No miracle, just mistakes: Saints beat Vikings 30-20

MINNEAPOLIS (AP) — P.J. Williams was having a hard time keeping up with Minnesota’s dominant wide receiver duo, with frequent attacks by the Vikings on the third-year nickel cornerback for New Orleans during long touchdown drives each of their first two possessions.

Williams and the Saints sure enjoyed their revenge.

With assistance on a forced fumble that set up a touchdown late in the second quarter and an interception he returned for a score midway through the third quarter, Williams had quite the eventful night for the Saints in their 30-20 victory over the Vikings on Sunday .

“Part of being a cornerback in the NFL is to be able to bounce back,” Williams said, adding: “It was a little relief, definitely, after giving up a few plays.”

The Saints (6-1) were tied for the second-fewest takeaways in the league entering this rematch of the divisional round playoff game last season that Stefon Diggs won for the Vikings with that stunning last-snap 61-yard catch and run for a touchdown . Though the action was packed with plenty of highlight-reel plays, this one lacked the down-the-stretch tension and that where-were-you moment that immediately went viral like the “Minneapolis Miracle.”

“We felt as if we were in a shootout until the third quarter, and then you felt them break,” Saints defensive end Cameron Jordan said. “At some point, they didn’t want it anymore.”

Adam Thielen was putting together yet another stellar performance for the Vikings (4-3-1), who were on the verge of extending a 13-10 lead when Thielen plunged forward for extra yardage after a short first-down catch. Williams and Alex Anzalone converged and pried the ball loose at the 14, and Marshon Lattimore scooped up the fumble to start a 54-yard return . Two plays later, the Saints were in the end zone to complete the sharp momentum shift.

“You can’t make mistakes against a really good football team,” said Thielen, who had seven receptions for 103 yards and a touchdown.

Diggs, who had his own standout game with 10 catches for 119 yards and a score, was largely responsible for the other crucial gaffe by the Vikings. Though the stat sheet will forever show that Cousins was picked off by Williams, Diggs stopped his drag route too soon while his under-pressure quarterback tried to dump the ball off to where he was counting on Diggs to be. Williams grabbed it instead and raced the other way for a 27-13 lead .

“He just did what he was supposed to do, threw it to the spot,” Diggs said. “Miscommunication, and I take full responsibility.”

Here are some other key developments from the game:

STAYING STRONG

Thielen climbed over the neck of Williams for a tricky third-down catch on the first drive for the Vikings. Diggs beat him with a back-shoulder grab at the goal line and again four plays later on a toe-tap touchdown at the edge of the end zone on fourth down. On the next possession, Williams had a pass interference penalty that set up a short scoring run by Latavius Murray.

The Saints, who were outgained 420-273 in total yardage, were able to keep their confidence and energy high despite the unfavorable start and stay undefeated in four road games this year.

“We knew it was going to be a hard-fought game,” said quarterback Drew Brees, who had only 120 passing yards and threw his first interception after 231 attempts without one but went 18 for 23 to maintain his league-leading 77.4 completion percentage. “The difference was getting some of those turnovers.”

GOING FOR IT

Diggs and Thielen each scored their touchdowns on fourth-and-goal plays from the 1, but in between the fumble and the interception was another pivotal negative play for the Vikings. The fourth-and-1, empty-backfield pass by Cousins from their own 45 on the opening possession of the second half was incomplete when Lattimore knocked the ball out of Laquon Treadwell’s hands. Vikings coach Mike Zimmer and offensive coordinator John DeFilippo decided earlier in the week they’d take an aggressive approach in those situations, with the indefatigable Brees and bold-and-unpredictable coach Sean Payton on the other side.

“I love that they stuck to that plan,” Cousins said.

THIELEN IT

Thielen tied Calvin Johnson’s NFL record of eight straight 100-yard receiving games, set in 2012 with Detroit. He also matched Patrick Jeffers with a fifth consecutive game with 100-plus yards and at least one touchdown, a mark set in 1999 for Carolina.

“I think I’ve said this eight weeks in a row: 100 yards doesn’t mean anything unless you’re winning games,” Thielen said.

DUAL THREAT

Alvin Kamara capped the opening touchdown drive by catching a forward flip from Brees on a jet sweep play with both backup quarterbacks, Teddy Bridgewater and Taysom Hill, lined up as wide receivers. Hill had taken a turn at quarterback earlier and threw a 44-yard pass to Michael Thomas.

Kamara soared into the end zone for a rushing score after Lattimore’s return, aided by a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty on Treadwell. Kamara, who had 20 touches on the team’s 53 offensive plays, has at least one rushing and one receiving touchdown in four different games. That’s the second-most in the first two seasons of a career during the Super Bowl era, behind Edgerrin James and his six such games for Indianapolis in 1999-2000.

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Cowboys shuffling receivers again; pair set for 2018 debuts

FRISCO, Texas (AP) — The Dallas Cowboys are doing more shuffling at receiver as they try to revive one of the NFL's worst passing attacks before a critical game at Philadelphia.

The Cowboys on Friday waived one of their key offseason free agent pickups, receiver Deonte Thompson, while activating Noah Brown off injured

FRISCO, Texas (AP) — The Dallas Cowboys are doing more shuffling at receiver as they try to revive one of the NFL’s worst passing attacks before a critical game at Philadelphia.

The Cowboys on Friday waived one of their key offseason free agent pickups, receiver Deonte Thompson, while activating Noah Brown off injured reserve and promoting Lance Lenoir from the practice squad.

The moves come two weeks after the Cowboys traded their upcoming first-round draft pick to Oakland for receiver Amari Cooper, who was solid and scored a touchdown in his Dallas debut, a 28-14 loss to Tennessee. The Cowboys (3-5) visit the defending Super Bowl champion Eagles (4-4) on Sunday night.

