MRI confirms 49ers’ Garoppolo tore ACL

MRI confirms 49ers’ Garoppolo tore ACL

An MRI confirmed San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee on Sunday and is out for the season, the team announced Monday.

Coach Kyle Shanahan told reporters following Sunday’s loss to the Kansas City Chiefs that the team feared Garoppolo had torn his ACL. C.J. Beathard, a 2017 third-round pick who went 1-4 as a starter last season, will be the team’s starter moving forward.

Garoppolo was carted to the locker room after his left knee buckled on a third-and-20 scramble with the 49ers down 14 late in the fourth quarter. He could have stepped out of bounds but instead cut upfield, planting his left leg just before taking a big hit from Chiefs cornerback Steven Nelson.

Garoppolo was 20 of 30 for 251 yards and two touchdowns against the Chiefs when he went down. He also rushed three times for 23 yards. He finishes the 2018 season 53 of 89 for 718 yards, five touchdowns and three picks.

The 49ers made Garoppolo the highest-paid player in the NFL, at the time, when they signed him to a five-year, $137.5 million deal during the offseason. The contract included $74.1 million guaranteed.

In 26 career games (10 starts) with the 49ers and New England Patriots, Garoppolo has thrown for 2,968 yards, 17 touchdowns and eight interceptions. This is the second time he’ll miss games due to injury — he sprained the AC joint in his shoulder in his second career start in 2016 and missed two games.

–Field Level Media

Ravens use schedule as motivator again

Ravens use schedule as motivator again

Baltimore Ravens: Safety Eric Weddle gets to see former

Ravens use schedule as motivator again

Baltimore Ravens: Safety Eric Weddle gets to see former teammate Philip Rivers before Christmas, but he’s not in much of a festive move about the Ravens drawing one of the AFC’s best teams — the Los Angeles Chargers — given the rest disparity. “It’s obviously a disadvantage,” Weddle said of the schedule working against Baltimore, with the Chargers having 10 days between Week 15 and Week 16 games. By comparison, the Ravens enter Saturday’s game on less-than-normal rest. “We’re going to use this as motivation,” Weddle said. “It’s stacked up against us. We’re going to be the underdog. No one is going to think we’re going to win. This just adds to the game. Would we like to have 10 days to prepare for one of the best teams in the league? Of course, but we don’t.”

Cincinnati Bengals: Another key skill position player is likely done for the season. Wide receiver Tyler Boyd has a sprained MCL and needs at least two weeks to recover. With only two games remaining, he’s a candidate for injured reserve, where he would join quarterback Andy Dalton and wide receiver A.J. Green, though head coach Marvin Lewis said no decision has been made yet. Boyd reached his goal of becoming the first Cincinnati wide receiver to reach 1,000 yards in a season not named Green since Chad Johnson did it in 2009. Now, he’s looking at bigger targets to knock down in 2019. “Hopefully I get into the Pro Bowl. I’ve been working my tail off each and every day,” Boyd said.

Cleveland Browns: Interim head coach Gregg Williams said he believes the Browns are shaking the losing culture that has defined the franchise since returning to the NFL in 1999. But he prefers players focus on the next day, instead of the next milestone on the schedule. At 6-7-1, the Browns are still barely alive in the playoff chase. “I would say that our guys understand there is a good young team in there,” Williams said. “We have to continue to focus on week after week after week on don’t look ahead. Do not look ahead. That is when things start to maybe become more distractions that we were just talking about.”

Pittsburgh Steelers: First-round safety Terrell Edmunds and the Steelers kept Tom Brady & Co. without a touchdown in three red-zone opportunities and without a point in two goal-to-go situations on Sunday, which the rookie said was all part of the mindset implanted by the defense early in the week. “It was like a playoff game for us,” Edmunds said. “We just lost three games in a row. We just have to come together as a team, come together on Tuesday, and keep it going.”

–Field Level Media

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Reports: Elway mulled hiring Mike Shanahan last year

Reports: Elway mulled hiring Mike Shanahan last year

Denver

Reports: Elway mulled hiring Mike Shanahan last year

Denver Broncos general manager John Elway considered firing head coach Vance Joseph last January to hire former Super Bowl-winning Broncos coach Mike Shanahan, according to multiple reports on Monday.

The Colorado Springs Gazette reported Elway met with Shanahan — who led the Broncos from 1995 to 2008, winning Super Bowls XXXII and XXXIII with Elway as his quarterback — to discuss the possibility. Per the report, it was also part of the plan to sign free agent quarterback Kirk Cousins, whom Shanahan coached for two seasons with the Washington Redskins.

According to multiple reports, Elway’s idea was not supported by Broncos CEO Joe Ellis, who wanted a full coaching search conducted if the team were to move on from Joseph, who was hired in January of 2017. Elway considered that option before deciding to keep Joseph.

Cousins ultimately signed with the Minnesota Vikings while the Broncos opted for free agent Case Keenum.

Asked Monday about the reports of his near-ouster after last season, Joseph called them “the least of my worries.”

“There have been worse things written about me I’m assuming,” he added. “That’s not my concern.

“… I’m a competitor. But I get it. It’s about winning football games. It’s not my job to hire or fire me. I’m just going to work. As far as that report last year, it didn’t move me at all.”

Joseph appears squarely on the hot seat again, with multiple outlets reporting he is likely to be fired after the season. The Broncos (6-8) will miss the playoffs for the third straight year, and Joseph has gone 11-19 in two seasons leading the team.

Asked if he’s concerned about his future, Joseph replied, “It’s not about me.”

“It’s about my coaches and my players,” he continued. “We have a great staff. It would be tough for me to find a better staff in this league. … Our players each week, they’ve battled, so that’s my only focus and concern. Not my future.”

Denver7 News reports Shanahan is not likely to be a candidate for the head-coaching job in Denver if Joseph is indeed fired this offseason.

The 66-year-old Shanahan has been out of coaching since 2013, and he failed to reach the playoffs in six of his final seven seasons, three with the Broncos and three of four with the Redskins. He has said he would be open to coaching again if the right opportunity presented itself.

