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Here is What Have We Learned from Week 12 of the 2017 NFL Season, thanks to the AP Pro 32 for photos & help in this article.
- Back atop AFC South, Titans focus on wins, not style points-The Titans may not impress too many people with how they’re playing.For now, all that matters to Tennessee is finding a way to keep winning.
They have won five of their past six, and the past four victories all have come by four or fewer points.
Tennessee (7-4) heads into December with its most wins since 2008, and beating the Colts 20-16 for their first win at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis combined with a loss by Jacksonville has put the Titans back on top of the AFC South.
The wins may be ugly, but coach Mike Mularkey says winning still says a lot about the Titans.
“I’ve used this word many a time: resilient, a close group, never waiver regardless of the score, what time of the game it is,” Mularkey said Monday. “We think we can win until the final buzzer, that’s just the way we are, that’s this team. It says a lot about our guys in that locker room.”
Whether the Titans end their playoff drought at eight seasons still remains to be seen because they have some areas on offense to improve on over the final five games.
— Marcus Mariota was intercepted twice by the Colts, giving him six interceptions over the past two games. The third-year quarterback has 12 interceptions, the most of his career, and only nine touchdowns.
— Tennessee managed only 9 yards on 11 rushes by halftime. Derrick Henry didn’t have a single yard on just three carries, didn’t get the ball in the third and finished with 79 yards on 13 carries thanks to a dominant fourth quarter .
Mularkey said it’s encouraging to see what the Titans are capable of, something he’s seen at some point in every game this season. In the fourth quarter, the Titans held the ball for more than 11 minutes and piled up 12 of their 19 first downs.
“You’ve got to play your best football, we’re trying to play our best football, for 60 minutes, that’s key,” Mularkey said.
“I promise you they’re trying to do that. That’s what we’ve got to do, especially this time of year. This is when you’ve got to start kicking it in and playing your best and knowing that if you don’t, you still can win.”
Now the Titans get a chance for a little payback Sunday when they host the Texans, who face a short week after playing Monday night along with traveling for back-to-back road games. Houston looks nothing like the team that routed Tennessee 57-14 on Oct. 1.
“That game is far enough back that I think it’s out of their system,” Mularkey said. “I think our guys know it’s a division game we have to win.”
Then the Titans face their last road trip starting at Arizona before visiting San Francisco. Keep winning, and the Titans could be hosting the Jaguars with the AFC South title on the line in the regular-season finale.
Mularkey said he keeps reminding his Titans not to worry about what anybody else in the NFL is doing.
“If we win, everything will take care of itself,” Mularkey said.
- Cardinals finally get a win over a good team-The Arizona Cardinals finally beat a good team.Phil Dawson kicked a 57-yard field goal with 1 second left, sending the Cardinals to a 27-24 victory over the Jacksonville Jaguars for their first win of the season against a team with a winning record.
The Jaguars (7-4) had won four in a row. They dropped into a tie with Tennessee for first place in the AFC South.
The Cardinals (5-6) got strong contributions from Blaine Gabbert, Tyrann Mathieu and especially Dawson, who also connected from 34, 42 and 48 yards on Sunday.
Gabbert was 22 of 38 for 241 yards, two touchdowns and one interception while improving to 10-31 as an NFL starter. He began his career with Jacksonville, but was traded to San Francisco in March 2014.
He shrugged off any personal feelings.
“I just try to go out there and put my best foot forward,” Gabbert said. “Bring a little energy, bring a little juice to this football team. Like I said, just take it one play at a time and have fun doing it because this job is too hard not to have fun. I think you saw that in the guys today, the way they fought and the way they enjoyed the whole four quarters of football was a great thing to see.”
Here are a couple more things to watch coming out of Arizona’s victory:
STILL ON TOP: The Jaguars’ winning streak is history, but they remain in the thick of the AFC playoff race.
Jacksonville is at home for the next three weeks against Indianapolis, Seattle and Houston. It closes with road games against San Francisco and Tennessee.
