Lock leads Missouri in rout of UT Martin

COLUMBIA, Mo. (AP) — When Drew Lock found out in December that Missouri offensive coordinator Josh Heupel was leaving to become the head coach at Central Florida, Lock considered following him out the door and declaring for the NFL draft. The quarterback ultimately decided to return for his senior season.

Judging by the smile Lock wore after Missouri’s 51-14 season-opening victory over Tennessee-Martin, he is happy with his decision. Lock completed 19 of 25 passes for 289 yards and four touchdowns in his first game under new offensive coordinator Derek Dooley.

“For him being a first-time play caller, he did great,” Lock said of Dooley. “He knew when to press the tempo. He knew when to slow it down.”

Last year, Missouri ranked eighth nationally in total offense and Lock threw 44 touchdown passes — a Southeastern Conference record. Heupel’s offense used a frantic pace to limit opponents’ ability to adjust or substitute, but it also limited Missouri’s ability to use different formations and personnel.

Dooley has slowed the pace a bit. Against UT Martin, Missouri frequently used a double-tight end formation that allowed Albert Okwuegbunam and Kendall Blanton to play together. At 6-foot-5 and 255 pounds, Okwuegbunam sometimes split out wide.

“People are going to have to prep for a lot of different formations against us,” Lock said. “It’s going to be different. We’re not just playing fast with similar formations where people can time up our stuff.”

One thing that hasn’t changed for Missouri is wide receiver Emanuel Hall’s ability to get behind defensive backs. He caught four passes for 171 yards and two touchdowns.

A bright spot for the Skyhawks, an FCS program, was the play of their run defense. They held Missouri to 3.7 yards per carry. Linebacker James Gilleylen had three tackles for loss. But that commitment to stopping the run came at a price.

“We’re not a man coverage team, but you saw us have to play it to get enough in the box in order to stop the run, and then the ball’s 60 yards down the field and they run past us,” UT Martin coach Jason Simpson said. “We’re not the only ones they do that to. They’ve done it for the last couple of years.”

The Skyhawks managed 277 total yards. Jamiee Bowe scored on a 1-yard run with 9:34 left in the second quarter. In the third quarter, LaDarius Galloway slipped out the backfield unnoticed and caught a 51-yard touchdown pass from Dresser Winn. Winn completed 15 of 24 passes for 168 yards.

Missouri led 38-7 at halftime. Lock exited the game after the first series of the third quarter but not before he passed Brad Smith into second place on Missouri’s career passing list. With 8,984 yards, Lock now trails only Chase Daniel, who had 12,515 yards from 2005-08.

THE TAKEAWAY

Missouri: Two true freshman wide receivers made big plays that suggested they might be significant contributors this season. On Lock’s final pass, Kam Scott made a leaping catch and stepped out of a tackle on his way to a 70-yard touchdown.

“He did a fantastic job adjusting to the ball, went up and high-pointed it,” Lock said. “He looked like a creature out there.”

Jalen Knox outjumped a defender and hauled in a 38-yard pass from backup QB Taylor Powell in the third quarter.

UT Martin: The Skyhawks dropped to 1-25 all-time against FBS opponents, but their coach said the players remain eager to play against the best competition.

“Every one of them would still line up and do it again,” Simpson said. “That’s the largest group, biggest crowd they’re going to play against this year.”

A TREE GROWS

Last year, Hall caught 33 passes for 817 yards — an average of 24.8 per reception. In the preseason, he spoke of becoming a more complete player who is a threat running every branch of a wide receiver’s route tree.

“If he can walk away from a game with four catches for 171 yards, I’ll take that route tree every time,” Missouri coach Barry Odom said. “I don’t think anyone in our program has taken more positive steps as a total player. I don’t think anyone’s done as good a job as Emanuel Hall has. He’s become more of a complete receiver.”

INJURY REPORT

Missouri escaped the season opener mostly unscathed. Kevin Pendleton, the regular starter at left guard, suffered a sprained knee in practice last week and didn’t suit up. Odom said he should return to practice this week. Starting safety Khalil Oliver left the game with a sprained ankle, but Odom said he might have been able to return if the score was closer.

UP NEXT

Missouri: The Tigers will play host to Wyoming.

UT Martin: The Skyhawks will visit Middle Tennessee State.

_______

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Kuchar shoots bogey-free 66 to hold Sony Open lead

Kuchar shoots bogey-free 66 to hold Sony Open lead

Kuchar shoots bogey-free 66 to hold Sony Open lead

Matt Kuchar shot a bogey-free 6-under-par 66 to extend his lead in the Sony Open on Saturday at Waialae Country Club in Honolulu.

He’ll go into Sunday’s final round at 18-under 192 with a two-shot edge on Andrew Putnam, whose strong start allowed him to tie for the lead early in the third round.

The 40-year-old Kuchar was 3-under on the front side and regained the solo top spot.

Kuchar ended the round with six consecutive pars. Putnam birdied No. 18.

Kuchar will aim for his second championship in about two months after winning the Mayakoba Golf Classic in November in Mexico. He tied for 19th place last week in the Sentry Tournament of Champions.

Kuchar opened with consecutive rounds of 63 this week. He excelled with the irons again Saturday, leaving himself birdie putts of reasonable length.

Putnam pulled even with Kuchar with three birdies in the first five holes. He had a shot for another birdie on No. 6, but his chip from the fringe sat just outside the cup. That would have made for birdies on three consecutive holes.

Keith Mitchell and Chez Reavie share third place at 14-under.

Mitchell played a bogey-free round of 63, including four straight birdies on Nos. 7-10.

