimmage, as running back KENYAN DRAKE took a lateral from wide receiver DE VANTE PARKER 52 yards for a touchdown as time expired.

    The Dolphins’ game-winning 69-yard touchdown was the longest play from scrimmage to win a game with no time remaining in the fourth quarter since the 1970 merger.

    Dolphins running back FRANK GORE recorded 116 scrimmage yards (92 rushing, 24 receiving) in the team’s victory. Gore, who has 18,530 career scrimmage yards, surpassed Pro Football Hall of Famer LA DAINIAN TOMLINSON (18,456) for the fifth-most scrimmage yards in NFL history. The four players with more scrimmage yards than Gore are all enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame: JERRY RICE (23,540), EMMITT SMITH (21,579), WALTER PAYTON (21,264) and MARSHALL FAULK (19,154).
     

  • Kansas City quarterback PATRICK MAHOMES completed 35 of 53 passes (66.0 percent) for 377 yards with two touchdowns and one interception for a 91.5 passer rating in the Chiefs’ 27-24 overtime victory over Baltimore.

    Mahomes, who was selected in the first round of the 2017 NFL Draft, leads the NFL with 4,300 passing yards and 43 touchdown passes this season. Mahomes joined Pro Football Hall of Famers DAN MARINO (1984) and KURT WARNER (1999) as the only first-or-second year quarterbacks in league annals with at least 4,000 passing yards and 40 touchdown passes in a single season.

    Chiefs tight end TRAVIS KELCE had seven catches for 77 yards and one touchdown in the victory. Kelce has 86 catches and 1,159 receiving yards this season and is the first tight end in league annals with at least 80 receptions and 1,000 receiving yards in three consecutive seasons.

    Kansas City defensive lineman CHRIS JONES recorded a sack in the win and has at least one sack in each of the Chiefs’ past nine games. Jones is the first player to record a sack in at least nine consecutive games in a single season since the individual sack became an official statistic in 1982. He is the sixth player since 1982 to record at least one sack in nine consecutive games at any point in time.

  • Green Bay quarterback AARON RODGERS completed 21 of 32 passes (65.6 percent) for 196 yards with two touchdowns and zero interceptions for a 103.1 passer rating in the Packers’ 34-20 victory over Atlanta.

    Rodgers, who has not thrown an interception in 368 pass attempts dating back to Week 4, surpassed TOM BRADY (358 consecutive attempts from 2010-11) for the most consecutive pass attempts without an interception in NFL history.
                

  • New York Giants quarterback ELI MANNING passed for 197 yards with three touchdowns and zero interceptions for a 132.0 passer rating and rookie running back SAQUON BARKLEY rushed for 170 yards with one touchdown in the team’s 40-16 victory at Washington.

    Manning has 55,142 career passing yards and became the seventh quarterback in NFL history to throw for at least 55,000 passing yards.        

    Barkley, who scored on a 78-yard touchdown run, has five scrimmage touchdowns of at least 50 yards this season, the most by a rookie in a single season since Pro Football Hall of Famer RANDY MOSS (five touchdowns in 1998). Only BILLY HOWTON of the 1952 Green Bay Packers had more such touchdowns as a rookie in a single season (six).

    Barkley has 12 games with at least 100 scrimmage yards in 2018, tying EDGERRIN JAMES (12 games in 1999) for the second-most games with 100+ scrimmage yards by a rookie in NFL history. Only Pro Football Hall of Famer ERIC DICKERSON (13 games in 1983) has more such games.
     

  • New Orleans wide receiver MICHAEL THOMAS had 11 receptions for 98 yards in the Saints’ 28-14 victory at Tampa Bay.

    Thomas, who has 298 receptions since entering the league in 2016, surpassed ODELL BECKHAM, JR. (288 catches from 2014-16) and JARVIS LANDRY (288 catches from 2014-16) for the most catches by a player in his first three seasons in NFL history.
     

  • Other notable performances from Sunday include:
     

    • New England quarterback TOM BRADY passed for 358 yards with three touchdowns and zero interceptions for a 112.4 passer rating in the Patriots’ Week 14 loss at Miami.

      Brady has 582 career touchdown passes (including the postseason) and surpassed PEYTON MANNING (579) for the most touchdown passes in NFL history.

      Brady has 47 career games with at least 300 passing yards and three touchdown passes and surpassed Manning (46 games) for the second-most such games in league annals. Only DREW BREES (63) has more such games in NFL history.
       

    • San Francisco tight end GEORGE KITTLE had seven catches for 210 yards, including an 85-yard touchdown catch, in the 49ers’ 20-14 victory over Denver.
       
      Kittle’s 210 receiving yards are the third-most by a tight end in a single game in NFL history, trailing only Pro Football Hall of Famers SHANNON SHARPE (214 receiving yards on October 20, 2002) and JACKIE SMITH (212 on October 13, 1963).

    • Cleveland rookie quarterback BAKER MAYFIELD completed 18 of 22 passes (81.8 percent) for 238 yards with one touchdown and zero interceptions for a 126.9 passer rating in the Browns’ 26-20 victory over Carolina.

      Mayfield has thrown at least one touchdown pass in each of his first 10 career starts and joined Pro Football Hall of Famer KURT WARNER (1999) and BRAD JOHNSON (1996-97) as the only quarterbacks in the Super Bowl era with a touchdown pass in each of his first 10 career starts.
       

    • Atlanta wide receiver JULIO JONES had eight catches for 106 yards and two touchdowns in the Falcons’ loss at Green Bay.

      Jones leads the NFL with 1,429 receiving yards this season and has recorded at least 1,400 receiving yards in each of the past five seasons, the longest streak in NFL history

 

 

Courtesy of NFL Communications

Read More 943 Words

NFL Notebook: Ravens QB situation gets a little cloudier

Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson missed the final two plays of his team's 27-24 overtime loss in Kansas City on Sunday after he was hit but appears to have avoided major injury. However it looks like the Ravens now have a decision to make behind center.

 

Jackson, who was seen going into the

Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson missed the final two plays of his team’s 27-24 overtime loss in Kansas City on Sunday after he was hit but appears to have avoided major injury. However it looks like the Ravens now have a decision to make behind center.

 

Jackson, who was seen going into the X-ray room in the locker room after the game, met reporters a few minutes later and downplayed the injury. “They just wanted to see what happened, but I’m good,” Jackson said.

 

Robert Griffin III replaced Jackson and threw two incompletions to turn the ball over on downs to end the game. As for next week, Baltimore coach John Harbaugh revealed after the game that Joe Flacco was medically cleared from his hip injury earlier this weekend and could have played.

 

Harbaugh has repeatedly declined to answer questions about who will start moving forward, though he has not ruled out the possibility of Flacco and Jackson playing for stretches.

 

–In more quarterback shuffling, Washington head coach Jay Gruden strongly implied after the Redskins’ 40-16 loss to the New York Giants that Josh Johnson, not Mark Sanchez, will take the reins next weekend when the Redskins travel to Jacksonville to face the Jaguars.

 

The Redskins signed Sanchez on Nov. 19, the day after starting quarterback Alex Smith was lost for the season with a broken tibia and fibula on his right leg. Backup Colt McCoy started four days later on Thanksgiving but broke his leg in a loss to Philadelphia on Dec. 3. Enter Johnson, signed by the Redskins to back up Sanchez despite having last thrown an NFL pass in 2011.

 

Sanchez completed 6 of 14 attempts for 38 yards and was intercepted twice by the Giants before being benched. Johnson led two scoring drives and was 11-of-16 passing for 195 yards, a touchdown and an interception.

 

–New England quarterback Tom Brady broke one record and lost another.

 

In the second quarter against Miami, Brady found Julian Edelman for a 2-yard touchdown, the 580th of Brady’s career (including playoffs). That surpasses the career mark set by Peyton Manning. The latter remains the NFL’s regular-season leader in touchdown passes with 539.

 

In Green Bay, Aaron Rodgers broke Brady’s NFL record of 358 consecutive passes without an interception, which Brady set during the 2010 and 2011 seasons.

 

–The Baltimore Ravens are calling racist and homophobic tweets that appeared to be sent more than five years ago from the Twitter account of second-year fullback-defensive lineman Patrick Ricard “totally unacceptable.”

 

An undrafted second-year player from Maine, Ricard has played 10 games this season after appearing in all 16 last season. He has made four tackles and played 90 snaps on offense.

 

–Dallas Cowboys coach Jason Garrett has tried multiple times to convince retired tight end Jason Witten to return to the team but continues to be rebuffed, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

 

Garrett had attempted to persuade the 15-year veteran to play another year before the 2018 NFL Draft and apparently renewed those efforts as the Cowboys have remained in playoff contention this season, despite a lack of production from tight ends.

 

–CBS Sports’ Jason La Canfora reported there is mounting speculation that should the Jacksonville Jaguars fire head coach Doug Marrone, current Jags executive vice president of football operations Tom Coughlin will fill the role himself next season.

 

The 72-year-old Coughlin was the first head coach in Jaguars’ history, from 1995-2002. He then coached the New York Giants to two Super Bowl championships during his tenure from 2004-15.

 

–While the NFL mulls further punishment for Kareem Hunt, the former Kansas City Chiefs running back is seeking counseling for alcohol and anger issues, according to multiple reports.

 

The NFL placed Hunt on the commissioner’s exempt list while it investigates a trio of incidents, meaning Hunt is unable to play for any team that might sign him. The Chiefs released Hunt after the video surfaced of him kicking then-19-year-old Abigail Ottinger from Berea, Ohio.

 

–The Oakland Raiders and general manager Reggie McKenzie will part ways after the season ends, according to a CBS Sports report.

 

Head coach Jon Gruden, in the first year of a 10-year $100 million contract, and McKenzie apparently haven’t viewed players the same way this season as the Raiders have stumbled to a 2-10 record.

 

–Field Level Media

Read More 664 Words

Flacco practices, status vs. Chiefs uncertain

Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco was a full participant in Friday's practice, the first time he's done that since injuring his hip in Week 9.

 

Whether he starts on Sunday versus the Kansas City Chiefs remains in question.

 

Rookie Lamar Jackson has started three games since Flacco went down, winning all three.

 

Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco was a full participant in Friday’s practice, the first time he’s done that since injuring his hip in Week 9.

 

Whether he starts on Sunday versus the Kansas City Chiefs remains in question.

 

Rookie Lamar Jackson has started three games since Flacco went down, winning all three.

 

Flacco has been dealing with a right hip injury since Nov. 4. He was limited in practice on Wednesday and Thursday, although Ravens coach John Harbaugh said Flacco was “almost full” in Thursday’s session.

 

Harbaugh said last week that doctors will need to clear Flacco before he can play. He declined to say who the starter will be once Flacco is fully healthy.

 

Jackson has completed 46 of 77 passes for 540 yards and two scores this season. He’s also rushed 80 times for 404 yards and three touchdowns.

 

Flacco, the Ravens starter since 2008, is 4-5 this season and has thrown for 2,465 yards and 12 touchdowns.

 

–Field Level Media

Read More 100 Words

What to Look For – Week 14

PRESS RELEASE

WHAT TO LOOK FOR – WEEK 14

WORST TO FIRST: Entering Week 14, one team – the LOS ANGELES RAMS (11-1) – has clinched a playoff berth as the battle for the remaining spots forges ahead. Three ​​additional teams – the HOUSTON TEXANS (9-3), NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (9-3) and

PRESS RELEASE

WHAT TO LOOK FOR – WEEK 14

WORST TO FIRST: Entering Week 14, one team – the LOS ANGELES RAMS (11-1) – has clinched a playoff berth as the battle for the remaining spots forges ahead. Three ​​additional teams – the HOUSTON TEXANS (9-3), NEW ENGLAND PATRIOTS (9-3) and NEW ORLEANS SAINTS (10-2) – can clinch a division title this week.

Two teams that finished in or tied for last place in their division in 2017 – the CHICAGO BEARS (NFC North) and Houston Texans (AFC South) – are currently in first place in their respective divisions this season. In 14 of the past 15 seasons, at least one team finished in first place in its division the season after finishing in last or tied for last place. Of the 46 teams in league history to go from “worst-to-first,” 23 of them have done so in the past 15 years (2003-17), including an NFL-record three such teams in 2005 and 2006.

STAT PATTING: Kansas City quarterback PATRICK MAHOMES leads the NFL with 41 touchdown passes and ranks second in passing yards (3,923).

With 77 passing yards on Sunday against Baltimore (1:00 PM ET, CBS), Mahomes would join Pro Football Hall of Famers DAN MARINO (1984) and KURT WARNER (1999) as the only first-or-second year quarterbacks in NFL history to pass for at least 4,000 yards and 40 touchdowns in a single season. Both Marino and Warner were named Associated Press MVP in those seasons.

The first-or-second year quarterbacks to pass for at least 4,000 yards and 40 touchdowns in a single season in NFL history:

PLAYER

TEAM

SEASON

PASSING YARDS

TOUCHDOWNS

Dan Marino^#

Miami

1984

5,084

48

Kurt Warner^#

St. Louis

1999

4,353

41

 

 

 

 

 

Patrick Mahomes

Kansas City

2018

3,923*

41*

^Pro Football Hall of Famer

#Named Associated Press MVP

*Entering Week 14

 

RAISING ARIZONA: Arizona wide receiver LARRY FITZGERALD has 1,281 receptions for 16,053 yards and 115 touchdowns during his 15-year NFL career, all with the Cardinals.

With one reception on Sunday against Detroit (4:25 PM ET, FOX), Fitzgerald would surpass Pro Football Hall of Famer JERRY RICE (1,281 receptions with San Francisco) for the most receptions by a player with one team in NFL history.

The players with the most receptions for one team in NFL history:

PLAYER

TEAM

RECEPTIONS

Larry Fitzgerald

Arizona

1,281

Jerry Rice^

San Francisco

1,281

^Pro Football Hall of Famer

 

FIFTH FOR FRANK: Miami running back FRANK GORE has 18,414 scrimmage yards in his 14-year NFL career.

With 43 scrimmage yards on Sunday against New England (1:00 PM ET, CBS), Gore would surpass Pro Football Hall of Famer LA DAINIAN TOMLINSON (18,456 scrimmage yards) for the fifth-most scrimmage yards in league annals.

The players with the most scrimmage yards in NFL history:

PLAYER

TEAM(S)

SCRIMMAGE YARDS

Jerry Rice^

San Francisco, Oakland, Seattle

23,540

Emmitt Smith^

Dallas, Arizona

21,579

Walter Payton^

Chicago

21,264

Marshall Faulk^

Indianapolis, St. Louis

19,154

LaDainian Tomlinson^

San Diego, New York Jets

18,456

Frank Gore

San Francisco, Indianapolis, Miami

18,414

^Pro Football Hall of Famer

 

TOUCHDOWN STREAK: Cleveland rookie quarterback BAKER MAYFIELD has thrown at least one touchdown pass in each of his first nine NFL starts.

With a touchdown pass against Carolina (1:00 PM ET, FOX), Mayfield would become the third quarterback in the Super Bowl era to record at least one touchdown pass in each of his first 10 career starts.

The players with a touchdown pass in each of their first 10 career starts since 1966:

PLAYER

TEAM

SEASON(S)

Kurt Warner^

St. Louis

1999

Brad Johnson

Minnesota

1996-97

 

 

 

Baker Mayfield

Cleveland

2018*

^Pro Football Hall of Famer

*Has TD pass in each of first nine starts

 

SAQUON FROM SCRIMMAGE: New York Giants rookie running back SAQUON BARKLEY had 146 scrimmage yards (125 rushing, 21 receiving) in the Giants’ Week 13 overtime victory against Chicago. Barkley leads the NFL with 11 games of at least 100 scrimmage yards in 2018.

With 100 scrimmage yards on Sunday at Washington (1:00 PM ET, FOX), Barkley would tie EDGERRIN JAMES (12 games in 1999) for the second-most games with at least 100 scrimmage yards by a rookie in NFL history. Only Pro Football Hall of Famer ERIC DICKERSON (13 games in 1983) has more such games.

The rookies with the most games with at least 100 scrimmage yards in NFL history:

PLAYER

TEAM

SEASON

GAMES WITH 100+ SCRIMMAGE YARDS

Eric Dickerson^#

Los Angeles Rams

1983

13

Edgerrin James#

Indianapolis

1999

12

 

 

 

 

Saquon Barkley

New York Giants

2018

11*

^Pro Football Hall of Famer

#Named Associated Press Offensive Rookie of the Year

*Entering Week 14

 

RECORD-SETTING RECEIVER: Pittsburgh wide receiver ANTONIO BROWN has 81 receptions for 1,028 yards and leads the NFL with 12 touchdown receptions this season.

With 10 receptions on Sunday at Oakland (4:25 PM ET, FOX), Brown, who has 663 receptions since 2013, can surpass WES WELKER (672 from 2007-12) for the most catches by a player over any six-year span in NFL history.

The most receptions by a player over any six-year span in NFL history:

PLAYER

TEAM

SEASONS

RECEPTIONS

Wes Welker

New England

2007-12

672

Antonio Brown

Pittsburgh

2013-18

663*

Marvin Harrison^

Indianapolis

1999-2004

649

^Pro Football Hall of Famer

*In sixth year of span

 

Brown, who had 154 receiving yards in Week 13, has 8,876 receiving yards since 2013 and surpassed Pro Football Hall of Famer JERRY RICE (8,759 from 1990-1995) for the most receiving yards by a player over any six-year span in NFL history.

