Winston becomes Bucs’ leader in career TD passes

Winston becomes Bucs’ leader in career TD passes

Atlanta Falcons: The season has bottomed out badly with four consecutive setbacks, leading to owner Arthur Blank receiving questions about the job performance of coach Dan Quinn. Turns out Blank is disappointed by the season, but Quinn has nothing to worry about when it comes to his status. “This is a difficult period for the coach,” Blank told reporters about the team’s fourth-year coach. “I think back on the years that we’ve had together and the incredible job he’s done.” Quinn, who needs a 4-0 finish to avoid his first losing season, appreciates the words from Blank. “During this time of year, especially, there’s 32 teams and 32 buildings and I’m aware that not everyone has that type of support,” Quinn said. “So I appreciate having a boss like that. I know what he stands for, and I love having that connection. It’s very important to me.”

Carolina Panthers: Four consecutive losses have hurt Carolina’s playoff chances but coach Ron Rivera made big changes on the defensive side of the ball on Monday by firing defensive line coach Brady Hoke and assistant secondary/cornerbacks coach Jeff Imamura. Rivera kept first-year defensive coordinator Eric Washington but said he will handle the defensive playcalling the rest of the season after also handling them in Sunday’s loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. “I have a bit of experience at playcalling and putting defenses together,” Rivera told reporters. “It’s an opportunity for me to work even closer with him to help him out as we go forward. Y’all got to remember your first time doing something. You weren’t perfect and somebody had to help you. That’s really what I’m here for.” There are rumblings Rivera’s job is on the line under new owner David Tepper and he bristled at questions pertaining to his future. “I am not going to address that question,” Rivera said. “Do not ask that question again, please.”

New Orleans Saints: The defense has allowed an average of 12.8 points over the last four games with the high allowed being 17. That rates as quite an improvement from earlier in the season when New Orleans allowed 35 or more three times, including 48 against Tampa Bay. The Saints play the Buccaneers again this Sunday and the unit feels like it is vastly different from when it lost to Tampa Bay in Week 1. “I feel like we’re getting to that level where we have to be recognized as one of those top defenses, but we got to keep pushing,” cornerback Marshon Lattimore told reporters. “We got to earn that. We can’t just have it come to us, so we got to earn it and keep going out there balling.” The Saints rank 12th in scoring defense at 22.4 points per game.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Quarterback Jameis Winston has thrown two touchdown passes in three straight games while enjoying his best stretch of the season. He also tossed his 81st career touchdown pass in last Sunday’s win over the Panthers to become the franchise’s all-time leader in that category, surpassing Josh Freeman (2009-13). More impressive to coach Dirk Koetter is Winston avoiding interceptions in 68 pass attempts over the past two games. “Jameis’ production when we don’t turn the ball over — when he doesn’t turn the ball over — is always going to be there,” Koetter told reporters. “Jameis is a fantastic player, and sometimes that gets negated by turnovers. You could see the last two weeks when we don’t turn the ball over, we’re a lot harder to beat.” Winston has 12 touchdowns against 11 interceptions this season.

–Field Level Media

Redskins QB McCoy injured; Sanchez in against Eagles

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Washington Redskins quarterback Colt McCoy suffered an injury to his right leg and was replaced by Mark Sanchez in the second quarter of Monday night's game against Philadelphia.

McCoy's return was questionable. He limped off the field after completing all four passes for 50 yards and the Redskins trailing 7-3.

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Washington Redskins quarterback Colt McCoy suffered an injury to his right leg and was replaced by Mark Sanchez in the second quarter of Monday night’s game against Philadelphia.

McCoy’s return was questionable. He limped off the field after completing all four passes for 50 yards and the Redskins trailing 7-3. McCoy took over and made his second straight start after the gruesome season-ending leg injury to Alex Smith. McCoy’s start in the Thanksgiving game against Dallas was his first since 2015.

Sanchez, signed two weeks ago, played for the first time since Jan. 1, 2017, when he was with Dallas.

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Back to back: Rams sight bigger goals after winning NFC West

THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. (AP) — The Los Angeles Rams seemed to come out of nowhere last season to win their first NFC West championship in 14 years.

When the Rams clinched their second straight division title Sunday, everybody in the NFL had seen it coming all year long.

The league-leading Rams (11-1) haven't

THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. (AP) — The Los Angeles Rams seemed to come out of nowhere last season to win their first NFC West championship in 14 years.

When the Rams clinched their second straight division title Sunday, everybody in the NFL had seen it coming all year long.

The league-leading Rams (11-1) haven’t surprised anybody this season, not after their remarkable 2017 transformation under rookie head coach Sean McVay.

They’re still the division champs again, this time with four games to spare and plenty of opportunities to climb even higher before the postseason.

The Rams became the first team to clinch a postseason berth by beating the Lions 30-16 last weekend, guaranteeing themselves at least one home playoff game. This franchise hadn’t won back-to-back NFC West championships since 1979, when the Rams completed a run of seven straight.

“It’s a blessing,” McVay said Monday after returning from Detroit with a raging winter cold. “You don’t take anything for granted. It’s nice to be able to still have an opportunity to accomplish some things as you continue to progress through this season, but it still feels great either way to be able to accomplish something special with people that you care about and that you love.”

The Rams put on celebratory hats at Ford Field, but the muted party was mostly forgotten Monday when they got home.

According to left tackle Andrew Whitworth, the Rams have greater expectations after they built on last season’s 11-5 record with an even more impressive campaign this fall.

“With all of us coming together for the first time (last year), it felt like you responded and rose to the occasion and achieved something,” Whitworth said. “I think this year, it feels like we expected to be a good football team. We expected to have an opportunity to win this division again, and we went out and did it. So I think you more see it as a checklist item. … You’re happy you won it, but it’s not the end goal, and it’s not really something we didn’t think or expect that we could do.”

Two straight division titles still are a notable achievement in the up-and-down history of the Rams, who have won only one NFL championship since 1951.

Los Angeles’ string of solid playoff teams in the 1980s won just one division title. The Greatest Show on Turf and its descendants in St. Louis won three division titles in five years, but never two in a row.

The Rams had missed the playoffs in 12 consecutive seasons before McVay and Wade Phillips led them back last year, only to lose an opening-round home game to Atlanta.

The Rams are playoff-bound again, but they still have plenty to do in December — starting with the chance to clinch a first-round bye during their trip to Chicago on Sunday night.

A win over the Bears (8-4), who have the NFC’s third-best record behind LA and New Orleans (10-2), would guarantee an extra week of rest for the Rams in January.

The Rams also control their destiny for home-field advantage in a potential NFC championship game with the Saints, but that race could go deep into December.

