Patriots’ Gronkowski beaming after signing restructured deal

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. (AP) — For the second straight year, the Patriots have tried to show Rob Gronkowski how much he’s valued.

The All-Pro tight end says he’s feeling the love and is looking forward to showing them his appreciation on the field.

Last week the Patriots added $4.3 million in incentives to Gronkowski’s contract over the next two seasons. The deal includes $1 million in per game bonuses and $3.3 million in incentives for catches, playing time and touchdowns.

It is the second consecutive season the team has added sweeteners to the 29-year-old’s contract. Last season the incentives New England gave him pushed his compensation to more than $10 million.

With this latest restructured deal he has the potential to make $12.3 million this season and $13.3 million next year. It could again place him among the league’s highest-paid tight ends as he prepares to open his ninth NFL season Sunday against Houston.

“It’s definitely a relief to have that all out of the way,” Gronkowski said Tuesday. “That was last week. That’s in the past, which is good. I’m just gonna put my main focus on the Houston Texans.”

This new pact comes after Gronk made a silent statement by skipping the voluntary portion of offseason workouts.

When he returned for the mandatory minicamp he wasn’t bashful in saying he’d like to see his contract redone again on the heels of other NFL players getting offseason raises.

Gronk insisted that there was never any acrimony between himself and the Patriots this summer over his contract.

“It didn’t weigh on me at all,” he said. “I mean, everything is always ‘in the works.’ Nothing is just gonna happen in a day when it’s something like that. It’s in the past. … It’s go-time now.”

Gronkowski put himself in position to renegotiate after leading the team in receptions (69), receiving yards (1,084) and receiving touchdowns (eight) last season.

Though he never contemplated holding out, Gronkowski said he isn’t envious of some of the heftier contracts that some of his NFL peers have gotten recently.

“I’m super-satisfied with my situation,” he said. “If I wasn’t, then I would try to pull a move like they (did). It just works out. You get rewarded for holding out. But I’m not frustrated at all. … I’m ready to play.”

He expected to again be one of 41-year-old quarterback Tom Brady’s top targets in the passing game. His importance to the offense will only be amplified with receiver Julian Edelman suspended for the first four games of the regular season for violating the NFL’s policy on performance-enhancers.

Brady is also adjusting to some new receivers, following the trade of Brandin Cooks to the Los Angeles Rams and Danny Amendola signing a free agent deal with Miami.

With Edelman out, Chris Hogan — entering his third season in New England — is the most-tenured receiver Brady will have at the start of the season.

Special teams captain Matt Slater is listed as a receiver. But he has caught just one pass in 10 seasons with the Patriots.

Still, Gronk said he doesn’t feel any extra pressure to produce more than he normally does.

“There’s always pressure around this building, no matter what the situation is,” he said. “When you lose a guy, or for example when they lose me out there on the field, the goal is just to keep on maintaining what you’re doing.

“No matter who is in there, who’s not, I just gotta keep focusing on my job and keep helping the team the best way I can.”

NOTES: Jacksonville cornerback Jalen Ramsey made headlines last week when he told “ESPN The Magazine” that “I don’t think Gronk is as great as people think he is.” Asked if he had any reaction, Gronkowski said he’d defer responding for now. “We got the Houston Texans this week,” he said. “That will just be another time and place to talk about (that). But, as of right now, I’m just focused on the Texans.” New England visits Jacksonville on Sept. 16.

___

More AP NFL: http://apnews.com/tag/NFL and http://twitter.com/AP_NFL

___

Follow Kyle Hightower on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/khightower

Seahawks’ Moore trying to move past loss to Chargers

RENTON, Wash. (AP) — David Moore tried his best not to let the final pass in Seattle's loss to the Los Angeles Chargers last week bother him for long.

It's not easy when it's a throw that could have potentially tied the game and forced overtime, but instead bounced off Moore's shoulder and fell incomplete

RENTON, Wash. (AP) — David Moore tried his best not to let the final pass in Seattle’s loss to the Los Angeles Chargers last week bother him for long.

It’s not easy when it’s a throw that could have potentially tied the game and forced overtime, but instead bounced off Moore’s shoulder and fell incomplete on the final play of Seattle’s 25-17 loss.

It was shown on seemingly every TV broadcast playing highlights of the game , and while it would have been an exceptionally difficult catch after getting tipped by a Chargers defensive back, Moore wishes he could have made the grab.

“I tried to stay away from it,” Moore said on Thursday. “After a while, I’d say Monday after meetings, I tried to watch it and then I was like, ‘It’s over with now. I’m on to (the Rams).'”

The incompletion was the most difficult moment the second-year wide receiver has faced since becoming part of Seattle’s wide receiver rotation. The Seahawks had an untimed down from the 6-yard line needing a touchdown and a 2-point conversion to force overtime.

Quarterback Russell Wilson stepped up away from the pass rush and Moore had flashed open running across the back of the end zone.

Wilson zipped his pass in Moore’s direction, but just a couple of yards away from finding the receiver’s hands, the ball was tipped by the Chargers’ Jahleel Addae. The tip slightly changed the trajectory of the pass and it started severely wobbling offline. Moore was unable to adjust his hands in time and the ball thudded off his shoulder pads and to the turf.

“I (saw) it get tipped. I saw the dude come across and I tried to adjust to it but it was a little bit too late,” Moore said. “It was a fastball coming in hot, getting touched, it’s kind of hard to get your hands where it needs to be after that.”

Moore said he spent time Sunday night wondering if there are even drills to mimic having a pass change as that one did so close to the receiver.

“It’s a really tough catch. He’s tracking the ball, he sees it coming and all of a sudden the ball takes kind of a strange turn,” Seattle offensive coordinator Brian Schottenheimer said. “He was really dejected, really upset. Got a chance to talk to him after the game, said a lot of things still had to happen. That wasn’t the reason we won or lost that game, but it was a very difficult play.”

Moore’s development has been one of the big stories of the season for Seattle. His progression from an unknown seventh-round pick in 2017 to becoming the Seahawks’ No. 3 receiver was so rapid Seattle felt comfortable releasing veteran Brandon Marshall last week to open a roster spot.

While it wasn’t a dropped pass, the final play is the first major adversity Moore has faced this season. He was emotional after the game, but said the moment was quickly put in perspective.

“At first I took it kind of hard, but then I had Doug (Baldwin) and Tyler (Lockett) and all the brothers and stuff, and all the coaches tell me stuff like this happens all the time,” Moore said.

___

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

Read More 493 Words

Mullens to share stage with Manning when 49ers host Giants

SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) — Nick Mullens remembers getting the phone call from Archie Manning inviting him to the prestigious Manning Passing Academy two summers ago.

Mullens savored the chance to take part in the four-day clinic run by Archie and his two NFL quarterback sons, Eli and Peyton. Mullens especially relished the opportunity to

SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) — Nick Mullens remembers getting the phone call from Archie Manning inviting him to the prestigious Manning Passing Academy two summers ago.

Mullens savored the chance to take part in the four-day clinic run by Archie and his two NFL quarterback sons, Eli and Peyton. Mullens especially relished the opportunity to watch Eli Manning take part in some of the drills.

“To see how he moves in the pocket, he has very quick feet and is just very smooth,” Mullens said. “I definitely remember just sitting there and watching him throw. I took that all in.”

Mullens now will get another chance to see Manning up close when he makes his second career start for the San Francisco 49ers (2-7) on Monday night against Manning and the New York Giants (1-7).

Mullens is coming off a scintillating debut, completing 16 of 22 passes for 262 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions for a 151.9 passer rating in a 34-3 victory over the Oakland Raiders. That’s the highest rating since the merger for a player in his debut with at least 20 attempts.

Things might not be as easy now that the Giants have an idea of what Mullens can do.

“I think they’re going to be like, ‘Oh crap. This guy is good,'” running back Matt Breida said. “I think they’ll put more people back there to cover because of the throws he made and can do.”

While Mullens is just getting started, Manning is nearing the end of his career as he plays his 15th season for a team that is struggling mightily. New York has lost five straight games and the questions are mounting about how much longer the two-time Super Bowl MVP Manning has as quarterback.

“I think there’s urgency to get things going, for sure,” Manning said. “We got to get some wins. We got to get going, and everybody wants it. The team needs it, for the morale and for just the hard work and everything we put in. Just need to reap the benefits of the work, and feel good about what we’re doing.”

Here are some other things to watch:

SPLENDID SAQUON

Rookie Saquon Barkley has been a rare bright spot for the struggling Giants, topping 100 yards from scrimmage in seven of his first eight games. Barkley has been a bit hit and miss with 16 runs for negative yards, tied for fifth worst in the league, and 11 plays that gained at least 20, which is tied for second most among running backs. Barkley is just the ninth player to gain at least 1,000 yards from scrimmage in the first eight games of his rookie season.

“I’m not one of those guys that says, let me see my stats, let me see how much I ran for this or that. I just play,” he said. “I’m not going to stand here and lie, I am very active on social media, so there’s fan pages of me and I can go on Instagram or even on my explore page and they just happen to pop up. I’ve seen predictions of what I’m capable of doing, but it means nothing to me.”

PRESSURE POINT

The struggling pass rush for the 49ers broke through in a big way last week with eight sacks against Oakland. Cassius Marsh led the way with a career-best 2 ½, and Dekoda Watson had 1 1/2 in his first game after coming off IR. San Francisco had eight sacks in a game only once in the previous two decades, doing it against the Rams in 2009.

