Lack of takeaways leads to 49ers losses

SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) — When it comes to stopping opposing offenses from moving the ball, the San Francisco 49ers defense has fared all right early this season.

When it comes to generating the game-changing takeaways that so often determine who wins in the NFL, no team has been worse so far.

There are many reasons why the 49ers are off to such a disappointing start with one win through five games, with the season-ending knee injury to quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo the most notable.

But a defense that has generated a league-low three takeaways for the fewest total for the franchise after five games since 1977 is a major reason why.

“We just have to find a way, that’s all it comes down to,” cornerback Richard Sherman said. “Takeaways are kind of more of a ball bounces your way, you get tips sometimes. Last week, we limited them pretty good. We have to be more violent in tackling and can’t miss when the quarterback throws into coverage.”

Turnovers often come because of the pass rush and the 49ers have struggled there with no consistent edge rusher. They rank in the bottom half of the league in both sacks and quarterback pressures despite allowing the ninth fewest yards per play at 5.31.

The only takeaways so far this season have come when Sherman recovered a fumble in the opener at Minnesota, Cassius Marsh recovered one after a strip sack by Elijah Lee against Detroit in Week 2 and Antone Exum had a pick-six on the third play from scrimmage two weeks ago against the Chargers.

The team has generated no turnovers in the 113 plays on defense since then.

“We’ve had our opportunities this year,” defensive coordinator Robert Saleh said. “There’s an old cliche saying that, ‘Catch the ones that are thrown to you.’ We’ve had our opportunities, especially early in the year where I think we’ve dropped about three or four interceptions this year. We’ve gotten the ball out. We’re taking shots at the ball. There’s great intent. Takeaways come in bunches, they do. … I know it’s a result-oriented business, but the result is a product of the process that you go through within every play, within every day. If we keep attacking the ball the way we have and the D-Line keeps pressing the pocket and getting after the quarterback, I’m very confident that eventually they’ll come.”

Trying too hard for turnovers can back fire, however. On the first play of a loss to Arizona last week, free safety Adrian Colbert jumped up in coverage anticipating a throw over the middle to Larry Fitzgerald.

Instead, Cardinals rookie Josh Rosen targeted Christian Kirk deep and the play turned into a 75-yard touchdown because cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon didn’t have the deep help he expected from Colbert on the play.

The Cardinals gained just 145 yards the rest of the game but it proved to be enough in a 28-18 victory, especially because the defense provided no short fields for the offense, which began each of its 13 drives inside San Francisco’s 40-yard line.

“When people feel like they need to do more than what they’re being asked to do, that’s when bad things actually happen,” Saleh said. “Right now, that first play, and A.C. will tell you, he’d love to have that play back, but the way they responded after that play and the way they came out and played and executed the defense all the way through, I thought was really good on their part to remain composed and to continue to fight all the way through the game.”

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Jets’ Darnold getting timing right, could start vs. Bills

NEW YORK (AP) — Jets rookie quarterback Sam Darnold will be monitored in practice this week before the team determines whether he will start against the Buffalo Bills.

Coach Todd Bowles says during a conference call Monday that Darnold took "a great number" of snaps during practice last week and was healthy enough

NEW YORK (AP) — Jets rookie quarterback Sam Darnold will be monitored in practice this week before the team determines whether he will start against the Buffalo Bills.

Coach Todd Bowles says during a conference call Monday that Darnold took “a great number” of snaps during practice last week and was healthy enough to play against Tennessee on Sunday. But, Bowles and the Jets chose to start Josh McCown because the rookie would have some rust after missing two games.

Darnold strained his right foot against Miami on Nov. 4 and hasn’t played since.

Bowles says Darnold needs some more practices to get his timing right. He adds that when he thinks the rookie is ready, he’ll play.

The Jets are 0-3 with McCown as the starter, with the 39-year-old QB throwing one TD pass and four interceptions.

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Coach Gase’s improbable Dolphins hang on in playoff race

DAVIE, Fla. (AP) — Only one NFL team has been outgained by nearly 1,200 yards and is still in the playoff picture — the underwhelming, overachieving Miami Dolphins.

They're 6-6 and part of the crowded AFC wild-card race despite statistics that would sink most teams. The Dolphins rank 29th in the NFL in

DAVIE, Fla. (AP) — Only one NFL team has been outgained by nearly 1,200 yards and is still in the playoff picture — the underwhelming, overachieving Miami Dolphins.

They’re 6-6 and part of the crowded AFC wild-card race despite statistics that would sink most teams. The Dolphins rank 29th in the NFL in offense and 29th in defense, 29th in third-down conversions and 28th in red zone scoring.

So how have they managed a lofty .500 record?

“Turnover margin,” coach Adam Gase said Monday. “The amount of turnovers our defense is getting is what we need, and then we don’t turn it over a whole bunch.”

He’s right. The Dolphins are tied for seventh in turnover differential at plus-eight, and third in takeaways with 25. The impact on the scoreboard has been “insane,” Gase said.

Turnover differential was the difference Sunday, when Miami was outgained by Buffalo 415 yards to 175 but won the turnovers battle, 3-1, and the game, 21-17.

It also helped that the Bills’ Charles Clay dropped a fourth-down pass at the goal line in the final minute.

“It’s better to be lucky than good,” Miami linebacker Kiko Alonso said.

Luck might play a small role in explaining the Dolphins’ knack for outperforming the stats. It dates back to Gase’s first season in 2016, when they were outgained by 798 yards but went 10-6. That’s their only playoff team in the past decade.

Someone reminded Gase his team has been outgained this year by 1,168 yards.

“Great,” Gase responded, meaning the opposite of great. His team is on pace to surpass the franchise record disparity of 1,321 in 1967, the Dolphins’ second season.

This year only Cincinnati (5-7) and Arizona (3-9) have larger yardage deficits. To which the Dolphins say: So what.

“It’s all about us putting the ball in the end zone and having the most points at the end of the game,” running back Kenyan Drake said.

Oddsmakers aren’t impressed by that approach: Miami is a touchdown underdog at home Sunday against AFC East leader New England (9-3) .

Gase believes the Dolphins actually should be 8-4. They blew double-digit fourth-quarter leads in losses at Cincinnati and Indianapolis.

As it is, Miami is tied with three other teams in the AFC, one game behind the Baltimore Ravens for the sixth seed and final wild-card spot in the AFC.

“Obviously, in order to stay in the hunt, we’ve got to win,” receiver Kenny Stills said. “And we know that.”

For a change, the Dolphins begin the week with no significant new injuries. Ryan Tannehill, playing in his second game since returning from a shoulder injury, shook off several jarring hits to throw three touchdown passes against Buffalo.

“He’s as tough as they come,” Gase said.

The Dolphins have endured so many injuries that Gase said it’s a different team from the one that lost to New England 38-7 in Week 4.

The obvious goal this week will be to keep the score closer, and if the Dolphins do that, don’t discount their chances. In one-score games Gase is 6-1 this year, and 19-6 in his three seasons with the Dolphins.

In other games he’s 3-17. Sometimes relying on turnovers isn’t enough.

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Browns rookie CB Denzel Ward in concussion protocol

BEREA, Ohio (AP) — Browns rookie Denzel Ward remains in concussion protocol after getting hurt in Sunday's loss at Houston.

Ward got injured in the first half and did not return in Cleveland's 29-13 loss to the Texans, who won their ninth straight game.

Interim coach Gregg Williams said Ward was initially checked

BEREA, Ohio (AP) — Browns rookie Denzel Ward remains in concussion protocol after getting hurt in Sunday’s loss at Houston.

Ward got injured in the first half and did not return in Cleveland’s 29-13 loss to the Texans, who won their ninth straight game.

Interim coach Gregg Williams said Ward was initially checked for a neck “stinger” before he was evaluated for a head injury. The No. 4 overall pick in this year’s draft, Ward has three interceptions this season.

