Sproles, McLeod out for Eagles, Jeffery questionable

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — The Philadelphia Eagles won’t have running back Darren Sproles and safety Rodney McLeod for Sunday’s game at Tennessee.

Sproles is missing his third straight game with a hamstring injury. McLeod had knee surgery Thursday and it’s uncertain whether he’ll return this season.

Wide receiver Alshon Jeffery is questionable after missing the past two days of practice because of an illness. Jeffery hasn’t played this season after offseason shoulder surgery. He practiced Wednesday.

Running back Corey Clement is questionable with a quadricep injury.

___

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

Falcons looking for more than field goals against Saints

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. (AP) — Matt Ryan and the Atlanta Falcons can't afford to lean on Matt Bryant's powerful right leg this week.

Field goals won't be enough to keep pace against the high-scoring New Orleans Saints on Thursday night.

Bryant's four field goals provided all of Atlanta's scoring until Julio Jones caught

FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. (AP) — Matt Ryan and the Atlanta Falcons can’t afford to lean on Matt Bryant’s powerful right leg this week.

Field goals won’t be enough to keep pace against the high-scoring New Orleans Saints on Thursday night.

Bryant’s four field goals provided all of Atlanta’s scoring until Julio Jones caught a 34-yard touchdown pass from Ryan with less than two minutes remaining against Dallas on Sunday. That touchdown tied the game before the Cowboys won 22-19 on Brett Maher’s 42-yard field goal as time expired.

The Saints (9-1) have won nine straight . They led the NFL with their average of 37.8 points per game through Sunday’s games.

“Field goals against them isn’t going to cut it the way they’re putting points up,” coach Dan Quinn said Monday.

The Falcons (4-6) already have lost one shootout against the Saints, 43-37 in overtime on Sept. 23.

“When we get our chances, we have to convert,” Ryan said Monday. “We’ve been doing a good job of that for the most part of the year. … We’ve got to be aggressive with our plays when we get our chances.”

Quinn said the Falcons can win a high-scoring game, even against the Saints.

“We are. We’re equipped,” Quinn said. “Certainly when you’re going against another team that’s high scoring, it was no surprise to see that in the first game, either.”

Jones has touchdown catches in three straight games, but the Falcons are in a scoring slump. They rank ninth in the league with their average of 26.3 points, but they’ve been held below 20 points in four games this season, including back-to-back losses to the Cowboys and Cleveland.

Atlanta led Dallas 6-3 at halftime despite being held to 110 yards. For the game, the Falcons had 354 yards, their third-lowest total of the season.

The two straight losses were devastating to Atlanta’s playoff hopes after it won three straight to reach .500.

Quinn said the Falcons shouldn’t be worried about their fading playoff hopes.

“Right now we have no luxury of looking at anything big picture,” Quinn said. “Right now there’s one picture and that’s New Orleans and that’s Thursday.”

Atlanta managed only 80 yards rushing against Dallas. Tevin Coleman had only eight carries for 58 yards, even though he gained 11 or more yards on four runs. The eight carries were his second fewest of the season.

Quinn said “it’s going to be important” to establish the run. But he said he was only seeking balance, not a greater commitment to the run.

“When you’re in the red zone against them you better finish with it in the end zone because they’re certainly able to score and they’ve shown that this year,” he said.

“Whether it’s in the run game or it’s in the pass game, it’s about being able to find explosive games and being able to score. That’s the name of the game when you’re facing a team with an explosive offense like them.”

NOTES: The Falcons are attempting to determine if linebacker Deion Jones will play this week. Jones came off injured reserve last week after missing two months with a broken right foot but was inactive against Dallas . Quinn said Jones did not participate in the team’s walkthrough practice on Monday, but instead was scheduled for work after the practice “so we’ll get a better assessment of where he’s at.” Quinn said the goal was to “keep pushing and develop to see where he’s at with his confidence level with his foot.”

___

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

Read More 527 Words

Rams honor firefighters, police for recent heroic actions

LOS ANGELES (AP) — The Los Angeles Rams honored those impacted the past two weeks by the shooting at a Thousand Oaks bar and wildfires in Los Angeles and Ventura counties before Monday night's game against the Kansas City Chiefs.

The California Lutheran University Choir, who had a former member as one of

LOS ANGELES (AP) — The Los Angeles Rams honored those impacted the past two weeks by the shooting at a Thousand Oaks bar and wildfires in Los Angeles and Ventura counties before Monday night’s game against the Kansas City Chiefs.

The California Lutheran University Choir, who had a former member as one of the 12 killed in the Nov, 7 shooting at a country music bar, sang the National Anthem. Firefighters who have battled the Southern California wildfires the past two weeks received tickets to the game.

The fire erupted Nov. 8 and powerful Santa Ana winds pushed it through suburbs and wilderness parkland in Los Angeles and Ventura counties, forcing thousands of people to flee.

Karen and Jordan Helus, the wife of fallen Ventura County Sheriff Sergeant Ron Hellus, lit the LA Coliseum torch prior to kickoff.

___

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

Read More 87 Words

Andrew Luck’s comeback season putting Colts in playoff hunt

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Andrew Luck looks and sounds like his old self.

He's smiling, cherishing each snap. He's throwing touchdowns and winning games, staying healthy and chasing the kinds of milestones so many expected when the Indianapolis Colts made him the top overall pick in the 2012 draft.

Yes, at age 29, he's

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Andrew Luck looks and sounds like his old self.

He’s smiling, cherishing each snap. He’s throwing touchdowns and winning games, staying healthy and chasing the kinds of milestones so many expected when the Indianapolis Colts made him the top overall pick in the 2012 draft.

Yes, at age 29, he’s again having fun playing football.

“I was not in a good spot a year ago. I remember that. I am in a good spot now,” Luck said in his trademark low-key tone following Sunday’s 38-10 victory over Tennessee.

“My perspective is a little different toward this game. I appreciate things maybe a little bit more and I think that’s pretty consistent with anybody who’s been out for significant time with an injury.”

Twelve months ago, Luck was questioning everything from whether a second surgical procedure might alleviate the pain in his right shoulder to whether he would ever play another NFL game.

He had been shut down for the season by going on injured reserve and headed to Europe where he continued rehabbing in relative anonymity.

He spent Thanksgiving and Christmas in the Netherlands and when he returned home, just before Indy’s season finale, Luck recounted some of the emotional challenges he faced during his prolonged recovery from a partially torn labrum in his throwing shoulder.

Even then, things didn’t go according to plan.

The only NFL coach Luck played for, Chuck Pagano, was fired a few days after his return. New England offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels accepted the Colts’ coaching job then backed out, paving the way for Frank Reich to eventually take over while Luck’s recovery essentially started over.

“We were throwing little — I don’t even know what kind of balls they were — weighted balls, but they didn’t have points on them,” Reich said when asked to recount Luck’s status when he first arrived in town.

“He was patient. I give him a lot of credit. He was really patient and he just said he was going to stay patient and trust the process and he did that. So that’s a lot of credit to him.”

Luck didn’t start throwing footballs until May, didn’t start throwing at practice till mid-June and was kept on a strict pitch count at training camp.

So when the Colts started 1-5 and Luck was throwing short, some naturally wondered if Luck would ever regain his pre-injury form.

A month later, there are no more doubts.

Luck is in the midst of his best pro season with his completion rate (67.3 percent) and rating (101.8) at career highs and his 29 TD passes ranked second in the league to Kansas City’s Patrick Mahomes. Luck has reduced the number of interceptions and forced passes and hasn’t been sacked in five weeks, a total of 214 consecutive dropbacks.

The closest Tennessee even came to touching Luck on Sunday was when Luck tried to catch a touchdown pass from tight end Eric Ebron.

As a result, Indy (5-5) has won four straight to jump back into the playoff picture.

If Luck throws three more TD passes this weekend against Miami, he will tie Peyton Manning (eight) for the second-longest streak of consecutive games in league history with only New England’s Tom Brady (10) ahead of him. And the deep throws have returned, too.

But the more people talk about Luck’s gaudy numbers, the more focused Luck becomes on enjoying football and life.

“It’s nice that the results are positive for us certainly, but I wouldn’t say that I’m having more fun,” he said. “I’m just enjoying it. It’s a great group of guys. It’s a great group of coaches (and a) great building.”