KITTLE’S CATCHES

San Francisco tight end George Kittle has been a big-play threat all season. He had a 71-yard catch and run last week against the Raiders, making him the first tight end since Rich Caster in 1972 to have two 70-yard catches in the same season. Kittle ranks second among all tight ends with 692 yards receiving and is second to Barkley among all players with 496 yards after the catch.

STRUGGLING FRANCHISES

Twenty-eight years after these franchises met in the best matchup in “Monday Night Football” history, they now play in one of the worst. Back in 1990, the 49ers beat the Giants 7-3 in a matchup of 10-1 teams that provided the highest winning percentage ever for a Monday night game played after Halloween. The teams come into this meeting with a combined winning percentage of .176, the second lowest for a Monday night game played Nov. 1 or later. The lowest combined winning percentage is .167 for a matchup of the New York Jets (3-9) and the Chargers (1-11) in 1975 that featured Hall of Fame QBs Joe Namath and Dan Fouts.

___

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

Read More 717 Words

Larry Fitzgerald closing in on yards receiving milestone

TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) — Larry Fitzgerald is closing in on another milestone, and it's an impressive one.

The 35-year-old receiver needs to catch just 33 yards worth of passes Sunday at Kansas City to move past Hall of Famer Terrell Owens into second place on the NFL's all-time yards receiving list.

As usual, Fitzgerald brushed

TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) — Larry Fitzgerald is closing in on another milestone, and it’s an impressive one.

The 35-year-old receiver needs to catch just 33 yards worth of passes Sunday at Kansas City to move past Hall of Famer Terrell Owens into second place on the NFL’s all-time yards receiving list.

As usual, Fitzgerald brushed aside talk of the milestone in his weekly meeting with the media Thursday.

“Honestly, I don’t really think about it,” he said.

Modesty aside, there’s no doubt that Fitzgerald is very aware of his place among the greats in the game.

Halfway through his 15th season, Fitzgerald has 15,902 yards receiving, behind Owens’ 15,934 and Jerry Rice’s phenomenal 22,895.

Fitzgerald needs 58 catches to pass Tony Gonzalez for second on the NFL career receptions list. Fitzgerald has 1,268 catches to Gonzalez’s 1,325 and Rice’s 1,549.

Fitzgerald also is closing in on Rice’s record for receptions with one team. Fitzgerald, who has spent his entire career with the Cardinals, needs 14 receptions to pass the 1,281 catches Rice had with the San Francisco 49ers.

There are numbers that Fitzgerald will talk about with pride, and that’s what he’s accomplished in the postseason.

He has 942 yards receiving in nine postseason games, most of any player in his first nine playoff contests. His three 150-yard playoff receiving games are most in NFL history. His five 100-yard games are tied for third all-time, behind Michael Irvin and Rice. Fitzgerald is tied for third in postseason TD receptions (10), behind John Stallworth and Rice. And Fitzgerald did it in only nine games.

Fitzgerald’s performance in Arizona’s surprise run to the Super Bowl in the 2008 season shattered NFL records for yards receiving (546), receptions (30) and touchdowns (7).

In Arizona’s divisional game against Green Bay in 2015, Fitzgerald caught eight passes for 176 yards, including the two biggest plays of overtime. He is the only player in NFL history to average at least 100 yards receiving and a touchdown in every postseason game.

“I think every player wants to be at their best in the biggest moments,” Fitzgerald said. “I think my numbers in the playoffs say that I’m a guy who steps up in the bigger moments. I think that’s something you look at the greats in history, the Jerry Rices and the Michael Jordans and the Kobe Bryants, the Reggie Jacksons of the world, those guys , when their teams needed them the most, they were able to find something to make a difference in the games.”

But Fitzgerald may never appear in the playoffs again.

The Cardinals limp into Kansas City at 2-6 and Fitzgerald repeated Thursday that he hasn’t decided whether this is his last season. It’s hard to imagine him ever playing for another team.

Fitzgerald has been conspicuously absent from the statistics as the Arizona offense sputtered through seven games, leading to the firing of offensive coordinator Mike McCoy. With Byron Leftwich as the new coordinator, Fitzgerald had his best game of the year in the team’s 18-15 victory over San Francisco two weekends ago, catching eight passes for 102 yards and a touchdown, just his second of the season.

Notes: S Budda Baker, a critical component of Arizona’s defense, did not practice Thursday due to a foot injury. He was not on the injury report Wednesday. He was the only player who did not practice on Thursday.

___

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

Read More 497 Words

Frustrated WR Jackson not giving up on Bucs playoff hopes

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — DeSean Jackson's frustration grows by the loss.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have dropped five of six games following a 2-0 start, and the veteran receiver doesn't want anyone to buy the notion that all it'll take to make him happy is to catch more passes Sunday against the Washington

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — DeSean Jackson’s frustration grows by the loss.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers have dropped five of six games following a 2-0 start, and the veteran receiver doesn’t want anyone to buy the notion that all it’ll take to make him happy is to catch more passes Sunday against the Washington Redskins.

The Bucs (3-5) haven’t made the playoffs since 2007, and the only way to change that trend is to start winning.

Jackson, who signed with Tampa Bay as a free agent in 2017 after spending the previous three seasons with the Redskins, thinks he can make a difference. He fielded questions this week for the first time since he reportedly asked to be traded last month.

“Whatever them conversations were, they were between us,” Jackson, when asked if he approached general manager Jason Licht before the Oct. 30 NFL trade deadline.

“It’s over and done with now, and I’m looking forward,” the five-time 1,000-yard receiver added. “We’ve got eight games left to continue to try our best to get in the playoffs and win here.”

The 11th-year pro has rebounded from a subpar debut with Tampa Bay a year ago to average 22.4 yards per reception in 2018.

But since beginning the season with consecutive 100-yard performances, that included TD catches of 58 and 75 yards in victories over New Orleans and Philadelphia, the 31-year-old’s production has curtailed.

Through eight games, Jackson has 28 catches for 626 yards and four touchdowns, including a 60-yard scoring reception against Cincinnati that gave him the most TDs of 60-plus yards (24) in NFL history.

At the risk of sounding selfish, Jackson concedes he would like to be more involved in the offense. He began his career in Philadelphia, where he had three 1,000-yard seasons in six years. He had two in three seasons with the Redskins.

“It’s just knowing what’s in this locker room, knowing the players we have all across the board. … That’s been more of the frustration for me,” Jackson said. “It’s not individual. It’s more (about) accomplishing what we all want to accomplish.”

The NFC East-leading Redskins (5-3) are coming off a lopsided loss to Atlanta that snapped a three-game winning streak.

Bouncing back on the road doesn’t figure to be easy after losing three starters — receiver Paul Richardson and guards Brandon Scherff and Shawn Lauvao — to season-ending injuries against the Falcons.

Alex Smith is coming off throwing for a season-best 306 yards last week, and coach Jay Gruden is counting on leading rusher Adrian Peterson’s skill and experience to help him to adjust to changes of the offensive line and continue to be productive.

“He just goes through his reads like he normally would. It doesn’t matter who’s blocking for him — at guard, center, tackle, tight end, fullback … or receiver,” Gruden said. “He’s just going to go through his progressions and make his cuts and do what he does.”

Some things to know about the Redskins and Buccaneers:

NICE TO MEET YOU

After placing Scherff and Lauvao on injured reserve Monday because they need season-ending surgeries, and with left tackle Trent Williams recovering from an operation on his right thumb, the Redskins are putting together a makeshift offensive line. They signed three unemployed linemen — tackle Austin Howard, along with guards Jonathan Cooper and Luke Bowanko — and at least one is expected to start Sunday.

“The big thing, I think, is on the road, crowd noise, against a good D-line,” Smith said. “I think those things, all the calls, all the communication that has to take place — run, pass, third down — all the different looks, the thousands and thousands of reps that we’ve had — you try to condense into a few days to get ready.”

FITZMAGIC

Ryan Fitzpatrick will make his sixth start of the season at quarterback for the Bucs, who benched Jameis Winston after a road loss to Cincinnati two weeks ago. Tampa Bay has been outscored 103-27 in the first half of Fitzpatrick’s past three starts — all losses.

Like Smith, Fitzpatrick is in his 14th season. Smith was the first pick in the 2005 draft. Fitzpatrick was a seventh-round pick, No. 250 overall.

“He was 249 picks before I was,” Fitzpatrick said, “but we’re both still here.”

CAN PETERSON BOUNCE BACK?

Peterson entered this week fifth in the league in rushing with 604 yards at age 33, but he is coming off a poor game: He only ran nine times for 17 yards in the loss to Atlanta. Things might not be easy with a reconstructed O-line.

“I always say: The play looked great in practice when you draw it up and you run through it at practice. But when you’ve got guys coming at 100 mph, things change,” Peterson said.

NO COMEBACKS YET

The Redskins have not managed to win a game in which they’ve trailed this season. And during Gruden’s 4½ years in Washington, the team only has 15 come-from-behind victories; only five clubs have fewer in that span.

“That’s something that we have got to do a better job of,” Gruden said.

___

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

Read More 774 Words

49ers QB Nick Mullens knows how to make good 1st impression

SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) — Nick Mullens knows how to make a good first impression.

Whether it was wearing a suit to his pre-draft interview with the San Francisco 49ers or setting records in his NFL debut, Mullens has proven that he can get off on the right foot in a new situation.

SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) — Nick Mullens knows how to make a good first impression.

Whether it was wearing a suit to his pre-draft interview with the San Francisco 49ers or setting records in his NFL debut, Mullens has proven that he can get off on the right foot in a new situation.