Reavie (66), who had three eagles Friday, was 5-under through nine holes of Saturday’s round. Then he went through a 3-over stretch from Nos. 11-13 and regrouped for two birdies the rest of the way.

Bryson DeChambeau made a move with 63, tying his best score on the PGA Tour. He opened the round with birdies on each of the first three holes.

He’s among a cluster of golfers at 11-under.

Corey Conners, Davis Love III, Charles Howell III, Dominic Bozzelli and Brian Stuard will all begin the final round tied at 11 under. They all checked in with 64s.

Hudson Swafford (67), Ted Potter Jr. (68) and Marc Leishman (68) are also in the bunch at 11-under.

–Field Level Media

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Anderson, Gurley run Rams past Cowboys, into NFC title game

Anderson, Gurley run Rams past Cowboys, into NFC title game

Anderson, Gurley run Rams past Cowboys, into NFC title game

C.J. Anderson rushed for 123 yards and two touchdowns, and Todd Gurley added 115 yards and a score as the Los Angeles Rams ran their way into the NFC Championship game with a 30-22 victory Saturday over the visiting Dallas Cowboys.

Quarterback Jared Goff was 15-of-28 passing for 186 yards as the Rams moved one victory from the franchise’s first Super Bowl appearance since 2001, when they lost to the New England Patriots.

The Rams will face the winner of Sunday’s Philadelphia Eagles-New Orleans Saints matchup in next weekend’s NFC title game.

“It was incredible what they did today,” Goff said of the Rams’ running backs. “We know this (Cowboys) defense, and we prepared for it well all week. What Todd and C.J. did … Todd started it and C.J. finished it off.”

Dak Prescott was 20 of 32 for 266 yards and one touchdown passing while also rushing for a score as the Cowboys lost their eighth consecutive road playoff game.

The Rams totaled 273 yards on the ground, a franchise record for a playoff game. It was the most rushing yards the Cowboys’ defense has given up in a game this season. Dallas entered with the fifth-best rushing defense in the NFL, allowing 94.6 yards per game.

“We just didn’t do a good enough job of controlling the line of scrimmage, winning our gaps and tackling,” Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett said. “They were able to run consistently throughout the game. They controlled the pace and tempo of the game really because of that.”

Anderson, who was signed late in the season and played in just two regular-season games, scored on a 1-yard TD run to give the Rams a 13-7 lead with seven minutes remaining in the first half.

Gurley, who was playing in his first game since Dec. 16 against Philadelphia because of knee soreness, added a 35-yard TD run with 3:27 remaining in the opening half to give the Rams a 20-7 lead.

After a third-quarter field goal from the Rams’ Greg Zuerlein, the Cowboys cut the deficit to 23-15 on a 1-yard TD run from Ezekiel Elliott and a 2-point conversion catch from Amari Cooper.

The Cowboys started a potential game-tying drive late in the third quarter, but Elliott was stopped on fourth down from the Rams’ 35-yard line on the first play of the fourth quarter.

The Rams promptly went on a 12-play, 65-yard drive, capped by a 1-yard TD run from Anderson to take a 30-15 lead with 7:16 remaining. Prescott added the Cowboys’ final TD on a 1-yard run with 2:11 remaining.

Elliott was held to 47 yards on 20 rushes for the Cowboys.

“Even when we were in three-receiver sets they were in base, so they were committed to stopping our running game,” Garrett said. “If they’re committed to taking one thing away you have to be able to beat them in the other area, and at times we did a good job of that tonight.”

At 32, the Rams’ Sean McVay became the youngest head coach to win a playoff game, ahead of John Madden, who was 33 when he won his first playoff game with the Oakland Raiders.

–Field Level Media

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NFL notebook: Fitzgerald pondering Cardinals return

NFL notebook: Fitzgerald pondering Cardinals return

Arizona Cardinals wide

NFL notebook: Fitzgerald pondering Cardinals return

Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald said he is undecided if he will retire or play in 2019, which would be his 16th season in the NFL.

He told ESPN’s Adam Schefter he intends to take some time to mull the decision.

Fitzgerald committed to playing the 2018 season last February, but it turned out to be a tough year in Arizona. The Cardinals finished the season with an NFL-worst 3-13 record, and head coach Steve Wilks was fired.

New head coach Kliff Kingsbury said last week he hopes Fitzgerald will return. In 2018, the 35-year-old appeared in all 16 games and caught 69 passes for 734 yards and six touchdowns.

–The Cleveland Browns officially named Freddie Kitchens as the team’s new head coach on Saturday.

Kitchens, 44, becomes the 17th full-time head coach in franchise history. He replaces Hue Jackson, who was fired in October after compiling a 3-36-1 record in two-plus seasons.

After parting ways with Jackson and offensive coordinator Todd Haley in October, the Browns promoted Kitchens from running backs coach to offensive coordinator and named defensive coordinator Gregg Williams as interim head coach. Williams has been relieved of his duties and is no longer with the team.

–Dallas Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett, whose job security was in question when the team was 3-5 at midseason, now is expected to receive a long-term contract extension, according to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport.

Garrett’s current contract runs through 2019, but his work leading the Cowboys to a 10-6 finish apparently has owner Jerry Jones ready to commit to him beyond then. Garrett is in his ninth season and is 77-59 since taking over in Dallas midway through the 2010 season.

Jones gave Garrett a vote of confidence amid the team’s midseason struggles and teased a potential extension earlier this week during an interview on 105.3 The Fan.

–Cowboys wide receiver Cole Beasley and tight end Blake Jarwin were both active for the team’s divisional playoff game at the Los Angeles Rams.