If the injury taught Luck anything, it’s how quickly things can change in the NFL.

He lost right guard Matt Slauson to a season-ending back injury after Week 5 and now, in the midst of this remarkable streak, he may be missing center Ryan Kelly, who left Sunday’s game with a knee injury in the fourth quarter. Reich said doctors are still evaluating Kelly’s knee.

The loss of Kelly could be huge, given offensive line coach Dave DeGuglielmo recently said Kelly was playing at a Pro Bowl level and was one of the best centers in the league.

“We feel like Evan (Boehm) is ready if he’s the one playing,” Reich said Monday. “Obviously Ryan is playing at a super high level. So I am not going to suggest that there wouldn’t be any changes, but they would be very minimal.”

Luck understands what it will be like for Kelly if he can’t play.

After fighting through the physical pain and mental difficulty, the agony of defeat and the heartache of not being able to help out, Luck believes he has come out the other end as a better player.

“Everybody’s got a story to tell. Certainly as a quarterback in this league, if you play for a couple years you’re going to have gone through something,” he said. “I’d like to think that what happened, the result of that is probably the best thing for my career, the best thing that could’ve happened.”

___

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

Read More 798 Words

Hue Again? Browns set to face former coach Jackson, Bengals

BEREA, Ohio (AP) — While the Browns relaxed during the bye week, their fired former coach went back to work.

Hue Jackson's got a new gig.

And this strange season in Cleveland will take another odd turn Sunday when the Browns face the Bengals and Jackson, who somehow survived an 0-16 season and

BEREA, Ohio (AP) — While the Browns relaxed during the bye week, their fired former coach went back to work.

Hue Jackson’s got a new gig.

And this strange season in Cleveland will take another odd turn Sunday when the Browns face the Bengals and Jackson, who somehow survived an 0-16 season and was only briefly unemployed before being hired last week as a special assistant to Cincinnati coach Marvin Lewis.

“It is Hue,” defensive end Emmanuel Ogbah said.

But even though Jackson has changed back into Bengals stripes, the Browns aren’t worried that their ex-coach on the sideline gives Cincinnati an added advantage.

“It’s a divisional game!” cried Browns safety Damarious Randall. “We knew what they were doing before he went over there and they know exactly what we’re going to do. At the end of the day, we’re just going to go out and punch them in the mouth — straight up. That’s exactly what you have to do on the road rivalry games. You have to go punch them in the mouth.

“If that’s what we do, it doesn’t matter what they have over there.”

Jackson’s same-season reunion against the Browns seems to be unprecedented. The NFL doesn’t keep record of coaches facing their former teams.

“It is surprising,” Browns guard Kevin Zeitler said.

The Browns (3-6-1) returned from their week off healthier than they’ve been all season, and there was even chatter inside the locker room about making a playoff run over the next six weeks.

First, though, comes a somewhat awkward reunion with Jackson, who was fired on Oct. 29, a day after the Browns lost in Pittsburgh. Jackson’s dismissal wasn’t unexpected, given his struggles in Cleveland.

But his return to Cincinnati, where Jackson worked as offensive coordinator with the Bengals (5-5) under Lewis before he was hired by the Browns in 2016, has created two matchups in which the spotlight will be focused on him — whether he likes it or not.

Jackson had a good rapport with his players in Cleveland and several on Monday said they were thrilled he landed on his feet so quickly.

“It will feel a little awkward, but I’m very happy for coach Jackson,” cornerback T.J. Carrie said. “He is a great coach and a great person. It was not going to be a long time before he wasn’t without a job, so it is really good just to be able to see him in a position where he is being able to control a lot of the things over there.”

Jackson’s intimate knowledge of Cleveland’s personnel, schemes and playbook would seem to give the Bengals an almost unfair benefit.

But like Randall, Carrie said AFC North games are decided by which team executes better and not by any insider knowledge.

Carrie doesn’t think Jackson jumping teams makes any difference.

“These divisional games, we play year in and year out twice a year,” he said. “We know what they are going to do. They know what we are going to do. There is not really more scheme-wise that they can really dive into that we can surprise them with. It is all going to be about going out there and playing smash-mouth football.”

Interim Browns coach Gregg Williams said he was “happy” for Jackson and called him a “very smart coach.” However, he said the Browns won’t change any of their play call or audibles and Jackson’s familiarity with the Browns won’t make much difference once the game starts.

“There is nothing private in our world anymore,” Williams said. “Every single clip of film is out there for everybody to watch. It is about execution. We have to go and execute. Even in practices, our guys know what the guys on the other side of the ball are going to be doing, but they get out-executed at times.”

Randall said Jackson’s impact will be minimal.

It’s not him vs. the Browns, it’s the Bengals vs. the Browns.

“The game is on 11-on-11 up on the field and I don’t feel like them having him over there is going to give them no type of edge,” he said.

“It is what it is. They see what we do up on film. Whatever they need to know, they can watch film and see it. We don’t got nothing to hide over here, we’re here to play football and that’s exactly what we’re going to do.”

NOTES: Williams said he intends to interview for Cleveland’s full-time job once the season ends. Last week, general manager John Dorsey said Williams had earned an interview with the job he’s done since stepping in. … The starting left tackle job remains an open competition between rookie Desmond Harrison and Greg Robinson, who started the past two games before the bye.

___

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

Read More 745 Words

Turnovers, leaky defense compound Buccaneers QB quandary

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — Jameis Winston or Ryan Fitzpatrick.

It doesn't seem to matter who's playing quarterback for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Turnovers and a leaky defense are hindering the team's chances of being successful.

The Bucs (3-7) have dropped seven of eight games following a 2-0 start, vacillating back and forth between

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — Jameis Winston or Ryan Fitzpatrick.

It doesn’t seem to matter who’s playing quarterback for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Turnovers and a leaky defense are hindering the team’s chances of being successful.

The Bucs (3-7) have dropped seven of eight games following a 2-0 start, vacillating back and forth between Winston and Fitzpatrick, who’ve played well enough at times that Tampa Bay leads the NFL in passing yards and total offense.

The quarterbacks have also been turnover-prone, with their mistakes compounded by a porous defense that not only has yielded a league-high 329 points but hasn’t forced a turnover in the past seven games.

Coach Dirk Koetter, who has not announced who’ll start this week against the San Francisco 49ers, conceded Monday that the team’s turnover differential of minus-23 through 10 games is a mind-boggling statistic.

“It’s boggling on both ends. That we have that few takeaways and that many giveaways. It’s a ridiculous number to have the disparity be that much,” Koetter said Monday.

“What’s even crazier is we play a team coming up this week that has one fewer takeaway than we do,” the coach added. “It seems impossible. But it is a fact (although) they don’t have as many turnovers as we do.”

Koetter changed quarterbacks for the third time this season, benching Fitzpatrick during Sunday’s 38-35 loss to the New York Giants.

Winston, benched last month after throwing four interceptions in a loss at Cincinnati, entered the game after Fitzpatrick was picked off three times in falling behind 24-7 and led touchdown drives on four consecutive possessions.

Koetter said Monday he’d made a decision on which quarterback will start Sunday’s home game against San Francisco, but he did not want to announce it because he had not yet talked to Winston and Fitzpatrick individually.

“Even though I know what we’re going to do, I’m not going to be able to say it today because I would never tell the media before I told the quarterbacks themselves,” Koetter said.

The 35-year-old Fitzpatrick began the season as the starter while Winston, the No. 1 overall pick from the 2015 draft, was serving a three-game suspension for violating the league’s personal conduct policy.

Since topping 400 yards passing in back-to-back wins over New Orleans and Philadelphia, Fitzpatrick has lost five consecutive starts. Winston is 1-2 as a starter this season and also has played twice in relief of Fitzpatrick.

The common denominator in the team’s seven losses is the team has fallen behind early and been unable to escape double-digit deficits. In wins over the Saints, Eagles and Cleveland Browns, the Bucs led most of the way before holding on at the end.

“Almost every game we get some beautiful, beautiful play at quarterback. Some tremendous throws, good decision-making, some beautiful adjustments,” Koetter said. “But at other times we have some bad decision-making that result in turnovers. That’s hurting our team.”

Although the coach did not confirm whether Winston performed well enough against the Giants to reclaim the starting job, Koetter acknowledged the fourth-year pro “played better” and “for the most part made good decisions with the football.”