Williams has been critical of Ward’s tackling in the past and said the former Ohio State star needed to be lower before he took contact.

Williams said defensive tackle Larry Ogunjobi is still being evaluated for a biceps injury. Ogunjobi also got hurt in the first half and kept playing before sitting out the second half.

It’s too early to say if either Ward or Ogunjobi will be available Sunday when the Browns (4-7-1) host Carolina.

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Chiefs move on from Hunt with crucial win in Oakland

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Kansas City Chiefs didn't have much time between the moment Kareem Hunt walked off the practice field to the moment they boarded an airplane without him for their trip to Oakland.

It was about 24 hours in all.

Yet the stunning downfall of their top running back

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Kansas City Chiefs didn’t have much time between the moment Kareem Hunt walked off the practice field to the moment they boarded an airplane without him for their trip to Oakland.

It was about 24 hours in all.

Yet the stunning downfall of their top running back hardly set the Chiefs back when they ultimately took the field against the Raiders on Sunday.

Spencer Ware performed well starting in Hunt’s place, the Chiefs piled up 178 yards rushing — their second most all season — and Patrick Mahomes and the rest of the offense had another big game in a 40-33 victory that was never that close.

“In this league it moves fast. You have to make sure you’re ready for every single week,” Mahomes said. “I was glad to get back on the football field. We had been on a bye week after a loss, so to get out here and get a win against a team that you’ve had a historic rivalry with is always a good win.”

Especially given the circumstances.

The Chiefs had just concluded their final practice Friday when TMZ Sports posted the video of Hunt shoving and kicking a woman in a Cleveland hotel in February. In short order, Hunt was sent home from the facility, placed on the NFL’s exempt list, summoned back to the facility and ultimately released.

The move was as swift as it was stunning. And for many teams preparing to face a rival on the road, even one that has struggled as much as the Raiders, it could have been difficult to overcome.

Chiefs coach Andy Reid said he never considered that an option.

“You guys know me well enough that I’m not going to let certain things slide. I’m going to address them when they need to be addressed,” Reid said during a conference call Monday. “And then I bank on my locker room and the strength of my locker room, and they really stepped up on this.”

The Chiefs (10-2) didn’t have time to alter their game plan, so they basically stuck with it with Ware in the backfield. The only problem is that Ware only took about 10 percent of the first-team reps in practice last week, and backups Damien Williams and Darrel Williams took precisely none.

Yet with an assist from Mahomes, who scrambled for 52 yards, the Chiefs still did enough on the ground to keep the Oakland defense honest. That in turn allowed for Mahomes to throw for 295 yards and four touchdowns without an interception, his seventh game with at least four TD passes this season.

“I mean, that’s my brother,” Ware said of Hunt, “but the men in this circle, the men in the locker room, the organization, we all have one goal. That’s to win a Super Bowl. So we have to stay distraction-free and I don’t have anything else to say about that.”

Reid acknowledged Monday that general manager Brett Veach had brought in a couple of running backs to provide depth. One of them expected to get a close look, Charcandrick West, is familiar with the system having spent several seasons with the Chiefs before getting cut in training camp.

Yet the bulk of the carries will belong to Ware, who was supposed to be the starter last year before a knee injury in the preseason landed him on injured reserve.

And lest anyone think there will be a major drop-off, consider that Ware’s career average of 4.6 yards per carry is only a tenth-of-a-yard less than that of Hunt, and his ability to catch the ball out of the backfield is just as potent.

“He’s been doing it for a while now,” said tight end Travis Kelce, who had 168 yards receiving and two TD catches against Oakland.

“He’s been a staple of this organization since he’s been here. He’s worked his tail off to be in the position that he is in. And he got back from an injury last year that set him back. He wasn’t allowed to be a part of what we were doing last year.”

He figures to be a big part of what the Chiefs hope is a Super Bowl push this year.

“The mindset of this team is whenever you get your opportunity, you make the most of it,” Mahomes said. “I feel like every single game someone else steps up. We kept our mind on that and playing football, the game we have loved since we were little kids, to keep this season going.”

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Jets’ Bowles: Titans loss will stick ‘for rest of my life’

NEW YORK (AP) — Jets coach Todd Bowles says New York's loss at Tennessee on Sunday will stick with him "for the rest of my life."

The Jets blew a 16-0 lead before falling to the Titans 26-22, the team's sixth straight defeat in what has become another lost season. New York is

NEW YORK (AP) — Jets coach Todd Bowles says New York’s loss at Tennessee on Sunday will stick with him “for the rest of my life.”

The Jets blew a 16-0 lead before falling to the Titans 26-22, the team’s sixth straight defeat in what has become another lost season. New York is 3-9 with a game at AFC East-rival Buffalo next Sunday.

Bowles has come under heavy criticism in his fourth season as the losses have piled. While management has not commented on the coach’s future, it would appear that Bowles will not return after this season. He has a 23-37 record and will fail to reach the playoffs in any of his seasons.

Bowles acknowledges during a conference call Monday that the Jets’ latest loss was particularly tough to take for the coaches and players. He adds that the team is frustrated and searching for answers to snap its skid.

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NFL ICYMI: Packers, A-Rod say bye to McCarthy; who next?

There's little argument that Aaron Rodgers' talent is such that his Green Bay Packers probably should have won more than one Super Bowl by now.

For quite some time, there have been those who blamed coach Mike McCarthy for the lack of titles more than credited him for steering the team to that

There’s little argument that Aaron Rodgers’ talent is such that his Green Bay Packers probably should have won more than one Super Bowl by now.

For quite some time, there have been those who blamed coach Mike McCarthy for the lack of titles more than credited him for steering the team to that title.

Now the world will find out just what Rodgers and the Packers are capable of without McCarthy, who was fired after a 20-17 loss at home to the lowly Arizona Cardinals on Sunday that dropped Green Bay to 4-7-1, its worst start since 2006. It was an abrupt end for McCarthy — who did win a championship, after all — and rare upheaval for a model franchise that last changed coaches during a season 65 years ago.

It’s likely other coaches who are in trouble around the league will get a chance to ride things out through Week 17, but Cincinnati’s Marvin Lewis, Jacksonville’s Doug Marrone, the Jets’ Todd Bowles and Carolina’s Ron Rivera all should be wary. When Rivera was asked whether he’s concerned about his job security after a 24-17 defeat at Tampa Bay dropped the Panthers to 6-6, this was the reply: “I’m not going to address that question. Do not ask that question again, please.”

Alrighty, then.

Rodgers is a two-time NFL MVP, and he was the Super Bowl MVP when the Packers beat the Pittsburgh Steelers in the big game in 2011, all under McCarthy.

Year after year more recently, though, Green Bay would reach the postseason only to wind up with so-close-but-so-far exits.

“We’re just not executing well,” Rodgers said, “and it’s the same things over and over.”

Not long after those words were spoken, team president Mark Murphy released a statement announcing that McCarthy was gone. Offensive coordinator Joe Philbin will fill in.

This season is essentially over; the Packers are a half-game out of last place in the NFC North. Now they can start pondering their future — as can McCarthy.

He likely will get another chance elsewhere. Presumably, Rodgers will be given some input on Green Bay’s choice of a new coach. He turned 35 on Sunday, and the opportunities to win a second Lombardi Trophy are fading.

In case you missed it, here are other top topics after the NFL season’s 13th Sunday:

HUNT NOT QUESTIONED

The league’s handling of Kareem Hunt’s role in an assault of a woman at a hotel in February is under scrutiny after the reigning rushing champion said he was never interviewed by anyone conducting the NFL investigation of the matter. After the Ray Rice case, in which he punched his then-girlfriend (and now wife), the league hired additional staff to handle such inquiries — but all these months later, Hunt was still playing until TMZ Sports posted video from a hotel security camera. And he told ESPN on Sunday that the league hadn’t spoken to him about what happened. Hunt also acknowledged lying about it to the Kansas City Chiefs, who released him.

