Patriots RB Michel sustains knee injury

Patriots RB Michel sustains knee injury

New England Patriots running back Sony Michel left the second quarter of Sunday’s game against the Chicago Bears with an apparent left knee injury.

Michel, a 2018 first-round draft pick from Georgia, was helped off the field after his leg was twisted by Bears defensive end Bilal Nichols. Michel fumbled on the play.

Backfield change: Panthers waive Anderson; sign Cadet

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — The Panthers have waived backup running back C.J. Anderson, a 1,000-yard rusher last season with the Broncos.

Anderson played in nine games for Carolina and had 104 yards rushing on 24 carries. He had one reception for a 24-yard touchdown.

Carolina signed running back Travaris Cadet on Monday to

CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — The Panthers have waived backup running back C.J. Anderson, a 1,000-yard rusher last season with the Broncos.

Anderson played in nine games for Carolina and had 104 yards rushing on 24 carries. He had one reception for a 24-yard touchdown.

Carolina signed running back Travaris Cadet on Monday to replace Anderson on the roster.

Panthers general manager Marty Hurney says “when we signed C.J. in the spring I think he saw his role evolving into more. But Christian (McCaffrey) has taken the majority of the role here.”

Hurney says Anderson did not ask to be traded or released.

Anderson, 27, ran for 1,007 yards last season for the Broncos but was not re-signed by Denver.

Cadet, 29, played for the Bills and Jets last season and had 23 carries for 96 yards.

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Bears supporting Parkey after tough day against Lions

LAKE FOREST, Ill. (AP) — This time, the Chicago Bears were good enough to overcome a tough day for Cody Parkey.

That might not be the case very soon.

A day after Parkey missed two extra points and two field-goal attempts in a 34-22 victory over Detroit, coach Matt Nagy reiterated he has

LAKE FOREST, Ill. (AP) — This time, the Chicago Bears were good enough to overcome a tough day for Cody Parkey.

That might not be the case very soon.

A day after Parkey missed two extra points and two field-goal attempts in a 34-22 victory over Detroit, coach Matt Nagy reiterated he has no plans to take a look at another kicker this week. But he acknowledged Parkey’s performance is only going to take on greater importance as the NFC North-leading Bears try to get back to the playoffs for the first time since after the 2010 season.

“The end of this regular season, these are huge now. You got to make them,” Nagy said Monday, “and it’s just too important, they’re too crucial.”

The most remarkable part of Parkey’s trouble against Detroit might have been how he missed the four kicks, finding an upright each time.

After Chicago scored on its first drive, Parkey kicked the extra point off the right upright. He hit the left upright on an extra point in the second quarter. On consecutive Chicago drives in the third quarter, Parkey rattled the right upright on a 41-yard field goal and again on a 34-yard attempt.

“I don’t think I’ve hit the post four times in my whole life and I’ve been kicking probably for 15 years,” Parkey said right after Chicago’s third straight win.

It got so bad that the crowd roared when the Bears went for a 2-point conversion after a touchdown later in the third. But Parkey’s teammates offered their support.

“Everyone has a bad game every once in a while, so we’re going to rally around him, continue to have his back,” quarterback Mitchell Trubisky said, “and I know next week when we need it he’s going to make a big kick and we’re not even going to think twice about it. We’re a family in that locker room, we have each other’s back no matter what.”

Parkey connected on 21 of 23 field-goal attempts and 26 of 29 extra points last season with Miami, prompting Chicago to give him a four-year deal in free agency worth a little more than $15 million. It included a signing bonus of $2.25 million and a fully guaranteed base salary for the first two years, making it unlikely the Bears will cut him.

The 26-year-old Parkey has missed five field goals in 18 attempts this season. The empty extra points were his first two in 32 tries.

Nagy chalked up the performance to a bad day.

“You go back to a few weeks ago when Mason Crosby missed a few for Green Bay and then the next week he ended up kicking the game winner,” Nagy said. “It’s just a crazy cycle and it’s just a matter of your patience that you have with it and fortunately for us yesterday we did have the lead. … But now, he also needs to take the next step of trying to figure out how he can get better and we’ll go ahead and do that.”

One way might be some practice time at Soldier Field, one of the NFL’s toughest spots for kickers because of its proximity to Lake Michigan. Nagy said they are discussing the possibility.

How quickly Parkey can recover from his difficulties against Detroit could be huge for Chicago (6-3), which hosts Minnesota on Sunday night. The Vikings have won four of five and are second in the division with a 5-3-1 record.

The Bears and Lions play again on Thanksgiving in Detroit, and Chicago also hosts Green Bay and visits Minnesota before the season ends. Asked about balancing support for Parkey with any frustration with his performance, Nagy said he believes in being honest.

“I’m not going to sugarcoat anything and he wouldn’t want that from me,” he said. “So we’ll have our own conversations and keep it between us, but I’ll always handle it as best as I can for the team and for him and then just stick with my gut.”

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Jay Cohen can be reached at https://twitter.com/jcohenap

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Confused Jags keep blowing assignments in 5th straight loss

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) — The Jacksonville Jaguars are busting defensive assignments at an alarming rate.

They are allowing receivers to get wide open across the field. They are letting tight ends go completely uncovered. They are missing calls, failing to communicate coverages and giving up explosive plays left and right.

A defense that

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) — The Jacksonville Jaguars are busting defensive assignments at an alarming rate.

They are allowing receivers to get wide open across the field. They are letting tight ends go completely uncovered. They are missing calls, failing to communicate coverages and giving up explosive plays left and right.

A defense that believed it could be generational a few months ago looks mostly generic the last few weeks.