“It’s a big deal,” McVay said. “To be able to earn the opportunity in your 13th game of the season to be able to, at the worst, clinch a No. 2 seed, it would mean that you’ll be able to watch that first week of the wild card round (at home). It’s a huge deal to us, so that’s certainly going to be a great challenge. That’s the next step.”

NOTES: Backup running back Malcolm Brown injured his collarbone in Detroit, and he was expected to have “a procedure that’s not necessarily a surgery” on Monday, McVay said without elaborating. The Rams didn’t know the severity of the injury. … McVay confirmed he spoke with former Texas Tech coach Kliff Kingsbury about potentially being “an extra set of eyes” for the Rams down the stretch. The offense-minded coaches are good friends, and Kingsbury spent time with the Rams during the summer. “He’s got a lot of opportunities that he’s figuring out now, so there’s really no news on that front,” McVay said. … McVay hopes to kick his cold in time for the Rams’ trip to wintry Chicago. “Even if I’m not healthy, that’s not going to hold me back,” McVay said. “I’m not out there playing, so as long as my brain isn’t too slow, then I’m going to do the best I can to get as healthy as possible and ready to go for these guys.”

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49ers RB Matt Breida out this week with ankle injury

SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) — The San Francisco 49ers will be without another key offensive piece with leading rusher Matt Breida sidelined at least a week with an injured ankle.

Breida hurt himself in warmups before Sunday's 43-16 loss at Seattle that officially eliminated the 49ers from playoff contention. Breida tried to play

SANTA CLARA, Calif. (AP) — The San Francisco 49ers will be without another key offensive piece with leading rusher Matt Breida sidelined at least a week with an injured ankle.

Breida hurt himself in warmups before Sunday’s 43-16 loss at Seattle that officially eliminated the 49ers from playoff contention. Breida tried to play through the injury but eventually couldn’t and left the game.

He finished the game with five carries for six yards and three catches for 51 yards.

Rookie Jeff Wilson fared well in just his second career game, carrying 15 times for 61 yards and adding eight catches for 73 yards. He also lost a disputed fumble near the goal line that coach Kyle Shanahan felt should have been ruled down by contact.

“He hits the hole and he runs hard,” Shanahan said. “He’s a very good zone runner. He doesn’t mess around. He sets his track. When he sees an open gap, he puts his foot down and goes for it.”

Breida has been one of the few bright spots on offense this season for the 49ers, rushing for 744 yards and ranking third in the league with an average of 5.64 yards per carry.

He got his chance because projected starter Jerick McKinnon went down with a season-ending knee injury a week before the opener. San Francisco also lost starting quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo to a season-ending knee injury in Week 3 and has struggled for any consistency on offense.

The Niners will get a bit of a boost this week with the expected return of speedy receiver Marquise Goodwin to the lineup. Goodwin has missed the past two games while dealing with a serious family matter but was at the facility Monday and expected to be back at practice on Wednesday.

Shanahan had challenged the Niners before their bye to come back focused for the stretch run of what has been a mostly lost season. Instead, San Francisco returned from the bye and lost 27-9 at Tampa Bay and then was hammered by the Seahawks.

The 49ers will try to avoid tying a franchise worst with a third straight loss by at least 17 points at home on Sunday against Denver. The Niners had three-game skids of losses of at least 17 points in 1963, 1999, 2005 and 2016.

“We didn’t play very well,” Shanahan said. “That doesn’t go into they didn’t respond to my challenge. You have to play very good football to win games and we haven’t done that enough consistently in all three phases throughout the year. Magic words don’t make people different. I want people to focus and worry about what they can control. We have four games left. We know we’re eliminated from the playoffs. So is this year over? This year has everything to do, for me, about next year.”

Shanahan also explained why he got so incensed at the officials after an offside call in the third quarter against Elijah Lee, who was trying to run on the field to replace Fred Warner while the Seahawks were in hurry-up mode.

Shanahan said Warner’s shoe fell off on the previous play and Seattle quarterback Russell Wilson threw it out of the way, forcing Warner to run and pick it up behind the line of scrimmage and Lee to try to rush on to take his place.

“I’m not saying he did that maliciously or anything. Who knows?” Shanahan said. “But it was an unusual situation and it was my tipping point.”

NOTES: Edge rusher Dekoda Watson will be placed on IR with a torn calf muscle. … S Jaquiski Tartt will miss this week’s game with a stinger.

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Colts look to rebound from dismal offensive performance

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Andrew Luck accepted the blame for Sunday's shutout.

By Monday, he and the Indianapolis Colts were already talking about Houston.

It's the same routine coach Frank Reich follows each week — make quick corrections, carefully game plan for the next opponent and don't overthink what went wrong.

Naturally, one subpar

INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Andrew Luck accepted the blame for Sunday’s shutout.

By Monday, he and the Indianapolis Colts were already talking about Houston.

It’s the same routine coach Frank Reich follows each week — make quick corrections, carefully game plan for the next opponent and don’t overthink what went wrong.

Naturally, one subpar game won’t get Reich to change his strategy even with playoff aspirations at stake.

“Offensively, we just didn’t execute at the level and that ultimately falls on me,” Reich said during his weekly conference call. “It’s my job to put the players in the best position and we didn’t get that done yesterday. It hurts but hey we are shifting, we are moving gears to Houston.”

There were plenty of mistakes to correct Monday.

After throwing at least three touchdown passes in eight straight games, Luck couldn’t get the Colts (6-6) into the end zone even once at Jacksonville. His timing and improved accuracy were off, leading to the first shutout of Luck’s pro career.

Indy’s ground game wasn’t effective either and what had been an effective offensive line during the previous six games allowed three sacks and many more pressures Sunday without its starting center. Ryan Kelly missed his second straight game with an injured left knee.

Reich did some self-critiquing, too.

Three times with Indy in position to kick field goals, he went for it on fourth down. All three plays came up short.

“They outcoached me on that. They played a coverage they had not played in that situation. It was the answer in case they did that and we were just a little off in our execution,” Reich said, referring to the play on fourth-and-goal.

“The second (fourth-down) call, the reverse to (Eric) Ebron, it was a high risk-reward. I had envisioned that play into breaking out — not just a first down but possibly a 20 or 30-yard gain. We had a half yard to go. That would be the one that I would question myself the most on. Just run it up the middle. We had half a yard, run a quarterback sneak or just run a dive play up the middle and get the half yard. I took the risk for the big play and I was wrong.”

Those failures were compounded by a lack of potent plays, something that became a staple during the Colts’ five-game winning streak.

But for everyone inside the locker room, it was a stark reminder of just how quickly results change in the NFL.

Over those previous five games, which included two against top-six scoring defenses, Indy averaged 34.6 points. Luck played at a high level and running back Marlon Mack’s return from a hamstring injury helped keep the offense balanced.