BIG MAN TD TIMES TWO!

It was a good day to be a big man in the NFL (as long as winning isn’t the most important thing, that is). Two, um, larger guys got into the end zone: Bears defensive lineman Akiem Hicks, listed at more than 330 pounds, plunged in from the 1 for a score that brought back memories of Chicago’s William “The Refrigerator” Perry; Lions offensive lineman Taylor Decker, who goes 6-foot-7 and about 310 pounds, caught an 11-yard TD pass. Hicks became the third NFL player since 1982 with a sack and rushing TD in the same game (“Fridge” was one of the others); Chicago also got halfback Tarik Cohen’s 1-yard, tying touchdown pass off a lateral on the final play of regulation, but ended up losing to the New York Giants 30-27 in OT. Decker’s moment of personal glory also did little for Detroit in what became a 30-16 loss to the Los Angeles Rams, who clinched the NFC West.

THIRD TIME’S A CHARM

Wacky ending to the night game: There were three offsides calls in a row as Chargers kicker Michael Badgley got three tries to make a game-winning field goal — pushing his initial attempt from 39 yards wide left, then getting blocked from 34, before finally succeeding from 29 (so the last flag for a too-early jump was declined) in a 33-30 victory over the Steelers. The Chargers (9-3) erased a 16-point halftime hole; Keenan Allen caught 14 passes for 148 yards and a TD.

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Ex-NFL player Millen in hospital awaiting heart transplant

Ex-NFL player Millen in hospital awaiting heart transplant

Ex-NFL player Millen in hospital awaiting heart transplant

Former NFL linebacker Matt Millen has spent nearly 10 weeks in a New Jersey hospital waiting for a heart transplant and needs one “fairly soon,” according to NBC Sports.

Millen, 60, suffers from amyloidosis, an aggressive organ-attacking disease often misdiagnosed because of its ability to mimic other common ailments, such as Lyme disease.

He has undergone chemotherapy to treat the condition. He said earlier this year that his heart was operating at just 30 percent.

Millen stepped away from his role with the Big Ten Network this fall to concentrate on his health issues.

He has been in the hospital for 68 days and will remain there until he has the transplant, NBC’s Peter King reported Monday.

“We’re in the fourth quarter of a big football game. We’re down 13. Playing defense. It’s getting late. We need a stop. We need a big stop,” Millen told King in May.

Millen won four Super Bowls in a 12-year NFL career with the Raiders, 49ers and Redskins from 1980-91. After a broadcasting stint, he served as team president of the Detroit Lions from 2001-08.

–Field Level Media

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Ron Rivera takes over defensive play-calling for Panthers

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Panthers coach Ron Rivera will take over defensive play calls from coordinator Eric Washington following the team's four-game losing streak.

The Panthers also fired defensive line coach Brady Hoke and assistant secondary/cornerbacks coach Jeff Imamura. The moves were announced after Rivera met with new owner David Tepper and general

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Panthers coach Ron Rivera will take over defensive play calls from coordinator Eric Washington following the team’s four-game losing streak.

The Panthers also fired defensive line coach Brady Hoke and assistant secondary/cornerbacks coach Jeff Imamura. The moves were announced after Rivera met with new owner David Tepper and general manager Marty Hurney on Monday morning.

Washington will remain defensive coordinator but will now oversee the front seven. He was the team’s defensive line coach before being promoted to coordinator this past offseason.

Sam Mills III will lead the defensive line and Rivera will work with Richard Rodgers in the secondary.

Rivera, a former defensive coordinator in Chicago and San Diego, “helped out” with defensive play calls on Sunday against Tampa Bay.

Rivera says, “I am doing what I feel is best for the team.”

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Slumping Panthers fire two defensive assistant coaches

Slumping Panthers fire two defensive assistant coaches

Following their fourth consecutive loss,

Slumping Panthers fire two defensive assistant coaches

Following their fourth consecutive loss, the Carolina Panthers fired two assistant coaches Monday.

Defensive line coach Brady Hoke and assistant secondary/cornerbacks coach Jeff Imamura were relieved of their duties.

The Panthers also announced that head coach Ron Rivera will handle defensive play-calling duties.

Eric Washington will oversee the defensive front seven, Sam Mills III will lead the defensive line and Rivera will work with Richard Rodgers in the secondary.

“In my judgment, I felt this was best for the team moving forward,” Rivera said. “These are always difficult decisions, and I thank Brady and Jeff for their hard work. Ultimately, I’m charged with putting the team in the best position to succeed, and I felt these moves were necessary in order to do that.”

Hoke was in his first season with the Panthers. In the college ranks, he previously served as the interim head coach at Tennessee (2017) and head coach at Michigan (2011-14), San Diego State (2009-10) and Ball State (2003-08).

This was Imamura’s second season with the team after previous coaching stints with the Los Angeles/St. Louis Rams and Minnesota Vikings.

Carolina (6-6) lost 24-17 at Tampa Bay on Sunday. The Panthers are four games behind New Orleans in the NFC South with four games to play, but they are still alive in the wild card hunt.

–Field Level Media

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NFL injury notebook: Panthers’ Olsen ruptures plantar fascia

NFL injury notebook: Panthers' Olsen ruptures plantar fascia

Carolina tight

NFL injury notebook: Panthers’ Olsen ruptures plantar fascia

Carolina tight end Greg Olsen ruptured the plantar fascia in his right foot on Sunday, he told reporters following the Panthers’ 24-17 road loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He is expected to miss the remainder of the season, per multiple reports.

It is a different injury on the same foot that cost Olsen nine games last season and three games early this season, due to a pair of Jones fractures, one of which required surgery. Olsen opted not to have surgery after the second Jones fracture in Week 1 this season.

“It’s kind of one of those things where it was a matter of time,” Olsen said from his locker following the game. “We kind of pushed this foot I think as far as possible the last two seasons, and today it just kind of had enough.”

The 33-year-old, a three-time Pro Bowl selection, made one grab for 13 yards Sunday, leaving him with game with 27 catches for 291 yards and four touchdowns on the season. He had 17 catches for 191 yards and one score in his abbreviated 2017 campaign.

–Denver cornerback Chris Harris Jr. broke his right leg in the first half of the Broncos’ road win over the Cincinnati Bengals, coach Vance Joseph confirmed after the game.

Joseph said he’s not yet sure if Harris will be out for the rest of the season or if the cornerback will need surgery. Multiple outlets reported the injury is a broken fibula.

Harris went down midway through the first quarter while making a tackle on A.J. Green, and his leg appeared to get hit as teammates converged. He looked to be in significant pain and could not put weight on his right leg while being helped off the field, and he was quickly carted to the locker room.

–Green also left the Broncos-Bengals game, getting carted to the locker room with a right foot injury shortly after Harris’ injury.

Green, who was returning from a three-game absence caused by a toe injury, went down on a non-contact play as he began running a route off the line of scrimmage three minutes into the second quarter. He appeared to be in significant pain and could not put weight on the right foot while being helped off the field. He held his head in his hands while riding back to the locker room on a cart with his shoe off.

Green, 30, had one catch for 7 yards Sunday before getting hurt. For the season, he has 46 catches for 694 yards and six touchdowns in eight games. Cincinnati also lost linebacker Vontaze Burfict to a concussion in the game.

–The Cleveland Browns lost cornerback Denzel Ward (concussion) and defensive tackle Larry Ogunjobi (biceps) to injuries against the Houston Texans.

Ward went down in the first half and appeared to be favoring his right arm and shoulder. He was evaluated in the medical tent before being taken to the locker room and ruled out.

Ogunjobi was also hurt in the first half and taken to the medical tent for evaluation, getting ruled out shortly afterward.