The Broncos interviewed Shanahan’s son, Kyle Shanahan, in January of 2017 before hiring Joseph. The San Francisco 49ers made Kyle Shanahan their head coach shortly afterward.

–Field Level Media

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Film Study: How the Steelers finally foiled Brady

Film Study: How the Steelers finally foiled Brady

Film Study: How the Steelers finally foiled Brady

Everybody was waiting for the Pittsburgh Steelers to fail again.

As detailed in our Week 15 preview, Tom Brady, Rob Gronkowski & Company torched Pittsburgh’s defense for 173 points in the last five meetings, all New England Patriots victories.

The task was even tougher Sunday, with Pittsburgh’s offense producing just 17 points. Ben Roethlisberger threw two picks, Chris Boswell missed a chip-shot field goal and a forward-progress ruling nullified a strip and recovery by the Steelers’ D in its own red zone.

No matter.

A glaring question mark coming in, Keith Butler’s defense was outstanding … after its first series, anyway.

New England came out and dictated with tempo, creating confusion and easy yards, and then sprung Chris Hogan for the most wide-open catch (18 yards from the nearest defender, per Next Gen Stats) by any NFL player this season. The 63-yard touchdown came directly from a matchup-zone coverage bust — one of the Steelers’ concerns we detailed in Thursday’s preview — and looked like a harbinger of another big day for Brady.

Instead, that was almost all New England could muster. The Patriots followed with five consecutive punts, a 13-play, 63-yard field-goal drive that required a pass-interference penalty to convert third-and-16, and two red-zone failures that sealed the game.

After watching Brady dice up their zones for years and solve their man coverage late last season, the Steelers struck a perfect balance on Sunday. On early downs, Butler mixed in five-man pressures with matchup zones; in long-yardage situations, he used more traditional zones (dropping eight at times) but often rotated to them from various disguises; and on most third downs, he opted for 2-man coverage with a key wrinkle.

Rather than leaving his two safeties deep, Butler had them sit 10-12 yards off the line and play aggressively downhill. One of the two (usually rookie Terrell Edmunds) bracketed Gronkowski, who was also matched by a man underneath (usually Sean Davis, whom Gronk exploited in single coverage last year). The other high safety was mostly kept free to double-team routes between the numbers.

The approach dared Brady to throw deep and outside, areas he has struggled to attack with age, and limited Gronkowski to two catches for 21 yards. It also routinely forced Brady to his second or third read, which the Steelers’ pass rush made more difficult by pushing the pocket.

Despite getting home for just one sack, rushers repeatedly put bodies (their own, or New England’s blockers) near Brady’s feet, forcing him to reset and drift rather than stepping up on balance. Cameron Heyward, Stephon Tuitt, T.J. Watt combined for seven QB hits, and even 352-pounder Dan McCullers had a pressure. The payoff came with one of the worst interceptions you’ll ever see Brady throw: a hot air balloon off his back foot — as Heyward, Tuitt and Watt converged — on second-and-goal from the 16 midway through the fourth quarter.

The Patriots’ most consistent production came on the ground and off play-action, but game script limited those opportunities. Brady hit Gronkowski and Edelman for a combined 38 yards on back-to-back play-action throws early in the fourth, but New England’s final 15 snaps included 12 straight dropbacks, two runs and one play-action screen as it played catch-up.

Gronkowski’s other grab came when Edmunds played a hair too deep from his 2-high alignment, allowing a key third-and-8 conversion, but Pittsburgh held him to five total targets.

Two of those came in the final three plays, but Gronkowski was actually used as a chip-blocker twice on the final drive — a startling role for the man who had four grabs for 69 yards on the game-winning march last year.

In terms of efficiency, the Steelers weren’t quite as good as 10 points allowed would suggest. New England’s unforced errors included six presnap flags and three or four drops. Pittsburgh also faced just nine drives — it would have been eight if Roethlisberger converted the final third down — as both teams’ rushing success (254 combined yards on 44 carries) shortened the contest. The Pats wound up averaging more yards per play than the Steelers (6.6 to 6.2), with red-zone failures the biggest difference.

Even so, Butler and his unit deserve tremendous credit. Other than an early hiccup, they executed a slew of coverages and disguises with discipline and chemistry. Pass rush aided coverage and vice versa, exactly how you draw it up. And all 11 defenders rallied to the ball like madmen, eating up the screens and quick throws that used to papercut Pittsburgh to death.

Unlike last year, the Steelers have more work to do just to reach January, but if current standings hold, they’ll meet the Patriots again in three weeks. That game would be in Foxborough, but you know what they say: defense travels.

-Colts beat Cowboys with bully ball

The Colts’ win Sunday was no shock, but their methods certainly raised eyebrows.

Indianapolis beat Dallas — riding defense and timely playmaking to a five-game win streak — at its own game. Andrew Luck completed just 16 passes for 192 yards and no scores, but the Colts ran for 178 yards and held the Cowboys to 292 total yards (4.6 per play).

Given his familiarity with his opponent, Colts defensive coordinator (and former Cowboys assistant) Matt Eberflus’ plan was telling. As expected, he favored Cover-3 over Cover-2 to get an extra safety in the box against Ezekiel Elliott, but he also mixed in myriad changeups through blitzes.

Though he rarely rushed more than five, Eberflus sent several defensive backs on blitzes, including some with multiple Dbs. Many came from the slot, but not always — on one third down, outside cornerback Quincy Wilson aligned over the center and rushed the A-gap, an extremely uncommon tactic.

The approach was aimed at speeding up Prescott — whom Eberflus knows well from facing him in practice — mentally while keeping eyes on the mobile QB in zone. Prescott delivered some nice throws, but he let several get away from him, sailing crossers and underthrowing wide-open targets.

Indy’s defensive line gave Dallas’ battered front five fits. Denico Autry, Margus Hunt and 2017 fourth-rounder Grover Stewart fired aggressively off the snap, getting penetration or bench-pressing their man into the backfield. Such aggressiveness creates extra run lanes — Elliott totaled 87 yards on 18 carries — but it also prevents O-linemen from reaching linebackers as easily, keeping stud rookie Darius Leonard and second-year man Anthony Walker clean to make tackles.

