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Here is What Have We Learned from Week 9 of the 2018 NFL Season, thanks to the AP Pro 32 for photos & help in this article.
- Chargers looking to continue fast start over next 3 weeks-COSTA MESA, Calif. (AP) — The Los Angeles Chargers have won five straight to improve to 6-2 at midseason for the first time in 12 years. With the next three games against teams with losing records, the one thing coach Anthony Lynn isn’t worried about is complacency.
“This group has an understanding that we start over every week. We refocus and regroup,” Lynn said Monday. “We’ll go back to work on Wednesday like we hadn’t done anything. I like this group’s ability to stay in the present.”
The Chargers’ next three opponents have a combined record of 6-19. Los Angeles travels to Oakland (1-7) on Sunday before hosting Denver (3-6) and Arizona (2-6). After that, the slate gets more challenging with a road game against Pittsburgh, hosting Cincinnati and a Thursday night game at Kansas City, who beat the Chargers in Week 1.
History, though, bodes well for teams that get off to fast starts. Of the 124 teams that started 6-2 since the current postseason format started in 1990, only 21 haven’t made the playoffs.
“We have put ourselves in good position to maybe make the tournament at the end of the season but we still have to finish,” Lynn said.
Lynn’s squad continues to have momentum on both sides of the ball. Running back Melvin Gordon has rushed for 100 yards in three of his last four games with five touchdowns while wide receiver Tyrell Williams has four TDs in the past three games.
On defense, the Chargers have 14 sacks in their past four games despite defensive end Joey Bosa not playing a down yet this season due to a foot injury. The unit has also come up big in the last two games as it denied Tennessee from making a game-winning, two-point conversion and forced a Russell Wilson incompletion in the end zone on the final play at Seattle.
Defensive end Isaac Rochelle said those plays can be frustrating late in games, but something they need to go through.
“It is crucial for our defense and our team to be in those situations and deal with it now, especially when you come out with the win,” he said. “It says a lot about us. Our defense held up two weeks in a row.”
About the only thing that hasn’t gone well is the kicking game. The Chargers released Caleb Sturgis on Monday after he missed two extra points and a field goal against Seattle. The six-year veteran— who was 9 of 15 this season on extra points and 9 of 13 on field goals — is the first kicker since the Raiders’ Jim Breech in 1979 to miss a PAT and field goal in three straight games.
“We feel like we gave him a fair shot, stayed with him as long as we could and it came down to performance,” Lynn said.
Michael Badgley has been promoted from the practice squad. He made all three of his field goals and seven extra points in two games when Sturgis could not play due to a quadriceps injury. The Chargers have been the Bermuda Triangle for kickers as Badgley is the team’s sixth placekicker since the start of last season.
Los Angeles lost its first four games to start last season but is 15-5 since, which is the third-best mark in the AFC (New England is 18-3 and Pittsburgh is 15-4-1). Williams said the emphasis since the beginning of the season has been on getting out to a fast start but now they have to sustain it.
“Going to another tough place and getting a win just keeps adding and building on how we play,” he said.
- Resurgent Falcons back in playoff race with 3 straight wins-FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. (AP) — Coach Dan Quinn says losing six starters to injured reserve never forced him to lose faith in the Atlanta Falcons, even before three straight wins revived the team’s playoff hopes.
The Falcons (4-4) have recovered from a 1-4 start despite losing both starting safeties, both first-team offensive guards, running back Devonta Freeman and linebacker Deion Jones.
Sunday’s 38-14 win at NFC East-leading Washington showed the Falcons, who play at Cleveland this week, are back as a playoff contender.
Even after running back Devonta Freeman and right guard Brandon Fusco were the most recent starters to land on IR, Quinn continued to say the Falcons were a team on the rise who had not peaked.
“All along I’ve had real belief in what this ’18 team can be,” Quinn said Monday. “Although it started under some difficult circumstances, I like the way they’ve supported each other. I like the toughness they’ve shown and I feel like we’re starting to play like we’re capable of playing.”
