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Here is What Have We Learned from Week 10 of the 2018 NFL Season, thanks to the AP Pro 32 for photos & help in this article.
- 3-game winning streak helping Indianapolis build momentum–
INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — The Indianapolis Colts’ season looked lost in early October.
At 1-5, they were better positioned for the draft than the playoffs. A defense that showed so much promise in the first three weeks gave up 37 or more points over the next three. Andrew Luck’s short, quick throws created debate over whether his surgically repaired right shoulder was — or ever would be — back to full strength.
Three straight wins have changed a lot.
Suddenly, the Colts trail division leader Houston by just two games, have slowly moved back into the wild-card chase, face only one more team with more than five wins at home against Houston (6-3) on Dec. 9. With momentum and hope restored in Indy, there’s no telling how this might end.
“That’s not a good question to ask a perfectionist,” coach Frank Reich said Monday when asked if the offense could play more efficiently.
“It’s never good enough. But it’s been pretty good. It’s funny how we’re wired in this business. This business can humble you in a second and the moment we think we can throw it out there and score 30 points in a minute is the time we get embarrassed.”
Reich’s comments explain why he refused to panic when many things — including his decision to go for the win in an overtime loss to Houston — seemed to backfire.
It’s also the reason he views Sunday’s 29-26 victory over Jacksonville with mixed feelings.
He was thrilled to see Luck finding open receivers throughout the first half as Indy scored on four its first six possessions and excited to look at a stat sheet that showed the Colts’ defense limited the Jaguars’ usually strong ground game to just 91 yards and 2.7 yards per carry.
Still, he understands Indy (4-5) must continue improving to continue winning.
The offense only produced two first downs in the second half, preventing the Colts from sealing the victory until finally forcing a fumble after Jacksonville had moved into position for a potentially tying field goal with 90 seconds left in the game. They only got the ball back after a booth review barely beat Jacksonville’s next snap and the replay review overturned the call on the field.
“It’s sort of like a mixed bag of emotions,” Luck said after joining Tom Brady and Peyton Manning as the only players with six consecutive games of three or more touchdowns in one season. “A win, excited, but also a little bit angry on the mistakes I know that I felt like I made and that our offense made.”
There are plenty of encouraging signs.
Luck has thrown 21 touchdowns and six interceptions in the past six games with a reduced workload on his shoulder. He’s increasingly exploited the mismatches between Indy’s versatile tight ends, hooking up with them on five TD passes over the past two weeks.
Perhaps most important: Indy’s rebuilt offensive line has kept Luck upright. He’s been sacked 10 times in nine starts after going down 156 times in his first 70 games, and Luck’s streak of four straight games and 184 consecutive sacks are the longest of his pro career.
They’ve played well enough that Reich is expanding the play calls.
“It gives us a lot of confidence to call anything we want, to call stuff down the field,” he said. “There’s not a play that gets called that we don’t think protection first.”
Defensively, things look better, too.
The Colts generally have created a pass rush though they failed to even hit Blake Bortles on his 38 attempts Sunday, and they’ve proved stouter against the run than in previous seasons.
If they keep it up, Reich knows anything is possible. Another home win next Sunday against Tennessee would give the Colts a four-game winning streak, a share of second place in the AFC South and perhaps even better odds in the playoff race.
“It’s not easy, obviously, to win three in a row, especially coming off of a bye,” Reich said. “But we really want to make a statement in these games we have at home. We want to get the excitement back in the building.”
- After big game, Aaron Jones gives Packers another red zone option-GREEN BAY, Wis. (AP) — Running back Aaron Jones’ breakout game led to a breakthrough performance in the red zone for the Green Bay Packers.
In Sunday’s 31-12 victory over the Miami Dolphins, Jones rushed for a career-high 145 yards and two touchdowns. With Jones taking some of the pressure off quarterback Aaron Rodgers, the Packers scored four touchdowns in four possessions inside the Dolphins 20-yard line.
It was Green Bay’s first perfect day with more than one red-zone possession since Week 4 of the 2017 season.
“You saw it the other night,” Rodgers said on Tuesday. “Running the football in the red zone has not been a high priority for us, but the abilities that he brings slashing inside can give us some opportunities to run some more of those plays in the red zone.”
Their next test comes on Thursday night on the road against the Seattle Seahawks.
Situational football — red zone and third down — has been troublesome for Green Bay’s offense all season. Before the Miami game, the Packers ranked sixth in total offense (406.6 yards per game), but were only 14th in scoring (24.0 points per game) because of inconsistencies on third down (17th, 39.4 percent conversion rate) and the red zone (19th, 53.9 percent touchdowns).