The Jaguars (3-6) gave up 29 points and 306 yards in the first half to Indianapolis and lost 29-26 on Sunday . The Colts managed just 60 yards after the break, but dropped two passes that would have resulted in big gains.

Regardless, Jacksonville lost its fifth consecutive game and pretty much ruined its already slim chances of returning to the postseason. Inconsistent quarterback Blake Bortles and a growing number of injuries are partly to blame. But equally troubling is how the once-vaunted defense has fallen well short of expectations.

“I can’t say what’s going on in the next man’s head,” safety Tashaun Gipson said Monday. “We go over our in-game adjustments. The coaches tell us what to expect, what we learn from each play and things like that. I don’t know what those guys who are a part of those busted coverages are seeing. To be honest, it has to be just total brain farts.

“You’re looking at guys running wild in coverages that we’ve been playing here for (three years). Even back in 2016, we weren’t a great football team, but it wasn’t this many consecutive busts week in and week out.”

Cornerback Jalen Ramsey played his worst game in three years, getting caught in the wrong coverage twice against the Colts.

The 2017 All-Pro played man-to-man defense against T.Y. Hilton when he should have been in zone, leaving tight end Eric Ebron to run unmarked for a 53-yard touchdown reception on the opening drive. Ramsey played zone later in the first quarter when he should been in man, allowing Hilton to get loose for a 35-yard gain.

Ramsey also got burned for a touchdown by tight end Mo Alie-Cox.

Ramsey responded to criticism Monday via Twitter by saying, “When I’m gone from here, y’all gone miss me. I ain’t even trippin lol.”

Coach Doug Marrone said he understands fans being upset with the team’s performance and Ramsey’s remarks.

“There are people that support this team, that expected great things from this team, and we’re not performing at that level,” Marrone said. “At the end of the day, if you’re not strong enough to understand that, that’s not going to help the team get on the right track. Anyone.”

Safety Barry Church also blew a man-coverage scheme in the first half when he failed to line up properly, and Luck found Ebron all alone for a 12-yard score.

“The busts came up in the Dallas game, and they’ve just been a recurring theme since then,” Gipson said. “What to do about it? I don’t know. It’s hard to blame coaching for busts, but at the same time, everybody’s got to be accountable in this thing right here for sure.”

Jacksonville hosts Pittsburgh (6-2-1) on Sunday, a rematch from the divisional round of the playoffs.

The Jaguars held on for a 45-42 victory despite surrendering touchdowns on Pittsburgh’s final three possessions. Given how the Jags have played lately, especially in the first half against the Colts, no one would be surprised to see the Steelers pick up where they left off in January.

“As cliche as it may sounds, there’s only one way to go for this team right now,” Gipson said. “I think our backs are truly, truly against the wall. … I’ve been on terrible teams and I’ve been on teams that when you’re 3-6, you’re like, ‘Hey, man, that’s a lot better than I thought we would be nine games in.’

“The feeling right now, it’s tough on a lot of guys because this is not a 3-6 team.”

NOTES: Marrone said center Brandon Linder will have surgery on his right knee and miss the rest of the season. Linder, a third-round draft pick from Miami in 2014, will have missed 27 games in five years. He signed a five-year contract worth $51.7 million, with $24 million guaranteed, in July 2017. Linder also is the team’s third offensive lineman — second starter — to land on injured reserve.

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Chargers LB Denzel Perryman out for season with knee injury

COSTA MESA, Calif. (AP) — Los Angeles Chargers linebacker Denzel Perryman will miss the rest of the season because of a knee injury.

Coach Anthony Lynn said Monday that Perryman injured the lateral collateral ligament in his left knee during the first quarter of Sunday's 20-6 win against Oakland.

Perryman, who has started

COSTA MESA, Calif. (AP) — Los Angeles Chargers linebacker Denzel Perryman will miss the rest of the season because of a knee injury.

Coach Anthony Lynn said Monday that Perryman injured the lateral collateral ligament in his left knee during the first quarter of Sunday’s 20-6 win against Oakland.

Perryman, who has started every game at inside linebacker this season, was second on the Chargers with 51 tackles going into the Oakland game. He was drafted in the second round in 2015 and is in the final year of his contract.

Hayes Pullard and Kyle Emanuel, who both saw 16 snaps against Oakland, are in the mix to move into Perryman’s starting spot. Los Angeles (7-2), which has won six straight, hosts Denver this week.

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Browns much better, show promising growth under Williams

CLEVELAND (AP) — From disorganized and dysfunctional to disciplined — and according to rookie quarterback Baker Mayfield, dangerous.

The Cleveland Browns are looking a lot better these days.

Not great, but improved. Greatly improved.

Two weeks after coach Hue Jackson's long overdue firing, the Browns showed a glimpse of a brighter future with

CLEVELAND (AP) — From disorganized and dysfunctional to disciplined — and according to rookie quarterback Baker Mayfield, dangerous.

The Cleveland Browns are looking a lot better these days.

Not great, but improved. Greatly improved.

Two weeks after coach Hue Jackson’s long overdue firing, the Browns showed a glimpse of a brighter future with their best all-around game in several seasons, a convincing 28-16 victory on Sunday over the Atlanta Falcons.

Taking their cues from Mayfield and interim coach Gregg Williams, whose odds of becoming Cleveland’s next full-time coach may not be as ridiculous as they once seemed, the Browns (3-6-1) took apart a team with playoff hopes.

Cleveland was balanced on offense, sound defensively and the Browns’ special teams avoided the kind of fatal mistakes that led to so many tough losses earlier this season.

“We just finally put four quarters of football together,” said safety Damarious Randall. “Just to see us put it together now shows where this team is pointing and the direction we are going. We are going to keep on building on that and keep fighting.”

Mayfield’s leading the charge.