The Falcons iced the win over the Redskins by holding the ball for 10 minutes in the fourth quarter, when Washington didn’t score. Quinn said the “ability to finish” was a highlight of the game.
With Ben Garland starting for Fusco and Wes Schweitzer continuing in his fill-in starting role for injured left guard Andy Levitre, the new-look offensive line played one of its best games.
The Falcons converted 10 of 13 third-down plays and scored touchdowns on two of three red-zone possessions. Matt Ryan threw for 350 yards with four touchdowns and one interception — only his third of the season and his first since a Week 2 win over Carolina.
Ryan said the Falcons have improved since losing four of their first five games.
“I think halfway through we were a better football team than we were at the start, and we have to keep it trending in that direction,” Ryan said after Sunday’s game.
Ryan has enjoyed a return to his 2016 form, when he was named the NFL MVP. Led by Ryan, the Falcons have scored touchdowns on 17 of their last 21 red-zone possessions since their opening loss at Philadelphia.
“I think red zone efficiency has been really good for us,” Ryan said. “We didn’t do a good job of that in the opener, but since then we’ve done a pretty good job of that. … When you’re scoring touchdowns and taking care of the ball, that’s a good recipe for success.”
Quinn said seeing Julio Jones finally score his first touchdown of the season “was probably the coolest part of the day” in the win over Washington.
Jones’ teammates rushed down the sideline to celebrate with him following his 35-yard touchdown pass from Ryan.
“It was a great experience having the team come out there,” Jones said.
Quinn said Jones “is the most selfless leader probably that any of us have been around.”
“They were so excited for him because of all the work he does behind the scenes that people don’t know about,” Quinn said. “… They know what he stands for as a teammate.”
Atlanta’s daunting injury outlook could be improving.
The Falcons already have had defensive tackle Grady Jarrett, who had a sack on Sunday, return after missing two games with an ankle injury.
Jones is eligible to come off IR when the Falcons play Dallas on Nov. 18, though there has been no word on when he’ll be cleared from his foot injury. It’s not known if Freeman will be able to return from his groin injury when eligible in December.
Placekicker Matt Bryant has missed two games with a hamstring injury. More will be known on Wednesday about his chances to return against the Browns.
- Texans roll to sixth straight win entering bye week-HOUSTON (AP) — The Houston Texans have won six straight games for the first time since 2012, leaving their terrible start behind them and putting them firmly in control of the AFC South as they head into their week off.
Despite the dramatic turnaround, coach Bill O’Brien and the Texans (6-3) know that they haven’t accomplished anything yet.
“We’ve done a great job of coming back from where we were,” O’Brien said. “But we’ve got a long way to go.”
Houston’s latest win came in dramatic fashion on Sunday in Denver when the Broncos missed a field goal as time expired to allow the Texans to hold on for the 19-17 victory to keep their winning streak intact. Now they have two weeks to prepare before a trip to visit the Redskins on Nov. 18.
Four of the team’s wins during this streak have come by a touchdown or less, giving the Texans confidence in their ability to win close games.
“Our first two wins were overtime wins,” J.J. Watt said. “When you have to go through those, you learn to never give up hope. You just keep growing one day at a time, one game at a time. It will come.”
He agrees with his coach that the Texans can get a lot better and believes this team filled with hard workers will make that happen.
“It will continue to come,” Watt said. “We still have a lot of things to work on. You continue to find a way to win while you work on those things. It is a lot better to work on them while you are winning than losing.”
The Texans had a shakeup on offense last week when receiver Will Fuller was lost for the season with a torn knee ligament and they traded with Denver for star receiver Demaryius Thomas to take his place. Thomas had three receptions for 61 yards in his Houston debut, but had a false start, lined up in the wrong spot and looked lost on a drive in the fourth quarter, showing he has plenty of work to do to get up to speed before facing Washington.
O’Brien said his struggles were understandable considering he only had three days of practice to try and learn what he needed to know before Sunday’s game.