“Our quarterback play in general has been spectacular at times and not good enough at times,” the coach said. “That’s just the story of where we’re at on offense right now.”

Fitzpatrick said after Sunday’s game that he was proud of the way Winston led the team back against the Giants.

“It’s not easy to not have any preparation and be working with the scout team and get thrown in there during the middle of the game,” Fitzpatrick said.

Winston, meanwhile, would not speculate on who might start against the 49ers.

“I’m worried about finding a way to win our last six games. … I don’t have that much control over that, but my play can speak for me,” Winston said. “That’s the only thing I can control, and I’m going to do my best … if I get the opportunity.”

___

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

Read More 608 Words

Elliott, Cowboys in thick of NFC East with Redskins up next

FRISCO, Texas (AP) — Ezekiel Elliott still had five more games to watch last year after the Dallas Cowboys lost in Atlanta at the beginning of their star running back's six-game suspension over domestic violence allegations.

After playing a huge role in helping the Cowboys thrust themselves into the NFC East race with

FRISCO, Texas (AP) — Ezekiel Elliott still had five more games to watch last year after the Dallas Cowboys lost in Atlanta at the beginning of their star running back’s six-game suspension over domestic violence allegations.

After playing a huge role in helping the Cowboys thrust themselves into the NFC East race with a win at the Falcons, Elliott will be right in the middle of trying to get them back to the playoffs instead of having to watch a season go south without the 2016 NFL rushing champ.

“We can’t lose this grit. We can’t lose the way we’re going out there and working every day. We can’t lose the way we’re going out there and competing on Sundays,” Elliott said after a 22-19 win over the Falcons . “We’ve got to build on that.”

It’s quite a two-game streak to build on for Dallas (5-5): road victories over the past two Super Bowl participants from the NFC, before which the Cowboys were winless away from home and teetering on playoff extinction just halfway through the season.

And it set up a Thanksgiving showdown against Washington (6-4) on Thursday with the division lead on the line.

“That’s all that much more reason to appreciate how this team’s come together and be where we are right now,” owner and general manager Jerry Jones said. “We (Cowboys and Redskins) don’t always play for a title, but to some degree, we’re playing for it out there Thanksgiving day.”

Both victories featured winning drives to answer tying fourth-quarter touchdowns — first against defending champion Philadelphia . The Cowboys actually answered two tying TDs in the final quarter against the Eagles.

Elliott had two of his five 100-yard rushing games and combined for 388 yards from scrimmage and three touchdowns in wins over the Eagles and Falcons.

Instead of wondering what they’ll do without that kind of production, the Cowboys are feeding off growing confidence in an offensive line that is finally absorbing changes and the residual benefits of new No. 1 receiver Amari Cooper, acquired in a trade when Dallas was 3-4 going into its open week.

“We’ve talked about that for a couple weeks now,” quarterback Dak Prescott said. “The way teams are playing us and the way they’re playing Amari and adjusting their coverages has given us favorable boxes. The offensive line is doing a great job of taking advantage of that. Zeke’s finding holes and making people miss.”

Prescott was sacked a career-high eight times in his first game without Elliott last year against the Falcons, the start of a three-game losing streak.

Although the Cowboys won the final three without their running back, the margin for error was gone. A loss to Seattle in Elliott’s return eliminated Dallas a year after Prescott and Elliott led the team to an NFC-best 13 wins.

The reward for the current two-game surge is three straight home games, although one-loss New Orleans is the middle opponent. After an extended break following the Saints game, the Eagles visit. Philadelphia’s hopes of a repeat are fading coming off a blowout loss at New Orleans.

“We played our way back into this thing, but this one is every bit as big as the last two,” executive vice president of personnel Stephen Jones said on his radio show Monday. “So, we got to pull this off and it’s great we put ourselves back into a position to be relevant here.”

The formula from the two road wins seems to be the best hope for the Cowboys. The defense keeps them in games, as it has done several times this season, while the offense makes the winning plays late.

One of the fourth-quarter TDs against Atlanta was set up by rookie linebacker Leighton Vander Esch’s second interception in as many games.

“We’re gelling at the right time,” Prescott said. “We’re complementing the defense. They get turnovers. We’re turning them into points and when you do that, you give yourself a chance. We know we’re going to be in every game.”

___

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

Read More 617 Words

Johnson’s injury a concern for Lions after win over Panthers

ALLEN PARK, Mich. (AP) — Kerryon Johnson has been a bright spot for Detroit in a season with plenty of struggles.

Now the Lions are finally coming off a win — but Johnson exited that victory with a left knee injury.

Detroit's rookie running back went down in the second half of Sunday's

ALLEN PARK, Mich. (AP) — Kerryon Johnson has been a bright spot for Detroit in a season with plenty of struggles.

Now the Lions are finally coming off a win — but Johnson exited that victory with a left knee injury.

Detroit’s rookie running back went down in the second half of Sunday’s win over the Carolina Panthers, and although the Lions had to be pleased to snap a three-game losing streak, they face a daunting task over the next couple of weeks.

Detroit has a short turnaround before its Thanksgiving game against Chicago — not a great situation for a player recovering from an injury — and then the Lions face the Los Angeles Rams.

Johnson has boosted Detroit’s previously moribund running game. He has rushed for 641 yards on the season — more than anyone on the Lions managed last season — but it’s not clear when he’ll be able to play again.

“Not sure what his situation is, but we’ve dealt with it in other areas on our team before. Just next guy up, let’s go,” quarterback Matthew Stafford said.

“We have a bunch of guys in that room that are talented. If they need to play more, they’ll play more. If they don’t, then we’ll roll with what we have.”

Detroit was already without wide receiver Marvin Jones (knee) against Carolina. Then Johnson left the game, but the Lions were able to win anyway thanks to some big catches by receiver Kenny Golladay.

Detroit (4-6) still faces an uphill climb to make the playoffs. Its next two games are at home but against first-place teams. If Johnson isn’t available, the path becomes even tougher.

“We’ll take it day by day. We’ll see how it goes,” coach Matt Patricia said Monday. “We just have to stay even keel with all of it and make sure we prepare like we’re just pushing forward.”

Johnson leads the Lions with 118 carries. LeGarrette Blount has 78 and Stafford has 21. No other Detroit player has more than nine. Blount is averaging only 2.3 yards per attempt.

“Certainly, Kerryon has a skillset that’s great, just like a lot of our other guys do,” Patricia said. “I think we have good players, we have dynamic guys, guys that can make plays in different ways and it’s not cookie-cutter. Football is not that way. When you have a different player that’s in and in the same position, it doesn’t mean that they can do the same thing. You have to be able to adjust.”

The Lions could always bring in someone from outside the organization to help at running back, but there’s not much time before the next game.

Running back Zach Zenner, who signed with the Lions earlier this month, could have a bigger role now. Zenner has played sporadically for Detroit since the 2015 season — he had 88 carries in 2016.

“No matter what it means for me, it’s always disappointing to see a teammate get injured,” Zenner said. “Kerryon’s a good teammate, good person, good friend. So it’s certainly tough to see him have an injury. I don’t know what the situation is. Hopefully he’ll be back, ready to go, but if not, I’ll be ready to do whatever I’m asked.”

___

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

___

Follow Noah Trister at www.Twitter.com/noahtrister

Read More 488 Words

Longacre inactive, Watkins active for Rams-Chiefs showdown

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Linebacker Matt Longacre is inactive for the Los Angeles Rams' showdown with the Kansas City Chiefs.

Newcomer Dante Fowler started in Longacre's spot Monday night.

Longacre had started the Rams' past seven games, and he wasn't listed on Los Angeles' injury reports during the week.

Former Rams receiver Sammy

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Linebacker Matt Longacre is inactive for the Los Angeles Rams’ showdown with the Kansas City Chiefs.

Newcomer Dante Fowler started in Longacre’s spot Monday night.

Longacre had started the Rams’ past seven games, and he wasn’t listed on Los Angeles’ injury reports during the week.

Former Rams receiver Sammy Watkins is active for the Chiefs after missing last week’s game with a foot injury.

The Chiefs’ inactives are safety Eric Berry, receiver Gehrig Dieter, defensive lineman Justin Hamilton, offensive lineman Kahlil McKenzie, center Mitch Morse, running back Darrel Williams and tight end Deon Yelder.