The penetration short-circuited many runs, as center Joe Looney (starting for Travis Frederick), right guard Connor Williams (starting for Zack Martin) and left guard Alex Redmond (replacing Xavier Su’a-Filo, who left in the second) reacted too slowly to slants and backside swim moves. Looney failed to reach Hunt on an outside-zone run on perhaps the game’s most critical play, a fourth-and-1 stuff from the Colts’ 3-yard line early in the second quarter.

The D-line also bothered Prescott often with its rush. Outside of intriguing but inconsistent rookie Kemoko Turay — who didn’t play Sunday — the Colts’ front has few rushers reliant on speed or quickness, meaning most are best off going through blockers. That doesn’t always produce sacks (just three Sunday), but it’s better for pushing the pocket, and Prescott was often forced off the spot.

Hunt and Autry (six sacks in his last three games) each put dents in the line, with Autry doing the most damage. Before beating Redmond late for a sack, he forced Looney to drag him down for two holding penalties, including one nullifying a fourth-and-2 conversion in the third quarter. (Autry also blocked Brett Maher’s 48-yard field-goal attempt on the opening drive.)

On the back end, the Colts’ zones were disciplined and cohesive. They held up long enough to create a pair of coverage sacks, including one thwarting a deep play-action design. Leonard showed great awareness for routes and closed quickly to break up two throws to Cole Beasley, tipping one to Walker (who dropped an interception), and knocking another down on fourth-and-1 to open the fourth quarter. Cornerbacks Quincy Wilson and Pierre Desir were steady but not standout — like most of the season — each delivering key break-ups.

While Eberflus’ unit stole the show, the Colts’ offense also ran right through a previously stingy Cowboys D. Marlon Mack led a sustained run game with 139 yards and two scores despite a long of just 21. He broke six tackles, gaining at least 4 yards after contact on 10 carries and at least 6 after contact on seven totes.

Indy’s offensive line won with both scheme and physicality. Frank Reich employed all kinds of runs with misdirection elements — most notably trap, but also split zone, pin-and-pull and some arc releases — and there was a clear emphasis on climbing quickly from double teams to reach the Cowboys’ fast young linebackers.

Center Ryan Kelly, left guard Quenton Nelson and left tackle Anthony Castonzo (often as a puller) landed squarely on Jaylon Smith and Leighton Vander Esch, both of whom have proven adept at slipping blocks. The Colts’ front also handled the Cowboys’ slants and stunts quite smoothly, a testament to their composure and chemistry.

The win was Indianapolis’ seventh in eight games, but this felt different than the others.

We know Andrew Luck is capable of carrying the Colts. If the defense and run game are ready to take turns as well, this team could do serious damage in January (assuming it finds a way in).

-How sustainable is the Vikings’ new offense?

Interim offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski had one heck of a debut as an NFL playcaller.

The newly promoted quarterbacks coach guided Minnesota to touchdowns on its first three possessions and totals of 41 points and 418 yards. More importantly, the Vikings had the balance Mike Zimmer wanted from John DeFilippo, posting season highs with 220 rushing yards on 40 carries (5.5 average).

But it’s far too simple to say everything is fixed.

There’s a reason DeFilippo was hesitant to run it. The Vikings topped 4.0 yards per carry in just three of their first 13 games, mostly due to an offensive line that struggles to clear lanes and sustain blocks. The group had issues last year too (3.9 ypc) and didn’t really replace retired guard Joe Berger. Even with rookie right tackle Brian O’Neill settling in surprisingly well, the unit remains shaky.

The Dolphins’ wildly inconsistent run defense certainly aided Sunday’s efficiency. Starting tackles Akeem Spence and Davon Godchaux were moved almost at will, and notably up-and-down linebackers Kiko Alonso and Raekwon McMillan swung hard in the latter direction, getting sloppy with their run fits and struggling to shed blocks. Likewise, an inordinate amount of production came against very light boxes — sometimes creating 6-on-6 blocking — and via shoddy tackling by Miami’s cornerbacks, factors that can’t be counted on every week.

Dalvin Cook and Latavius Murray ran extremely well, and Stefanski helped them with more use of fullback C.J. Ham (18 snaps, second most this season), adding dimension to run designs. The tight ends and wideouts also blocked well, sealing edges and allowing the backs to bounce.

Perhaps most encouraging from Stefanski’s approach was the overlap between the run and pass game, something DeFilippo’s scheme often lacked. Many of the Vikings’ passes on Sunday came out of run-heavy formations, as Stefanski put Kirk Cousins under center more, used condensed sets and employed motion toward the line to help sell play-action. Cousins, who always thrived off play-action in Washington, responded well, reading the field with definition and delivering accurately from inside and outside the pocket.

The performance wasn’t without hiccups — after Cousins’ pick-six, Minnesota gained just 18 yards total on its next four possessions (excluding the end of the first half) — and there will be bumps moving forward. Stingier run defenses and less favorable game scripts will test Stefanski’s patience. As Zimmer said afterward, “It’s easy (to run it) when you’re getting five and six (yards) a pop.”

Likewise, teams will keep double-teaming wideouts Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs (just six catches for 68 yards combined Sunday) and force someone else to beat them.

Kudos to Stefanski for implementing the changes Zimmer wanted and debuting with flying colors. Now let’s see how defenses respond, and whether or not the issues that previously plagued Minnesota’s offense resurface.

–David DeChant, Field Level Media

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Bears S Jackson avoids serious injury

Bears S Jackson avoids serious injury

Chicago Bears safety

Bears S Jackson avoids serious injury

Chicago Bears safety Eddie Jackson appears to have escaped major injury, head coach Matt Nagy told reporters Monday, after he went down late in Sunday’s win over the Green Bay Packers.

Nagy said Jackson, who sprained his right ankle, and outside linebacker Aaron Lynch, who hurt his elbow, are both having more tests done Monday on their injuries, but Nagy added, “I don’t think either one of them is season ending.”