“(We’re) just continuing to try to coach him up on what we’re doing offensively,” O’Brien said. “Now, we can kind of take a step back and really go back into what we call the basic information, teach him the formations, teach him the routes, the protections, how the protections fit with the routes that he’s running and things like that and the technique of the route.”
While Thomas gets acclimated in Houston, the Texans have been impressed with the development of big rookie tight end Jordan Thomas. The 6-foot-5, 280-pound Thomas, who was a sixth-round pick in this year’s draft, has recently emerged as a great goal-line target. He’s grabbed three short touchdowns in the past two games, adding another dimension to Houston’s red zone offense, which struggled earlier this season.
“He was a wide receiver and then as he got bigger, (former Mississippi State coach) Danny Mullen moved him closer to the ball and he became a tight end,” O’Brien said. “Now, he’s had to learn how to block against some of these defensive ends and outside backers and he’s gotten better and better at that.”
The Texans’ big winning streak has coincided with long skids by both the Titans and Jaguars, who both have just three wins. The Jaguars have dropped four straight and the Titans have lost three in a row entering Monday’s game against Dallas.
The Texans think the attitude they showed in getting through their early struggles will help them as they try to add to their streak after the bye.
“A team with grit, fight, one that can really overcome adversity, play good football in tough situations, take care of the football in critical situations, I think that’s the kind of formula that you want to have going down the stretch, hopefully, playing in the playoffs,” safety Tyrann Mathieu said.
- Developing young QBs in NFL a tricky balancing act–
NEW YORK (AP) — Start them right away? Ease ’em in? Have them sit a whole season?
When it comes to developing young quarterbacks in the NFL, it all depends on who you talk to.
Some teams think it’s best to throw rookie QBs into the fire to learn on the job. Others prefer to gradually work them into the offense. Some say it’s more beneficial to have them grab a cap and clipboard and take it all in from the sideline.
“I think every position is the same,” Jets offensive coordinator Jeremy Bates said. “If someone can’t handle it mentally, then you don’t want to put them on the field, because naturally they’ll play slower and be thinking instead of reacting.”
Sam Darnold clearly passed that test for New York, and the No. 3 overall pick in April was under center to start the season.
“If a player shows the athletic ability, the talent and has the mental capacity to handle a gameplan and go into a game and be successful,” Bates said, “then he’s ready to play.”
That doesn’t mean things have necessarily gone smoothly for the former USC star.
Darnold’s 14 interceptions lead the league and have contributed to the Jets’ 3-6 start. So have his 55.0 percent completion rate and 68.3 quarterback rating, which also rank among the worst in the league.
Still, some point to these early struggles as crucial building blocks for the future.
“I’m going to continue to learn,” Darnold said Sunday after a 13-6 loss at Miami in which he threw four INTs. “There’s always lessons to be learned.”
Of the 32 quarterbacks currently listed as starters for their teams, 12 were under center in Week 1 of their first season.
On the flipside, some veteran superstar QBs waited a while before they got their chances.
Aaron Rodgers was stuck behind Brett Favre in Green Bay before finally starting in his fourth season. Philip Rivers didn’t start with the Chargers until his third year, when Drew Brees went to New Orleans. Even Brees didn’t get his first NFL start until his second season.
Tom Brady, Eli Manning, Ben Roethlisberger and Alex Smith weren’t Day 1 starters, either.
“In an ideal world, it gets to be like Drew, who had a chance to watch a little, or Tom Brady and Aaron,” said former quarterback Rich Gannon, the 2002 NFL MVP and now an analyst for CBS Sports and SiriusXM NFL Radio.
Patrick Mahomes sat behind Smith in Kansas City until Week 17 as a rookie last year, and now is a leading MVP candidate as one of the NFL’s top gunslinger s with a league-leading 29 TD passes for the 8-1 Chiefs.
“We knew that Patrick was very talented, but any time that an NFL team goes with a young quarterback, usually it’s a very challenging endeavor,” Chiefs owner Clark Hunt said. “Sometimes it takes time, several years, but as we’ve seen, Andy (Reid) had Patrick ready to go Week 1.”