That wasn’t the case Sunday.

“I didn’t hold up my end of the bargain,” Luck said following the loss. “(We’ve) got to improve. It’s disappointing. I am disappointed at myself, but we’ll get back to it and we’ll improve.”

Defensively, the Colts pressured quarterbacks, slowed down runners and held fast — as they also did against the Jags (4-8).

This week, they face a similar scenario against the league’s hottest team. The Texans have won nine straight since starting 0-3.

Houston’s defense is every bit as stingy and resourceful as what the Colts dealt with in Jacksonville. And yet Indy needs Luck & Co. to trade punches against a more proficient offense by fixing its flaws.

But Reich refuses to let his team make the mistake of spending too much time breaking down Sunday’s miscues at the expense of trying to rebound this week and reassert themselves in the AFC’s tight chase for the sixth and final playoff berth.

“What matters tomorrow is get better tomorrow,” Reich said. “Get better every day and then get ready to play the Houston Texans on Sunday.”

Notes: Reich only noted two injuries from the game — safety Mike Mitchell (calf) and center Evan Boehm (neck). Boehm returned from his injury and Reich expects him to be available against the Texans. He did not give a prognosis on Mitchell.

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Kendricks ‘ready to go’ for Seahawks, Carroll says

Kendricks 'ready to go' for Seahawks, Carroll says

Seattle Seahawks linebacker Mychal Kendricks is "ready to

Kendricks ‘ready to go’ for Seahawks, Carroll says

Seattle Seahawks linebacker Mychal Kendricks is “ready to go” this week after the NFL reinstated him Monday from an eight-week suspension, head coach Pete Carroll told reporters.

The 28-year-old Kendricks drew the lengthy suspension after he pleaded guilty to insider-trading charges. The Cleveland Browns released him in August after his indictment, and the Seahawks signed him shortly before his guilty plea.

Kendricks faces up to 25 years in prison at his sentencing, which is scheduled for January. He allegedly made almost $1.2 million by giving money and Philadelphia Eagles tickets to a banker friend in exchange for confidential information.

Carroll said Kendricks has done everything possible to prepare for his return, as the Seahawks remain without linebacker K.J. Wright (knee). Kendricks had two sacks and 15 tackles in three games before his suspension.

“We’re anxious to get him back out there,” Carroll said. “He’s really hungry to get out and do something to help us.”

The Seahawks will be without offensive lineman D.J. Fluker, who could miss “a couple of weeks” because of a hamstring strain, Carroll said. Jordan Simmons will start in Fluker’s place, as he did in Week 10.

Running back Chris Carson should be able to play after dislocating his finger Sunday against the San Francisco 49ers, Carroll said. Fellow running back C.J. Prosise is on injured reserve because of pending surgery on his abdomen.

At 7-5, the Seahawks are in the thick of the NFC wild-card race despite the Los Angeles Rams having locked up the NFC West. Their final four games of the regular season will be at home next Monday night against the Minnesota Vikings, at the San Francisco 49ers and back at home for a pair of games against the Kansas City Chiefs and Arizona Cardinals.

“We’re in a very upbeat mode about going after this end of the season,” Carroll said. “The fourth quarter is starting, so it’s time to try and finish this thing. … We know that we can win every game and we’re going out to get that done.”

–Field Level Media

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Report: Bengals’ Green to have surgery, season over

Report: Bengals' Green to have surgery, season over

Report: Bengals’ Green to have surgery, season over

Cincinnati Bengals wideout A.J. Green has torn ligaments in his right big toe and will have season-ending surgery, ESPN reported Monday.

Per the report, Green’s recovery will take three to four months, but he should recover fully and be ready for organized team activities in May.

Green was seen in a walking boot on Monday at the Bengals’ facility, but head coach Marvin Lewis declined to update his status.

The 30-year-old went down on a non-contact play in the second quarter on Sunday against the Denver Broncos, his first game back from a three-game absence due to a right big toe injury. The team quickly ruled him out Sunday with what it called a foot injury, but Green was grabbing at the toe and in apparent pain as he was carted to the locker room.

Green finishes the year with 46 catches for 694 yards and six touchdowns in nine games, with all but the touchdown total marking career lows. It is the second time in the last three seasons his campaign has been cut short by injury, after Green missed the final six games of the 2016 season with a torn hamstring.

Taken fourth overall by Cincinnati in 2011, Green could miss out on being named to the Pro Bowl for the first time in his eight-year career. Before this season, he had failed to collect 1,000 yards in a season just once, when he topped out at 964 in 10 games in 2016.

Green will be entering the final year of his contract in 2019, when he is due just under $12 million.

The Bengals, who are on a four-game losing streak, were already without quarterback Andy Dalton (thumb) for the season. This week’s game at the Los Angeles Chargers will be the Bengals’ first without Dalton or Green since Green was drafted.

–Field Level Media

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49ers’ Breida (ankle) will miss Denver game

49ers' Breida (ankle) will miss Denver game

San Francisco running back Matt

49ers’ Breida (ankle) will miss Denver game

San Francisco running back Matt Breida, who was limited Sunday due to a sprained left ankle, will sit out the 49ers’ home game this week against the Denver Broncos.

Niners coach Kyle Shanahan said Monday it will be the first time Breida misses a game since he was a freshman in high school.

In San Francisco’s 43-16 road loss to the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday, Breida gained just six yards on 5 carries. He added 51 yards on three receptions. Breida was nursing an ankle ailment that first occurred Oct. 7, and he re-injured the ankle Sunday, per Shanahan.

Jeff Wilson became the primary ball-carrier, gaining 61 yards on 15 attempts despite briefly exiting the game with a left foot injury. He also had eight catches for 73 yards.

Breida ranks 13th in the NFL in rushing yards at 744 (on 132 carries). His average of 5.6 yards per attempt ranks third in the league.

Shanahan added Monday that safety Jaquiski Tartt will not play Sunday against Denver. Tartt, who missed two games in September and two in November, has a shoulder injury. He was in action against the Seahawks, notching five tackles.

The 49ers are placing defensive end/outside linebacker Dekoda Watson on injured reserve due to a torn calf, Shanahan said. Watson sat out the first half of the season due to a hamstring injury, then returned to get two sacks and a forced fumble in four games before getting hurt again Sunday.

–Field Level Media

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Broncos’ Miller, Chubb drawing everyone’s attention

Broncos' Miller, Chubb drawing everyone's attention

Broncos’ Miller, Chubb drawing everyone’s attention

Denver Broncos: With Von Miller (12.5, second in NFL) and Bradley Chubb (10, tied for ninth) racking up the sacks this season, the Broncos have seen more and more teams commit to extra protection to slow the edge rush. Head coach Vance Joseph doesn’t necessarily see that as a bad thing. “I’ve seen Bradley and Von get double chipped — which is rare — but we kind of like that, especially when we’re rushing four and playing zone coverage because now we’ve got six guys over three receivers. That’s always a good deal when they’re double chipping those guys. … It works both ways for us.” Even with the extra attention, Chubb is 4.5 sacks shy of Jevon Kearse’s rookie sack record with four games to play, and Miller is six shy of his career high.