Matched up against one of the NFL’s best in Matt Ryan, Mayfield was nearly perfect while outplaying his more celebrated quarterbacking counterpart. Mayfield completed his first 13 passes, finished 17 of 20 for 217 yards and threw three touchdown passes as the Browns posted their largest win since Dec. 13, 2015 — a span of 44 games.

When it ended, with the rare sight of Cleveland fans actually still in their seats cheering and not heading toward the exits, Mayfield met Ryan and shared a hug with Atlanta’s star at midfield before filming a promotional selfie video for the team’s website and then sprinting off like a 10-year-old and leaping and bumping with Randall in the end zone.

Moments later, Mayfield playfully told reporters he woke up feeling “pretty dangerous.” He’s been scary over the past four weeks, throwing nine TD passes with just two interceptions and making better decisions.

It was Mayfield’s second game with offensive coordinator Freddie Kitchens, the team’s running backs coach thrust into the coordinator’s role when Todd Haley was fired after Jackson on Oct. 29. Kitchens has catered Cleveland’s offense to suit Mayfield’s strengths, and his quicker throws have been effective in moving the ball and keeping him safe.

For the first time this season, the Browns did not give up a sack.

Williams said the Mayfield-Kitchens pairing will only get better.

“Both of their styles and both of their personalities, they respect each other,” Williams said. “They both understand each other. When that respect is well enough, maybe they might even like each other later on, but there has to be a respect of those and us together with coaches and players that we both are on the same page and we know what we are doing for things to grow. I think Freddie and Baker are doing a great job with that.”

Williams, too, should take a bow. In no time, he’s made the Browns better.

Sometimes brash and boastful, Williams has toned down his public personality while providing strong, needed leadership to a team that had tuned out Jackson after two losing seasons. The Browns are responding to the 60-year-old Williams, who coached Buffalo from 2001-03 and worked his way back up the ranks after he was suspended by the league in 2012.

Williams laughed hard when asked if the past two weeks have reminded an “old timer” he still had what it takes to be a head coach.

“I never thought it left,” he said.

But as far as his future in Cleveland, Williams insists he’s not campaigning for the job. At this point, the Browns’ play is doing the lobbying for him.

When pressed about whether he would like to be the next coach of the Browns, Williams showed a politician’s elusiveness.

“You know what?” he said on a conference call as the Browns began their bye week. “I like being employed. I enjoy the head coaching part of it. I enjoy all these parts of it, but understand the big part of what we are doing is we get the players the focus, get me to focus on one day at a time and we have to keep on moving on in the right direction.”

NOTES: Williams only planned to give his players Tuesday off, but “threw them a bone” following the win and gave them Monday as well. The players are free this week with the exception of medical treatments and phone meetings. … Williams said LT Greg Robinson “played well” in his second start, but that doesn’t mean he’ll stay in the lineup following the bye. Rookie Desmond Harrison started Cleveland’s first eight games before being sidelined with an unspecified illness.

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Jaguars center Brandon Linder injures knee, out for season

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) — Jacksonville Jaguars center Brandon Linder will have season-ending surgery on his right knee.

Linder injured his knee in Sunday's 29-26 loss at Indianapolis, and coach Doug Marrone said Monday the team captain will be placed on injured reserve.

A third-round draft pick from Miami in 2014, Linder will have

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (AP) — Jacksonville Jaguars center Brandon Linder will have season-ending surgery on his right knee.

Linder injured his knee in Sunday’s 29-26 loss at Indianapolis, and coach Doug Marrone said Monday the team captain will be placed on injured reserve.

A third-round draft pick from Miami in 2014, Linder will have missed 27 games in five years. He signed a five-year contract worth $51.7 million in July 2017. It included $24 million guaranteed.

Linder also is the team’s third offensive lineman — second starter — to land on injured reserve. Left tackle Cam Robinson tore a knee ligament earlier in the season and was placed on IR. Robinson’s backup, Josh Wells, landed on IR with a groin injury.

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Ravens QB Flacco status for Sunday’s game ‘up in the air’

OWINGS MILLS, Md. (AP) — Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco is nursing a hip injury that could threaten his availability for Sunday's game against Cincinnati.

With the Ravens coming off a bye, Flacco received an additional week of rest and treatment after sustaining the injury on Nov. 4 in the opening minutes of

OWINGS MILLS, Md. (AP) — Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco is nursing a hip injury that could threaten his availability for Sunday’s game against Cincinnati.

With the Ravens coming off a bye, Flacco received an additional week of rest and treatment after sustaining the injury on Nov. 4 in the opening minutes of a 23-16 loss to Pittsburgh.

Coach John Harbaugh said Monday that Flacco’s status against the Bengals is “up in the air” and could be a game-time decision.

If the 11-year veteran can’t go, either Robert Griffin III or rookie Lamar Jackson will start for the first time with Baltimore.

The Ravens (4-5) reached their bye week with a three-game losing streak that ruined a decent start and left the team in recovery mode as it seeks to snap a run of three straight seasons without reaching the playoffs.

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Bye comes at good time for hobbled Dolphins

DAVIE, Fla. (AP) — Frank Gore walked slowly through the Miami Dolphins locker room Monday, a slight hunch in his posture and a slight limp in his gait, which made him look like the 35-year-old running back he is.

And he's among the healthy ones.

The Dolphins (5-5) hobbled into their bye week

DAVIE, Fla. (AP) — Frank Gore walked slowly through the Miami Dolphins locker room Monday, a slight hunch in his posture and a slight limp in his gait, which made him look like the 35-year-old running back he is.

And he’s among the healthy ones.