Dallas is 29th in the league in passing and hasn’t been able to compensate for defenses that focus on stopping star running back Ezekiel Elliott.

Brown hasn’t played this season while battling a hamstring injury. He appeared in 13 games last season, with four catches for 33 yards. Lenoir appeared in one game last year.

The Cowboys ruled out four defensive players against the Eagles: linemen Taco Charlton (shoulder) and David Irving (ankle) and linebackers Sean Lee (hamstring) and Joe Thomas (foot). Rookie left guard Connor Williams also was ruled after having arthroscopic knee surgery this week.

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Win streak aside, Brady says Patriots can still do more

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) — Historically, Tom Brady has been hesitant to express satisfaction when it comes to the Patriots' offense.

His approach has remained unchanged this season about a group that only recently has started to find consistency after a 1-2 start. The passing attack particularly has suffered during that time because of

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) — Historically, Tom Brady has been hesitant to express satisfaction when it comes to the Patriots’ offense.

His approach has remained unchanged this season about a group that only recently has started to find consistency after a 1-2 start. The passing attack particularly has suffered during that time because of his lack of cohesion with a new group of receivers.

Brady didn’t eclipse 300 yards passing in any of New England’s first three games, averaging 208 yards through the air with six total touchdowns.

Things have changed during the Patriots’ current six-game win streak, in which Brady has averaged 308 yards per game and thrown 11 TDs.

It’s progress, Brady said, but what he hopes is only a glimpse at where they can be as the Patriots prepare for Sunday’s matchup at Tennessee.

“I don’t think we’re there. Certainly not. I think we need some more time together,” he said Friday. “We need to be kind of battle-tested in these games.”

While Brady credits the entire offense’s dedication in the film room and its attention to detail in game plans, the acquisition of receiver Josh Gordon in Week 3 and return of Julian Edelman after missing last season with a torn right ACL have been big factors.

Gordon has shown a different facet of his athleticism each week. He posted his best game in a Patriots uniform in last week’s win over the Packers, finishing with five catches for 130 yards and a touchdown. The score came on a 55-yard catch-and-run that gave New England some needed distance on the scoreboard in the fourth quarter. It was his second 55-yard catch this season.

In six games with New England, Gordon has 22 catches for 396 yards and two TDs.

Likewise, Edelman has started to look like the go-to target Brady has depended on in recent years. He followed his first 100-yard receiving game of the season at Buffalo in Week 8 with six catches for 71 yards against Green Bay.

“I think his mental and physical toughness are just unmatched in a lot of ways,” Brady said of Edelman. “I have so much confidence in him. He really does all the dirty work for us, you know? He’s so scrappy and goes in there and blocks hard, catches balls over the middle. We put him in a lot of different positions and he always seems to come through for us.”

In the aftermath of his trade Gordon said he had no doubt he was going to take advantage of the opportunity with the Patriots following a tumultuous tenure with the Browns that included his receiving treatment for drug and alcohol dependence, and several suspensions.

He has flourished in New England’s strict environment, which he called comfortable and “a real home.” He’s also benefited from building a quick rapport with Brady.

“It’s great that he has a certain amount of trust in me to put it in my direction,” Gordon said. “And, I just want to come down and make a play on it.”

Brady said Gordon, who debuted in the Week 4 win over Miami, has exceeded expectations.

“I think he’s done really everything the coaches have asked him to do. Here early, stays late, always getting extra reps at practice, takes as many reps as he can, and it’s been fun to see,” he said.

It’s all helped mask a drop-off in production this season by tight end Rob Gronkowski, who has missed two of the last three games with ankle and back injuries. He has 29 catches for 448 yards, but has only one TD on the season.

Gronk is officially listed as questionable for Sunday after being limited in practice all week. He declined to say if he thought he was physically ready to play, adding the decision of whether he traveled to Nashville or suited up was not his own.

“It’s up to the coaches,” he said.

Whatever personnel Brady has available to him, he is adamant that there’s still another level for this offense to reach before season’s end.

“Things that we do well we’re going to keep building on, and things that we’re not doing well, you try them maybe a different year or different players,” he said. “We’re still trying to figure those things out.”

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Saints’ Dez Bryant hurt, calls injury the ‘ultimate test’

METAIRIE, La. (AP) — Dez Bryant has been injured in just his second practice with New Orleans Saints and the newly acquired receiver has indicated in social media posts that he has had a significant setback.

The team's injury report on Friday has listed Bryant as questionable for Sunday's game in Cincinnati with

METAIRIE, La. (AP) — Dez Bryant has been injured in just his second practice with New Orleans Saints and the newly acquired receiver has indicated in social media posts that he has had a significant setback.

The team’s injury report on Friday has listed Bryant as questionable for Sunday’s game in Cincinnati with an ankle injury, but a person familiar with the situation says the team is still awaiting the results of a doctor’s examination of Bryant.

The person spoke to The Associated Press Friday on condition of anonymity because the team has not announced any details of Bryant’s medical exam.

Bryant has indicated on social media that the injury will be challenging to overcome, writing on his verified Twitter account, “Things was just starting to heat up for me … I won’t question the man upstairs … this is the ultimate test.. thank you everyone for the prayers.”

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Bears get Khalil Mack back for game with Lions

LAKE FOREST, Ill. (AP) — Khalil Mack will save some secrets for the Detroit Lions on Sunday at Soldier Field.

Asked if he would be 100 percent healthy or hindered by the sprained right ankle he suffered Oct. 14, the Chicago Bears' pass rusher smiled on Friday, but hedged.

"You want me to

LAKE FOREST, Ill. (AP) — Khalil Mack will save some secrets for the Detroit Lions on Sunday at Soldier Field.

Asked if he would be 100 percent healthy or hindered by the sprained right ankle he suffered Oct. 14, the Chicago Bears’ pass rusher smiled on Friday, but hedged.