Kansas City Chiefs: Three days after the sudden release of running back Kareem Hunt, the Chiefs have quickly moved on, bringing back former back Charcandrick West, who was with Kansas City from 2014 until getting cut during training camp in August. Some of West’s contribution will come on special teams, but he’ll also have a chance to boost a running game that quietly struggled on Sunday. While the Chiefs totaled 174 yards on 30 carries against the Raiders, 89 of those yards came from quarterback Patrick Mahomes and wideout Tyreek Hill. Starting running back Spencer Ware averaged just 3.4 yards per carry on 14 touches, though Damien Williams was more effective (five carries, 38 yards).

Los Angeles Chargers: The most telling statistic to head coach Anthony Lynn from Sunday night’s comeback victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers was the Chargers’ success on third down after halftime, as L.A. went 4 for 4 while holding Pittsburgh to 0 for 4. “Converting the ball on third downs helped our running game get in a rhythm a bit,” Lynn said. “And when our running game can get in rhythm with the passing game, we can move the ball on anybody.” He added that the offense’s conversions gave the defense critical rest. The Chargers’ 39.2 percent third-down success rate ranks 16th this season, but they’ve gone 18 of 31 (58.1 percent) over the last three games (excluding a cameo by Geno Smith in Week 12).

Oakland Raiders: Despite a late rally, the Raiders lost again on Sunday to fall to 2-10 and officially be eliminated from the playoffs, but there have been a few positives in recent weeks. One is 2016 first-round safety Karl Joseph, who has started the last four games after getting just 14 defensive snaps through the season’s first seven weeks. “He’s been a really good open-field tackler,” Gruden said of Joseph. “I think he’s showing really good range. He’s recognizing plays and he’s making plays. That’s exciting. He’s getting better and better in this defense.” Meanwhile, seventh-round rookie wideout Marcell Ateman caught his first NFL touchdown in his third game. “It’s kind of neat seeing these young guys gaining confidence,” Gruden said.

–Field Level Media

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Jets QB Darnold could start Sunday vs. Bills

Jets QB Darnold could start Sunday vs. Bills

After sitting out three

Jets QB Darnold could start Sunday vs. Bills

After sitting out three games with a strained foot, Jets rookie quarterback Sam Darnold could be back in the lineup Sunday when New York visits the Buffalo Bills.

Head coach Todd Bowles said in a press conference Monday that Darnold’s return “remains to be seen,” adding, “I expect him to be out there. We’ll evaluate him as he goes out there.”

According to Bowles, Darnold was healthy enough to play against Tennessee on Sunday, but he chose to start Josh McCown because of concern the rookie would have “rust” issues after a four-week layoff, counting the bye week.

“You need some time to get your timing back and everything else,” Bowles said. “So, we’ll continue to give him reps and when I think he’s ready, he’ll play.”

Darnold will be monitored in practice this week, with the first test coming Wednesday when the Jets return to work.

The Jets are 0-3 with the 39-year-old McCown as the starter. In three games he’s thrown just one touchdown pass and four interceptions — including one that clinched the Jets’ 26-22 loss to the Titans.

“I’ll just see where he is from an accuracy standpoint, a timing standpoint, (and) a rust standpoint,” Bowles said of Darnold. “He’s got to see plays and I had him only throwing three (days) last week. He did get better and everything was fine, but he’ll get better even this week and then we’ll make that determination on Sunday.”

Darnold, the No. 3 overall pick from Southern California, has completed just 55 percent of his passes and leads the league with 14 interceptions. He has thrown for 1,934 yards and 11 touchdowns.

–Field Level Media

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Bills C Bodine has surgery on broken fibula

Bills C Bodine has surgery on broken fibula

Bills C Bodine has surgery on broken fibula

Buffalo Bills center Russell Bodine had surgery to repair a broken left fibula on Monday and is done for the season, head coach Sean McDermott announced.

“We expect a full recovery,” McDermott told reporters. “He’ll be out for the season, but the surgery went well as planned. We’ll get him back some time this offseason.”

Bodine was hurt on the Bills’ third offensive play Sunday when Miami Dolphins defensive tackle Davon Godchaux landed on his leg during a quarterback sneak. He appeared to be in significant pain and was quickly ruled out.

Bodine, 26, joined Buffalo on a two-year, $5 million contract in March as a free agent from the Cincinnati Bengals. He started all 64 games over his first four NFL seasons before starting 10 of 11 this year for the Bills.

Ryan Groy, who started at the pivot in Weeks 1 and 2, replaced Bodine on Sunday and will likely be the starter moving forward. The 28-year-old has 10 starts at center in 48 games with Buffalo over the last four years.

NFL Network reported the Bills plan to sign Dillon Day, a 2015 undrafted free agent who has yet to appear in an NFL game, for depth.

–Field Level Media

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Colts QB Luck takes blame for shutout

Colts QB Luck takes blame for shutout

Houston Texans: Safety Andre Hal intercepted Cleveland rookie

Colts QB Luck takes blame for shutout

Houston Texans: Safety Andre Hal intercepted Cleveland rookie quarterback Baker Mayfield during Sunday’s win over the Browns and it was a play that brought great joy to the defensive unit as well as coach Bill O’Brien. It was Hal’s first pick since returning from his recent battle with Hodgkin’s lymphoma. “It was great. Here’s a guy that has meant a lot to me, personally,” O’Brien said in a press conference. “I just speak from a personal standpoint. We drafted him late in my first year here. He was a cornerback and we moved him to safety when he got here, started out on special teams, just a special guy, very hardworking guy, excellent pro. To see him make that play and the week before he made a real big tackle on the kickoff coverage, he’s just made some solid plays for us since he’s been back.”

Indianapolis Colts: Andrew Luck’s streak of throwing at least three touchdown passes in eight straight games came to a halt Sunday when the Colts were blanked by the Jaguars. It was the first time Luck has been shut out during his NFL career and his long gain was just 20 yards out of 33 completions. “I didn’t quite hold up my end of the bargain as this sort of orchestrator of the offense out there on the field,” Luck told reporters. “I didn’t get the ball to the open guy enough. I didn’t do the simple things enough, but as far as the shots go, you can’t force it. You can’t force shots in this league. It doesn’t work like that. But when (opportunities) presented themselves, we were just a little off.”