The Dolphins (5-5) hobbled into their bye week thankful for the timing of the break. Coach Adam Gase gave his players the rest of the week off, and said if his team had a game Sunday, finding 46 healthy players to fill the active roster would be a challenge.

“I don’t even know if we’d have enough,” Gase said.

“The bye week,” gimpy left tackle Laremy Tunsil said, “came at the perfect time.”

For one thing, the bye buys quarterback Ryan Tannehill an extra week to continue his recovery from an injured capsule in his throwing shoulder. After a period of rest he began a throwing program Sunday.

“They said it was a good first step and he felt good, so that’s a positive,” Gase said. “We’ll just progress through and see where we’re at next Wednesday.”

The goal remains for Tannehill to return for Miami’s next game Nov. 25 at Indianapolis.

“If we can get through this week and he feels great every day, then we’ve got a shot,” Gase said.

The odds seem against it. Tannehill was shut down after an earlier throwing program produced little progress, and missed his fifth game in a row Sunday when Miami was beaten at Green Bay.

Brock Osweiler fell to 2-3 replacing Tannehill. And as the Dolphins lost for the fifth time in seven games, their injury list grew longer.

Sidelined were cornerback Bobby McCain (concussion) and receivers DeVante Parker (shoulder) and Jakeem Grant (calf). Both receivers underwent MRIs on Monday, and their injuries are not believed to be season enders.

By the final whistle, Miami was without five former first-round draft picks. That included starting tackles Tunsil and Ja’Wuan James, who both missed the game with knee injuries. There’s a good chance they’ll return against Indy.

Given the way the Dolphins’ season is trending, it’s surprising the Colts game could be pivotal in the AFC wild-card race.

“We’re still in the hunt,” receiver Kenny Stills said. “We need to get healthy.”

Or healthier, at least.

Last week the Dolphins had 18 players on their injury report. But not Gore, the ageless veteran who ran for 90 yards in 13 carries Sunday. He became the first player to rush for 500 yards in 14 consecutive seasons, and hasn’t missed a game since 2011.

In the Dolphins’ locker room, that makes him an outlier.

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Film Study: How another old friend stymied Belichick

Film Study: How another old friend stymied Belichick

Sunday's 34-10 drubbing in

Film Study: How another old friend stymied Belichick

Sunday’s 34-10 drubbing in Nashville was the New England Patriots’ most lopsided defeat since a 41-14 collapse at Kansas City — which prompted Bill Belichick’s famed “We’re on to Cincinnati” presser — and the worst loss during Belichick’s tenure in which the Patriots were turnover-free.

It was also New England’s second time losing by at least 16 this season, which hasn’t happened to a Tom Brady-led team since 2005. Of course, both defeats came at the hands of former Patriots: Matt Patricia’s Lions in Week 3 and Mike Vrabel’s Titans on Sunday.

Tennessee’s win was comprehensive. Marcus Mariota again looked sharper and more comfortable after shedding his two-fingered glove two weeks ago, and Corey Davis had perhaps his best NFL game. Special teams did its part, as the Titans’ average drive started at the 34, compared to the 24 for the Patriots. (Tennessee was fortunate not to lose any of its three fumbles, including two on special teams.)

But the defense, orchestrated by Vrabel and former Patriots coordinator Dean Pees, drove the victory, as New England was held to 10 points and under 300 yards for just the second time since October of 2016. The other time — you guessed it — came against Patricia in Week 3.

Patricia, who spent 14 years with Belichick, stymied his mentor with a very specific third-down approach keying on Rob Gronkowski and James White (Julian Edelman was out due to suspension). Using a rare personnel package with seven defensive backs, the Lions doubled Gronkowski with a cornerback AND safety, and put a safety (not a linebacker) on White, while also running an edge rusher at White to disrupt him off the snap. With seven DBs, Detroit still had three cornerbacks left to match New England’s three wideouts, and Brady struggled to find open targets all night.

Vrabel and Pees took a similar coverage approach on third downs, playing dime (six defensive backs) with four linebackers (two ILBs and two OLBs, leaving just one DL) for extra speed. With Gronkowski out, the Titans put Pro Bowl safety Kevin Byard on White for most of the game and sent deep-safety help toward Edelman and Josh Gordon, whom Adoree’ Jackson smothered on several key plays.

Where Tennessee differed from Detroit was in its pressure concepts, as Vrabel and Pees called myriad “safe” blitzes and zone exchanges, sending four or five rushers at the snap while others dropped into coverage. Inside linebacker Wesley Woodyard (1.5 sacks, three QB hits) was outstanding as a blitzer, and the Titans bothered Brady all day despite tallying just three sacks and six hits.

New England wound up 3-of-15 on third downs, as almost all of its success through the air came on early downs off play-action. The Tennessee defense was well prepared for Josh McDaniels’ staple misdirection near the line of scrimmage, like screens and jet sweeps, and it even stopped Brady cold on a QB sneak.

Considering the pair of resounding victories, it’s fair to ask: Have Vrabel and Patricia revealed a blueprint to stop the Patriots?

I’m skeptical, mostly because Gronkowski was out Sunday and Edelman sat out Week 3. The Patriots also missed right guard Shaq Mason (calf) and left tackle Trent Brown (illness, left mid-game) in Tennessee, and replacements Ted Karras and LaAdrian Waddle struggled. Between Gronkowski, the line and Rex Burkhead (IR, eligible to return Week 13) the offense should be healthier and more dangerous for the postseason, and Gordon should be more comfortable as well.

Still, the Titans’ dominance was eye-popping. At the very least, Belichick might have more to worry about if these teams meet again in January.

-Mayfield breaks out the cannon

Baker Mayfield is no Uncle Rico, but he can absolutely fling it. For those who doubted the top overall pick’s arm, Sunday’s first touchdown against the Falcons was a jaw-dropper.

