Friday, August 4, 2017
Now that the Dallas Cowboys have taken care of business in the Hall of Fame game, they're going to hang around for a couple of days.
Why not? The boss is about to get a gold jacket.
With no stars and few starters on the field Thursday night, the Cowboys edged the Arizona Cardinals 20-18. The idea, Cowboys coach Jason Garrett said, was to get the young players lots of action, win the game, then get ready for owner Jerry Jones' induction on Saturday night.
So the team will be off Friday, practice in Cleveland on Saturday, then tour the hall before the evening ceremonies.
"This is a great experience not only for Jerry and the Jones family," Garrett said, "but for the entire Dallas Cowboys family. We all take ownership in his induction."
Garrett saw lots of value in playing an extra exhibition game.
"As a player you learn so much more in game situations than in any other environment," he said. "There's nothing like putting on a uniform and going on a real football field and playing versus an opponent."
Rookie Sam Irwin-Hill, unlikely to beat out Dallas veteran Dan Bailey for the placekicking job, made field goals of 23 and 43 yards, the latter providing the winning points in the fourth quarter.
The opening half featured a handful of big plays, with Arizona's third-string quarterback, Blaine Gabbert, consistently finding open receivers down the middle.
"There were a couple specific plays by the defense on those first couple of drives," Garrett said. "Blown assignments on a big third-down conversion, and it wasn't physical enough. It wasn't aggressive enough."
Dallas' Kellen Moore, who missed last season with an ankle injury, had some success passing down the sidelines, but his second-quarter interception by Brandon Williams in the end zone ruined a drive.
With the likes of Carson Palmer, Larry Fitzgerald, David Johnson, Patrick Peterson and Tyrann Mathieu sitting it out, Arizona could be pleased with the work of backup running backs Kerwynn Williams and Andre Ellington, who both scored on short runs.
"It was great to see the offense move the ball and get touchdowns on those first two drives," Fitzgerald said. "O-line, running game, passing the ball, that was impressive and I'm happy for every one of those guys."
And with Dak Prescott, Ezekiel Elliott, Jason Witten, Sean Lee and their strong offensive line pretty much inactive, the Cowboys could point to veteran RB Alfred Morris and receivers Brice Butler and Rico Gathers.
Morris showed off a spin move worthy of Elliott on a 25-yard run, Butler had 78 yards on two catches in the first half, and Gathers, a hoops starter at Baylor, made a 26-yard touchdown catch.
Gathers also made a diving reception and slipped a pair of tackles on a 17-yard play early in the third period. That led to Uzoma Nwachukwu's 14-yard TD catch from fourth-string rookie Cooper Rush. The former rebounding standout had three catches for 59 yards.
"He's gotten so much better," Garrett said of Gathers, a practice squad player in 2016. "He has a tremendous willingness to work and has come a long way, but has a long way to go."
Generally, though, it was a sloppy exercise befitting the lack of star power.
TURF'S UP: At least the turf held up - unlike a year ago, when the game was canceled for safety reasons. The new field passed NFL operations directors' approval, and the footing was steady all night.
PREGAME INTROS: Jones drew the loudest cheers - no surprise considering the overwhelmingly pro-Cowboys crowd of 21,126 at the renovated Hall of Fame Stadium - in pregame introductions of the seven men who will be inducted into the shrine Saturday night.
Jones, Terrell Davis, Kurt Warner, Kenny Easley, LaDainian Tomlinson, Jason Taylor and Morten Andersen walked along midfield between the competing teams, often shaking hands with current players.
Hall of Famer Jackie Smith, who played tight end for both the Cowboys and Cardinals, performed a rousing national anthem.
TAKE A TABLET: Referee Jerome Boger was the first to use a Microsoft Surface tablet to handle replay reviews under a new NFL system. Final say on calls is being made by the officiating staff in New York, in consultation with the referee.
Dallas challenged a down-by-contact call in the third quarter that negated a Cardinals fumble. The verdict came quickly and the call was confirmed.