The most receiving yards by a player over any six-year span in NFL history:

PLAYER

TEAM

SEASONS

RECEIVING YARDS

Antonio Brown

Pittsburgh

2013-18

8,876*

Jerry Rice^

San Francisco

1990-95

8,759

Marvin Harrison^

Indianapolis

1999-2004

8,707

^Pro Football Hall of Famer

*In sixth year of span

 

ZACH ATTACK: Philadelphia tight end ZACH ERTZ ranks second in the NFL with 93 receptions and second among tight ends with 978 receiving yards this season.

With seven receptions and 22 receiving yards on Sunday at Dallas (4:25 PM ET, FOX), Ertz can become the fourth tight end in NFL history to record at least 100 receptions and 1,000 receiving yards in a single season.

The tight ends with at least 100 receptions and 1,000 receiving yards in a single season in NFL history:

PLAYER

TEAM

SEASON

RECEPTIONS

RECEIVING YARDS

Jason Witten

Dallas

2012

110#

1,039

Dallas Clark

Indianapolis

2009

100

1,106

Tony Gonzalez

Kansas City

2004

102

1,258

 

 

 

 

 

Zach Ertz

Philadelphia

2018

93*

978*

*Entering Week 14

#Single-season record by a tight end

 

DOMINANT DONALD: Los Angeles Rams defensive tackle AARON DONALD leads the NFL with 16.5 sacks this season and has recorded at least two sacks in each of his past three games.

With two sacks on Sunday Night Football at Chicago (8:20 PM ET, NBC), Donald can become the fourth player since 1982, when the individual sack became an official statistic, to record at least two sacks in four consecutive games in a single season, joining SIMEON RICE (five games in 2002) and Pro Football Hall of Famers KEVIN GREENE (four games in 1998) and REGGIE WHITE (four games in 1987).

The players with the most consecutive games with at least two sacks in a single season since 1982:

PLAYER

TEAM

SEASON

CONSECUTIVE GAMES WITH 2+ SACKS

Simeon Rice

Tampa Bay

2002

5

Kevin Greene^

Carolina

1998

4

Reggie White^

Philadelphia

1987

4

 

 

 

 

Aaron Donald

Los Angeles Rams

2018

3*

^Pro Football Hall of Famer

*Active streak

 

Donald, who has recorded at least two sacks in six games this season, can become the fourth player since 1982 to record at least seven games with two-or-more sacks in a single season, joining Pro Football Hall of Famers REGGIE WHITE (eight games in 1987), CHRIS DOLEMAN (seven games in 1989) and BRUCE SMITH (seven games in 1990).

The players with the most games with two-or-more sacks in a single season since 1982:

PLAYER

TEAM

SEASON

GAMES WITH 2+ SACKS

Reggie White^#

Philadelphia

1987

8

Chris Doleman^

Minnesota

1989

7

Bruce Smith^#

Buffalo

1990

7

 

 

 

 

Aaron Donald

Los Angeles Rams

2018

6*

^Pro Football Hall of Famer

#Named Associated Press Defensive Player of the Year

*Entering Week 14

 

JONES-ING FOR MORE: Kansas City defensive lineman CHRIS JONES ties for fifth in the AFC with 10 sacks this season and has recorded at least one sack in eight consecutive games.

With a sack on Sunday against Baltimore (1:00 PM ET, CBS), Jones would become the sixth player since 1982 to record at least one sack in nine consecutive games and the first player since 1982 to record nine consecutive games with at least one sack within a single season.

The players with the most consecutive games with at least one sack since 1982:

PLAYER

TEAM(S)

SEASON(S)

CONSECUTIVE GAMES WITH A SACK

DeMarcus Ware

Dallas

2007-08

10

Simon Fletcher

Denver

1992-93

10

Dwight Freeney

Indianapolis

2008-09

9

Kevin Greene^

San Francisco, Carolina

1997-98

9

Bruce Smith^

Buffalo

1986-87

9

 

 

 

 

Chris Jones

Kansas City

2018

8*

^Pro Football Hall of Famer

*Active streak

 

 

Courtesy of NFL Communications

Read More 1319 Words

Titans RB Henry ties Dorsett with 99-yard rushing TD

Tennessee Titans running back Derrick Henry took a handoff behind his team's 1-yard line and sprinted directly into the record books.

 

Henry tied Tony Dorsett's NFL record with a 99-yard rushing touchdown in the first half of Thursday night's game between the Titans and Jacksonville Jaguars. Dorsett had held sole possession of the record

Tennessee Titans running back Derrick Henry took a handoff behind his team’s 1-yard line and sprinted directly into the record books.

 

Henry tied Tony Dorsett’s NFL record with a 99-yard rushing touchdown in the first half of Thursday night’s game between the Titans and Jacksonville Jaguars. Dorsett had held sole possession of the record since Jan. 3, 1983, when he scored on a 99-yard run for the Dallas Cowboys against the Minnesota Vikings.

 

A series of stiff arms helped Henry make history. He took the handoff in the end zone, stepped over traffic at the line of scrimmage and cut left.

 

Jaguars cornerback A.J. Bouye was the first defender with a clear shot at a tackle. Henry extended his right arm and knocked Bouye off balance.

 

Linebacker Leon Jacobs was next. He attempted to chase down Henry from behind, only to fall over as the running back pushed him aside with his right arm.

 

Myles Jack had the final opportunity to prevent the historic touchdown, but Henry quickly shed the linebacker on his way to the end zone.

 

Before the big play, Henry’s longest run of the season was 16 yards. His previous career long was 75.

 

–Field Level Media

Read More 144 Words

Eagles attempting to catch first-place Cowboys

The Philadelphia Eagles will be attempting to pull into a tie for first place in the NFC East with a win at Dallas on Sunday afternoon.

 

After their 28-13 victory over Washington on Monday night, the Eagles pulled into a two-way tie for second place with the Redskins at 6-6 and just one game

The Philadelphia Eagles will be attempting to pull into a tie for first place in the NFC East with a win at Dallas on Sunday afternoon.

 

After their 28-13 victory over Washington on Monday night, the Eagles pulled into a two-way tie for second place with the Redskins at 6-6 and just one game behind the Cowboys at 7-5.

 

The Eagles hadn’t won two straight games since last year’s postseason which culminated with the franchise’s first career Super Bowl title.

 

“I think this group, first of all, is a resilient group, as you know,” Eagles head coach Doug Pederson said. “I’ve said that a lot. This group doesn’t let a lot bother them. I think what you’ve seen now these last couple weeks, we’ve started getting some guys back healthy a little bit. We’re not there yet, but we’re getting close.”

 

Philadelphia received a huge boost with the return of running back Darren Sproles, who had missed the previous 10 games with a hamstring injury. Sproles scored on a 14-yard touchdown run and sparked the team.

 

“It just felt so good, man, just to get in there,” Sproles said. “To have a knee (injury) last year, then have a hamstring this year, it just felt great. It felt great to get in there.”

 

Defensive tackle Tim Jernigan (back) and left tackle Jason Peters (biceps) are expected to play against the Cowboys while cornerback Jalen Mills (foot) is unlikely to return.

 

The Cowboys pulled off a stunning 13-10 victory over New Orleans in their last game, ending the Saints’ 10-game winning streak. The Cowboys will be in search of their fifth straight win after beginning the season 3-5.

 

“You’ve got to understand, there’s no more room for error for us,” Cowboys cornerback Byron Jones told ESPN.com. “… This is the time you got to win. You can’t look back. You can’t go back.”

 

The Cowboys’ defense was stingy and the offense was efficient enough to produce another win against the Saints. Running back Ezekiel Elliott compiled 136 total yards — 23 carries for 76 yards and six receptions for 60 yards. He also scored on a 16-yard screen pass.

 

“I think they understand where we are,” Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett told reporters. “Our backs continue to be against the wall. We have to continue to fight, continue to battle. We’ve done some good things the last few weeks, but that doesn’t matter now.”

 

Wide receiver Cole Beasley (foot) and left tackle Tyron Smith (stinger) are both considered questionable to play.

 

The Cowboys beat the Eagles 27-20 in Philadelphia in Week 10.

 

–Field Level Media

Read More 381 Words

Ex-NFL star Williams behind new Freedom Football League

Another football league is in the works and former NFL players such as Ricky Williams and Terrell Owens are behind it.

 

The Freedom Football League doesn't have a launch season but Williams said it would begin with 10 teams and would play games in spring and summer.

 

"The purpose of this league ...

Another football league is in the works and former NFL players such as Ricky Williams and Terrell Owens are behind it.

 

The Freedom Football League doesn’t have a launch season but Williams said it would begin with 10 teams and would play games in spring and summer.

 

“The purpose of this league … is about community and the development of players,” Williams told ESPN’s Outside The Lines. “… In thinking about creating this league, I wanted to create a league that I could have stayed in and been comfortable and really thrived.

 

“The NFL started a long time ago, and since then a lot of things have changed. And we want to create a league that’s ready for that change and invite some more of it.”

 

The FFL said in a press release that players will be encouraged to “address society’s challenges relating to social justice, wealth disparity, health and wellness and more hot-button issues they are passionate about.”

 

The league said players will also receive “permanent and reliable holistic health and wellness support on and off the field.”

 

“We’re trying to develop young men,” Williams said on OTL. “You can’t take away their voice and expect them to develop. … When I grew up watching football, I really wanted to be like Jim Brown, not because of what he did on a field, but because he could take that platform and have a voice.

 

“And so, when I got to the NFL, expecting that to be the case, anytime a big social issue came up, we were told, ‘Be quiet. … It’s a distraction.’ And so, really, (we’re) changing the conversation.”

 

The league’s first 10 teams will be the Birmingham Kings, Connecticut Underground, Florida Strong, Oakland Panthers, Ohio Players, Oklahoma City Power, Portland Progress, St. Louis Independence, San Diego Warriors and Texas Revolution.

 

Among the other former NFL players involved in the FFL are Simeon Rice, Jeff Garcia, Byron Chamberlain and Dexter Jackson.

 

Williams won the Heisman Trophy for Texas in 1998 and rushed for 10,009 yards for three NFL teams from 1999-2011. He is one of 31 players to surpass 10,000 career yards.

 

Two other professional leagues are in the works. The Alliance of American Football begins play on Feb. 9 while the XFL is slated to begin play in Feb. 2020.

 

–Field Level Media

Read More 328 Words

Packers allow fired McCarthy to address players

 

 

Mike McCarthy was back in front of the Green Bay Packers' players on Wednesday.

 

Three days after being fired, McCarthy was given the opportunity to address his now former players after making a request to do so.

 

"He wanted an opportunity to speak with the team. I was 100 percent, fully

 

 

Mike McCarthy was back in front of the Green Bay Packers’ players on Wednesday.

 

Three days after being fired, McCarthy was given the opportunity to address his now former players after making a request to do so.

 

“He wanted an opportunity to speak with the team. I was 100 percent, fully supportive of, and he did a fantastic job talking to the team,” interim coach Joe Philbin told reporters on Thursday. “Not just about football and winning football games, but his passion. His passion for the game, his love for the players was clearly evident.

 

“I’m sure it was emotional for him and everybody in the room. It was awesome. I thought he did a great job.”

 

McCarthy paid a visit to team headquarters on Tuesday to make the request and chief executive officer Mark Murphy and others in upper management agreed to it.

 

Murphy felt it was a good idea as McCarthy didn’t have a chance to address the team after being fired hours after Sunday’s 20-17 home loss to the Arizona Cardinals.

 

“He spoke to the team yesterday and that was good,” Murphy told WTMJ radio on Thursday. “I think Mike wanted some closure with the players and some of the other coaches to be able to thank them and say goodbye to them as well.”

 

Philbin said he has spoken with McCarthy multiple times since Sunday’s firing. He said allowing the former coach back in the building — which is not the norm in NFL circles — is indicative of how the Packers do business.

 

“That’s the Green Bay Packer way, right?” Philbin said. “This is a first-class organization all the way around. I think it’s been that way for 100 seasons, I would guess. I’m not that old, but I’m guessing it’s been like that for a long time. We do things the right way around here.”

 

McCarthy, who turned 55 last month, was in his 13th season at the helm in Green Bay. He finishes with a 125-77-2 regular-season record while going 10-8 in the postseason, leading the team to a Super Bowl XLV victory following the 2010 season.

 

Philbin had a 24-28 record as a head coach in parts of four seasons with the Miami Dolphins (2012-15).

 

The Packers are 4-7-1 entering Sunday’s home game against the Atlanta Falcons.

 

–Field Level Media

Read More 339 Words

Buccaneers out to solve Saints for third time in two seasons

It seems like it's been forever since the Tampa Bay Bucs won a video-game shootout against the New Orleans Saints, 48-40, in the regular-season opener.

 

When the two teams square off Sunday at Raymond James Stadium, the Saints (10-2) will be trying to clinch the NFC South while the Bucs (5-7) will be trying

It seems like it’s been forever since the Tampa Bay Bucs won a video-game shootout against the New Orleans Saints, 48-40, in the regular-season opener.

 

When the two teams square off Sunday at Raymond James Stadium, the Saints (10-2) will be trying to clinch the NFC South while the Bucs (5-7) will be trying to keep their recent streak of good play, which resulted in consecutive victories, rolling.

 

“It feels like it’s been a long (time) ago,” Saints coach Sean Payton said. “Obviously, a lot’s taken place since then. We’ll be seeing a different quarterback in this game (Jameis Winston has replaced Ryan Fitzpatrick). I think there are some similarities relative to what the teams do scheme-wise, and yet, through the course of the season there’s been injury, new players playing at different positions for both sides. And a big enough gap to where you’re watching a lot of other tape, not just the tape of your past game.”

 

Winston was serving the first game of a three-game suspension for conduct detrimental to the league when the Saints and Bucs met in the shootout Sept. 9 in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.

 

Given loads of time to survey the field, Fitzpatrick, often tagged as a journeyman quarterback, carved up the Saints secondary, completing 21 of 28 passes for 417 yards and four touchdowns without an interception. He was not sacked.

 

The Saints’ defense is playing at a much higher level than it was in Week 1. In the last four games, the Saints have recorded 20 sacks. In the first eight games, New Orleans had only 17 sacks.

 

“Week to week, we’ve seen improvement,” Saints coach Sean Payton said of his defense. “And I think those guys up front are doing a good job. All 11 guys are getting to the football. They’re looking for turnover opportunities on every play. And just as we go down the stretch, with one quarter left in our season, those are encouraging numbers.”

 

After the opening loss, the Saints reeled off 10 consecutive victories – the longest streak in the NFL this season – before losing 13-10 on the road to Dallas last Thursday. The Saints have a four-game lead in the NFC South over the 4-4 Carolina Panthers and could wrap up the division title with a victory or a Panthers’ loss.

 

The Saints also want to keep in touch with the Los Angeles Rams (11-1), who currently own the No. 1 seed in the NFC.

 

“We’re coming off a tough loss, and we’ve got a lot we’re playing for,” Payton said. “When the season starts, one of the first goals is win your division. So we’re playing for that. Then you look past that. You’re looking to give yourself every opportunity to get the best possible position if you’re a playoff team.”

 

The Saints could be buoyed by the return of starting left tackle Terron Armstead, who has missed the last three games with a pectoral injury. But receiver Michael Thomas (ankle) did not practice on Wednesday.

 

Bucs receiver DeSean Jackson (thumb) and defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul (knee) did not practice Wednesday.

 

–Field Level Media

Read More 463 Words

Rivers, Chargers continue playoff march, slumping Cincy braces for impact

 

 

If there is an antithesis to the Los Angeles Chargers and their turnaround season, a contradiction to a team that started slow and has come on like gangbusters, it is a Cincinnati Bengals team that will limp into Southern California this week looking lost and bewildered.

 

While the Chargers opened with a

 

 

If there is an antithesis to the Los Angeles Chargers and their turnaround season, a contradiction to a team that started slow and has come on like gangbusters, it is a Cincinnati Bengals team that will limp into Southern California this week looking lost and bewildered.

 

While the Chargers opened with a 1-2 record and had belief in themselves tested, the Bengals opened the year 4-1 and were overflowing with optimism. The Charges are 9-3; the Bengals have slipped to 5-7.

 

When the teams meet Sunday at the StubHub Center in Carson, Calif., it will be the Chargers who will not only be a heavy favorite, they will have a chance to send another message to the top teams in the NFL that a playoff menace awaits.

 

A Bengals team that has lost six of its last seven games will be guided by a backup quarterback in Jeff Driskel, who has taken over for an injured Andy Dalton, with a gameplan being drawn up by a coach in Marvin Lewis who could be wrapping up his tenure in Cincinnati.

 

“The least of my worries,” Lewis said about job security this week. “… My job is to coach the football team.”

 

The Chargers can expect a Bengals team this weekend that will play with nothing to lose, especially with Cincinnati coming off four double-digit defeats in its last six games. The most recent came Sunday at home in an uninspired 24-10 loss to the Denver Broncos. In addition to the result, the Bengals took another hit with the loss of wide receiver A.J. Green. He’s on injured reserve awaiting season-ending toe surgery.