Interim coordinator Freddie Kitchens called a “throwback” route for Jarvis Landry, who snuck from the right side at the snap* across the formation and wheeled up the left side, while Mayfield play-faked. But there were two problems: Free safety Damontae Kazee recognized Landry’s route and helped over the top, and defensive tackle Grady Jarrett busted through the line into Mayfield’s face.

Seeing Landry’s window closing and feeling Jarrett’s pressure, Mayfield quickly rolled right, killing any opportunity to hit the designed route. But with Kazee shading to Landry, Mayfield knew that Rashard Higgins’ route — a post designed to occupy Robert Alford and Kazee — was left to only Alford.

Of course, Mayfield still had to get it there. With Jarrett chasing and Foyesade Oluokun closing in his face, he uncorked a laser off one foot while running right. The ball traveled 41 yards on a line to Higgins, who snared it before Alford could arrive.

That was just one beauty in a day full of them, as the former Heisman winner had as many touchdowns (three) as incompletions in the Browns’ biggest win of the year. It also served as a reminder that the short-statured Mayfield has a very high ceiling.

*Side note: Mayfield pointed to a safety presnap while Landry was in motion — as if telling the wideout whom to block — to help sell the defense that a run was coming. Not many rookie QBs are canny enough to use a dummy point.

-Andy Reid and Tyreek Hill are toying with defenses

He’s not the best wideout in football, but Hill might be its most unique weapon, simply because his speed shatters the rules of NFL physics. That’s an almost unfair advantage for Reid, perhaps the league’s most creative mind.

Hill is scary enough when lined up outside, which practically requires a safety over the top. But things get terrifying when Hill goes into the slot, especially the inside slot of trips, where both of his touchdowns came from Sunday against Arizona.

Many teams rely on zone against the Chiefs so defenders don’t have to chase their man all over (presnap and postsnap) against K.C.’s myriad misdirection concepts. But more and more often, Reid is punishing those zones by spreading out and putting Hill in the slot, forcing defenses to cover a cheetah with wildebeests (safeties) and water buffaloes (linebackers).

On Hill’s first score, Kareem Hunt motioned wide right to create an empty set, with Hill in the inside slot. When the defense didn’t shift and Patrick Peterson aligned over Hunt, Patrick Mahomes knew it was zone. Two safeties deep showed him the deep middle would be open. Underneath safety Budda Baker aligned over Hill, but from 4 yards off the line, he had no chance to reroute him. Hill gave a simple juke and came wide open down the middle for a 37-yard TD.

A quarter later, the Chiefs burned the Cardinals with a variation of the same look. On third-and-goal from the 14, Hill aligned in the inside slot of an empty set against Arizona’s Tampa-2 zone and again ran vertical. All too wary of Hill’s speed, middle linebacker Josh Bynes tried desperately to keep pace, only for Hill to slam on the brakes. Knowing Hill would get free, Mahomes threw early and on the money for six.

Reid also sprung Hill for a 20-yard run and 16-yard reception out of the slot, both on plays where he crossed the formation behind the line after the snap and outflanked the defense. The closer Hill is to the formation, the more creative Reid can be with screens, jet sweeps, shovel passes and more.

Perhaps the scariest thing is how easy it all looks. Hill and Mahomes usually leave at least one long touchdown on the field each week, whether because of poor accuracy, a drop or miscommunication. Reid is always working in new wrinkles, and he’ll surely have more in the playoffs, after having a first-round bye to strategize.

-Frank Reich’s tight-end wizardry

Who would have guessed that Eric Ebron — released by the Lions before his fifth-year option became guaranteed — would have four more touchdowns (10) than any other NFL tight end through 10 weeks?

Ebron has indeed impressed, a reminder that tight ends often blossom a bit later than other positions (Greg Olsen, Delanie Walker and Zach Ertz come to mind). But much of his success is owed to Reich, who has weaponized the position masterfully in Indy, as he did in Philadelphia.

Reich sprung Ebron for three scores in Sunday’s win over the Jaguars, two on wide-open receptions and one rushing. The second TD catch was a completely blown coverage, but the first, a 53-yarder on the opening possession, was brilliantly schemed to defeat Jacksonville’s playcall.

The Jaguars ran their staple Cover-3 “boundary lock,” in which the boundary-side (closer to the hashmark where the ball is spotted) cornerback “locks” into man coverage and everyone else plays zone. That locked Jalen Ramsey on T.Y. Hilton, who ran a spot route inside while Ebron ran a corner route into the deep third of the field to Ramsey’s side.

With Ramsey locked to Hilton, either hook/curl defender Telvin Smith or (more likely) flat defender Barry Church became responsible for Ebron’s route, but neither recognized it in time to turn and run vertically. Reich even sprinkled in a flat route to the same side by Jordan Wilkins to further distract Church. Andrew Luck found Ebron in acres of space, and the tight end evaded Tashaun Gipson for the score.

That was just one of Reich’s tricks. The Colts’ second touchdown came after a 27-yard catch by tight end Mo Alie-Cox, a former VCU basketball player in his second year of football since age 14. With three tight ends in a wing — a run-heavy look — Alie-Cox (aligned next to the right tackle) ran up the seam as Ebron (aligned just outside Alie-Cox) faded outside to occupy two players.

Because three-TE sets are so rare, defenses typically run only one or two different coverages against them, meaning Reich could expect a predictable look and design routes accordingly. The pair of vertical routes put heavy stress on rookie linebacker Leon Jacobs, who is primarily a run defender, and Alie-Cox came free.

Three plays after Alie-Cox’s grab, Reich got Ebron his second score on a 2-yard end-round, after the tight end motioned from a wingback position to get a head start across the formation and outflank the defense.

