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Here is What Have We Learned from Week 2 of the 2017 NFL Season, thanks to the AP Pro 32 for photos & help in this article.
- Chargers’ Gates sets mark with 112th TD as tight end-CARSON, Calif. (AP) — Antonio Gates ran to an open patch of end zone, turned and leaped above a defender to snag Philip Rivers’ waiting pass. The tight end stepped onto the painted grass with the ball in his hands, just as he did 111 times before.
Only this time, Gates made NFL history.
Gates caught his 112th touchdown pass as a tight end Sunday during the third quarter of the Los Angeles Chargers’ 19-17 loss to Miami, breaking his tie with Tony Gonzalez for the NFL record.
“It’s a great moment,” Gates said. “I just haven’t quite wrapped my head around it all. It’s happened so fast, but I’m quite sure I’ll enjoy it and just move forward.”
The Chargers mobbed their prone teammate after the catch. Although the Chargers are new in town, practically everyone at StubHub Center was well aware of the landmark reached by the 37-year-old Gates when he caught the 7-yard toss from Rivers midway through the third quarter.
Gates teamed with Rivers on the 85th TD pass of their parallel careers, but their first in Los Angeles after spending their 13 seasons together in San Diego.
“He’s been awesome for so long,” Rivers said. “I’m just thankful that I could be a part in a lot of them — not all of them, but a lot of them.”
The milestone touchdown is another remarkable achievement by the former basketball player at Kent State who never played college football, but became one of the most productive tight ends in NFL history.
He joined the Chargers as an undrafted free agent in 2003 and quickly became a dependable receiver with a knack for finding the end zone, catching a career-high 13 TD passes in 2004.
Gates joined the Chargers just one season ahead of Rivers, but the tight end got a three-year head start on his career while Rivers sat behind Drew Brees. Gates and Rivers eventually teamed with Hall of Fame running back LaDainian Tomlinson in 2006 to begin a brilliant four-year stretch that included four straight division titles and a trip to the AFC championship game.
Gates also made his 900th reception in the first half against Miami, becoming the third tight end in NFL history to hit the mark. Only Gonzalez and Jason Witten have more.
“I think he’s one of the best of all time,” said Anthony Lynn, the Chargers’ fourth head coach in Gates’ 15 NFL seasons. “He came into the league as an undrafted free agent and has accomplished all the things that he’s accomplished. To me, he’s a first-ballot Hall of Famer. I think he is the best. I was happy for him, but I wish we could have done it on a win.”
Rivers made his own bit of history during a 331-yard passing performance. He surpassed Vinny Testaverde’s 46,233 yards passing for 11th place in league history during the second half, finishing the game with 46,356. He will crack the NFL’s top 10 if he passes Fran Tarkenton (47,003).
With Gates firmly in the record books, the Chargers are free to concentrate on fixing a season that has begun with two narrow losses. That’s a hallmark of the recent Chargers, who have lost 11 games since the start of last season by eight points or fewer.
“I’m glad it was sooner than later,” Rivers said of Gates’ history-making catch. “I didn’t want the season to keep going, and him to keep getting asked. Hopefully we can add to it now, because he’s always been a big part of our red zone stuff, and he will continue to be.”
- Winston-led Buccaneers dominate Bears in opener-TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — There’s no room for complacency in Jameis Winston’s bid to transform the Tampa Bay Buccaneers into a playoff team.
The 23-year-old quarterback shone in the team’s delayed season openerSunday, throwing for 204 yards and one touchdown in a 29-7 victory over the Chicago Bears.
An opportunistic defense did its part, too, forcing four first-half turnovers, scoring on an interception return and limiting the Bears to 20 yards rushing.
Winston was delighted, but not satisfied.
“The biggest takeaway is that there is a lot of room for improvement. We can’t just sit on one game,” the third-year pro said. “Me personally, I’ve just got that mentality that we’ve got to get better, we’ve got to keep pushing each other.”
The Bucs (1-0) dominated despite having a short week of practice following a Hurricane Irma-imposed layoff that kept Tampa Bay from playing its scheduled season opener at Miami the previous week.