“You want me to give up everything?” Mack said. “When I get there, I’m going to try to be myself.”

If that means 100 percent healthy, it could be a problem for Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford — especially after the Lions (3-5) gave up 10 sacks to the Minnesota Vikings last week.

Mack has been out two weeks but practiced Friday to complete three straight days of full work. He is not listed on Chicago’s injury report and is expected to play.

Also expected to play is wide receiver Allen Robinson (groin), who was dropped from the injury list after completing Friday’s practice.

“They’re doing good right now and I like what I see,” Bears coach Matt Nagy said. “So we’ve just got to continue to keep it in that direction. And if we do, then come game time, we’ll be able to make a decision and feel good one way or the other.”

Mack had five sacks in the first four games, then tried playing through the injury in two games before sitting and seeing his streak of 70 straight games come to an end.

“We know what we’ve got here and just understanding the situation, it was better for the team,” Mack said. “So I bit my tongue and sat back and listened instead of trying to do too much in the situation.

“We got two wins and trying to make it three.”

The victories made sitting somewhat easier to accept, but Mack did want to be a part of them.

“It was real tough for me, knowing the type of person that I am,” Mack said. “But even then I’m excited to get out there this week.”

The Bears (5-3) continued to play effective defense without Mack, who came over in a trade with Oakland just before the start of the season. They rank fifth overall and third against the run.

“I’m excited to come here and play with these guys, knowing that they have the talent that they have,” Mack said. “Even without me, it’s a hell of a thing.

“I’m excited to be a part of the party this week and get ready for Detroit.”

Nagy likes how the team handled getting past the injuries to Mack and Robinson. Aaron Lynch moved into the lineup in place of Mack, while Taylor Gabriel and Anthony Miller stepped up as targets for Mitchell Trubisky.

“I think one of the things, you always want to have a contingency plan in case,” Nagy said. “We’ve had a couple guys this year where we’ve had to deal with backups in certain cases, and I think our guys have done well. Having depth, that’s important for any team in this league to be able to feel good with that going into it.”

NOTES: Bears wide receiver Taylor Gabriel (knee) practiced Friday for the second straight day and is off the injury list, as well. Defensive end Bilal Nichols was limited in Friday’s practice and goes in Sunday as questionable. … The other personnel matter to be decided at game time for the Bears is whether to activate tight end Adam Shaheen from injured reserve after he went out in the preseason with a foot injury.

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Take 5; Steelers get a break after drilling Panthers

PITTSBURGH (AP) — Ben Roethlisberger was still in the process of picking himself up off the Heinz Field turf when the scrum started, one that sent a message that at the moment it might be unwise to mess with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey and right guard David DeCastro were not

PITTSBURGH (AP) — Ben Roethlisberger was still in the process of picking himself up off the Heinz Field turf when the scrum started, one that sent a message that at the moment it might be unwise to mess with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

Steelers center Maurkice Pouncey and right guard David DeCastro were not particularly pleased with how Carolina safety Eric Reid launched himself at Pittsburgh’s franchise quarterback as Roethlisberger finished off an 18-yard scramble during the third quarter of a 52-21 dismantling of the Panthers on Thursday night.

Together the two perennial Pro Bowlers — a combined 630 pounds give or take a meal — let Reid and a handful of his teammates know they didn’t appreciate Reid’s approach to his job. What followed was 30 seconds of flexing, grabbing and shoving before Reid was ejected for targeting.

“You’ve got to be there for your guy,” DeCastro said. “Just trying to stand up for him and show him we’ve got his back.”

As the Steelers made their way back to the huddle, Roethlisberger gave his linemen peace of mind should the NFL decide to hit their wallets after sticking up for him.

“Ben came up after and said, ‘If any fine gets handed out, I’ll handle that,'” Pouncey said with a laugh.

Pouncey, in the fourth year of a five-year contract that will pay him $44 million, can certainly afford to write the check. He believes the fact he won’t have to if it comes to that says a lot about Roethlisberger — and a lot about the current climate within the Pittsburgh locker room.

“It’s cool man,” Pouncey said. “I appreciate all the guys repping like that.”

Those guys have found their identity over the last five weeks. Pittsburgh (6-2-1) set a record for the most points by an NFL team in the 17-year history of Heinz Field while rolling to a fifth straight victory. The reward? Five days off to rest up before starting a daunting final stretch that begins on Nov. 18 in Jacksonville in a playoff rematch that saw the Jaguars stun Pittsburgh at home in January.

“Last year is last year,” Steelers cornerback Mike Hilton said. “We’re a different team just like they’re a different team.”

If anything, Pittsburgh looks much better than while getting pushed around by Leonard Fournette and Blake Bortles in a confidence-shaking 45-42 setback that led to an exodus in both the secondary and portions of the coaching staff.

Randy Fichtner took over for Todd Haley as offensive coordinator and, even with star running back Le’Veon Bell sitting out due to concerns with his one-year contract, has put together an attack that looks as dynamic and varied as anything in the league.

James Conner, Bell’s replacement, already has 11 touchdowns through nine games, as many as Bell has scored in any full season. Roethlisberger spread the ball all over the place on a night he finished with more scoring passes (five) than incompletions (three).

“We’ve got a lot of weapons on this team and Ben showed it tonight getting the ball to all of them,” DeCastro said.

Roethlisberger’s only complaint is that Fichtner may get a little too loud in the headset because he’s so pumped up about the next play call.

Pittsburgh’s defense kept Carolina’s Cam Newton under wraps, sacking him five times while limiting the Panthers to 242 yards, the fourth straight game an opponent has finished with 275 yards or less. Save for a couple of early communication breakdowns that allowed Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey to get loose, the Steelers kept things tight.