Both players missed practice all week due to ankle injuries, but both were expected to give it a go during pregame warmups, and both received the go-ahead to play. Beasley aggravated his ankle issue last week but played through it as the Cowboys beat the Seattle Seahawks.

Defensive tackle Maliek Collins and guard Xavier Su’a-Filo, who were also questionable with ankle injuries, were also active. Safety Darian Thompson (groin) was inactive for Dallas after being listed as questionable, and the Rams were fully healthy.

–The Denver Broncos are expected to be one of several teams interested in trading for Pittsburgh Steelers wideout Antonio Brown this offseason, NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reports.

The report adds that there have been no moves toward reconciliation with the team on Brown’s part, and the Steelers may actively seek a trade rather than merely listening to offers.

–New Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Bruce Arians is making a concerted effort to keep wide receiver DeSean Jackson on the team, NFL Network reports.

Per the report, Arians intends to “re-recruit” Jackson and “convince him he can be a big part of the offense,” after the wideout reportedly soured on his fit with the Bucs in 2018.

ESPN reported before the season finale that Jackson told the team he wants out of his contract so he can play elsewhere in 2019. Jackson, 32, remains under contract for $10 million in 2019 — the last year of his deal — but he has no guaranteed money remaining.

–The Jacksonville Jaguars are interested in Denver Broncos coach/personnel man Gary Kubiak for their offensive coordinator vacancy, according to an ESPN report.

Kubiak, who is currently under contract in Denver’s personnel department, was expected to become the Broncos’ offensive coordinator under new head coach Vic Fangio, but those plans changed due to philosophical differences.

–Kansas City Chiefs safety Eric Berry (heel) and running back Spencer Ware (hamstring) were both inactive for the team’s AFC divisional playoff game against the visiting Indianapolis Colts.

However, Chiefs wideout Sammy Watkins (foot) was active for the first time since Week 11.

–For all the grief Chicago Bears kicker Cody Parkey received for missing what would have been a winning 43-yard field goal in the playoffs last week, many others in the Windy City might express some sympathy after knowing what it feels like.

Among the 101 contestants who tried the kick from the same yardage in tough, wintery conditions in Chicago, not one put it through the uprights in what was called the Cody Parkey challenge.

–Field Level Media

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No winning kickers in Chicago’s Cody Parkey challenge

No winning kickers in Chicago’s Cody Parkey challenge

No winning kickers in Chicago’s Cody Parkey challenge

For all the grief Chicago Bears kicker Cody Parkey received for missing what would have been a winning 43-yard field goal in the playoffs last week, many others in the Windy City might express some sympathy after knowing what it feels like.

Among the 101 contestants who tried the kick from the same yardage in tough, wintery conditions in Chicago on Saturday, not one put it through the uprights in what was called the Cody Parkey challenge. And none faced a rush trying to block their attempts — Eagles defensive tackle Treyvon Hester nicked Parkey’s kick last week.

Chicago brewery Goose Island Beer Co. put on the contest outside its taproom at 1800 W. Fulton St. less than a week after the Bears lost to the Philadelphia Eagles 16-15 in the NFL wild-card game last Sunday.

“It became much bigger than we ever thought it would,” said Zac Connelly, an employee who came up with the idea. “The last couple days have been crazy.”

Patrons 21 or older were given one chance to kick a 43-yard field goal. A successful kick would have led to a shot to be the grand-prize winner by hitting a 65-yard field goal, thereby breaking the NFL record set by Matt Prater, who made a 64-yarder for the Denver Broncos on Dec. 8, 2013.

Two first-place finishers also would have received two tickets to any 2019 regular-season game of their choosing, plus round-trip airfare and hotel accommodations for two consecutive nights.

The incredible response forced the brewery initially to limit the number of entrants, then the policy was changed when only 101 decided to compete in the snowy, cold, windy weather.

Kicking contestant Phil Cozzi of Elmhurst, Ill., said, “It’s way different, everyone’s slipping all over the place.”

He was comforted by the fact that the only Eagles fan wiped out during his attempt.

“OK, good,” Cozzi said.

Without a grand prize to award, the brewery is donating $20,000 to the Lurie Children’s Hospital, the charity chosen by Parkey.

–Field Level Media

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Cowboys WR Beasley, TE Jarwin active

Cowboys WR Beasley, TE Jarwin active

Cowboys WR Beasley, TE Jarwin active

Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Cole Beasley and tight end Blake Jarwin are both active for Saturday’s divisional playoff game at the Los Angeles Rams.

Both players missed practice all week due to ankle injuries, but both were expected to give it a go during pregame warmups, and both received the go-ahead to play. Beasley aggravated his ankle issue last week but played through it as the Cowboys beat the Seattle Seahawks.

Defensive tackle Maliek Collins and guard Xavier Su’a-Filo, who were also questionable with ankle injuries, are also active. Su’a-Filo will serve as a backup behind rookie Connor Williams, who will start at left guard after taking first-team reps all week.

Safety Darian Thompson (groin) is inactive for Dallas after being listed as questionable.

The Rams are fully healthy, as their only player listed as questionable — defensive lineman Ethan Westbrooks — is active.

–Field Level Media

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Chiefs, Mahomes control Colts, advance to AFC title game

Chiefs, Mahomes control Colts, advance to AFC title game

Chiefs, Mahomes control Colts, advance to AFC title game

Kansas City quarterback Patrick Mahomes passed for 278 yards and ran for a score Saturday as the Chiefs ended a six-game home losing streak in the postseason by stomping the Indianapolis Colts 31-13 at snowy Kansas City, Mo.