The Bears clinched the NFC North title on Sunday, but getting a first-round playoff bye for an extra week of rest will require help. The Bears need to win out while the Los Angeles Rams to lose one of their last two games or the New Orleans Saints lose two of their final three.

Jackson was hurt while sliding to the turf after intercepting Aaron Rodgers — ending Rodgers’ NFL-record streak of 402 consecutive pass attempts without an pick — to help seal the victory. Jackson’s ankle bent awkwardly, and he was seen in a walking boot in the locker room after the game.

Jackson, 26, had been questionable for Sunday’s game after missing Friday’s practice with a shin injury.

The second-year man has six interceptions, 15 passes defensed and three defensive touchdowns (two on interception returns, one on a fumble return) this season as a key part of the Bears’ defense. Jackson has eight interceptions and five defensive touchdowns in 30 career games.

Lynch, 25, has been effective as the team’s third edge rusher, posting three sacks and eight QB hits on just 353 snaps (40.4 percent) in 13 games.

–Field Level Media

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Shurmur: Manning still Giants’ starter, has ‘years’ left

Shurmur: Manning still Giants' starter, has 'years' left

The New York Giants

Shurmur: Manning still Giants’ starter, has ‘years’ left

The New York Giants were officially eliminated from postseason contention Sunday, but head coach Pat Shurmur said Monday he will start quarterback Eli Manning again in Week 16 at the Indianapolis Colts.

Shurmur didn’t rule out the possibility of fourth-round rookie Kyle Lauletta seeing more action, but he was clear the Giants won’t just be evaluating talent for the future.

“I think we’re going to try to put the player in that gives us the best chance to win,” Shurmur told reporters. “We’ll see if that involves Kyle. … Eli playing QB I think gives us the best chance to win.”

The coach also indicated the team isn’t in a hurry to move on from Manning, whom Shurmur said he still believes has “years” left as an NFL starter.

Asked if he wants Manning back on the roster in 2019, Shurmur replied, “Yeah. I want all our players to be back. I believe experience matters.”

Lauletta saw brief action in garbage time of a blowout win in Week 14, but he went 0 for 5 with an interception and was not active for Sunday’s shutout loss to the Tennessee Titans. Alex Tanney dressed as the backup instead.

Previous reports have said the Giants planned to give Lauletta and perhaps Tanney a look once the team was eliminated from playoff contention, but Shurmur has been supportive of Manning as his starter throughout the season.

Meanwhile, Shurmur also noted the team won’t shut down wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr., who has missed the last two games with a quad injury.

“Odell is going through treatment and doing everything he can to get back,” Shurmur said. “We’re hopeful he’ll work his way back for this Sunday.”

Beckham was initially hurt late in Week 12 but played through the issue in Week 13 before sitting out the last two weeks. He missed the final 11 games of the 2017 season with a broken ankle.

–Field Level Media

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Chiefs CB Fuller could play despite surgery

Chiefs CB Fuller could play despite surgery

Chiefs CB Fuller could play despite surgery

Kansas City Chiefs coach Andy Reid confirmed Monday that cornerback Kendall Fuller had surgery to repair a wrist injury, but contrary to previous reports, Reid said Fuller may not miss any time at all.

On Friday, NFL Network reported that Fuller, 23, was to undergo surgery and likely miss time with a fractured wrist, an injury he played with Thursday in a one-point loss to the Los Angeles Chargers.

On Monday, Reid said the third-year player could play this Sunday despite the procedure.

“Kendall Fuller did have surgery on his hand,” Reid said. “He’s doing well. This is a short-term thing, so there’s a good chance that he has an opportunity in the game coming up here.”

Reid added that the team will be prepared in the event Fuller could not play against the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday night, specifically noting that rookies Tremon Smith and Charvarius Ward are “making progress.”

“We’ll be okay there if we have to play some other guys there, if (Fuller’s) not there,” Reid said.

Fuller, acquired in an offseason trade with Washington that sent quarterback Alex Smith to the Redskins, has started all 14 games this season and has 70 tackles, two interceptions, 12 passes defensed and a forced fumble for Kansas City.

The Chiefs are 11-3 and currently occupy the top spot in the AFC playoff race. But the Chargers are also 11-3, and any slip-up could drop the Chiefs from the top seed to the No. 5 seed.

After visiting Seattle on Sunday, Kansas City closes the season at home against Oakland.

–Field Level Media

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Chargers TE Henry practices; RB Gordon eyes return

Chargers TE Henry practices; RB Gordon eyes return

Things appear to be trending up for Los

Chargers TE Henry practices; RB Gordon eyes return

Things appear to be trending up for Los Angeles Chargers tight end Hunter Henry and running back Melvin Gordon as they recover from knee injuries.

Henry, who has spent all year on the physically unable to perform list after tearing his ACL on May 22, practiced Monday for the first time since the injury, opening a three-week window in which he can be activated to the 53-man roster.

Henry did some individual drills and worked on the side, though no timeline for his return has been established. Still less than seven months removed from the injury, he appears unlikely to play this season, but perhaps a deep playoff run could give him time to get back on the field.

“You got to think about (the long-term implications),” Henry told reporters. “If I feel good, I’m going to give it my best shot. You don’t get a team like this a lot. I’ve already seen that in just two years of being here, so you have to take advantage of trying to get back out there.”

Meanwhile, Gordon plans to play Saturday against the Baltimore Ravens after missing the last two games with knee sprain. He was limited in practice Monday after coming “very close,” per head coach Anthony Lynn, to playing against the Kansas City Chiefs on Thursday.

“I don’t want to get to the playoffs and be rusty,” Gordon told reporters. “I know Baltimore has a real good defense. It would have been good to hop back and knock some rust off against the Chiefs, but it’s also a challenge to come knock some rust off against one of the best defenses in the league.”

Lynn acknowledged Gordon would probably have played in Kansas City if the game had been on Sunday, and he’ll now have more than a week to prepare for the Ravens.