The Rams other inactives are defensive tackle Sebastian Joseph-Day, running back John Kelly, tight end Johnny Mundt, linebacker Ogbonnia Okoronkwo, defensive back Darious Williams and receiver Nick Williams.

___

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

Read More 78 Words

For Bears, handling success is unfamiliar territory

LAKE FOREST, Ill. (AP) — With a tighter grip on the NFC North, the Chicago Bears are in unfamiliar territory and facing a different kind of challenge as the season heads toward its final stretch.

Learning to handle success.

"We have to make sure that we just continue to keep those blinders on,

LAKE FOREST, Ill. (AP) — With a tighter grip on the NFC North, the Chicago Bears are in unfamiliar territory and facing a different kind of challenge as the season heads toward its final stretch.

Learning to handle success.

“We have to make sure that we just continue to keep those blinders on, keep the earmuffs on, don’t listen to anything and just keep playing our football,” coach Matt Nagy said.

The Bears sure look as if they’re serious about winning the division after a 25-20 primetime victory over the second-place Minnesota Vikings on Sunday.

The defense dominated, with Khalil Mack leading the way. Cody Parkey bounced back from a miserable performance to make all three of his field goals. And the Bears (7-3) came away with their fourth straight win.

It’s quite a change for a franchise with four consecutive last-place finishes. For the first time in years, managing success is an issue for the Bears.

“When it’s the other way, and people tell you how bad of a coach you are, how poor of a player you are and you should be cut and you should be fired, we don’t listen to it,” said Nagy, in his first season as a head coach. “So it’s the same thing when you’re having success. You don’t listen to it. You understand both sides, but we worry about what’s said in this building.”

There are plenty of good things to say about the Bears at the moment.

They’re heading toward their first playoff appearance since the 2010 season. They’re on their longest win streak since a six-game run in 2012. They beat division opponents the past two weeks after dropping 10 in a row against them. And they could make it three over the NFC North in a 12-day span with a victory at Detroit on Thursday.

The Bears beat the Lions 34-22 at Soldier Field on Nov. 11 , with Mitchell Trubisky throwing for a career-high 355 yards and three touchdowns. Chicago also jumped out to a 26-0 lead and sacked Matthew Stafford six times in that game.

The victory over Minnesota was a sort of validation for Chicago after beating teams with losing records the previous three games, including the New York Jets and Buffalo Bills.

“It shows that we can battle with the best of them,” running back Tarik Cohen said. “It shows that we are still getting better and that we haven’t reached our ceiling yet. Only we can decide what our ceiling is.”

The Bears are looking good at the moment, with a defense ranked third overall through Sunday. They were allowing league lows in yards rushing per game (77.8) and per carry (3.5), and had more interceptions (18) and takeaways (27) than any other team.

“I think our offense is doing a great job with having the first possession and putting points on the board,” cornerback Prince Amukamara said.

“Our offense is really getting things going, so it makes it a little bit easier for the defense because now we know the opposing team’s offense needs to get going and start passing more to get points on the board.”

Mack had a sack against Minnesota, giving him three in the past two weeks and eight in eight games this season. And Eddie Jackson returned an interception for a touchdown in the fourth quarter.

Parkey also got some redemption after hitting uprights four times while missing two field goals and two extra points against the Lions. But he didn’t attempt an extra point on Sunday.

Nagy opted to go for two after each of their two touchdowns. And he acknowledged Parkey’s struggles the previous week factored into those decisions. He also insisted his own aggressive nature and a belief the plays would work were big reasons.

Chicago converted both times, with Trubisky passing to Josh Bellamy in the second quarter and Adam Shaheen in the fourth.

“It worked,” Nagy said. “It doesn’t always work. And you’ve got to make sure that you get two out of every three.”

Nagy said he discussed the plan with Parkey and wasn’t worried about how it would impact his confidence.

“Whenever you’re honest with people, it’s so easy to do what you do because you’re real with them,” Nagy said. “You tell them exactly what you’re feeling and everybody knows the plan.”

___

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

Read More 664 Words

Chargers look to regroup after loss to Broncos

LOS ANGELES (AP) — The Los Angeles Chargers remain in strong position for a playoff spot at 7-3, but injuries on defense and special teams struggles are concerns for coach Anthony Lynn.

Los Angeles lost a defensive starter for the second straight week when Corey Liuget suffered a season-ending knee injury during the

LOS ANGELES (AP) — The Los Angeles Chargers remain in strong position for a playoff spot at 7-3, but injuries on defense and special teams struggles are concerns for coach Anthony Lynn.

Los Angeles lost a defensive starter for the second straight week when Corey Liuget suffered a season-ending knee injury during the second quarter of Sunday’s 23-22 loss to the Denver Broncos. He is the third starter who will be headed to injured reserve, joining linebackers Kyzir White and Denzel Perryman.

Liuget missed the first four games for violating the league’s policy on performance enhancers but bolstered the pass rush in the six games he played. Darius Philon, who started the first seven games and has 2.5 sacks, will move back into the starting spot and rookie Justin Jones will see more snaps.

Lynn said he was pleased with how defensive end Joey Bosa played in his first game. Bosa, who missed the first nine games due to a bone bruise to his left foot, played 31 of 56 snaps. The plan going into the game was for Bosa to see 20 plays.

“For his first game back I thought he looked good. He had good speed and explosion plus he came out of it healthy,” Lynn said.

The Chargers’ struggles on special teams will require more shuffling. They allowed a fake punt for the second straight week, which Lynn said was unacceptable. Kicker Michael Badgley made all three field goal attempts but missed an extra point. Los Angeles has missed six PATs this season. Caleb Sturgis missed five before being released.

One possibility to prevent another fake punt is to leave the defense out there with Desmond King as the returner.

“We ran punt safe some yesterday. The one time we didn’t we got faked on. There’s some things we’re going to do differently there,” Lynn said.

Los Angeles had 14 penalties Sunday, which was the team’s most in Lynn’s two seasons as coach. He said a lot of the penalties early were offensive linemen trying to get a jump on Denver’s pass rush.

The Chargers — who had a six-game winning streak snapped by the Broncos — have a two-game lead over Baltimore for the first wild card. They host Arizona on Sunday before a challenging December stretch that includes Pittsburgh, Cincinnati, Kansas City and the Ravens.

“It was a game we could have and should have won. It was definitely a wake-up call for us,” Lynn said.

___

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

Read More 356 Words

Wilks mulls unspecified changes after Cardinals’ ugly loss

TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) — A bad season got much worse for the Arizona Cardinals with a home loss to Oakland.

Embattled first-year coach Steve Wilks is mulling some changes, although he didn't say what they were, and there's only so much the Cardinals can do considering their injuries and the overall state of

TEMPE, Ariz. (AP) — A bad season got much worse for the Arizona Cardinals with a home loss to Oakland.

Embattled first-year coach Steve Wilks is mulling some changes, although he didn’t say what they were, and there’s only so much the Cardinals can do considering their injuries and the overall state of their roster.

“Right now, being 2-8, you’re open to a lot of things from a standpoint of personnel changes, things that you think will give us an opportunity to be successful and win a football game,” Wilks said at his Monday news conference.

Sunday’s 23-21 loss left three teams tied for the worst record in the NFL: the Cardinals, Oakland and San Francisco. And the remaining schedule is formidable for the Cardinals.

They play at the Los Angeles Chargers on Sunday, followed by a trip to Green Bay the following week. There are also games at Atlanta and the season finale at Seattle. Arizona has only two remaining home games — Dec. 9 against Detroit and Dec. 23 against the Los Angeles Rams.

The Cardinals’ chances for many more, if any, victories seem slim, especially if play doesn’t improve.

“It’s not playing smart, just beating ourselves,” veteran safety Antoine Bethea said after the game. “That’s the most frustrating thing about it. Week in and week out, it’s just like the same thing.”

A positive aspect of the mistake-laded Arizona effort was the continued resurgence of David Johnson.

The dynamic back rushed for a season-best 137 yards, 53 of them on a run that set up Josh Rosen’s 5-yard TD pass to Larry Fitzgerald that put Arizona up 21-20 with 5:02 to play. Johnson had a 57-yard touchdown run called back by a holding call against tight end Ricky Seals-Jones.