Against the Dolphins, they gained 377 yards but scored 31 points, thanks in large part to their success in the red zone.
The threat of the running game gives the Packers (4-4-1) another option as they advance toward the goal line.
While Jones scored on runs of 2 and 10 yards, Rodgers threw touchdown passes of 7 and 25 yards to receiver Davante Adams to punctuate the other two red zone possessions. Adams is tied for second in the NFL with nine touchdown receptions. Of those, a league-high eight have come in the red zone. Since the start of the 2016 season, Adams has a league-high 22 red zone touchdown receptions.
The closer to the goal line, the less space there is to operate and the more difficult it becomes to throw. Adams’ edge comes from being one of the NFL’s premier route runners.
“Because the window is so tight, and he can create enough separation to where he makes that window bigger,” Rodgers said.
With the emergence of Jones, the Packers have another weapon to use in their push for a playoff spot in the crowded NFC. Jones missed the first two games of the season with a suspension, then was part of a three-man committee in the backfield before taking over as the starter.
In the three weeks since the bye, Jones has carried 41 times, Jamaal Williams has carried 14 times and Ty Montgomery was traded to the Ravens.
“The more carries you get, I feel like the better you’re going to get and the more of a game flow you get in,” Jones said.
Entering Thursday, Jones and Williams both have 73 carries. Jones, however, has rushed for 494 yards (compared to 270 for Williams) on a league-best 6.8-yard average. Jones had a 67-yard run in the first quarter against Miami, the team’s longest since receiver Randall Cobb had a 67-yard run in 2013.
With Jones’ emergence to join Rodgers and Adams, the Packers hope they have the firepower for back-to-back road tests against Seattle and Minnesota.
“It puts the defense in a bind,” Adams said. “It puts them to where they’ve got to load up that box and it allows us to have more opportunities outside. If they keep moving the ball like that and slashing and making big plays, it’s pretty tough to figure out what to defend.”
- Chiefs’ Patrick Mahomes continues to rewrite record books-KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Patrick Mahomes walked off the field at Arrowhead Stadium on Sunday with another record on his resume and the Kansas City Chiefs another win toward earning the No. 1 seed in the AFC playoffs.
He didn’t have much chance to savor any of it.
Mahomes quickly learned that the stepfather of his longtime girlfriend, Brittany Matthews, had died after a medical emergency during the game. Mahomes quickly skipped out on the postgame celebration and joined Matthews, who posted the sobering news on her social media accounts that evening.
“Today is a day I will never forget,” she wrote in the caption of a photo. “Directly after this picture I sprinted to the front entrance to see my stepdad passed out! He did not come back from this and he was called to heaven today! I KNOW 100 (percent) he is so happy up there with his kids looking down on us, cheering loud that his Chiefs won today!”
Mahomes is not expected to miss any preparation for Monday night’s showdown with the Rams in Los Angeles, though Chiefs coach Andy Reid said he would be fine if it happens.
The Chiefs were off Tuesday and Wednesday, giving Mahomes and his family time to cope.
“We’re sorry to hear about what took place,” Reid said. “Prayers and blessings are with the family. I talked to Patrick and they’re doing well for the circumstances that took place. As they go through this mourning period our thoughts and prayers are with them.”
This season has already been a whirlwind for Mahomes, who was thrust into the starting job after the trade of Alex Smith to Washington and whose ability was justifiably questioned.
He was a product of the Texas Tech offensive system. His big arm was tempered by problems with his accuracy. He had leadership abilities, but could they translate from college to the NFL?
Mahomes has answered all those questions every week.
He threw six touchdown passes in a game. He led the Chiefs to tough road wins over the Chargers and Steelers, and went toe-to-toe with Tom Brady in New England. He has thrown so few interceptions that any questions about his decision-making have been left in September.
With two more TD passes against the Cardinals, he broke the franchise single-season record of 30 that Hall of Fame quarterback Len Dawson set during the 1964 season — with six games to go.
“Pat is just a competitor,” Chiefs running back Kareem Hunt said, “and a great guy and he’s always trying to win. We needed all 31 of those touchdowns and he got them.”
Well, the Chiefs probably didn’t need all of them.
The Chiefs have scored 353 points through their first 10 games, the most in club history, and have been held to fewer than 30 only twice. Three times they’ve scored more than 40, including their 43-40 loss to the Patriots that remains the only blemish on their record.
To put into perspective just how good Mahomes has been this season, consider this: He threw for 249 yards against the Cardinals for a passer rating of 125.4, the eighth time this season he’s been over 100.0 — the third most in a single season in franchise history.