“I don’t think it’s a come-to-Jesus moment where something miraculously just happened,” defensive tackle Cam Heyward said. “I think everybody got back to work. It showed on the practice field and it showed ever since. This is a big win, but it’s not like we don’t have games after this. We’ll enjoy it for tonight and enjoy it for the weekend, but when we get back in we have to get back to work.”

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Chiefs could get Houston, Sorensen on field vs Cardinals

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Chiefs could be getting some much-needed help for their ailing, leaky defense when linebacker Justin Houston and safety Daniel Sorensen are expected to play against the Arizona Cardinals.

Houston has missed four straight games after hurting his hamstring, while Sorensen was added to the active roster this

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Chiefs could be getting some much-needed help for their ailing, leaky defense when linebacker Justin Houston and safety Daniel Sorensen are expected to play against the Arizona Cardinals.

Houston has missed four straight games after hurting his hamstring, while Sorensen was added to the active roster this week after landing on injured reserve in training camp with a broken leg.

Wide receiver Sammy Watkins practiced Friday for the first time this week after dealing with a foot injury, while Cam Erving was back on the field after dealing with an illness.

Those four were listed as questionable on the final injury report, along with Anthony Hitchens, who has bruised ribs, and fellow linebacker Frank Zombo, who has a hamstring injury.

Safety Eric Berry is doubtful with a heel injury. Center Mitch Morse remains out with a concussion.

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Rivera tells Panthers to get away from football after loss

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Panthers coach Ron Rivera wants his players to get away from football, just for a little while.

A day after a humiliating 52-21 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers, Carolina's eighth-year coach said it may just be what the Panthers need.

"Sometimes the best medicine is to forget about it

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Panthers coach Ron Rivera wants his players to get away from football, just for a little while.

A day after a humiliating 52-21 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers, Carolina’s eighth-year coach said it may just be what the Panthers need.

“Sometimes the best medicine is to forget about it and then come back ready to roll,” Rivera said Friday, adding that they should focus on something other than football.

That advice doesn’t apply to Rivera and his coaching staff.

Rivera said coaches will spend the next few days pouring over game film, looking for solutions and making adjustments, particularly on the offensive and defensive lines where the Panthers were overwhelmed by the Steelers in the road loss. The coach wouldn’t say if he’s considering any changes to the starting lineup.

Quarterback Cam Newton was sacked five times and threw a crucial pick-six out of desperation to avoid taking a safety in the end zone, while the defense never was able to stop Ben Roethlisberger, who turned in a perfect QB rating (158.3) after throwing for 328 yards and five touchdowns. The 52 points allowed tied the most in franchise history.

The Panthers (6-3) are still in good shape in the NFC playoff picture, but Rivera expressed concern knowing the NFL is a copycat league and upcoming opponents will look to simulate what the Steelers did against them.

“It is a beg, borrow and steal league,” Rivera said. “Guys are going to look at this tape and see what (the Steelers) did and have answers. We as coaches, as I said, are not done evaluating tape and going through it and trying to correct things.”

Pittsburgh’s defense brought more pass rushers than the Panthers were able to block, often resulting in 5-foot-11, 210-pound running back Christian McCaffrey desperately trying to pick up linemen who outweighed him by almost 100 pounds. That didn’t go well.

Rivera said the Steelers defense threw some new looks at Carolina’s revamped offensive line and the guys up front didn’t recognize or adjust to them.

“Sometimes you see things for the first time, things that they do a little differently, with a little twist to them, it makes things difficult,” Rivera said. “We have to be able to handle those things. We have to stick to our rules, our base fundamentals.”

Meanwhile, Carolina’s defense failed to generate much of any pressure on Roethlisberger. There were times he danced around in the pocket untouched for nearly 10 seconds.

Rivera said that has to change.

He plans to continue to rotate defensive linemen in and out of the lineup “until we find something that clicks on the pass rush side.”

Carolina’s stadium was noticeably quiet and somber on a dark, gray afternoon.

After what he called a “very humbling experience to be beat the way we were,” Rivera still gave players four days off — as previously planned before the game — beginning Friday. They’ll return to practice Tuesday to begin preparations for the Nov. 18 game at Detroit.

For some, that wasn’t by choice.

Tight end Greg Olsen said after the game Thursday night that he wishes the Panthers had a four-day week this week and he could get back on the field to wash this loss out of their mouths instead of waiting 10 days for the next game.

“We just got thoroughly beaten in a game that we were looking forward to, a game that we thought we could really measure ourselves against one of the better teams in the league,” Olsen said. “We got that answer. We got a lot of work to do.”

NOTES: Rivera said he plans to ask the league for a clarification on why safety Eric Reid was ejected Thursday night after hitting a sliding Roethlisberger on a downfield scramble. Rivera said he agreed Reid should have been penalized, but felt he shouldn’t have been kicked out of the game.

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Jaguars’ Fournette ‘completely healthy,’ will play at Colts

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) — Jacksonville Jaguars running back Leonard Fournette is good to go for Sunday's game at Indianapolis.

Fournette practiced without any limitations or setbacks all week, prompting coach Doug Marrone to declare him "completely healthy" for the first time since Week 4.

The fourth overall pick in the 2017 NFL draft

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) — Jacksonville Jaguars running back Leonard Fournette is good to go for Sunday’s game at Indianapolis.

Fournette practiced without any limitations or setbacks all week, prompting coach Doug Marrone to declare him “completely healthy” for the first time since Week 4.

The fourth overall pick in the 2017 NFL draft missed the last four games and six of eight this season because of a strained right hamstring.

Marrone says “so far, no issues. He’s done everything we’ve asked him to do. No setbacks, no really nothing. Right now, he’s completely healthy. Today, at this time.”

Fournette has 20 carries for 71 yards with no touchdowns. He ran for 1,040 yards and nine touchdowns in 13 games in 2017.

The Jaguars (3-5) will be without starting cornerback A.J. Bouye (calf) and backup cornerback Quenton Meeks (knee).