GO FOR 2: Arizona kicked the extra point after its second touchdown, but Dallas lined up illegally. So the half-the-distance penalty brought the ball inside the 2-yard line. Gabbert threw incomplete, but another flag was thrown for interference. Then Gabbert sneaked in from about the 1 to make it 15-0.
UP NEXT: Dallas will travel to face the Los Angeles Rams on August 12 in the first full week of the preseason and the Cardinals will host the Raiders August 12.
Friday, October 28, 2016
There's nothing like a visit from the Jacksonville Jaguars to make the Tennessee Titans remember how to protect their home field.
Marcus Mariota threw for 270 yards and two touchdowns to end his home struggles and the Titans had their highest point total of the season in a 36-22 victory over the Jaguars on Thursday night.
Since the start of the 2014 season, the Titans are 3-0 at home against the Jaguars and 1-17 against everybody else. The Titans are 3-8 in home games started by Mariota, a second-year pro out of Oregon.
"It was important," Mariota said. "To give our fans an opportunity to see how this team can play, it was huge. Hopefully this will build a foundation for the rest of the year and give the fans what they really want."
Mariota was 18 of 22 and had a 148.1 passer rating, the second-highest of his career. DeMarco Murray ran for 123 yards and a touchdown to help the Titans bounce back four days after squandering a lead in a 34-26 home loss to Indianapolis.
"I thought it was good to have a short turnaround," Titans coach Mike Mularkey said. "It was a difficult loss we had against Indy. We had to get focused right on these guys immediately, especially with a prime-time game. We wanted to show what we're capable of doing, show the country what we're trying to do here."
The Titans (4-4) gained a season-high 494 total yards and won for the third time in four games. They scored on six straight possessions during a stretch that began in the first quarter and stretched into the third period.
Tennessee already led 3-0 before Mariota threw a 36-yard touchdown pass to Kendall Wright on the first play of the second quarter. Rookie Derrick Henry capped the Titans' next drive by scoring his first career touchdown on a 6-yard run.
Murray added a 14-yard touchdown run 3 1/2 minutes later.
After starting out to his right and encountering traffic, Murray reversed his field, capitalized on a downfield block from Mariota and dove into the left corner of the end zone for his sixth touchdown run of the season.
Jacksonville (2-5) trailed 24-0 by the time it got its second first down of the game midway through the second quarter. The Titans led 27-0 at halftime.
"It's a broken record," Jaguars quarterback Blake Bortles said. "It's a lack of execution. It's dumb mistakes. The same stuff every week."
Bortles threw three touchdown passes and went 33 of 54 for 337 yards, but much of his production came with the game out of reach.
UNFAMILIAR TERRITORY: This is the first time the Titans have reached the midway point of the season without a losing record since 2011, when they also were 4-4. That 2011 team went on to finish 9-7.
LARGER WORKLOAD FOR HENRY: Titans rookie Derrick Henry had a combined three carries in the two games leading up to this one, but the Heisman Trophy winner from Alabama was much busier Thursday.
Henry had 16 carries for 60 yards to set career highs in both categories. He also caught four passes for 37 yards.
RARE RECOVERY: LeShaun Sims got the Titans' first fumble recovery of the season in the third quarter after Jacksonville's Marqise Lee muffed a punt return. The Titans had entered the night as the only team in the NFL that hadn't recovered an opponent's fumble.
ANOTHER SLOW START: The Jaguars couldn't advance beyond their own 26 on their first series, continuing a long string of futility on opening possessions.
The Jaguars haven't scored a touchdown on their opening series of a game since the second week of the 2015 season against Miami. That 21-game drought marks the longest any team has gone without reaching the end zone on its first possession.
UNHAPPY HOMECOMING: This marked a return home for Jaguars rookie cornerback Jalen Ramsey, a first-round pick from Florida State who played high school football at Brentwood (Tennessee) Academy.
But it didn't turn out quite the way he wanted.
Ramsey was called for unnecessary roughness in the first quarter. In the second period, Ramsey was pushed backward on Henry's 6-yard run. One play later, Henry scored on another 6-yard carry.