–San Francisco coach Kyle Shanahan told reporters after the 49ers’ loss to the Seattle Seahawks that running back Matt Breida aggravated his ankle injury during pregame warmups.

The comment explains Breida’s limited role, as he had just five carries for 6 yards while Jeff Wilson Jr. had 15 carries for 61 yards. Breida entered the game with 738 yards this season and ranked third in the NFL in yards per carry (5.8).

Breida had been limited in practice on Wednesday and Thursday with the ankle issue but practiced in full on Friday.

–The Seahawks lost running back Chris Carson and right guard D.J. Fluker to injury.

Carson told reporters afterward that he dislocated a finger and had it stitched up, adding that he is fine. He finished with 69 yards on 13 carries, while rookie first-rounder Rashaad Penny added 65 yards and a score on seven carries.

Fluker went down with a hamstring injury in the fourth quarter and was quickly ruled out.

–The Minnesota Vikings lost cornerback Trae Waynes to a concussion during their loss to the New England Patriots.

Minnesota’s other starting cornerback, Xavier Rhodes, entered with a hamstring injury and missed much of the game. First-round pick Mike Hughes, the third cornerback entering the season, was lost earlier this season due to a torn ACL.

–Field Level Media

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NFL roundup: Chargers overtake Steelers

NFL roundup: Chargers overtake Steelers

Rookie Michael

NFL roundup: Chargers overtake Steelers

Rookie Michael Badgley kicked a 29-yard field goal with no time left Sunday night to give the visiting Los Angeles Chargers a 33-30 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers.

At the game’s end, Badgley missed a 39-yard attempt and had a 34-yard try blocked, both with no time left, but the Steelers were offside both times.

The Chargers (9-3) erased a 16-point halftime deficit to win for the eighth time in nine games. The Steelers (7-4-1) have lost two straight following a six-game win streak.

Philip Rivers threw for 299 yards and two touchdowns for the Chargers. Ben Roethlisberger passed for 281 yards for Pittsburgh, with scoring passes to Antonio Brown (10 catches, 154 yards) and Jaylen Samuels, and James Conner ran for two touchdowns before leaving in the fourth quarter with a lower right leg injury.

Cardinals 20, Packers 17

Green Bay’s home loss to Arizona cost coach Mike McCarthy his job. The Packers (4-7-1) fell at Lambeau Field despite being 14-point favorites over the Cardinals (3-9).

Josh Rosen led the Cardinals to the go-ahead field goal, a 44-yarder by Zane Gonzalez, with 1:41 remaining. On third-and-23 earlier in the drive, Rosen scrambled to his right and found timeless veteran Larry Fitzgerald, who made a diving, 32-yard reception.

Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers subsequently converted a fourth-and-5 with a 7-yard pass to Jimmy Graham, moved the chains with a completion to Robert Tonyan and gained 11 on a scramble. That got the Packers into field-goal range, but Mason Crosby was wide right from 49 yards out as time expired.

Rams 30, Lions 16

Todd Gurley rushed for 132 yards and two touchdowns as Los Angeles clinched the NFC West title by pulling away from host Detroit.

Jared Goff completed 17 of 33 passes for 207 yards and a touchdown for the Rams (11-1) while getting picked off once. Robert Woods caught five passes for 67 yards and a score.

Matthew Stafford completed 20 of 33 passes for 245 yards with a touchdown and an interception for the Lions (4-8).

Patriots 24, Vikings 10

Tom Brady threw for 311 yards and the tiebreaking touchdown as New England retained the No. 2 seed in the AFC playoff picture by subduing Minnesota in Foxborough, Mass.

Brady, who completed 24 of 32 passes, found Josh Gordon over the middle for a 24-yard scoring strike with 35 seconds left in the third quarter that made it 17-10. James Develin added his second short scoring run on the next drive for the Patriots (9-3), going 2 yards with 10:54 remaining in the game to set the final margin.

Kirk Cousins completed 32 of 44 passes but for just 201 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions for Minnesota (6-5-1).

Texans 29, Browns 13

Ka’imi Fairbairn kicked five field goals, and host Houston converted all three Baker Mayfield interceptions into points in a victory over Cleveland.

The Texans (9-3) extended their franchise-best winning streak to nine games by capitalizing on the Browns’ error-prone rookie quarterback. By the time Mayfield engineered a 75-yard touchdown drive to open the second half, the Browns (4-7-1) trailed 23-0.

Deshaun Watson completed his opening 11 pass attempts as Houston scored to conclude its first two possessions. Watson passed for 224 yards but was sacked four times. Mayfield opened the second half 10 of 10 for 219 yards and finished 29 of 43 for 397 passing yards and a touchdown pass.

Giants 30, Bears 27 (OT)

Odell Beckham Jr. threw one touchdown pass and caught another score, and New York held on for an overtime win over Chicago in East Rutherford, N.J.

Aldrick Rosas kicked a tiebreaking field goal from 44 yards on the Giants’ first possession of overtime. New York (4-8) then relied on its defense to stop the final drive from the Bears, who forced overtime by erasing a 10-point deficit in the final 75 seconds.

Adam Shaheen, Akiem Hicks and Anthony Miller scored touchdowns for Chicago (8-4), which had its winning streak snapped at five games. Tarik Cohen took the ball on a reverse and tossed a 1-yard touchdown pass to Miller to even the score on the final play of regulation.

Seahawks 43, 49ers 16

Russell Wilson threw four touchdown passes, and Bobby Wagner returned an interception 98 yards for a score as Seattle defeated visiting San Francisco.

The Seahawks (7-5) won their third straight game while the 49ers (2-10) took their third consecutive loss.

Wilson completed 11 of 17 passes for 185 yards. The Seahawks, who have the league’s top rushing offense, added 168 yards on the ground. Chris Carson had 13 carries for 69 yards, and first-round draft pick Rashaad Penny had 65 yards and a touchdown on seven carries.

Buccaneers 24, Panthers 17

Jameis Winston threw two touchdown passes, and host Tampa Bay picked off four passes from Carolina’s Cam Newton.

Winston was 20 of 30 for 249 yards without an interception as the Buccaneers (5-7) avenged a November loss. The Panthers (6-6) lost their fourth game in a row and fell to 1-5 in road games.

Newton finished 28 of 41 for 300 yards and two touchdowns. It was his first four-interception game since his rookie season in 2011.

Chiefs 40, Raiders 33

Patrick Mahomes threw three touchdown passes in the first three quarters and a fourth with 1:54 remaining, allowing Kansas City to build a big lead and then hold off a late rally by host Oakland.

The Chiefs (10-2) put up 30 or more points for the 10th time this season and 40-plus for a fifth time en route to their AFC-best 10th win. Oakland (2-10) joined San Francisco as the NFL’s first 10-loss teams.

Mahomes threw 3- and 6-yard touchdown passes to Travis Kelce and a 13-yarder to Demetrius Harris, the latter building a 33-16 lead with four seconds remaining in the third period. Derek Carr connected on a pair of fourth-quarter TD passes to get Oakland within 33-30 with 6:46 to play before Mahomes drove the Chiefs 75 yards in 10 plays for the clinching score, a 2-yard TD pass to Chris Conley.

Ravens 26, Falcons 16

Baltimore held host Atlanta to 131 net yards and improved to 3-0 with rookie Lamar Jackson at quarterback. Jackson had a 13-yard touchdown run in the first quarter and finished with 125 yards passing and 75 rushing despite missing a good part of the third quarter while being evaluated for a possible concussion.

Tavon Young returned a Matt Ryan fumble on a sack 11 yards for a clinching touchdown midway in the fourth quarter, shortly after Justin Tucker had hit from 47 yards for his fourth field goal of the game.

Baltimore (7-5) rushed for 207 yards while holding Atlanta to 34 on the ground. The Falcons (4-8) took their fourth straight loss.