Now the key for Mullens heading into his second start for the 49ers (2-7) on Monday night against the New York Giants will be building on the big performance he had last week against the Oakland Raiders to earn that second chance.

Instead of getting rushed into action on a short week with no real practice, Mullens gets the benefit of a full week of work with his teammates as he tries to match the three-touchdown performance in a 34-3 win over the Raiders last Thursday night.

“He doesn’t have to cram everything in in a day and a half,” coach Kyle Shanahan said Thursday. “He’s got the whole week to kind of let it saturate, learn the play calls, spit them out easier, gets to throw some full-speed balls to all our players where last week there wasn’t one full-speed rep. I think it helps prepare him more and makes him more comfortable going into the game.”

Mullens has felt comfortable ever since joining the Niners. He impressed people by dressing up for the interview and even though he went undrafted out of Southern Mississippi, he showed enough to stick around last year on the practice squad.

Mullens kept working hard, knowing the offense as well as anyone and improving at working under center after spending so much time in college in the shotgun that he had to watch YouTube videos to teach himself how to drop back properly.

“He worked as hard as anyone last year and he played scout team safety all last year,” Shanahan said. “We spent most of last year this time messing with him on how bad his backpedal looked and things like that, on tape. But, he was a guy who just, he knew he had to do that, that’s how the league works. You don’t have enough guys to practice and he didn’t just sit there and mope about it because I get how people could because it isn’t a fair situation. But, he found ways to work on his own, to grab guys after, to go out late at night and do stuff. He’s obsessed with getting better and he’s needed the time to do it and it helped him get ready for last week.”

That hard work paid off when Mullens got his first chance to play in a game when C.J. Beathard was hampered by a sore right wrist.

Mullens completed 16 of 22 passes for 262 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions for a 151.9 passer rating last week. That’s the highest since the merger for a player in his debut with at least 20 attempts.

Mullens also joined Hall of Famers Jim Kelly (1986) and Fran Tarkenton (1961) as the only QBs to throw for at least 250 yards and three touchdowns without throwing an interception in their NFL debuts.

That made it an easy call to give Mullens a second start this week, although Shanahan said he will evaluate the quarterbacks on a week-to-week basis.

“I don’t think it was too tough of a decision,” Shanahan said. “Our team played really well and he played well. It was going to be hard to not give him the opportunity.”

About the only time Mullens got flustered was when Shanahan kept talking after relaying the play call into Mullens’ helmet. Mullens got frustrated enough that teammates said he told Shanahan to quiet down even though the helmet offers only one-way communication.

That ended up amusing his teammates and lightening the mood in the huddle.

“Sometimes in the huddle, you hear the play call and you’re ready to repeat it …,” Mullens said. “I was just ready to call the play.”

Shanahan joked that Mullens will have to yell at him louder if he wants his coach to hear him on the sideline but he understands the frustration.

“That’s always the dilemma for coaches and quarterbacks. It’s funny because I know if I was a quarterback and someone was yelling in my ears, I would handle it much worse than those guys would,” Shanahan said. “I struggle. I’ve almost gotten in trouble with head coaches for saying the wrong thing when you’re trying to think and make a play call and someone’s yelling in your ear, it’s hard to think.”

NOTES: LB Reuben Foster (hamstring) and S Jaquiski Tartt (shoulder) didn’t practice and will be questionable this week. … WR Pierre Garcon (knee) and LT Joe Staley (veteran’s day) also didn’t practice. … The 49ers promoted DB Greg Mabin to the active roster from the practice squad and signed CB Tarvarus McFadden to the practice squad.

___

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

Read More 762 Words

Steelers RT Gilbert out for 3rd straight week

PITTSBURGH (AP) — Pittsburgh Steelers right tackle Marcus Gilbert will miss his third straight game while dealing with a knee injury.

The Steelers made Gilbert inactive for Thursday night's game against Carolina. Matt Feiler will start in place of Gilbert.

Pittsburgh will also be without reserve nose tackle Dan McCullers, who is dealing with an

PITTSBURGH (AP) — Pittsburgh Steelers right tackle Marcus Gilbert will miss his third straight game while dealing with a knee injury.

The Steelers made Gilbert inactive for Thursday night’s game against Carolina. Matt Feiler will start in place of Gilbert.

Pittsburgh will also be without reserve nose tackle Dan McCullers, who is dealing with an ankle injury. Quarterback Mason Rudolph, wide receiver Justin Hunter, safety Marcus Allen, cornerback Brian Allen and offensive lineman Zach Banner are also inactive for the Steelers.

The Panthers will be without wide receiver Torrey Smith, who will sit out a third straight week due to a knee injury. Jarius Wright will start in place of Smith.

Carolina center Ryan Kalil will play despite skipping practice on Tuesday with an ankle injury.

Cornerback Josh Hawkins, running back Cameron Artis-Payne, linebacker Andre Smith, guard Brendan Mahon, defensive end Bryan Cox Jr. and defensive end Marquis Haynes are also inactive for the Panthers.

___

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

Read More 107 Words

Thielen, Diggs have helped Vikings stay on track

EAGAN, Minn. (AP) — Thanks to Adam Thielen, Minnesota's record book has already needed several revisions this year.

Just past the midpoint of the schedule for the Vikings, Thielen leads the NFL in receptions (78) at a pace that would fall four short of the all-time single-season mark (143). He leads the league

EAGAN, Minn. (AP) — Thanks to Adam Thielen, Minnesota’s record book has already needed several revisions this year.

Just past the midpoint of the schedule for the Vikings, Thielen leads the NFL in receptions (78) at a pace that would fall four short of the all-time single-season mark (143). He leads the league with 947 yards. Kirk Cousins, the new prize quarterback with the annual $28 million salary cap hit, without prompting recently called Thielen the best player on this standout-laden team.

The accolades of this magnitude might not exist for Thielen, though, without Stefon Diggs.

Thielen and Diggs are the only teammates currently in the top 10 in the league in catches, on pace for a combined 242. That would break the record for receptions by a pair of teammates, set in 1995 by Herman Moore and Brett Perriman for Detroit with 231.

Opposing defenses are naturally less likely to apply double coverage on Thielen when Diggs is in a pattern at the same time, as evidenced by contrast in a victory over the Lions last week . With Diggs sidelined by a rib injury, Thielen didn’t have much space. He used one of his textbook double moves to beat cornerback Nevin Lawson for a short touchdown , his seventh of the year, but he finished with only 22 yards for his lowest total since the 2016 season.

The mutual benefit of this dominant wide receiver duo, though, began on the practice field years ago.

“We’re always competing, we’re always having fun, and we’re always giving each a hard time if we’re not performing at the level we know we can,” Thielen said.

If Thielen makes a catch in practice, Diggs will often make it a point to create even more separation from the defender the next time he’s assigned to run the same route. That, in turn, frequently triggers playful yet spirited banter between the two.

“He’s my brother. He’s a guy I love messing with, love having fun with,” Thielen said. “He’s even one of my best friends.”

At a position that has long produced some of the NFL’s biggest personalities, in some cases breeding a disruptive brand of selfish and boorish behavior, Thielen and Diggs are the anti-divas. Part of that is a product of their route, no pun intended, to the league.

Thielen was the NCAA Division II player who went undrafted and needed a rookie tryout camp to make the team five years ago. He didn’t become a full-time starter until 2016. Diggs was the fifth-round draft pick who was a healthy scratch for his first three NFL games in 2015.

“All the cute stuff, like records being broken and stuff like that, you like it and it’s good to hear, but we always want to win,” Diggs said. “We worry about the win column more than anything. So to see good things happen? Yes, it’s exciting. Yes, you congratulate your guys, because guys work extremely hard, you know? So it’s always good stuff, and it’s good stuff moving in the right direction, but we want to win.”

The Vikings (5-3-1) have been doing that more lately after a rough first quarter of the season, entering their bye week a step behind Chicago (5-3) in the NFC North, with a prime-time matchup with the Bears up next on Nov. 18.

Cousins has been as advertised, ranking in the top 10 in the league in most of the passing categories, including third in completion percentage despite being prone to a costly turnover here and there. The offensive line has again shown vulnerabilities, though, and the Vikings have averaged the fourth-fewest rushing yards in the league.

Thielen and Diggs have been all the more valuable to the Vikings this fall, with an assist by new offensive coordinator John DeFilippo for aggressive and creative play calling that has helped spring them open so much.

“He uses his playmakers, and he just lets them play. So I admire that, and I appreciate that,” Diggs said. “As a player you just want to do the best that you can, and it’s good that he plays to your strengths.”

The defense, which led the NFL in fewest yards and points allowed last year, was surprisingly one of the biggest problems in September. After that humbling loss in Los Angeles to the Rams dropped the Vikings to 1-2-1, though, coach Mike Zimmer has helped steer the group back into dominant form.

With daunting road trips to Chicago, New England and Seattle looming over three of the next four games, the pressure will be on the offense to do its part.

“When you look at it glass half-full, I’m thrilled about our locker room, the chemistry we have on this team, the quality of teammates, the quality of leadership we have in this organization. I think all that has probably even exceeded expectations from me,” Cousins said. “Certainly would have loved to be better than 5-3-1, but I’m grateful we’re not 3-5-1. You can look at it both ways. The point is, we keep saying, everything is in front of us.”

___

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

Read More 790 Words

Bears eye rare win over Lions, end of skid against division

LAKE FOREST, Ill. (AP) — The Chicago Bears have a rare opportunity to beat the Detroit Lions and pick up a victory over an NFC North opponent.

