Category Archives: NFL

Green Bay Packers offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett to interview with Jacksonville Jaguars

Green Bay Packers offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett stated he plans to interview with the Jacksonville Jaguars about their head-coaching vacancy next week.

The Packers (13-3) have clinched the NFC’s No. 1 seed and lone first-round playoff bye, so they won’t be playing when the postseason starts next week.

“I owed it to this organization, all these players, we wanted to wrap up that No. 1 seed,” Hackett said Thursday.

“That was so important to do. And it’s absolutely an honor to be even considered for something like this. So we’re going to do it during the bye because we wrapped up that No. 1 seed. We’re really excited about that opportunity. I mean, it’s a dream for any football coach to even have an opportunity to potentially become a head coach.”

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Hackett, 42, was the Jaguars’ quarterbacks coach from 2015 to 2016 and offensive coordinator from 2016 to 2018 before getting fired in the middle of the 2018 season. The Jaguars reached the AFC Championship Game in the 2017 season.

The Jaguars (2-14) fired Urban Meyer on Dec. 16 and have been searching for his successor while interim coach Darrell Bevell finishes up the season.

They interviewed former Philadelphia Eagles coach Doug Pederson last week, Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive coordinator Todd Bowles on Monday and former Detroit Lions and Indianapolis Colts coach Jim Caldwell on Tuesday.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich is also anticipated to interview for the Jaguars head coaching job as early as Friday, sources told ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler.

The Jaguars requested permission to talk with Leftwich during the regular season window.

Jacksonville has also requested interviews with Dallas Cowboys offensive coordinator Kellen Moore and defensive coordinator Dan Quinn and Indianapolis defensive coordinator Matt Eberflus.

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Seattle Seahawks’ Bobby Wagner hopes he plays Sunday, optimistic he stays with team next season

A week after acknowledging his unclear future with the Seahawks, All-Pro linebacker Bobby Wagner struck a more hopeful tune Wednesday, saying he has “a lot of optimism” that he’ll be back in 2022 for an 11th season in Seattle.

Wagner stated he hasn’t given up on the chance of playing in the team’s season finale either, saying he’s going to get “as much treatment as I possibly can” on his sprained knee in the hopes of suiting up Sunday versus the Arizona Cardinals at State Farm Stadium.

“I’m going to take it one day at a time,” said Wagner, who hurt his knee on the opening play of the Seahawks’ blowout win last week over the Detroit Lions and didn’t return. “I have a lot of days before Sunday and we’re going to see what happens.”

Last week, Wagner answered in the affirmative when asked if he has wondered whether he’ll be back with the Seahawks next season given his huge cap number.

The Seahawks’ defensive captain and longest-tenured player (along with quarterback Russell Wilson) said there’s “obviously” going to be some changes on the heels of Seattle suffering double-digit losses for the first time since 2009 and added, “Whether or not I’m part of those changes, I don’t know.”

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On Wednesday, Wagner was asked if that insecurity has given him any more incentive to play Sunday.

“Not really, because in my mind I don’t feel like this is my last time,” he said. “I don’t feel like this is my last time putting on a Seahawks uniform. I don’t feel like this is my last time doing that. I understand there is a business side to this, but there is a lot of optimism on my end that I’ll be back. So I’m not worried about it. Obviously, I can’t control everything. I can only control my part. And my part on this is I feel like I love this city. I love this team. I love the Seahawks. So I always wanted to be a part of a franchise’s good times and bad times and every time. So this is a team that I would love to be able to be a part of for a very, very long time.

“So on my end, that’s where I’m at, that I’m a Seahawk until they tell me I’m not. So that’s my mindset. So I don’t see it as that was my last game or this next game could be my next game.”

Wagner, 31, serves as his own agent and negotiated his three-year, $54 million extension in 2019, then a record for off-the-ball linebackers in terms of annual average.

He’s arranged to count $20.35 million against the salary cap next season — second on the team to Wilson’s $37 million cap hit for 2022 — in what’s scheduled to be the final year of that deal. None of the $16.6 million Wagner could earn next season is guaranteed.

Wagner was asked what gives him optimism that he’ll be back next year.

“I would like to say that I’m a pretty good businessman and I would like to say I have a lot of respect here,” Wagner said. “So I’m just going to go into my businessman mentality and work some stuff out.”

Asked whether that means he’d be amenable to working out a different contract with Seattle, Wagner said with a smile: “I didn’t say that. … I said I’m a businessman. That’s all I said. Put my business cap on. I did not say I’m doing all that.”

Wagner was named to the Pro Bowl for an eight consecutive season last month, and he could be a first-team All-Pro for the seventh time.

Wagner is the Seahawks’ all-time tackles leader and broke his own franchise record for tackles in a season two weeks ago. His 170 tackles were leading the league until last week, when he was overtaken by the Atlanta Falcons’ Foyesade Oluokun (179).