UP NEXT: The Jaguars go back on the road to visit Kansas City on Nov. 6. Now that they've finished a three-game home stand, the Titans play at San Diego on Nov. 6.
Tuesday, October 25, 2016
Brock Osweiler took one last dig at Denver's fans after Houston's 27-9 loss to the Broncos. He figured they would "be a little bit louder with the boos."
Denver's defenders ruined Osweiler's homecoming by hurrying, hitting and harassing their ex-quarterback Monday night, even if his ears weren't ringing from the crowd noise.
Osweiler famously declared upon signing his $72 million, four-year deal that he chose Houston over Denver because the Texans gave him the better chance to succeed.
"It's not all about money in life," said Broncos cornerbackChris Harris Jr., who recovered one of Osweiler's three fumbles. "He had a great situation, great team here, better receivers to me. So, I think he already knows he made the wrong choice."
Not so, said Osweiler.
"I never live my life looking in the rearview mirror," Osweiler said after a night in which his head was on a constant swivel with the likes of Von Miller, Shane Ray and Derek Wolfe coming after him.
Coach Gary Kubiak returned to the sideline following his second health scare in three years, and he liked what he saw as the Broncos (5-2) snapped a two-game skid in sending Osweiler and the rest of the overwhelmed Texans home at 4-3.
C.J. Anderson and Devontae Booker energized Denver's sputtering ground game, both running for a touchdown. Anderson gained 107 yards on 16 carries and Booker had 83 on 17 hand-offs.
But the big story was Trevor Siemian, Peyton Manning's surprise successor, outplaying Osweiler, who was groomed to be Denver's next QB for the last four years.
Osweiler left for bigger numbers in Texas - both in his bank account and his stat sheet - but he spent the whole game quickly getting rid of the ball, constantly overthrowing DeAndre Hopkins in double coverage and otherwise running for his life from Miller & Co.
Miller wore a "REVENGE" hoodie to his postgame interview, but he said it was a shoutout to Drake, who wore Miller's No. 58 jersey at a recent concert in Colorado.
"Me and Brock, we're good. I love the guy. I wish him the best," Miller said.
Osweiler was just 22 for 41 for 131 yards with no TDs and no interceptions. Siemian was 14 of 25 for 157 yards, a TD and no interceptions.
Osweiler also lost a fumble at his own 25-yard line. It was scooped up by Harris on the first play of the fourth quarter and led to Brandon McManus' chip-shot field goal that made it 24-9.
Of the dozen passes thrown his way, Hopkins caught just five of them, covering 36 yards, and no other Texan gained more. And Houston was limited to Nick Novak's field goals from 43, 43 and 39 yards.
Anderson scored on a 7-yard run and Siemian hit Demaryius Thomas from 4 yards out as the Broncos took a 14-6 halftime lead.
Novak's 29-yarder made it 14-9, but Darian Stewart punched the ball from running back Alfred Blue's grasp and linebacker Todd Davis plucked it out of the air . That led to Booker's 1-yard TD run .
Kubiak, who suffered a mini-stroke while coaching the Texans in 2013, missed Denver's last game after suffering a complex migraine, which can mimic a stroke.
Like Osweiler, this was his first game against his former team, and cornerback Aqib Talib gave him a game ball afterward.
"Coaches get game balls when players play good, I can tell you that," Kubiak said.
Osweiler, who skipped out on the Broncos' White House trip and ring ceremony, embraced Siemian, Kubiak and several other Broncos after the game.
"It was really great to see some familiar faces and give those guys a hug," he said.
STREAK BREAKER: Denver's dazzling defense is a real dawdler , having allowed scores on five of six opening drives coming into the game. That didn't stop them from deferring when they won the toss. The Texans went three and out on their first two possessions. "It was a big emphasis for us," Miller said.
OH NO, OKUNG: Broncos left tackle Russell Okung cleared concussion protocol to make the start. But he was rusty a week after his pair of penalties resulted in a nullified touchdown and a safety in a 21-13 loss at San Diego. This time, he was whistled for a pair of holds that negated a nifty first-down run by Booker and a 28-yard grab by Thomas.