Gannon thinks the Chiefs provide the perfect blueprint.
“Mahomes had a chance to watch a master of his domain for a year,” he said. “Alex Smith knew that system inside and out, has great huddle command and leadership skills. Maybe he doesn’t throw it like Mahomes does, but this is a guy who was willing to share and help him for that year, and we’re seeing the fruits of it now.
“That’s the best situation you can have.”
Again, that depends on who you ask.
In the past three drafts, 11 quarterbacks were taken in the first round — including Darnold, Cleveland’s Baker Mayfield, Buffalo’s Josh Allen, Arizona’s Josh Rosen and Baltimore’s Lamar Jackson this year.
Jackson is the only one to not yet start at least one game. Baltimore has Joe Flacco leading the huddle, but Jackson has still been used in the offense and is the Ravens’ second-leading rusher.
The Browns wanted to have Mayfield, the No. 1 overall pick this year, sit and learn behind Tyrod Taylor. But like most plans in Cleveland, it backfired.
Taylor got hurt in Week 3 and Mayfield was thrust into the lineup, helping the Browns rally to beat the Jets in a nationally televised game and end a 19-game winless streak. Mayfield has shown poise and promise, but lacks playmakers and is dealing with a coaching change after Hue Jackson was fired.
In Buffalo, the Bills weren’t anticipating Allen starting in the second week. They were taking what coach Sean McDermott called a “calculated” approach. But after AJ McCarron was traded before the season opener and Nathan Peterman bombed in Week 1, McDermott was left with no choice but to turn to Allen.
The rookie has been dealing with a sprained right elbow , and is uncertain to play Sunday against the Jets.
“When you draft a quarterback like we did, there’s a part of it where you have to say, ‘Hey, he’s going to play either A, B, or C — early, middle, or late or next year.'” McDermott said. “You have to be OK with all of that.”
The initial plan in Arizona was to have Rosen learn behind Sam Bradford. All that changed when the veteran was ineffective and benched in favor of the No. 10 overall pick.
Rosen took his lumps with some turnover-filled performances. Then, Mike McCoy was fired as the Cardinals’ offensive coordinator and Bradford was later cut — leaving the job to Rosen.
“His demeanor allows him to have success,” new offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich said. “Quarterbacking in this league is hard and when things go bad, this kid tends to be fine.”
But, some say too many adverse situations could end up having long-term deleterious effects on a young player.
“When you put them in before they’re ready, they also get hurt: Josh Allen, Josh Rosen,” Gannon said. “The speed of the game is way too fast for them. … Or they have a bad experience, like what wound up happening with (the Jets’) Mark Sanchez and Geno Smith, or going back to Ryan Leaf (with the Chargers). They play right away before they are physically or mentally ready or maturity-level ready. They get benched and booed and maybe run out of town, the coach gets fired, and then the next thing, they’re on their third or fourth team. They think he will be a savior and he’s not ready to play.
“How is that being responsible from a coach and ownership standpoint? It’s doing a tremendous disservice.”
Tampa Bay’s Jameis Winston and Tennessee’ Marcus Mariota started right away after being the top two picks in 2015, but the jury’s still out on both.
For those who preach patience, 25 of the 32 current QBs started a game at some point in their rookie season. And, several held on to the job from there.
Quarterbacks such as the Rams’ Jared Goff (No. 1 in 2016) and the Bears’ Mitchell Trubisky (No. 2 in 2017) started and struggled as rookies, but benefited from changes in coaching staffs and philosophies and took leaps in their second seasons.
So, who’s right?
Well, all of the above.
“There’s certainly valuable experience when you stand and watch,” McDermott said. “But we all know there’s no substitute for the experience when you’re actually behind the wheel. There’s a lot of value to that.”
- Coaches: curious calls, assertions, admonitions in Week 9- DENVER (AP) — Coaches made some curious calls, assertions and admonitions in Week 9 as the NFL hit the halfway point with some real head-scratchers.
Oakland coach Jon Gruden insisted the silver and black is still golden, saying he’s getting calls from players dying to play for the Raiders (1-7) next season.