The AFC playoff victory was the first in a quarter-century for the Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium after they advanced as the No. 1 seed for the first time since 1997.

More than a half-foot of snow socked Kansas City before kickoff. Light snow also fell during the game.

Kansas City will play for the AFC championship next Sunday against the winner of Sunday’s playoff game between the New England Patriots and Los Angeles Chargers.

Running back Damien Williams had career bests with 25 carries for 129 rushing yards. He scored one touchdown.

Tight end Travis Kelce led the Chiefs with 108 receiving yards on seven catches, while wideout Tyreek Hill added eight catches for 72 yards and a rushing TD. Mahomes went 27-for-41 passing and didn’t throw an interception.

Kansas City linebacker Justin Houston had two sacks and recovered a fumble off a strip by Dee Ford.

The turnover thwarted a huge opportunity for the Colts after they took over at the Chiefs 20-yard line late in the third quarter on a fumble that was forced and recovered by linebacker Darius Leonard.

Colts quarterback Andrew Luck could never get into a rhythm, passing for 203 yards while going 19-for-36. The Colts, who had won 10 of their previous 11 games, including five straight, were dogged by 10 penalties for 70 yards.

Kansas City dominated the first half, generating 18 first downs before Indianapolis moved the chains for the first time during a two-minute drill to end the half.

The Colts stormed downfield on that march but kicker Adam Vinatieri, playing in his 32nd postseason game, missed a 23-yard field goal attempt off the left upright as time expired. Vinatieri also missed a PAT attempt.

The 24-7 lead the Chiefs took into the break was achieved with 195 yards passing from Mahomes, who also rushed for a 4-yard TD with 1:40 left. Williams scored on a 10-yard rush and wide receiver Tyreek Hill on a 36-yard reverse to cap the first two Kansas City drives.

Indianapolis went three-and-out on each of its first four possessions.

Najee Goode broke through to block a punt that teammate Zach Pascal recovered in the end zone with 5:56 left for the Colts’ only first-half score.

–Field Level Media

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Report: Sarkisian unlikely to join Cardinals’ staff

Report: Sarkisian unlikely to join Cardinals' staff

Report: Sarkisian unlikely to join Cardinals’ staff

Former Atlanta Falcons offensive coordinator Steve Sarkisian is unlikely to join the Arizona Cardinals’ staff, NFL Network reported Saturday.

ESPN reported Friday that the Cardinals were closing in on a deal to sign Sarkisian to be their coordinator, but it appears that won’t happen.

New head coach Kliff Kingsbury is expected to call plays and run his own offense in Arizona, but he said he would like to hire a coordinator with NFL experience.

Sarkisian, 44, was fired after two years in Atlanta that did not live up to the heights of the Falcons’ 2016 offense. The group finished 10th in points and sixth in yards in the NFL this year after ranking 15th and eighth, respectively, in 2017.

The Cardinals also have interviewed former New York Giants head coach Ben McAdoo for their coordinator opening.

McAdoo, 41, spent last year out of football after being fired by New York, but he had a strong two-year run as the Giants offensive coordinator in 2014-15 before his promotion.

Arizona has finalized its other coordinator spots, with Vance Joseph signing on to run the defense and Jeff Rodgers staying in his position as special-teams coordinator.

–Field Level Media

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Report: Broncos expected to pursue Steelers’ Brown

Report: Broncos expected to pursue Steelers' Brown

Report: Broncos expected to pursue Steelers’ Brown

The Denver Broncos are expected to be one of several teams interested in trading for Pittsburgh Steelers wideout Antonio Brown this offseason, NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported Saturday.

The report adds that there have been no moves toward reconciliation with the team on Brown’s part, and the Steelers may actively seek a trade rather than merely listening to offers. Per Rapoport, several general managers around the league believe Pittsburgh should be able to get a second-round pick and perhaps a bit more in return, though a first-rounder appears unlikely.

The Steelers’ leverage is likely diminished by Brown’s contract — he is owed about $39 million over the next three years — and the team’s openness about considering move on.

Team president Art Rooney II said in an interview Thursday with the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that it’s “hard to envision” Brown back with the team next year, after the wideout skipped practices and meetings during Week 17 and has been out of communication with the team since the season ended. Rooney added he believes the recent issue is part of a broader problem with Brown that must be addressed.

“We’ll look at all the options,” Rooney said “We’re not going to release him, that’s not on the table. But I will say all other options are on the table. Whether the situation can be reconciled and have him back on the team next year, we’re a long way away from thinking that can happen. We’re not closing the door on anything at this point.”

The Broncos are projected to have around $37 million in cap space this offseason, a number that could grow with the release of a few veterans.

They traded away wideout Demaryius Thomas during the 2018 season, both because he was not in their long-term plans and to open up snaps for rookie receivers Courtland Sutton and Dae’Sean Hamilton. Emmanuel Sanders — a former teammate of Brown’s in Pittsburgh — tore his Achilles in practice late in the season and will turn 32 in March.

Brown, who turns 31 in July, is coming off his sixth straight Pro Bowl appearance after totaling 104 catches for 1,297 yards and 15 touchdowns. He was named first-team All-Pro four years in a row from 2014 to 2017.

Other teams that could be interested, per Rapoport, and have plenty of cap space are the Indianapolis Colts (projected $122 million) New York Jets ($98 million) and San Francisco 49ers ($46 million).

Brown can’t be dealt until the 2019 NFL calendar officially begins on March 13. The Steelers would likely make a decision on his status before March 17, when he is due a $2.5 million roster bonus.