INJURIES : Texans right tackle Derek Newton was carted off the field with what looked like serious injuries to both knees in the first half. He crumpled to the grass while blocking Miller. Newton was dropping back to pass block midway through the first quarter when his left knee buckled first and then his right knee gave way. For Denver, linebackers Brandon Marshall (leg) and Dekoda Watson (head) left in the second half.
Stephen Hauschka needed only to make a 27-yard field goal to give the Seattle Seahawks an overtime victory over Arizona.
Chandler Catanzaro's only had to hit a 24-yarder to give the Cardinals a win.
Such kicks are often called automatic. They aren't.
Hauschka's kick was wide left with 7 seconds left after Catanzaro booted one off the left upright, and the game between two teams that have dominated the NFC West in recent years ended in a 6-6 tie Sunday night.
"I make that kick 999,999 times out of a million," Catanzaro said.
The last tie in the NFL came in 2014, when Carolina and Cincinnati tied 37-37. It was the Cardinals' first tie since Dec. 7, 1986, a 10-10 draw at Philadelphia when the franchise was based in St. Louis, and the first for Seattle since entering the NFL in 1976. There had not been an NFL tie with no touchdowns scored since 1972.
"That was really an amazing football game," Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. "I don't think I have ever been in a tie before and my brain doesn't really know where to go.
The Cardinals (3-3-1) dominated the game statistically and looked to be in shape to win it after Carson Palmer's 40-yard pass to J.J. Nelson set up Catanzaro's short kick.
The Seahawks (4-1-1), stuffed throughout regulation by the Arizona defense, took over and Russell Wilsoncompleted passes of 31 yards to Jermaine Kearse and 27 yards to Doug Baldwin to give Hauschka his short attempt.
"We work hard to make those kicks all season long and it is disappointing when it doesn't go well," Hauschka said. "I feel like I let my team down."
Both kickers made field goals on their teams' first possession of overtime.
Catanzaro, who kicked field goals of 46 and 45 yards, also had a 39-yard field goal blocked by a stunning play by Bobby Wagner .
Until overtime, the only time the Seahawks crossed midfield came when Tanner McEnvoy blocked Ryan Quigley's punt with 4:33 to play. That gave Seattle the ball on the Arizona 27 and led to Hauschka's 40-yard field goal that tied it at 3 with four minutes to play.
"It's disappointing to put up those kind numbers and not come away with points because of the kicking game," Arizona coach Bruce Arians said. "It's disheartening to play that well and not come away with a victory."
Catanzaro's 46-yard field goal put Arizona up 3-0 with 3:11 left in the first half, and the Cardinals nursed that lead until the blocked punt.
On a bruising night, Arizona's David Johnson had a career-high 41 touches. He carried the ball 33 times for 113 yards and caught eight passes for 58 yards. Wilson, obviously slowed by leg problems, completed 24 of 37 passes for 225 yards, most of the damage coming in the overtime. He carried the ball once for minus-2 yards.
Arizona's defense nearly scored halfway through the fourth quarter when Chandler Jones hit Wilson as he was about to pass and the ball bounced toward the Seattle goal line, but Michael Glowinski jumped on it for Seattle at the 4-yard line, a 20-yard loss.
The Cardinals finished with a 443-257 advantage in yards, 23-11 in firsts downs and 46:21 to 28:39 in time of possession.
Arizona had one drive end when the Cardinals failed on fourth-and-1 from the Seattle 19. And Johnson came so close to scoring a game-winning touchdown on Arizona's last possession. He ran four yards to the 1-yard line and his foot knocked over the pylon as he was knocked outside, but officials did not review to see if it was a score.
The Cardinals had the first scoring threat. Catanzaro lined up for a 39-yard field goal but 245-pound linebacker Wagner jumped over Arizona long snapper Aaron Brewer like an Olympic hurdler and blocked it. Cardinals coach Bruce Arians argued loudly for a penalty and was charged with a timeout when he challenged a play that is not reviewable. That proved significant when the Cardinals couldn't stop the clock to get off a short field goal attempt as the first half ended.
