Rams make late defensive stand, hold off Seahawks 36-31

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Brandin Cooks rushed for a 9-yard touchdown with 5:49 to play on the first snap after Dante Fowler forced and recovered a fumble by Russell Wilson, and the Los Angeles Rams bounced back from their first loss of the season with a 36-31 victory over the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday.

Jared Goff passed for 318 yards and two touchdowns, and Todd Gurley rushed for 120 yards and a score as the Rams (9-1) swept the season series with their division rivals.

Los Angeles moved into commanding position for its second consecutive NFC West title, but only after plenty of late drama in a rivalry that’s never lacking in excitement.

Wilson threw three touchdown passes, rushed for 92 yards and nearly rallied the Seahawks (4-5) all the way back after his fumble.

He hit Mike Davis for a short TD catch to cap a 90-yard drive with 1:56 to play. After the Seattle defense held, he got the Seahawks to the Los Angeles 35 before throwing four straight incompletions in the final minute.

Gerald Everett and Tyler Higbee caught TD passes for the Rams, who survived a topsy-turvy game with just enough big plays. Although the perfect season ended last week in New Orleans, Los Angeles still has never lost back-to-back games under coach Sean McVay.

Fowler, the pass-rush specialist acquired from Jacksonville late last month, made up for his costly unsportsmanlike conduct penalty in the third quarter by stripping Wilson of the ball and then recovering the fumble, setting up Cooks’ run for a 12-point lead.

Wilson also threw TD passes to Nick Vannett and Tyler Lockett while joining Peyton Manning and Dan Marino as the only quarterbacks to throw 20 touchdown passes in each of their first seven NFL seasons. But the Seahawks have lost two straight after winning four of five.

Rashaad Penny rushed for 108 yards and a touchdown in the injury absence of Chris Carson. The Seahawks had 273 yards rushing at the Coliseum after racking up 190 yards on the ground in their 33-31 loss to the Rams last month in Seattle.

The Rams’ defensive struggles in last week’s 45-35 loss to the Saints were extended thanks to Wilson and the Seahawks, who made two sustained touchdown drives in the first quarter.

The Seahawks reclaimed the lead with Lockett’s TD catch in the third quarter, but only because their drive was kept alive by an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty against Fowler after a third-down stop.

The Rams went right back ahead on a 10-yard TD catch by Higbee on the first play of the fourth quarter.

Seattle tried an onside kick after Sebastian Janikowski’s field goal with 9:52 to play, but LA’s Josh Reynolds snatched it. Greg Zuerlein kicked his third field goal for the Rams.

GURLEY’S GAINS

Gurley scored his NFL-leading 17th touchdown in the second quarter on a 17-yard run. He also scored a TD in his franchise-record 13th consecutive game, extending his franchise record. He is the fourth player in league history to score a TD in each of his team’s first 10 games.

SACK MACHINE

Aaron Donald sacked Wilson 2½ times, giving him a career-high 12½ sacks already this season. He teamed up with Ndamukong Suh for a huge third-down sack at the Los Angeles 15 in the fourth quarter, forcing Seattle to kick a field goal.

BIG GIFT

Rams left tackle Andrew Whitworth is donating his game check to the Ventura County Community Foundation’s Conejo Valley Victims Fund, which was set up to help the families of the 12 people killed Wednesday night by a gunman in Thousand Oaks, the home of the Rams’ training complex. The Rams held a moment of silence before the game.

INJURIES

Seahawks: Carson sat out with a hip injury, while starting right guard D.J. Fluker missed the game with a calf injury. Safety Bobby McDougald and linebacker K.J. Wright both played through injuries.

Rams: Receiver Cooper Kupp went down in the fourth quarter holding his left knee, which sidelined him earlier this season. He eventually walked off the field.

UP NEXT

Seahawks: A short week to host the Green Bay Packers on Thursday.

Rams: One of the biggest games of the regular season against the Kansas City Chiefs in Mexico City on Monday, Nov. 19.

___

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

Mickelson flirts with 59 at Desert Classic

Mickelson flirts with 59 at Desert Classic

Mickelson flirts with 59 at Desert Classic

Phil Mickelson flirted with the 11th sub-60 round in the history of the PGA Tour on Thursday before settling for a 12-under 60 at La Quinta Country Club in the first round of the Desert Classic in California.

He holds a three-shot lead over Adam Long, who sits in second place after shooting a 9-under 63 at PGA West’s Nicklaus Tournament Course.

“It was kind of a lucky day for me in the sense that I did not feel sharp coming in,” Mickelson told The Golf Channel after his round, referencing his tweet prior to the round that he was feeling “rusty.” “I did not have the intense practice sessions that I would have liked, but I felt like all parts were OK and it just clicked. …

“It was a fun day. I certainly did not expect this to be the case, but I’m also excited to start the year, so I was fresh.”

Taking advantage of the easiest course on the PGA Tour last season, Mickelson birdied his first two holes and made the turn in 6-under 30. He then reeled off five more birdies over his next seven holes to set up his chance at the elusive 59.

Needing to birdie the final two holes — both par 4s — Mickelson parred the 17th before rolling in a birdie on his final hole. It marked the 37th round of 60 on the PGA Tour and the third of Mickelson’s career. His two previous 60s came at the Waste Management Open in Phoenix, but TPC Scottsdale is a par-71 course.

“I came to the realization (regarding the possibility of shooting 59) on 16 when I had that putt for birdie that if I make that 4-footer and birdie the last two, I would shoot 59 and I gave myself a decent chance,” Mickelson said. “The shot on 17, I was trying to hook a sand wedge and kind of get that thing to side spin towards the pin, and I just didn’t hook it enough. I still had a good look at it, but I just didn’t roll that one in.”

The Desert Classic is a pro-am format, with players rotating among La Quinta, the Nicklaus Tournament Course and the Stadium Course, the latter two at PGA West, over the first three days. All three courses are par 72. Sunday’s final round will be played at the Stadium Course.

La Quinta yielded the lowest average score (68.831) of any par 72 on the PGA Tour last season. The Nicklaus Tournament Course was No. 2 (69.445), while the Stadium Course yielded an average of 71.181.