 

The Bengals committed 12 penalties Sunday, eight in the first half (two others were declined in the opening two quarters). Going back another week, the Bengals have committed 25 penalties in consecutive games.

 

“(The Chargers) have good players and it starts with those two guys off the edge (Melvin) Ingram and (Joey) Bosa,” said Driskel, as he prepares for his second career start. “They’re not a very complicated defense but they are good at what they do. We have some stuff to attack what they do, but you have to take what the defense gives you and they are kind of a bend-don’t-break defense.”

 

Coincidentally enough, it was a defeat to the Broncos that seems to have resurrected a sense of urgency in the Chargers.

 

When the Broncos pulled off a 23-22 victory in Los Angeles on Nov. 18 with a field goal as time expired, it ended the Chargers’ six-game winning streak. The Chargers not only rebounded to beat a heavy underdog Arizona Cardinals team 45-10, they won at Pittsburgh 33-30 last weekend while overcoming a 17-point deficit.

 

Sunday’s game against the Bengals will be the Chargers’ final tuneup before a Dec. 13 clash with the AFC West-leading Kansas City Chiefs on national television.

 

Sunday also figures to be the second consecutive game the Chargers will play without running back Melvin Gordon, who came away with a sprained knee ligament in the defeat to the Cardinals. Gordon has not officially been ruled out for Sunday, but his return is expected for the showdown with the Chiefs.

 

In falling behind 23-7 at halftime to the Steelers, the Chargers had just two yards rushing on nine attempts without Gordon.

 

“When you don’t have a run game that’s the kind of game you get yourself into,” Chargers center Mike Pouncey said, according to the Los Angeles Times. “You can’t win many games like that. It wasn’t anything with the play-calling. It was us up front.”

 

Don’t expect the Chargers to have the same issues again, not against a Bengals run defense that is dead last in the NFL in rushing yards allowed per game at 153.3. Only one team has given up more rushing touchdowns than the Bengals’ 16.

 

Outside of Gordon, who did not practice Wednesday, the Chargers looked relatively healthy. Tight end Sean Cuklin (back) also did not practice. Those limited at practice included cornerback Trevor Williams (knee) and nose tackle Brandon Mebane (not injury related). Full participants included running back Austin Ekeler (ankle) and center Pouncey (ankle).

 

Bengals players who did not participate in practice Wednesday included linebacker Vontaze Burfict (concussion), offensive tackle Cordy Glenn (back), cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick (ankle) and cornerback Tony McRae (concussion). Limited in practice were defensive end Carlos Dunlap (hip), defensive end Michael Johnson (pectoral), wide receiver Josh Malone (hamstring) and running back Joe Mixon (foot).

 

–Field Level Media

Read More 697 Words

QBs Darnold, Allen meet in matchup of top rookies

When the Buffalo Bills and New York Jets matched up in Week 10, the starting quarterbacks were Matt Barkley and Josh McCown.

 

This time around, the all-journeyman affair is out and will likely feature the first matchup between first-round picks Josh Allen and Sam Darnold.

 

Allen is a go for Sunday's contest in

When the Buffalo Bills and New York Jets matched up in Week 10, the starting quarterbacks were Matt Barkley and Josh McCown.

 

This time around, the all-journeyman affair is out and will likely feature the first matchup between first-round picks Josh Allen and Sam Darnold.

 

Allen is a go for Sunday’s contest in Orchard Park, N.Y., while Darnold is expected to be cleared later in the week as the Jets (3-9) aim to snap a six-game losing streak when they visit the Bills (4-8).

 

Darnold has missed the past three games with a right foot injury but optimism over his return increased when he was a full practice participant on Wednesday for the first time since being injured against the Miami Dolphins in Week 9.

 

“I’m really excited about how I felt,” Darnold told reporters, “so as of right now I’m really excited about hopefully getting a chance to play on Sunday.”

 

Darnold, the No. 3 overall pick of this year’s draft, has passed for 1,934 yards and 11 touchdowns but also has a low completion rate of 55 percent and an NFL-worst 14 interceptions.

 

Allen, the No. 7 selection, missed the first meeting due to an elbow injury that sidelined him four games. He has passed for 1,223 yards and five touchdowns against seven interceptions with a league-low 52.9 percent completion rate.

 

Allen suddenly has become a threat as a runner with back-to-back outings of 99 and 135 yard. He passed for two touchdowns for the first time as well in last week’s 21-17 loss to the Miami Dolphins.

 

“I’ve done a really good job on protecting myself, whether it’s getting down, sliding, or getting out of bounds,” Allen told reporters of his running. “Obviously, sometimes hits are going to happen. That’s football, whether it’s in the pocket or outside the pocket.

 

 

“But I definitely don’t want to be the leading rusher.”

 

The loss to Miami halted a modest two-game winning streak for the Bills that began with a 41-10 rout of the Jets.

 

Barkley passed for 232 yards and two touchdowns and LeSean McCoy rushed for 113 yards for the lone time he has topped 100 this season.

 

The Buffalo defense intercepted McCown twice and limited him to 135 yards. That performance is one of four straight games in which the Bills have allowed 130 or fewer net passing yards, the first time an NFL team had done that since the New York Giants in 2009.

 

Buffalo leads the NFL in pass defense at 187.2 yards per game and ranks second in total defense at 294.2.

 

Those fine marks have been needed with the Bills struggling on the offensive end. The Bills rank 31st in both scoring offense (14.8 points per game) and total offense (285.7).

 

New York’s offense also is near the bottom of the league in both categories, ranking 30th in total offense (301.0) and 26th in scoring offense (20.3).

 

The Jets failed to score an offensive touchdown in last week’s 26-22 loss to the Tennessee Titans. New York built a 16-0 advantage before wilting in a performance that left coach Todd Bowles fuming.

 

“It’s one of those games you’ll remember for the rest of your life as a player or a coach. You’ll never forget about it,” Bowles told reporters. “It can propel you to be better at your job or it can make you go in a shell.

 

“I don’t think we have those kinds of guys, but of course everybody is frustrated and (ticked) off.”

 

While Bowles’ employment status gets shakier by each defeat, Buffalo cut its losses by releasing receiver Kelvin Benjamin, a former 1,000-yard receiver with the Carolina Panthers who caught just 39 passes for 571 yards and two touchdowns in 18 games with the Bills.

 

“It obviously didn’t work,” Buffalo coach Sean McDermott told reporters of the acquisition made during the 2017 season. “The important thing for us is that we continue to take swings. Some of those are going to work and some of those aren’t. The only way you can get a hit is if you take a swing.”

 

–Field Level Media

Read More 619 Words

Packers’ Philbin: Moss fired for more than tweet

Green Bay Packers interim head coach Joe Philbin said Wednesday that longtime assistant coach Winston Moss was fired for more than his critical tweet suggesting quarterback Aaron Rogers be held accountable by the team's next coach.

 

"It's never about one thing," said Philbin, who took over after Mike McCarthy was fired Sunday. "Again, I

Green Bay Packers interim head coach Joe Philbin said Wednesday that longtime assistant coach Winston Moss was fired for more than his critical tweet suggesting quarterback Aaron Rogers be held accountable by the team’s next coach.

 

“It’s never about one thing,” said Philbin, who took over after Mike McCarthy was fired Sunday. “Again, I think it’s important, as I said to the team, we’ve got to be professional, accountable, respectful and punctual. Those are the four things that we’ve got to do the next four weeks. And if we do all those things, we’ll be in good shape. It wasn’t about — again, you’re talking to a guy who’s never tweeted in his life, doesn’t even know what Twitter is — so again, it’s not about a tweet or anything like that. I just think the fit right now isn’t where it needs to be.”

 

Moss, a longtime assistant coach under McCarthy with Green Bay whose official title was associate head coach/linebackers coach, was fired Tuesday in the aftermath of the tweet.

 

“Ponder this… what Championship teams have are great leadership! Period! It’s not the offensive guru trend, it’s not the safe trend. Find somebody that is going to hold #12 and everybody in this building to a #LombardiStandard! Period! #losingsucks!” Moss wrote.

 

 

 

Philbin, who had been the team’s offensive coordinator before McCarthy was fired, refused to comment further on the tweet and noted defensive assistant Scott McCurley will take over Moss’ duties as outside linebackers coach. He did not say if anyone will take over Moss’ title of associate head coach.

 

“I think it’s important obviously that everybody’s on the same page, that we’re all moving forward in the same direction,” Philbin said. “As you know, Winston’s an excellent football coach. I’ve known him a long time. Respect him; outstanding family man. So it wasn’t an easy decision, but I just didn’t feel like the fit right now was where it needs to be. So … came to that decision.”

 

In a news conference Monday, team president Mark Murphy and general manager Brian Gutekunst called Philbin a “legitimate candidate” for the head coach position. He’ll have four games to prove it starting Dec. 9 when the Packers host the Atlanta Falcons.

 

–Field Level Media

Read More 322 Words

XFL unveils where its eight teams will play

The XFL has revealed which eight cities will host teams when play begins in 2020.

 

The cities and stadiums are Dallas (Globe Life Park), Houston (TDECU Stadium), Los Angeles (StubHub Center), St. Louis (The Dome at America's Center), Seattle (CenturyLink Field), Tampa (Raymond James Stadium), New York (MetLife Stadium) and Washington, D.C. (Audi Field).

The XFL has revealed which eight cities will host teams when play begins in 2020.

 

The cities and stadiums are Dallas (Globe Life Park), Houston (TDECU Stadium), Los Angeles (StubHub Center), St. Louis (The Dome at America’s Center), Seattle (CenturyLink Field), Tampa (Raymond James Stadium), New York (MetLife Stadium) and Washington, D.C. (Audi Field). XFL domain names for several other cities have reportedly been registered, hinting at possible future expansion.

 

Oliver Luck, CEO and league commissioner, said about 30 cities had been in the running. Luck says team nicknames and coaches should be decided during the first quarter of 2019 and that teams will begin finding quarterbacks by the summer.

 

The XFL is a relaunch of the rival league started by Vince McMahon, the founder of WWE, back in 2001. Though named the same, the current iteration of the XFL is expected to have fewer gimmicks than the short-lived original.

 

The league will begin with eight 40-man teams playing a 10-week schedule starting in February 2020, providing years since its inception to prepare for on-field action. The original XFL, which lasted just one season, played games a year after it was announced. According to McMahon, the new iteration will be focused on being faster-paced, easier to understand and family friendly, not relying on flashy cheerleaders and antics like the original XFL.

 

Broadcast and streaming partnerships have yet to be finalized.

 

Luck resigned his post as NCAA vice president to join the alternative football league. He was formerly president of NFL Europe and later athletic director at West Virginia.

 

His son is Indianapolis Colts quarterback Andrew Luck.

 

–Field Level Media

Read More 213 Words

NFL Week 14: Over and Under Best 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

Over of

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

Over of the week: New York Jets at Buffalo Bills

Total: 38

The Bills have played a lot of low-scoring games this season, mainly because they’ve dealt with issues at quarterback and running back while battling weak opponents in a weak division.

But the Buffalo offense has turned a corner since getting rookie quarterback Josh Allen back from a midseason injury. They scored just 17 points last week in Miami, but they had 415 yards of total offense in that game, and that was a week from removed from a two-game stretch in which they scored a combined 65 points with zero turnovers and 778 net yards.

With running back LeSean McCoy also coming around, don’t be surprised if that offense finally explodes Sunday at home against a Jets D that has just one takeaway since Week 6 and has surrendered at least 26 points in five of their last seven games.

Buffalo could cover this total on its own, just as it did when the Bills hammered the Jets 41-10 on the road last month.

Predicted score: Bills 41, Jets 16

Under of the week: Atlanta Falcons at Green Bay Packers

Total: 49

It’s time to give up on both of these offenses. The Falcons have been held to fewer than 20 points in four consecutive games, while the Packers have been limited to 17 or fewer in three of their last five.

Sure, neither team is great defensively either, but Green Bay has given up just 15.5 points per game in their last four outings at Lambeau Field.

It’s possible Matt Ryan and Co. could suddenly explode, and it’s just as possible a fire has been lit under Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay offense following Mike McCarthy’s firing. But it’s unlikely that both of those developments have taken place for two teams that are out of contention and playing out the string.

This one might not hit 40, and almost certainly won’t hit 50.

Predicted score: Packers 24, Falcons 17

Good luck, we’re all counting on you. 

Previous results
Last week: 2-0
2018 season: 17-8-1

Brad Gagnon has covered the NFL since 2007 and is a member of the Professional Football Writers of America, despite the fact he actually lives in Canada. The Toronto-based sports journalist’s work can also be seen at Bleacher Report, CBS Sports, Awful Announcing and The Guardian. He can be found on Twitter @brad_gagnon

Read More 329 Words

Suspended 49ers long snapper blames tainted supplement

 

San Francisco 49ers long snapper Kyle Nelson, handed a 10-game

 

San Francisco 49ers long snapper Kyle Nelson, handed a 10-game suspension from the NFL on Tuesday for a violation of the league’s policy prohibiting performance-enhancing drugs, blamed his positive test on a tainted supplement.

 

The punishment — the longest in 49ers history — reflects the fact that Nelson received a previous PED suspension as a rookie in 2011 after being released from the Kansas City Chiefs’ practice squad.

 

Nelson issued a statement Tuesday: “I have been taking the same supplements for my entire time with the 49ers, while undergoing often simultaneous testing by the NFL with no issues. I do not deviate from my nutrition routine, and I would never knowingly take a banned substance.

 

“I am currently having the supplements tested, and I hope to uncover the cause of the positive test. When the product is identified I fully intend to seek legal action against the manufacturer to protect against this happening to other players in the future.”

 

San Francisco general manager John Lynch said, “We are certainly disappointed to be losing Kyle for 10 games. Hopefully, this serves as a reminder to all of our players that they need to take the proper steps to know exactly what they are putting in their bodies.”

 

Nelson’s suspension will cover the final four games of this season and the first six games of the 2019 regular season.

 

Nelson, 32, has started 76 consecutive games since joining the 49ers in 2014. Before that, he was with New Orleans Saints and the Chiefs in 2011 but didn’t get in a game, then spent one season each with the then-San Diego Chargers (2012) and the Washington Redskins (2013).

 

San Francisco worked out several long snappers last week, according to multiple media reports.

 

Nelson is in the final year of a four-year extension signed in 2015 and will be an unrestricted free agent after this season.

 

–Field Level Media

Read More 254 Words

Redskins’ Gruden: Kaepernick not right fit

 

 

On the day when the Redskins had a second quarterback undergo surgery to repair a broken right leg, Washington coach Jay Gruden said that free agent Colin Kaepernick would not be the right option for the team as it looks for signal-calling reinforcements.

 

Colt McCoy broke his fibula Monday in the Redskins’ 28-13 loss to the Philadelphia Eagles, and he underwent surgery Tuesday. The team won’t place him on injured reserve, as there is a chance he could return this season.

 

Regarding the timetable for McCoy’s recovery, Gruden said, “Two to three weeks would be wishful thinking — four weeks possibly, but we’ll see how it goes. (If) we’re still alive in this thing, I’d like to keep him up if he can get back for the last game of the year against Philadelphia, it would be great, or possibly the playoffs.”

 

Mark Sanchez, signed as a free agent Nov. 19, took over for McCoy in the second quarter Monday, and he will remain the starter during McCoy’s absence. Before Monday, Sanchez hadn’t played in the NFL since 2016.

 

McCoy was filling in for Alex Smith, who sustained a compound fracture in his right leg on Nov. 18 against the Houston Texans.

 

As for who will back up Sanchez, it won’t be Kaepernick. The former San Francisco 49ers quarterback, the first NFL player to take a knee during the national anthem in protest of police brutality and racism, remains unemployed.

 

Gruden said Tuesday of Kaepernick, “Oh, he’s been discussed for sure, and right now at this point, we already had a workout last week for a few guys. We had a couple other guys come in today, and then it’s just going to be a matter of which way we want to go.

 

“Do we want to go with a guy that’s familiar with my terminology who we worked out last week, or with a new guy to back up Sanchez with a similar skill set, or go with a guy and teach basically a whole new kind of offense with a new offensive line and with a lot of those zone reads and all that stuff.

 

“Not a lot of time to really get a brand new quarterback and new system installed and taught in a couple of days of practice. He’s been talked about and discussed, but we’ll probably go a different direction.”

 

Despite losing their past three games, the Redskins (6-6) are tied with the Eagles (6-6) for second place in the NFC East, a game behind the Dallas Cowboys (7-5).

 

“We’re not out of anything right now,” Gruden said. “It’s not like we’re 0-12 and we’re just playing for whatever; we’re actually playing to try to get into the playoffs, possibly win the division. Heck, we still have a lot out in front of us. Defensively, we’re fairly healthy, there is a silver lining there. We just have to play better. We have to play more physical.”

 

–Field Level Media

Read More 442 Words

Jones: Lee starts over Vander Esch when healthy

 

Sean Lee apparently won't

 

Sean Lee apparently won’t lose his job due to his hamstring injury.