Titans 26, Jets 22

Corey Davis caught an 11-yard touchdown pass from Marcus Mariota with 36 seconds remaining as Tennessee rallied from a 16-point deficit to beat New York in Nashville, Tenn.

Mariota completed 20 of 35 passes for 282 yards, two touchdowns and one interception for the Titans (6-6), who snapped a two-game slide. Malcolm Butler sealed the win with an interception with 21 seconds left, and Ryan Succop kicked two fourth-quarter field goals.

Jason Myers kicked five field goals and Trumaine Johnson returned an interception for a touchdown for the Jets (3-9), who lost their sixth consecutive game.

Dolphins 21, Bills 17

Ryan Tannehill tossed three touchdown passes to lead Miami to a win over Buffalo in Miami Gardens, Fla. Former Dolphins tight end Charles Clay dropped a low throw in the end zone with 53 seconds left that would’ve given Buffalo a 23-21 lead.

The Dolphins (6-6) scored the go-ahead touchdown with 8:42 left in the fourth quarter on Tannehill’s 13-yard TD pass to Kenny Stills, who cut across the back of the end zone, running right to left.

Buffalo (4-8) had its two-game win streak snapped despite an impressive game by rookie quarterback Josh Allen, who threw for 231 yards and two touchdowns and ran for a game-high 135 yards.

Broncos 24, Bengals 10

Phillip Lindsay ran for 157 yards and two scores, fellow rookie Courtland Sutton caught a touchdown pass, and Denver won at Cincinnati.

Case Keenum had just 151 yards passing but led Denver (6-6) to its third straight win and kept the team’s playoff hopes alive.

The Bengals’ Jeff Driskel passed for 236 yards, one touchdown and an interception in his first NFL start. Driskel stepped in for Andy Dalton, who sustained a season-ending thumb injury last week. Cincinnati (5-7) has lost four in a row and six of its last seven.

Jaguars 6, Colts 0

Josh Lambo kicked two field goals, and host Jacksonville’s defense shut down Andrew Luck and the Indianapolis offense.

The Jaguars (4-8) ended a seven-game losing streak at the end of a week that began with the firing of offensive coordinator Nathan Hackett and the benching of quarterback Blake Bortles. The changes, which included quarterbacks coach Scott Milanovich taking over the play calling and Cody Kessler replacing Bortles, didn’t produce much offense, but it didn’t matter.

The Colts (6-6) saw their five-game winning streak end thanks to Lambo. The Jaguars kicker put up a 30-yard field goal with 2:03 left in the first half and added a 37-yarder with 11:42 left in the game.

–Field Level Media

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Third kick’s the charm: Chargers edge Steelers

Third kick's the charm: Chargers edge Steelers

Third kick’s the charm: Chargers edge Steelers

Rookie Michael Badgley kicked a 29-yard field goal with no time left Sunday night to give the visiting Los Angeles Chargers a 33-30 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers.

At the game’s end, Badgley missed a 39-yard attempt and had a 34-yard try blocked, both with no time left, but the Steelers were offside both times.

The Chargers (9-3) erased a 16-point halftime deficit to win for the eighth time in nine games. The Steelers (7-4-1) have lost two straight following a six-game win streak.

Philip Rivers was threw for 299 yards, including touchdowns to Travis Benjamin and Keenan Allen, for the Chargers. Los Angeles’ Justin Jackson ran for a touchdown, and Desmond King returned a punt for another.

Ben Roethlisberger passed for 281 yards for Pittsburgh, with scoring passes to Antonio Brown (10 catches, 154 yards) and Jaylen Samuels, and James Conner ran for two touchdowns before leaving in the fourth quarter with a lower right leg injury.

After Badgley missed a 52-yard field goal attempt on the opening drive, Pittsburgh moved 58 yards on four plays. Roethlisberger’s 46-yard pass to Brown set up Conner’s 1-yard scoring run right up the pipe for a 7-0 lead at 9:20 of the first quarter.

Conner added a second 1-yard touchdown run with 4:41 left in the first. Chris Boswell’s extra point attempt hit the left upright, leaving it 13-0.

With 1:04 to go in the first, Rivers hit Benjamin down the right sideline on a 46-yard touchdown to close the gap to 13-7.

L.J. Fort blocked a punt by Los Angeles’ Donnie Jones, setting up a 48-yard field goal by Boswell for a 16-7 lead.

The Steelers drove 91 yards in 1:08 and capped it with Brown’s 28-yard touchdown to boost the lead to 23-7 with 17 seconds left in the first half.

The Chargers cut it to 23-15 when Allen pulled in a 10-yard touchdown pass from Rivers after Steelers defenders Joe Haden and Sean Davis collided. Rivers connected with Antonio Gates for a two-point conversion.

King’s 73-yard punt return and Rivers’ two-point conversion pass to Allen tied it 23-23 with 12:52 left the fourth.

Jackson’s 18-yard scoring run with 8:09 left in the game gave Los Angeles a 30-23 lead, but Samuels’ 10-yard scoring reception with 4:10 left tied it for the Steelers.

–Field Level Media

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Bills’ Hughes denies yelling at official after game

Bills' Hughes denies yelling at official after game

Bills’ Hughes denies yelling at official after game

The NFL reportedly will review a video that shows Buffalo defensive end Jerry Hughes yelling at a game official after the Bills lost to the Miami Dolphins 21-17 on Sunday, something Hughes himself denied.

Hughes is seen yelling at an unidentified official in the bowels of Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Fla., and heard bellowing, “I’ll catch you.” Hughes is also heard accusing the object of his ire of calling him an expletive.

As another player and a Bills official direct Hughes to the locker room, Hughes is heard saying, “I’m going to knock his … out when I see him. I’m going to hurry up and get dressed. He called me a (expletive).”

Asked after the game if he had confronted an official, Hughes said he did not and did “not recall” an official calling him an expletive during the game.

When told there was video of the episode, he said. “I would love to see this video.”

According to ESPN, the NFL plans to look at the video.

Hughes, a nine-year veteran and former first-round pick, has six sacks this season and 45.5 for his career.

He said he had no problems with the officiating of the game Sunday.

“We had our opportunities to make plays and the ball just rolled in their favor,” he said

–Field Level Media

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Reports: Chiefs will talk with free agent RBs

Reports: Chiefs will talk with free agent RBs

Reports: Chiefs will talk with free agent RBs

Looking to fill the vacancy left by the sudden release of Kareem Hunt on Friday, the Kansas City Chiefs reportedly will bring in at least one option on Monday.

Free agent running backs C.J. Anderson and Charcandrick West both will visit the Chiefs on Monday, NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported Sunday. Pro Football Talk cited a league source saying that the Chiefs intend to sign Anderson if he passes his physical exam.

Anderson, 27, appeared in nine games for the Carolina Panthers earlier this season before he was released three weeks ago. After signing a one-year, $1.75 million contract with Carolina prior to the season, Anderson produced 104 yards and no touchdowns on 24 carries. He also had one reception, which went for a 24-yard TD.

The Chiefs got a good look at Anderson the previous five years when he played for one of their AFC West rivals, the Denver Broncos. In 58 games (36 starts) for Denver, Anderson ran 717 times for 3,155 yards and 20 touchdowns. He also had 103 catches for 859 yards and four scores.

West, 27, has played four seasons in the NFL, all with the Chiefs, who signed him as an undrafted free agent in 2014. In 49 career games, West has 266 carries for 999 yards and seven touchdowns, plus 75 receptions for 552 yards and five TDs.

Hunt, 23, was cut after a video emerged Friday showing him pushing and kicking a woman in a February incident. He was the team’s leading rusher this season with 824 yards and seven touchdowns on 181 attempts. Last year, Hunt led the NFL with 1,327 rushing yards on 272 carries, and he ran for eight touchdowns.