Mickelson, a two-time winner of the Desert Classic (2002, 2014), did his best to take advantage of the La Quinta course in soft conditions on Thursday. He will play the Nicklaus course on Friday and the Stadium Course in the third round and noted that the pressure was on to perform in Round 2.

“It’s very difficult to start out with a round and go low like this and then follow it up because the expectations are (that) anything short of a victory is a failure,” said the 48-year-old. “Yet we have three full rounds on some challenging golf courses with a lot of potential birdies, so it’s a tough position to be in but it’s one that I thoroughly enjoy.”

Australia’s Curtis Luck sits alone in third place at 8 under after his round at La Quinta.

Trey Mullinax (Nicklaus), Wyndham Clark (La Quinta), Canada’s Adam Hadwin (Stadium) and Scotland’s Martin Laird (Nicklaus) are tied for fourth at 7 under.

Spain’s Jon Rahm, seeking to join Johnny Miller (1975-76) as the only repeat champions of the event, shot 6 under at La Quinta, leaving him in a 10-way tie for eighth place. Rahm beat Andrew Landry on the fourth hole of a sudden-death playoff last year.

Reigning FedExCup champion Justin Rose is the first No. 1-ranked player to compete in the Desert Classic since the world ranking system began in 1986. The Englishman shot 4 under at La Quinta on Thursday, good for a tie for 31st.

Charlie Reiter, who missed the cut as a high school senior last year, is in the field again on a sponsor exemption. Reiter, currently on the University of Southern California team, shot 3 over par at La Quinta on Thursday, better than just eight golfers in the 156-player field.

–Field Level Media

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NFL notebook: Chiefs S Berry, RB Ware set to play Sunday

NFL notebook: Chiefs S Berry, RB Ware set to play Sunday

NFL notebook: Chiefs S Berry, RB Ware set to play Sunday

Kansas City Chiefs safety Eric Berry and running back Spencer Ware are trending toward taking the field Sunday in the AFC Championship game against the New England Patriots.

Berry was a full participant in Wednesday’s practice and repeated the session Thursday. He’s been bothered by a heel injury.

“He looked good out there,” head coach Andy Reid said Thursday when asked about the risk of Berry being rusty after playing in just two games this season. “I see him out there looking like Eric Berry.”

Berry has played just 99 snaps across the two games while battling the lingering heel issue, while Ware missed the final three games of the regular season after injuring his hamstring Week 14 in a win over the Ravens.

–Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt had a “minor knee cleanup” after the season, reported NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport.

“Sounds like he’s fine now,” Rapoport tweeted. “Just some maintenance on an injury that bothered him during the season.”

Watt had appeared on Houston’s injury report multiple times during the second half of the season with a knee issue, but he started all 16 regular-season games plus the Texans’ wild-card playoff loss to the Indianapolis Colts this season.

–Jacksonville Jaguars running back Leonard Fournette has filed an official challenge over the team’s decision to take away the guarantees in the final two years of his contract, according to multiple reports, and an arbitrator will determine if Jacksonville is within its rights to do so.

Fournette was scheduled to earn $2.93 million in 2019 and $4.17 million in 2020, but the Jaguars voided the guarantees after he was suspended by the NFL for one game for coming off the bench to fight with Bills defensive lineman Shaq Lawson during the Jaguars’ loss at Buffalo on Nov. 25.

After the game, Fournette apologized, but the Jaguars still took away the remaining guaranteed money in his rookie contract citing a contract clause that allowed them to do so if he missed a game for anything other than a football-related injury.

–The Seattle Seahawks have agreed to a deal with quarterback Paxton Lynch, a first-round draft pick by Denver in 2016, KJR Radio reported.

Lynch, who turns 25 next month, was released by the Broncos before the 2018 season.

He wasn’t able to take hold of the starting job in Denver, appearing in just five games (four starts) and passing for 792 yards with four touchdowns and four interceptions. The Broncos’ signing of Case Keenum last March made Lynch expendable.

–The Chicago Bears’ impressive 2018 turnaround earned Matt Nagy the NFL Coach of the Year and former defensive coordinator Vic Fangio the NFL Assistant Coach of the Year honors from the Pro Football Writers of America.

Indianapolis general manager Chris Ballard, whose moves helped the Colts reach the playoffs for the first time since 2014, was voted NFL Executive of the Year by PFWA members.

Nagy inherited a 5-11 team and compiled a 12-4 record in his first season with the Bears, who won the NFC North and reached the playoffs for the first time since 2010.

–Legendary singer Gladys Knight will perform the national anthem before Super Bowl LIII on Feb. 3, the NFL and CBS announced.

“I am proud to use my voice to unite and represent our country in my hometown of Atlanta,” the 74-year-old Knight said.

Knight is enshrined in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and has won seven Grammy awards. She also has had two No. 1 Billboard Hot 100 singles during her career: “Midnight Train to Georgia” and “That’s What Friends Are For.”

–Former NFL quarterback Turk Schonert has died, according to Fox 19 News in Cincinnati. He was 62. His cause of death was not announced.

Schonert spent eight seasons in Cincinnati (1981-85, 1987-89) and one in Atlanta (1986), largely as a backup quarterback. He compiled a 7-5 record as a starter.

He later served as quarterbacks coach for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, New York Giants, Buffalo Bills, Carolina Panthers and New Orleans Saints. He also was the Bills’ offensive coordinator for one season in 2008. More recently, he was an assistant coach with the Montreal Alouettes of the CFL.

–Field Level Media

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Broncos add DB, TE assistant coaches to staff

Broncos add DB, TE assistant coaches to staff

The

Broncos add DB, TE assistant coaches to staff

The Denver Broncos on Thursday announced two more additions to their coaching staff, hiring Renaldo Hill as defensive backs coach and Wade Harman as tight ends coach.