–Field Level Media

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Chiefs’ Berry, Ware out; Colts without Hooker

Chiefs' Berry, Ware out; Colts without Hooker

Chiefs’ Berry, Ware out; Colts without Hooker

Kansas City Chiefs safety Eric Berry (heel) and running back Spencer Ware (hamstring) are both inactive for Saturday’s AFC divisional playoff game against the visiting Indianapolis Colts.

However, Chiefs wideout Sammy Watkins (foot) is active for the first time since Week 11. He had 40 catches for 519 yards and three touchdowns in 10 regular-season games, but has played only five snaps since Week 9. Late-season signee Kelvin Benjamin is inactive with Watkins ready to go.

Berry has played just 99 snaps across two games this season while battling a lingering heel issue, while Ware missed the final three games of the regular season. Damien Williams is expected to start at running back for Kansas City.

The Colts will be without free safety Malik Hooker, who is inactive with a foot injury sustained in last week’s playoff win over the Houston Texans. Indianapolis’ depth at safety will be tested, as Mike Mitchell (calf) was placed on injured reserve earlier this week.

Defensive lineman Denico Autry (shoulder) is active for Indianapolis.

–Field Level Media

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Report: Arians hopes to keep WR Jackson with Bucs

Report: Arians hopes to keep WR Jackson with Bucs

New Tampa Bay

Report: Arians hopes to keep WR Jackson with Bucs

New Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Bruce Arians is making a concerted effort to keep wide receiver DeSean Jackson on the team, NFL Network reported Saturday.

Per the report, Arians intends to “re-recruit” Jackson and “convince him he can be a big part of the offense,” after the wideout reportedly soured on his fit with the Bucs in 2018.

ESPN reported before the season finale that Jackson told the team he want out of his contract so he can play elsewhere in 2019.

Jackson, 32, remains under contract for $10 million in 2019 — the last year of his deal — but he has no guaranteed money remaining. The team could release or trade him without incurring any dead money.

Jackson led all qualified receivers with 18.9 yards per receptions this year — the fourth time he has done so in his career — but he was far more productive with Ryan Fitzpatrick at quarterback than Jameis Winston, who Arians has said he intends to build around in 2019. He caught 41 passes for 774 yards and four touchdowns.

However, Arians’ offense is known for its downfield passing and aggressiveness, which would seem to fit Jackson’s skill set well.

Jackson holds the NFL record for most career 60-plus-yard touchdowns with 24, and he’s averaged 17.4 yards per catch in his career, the highest mark among all active players.

–Field Level Media

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Report: Jaguars interested in Kubiak as OC

Report: Jaguars interested in Kubiak as OC

The Jacksonville Jaguars are interested in Denver

Report: Jaguars interested in Kubiak as OC

The Jacksonville Jaguars are interested in Denver Broncos coach/personnel man Gary Kubiak for their offensive-coordinator vacancy, ESPN reported Saturday.

Kubiak, who is currently under contract in Denver’s personnel department, was expected to become the Broncos offensive coordinator under new head coach Vic Fangio, but those plans changed due to philosophical differences. According to multiple reports, one issue was Kubiak wanted to hire his own staff, including bringing back longtime assistants Rick Dennison and Brian Pariani, who the Broncos fired two years ago.

But NFL Network reports things remain amicable between Denver and Kubiak, and the Broncos won’t stand in the way of any interview requests from other teams. If Kubiak is not hired elsewhere, he is expected to remain in the personnel department under general manager and friend John Elway.

Kubiak, 57, spent the last two years in personnel after retiring from coaching due to health concerns. He now hopes to get back into coaching.

Before Kubiak’s plans in Denver fell through, the Broncos reportedly blocked the Atlanta Falcons and Cincinnati Bengals from interviewing him for their coordinator openings. The Falcons have since hired Dirk Koetter as their OC.

The Jaguars are looking for a replacement after firing Nathaniel Hackett during the second half of the regular season. Quarterbacks coach Scott Milanovich took over on an interim basis, but it’s unclear if he is in contention to take the job full-time.

Jacksonville has also reportedly interviewed former Seattle Seahawks offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell and former Tampa Bay Buccaneers offensive coordinator Todd Monken.

The Jaguars finished 31st in scoring, 27th in total offense and 30th in yards per play last season.

–Field Level Media

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Report: Cowboys looking to extend Garrett’s contract

Report: Cowboys looking to extend Garrett's contract

Report: Cowboys looking to extend Garrett’s contract

Dallas Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett, whose job security was in question when the team was 3-5 at midseason, now is expected to receive a long-term contract extension, according to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport.

Garrett’s current contract runs through 2019, but his work leading the Cowboys to a 10-6 finish apparently has owner Jerry Jones ready to commit to him beyond then. Garrett is in his ninth season.

Jones gave Garrett a vote of confidence amid the team’s midseason struggles and teased a potential extension earlier this week during an interview on 105.3 The Fan.

Regardless, any talks will take place after the season ends for the Cowboys. They face the Los Angeles Rams Saturday night in a divisional-round playoff game.

Garrett is 77-59 since taking over in Dallas midway through the 2010 season, and 2-2 in the playoffs. Since going 8-8 in his first three full seasons at the helm, Garrett has led the Cowboys to three NFC East titles over the last five seasons.

The Cowboys also are expected to promote defensive backs coach Kris Richard to defensive coordinator next season. Richard was an interview candidate for multiple head coaching openings this winter.