In his absence Sunday, the Chiefs’ leading ball-carrier was quarterback Patrick Mahomes, who gained 52 yards on nine attempts. Spencer Ware had 14 carries for 47 yards and a touchdown in Kansas City’s 40-33 road win over the Oakland Raiders, and the Chiefs totaled 174 yards on 30 carries.

–Field Level Media

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Packers flame out against Cards in McCarthy’s finale

Packers flame out against Cards in McCarthy's finale

Packers flame out against Cards in McCarthy’s finale

The Green Bay Packers’ latest crash-and-burn, a 20-17 home loss to the even more lowly Arizona Cardinals, has cost coach Mike McCarthy his job.

The Packers (4-7-1) fell at Lambeau Field despite being 14-point favorites over the Cardinals (3-9).

Josh Rosen led the Cardinals to the go-ahead field goal, a 44-yarder by Zane Gonzalez, with 1:41 remaining. On third-and-23 earlier in the drive, Rosen scrambled to his right and found timeless veteran receiver Larry Fitzgerald, who made a diving, 32-yard reception.

Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers had plenty of time to go for at least a tie, even with the ineptitude the Green Bay offense showed for much of the day. Rodgers converted a fourth-and-5 with a 7-yard pass to tight end Jimmy Graham, moved the chains with a completion to tight end Robert Tonyan and gained 11 on a scramble.

That got the Packers into field-goal range, but Mason Crosby was wide right from 49 yards out as time expired.

The loss was the last straw for the Packers’ front office, which fired embattled Packers coach Mike McCarthy after 13 seasons. Offensive coordinator Joe Philbin, who has three-plus years of head-coaching experience from 2012-15 with the Miami Dolphins, will serve as interim head coach.

It was the biggest victory of the season for first-year Arizona coach Steve Wilks, whose only two previous wins came against the San Francisco 49ers.

Rosen was 11 of 26 for 149 yards. David Johnson pounded away for 20 carries and 69 yards.

Arizona took its first lead late in the third quarter.

Starting from its 35, Rosen avoided a sack and ran 33 yards to the Green Bay 32. On the next play, running back Chase Edmonds broke three tackles for a gain of 29 to the 3.

Following a false-start penalty, Edmonds scored from the 8 on the next play to give the Cardinals a 17-10 lead with 1:54 to go in the period.

On the ensuing Green Bay possession, Rodgers hit Randall Cobb for an apparent gain of 36 on third-and-11. Instead, offensive lineman Jason Spriggs — who replaced injured Bryan Bulaga — was flagged for holding. That led to a ninth consecutive third-down failure.

The Packers finally got going on their next possession.

First, they snapped their third-down slump with an 11-yard completion to Davante Adams on third-and-5. Next, a reverse by Marquez Valdes-Scantling gained 21.

Wide receiver Jake Kumerow, a former Division III standout making his NFL debut, then caught a pass for 11 more yards to the Arizona 46. Moments later, Rodgers hit Adams at the sideline for a gain of 19.

Finally, on first-and-goal at the 8, running back Aaron Jones ran over linebacker Haason Reddick, tying the score at 17 with 5:26 remaining in the game.

–Field Level Media

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Week 14

Yard Rush Pass
Kansas City 5246 1448 3798
Pittsburgh 4965 1117 3848
L.A. Chargers 4793 1502 3291
New England 4741 1460 3281
Indianapolis 4535 1283 3252
Houston 4488 1689 2799
Baltimore 4484 1550 2934

Yard Rush Pass
Kansas City 5246 1448 3798
Pittsburgh 4965 1117 3848
L.A. Chargers 4793 1502 3291
New England 4741 1460 3281
Indianapolis 4535 1283 3252
Houston 4488 1689 2799
Baltimore 4484 1550 2934
Denver 4388 1590 2798
Cleveland 4324 1447 2877
Oakland 4163 1264 2899
Jacksonville 4022 1335 2687
Cincinnati 3976 1140 2836
Tennessee 3722 1352 2370
Miami 3625 1232 2393
N.Y. Jets 3612 1303 2309
Buffalo 3428 1453 1975
DEFENSE
Yard Rush Pass
Baltimore 3380 1047 2333
Buffalo 3530 1284 2246
Jacksonville 3787 1301 2486
Pittsburgh 3947 1205 2742
L.A. Chargers 4019 1248 2771
Tennessee 4091 1437 2654
Houston 4098 1096 3002
Indianapolis 4174 1249 2925
New England 4430 1280 3150
N.Y. Jets 4517 1540 2977
Denver 4593 1465 3128
Oakland 4759 1839 2920
Miami 4793 1736 3057
Cleveland 4953 1637 3316
Kansas City 5004 1464 3540
Cincinnati 5197 1840 3357
NATIONAL FOOTBALL CONFERENCE
OFFENSE
Yard Rush Pass
Tampa Bay 5312 1178 4134
L.A. Rams 5279 1673 3606
New Orleans 4759 1529 3230
Green Bay 4567 1268 3299
Atlanta 4531 948 3583
Carolina 4522 1690 2832
San Francisco 4359 1550 2809
Minnesota 4331 1033 3298
Seattle 4239 1786 2453
Chicago 4219 1385 2834
N.Y. Giants 4202 1150 3052
Detroit 4080 1217 2863
Dallas 3982 1579 2403
Philadelphia 3893 1109 2784
Washington 3646 1295 2351
Arizona 2872 1032 1840
DEFENSE
Yard Rush Pass
Chicago 3815 1030 2785
Dallas 3818 1095 2723
Minnesota 3933 1190 2743
Washington 3973 1103 2870
Philadelphia 4181 1140 3041
San Francisco 4185 1298 2887
Green Bay 4222 1534 2688
Carolina 4236 1155 3081
Detroit 4254 1437 2817
New Orleans 4256 905 3351
Arizona 4336 1691 2645
L.A. Rams 4408 1421 2987
Seattle 4409 1401 3008
N.Y. Giants 4532 1499 3033
Atlanta 4730 1568 3162
Tampa Bay 4745 1452 3293
AVERAGE PER GAME
AMERICAN FOOTBALL CONFERENCE
OFFENSE
Yards Rush Pass
Kansas City 437.2 120.7 316.5
Pittsburgh 413.8 93.1 320.7
L.A. Chargers 399.4 125.2 274.2
New England 395.1 121.7 273.4
Indianapolis 377.9 106.9 271.0
Houston 374.0 140.8 233.2
Baltimore 373.7 129.2 244.5
Denver 365.7 132.5 233.2
Cleveland 360.3 120.6 239.8
Oakland 346.9 105.3 241.6
Jacksonville 335.2 111.2 223.9
Cincinnati 331.3 95.0 236.3
Tennessee 310.2 112.7 197.5
Miami 302.1 102.7 199.4
N.Y. Jets 301.0 108.6 192.4
Buffalo 285.7 121.1 164.6
DEFENSE
Yards Rush Pass
Baltimore 281.7 87.2 194.4
Buffalo 294.2 107.0 187.2
Jacksonville 315.6 108.4 207.2
Pittsburgh 328.9 100.4 228.5
L.A. Chargers 334.9 104.0 230.9
Tennessee 340.9 119.8 221.2
Houston 341.5 91.3 250.2
Indianapolis 347.8 104.1 243.8
New England 369.2 106.7 262.5
N.Y. Jets 376.4 128.3 248.1
Denver 382.8 122.1 260.7
Oakland 396.6 153.2 243.3
Miami 399.4 144.7 254.8
Cleveland 412.8 136.4 276.3
Kansas City 417.0 122.0 295.0
Cincinnati 433.1 153.3 279.8
NATIONAL FOOTBALL CONFERENCE
OFFENSE
Yards Rush Pass
Tampa Bay 442.7 98.2 344.5
L.A. Rams 439.9 139.4 300.5
New Orleans 396.6 127.4 269.2
Green Bay 380.6 105.7 274.9
Atlanta 377.6 79.0 298.6
Carolina 376.8 140.8 236.0
San Francisco 363.2 129.2 234.1
Minnesota 360.9 86.1 274.8
Philadelphia 353.9 100.8 253.1
Seattle 353.2 148.8 204.4
Chicago 351.6 115.4 236.2
N.Y. Giants 350.2 95.8 254.3
Detroit 340.0 101.4 238.6
Dallas 331.8 131.6 200.2
Washington 331.5 117.7 213.7
Arizona 239.3 86.0 153.3
DEFENSE
Yards Rush Pass
Chicago 317.9 85.8 232.1
Dallas 318.2 91.2 226.9
Minnesota 327.8 99.2 228.6
San Francisco 348.8 108.2 240.6
Green Bay 351.8 127.8 224.0
Carolina 353.0 96.2 256.8
Detroit 354.5 119.8 234.8
New Orleans 354.7 75.4 279.2
Washington 361.2 100.3 260.9
Arizona 361.3 140.9 220.4
L.A. Rams 367.3 118.4 248.9
Seattle 367.4 116.8 250.7
N.Y. Giants 377.7 124.9 252.8
Philadelphia 380.1 103.6 276.5
Atlanta 394.2 130.7 263.5
Tampa Bay 395.4 121.0 274.4