Jacksonville Jaguars: Quarterback Cody Kessler got rid of the zero in his win-loss column despite passing for just 150 yards and not leading a single touchdown drive during a 6-0 win over the Colts on Sunday. But that OK with Kessler, who was 0-8 as a starter for the Cleveland Browns in 2016 prior to winning his first start the Jaguars. “Obviously it wasn’t pretty and there’s a lot I left out there, but at the end of the day it feels good,” Kessler told reporters. “Especially for me to get the first one. … It’s something as a quarterback and as a kid you dream of winning an NFL game.” Kessler became the starter when ineffective Blake Bortles was demoted. Kessler will make his second start for the team on Thursday against the Tennessee Titans.

Tennessee Titans: Quarterback Marcus Mariota recorded his 12th career game-winning drive after leading the Titans 86 yards on six plays for the winning score in Sunday’s 26-22 comeback win over the New York Jets. Tennessee trailed 16-0 before rallying and Mariota completed the charge with an 11-yard touchdown pass to Corey Davis with 36 seconds remaining. “I’d rather him not have to do it, but if we have to, that has really been fun to watch,” Titans coach Mike Vrabel said during a press conference. “It is exciting to have him be able to do that and keep his composure, find the guys, make plays.” Mariota said the credit goes to his teammates. “It’s the guys around me,” Mariota told reporters. “These guys find ways to make plays. I am just the guy that is distributing and allows the guys to do their thing.”

–Field Level Media

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Falcons’ Blank affirms faith in Quinn, GM Dimitroff

Falcons' Blank affirms faith in Quinn, GM Dimitroff

Falcons’ Blank affirms faith in Quinn, GM Dimitroff

After the Atlanta Falcons fell to 4-8 in an ugly loss to the Baltimore Ravens on Sunday, owner Arthur Blank reiterated his commitment to head coach Dan Quinn and general manager Thomas Dimitroff.

“I haven’t lost any faith in Coach Quinn or Thomas,” Blank told reporters. “They’ll do the evaluations that’s needed. …They always evaluate at the end of the year. That’s what they do. Whether we’re 16-0 or 0-16, they’ll do that again.”

“…I take a long view. This is a difficult period for the coach. I think back on the years that we’ve had together and the incredible job he’s done. We’re in a difficult time now. But they’ll figure out the answers.”

Quinn, who led the team to a Super Bowl LI appearance just two years ago, told reporters Monday he’s grateful for Blank’s vote of confidence.

“During this time of year, especially, there’s 32 teams and 32 buildings and I’m aware that not everyone has that type of support,” Quinn said. “So, I appreciate having a boss like that. I know what he stands for, and I love having that connection. It’s very important to me.”

Blank also acknowledged the team’s injuries as a factor for this season’s struggles, with key starters missing time on both sides of the ball. Seven Falcons starters, including three Pro Bowl players, hit injured reserve at some point this season.

On Sunday, Atlanta got linebacker Deion Jones back from a foot injury against the Ravens for the first time since Week 1, but it was the offense that sputtered, gaining just 131 yards and failing to score an offensive touchdown.

Quinn, 48, is 33-27 in his fourth season with the Falcons, and this will be his first losing season unless the team wins out.

Dimitroff, 52, has been the team’s general manager since 2008.

–Field Level Media

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Patriots OC McDaniels reportedly interested in Packers

Patriots OC McDaniels reportedly interested in Packers

Buffalo Bills: The Dolphins saw

Patriots OC McDaniels reportedly interested in Packers

Buffalo Bills: The Dolphins saw rookie quarterback Josh Allen for the first time on Sunday — they’ll see him again in the final game of the season — and coaches and players didn’t sound as if they’re eager to see him twice a year for the coming the seasons. “I mean, Josh Allen, I feel like he’s going to be a good little quarterback in this division for a long time. He’s not sneaky athletic. He’s just athletic. He makes plays with his feet,” Dolphins cornerback Kenyan Drake said. Safety Reshad Jones said Allen has “a little Ben Roethlisberger (in him). He has a similar game, a big guy. He can run. Probably one of the strongest arms in the NFL. I think that guy is going to be good.” On the day, Allen had 231 yards on 18-of-33 passing and added 135 yards rushing on nine carries.

Miami Dolphins: A win Sunday against Buffalo kept the Dolphins (6-6) one game out of the final AFC wild-card spot, and they’ll host the division-leading New England Patriots this weekend, who go to Florida looking to clinch another AFC East division title. Coach Adam Gase said Monday it doesn’t matter who his Dolphins are playing Sunday. Every win is crucial. “Just prepare for that week’s game,” Gase said. “That’s all we can do. Every game at this point in the season is going to be meaningful no matter who you’re playing. We have to just focus on preparing, correcting the things we need to correct and just focus on our guys doing their jobs.” He added about his team: “We have a long ways to go. I know that.”

New England Patriots: Could offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels be headed to Green Bay? A Yahoo! Sports report on Monday said McDaniels is interested in replacing fired head coach Mike McCarthy with the Packers. The report also indicated that some NFL assistant coaches want to work for McDaniels in Green Bay, with even one pulling out of contention for another position to see what happens with McDaniels. But will Green Bay have an interest in McDaniels after he spurned the Indianapolis Colts after accepting their head coaching job 10 months ago? That remains to be seen.

New York Jets: Head coach Todd Bowles has taken his lumps this season, blaming many of the defeats in this 3-9 season on himself. But after the Jets squandered a 16-point lead and lost to the Tennessee Titans 26-22 on Sunday, he placed the loss on his players — starting with the 11 penalties for 96 yards. “I don’t know how many (penalties) we had, but it felt like we had one every play. It cost us, and it’s disgusting.” On Monday, he told reporters he never will forget this game. “This game will stick with me for the rest of my life. I’ve been in about three of them. This will go right up there with those games.” In their game-winning drive, the Titans went six plays in 86 yards, helped by three penalties: face mask on Trumaine Johnson, holding on Morris Claiborne and illegal use of hands on Jordan Jenkins.

–Field Level Media

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Giants’ Manning still starter, Lauletta likely backup Sunday

Giants' Manning still starter, Lauletta likely backup Sunday

Yet to be officially

Giants’ Manning still starter, Lauletta likely backup Sunday

Yet to be officially eliminated from playoff contention, the New York Giants will start quarterback Eli Manning again in Week 14 against the Washington Redskins.

“Eli is going to start this week against the Redskins,” head coach Pat Shurmur told reporters Monday. “Eli’s our starter, and we have two backups. Last week, [Kyle] Lauletta dressed as No. 2.”

Shurmur added there’s a “good chance” that Lauletta remains the backup on Sunday, a week after he dressed ahead of Alex Tanney for the first time this season. The coach didn’t offer much on why Lauletta was promoted, saying, “because I thought it was time, that’s why.”