As accomplishments go, those seem rather modest. Then again, consider their recent history.

The division-leading Bears have a chance to check off two more boxes when

LAKE FOREST, Ill. (AP) — The Chicago Bears have a rare opportunity to beat the Detroit Lions and pick up a victory over an NFC North opponent.

As accomplishments go, those seem rather modest. Then again, consider their recent history.

The division-leading Bears have a chance to check off two more boxes when they host the struggling Lions on Sunday.

They have lost nine of the past 10 games against Detroit and have dropped 10 in a row to division opponents heading into their matchup at Soldier Field.

Since the start of the 2014 season, Chicago is 4-21 against the NFC North. But these Bears aren’t those Bears.

Chicago (5-3) hit the halfway mark with its best record in five years and sole possession of the NFC North lead for the first time since 2013. It’s a big change for a franchise with four straight last-place finishes. But the Bears have already matched their win total from last year and are making a push for their first playoff appearance since the 2010 team advanced to the NFC championship game.

“There’s just so much ball left,” said coach Matt Nagy, in his first season. “For our team, we’ve won in different ways and we’ve lost in different ways. I think we’ve kind of learned different ways to do it. And when you lose, you try to figure out why and how to not let it happen again. When you win, you figure out why and how you can always improve and be better. I like where we’re at, but we understand we have a ways to go.”

Chicago is coming off back-to-back wins over two struggling teams, with a 41-9 blowout at Buffalo after beating the New York Jets at home.

Detroit (3-5) has dropped two in a row and last week’s 24-9 loss at Minnesota was particularly ugly. Matthew Stafford got sacked 10 times, and the Lions were held to single digits in points for the first time since a 17-6 loss to the New York Giants on Dec. 18, 2016.

They also traded wide receiver Golden Tate to Philadelphia prior to the Vikings game, and they fired special teams coordinator Joe Marciano on Monday night.

“Definitely have to learn from some of those things that we’ve done in the past that haven’t been up to par or haven’t been good enough, and try to minimize those or eliminate them as we go forward,” coach Matt Patricia said. “That’s the most important thing.”

Here are some things to know about the matchup:

ON THE MEND

The Bears might get star outside linebacker Khalil Mack (ankle) and top receiver Allen Robinson (groin) back from injuries.

Both players missed the past two games. But they went through full practices on Wednesday. Tight end Adam Shaheen might also return from a foot injury he suffered in the preseason.

ANSAH BACK

The Lions got a boost last week with the return of defensive end Ziggy Ansah.

He had a sack in the second quarter that forced the Vikings to settle for a field goal, after missing six games because of a shoulder injury. Having Ansah back means more pressure on the quarterback and maybe better luck stopping the run. The Lions rank 30th in that area.

“We’ve just got to set an edge and whoever has got a gap to be in, they’ve just got to be in there,” Ansah said. “Just play fundamental and be able to execute.”

FAMILIAR FOES

The Bears are about to meet the Lions twice in a 12-day span, with a Thanksgiving matchup at Ford Field and a primetime Sunday game against Minnesota at home in between.

This three-game run facing the NFC North comes after four in row against the AFC East. Chicago hasn’t played a division team since a 24-23 season-opening loss at Green Bay, when it blew a 20-point lead against an injured Aaron Rodgers.

STRUGGLING STAFFORD

After a solid stretch, Stafford has struggled a bit the past two weeks with 13 sacks and a 90.3 rating. He had ratings above 100 in each of the previous five games.

“He’s been with the Lions for all of his career and he has a great group of receivers, and for some reason they’re not putting games together,” Bears cornerback Prince Amukamara said. “But they’re still a great team and I know for a fact we won’t take them lightly.”

GETTING OFFENSIVE

While a defense that ranks fifth overall has gotten much of the credit, the Bears insist their offense is doing its part.

Though Trubisky has been wild at times, his rating (96.1) is similar to Stafford’s (96.5). Chicago also ranks fifth in the NFL in scoring.

___

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

Read More 719 Words

Raiders’ Guenther says no friction between him, Gruden

ALAMEDA, Calif. (AP) — Oakland Raiders defensive coordinator Paul Guenther denied there is any friction between him and coach Jon Gruden and said the two remain united in trying to improve a team that has been one of the biggest disappointments in the NFL this season.

One week after cameras caught the two

ALAMEDA, Calif. (AP) — Oakland Raiders defensive coordinator Paul Guenther denied there is any friction between him and coach Jon Gruden and said the two remain united in trying to improve a team that has been one of the biggest disappointments in the NFL this season.

One week after cameras caught the two coaches getting into a heated exchange after a costly blown play in Oakland’s 34-3 loss to the San Francisco 49ers, Guenther laughed about the incident and called it a daily occurrence.

“Jon and I fight every day upstairs, golf course, in the car, whatever it may be,” Guenther said Thursday. “That’s going to happen every Sunday. It’s happened every Sunday, whether it’s good or bad. That’s just part of our expectations are higher than what we’re showing. That’s probably going to happen 100 times a game.”

Guenther’s statement echoed comments made earlier this week by Gruden, who joked that the two have bigger disagreements on the golf course.

The recent sideline exchanges between the coach and his hand-picked defensive coordinator have gotten more attention, however, as the Raiders have struggled through a 1-7 start.

Both Gruden and Guenther have come under fire from fans and the media.

Gruden has been targeted for the team’s inconsistent offense and the radical roster changes being made, while Guenther’s defense has been bad all season. The Raiders are on pace to give up 6,514 yards and are allowing opponents to gain a league-high 6.8 yards per play.

While acknowledging frustration over the situation, Guenther — who spent the past 13 seasons in Cincinnati and was the Bengals’ coordinator from 2014-17 — downplayed any suggestion of problems between him and Gruden.

“I love Jon, he’s great to work with,” Guenther said. “We’re really trying to build this thing the right way and we have a vision for it. I know it doesn’t look like that right now but I’m confident in what we’re doing.”

The Raiders have made sweeping changes since Gruden was hired, much of it on the defensive side.

Khalil Mack, the team’s top pass rusher and the 2016 Defensive Player of the Year, was traded to the Chicago Bears before the season opener in exchange for a pair of first-round draft picks. Oakland’s best run defender, Justin Ellis, was lost to injured reserve with a foot injury he suffered in Week 1. Then last week, the Raiders released defensive end Bruce Irvin, one of the team captains.

Those moves and others have forced Guenther to reach deep into the roster for help.

“That’s just part of the business,” Guenther said. “Our vision was to bring in some young guys in the draft and we did that and they’re playing. Obviously we’re going through some growing pains right now with the young guys but hopefully the more and more snaps that they get at the back end of this year going into year two, we’re going to see massive improvement out of those guys.”

Still, Guenther acknowledged it hasn’t been easy and said he’s had to bite his lip a few times.

“There are certain things, breakdowns that we’re having that we shouldn’t have, that I’m not used to seeing,” Guenther said. “It is a patience thing but I’m not the most patient guy. I want to get the stuff fixed quickly. That’s part of the evaluation process with the guys that we have now moving forward the last eight games to see, hey, what guys we want to keep here and what guys we want to move on with.

“We have a vision. Jon and I have a vision of what it should look like and what it’s going to look like down the road. Hopefully, we can just keep getting better every week but it’s certainly been a challenge.”

__

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

Read More 575 Words

Mayfield hopes NFL officials find consistency on helmet hits

BEREA, Ohio (AP) — Baker Mayfield has become the NFL's unwanted poster boy for helmet-to-helmet hits.

Twice this season, Cleveland's rookie quarterback has been struck in the head by tacklers during games and both times the officials failed to call a penalty for the obvious infractions.

Mayfield's trying not to take oversights personally.

"They just

BEREA, Ohio (AP) — Baker Mayfield has become the NFL’s unwanted poster boy for helmet-to-helmet hits.

Twice this season, Cleveland’s rookie quarterback has been struck in the head by tacklers during games and both times the officials failed to call a penalty for the obvious infractions.

Mayfield’s trying not to take oversights personally.

“They just have to find their consistency,” he said of the erratic calls. “With every ref it’s different — how they see it, how they’re seeing the plays, momentum with the whistle, when it’s blown, stuff like that. So as they continue to try to enforce the same rule, I think the consistency will grow. But right now, that’s why you’re seeing some confusion.”

On Oct. 21 at Tampa Bay, Mayfield slid after a 35-yard run and was drilled from the side by Buccaneers safety Jordan Whitehead, who wasn’t flagged but was fined $26,739 fine by the NFL, which acknowledged days after the hit that it should have been a penalty.

Last week, Kansas City safety Ron Parker delivered a glancing blow with his helmet to Mayfield while the quarterback was being wrapped up by defensive tackle Chris Jones. Again, no penalty was called, but Mayfield was forced to leave the game after an independent medical observer called the officials and requested the QB undergo a concussion evaluation.

Mayfield passed the test and was allowed to return three plays later. He fought to stay in the game.

“Yeah. I guess that is the new rule,” he said. “I have to come off the field for a checkup.”

Parker could be fined by the league, which announces its weekly punishments on Saturday.

Mayfield, the No. 1 overall pick in this year’s draft, joked that Parker’s hit fortunately didn’t do any damage.

“It would be more frustrating if it hurt,” Mayfield said. “I was more frustrated they took me out of the game, to be honest with you. But they’re protecting me. They’re doing their job. So ultimately what can I complain about?”