Hue Jackson suggested the Browns should have shown more patience before showing him the door with a 3-36-1 record, and his replacement, Gregg Williams, swore he’d turned down multiple head coaching offers since his firing by the Bills in 2003.
Matt Patricia, the latest disciple of Bill Belichick to discover just how hard it is to win without Tom Brady, had no problem with a reporter’s question so much as his poor posture, apparently averse to any kind of slump.
And Broncos embattled coach Vance Joseph admitted he got greedy in sending Brandon McManus out for a 62-yard field goal with 22 seconds left before halftime Sunday, a costly decision that backfired and resulted in a six-point swing in a gut-wrenching two-point loss to the Texans.
In an interview with Fox Sports that aired before Oakland’s 34-3 shellacking at the hands of the 49ers, Gruden told Raiders Hall of Famer Howie Long that said his trades of two of his biggest stars in Khalil Mack and Amari Cooper hasn’t affected other players’ desires to play for the Raiders in 2019.
“I got a cellphone just like you and everybody else,” Gruden said. “I get a lot of phone calls from people that are dying to come play here. I’m just telling you. They’re dying to play for the Raiders.”
Oakland may have nearly $70 million cap space to go with three first-round draft picks next April, but doesn’t talking to potential free agents teeter on tampering?
Jackson said he could have turned things around in Cleveland if given more time.
“I was surprised that I was not given the opportunity to display what I could do as a play caller with a much more talented roster,” Jackson told Cleveland.com after he was fired along with offensive coordinator Todd Haley following the Browns’ 25th consecutive road loss.
Jackson said he thought No. 1 overall pick Baker Mayfield will be successful but he lamented the Browns passing on quarterbacks Carson Wentz, Deshaun Watson and Patrick Mahomes in recent years as Cleveland chose to stockpile draft picks.
The real eye-opener in Cleveland was Williams’ wild claims in his first news conference as interim head coach. Williams had served as defensive coordinator for several teams since his firing as head coach in Buffalo 15 years ago, but he said that was only because he had turned down multiple offers to be a head coach again.
He said he had “11 letters sent in to interview for head coaching jobs” and “four of them I didn’t even have to show up, just sign the contract and come.”
The NFL suspended Williams for the 2012 season after ruling that while the Saints defensive coordinator he orchestrated a program by which players were paid for knocking opponents from a game.
“That thing was a long time ago,” Williams said when asked if he ever imagined being a head coach again. “That’s nothing that we’re talking about now.”
Detroit’s rookie head coach had a terse exchange with a reporter while discussing the Lions’ trade of leading receiver Golden Tate to the Philadelphia Eagles, a team they could be fighting in the NFL wild-card race, for a third-round pick, a move that could hurt in the short-term but pay dividends down the road.
When the reporter asked why he thought this move makes the Lions better, Patricia snapped, “Do me a favor and just kind of sit up, just like, have a little respect for the process.”
This from a coach who wore sweatpants to meet the media during Super Bowl week last February.
The reporter promptly sat up straight, asked his question again, and Patricia politely answered.
After the Lions’ 24-9 loss at Minnesota in which Matthew Stafford was sacked 10 times, the Detroit News trolled Patricia with this bold headline above a photo of the prone QB: “Poor Posture .”
Joseph lost for the 17th time in 25 games Sunday when Brandon McManus missed a 51-yard field goal as time expired, turning a potential 20-19 thriller into a crushing 19-17 loss to the Texans and former teammate Demaryius Thomas.
Joseph was left to answer questions for two days about his questionable decisions at the end of both halves.
McManus also missed from 62 yards in the second quarter, leaving the Texans with the ball at the Broncos 48 and 18 seconds left, enough time for Deshaun Watson to get Houston into field goal range itself.
The six-point swing proved the difference when McManus missed consecutive field goals for the first time in his five-year NFL career, pushing his 51-yarder wide right as time expired in the fourth quarter.
“The one before half, that was totally on me. I was chasing points,” Joseph said Monday.