Linebacker Telvin Smith (shoulder) is questionable.

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3 Dolphins offensive linemen questionable for Green Bay

DAVIE, Fla. (AP) — The Miami Dolphins could be without three injured starting offensive linemen Sunday at Green Bay.

Guard Ted Larsen (neck) is doubtful, and left tackle Laremy Tunsil (knee and ankle) and right tackle Ja'Wuan James (knee) are questionable. All three were limited in practice Friday, as they have been all week.

Defensive

DAVIE, Fla. (AP) — The Miami Dolphins could be without three injured starting offensive linemen Sunday at Green Bay.

Guard Ted Larsen (neck) is doubtful, and left tackle Laremy Tunsil (knee and ankle) and right tackle Ja’Wuan James (knee) are questionable. All three were limited in practice Friday, as they have been all week.

Defensive end Charles Harris (calf) was ruled out for the fourth game in a row. Linebacker Kiko Alonso (ankle) was added to the injury report after missing practice and is listed as questionable.

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Rams cancel practice for fire; 20 players, coaches evacuate

LOS ANGELES (AP) — The Los Angeles Rams have canceled practice after a wildfire forced about 20 players and coaches to evacuate their homes.

The Rams will cram their normal Friday preparations into a workout at the University of Southern California on Saturday before they face the Seattle Seahawks at the Coliseum on

LOS ANGELES (AP) — The Los Angeles Rams have canceled practice after a wildfire forced about 20 players and coaches to evacuate their homes.

The Rams will cram their normal Friday preparations into a workout at the University of Southern California on Saturday before they face the Seattle Seahawks at the Coliseum on Sunday.

Just one day after the Rams were stunned by a mass shooting less than five miles from their training complex in Thousand Oaks, they were affected by two wildfires burning in Ventura and Los Angeles counties.

About 45 Rams employees were evacuated, although coach Sean McVay doesn’t believe any homes have been lost. Those forced to leave their homes Friday included defensive coordinator Wade Phillips and defensive line coach Bill Johnson.

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Byard fined for Monday’s ‘star’ celebration

Byard fined for Monday's 'star' celebration

Byard fined for Monday’s ‘star’ celebration

The NFL fined Tennessee Titans safety Kevin Byard $10,026 for his dancing and stomping on the Dallas Cowboys’ midfield star, ESPN reported Friday.

Byard’s celebration occurred after he intercepted a pass during Monday night’s 28-14 victory over the Cowboys.

Byard raced from the end zone to midfield after the first-quarter play. Several of his teammates joined him.

“I made the play, and I ran straight to the 50-yard line,” Byard told reporters after the game. “It was kind of off the wall a little bit.”

Titans coach Mike Vrabel wasn’t so thrilled with Byard’s antics. He strongly rebuked his actions.

“I’m not [happy], and I won’t be,” Vrabel told reporters on Tuesday. “That’s not what we want as an organization, and that’s not what I want as a head coach. I want our guys to play as hard as they possibly can for each other, between the whistle, and as physical and aggressive and as clean as they possibly can.”

Vrabel discussed the matter with Byard after Monday’s game and again the following day.

“Some people loved it, some didn’t, but the main thing is the head coach didn’t like it, and that’s the most important thing,” Byard told reporters on Wednesday. “I am more concerned with the trust and the way my head coach and my teammates view me. Those guys know that I am not a selfish person.

“I understand that act looked selfish and that’s why we had a talk about that,” Byard said. “I don’t want to be in the doghouse, or end up in the doghouse over a celebration.”

The Titans host the New England Patriots on Sunday.

–Field Level Media

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Jaguars RB Fournette expected to play vs. Colts

Jaguars RB Fournette expected to play vs. Colts

Jacksonville

Jaguars RB Fournette expected to play vs. Colts

Jacksonville Jaguars running back Leonard Fournette was cleared to return Sunday against the Indianapolis Colts, according to a Florida Times-Union report.

Fournette was given the green light for his first game action in six weeks after making it through a full week of practice with no setbacks to his chronic hamstring injury. He was not listed on the team’s injury report for Sunday’s game.

Quarterback Blake Bortles (left shoulder) also participated in practice and is cleared to play.

Fournette has not played since Week 4 because of the injury and appeared in only two games this season, rushing for 71 yards on 20 carries. After aggravating the injury on multiple occasions, he has remained out as the team tries to avoid any future setbacks.

Fournette participated in individual drills Monday as the team exited its bye week, then in his first full session on Wednesday. He was a full participant each of the last three days.

The Jaguars (3-5), who are on a four-game losing streak, return to action Sunday against the Colts (3-5) in Indianapolis.

Cornerbacks Quentin Meeks (knee) and A.J. Bouye (calf) were both ruled out of Sunday’s game.

Jacksonville traded for Carlos Hyde while Fournette was out and also has T.J. Yeldon available in the backfield. Yeldon leads the team with 334 rushing yards on 81 carries.

–Field Level Media

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Bills rule out QB Anderson vs. Jets

Bills rule out QB Anderson vs. Jets

Bills rule out QB Anderson vs. Jets

The Buffalo Bills have ruled out veteran backup quarterback Derek Anderson for Sunday’s game against the New York Jets as he remains in the concussion protocol.

Anderson was concussed late in a Week 8 loss to the New England Patriots and has yet to return to practice.

Bills first-round draft pick Josh Allen practiced in a limited capacity this week as he returns from an elbow injury, but the team has yet to reveal whether he, Nathan Peterman or Matt Barkley would start on Sunday.

Head coach Sean McDermott said on Wednesday the rookie quarterback has had no setbacks and “has done a good job so far.” Allen told reporters he has felt good while throwing for the first time in weeks.

McDermott admitted the team’s Week 11 bye will be a consideration in deciding when Allen will return to the starting lineup. If Allen misses his fourth straight game on Sunday, he would have two extra weeks to get healthy before a Week 12 game against the Jacksonville Jaguars.