Mayfield has sympathy for the officials, who are doing what they can to protect players — especially quarterbacks — while presiding over a game that’s moving very fast. Mayfield smiled when asked if the officiating was as uneven when he played in college at Oklahoma.

“No,” he said, grinning. “I had a bunch of friends out there, so it was good.”

___

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

Read More 341 Words

FANTASY PLAYS: Players to start and sit in NFL Week 10

Like winter, fantasy football playoffs loom. Successful fantasy owners shouldn't go into victory formation yet, as one bad week or unfortunate injury can change the complexion of the whole season.

Those still pushing for a postseason berth should pull out all the stops without fear. Week 10 brings opportunity for players who have otherwise been

Like winter, fantasy football playoffs loom. Successful fantasy owners shouldn’t go into victory formation yet, as one bad week or unfortunate injury can change the complexion of the whole season.

Those still pushing for a postseason berth should pull out all the stops without fear. Week 10 brings opportunity for players who have otherwise been disappointments along with a rookie or two who should be used to exploit favorable matchups.

START: Jordan Howard, RB, Bears: With four touchdowns in his last three games, Howard is showing signs of finally breaking out of his season-long funk. Howard is no longer a component in the Chicago passing game, but he’s averaged 19 touches per game over the past three weeks. Now he faces a Lions run defense that gives up 5.1 yards per carry and is ranked 27th in stopping the run. He’s still a long way from the RB1 many envisioned he’d be on draft day, but Howard will fit in most fantasy lineups as a solid RB2 this Sunday.

SIT: Rob Gronkowski, TE, Patriots: Yes, him. Gronkowski hasn’t scored a touchdown since Week 1 and has exceeded better than 70 receiving yards just twice after tagging the Texans for 123 yards in the regular season opener. He missed last Sunday’s win against the Packers and is questionable for Sunday’s game versus the Titans. There are good streaming options available at tight end (Chris Herndon of the Jets, for example) but the days of Gronkowski as a must-start fantasy beast appear to be reaching their end.

START: Marquez Valdes-Scantling, WR, Packers: Since joining the starting lineup, Valdes-Scantling is averaging just over nine targets per game and has a pair of 100-yard outings to go along with two touchdowns. Green Bay’s pass, pass and pass again mindset makes the rookie a strong WR2 who continues to gain the trust of Aaron Rodgers. He’ll keep building his rapport with Rodgers at the expense of a Miami defense that is 25th in receiving yards allowed and 29th in yards per catch allowed. Valdes-Scantling has averaged 21.1 yards per catch, as seven of his 17 receptions have been for 20 yards or longer.

SIT: Derek Carr, QB, Raiders: The optimism about Carr following a strong performance against the Colts was critically shattered after a near-lifeless effort against the 49ers. Things will not get better for Carr, who must contend with a Chargers defense that is a solid 12th in net passing yards allowed and is tied for sixth with 10 interceptions. While Carr has 10 touchdown passes this season, keep in mind that seven of those came in two games. Los Angeles held him to just 14 fantasy points when the two teams met in Week 5.

START: Michael Gallup, WR, Cowboys: Dak Prescott has gotten the rookie wideout more involved over the past two games, with 11 of his 28 targets this season coming in that span. He’s responded well, catching six passes for 132 yards and a touchdown and will continue his upward trend going against a suspect Eagles pass defense that is 20th in net passing yards allowed. Gallup has shown he doesn’t need a lot of targets to make an impact, which makes him an intriguing WR3/flex option.

SIT: Kenny Golladay, WR, Lions: Even with Golden Tate no longer in the lineup, Golladay was a non-factor in last week’s loss to the Vikings, catching just three passes for 46 yards on four targets. Things don’t get easier for Golladay, who faces a Bears defense that is ninth in fewest net passing yards and is second only to the Dolphins with 14 interceptions. Golladay should see more targets after having a mere seven in his last three games combined, but there’s little to feel good about playing him, especially in a PPR format.

START: Marcus Mariota, QB, Titans: He’s starting to round into shape and comes off his second game of better than 20 fantasy points with a great chance at a third against the Patriots. New England is 28th in net passing yards allowed and have given up 19 touchdown passes and must deal with Mariota’s running ability. While he’d be a gamble in standard leagues, Mariota is a good play in deeper leagues. There’s a good chance he steps his game up and turns this contest into a high-scoring affair.

SIT: Matthew Stafford, QB, Lions: Stafford hasn’t recorded a game of better than 20 fantasy points since Week 4 and after being sacked 10 times by the Vikings last week, his body will go through another brutal afternoon against the Bears, who have 24 sacks along with 14 interceptions. Chicago is ninth in fewest net passing yards, and if the Lions fall behind early, Stafford had better brace for a long afternoon of uncomfortable meetings with Chicago’s withering pass rush.

START: Aaron Jones, RB, Packers: Sooner or later, the Packers will catch on to giving Jones more than 12-14 carries per game. Sunday would be a good time to do so, as Green Bay gets a Miami defense ranked 31st against the run and allows a healthy 4.6 yards per carry, which bodes well for Jones’ six yards per attempt. Yes, there is some disappointment in Jones after his fumble against the Patriots, but there’s a great rebound opportunity awaiting any fantasy owner willing to use him as an RB2.

SIT: Wendell Smallwood, RB, Eagles: In fact, avoiding Eagles running backs altogether is a sound move. The backfield by committee style is a fantasy killer, one whose level of pain is increased by facing a Cowboys run defense that is seventh in fewest yards allowed and gives up a mere 3.6 yards per carry.

___

For more Week 10 fantasy insight and tips, visit RotoExperts: https://rotoexperts.com

Read More 870 Words

Falcons flying high again after rough start, face Browns

CLEVELAND (AP) — Quietly, steadily and with little fanfare, the Atlanta Falcons have gotten off the ground.

They're flying again — under the radar.

Despite numerous injuries at vital positions, the Falcons have shaken off a 1-4 start and carry a three-game winning streak into Sunday's matchup with the Browns (2-6-1). Cleveland has

CLEVELAND (AP) — Quietly, steadily and with little fanfare, the Atlanta Falcons have gotten off the ground.

They’re flying again — under the radar.

Despite numerous injuries at vital positions, the Falcons have shaken off a 1-4 start and carry a three-game winning streak into Sunday’s matchup with the Browns (2-6-1). Cleveland has changed coaches, dropped four in a row and is trying not to let another season spiral completely out of control.

The Falcons (4-4) are coming off their best performance this season, a well-rounded 38-14 thrashing of the Washington Redskins that has pushed them back into contention in the wild-card race. Atlanta coach Dan Quinn said the key to the team’s turnaround has been persistence.

“The main thing for us was the message to be real consistent, to stay the course,” Quinn said this week. “Although we got knocked down, defensively especially from the communication standpoint, we had to work hard to increase on that. There might be some new voices leading the way. We just tried to stay consistent with the guys. Make sure that we knew what we were doing was right and we had to do what we did better.”

Nobody’s doing it better than Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan, who is playing like he did as the league’s MVP in 2016. Ryan has thrown 19 touchdown passes, only three interceptions, and is completing 71 percent of his passes. The 33-year-old leads the NFL with 335.6 yards passing per game, and he recently went 213 attempts between interceptions.

Matty Ice is on fire.

“He really is playing well. He is executing very well,” said Browns interim coach and defensive coordinator Gregg Williams. “You can see the comfort zone that he has with (Falcons offensive coordinator) Steve (Sarkisian) in Year 2. That usually is the way that it is in our league.”

Last week, Ryan passed for 350 yards and four touchdowns, one to star receiver Julio Jones, who ended a 12-game scoreless drought and finished with seven catches for 121 yards.

Cleveland’s defense will get another stiff test one week after dealing with Kansas City’s high-flying aerial circus. Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs scored 34 in three quarters before coasting through the final 15 minutes.

Williams knows Ryan’s capabilities after facing him twice a season while he was defensive coordinator in New Orleans. Back then, Williams could take chances and blitz a young Ryan. Those tricks don’t work as well on a savvy veteran.

“I look at it as an older quarterback — you start to get into the double-digit years, plus years and stuff — the influence of whoever is coordinating him and whoever is coaching him, he is having some say in some things and doing some really, really good things,” Williams said. “He is very accurate. Our work is going to be cut out for us. You can’t fool those kinds of guys that many times.”

BROWNS DOWN

Cleveland’s task of stopping Ryan, Jones and Co. got harder when starting linebacker Christian Kirksey and cornerback E.J. Gaines were lost to season-ending injuries.

The Browns should have rookie cornerback Denzel Ward and safety/corner Damarious Randall back from injuries. Randall may draw the assignment of covering Jones, who presents problems with his size and speed.

“Big, fast, strong. I mean, you name it,” Randall said when asked to describe Jones. “He’s pretty much what you want in your typical receiver nowadays. He’s the guy that if you had to pick a receiver No. 1 in the league, I’m pretty sure probably all 32 teams would pick Julio Jones.”

NEW RUNNING BACK TANDEM

With Devonta Freeman on injured reserve for at least six more weeks, Atlanta’s distribution of carries has been unexpectedly balanced. Tevin Coleman is starting, but rookie Ito Smith’s role is expanding. Proof came in last week’s win when Coleman had 13 carries for 88 yards, and Smith added 10 for 60 yards and a touchdown.

“He’s gotten better for us every week,” Ryan said of Smith. “I’ve been really impressed with his growth from game to game. It’s really cool to see that from young players, particularly rookies.”

GO, BAKER, GO

The Browns want rookie quarterback Baker Mayfield to cut it loose.