–Field Level Media

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Cleveland officially names Kitchens as coach

Cleveland officially names Kitchens as coach

The Cleveland Browns

Cleveland officially names Kitchens as coach

The Cleveland Browns officially named Freddie Kitchens as the team’s new head coach on Saturday.

Kitchens, 44, becomes the 17th full-time head coach in franchise history. He replaces Hue Jackson, who was fired in October after compiling a 3-36-1 record in two-plus seasons.

Kitchens was featured in a short video clip on Twitter announcing the deal.

After parting ways with Jackson and offensive coordinator Todd Haley in October, the Browns promoted Kitchens from running backs coach to offensive coordinator and named defensive coordinator Gregg Williams as interim head coach. Williams has been relieved of his duties and is no longer with the team.

His departure is one of several from the Browns’ previous coaching staff. Per multiple reports, Cleveland released several other coaches, including special teams coordinator Amos Jones, position coaches Ken Zampese (QBs), Bob Wylie (OL), Blake Williams (LBs) and Greg Seamon (TEs), and special teams assistant Josh Cribbs, a former Pro Bowl player for the Browns.

Cleveland also is working to hire former Arizona Cardinals coach Steve Wilks as defensive coordinator, according to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport.

The Browns also will have a different organizational structure, according to multiple reports. Kitchens will report to general manager John Dorsey rather than owner Jimmy Haslam, a departure from the structure for previous coaches.

The team’s confidence in Kitchens was boosted by the play of rookie quarterback Baker Mayfield under his watch. In eight games with Kitchens as OC, Mayfield threw for 2,254 yards, 19 touchdowns and eight interceptions and was sacked just five times.

A quarterback at Alabama from 1993-97, Kitchens coached in the college ranks from 1999-2005 as an assistant at Glenville State, LSU, North Texas and Mississippi State.

He broke into the NFL as tight ends coach with the Dallas Cowboys in 2006, and held the same role with the Arizona Cardinals from 2007-12. He served as Arizona’s quarterbacks coach from 2013-16 and as the Cardinals’ running backs coach in 2017.

–Field Level Media

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Fitzgerald pondering return to Cardinals

Fitzgerald pondering return to Cardinals

Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald

Fitzgerald pondering return to Cardinals

Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald said he is undecided if he will retire or will play in 2019, which would be his 16th season in the NFL.

He told ESPN’s Adam Schefter that he intends to take some time to mull the decision.

Fitzgerald committed to playing the 2018 season last February, but it turned out to be a tough year in Arizona. The Cardinals finished the season with an NFL-worst 3-13 record, and head coach Steve Wilks was fired.

New head coach Kliff Kingsbury said last week that he hopes Fitzgerald, 35, will return.

“I’ll leave it to these guys who write the checks,” Kingsbury told reporters. “Like I said, what a great role model, what a great leader to have on your team, and I would be honored and love to work with him. He’s a guy that I’ve admired from afar for a long time, and I think we all hope that he’ll be back.”

The Cardinals took Fitzgerald with the No. 3 overall selection of the 2004 NFL Draft, and he’s put together a Hall of Fame career. An 11-time Pro Bowl selection, he is first among active players in receptions, receiving yards and receiving touchdowns.

On the career list, he ranks second behind Jerry Rice for career yards and is third, trailing Rice and Tony Gonzalez, in career receptions. He would need 23 receptions to pass Gonzalez on the career list.

In 2018, he appeared in all 16 games and caught 69 passes for 734 yards and six touchdowns.

–Field Level Media

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NFL notebook: Monday Night Football coming to playoffs?

NFL notebook: Monday Night Football coming to playoffs?

If the Los Angeles Chargers beat the Kansas

NFL notebook: Monday Night Football coming to playoffs?

If the Los Angeles Chargers beat the Kansas City Chiefs this weekend and the Indianapolis Colts top the New England Patriots, the NFL will have a decision to make.

Will the Chargers be allowed to host the AFC Championship Game at their temporary home, the 30,000-seat Dignity Health Sports Park in suburban Carson, Calif., or will the league move the game to a stadium with larger capacity?

CBS Sports reported Friday that the NFL league office will be discussing contingency plans should the fifth-seeded Chargers and sixth-seeded Colts advance. That would give the Chargers home-field advantage in the championship game.

CBS’ Jason La Canfora reported last month that officials had discussed the potential of moving the game to the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum, home of the Rams. That could still be a Plan B, La Canfora said, but if the Rams host the championship game, as well, both games could not be played on Sunday. Instead, one of the conference championship games could be played on Monday night under that scenario, he said.

–The Miami Dolphins appear set to continue the AFC East’s game of musical chairs, as the team has zeroed in on New England Patriots assistant coach Brian Flores for its head-coaching vacancy, multiple outlets reported.

Flores, 37, joined the Patriots in 2004 as a scouting assistant and has been with the franchise since. This is his third season as New England’s linebackers coach and his first as the defensive play-caller. He assumed those duties after defensive coordinator Matt Patricia left to be the head coach in Detroit last offseason.

Miami fired head coach Adam Gase after three seasons following the end of the regular season. Also on Friday, another AFC East team — the New York Jets — introduced Gase as their new head coach.

–Gary Kubiak apparently will not move from the front office to the field to serve as offensive coordinator for new Denver Broncos coach Vic Fangio, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

“After lengthy discussions, Denver and Kubiak had different ideas on staffing and offensive philosophies,” Schefter tweeted. “Both sides going in different directions.”

NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport tweeted that Denver appears to have turned its attention to Mike Munchak, the Pittsburgh Steelers offensive line coach and former NFL head coach who was a finalist for the head coaching job.