But the game-ender? No apologies for not trying to get closer after reaching the Texans 33.
Not with Whitney Mercilus, Jadeveon Clowney and J.J. Watt working against a makeshift line that had lost center Matt Paradis to a broken right leg earlier in the game.
Said Joseph: “I wasn’t going to expose our quarterback and our O-line to that pass rush one more time and now if they make a play, now we’re all idiots, right?”
- Injuries make impact sidelining NFL stars at halfway point-NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) — Rookie head coach Mike Vrabel has no time to imagine how much better his struggling Tennessee offense might be if only three-time Pro Bowl tight end Delanie Walker hadn’t broken his ankle in the Titans’ season opener.
Next man up is a necessity as much as a cliche in the NFL.
“You have to adjust,” Vrabel said of losing the tight end with the most receptions in the NFL between 2013 and 2017. “I think the one thing about winners is that they’re flexible and they’re able to adapt, among other things. We have to continue to move forward with the guys that we have.”
Marcus Mariota lost his favorite target, and the Titans are scraping along with the league’s 30th best passing offense after winning a playoff game last January.
“It’s asked a lot of the young guys to step up,” Mariota said.
Halfway through the NFL season, lots of stars, starters and key role players are sidelined by injuries with nobody topping the emotional departure of Seattle safety Earl Thomas after breaking his leg the same day Cincinnati tight end Tyler Eifert had his own gruesome leg injury. It’s making a big impact on the standings.
OH NO, JIMMY G
Trying to pick up an extra yard Sept. 23 cost San Francisco its quarterback, Jimmy Garoppolo, for the rest of this season with a torn left ACL when his leg buckled in the fourth quarter of a loss to Kansas City. That left the 49ers only three 2018 games with the man they signed to a $137.5 million, five-year contract after watching Garoppolo win five straight to wrap up last season.
Garoppolo’s injury came three weeks after 49ers running back Jerick McKinnon tore his own ACL for a team that had all five offensive linemen hurt knees in a game.
Now San Francisco’s playoff drought is assured of reaching a fifth straight season with the painful lesson for Garoppolo that a team needs its quarterback to be available.
“That’s something that Jimmy will probably look at differently going forward because now he’ll remember this the rest of his life,” 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan said. “Nothing against him. This happens with everyone. You see it every Sunday. It’s a reminder for everyone why it’s an obvious coaching point.”
SO MANY ACLS
When Texans receiver Will Fuller tore his ACL, he joined a list that includes Jaguars receiver Marqise Lee , who didn’t even make it to the regular season; Eagles running back Jay Ajayi; and Miami defensive end William Hayes, who tore his trying to avoid a roughing-the-passer penalty. Unfortunately, Hayes’ foot caught in the ground as he tried to keep his weight off Derek Carr during a sack.
MISSING ON DEFENSE
Derek Barnett recovered Tom Brady’s fumble to clinch the Eagles’ Super Bowl victory in February, but season-ending shoulder surgery has sidelined Philadelphia’s young defensive star. Green Bay lost defensive lineman Muhammad Wilkerson to an ankle injury.
WAITING FOR BOSA
Defensive end Joey Bosa has not played a snap this season for the Chargers because of a bone bruise in his left foot, an injury that happened Aug. 7 during training camp. Bosa, the 2016 Defensive Rookie of the Year, tried to get back for the regular season, then reinjured his foot Sept. 5 and has been sidelined since.
The Chargers hoped he might be back after their bye, but Bosa says he’s still facing a week-to-week situation, while people keep asking him when he’ll be ready. Being 6-2 has allowed the Chargers to stay patient and avoid rushing him back again after what happened in September.
“The second my foot is ready to practice on a Wednesday I will play that week,” Bosa said.
Luckily, the Minnesota Vikings still had Latavius Murray while they waited for the return of running back Dalvin Cook . He played three of the first four games this season after reconstructive surgery on his left knee ended his rookie season, then sat out because of a hamstring injury until returning Sunday in a win over Detroit.