Backup running back Austin Ekeler is further away, as he remains in concussion protocol after being concussed and bruising a nerve in Week 14.

Wide receiver Keenan Allen, who missed much of Thursday’s win with a hip injury, was limited to individual drills in Monday’s practice.

Despite beating the Chiefs and equaling their record at 11-3, the Chargers need to pick up another game on their rivals in the final two weeks to win the division. L.A. visits Denver in Week 17, while Kansas City visits Seattle this week before hosting Oakland in the finale.

–Field Level Media

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Belichick not worried about Pats’ run D

Belichick not worried about Pats' run D

Buffalo Bills:

Belichick not worried about Pats’ run D

Buffalo Bills: While his team sits at 5-9 and he continues to rely on young players who bring little fanfare, coach Sean McDermott actually believes such reliance is proof his plan is working. “It’s really the type of culture we’re trying to build where I can walk into the team meeting room on Wednesday morning and say, ‘Hey, Player X has earned the right to be brought up to the active roster,'” McDermott said during his Monday news conference, noting he played six undrafted rookies Sunday. “And the players, I think they really get a lot of motivation out of that and take pride in that because they know what type of culture we’re trying to build and that you’ve got to earn things here.”

Miami Dolphins: With veteran Frank Gore likely out the remainder of the season with a foot injury, Dolphins coach Adam Gase has some evaluating to do at running back these last two games. One back likely to get more carries is rookie Kalen Ballage. After rushing for a total of 11 yards in his first nine games, Ballage broke out with 123 yards — including a 75-yard score — against the Vikings. But don’t count Gase among those surprised. “That long run he had, that’s how he runs every day (at practice),” Gase said. “That’s how he finishes every day. … When he gets a carry with the offense, he finishes in the end zone.”

New England Patriots: The Patriots have surrendered at least 150 yards rushing five times this season and are 1-4 in those games. That includes the last two games, both losses. But don’t expect Bill Belichick to place a renewed emphasis on stopping the run as the postseason approaches. “Look, each week you try to defend whatever the offense your opponents do — running game and passing game, situational football, third down, red area and everything else,” Belichick said during his weekly conference call. “So, what you do is a function of what they do, and that’s really more of a week-to-week thing for us. Whatever the league trends are or aren’t, I don’t really know that it matters. … It doesn’t really matter what the whole league does.”

New York Jets: While the Jets on Saturday hit double-digit losses for the third straight season and fourth time in five seasons, this offseason is sure to be different with rookie quarterback Sam Darnold providing the franchise plenty of hope for the future. Coach Todd Bowles may not be around to see Darnold develop beyond this season, but he offered his take on a key to Darnold’s success, and it’s not necessarily his arm. “He got out of the pocket and made some plays. He gave us a chance to try and win the ball game,” Bowles said during a conference call on Sunday. “He’s getting comfortable, he’s making plays with his feet and he’s finding the open areas.”

–Field Level Media

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Seven From Sunday – Week 15

Press Release

Seven From Sunday - Week 15

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

  • The CHICAGO BEARS defeated Green Bay,

Press Release

Seven From Sunday – Week 15

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Titans CB Ryan out for season

Titans CB Ryan out for season

Titans CB Ryan out for season

Tennessee Titans cornerback Logan Ryan is out for the season with a broken leg.

Ryan announced the news himself on Monday morning in a social media post shared across multiple platforms.

“I broke my left fibula and will miss the remainder of the season,” Ryan said. “I poured my heart and soul into this season so it’s unfortunate. However, anyone who knows me knows how relentlessly I will train and come back a better player with few weaknesses. I am proud of how I played, I’m proud of how my team is playing, and I’m proud I was able to walk off the field with a broken leg.”

Ryan, 27, is in his second season in Nashville after four years with the New England Patriots. He posted 76 tackles and 4.0 sacks in 2018.

–Field Level Media

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Dolphins RB Gore likely done for season

Dolphins RB Gore likely done for season

Dolphins RB Gore likely done for season

Miami Dolphins running back Frank Gore is expected to miss the remainder of the season after being carted off the field in Sunday’s loss at the Minnesota Vikings with a sprained foot.

Further tests revealed the extent of the sprain, and ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported Monday that the 35-year-old is not expected to play again this season.

Gore suffered the injury when he was tackled on a run in the first quarter. He was able to make it to the sidelines, but he later was carted to the locker room and left the stadium with a walking boot on his left foot.

Gore has not missed a game since 2010, when he appeared in 11 games for San Francisco.

Coming into the game, Gore had gained 708 yards on the ground this season. Before his departure Sunday, he had run for 14 yards on five carries. If Gore indeed misses the Dolphins’ final two regular season games, he will fall 154 yards short of tying Emmitt Smith’s NFL record of 13 seasons with at least 1,000 yards from scrimmage.

Rookie Kalen Ballage is expected to take the bulk of Gore’s carries in a backfield tandem with Kenyan Drake.

Gore, a Coral Gables native who starred at the University of Miami, is playing his first NFL season in South Florida after signing a one-year, $1.105 million contract during the offseason.

For his career, Gore has 3,382 regular season carries for 14,748 yards and 77 touchdowns on the ground. He also has 455 receptions for 3,796 yards and another 18 scores.

–Field Level Media

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Eagles QB Foles to start vs. Texans

Eagles QB Foles to start vs. Texans

Nick

Eagles QB Foles to start vs. Texans

Nick Foles will make another start for the Philadelphia Eagles after leading an upset of the Los Angeles Rams on Sunday night, coach Doug Pederson announced Monday.

Carson Wentz remains out with a back injury but will not yet be placed on injured reserve, Pederson said of the Eagles’ approach to Week 16 against the Houston Texans.

“It will be Nick,” Pederson told the media during his Monday news conference. “Where Carson is health-wise and just another week of rest for Carson will help him. So we made the decision to go forward with Nick. We will not put Carson on IR.”

Wentz has a fractured vertebra that might require three months of rest to fully heal.

Foles finished 24 of 31 for 270 yards and an interception as the Eagles put up 30 points in a game for just the second time this season.