SNY reported two weeks ago that the Giants still intend to play Lauletta at some point this season, but not before the team’s playoff hopes are officially gone. After Sunday’s win over the Chicago Bears, the Giants are 4-8, three games back of the NFC East-leading Dallas Cowboys with four games to play. Two of the final four games are within the division: Sunday at Washington and Week 17 vs. Dallas.

Many have assumed the team will move on from Manning, who turns 38 on Jan. 3, after this season, which would make it worthwhile to assess Lauletta and gauge the rookie fourth-rounder’s progress.

However, SNY reported last week that a decision has not yet been made on Manning’s future, and the team could bring him back in 2019 depending on what other options are available.

Manning went 19-for-35 passing for 170 yards, a touchdown and an interception on Sunday. He has 3,263 yards, 15 touchdowns and eight interceptions this season while posting his highest yards-per-attempt average (7.5) since 2011 and his highest ever completion percentage (67.9). Manning has also been sacked 41 times, a career high and 10 more than in all of 2017.

–Field Level Media

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Broncos’ Harris avoids IR, eyes Week 17 return

Broncos' Harris avoids IR, eyes Week 17 return

The Denver Broncos won't put

Broncos’ Harris avoids IR, eyes Week 17 return

The Denver Broncos won’t put cornerback Chris Harris Jr. on injured reserve, head coach Vance Joseph announced Monday, a day after Harris suffered a small break in his right leg.

“It’s great news for Chris,” Joseph said of the diagnosis, which multiple reports said was a broken fibula. “He has time to hopefully recover and heal up, and hopefully we’re still playing.”

Harris told reporters Monday he’s targeting the Broncos’ Week 17 game against the Los Angeles Chargers on Dec. 30 for a return, though he said trainers have told him that might be one week too early.

“He needs rest and rehab, and we’ll see how it falls in a couple weeks,” Joseph said of Harris’ timeline.

With four weeks left in the regular season, the Broncos are 6-6 and one game back of the Baltimore Ravens for the final AFC wild-card spot, although the Ravens hold the head-to-head tiebreaker by virtue of a Week 3 win over Denver. Any potential playoff game would be the first weekend in January.

With Harris staying on the active roster, Joseph said the team won’t add another cornerback for depth. However, multiple outlets reported later Monday the Broncos will sign free agent Jamar Taylor, who was released by the Arizona Cardinals two weeks ago after playing in 10 games (three starts) this season.

Denver currently has Bradley Roby and Tramaine Brock — who missed Sunday’s game with a rib injury — starting, with third-round rookie Isaac Yiadom next in line and Brendan Langley, recently promoted from the practice squad, as depth. Joseph said he is hopeful Brock will be ready to return this week.

The Broncos could also choose to play safety Justin Simmons as the third cornerback as he did on Sunday, when he moved to the slot and covered Tyler Boyd after Harris went down.

“It says a lot, for a guy to not to work nickel all week and to move there in the first quarter of the game and play 50 snaps there at a high level right away,” Joseph said Monday of Simmons’ play. “That also speaks to his physical traits, to match (wide receiver Tyler) Boyd, who was their best guy outside of A.J. Green. … He won more than he lost. That’s special.”

Meanwhile, defensive end Derek Wolfe (torn rib cartilage) and linebacker Josey Jewell (mild high-ankle sprain) are both day-to-day and could play this week, Joseph announced.

Jewell, a fourth-round rookie, has started five straight games with Brandon Marshall battling a knee injury, though Joseph said he expects Marshall to return on Sunday.

–Field Level Media

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RB Hunt goes unclaimed on waivers

RB Hunt goes unclaimed on waivers

RB Hunt goes unclaimed on waivers

Kareem Hunt went unclaimed on waivers Monday and is officially a free agent.

Hunt, released by the Kansas City Chiefs on Friday, was placed on the commissioner’s exempt list and would not have been eligible to play if claimed before the 4 p.m. ET deadline Monday.

Not long before time ran out on waiver wire claims Monday, a new report alleging Hunt and others — including then-Chiefs running back George Atkinson — beat a man to the point of unconsciousness at a nightclub in Kansas City on Jan. 11.

Hunt’s unemployment was the result of a swift and shocking turn of events, necessitated when a video of Hunt shoving and kicking a woman emerged on Friday. While the Chiefs were previously aware of the incident, the team and Hunt have said there is no way the Chiefs could have known the actual details of the confrontation.

The incident occurred in Cleveland at The Metropolitan at 3:22 a.m. on Feb. 10, 2018, and involved then-19-year-old Abigail Ottinger from Berea, Ohio.

In the video, Hunt appears to come around a corner outside his rented room to confront Ottinger with a hard shove. The woman hits him in the face and Hunt becomes enraged. He kicked the woman while she was on the ground.

In an interview with ESPN on Sunday, Hunt apologized and said the NFL never contacted him about the incident.

However, Hunt admitted he was not truthful with the Chiefs when questioned about details of that night.

Hunt, 23, is from the Cleveland suburb of Willoughby and spends a significant part of his offseason in the area. He played college football at Toledo and burst onto the scene as an undrafted rookie in 2017.

Hunt rushed for 1,327 yards as a rookie. He had 824 yards through 11 games this season.

The Chiefs promoted backup Spencer Ware to the starting job last week and signed former reserve Charcandrick West on Monday.

–Field Level Media

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Middling Minnesota: Vikings hit final stretch, not in stride

EAGAN, Minn. (AP) — Though one quarter of the regular season remains for the Minnesota Vikings to finish strong, none of their biggest tests have so far revealed a team playing like the championship contender it was built to be.

The Vikings still have a better-than-average chance of returning to the playoffs, but

EAGAN, Minn. (AP) — Though one quarter of the regular season remains for the Minnesota Vikings to finish strong, none of their biggest tests have so far revealed a team playing like the championship contender it was built to be.

The Vikings still have a better-than-average chance of returning to the playoffs, but for all the individual standouts on this roster there has not been enough collective evidence in 2018 that this is more than simply a better-than-average squad.

“Right now, we’re kind of an up-and-down-team a little bit,” coach Mike Zimmer said, “and that’s the thing that frustrates me the most. We need to develop more consistency.”

The latest illustration of this second-tier status came on Sunday afternoon at New England, where the Patriots maintained their December mastery under coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady with a 24-10 victory .

There’s no shame in losing on the road to the five-time champion Patriots, particularly when the score is tied at 10 in the final minute of the third quarter, but at some point to have legitimate Super Bowl hope a team has to beat a superior opponent in a challenging setting.

The Vikings (6-5-1) have lost to four of the eight current division leaders this year, teams with a combined 38-10 record. The cumulative standing of their opponents in games they’ve won is 21-49-1 entering Philadelphia’s game on Monday night. The Eagles are the only one with a shot at the postseason.