 

Nor will a rookie running rampant with 102 tackles take it from him.

 

Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said Tuesday that Lee will retain his role as a starter when he is ready to return from his injury.

 

Jones made the declaration despite the fact that first-round draft pick Leighton Vander Esch is enjoying a huge season that has placed him in the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year discussion.

 

“He’s improving,” Jones told 105.3 The Fan of Vander Esch. “But Sean Lee, make no mistake about it, when he’s right, there’s nobody better. He’s such an integral part of adjusting on the field and making the big play.”

 

The 32-year-old Lee has 27 tackles in five games this season and last played on Nov. 5 when he injured his hamstring for the second time this season. He has missed the past four games and has a slight chance of returning for Sunday’s game against the Philadelphia Eagles.

 

Meanwhile, the 22-year-old Vander Esch has been a force with five double-digit tackle performances while seemingly roaming all over the field at will.

 

The Boise State product also has two interceptions and earned rave reviews for his coverage of New Orleans Saints running backs Alvin Kamara and Mark Ingram in the Cowboys’ 13-10 upset of New Orleans last Thursday.

 

The NFC East-leading Cowboys (7-5) are 1-4 with Lee in the lineup this season and 6-1 when Vander Esch starts.

 

Lee also missed five games in 2017 due to a hamstring injury.

 

–Field Level Media

Read More 209 Words

Report: NFL mulls suspending Hunt into next season

 

The NFL is mulling a multi-game

 

The NFL is mulling a multi-game suspension for former Kansas City Chiefs running back Kareem Hunt that could last into the 2019 season, ESPN reported Tuesday.

 

The league is considering three different off-field incidents involving Hunt, the bombshell coming last week when TMZ released a video showing Hunt pushing and kicking a woman in Cleveland last February.

 

Hunt was also involved in an altercation at a restaurant last June, an incident the NFL was aware of and questioned the running back about. However, TMZ reported Monday 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, ESPN reports.

 

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. The Chiefs released Hunt last week after the video surfaced of him kicking then-19-year-old Abigail Ottinger from Berea, Ohio.

 

Hunt went unclaimed on waivers Monday 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 an undrafted rookie in 2017.

 

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

 

–Field Level Media

Read More 208 Words

Inconsistent Titans seek sweep of Jaguars

 

On a steamy September day in Jacksonville, the Tennessee Titans

 

On a steamy September day in Jacksonville, the Tennessee Titans scored what at the time was an upset. Beating a team that the previous week had pounded the New England Patriots in a highly ballyhooed rematch of last year’s AFC title game, Tennessee edged the Jacksonville Jaguars 9-6.

 

It was one of a number of confounding outcomes for the Titans, who own wins over Super Bowl champion Philadelphia and Super Bowl loser New England, but also have mixed in an awful road loss to Buffalo and a no-show 21-0 home defeat to Baltimore in which Tennessee quarterback Marcus Mariota absorbed 11 sacks.

 

A season of inconsistency has left the Titans (6-6) needing a hot finish and a little help to earn a second consecutive playoff appearance. They need a Thursday night home win against Jacksonville (4-8) to keep their playoff hopes off life support.

 

Tennessee nearly turned the upcoming game into a battle of irrelevants, but it rallied from a 16-0, second-quarter deficit to edge the New York Jets 26-22 Sunday. Mariota completed the comeback by hitting Corey Davis for an 11-yard touchdown pass with 36 seconds left.

 

“I’d rather him not have to do it, but if we have to, that has been really fun to watch,” Titans coach Mike Vrabel said of Mariota’s eighth game-winning drive in the past two years. “It is exciting to have him be able to do that.”

 

Mariota has thrown for nearly 600 yards in the past two games, but the Jaguars’ defense likely will provide a stiffer challenge than the Houston Texans and the Jets did. While Jacksonville had lost seven in a row before Sunday, its defense remains salty.

 

To wit: a 6-0 shutout Sunday of an Indianapolis Colts team that was making some real playoff noise behind a rejuvenated Andrew Luck, who had thrown at least three TD passes in each of his previous eight games. The Jaguars limited him to 248 yards on 33-of-52 passing, sacking him three times and forcing two turnovers.

 

“It feels great to get in the win column,” Jacksonville defensive end Calais Campbell said. “It’s been way too long.”

 

The Jaguars’ offense had little to do with the win, though, managing only 211 total yards and 11 first downs in quarterback Cody Kessler’s first start after replacing the benched Blake Bortles. Jacksonville will need more from Kessler this week, although it will get running back Leonard Fournette back from a one-game suspension.

 

In Fournette’s absence last week, the Jaguars gained just 79 yards on 27 carries.

 

–Field Level Media

Read More 366 Words

Back to back: Rams sight bigger goals after winning NFC West

THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. (AP) — The Los Angeles Rams seemed to come out of nowhere last season to win their first NFC West championship in 14 years.

When the Rams clinched their second straight division title Sunday, everybody in the NFL had seen it coming all year long.

The league-leading Rams (11-1) haven't surprised anybody

THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. (AP) — The Los Angeles Rams seemed to come out of nowhere last season to win their first NFC West championship in 14 years.

When the Rams clinched their second straight division title Sunday, everybody in the NFL had seen it coming all year long.

The league-leading Rams (11-1) haven’t surprised anybody this season, not after their remarkable 2017 transformation under rookie head coach Sean McVay.

They’re still the division champs again, this time with four games to spare and plenty of opportunities to climb even higher before the postseason.

The Rams became the first team to clinch a postseason berth by beating the Lions 30-16 last weekend, guaranteeing themselves at least one home playoff game. This franchise hadn’t won back-to-back NFC West championships since 1979, when the Rams completed a run of seven straight.

“It’s a blessing,” McVay said Monday after returning from Detroit with a raging winter cold. “You don’t take anything for granted. It’s nice to be able to still have an opportunity to accomplish some things as you continue to progress through this season, but it still feels great either way to be able to accomplish something special with people that you care about and that you love.”

The Rams put on celebratory hats at Ford Field, but the muted party was mostly forgotten Monday when they got home.

According to left tackle Andrew Whitworth, the Rams have greater expectations after they built on last season’s 11-5 record with an even more impressive campaign this fall.

“With all of us coming together for the first time (last year), it felt like you responded and rose to the occasion and achieved something,” Whitworth said. “I think this year, it feels like we expected to be a good football team. We expected to have an opportunity to win this division again, and we went out and did it. So I think you more see it as a checklist item. … You’re happy you won it, but it’s not the end goal, and it’s not really something we didn’t think or expect that we could do.”

Two straight division titles still are a notable achievement in the up-and-down history of the Rams, who have won only one NFL championship since 1951.

Los Angeles’ string of solid playoff teams in the 1980s won just one division title. The Greatest Show on Turf and its descendants in St. Louis won three division titles in five years, but never two in a row.

The Rams had missed the playoffs in 12 consecutive seasons before McVay and Wade Phillips led them back last year, only to lose an opening-round home game to Atlanta.

The Rams are playoff-bound again, but they still have plenty to do in December — starting with the chance to clinch a first-round bye during their trip to Chicago on Sunday night.

A win over the Bears (8-4), who have the NFC’s third-best record behind LA and New Orleans (10-2), would guarantee an extra week of rest for the Rams in January.

The Rams also control their destiny for home-field advantage in a potential NFC championship game with the Saints, but that race could go deep into December.

“It’s a big deal,” McVay said. “To be able to earn the opportunity in your 13th game of the season to be able to, at the worst, clinch a No. 2 seed, it would mean that you’ll be able to watch that first week of the wild card round (at home). It’s a huge deal to us, so that’s certainly going to be a great challenge. That’s the next step.”

NOTES: Backup running back Malcolm Brown injured his collarbone in Detroit, and he was expected to have “a procedure that’s not necessarily a surgery” on Monday, McVay said without elaborating. The Rams didn’t know the severity of the injury. … McVay confirmed he spoke with former Texas Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury about potentially being “an extra set of eyes” for the Rams down the stretch. The offense-minded coaches are good friends, and Kingsbury spent time with the Rams during the summer. “He’s got a lot of opportunities that he’s figuring out now, so there’s really no news on that front,” McVay said. … McVay hopes to kick his cold in time for the Rams’ trip to wintry Chicago. “Even if I’m not healthy, that’s not going to hold me back,” McVay said. “I’m not out there playing, so as long as my brain isn’t too slow, then I’m going to do the best I can to get as healthy as possible and ready to go for these guys.”

___

More AP NFL: https://apnews.com/NFL and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL

Read More 711 Words

Barkley 46 yards shy of rushing for 1,000 yards as rookie

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) — There seems to be no limit to Saquon Barkley's upside.

Just when it seems the New York Giants' rookie running back has shown just about everything he can do on the football field, the second pick overall in the NFL draft finds another way to impress people.

Take a look

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) — There seems to be no limit to Saquon Barkley’s upside.

Just when it seems the New York Giants’ rookie running back has shown just about everything he can do on the football field, the second pick overall in the NFL draft finds another way to impress people.

Take a look at Sunday’s’ 30-27 overtime win over the NFC North-leading Chicago Bears.

While Barkley failed to score for only the fourth time 12 games, he rushed for 125 yards on 24 carries and helped set up 13 points.

His 22-yard run on a third-and-23 draw play set up a team-record 57-yard field goal by Aldrick Rosas on the final play of the half. The play that had everyone talking was his 17-yard catch and run that ended with his hurdle over former Penn State teammate Adrian Amos. It led to a 1-yard touchdown pass from Eli Manning to Odell Beckham Jr .

Finally, there was his 29-yard run on the first play from scrimmage in the overtime. Rosas capped the drive with a 44-yard field goal that provided the winning margin when the Giants’ defense stopped Chicago on the final series.

“I said it early and I really believe it, he’s got a generational spirit in terms of how he competes, and I have not been — WE have not been — disappointed in (any) way,” coach Pat Shurmur said of Barkley on Monday. “He’s extremely talented running the ball, catching the ball, he blocks well, we’re doing what we can to give him the football so he has an impact on the game, and I think he has.”

Barkley’s statistics are impressive.

His 954 yards rushing are third in the NFL behind Todd Gurley (1,175) of the Rams and Ezekiel Elliott (1,150) of the Cowboys. He has exceeded 100 yards from scrimmage in 11 of 12 games and his 100-yard game rushing Sunday was his third in a row and fifth of the season.

Catching three passes for 21 yards also gave Barkley 74 catches, tying tight end Jeremy Shockey (2002) for the second-highest total by a Giants rookie. Beckham holds the franchise rookie record with 91 in 2014.

Barkley has downplayed his statistics all season, but he knows the significance of running for 1,000 yards. He would need 46 yards Sunday against Washington to hit the mark.

“It would be special because obviously one, it’s the NFL, and two, when you get 1,000 yards, it’s not just yourself getting 1,000 yards, it’s your team getting 1,000 yards. It’s the offense and especially the offensive line,” Barkley said.

The biggest adjustment Barkley has had to make this season is dealing with losing. New York was 1-7. It has now won three of four since its bye week, including Sunday’s game in which it blew a 10-point lead in the final 1:13 of the fourth quarter.

However, the Giants found a way to win in overtime.

“It just put everything in perspective from all the hard work that we’ve been putting in all season to go out there and beat a really good team and who was playing lights out up to that game or even in that game, they played really well, too,” Barkley said. “Definitely gives you confidence, and even though the season hasn’t been going how we want it to go.

Barkley now has 1,556 yards from scrimmage, so he needs 444 yards to become the third rookie in league history to reach 2,000 yards from scrimmage. Eric Dickerson set the record of 2,212 in 1983, while Edgerrin James had 2,139 in 1981.

Barkley said it’s hard to describe some of the things he does on the field. The jump over Amos was on instinct.

“Some things you can’t explain and I give a lot of credit to God in a situation like that, my genetics, my mom and dad,” the 21-year-old Barkley said. “But a lot of that is also hard work, training my body to when you’re put in those positions to be able to make those cuts and make those moves.”

NOTES: Giants starting LB Tae Davis had a walking boot on his left foot (ankle). … WR Sterling Shepard (ribs) said an MRI showed tissue damage. He expects to play Sunday. … Shurmur had his doubts either TE Evan Engram (hamstring) or LB Lorenzo Carter (hip) would return this week. … Rookie Kyle Lauletta was the backup Sunday and veteran Alex Tanney was inactive. Shurmur said that probably will be the same order this week. … Lauletta had been inactive for the first 11 games. Shurmur reiterated Manning is his starter.

___

More AP NFL: https://apnews.com/tag/NFL and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL

Read More 690 Words

Steelers blame themselves, not officials, for losing skid

PITTSBURGH (AP) — The excuses aren't hard to find if the Pittsburgh Steelers were in the mood to look for them.

The false start that wasn't called on a play that ended with a Los Angeles Chargers touchdown . The apparent block in the back that helped spring Chargers punt returner Desmond King for the

PITTSBURGH (AP) — The excuses aren’t hard to find if the Pittsburgh Steelers were in the mood to look for them.

The false start that wasn’t called on a play that ended with a Los Angeles Chargers touchdown . The apparent block in the back that helped spring Chargers punt returner Desmond King for the game-tying score.

The weird floater by Ben Roethlisberger on a pass that slipped out of his hand and landed into the awaiting arms of Los Angeles rookie safety Derwin James.

Yet the Steelers understand it’s pointless and expensive to complain, one of the reasons coach Mike Tomlin opted not to vent — publicly anyway — after his team let a 16-point lead slip away in a 33-30 loss to the Chargers on Sunday night that reduced Pittsburgh’s once comfortable cushion in the AFC North to mere percentage points over second-place Baltimore heading into the final month of the season.

“I am going to keep my mouth shut,” Tomlin said after his team dropped its second straight to fall to 7-4-1, just ahead of the Ravens at 7-5. “I am going to do that because I send enough money (in fines to NFL headquarters) in New York.”

Tomlin understands the calls the officials do or don’t make are out of his hands. His team’s ability to avoid losing with a 16-point advantage at home — something the Steelers had been able to do 174 out of the previous 175 times it happened in franchise history — is another matter entirely. One that is far more troubling than a handful of questionable decisions by referee Bill Vinovich’s crew.

“We didn’t establish rhythm in the beginning of the second half,” Tomlin said. “We had a couple drives killed by penalties, holding penalties, it’s catastrophic.”

Pittsburgh took the second-half kickoff and moved into Los Angeles territory only to see a 22-yard gain by James Conner wiped out when officials flagged left guard Ramon Foster for holding. The Steelers punted three plays later.

Pittsburgh’s second possession of the third quarter appeared to be picking up steam when left tackle Alejandro Villanueva was called for holding. The drive stalled and Jordan Berry punted yet again.

King fielded it at the Chargers 27, slipped past a couple of tacklers — including Pittsburgh’s Brian Allen, who may have been helped to the ground thanks to a shove on the back of his right shoulder by Los Angeles gunner Rayshawn Jenkins — and raced down the right sideline for a touchdown that helped tie the game at 23.

The Chargers didn’t need any assistance, however, in taking control in the fourth quarter. Philip Rivers led Los Angeles on scoring drives of 79 and 64 yards on the Chargers’ final two drives, facing just two third downs in the process.

The Steelers did not get called for a defensive penalty on either of the drives. Instead, Los Angeles simply did whatever it wanted against a defense that couldn’t seem to get in the right position.

“You can’t say anything about our offense, our offense scored 30 points,” defensive end Cam Heyward said. “As a defense, we’re not getting the job done. I don’t look for anybody else to say that the officials did this or anything else, we didn’t get the job done as a defense.”

And now Pittsburgh faces a daunting stretch if it wants to lock up a fifth straight playoff berth. The Steelers visit hapless Oakland next Sunday, a meeting that looks like a mismatch. Yet the Raiders have always been trouble for Pittsburgh, particularly on the road.

The Steelers haven’t won in Oakland since 1995. They fell to the Raiders at the Coliseum in 2012 and 2013 to teams that finished 4-12 both seasons.

In 2006 Pittsburgh headed west as the reigning Super Bowl champions and somehow lost to a squad that went 2-14.

After that it’s a visit by the New England Patriots then a visit to New Orleans two days before Christmas before wrapping up the regular season at Heinz Field against Cincinnati.

A shot at earning one of the two seeds — a position the Steelers were in the mix for after a six-game winning streak had them at 7-2-1 — appears gone. At this point, holding off the resurgent Ravens is no given.

“We can’t seem to win it at home right now,” Foster said. “So maybe we’ll be great playoff road warriors.”

NOTES: WR Ryan Switzer is in the concussion protocol after taking an illegal hit from Los Angeles linebacker Jatavis Brown in the fourth quarter. … RB James Conner is dealing with a left leg contusion.

___

More AP NFL: https://apnews.com/NFL and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL

Read More 704 Words

Seven From Sunday – Week 13

PRESS RELEASE

Seven From Sunday - Week 13

​A look at seven statistical highlights from games played at 1:00 p.m. and 4:00 p.m. ET on Sunday, December 2, the 13th week of the 2018 season.

  • The LOS ANGELES RAMS improved to 11-1

PRESS RELEASE

Seven From Sunday – Week 13

​A look at seven statistical highlights from games played at 1:00 p.m. and 4:00 p.m. ET on Sunday, December 2, the 13th week of the 2018 season.