“After the Cowboys game, (offensive coordinator) Mike Groh and I got together and kind of wanted to condense the plan a little bit for the guys,” Pederson added. “We just kind of wanted to get back to the basics a little bit. We wanted to put together a game plan that would be conducive to anybody (starting). … As we went through the week, we gave Nick every opportunity to comment on the game plan — things he did or didn’t like — just like we would with Carson. He felt comfortable with it. Didn’t have to change much of anything.”

Foles could play his way into a healthy salary bonus and steer the Eagles into the playoffs, which seemed improbable sitting at 6-7 and facing the Rams in prime time less than 24 hours ago.

But Foles got the Eagles another huge win, and at 7-7, could also fatten his wallet.

The Super Bowl MVP’s restructured contract includes a clause that pays him an extra $250,000 for every game in which he plays at least 33 percent of the snaps, and another $250,000 if the Eagles win that game.

–Field Level Media

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Steelers’ Tomlin says he’s confident in K Boswell

Steelers' Tomlin says he's confident in K Boswell

Pittsburgh brought

Steelers’ Tomlin says he’s confident in K Boswell

Pittsburgh brought in two kickers to audition to replace him last week, and he missed a 32-yard field goal on Sunday. But Chris Boswell still has Mike Tomlin’s confidence, the Steelers coach said after his team beat the New England Patriots on Sunday evening.

It helped that Boswell made a 48-yard field goal, just inside the right upright, with 2:30 left in the fourth quarter to extend the Steelers’ lead to 17-10 and force the Patriots into needing a touchdown to even have a shot at tying the game. The Patriots made it to the Pittsburgh 11-yard line before going backward on a penalty and turning the ball over on downs with 14 seconds to play.

“He’s our kicker from start to finish and I liked the way he came back and banged that next opportunity, and that is what this thing [football] is about,” Tomlin told the media in Pittsburgh following the game. “You are going to be tested, we are going to be tested, sometimes you are going to fail but you better pass enough of them.”

Including Sunday’s kicks, Boswell is 11 for 18 on field goals this season, just 61.1 percent. For his career, however, he has made 85.0 percent. Boswell also has missed five extra points in 46 attempts this season.

The kicker missed two costly field goals last Sunday as the Steelers lost to the Raiders in Oakland, a defeat that allowed the Baltimore Ravens to close to within one-half game of Pittsburgh (8-5-1) in the AFC North.

After that loss, the Steelers brought in free agent kickers Kai Forbath and Matt McCrane to, if nothing else, put pressure on Boswell. He did just that in Thursday’s practice.

Tomlin said it was foregone conclusion by Sunday that he was comfortable turning to Boswell.

“I made that decision when I walked into the stadium with him that he was our kicker and I wasn’t going to play that second-guessing game today. We evaluated that process in a very thorough manner. Prior to going into the stadium we had a great deal of comfort with the route that we chose to take.”

–Field Level Media

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Foles again steps in to lead Eagles to win over Rams

Foles again steps in to lead Eagles to win over Rams

Foles again steps in to lead Eagles to win over Rams

Nick Foles knows all about taking over as Philadelphia Eagles quarterback at the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum and guiding his team to a victory.

Starting in place of injured Carson Wentz on Sunday night, Foles threw for 270 yards and a touchdown as the visiting Eagles (7-7) improved their playoff chances with a 30-23 victory over the Los Angeles Rams, who have lost consecutive games for the first time this season.

Wentz was also injured in a December game at Los Angeles last season, with Foles finishing off that victory and then guiding the Eagles to a Super Bowl title.

The Rams (11-3) looked out of sorts for the third consecutive week, ever since their dynamic 54-51 Monday night victory over the Kansas City Chiefs on Nov. 19.

The Rams entered third in the NFL with 32.7 points per game, but they have averaged only 19.7 points while going 1-2 over the last three weeks.

Rams quarterback Jared Goff was 35-of-54 for 339 yards and had two more interceptions Sunday, giving him seven interceptions in consecutive games against the Detroit Lions, Chicago Bears and Eagles.

Wendell Smallwood rushed for two touchdowns and Josh Adams added another on the ground as the Eagles rebounded from an overtime loss at Dallas and have won three of their last four games.

Smallwood had 48 yards on 10 carries, while wide receiver Alshon Jeffery had eight catches for 160 yards.

Rams running back Todd Gurley rushed for two touchdowns, to give him 17 scores on the ground this season and 21 overall.

Goff moved past the 4,000-yard mark this season, becoming just the fourth quarterback in Rams history to do so in a season.

The Rams had one last chance to tie the game, getting the ball back with 1:08 remaining at their own 43-yard line, and advanced to the Eagles’ 18 before Goff threw an incomplete pass toward the end zone as time expired.

The victory moved the Eagles a half game out of the NFC’s final playoff spot.

The Rams continue to have the second-best record in the NFC behind the New Orleans Saints, but they are now just one game ahead of the Chicago Bears. The top two teams earn a first-round bye in the playoffs.

–Field Level Media

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NFL roundup: Steelers knock off Brady, Patriots

 

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Bears 24, Packers 17

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Colts 23, Cowboys 0

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Ravens 20, Buccaneers 12

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

49ers 26, Seahawks 23 (OT)

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Titans 17, Giants 0

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Vikings 41, Dolphins 17

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Redskins 16, Jaguars 13

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Falcons 40, Cardinals 14

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Bills 14, Lions 13

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

Bengals 30, Raiders 16

 

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

 

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

 

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

 

–Field Level Media

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49ers delay Seahawks’ playoff party with OT win

49ers delay Seahawks' playoff party with OT win

49ers delay Seahawks’ playoff party with OT win

Robbie Gould’s fourth field goal of the day, a 36-yard kick with 3:06 remaining in overtime, gave the San Francisco 49ers a 26-23 victory over Seattle in rainy Santa Clara, Calif., on Sunday afternoon, denying the Seahawks an opportunity to clinch a playoff spot.

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

The win was the first for the 49ers (4-10) over their NFC West rival since December of 2013, snapping a nine-game, regular-season losing streak against Seattle.