It was one of several Arizona mistakes in the game’s final minutes. Jermaine Gresham was called for unnecessary roughness and Josh Bynes dropped an interception.

The Cardinals allowed Oakland, with no timeouts, to drive 63 yards in the final 1:53, setting up Daniel Carlson’s decisive 35-yard field goal as the game ended.

Rosen threw for three touchdowns — two to Fitzgerald — but was intercepted twice, both picks leading to first-half touchdowns. Rosen had only nine completions in 20 attempts for 136 yards.

“I think a lot of it is just the mental errors across the board on offense and defense,” Rosen said of the team’s performance. “I know I had a bunch. Just little mental errors that aren’t a part of the game plan. Dumb little things we just have to clean up overall.”

Why is a team making those mistakes 10 games into a season? Nobody seemed to have a good answer.

“That’s why it’s an issue that was brought up because it’s very late in the season,” Rosen said. “That’s a good point.”

It’s been a rough introduction for Wilks to life as an NFL head coach.

“No. 1, you have to learn how to persevere,” he said. “It’s tough. You have to learn how to hit the reset button and not linger on things because, once again, one loss can turn into two. I try to pull out the positives and try to learn from the negative stuff and try to get those guys to see the big picture.”

Wilks said he knew it would be a tough job when he was hired.

“Did I expect to be where we are? No, but again you have to learn how to persevere” he said. “You have to learn how to continue to push and be that example. I am not going to quit. That’s what I just told the guys, and neither are they. We’re going to find a way to get on track and win a football game.”

Arizona was last 2-8 in 2006. That team finished 5-11 and coach Dennis Green was fired.

Notes: The Cardinals released kicker Matt McCrane, who had been signed Saturday and was active for the Raiders game in place of Phil Dawson, who had been bothered by a hip injury. Dawson is fine and will be back this week, Wilks said. … Wilks said LB Deone Bucannon sustained a chest contusion in the game and it’s not known how much time he might miss.

___

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

Read More 642 Words

Texans look to push streak to franchise-record 8 games

HOUSTON (AP) — The Texans became the first team since 1925 to win seven straight after starting 0-3 with a victory over Washington on Sunday.

They go for a franchise record for consecutive wins when they host AFC South rival Tennessee next Monday night. Despite their streak, they know that they have plenty

HOUSTON (AP) — The Texans became the first team since 1925 to win seven straight after starting 0-3 with a victory over Washington on Sunday.

They go for a franchise record for consecutive wins when they host AFC South rival Tennessee next Monday night. Despite their streak, they know that they have plenty more work to do to get to where they want to be.

“We’ve done a great job of digging ourselves out of a hole, but we don’t want to be known for a record that was set in 1925,” coach Bill O’Brien said. “My point is we haven’t done anything. We’ve got a very, very difficult opponent coming in here on Monday night that beat us earlier in the season. We’ve got to get back to work because in the end, what have you done?”

Houston’s 23-21 win over the Redskins on Sunday was its second straight win by two points after the team beat the Denver Broncos 19-17 on Nov. 4 before its bye week. The Texans did some good things in Sunday’s win, but also committed three turnovers to underscore O’Brien’s point they need to continue to improve if they hope to continue winning.

O’Brien likes to remind his team of the competitive balance in the NFL and how close many of Houston’s games have been this season.

“It’s been a slim margin,” he said. “I think guys have improved in their individual play, I think that we make more plays now in critical moments than we made earlier in the season, I think we’re coaching better, but I think … our guys understand (that) if we don’t continue to work, put the time in, understand the detail of each play, the situation that we’re in, then we’re going to be back where we were.”

Houston has been able to pile up so many wins in part because so many players have made big plays. Sure, stars like J.J. Watt, Deshaun Watson, DeAndre Hopkins and Jadeveon Clowney have had their share of important plays over the last seven games. But the Texans have also gotten key contributions from their lesser knowns.

On Sunday that player was third-round pick Justin Reid, who returned an interception 101 yards for a touchdown. It was the second-longest interception return for a touchdown in Texans history and longest since a 102-yarder in 2004. The play also tied for the second-longest interception return for a touchdown by a rookie in NFL history, trailing a 103-yarder by Pete Barnum in 1926.

Watson loves that so many different players have been contributing during the streak.

“It’s top-notch,” the quarterback said. “Somebody is going to step up and make a play. It’s what got us to seven wins in a row, so it’s pretty incredible.”

Reid’s long return was the talk of the stadium on Monday.

“I haven’t been around too many pick-6s for 101 yards or whatever it was, but they’re exciting plays,” O’Brien said. “You can tell right away that it’s going to go because you can see it kind of open up and it’s coming toward you. That’s a pretty cool feeling if you’re the coach of that team.”

Along with looking for ways to limit their mistakes and improve this week, the Texans will try to give receiver Demaryius Thomas a bigger role. Sunday was the veteran’s second game with Houston after being traded from Denver on Oct. 30. Thomas had three receptions for 61 yards in his debut, but didn’t have a catch on two targets Sunday.

“He did some good things,” O’Brien said. “He ran some good routes. The ball just didn’t go his way. We’ll continue to work with him. I think he’s a great teammate, he understands, he just wants to win, but I think we need to work at really getting him more involved in the offense. No doubt about it.”

While O’Brien spent most of Monday talking about needed improvement, he did acknowledge that cleaning up little things is way easier when you’re winning.

“When you’re winning, you’re able to stand up in front of your team, put the film on and say: ‘Look, this is good, but this still is not very good, and if it doesn’t get better, it’s not going to be very good on Monday night,'” O’Brien said. “So, I think that that’s a big thing, and they’ll look at the tape … and they’ll say: ‘Yep, we do need to improve on that. We can’t do that again.'”

___

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

Read More 694 Words

Broncos’ win takes Vance Joseph off hook for non-challenge

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) — Vance Joseph's decision to tuck his red challenge flag back into his pants pocket loomed large until the Denver Broncos pulled off a last-second win over the Los Angeles Chargers.

Still, the failed 2-point conversion early in the fourth quarter of Denver's 23-22 last-second win highlighted a loophole in

ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) — Vance Joseph’s decision to tuck his red challenge flag back into his pants pocket loomed large until the Denver Broncos pulled off a last-second win over the Los Angeles Chargers.

Still, the failed 2-point conversion early in the fourth quarter of Denver’s 23-22 last-second win highlighted a loophole in the NFL rule book that Denver’s coach said Monday he’d like to see closed.

Line judge Jeff Seeman ruled Case Keenum came up short on a 2-point draw following Phillip Lindsay’s touchdown run that put Denver ahead 20-19 with 12 minutes left, and Joseph said one of the officials told the quarterback his team should challenge the call because it was so close.

Replays appeared to show the nose of the football crossing the goal line just before any part of Keenum’s perpendicular body hit the ground.

While CBS rules analyst Gene Steratore, a former NFL referee, said during the broadcast that he expected the league would have reversed the on-field ruling if the Broncos had challenged, Joseph said his staff upstairs in the press box wasn’t so sure.

“So, in my opinion it was more important for me to keep that timeout there without having clear evidence,” Joseph said. “Now, if it was clear, absolutely we challenge that. But it wasn’t clear to our guys upstairs.”

And if his assistants couldn’t say with certainty that the call would be reversed, Joseph figured a challenge was unlikely to meet the league’s standard of “clear and convincing” evidence to overturn the call on the field.

Joseph said on a close call, it would behoove everyone if the officials ruled in favor of the offense because all scoring plays are reviewed by league headquarters, providing a safety net in case they’re wrong.

There are no such protections for coaches who lose one of their timeouts if a challenge is unsuccessful.

“I couldn’t risk the timeout without clear evidence from our guys upstairs if it was a score or not,” Joseph said. “Case was told by the official, ‘You guys should challenge this because it’s fairly close.’ I would prefer those guys to call it a score so if it’s looked at, we can get it right without risking something from me. Right? Because he has no risk. He has no risk. It’s built in to get it right.

“So, if it’s close, they should call it a score so we can look at it — without anybody risking anything. We just simply get it right. But for me to get it right, there’s consequences.”

Joseph settled for the one-point lead and kept his three timeouts, all of which he used on the Chargers’ final possession, helping his offense get the ball back with 1:51 left, trailing 22-20.