Hill, 40, has been involved in coaching the past six years, and was the assistant defensive backs coach with the Miami Dolphins in 2018. After playing safety for 10 years in the NFL with the Arizona Cardinals (2001-04), Oakland Raiders (2005), Miami (2006-08) and Denver (2009-10), Hill took coaching jobs in college at Wyoming (2012-13) and Pittsburgh (2015-17).

The Detroit native was selected by Arizona in the seventh round (202nd overall) of the 2001 NFL Draft. He was a first-team All-Big Ten Conference selection as a senior at Michigan State.

A native of Corydon, Iowa, Harman, 55, played linebacker at Utah State and Drake University, then began his coaching career as a graduate assistant at Utah State in 1987. He worked with the Aggies’ tight ends and running backs for five seasons, then served as an offensive coach at Pacific (1992-95) and Morningside (1996).

A 32-year coaching veteran with 22 years of NFL experience with the Atlanta Falcons (2014-18), Baltimore Ravens (1999-2013, including two Super Bowl championship teams) and Minnesota Vikings (1997-98), Harman has coached tight ends during 19 of those NFL seasons. He has occupied that role with the Falcons for the last four years.

Also Thursday, receivers coach Zach Azzanni indicated that he had been retained by new head coach Vic Fangio, making the announcement on Twitter.

According to the Denver Post, running backs coach Curtis Modkins is also expected to return after joining the Broncos last year, according to a league source.

–Field Level Media

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Report: Seahawks sign QB Lynch as backup

Report: Seahawks sign QB Lynch as backup

The Seattle Seahawks

Report: Seahawks sign QB Lynch as backup

The Seattle Seahawks have agreed to a deal with quarterback Paxton Lynch, a first-round draft pick by Denver in 2016, KJR Radio reported Thursday.

Lynch, who turns 25 next month, was released by the Broncos before the 2018 season.

He wasn’t able to take hold of the starting job in Denver, appearing in just five games (four starts) and passing for 792 yards with four touchdowns and four interceptions. The Broncos’ signing of Case Keenum last March made Lynch expendable.

Veteran Russell Wilson is entrenched as the starter in Seattle, so the Seahawks will groom Lynch as his backup. The Seahawks acquired Brett Hundley from Green Bay last summer in exchange for a sixth-round pick in the 2019 draft to take the backup duties, but he didn’t play in 2018. Wilson took every snap.

–Field Level Media

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Gladys Knight to perform anthem at Super Bowl

Gladys Knight to perform anthem at Super Bowl

Gladys Knight to perform anthem at Super Bowl

Legendary singer Gladys Knight will perform the national anthem before Super Bowl LIII on Feb. 3, the NFL and CBS announced Thursday.

“I am proud to use my voice to unite and represent our country in my hometown of Atlanta,” the 74-year-old Knight said.

Knight is enshrined in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and has won seven Grammy awards. She also has had two No. 1 Billboard Hot 100 singles during her career: “Midnight Train to Georgia” and “That’s What Friends Are For.”

Deaf activist Aarron Loggins will sign both the anthem and “America The Beautiful.”

–Field Level Media

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Report: J.J. Watt underwent ‘minor’ knee procedure

Report: J.J. Watt underwent 'minor' knee procedure

Houston

Report: J.J. Watt underwent ‘minor’ knee procedure

Houston Texans defensive end J.J. Watt had a “minor knee cleanup” after the season, NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported Thursday.

“Sounds like he’s fine now,” Rapoport tweeted. “Just some maintenance on an injury that bothered him during the season.”

Watt had appeared on Houston’s injury report multiple times during the second half of the season with a knee issue.

After missing 24 games to injuries in 2016 and ’17, Watt started all 16 regular-season games plus the Texans’ wild-card playoff loss to the Indianapolis Colts this season.

The three-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year registered 16.0 sacks and a league-high seven forced fumbles while earning his fifth All-Pro First Team selection and fifth Pro Bowl invitation.

–Field Level Media

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Take 5: Conference championship keys

Take 5: Conference championship keys

Take 5: Conference championship keys

The bright side of a lackluster divisional round is a star-studded conference championship weekend, bringing us rematches of two of the regular season’s best games.

We’ll start at Arrowhead with the New England Patriots and Kansas City Chiefs, who might have won Round 1 in Foxborough if it had lasted much longer.

1. How will Belichick adapt?

Despite intercepting Patrick Mahomes twice in the first half of Week 6, the Patriots and Bill Belichick couldn’t pin him down. Mahomes eventually caught fire, hitting big shots to Tyreek Hill and creating off-schedule plays outside the pocket to nearly pull the upset.

Belichick’s favored mush-rush approach against mobile quarterbacks isn’t enough against Mahomes, because he’ll win from the pocket when not pressured. However, blitzes can produce scrambling lanes if done without discipline.

To contain AND pressure Mahomes, the Patriots could use more of a tactic that worked in Week 6: Cover-0 with two lurkers. Presnap, they show all-out blitz with one-on-one coverage everywhere (the Cover-0 element), forcing the offensive line to leave one rusher (the furthest outside rusher) unblocked. But at the snap, two inside defenders — usually Dont’a Hightower and Kyle Van Noy — start to blitz before dropping into underneath zones. O-linemen must honor that initial rush, leaving an outside rusher unblocked. With scramble lanes up the middle jammed, the free rusher forces a quick throw, and the two droppers take away short throws inside.

This concept worked a few times in Week 6 (and also foiled Philip Rivers at times last week). Because pressure comes quickly and inside options are limited, it often forces low-percentage deep balls — thrown before a target’s route is defined — leading to harmless incompletions.

Using this tactic early might unsettle Mahomes a bit, enticing him to expect pressure and play too fast. Using it often throughout the game would be riskier — basically Russian roulette, given Hill’s speed and Travis Kelce’s explosiveness — but the reward could be more takeaway opportunities.

Either way, Belichick must try something else against Hill, who hounded New England against man and zone from the slot, where he is extremely difficult to bracket. The Patriots occasionally tried a bullseye tactic (jamming him with a front-seven defender) but Hill was too quick. Perhaps Belichick would consider a vice technique (two defenders jamming at the line) in certain situations.