San Francisco, which surprised Denver 20-14 last week, won its second straight.

Going for a fifth straight win, the Seahawks got the ball first in overtime but were forced to punt after a long pass from Russell Wilson to running back J.D. McKissic was called back for a holding penalty.

Aided by a pass-interference penalty, Nick Mullens drove the 49ers 44 yards in seven plays, with Gould capping his 4-for-4 day with the game-winner.

After the teams traded touchdowns for the first four scores of the game, the final 31:05 of regulation became mostly a field-goal duel between Gould and the Seahawks’ Sebastian Janikowski.

Gould connected from 28 yards in the second quarter, 33 in the third and 45 in the fourth, the final one giving the 49ers a 23-20 lead with 9:51 to go.

Janikowski, who missed a PAT after Seattle’s first touchdown of the game, came through in the slippery conditions for a game-tying field goal from 48 yards with 5:21 remaining in regulation to send the game toward overtime.

Wilson finished 23 for 31 for 237 yards and the two scores to Baldwin, a 5-yarder that opened the scoring in the first period and a 35-yard strike after Seattle had fallen behind 14-6 in the second.

Baldwin wound up with four catches for 77 yards.

Seattle’s Chris Carson, who recorded the only touchdown of the second half on a 1-yard run with 13:51 left in regulation, was the game’s leading rusher with 22 carries for 119 yards.

Mullens went 20 for 29 for 275 yards and one touchdown, a 41-yard score to tight end Garrett Celek in the second quarter.

San Francisco’s Richie James had a 97-yard kickoff return for a touchdown to give the 49ers their first points of the game, directly following Baldwin’s first score.

The Seahawks outgained the 49ers 385-351.

–Field Level Media

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Steelers’ defense stops Brady to clinch win over Patriots

Steelers' defense stops Brady to clinch win over Patriots

Steelers’ defense stops Brady to clinch win over Patriots

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

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

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

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

Pittsburgh opened the game with an 11-play, 75-yard drive capped by Roethlisberger’s third-down 5-yard touchdown pass to McDonald.

The Patriots answered in three plays, the third one Brady’s 63-yard touchdown pass to Hogan, who caught it with no defender within 15 yards of him and easily galloped down the right sideline to make it 7-7 with 6:48 left in the first quarter.

With no runs on an eight-play, 92-yard drive, Roethlisberger guided Pittsburgh to a 14-7 lead early in the second, capped by a 17-yard scoring pass to Brown.

The drive was the first of more than 85 yards allowed by New England this season.

With 8:32 left in the third quarter, Chris Boswell missed a 32-yard field-goal attempt wide right that would have increased the Steelers’ lead to 10 points. It was the 12th missed kick by Boswell this season (seven field goals and five extra points), most in the NFL.

Stephen Gostkowski, conversely, hit his 50th straight field goal inside 40 yards when he hit a 33-yarder with 20 seconds left in the third quarter to pull New England to within 14-10.

The Patriots drove to the Pittsburgh 5 in the fourth quarter after Harmon’s second interception, but a penalty pushed them back to the 15. On third-and-goal from the 16, Joe Haden made a leaping interception of Brady at the 4 with 7:43 left, hauling it in along the sideline between Gronkowski and Julian Edelman.

The Steelers killed 5:13 off the clock by moving 66 yards in 13 plays, and Boswell redeemed himself with a 48-yard field goal to make it 17-10 with 2:30 left.

New England again drove into the red zone, reaching the Steelers’ 11 before a holding penalty moved the ball to the 21. Brady then threw three straight incompletions to end it, with Morgan Burnett sealing it by knocking down a fourth-and-15 throw to Edelman with 14 seconds remaining.

–Field Level Media

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NFL notebook: Flacco expected to change uniforms in 2019

NFL notebook: Flacco expected to change uniforms in 2019

The Baltimore Ravens

NFL notebook: Flacco expected to change uniforms in 2019

The Baltimore Ravens are expected to release or trade quarterback Joe Flacco this offseason, NFL insider Ian Rapoport reported Sunday morning.

Earlier in the week, coach John Harbaugh chose rookie Lamar Jackson, who subbed for an injured Flacco the past four weeks, to start even though Flacco is recovered from the hip injury that sidelined him.

Flacco was the backup quarterback for the first time in his 11-year career when the Ravens beat the visiting Tampa Bay Buccaneers 20-12 on Sunday. On the season, Flacco has completed 61.2 percent of his passes for 2,465 yards with 12 touchdowns and six interceptions.

The Ravens were 4-5 when Flacco was injured. Now, with a 4-1 record under Jackson, they are 8-6 and knocking on the door of a playoff berth.

–The injury Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger suffered in last week’s loss to Oakland apparently was worse than originally thought, but it didn’t keep him from playing in the Steelers’ 17-10 win over visiting New England.

Roethlisberger required a pain-killing injection to deal with a rib injury sustained in the second quarter last week. He returned to the game late in the fourth quarter.

Roethlisberger was 22-of-34 passing for 235 yards and had two touchdowns vs. the Patriots. He was sacked twice. The Steelers snapped a three-game losing streak, and at 8-5-1, hold a slim lead over the 8-6 Baltimore Ravens in the AFC North.

–Miami Dolphins running back Frank Gore suffered a left ankle injury against the Minnesota Vikings and did not return to the game.

Gore, who has not missed a game since 2010, suffered the injury when he was tackled on a run in the first quarter. He was able to make it to the sidelines but later was carted to the locker room.

–Green Bay running back Aaron Jones left the game against Chicago in the first half with a right knee injury and was ruled out shortly after halftime.

Jones left midway through the Packers’ second possession of the game and was seen icing his knee on the sideline.

–Chicago safety Eddie Jackson sprained his right ankle late in the fourth quarter of the Bears’ win over Green Bay, said head coach Matt Nagy, who noted the team will know more in the next 24-48 hours, but it’s unclear if Jackson will miss significant time.