Keenum drove the Broncos to the Chargers’ 16 and Brandon McManus kicked a 34-yard field goal as time expired.

Joseph said he decision not to challenge on the 2-point conversion play was reinforced when he watched the coaches’ video Monday morning.

“I’m telling you, it can go either way, in my opinion,” Joseph said. “It wasn’t clear. If it was, he probably would have called it a score.”

___

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

___

Follow Arnie Melendrez Stapleton on Twitter: http://twitter.com/arniestapleton

Read More 486 Words

Titans hope Mariota plays vs Texans; Pees to return to work

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The Tennessee Titans need the extra day off before their next game both to allow injuries to heal and figure out what went wrong in their worst loss this season.

Marcus Mariota is recovering from a stinger that knocked him out of the Titans' 38-10 loss to the Colts,

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — The Tennessee Titans need the extra day off before their next game both to allow injuries to heal and figure out what went wrong in their worst loss this season.

Marcus Mariota is recovering from a stinger that knocked him out of the Titans’ 38-10 loss to the Colts, not the elbow injury announced during the game. Coach Mike Vrabel said all tests were positive on defensive coordinator Dean Pees, who returned to Nashville on Monday. Pees spent a night in an Indianapolis hospital after an issue forced him from the coaches’ box early in the game.

Vrabel also said he is hopeful Mariota will play when the Titans visit Houston on Nov. 26 and Pees also will return to work, even his boss plans to limit the coordinator to banker’s hours of 9 to 5.

“I just want to make sure that he’s getting plenty of rest and that we’re not rushing anything,” Vrabel said. “We do have an extra day with the Monday night game.”

Whether Mariota misses his third start this season depends on how quickly he recovers from what Vrabel called a bad stinger with a hit to the head. Mariota was hurt when sacked for the fourth time late in the first half, and he did not return with what was announced as an injury to his elbow. Mariota was forced from the season opener after hurting his right elbow.

Mariota was hit in the head, and Vrabel said the independent neurologist evaluated the quarterback and cleared Mariota.

“Like a lot of players, he got a bad stinger,” Vrabel said. “So, we’ll have to see where he’s at.”

Vrabel said that may include Mariota getting a second opinion. Mariota did not speak to reporters after the game because he was receiving treatment, and the quarterback was not in the locker room Monday when it was open to the media. Vrabel said a stinger can leave some numbness down the arm, and Mariota dealt with some numbness in his fingers after his elbow injury.

His coach hopes Mariota will be available against the Texans. Mariota missed the first game between these teams in Week 2, a 20-17 win by the Titans and backup Blaine Gabbert.

“We’re hopeful that he’ll check out and feel good enough to play on Monday,” Vrabel said. “Just being less than 24 hours after the game, some of these things take a little bit of time to cool down and really just treat and diagnose.”

Vrabel said he told Pees, 69, not to come to work once back in Nashville. Vrabel thanked the Colts and Indianapolis general manager Chris Ballard for checking on Pees and his wife while the Titans flew home Sunday.

“Everything that would be really worrisome has been ruled out from the neurologist in Indy,” Vrabel said.

The Titans (5-5) have to figure out what went wrong against the Colts, a surprise after routing the Patriots 34-10 the week before. They now trail Houston (7-3) by two games in the AFC South, and this is the first of three games in an 11-day span for Tennessee. They host the Jets on Dec. 2 and then the Jaguars on Dec. 6.

Vrabel said the Titans aren’t finished yet this season.

“We’re still in this race as bad as it was, and it was bad,” Vrabel said of the loss to the Colts. “Put it all on me. I’ve lost five games and the players have won five. So, I have to do a better job of not losing them and they have to do a better job of winning them.”

___

Follow Teresa M. Walker at www.twitter.com/teresamwalker

___

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

Read More 557 Words

Redskins turn to McCoy as starter, sign Sanchez as backup

ASHBURN, Va. (AP) — Colt McCoy knew exactly what his teammates needed to hear.

In the aftermath of a gut-wrenching two-point loss and the sickening season-ending injury to Alex Smith, McCoy stood up in the Washington Redskins locker room and addressed the group.

McCoy "told us we were in good hands," running back

ASHBURN, Va. (AP) — Colt McCoy knew exactly what his teammates needed to hear.

In the aftermath of a gut-wrenching two-point loss and the sickening season-ending injury to Alex Smith, McCoy stood up in the Washington Redskins locker room and addressed the group.

McCoy “told us we were in good hands,” running back Chris Thompson said. “We had no doubt about that from the jump. We lost the game, but I will say Colt talking to us afterwards really had the dudes hyped up and we’re ready to get to Dallas.”

Washington signed Mark Sanchez on Monday to serve as the new backup, but this is McCoy’s s how now after Smith broke his right tibia and fibula in gruesome fashion. McCoy will start Thursday when the Redskins visit the Dallas Cowboys in a Thanksgiving showdown that will go a long way to determining who wins the NFC East, and the 32-year-old has the full confidence of the coaching staff and players to take over for the rest of the season.

“I just feel very comfortable with Colt and always have,” coach Jay Gruden said. “It’s been a luxury to have him as a backup quarterback and now it’s a great opportunity for him to take the reins. I know he’s excited about it. He’s a guy that knows the system, he’s a competitor, accurate with the football, understands where to go with the football — we assume — but we’ll see on Thursday.”

Until Sunday, McCoy hadn’t thrown a pass in a regular-season game since 2015. The Cowboys game will be his first start since 2014, the same season he beat Dallas on the road on Monday night.

That was ages ago in NFL time, but there’s a reason McCoy has been on the roster since Gruden came to Washington. His knowledge of the offense was evident even to Houston Texans players when McCoy seamlessly took over for Smith.

“He’s been here for years,” Texans cornerback Johnathan Joseph said. “He understands the offense well. There’s been a point in time where they were talking about him being the starter. So it’s good to have two guys that can come in. As soon as he came in the game, it was like they never dropped off from where they were.”

Whether backing up Robert Griffin III, Kirk Cousins or Smith, McCoy has developed a reputation among teammates for being ready to play in a heartbeat. Center Chase Roullier said McCoy treats each day leading the scout team in practice as his Super Bowl, and no one has ever said the former University of Texas star was unprepared.

“Even last year when he didn’t I think get a single snap all season, he prepared like he was the starter then,” linebacker Ryan Kerrigan said. “To have that mentality and to be that consistent with that mentality really speaks volumes to him as a professional.”

McCoy, who started for Cleveland and San Francisco earlier in his career, has only appeared in nine games over the past three-plus seasons with Washington. Practice is one thing, and McCoy realizes game action is a different animal.

“I’ve still got to knock a little bit of rust off and get ready on a short week,” McCoy said after going 6 of 12 or 54 yards and a touchdown Sunday against Houston. “It’s tough. It’s not ideal. I think for me I’ve been here a little while. Haven’t taking reps with these guys in three of four years, so I think there will be a little bit of a transition there but probably more for me than for them.”

It’s a tough turnaround for Sanchez, but Gruden said the Redskins signed him because of his NFL experience and familiarity with offensive coordinator Matt Cavanaugh and quarterbacks coach Kevin O’Donnell from his time with the New York Jets. Sanchez got the nod over Kellen Clemens, T.J. Yates, EJ Manuel and Josh Johnson after all five worked out at the team’s facility Monday.

“He’s won some playoff games, has got a lot of experience,” Gruden said. “I think this time of the year you need somebody who’s taken some meaningful snaps with a lot of experience, and Mark’s done that.”

NOTES: Gruden said Smith’s surgery went well and expects the QB to make a full recovery in six to eight months. … RB Chris Thompson, who has missed the past three games with injured ribs, said he’s feeling “a whole lot better” and hopes to be a game-time decision. … CB Quinton Dunbar (shin) and LT Trent Williams (thumb) are possibilities to return at Dallas.

___

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

Read More 710 Words

Ravens look for QB Lamar Jackson to run less, throw more

BALTIMORE (AP) — In a league that relies heavily on the forward pass, the Baltimore Ravens have gone old-school in their bid to reach the NFL playoffs.

With quarterback Lamar Jackson leading the way , the Ravens rushed for 265 yards Sunday in a 24-21 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals. Jackson ran 27

BALTIMORE (AP) — In a league that relies heavily on the forward pass, the Baltimore Ravens have gone old-school in their bid to reach the NFL playoffs.