2. Chris Jones must dominate

Jones strip-sacked Tom Brady in just 1.9 seconds in Week 6, firing through a gap created by pulling left guard Joe Thuney on shotgun play-action.

But otherwise, Jones and the Chiefs’ pass rush barely breathed on Brady. K.C.’s other sack was one of Brady’s worst plays in years — he held the ball for 10 seconds and was stripped by Breeland Speaks. Speaks famously let Brady out of a sack in the fourth quarter, but the Chiefs didn’t even hit him otherwise.

A major reason was a wealth of three-man rushes, one of coordinator Bob Sutton’s preferred approaches against New England. Brady likes to deliver quickly, even when not pressured, and dropping eight clogs throwing lanes underneath. It also lets the Chiefs play Cover-1 (man coverage, one deep safety) with not one but two lurkers, who keep eyes on Brady and thwart inside routes.

Justin Houston is back after missing the first meeting, but he often drops when K.C. rushes only three. Dee Ford should have a few chances to reach Brady, but his quick delivery often neutralizes edge pressure.

Jones will get doubled, maybe even tripled on occasion, but he’s powerful enough to push through two men at times. He doesn’t necessarily have to get free for sacks and hits, as long as he can get push through the middle to force Brady off the spot.

3. Will Reid use the halfback seam again?

Remember Kareem Hunt’s 78-yard touchdown in the 2017 season opener, a seam route from the backfield that other teams (including the Patriots and Rams) quickly copied?

Andy Reid ran a variation of the same concept on the first drive in Week 6 this year. Hunt came wide open behind Hightower, but Mahomes missed the throw, leading to a field goal instead of a 26-yard touchdown.

Hunt is gone, but Damien Williams (or Spencer Ware, if he plays) is certainly capable of making the play. Will Reid dress it up differently and run it yet again? Will the Patriots be prepared to sniff it out?

Given how much attention Hill and Kelce draw, it’s not hard to imagine it working a third time.

4. How Aqib Talib changes Rams’ D

Nobody’s going to shut down Michael Thomas one-on-one, but Marcus Peters was a disaster against him in Week 9 (12 catches, 211 yards, TD).

Talib’s presence makes a big difference. An ideal body-type matchup, he’s strong in press coverage, quick enough to hang with in-breaking routes and lanky enough to thwart contested catches. The Rams rarely travel their corners (Talib usually plays the left, Peters the right), but Talib tracking Thomas would make sense.

That would still stress Peters, however, because it would leave him on the speedy Ted Ginn. The Rams often bracketed Thomas and Alvin Kamara in the first meeting — especially in the red zone, but also on some third downs — which could allow Ginn to exploit Peters deep.

To create time to attack deep, expect the Saints to use six-, seven- and even eight-man protections. They did this regularly in Week 9, often with slow-developing play-action that let tackles Terron Armstead and Ryan Ramczyk block down on Aaron Donald. Despite coming close, Donald was mostly kept in check, but he should be more dangerous with left guard Andrus Peat playing through a broken hand.

5. Can Saints’ D win early downs?

Holding up against the run without Sheldon Rankins will be tough, but far from impossible. David Onyemata is nearly as reliable at 3-technique, and the Saints limited the Rams’ outside zone in Week 9 by shooting a linebacker into a frontside gap while keeping another backside for the cutback.

We know the Saints must also be sharp against Sean McVay’s signature deep designs off play-action, which toy with linebackers’ eyes. A.J. Klein struggled with these in the first meeting, which could mean more snaps for Alex Anzalone, a second-year ‘backer who excels in coverage.

But New Orleans must also have a plan when Los Angeles uses tempo with empty formations, a tactic that was deadly in Week 9. Rather than going no-huddle, the Rams would huddle but break from it quickly, lining up in condensed empty sets and snapping the ball immediately. Saints defenders were often late lining up and/or still communicating at the snap, and Jared Goff took advantage.

On 10 such plays, he went 5 for 8 for 102 yards and a touchdown. One incompletion was a gorgeous throw that Tyler Higbee dropped for a would-be 18-yard TD. Another play produced a first down for defensive holding, and another was a 6-yard Goff scramble.

The Saints improved against these looks after halftime, but they must be sharper from the outset Sunday. Goff remains up-and-down when forced to throw on third down, so taking away easy early-down completions is paramount.

–David DeChant, Field Level Media

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Report: Ex-NFL QB, coach Schonert dies at 62

Report: Ex-NFL QB, coach Schonert dies at 62

Report: Ex-NFL QB, coach Schonert dies at 62

Former NFL quarterback Turk Schonert has died, according to Fox 19 News in Cincinnati.

He was 62. His cause of death was not announced.

Schonert spent eight seasons in Cincinnati (1981-85, 1987-89) and one in Atlanta (1986), largely as a backup quarterback. He compiled a 7-5 record as a starter.

During his career, he passed for 3,788 yards with 11 touchdowns and 20 interceptions.

A product of Stanford, Schonert was a ninth-round pick of the Chicago Bears in 1980.

He later served as quarterbacks coach for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, New York Giants, Buffalo Bills, Carolina Panthers and New Orleans Saints. He also was the Bills’ offensive coordinator for one season in 2008. More recently, he was an assistant coach with the Montreal Alouettes of the CFL.

–Field Level Media

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Bears’ Nagy named PFWA Coach of the Year

Bears' Nagy named PFWA Coach of the Year

Bears’ Nagy named PFWA Coach of the Year

The Chicago Bears’ impressive 2018 turnaround earned Matt Nagy the NFL Coach of the Year and former defensive coordinator Vic Fangio the NFL Assistant Coach of the Year honors Thursday from the Pro Football Writers of America.

Indianapolis general manager Chris Ballard, whose moves helped the Colts reach the playoffs for the first time since 2014, was voted the NFL Executive of the Year by PFWA members.

Nagy inherited a 5-11 team and compiled a 12-4 record in his first season with the Bears, who won the NFC North and reached the playoffs for the first time since 2010.

He is the third Chicago head coach to win the PFWA honor since 2000, joining Lovie Smith (2005) and Dick Jauron (2001).