The design worked naturally because Reich often sends his tight ends in motion on standard run and play-action designs. This helps in the run game because none of the Colts’ tight ends is a sturdy run-blocker — Calais Campbell embarrassed Alie-Cox and Jack Doyle on Sunday — but putting them on the move creates more favorable angles.

Doyle is particularly adept as a move blocker, freeing Reich to use him on more play-action designs, including from a fullback alignment. This worked twice on Sunday, once for a 20-yard gain (would have been 40-plus with a better throw) on a wheel route and later for a near-touchdown out of the flat. One play after Doyle came up just short of paydirt, Alie-Cox caught a 1-yard TD off play-action, giving the Colts’ tight ends four touchdowns before halftime.

Paced by Ebron’s 10 scores, Indy’s tight ends have 16 touchdowns this year, including seven in the last two games. Alie-Cox has two on six career catches, while Erik Swoope has three on just 55 offensive snaps this year while battling injury. Doyle got his first in Week 9 after missing the previous five games.

With Doyle back healthy and Alie-Cox (who had a horrid drop turn into an interception Sunday) flashing at times, this position group could take an even larger role down the stretch.

–David DeChant, Field Level Media

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Rams WR Kupp out for season with knee injury

Rams WR Kupp out for season with knee injury

Rams WR Kupp out for season with knee injury

Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Cooper Kupp tore a ligament in his left knee Sunday and will miss the remainder of the 2018 season.

Coach Sean McVay confirmed the injury after an MRI exam Monday.

Kupp finishes his second NFL season with 40 catches for 566 yards and six touchdowns. The 2017 third-round draft pick has 102 receptions for 1,435 yards and 11 TDs in 23 career games.

Kupp suffered a non-contact injury during the fourth quarter of the Rams’ 36-31 victory over the Seattle Seahawks. He made a cut on his left leg and fell to the ground, holding his knee. He had to be helped off the field.

He originally sprained the same knee when he was tackled in mid-October as the Rams beat the Broncos 23-20 in Denver. He missed two games before returning for the Week 9 loss in New Orleans.

–Field Level Media

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LA Rams WR Cooper Kupp has torn knee ligament, McVay says

THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. (AP) — Los Angeles Rams receiver Cooper Kupp is out for the season after tearing a ligament in his left knee.

Coach Sean McVay on Monday confirmed the injury for Kupp, who led the Rams in yards receiving last season.

Kupp was hurt on a noncontact play during the Rams'

THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. (AP) — Los Angeles Rams receiver Cooper Kupp is out for the season after tearing a ligament in his left knee.

Coach Sean McVay on Monday confirmed the injury for Kupp, who led the Rams in yards receiving last season.

Kupp was hurt on a noncontact play during the Rams’ 36-31 victory over the Seattle Seahawks. An MRI exam confirmed a torn ligament for Kupp, who already missed two games last month with a different injury to the same knee.

Kupp has been a key contributor to Los Angeles’ high-octane passing game in both of his NFL seasons. He has 40 catches for 566 yards and six touchdowns this season, providing Jared Goff with a reliable target in the slot.

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Browns’ interim coach Williams focused on wins, not future

CLEVELAND (AP) — Browns interim coach Gregg Williams insists he's not thinking about his future with the team.

Cleveland has split its two games under Williams, the team's defensive coordinator who assumed head coaching duties after Hue Jackson was fired. The Browns (3-6-1) played one of their best all-around games in years on Sunday, beating

CLEVELAND (AP) — Browns interim coach Gregg Williams insists he’s not thinking about his future with the team.

Cleveland has split its two games under Williams, the team’s defensive coordinator who assumed head coaching duties after Hue Jackson was fired. The Browns (3-6-1) played one of their best all-around games in years on Sunday, beating Atlanta 28-16 to snap a four-game losing streak.

The Browns’ performance is a good reflection on Williams, who coached Buffalo from 2001-03. He sidestepped questions about whether he wants to be Cleveland’s next full-time coach, saying “I like being employed.”

Williams acknowledged he does enjoy “the head coaching part of it. But the big part of what we’re doing is getting the players to focus. One day at a time and keep on moving in the right direction.”

With rookie quarterback Baker Mayfield throwing three touchdown passes, the Browns easily handled the Falcons (4-5).

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Chiefs’ maligned defense shines in victory over Arizona

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Kansas City Chiefs finally got Justin Houston back onto the field Sunday against Arizona, and the four-time Pro Bowl linebacker made one of the plays of the game when he picked off Cardinals quarterback Josh Rosen on a second-half screen pass.

The Chiefs also got safety Daniel

KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — The Kansas City Chiefs finally got Justin Houston back onto the field Sunday against Arizona, and the four-time Pro Bowl linebacker made one of the plays of the game when he picked off Cardinals quarterback Josh Rosen on a second-half screen pass.

The Chiefs also got safety Daniel Sorensen back from injured reserve, where he had resided since breaking his leg in training camp, and he five tackles while providing a hard-hitting presence.

Perhaps it’s no surprise the Chiefs defense played the best it has all season.

With two of their anticipated starters back on the field, the Chiefs held the Cardinals to 260 yards in a 26-14 victory. They sacked Rosen five times, intercepted him twice and even managed to keep David Johnson under 100 yards rushing — just barely.

“I feel like the first couple weeks we were putting too much into it, trying too hard,” linebacker Reggie Ragland said. “We’re having fun with it. Whatever happens, happens. It’s football. We’ve been playing this game for too long for us not to have fun with it. It’s a child’s game and we’re grown men playing it, so have fun with it. Don’t worry about all that other stuff.”