With Anderson out last week, Peterman made his second start of the season and threw three interceptions, bringing his career total to 12 picks on 130 attempts. Peterman finished 31 of 49 for 189 yards, the lowest yardage total with at least 30 completions in a game in NFL history.

Tight end Charles Clay (hamstring) and defensive end Trent Murphy (knee) were also ruled out on Friday.

–Field Level Media

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Jets’ Darnold doubtful vs. Bills, unlikely to back up McCown

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (AP) — New York Jets quarterback Sam Darnold is listed as doubtful for the team's game against Buffalo, making it unlikely he will serve as Josh McCown's backup.

Darnold did not practice all week after straining his right foot last Sunday in the Jets' 13-6 loss at Miami. He wore

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. (AP) — New York Jets quarterback Sam Darnold is listed as doubtful for the team’s game against Buffalo, making it unlikely he will serve as Josh McCown’s backup.

Darnold did not practice all week after straining his right foot last Sunday in the Jets’ 13-6 loss at Miami. He wore a boot on his foot and watched from the side during practice.

Davis Webb is likely to be signed from the practice squad to the active roster to provide insurance for the 39-year-old McCown, who will make his first start of the season.

McCown will likely be without one of his key receivers, though, with Robby Anderson doubtful to play after not practicing all week with an ankle injury.

Tight end Neal Sterling (concussion) is out, center Spencer Long (knee/finger) is doubtful and nose tackle Steve McLendon (ankle) is questionable.

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Bears raise more than $800,000 in social justice donations

The Bears and their players raised $813,850 in social justice donations, with matching grants.

With money donated primarily by players, and matched by the team and the NFL Foundation, five recipients will benefit.

By the Hand Club for Kids; Kicks 4 the City; SAGA; YWCA Lake County; and My Block, My Hood, My

The Bears and their players raised $813,850 in social justice donations, with matching grants.

With money donated primarily by players, and matched by the team and the NFL Foundation, five recipients will benefit.

By the Hand Club for Kids; Kicks 4 the City; SAGA; YWCA Lake County; and My Block, My Hood, My City will each receive separate donations.

The players collectively donated $291,600. Coaches and front office executives contributed $19,550. The Bears will match the total donation of $311,150, along with additional matching grants from Bears Care and the NFL Foundation.

“We are beyond excited to come together as a team and organization to take advantage of the opportunity the NFL has provided and announce these donations,” linebacker and players’ union representative Sam Acho says. “Together, we can empower our communities and help them better educate our youth both in the classroom and beyond, while also strengthening relationships with the police.”

In March, the NFL announced that each club would match player contributions up to $250,000 annually to establish a fund to support community improvement, social justice and law enforcement relationships. Bears players were the first team to collectively commit to donating more than $250,000 to social justice initiatives.

The players formed a social justice committee consisting of Acho, tight end Trey Burton, defensive lineman Akiem Hicks, quarterbacks Chase Daniel and Mitchell Trubisky, and four front office staff members. But more than 40 players have been involved and provided donations.

EXPECTING TWINS

Saints veteran tight end Ben Watson was resting easy this week knowing he wouldn’t be fined $10,000 for celebrating a touchdown against the Rams last Sunday by telling the world he and his wife, Kristen, are expecting twins.

When Watson scored, he stuffed the football under the front of his jersey, and then at first held up five fingers on one hand as he often does to honor his five children, after which held up two more fingers on his other hand in honor of the twins on the way.

Watson, 37, said he similarly stuffed the ball under his jersey after scoring in 2009, when Kristen was close to full term with their first child, Grace. Soon after, he was fined for using the ball as a prop.

“So the cool thing is I will be able to say (to his twins) that, ‘When I did it for Grace, I had to pay. When I did it for you all, the league had changed,'” Watson said. “What a difference nine years make.”

But only so much of a difference. That same game, Watson’s second-quarter celebration was upstaged by receiver Mike Thomas pulling a cell phone out of the goal post padding after his fourth-quarter score. He used a flip phone like that used in a similar celebration by former Saints receiver Joe Horn. Thomas was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct.

“Where did he get a flip phone?” Watson said. “I said (to Thomas), ‘Do you even know who Joe Horn is? You must have been in elementary school back then.’ But that was pretty good. I’ve got to give him props on that one.”

Meanwhile, Watson said it looked like his celebration inadvertently caused his wife, a Baton Rouge native, to miss much of the game.

“I’m looking up at her and she’s just got her head down the whole time because people were just blasting her with text messages and she was trying to respond,” Watson said.

Watson, who is active on social media, said he also was surprised by the volume of responses from fans.

“We didn’t expect so many people to, I guess, notice,” Watson said. “It was pretty public. It was. But I’m thinking, I’m looking at her. It’s a shout-out to her. … I guess it just means that people love babies, man. People love babies.”

TOUCHDOWN TODD

Rams running back Todd Gurley, last year’s Offensive Player of the Year, leads the NFL with 16 touchdowns. the fourth-year pro has scored at least one touchdown in each of the Rams’ nine games this season.

With a touchdown against Seattle on Sunday, Gurley would join Pro Football Hall of Famers O.J. Simpson (1975), Lenny Moore (1964) and Elroy “Crazy Legs” Hirsch (1951) as the only players to score a touchdown in each of their team’s first 10 games of a season.

Simpson and Moore had at least one touchdown in each of their team’s 14 games during their respective record seasons.

FLIPPING PERFECT

Chiefs coach Andy Reid has sent his captains to midfield before kickoff nine times this season, and nine times they have trotted back to the sideline having won the coin toss.

The absurd streak, which trails the Lions’ NFL record of 14 straight coin-flip wins during the 2004-05 season, has become a running sidebar in the Chiefs’ locker room. Nobody talks about it, much like a pitcher in the midst of a no-hitter, lest the streak come to a crashing end.