Yet some people considered the end of his streak of eight consecutive 300-yard passing games to be a relative disappointment, as if he failed to live up to some otherworldly expectation.
His teammates certainly weren’t in that camp.
“That’s something I’d do on ‘Madden,'” wide receiver Tyreek Hill said of Mahomes’ TD record. “For him to come in and do that, that’s amazing. A lot of people doubted him, saying he wasn’t going to do this or wasn’t going to do that. He’s shutting a lot of people up right now and I’m proud of him. He’s just got to continue to move forward and stay humble. He’ll be all right.”
He’s been far better than that this season.
Oddsmakers in Las Vegas have made the 23-year-old Mahomes the front-runner to win the league’s MVP award, ahead of Saints quarterback Drew Brees and Rams running back Todd Gurley. And if he keeps going at his current rate, he will no doubt continue to rewrite the Chiefs record book.
Maybe even the page that lists the Chiefs’ rather unimpressive postseason history.
“Listen, he’s had a heck of a year,” Reid said. “Comes out every day bringing energy and he makes sure that he has his things in order. When he does that, and he’s got a lot on his plate as far as responsibility goes to run that offense, and he takes care of that. He’s in a position where he can make everyone better around him, and he’s doing that. I’m proud of him.”
- Hue Jackson back in Cincinnati, helping to run defense-CINCINNATI (AP) — Hue Jackson needed only a few weeks to land another job in the place where he’s always welcomed.
The Bengals hired Jackson on Tuesday as a special assistant to head coach Marvin Lewis as he tries to resurrect Cincinnati’s historically bad defense. Jackson was fired by the Cleveland Browns last month after he won only three games in three seasons as head coach.
As soon as Cleveland let him go, the Bengals showed an interest in Jackson, who begins his third stint with them.
In his latest role, he’ll help Lewis — a close friend — to try to fix the defense and save the season. Cincinnati (5-4) has lost three of its past four games and is on pace to give up the most yards in a season in NFL history. The Bengals have allowed 500 yards in three straight games, a first for any team in the Super Bowl era.
They fired defensive coordinator Teryl Austin on Monday, with Lewis taking over as defensive coordinator in addition to his head coaching duties. Lewis said on Monday that there was a plan to help him do both jobs, but didn’t get specific.
The Bengals talked to Jackson about becoming Lewis’ special assistant, and he readily accepted the position.
“I have a great comfort level with Hue and his ability to assist me with the day-to-day responsibilities on defense, including analyzing our opponents and helping me on game days with the players and defensive coaches,” Lewis said.
Lewis hired Jackson in 2004 — his second season in Cincinnati — as receivers coach. He spent three years in the job before moving to the Falcons as offensive coordinator, developing a reputation for creativity. He was the Raiders’ offensive coordinator before moving up to head coach in 2011.
After his firing in Oakland, he returned to the Bengals in 2012 as a special assistant working with the defensive backs in 2012. He worked with the running backs in 2013 and was promoted to offensive coordinator a year later when Jay Gruden went to Washington.
The Bengals had one of their best years on offense in 2015, with Andy Dalton leading the AFC in passer rating. Jackson was hired by the Browns after the season
Browns owner Jimmy Haslam fired Jackson after a 33-18 loss in Pittsburgh, Cleveland’s 25th consecutive road defeat. Jackson wasn’t getting along with offensive coordinator Todd Haley, who also was fired.
Even though Jackson will be working with the defense in his latest incarnation in Cincinnati, it’ll create an awkward dynamic. Dalton developed a close relationship with Jackson, who helped him to his greatest success in the NFL. Bill Lazor is in his first full season as the Bengals’ offensive coordinator.
The offense is missing receiver A.J. Green indefinitely with an injured toe on his right foot. The starting unit managed only one touchdown during a 51-14 loss to the Saints on Sunday at Paul Brown Stadium, even though New Orleans also has one of the league’s worst defenses.
The Bengals play at Baltimore (4-5) on Sunday, a game that’s pivotal for both teams. Pittsburgh (6-2-1) has started pulling away atop the AFC North. The Ravens have lost three straight games, and quarterback Joe Flacco has an injured hip that could keep him out of Sunday’s game.
Coach John Harbaugh said on Monday that he’ll decide later in the week if Flacco can play. If not, rookie Lamar Jackson will likely get his first NFL start.
The Bengals haven’t won a playoff game since the 1990 season, the sixth-longest streak of postseason futility in NFL history. Lewis is 0-7 in the playoffs, the worst coaching mark in league history.
- Jets’ frustrated Adams: ‘I’m a winner. It’s just tough’-NEW YORK (AP) — Jamal Adams was still having a tough time trying to process everything two days later.