  • The LOS ANGELES RAMS improved to 11-1 and clinched the NFC West division with a 30-16 victory over Detroit at Ford Field. The Rams have won consecutive division titles for the first time since the 1978-79 seasons.

    Los Angeles running back TODD GURLEY rushed for 132 yards and two touchdowns in the Rams’ victory. Gurley has 1,649 scrimmage yards and 19 touchdowns in his team’s first 12 games this season and is the eighth different player in league history to record at least 1,600 scrimmage yards and 18 touchdowns in his team’s first 12 games of a season. Six of the previous seven players to accomplish the feat are enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame – JIM BROWN (1958 and 1965), TERRELL DAVIS (1998), ERIC DICKERSON (1983), O.J. SIMPSON (1975), EMMITT SMITH (1995) and LA DAINIAN TOMLINSON (2006)
     
    Rams wide receiver BRANDIN COOKS had four catches for 62 yards in the win and has 1,026 receiving yards this season, his fourth consecutive season with at least 1,000 receiving yards. Cooks, who had 1,173 receiving yards with the Saints in 2016 and 1,082 yards with the Patriots in 2017, is the first player in NFL history to record 1,000+ receiving yards with three different teams in three consecutive seasons.

    Cooks is the sixth player in league annals to record at least 1,000 receiving yards in a single season for three or more teams at any point in his career.
     

  • New England quarterback TOM BRADY completed 24 of 32 passes (75 percent) for 311 yards with one touchdown and one interception for a 102.5 passer rating in the Patriots’ 24-10 victory over Minnesota.

    With his third-quarter touchdown pass, Brady tied PEYTON MANNING (579 touchdown passes) for the most touchdown passes in NFL history, including the postseason. Brady also tied Pro Football Hall of Famer BRETT FAVRE (508) for the third-most regular-season touchdown passes in league annals.

  • Kansas City quarterback PATRICK MAHOMES passed for 295 yards with four touchdowns and zero interceptions for a 120 passer rating and tight end TRAVIS KELCE recorded 12 catches for 168 yards and two touchdowns in the Chiefs’ 40-33 win at Oakland.

    Mahomes leads the NFL with 41 touchdown passes this season and joined PEYTON MANNING (44 touchdown passes in 2004 and 41 in 2013) and TOM BRADY (41 in 2007) as the only quarterbacks in league history with at least 40 touchdown passes in their team’s first 12 games of a season. Manning and Brady each were named Associated Press Most Valuable Players in those campaigns.
     
    Mahomes has seven games with at least four touchdown passes this season, the second-most in a single season in league annals, trailing only Manning (nine games in 2013).

    Kelce, who has 1,082 receiving yards this season and has 1,000+ receiving yards in each of the past two seasons, joined Carolina’s GREG OLSEN (three consecutive seasons from 2014-16) as the only tight ends in NFL history with at least 1,000 receiving yards in three consecutive seasons.

  • New York Giants rookie running back SAQUON BARKLEY rushed for 125 yards and wide receiver ODELL BECKHAM, JR. threw a 49-yard touchdown pass and had a touchdown catch in the team’s 30-27 overtime victory over Chicago.

    Beckham, who also threw a 57-yard touchdown pass and had a 33-yard touchdown catch against Carolina in Week 5, is the first player since 1924 to record multiple games with a touchdown pass and a receiving touchdown in a single season. EDDIE KAW and BENNY BOYNTON of the 1924 Buffalo Bisons are the only players to previously accomplish the feat.

    Beckham, who leads the Giants with 1,052 receiving yards in 2018, is the only player in league history with at least 1,000 receiving yards and multiple touchdown passes in a single season.

    Barkley has 954 rushing yards this season and surpassed Pro Football Hall of Famer TUFFY LEEMANS (830 rushing yards in 1936) for the most rushing yards by a rookie in franchise history.

  • The HOUSTON TEXANS defeated Cleveland, 29-13, and have won nine consecutive games, the longest active streak in the NFL. The Texans are the first team in league history to win nine consecutive games immediately following an 0-3 start to the season.
     
    Texans quarterback DESHAUN WATSON passed for 224 yards and one touchdown in the victory. Watson, who appeared in his 19th career game today, threw a first-quarter touchdown pass to rookie tight end JORDAN THOMAS, marking the 40th touchdown pass of his career. Watson is the fourth-fastest player in NFL history to reach 40 career touchdown passes, trailing only Pro Football Hall of Famers KURT WARNER (17 games) and DAN MARINO (18) and the Chiefs’ PATRICK MAHOMES, who threw his 40th career touchdown pass in his 13th career game today.
     
  • Denver rookie running back PHILLIP LINDSAY rushed for 157 yards and two touchdowns, including a 65-yard touchdown run, in the Broncos’ 24-10 victory at Cincinnati.  

    Lindsay, who has 1,126 scrimmage yards (937 rushing, 189 receiving) this season, is the fourth undrafted rookie since 1970 to record at least 1,000 scrimmage yards in a single season, joining DOMINIC RHODES (1,328 scrimmage yards in 2001), CLARK GAINES (1,124 in 1976) and LE GARRETTE BLOUNT (1,021 in 2010).

  • Other notable performances from Sunday include: 

    • Tampa Bay safety ANDREW ADAMS tied a franchise record with three interceptions in the Buccaneers’ 24-17 victory over Carolina.

      Adams joined RONDE BARBER, who had three interceptions on both December 23, 2001 and December 4, 2005 against New Orleans, and AQIB TALIB (three interceptions on October 4, 2009 against Washington) as the only players in franchise history with three interceptions in a single game.

      Adams is the fifth NFL player since 2010 to record at least three interceptions in a single game and the first since Tennessee’s KEVIN BYARD on October 22, 2017 against Cleveland.
       

    • Chicago defensive tackle AKIEM HICKS recorded one sack and rushed for a one-yard score in the Bears’ overtime loss at the New York Giants.

      Hicks is the second Bears defensive lineman to rush for a touchdown in the regular season, joining WILLIAM “THE REFRIGERATOR” PERRY who accomplished the feat twice in 1985 (October 21 vs. Green Bay and November 24 vs. Atlanta).
       

    • Buffalo rookie quarterback JOSH ALLEN threw for 231 yards with two touchdowns and rushed for 135 yards in the Bills’ loss at Miami.

      Allen is the fourth player in league history with at least two touchdown passes and 125+ rushing yards in a single game, joining Pro Football Hall of Famer WALTER PAYTON (September 18, 1983 at New Orleans), TOBIN ROTE (November 22, 1951 at Detroit) and MICHAEL VICK (December 19, 2010 at the New York Giants).
       

    • Carolina running back CHRISTIAN MC CAFFREY rushed for 106 yards on 10 carries (10.6 average) and had nine catches for 55 yards with a touchdown in the Panthers’ loss at Tampa Bay. 

McCaffrey is the first player in NFL history to recor​d at least 50 rushing yards and 50 receiving yards in five consecutive games.

Courtesy of NFL Communications

Read More 1034 Words

Steelers lose biggest lead ever at home in loss to Chargers

PITTSBURGH (AP) — The Pittsburgh Steelers let another one slip away.

For the second straight week, the Steelers held a second-half lead and lost. This time, Pittsburgh blew its biggest lead ever at home, as Michael Badgley kicked a 29-yard field goal on the final play, lifting the Los Angeles Chargers to a 33-30 victory

PITTSBURGH (AP) — The Pittsburgh Steelers let another one slip away.

For the second straight week, the Steelers held a second-half lead and lost. This time, Pittsburgh blew its biggest lead ever at home, as Michael Badgley kicked a 29-yard field goal on the final play, lifting the Los Angeles Chargers to a 33-30 victory over the Steelers on Sunday night.

“It’s not how you start, it’s how you finish, and they finished the game,” Steelers defensive tackle Cameron Heyward said.

The Steelers (7-4-1) were on a six-game winning streak before losing last week at Denver and again on Sunday. It’s their first two-game losing streak of the season.

The Steelers, who held a 23-7 lead to start the second half, blew a 16-point lead at home for the first time in franchise history. The Steelers were previously 174-0-1 all-time when ahead by 16 points at home. It was the first time the Steelers blew a 16-point lead overall since Nov. 8, 1981, against Seattle.

“The game was 23-7 and as a defense, we can’t surrender points,” Heyward said. “We just gotta play better. I don’t care who it is, it’s unacceptable.”

Ben Roethlisberger threw for 281 yards and two scores for the Steelers, who are clinging to the AFC North lead over surging Baltimore. Antonio Brown caught 10 passes for a season-high 154 yards and a touchdown. James Conner added 60 yards rushing and two touchdowns before leaving in the fourth quarter with a lower leg contusion.

“It’s a bad loss,” Roethlisberger said. “You just can’t play bad football against a good football team.”

Things looked good in the first half when Pittsburgh scored on four of six possessions. Conner scored on a pair of 1-yard runs, giving the Steelers an early 13-0 lead following a missed extra point. The Steelers, who won four of the previous five meetings against Los Angeles, continued to surge, and pushed the lead to 16-6.

Pittsburgh, which came into the game 18-3 in December since 2013 – the best mark in the NFL over that span – seemed poised for another masterful December performance with an end-of-half score, nearly driving the length of the field in just 1:18. Roethlisberger capped the six-play, 91-yard series by threading a 28-yard touchdown pass between three defenders to Brown for the score.

But, Philip Rivers and Los Angeles recovered in the second half.

Rivers completed 26 of 36 passes for 299 yards and two touchdowns. Keenan Allen caught 14 passes for 148 yards and a score, while Justin Jackson ran for 63 yards and a touchdown in place of injured starter Melvin Gordon. Pittsburgh limited Los Angeles to just two yards rushing in the first half, tying the third-fewest allowed by the Steelers since Heinz Field opened in 2001.

“We just didn’t tackle better in the second half,” Heyward said. “We didn’t stop the run as much. We have to be better as a defense.”

Los Angeles opened the second half with 23 unanswered points, turning a 23-7 halftime deficit into a 30-23 lead.

Allen caught a 10-yard touchdown pass from Rivers late in the third quarter on a play in which Pittsburgh defensive backs Sean Davis and Joe Haden collided going for the ball, which popped up in the air and landed squarely in Allen’s hands.

Desmond King added a 73-yard punt return, and Allen pulled in the 2-point conversion to tie the game at 23. Jackson’s 18-yard burst up the middle gave the Chargers a 30-23 lead.

Rookie Jaylen Samuels replaced Conner and caught a 10-yard touchdown pass for Pittsburgh with 4:10 to play to tie the game at 30. That left Rivers ample time to one-up Roethlisberger, a fellow member of the vaunted 2004 draft class that includes New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning.

Rivers calmly led the Chargers 64 yards in 11 plays, including a 12-yard pass to Allen on third-and-4 at the Pittsburgh 34 that pushed Los Angeles close enough to bring on Badgley for the win.

Badgley initially missed a 39-yard kick, but Pittsburgh was called for offsides.

“It looked like all of us jumped off at the same time,” Haden said. “Sometimes when you get a good jump, it looks like you jumped offsides. I would have to look at it again, but I didn’t feel like we were offsides.”

Badgley’s ensuing 34-yard attempt was blocked, but the Steelers were flagged again for jumping across the line of scrimmage before the snap. Badgley drilled his third attempt at the game-winner, as the Chargers completed the biggest opposing comeback in Heinz Field history with just their fourth win in Pittsburgh in 19 tries.

“You can’t say anything about our offense, our offense put up 30 points,” Heyward said. “We didn’t get the job done as a defense.”

___

More AP NFL: https://apnews.com/tag/NFL and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL

Read More 725 Words

Christian McCaffrey’s durability keying Panthers’ offense

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — When Carolina's Christian McCaffrey ripped off a 59-yard run against the Seattle Seahawks, there was no tapping his helmet.

He wasn't coming out of the game.

The second-year running back told Cam Newton in the huddle before the next play "I'm ready to go," then took a handoff on the next

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — When Carolina’s Christian McCaffrey ripped off a 59-yard run against the Seattle Seahawks, there was no tapping his helmet.

He wasn’t coming out of the game.

The second-year running back told Cam Newton in the huddle before the next play “I’m ready to go,” then took a handoff on the next play and picked up another 15 yards.

“Any other average running back would’ve tapped his head and said, ‘I need a blow,'” Newton said.

McCaffrey has been the Energizer Bunny of the Panthers’ offense, playing in 97 percent of the team’s offensive plays through 11 games — the most in the NFL.

And he’s showing no signs of letting up.

He became the first Carolina player in franchise history to eclipse 100 yards rushing and 100 yards receiving in the same game last Sunday. Despite the loss to the Seahawks, his 237 total yards set a franchise record.

Entering Sunday’s game at Tampa Bay, McCaffrey is fourth in the NFL in total yards from scrimmage with 1,365. He has 757 yards rushing and five touchdowns, 608 yards receiving yards on 71 catches and five more TDs.

McCaffrey said he never really gets tired — and if he does, he just ignores it.

“I don’t think of it,” McCaffrey said. “When I’m in the game there is so much adrenaline. I never really feel like I’m gasping. You have to push through that.”

“He doesn’t look like it is wearing on him,” said Panthers coach Ron Rivera, whose team is looking to snap a three-game losing streak. “He works hard at everything he does and takes care of himself the way you expect a pro to do. Our other young guys can learn from that example.”

The 5-foot-11, 205-pound McCaffrey is proving to everyone he’s not too small to be an every-down — and basically every-play — running back.

Newton said McCaffrey is always out to prove something and bristles when someone calls him a “small” running back.

“When they take you at the eighth pick, you have a lot of people counting on you,” McCaffrey said. “So I knew it was going to be a pivotal (role). But at the same time, you still have to earn everything. And that’s kind of my mindset, how it’s always been.”

Said Newton: “C-Mac has defied all odds. The thing that has always put me at comfort with C-Mac is he’s always been a workhorse. He’s always been a playmaker. There’s no denying that. C-Mac was everything (we thought he could be), and a bag of chips.”

McCaffrey believes that players like McCaffrey, Le’Veon Bell, Todd Gurley and Alvin Kamara are changing the running back position in the NFL.

“Those guys are all-down backs,” Newton said. “And they can take a screen pass, score. They can take a trap, score. They can block in the pass game. They’re everything. And they’re changing the game. My hat goes off to all of those guys knowing that they’re a part of the evolving of the game, just like dual-threat quarterbacks.”

___

More AP NFL: https://apnews.com/NFL and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL

Read More 450 Words

Big time: Browns playing rare significant late-season game

BEREA, Ohio (AP) — Other than trying to save a coach's job, secure the No. 1 overall draft pick or simply survive, the Browns haven't played many meaningful games in December or January.

Sunday is an exception.

With a chance to further legitimize themselves as no longer being the "same 'ol Browns," and with their

BEREA, Ohio (AP) — Other than trying to save a coach’s job, secure the No. 1 overall draft pick or simply survive, the Browns haven’t played many meaningful games in December or January.

Sunday is an exception.

With a chance to further legitimize themselves as no longer being the “same ‘ol Browns,” and with their playoff pulse accelerating, the Browns go on the road to play the Houston Texans, who have won eight straight games and have perhaps the NFL’s best defensive front seven.

It’s a daunting challenge for the Browns (4-6-1), but they feel up to it.

With back-to-back wins for the first time since 2014, Cleveland’s players are brimming with confidence. They’re following brash rookie quarterback Baker Mayfield’s lead and believe they can not only play with any team, but they can beat any team.

Wide receiver Jarvis Landry isn’t quite ready to say the Browns have arrived. But after so many miserable seasons, they’re headed in the right direction.

“Listen, we’re on our way,” Landry said in a lively locker room earlier this week. “We’re still not there. We’re on our way. We’ve put complete games together, these last two have definitely been complete. But I believe that you never really, truly arrive. You’re always trying to look for ways to get better. You’re always trying to find things individually, as a team, as an offense to get better. But I’ll say we’re on our way. We’re definitely on our way.”

The Browns avoided infamy last week by snapping their 25-game road losing streak with a resounding 35-20 win at Cincinnati, a victory punctuated by Mayfield’s chilly handshake with former coach Hue Jackson afterward.

The Mayfield-Jackson affair created some big headlines and debate, and also overshadowed the bigger story surrounding the Browns, who haven’t been to the postseason since 2002.

With a win on Sunday, Cleveland, which went 0-16 last season and went 1-31 under Jackson, would move deeper into the AFC playoff picture, though still behind several teams.

Imagine that.

The fact the Browns are even playing a significant game in December is an accomplishment, and they’d like to be in a few more.

“If we want to have any postseason dreams, we got to keep this little streak going,” defensive end Myles Garrett said.

Cleveland hasn’t fared well in late-season games, going 2-21 since 2013 in December and January, and 9-38 over the past 10 seasons. But those are past Browns teams, not this one, and after ending several losing streaks this season, Landry said he and his teammates understand what’s in front of them.

“This game,” said Landry, one of the few current Browns who has been to the playoffs — with Miami in 2016. “Win this game. That’s the next step for us.”