“I don’t want that pressure on me, for sure,” quarterback Patrick Mahomes says. “I joke about it, it’s one of the most nervous parts of the game for me. Everyone knows the coin-toss thing is going.”

The Chiefs have called heads in each of their first four away games and won, and their opponents called tails in their first two home games and lost. The Chiefs also won the flip the last three weeks against the Bengals, Broncos and Browns and elected to defer each time.

“It’s ridiculous,” Reid said, “but on the other hand, if one goes the other way you have to be ready to go. You can’t have a letdown or something with the coin toss.

“We get a kick out of the thing going on,” Reid added, “but you have to be ready to roll.”

DAD’S LEGACY

Six-year veteran Kenny Stills will play at Lambeau Field for the first time Sunday when the Miami Dolphins visit Green Bay, but his family has a history there.

Stills’ father, Ken, played for the Packers in 1985-89.

“If you go on YouTube, there’s a video of him kind of cheap-shoting somebody after the play — the Bears-Packers rivalry,” Kenny Stills said.

The video from Lambeau shows flags flying when Stills hit blocker Matt Suhey after the whistle. The elder Stills will be at the game Sunday with divided loyalties.

“There are no hard feelings there,” the younger Stills said. “I definitely think he’s rooting for the Dolphins. Maybe he’ll have a split jersey — half Dolphins, half Packers.”

THE NEXT FRIDGE

The Eagles could use 6-foot-8, 346-pound offensive tackle Jordan Mailata at running back.

Mailata is more athletic than William “The Refrigerator” Perry, who had three rushing TDs for the 1985 Super Bowl champion Chicago Bears, including one in the title game. Mailata was an Australian rugby player before the Eagles selected him in the seventh round in April.

“He’s definitely used to carrying a larger football. I don’t know what they call it, that ball (in rugby),” Eagles coach Doug Pederson said. “Very athletic guy. It’s intriguing. I mean, it’s not out of the question.”

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Pro Football Writers Barry Wilner and Rob Maaddi, and Sports Writers Dave Skretta and Joe Kay contributed.

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Rams cancel practice as fires rage in Southern California

Rams cancel practice as fires rage in Southern California

The Los Angeles Rams called off Friday's

Rams cancel practice as fires rage in Southern California

The Los Angeles Rams called off Friday’s practice in Thousand Oaks, Calif., due to devastating wildfires in the region.

The wildfires have caused mass evacuations, property damage and led to road closures that would affect several people within the organization.

Los Angeles County Fire officials announced early Friday that the 101 Freeway was closed and that one of the fires had torched some 8,000 acres and with zero containment.

That fire began Thursday afternoon and had jumped the freeway just 12 minutes later.

The Rams (8-1) are currently still slated to play host to the Seattle Seahawks (4-4) on Sunday at the Los Angeles Coliseum in a rematch of a Week 5 game in Seattle.

The Rams held on to win that game thanks to a gutsy quarterback sneak by Jared Goff on fourth down late in the game.

–Field Level Media

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Rooney expects Bell to return next week

Rooney expects Bell to return next week

Rooney expects Bell to return next week

Days after being spotted playing basketball in Pittsburgh, Le’Veon Bell’s return to the Steelers could be imminent, according to team president Art Rooney II.

During an interview on Sirius XM radio, Rooney said the team expects the holdout running back to report to the team next week.

“I don’t know what his plans are, but I would say that at this point we expect him to come back next week,” Rooney said.

Either way, Rooney is hoping for some kind of communication with Bell.

“We know he’s back in Pittsburgh, and so we’re hoping to have some communications with him over the weekend, and we’re kind of expecting he will be back next week.”

The Steelers improved to 6-2-1 without Bell after Thursday night’s 52-21 rout of the Carolina Panthers.

James Conner, filling in at running back, ran 13 times for 65 yards and a touchdown in the blowout. Conner has 1,158 yards from scrimmage with 11 touchdowns.

Bell’s holding out after the Steelers failed to meet his contract demands, sacrificing more than $8 million in salary during the ongoing stalemate. Reporting after the July 15 deadline to sign a long-term deal, but before Week 1, would have assured Bell the entirety of his $14.5 million franchise tender for 2018.

Bell is facing the latest deadline in the off-field-drama next week. He must report by Tuesday or will become ineligible to play this season.

–Field Level Media

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Bills rule out QB Anderson from playing against Jets

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) — Buffalo Bills coach Sean McDermott has ruled out quarterback Derek Anderson from playing against the New York Jets this weekend, and continued leaving open the possibility of Josh Allen's return after missing three games with an injured throwing arm.

McDermott says Allen is progressing well from a sprained

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) — Buffalo Bills coach Sean McDermott has ruled out quarterback Derek Anderson from playing against the New York Jets this weekend, and continued leaving open the possibility of Josh Allen’s return after missing three games with an injured throwing arm.

McDermott says Allen is progressing well from a sprained right elbow, but would practice on a limited basis Friday for the third consecutive day. The first-round draft pick was hurt in a 20-13 loss at Houston on Oct. 14, and began testing his arm in practice a week ago.

Anderson will miss his second game since sustaining a concussion in a 25-6 loss to New England on Oct. 29.

If Allen isn’t deemed ready, turnover-prone backup Nathan Peterman would likely start for a second straight week. Buffalo’s only other option would be Matt Barkley, signed last week.

McDermott also ruled out starting tight end Charles Clay, who hurt his hamstring last weekend.

The Bills are 2-7 and have lost four straight.

Jets rookie starter Sam Darnold has already been ruled out with a strained right foot. Veteran backup Josh McCown will start against Buffalo.

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Eagles optimistic Darren Sproles will play this season

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Eagles coach Doug Pederson says he optimistic running back Darren Sproles will play again this season despite suffering a setback with his hamstring injury.