That’s not the only issue for Minnesota, which is second in the NFC North after playing in the NFC championship last January. Rookie cornerback Mike Hughes , the 30th pick overall last April out of UCF, tore up his left knee in October.
Atlanta has simply been decimated across the board in a season that started with hopes the Falcons might be the first team to play the Super Bowl on their own field. Both starting safeties and both starting guards are out for the season, top running back Devonta Freeman (groin) is on injured reserve and can’t return until December. Even kicker Matt Bryant has been hurt.
That leaves Matt Ryan trying to carry the Falcons (4-4).
ANOTHER TANNEHILL INJURY
Ryan Tannehill has missed four straight games with an injured shoulder, the latest problem for the Miami quarterback who missed all of the 2017 season after tearing an ACL in training camp. That was the same knee that kept him out of the final four games of 2016. Tannehill hurt his throwing shoulder in Week 5 and is trying to work his way back to the field. Luckily for the Dolphins, Brock Osweiler is 2-2 as a fill-in — even with starting left guard Josh Sitton and center Daniel Kilgore both out for the season.
DISEASE NOT INJURY
Four-time Pro Bowl center Travis Frederick is off the Dallas roster as he deals with an auto-immune disease, Guillain-Barre syndrome, which attacks nerves and leads to weakness in parts of the body. He has no idea when his football career will resume after dealing with numbness in both feet and hands and one arm. “I was very relieved to finally have an idea of what it was,” Frederick said.
Rams cornerback Aqib Talib is out at least until Thanksgiving after being placed on injured reserve after needing surgery on an ankle early this season, while the Raiders are in the same situation after putting running back Marshawn Lynch on IR last month after surgery to repair an injured groin.
AND THEY KEEP COMING
Denver lost center Matt Paradis to a broken right leg when his own quarterback rolled up on him in the Broncos’ 19-17 loss to Houston on Sunday. The 49ers lost running back Raheem Mostert to a broken arm and cornerback Emmanuel Moseley to season-ending shoulder surgery in San Francisco’s win Thursday night.
- Packers struggling at 3-4-1 at halfway mark-GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — Every year, Green Bay Packers coach Mike McCarthy nips any playoff talk in the bud by saying it’s not a topic of conversation until the team wins 10 games.
The Packers hit the season’s midpoint with a 3-4-1 record, meaning there is little margin for error after back-to-back losses to two of the NFL’s powerhouses.
To reach double-digits in victories, the Packers will have to win seven of their final eight games. That quest begins with a return home to face the Miami Dolphins on Sunday.
“We’re focused on winning No. 4. That’s all we’re talking about right now,” McCarthy said on Monday, a day after a 31-17 loss to the New England Patriots.
“We improved as a football team the last two weeks, but you have to play your best football coming down the stretch. We’re not playing to the level we need to play in the fourth quarter.”
In the final seven minutes of last week’s 29-27 loss at the Los Angeles Rams, the Packers failed to extend a 27-26 lead, had a bad punt, gave up the go-ahead field goal and fumbled the ensuing kickoff.
On the first play of the fourth quarter against the Patriots, the Packers were driving into scoring position when running back Aaron Jones fumbled.
The Patriots used a pass from receiver Julian Edelman to running back James White to set up the go-ahead touchdown, forced the Packers to punt, then added an insurance touchdown.
Not only did the Packers lose the game, but they lost ground in the NFC North to Chicago (5-3), which routed Buffalo for its second consecutive win, and Minnesota (5-3-1), which beat Detroit for its fourth win in five games.
After hosting Miami (5-4), Green Bay goes back on the road to face Seattle (4-4) and Minnesota.
“The games in November are really where teams historically start to separate one way or the other,” McCarthy said. “Our focus is really on our self-scout and things we’ve been working on. The last two weeks, we’re not finishing games.”
The problems run across all three phases. Defensively, the Packers have failed to get a takeaway the past two weeks.
On special teams, there was Ty Montgomery’s fumble on the kickoff return against the Rams and two penalties against the Patriots.