RUNNING BLAINE: Gabbert’s ability to buy time with his feet was on full display, especially late in the game.
“I think the difference in the game was his mobility,” Jacksonville defensive end Calais Campbell said. “He made some plays and extended some drives with his legs on third down. We are built on getting pressure and stopping quarterbacks. When you can extend it for five to six seconds, it is hard on anybody.”
Gabbert was Arizona’s second-leading rusher with 17 yards on six carries.
“There were a lot of ups and downs in the fourth quarter,” Gabbert said, “but being able to finish that and hit that game-winning kick was huge.”
CALAIS’ HOMECOMING: Campbell, one of Arizona’s most popular players ever, said he felt the love from his old fans, and he almost came away with the winning play.
Campbell scooped up Gabbert’s fumble and ran 10 yards for the score, lifting the Jags to a 17-16 lead early in the fourth quarter.
He began the week among the league leaders with 11 1/2 sacks, but had just three tackles and no sacks against Arizona.
Other than a win, Campbell said he most wanted a postgame exchange of jerseys with Larry Fitzgerald. He got it.
JONES’ DAY: While Campbell was mostly quiet, Arizona linebacker Chandler Jones had a big day.
Jones had two sacks, five tackles for loss, a quarterback hit and a pass defensed. Jones has 10 sacks this season.
“I feel good,” he said. “I’m not sure you guys realized, but I lost about 10 to 20 pounds, and I feel like a lot of credit is to that. I’m more agile. I feel like I’m faster, and I have more cardio.”
‘GREEDY’ MARRONE: Jacksonville got the ball with 1:14 to play at its 10-yard line. It tried to get in position for the win, but had to punt and Arizona got the ball back at its 39 with 16 seconds remaining.
Coach Doug Marrone blamed himself for giving Arizona that final chance.
“If I had to do it all over again, I just would have ran the clock out and went to overtime,” he said. “That is my fault.”
- Roaring Panthers set for first-place showdown with Saints-Cam Newton wanted to take a few hours to relish the Carolina Panthers’ latest win and then start focusing on their next game.After all, they deserved to celebrate this one a little bit, especially after how the defense and special teams came through in the fourth quarter of a 35-27 victory over the New York Jets on Sunday.
“To have the guys pick it up and do things that they needed to on defense and on special teams,” coach Ron Rivera said, “it was a big boost to the offense.”
But, up next are the New Orleans Saints for first place in the NFC South.
“Right now, we just have to debrief from this game and hopefully (begin) getting prepared for our next opponent, which is the Saints,” Newton said. “Nothing has changed, and it’s just a great matchup that we’re looking forward to.”
The Panthers have won four straight to improve to 8-3. They’re now tied with the Saints for the top spot in the division after New Orleans fell 26-20 against the Los Angeles Rams. That ended an eight-game winning streak for Drew Brees and the Saints, whom the Panthers are all too familiar with.
“They’re good,” linebacker Luke Kuechly said. “There’s a reason they’re like that. There’s a reason Drew has been slinging the ball as long as he has — because he’s good. He’s good in that system and they’re good in the dome.
“We’ve got our work cut out for us.”
The Saints might be saying the same about the Panthers, who overcame a fourth-quarter deficit to send the Jets to their fifth loss in six games.
Kuechly returned a fumble 34 yards for a touchdown and Kaelin Clay had a 60-yard punt return for a score, capping a stunning swing in the fourth quarter.
“It wasn’t a blockbuster outing offensively for us, statistics-wise,” Newton said. “But at the end of the day, we found ways to win the football game.”
This one turned in a span of 2 minutes, 11 seconds on mistakes by the Jets — and the Panthers taking advantage.
First, Kuechly scooped up a fumble by Josh McCown , who was sacked by Wes Horton and had the ball slip out of his hand as he was about to throw, and rumbled to the end zone for a touchdown. Newton then hurdled linebacker Jordan Jenkins for the 2-point conversion to give the Panthers a 26-20 lead with 12:05 left.