Mayfield was tough on himself after some missed throws last week, but Williams’ said his message to the No. 1 pick this week was to only look forward.

“We have his back. Now, let’s go,” Williams said. “You’re a smart enough quarterback, instinctive enough quarterback. We understand that mistakes are going to be made. Don’t be afraid of making mistakes. Just cut it loose and play, and make faster and faster decisions.

“That’s the No. 1 thing that I’ve tried to convey to him.”

PERFECT FIT

Newly signed defensive end Bruce Irvin is expected to make his Falcons debut. Quinn said Irvin will play as a pass-rush specialist in the nickel package.

Quinn was Seattle’s defensive coordinator for two seasons when Irvin played for the Seahawks. That familiarity, along with Irvin’s desire to return to his hometown, helped the Falcons reach a deal when Irvin said he was offered more money elsewhere.

“I know Bruce,” Quinn said. “I’ve known him for a long time. He’ll fit in really well with this group.”

___

AP Sports Writer Charles Odum contributed to this report.

___

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

Read More 814 Words

New Falcon Bruce Irvin delighted to be back home in Atlanta

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. (AP) — Bruce Irvin has wanted to play for the Atlanta Falcons since he was a kid.

Now that the seventh-year pass rusher is back home and about to make his Falcons debut, Irvin said he won't take this opportunity for granted.

It's a rebirth for a 31-year-old who acknowledges

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. (AP) — Bruce Irvin has wanted to play for the Atlanta Falcons since he was a kid.

Now that the seventh-year pass rusher is back home and about to make his Falcons debut, Irvin said he won’t take this opportunity for granted.

It’s a rebirth for a 31-year-old who acknowledges he made bad decisions as an Atlanta teenager and now gets a chance to rewrite his local legacy.

“Yesterday it hit me a little bit,” Irvin said Thursday. “I know that I look scared but I really was crying yesterday, this is a childhood dream for me. Growing up, watching Michael Vick, and guys like Terance Mathis … this was always my dream so for me to be able to come and live it out it was a surreal moment and I’m just very fortunate to be an Atlanta Falcon right now.”

Irvin was cut last Saturday by Oakland, part of a housecleaning with the rebuilding Raiders. He cleared waivers and was a free agent with offers from several teams.

He never doubted where he wanted to land.

“My agent said, ‘You know everybody thinks you’re going to Atlanta,’ and I said under my breath, ‘Well, they’re right,'” Irvin said. “So it was no comparison, man. My family is here. My wife is from here. It was a childhood dream.”

Irvin said life passed him by growing up in nearby Stone Mountain. He watched friends from Stephenson High School — Perry Riley, Kelvin Sheppard and Jermaine Cunningham — focus on their football careers while he was getting having run-ins with law enforcement and constantly putting himself in danger.

“I was out in the streets doing stuff, and those guys were getting four-year scholarships to Florida and LSU and it hurt me,” Irvin said. “It hurt me seeing those guys go off, and I was just around here doing God knows what. It was a motivating factor. Look at me now. I outlasted Perry and Jermaine (in the NFL). Sheppard just got on so, but it was a motivating factor. I’m glad that I figured it out and got my head on straight.”

Irvin returned recently to Stephenson to meet with current students and offer some advice.

“Like I said, I never played at Stephenson,” he said. “I didn’t play football since the ninth grade and I didn’t play for six years. Going back there and letting those young guys know that anything is possible. You can be in the worst situation and if you surround yourself by the right people and not around a bunch of yes-men, you can make it around anything. So that was the biggest thing.”

Now Irvin gets to show what he can do on the field. Before his first practice with the Falcons on Thursday, Irvin wanted to show his new teammates he can still be a force in disrupting the quarterback.

Irvin will wear jersey No. 52 when the Falcons (4-4) take a three-game winning streak to (2-6-1). He intends to help Atlanta improve a pass rush that ranks 27th in sacks.

“I think I bring a lot of swagger, a lot of attitude,” Irvin said. “I speak my mind. I talk a lot of mess. Just running around having fun, man. That’s the biggest thing in this league. If you’re not having fun, it doesn’t take you a long way. Me just bringing energy and knowledge to these guys. Just being the best Bruce Irvin I can be every day.”

The 6-foot-3, 250-pound Irvin was a first-round draft pick for Seattle out of West Virginia in 2012. He played four seasons with the Seahawks and two-plus with the Raiders, and had 40 sacks. His 15 forced fumbles over that span lead the NFL.

“Me and DQ can’t dwell on what we did in Seattle, going to the Super Bowl and things like that,” Irvin said. “It’s more about right now and I feel like they needed me. I wanted to be here. I did what I had to do. We made it happen.”

___

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

Read More 621 Words

Mack, Allen Robinson just about ready to return to Bears

LAKE FOREST, Ill. (AP) — Two-time All-Pro pass rusher Khalil Mack and top receiver Allen Robinson look as if they're just about ready to return after missing the Chicago Bears' past two games because of injuries.

Both players practiced without limitations Thursday for the second consecutive day.

The NFC North-leading Bears hope to

LAKE FOREST, Ill. (AP) — Two-time All-Pro pass rusher Khalil Mack and top receiver Allen Robinson look as if they’re just about ready to return after missing the Chicago Bears’ past two games because of injuries.

Both players practiced without limitations Thursday for the second consecutive day.

The NFC North-leading Bears hope to have them back in the lineup against the Detroit Lions at Soldier Field on Sunday.

Robinson says he’s “100 percent” after missing victories over the struggling New York Jets and Buffalo Bills.

Mack, who suffered an ankle injury at Miami Oct. 14 and played the following week against New England, did not make himself available to reporters.

Coach Matt Nagy says the Bears still are “taking it day by day with them.”

___

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

Read More 75 Words

Dolphins’ Burke says Jones, defense now on ‘same page’

DAVIE, Fla. (AP) — Miami Dolphins defensive coordinator Matt Burke has spent the week patching up things, and not just because his unit is on pace to allow more yards than any team in franchise history.

Two-time Pro Bowl safety Reshad Jones mysteriously took himself out of last week's win over the New

DAVIE, Fla. (AP) — Miami Dolphins defensive coordinator Matt Burke has spent the week patching up things, and not just because his unit is on pace to allow more yards than any team in franchise history.

Two-time Pro Bowl safety Reshad Jones mysteriously took himself out of last week’s win over the New York Jets and watched the second half from the sideline. In the aftermath, coach Adam Gase said communication problems between Burke and players needed to be addressed.

“Obviously there was some sort of disconnect,” Burke said Thursday. “We’ve had a lot of conversations — the whole defense and myself, Reshad and myself, Adam and myself. I think we’re all on the same page.”

Jones declined to say why he became a spectator, but he apparently was unhappy with Burke’s plan to rotate safeties against the Jets. Burke said he’s confident that if the decision is for Jones to share playing time Sunday at Green Bay, the veteran will accept that.

Gase, who seemed to side with Jones in the aftermath of last week’s standoff, agreed the issue has been resolved.

“We did everything we need to get straightened out and moved on,” Gase said. “Sometimes you have to go through all of this kind of stuff during a season. Sometimes it gets aired out publicly. That’s the hardest thing about the NFL sometimes. You have to bounce back. We got what we needed fixed, and we’re moving on to the next game.”

Jones has been a starter for Miami since 2011 and a defensive leader. Burke said he doesn’t believe Jones’ standing within the team has been harmed.

“I know he has had conversations with his teammates on how he’s going to move forward,” Burke said. “I don’t see an issue with that.”

Even if the matter is now in the rearview mirror, Burke has plenty of other problems. The Dolphins held the woeful Jets without a touchdown , but before that their defense had been awful for several weeks in a row.

They rank 26th in league overall, 28th in run defense and 22nd in pass defense. They’re allowing 394 yards per game, more than the team’s record-high average of 383 in 2016, the year before Burke became coordinator.

The Dolphins have allowed 107 points in their past three road games, and now they visit Aaron Rodgers and the Packers , who are ranked sixth in offense.

Rodgers, ever the pro, managed to find nice things to say about Miami’s defensive, specifically Jones’ secondary.

“They’ve made a lot of plays on the ball,” Rodgers said. “They do a nice disguise package. They play some different coverages behind some of their pressures.”

The saving grace for the Dolphins’ defense is that they have 15 interceptions, including four last week. They’re on pace to the lead the league for the first time in franchise history.

Burke believes that for his defense, the best is yet to come.

“I hope so,” he said. “Hope is not a strategy, but you hope the trend from last week is where we’re heading more than weeks prior. If we execute and perform the way we performed last week, we’ll have a chance to put a decent showing together.”

___

AP Sports Writer Genaro Armas contributed to this report.

___

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

___

Follow Steven Wine on Twitter: http://twitter.com/Steve_Wine.

Read More 498 Words

Packers hope to bounce back against Dolphins’ pick-happy D

GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — One team is starting a backup at quarterback but still above .500. The other boasts one of the NFL's best quarterbacks, yet has a losing record.

It's a topsy-turvy matchup when the Miami Dolphins visit the Green Bay Packers on Sunday.

Brock Osweiler will make a fifth straight

GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — One team is starting a backup at quarterback but still above .500. The other boasts one of the NFL’s best quarterbacks, yet has a losing record.

It’s a topsy-turvy matchup when the Miami Dolphins visit the Green Bay Packers on Sunday.

Brock Osweiler will make a fifth straight start at quarterback for the Dolphins with Ryan Tannehill nursing a shoulder injury . Two-time NFL MVP Aaron Rodgers seems to be getting healthier after hurting his left knee in the Packers’ season opener against the Chicago Bears.