Up next is a trip to Seattle, where the Seahawks (7-5) have won three straight games to take control of the first wild-card spot in the NFC.

“It’s not over. We still have everything out there in front of us right now, but there definitely needs to be a sense of urgency on getting that done,” running back Latavius Murray said.

In five seasons under Zimmer, the Vikings are 2-9 on the road against teams that made the playoffs. Though the Eagles could add another win this year to the tally, Chicago and New England are likely to push that loss total to 11.

These Vikings are well past the point of a still-developing team trying to find its way and learn how to succeed under the bright lights, and there’s been no shortage of praise expressed by players about the chemistry in the locker room. Zimmer even said on Monday that he thought the practices last week were as sharp as ever.

So while some of the moves made or not made by general manager Rick Spielman during the offseason could be fairly criticized, at least pertaining to the offensive line and the special teams, several questions have been raised in recent weeks about the in-game strategic approach by the coaching staff.

Special teams coordinator Mike Priefer has taken plenty of heat. Zimmer’s long-dominant defense has displayed some uncharacteristic breakdowns in crucial spots. The most scrutiny, though, has fallen on first-year offensive coordinator John DeFilippo.

The Vikings have been held to under 300 total yards in three of their past four games, and against a Patriots defense that has allowed 30-plus points four times this season they were frequently stymied again.

Balance has become a significant issue. The Vikings have the fourth-fewest rushing attempts and the third-most passing attempts in the NFL.

Specific game scenarios have dictated some of this discrepancy. Three holding calls, for example, against the Patriots produced these undesirable situations: second-and-17, first-and-18, second-and-20. Many times, the holes in the middle of the line simply have not been there.

Dalvin Cook, though, had a season-high 84 rushing yards at New England — on only nine carries. Zimmer has not been shy, either, about publicly expressing concern about the play calling.

“If I get five, I get 10, two, whatever, I’m just trying to make a play to help my team win,” Cook said. “I wasn’t surprised by anything that happened in the game. Coach Flip has been calling great calls all year.”

Zimmer said he felt the offense “might have panicked a little bit” after the Patriots took a 17-10 lead. On the first play, Kirk Cousins went deep for Aldrick Robinson, a throw that fell incomplete. After a 5-yard run by Murray, Cousins was sacked for a 10-yard loss.

Despite his recent airing of discontent, though, Zimmer offered at least a measured compliment for DeFilippo.

“I think he’s doing a good job,” Zimmer said. “We talk all the time. We talk about things, what I think are important, and I think he tries to do those.”

___

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Chargers have confidence going into final quarter of season

COSTA MESA, Calif. (AP) — With their comeback win at Pittsburgh, the Los Angeles Chargers have established themselves as a contender in the AFC going into the final quarter of the season.

The Chargers' 33-30 win over the Steelers put them firmly in control as they chase their first postseason berth since 2013.

COSTA MESA, Calif. (AP) — With their comeback win at Pittsburgh, the Los Angeles Chargers have established themselves as a contender in the AFC going into the final quarter of the season.

The Chargers’ 33-30 win over the Steelers put them firmly in control as they chase their first postseason berth since 2013. Los Angeles (9-3) has a two-game lead over Baltimore for the first wild-card spot and has a three-game cushion over the rest of the field.

Coach Anthony Lynn, though, wasn’t ready to say his team made a statement.

“I don’t know if you can say it was a statement win,” he said Monday. “It’s always exciting when you come back after a win, especially when you do it in that fashion.”

The Chargers ended the Steelers’ 175-game unbeaten streak with at least a 16-point lead at home and it was the largest blown lead at home in franchise history.

It also marked Los Angeles’ third win that went down to the last minute. They stopped Tennessee from making a two-point conversion in a 20-19 win in London on Oct. 21 and then needed a goal-line stand two weeks later in Seattle to earn a 25-17 victory.

“I think it is a big win for us,” quarterback Philip Rivers said. “We haven’t had one like this on the road against this kind of opponent, then add the fact that it was come-from-behind. I think winning the game would’ve been a lot, but it really just gets us one more win.”

The rally was familiar territory for Rivers, who threw for 299 yards and two touchdowns. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, it is his seventh comeback victory when trailing by 16 or more points, which ties him with Peyton Manning for the most in NFL history.

The Chargers are 18-6 since losing their first four games last season. They host Cincinnati on Sunday before a key rematch four days later against Kansas City. Los Angeles trails the Chiefs by a game in the AFC West. The Chargers close the season with a Dec. 22 home game against Baltimore and at Denver on Dec. 30.

Lynn likes that he has a team with a lot of confidence when they need it at this time in the season. While most coaches would go apoplectic in the locker room down by 16 in a prime-time game, the second-year coach focused on adjustments.

“What I saw was a bunch of men who didn’t want to let the next man down in the locker room. That’s way more powerful than anything a coach can say,” Lynn said. “With this group you don’t have to throw tables and knock over water coolers and all that to get them going, they knew. I could see in their eyes they were ready to play.”

The Chargers still have some concerns this week. Running back Melvin Gordon could miss his second straight game due to an MCL sprain in his right knee. Rookie Justin Jackson had 63 yards and a touchdown during the second half and could split carries with Austin Ekeler.

Offensive coordinator Ken Whisenhunt is also expected to interview for Georgia Tech’s head coach opening this week. Lynn said there is a backup plan in place if Whisenhunt gets hired and doesn’t finish out the NFL season, but wouldn’t elaborate.

“We haven’t talked much about it. I know there is a lot of interest,” Lynn said. “It wouldn’t surprise me if it’s his job to turn down. He’s a heck of a football coach, it’s his alma mater, there’s some loyalty there.”

The Chargers made a roster move Monday by releasing offensive tackle Joe Barksdale, who had been with the team for four years and started 43 games. Barksdale started the opener against Kansas City before suffering a knee injury and missing the next five games. He then played in the next four but was declared out for the game at Pittsburgh for a non-injury-related reason.

To fill Barksdale’s spot on the roster, the Charges promoted wide receiver Dylan Cantrell from the practice squad. Cantrell was selected in the sixth round in last April’s draft.

___

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Lions back to losing ways in Matt Patricia’s first season

ALLEN PARK, Mich. (AP) — In firing him after the 2017 season, the Detroit Lions indicated the Jim Caldwell era was just not good enough.

But meaningless December football is back in Detroit again as first-year coach Matt Patricia's Lions will play out the string with four games with nothing at stake but

ALLEN PARK, Mich. (AP) — In firing him after the 2017 season, the Detroit Lions indicated the Jim Caldwell era was just not good enough.

But meaningless December football is back in Detroit again as first-year coach Matt Patricia’s Lions will play out the string with four games with nothing at stake but draft position remain.