If they’re to be taken seriously, and if they intend to become consistent winners, the Browns must beat a quality team and the Texans certainly qualify. Houston is clicking following on 0-3 start. Quarterback Deshaun Watson looks fully recovered following knee surgery that ended his rookie season, and star defensive end J.J. Watt is healthy and terrorizing quarterbacks.

“We don’t care about what they’re doing,” Landry said. “Obviously, we understand that they’re on an eight-game winning streak. But for us, we know it’s going to come down to us executing and doing the things that we do to put us in place to win the game. We’re not really worried about what they’re going to do. Obviously, we understand that they are a good football team, a great football team and we have to play our best game.”

If they can pull off the upset, the playoff talk in Cleveland might be heard from coast to coast. Mayfield, who has thrown seven TD passes and just 10 incompletions in his past two games, knows better than to look too far ahead.

“It is always great to have a big picture mindset, but for us right now, we have to take it one week at a time,” he said. “If we do not take care of business, then it does not really matter. We have to win and focus each week for everything else to fall into place.”

NOTES: S Damarious Randall was added to the injury report with a hamstring issue and his questionable for Sunday. Interim coach Gregg Williams doesn’t think Randall will miss the game.

___

More AP NFL: https://apnews.com/NFL and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL

Read More 673 Words

Cowboys have reason to think big after ending Saints’ streak

ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — Leighton Vander Esch howled through the open retractable roof after a booming tackle on a huge third-down stop negated by a potentially crushing roughing-the-punter penalty.

Jourdan Lewis answered an ominous fumble by quarterback Dak Prescott that gave Drew Brees another chance by intercepting the MVP contender , putting the Dallas Cowboys

ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — Leighton Vander Esch howled through the open retractable roof after a booming tackle on a huge third-down stop negated by a potentially crushing roughing-the-punter penalty.

Jourdan Lewis answered an ominous fumble by quarterback Dak Prescott that gave Drew Brees another chance by intercepting the MVP contender , putting the Dallas Cowboys in position to finish off a victory that stopped New Orleans’ 10-game winning streak.

When owner and general manager Jerry Jones talked of the season changing in a 13-10 win over the NFC’s hottest team Thursday, he had the rookie linebacker whose nickname is “Wolf Hunter” and a confident backup second-year cornerback in mind.

That’s just to name a couple of players on a team that might now dare to think an NFC East title is just the beginning. The Cowboys (7-5) will have another important game in pursuit of that division crown Dec. 9 against Philadelphia, the last of three straight home games.

“When you win a game like this, it changes you,” Jones said after Dallas’ fourth straight victory guaranteed at least a share of the division lead and the inside track to a home wild-card playoff game going into the final quarter of the season.

“This is a young, impressionable bunch. And so they know now that they can go out there and play our game and play it in a way to beat an offensive machine. I just am so proud for them because they are not going to be the same kids that looked in the mirror this morning.”

The defense kept the Cowboys in games, and ultimately in the playoff hunt, while the offense mostly struggled through the first half of the season.

While the score against the Saints indicated a similar formula, Prescott had 194 yards passing at halftime and finished 24 of 28 without an interception. The third-year pro led a nearly seven-minute drive in the fourth quarter before his fumble with the Cowboys in position for a field goal.

The Cowboys held the ball for more than 21 minutes in the first half and had 100 yards rushing against the NFL’s No. 1 run defense. Making Brees a spectator fit the signature of the Dallas offense, and the same objective will be in play when Carson Wentz visits.

“We didn’t make enough plays on offense,” Prescott said. “We left plays out there. But when we have the defense that we have versus an offense like that, how can you not be confident?”

Vander Esch shared credit for the tackle with Daniel Ross when Mark Ingram was dropped for a 1-yard loss on third-and-2 late in the third quarter. But Randy Gregory ran into punter Thomas Morstead, and Brees threw his only touchdown pass two plays later.

The Cowboys forced a punt on the next New Orleans possession, and Brees didn’t get another chance after Lewis’ interception with 2:08 remaining.

“The battle is won, but the war has just begun,” said defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence, who forced two fumbles by Brees on sacks but only got credit for one because of an offside penalty. “The rest of the league sees how we are playing football and they will want a piece of us. We have to stay focused and get to work every week.”

Dallas doesn’t have off-the-charts numbers on defense, but the most impressive one just got better. The NFL’s third-best scoring defense held the league’s highest-scoring offense 27 points under that average. The Saints had their fewest yards by nearly 100.

The Cowboys’ season was on the brink less than a month ago at 3-5. Now it would be hard to find a more confident team.

“We have a lot of talent, a lot of young talent, a lot of great players with very bright futures,” said 23-year-old NFL rushing leader Ezekiel Elliott. “But we’re 100 percent not in a place where we can get comfortable. Division up for grabs. We’ve just to make sure we finish this season off the right way.”

___

More AP NFL: https://apnews.com/NFL and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL

Read More 608 Words

What to Look For – Week 13 Quarterbacks

PRESS RELEASE

TOUCHDOWN TOM: New England quarterback TOM BRADY has 578 touchdown passes (507 regular-season touchdowns and a league-record 71 postseason touchdowns) in his 19-year NFL career.

With two touchdown passes against Minnesota (4:25 PM ET, FOX) on Sunday, Brady would surpass PEYTON MANNING (579 touchdowns) for the most passing touchdowns in

PRESS RELEASE

TOUCHDOWN TOM: New England quarterback TOM BRADY has 578 touchdown passes (507 regular-season touchdowns and a league-record 71 postseason touchdowns) in his 19-year NFL career.

With two touchdown passes against Minnesota (4:25 PM ET, FOX) on Sunday, Brady would surpass PEYTON MANNING (579 touchdowns) for the most passing touchdowns in NFL history (including the postseason) and Pro Football Hall of Famer BRETT FAVRE (508) for the third-most regular-season touchdown passes in league annals.

 

The players with the most passing yards and touchdown passes, including the postseason, in NFL history:

PLAYER

TEAM(S)

PASSING TOUCHDOWNS

Peyton Manning

Indianapolis, Denver

579

Tom Brady

New England

578

 

The players with the most regular-season touchdown passes in NFL history:

PLAYER

TEAM(S)

PASSING TOUCHDOWNS

Peyton Manning

Indianapolis, Denver

539

Drew Brees

San Diego, New Orleans

517

Brett Favre^

Green Bay, New York Jets, Minnesota

508

Tom Brady

New England

507

^Pro Football Hall of Famer

 

KEEP IT BREESY: New Orleans quarterback DREW BREES leads the NFC with 29 touchdown passes this season.

With a touchdown pass on Thursday at Dallas (8:20 PM ET, FOX/NFL Network/Amazon), Brees can become the first player in NFL history to record at least 30 touchdown passes in 10 different seasons.

The players with the most seasons with at least 30 touchdown passes in NFL history:

PLAYER

TEAM(S)

SEASONS WITH 30+ TOUCHDOWN PASSES

Drew Brees

New Orleans

9*

Brett Favre^

Green Bay, Minnesota

9

Peyton Manning

Indianapolis, Denver

9

^Pro Football Hall of Famer

*Has 29 touchdown passes in 2018

 

KANSAS CITY SHUFFLE: Kansas City quarterback PATRICK MAHOMES ranks third in the league with 3,628 passing yards, while wide receiver TYREEK HILL ranks third in the NFL with 1,106 receiving yards and running back KAREEM HUNT ranks fifth in rushing yards (824) this season.

With 176 rushing yards by Hunt, the Chiefs would join the 1996 New England Patriots as the only teams to have a 3,000-yard passer, 1,000-yard rusher and 1,000-yard receiver all at the age of 24 or younger in a single season since 1970.

The teams with a 3,000-yard passer, 1,000-yard rusher and 1000-yard receiver all at the age of 24 or younger in a single season since 1970:

TEAM

SEASON

PLAYER (POSITION)

AGE

YARDS

New England

1996

Drew Bledsoe (QB)

24

4,086 passing yards

 

 

Curtis Martin^ (RB)

23

1,152 rushing yards

 

 

Terry Glenn (WR)

22

1,132 receiving yards

 

 

 

 

 

Kansas City

2018*

Patrick Mahomes (QB)

23

3,628 passing yards

 

 

Kareem Hunt (RB)

23

824 rushing yards

 

 

Tyreek Hill (WR)

24

1,106 receiving yards

^Pro Football Hall of Famer

*Entering Week 13

 

BAKING WITH MAYFIELD: Cleveland rookie quarterback BAKER MAYFIELD completed 19 of 26 passes (73.1 percent) for 258 yards with four touchdowns and zero interceptions for a 143.9 passer rating in the Browns’ 35-20 victory at Cincinnati last week. Mayfield recorded a 151.2 passer rating in Week 10 and had a bye in Week 11.

Mayfield, who plays at Houston (1:00 PM ET, CBS) on Sunday, can join AARON RODGERS (Weeks 7, 9-10 in 2011) and Pro Football Hall of Famer KURT WARNER (Weeks 3-5 in 1999) as the only quarterbacks in NFL history to record a passer rating of 140 or higher in three consecutive games (minimum 20 attempts). Both Rodgers and Warner were named Associated Press MVP in those seasons.

The players with the most consecutive games with a passer rating of 140 or higher (minimum 20 attempts) in NFL history:

PLAYER

TEAM

SEASON

CONSECUTIVE GAMES WITH 140+ PASSER RATING

Aaron Rodgers#

Green Bay

2011

3

Kurt Warner^#

St. Louis

1999

3

 

 

 

 

Baker Mayfield

Cleveland

2018

2*

^Pro Football Hall of Famer

#Named Associated Press MVP

*Active streak

 

RYAN’S 11: Atlanta quarterback MATT RYAN leads the NFL with 3,683 passing yards this season and has passed for 45,479 yards in 11 NFL seasons.

With 150 passing yards on Sunday against Baltimore (1:00 PM ET, CBS), Ryan can surpass PEYTON MANNING (45,628) for the most passing yards by a player in their first 11 seasons in NFL history.

The players with the most passing yards in their first 11 seasons in NFL history:

PLAYER

TEAM

SEASONS

PASSING YARDS

Peyton Manning

Indianapolis

1998-2008

45,628

Matt Ryan

Atlanta

2008-2018

45,479*

*In 11th season

 

Courtesy of NFL Communications

Read More 584 Words

QBs looking to elevate Panthers, Buccaneers down stretch

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — Cam Newton and Jameis Winston know there's no surefire way for a quarterback to lead a team out of a funk.

What works in one situation may not necessarily be the answer in another.

Newton's second-place Carolina Panthers (6-5) have lost three straight games following a 6-2 start, moving closer to

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — Cam Newton and Jameis Winston know there’s no surefire way for a quarterback to lead a team out of a funk.

What works in one situation may not necessarily be the answer in another.

Newton’s second-place Carolina Panthers (6-5) have lost three straight games following a 6-2 start, moving closer to the bottom of the NFC South than the top.

Winston’s getting another chance to lead the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (4-7) out of the division cellar after spending a month on the bench because of his propensity for making costly mistakes.

“In the NFL, part of winning is not losing, not beating yourself,” Bucs coach Dirk Koetter said, reflecting on Winston delivering his best performance of the season to help Tampa Bay stop a four-game skid last week.

“You have to just keep it simple,” said Winston, who lost his starting job after turning the ball over 11 times in 14 quarters.

The fourth-year pro said the difference during last week’s 27-9 rout of San Francisco was his decisiveness with the football.

“I’m thinking about one play at a time, one completion at a time, one game at a time,” Winston said. “It’s easier to keep it simple when you’re decisive, making quick decisions and getting the ball out of your hands.”

The Panthers haven’t won since beating the Bucs 42-28 at home on Nov. 4. Kicking woes factored in narrow losses the past two weeks to Detroit and Seattle, however, and Newton said he’s focused on the next opportunity to get back on track.

Win or lose, he has learned you give yourself 24 hours to get over the excitement or disappointment.

“You can either celebrate or sulk and sob,” the Carolina quarterback said. “After that 24 hours is up, let it go. That has been so helpful for me in my growth as a man.”

For Winston, Sunday’s game against the Panthers represents the next test in what amounts to an audition to determine if he’s Tampa Bay’s quarterback of the future.

The 24-year-old didn’t face the Panthers last time. He was benched after throwing four interceptions the previous week at Cincinnati.

Some things to watch when the NFC South rivals meet:

NEWTON LIKES WHERE HE’S AT

Newton said this week he’s playing the best football of his career, despite a three-game losing streak.

Newton has thrown at least two TD passes in 10 straight games and seems to be thriving in Norv Turner’s offensive scheme.

“I’m just feeling in control,” Newton said. “There are no question marks. My assuredness of every single play I know exactly what I’m supposed to do.”

McCAFFREY ON THE RUN

Christian McCaffrey last week became the first Panthers running back to eclipse 100 yards rushing and 100 yards receiving in the same game. His 237 yards from scrimmage against the Seahawks were the most in franchise history.

McCaffrey had 157 yards from scrimmage and two TDs rushing in the last meeting with the Bucs.

Newton joked that you shouldn’t call the 5-foot-10, 205-pound McCaffrey “small,” because he hates being labeled a small back.

“C-Mac has defied all odds,” Newton said. “With C-Mac, he has always been a workhorse. He’s always been a playmaker. There’s no denying that. My thing is when you draft a person, is he comfortable with the game on the line?”

WHERE ARE THE TURNOVERS

Carolina’s defense has thrived on takeaways over the years, but they have been struggling in that area of late. The Panthers haven’t forced a turnover in the three games since they last played the Buccaneers. In that game they intercepted Ryan Fitzpatrick twice.

EVANS VS. BRADBERRY

In the last meeting, Carolina cornerback James Bradberry put the clamps on Bucs receiver Mike Evans, holding Tampa Bay’s top receiver to one catch for 16 yards on 10 targets in a 42-28 victory at home.

However, Bradberry has struggled in three games since giving up big plays in each of those games in losses to Pittsburgh, Detroit and Seattle.

Bradberry is expected to draw Evans again.

“They game-planned really well,” Evans said. “Even though they’re a one-high team, it felt like Eric Reid was just coming to me no matter what. And then Bradberry was underneath just pressing. So, I’ve got to be better, more physical, faster and stronger, and I think I will be this time around.”

___

AP Sports Writer Steve Reed in Charlotte contributed to this report.

___

More AP NFL: https://apnews.com/NFL and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL

Read More 676 Words

Inconsistent offense has plagued Eagles all season

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Carson Wentz led an offense that steamrolled opponents last season with perhaps less talent surrounding him than he has now.

He's certain the Philadelphia Eagles will regain their production.

The defending Super Bowl champions are averaging slightly more than a touchdown less than they scored in 2017, down to 20.9 points per

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Carson Wentz led an offense that steamrolled opponents last season with perhaps less talent surrounding him than he has now.

He’s certain the Philadelphia Eagles will regain their production.

The defending Super Bowl champions are averaging slightly more than a touchdown less than they scored in 2017, down to 20.9 points per game from 28.6.

But the Eagles (5-6) are right in the mix in a mediocre NFC East despite the slide.

“Some of the plays that we just miss, it’s usually just one little thing on each play,” Wentz said Thursday. “If this just changes, this little detail of this play, that’s a big play, that’s a touchdown. Instead of degrading guys, we just say, ‘hey, this can be the difference.’ Guys can just focus on the little details and stay encouraged.”

The Eagles parted with four players on offense after winning their first championship since 1960. Tight end Trey Burton and running back LeGarrette Blount were allowed to sign elsewhere in free agency. Tight end Brent Celek was released and wide receiver Torrey Smith was traded.

They were replaced by veteran wideout Mike Wallace, rookie tight end Dallas Goedert, veteran tight end Reggie Rodgers and undrafted rookie running back Josh Adams.

Tight end Zach Ertz is having an exceptional season, but wideouts Alshon Jeffery — he missed the first three games — and Nelson Agholor haven’t had similar success.

Losing running back Jay Ajayi to a season-ending knee injury in Week 5 hurt the offense, but he wasn’t even part of the team until a trade midway through last season. Wallace only played two games and Rodgers recently came off injured reserve.

The Eagles added wideout Golden Tate last month, but he hasn’t made much of an impact and the offense has regressed since he was inserted into the lineup.

“We know we’ve got guys that we want to get involved in the game, and the more they’re involved, the better our chances are to win,” offensive coordinator Mike Groh said.

“In the passing game, coverage dictates and sometimes rush dictates where the ball goes. Even though you have certain plays that are set up for a primary guy, it ends up down the line and just things that are beyond your control.”

A major issue for the offense has been slow starts. The Eagles are scoreless in the first quarter in nine of 11 games. They have only 21 points in the opening quarter, fewest in the NFL. Fourteen of those 21 came in the only game they surpassed 30 points this season.

“We have to be better with that,” Wentz said.

Notes: RB Darren Sproles returned to practice Thursday in a limited role. He hasn’t played since Week 1 because of a hamstring injury. He returned to the field earlier this month, but re-injured his leg in the first practice. “He’s such a competitor and a leader of this football team, and he wants to be out there, really, really bad,” Pederson said.

___

More AP NFL: https://apnews.com/NFL and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL

Read More 441 Words

Mitchell Trubisky works on sliding technique, not passing

LAKE FOREST, Ill. (AP) — Chicago Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky found a flaw in his game while trying to be patient and sit out with an injured right shoulder.