Advantage Packers on offense, at least on paper.

Yet for whatever reasons, what should be a prolific unit isn’t clicking consistently for the Packers (3-4-1), especially in the fourth quarters of their last two losses.

“Yeah, it’s definitely frustrating, especially when you’ve got the talent we do,” receiver Davante Adams said. “We just need a little bit of flow and consistency, and I think that’s what’s going to get this offense moving in the right direction.”

It’s little consolation that the losses have come against two of the league’s best teams, the Rams and Patriots . Miscues on special teams, offense and defense have caught up to the Packers to contribute to the stinging defeats.

Green Bay may need a “run the table” type of streak to get into the postseason. That phrase uttered by Rodgers turned into a catchword in 2016 when the Packers won eight straight games to go from 4-6 to the NFC title game.

“We’re focused on winning No. 4. That’s all we’re talking about right now,” coach Mike McCarthy said. “We improved as a football team the last two weeks, but you have to play your best football coming down the stretch, and that’s clearly been evident the last two weeks.”

The Dolphins (5-4) relied on a resilient defense to beat the struggling New York Jets 13-6. Miami had four interceptions and four sacks while holding the Jets to 2 of 15 on third and fourth downs.

It’s a nice cushion with Osweiler making another start. The Dolphins are 2-2 with Osweiler behind center, averaging 22 points a game.

“Any time you play a quarterback that’s as special as Aaron is, you want to limit the amount of possessions that he’s able to have,” Osweiler said. “We know offensively this week it’s very important for us to sustain drives, get first downs and try to be in control of that clock.”

Other notes and things to watch:

RUN THE DRAKE?

Kenyan Drake had only three carries for the Dolphins last week, while starter Frank Gore carried 20 times.

“We don’t want to be that far apart,” coach Adam Gase said. “There were a few opportunities where we were trying to do certain things with Kenyan that didn’t work out the way we wanted to where we were trying to get him the ball.”

Drake is averaging 4.8 yards per carry, but he has had six or fewer in five of Miami’s nine games. For the season he has 73 carries to 104 for the 35-year-old Gore.

ROOKIE RECEIVER

A groin injury to Geronimo Allison means more opportunities for Marquez Valdes-Scantling. The fifth-round draft pick out of South Florida has shown potential to be a stretch-the-field threat with his speed and 6-foot-4 frame. Valdes-Scantling is averaging a team-best 21.1 yards per catch. He could be a beneficiary of more targets if the Dolphins decide to double Adams, the Packers’ top wideout.

SAFETY SHUFFLE

Reshad Jones will be back in the lineup for the Dolphins after the two-time Pro Bowl safety took himself out of last week’s win over the Jets. Gase said that communication problems between defensive coordinator Matt Burke and players need to be addressed. Still, the defense last week was better after three straight poor games.

SAFETY SHUFFLE, PART 2

The Packers have done a midseason shuffle at safety. The moves began with the trade of Ha Ha Clinton-Dix to Washington last week.

Kentrell Brice was limited at midweek with a knee injury, while Jermaine Whitehead was released this week. Veteran cornerback Tramon Williams was moved to safety against the Rams, but could be needed back at cornerback against Miami because of Kevin King’s hamstring injury. Green Bay picked up safety Ibraheim Campbell off waivers from the New York Jets this week, while second-year player Josh Jones figures to see more snaps after being slowed by injury earlier this year.

TURNOVER TIME

The four picks of Jets rookie Sam Darnold last week gave Miami a league-high 15 interceptions. Now the Dolphins face Rodgers, who has thrown one pick this season.

“They’ve made a lot of plays on the ball. They do a nice disguise package,” Rodgers said. “Guys with vision to the football, which means you always have to be smart about your eye discipline.”

___

AP Sports Writer Steven Wine contributed.

___

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

Read More 746 Words

Colts’ revamped line studies hard for test against Jaguars

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — The Indianapolis Colts spent their offseason cramming for Sunday's test.

They understood that to ascend in the AFC South, they needed a bigger, stronger offensive line, better coaching and different study habits. So far, they've aced it.

Now they face their biggest challenge: Jacksonville's daunting defense.

"We don't need any

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — The Indianapolis Colts spent their offseason cramming for Sunday’s test.

They understood that to ascend in the AFC South, they needed a bigger, stronger offensive line, better coaching and different study habits. So far, they’ve aced it.

Now they face their biggest challenge: Jacksonville’s daunting defense.

“We don’t need any incentive. It’s the NFL, we go out there, it’s our job to protect the quarterback,” longtime left tackle Anthony Castonzo said. “The past is the past, we’re going to try the best we can.”

Just about anything would be an upgrade over what’s happened lately against the Jaguars.

When these teams previously met, late last season, the Jaguars finished with four sacks — a significant improvement over the 10 sacks Indy allowed six weeks earlier last season.

Those 14 sacks accounted for more than one-fourth of Indy’s season total, showing general manager Chris Ballard where the Colts needed to focus their attention to get back into the division race.

Ballard found two starters in the draft, left guard Quenton Nelson in the first round and right tackle Braden Smith in the second. He added right guard Matt Slauson in free agency. Center Ryan Kelly returned to form following an injury-filled 2017 season, and even after Slauson went down with a back injury the Colts have managed to find solid replacements.

As a result, Andrew Luck has been sacked just 10 times all season, none in his past 154 attempts — the longest stretch of his pro career.

The improvement can’t be measured by pass protection alone. Marlon Mack rushed for career highs each of the past two weeks and has given Indy (3-5) its first back-to-back 100-yard rushing games since 2007.

Still, the Colts know they are far from perfect and careful study of last year’s two game tapes reveal just how quickly Jacksonville’s defense can expose their lingering flaws.

“I’m not going to tell you what our weaknesses are but this is going to be a big week coming off the bye,” Castonzo said. “It’s going to be tightening the screws on the things that we can.”

But this Jacksonville team doesn’t resemble the one that reached last year’s AFC championship game, either.

Despite being ranked No. 1 against the pass and No. 2 in total defense, only seven teams have fewer sacks than the Jags (19) and only three teams have produced fewer turnovers (seven).

It explains why the Jags (3-5) have lost four straight and, like the Colts, are 2½ games behind division leader Houston.

Coach Doug Marrone doesn’t expect this week’s challenge to get any easier, especially against an opponent hoping to ace its biggest test of the season.

“It’s a really, really good group and honestly right now collectively, I would have to say when you look at them on film they’re probably the best offensive line that we have seen this year,” Marrone said.

WELCOME BACK

Jaguars running back Leonard Fournette is expected to return after missing six of the past seven games because of a strained right hamstring.

He practiced in full for the first time in more than a month Monday and did the same Wednesday. Marrone says the coaching staff won’t limit Fournette’s touches against the Colts.

“We are full-boring everybody,” Marrone said. “Once a guy is ready to play, that has to be our expectation.”

PAYING TRIBUTE

Adam Vinatieri became the NFL’s career scoring leader at Oakland.

On Sunday, the Colts will celebrate the record-breaking moment during a pregame ceremony at Lucas Oil Stadium. Details are being kept under wraps.

Not surprisingly, the 45-year-old Vinatieri doesn’t want to make too big a deal out of it.

“I want to keep it fairly low key,” Vinatieri said. “I don’t want to be a distraction. It’s a fun accomplishment, it’s a big accomplishment not only for me but for the guys I’ve played with. But at the end of the day the only thing I want to get out of this weekend is a win.”

GOING BACK

Jaguars receiver Donte Moncrief, who spent the first four years of his career in Indianapolis, is looking forward to going back for the weekend.

“There’s going to be a lot of emotions,” Moncrief said. “I’ve still got to go out there and play and make plays like I’ve been doing. Don’t try to make it too big. Just go out there and do what you usually do.”

Moncrief has 29 receptions for 379 yards and two touchdowns this season. He signed a one-year, $9.6 million contract with the Jaguars in March, betting on himself to stay healthy and prove he’s worthy of a more lucrative, long-term deal in the league.

MR. 3,000

With seven passing attempts Sunday, Luck will hit No. 3,000.

He needs one TD pass to tie Eli Manning (156) for the 10th-highest total in league history over a player’s first seven seasons and three to match Cam Newton (158) for No. 9.

___

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

Read More 755 Words

Rivers rolling, Carr stalling entering Chargers-Raiders game

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — Derek Carr had appeared to pass Philip Rivers in the pecking order of AFC West quarterbacks two years ago. He put together a season worthy of MVP consideration while Rivers led the NFL in interceptions on the way to a last-place finish.

Carr looked like one of the NFL's up-and-coming stars,

OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) — Derek Carr had appeared to pass Philip Rivers in the pecking order of AFC West quarterbacks two years ago. He put together a season worthy of MVP consideration while Rivers led the NFL in interceptions on the way to a last-place finish.

Carr looked like one of the NFL’s up-and-coming stars, while Rivers seemed to be on the downside of a career that started in 2004.

The script has flipped heading into Sunday’s meeting between Rivers’ Los Angeles Chargers (6-2) and Carr’s Oakland Raiders (1-7). Rivers is playing as well as he has at any point in his 15-year career, while Carr is struggling to find his way in coach Jon Gruden’s offense.