After New York’s next drive stalled, the Jets were forced to punt. Clay fielded Lachlan Edwards’ kick and spun out of a tackle attempt and sped into the end zone. Newton’s pass on the 2-point conversion fell short, but Carolina was suddenly up 32-20 with 9:54 remaining.
“We didn’t panic,” Clay said. “The game is never over. We just kept playing and we made plays.”
Here are some other things to know about the Panthers’ win over the Jets:
The Panthers are hoping to have tight end Greg Olsen against the Saints after he left with a foot injury in the second half and didn’t return.
Olsen had missed the previous eight games with a broken foot, but came back Sunday. He had one catch for 10 yards before leaving in the third quarter.
“I felt fine,” Olsen said. “It just got a little sore. It flared up. I went back out and played a little bit, but we just thought it would be best to live to play another day.”
Carolina ran for 145 yards on 33 attempts, averaging a respectable 4.4 yards per carry. That would be satisfying for most teams, but the Panthers came in having run for more than 200 yards in their past two games — a first for the franchise.
Rookie Christian McCaffrey led the way with 62 yards on seven carries, but 40 of those came on one play.
- Browns buzzing about Gordon’s first game in 3 years-Josh Gordon’s imminent return has the Browns buzzing.Suddenly, there’s a ray of hope in this dreary, dismal season.
With Gordon eligible to play on Sunday in Los Angeles for the first time in the regular season since 2014, coach Hue Jackson can barely contain his excitement in having the wide receiver back.
“My plans for him?” Jackson said Monday. “Oh boy, let me tell you, I have big plans for him.”
Gordon’s return has brought some badly needed optimism to the Browns (0-11), who are running out of time and games to avoid joining the 2008 Detroit Lions as the only 0-16 teams in NFL history.
A former All-Pro, Gordon, who led the league in yards receiving in 2013, is expected to be activated later this week and make his long-awaited return against the Chargers on Sunday.
Gordon returned to practice last week after being suspended for two seasons and dazzled his teammates, who can’t wait to see if he can be the same electrifying player.
“I plan for him to play and play as much as he can handle,” Jackson said. “He’s a very talented player. He needs to get out there and play, but we have to see where he is and make sure how much can he handle, how much can he do.”
Gordon was eligible to come off the Commissioner’s exempt list on Monday, but the Browns intend to wait until later in the week to activate him. The 26-year-old last played a regular-season game on Dec. 21, 2014.
Cleveland’s roster has changed dramatically since then, but guard Joel Bitonio remembers when Gordon last returned from a suspension. On Nov. 23, 2014, Gordon caught eight passes for 120 yards as the Browns beat the Atlanta Falcons 26-24.
“Anytime you bring a player back of Josh’s talent, it’s going to bring a spark to the offense,” Bitonio said.
“He’s also been out of football for a while. So no matter how good a shape he’s in, expectations have to be tempered a little bit, but I think there’s going to be a jolt in practice, exciting.
“I don’t know what the game plan is for him yet or anything like that yet, but he was an All-Pro. He was one of the best receivers in the game the last time he played and we’re looking forward to bringing that spark. I think that helps protections, it helps the run game, that helps the quarterback and maybe the offense being lifted up will help the defense, too.
“It could be a big week for him.”
- Talib, Crabtree suspended 1 game each for fighting– Oakland receiver Michael Crabtree and Denver cornerback Aqib Talib had their two-game suspensions reduced to one game after appeal hearings on Tuesday.
Derrick Brooks heard Crabtree’s case and James Thrash heard Talib’s appeal, and both decided to reduce the two-game bans issued Monday by NFL Vice President of Football Operations Jon Runyan.
The fight during Oakland’s 21-14 win on Sunday was a continuation of a dispute that started last season when Talib ripped Crabtree’s chain off during the season finale. Crabtree missed the first game between the teams this year but didn’t wait long to seek revenge.
Crabtree punched Denver cornerback Chris Harris Jr. while blocking him on the first play of Oakland’s second drive. He then aggressively blocked Talib on a running play and drove him to the ground on the Broncos’ sideline on the following play, starting the brawl.