The team joined the Dolphins and Jacksonville Jaguars in wearing “ONE FLORIDA” decals on their helmets Sunday. First responders who’ve worked tirelessly in the aftermath of the massive storm were among special guests in the announced crowd of 56,640 at Raymond James Stadium.
“We had a chip on our shoulder. … We wanted to be a pick-me-up for our fans, definitely the cities around the Tampa Bay area,” Winston said. “It was fun out there. The crowd was electric, and we tried our best.”
The defense stymied former teammate Mike Glennon with two interceptions and a sack-fumble that led to a second-quarter touchdown.
Glennon, who signed with Chicago as a free agent last winter, was 31 of 45 for 301 yards and two interceptions in his return to the city where he played for the first four years of his career . The Bears finished with 310 yards total offense, 1 yard less than a Bucs offense that hasn’t had much work in the past month.
“Obviously not what I had envisioned or hoped. Ultimately it shows how precious taking care of the football is,” Glennon said. “Four turnovers in the first half, you’re not going to win many football games. Three of those fall on me, and ultimately I have to do a better job taking care of the football and giving us a chance to win.”
Some things to know about the Bucs and Bears:
QB CONTROVERSY? … NOT YET
Bears coach John Fox said he didn’t give any thought to benching Glennon and replacing with No. 2 overall draft pick Mitchell Trubisky.
“We have to get better as a football team,” Fox said. “That wasn’t the Mike Glennon’s Bears, that was the Chicago Bears. It was our whole team. I haven’t looked at all the stats and all the exacts, but there’s a lot of people that had their hand in it. We’ll leave it at that.”
Glennon said he’s not looking over his shoulder fearing he’s on the verge of losing the starting job.
“There’s been no communication of that, so there is no reason to worry,” said Glennon, who was coming off a solid if not spectacular performance in the Bears’ 23-17 season-opening loss to defending NFC champion Atlanta.
NO SIGNS OF RUST
By the time he lined up to face the Bears, Winston hadn’t taken a snap in a game in three weeks. Eight regulars, including Evans, receiver DeSean Jackson, linebacker Kwon Alexander and defensive tackle Gerald McCoy, hadn’t seen game action in a month.
The Bucs insisted, though, that they would not use rustiness as an excuse if they had a less-than-sharp debut. The way the Bears played, the layoff never had a chance to become an issue.
NOWHERE TO RUN
The Bucs limited the Bears to 20 yards rushing. While part of that could be attributed to Chicago falling behind early, it’s fair to note that Tarik Cohen and Jordan Howard didn’t have much room to run when they did get the ball. Cohen gained 13 yards on seven attempts, with 9 coming on one carry. Howard, who gained 100 yards during a lopsided loss to Tampa Bay last season, finished with 7 yards on nine attempts. As a tandem, Cohen and Howard averaged 1.3 yards per carry.
Jackson was Tampa Bay’s big offseason acquisition. The speedy receiver, who had a 21-yard reception and finished with three catches for 39 yards, was signed in free agency in hopes of making the offense more explosive.
“DeSean was effective … We weren’t able to get him over the top, but that’s coming,” coach Dirk Koetter said. “We’ll get it.”
- Raiders use near flawless offense for best start in 15 years-ALAMEDA, Calif. (AP) — Like most NFL coaches, Jack Del Rio focuses less on Oakland’s back-to-back wins to open the season than on the little details that the Raiders will need to improve on to maintain this success throughout the year.
The offense has been near flawless, the defense has been much improved and the special teams has generated big plays to help Oakland to its first 2-0 start in 15 years.
Just don’t expect Del Rio to be satisfied.
“I’m always really honest. I keep it real with our guys. I try to shoot straight,” he said Monday, a day after Oakland’s 45-20 win over the New York Jets in its home opener.
“This is what it is. This is our standard. This is what it needs to look like. This is where we’re doing a nice job. You always want to feel good about winning, but hey, this is the reality of what we need to be better in, where we need to be better specifically, how we’re going to be better and then let’s get to work.”
Even the most discerning coach would have a hard time finding things to fix on offense. The Raiders can run with power behind Marshawn Lynch . They can get big plays on the ground with speed from Jalen Richard or even receiver Cordarrelle Patterson. They have game-breaking receivers on the outside in Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree and a tight end to target the middle of the field in Jared Cook.