The Cardinals were without speedster John Brown after doctors diagnosed sickle cell traits that were causing leg pain. The other wide receiver named Brown, Jaron, left the game early with a knee injury, depleting is usually one of the league's deeper wide receiver corps.
The Seahawks play at New Orleans next Sunday, while the Cardinals play at Carolina next Sunday.
Their momentum gone and the Pittsburgh Steelers surging behind backup quarterbackLandry Jones, the New England Patriots needed something to get them going.
They found inspiration in the usual places: LeGarrette Blount's churning legs, Tom Brady's accurate right arm andRob Gronkowski's massive hands.
Twice the undermanned Steelers needed one stop to give their offense the ball with a chance to take the lead on Sunday afternoon.
And twice the Patriots instead went right down the field instead, pulling away for a 27-16 victory that left little doubt as to where the balance of power in the AFC sits as the season reaches its halfway point.
The Steelers were within 14-13 when Blount broke runs of 11 and 25 yards to set up a 36-yard touchdown from Brady to Gronkowski early in the third quarter.
When another Pittsburgh field goal brought Pittsburgh within four, the Patriots responded with another long touchdown drive fueled by a 37-yard catch-and-run by Gronkowski that set up Blount's second touchdown of the game.
"It was good to score like that and good to make plays in the second half that we needed to," Brady said. "They certainly made it tough on us."
Maybe, but the Steelers (4-3) also made it tough on themselves. Pittsburgh scored one touchdown in four trips to the red zone and was flagged 10 times for 85 yards, including a holding call in the second quarter that wiped out a touchdown pass that would have tied the game.
Instead, Chris Boswell missed a 42-yard field goal and Pittsburgh never legitimately came close to evening the score again.
"You can't waste red zone trips, you have to come off blocks and make tackles in the run game, you can't give up explosion plays, we did," Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said. "That's why we lost."
Brady, Blount and Gronkowski had plenty to do with it too. Brady completed 19 of 26 for 222 yards and two touchdowns to improve to 9-2 against Pittsburgh. Gronkowski caught four passes for 93 yards and his 68th touchdown catch, tying Stanley Morgan for the most in club history. Blount finished with 127 yards rushing and two scores against the team he walked away from 2014 .
"His runs were able to settle us down," New England coach Bill Belichick said of Blount.
New England (6-1) remained perfect since Brady returned from his four-game "Deflategate" suspension and while the Patriots lost a pair of fumbles they also didn't throw an interception, making them the third team since 1960 to get through the first seven weeks of the season without throwing it to the other team, joining the 1960 Browns and 2008 Redskins.
Steelers offensive coordinator Todd Haley hardly limited the playbook with Jones under center. The fourth-year quarterback did what Roethlisberger likes to do, particularly getting the ball to running back Le'Veon Bell and wide receiver Antonio Brown.
Bell finished with 149 yards of total offense and Brown caught seven passes for 106 yards, but too often Pittsburgh settled for field goals (or field goal attempts) when touchdowns were required.
"We just got to the red zone a lot of times and turned the ball over, you can't have that," Bell said. "I mean, it is a small margin for error against a team like that."
The 39-year-old quarterback who once ran the 40-yard dash at the combine in a not-so fleet 5.28 seconds can still run away from the bad guys. Brady ran for three first downs in the first half, mashing his way on a quarterback sneak and twice escaping pressure and outrunning defenders a decade or more younger for the necessary yardage.
New England kicker Stephen Gostkowski missed a regular season extra point during his rookie year in 2006 and then didn't miss another one until last week against Cincinnati, an NFL record streak of 479 attempts between misfires (though there was that costly missed kick in last year's AFC championship game ). Gostkowski didn't have to wait nearly as long until watching a second one go astray. Gostkowski misfired on a third-quarter extra point that kept the Steelers within seven.
"This is a tough place to kick," Belichick said. "I'm not making any excuses. The kicker on the other side of the field had trouble too."