Talib once again ripped Crabtree’s chain off his neck. He also took Crabtree’s helmet off and threw it, as well as exchanging punches with Crabtree.
“This did appear to be premeditated,” NFL spokesman Joe Lockhart said earlier in the day. “It happened three minutes into the game. There’s a history there. It was prolonged. … Importantly, it put other people at risk. Sideline personnel. League personnel.”
Both players are eligible to return on Monday. Crabtree will miss Sunday’s game against the New York Giants but now will be eligible to play in a key AFC West showdown against Kansas City on Dec. 10. Talib will have to sit out this weekend’s game against Miami.
The suspension is costly to the Raiders (5-6), who are one game out of a playoff spot and now will be without a starting receiver for one game. Crabtree is tied for the team lead with 42 catches and has 502 yards receiving and a team-high six touchdowns.
The Raiders also could be without their other starting receiver in Amari Cooper, who suffered a concussion and a sprained ankle later in Sunday’s game after a hard hit by safety Darian Stewart that drew a penalty.
Talib is perhaps Denver’s top cover cornerback. His replacement, rookie Brendan Langley, surrendered a touchdown pass and a critical third-down completion that kept Denver from getting a shot at tying the game.
- Seahawks rule Kam Chancellor out for the rest of the season-Kam Chancellor is done for this season. Whether the standout strong safety for the Seattle Seahawks plays again is unknown.Coach Pete Carroll said Monday that Chancellor would miss the rest of the season due to the neck injury he suffered earlier this month, but would not speculate about Chancellor’s future.
All Carroll would say for now is that Chancellor does not need surgery and any decision on his future is up to the player.
“He feels good, he feels comfortable. He’s not in discomfort at all, which is good,” Carroll said Monday, a day after Seattle’s 24-13 win over San Francisco. “There is a process with when we do the work, up and down stuff, and really I’m trying to be really respective of Kam and let him call the shots of what is known and all that stuff and how he wants to talk about it because this is him. It’s not us, it’s him and we’ll support him all that we can.
“He was a fantastic factor in this game, in the locker room and on the sideline, big time helping the communication and stuff. I’m glad he’s staying with us and still adding the presence he’s always been able to add.”
It’s a similar situation for veteran defensive end Cliff Avril, who will undergo “disc-related” surgery Tuesday for a neck injury. Avril has been out since early October.
Carroll declined to get into specifics about Avril’s surgery but noted it is a procedure players have come back from in the past.
“I don’t know what the future holds. Guys do come back from that surgery sometimes and sometimes they don’t. Just depends,” Carroll said.
Chancellor has spent his entire career with Seattle, becoming a starter in 2011. He recently spent time away from the team while meeting with doctors to determine the severity of his injury and possible courses of action.
Chancellor was apparently injured in the win over the Cardinals while tackling Andre Ellington with just over two minutes remaining. He stayed in for one more play before leaving to be attended on the sideline. Bradley McDougald has filled in with Chancellor sidelined.
Avril is in his fifth season with the Seahawks. He was injured in a game against the Indianapolis Colts on Oct. 1. He was chasing down Colts quarterback Jacoby Brissett and the back of Brissett’s foot caught Avril in the chin as he lunged to make the tackle. Avril was seen shaking his arms and flexing his hands after the impact.
“Just looking at their situations, each one is an individual in how they’re looking at it and we are too in how we support them and guide them and help them,” Carroll said.
Carroll said he does not expect rookie defensive tackle Malik McDowell to contribute at all this season. McDowell suffered facial and head injuries in an ATV accident last July before training camp started. Seattle has said from the start it would not rush McDowell’s recovery and that it was doubtful he would play this season, but Carroll’s comments put that lingering thought to rest.
“There’s not any progress being made in that direction,” Carroll said.
In the one bit of optimistic news, Seattle believes rookie running back Chris Carson has a chance to return before the end of the regular season. Carson has been out since having surgery in early October for a high-ankle sprain. Carroll said there is a chance Carson could be back at practice soon.