With quarterback Lamar Jackson leading the way , the Ravens rushed for 265 yards Sunday in a 24-21 victory over the Cincinnati Bengals. Jackson ran 27 times for 117 yards, Gus Edwards garnered 115 yards on the ground and both rookies rushed for seven first downs.

There’s a good chance Jackson will start for the injured Joe Flacco again Sunday when the Ravens (5-5) host the Oakland Raiders (2-8). If Jackson is the starter, it’s unlikely he will again slither, slide and scramble with the ball 27 times.

“Yeah, you don’t want your quarterback getting hit that much,” coach John Harbaugh said Monday. “It’s not going to last that way. So, that’s pretty self-evident.”

That said, Harbaugh mocked those people concerned about Jackson’s workload.

“Oh, he had 27 carries,” Harbaugh said. “You know what he did? He won the game. He played his tail off. Celebrate that, and move on.”

Whatever it takes to win.

“It’s not what we’re going to be shooting for by any stretch, but if it takes that many, Lamar will do it,” Harbaugh said. “But, no, he took some hits. I think they knew the quarterback was going to run the ball. They were going after him a little bit, as you would expect. That’s something that we have to look at going forward.”

Selected 32nd overall in the 2018 draft, Jackson was thrust into the starting lineup because Flacco has a right hip injury that has been slow to heal and could keep him sidelined against the Raiders.

“He has a chance,” Harbaugh said, without much conviction.

Jackson ran 655 times at Louisville and won the 2016 Heisman Trophy for his ability to carry the ball, not throw it. On Sunday, his carries accounted for more than a third of Baltimore’s 73 offensive plays, and the Ravens finished with 54 rushing attempts compared to 19 passes.

Harbaugh bristled when someone asked him about Jackson’s ability to throw the football, and where that fits into the game plan moving forward.

“Yeah, we’re going to throw the ball more down the road,” Harbaugh insisted. “All this veiled stuff, ‘Is he really a thrower?’ I got news for you: He’s a thrower. He’s a quarterback. I don’t appreciate the insinuation of the question. Lamar Jackson is a quarterback.”

He’s a quarterback with 256 yards rushing — second on the team behind Alex Collins — and 237 yards passing. Collins scored a touchdown against the Bengals, but his playing time was sheared by Edwards, an undrafted rookie free agent who got 17 carries and played most of the second half.

Edwards, who scored his first NFL touchdown , got the call because of the way he’s excelled in the days leading up to game day.

“He’s been practicing great,” Harbaugh said. “It has been a goal to get him more carries before this.”

Baltimore’s 265 yards rushing against Cincinnati was tied for the fifth most in franchise history, and it marked the first time in NFL history that a team had a rookie quarterback and rookie running back each top 100 yards rushing.

After he was done, Jackson made one final run — after the referee to snag the game ball.

“However you move the ball is good. You do it based on your personnel,” Harbaugh said. “You want it to be a mix, but in the end, the players deserve the credit for running the ball so well.”

___

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

Read More 529 Words

Kelly’s injury could force change on Colts’ offensive line

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — The Indianapolis Colts are trying to figure out how much time, if any, center Ryan Kelly will miss after injuring his knee in Sunday's victory over Tennessee.

Kelly left early in the fourth quarter of a 38-10 win and limped to the bench.

Coach Frank Reich told reporters during a

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — The Indianapolis Colts are trying to figure out how much time, if any, center Ryan Kelly will miss after injuring his knee in Sunday’s victory over Tennessee.

Kelly left early in the fourth quarter of a 38-10 win and limped to the bench.

Coach Frank Reich told reporters during a conference call Monday that the team is still evaluating the injury. Reich said Kelly could “miss a little time.”

Evan Boehm would get the start against Miami if Kelly is out.

Indy’s offensive line has not allowed a sack in five straight games and quarterback Andrew Luck wasn’t even hit Sunday.

Reich was more optimistic about defensive lineman Margus Hunt, who injured his right knee Sunday.

___

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

Read More 71 Words

Now what? Fourth loss in 5 games leaves Bengals in free fall

CINCINNATI (AP) — Head coach Marvin Lewis fired the defensive coordinator and installed himself in a dual role. Bengals players talked about their trip to Baltimore as a pivotal moment in the season, almost a last-stand opportunity. They wound up getting run over.

Now what?

A 24-21 loss in Baltimore on Sunday dropped

CINCINNATI (AP) — Head coach Marvin Lewis fired the defensive coordinator and installed himself in a dual role. Bengals players talked about their trip to Baltimore as a pivotal moment in the season, almost a last-stand opportunity. They wound up getting run over.

Now what?

A 24-21 loss in Baltimore on Sunday dropped the Bengals (5-5) three games behind Pittsburgh in the loss column for the AFC North lead with only six weeks left in the season. Their fourth loss in five games put them in danger of missing out on the playoffs for the third straight season.

A shakeup of the coaching staff didn’t make enough of a difference. Cincinnati is relegated to hoping that some of its injured players return and salvage a season that’s gone from promising to unsettling.

“Everyone is frustrated,” offensive coordinator Bill Lazor said Monday. “Everyone’s nerves are a little frayed right now. Everyone is searching.”

Lewis decided to fire defensive coordinator Teryl Austin after the Bengals gave up 500 yards for the third straight game, a first in the Super Bowl era. He took over the coordinator’s duties and hired fired Browns head coach Hue Jackson to help on the sidelines during games.

It didn’t go well in Baltimore.

The Bengals ended that streak of 500-yard games, holding the Ravens to 403, but they were on the wrong end of more defensive history.

Cincinnati allowed 265 yards rushing, the most during Lewis’ 16 seasons as head coach. They’ve given up more than 200 yards rushing in back-to-back games — the Saints ran for 244 — and three times overall this season, also the most under Lewis.

Ravens rookie quarterback Lamar Jackson ran for 117 yards in his first start, and rookie Gus Edwards ran for 115 and a touchdown. They’re the first set of rookie quarterback and running back teammates to run for at least 100 yards in the same game in NFL history.

“You give up 200 yards rushing, I’m not going to be happy with that,” Lewis said.

Lewis was satisfied with how his first game on the sideline unfolded, although he felt “somewhat a little handicapped” by having so many responsibilities.

“Hopefully it will become more and more comfortable,” Lewis said.

Part of the reason for Austin’s firing was the confusion on defense, which repeatedly had coverage breakdowns. The Bengals had a different type of challenge on Sunday with a rookie quarterback who ran a lot.

Lewis simplified the game plan, but the defense still struggled against the run.

“He made us play fast,” cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick said. “He put us in situations where we didn’t have to do a whole lot of thinking.”

The Bengals were in control of the division after a 4-1 start. Now they’re trying to make up a lot of ground on the Steelers, who won at Paul Brown Stadium to start Cincinnati’s free fall.

They’re one of five teams at 5-5 in contention for the second wild card spot. The Chargers have the edge for the first wild card at 7-3. The Bengals host the Browns (3-6-1) on Sunday.

“It’s a race now, and that’s what we’re here for,” Lewis said after the game. “That’s the thing: Now it’s a race to the finish.”

A race they once led, but that’s now getting away from them.

BURFICT BACK IN THE SPOTLIGHT

Linebacker Vontaze Burfict played with a sore hip that sidelined him the previous week. He was on the field for 36 of 79 plays, showing the effects of the injury — he had only four tackles. He also was involved in an altercation with guard Marshal Yanda after a play, part of a scrum on the ground involving several players. The officials didn’t penalize anyone. Lewis said on Monday that the coaches’ film doesn’t show what happened in the altercation.

___

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

Read More 576 Words

John Mara, Herm Edwards recall The Fumble 40 years later

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) — Every NFL fan of every team has that unforgettable moment.

Pittsburgh's Immaculate Reception. Dallas' Hail Mary. Tennessee's Music City Miracle.

For New York Giants' fans, there is The Fumble .

Not quite the legacy you embrace.

On Monday, the 40th anniversary hit of what might be the most

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (AP) — Every NFL fan of every team has that unforgettable moment.

Pittsburgh’s Immaculate Reception. Dallas’ Hail Mary. Tennessee’s Music City Miracle.

For New York Giants’ fans, there is The Fumble .

Not quite the legacy you embrace.