The Chiefs (9-1) sure looked as if they were having a ball Sunday.

Dee Ford had his ninth sack of the season, not to mention three tackles for a loss and four hits on Rosen. Allen Bailey had his fifth sack while Chris Jones had two more to give him a career-high seven for the season, including at least one sack in six consecutive games.

All told, Rosen was hit 13 times and fumbled once while throwing for just 208 yards and a score.

“The one thing we’re doing right now is we are minimizing big plays,” defensive tackle Jarvis Jenkins said. “That is one thing we all play on is minimizing big plays, then getting them one-dimensional so we can rush the passer. I think we did that this game.”

The only game in which the defense played nearly as well was Cincinnati, when the Chiefs allowed 239 yards in a 45-10 rout. But it’s often easier to play stingy defense when the game has gotten out of hand, and on Sunday the Chiefs needed to show up in a game that Arizona managed to keep relatively close.

“That’s happened a couple of times now, things have stalled out (on offense) then they step up and make plays,” Chiefs coach Andy Reid said. “That’s a great thing. We need that as a football team. We need that. It’s important.”

Especially given who is up next: The Chiefs are headed to Mexico City to face the high-flying Los Angeles Rams on Monday night in a matchup of two of the NFL’s most dynamic offenses.

The Rams are second in yards-per-game and the Chiefs are third, and those rankings are flipped when it comes to scoring with Kansas City second and Los Angeles third.

In other words, it’s a good time for the Chiefs’ maligned defense to start showing up.

They can still get a whole lot better, too. Middle linebacker Anthony Hitchens was out Sunday with bruised ribs, and backup linebacker Frank Zombo missed the game with a hamstring injury, giving undrafted rookie Ben Niemann a chance to start his first NFL game.

“I was still on four phases of special teams,” Niemann said, “so I got a little tired out there. But it was good. You want to play. You want to play as many snaps as possible.”

Someone else who wants to play? Eric Berry, the Chiefs’ star safety, who still hasn’t played since tearing his Achilles’ tendon in the season opener last year. Berry practiced throughout the summer and into training camp, but a heel injury has kept him off the field for months.

It would be another boon for the Chiefs defense if he can return in any effective capacity.

“Sooner or later, it has to be the defense (stepping up),” Jenkins said. “That’s part of being a team. You can’t be one-dimensional. I think the feeling we have now is it’s a good team. It wasn’t pretty (Sunday) but we got it done. That’s what we have to do.”

Notes: Reid said Monday he’s not concerned about the field conditions at Azteca Stadium, where the combination of concerts and soccer matches have wrecked the turf. “I’ve seen it,” Reid said, “but I think the NFL is on top of it. They do a great job with all that stuff.” … Reid said he doesn’t expect Patrick Mahomes to miss practice after his girlfriend’s stepfather died suddenly on Sunday. The Chiefs are off on Tuesday and Wednesday. “He’s here this morning and he’s got things set there, organized and settled down,” Reid said, “so he can do what he’s got to do here.”

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Reports: Jets won’t fire Bowles during bye week

Reports: Jets won't fire Bowles during bye week

New York Jets ownership is unlikely to fire head

Reports: Jets won’t fire Bowles during bye week

New York Jets ownership is unlikely to fire head coach Todd Bowles before season’s end, according to multiple reports.

The focus on Bowles’ future increased Sunday after the Jets (3-7) lost to the Buffalo Bills at MetLife Stadium, 41-10. It was the fourth straight loss for the Jets.

The Jets have a bye week, raising speculation that Bowles could be fired this week.

ESPN reported that ownership expects to consider Bowles’ future at the end of the season instead. The lack of a clearcut interim coach on the staff, combined with the desire to have consistency for the Bowles-led defense, were cited as the reasons.

–Field Level Media

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Report: Saints sign veteran WR Marshall

Report: Saints sign veteran WR Marshall

After 13 seasons with six NFL teams, nearly 1,000 receptions and zero playoff appearances, veteran wide receiver

Report: Saints sign veteran WR Marshall

After 13 seasons with six NFL teams, nearly 1,000 receptions and zero playoff appearances, veteran wide receiver Brandon Marshall could end his postseason drought after reportedly signing a one-year deal with the New Orleans Saints on Monday.

ESPN’s Adam Schefter first reported the transaction.

New Orleans (8-1) signed the 34-year-old free agent after losing the newly signed Dez Bryant last week to a torn Achilles tendon.

Marshall is a six-time Pro Bowl selection and eight-time 1,000-yard receiver with 970 catches for 12,351 yards and 83 touchdowns

He played in six games for the Seattle Seahawks this season before being released last month, finishing with 11 receptions for 136 yards and one score.

Marshall has also played for the Denver Broncos (2006-09), Miami Dolphins (2010-11), Chicago Bears (2012-14), New York Jets (2015-16) and New York Giants (2017).

–Field Level Media

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Reports confirm torn ACL for Rams WR Kupp

Reports confirm torn ACL for Rams WR Kupp

Reports confirm torn ACL for Rams WR Kupp

Los Angeles Rams wide receiver Cooper Kupp tore the ACL in his left knee Sunday and will miss the rest of the 2018 season.

An MRI confirmed the preliminary diagnosis Monday morning, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported.

Kupp finishes his second NFL season with 40 catches for 566 yards and six touchdowns. The 2017 third-round draft pick has 102 receptions for 1,435 yards and 11 TDs in 23 career games.

Kupp appeared to suffer a non-contact injury during the fourth quarter of the Rams’ 36-31 victory over the Seattle Seahawks. He made a cut on his left leg and fell to the ground, holding his knee. He had to be helped off the field.