The New York Jets playmaking safety absolutely can’t stand losing, and the team’s embarrassing 41-10 defeat at the hands of the Matt Barkley-led Buffalo Bills on Sunday stung him.
“We just want to get back to that winning feeling,” Adams said Tuesday during his weekly paid radio spot on WFAN. “Golly, I hate to say it, man, but I felt like I almost forgot what it feels like. And I’m a winner. It’s just tough.”
The Jets (3-7) have lost four straight as they hit the bye week with speculation surrounding the future of coach Todd Bowles, who appears will remain in his job for now. Beyond this season, however, would seem unlikely.
Adams has been vocal in his support of Bowles, repeatedly saying it’s on the players to execute on the field. He said in an interview with Bleacher Report during the offseason that when he arrived to the team as a first-rounder out of LSU, there was a questionable culture surrounding the Jets in which they were used to losing and not everyone put out a full effort.
He was asked on WFAN’s “Carlin, Maggie & Bart Show” if that culture had changed, and Adams pulled no punches.
“Honestly, I could sit here and sugarcoat everything, but things have not changed,” he said. “Obviously, we’re still losing. And I’m not saying that we have guys like that in the locker room, but at the same time, it’s not changing. It hasn’t changed and we’ve been losing. At the end of the day, we’re going to get it fixed. Soon, the sun will shine.”
It would be difficult for Adams to spin anything in a positive light when the team has seven losses, and he again made it clear he fully supports Bowles. But, his remarks certainly won’t help his coach in the eyes of the Jets’ brass.
Adams acknowledged that the Jets prepared during practice last week to face rookie Josh Allen as Buffalo’s starting quarterback — despite Allen missing the three previous games with an injured elbow — and there was little film on Barkley, the fourth-stringer who wasn’t named the starter until Saturday.
Barkley, who hadn’t played since the 2016 season finale while with Chicago, threw two touchdown passes to lead the Bills to a rout.
Adams acknowledged that he didn’t have his best performance, but said the Jets lacked energy in the game and he saw “people were down” on the sideline. But he wouldn’t say whether he thought the team quit Sunday.
“Just know one thing: As long as I’m on the team, I will not let that happen as best I can, and I damn sure won’t quit,” Adams said.
He also added that he spoke to teammates at halftime — “there were definitely some words said” — when the Jets were trailing 31-3.
“We just got whooped, man,” Adams said. “It’s really as clear as day.”
Adams is generally considered one of the main emotional leaders on the team, despite being in just his second season. He said he was heading home to Louisiana for a few days before the team gets back together for work next Monday.
“A lot of frustration, a lot of emotions,” Adams said. “I’ve got to be around family, man. I’ve got to get down south and just clear my mind. I’m not going to sit here and say I’m happy. I’m not happy with what’s going on. Obviously, no one is in the building. I always say this: I classify myself as a winner no matter what. It’s very tough to go out there and come up short.
“I’ve got to get away, man. I’ve got to go home and just be around my loved ones.”
- Falcons miss opportunity to stay close in NFC wild-card hunt-FLOWERY BRANCH, Ga. (AP) — The Atlanta Falcons picked a bad time to play their second-worst game of the year.
Losing by two touchdowns at Cleveland cost the Falcons (4-5) a chance to move one-half game back in the NFC wild-card race. They enter this week’s home game against Dallas (4-5) two games behind Carolina for the final playoff spot.
Atlanta looked out of sync most of the day. Only in Week 5 in a blowout loss at Pittsburgh did the Falcons play worse, but quarterback Matt Ryan isn’t terribly concerned.
“There are seven games to go, and we are right in the mix,” Ryan said. “Probably the most important part of being a professional is being able to move on. That includes being able to move on from both positive experiences and negative experiences. We can’t begin to start feeling sorry for ourselves or anything like that.”
Coach Dan Quinn told his team Monday that he was satisfied with its effort against the Browns but not much else. There was a palpable lack of speed as the Falcons fell short of reaching “another spot that you go to, to play really exemplarily ball.”
Trailing 14-10 and getting the ball to begin the third quarter, Atlanta’s next four possessions ended with a fumble, two punts and a failure to score from the 1-yard line early in the fourth when Tevin Coleman was stopped for no gain and Ryan threw an incompletion.
In between, the Browns scored two touchdowns with Nick Chubb’s 92-yard run, the longest in Cleveland history, one of the most embarrassing plays of the season.
