Inconsistent Titans seek sweep of Jaguars

 

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

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

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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

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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.”

___

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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.

___

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Heisman Trophy Winner Props: Updated through Week 14

Kyler Murray is now the favorite to win the Heisman trophy, surpassing Tua Tagovailoa.

Note: The change column indicates the percentage change in the odds of each player. Positive change labeled in green means the player is getting bet and his odds are lower, while the negative change in red means

Kyler Murray is now the favorite to win the Heisman trophy, surpassing Tua Tagovailoa.

Note: The change column indicates the percentage change in the odds of each player. Positive change labeled in green means the player is getting bet and his odds are lower, while the negative change in red means the player’s odds have regressed.

Heisman Trophy Winner Props


Martin is a data analyst that has been applauded for his ability to make the complex simple. He grew up on a farm in northern Vermont and spent his summers helping his mom lead llama treks at Smugglers’ Notch Resort.

Martin graduated from University of Vermont with a degree in Mathematics. After graduation he left Vermont to work for an educational nonprofit called City Year for two years, and followed that up by attending the data science immersive program at Galvanize in Denver. He is an avid Green Bay Packer fan, and spends his free time playing football and soccer.

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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.

___

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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

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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.”

___

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Ballin’ on a Budget Week 13 Results

Our darkest days were followed by our finest hours. After going a disappointing 1-4 a week ago, we got right back on track with a 4-1 showing in Week 13. If it weren't for the Colts literally laying an egg against the Jaguars, we would've hit our big five-team parlay. It's almost like

Our darkest days were followed by our finest hours. After going a disappointing 1-4 a week ago, we got right back on track with a 4-1 showing in Week 13. If it weren’t for the Colts literally laying an egg against the Jaguars, we would’ve hit our big five-team parlay. It’s almost like we can’t trust any AFC South team not named the Texans right now. That started our day off on a sour note, but the rest of the games helped ensure a week back in the black.

LOSS: Colts -5 at Jaguars (-110): Jaguars 6, Colts 0.

What an absolutely disgusting game. Finally, Jacksonville’s defense decided to show up and ended up shutting out one of the hottest offenses in the league. Indy couldn’t get anything going and somehow, Cody Kessler out-dueled Andrew Luck. Perhaps we’re giving Kessler too much credit. Anyway, I hope you didn’t watch this game during the first set of games just because you bet on it. If you did, you missed some other great games.

Everyone but the Texans seems so unpredictable nowadays in the AFC South. Just when you think a red-hot Colts team can beat a Jaguars team riding a seven-game losing streak by a touchdown, you’re proven wrong. As we alluded to, though, this was all we got wrong this week and that’s a good feeling. Total win: $0.

WIN: Raiders +15.5 vs. Chiefs (-110): Chiefs 40, Raiders 33.

Every single time we’ve bet on a team that was an underdog of 14 or more points this season, we have hit. I don’t think that’s a coincidence. It’s just really hard to blow teams out in this league no matter the disparity of talent. Obviously, when we made this pick earlier in the week, we didn’t know Kansas City would be without Kareem Hunt and that certainly helped. Still, Oakland just had a decent showing, especially down the stretch.

Patrick Mahomes continued to do Patrick Mahomes things and threw for another four touchdowns, but the Raiders were able to keep pace on the scoreboard. Down the stretch, we will continue to seriously consider double-digit underdogs, because they’ve already proven this season to be a really wise bet. Total win: $7.60.

WIN: Jets +7.5 vs. Jets (-110): Titans 26, Jets 22.

This was a really tough loss for the Jets as they led nearly the whole way, but we don’t care about that. They covered the spread and that’s what truly great teams do, right? Well, we won’t mentioned the Jets and the word “great” in the same sentence again, but the bottom line is they did enough to cover. It seemed a little ridiculous the Titans were favored by more than a touchdown in the first place and they showed why: their offense is wildly inconsistent.

New York choked down the stretch and Tennessee’s defense clamped down late, so more power to them. They seem to play everyone close (outside of the Patriots) and asking them to win by more than a score proved too hard. We expected as much and will take it to the bank as a result. Total win: $7.60.

WIN: Steelers-Chargers OVER 51.5 points (-110): Chargers 33, Steelers 30.