–The man Fangio replaced, former Broncos head coach Vance Joseph, will serve as the Arizona Cardinals defensive coordinator, the team announced.

Joseph, the first significant hire for new head coach Kliff Kingsbury, is expected to transition the Cardinals to a 3-4 defense from the 4-3 defense the team ran last season under then-coach Steve Wilks.

Also on Friday, ESPN reported that former Atlanta Falcons OC Steve Sarkisian was “closing in” on the Cardinals OC position. Sarkisian, 44, was fired after two years in Atlanta that reportedly did not meet the standard set during Kyle Shanahan’s tenure.

–Greg Roman will replace Marty Mornhinweg as offensive coordinator of the Baltimore Ravens.

New general manager Eric DeCosta, introduced Friday in the official changing of the guard with retiring GM Ozzie Newsome, made the announcement. Mornhinweg is expected to be offered another role on the offensive staff, and additional changes are expected.

Roman spent last season as the assistant head coach and tight ends coach in Baltimore but has experience working with run-first quarterbacks, which the Ravens have in Lamar Jackson. He was offensive coordinator of the San Francisco 49ers when the team switched in-season from Alex Smith to Colin Kaepernick. That team lost to the Ravens in the Super Bowl.

–In a technical formality, the Philadelphia Eagles officially declared quarterback Carson Wentz “out” for their Sunday divisional playoff matchup with the New Orleans Saints.

Wentz sustained a stress injury in his back on Dec. 9 against the Dallas Cowboys and has not played since — sitting out the Eagles’ final three regular-season games and their 16-15 wild-card win over the Chicago Bears last weekend.

The team has not placed Wentz on injured reserve, leading to the need to declare him inactive each week.

–Field Level Media

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Kuchar starts strong, grabs Sony Open lead

Kuchar starts strong, grabs Sony Open lead

Kuchar starts strong, grabs Sony Open lead

A hot start to the second round sent Matt Kuchar on his way to a one-shot lead at the midpoint of the Sony Open in Hawaii on Friday.

Starting on the back nine, Kuchar ran off three consecutive birdies and made it four in five holes en route to his second consecutive 7-under-par 63 at Waialae in Honolulu. He sits at 14-under 126 through two rounds, with Andrew Putnam in second at 13 under after a 65 on Friday.

“I think yesterday was a little bit cleaner, but today, I took advantage early,” Kuchar said on the Golf Channel. “The first few holes I don’t necessarily think of as birdie holes, but birdied the first three and just got off to a really good start.”

Kuchar made 116 feet of putts on the day.

“That’s certainly a helpful thing. I love when the putter’s hot,” he said. “I felt good over (the putts). The greens are beautiful. They’re in great shape. They just roll so nice, so it’s good to see some go in.”

His round ended up including six birdies, a bogey and an eagle on the par-5 18th hole, where he sank a 16-foot putt.

In November, Kuchar won the Mayakoba Golf Classic for his eighth career PGA Tour win, and he followed with two more top-20 finishes to end the calendar year. The Sony Open is his 2019 debut.

“I feel in pretty good control of what I’m doing,” he said of his current form. “Not sure a lot’s changed. I just kind of continue to evolve, continue to improve. That’s the goal out here. You never know when wins are going to come. You just hope (you’ll) always get better.”

Putnam had a bogey-free round that featured two birdies on the back nine and then three on the front nine. He concluded with a birdie on the par-5 ninth hole, slicing his deficit behind Kuchar to a single stroke.

Stewart Cink shot 8 under on Friday to leave him tied for third at 10 under with Chez Reavie, who shot 5 under in the second round.

Cink produced eight birdies and a single bogey.

“It was a great day out there. Really all facets of the game were firing,” Cink said on the Golf Channel. “I drove it well, hit a lot of good irons. I rolled in a lot of putts from the range that makes a lot of difference in your score, like 10 to 20 feet. …

“That’s kind of a hallmark of my game over my whole career is I do have a lot of putts in that range because I’m usually one of the better ball-strikers, but when you see ’em going in, the game feels a little easy.”

Ted Potter Jr. (5 under on Friday) and Australia’s Marc Leishman (6 under) are tied for fifth at 9 under. Hudson Swafford and Japan’s Shugo Imahira each had a 3-under second round, and they share seventh place at 8 under.

First-round leader Adam Svensson of Canada stumbled from a 9-under round on Thursday to a 4-over round on Friday. He is tied for 20th at 5 under.

Defending champion Patton Kizzire is also tied for 20th following an up-and-down, 2-under round on Friday. He made the turn at 2 over for the day. Following a birdie, an eagle and then back-to-back bogeys, Kizzire birdied each of his final three holes.

–Field Level Media

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Bears hire Pagano as defensive coordinator

Bears hire Pagano as defensive coordinator

After one year out

Bears hire Pagano as defensive coordinator

After one year out of the NFL coaching ranks, Chuck Pagano was hired Friday as the Chicago Bears’ new defensive coordinator.

The former Indianapolis Colts head coach takes over the role vacated when Vic Fangio was hired this week to be the head coach of the Denver Broncos.

Bears head coach Matt Nagy said in a statement, “We are excited to add Chuck to our staff as defensive coordinator. He has successful experience at many different levels in this league, and he is a great teacher with an aggressive mentality that fits our style of football. He is a man of high character and has a passion for the game that will no doubt add to the culture we have already started building at Halas Hall.”

Multiple media outlets reported that Pagano got the job over Bears defensive backs coach Ed Donatell, who also was interviewed.

Pagano, 58, posted a 53-43 regular-season record with the Colts from 2012-17. He also had a 3-3 playoff mark. Pagano missed most of the 2012 season while undergoing treatment for leukemia.