Linebacker Duke Riley froze and got blocked by center JC Tretter while right guard Kevin Zeitler pinned Derrick Shelby back at the line of scrimmage. Chubb dashed through the hole and was too fast to catch after free safety Damontae Kazee dove at his feet and whiffed near the Cleveland 22.
The Browns’ 211 yards rushing were the most Atlanta has allowed since Sept. 28, 2014, at Minnesota.
“It wasn’t the outcome we wanted and worked for but we can’t dwell on it,” Riley said. “We have to move forward like we did with the first couple of losses.”
The offense suffered a letdown when center Alex Mack sent a shotgun snap over Ryan’s head in the second quarter, causing the Falcons to settle for a field goal. Mohamed Sanu’s lost fumble to begin the third was even worse because he held the ball out to get an extra yard and was still 14 yards shy of the first-down marker.
Six plays later, the Browns were dancing in the end zone.
“We didn’t do our jobs the way we were supposed to,” Sanu said, “and you saw exactly what happened.”
Quinn will challenge his players to create more energy in practice this week.
“I thought over the last couple weeks defensively we knew we had faced some good runners with the Giants and certainly at Washington, and it was going to take that second and third guy jumping over the pile to get there,” he said. “I thought offensively we’ve been hitting it on that stride for a few weeks now.
“So for us not to find that speed, to create some of the explosive plays and same thing on the defensive side, not to create some of the speeds that create negative plays, those are things that I didn’t think was up to our standard.”
- Russell Wilson, Seahawks missing 4th quarter magic this season-RENTON, Wash. (AP) — For most of his career, the fourth quarter is where Russell Wilson has thrived. His late game heroics of leading comebacks in the fourth quarter or overtime to win games take up nearly an entire page of Seattle’s weekly game notes.
Except this year, when the fourth-quarter mistakes by Wilson have overshadowed his late-game successes. And those mistakes are part of the reason Seattle is 4-5 and faces such a critical game on Thursday night against Green Bay in the quest to stay in the NFC playoff conversation.
Seattle is 1-8 in its last nine games decided by one score or less. Over the past two seasons, Seattle is 5-11 in one-score games. They used to be the types of games in which Seattle thrived, with Wilson finding a way to score and pull out a victory in the closing minutes, or defensively making the necessary stops to stem any late rally by an opponent.
But that page in Seattle’s game notes detailing his 24 comebacks in the fourth quarter and overtime has just three entries over the past two seasons.
“There’s two things there. It goes back to finishing right. If we can make one or two plays here or there across the board — offensive, defensive, special teams, whatever it may be — we can turn that around really easily. That’s the great thing,” Wilson said. “The second thing is … we’re in every game and every game is really close and every game we’re right there to win the game. I’m looking forward to that turning around. We have great confidence in that and what we’re going to do.”
There’s no doubting that in stretches this season Wilson has played great. He’s thrown for 14 touchdowns with just two interceptions over the past five games. And the success or failure of Seattle in the fourth quarter is not solely his responsibility.
But there’s also been a pattern of crucial late-game mistakes by Wilson that has been a contributing factor to each of Seattle’s five losses.
— In a Week 1 loss at Denver, Seattle gained seven yards on its final three drives and Wilson threw an interception on a desperation throw on the final play of a 27-24 loss.
— In Week 2 at Chicago, Wilson threw an interception that was returned for a touchdown with the Seahawks trailing 17-10, and on Seattle’s next drive fumbled while being sacked. Seattle lost 24-17
— In Week 5 against the Rams, Wilson missed on his final two passes with Seattle closing in on field goal range while down by two points with less than 4 minutes left. Seattle punted and never got the ball back in a 33-31 loss.
— In Week 9, Wilson threw his second fourth-quarter interception that was returned for a touchdown when Desmond King stepped in front of a pass and the pick-six ended up being the deciding points in the Chargers’ 25-17 win.
— And last week, Wilson was stripped by Dante Fowler midway through the fourth quarter deep in Seattle’s end. Brandin Cooks’ TD run on the next play ended up being the deciding points in the Rams’ 36-31 win.
The only one-score game the Seahawks have won this season was arguably one of its uglier performances when Sebastian Janikowski kicked a 52-yard field goal on the final play to beat Arizona in Week 4. And while several of those games have seen Wilson rebound from his mistakes to give Seattle a chance in the closing seconds, the final results are not what the Seahawks have come to expect.
“It’s finishing at the right time, making the right play. We’ve been so good at those games for such a long time that the fact that it’s not happening is a little bit unusual,” Seattle coach Pete Carroll said. “I’m disappointed because we’ve been able to always feel like we’re going to win those games and do it. We still have the same mentality about it and attitude about it, but we’ve got to show it. We’ve got to get those finishes done.”