It all adds up to one of the best offensive starts for any team in years. Oakland has had 19 drives in two games that didn’t end up in a kneel down and has scored eight touchdowns, kicked five field goals, committed no turnovers and gone three-and-out just three times.
The Raiders are averaging 3.6 points per drive overall, the best mark in the league through two games since the 2008 Broncos. Oakland is the first team since Denver in 2000 to score at least 70 points and commit no turnovers over the first two weeks.
“We have so many weapons,” Patterson said. “Sky is the limit for these guys, for us, and being part of this organization it’s amazing. I’m glad I’m here, it feels good and you know there are weapons all around the board.”
The lack of mistakes so far for the Raiders has been perhaps most notable, especially as many other teams around the league have struggled to find a rhythm early. Oakland has not turned the ball over, allowed only two sacks and committed its only procedure penalty of the season when Derek Carr was called for a false start in the closing minute Sunday.
Much of that comes because of a stellar offensive line that returns three Pro Bowlers from a year ago and has gotten strong play from the one newcomer at right tackle in Marshall Newhouse.
“There are some things we have to clean up,” Del Rio said. “There are some things out there that have to be corrected and will be corrected. That’s the good thing. You do it with a smile. As well as they played in certain spots, there’s some other areas where have to be better.”
With coordinator Todd Downing able to utilize so many different options the Raiders have been nearly unstoppable. Lynch is averaging 4.0 yards per carry and scored his first touchdown since 2015 against the Jets on Sunday. Richard added a 52-yard run and Patterson scored on a 43-yarderafter motioning into the backfield from his receiver spot.
The aerial game has been just as effective with Carr completing 75 percent of his passes for the season and throwing three TD passes to Crabtree on Sunday after connecting with Cooper and Seth Roberts in the opener.
Carr has gotten rid of the ball faster than any quarterback in the league, according to SportRadar, running Downing’s offense almost flawlessly.
“Something he tells me every day: ‘Let me be aggressive, you just be efficient,'” Carr said. “If his play calls are aggressive or they show us a look we don’t like, you just be smart and efficient, but you be aggressive. That’s just how we play.”
- Panthers 2-0, but QB Newton still struggling with accuracy-CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) — Cam Newton is still looking for his mojo.
The Panthers may be 2-0 this season, but the former league MVP is struggling to find his touch on passes after missing significant practice time in training camp and playing only one possession in the preseason while recovering from a partially torn rotator cuff.
For the second consecutive week, Newton overthrew a receiver on a would-be touchdown pass in Carolina’s 9-3 win over the Buffalo Bills on Sunday.
On a third-and-goal at the Bills 1-yard line, Newton threw a pass over the head of intended receiver Christian McCaffrey in the flat with a chance to put the game away. The Panthers settled for a field goal to take a six-point lead and the defense held the Bills out of the end zone to seal the victory.
Newton acknowledged after the game that he’s struggling with his accuracy.
“The expectations that I have for myself, missing layups like that, it’s uncalled for,” Newton said. “I wish I had about two or three balls back.”
It didn’t help that Newton was sacked six times by Sean McDermott’s defense or that Greg Olsen left the game in the second quarter with a broken foot .
Newton had an injury scare himself, as well.
He was slow to return to his feet following a sack by Jerry Hughes late in the third quarter. The concern was his ankle, which he had surgery on in the past.
“Man, it was scary,” he said. “I don’t even want to say what I thought happened.”
Newton said he was “crunched up” on the play, but after being evaluated by medical personnel on the sideline, he returned in time for the next drive, without missing a snap. He led the Panthers to the Buffalo 1-yard-line before they settled for Graham Gano’s third field goal.
“When you get the blood back flowing and you start walking on it and everything picks up, you just gain confidence in it,” Newton said.
Things we learned in Panthers’ 9-3 win over the Bills:
BILLS DEFENSE TOUGH: Lost in the defeat is that the Bills defense is looking pretty stout under McDermott and defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier.
They held Carolina without a touchdown, sacking Newton six times and holding Jonathan Stewart to 40 yards on 15 carries.
“We felt good about our matchups up front and getting pressure on the quarterback, doing some things coverage-wise,” said McDermott, who spent six seasons as defensive coordinator for a Panthers unit perennially considered one of the NFL’s best.