In addition to the 42-yarder he missed, Boswell misfired on a 54-yarder with the Steelers down two scores in the fourth quarter.
"We're looking like garbage right now. This is terrible right now." - Steelers linebacker Ryan Shazier on his team's run defense.
Patriots: visit Buffalo next Sunday. The Bills beat the Brady-less Patriots 16-0 in New England on Oct. 2.
Steelers: off next week then visit AFC North rival Baltimore on Nov. 6.
Josh Lambo said kicking his game-winning field goal - his fourth of the game - was no more difficult than an extra point.
The hard work, according to the kicker, was handled byDenzel Perryman and San Diego's defense.
Lambo's 42-yard field goal in overtime gave San Diego its first road victory of the year, as the Chargers rallied from a 17-point deficit to beat the Atlanta Falcons 33-30 on Sunday.
Perryman, the linebacker still obviously affected by a shoulder injury that forced him to miss the Chargers' Oct. 9 loss to Oakland, delivered two key plays late in the game. His interception of Matt Ryan's pass for Julio Jones set up Lambo's tying 33-yard field goal with 18 seconds remaining in regulation.
Perryman's fourth-and-1 stop on running back Devonta Freeman gave San Diego the ball at Atlanta's 43 for the Chargers' winning drive.
"Credit the defense," Lambo said. "Everyone on the team is making my job easy."
Perryman grabbed Freeman's legs behind the line for the key tackle on the Falcons' gamble.
"It was just instincts," Perryman said. "On fourth-and-1, it was a no-brainer that they were going to run the ball. ... I just got Freeman's leg and hung on."
Falcons coach Dan Quinn stood by the play call even though Freeman lost two yards on a run three plays earlier.
"Just a gut feeling I had," Quinn said of the fourth-down decision. "Go be aggressive and get that half yard that we needed and when we didn't get it that was (the loss)."
The Chargers (3-4) trailed 27-10 in the second quarter after the Falcons scored three straight touchdowns.
"There was no panic," said Chargers coach Mike McCoy. "There was nothing. It was just, `Hey, you've got to believe in what we're doing.' It's just one play at a time."
Melvin Gordon ran for 68 yards and two touchdowns and added a 5-yard scoring catch early in the fourth quarter, cutting Atlanta's lead to 30-27.
Atlanta's Matt Bryant missed his attempt for a 58-yard field goal on the final play of regulation.
The Falcons (4-3) have lost two straight.
"It's frustrating," said offensive tackle Jake Matthews. "We were up big and let it get away."
Jones had nine catches for 174 yards.
PROTEST: Five San Diego players raised their clenched right fists as their protest during the national anthem. Standing together on the San Diego sideline, offensive linemen D.J. Fluker, Chris Hairston and Joe Barksdaleand linebacker Joshua Perry held up their fists as they stood. Offensive tackle Tyreek Burwell, inactive and not in uniform, also raised his fist as part of the protest.
There were no demonstrations from Falcons players.
LONG ROAD: The Chargers had lost 10 of 11 road games. The stretch that began with the final road game in 2014 included losses in San Diego's first three road games this season.
200 AGAIN: Ryan passed for 273 yards for his NFL-record 46th consecutive game with more than 200 yards passing. He threw a 17-yard scoring pass to tight end Jacob Tamme in the second quarter.
THROWBACK: The Falcons wore black jerseys in what they called a "modern interpretation" of their 1966 uniforms. Due to NFL safety rules which require teams to use only one helmet, they wore their normal black helmets, though they switched to the original Falcons logo. They wore red helmets in 1966.
INJURIES: Chargers defensive tackle Caraun Reid was carted off with a left knee injury in the first quarter and did not return. Reid had a teammate fall on his leg on a Falcons completion to tight end Levine Toilolo.
Tevin Coleman led Atlanta with 64 yards rushing, including a 30-yard touchdown run, before leaving with a hamstring injury. Quinn said he had no immediate update on the severity of the injury.
The Chargers visit Denver next Sunday, while the Falcons play another home game against Green Bay.