Trubisky discovered he needs to slide better.

It was while sliding late in a 25-20 win Nov. 18 over the Minnesota Vikings that Trubisky suffered the

LAKE FOREST, Ill. (AP) — Chicago Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky found a flaw in his game while trying to be patient and sit out with an injured right shoulder.

Trubisky discovered he needs to slide better.

It was while sliding late in a 25-20 win Nov. 18 over the Minnesota Vikings that Trubisky suffered the injury threatening to cost him a second straight start Sunday against the New York Giants.

“I’ve been told I’ve got to work on my slides a little bit, maybe pick one or stick to one,” Trubisky said.

Trubisky slid awkwardly and was hit by Minnesota’s Harrison Smith on the left side, resulting in the shoulder injury to his right side that led to Chase Daniel’s start against the Detroit Lions in a 23-16 Bears win on Thanksgiving.

“Throughout a play I never know whether I’m going to slide forward, get down sideways or just go straight and give myself up early,” Trubisky said in his first comments to reporters since the injury occurred. “That’s something that I’ve just got to continue to be better with, and it also makes it hard for the defense because they don’t know if I’m going to continue to pick up yards or I’m going to go down.

“That’s why defenses are continuing to be aggressive. That’s just me practicing that, being smart and taking care of myself.”

Trubisky called the play when he was injured an awkward one. Smith was fined and penalized for the hit.

“It was just an awkward landing, and then I got hit, and my arm got caught underneath me the wrong way,” Trubisky said. “It was really just a freak play and I didn’t know what happened at the time. Luckily, I was able to finish out the game and, more importantly, we won.”

Trubisky is considered “day to day” by coach Matt Nagy and practiced Thursday for the second straight day, but only on a limited basis. Daniel continued to work with the first team.

“I feel good,” Trubisky said. “I’m definitely not worried about it, and the good news is it’s not something that’s going to prevent me in the long term. So, we’re just making sure it’s right, 110 percent, and when I can come back I’ll be what this offense and what this team needs me to be.”

Caution and safety are the key words the Bears are using in regards to Trubisky’s possible return. No one is suggesting he’ll be able to play this week and an NFL.com report said they’ve already made a decision to sit him.

“I’m going to do as much as they’ll let me,” Trubisky said. “So I’m just trusting what they tell me to do out on the field and then come in and do what I’ve got to do, and then just be out there and make this team better any way we can. And make sure everyone’s locked in during practice and we take care of business.”

Nagy said Trubisky hasn’t thrown yet in practices, but wouldn’t necessarily call this critical to starting this week.

“For us, we feel like timing-wise with the guys, with where he’s at, he’s good there,” Nagy said. “Mentally, just staying in the playbook, he’s good there.

“It’s just the fact that he’s not throwing.”

Trubisky’s frustration with not preparing like he’s going to play is obvious.

“He’s a competitor, he wants to be out there,’ Nagy said. “And so, again, just our communication with every player that we have we’ve always been upfront and said, ‘OK, here’s the plan.’ And so, I think it’s very natural for any player to want to have that competitive nature and be out there, and he’s definitely like that.”

When Trubisky does return, he anticipates running like he had in earlier games. He led the NFL in rushing yards by quarterbacks before his injury and has 363 such yards.

“I would say I’ve done a real good job of getting yardage for this team, creating positive plays and causing trouble for the defenses while also protecting myself,” Trubisky said. “Nothing’s going to change when I get back.”

The one exception is he might make more defined slides to end his runs.

NOTES: DE Akiem Hicks missed a second straight practice due to Achilles tendon soreness. Nagy said he considers it a precaution. Hicks has been a vital part of a defense ranked second against the run. He first mentioned the injury on Wednesday morning before practice.

___

More AP NFL: https://apnews.com/NFL and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL

Read More 698 Words

Sherman returns with 49ers as Seahawks surge toward playoffs

SEATTLE (AP) — The decision to part with Richard Sherman — along with several other impact veterans — was supposed to be part of the cumulative reason the Seattle Seahawks would finally take a step back. This was going to be the rebuild season, even if no one with the Seahawks ever wanted to use

SEATTLE (AP) — The decision to part with Richard Sherman — along with several other impact veterans — was supposed to be part of the cumulative reason the Seattle Seahawks would finally take a step back. This was going to be the rebuild season, even if no one with the Seahawks ever wanted to use that word.

Sherman will see his former team up close Sunday when the San Francisco 49ers face the Seahawks. He will find a Seattle team that’s not backsliding. Instead, Seattle (6-5) has won two straight and has a direct path to an NFC playoff berth in a season no one really expected the Seahawks to be in the conversation at the beginning of December.

The players who stepped in for the likes of Sherman and other veterans who departed after last season have brought a youthful exuberance. That has created a fun environment in Seattle only amplified by the Seahawks’ success.

“This game is too crazy to not have fun and it’s definitely a point of emphasis for me, just for the guys that came in and were stepping into a lot of key positions, to not worry about who they were replacing or who you were coming behind, ” Seattle star linebacker Bobby Wagner said, “but just to have the fun you’ve been having all your life and everything else will figure out itself.”

Fun has come around sparingly in San Francisco this season. The 49ers (2-9) were supposed to be in Seattle’s position of competing for a playoff spot. But injuries — namely the loss of QB Jimmy Garoppolo — derailed those hopes early in the season. They looked great in thumping Oakland on Nov. 1, only to turn around and drop their next two against the weak Giants and Buccaneers.

“I do think we’re going through this for a reason. I do think it can make us better,” 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said. “A lot of guys have gotten to play a lot that normally wouldn’t be able to play, and I hope that helps us find some things out about people this year and helps us build this team better next year.”

Welcoming Sherman back to Seattle starts a stretch of four of the final five games at home for the Seahawks. They’ve been a notoriously good team in the final month of the calendar, and getting to play at home is adding to the belief this season could end in an unexpected playoff berth.

Here’s what else to watch as the Seahawks and 49ers meet for the first of two games in 14 days:

RISING RUSSELL

Seattle QB Russell Wilson is coming off his best performance of the season against Carolina. With Seattle’s running game shut down by the Panthers, Wilson threw for a season-high 339 yards and a pair of touchdowns in the 30-27 win, showing that Seattle’s offense can function just fine when its ground game is stymied. The Seahawks have been the best run team in the NFL for most of the season, but Wilson’s performance was a reminder he can be an elite passer when needed.

MAN IN THE MIDDLE

The 49ers handed Fred Warner big responsibility when they inserted him at middle linebacker and made him the defensive play caller as a rookie. Warner’s role will only get bigger after San Francisco released second-year linebacker Reuben Foster following his arrest last weekend on domestic violence charges. Warner has been one of the bright spots with his ability to get the defense in the right calls and thrive against both the run and pass. He will have a tough test this week against Wilson.

“He’s a mobile quarterback, so being able to escape the pocket and make big plays with his legs, that’s what he’s known for,” Warner said. “We have to be aware of that.”

TURNOVER TIME

Seattle got its first turnover in three-plus games last week when Bradley McDougald made an acrobatic end zone interception of Cam Newton. The Seahawks also forced five fumbles against the Panthers, but failed to recover any. It was a long drought that saw Seattle drop to 11th in the league with 17 turnovers forced.

That’s nothing compared to the 49ers. San Francisco is last in the NFL with just five takeaways. The Niners have just two interceptions and haven’t forced a turnover in the last three games.

HOUSE OF HORRORS

Playing in Seattle has led only to disappointment for the 49ers in recent years. The Niners have lost their last seven trips, including the 2013 NFC title game, getting outscored by more than 15 points per game. San Francisco’s last win here came in 2011 with Alex Smith at quarterback. Since then, Colin Kaepernick, Blaine Gabbert and Brian Hoyer have combined for 10 turnovers, 16 sacks, three TD passes and a 61.4 passer rating in Seattle.

First-year QB Nick Mullens will try to reverse that trend and bounce back from two rough starts following a sterling debut. Mullens has thrown four interceptions the past two games in losses to the Giants and Tampa Bay and faces a much tougher defense this week.

___

More AP NFL: https://apnews.com/NFL and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL

Read More 791 Words

Gruden praises Mahomes before Chiefs-Raiders game

SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) — Jon Gruden knows he sometimes went over the top in his praise of quarterbacks in his old job as an analyst at ESPN.

It seemed like any time a quarterback went to "Gruden's QB Camp" or was picked in the draft, Gruden was always full of compliments. The praise for

SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) — Jon Gruden knows he sometimes went over the top in his praise of quarterbacks in his old job as an analyst at ESPN.

It seemed like any time a quarterback went to “Gruden’s QB Camp” or was picked in the draft, Gruden was always full of compliments. The praise for Kansas City’s second-year star Patrick Mahomes is on an even different level.

“His overall skill set is sickening. It really is,” Gruden said. “He’s double-jointed. He can throw the ball from any platform possible. Running to his left, fading backward. He can get out of trouble. I compliment everybody, I’ve been accused of that, but this guy has off-the-chart arm talent. Skill level is unbelievable.

“He has a playing style that reminds me of (Brett) Favre. He’s a young Favre. I think that’s why Andy Reid went and got him. He won’t quit on any play. He makes a lot of plays when there’s nothing there. I don’t have time to talk about him anymore.”

Gruden now must devise a plan to slow Mahomes when his Oakland Raiders (2-9) host the Chiefs (9-2) on Sunday in what appears to be a major mismatch.

Led by Mahomes’ 37 touchdown passes — the third most ever through 11 games — the Chiefs have been a nearly unstoppable force on offense. Coach Andy Reid’s squad ranks second in the NFL with 404 points and is on pace to become the first team since at least 1960 to average more than 7.0 yards per play.

But everything hasn’t been perfect for Mahomes, who committed five turnovers in Kansas City’s last game, a 54-51 loss to the Rams on Nov. 19.

“Every experience, bad or good, you have to learn from,” Mahomes said. “You take the positives. We had a lot of successful plays and successful things happen in that game, but you have to find ways to win them in the end.”

Here are some other things to watch:

EB’S BACK, MAYBE

Chiefs safety Eric Berry returned to the practice field this week for the first time since the early weeks of training camp, when he became sidelined by a heel injury. But considering Berry has not played at all since August, it is unlikely he will be available for Kansas City’s trip to Oakland.

“It’s a great thing to see him back healthy,” Reid said. “This is killing him to watch. He loves to play. It tears him up not to be out there, but at the same time we have to do it smart.”

FAST START, SLOW FINISH

One thing the Raiders have done well this year is start games fast. Their 34 points on the opening drive rank fifth best in the NFL this season. What’s happened after that has been the problem. Oakland has the third-worst offense the rest of the game, averaging just 1.32 points per drive after that.

STREAKING JONES

Chiefs defensive tackle Chris Jones was the AFC’s defensive player of the month, another line to a resume that could land him a big contract extension this offseason. Jones has nine sacks this season, including at least one each of the past seven weeks. He had a pair of sacks against the Cardinals and the Rams prior to the bye week, and he had a season-high three tackles for loss in Los Angeles.

DANGEROUS RETURNS

Oakland was burned last week by a poorly placed punt by rookie Johnny Townsend that led to a 70-yard touchdown return by Baltimore’s Cyrus Jones. Townsend, a fifth-round pick, has struggled this year, ranking 30th out of 32 qualifying punters in net average (37.7 yards), last in gross average (43.5 yards), and last in percentage of punts downed inside the 20-yard line (18.4 percent). That could be an issue against Tyreek Hill, who leads the NFL with four punt return TDs since entering the league in 2016.

“We have to do a better job than we did last week,” Gruden said. “The one punt return we’ve given up, we didn’t hit our landmark. We gave them a low hanging punt that gave him a two-way go, and that’s hard to defend. If we do that against this guy, we’ll have very little chance to win this game. This guy is really unique. Tyreek Hill, he’s a unique skill set. You have to limit his opportunities every way you can.”

REUNION WEEK

The relationship between Gruden and Reid goes back decades to when they spent three years together as offensive assistants on Mike Holmgren’s staff in Green Bay from 1992-94. That’s where the two really started to build the foundation of the offenses they’d eventually run for years as successful head coaches in the NFL.

“We were both young and we were able to learn a ton from a great head coach,” Reid recalled. “Jon and I spent a lot of time together, along with Steve Mariucci, we were the youngest guys on the staff. We all kind of bonded and did our thing. We did a lot of the go-fer work, which we loved. Great learning experience and great foundation to build on.”

___

AP Sports Writer Dave Skretta contributed to this report

___

More AP NFL: https://apnews.com/tag/NFL and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL

Read More 802 Words

Chiefs’ Mahomes learning from (rare) first-year mistakes

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Patrick Mahomes walked out of Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum two weeks ago with his jersey stained, his pride no doubt wounded and an uncharacteristic five turnovers blighting his box score.

The only thing he stewed about during the Kansas City Chiefs' bye week was the final score.

The three interceptions

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Patrick Mahomes walked out of Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum two weeks ago with his jersey stained, his pride no doubt wounded and an uncharacteristic five turnovers blighting his box score.

The only thing he stewed about during the Kansas City Chiefs’ bye week was the final score.

The three interceptions that he’d tossed in the 54-51 loss to the Rams, and the two fumbles he lost trying to escape trouble, were merely learning opportunities. Mahomes went to work on the Chiefs’ bye week dissecting what went wrong, where he can improve and how he can avoid making the same mistakes.

“Some of those came in crucial moments, knowing when and not to take a chance,” he said. “But every experience, bad and good, you have to take the positive from. We had a lot of good things happen in that game, but at the same time you have to find a way to win.”

Spoken like a seasoned veteran rather than a first-year starter.

There were indeed plenty of good things for Mahomes to think about. He set career highs with 33 completions and 478 yards passing, and he matched a career high with six touchdown passes, all while the Chiefs rallied time and again in a back-and-forth game that came down to the wire.

Yet it was the turnovers that were the first topic tossed at Mahomes when he returned to work.

The big knock on him coming out of Texas Tech — besides the fact that he was a product of the much-maligned “Air Raid” system — was that he was prone to turnovers.

And while it was a largely unfounded knock, considering Mahomes never threw all that many interceptions with the Red Raiders, it continued to follow him through his rookie season and right into his first training camp as starter.

Mahomes answered those critics with a turnover-free opener against the Los Angeles Chargers.

He has continued to value possessions all season, throwing only 10 interceptions total through the first 11 weeks, even though Mahomes has a gunslinger reputation. He also has lost seven fumbles, and that may ultimately be where experience will make the biggest difference.

Mahomes is still learning how to feel the pressure of an NFL pass rush, escape the pocket when the time comes and make sure two hands are on the football when somebody takes a slap at it.

“Those guys made great plays. They swatted directly on the ball both times,” Mahomes said, thinking back to his two fumbles against the Rams. “You have to be secure with the ball. … Two hands on the ball, even when I’m trying to break the pocket.”

Offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy made it clear Thursday turnovers are a team problem, not one that Mahomes must shoulder alone. Wide receivers can do a better job with route-running and fighting for the ball while the offensive line can provide better protection.

“One thing that we’ve learned together as a unit,” Bieniemy said, “is that if we eliminate the self-inflicted wounds we’ll have a chance.”

Besides, even the best quarterbacks can have turnover troubles.

The Patriots’ Tom Brady has six games with four interceptions during a career that will likely land him in the Hall of Fame. Ben Roethlisberger once tossed five for Pittsburgh against Jacksonville.

And the player to whom Mahomes is constantly compared, Brett Favre, had a game with three fumbles and two picks and concluded his career with an NFL-record 336 interceptions.

Hall of Fame quarterback Len Dawson, whose Chiefs record for touchdown throws in a season Mahomes has already shattered, once fumbled seven times in a game against the Chargers.

The difference in some of those dismal days by some of the NFL’s best quarterbacks? They didn’t also throw for nearly 500 yards with six touchdown passes in a game that they nearly won.

“You don’t hide it,” Chiefs coach Andy Reid said, when asked how he approached the performance by his young quarterback. “You go back and evaluate it. How did those things happen and how do you fix them so they don’t happen again? We’ve done that. The one thing about Pat is he doesn’t make the same mistake twice. That’s been his M.O. here. I’m not worried about that.

“I want him to keep firing,” Reid said. “Learn from his mistakes but keep firing.”

NOTES: DL Chris Jones was voted AFC defensive player of the month. He has nine sacks total, and at least one in each of the past seven games. … WR Sammy Watkins (foot) remained out of practice Thursday. Safety Eric Berry (heel) and C Mitch Morse (concussion) continued to work on a limited basis.

___

More AP NFL: https://apnews.com/tag/NFL and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL

Read More 727 Words

What to Look For – Week 13 Wide Receivers

PRESS RELEASE

1,400 FOR JULIO: Atlanta wide receiver JULIO JONES leads the league with 1,305 receiving yards and has recorded at least 1,400 receiving yards in each of the past four seasons.

With 95 receiving yards on Sunday against Baltimore (1:00 PM ET, CBS), Jones can become the first player in NFL history

PRESS RELEASE

1,400 FOR JULIO: Atlanta wide receiver JULIO JONES leads the league with 1,305 receiving yards and has recorded at least 1,400 receiving yards in each of the past four seasons.