But Bills linebacker Lorenzo Alexander wants more.
“A sack is just a tackle for loss,” Alexander said. “We need to find a way to get the ball out of there or force an interception.”
BILLS DRAW BENCH PENALTY: A side judge collided with a member of the Bills’ coaching staff on Sunday in a game at Carolina.
Afterward, James Coleman, a 12-year veteran, appeared to be shouting at the Bills’ bench after fellow officials checked on him on the field. The incident occurred several yards onto the field, around the 50-yard line.
The Bills’ training staff tended to Coleman and officials penalized the Bills’ sideline 15 yards for unsportsmanlike conduct on the play. “We have to do a better job of staying back,” McDermott said.
BILLS NEED HELP ON OFFENSE: Buffalo’s offense struggled to make first downs — they had 10 to Carolina’s 19 — and LeSean McCoy was limited to 9 yards rushing.
The Bills didn’t get one until midway through the second quarter, and managed just 176 yards. Quarterback Tyrod Taylor was the Bills’ leading rusher with 55 yards.
“Part of our scheme is definitely running the football,” Taylor said. “We have to be able to run the football versus multiple looks.”
Still, Buffalo went into its two-minute offense with a chance to win. Rookie Zay Jones couldn’t haul in a Taylor pass on fourth-and-11 pass at the Carolina 3.
KALIL’S STRANGE INJURY: Two-time All-Pro center Ryan Kalil was a late scratch Sunday with “a crick in his neck,” according to coach Ron Rivera. It wasn’t clear that Kalil would not be starting until after he participated in pregame warmups.
“That was weird,” Newton said. “That was really weird. But yet, you’ve just got to roll with the punches.”
Backup Tyler Larsen, a second-year player out of Utah State, made his sixth career start in his place.
“He had a great game,” Newton said.
OLSEN INJURY: Look for the Panthers to lean even more heavily on McCaffrey out of the backfield after Olsen broke his right foot. Olsen is expected to miss significant time with the injury.
McCaffrey was targeted five times and caught four passes for 34 yards.
- Lopsided losses have Saints at early tipping point-METAIRIE, La. (AP) — It’s one thing to be 0-2 for a fourth straight season.
It’s another to not even look competitive in a pair of double-digit losses, which is what the Saints have done heading into their first NFC South game at Carolina.
Lopsided losses to Minnesota and New England have the Saints at a tipping point. If they rally, they could become one of the NFL’s better comeback stories — particularly on the heels of three-year playoff drought. If they continue to stumble, however, it could signify the crumbling of Sean Payton’s nearly 12-year coaching regime.
This is hardly the scenario linebacker A.J. Klein envisioned when he left the Panthers for the Saints as a free agent this offseason.
“Am I surprised? Yes, I’m a little surprised. But at the same time, it’s self-inflicted wounds and we have to be able to respond,” Klein said. “These are very critical weeks for us. We’re ready to just get to work.”
The Saints have struggled most on defense , extending a trend that has dogged New Orleans the previous three seasons, when it has ranked 27th or worse in yards allowed. New Orleans has allowed its first two opposing QBs this season — Minnesota’s Sam Bradford and New England’s Tom Brady — to complete 80.3 percent of their passes for 793 yards and six touchdowns combined.
“It’s embarrassing, especially when you put in all this hard work,” safety Kenny Vaccaro said. “We’ve got to get it fixed. We’re already 0-2. It’s just going to be hard to come out of that hole. Everybody knows in this league, once you get yourself in a hole, it’s really, really hard to climb out.”
Despite scoring late, inconsequential touchdowns, New Orleans lost by 10 at Minnesota and by 16 at home to the defending champion Patriots.
Saints players insisted Monday they’re not obsessing over the scores, which they say can be misleading. A few pivotal plays can turn an otherwise competitive affair into a blowout, they said.
Using New England’s first two possessions Sunday as examples, Klein said New Orleans’ defense forced third-and-6 or longer on each drive, only to have execution failures on passes to Gronkowski — one of which went 12 yards to extend a touchdown drive and one of which resulted in in a 53-yard TD.