What a thrilling Sunday Night Football game this was. Things looked very iffy after the first half ended 23-7 Steelers. It looked like it might become a blowout, which always threatens overs. However, the Chargers came out of halftime on fire and rattled off an impressive road win. By early fourth quarter, we already had the over and could just enjoy the final minutes of the game. Both these teams are playoff caliber and it was nice to get a preview of a potential opening round match up.

If a playoff rematch were to be as entertaining as this one, sign me up. Should that happen, I don’t think the floodgates will be as wide open. Scoring tends to go down a bit come playoff time when there’s a chill in the air. Anyway, this over proved to be a really solid bet and it keeps pushing us right along in our mission to get back over the 60 percent pick percentage mark. Total win: $5.70.

WIN: Ravens-Falcons UNDER 48.5 (-110): Ravens 26, Falcons 16.

It’s almost as if we predicted the Falcons would stall out in the red zone and the Ravens wouldn’t blow them out, thus hitting the under. Both those things happened and while it got close at the end, we never really got the feeling the Falcons were going to score again to hit the over. Had they scored a late touchdown, that could’ve made for a really brutal beat, but we avoided that fortunately.

Atlanta is really such a mess right now and with the Steelers losing, Baltimore is right back in the AFC North hunt. When they play again, that will be a big clash of styles and I don’t expect seeing a point spread or over/under that I will feel confident enough in that one. We’ll cross that bridge when we get to it, though, and for now, rejoice that we are solidly back in the win column. Total win: $9.50.

PIGGY BANK: $287.60 (10.6% return on investment)

PICK PERCENTAGE: 59.7% (37-25-3)

Jacob Kornhauser is a sports reporter in Southern Oregon covering all sports, including Oregon and Oregon State athletics. He has been a national baseball writer for Bleacher Report and Rant Sports and has written two baseball books. He also specializes in sports betting analysis. He is a graduate of the University of Missouri Journalism School.

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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.”

___

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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.

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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.”

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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

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NFL Playoff Scenarios Week 13

Please enjoy these playoffs scenarios. 

 

2018 NFL PLAYOFF SCENARIOS FOR WEEK 13

NFC

 

NEW ORLEANS SAINTS (10-1) (at Dallas (6-5), Thursday night, 8:20 PM ET)

New Orleans clinches NFC South division title with:

1)    NO win + CAR loss or tie OR

2)    NO

Please enjoy these playoffs scenarios. 

 

2018 NFL PLAYOFF SCENARIOS FOR WEEK 13

NFC

 

NEW ORLEANS SAINTS (10-1) (at Dallas (6-5), Thursday night, 8:20 PM ET)

New Orleans clinches NFC South division title with:

1)    NO win + CAR loss or tie OR

2)    NO tie + CAR loss


New Orleans clinches a playoff berth with
:

1)    NO win OR

2)    NO tie + WAS loss + SEA loss OR

3)    NO tie + WAS loss + MIN loss OR

4)    NO tie + WAS loss + SEA tie + MIN tie


LOS ANGELES RAMS (10-1
) (at Detroit (4-7), Sunday, 1:00 PM ET)


Los Angeles clinches NFC West division title with
:

1)    LAR win OR

2)    SEA loss OR

3)    LAR tie + SEA tie

Los Angeles clinches a playoff berth with:

1)    LAR tie + WAS loss + MIN loss or tie OR

2)    LAR tie + WAS loss + CAR loss OR

3)    LAR tie + DAL loss + MIN loss or tie OR

4)    LAR tie + DAL loss + CAR loss OR

5)    LAR tie + MIN loss or tie + CAR loss

AFC


KANSAS CITY CHIEFS (9-2
) (at Oakland (2-9), Sunday, 4:05 PM ET)


Kansas City clinches a playoff berth with
:

1)    KC win + MIA loss or tie + IND loss + HOU loss + TEN loss or tie OR

2)    KC win + MIA loss or tie + IND loss + HOU loss or tie + BAL loss or tie + CIN loss or tie OR

3)    KC win + MIA loss or tie + IND loss + HOU loss or tie + BAL loss + LAC loss

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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.

___

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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.”

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

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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.

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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.

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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.”

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AP Sports Writer Dave Skretta contributed to this report

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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.

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