With 95 receiving yards on Sunday against Baltimore (1:00 PM ET, CBS), Jones can become the first player in NFL history to record at least 1,400 receiving yards in five consecutive seasons.

The players with the most consecutive seasons with at least 1,400 receiving yards in NFL history:

PLAYER

TEAM

SEASONS

CONSECUTIVE SEASONS WITH 1,400+ RECEIVING YARDS

Marvin Harrison^

Indianapolis

1999-2002

4

Julio Jones

Atlanta

2014-17

4*

^Pro Football Hall of Famer

*Has 1,305 receiving yards in 2018

 

THIELEN MIGHTY FINE: Minnesota wide receiver ADAM THIELEN leads the league with 93 receptions this season.

With seven catches at New England (4:25 PM ET, FOX), Thielen can join ROD SMITH and WES WELKER as the only undrafted players to record at least 100 receptions in a single season in the common draft era.

The undrafted players with at least 100 receptions in a single season since 1966:

PLAYER

TEAM

SEASON

RECEPTIONS

Wes Welker

New England

2009

123

Wes Welker

New England

2011

122

Wes Welker

New England

2012

118

Rod Smith

Denver

2001

113

Wes Welker

New England

2007

112

Wes Welker

New England

2008

111

Rod Smith

Denver

2000

100

 

 

 

 

Adam Thielen

Minnesota

2018

93*

*Entering Week 13

 

COOKING WITH BRANDIN: Los Angeles Rams wide receiver BRANDIN COOKS leads the team with 964 receiving yards this season.

Cooks, who had 1,173 receiving yards with New Orleans in 2016 and 1,082 receiving yards with New England in 2017, needs 36 yards on Sunday at Detroit (1:00 PM ET, FOX) to become the first player in NFL history to have at least 1,000 receiving yards with three different teams in three consecutive seasons.

With 36 receiving yards, Cooks can also become the sixth player in league annals to record at least 1,000 receiving yards in a single season for three different franchises during their career.

The players to record 1,000-yard receiving seasons for three-or-more teams in NFL history:

PLAYER

TEAMS

Brandon Marshall

4 (Denver, Miami, Chicago, New York Jets)

Irving Fryar

3 (New England, Miami, Philadelphia)

Tony Martin

3 (San Diego, Atlanta, Miami)

Randy Moss^

3 (Minnesota, Oakland, New England)

Terrell Owens^

3 (San Francisco, Philadelphia, Dallas)

 

 

Brandin Cooks

2* (New Orleans, New England)

^Pro Football Hall of Famer

*Has 964 receiving yards with the Los Angeles Rams in 2018

 

Courtesy of NFL Communications

Read More 311 Words

FANTASY PLAYS: Players to start and sit in NFL Week 13

This is a defining week for many fantasy football teams, especially in leagues where it's the last week of the regular season.

There is little margin for error at this point, although fantasy owners with their backs against the wall should be open to high-risk, high-reward shots in their lineups.

There are a handful of

This is a defining week for many fantasy football teams, especially in leagues where it’s the last week of the regular season.

There is little margin for error at this point, although fantasy owners with their backs against the wall should be open to high-risk, high-reward shots in their lineups.

There are a handful of games (Rams-Lions, Chargers-Steelers, Redskins-Eagles) that could turn into free-for-alls, but there aren’t any locks for explosive fantasy numbers across the board. In fact, there are several games (Bears-Giants, Browns-Texans, Jets-Titans) that could temper scoring.

START: Kenny Golladay, WR, Lions: Golladay has been targeted 36 times in the last three games. The Rams have given up 25 touchdown passes and are 29th in average yards allowed per catch (12.3), numbers that play right into the hands of Matthew Stafford in what could be a high-scoring affair. Golladay is a solid WR2 who should put up WR1-caliber totals.

SIT: Eli Manning, QB, Giants: Facing a Bears defense that leads the league with 20 interceptions doesn’t play well for Manning despite his six touchdown passes over his last three games. Chicago is also sixth in the league with 34 sacks, which will greatly reduce the time Manning will have to throw. A poor game from Manning will have a ripple effect that will also impact Odell Beckham Jr. and Saquon Barkley, so owners of those players have serious risk of a letdown.

START: Kirk Cousins, QB, Vikings: He’s attempted at least 38 passes in four of his last five games and can make it five of six as he takes on a suspect Patriots defense that is 25th in fantasy points per game allowed to opposing quarterbacks. Cousins has thrown at least two touchdowns in four of his last five as well and will be in line for a huge afternoon, especially if Tom Brady helps turn this into a shootout.

SIT: Baker Mayfield, QB, Browns: The rookie has a 13-2 TD to interception margin in his last five games and has completed 78.2 percent of his throws over the past two games. However, he must hit the road and contend with a Texans defense that is fourth in fewest fantasy points per game allowed to opposing quarterbacks while also dealing with a pass rush tied for sixth with 34 sacks. Reality will hit both Mayfield and those who start him in brutal fashion on Sunday.

START: Aaron Jones, RB, Packers: Coming off a season-best 17 carries in last week’s loss to the Vikings, Jones has a great matchup against a Cardinals defense that sits 30th in the league in rushing yards allowed. No defense has allowed more rushing touchdowns than the 16 Arizona has given up, bolstering the chances of Jones crossing the goal line for a fourth straight game. He has four touchdowns in his last three games. With Jamaal Williams an afterthought these days, Jones is now a borderline RB1 with room to grow.

SIT: Adrian Peterson, RB, Redskins: Since gouging the Giants for 149 yards in Week 8, Peterson has sputtered, failing to reach 70 yards in each of his last four games. His fantasy numbers would be worse if he hadn’t scored two short yardage touchdowns against the Texans in Week 11. Although the Eagles run defense has struggled against Ezekiel Elliott and Barkley in recent weeks, they are still 12th in stopping opposing ground games and Washington will be more focused on attacking Philly’s banged up secondary.

START: Cameron Brate, TE, Buccaneers: With O.J. Howard done for the season, Brate will see an increase in targets, especially on Sunday against a Panthers defense that is the worst in fantasy when it comes to stopping opposing tight ends. Brate scored his first touchdown since Week 6 last week against the 49ers, and while he has yet to exceed 34 receiving yards in a game this season, his track record shows he can be more than just a presence at the goal line. Look for Jameis Winston to make him a staple of the Tampa Bay passing attack.

SIT: Marquise Goodwin, WR, 49ers: Goodwin averages 19.9 yards per catch but has yet to have more than five targets in a game this season. The Seahawks would make for a good matchup for Goodwin, as they have given up at least 89 yards to six different receivers in the last five games, but his lack of volume, paired with this being a road game for San Francisco, makes him far too risky to consider even in deeper leagues.

START: Matthew Stafford, QB, Lions: The Rams defense makes for a good slump-buster for Stafford, who has just three touchdown passes in his last four games. Los Angeles is tied for 27th with 25 touchdowns passes allowed and tied for 29th in average yards per catch allowed with 12.3. Those who own both Stafford and Golladay will have a great pairing that can put up huge numbers in what should be a fantasy gold mine.

SIT: Marlon Mack, RB, Colts: Even if Mack clears the league’s concussion protocol, he’s facing a Jaguars defense that allows the fewest fantasy points per game to opposing running backs. He’s also cooled off after racking up 258 yards and three touchdowns in Weeks 7 and 8, rushing for a combined 175 yards and a score on 43 carries in his last three outings. There is little upside to plugging Mack into a lineup, especially for teams that must win.

___

For more Week 13 fantasy lineup advice and tips, visit RotoExperts: https://rotoexperts.com

Read More 838 Words

Seattle talking about return of Richard Sherman with 49ers

RENTON, Wash. (AP) — Pete Carroll looked to a Seahawks staffer with a bemused expression as he continued to field questions about a player who is no longer part of Seattle's locker room.

"Pretty good love-fest for Sherm," Carroll quipped.

Richard Sherman's impending return to Seattle this week has dominated the conversation and will dominate

RENTON, Wash. (AP) — Pete Carroll looked to a Seahawks staffer with a bemused expression as he continued to field questions about a player who is no longer part of Seattle’s locker room.

“Pretty good love-fest for Sherm,” Carroll quipped.

Richard Sherman’s impending return to Seattle this week has dominated the conversation and will dominate the attention leading into Sunday’s game between the Seahawks and Sherman’s new team in San Francisco. For good reason, too. Sherman remains one of the central figures in Seattle’s success during Carroll’s tenure that included the franchise’s only Super Bowl title.

Yet, his time in Seattle ended with a messy separation this past offseason. It was a business decision that ultimately led to Sherman finding a new home in San Francisco. And while the relationship between Sherman and the Seahawks was at times contentious, there was respect for what he helped the franchise accomplish.

“We had tremendous conversations all the way through the stages of what happened at the end,” Carroll said. “Sherm and I were sitting in my office eye-to-eye talking through everything and it was really straightforward and clear and he was handling his own business and he had to be really on top of it, which he was, and did a fantastic job for himself, too. But our communication was great.”

Sherman was a three-time All-Pro during his seven seasons in Seattle. He developed from a lightly regarded fifth-round pick into one of the best cornerbacks in the NFL, an anchor for Seattle’s “Legion of Boom” secondary that’s now been completely taken apart due to departures and injuries. Sherman seemed to always find his way into the center of attention, whether it was talking smack to Tom Brady after beating the Patriots in a 2012 regular-season game, antics directed toward Michael Crabtree after the 2013 NFC championship game, or barking at coaches on the sideline.

It was clearly time for a change and it included some critical comments Sherman had for Carroll on his way out. Carroll said he wasn’t bothered.

“I know who Sherm is. I know him way differently than you guys probably think I do. I think the world of him,” Carroll said. “There was times (when) he was here where he might have said something that I didn’t agree with and had to work through it and all that. He is his own man. He was a stud of a guy when he was here and whatever came out in the transition came out. I could care less about that.”

Cornerback Shaquill Griffin thinks of Sherman as a mentor. When Griffin arrived last year as a rookie, Sherman became a guide to Griffin on how to be a pro.

“I didn’t expect him to take me under his wing the way he did. That was all a surprise to me but I’m grateful that he did,” Griffin said. “I came in, he had open arms for me and whatever it took. I remember he told me, ‘I won’t give you so much you can’t handle unless I know you can.’ I remember after the first couple of games he was like, ‘You know what, I see you’re ready. I’m going to give you everything I know and we’re going to go from there.’ It’s not like he got paid to do stuff like that. He doesn’t. So you can tell he’s really a genuine guy.”

Bobby Wagner joked there will likely be a lot of trash talking and that he won’t let Sherman get an interception even if that means coming off the sideline to make sure it doesn’t happen. Wagner became serious when asked about what kind of reception Sherman should receive. Sports radio has been filled with questions about whether Sherman should be lauded or booed upon his return.

“He should be received with the loudest cheer they could possibly cheer and the warmest of welcomes. It’s not like he said, ‘I hate this team, I want to leave.’ There is a business side of everything,” Wagner said. “I would be surprised if anybody booed. If they did boo him they weren’t a Richard Sherman fan in the first place. I think he deserves the applause. He was part of the team that helped bring the city the first football championship. I wouldn’t expect anything other than respect.”

NOTES: LB K.J. Wright is “away from the team” this week doing rehab on his troublesome knee that has caused him to miss the past two games, Carroll said. Wright will not play this week. … Seattle activated RB J.D. McKissic to the 53-man roster. McKissic had been out all season after suffering a foot injury in the preseason and was placed on injured reserve. He returned to practice last week.

___

More AP NFL: https://apnews.com/NFL and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL

Read More 747 Words

Harris has gone from roster bubble to key cog in Denver

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) — After the Broncos' stirring win over the Steelers, Vance Joseph held a game ball up high and called for the man he once wanted to cut.

"Shelby Harris!" Joseph hollered . "What a great week. He had a new baby girl on Friday. And a game-winning interception" in Denver's 24-17 victory

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) — After the Broncos’ stirring win over the Steelers, Vance Joseph held a game ball up high and called for the man he once wanted to cut.

“Shelby Harris!” Joseph hollered . “What a great week. He had a new baby girl on Friday. And a game-winning interception” in Denver’s 24-17 victory that shook up the AFC playoff picture.

In between, he had a shared sack, a pass breakup and three hard hits on Ben Roethlisberger, one of which led to a second interception and another that was tantalizingly close to a safety after he bowled over center Maurkice Pouncey and dropped Roethlisberger on his back in the end zone.

Cut a half-dozen times by the Raiders, Jets and Cowboys, Harris signed a futures contract in Denver two weeks after Joseph was hired as head coach in January 2017.

Having missed most of the 2016 season after getting cut in camp by the Jets and signing with Dallas just before Christmas, Harris said, “I felt like Denver was my last chance.”

That didn’t translate to making a good first impression, though.

“He’s got about a week before we cut him,” Joseph said he told defensive line coach Bill Kollar then.

“He was just that bad that spring,” Joseph recalled earlier this week. “I guess the light came on, and the guy’s been playing really good football for a year and a-half since.”

Harris heeded his coach’s admonition to start hustling on every single down every single day.

“They might have thought that he’s a week away from cutting, but the next thing you know he’s leading our defensive tackles in sacks last year,” linebacker Shane Ray said. “And he’s made huge plays this year. That says a lot about his character.”

In 2017, Harris played in all 16 games for the first time in his career and was second on the team with 5½ sacks. This year, he’s been especially stout in the run game but can still make his mark in the pass rush.

Kollar said it all began with a heart-to-heart talk with Harris.

“What happens when you get up here, everybody’s good, everybody’s tough. So, to me, you’ve got to take it to next level. When you’re a guy who’s just never made it, dude, you’ve got to change your (stuff),” Kollar said Wednesday. “So, that’s what I told him: ‘You’ve got to work your butt off or you’re not going to make it. I want you working harder than those guys you’re playing across from.'”

Kollar said it was a classic case of pairing determination with natural ability.

“My job is to get it out of them, to do it all the time,” Kollar said. “But I ride everybody’s (behind) on the D-line.”

It turns out Kollar was the perfect headmaster for Harris.

“Bill got me in better shape, I’ll say that,” Harris said. “But really, we do a lot of reps and then he goes and explains it and it kind of opens your eyes a little bit the way he explains it, the certain blocks and the way you’re supposed to take them on. And the technique that he teaches is kind of natural for me. And so, everything’s kind of just fallen into place with Bill.”

Harris also credited his teammates for helping bring out his best.

“The players on the D-line have really helped me out to just become a better player, a better person,” Harris said. “The whole D-line and Coach Kollar have helped turn my game into what it is today.”

Harris said he’s taken tidbits from Derek Wolfe, Domata Peko, Adam Gotsis and Zach Kerr: “I try to take little pieces from all of them and add them into my game, and it’s kind of worked out perfectly.”

Harris’ only other career interception came for Illinois State against Indiana State in 2013.

The only other time he got a game ball came in 2015, when he made a touchdown-saving tackle against the Chargers, when he was also running on adrenalin from sleep deprivation.

“You want to know something crazy? The first time was after I had my son,” Harris said. “And I missed the Thursday practice that time and half of Friday and came back Friday night.”

He missed practice last Friday for the birth of his daughter .

“It was funny. I was joking around with Zach: ‘You know, every time I have a kid, something good happens,” Harris recounted. “It was just like a joke we had going on — and then you saw what happened.”

Harris insists, however, that it won’t go down as his best game in the pros.

“There’s a lot of room to improve,” Harris said. “I want to put together a complete game where I’m going out there and being dominant in the run and dominant in the pass.”

___

Follow Arnie Melendrez Stapleton on Twitter: http://twitter.com/arniestapleton

___

More AP NFL: https://apnews.com/NFL and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL

Read More 763 Words

Mayfield doesn’t regret actions, says not ‘cookie-cutter’ QB

BEREA, Ohio (AP) — Baker Mayfield won't change for anyone and refuses to be a "cookie-cutter quarterback."

Cleveland's outspoken rookie said Wednesday that he doesn't regret calling former Browns coach Hue Jackson "fake" and he has no intention of changing his behavior. Following the Browns' 35-20 win on Sunday in Cincinnati, Mayfield was cold toward

BEREA, Ohio (AP) — Baker Mayfield won’t change for anyone and refuses to be a “cookie-cutter quarterback.”

Cleveland’s outspoken rookie said Wednesday that he doesn’t regret calling former Browns coach Hue Jackson “fake” and he has no intention of changing his behavior. Following the Browns’ 35-20 win on Sunday in Cincinnati, Mayfield was cold toward Jackson and then said he was unhappy his first NFL coach accepted a job with the Bengals, a division rival.

Mayfield’s comments drew criticism and he fired back with a post on Instagram assailing Jackson. Mayfield declined to elaborate about their relationship.

The No. 1 overall draft pick said he’s entitled to his opinion, and “although I’m an athlete, I’m not a cookie-cutter quarterback, never have been, never will be. I speak my mind. That’s just how I am, so I didn’t like the (Jackson) move and people don’t have to care. I’m not looking for anybody’s approval.”

___

More AP NFL: https://apnews.com/NFL and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL

Read More 104 Words