The Lions are 4-8 and all but mathematically eliminated from the NFC playoff race. Road games at Arizona and Buffalo are next before Detroit finishes with divisional games at home against Minnesota and at Green Bay.

After Sunday’s 30-16 loss to the Los Angeles Rams, Detroit has to win out to finish better than Caldwell’s worst of four seasons as coach. After three winning seasons and two playoff berths under Caldwell, the Lions will be .500-or-below for the 13th time in the past 14 non-Caldwell coached seasons.

A lot of things have changed in Matthew Stafford’s 10 seasons with the Lions, but the franchise is back in the losing position he grew accustomed to in the first half of his career.

“I come to work every day, work my tail off, try to push our team to be as good as we can be,” Stafford said Sunday after his fumble on an Aaron Donald sack ended a chance for the Lions to take their first lead in the fourth quarter.

“There was some good in this game, there was some bad. We’ve got to fix the bad and keep doing a lot of the good. But I’m going to come to work ready to go.”

Public reflection is rare during an NFL season, especially under Patricia, who was groomed under Bill Belichick in New England.

“For me, it’s been pretty much the same from all the way through,” Patricia said Monday. “I don’t know what the team’s been previous, I don’t know what it’s been before I got here. I’m just trying to make sure we build from where we’re at.”

Injuries have decimated Stafford’s skill position options, as wide receiver Marvin Jones (knee) is out for the season and running back Kerryon Johnson (knee) missed his second straight game Sunday. Wide receiver Golden Tate was leading the Lions in receptions for the fifth straight season when he was traded to Philadelphia on Oct. 30.

After watching film Monday, defensive tackle Damon Harrison, acquired Oct. 25 in a trade from the New York Giants, said he saw positives from Sunday’s defensive effort.

“There was a lot more good than bad, we actually played a pretty good game, the score wasn’t a great indication of how close that game was,” Harrison said after the Lions trailed 16-13 heading into the fourth quarter against a Super Bowl contender. “It was encouraging to see everybody take the technique and the coaching and bring it into Sunday.”

The Lions did have a win on Monday though.

Offensive lineman Taylor Decker scored his first touchdown of his football career on Sunday, faking a block but releasing into a wide-open space of the Rams’ defense for an 11-yard touchdown.

In his euphoria, Decker threw the ball into the stands. Later, on Twitter, Decker put out a plea to relieve the keepsake.

“To whoever caught/has the ball I threw into the stands,” his tweet Sunday night began, “I’ve played football since first grade, and that was my first ever touchdown. I’d love to have the ball, and would be more than happy to hook you up if you’d be willing. #defendtheden #bigmantouchdown”

The story had a happy ending, with Decker tweeting Monday morning that the case was solved.

Decker tweeted: “I HAVE FOUND HIM!!!!!!! AND HE IS BEING GREAT ABOUT IT #socialmediastrikesagain”

It’s the kind of karma that his team could use.

“We need to keep pushing that forward and we need to go out and play better and we need to go out and win,” Patricia said. “We want to put it together the best we can, go out there and go play a really good ballgame. That would probably be the best thing for us.”

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Gruden: Raiders gave Chiefs too many ‘mulligans’

ALAMEDA, Calif. (AP) — Coach Jon Gruden knows the Oakland Raiders aren't nearly good enough to overcome a litany of mistakes if they want to be able to beat one of the top teams in the league like the Kansas City Chiefs.

So when the running backs lose three fumbles, a key penalty

ALAMEDA, Calif. (AP) — Coach Jon Gruden knows the Oakland Raiders aren’t nearly good enough to overcome a litany of mistakes if they want to be able to beat one of the top teams in the league like the Kansas City Chiefs.

So when the running backs lose three fumbles, a key penalty wipes out a fourth-down conversion and a player jumps offside on a third-down stop that denied Oakland a chance to try to put together a game-winning drive, the Raiders ended up on the short end of a 40-33 loss to the Chiefs on Sunday.

The loss made the Raiders (2-10) the first team to be officially eliminated from the playoffs, although Gruden is not quite ready to turn his focus to the draft and the future.

“We don’t look ahead right now. We are looking at the Pittsburgh Steelers, that’s all we are doing,” Gruden said. “I’m really proud of our team. We fought back yesterday and made it 33-30 in the fourth quarter. We got them third-and-5, we get a stop and we jump offside. We gave Kansas City too many mulligans. We fumbled the ball to them three times. We had a fourth-and-1 called back, and we gave them first downs by jumping offside. We are not looking ahead to nothing except the Pittsburgh Steelers. I can assure you that, at least on our side of the building.”

Despite another loss that sent the Raiders to their 12th season of at least 10 losses in the past 16 years, Gruden was able to glean some positives, especially with the play from the offense.

Oakland ran for 171 yards for its biggest day on the ground since Week 2 in 2017. The Raiders averaged 6.1 yards per carry but were hurt by the fumbles from Doug Martin, Jalen Richard and DeAndre Washington.

Quarterback Derek Carr had one of his best games yet, throwing for 285 yards and three touchdowns, while extending his streak of games without an interception to seven in a row, tying Rich Gannon’s franchise record.

Carr even managed to stretch the field a bit, completing five passes that traveled at least 15 yards downfield, tied for his most in a single game in the past two seasons.

“I think the offensive line has gotten healthy. I think that helps,” Gruden said. “I think we’re healthier up front. Derek has played good football. I think that’s a great combination. When you’re healthy upfront and you’ve got some continuity with your linemen, you’re able to pass-protect and block better. It has an effect on every phase of your offense. Derek has been hot. He’s been playing well. He’s really picking up the system well. He made some great audibles yesterday. He made some great throws. I’m excited about that.”

But it wasn’t enough in part because of the fumbles, the holding penalty on center Rodney Hudson that wiped out a fourth-down conversion on the opening drive and the offside penalty against Fadol Brown that extended Kansas City’s game-sealing touchdown drive.

NOTES: Gruden explained why he used a challenge after Kansas City scored a TD late in the first half on a pass to Travis Kelce, even though coaches aren’t allowed to challenge scoring plays. “I knew exactly what I was doing, by the way. It wasn’t a very sensible thing to do but I wanted to challenge Al Riveron in New York City to look at it because I have people in the press box telling me that’s not a catch. Seeing plays overturned by somebody you can’t even see, I thought with three timeouts and seven seconds left I’d use one of my timeouts by giving Al a little extra time to look at that play. I knew exactly what I was doing.” … Gruden said he wasn’t sure if either OL Donald Penn (groin) or RB Marshawn Lynch (groin) will be able to return from IR and play down the stretch. … Oakland claimed OL Denzelle Good off waivers from Indianapolis and waived Ian Silberman.

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