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NFL ICYMI: Packers, A-Rod say ‘bye’ to McCarthy; who next?

There's little argument that Aaron Rodgers' talent is such that his Green Bay Packers probably should have won more than one Super Bowl by now.

For quite some time, there have been those who blamed coach Mike McCarthy for the lack of titles more than credited him for steering the team to that

There’s little argument that Aaron Rodgers’ talent is such that his Green Bay Packers probably should have won more than one Super Bowl by now.

For quite some time, there have been those who blamed coach Mike McCarthy for the lack of titles more than credited him for steering the team to that title.

Now the world will find out just what Rodgers and the Packers are capable of without McCarthy, who was fired after a 20-17 loss at home to the lowly Arizona Cardinals on Sunday that dropped Green Bay to 4-7-1, its worst start since 2006. It was an abrupt end for McCarthy — who did win a championship, after all — and rare upheaval for a model franchise that last changed coaches during a season 75 years ago.

It’s likely other coaches who are in trouble around the league will get a chance to ride things out through Week 17, but Cincinnati’s Marvin Lewis, Jacksonville’s Doug Marrone, the Jets’ Todd Bowles and Carolina’s Ron Rivera all should be wary. When Rivera was asked whether he’s concerned about his job security after a 24-17 defeat at Tampa Bay dropped the Panthers to 6-6, this was the reply: “I’m not going to address that question. Do not ask that question again, please.”

Alrighty, then.

Rodgers is a two-time NFL MVP, and he was the Super Bowl MVP when the Packers beat the Pittsburgh Steelers in the big game in 2011, all under McCarthy.

Year after year more recently, though, Green Bay would reach the postseason only to wind up with so-close-but-so-far exits.

“We’re just not executing well,” Rodgers said, “and it’s the same things over and over.”

Not long after those words were spoken, team president Mark Murphy released a statement announcing that McCarthy was gone. Offensive coordinator Joe Philbin will fill in.

This season is essentially over; the Packers are a half-game out of last place in the NFC North. Now they can start pondering their future — as can McCarthy.

He likely will get another chance elsewhere. Presumably, Rodgers will be given some input on Green Bay’s choice of a new coach. He turned 35 on Sunday, and the opportunities to win a second Lombardi Trophy are fading.

In case you missed it, here are other top topics after the NFL season’s 13th Sunday:

HUNT NOT QUESTIONED

The league’s handling of Kareem Hunt’s role in an assault of a woman at a hotel in February is under scrutiny after the reigning rushing champion said he was never interviewed by anyone conducting the NFL investigation of the matter. After the Ray Rice case, in which he punched his then-girlfriend (and now wife), the league hired additional staff to handle such inquiries — but all these months later, Hunt was still playing until TMZ Sports posted video from a hotel security camera. And he told ESPN on Sunday that the league hadn’t spoken to him about what happened. Hunt also acknowledged lying about it to the Kansas City Chiefs, who released him.

BIG MAN TD TIMES TWO!

It was a good day to be a big man in the NFL (as long as winning isn’t the most important thing, that is). Two, um, larger guys got into the end zone: Bears defensive lineman Akiem Hicks, listed at more than 330 pounds, plunged in from the 1 for a score that brought back memories of Chicago’s William “The Refrigerator” Perry; Lions offensive lineman Taylor Decker, who goes 6-foot-7 and about 310 pounds, caught an 11-yard TD pass. Hicks became the third NFL player since 1982 with a sack and rushing TD in the same game (“Fridge” was one of the others); Chicago also got halfback Tarik Cohen’s 1-yard, tying touchdown pass off a lateral on the final play of regulation, but ended up losing to the New York Giants 30-27 in OT. Decker’s moment of personal glory also did little for Detroit in what became a 30-16 loss to the Los Angeles Rams, who clinched the NFC West.

THIRD TIME’S A CHARM

Wacky ending to the night game: There were three offsides calls in a row as Chargers kicker Michael Badgley got three tries to make a game-winning field goal — pushing his initial attempt from 39 yards wide left, then getting blocked from 34, before finally succeeding from 29 (so the last flag for a too-early jump was declined) in a 33-30 victory over the Steelers. The Chargers (9-3) erased a 16-point halftime hole; Keenan Allen caught 14 passes for 148 yards and a TD.

___

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

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Column: McCarthy firing as much about culture as performance

When a head coach gets fired during an NFL season, it's as much about the culture of his team as it is about performance.

That was the case in Green Bay, which in a move almost as stunning as its feeble showing against Arizona on Sunday, Mike McCarthy was canned. The same McCarthy

When a head coach gets fired during an NFL season, it’s as much about the culture of his team as it is about performance.

That was the case in Green Bay, which in a move almost as stunning as its feeble showing against Arizona on Sunday, Mike McCarthy was canned. The same McCarthy who was 125-77-2 in almost 13 seasons at the helm. The same McCarthy who guided the Packers to the 2010 championship. The same McCarthy who helped nurture Aaron Rodgers into a seeming shoo-in for the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Yet, with what the Packers have become recently and where they appeared headed at 4-7-1 in a season when NFC wild-card berths are up for grabs, it probably was the correct move to let McCarthy go.

The offense, even with Rodgers, has stagnated. The secondary, as it is pretty much every year, is ravaged by injuries. The offensive line is a mess more often than it is a plus.

And the skills of one of the great quarterbacks of his era — an era when offense is paramount for success — are being wasted.

Team president Mark Murphy in a statement said the 2018 season “has not lived up to the expectations and standards of the Green Bay Packers. As a result, I made the difficult decision to relieve Mike McCarthy of his role as head coach, effective immediately.”

“Mike has been a terrific head coach and leader of the Packers for 13 seasons, during which time we experienced a great deal of success on and off the field,” Murphy said.

True. McCarthy also might find himself employed running another team in need of developing a quarterback (Jets? Buccaneers? Browns?) in 2019. For now, though, with the Packers severely underachieving and McCarthy unable to find answers against strong opponents or weak ones, his departure made sense.

“We haven’t played very well,” Rodgers said before being told McCarthy was fired. “We all take part in the disappointments and the failures that we’ve had this season. We’ve had a number of opportunities. It’s not like we’re getting blown out in a bunch of games. We’re in games.

“I hate to repeat myself, but it’s applicable. … We’re not executing the right way.”