The Chicago defense led the NFL in takeaways and interceptions under Fangio, who was named the new head coach of the Denver Broncos earlier this month.

Fangio is the second Bears assistant to win the award, established in 1993, joining Ron Rivera (2005).

Ballard is the fifth Colts executive to win the award since it was established in 1993. Bill Polian was a three-time recipient (1999, 2005 and ’09) and Ryan Grigson was honored in 2012.

–Field Level Media

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Chiefs S Berry, RB Ware set to play Sunday

Chiefs S Berry, RB Ware set to play Sunday

Chiefs S Berry, RB Ware set to play Sunday

Safety Eric Berry and running back Spencer Ware are trending toward taking the field Sunday in the AFC Championship game against the New England Patriots.

Berry was a full participant in Wednesday’s practice. He’s been bothered by a heel injury.

The development would be positive for the Chiefs, who last week had wide receiver Sammy Watkins on the field. Watkins had a stretch in which he only played five snaps between Week 9 and the end of the regular season.

Early this week, the Chiefs activated guard Laurent Duvernay-Tardif (ankle) from injured reserve.

Berry has played just 99 snaps across two games this season while battling the lingering heel issue, while Ware missed the final three games of the regular season.

Damien Williams is expected to start at running back for Kansas City.

–Field Level Media

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Reports: Jags RB Fournette challenges contract void

Reports: Jags RB Fournette challenges contract void

Reports: Jags RB Fournette challenges contract void

Jacksonville Jaguars running back Leonard Fournette is challenging the team’s decision to take away the guarantees in the final two years of his contract, according to multiple reports Thursday.

Fournette has filed an official challenge, meaning an arbitrator will meet with both sides to determine whether the Jaguars are within their rights to decline to pay the money.

He was scheduled to earn $2.93 million in 2019 and $4.17 million in 2020, but the Jaguars voided the guarantees after he was suspended for one game by the NFL. In the Jaguars’ loss at Buffalo at Nov. 25, Fournette came off the bench to fight with Bills defensive lineman Shaq Lawson, triggering the suspension without pay.

After the game, Fournette apologized for his actions, but the Jaguars took away the remaining guaranteed money in his rookie contract. The team cited a contract clause that said it could do so if Fournette missed a game for anything other than a football-related injury.

Jaguars head coach Doug Marrone and Fournette, who turns 24 on Friday, met last week to discuss his commitment to the team going forward. Marrone said afterward that he was encouraged by the running back’s attitude.

The 2018 season was a disappointment for Fournette, whom the Jaguars selected with the No. 4 overall pick in the 2017 NFL Draft. After a rookie season that saw him rush for 1,040 yards and nine touchdowns, he finished 2018 having gained just 439 yards and scoring five rushing touchdowns.

He played in just eight games, missing seven of them with injuries. Tom Coughlin, the team’s vice president of football operations, criticized Fournette and fellow running back T.J. Yeldon for sideline behavior during the final game of the season that he called disrespectful and selfish. Neither Fournette nor Yeldon played in the game, a 20-3 loss to Houston.

–Field Level Media

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Broncos hire Scangarello as offensive coordinator

Broncos hire Scangarello as offensive coordinator

The Denver

Broncos hire Scangarello as offensive coordinator

The Denver Broncos have hired Rich Scangarello as their new offensive coordinator, the team announced Wednesday.

Scangarello served as the San Francisco 49ers quarterbacks coach the past two seasons.

Scangarello interviewed with new head coach Vic Fangio on Tuesday and returned for more talks Wednesday, and Fangio liked what he heard.

“With the addition of Rich Scangarello as our offensive coordinator, we’re getting an experienced coach who was a trusted and valued assistant with Kyle Shanahan for three seasons,” Fangio said in a press release. “He worked wonders with all the quarterbacks who started for San Francisco during the previous two years as quarterbacks coach.

“With his background and knowledge, it’s the perfect time for Rich to be an offensive coordinator in the NFL. I find this opportunity for Rich very similar to when I first became a defensive coordinator many years ago, and he is ready to take this step in his career.”

Scangarello, 46, has never been a coordinator at the NFL level, but he held the OC position in the college ranks at Wagner in 2016 and at Northern Arizona from 2012-14.

He earned praise for his work with 49ers rookie quarterback Nick Mullens and second-year signal-caller C.J. Beathard after starter Jimmy Garoppolo suffered a season-ending ACL injury in Week 3 of this season.

Scangarello’s lengthy resume also includes stints as an offensive quality control coach with the Oakland Raiders in 2009 and the Atlanta Falcons in 2015. Scangarello worked under Shanahan with the Falcons.

–Field Level Media

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NFL notebook: Steelers don’t expect Brown return

NFL notebook: Steelers don't expect Brown return

Pittsburgh Steelers president

NFL notebook: Steelers don’t expect Brown return

Pittsburgh Steelers president Art Rooney II said he still hasn’t talked to disgruntled wideout Antonio Brown but has left the door open a crack for a reconciliation.

In a wide-ranging discussion with Pittsburgh-area media Wednesday, Rooney discussed a number of topics. But much of the conversation focused on Brown.

Rooney said he would be willing to discuss Brown’s return to the Steelers, but there are “not that many signs out there that that’s going to happen.” Rooney told reporters he and Brown have not talked since the end of the season and he doesn’t expect him to return.

It is expected the Steelers will trade Brown, though Rooney said the team has not engaged in any trade talks. Brown caught 104 passes for 1,297 yards and a career-best 15 touchdowns in 2018.

–Atlanta Falcons defensive end Takkarist McKinley is back home in Oakland, Calif., after being taken for a mental evaluation Tuesday by Los Angeles police.

“There is no reason to believe that this was anything serious,” team spokesman Brian Cearns told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “He’s back home in Oakland with his family.”

Police were called to a Los Angeles hotel by a friend who was concerned about McKinley’s well-being. The 23-year-old player was not arrested, as police encouraged him to seek help and he complied.

–The Buffalo Bills signed veteran linebacker Lorenzo Alexander and offensive lineman Jeremiah Sirles to one-year contract extensions.