On offense, Green Bay has run a total of 22 plays in the fourth quarter the past two weeks. Against the Patriots, the fourth quarter started with a fumble, continued with a three-and-out and ended with a fourth-down failure.
“We’re not hitting on all cylinders,” quarterback Aaron Rodgers said. “We’re hurting ourselves with negative-yardage plays and missed throws and turnovers at the wrong time and not being on the same page too many times, whether I’m missing a throw or we’re not in the spot I think we’re going to be at, it’s happening in the worst times. When we have to play our best in those crunch times, we haven’t been playing our best.”
To get on track, the Packers are going to have to play through some injuries. Right tackle Bryan Bulaga (knee), safety Kentrell Brice (knee), cornerback Kevin King (hamstring) and linebacker Blake Martinez (ankle) were knocked out of the game by injuries.
Martinez, who was injured when he stepped on the ankle of Patriots quarterback Tom Brady, returned for the final couple of series.
“I pride myself on being a tough guy and I didn’t want to leave my team,” Martinez said.
“I knew if I could run straight and do certain things, I could go out there and finish the game.”
According to McCarthy, King will be “hard pressed” to be ready to face the Dolphins. Bulaga, who’s suffered major injuries to both knees, avoided a significant injury and could be back for Sunday. Receiver Geronimo Allison might need surgery after suffering a groin injury at Thursday’s practice.
- John Harbaugh ‘not surprised or insulted’ over queries on future-OWINGS MILLS, Md. (AP) — The Ravens have a losing record and are in danger of missing the playoffs for the fourth year in a row, so coach John Harbaugh now finds himself fielding questions about job security as he tries to bring Baltimore back into contention.
Not long after the Ravens (4-5) lost their third straight, 23-16 to Pittsburgh on Sunday, Harbaugh was asked if he was apprehensive about his future with the team.
“I’ve never been someone who’s worried about keeping a job,” he said. “It’s always been, for me, doing the job.”
On Monday, Harbaugh was asked how it felt to deal with that line of questioning with two months left in the season.
“I’m not surprised or insulted,” he said. “I understand that’s part of it and probably not surprised because you have to win games in this league. That’s the bottom line.”
Harbaugh is in his 11th season with the Ravens. Since taking over for Brian Billick in 2008, he’s compiled a 108-76 record, reached the playoffs six times and won a Super Bowl.
But the Ravens are in the midst of a serious dry spell, and owner Steve Bisciotti acknowledged last February that firing Harbaugh after the 2017 season “was certainly a consideration.”
This year’s team jumped to a 4-2 start but has since stumbled. Entering a long-awaited bye week, Harbaugh spoke about how badly the Ravens needed the break to rest and heal.
“If you watch the tape, we played fast, we played hard,” Harbaugh insisted. “But are we as fast as we were early in the year? Probably not, probably a step off just because it’s Week 9. So this week is going to help us. It’s going to help us pick up that step back, and I’m really kind of excited about that.”
From here on out, Harbaugh might have to coach as if his job depended on it. He does not, however, apologize for how he’d guided the Ravens to this point.
‘I feel real good about the way this team has been coached for the last 11 years, and for the last number of weeks,” he said. “So, there are no regrets. Never been any regrets here with me. We’ll keep fighting. That’s what we do.”
The Ravens looked sensational in a 21-0 win over Tennessee on Oct. 14. After that, however, a botched extra point cost them a shot at overtime in a 24-23 loss to New Orleans, and Carolina put a 36-21 whipping on Baltimore before the Steelers avenged a Sept. 30 loss to the Ravens on Sunday.
“It’s been a tough stretch,” Harbaugh said. “We’ve played three really good football teams the last three games. We haven’t won them. The plus part is they’re good football teams and our players have been playing hard.”
New Orleans and Carolina were coming off a bye before playing the Ravens. Now it’s Baltimore’s turn to sit back, reload, and tweak the playbook before hosting Cincinnati on Nov. 18.
“That’s what the bye is for,” Harbaugh said. “Teams use it for that purpose, and we’re going to get a chance to do that this week, too.”