Kupp originally sprained the same knee when he was tackled in mid-October as the Rams beat the Broncos 23-20 in Denver. He missed two games before returning for the Week 9 loss in New Orleans.

–Field Level Media

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Saints’ Payton says he’ll pay to repair smashed alarm

Saints' Payton says he'll pay to repair smashed alarm

Saints’ Payton says he’ll pay to repair smashed alarm

New Orleans head coach Sean Payton said Monday he will pay for the damages after smashing a fire alarm in the visitors’ locker room at Paul Brown Stadium before Sunday’s 51-14 victory against the Cincinnati Bengals.

Alarms had been sounding throughout the stadium for about 15 minutes before Payton took matters into his own hands to silence the distraction.

“I just needed the noise to stop,” Payton said. “Gladly, we’ll take care of the repair cost and I consider the Brown family and that organization as close allies and people we have a lot of respect for, and the same way with (coach) Marvin (Lewis).”

It’s not clear whether any penalty is forthcoming, but the Bengals said they have alerted the authorities.

“We are aware of this situation and have been in touch with the authorities, but have nothing more on it at this time,” the Bengals said in a statement.

The reason for the fire alarms sounding in the first place remains unclear.

–Field Level Media

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Report: Saints’ Payton smashes fire alarm in Cincy

Report: Saints' Payton smashes fire alarm in Cincy

New

Report: Saints’ Payton smashes fire alarm in Cincy

New Orleans head coach Sean Payton reportedly smashed a fire alarm in the visitors’ locker room at Paul Brown Stadium before Sunday’s 51-14 victory against the Cincinnati Bengals.

The Times-Picayune first reported that the alarm had been sounding throughout the stadium for about 15 minutes before Payton took matters into his own hands to silence the distraction.

It’s not clear whether any penalty is forthcoming, but the Bengals said they have alerted the authorities.

“We are aware of this situation and have been in touch with the authorities, but have nothing more on it at this time,” the Bengals said in a statement.

The Saints declined to comment on the situation after the game.

The reason for the alarm sounding in the first place is unknown.

–Field Level Media

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Reports: Bengals fire defensive coordinator Austin

Reports: Bengals fire defensive coordinator Austin

Cincinnati fired

Reports: Bengals fire defensive coordinator Austin

Cincinnati fired defensive coordinator Teryl Austin one day after the Bengals allowed 51 points and 509 yards in a lopsided loss to the New Orleans Saints, multiple outlets reported Monday.

The Bengals (5-4) have lost three of their last four while allowing a league-high 454.6 yards per game, including 500-plus in three straight games. Only the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (32.3) are giving up more points per game than Cincinnati (32.0).

Austin, 53, was in his first season with the Bengals after serving as defensive coordinator with the Detroit Lions from 2014-17.

ESPN and NFL Network reported Austin’s firing Monday morning, citing unnamed sources.

The Bengals are in second place in the AFC North behind the Pittsburgh Steelers (6-2-1). Cincinnati goes on the road next Sunday against the Baltimore Ravens.

–Field Level Media

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Owner Mark Davis on Raiders’ start: ‘It’s on me’

Owner Mark Davis on Raiders' start: 'It's on me'

Owner Mark Davis on Raiders’ start: ‘It’s on me’

Owner Mark Davis took responsibility for the Oakland Raiders hitting eight losses with seven games to play in 2018.

“Where this team is right now is my fault. We haven’t been able to build a 22-man roster,” Davis said in an interview with ESPN, referring to the starting lineups on offense and defense. “We haven’t been able to give this team a chance to win because the reconstruction failed. We failed from 2014 on to have a roster right now.”

Embattled coach Jon Gruden has taken heat for the Raiders winning only one game this season, his first in a 10-year, $100 million contract that lured him back to the Raiders’ sideline from the broadcast booth.

Davis defended the decision to deal linebacker Khalil Mack to the Chicago Bears. He said the Raiders presented Mack and agent Joel Segal with a contract offer in June 2017 that would have made him the NFL’s highest-paid defensive player. When Mack turned it down, the Raiders felt a long-term deal was not within their reach.

“My thought was, ‘Listen, he signed a five-year contract, if he’s the type of guy that I think he is, he’s going to honor that contract,'” Davis recalled. “And he’s going to come in and play for the $13 million for this year and then we’ll work for him during the year and get it. Word came back through certain players that know him and talk to him and know me as well, that he wasn’t going to come in. He was going to do the Le’Veon Bell (holdout). At that point, I said, ‘F it. The guy hasn’t talked to anybody. We’ve got to do something.'”

That trade opened the door for additional discord in the locker room.

Mack and wide receiver Amari Cooper share an agent, and the former first-round pick was on the way to the same situation that led to the Mack stalemate: the final year of his rookie deal with a desire for a massive extension. The Raiders traded Cooper to the Dallas Cowboys last month for a 2019 first-round pick.

“It might not have been the right decision, but the other point to this whole thing is that Segal is also the agent for Amari Cooper,” Davis said. “And we knew the same situation was coming up the next year. It wasn’t just one layer of chess; it was two layers of chess. But to blame Jon, for Khalil Mack not being here, is absolutely not the truth. It was a decision that was made and it wasn’t made easily … I don’t have any bad feelings toward (Mack). I wish he would have talked to Jon and (GM) Reggie (McKenzie) and wanted to at least honor the fifth year of his contract.”

Davis said he plans to sit down with McKenzie and discuss the best way to move forward.

He also said Gruden has the keys to the castle.

“I know how hard Jon Gruden works. I know how much he wants to win. And how much days like (Sunday) are killing him,” Davis said. “Having Jon Gruden here was the endgame for me. Jon’s going to be the stability here. Jon’s going nowhere. That’s just the way it is.”

–Field Level Media

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