Sproles returned to practice on Wednesday after missing the previous seven games but re-injured his hamstring and won't play against the Cowboys on Sunday night. Pederson

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Eagles coach Doug Pederson says he optimistic running back Darren Sproles will play again this season despite suffering a setback with his hamstring injury.

Sproles returned to practice on Wednesday after missing the previous seven games but re-injured his hamstring and won’t play against the Cowboys on Sunday night. Pederson wouldn’t say who will return punts in place of Sproles.

The team released DeAndre Carter, who handled those duties, on Tuesday.

The 35-year-old Sproles tore his ACL and broke his arm on the same play last September and missed the rest of the season. He was hoping to play one more season.

Cornerback Jalen Mills is unlikely to play because of a foot injury, but nickel cornerback Sidney Jones has a chance to return after missing two games with a hamstring injury.

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FANTASY PLAYS: Burning questions for NFL Week 10

A look at some key fantasy football questions for Week 10:

WHICH UNDER THE RADAR PLAYERS HAVE THE BEST CHANCE FOR A BIG GAME THIS WEEK?

Several Washington players — quarterback Alex Smith, running back Adrian Peterson, wide receiver Maurice Harris and tight end Vernon Davis — all have the potential to post

A look at some key fantasy football questions for Week 10:

WHICH UNDER THE RADAR PLAYERS HAVE THE BEST CHANCE FOR A BIG GAME THIS WEEK?

Several Washington players — quarterback Alex Smith, running back Adrian Peterson, wide receiver Maurice Harris and tight end Vernon Davis — all have the potential to post big numbers this week against the Buccaneers.

The Bucs are top 6 or better in fantasy points allowed to each of the main offensive positions. Smith isn’t a prototypical fantasy quarterback but the Bucs have given up multiple TDs to the position in six straight games.

Look for Smith to connect often with Harris, who is coming off of a career-best performance with 10 catches for 124 yards receiving last week. With WR Paul Richardson out for the rest of the season and Jamison Crowder’s status for Week 10 unclear, Harris should be heavily targeted and has an especially good matchup against a Buccaneers defense that has been torched by fellow slot receivers this season. If Crowder plays, Harris can still be productive on the outside.

Even with the injuries to Washington’s offensive line, Peterson should bounce back from his 16-yard performance in Week 9. Tampa Bay has allowed five TDs to running backs over the past two weeks.

He’s expected to play, but tight end Jordan Reed has been limited in practices due to a back injury. He also hasn’t scored a TD since Week 1 or recorded more than 43 receiving yards in five straight games. Davis caught five passes for 62 yards in Week 9 and has a favorable matchup against Tampa Bay, which has allowed the second most receiving yards to TEs.

Another QB to consider is Andy Dalton. He takes on the Saints, who’ve allowed an average of 354 passing yards to QBs over the past three weeks.

Dalton will be without his top receiver A.J. Green, but John Ross has been practicing in full this week and has an opportunity for a big game against the Saints, who have given up the most fantasy points per game (FPPG) to WRs.

At running back, if Seattle’s Chris Carson is either limited or out again in Week 10, Mike Davis has an opportunity for a big game. He faces the Rams, who’ve allowed two TDs to RBs and at least 101 rushing yards in each of their last two games.

Saints TE Ben Watson has scored TDs in two of his last three games and takes on the Bengals, who have allowed the second most FPPG to the position.

HOW MUCH OF A FANTASY IMPACT WILL DEZ BRYANT HAVE WITH NEW ORLEANS?

Let’s face it, Bryant’s skills had already been eroding for the past few seasons. It’s not fair to expect too much from Bryant this season. Name recognition has put him back on the fantasy horizon. Asking a wideout who hasn’t played a live NFL game since last December to step in, learn a new system and be fantasy productive right away is a bit much. Michael Thomas, Tre’Quan Smith, Watson and Alvin Kamara will all easily get more targets on a weekly basis. We all know that QB Drew Brees already loves to spread the ball around.

CAN 49ERS QB NICK MULLENS BUILD UPON LAST WEEK’S PERFORMANCE AND IS HE STARTABLE IN WEEK 10?

Mullens has what appears to be a very good matchup in Week 10, however the 1-7 Giants have held opposing QBs to just one passing TD in each of the past two weeks. While WR Marquise Goodwin and TE George Kittle provide Mullens with potential TD makers, WR Pierre Garcon, his most targeted receiver last week, has been limited this week (knee) and his progress should be monitored. Mullens is definitely startable in two QB leagues, but he’s a riskier play in other formats. He has a bye in Week 11, but if he’s granted another start in Week 12, he’ll take on the Buccaneers, and they’ve given up the most FPPG to QBs entering Week 10.

WHICH COLTS TIGHT END HAS MORE FANTASY VALUE FOR THE REST OF THE SEASON, JACK DOYLE OR ERIC EBRON?

It depends on your league’s scoring format. Both have value, but in point-per-reception scoring leagues, Doyle will likely out-produce Ebron. With Doyle missing five games, QB Andrew Luck targeted Ebron 15 times in the red zone, tied for the fourth most in the NFL. However, Doyle averaged just over seven targets in the three games he’s played this season. In those same three games, Ebron averaged just four targets.

WHICH RUNNING BACKS HAVE UPSIDE BASED ON THEIR REST-OF-THE-SEASON OUTLOOK?

Cardinals running back David Johnson is an excellent buy-low candidate. Four of his last seven opponents are in the top 10 in FPPG allowed to opposing running backs.

Bears running back Jordan Howard has quietly had a productive season. His 3.5 yards per carry is underwhelming, but he’s scored five TDs through his first eight games. He is seventh in the league with 20 red zone rushing attempts, and with an average of just under 16 carries per game, Howard is a major part of the Bears offensive scheme and will continue to have ample opportunities to be fantasy relevant.

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