Alexander, 35, played in all 16 games in 2018 and registered 6.5 sacks, 74 tackles, 11 tackles for loss and a career-high two interceptions. He was set to become a free agent.

Sirles, 27, joined the Bills as a free agent in Week 5 of the season and played in 12 games (five starts) across the offensive line.

–Former NFL offensive lineman Jonathan Martin was ordered to stand trial on three felony counts by a Los Angeles Superior Court Judge, stemming from an incident last February in which he allegedly threatened former NFL teammate Richie Incognito and two former high school classmates.

Martin’s social media post from Feb. 22 was ruled to possess enough evidence for the 29-year-old Martin to answer to the charges, judge Shellie Samuels said at a preliminary hearing, according to the New York Daily News.

The Instagram post displayed Martin with a 12-gauge shotgun resting on a motel bed with 19 shells scattered around the weapon. The social media handles for Incognito, fellow former Dolphins teammate Mike Pouncey and two former classmates at Harvard-Westlake School in Los Angeles were tagged into the post, which featured #MiamiDolphins on the gun handle and #HarvardWestlake on the barrel.

–The New York Jets officially named Gregg Williams as their defensive coordinator.

Williams spent the last two seasons in Cleveland, serving as defensive coordinator before taking over as interim head coach midseason last year when the Browns fired Hue Jackson.

The Jets also confirmed that new head coach Adam Gase is retaining special teams coordinator Brant Boyer.

–The Detroit Lions have hired former Seattle Seahawks offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell to run their offense, the team announced.

Bevell, 49, replaces Jim Bob Cooter, whose contract was not renewed after Detroit finished 24th in total offense and 25th in scoring offense in 2018.

Bevell was out of coaching last season. He was fired by the Seahawks in January 2018 after seven seasons as their offensive coordinator and did not land another position.

–The Jacksonville Jaguars announced they have hired John DeFilippo as their offensive coordinator.

DeFilippo, 40, spent 2015 with the Cleveland Browns as offensive coordinator, then was the quarterbacks coach in Philadelphia in 2016-17. The Minnesota Vikings hired DeFilippo as offensive coordinator just days after the Eagles won Super Bowl LII, then fired him after a 21-7 loss to Seattle in Week 14.

–The Denver Broncos have hired Rich Scangarello as their new offensive coordinator, the team announced.

Scangarello, 46, served as the San Francisco 49ers quarterbacks coach the past two seasons. He has never been a coordinator at the NFL level, but he held the OC position in the college ranks at Wagner in 2016 and at Northern Arizona from 2012-14.

–Field Level Media

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Rams list clean injury report, including RB Gurley

Rams list clean injury report, including RB Gurley

Rams list clean injury report, including RB Gurley

Before their biggest game of the season, the Los Angeles Rams have a clean injury report.

That includes arguably their biggest offensive weapon: Todd Gurley.

The Rams listed no players on their Wednesday injury report following the team’s limited walk-through, including their two-time All-Pro running back who missed the final two games of the regular season because of left knee inflammation.

Gurley, 24, was expected to be a limited practice participant ahead of the NFC Championship Game at New Orleans this Sunday. He initially injured the knee in Week 1 against the Oakland Raiders before aggravating the knee in Week 15 against the Philadelphia Eagles.

Gurley returned to the lineup for the Rams’ divisional-round matchup against the Dallas Cowboys, and the three-time Pro Bowl back rushed for 115 yards and a touchdown on 16 carries in Los Angeles’ 30-22 win.

Gurley led the NFL with 21 touchdowns and 17 rushing scores during the regular season. He notched his third 1,000-yard rushing season in four years since the Rams took him with the 10th overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft.

Despite Gurley’s return, the Rams continued to find carries last week for C.J. Anderson, who has been a revelation since signing with Los Angeles on Dec. 19. Anderson has ripped off three straight 100-yard games for the Rams, and he owns an NFL-high 422 rushing yards since Week 16, including the playoffs.

–Field Level Media

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KC looking to start fast, outrun history in AFC title game

KC looking to start fast, outrun history in AFC title game

KC looking to start fast, outrun history in AFC title game

The fast starts Kansas City typically manufactures are not something to take lightly.

The Chiefs have outscored opponents 161-56 in the first quarter, a key reason why they earned the top seed and home-field advantage they enjoy entering the AFC Championship Game at Arrowhead Stadium against New England on Sunday.

And the Patriots are well aware.

“You always want to play from ahead. You always want to get off to a good start,” Patriots coach Bill Belichick recently told reporters. “But I think these are 60-minute games and this time of year you’re going to have to battle all the way through.”

That is where Tom Brady comes in.

“We talk about in these games, it’s not like a special play or there’s a special formula,” the five-time Super Bowl-winning quarterback told the media. “It’s just excelling at the right time.”

Few, if any, have played quarterback better than the New England great, whose ability to close out wins is unrivaled. Case in point, Week 6’s meeting between the Chiefs and Pats.

Brady drove New England to the Kansas City 9-yard line in less than three minutes, setting up Stephen Gostkowski for a walk-off 28-yard field goal that gave the Pats a 43-40 victory — handing the Chiefs their first loss of the season. New England gained 500 yards, did not punt and was not penalized. Yet the Patriots almost blew a 24-9 lead they built by, uhh, starting fast.

Don’t expect the Chiefs to buy into Brady’s claim that “everyone thinks we suck” — a startling proclamation he made immediately after New England thumped the Los Angeles Chargers 41-28 in the divisional round last weekend.

“This isn’t their first rodeo here,” Chiefs coach Andy Reid told reporters of his team’s opponent. “They have done this a few times. Arguably, if not the, one of the greatest dynasties in the history of the game.”

No question. The AFC Championship Game appearance is the eighth in a row for New England — which has played in eight Super Bowls and won five of them with Belichick and Brady.

Yet Kansas City is the home favorite Sunday for a night game that will be played in freezing temperatures.

The conditions only add to potential problems Patrick Mahomes could face as a first-year starting quarterback coping with the pressure attached to a conference championship game and the Super Bowl berth that goes to the winner.