Rodgers has never started a game for another coach, and he deserves some input into who replaces McCarthy. Whoever that might be, the least of his problems is quarterback, barring more injuries to Rodgers, who turned 35 on Sunday. Rodgers should have a few excellent years left.

The deeper problems in Green Bay stem from years of injuries to key players, particularly on defense, that approach an epidemic. Is players’ health not being vetted properly before they join the team? Are they not diagnosed or treated properly when they get hurt? Is it bad luck?

The Packers probably need to look into adding some talent through free agency before Rodgers is past his prime. That’s rarely been the approach on the tundra — yes, we know about Reggie White and Julius Peppers — but with Ted Thompson no longer the general manager, perhaps the thinking will change.

In the NFC North, where Chicago is on the rise and Minnesota has more overall talent than Green Bay, a quick infusion of talent is essential.

It would be somewhat ironic if McCarthy surfaced in Cleveland to work with Baker Mayfield. The Browns are the only other team to fire its head man thus far, and it would be surprising if Browns GM John Dorsey, who formerly worked for the Packers, isn’t interested.

The Jets, who lost their sixth in a row in ignominious fashion at Tennessee on Sunday, almost certainly will be letting go of Todd Bowles soon. They also have a rookie QB in need of a guru.

Meanwhile, the Packers begin a search they rarely make. Since 2000, they’ve had two coaches, Mike Sherman and McCarthy.

Joe Philbin is the interim. Whoever is next, Green Bay, make sure Rodgers has a say.

___

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

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Rivers rallies Chargers past Steelers 33-30

PITTSBURGH (AP) — Michael Badgley kicked a 29-yard field goal on the final play to lift the Los Angeles Chargers to a 33-30 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday night.

Badgley initially missed a 39-yard kick but Pittsburgh was called for offsides. Badgley's ensuing 34-yard attempt was blocked, but the Steelers were

PITTSBURGH (AP) — Michael Badgley kicked a 29-yard field goal on the final play to lift the Los Angeles Chargers to a 33-30 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday night.

Badgley initially missed a 39-yard kick but Pittsburgh was called for offsides. Badgley’s ensuing 34-yard attempt was blocked, but the Steelers were again flagged for jumping across the line of scrimmage before the snap. He drilled his third attempt at the game-winner, and the Chargers gleefully declined another Pittsburgh penalty while they poured onto the field in celebration.

Philip Rivers completed 26 of 36 passes for 299 yards and two touchdowns for Los Angeles (9-3). Keenan Allen caught 14 passes for 148 yards and a score and Justin Jackson ran for 63 yards and a touchdown in place of injured starter Melvin Gordon. Desmond King added a 73-yard punt return for a score as the Chargers erased a 16-point halftime deficit.

Ben Roethlisberger threw for 281 yards and two scores for the Steelers (7-4-1), who have lost two straight and are now 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 leg injury.

Rookie Jaylen Samuels replaced Conner and caught a 10-yard touchdown pass with 4:10 remaining that tied the game at 30, leaving 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 win in the Steel City for just the fourth time in 19 tries while giving the Steelers their first two-game losing streak of the season.

Roethlisberger publicly tweaked Brown following a loss to Denver last week, though the star wide receiver stressed he knew it was nothing personal. It certainly didn’t seem to have an impact on their play. Roethlisberger hit Brown for a 9-yard gain on Pittsburgh’s second play from scrimmage and again for 46 yards on the following snap, a strike that set up the first of Conner’s two 1-yard touchdown runs in the opening quarter.

The Steelers seemed poised for another masterful December performance. Pittsburgh came in 18-3 in December since 2013, the best mark in the NFL over that span.

The Chargers, however, responded thanks in part to a questionable non-call by the officials. Rivers hit a streaking Travis Benjamin for a 46-yard touchdown to get Los Angeles on the board, a play that began with Chargers right tackle Sam Tevi standing up and shuffling his feet backward an instant before the ball was snapped. It marked the second time this season Los Angeles benefited from a non-call on what appeared to be a pre-snap penalty. The Chargers scored a touchdown in Cleveland in October on a play in which left tackle Russell Okung moved before the ball was hiked to Rivers.

A beautiful 28-yard dart from Roethlisberger to Brown pushed Pittsburgh’s lead to 23-7 at the break but Los Angeles ripped off the next 23 points thanks to a bit of luck some dynamic playmaking.

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 in squarely in Allen’s hands.

King then dashed 73 yards on a punt return, with Allen pulling in the 2-point conversion that tied the game at 23.

Los Angeles — which managed just two yards rushing in the first half with Austin Ekeler filling in for Gordon — then turned to Jackson. The rookie seventh-round pick used his quickness to squirt through Pittsburgh’s defensive line, and his 18-yard burst up the middle gave the Chargers a 30-23 lead.

INJURIES

Pittsburgh WR Justin Hunter, given a spot on the game-day roster over rookie James Washington, left in the first half and did not return after injuring himself while diving for a Roethlisberger pass in the end zone. … Steelers WR Ryan Switzer was taken to the locker room to be evaluated for a concussion after taking a vicious hit by Los Angeles linebacker Jatavis Brown in the fourth quarter.

UP NEXT

Chargers: Host Cincinnati next Sunday.

Steelers: Travel to Oakland to play the Raiders next Sunday. Pittsburgh hasn’t won in Oakland since 1995.

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Chargers-Steelers Stats

L.A. Chargers 7 0 8 18—33
Pittsburgh 13 10 0 7—30
First Quarter

Pit_Conner 1 run (Boswell kick), 9:20.

Pit_Conner 1 run (kick failed), 4:41.

LAC_Benjamin 46 pass from Rivers (Badgley kick), 1:04.

Second Quarter

Pit_FG Boswell 48, 2:40.

Pit_A.Brown 28

L.A. Chargers 7 0 8 18—33
Pittsburgh 13 10 0 7—30
First Quarter

Pit_Conner 1 run (Boswell kick), 9:20.

Pit_Conner 1 run (kick failed), 4:41.

LAC_Benjamin 46 pass from Rivers (Badgley kick), 1:04.

Second Quarter

Pit_FG Boswell 48, 2:40.

Pit_A.Brown 28 pass from Roethlisberger (Boswell kick), :17.

Third Quarter

LAC_K.Allen 10 pass from Rivers (Gates pass from Rivers), 1:43.

Fourth Quarter

LAC_King 73 punt return (K.Allen pass from Rivers), 12:52.

LAC_Jackson 18 run (Badgley kick), 8:09.

Pit_Samuels 10 pass from Roethlisberger (Boswell kick), 4:10.

LAC_FG Badgley 29, :00.

A_61,069.

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LAC Pit
First downs 22 23
Total Net Yards 371 336
Rushes-yards 22-85 17-65
Passing 286 271
Punt Returns 1-73 2-9
Kickoff Returns 1-21 3-47
Interceptions Ret. 1-23 0-0
Comp-Att-Int 26-36-0 29-45-1
Sacked-Yards Lost 2-13 1-10
Punts 4-36.3 4-51.0
Fumbles-Lost 0-0 1-0
Penalties-Yards 5-80 7-59
Time of Possession 31:12 28:48

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INDIVIDUAL STATISTICS

RUSHING_Los Angeles, Jackson 8-63, Ekeler 13-21, Benjamin 1-1. Pittsburgh, Conner 15-60, Samuels 2-5.

PASSING_Los Angeles, Rivers 26-36-0-299. Pittsburgh, Roethlisberger 29-45-1-281.

RECEIVING_Los Angeles, K.Allen 14-148, Ekeler 5-22, M.Williams 3-52, Benjamin 2-44, Jackson 1-19, Ty.Williams 1-14. Pittsburgh, A.Brown 10-154, Smith-Schuster 6-49, McDonald 4-28, Samuels 3-20, Conner 3-14, Switzer 2-9, J.James 1-7.

MISSED FIELD GOALS_Los Angeles, Badgley 52.

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