On Monday, the 40th anniversary hit of what might be the most infamous moment in the history of one of league’s oldest franchises.

It was on Nov. 19, 1978 in the waning seconds against the Philadelphia Eagles. New York, which was going through tough times, had a surprising 17-12 lead.

With the Eagles void of timeouts, all the Giants had to do was run out the final minute on the clock. Joe Pisarcik, a young quarterback, botched a handoff with veteran Larry Csonka with less than 30 seconds to play, and cornerback Herm Edwards picked up the loose ball and ran it into the end zone, giving the Eagles a stunning win.

Eagles fans call it “The Miracle at the Meadowlands.”

For Giants fans, it was one of those moments you never forget what you were doing. For some, it still stings.

Giants co-owner John Mara says it might be his least favorite play and the low point in franchise history, which dates to 1925. He was in his third year of law school at Fordham and was working the game for CBS at Giants Stadium in the broadcast booth as a spotter for play-by-play man Don Criqui.

“I remember it happening,” Mara said. “I remember thinking we had the game won. It should come as no surprise to you, I remember slamming my fist down on the table and, back then, they had the actual microphones on the table instead of the headsets they wear now, and I think the microphones ended up falling all over the place.”

Mara never worked another game, assuming that CBS didn’t want him back.

“That’s probably the last place I should be, in a broadcast booth during a game,” Mara said, laughing. “It was a pretty miserable feeling for quite some time.”

It only got worse the next day, sitting in the library at law school.

“I felt like the world had just ended, and I had a professor at the time, he was my evidence professor. He was a wise guy and walked in the library and looked at me. He was about 20 feet away, and he pointed at me and just started laughing. I wanted to kill him. If I didn’t have one of my closest friends trying to calm me down, I might have. It was the wrong moment on the wrong day.”

Four decades later, Edwards says he was just in the right place at the right time with the Eagles in an all-out blitz.

“For me personally, you’re always going to be subject of that play,” said Edwards, who now coaches Arizona State. “There’s kind of an irony to it all because all of a sudden, you play in the league for as long as I played, never missed a down, never missed a start, and that’s kind of the play that defines my career. Then again I look at it, too, it was a good play and not a play that’s not so good. In my position, you could be on the bad end of some of those plays, you know?”

Edwards, who was beaten on one of Pisarcik’s two touchdown passes earlier in the game, still hears stories about the game.

“One guy told me, ‘My dad was watching it when he saw it, he threw his television and broke the television.’ You get all kinds of stories like that,” he said.

Giants fans have tons of stories, too.

Terry Reddington, of Ridgefield, Connecticut, didn’t blink when asked the significance of Nov. 19, 1978 when asked before Sunday’s game against Tampa Bay.

“Pisarcik,” the 66-year-old accountant answered.

Reddington has missed only seven games since becoming a season ticket holder, and he was at that one with Kevin Kolmer, a former classmate at Villanova. They had a $20 bet on the outcome.

“I’m sitting with him and he’s an Eagles fan. He hands me $20. Right! The game was over,” Reddington said. “All the sudden I see the thing go right in front of me. I am looking around in disbelief. I had a Styrofoam cooler. I crushed that, and now I have to give him $40. It was something else that day.”

Tony Mancuso, who shares season tickets now, wasn’t at that game. He was a corrections officer finishing a hospital duty shift. He was paying at toll on the Tappan Zee Bridge and listening to Jim Gordon doing the play by play on radio when the fumble happened.

“I just sat there and I got yelled at by the guy in the booth because I was just sitting there screaming at the radio,” said Mancuso, a 68-year-old who now lives in Goshen, New York.

Henry Pontilione, 87, of Rutherford, New Jersey, was on the escalator leaving the stadium when the groans started.

“We tried to get back to take a look at what happened and all I could see were the Eagles getting ready to kick the point after,” he said. “I would have never thought they could actually fumble the ball and lose the game. All they had to do was take a knee. It was incredible. I’ve been asked so many times, too many to count, if I was there for The Fumble, and I have to tell people that I was. As a lifelong Giants fan and season ticket holder, I was never more embarrassed. It was actually sad.”

And painful.

“It was like getting kicked in the gut,” said Kathy Dunn of Montvale, New Jersey, who was at Sunday’s game with her husband, Ken.

Anthony Cardino, 72, of Hoboken, New Jersey, was getting ready to leave the stadium. Suddenly, the ball was on the ground, Edwards was sprinting toward the end zone and “all hell broke loose.” It turned Giants fans against the organization. Some burned their tickets. Others refused to go to games.

“Unfortunately, Pisarcik’s legacy will always be that play,” Cardino said. “There was the ball, sitting on the ground. I still can’t believe it happened.”

Jim Scully of Freehold, New Jersey, wasn’t at the game but he remembered it while sitting in the parking lot at MetLife Stadium on Sunday. His grandfather was hospitalized in Jersey Shore Medical Center on the day of the game. One of his nurses was Pisarcik’s aunt.

“She was heartbroken,” said Scully, a, retired member of the Monmouth County prosecutor’s office. “I remember her telling me, her dad, his grandfather, had tears in his eyes.”

The play had its fallout, too.

The Giants fired offensive coordinator Bob Gibson the following day. He was old school and didn’t believe in taking a knee. So he called a running play to Csonka. There was talk in the huddle of changing the call, but the play was run and the fumble happened.

In the aftermath, taking a knee became an accepted norm in the league.

After the season, the Giants did not renew the contract of coach John McVay and released Andy Robustelli, the team’s director of operations.

With co-owners Wellington and Tim Mara feuding, NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle worked out an agreement for them to hire George Young as general manager for the 1979 season. New York won its first Super Bowl after the 1986 season.

“Some people claim it (The Fumble) was the best thing that ever happened to us,” John Mara said. “For those of us who were there and experienced that, it’s pretty hard to accept that.”

Edwards said the win catapulted the Eagles to the playoffs and then a Super Bowl appearance in January 1981.

“We had a heck of a playoff run the next four years,” Edwards said. “It was the play where it looks like we’re not going to win, another tough loss and … I was fortunate enough to be in the right place at the right time. You move on, and that season and the following seasons, we start making plays, winning close games.”

No Fumbles required.

___

AP Sports Writer John Marshall and AP freelancer Jim Hague contributed to this report.

___

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

Read More 1313 Words

Report: Bucs turning back to Winston as starter

Report: Bucs turning back to Winston as starter

Report: Bucs turning back to Winston as starter

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers will re-install Jameis Winston as the team’s starting quarterback in Week 12 against the San Francisco 49ers, the team confirmed Monday.

Head coach Dirk Koetter told reporters earlier Monday that he knew who would be starting, but he declined to announce his choice because he hadn’t yet informed the quarterbacks.

Winston came on in relief of Ryan Fitzpatrick on Sunday for the second time in seven weeks, after first doing so in a Week 4 blowout loss in Chicago, and Koetter described his play afterward as “fantastic.”

Winston entered trailing the Giants 24-7 in the third quarter, but he led four consecutive scoring drives to cut the lead to three points on two occasions. He ended the day 12-of-16 passing for 199 yards, with two touchdowns and an interception, which came on a last-ditch effort to rally with 23 seconds left, allowing the Giants to hang on and win 38-35.

Fitzpatrick had been pulled after throwing his third interception, this one in the end zone, leaving him 13 of 21 for 167 yards and no touchdowns.

Winston, 24, was previously benched midway through a Week 8 loss at Cincinnati after throwing four interceptions. He missed the first three games of the season because of an NFL suspension before entering midway through Week 4 against the Bears.

Fitzpatrick, who turns 36 on Saturday, has 2,366 passing yards with 17 touchdowns and 12 interceptions this season. Winston has 1,380 passing yards, eight touchdowns and 11 interceptions.

Winston is in the fourth year of his rookie contract since being taken No. 1 overall in 2015. Tampa Bay previously picked up his fifth-year option for 2019, which is guaranteed for injury only.

Koetter told reporters last week that he understood the arguments in favor of starting Winston in order to evaluate him over the rest of the season, but argued that the Bucs still had an opportunity to contend in the NFC wild-card race.

Sunday’s loss dropped Tampa Bay to 3-7, leaving the Bucs 2 1/2 games out of the second wild-card spot and ahead of only two teams in conference.

–Field Level Media

Read More 281 Words