However, after producing three consecutive 11-5 seasons and three playoff berths at the start of his tenure, Pagano watched his Colts experience a pair of 8-8 years followed by a 4-12 season in 2017 that led to his firing.

Pagano spent last year working as an NFL consultant.

He inherits a Chicago defense that was one of the league’s best this season. Under Fangio, the Bears allowed the fewest points in the NFL, 17.7 per game. They finished third in total defense, allowing 299.7 yards per game, including a league-low 80 rushing yards per game.

The Bears also topped the NFL in takeaways (36) and lowest opponents’ passer rating (72.9).

Pagano’s coaching experience includes stints at the University of Southern California, Miami (Fla.), Boise State, East Carolina, UNLV and North Carolina in the 1980s and 1990s. He broke into the NFL as the Cleveland Browns’ secondary coach from 2001-04, and he was the Oakland Raiders’ defensive backs coach in 2005-06.

Pagano became the Ravens’ secondary coach from 2008-10 before serving as Baltimore’s defensive coordinator in 2011.

–Field Level Media

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Eagles QB Wentz out for Saints matchup

Eagles QB Wentz out for Saints matchup

In a technical formality Friday, the Philadelphia Eagles

Eagles QB Wentz out for Saints matchup

In a technical formality Friday, the Philadelphia Eagles officially declared quarterback Carson Wentz “out” for their Sunday divisional playoff matchup with the New Orleans Saints.

Wentz sustained a stress injury in his back on Dec. 9 against the Dallas Cowboys and has not played since — sitting out the Eagles’ final three regular-season games and their 16-15 wild-card win over the Chicago Bears last weekend.

The team has not placed Wentz on injured reserve, leading to the need to declare him inactive each week.

Nick Foles, who led the Eagles to the Super Bowl title last year as Wentz sat out the playoffs due to a torn anterior cruciate ligament, has thrived in Wentz’s absence again over the past month.

Foles led Philadelphia to wins over the Los Angeles Rams, the Houston Texans and the Washington Redskins to close out the regular season and lift the team into the playoffs at 9-7. He then guided the Eagles on the winning drive Sunday at Chicago, hitting Golden Tate for a 2-yard touchdown with 56 seconds left.

The Eagles hung on for the win when they tipped the Bears’ last-second field goal attempt and the ball hit an upright and the crossbar before bouncing back onto the field of play.

In 11 games this season, Wentz completed 69.6 percent of his passes for 3,074 yards and 21 touchdowns with seven interceptions.

Philadelphia listed six injured players as questionable for the game at New Orleans: defensive end Michael Bennett (foot), wide receiver Shelton Gibson (hamstring), wide receiver Mike Wallace (ankle), linebacker D.J. Alexander (hamstring), left tackle Jason Peters (quadriceps) and cornerback Sidney Jones (hamstring).

–Field Level Media

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Report: Kubiak will not join new Denver staff

Report: Kubiak will not join new Denver staff

Gary

Report: Kubiak will not join new Denver staff

Gary Kubiak apparently will not move from the front office to the field to serve as offensive coordinator for new coach Vic Fangio.

ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported Friday afternoon that Kubiak will not work on Fangio’s staff.

“After lengthy discussions, Denver and Kubiak had different ideas on staffing and offensive philosophies,” Schefter tweeted. “Both sides going in different directions.”

When Fangio was hired Wednesday, it was widely reported that Kubiak, who was head coach when the Broncos won the Super Bowl in 2016, would assume the role. Fangio declined to confirm that at his introductory news conference Thursday.

Kubiak stepped down as Denver coach after the 2016 season, citing health reasons, and was elevated to a personnel role.

NFL Network insider Ian Rapoport tweeted that Denver appears to have turned its attention to Mike Munchak, the Pittsburgh offensive line coach and former NFL head coach who was a finalist for the head coaching job.

“OL coach Mike Munchak is among the best at what he does, and Denver had him in the final 2 for their HC interviews. Possibly adding both Munchak and Vic Fangio would be quite a coup for the #Broncos,” he wrote.

–Field Level Media

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Report: Dolphins zero in on Pats’ Flores for HC

Report: Dolphins zero in on Pats' Flores for HC

The Miami Dolphins appear

Report: Dolphins zero in on Pats’ Flores for HC

The Miami Dolphins appear set to continue the AFC East’s game of musical chairs, as the team has zeroed in on New England assistant Brian Flores for its head-coaching vacancy, multiple outlets reported Friday.

NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport tweeted the Dolphins “have narrowed the focus of their search to #Patriots defensive play-caller Brian Flores as their new head coach. No deal yet, nothing official. But that’s their target.”

But The MMQB’s Albert Breer took it a step further, stating, “The Dolphins are expected to hire Patriots LBs coach Brian Flores as head coach after New England’s season ends.”

Flores, 37, joined the Patriots in 2004 as a scouting assistant and has been with the franchise since. This is his third season as New England’s linebackers coach and his first as the defensive play-caller. He assumed those duties after defensive coordinator Matt Patricia left to be the head coach in Detroit last offseason.

The Patriots (11-5) host the Los Angeles Chargers this Sunday in the divisional round of the AFC playoffs. The Patriots rank 21st in the NFL in yards allowed in the regular season, up from 29th last season. And while the team gave up 29 more points than last season, it still ranked seventh in the league.

Miami fired head coach Adam Gase after three seasons following the end of the regular season. Also on Friday, another AFC East team — the New York Jets — introduced Gase as their new head coach.

–Field Level Media

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