“Does that change the momentum of the game if they don’t score those first two series? Yes, it does,” Klein said. “The score is the score. It just shows that we didn’t play well enough. It doesn’t matter if you lose 10-9. A loss is a loss.”
Vaccaro agreed, to some extent.
“How fast you can improve is probably the biggest factor on turning around this season,” Vaccaro said. “There’s certain facets of winning and losing that you analyze, and when you do some of the things — giving up explosive plays — yeah, it’s a little worrisome. But at the same time, you’ve got to move on.”
Vaccaro got benched for several series on Sunday, but remained unsure why on Monday.
“I’m just trying to be professional, take it day by day, just trying to be a good pro, a good teammate,” the 2013 first-round draft choice said. “There’s nothing really else I can do. You know, I’ve been here through it all, through a thousand different members in the secondary, I’m still here standing. And I’m staying here until they don’t want me.”
Payton described Vaccaro’s exit from the game not as punishment, but an attempt to see if changing formations — fielding two safeties instead of the three-safety alignment New Orleans routinely uses — might help. The Saints wanted to see how the tandem of Vonn Bell and rookie Marcus Williams looked, Payton said.
Offensively, the Saints got little production in the running game, which is under magnified scrutiny after the offseason addition of veteran Adrian Peterson and Payton’s assertions that improving on the ground would be an emphasis. Payton also noted that quarterback Drew Brees’ timing with new targets such as receiver Tedd Ginn Jr. and rookie running back Alvin Kamara was bound to be worse early in the season than it should eventually become.
But Payton doesn’t sound worried about his players’ confidence despite another shaky start to a season.
“These guys are grown men and they understand the sense of urgency we have to play with and we have to practice with now, starting off with two losses.” Payton said. “We can’t get back to the practice field quick enough.”
- Colts buckle down in attempt to dig out of another 0-2 start-INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — Indianapolis Colts safety Darius Butler understands why short-term memories are so crucial in the NFL.
The ability to move beyond past mistakes is essential to future success.
Butler learned that lesson the hard way while playing cornerback and now that he’s changed positions, Butler wants his younger teammates to understand how it pertains to the big picture: avoiding a 0-3 start.
“It felt like last year was a must-win game in September, and it feels almost the same way this week,” Butler said Monday after going 0-2 for the fifth time since 2011. “We’ve got to find a way to win.”
If not, the numbers suggest Indy’s playoff hopes could end quicker than anyone expected.
Since the postseason field expanded to 12 teams in 1990, roughly 12 percent of those making the playoffs were 0-2 including Butler’s 2014 Colts.
Another loss this weekend against winless Cleveland could be far more troubling.
In the last 27 seasons, only the 1992 San Diego Chargers, 1995 Detroit Lions and 1998 Buffalo Bills have made the playoffs after going 0-3.
Even the odds-makers won’t bet on Indy. Cleveland opened as a 2-point favorite, the first time in five years the Browns have been favored on the road.
Butler, who is dealing with a hamstring injury, and his teammates, of course, are paying about as much attention to historical references and betting lines as they are to the 46-9 season-opening loss that dropped them almost to the bottom of the power rankings.
“We definitely showed some improvement in getting after the quarterback and stopping the run,” defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins said. “We’ve got to keep the momentum going and find a way to get a win.”
The Colts were better Sunday against Arizona than they were in the Rams’ rout.
But how could they not be?
New quarterback Jacoby Brissett gave Indy’s offense an early spark by converting three straight third downs and leading the Colts to 10 points on their first two drives. The defense finished with four sacks, picked off one pass and limited the Cardinals to 83 yards rushing on 25 attempts.
But instead of sealing what looked like a sure win, Indy allowed the Cardinals (1-1) to rally from a 10-point deficit in the final eight minutes, then gave Arizona two chances to win it with a field goal.
Phil Dawson missed the first, wide right as time expired in regulation, before taking advantage of Brissett’s interception on the first play from scrimmage in overtime. Now the Colts find themselves trying to dig out of a 0-2 hole for the fourth straight season.
“At the end of the game, we had a chance to close it out and we didn’t,” linebacker Jabaal Sheard said. “That’s what we’ve got to do this week.”
The Colts’ predicament may be less bleak than it appears.