But Mahomes has excelled at virtually any test he has faced this season, earning All-Pro honors after passing for more than 5,000 yards and joining Brady and Peyton Manning as the only quarterbacks with 50 touchdown passes in a season. Although Mahomes did not pass for a touchdown in the divisional round, he skillfully engineered a 31-13 romp over Indianapolis.

The Chiefs have averaged 35.8 points in the four matchups Reid has coached against Belichick’s Patriots, going 2-2.

With Mahomes, the Chiefs are as explosive as any time in their history, which has never before involved a conference championship appearance at home. The Chiefs’ last Super Bowl trip came after capturing the AFL title in the 1969 season, beating Minnesota in the last of four pre-merger Super Bowls.

“It means a lot to just make it this far,” linebacker Justin Houston said. “We’ve never had this opportunity. It would mean a lot to me, the organization, the city.”

Defeating perennial power New England, which is playing in its 15th conference championship game, would further punctuate that feat — and the Patriots were only 3-5 on the road this season.

To maintain that dominance, the Patriots will attempt to keep Brady clean against a Kansas City defense good at pressuring quarterbacks but suspect in other dimensions. Defensively, the Patriots are capable of containing the run but must account for Mahomes and a deep receiving corps led by tight end Travis Kelce and wideout Tyreek Hill.

The Chiefs activated offensive guard Laurent Duvernay-Tardif this week. He practiced along with two starters who missed the divisional round, running back Spencer Ware (hamstring) and free safety Eric Berry (heel).

Defensive end Deatrich Wise Jr. missed the divisional round with an ankle injury and remains the Patriots’ biggest injury concern.

–Field Level Media

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Jaguars hire DeFilippo as OC

Jaguars hire DeFilippo as OC

The Jacksonville Jaguars announced Wednesday they have hired John DeFilippo as their offensive

Jaguars hire DeFilippo as OC

The Jacksonville Jaguars announced Wednesday they have hired John DeFilippo as their offensive coordinator.

The Jaguars also interviewed former NFL head coach Mike McCoy for the job, according to reports on Tuesday.

DeFilippo, 40, spent 2015 with the Cleveland Browns as offensive coordinator, then was the quarterbacks coach in Philadelphia in 2016-17. The Minnesota Vikings hired DeFilippo as offensive coordinator just days after the Eagles won Super Bowl LII, then fired him after a 21-7 loss to Seattle in Week 14.

Early in his career, he was in charge of offensive quality control with the New York Giants, working under head coach Tom Coughlin, who now is the Jaguars’ vice president of football operations.

Coach Doug Marrone announced additional coaching staff assignments on Wednesday.

Terry Robiskie will serve as running backs coach, George Warhop as offensive line coach, Jason Rebrovich as defensive line coach, David Merritt as assistant defensive line coach, Tim Walton as secondary/cornerbacks coach and Joe Danna as secondary/safeties coach.

–Field Level Media

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Steelers’ Rooney not expecting Brown to return

Steelers' Rooney not expecting Brown to return

Pittsburgh Steelers president Art Rooney II said he still

Steelers’ Rooney not expecting Brown to return

Pittsburgh Steelers president Art Rooney II said he still hasn’t talked to disgruntled wideout Antonio Brown but has left the door open a crack for a reconciliation.

In a wide-ranging discussion with Pittsburgh-area media on Wednesday, Rooney discussed a number of topics, including the future of coach Mike Tomlin.

But much of the conversation focused on Brown.

Rooney said he would be willing to discuss Brown’s return to the Steelers, but there are “not that many signs out there that that’s going to happen.” Rooney told reporters he and Brown have not talked since the end of the season and he doesn’t expect him to return.

“I would have liked to have had the opportunity to talk to him and understand where he is,” Rooney told the reporters. “Maybe that will happen at some point, who knows?”

Brown didn’t play in Week 17 after missing multiple practices in the preceding week. Rooney said he wasn’t a big distraction to the team until that week.

“I’m not gonna sit here and disparage Antonio,” Rooney said during the session. “You have to remember he’s been one of the most productive receivers in the league for a long time now. He’s helped us win a lot of games over the last few years. Was it always done the way you’d like to see it done? No.

“But I don’t think he was a major distraction to the team up until the last weekend of the season. The proof is in the pudding for the most part.”

It is expected the Steelers will trade Brown, though Rooney said the team has not engaged in any trade talks.

Soon after Rooney talked with the media, Brown tweeted his intention to air his side in an interview.

“Clearly they feel indifferent about me seeing all these reports the big interview coming! watching my teammates, fans and organization show me how they really feel! Stay Woke,” he wrote.

Brown caught 104 passes for 1,297 yards and a career-best 15 touchdowns in 2018. He has topped 100 receptions in each of the past six seasons and has seven 1,000-yard receiving campaigns during nine years with the Steelers.

Concerning another disgruntled player, Rooney said he never expected running back Le’Veon Bell would sit out the entire season in a contract dispute. Rooney said he is content with the Steelers’ backfield situation, putting his trust in James Conner and Jaylen Samuels.

Tomlin also was a main discussion point, with Rooney not committing to an extension of his contract. The coach has two years left on his contract.

“Those are things we get to later in the offseason,” Rooney said. “We’ll cross that bridge when we get to it.”

The Steelers finished 9-6-1 this season and missed the playoffs, despite being in the driver’s seat for a postseason berth much of the season. In his 12 seasons with the team, Tomlin has a 125-66-1 record.

Rooney added he doesn’t expect any other coaches to depart, and that the Steelers will concentrate on filling staff vacancies.

He said a contract extension for quarterback Ben Roethlisberger is an offseason priority, however.

Rooney also addressed the status of linebacker Ryan Shazier, who suffered a serious spinal injury 13 months ago. Shazier has maintained he wants to one day resume playing, and Rooney confirmed that Shazier continues to rehabilitate with the intention of putting on the uniform again.

Shazier will be a free agent in March, and Rooney said the team is willing to comply.