“He has made tremendous progress,” Carroll said. “We don’t want to rush him on anything or have expectations for you guys either but he has had a great recovery so we’ll see what happens. He’s running and changing directions and starting to do some more aggressive stuff this week.”
NOTES: The Seahawks expect CB Shaquill Griffin (concussion) and RB Mike Davis (groin) to be back this week after sitting out Sunday’s win over San Francisco. … Carroll said they won’t know more about the status of TE Luke Willson (concussion) until likely Thursday. Willson’s was the only significant injury to come from the game.
- After 5-0 start, Chiefs stunned to be sitting at 6-5 now-Tyreek Hill thought everything was back to normal after a midseason swoon when the second-year wide receiver saw the Chiefs dancing and prancing through practice this week.Alex Smith thought the same thing the way his team responded to an ugly loss to the Giants.
They were both dreadfully wrong.
Now, the same Chiefs team that beat the Patriots and Eagles on the way to a 5-0 start, and that just six weeks ago was considered a Super Bowl contender, has dropped five of its past six games.
And with the Los Angeles Chargers getting hot, the Chiefs’ lead in the AFC West has been trimmed to one game.
“Yeah, a little frustrated,” said Smith, whose interception to Tre’Davious White with about a minute left Sunday sealed a 16-10 loss to the Buffalo Bills that was every bit as ugly as the rest.
“Everyone is trying to figure out and do their job,” Smith said. “Help get us going.”
Problem is nobody seems to know where to start.
Smith began the season throwing 18 touchdown passes without a pick, but has since thrown four picks and only one touchdown pass.
Kareem Hunt was the league’s top rusher for several weeks, but was held to just 17 yards on 11 carries by the Bills. And a group of wide receivers missing Chris Conley to a season-ending injury has looked abysmal against mediocre defenses.
Even star tight end Travis Kelce, the one sure thing in the Chiefs’ offense lately, only had three catches for 39 yards against Buffalo — dropping a ball along the way.
“Listen,” Chiefs coach Andy Reid said, “everybody’s got a piece.”
Especially the coaching staff.
The Chiefs were creative and exciting and nearly unstoppable through the first five games, getting the ball to their playmakers in unique ways. They utilized Hunt in the open field, threw Hill the ball in space and scored at a rate that fans in Kansas City were unaccustomed to seeing.
Reid was living up to his reputation as a “quarterback whisperer,” and young offensive coordinator Matt Nagy was making everybody forget about his predecessor, current Eagles coach Doug Pederson.
But that midseason swoon has turned out to be an epic collapse, and the Chiefs are now faced with a trip to the New York Jets on Sunday that could be crucial to turning their season back around.
“We have to go back to working on those small little things, you know? Continue to bring energy,” Hill said, sitting in front of his locker. “I think the defense is going to continue to play great. We just have to use the defense’s energy to fuel us.”
The defense tried to pick up the Chiefs’ popgun offense on Sunday, holding LeSean McCoy to 49 yards rushing and the Bills to 268 yards total.
But even that performance, stingy as it was, left something to be desired: The Chiefs didn’t force a turnover that could have given them some momentum.
“This is the ultimate team game, so regardless if you blame the offense, we didn’t get a turnover,” Chiefs linebacker Derrick Johnson said.
“You have to create moments of momentum. Defensively, we played good yardage-wise, but somehow you got to get a turnover. We couldn’t muster up.”
Like the rest of the Chiefs, the veteran linebacker wasn’t just despondent in the locker room. He was downright flabbergasted, almost at a loss trying to understand how the season’s gone awry.
“It’s tough, man, whenever you lose. Any time. Regardless of what the score is,” Johnson said. “The ball has been rolling downhill and the more losses you get, the harder that ball is to stop rolling in the wrong direction. This is one of those games where you need to get it. We need to get a win.
“However we can get it, we need to get it, because it doesn’t look good right now.”