Indy’s best defensive player, cornerback Vontae Davis (groin), and starting center Ryan Kelly (broken foot) could be on the verge of returning. Davis did some light work late last week and Kelly has been walking around the team complex without a boot or a limp.
Coach Chuck Pagano said both were “getting closer.”
Franchise quarterback Andrew Luck still has not practiced since having January surgery on his throwing shoulder, but presumably expects to return before the midway point of the season. Otherwise, the Colts probably would have kept him on the physically unable to perform list.
Luck was ruled out of the Cleveland game and Pagano said Luck still needs to be cleared by team doctors before he can practice.
Plus, Indy plays in the AFC South, a division that has produced champions in two of the last three years that started 0-2.
But even Butler realizes the only real remedy is to start winning.
“We’ve really just got to find a way to finish games,” said Butler, who has never been 0-3 in eight previous NFL seasons. “I’m speaking for myself, but I feel like this is a must-win (game). I know it’s early, it’s September, but I feel like it is a must-win.”
- Bengals return with 0-2 mark, new offensive coordinator-CINCINNATI (AP) — Andy Dalton thought there might be some changes after two horrid games on offense.
He was surprised that they started at the top.
A few hours after its 13-9 loss to Houston on Thursday night, Cincinnatifired offensive coordinator Ken Zampese and promoted receivers coach Bill Lazor. Players were off over the weekend, so their first chance to work out with the rearranged coaching staff was Monday afternoon.
Dalton said there were some subtle changes. Any notable changes in the game plan won’t be known for a few more days.
“When somebody new is in, they have their own twist on things, a different spin on things,” Dalton said. “So there were some things that were exactly the same as we’d done and some things that were a little different.”
A lot needs to change for Cincinnati to salvage its season.
The Bengals are the first team since the 1939 Eagles to open with a pair of home games and fail to get a touchdown. A loss Sunday at Green Bay (1-1) would leave them 0-3 for the first time since 2008 , when they went 4-11-1.
The Bengals have opened a season with three straight losses 13 times in their history, including twice under coach Marvin Lewis. They’ve never finished with a winning record after an 0-3 start. A loss in Green Bay would leave them with long odds in Lewis’ final season on his contract.
“No magic, no special things here,” cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick said. “We’ve got to start clicking.”
After failing to get a touchdown in 25 possessions to open the season, Dalton figured there might be some changes. He didn’t expect a change in coordinators, however.
“At that point, we weren’t thinking anything was going to happen,” he said.
Dalton has struggled behind a porous offensive line. He threw four interceptions and lost a fumble during a 20-0 loss to the Ravens, finishing with a passer rating of 28.4 — his second-lowest. Dalton was under steady pressure again Thursday night.
Lewis has been one of Dalton’s most outspoken defenders, giving no indication he has even considered using backup AJ McCarron in either of the games. McCarron took over when Dalton broke the thumb on his passing hand in 2015 and led them the rest of the way into the playoffs. He had them in position to win a first-round game against Pittsburgh before Vontaze Burfict’s hit on Antonio Brown helped the Steelers pull it out in the closing seconds.
McCarron has heard fans calling for a change.
“Listen, I think I’m a great quarterback and I think he’s an unbelievable quarterback,” McCarron said Monday. “I love him to death. But he’s our quarterback. Stop making it into something else. It’s not into something else. Ride with him. Trust the team. Trust the process. And trust what we are trying to do.”
Dalton hasn’t paid attention to suggestions to the calls for a different quarterback.
“People can come up with a headline all they want, but all that matters is what’s being said in this organization, on this team, and what happens in this locker room,” Dalton said.
Although Lazor hasn’t said how the offense might change, he’s likely to put more emphasis on getting the ball to A.J. Green and Tyler Eifert. The two were limited in the first two games, and Green complained about it after the loss on Thursday night.
Also, Zampese used running backs Giovani Bernard, rookie Joe Mixon and Jeremy Hill interchangeably without success. Lazor has never done a three-back rotation.
Most players had never experienced an in-season coaching change comparable to this one.
“Anytime you’ve been building a relationship as an offense doing it one way and it changes, it’s always going to be a little tough,” McCarron said. “It’s part of the business we are in. We all have to adapt to sudden changes.”