Jackson was hurt while sliding to the turf after intercepting Aaron Rodgers — ending Rodgers’ NFL-record streak of 402 consecutive pass attempts without a pick — with just over three minutes left. Jackson’s ankle bent awkwardly and he was seen in a walking boot in the locker room after the game.

–Among other injuries Sunday: Bengals’ wide receiver Tyler Boyd injured his left knee and did not return in Cincinnati’s win over Oakland; Tennessee safety Kenny Vaccaro suffered a concussion during the Titans’ win over the New York Giants and did not return; and Raiders cornerback Gareon Conley also suffered a concussion vs. Cincinnati and did not return.

–Washington Redskins quarterback Alex Smith is out of the hospital after multiple surgeries to repair his broken right leg.

Smith underwent immediate surgery on Nov. 18 after incurring compound and spiral fractures to his tibia and fibula in the Redskins’ game against Houston and had been hospitalized since.

Head coach Jay Gruden said that Smith did not suffer any ligament damage and would face a recovery of six to eight months. However, reports earlier this month claimed an infection had led to Smith needing further surgeries and could jeopardize his chances of playing again.

–Buffalo Bills running back LeSean McCoy and his backup, Chris Ivory, were both out for the Bills’ 14-13 win over the Detroit Lions.

McCoy hurt his hamstring in last week’s loss to the New York Jets and was listed as questionable entering the weekend. Ivory also was listed as questionable with a shoulder injury but was a full participant in practice all week.

–Former Oakland Raiders general manager Reggie McKenzie, fired last week, has received the seal of approval from the NFL’s career development advisory panel, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported.

That means the panel, comprised of former NFL head coaches and general managers, recommends him as a potential top candidate for any general manager position that comes open.

The panel is part of the league’s effort to make sure minority candidates are given strong consideration for GM and head coaching jobs.

–Chicago left tackle Charles Leno popped the question to his girlfriend, Jennifer Roth, at midfield following a win over Green Bay, which clinched the team’s first AFC North title since 2010. She said yes. Leno told reporters afterward he had intended to propose soon, but the importance of Sunday’s game accelerated his plans.

–Field Level Media

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Cousins shines in Vikings’ 41-17 win over Dolphins

Cousins shines in Vikings' 41-17 win over Dolphins

The

Cousins shines in Vikings’ 41-17 win over Dolphins

The Minnesota Vikings set the tone in the first quarter with a three-touchdown outburst on the way to a 41-17 win over the visiting Miami Dolphins on Sunday.

Quarterback Kirk Cousins threw touchdown passes to Stefon Diggs and Aldrick Robinson, and Dalvin Cook rushed for two scores and Latavius Murray ran for another.

Dan Bailey added two field goals for the Vikings, who tallied 418 yards of offense and broke a two-game losing streak.

Cousins passed for 215 yards, while Cook carried 19 times for a game-high 136 yards.

Minnesota’s defense smothered the Dolphins, holding quarterback Ryan Tannehill to just 108 passing yards and the team to 193 yards of total offense.

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

Miami running back Frank Gore left the game in the first quarter with a foot injury. X-rays were negative, and he did not return.

The Vikings scored on their first three drives against the Dolphins to put the visitors in a quick 21-0 hole.

Cousins tossed a 13-yard pass to Diggs, Cook dashed in on a 13-yard run and Murray scampered in from 18 yards to put the NFC North’s second-place team in great position to keep their playoff hopes alive.

However, Fitzpatrick stepped in to pick off a pass from Cousins, returning the interception 50 yards, and Sanders booted a 25-yard field goal to end the first half with Minnesota up 21-10.

Following a touchback on the second-half kickoff, Ballage, a rookie running back from Arizona State, broke through the right side and outran the Minnesota defense for a 75-yard score to put the Dolphins right back in it at 21-17.

The two teams traded punts on six of the next eight series, with Bailey kicking field goals of 36 and 34 yards to give the Vikings a 27-17 lead early in the fourth quarter.

Cousins gave Minnesota plenty of breathing room when he went over the top of the Miami secondary, finding Robinson on a 40-yard strike for a 34-17 advantage.

Cook’s 21-yard TD run midway through the fourth quarter rounded out the scoring.

–Field Level Media

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Colts hand Cowboys shutout loss

Colts hand Cowboys shutout loss

Marlon Mack rushed 27

Colts hand Cowboys shutout loss

Marlon Mack rushed 27 times for 139 yards and two touchdowns Sunday as the Indianapolis Colts ended the Dallas Cowboys’ five-game winning streak in emphatic fashion with a 23-0 shutout at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.

Adam Vinatieri added three field goals for Indianapolis (8-6), which remains in contention for the AFC’s second wild-card spot. The Colts and Baltimore are tied at 8-6, a half-game ahead of Tennessee, pending the outcome of its game at the New York Giants.

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

Ezekiel Elliott rushed 18 times for 87 yards for Dallas, but quarterback Dak Prescott and wide receiver Amari Cooper were kept in check by Indianapolis’ defense. Cooper caught only four passes on seven targets for 32 yards, while Prescott was 24 of 39 for 206 yards and a late interception.

Mack put the Colts ahead 7-0 with 6:09 left in the first quarter on a 1-yard scoring run, capping a 44-yard, eight-play drive. That came after the Cowboys’ Brett Maher had a 48-yard field goal blocked and recovered by Darius Leonard at the Dallas 44. Leonard’s return for a touchdown was overturned on replay review.

Vinatieri converted a 43-yard field goal with two seconds remaining in the half for a 10-0 halftime advantage. Indianapolis made it 17-0 on the first drive of the second half, Mack rushing 6 yards to cap a 75-yard march at the 11:23 mark of the third quarter.

Vinatieri added 44- and 23-yard field goals to cap the scoring. The Colts’ defense limited Dallas to 292 total yards and notched three sacks of Prescott. The Cowboys also hurt themselves with nine penalties for 74 yards.

Indianapolis quarterback Andrew Luck completed 16 of 27 passes for 192 yards. Wide receiver T.Y. Hilton caught five of those passes for 85 yards.

–Field Level Media

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