“To the extent he wants to do that, we’re open to working that out,” Rooney said, via Jeremy Fowler of ESPN.

–Field Level Media

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Lions hire Bevell as offensive coordinator

Lions hire Bevell as offensive coordinator

The Detroit Lions have hired former Seattle Seahawks offensive

Lions hire Bevell as offensive coordinator

The Detroit Lions have hired former Seattle Seahawks offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell to run their offense, the team announced Wednesday.

Bevell, 49, replaces Jim Bob Cooter, whose contract was not renewed after Detroit finished 24th in total offense and 25th in scoring offense in 2018.

Bevell was out of coaching last season. He was fired by the Seahawks in January 2018 after seven seasons as their offensive coordinator and did not land another position.

Bevell was also the offensive coordinator for the Minnesota Vikings for five seasons (2006-10) before he joined Pete Carroll’s staff in Seattle in 2011.

His offense with the Seahawks peaked in 2015, finishing fourth in the NFL in both scoring offense and total offense.

He helped the Seahawks reach the playoffs in five of his seven seasons, including consecutive trips to the Super Bowl. Seattle defeated Denver in Super Bowl XLVIII and notoriously lost to New England in Super Bowl XLIX when his offense opted to throw from the 1-yard line and Malcolm Butler intercepted Russell Wilson’s pass to seal the win for the Patriots.

The New England defensive coordinator that day was Matt Patricia, now the head coach of the Lions.

Bevell’s NFL resume also includes working with the Green Bay Packers from 2000-05, the last three years as quarterbacks coach.

–Field Level Media

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Ex-lineman Martin to stand trial for threats against Incognito

Ex-lineman Martin to stand trial for threats against Incognito

Former

Ex-lineman Martin to stand trial for threats against Incognito

Former NFL offensive lineman Jonathan Martin was ordered to stand trial on three felony counts by a Los Angeles Superior Court Judge on Wednesday, stemming from an incident last February in which he allegedly threatened former NFL teammate Richie Incognito and two former high school classmates.

Martin’s social media post from Feb. 22 was ruled to possess enough evidence for the 29-year-old Martin to answer to the charges, judge Shellie Samuels said at a preliminary hearing, according to the New York Daily News.

The Instagram post displayed Martin with a 12-gauge shotgun resting on a motel bed with 19 shells scattered around the weapon. The social media handles for Incognito, fellow former Dolphins teammate Mike Pouncey, and two former classmates at Harvard-Westlake School in Los Angeles were tagged into the post, which featured #MiamiDolphins on the gun handle and #HarvardWestlake on the barrel.

It also had this message: “When you’re a bully victim & a coward, your options are suicide, or revenge.”

Martin left the Dolphins in the middle of the 2013 season and accused Incognito of bullying him. An NFL investigation later found that Incognito was one of three players who bullied Martin and Incognito was suspended for eight games.

Martin has experienced his own issues and his lawyer, Winston McKesson, said those troubles were the reasons for the social media post. He said Martin checked himself into a facility shortly after posting the image.

“He was struggling with his own demons. That’s what this is,” McKesson said in court, claiming the post wasn’t specific enough to be a criminal threat.

Judge Samuels disagreed with the argument.

“It does say suicide or revenge. That does sound equivocal on its face,” Samuels said. “However, on the photo, there are 19 shells. Suicide would take one shot. Nineteen shells is a mass shooting, killing more than one person, revenge.

“I think that’s unequivocal enough to be a criminal threat.”

Martin remains free on $210,000 bail and his next court date is Jan. 30, according to the Daily News.

Earlier, a Los Angeles Police Department detective testified that Martin’s web surfing on Feb. 9 showed he pulled up a story about Incognito just hours before ordering the shotgun from American Gun Works.

Court testimony also disclosed that Incognito was in such great fear when he learned of the post on Feb. 22 that he drove two hours north from Scottsdale, Ariz., to meet with an FBI agent.

Meanwhile, Harvard-Westlake closed the school on Feb. 23 as a precaution after being informed of Martin’s post.

–Field Level Media

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Tiger commits to Torrey Pines, Riviera events

Tiger commits to Torrey Pines, Riviera events

Tiger commits to Torrey Pines, Riviera events

It’s official. Tiger Woods will make his 2019 PGA Tour debut next week at the Farmers Insurance Open at his beloved Torrey Pines Golf Course in San Diego.

Woods has also committed to the Feb. 14-17 Genesis Open at Riviera Country Club in Pacific Palisades, where he serves as tournament host.

“Kicking off this season on the west coast at @FarmersInsOpen and my TGRF’s @GenesisOpen,” he tweeted Wednesday. “Can’t wait!”

In addition to his seven Farmers Open titles, Woods also won the 2008 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines — the most recent of his 14 major championships. He tied for 23rd last year in his first official PGA Tour event following fusion surgery on his back.

His 2019 entry had been expected, but the tournament received official word from the tour headquarters Wednesday morning.

“It’s fantastic, exciting,” tournament director Peter Ripa told the San Diego Union-Tribune. “Players have choices for where they want to play, and for Tiger to choose San Diego … we’re going to be the center of the sports universe next week.”

Woods, 43, is No. 12 in the official world golf rankings. He last played at the Hero World Challenge in the Bahamas from Nov. 29-Dec. 2, finishing 17th in the 18-man field.

The Farmers field also includes defending champion Jason Day, world No. 1 and reigning FedExCup champion Justin Rose, 2017 winner Jon Rahm, San Diegan Xander Schauffele, Rory McIlroy, Tony Finau, Rickie Fowler, Marc Leishman and Jordan Speith.

Woods won his first PGA Tour event at Riviera in 1992 while playing on a sponsor’s exemption as an amateur. His TGR Live manages the event and proceeds from the tournament benefit his TGR Foundation.

“I’m looking forward to being back in Los Angeles for the Genesis Open,” Woods said in a statement. “It’s always great to be able to play at Riviera and I am very proud of the impact the Genesis Open has been able to make on education through my foundation.”

Woods missed the cut at Riviera CC in 2018, one of only two missed cuts in 19 events.

–Field Level Media

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