“Obviously quarterbacks get way too much credit and way too much blame already, but I think we don’t give enough credit to guys who have played that long,” Carr said. “I’ll say it this way, the hardest part mentally going through a season is the days leading up to the game. Sunday is fun, man. You cut it loose and you give it everything you have. Having to recover, ice tub, wake up early to get treatment, the lift, to lift heavy when everything hurts, that’s when those guys don’t get enough credit.

“Here I am at five years, I’m fine. I’m good. I’ll keep doing this and I’m good. But, those guys that are in their 15th, 20th season, we don’t give them enough credit to mentally be that strong. It’s awesome.”

Rivers has career highs in yards per attempt (9.1) and passer rating (116.5), and is on pace for a career-high 38 touchdown passes while leading the Chargers to five straight wins.

The Chargers have strengthened their offensive line, have a potent running threat in Melvin Gordon, have plenty of outside targets with Keenan Allen, Tyrell Williams and Mike Williams, and a strong defense.

That has all taken pressure off Rivers to carry too much of the load.

“These last almost 20 games or so, we’ve had good balance,” Rivers said. “Leaning on one another offensively and defensively taking care of the ball — all of those things are important. So we’ve done a nice job of it so far.”

Here are some other things to watch:

GORDON’S RUN

Melvin Gordon has rushed for 407 yards and scored five touchdowns in his last four games. He also has three 100-yard games in three of his past four, the first time that has happened in his career. The only game when Gordon did not go over the century mark was Week 5 against the Raiders; he had just 58 yards on 19 carries. The Raiders are last in the league in rushing defense, but Gordon knows he has a tough test ahead.

“They played me pretty tough last time we went up against them. It is never easy since they are a rival. As a group the offensive line is hitting on all cylinders. We hope to keep getting stronger.”

PRESSURE POINT

The Raiders have struggled to generate any sort of pass pressure all season after trading away Khalil Mack. Oakland ranks last in the NFL with seven sacks and last with 35 QB pressures, according to SportRadar, 28 fewer pressures than the next-lowest team. Fixing that will only get harder after the team released top pass rusher Bruce Irvin last week. That puts more pressure on a trio of rookies — P.J. Hall, Arden Key and Maurice Hurst — that has three sacks this season.

“We put a lot on their plate and that’s because they’re the future of this team,” teammate Frostee Rucker said. “They have to come along and play.”

KINGS OF PICKS

The Chargers have seven interceptions during their five-game winning streak and have 189 yards in returns, which leads the league. Second-year cornerback Desmond King has three of the interceptions and returned one 42 yards for a touchdown last week at Seattle to put the Chargers up by two scores.

MISSING WIDEOUTS

Oakland has struggled to get any production from wideouts in recent weeks. Since the start of Week 5, Oakland ranks last in the NFL with 37 catches and 428 yards receiving from wide receivers. Amari Cooper had one catch for 10 yards in two games in that span before being traded to Dallas. Seth Roberts leads Oakland’s pass catchers with 12 receptions over those four games, while Martavis Bryant has the most yards with 138.

NEW KICKER (AGAIN)

The Chargers have become the Bermuda Triangle for placekickers. Michael Badgley is the team’s sixth since the start of last season and moved into the role fulltime this week after Caleb Sturgis was released on Monday. Badgley made all three of his field goals and seven extra points in the two games he kicked when Sturgis had a quadriceps injury.

___

AP Sports Writer Joe Reedy contributed to this report

___

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

Read More 744 Words

Mahomes, Rosen to face off when Chiefs welcome Cardinals

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Patrick Mahomes Reunion Tour rolls on Sunday when the young, record-setting quarterback leads the high-flying Kansas City Chiefs against the Arizona Cardinals at Arrowhead Stadium.

Last week, Mahomes shredded the Cleveland Browns while outplaying their rookie quarterback, Baker Mayfield. The two met when Mahomes was being recruited to Texas

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Patrick Mahomes Reunion Tour rolls on Sunday when the young, record-setting quarterback leads the high-flying Kansas City Chiefs against the Arizona Cardinals at Arrowhead Stadium.

Last week, Mahomes shredded the Cleveland Browns while outplaying their rookie quarterback, Baker Mayfield. The two met when Mahomes was being recruited to Texas Tech and Mayfield helped to serve as his host, and their relationship continued even when Mayfield transferred to Oklahoma.

This week, Mahomes gets to reminiscence about his time working at Peyton Manning’s football camp with his old roommate, Josh Rosen — now the quarterback on whom the Cardinals are pinning their future.

“I’ve met him a couple times, been out to California and met him,” Mahomes said. “He throws a beautiful ball. It’s always a really tight spiral. I know he’ll have a lot of success.”

It’s going to be tough to top the success Mahomes is having.

The Chiefs’ first-year starter is setting benchmarks just about every time he steps on the field, and the next one might be consecutive 300-yard passing games. Mahomes has eight straight to match Andrew Luck from the 2014 season, and he’s shown no signs of slowing down.

“I thought he was pretty good,” Rosen said, reflecting on those days working camp together. “We weren’t really throwing, we were mostly just coaching the kids. So we didn’t get to really throw too much, but I liked him as a dude. We got along really well.”

Rosen hasn’t seen a whole lot of Mahomes with the Chiefs (8-1) this week, either, because he’s spent all his time focusing on the defense. But Cardinals coach Steve Wilks has seen enough to know that stopping him may be impossible, and slowing him down is nearly as difficult.

That goes for the entirety of the Kansas City offense.

“One thing we talked about all week is really trying to limit those big plays, understanding exactly who they’re trying to target,” Wilks said. “This is a very explosive offense. Going against Andy Reid for several years in different places, going all the way back to the Eagles, this is part of his M.O. So, we’ve got to try to limit the big plays as much as possible.”

The Cardinals (2-6) have struggled much of the season, particularly on offense. But they’re coming off an uplifting, fourth-quarter comeback victory over San Francisco that was capped by Rosen’s touchdown strike to Christian Kirk in the final minute.

“You can let point spreads and all these things — ‘trap game’ — and all these terms that pop up and things that happen come into it,” Reid said of perhaps the biggest challenge facing the Chiefs this week. “But if you can honestly focus on the process and discipline yourself to do that, that normally takes care of things. … You’re not going to let distractions get in the way.”

As the Chiefs and Cardinals prepare to meet Sunday, here are some interesting notes:

GETTING HEALTHIER

Chiefs safety Daniel Sorensen is expected to play after returning from injured reserve, where he’d been since breaking his leg in training camp. The Chiefs also could have top pass rusher Justin Houston back from a hamstring injury that has sidelined him the past four games.

ROSEN AND REID

Rosen’s father, noted physician Dr. Charles Rosen, graduated from the University of Pennsylvania, and the youngster was an avid fan of Reid and the Philadelphia Eagles growing up.

“I used to have an Eagles shirt when I was a kid that said, ‘Our coach will eat yours.’ I was a huge Andy Reid fan,” Rosen said. “Him and Mike Vick and the DeSean Jackson days were very fun to watch.

FITZGERALD’S NUMBERS

Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald has been climbing into the upper reaches of the NFL’s career receiving marks, and he is closing in on a couple very high rungs.

Fitzgerald has 15,902 yards receiving, and he needs 33 more to pass Terrell Owens for second place behind Jerry Rice on the career list. Fitzgerald also needs 58 catches to pass former Chiefs tight end Tony Gonzalez for second behind Rice in career receptions.

Fitzgerald had eight catches for 102 yards and a TD in last week’s 18-15 win over San Francisco.

PERFECTION, ALMOST

Reid was asked this week how often his creative plays are executed properly — when all 11 guys do exactly what they are supposed to do. And his answer was quite candid.

“I’d probably give you 85 percent of the time,” Reid said. “Now, they can get beat and that would bring it down a little bit, but mostly guys will attempt to do the right thing. It amazes me how they can digest all this and in a split-second know — there’s 200 plays on that sheet, and you have to figure it out like that, and these guys do it.”

MAKE WAY, LEN

Mahomes already has thrown 29 touchdown passes, which means he needs just two more to pass Len Dawson’s franchise record. The Hall of Famer set one of the Chiefs’ longest-standing records in 1964, an era in which passing generally took a back seat to running the ball.

“It would be awesome,” Mahomes said, “because Len had a lot of success in the NFL and was kind of ahead of his time, throwing all those touchdowns. It would be awesome to pass that.”

___

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

Read More 837 Words

LA Rams horrified by mass shooting near their training base

THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. (AP) — The Los Angeles Rams are reacting with horror and sadness after a mass shooting occurred near their training complex.

The Rams train in Thousand Oaks about five miles north of the Borderline Bar and Grill, where Marine combat veteran Ian David Long opened fire Wednesday night. He killed

THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. (AP) — The Los Angeles Rams are reacting with horror and sadness after a mass shooting occurred near their training complex.

The Rams train in Thousand Oaks about five miles north of the Borderline Bar and Grill, where Marine combat veteran Ian David Long opened fire Wednesday night. He killed 12 people on college night at the country music bar before apparently killing himself.

The Rams currently believe no one connected to their organization was at the bar, but coach Sean McVay and defensive coordinator Wade Phillips both described a somber mood in the Rams’ locker room Thursday before practice.

The team will hold a moment of silence before its home game against Seattle on Sunday, and the Rams may organize additional tributes to the victims, McVay said.

The Rams built their training complex in 2016 on a corner of the campus of Cal Lutheran University, which had students at the bar during the shooting.

The Rams’ separate corporate offices also are a few miles away in Agoura Hills. Most of the team’s players and employees live in the suburban Ventura County suburbs one hour northwest of downtown Los Angeles.

___

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

Read More 143 Words