Wagner hadn’t missed a snap this season until he was hurt versus Detroit when his foot slipped as he tried to plant on the wet turf at Lumen Field. He tried to return for the next snap following the injury timeout but had to miss at least one play per NFL rules. That’s when the Seahawks decided to take him to the locker room for evaluation and ultimately kept him there for the remainder of the game.

Coach Pete Carroll called it a sprained knee capsule and said the injury wouldn’t require surgery. He said the team is keeping its fingers crossed that he can play Sunday.

As expected, Wagner didn’t practice Wednesday.

“I just want to thank everybody that reached out,” he said. “I’m good. Ain’t got to worry about nothing. It’s not serious. I’m grateful that I do yoga. I just learned that I can do the splits if I want to.”

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Cleveland Browns QB Baker Mayfield to have shoulder surgery ASAP, won’t play Sunday

Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield won’t play Sunday versus the Cincinnati Bengals, so that he can move forward with surgery to repair the torn labrum in his non-throwing left shoulder.

Browns coach Kevin Stefanski said Mayfield’s surgery could happen as soon as this week. A league source told ESPN that Mayfield could be back in time to participate in OTAs, which typically take place in May or June around the league.

Mayfield, who has been playing with the shoulder injury since Week 2, admitted following Monday night’s loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers that he was “pretty damn beat up.” Mayfield was sacked nine times in the game.

“I’ve continued to lay it out on the line when I haven’t been healthy and tried to fight for our guys,” said Mayfield, who’s been playing with a harness on the shoulder to prevent it from popping out of place. “Now it’s time for me to start looking at what’s in the best interest of me and my health.”

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The Browns (7-9) were eliminated from playoff contention on Sunday when the Bengals clinched the AFC North Division title.

Mayfield, who quarterbacked Cleveland to its first playoff triumph in 26 years last season, has struggled since suffering the shoulder injury, ranking 26th in the league in QBR (35.2).

On Monday, he also became the first NFL quarterback since 2019 to throw 10 consecutive incompletions, and the first since 2017 to be sacked at least five times and have five passes batted down at the line of scrimmage in the same game.

On Tuesday, Stefanski acknowledged that the shoulder injury and harness had affected Mayfield’s performance this season, but had no regrets about not giving him an extended rest to recover at any point.

“Throughout this whole thing, we have tried to make the right decision based on all the information available to us,” Stefanski said. “Constant dialogue with our medical staff, with Baker, and throughout have really felt comfortable based on all that information that he was able to play.”

Mayfield is under contract with Cleveland through the 2022 season, with the Browns having already exercised the fifth-year option on his rookie deal.

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Cleveland Browns QB Baker Mayfield confirms he’ll have shoulder surgery

Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield confirmed Monday night he will be having offseason surgery to repair the torn labrum in his non-throwing left shoulder, an injury he has played through since Week 2.

With the Browns already eliminated from playoff contention, Mayfield also didn’t rule out sitting for Cleveland’s final match on Sunday versus the visiting Cincinnati Bengals, but he said he would be conferring with his agent and family before making that decision.

“I’m an extremely competitive guy,” Mayfield said following Cleveland’s 26-14 loss at the Pittsburgh Steelers on Monday Night Football. “Now it’s time for me to start looking at what’s in the best interest of me and my health.”

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In another rough outing, Mayfield was sacked nine times by the Steelers, who also intercepted him twice. At one point in the first half, Mayfield failed to complete a pass on 10 consecutive throws, the NFL’s longest incompletion streak since 2019, according to ESPN Stats & Information research.

Mayfield also became the league’s first quarterback since 2017 to be sacked at least five times and have five passes batted down at the line of scrimmage in the same game.

“It’s not gonna always be pretty or smooth, but I’m a fighter,” he said. “If anybody ever questions how much I want it, just turn on this tape. It wasn’t pretty, but I kept going, kept swinging; that’s who I am, and that’s what I will continue to be.”

In addition to the torn labrum, Mayfield has battled left foot soreness and a right knee contusion this campaign. He also has had to wear a harness on the left shoulder to prevent it from popping out of place again.

“I’ve continued to lay it out on the line when I haven’t been healthy and tried to fight for our guys,” Mayfield said. “Right now, I’m pretty damn beat up, to be honest with you. There’s no way around it. I gave it everything I had tonight.”

Mayfield is under contract with Cleveland through the 2022 season, after the Browns exercised the fifth-year option on his rookie contract last offseason for $18.86 million.

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Green Bay Packers clinch No. 1 seed with one week to spare

Matt LaFleur has this regular-season thing all figured out.

Three years with LaFleur as the Green Bay Packers’ coach, three times they’ve had a first-round bye in the playoffs — including the No. 1 seed each of the past two campaigns.

But he has never done this before: His team wrapped it up with a match still left in the regular season.

Before the Packers (13-3) even stepped on Lambeau Field on Sunday night, they knew that a victory would make next week’s regular-season finale at Detroit meaningless in terms of their playoff position.

They had the Arizona Cardinals, who beat the Dallas Cowboys earlier in the day, to thank for that.

They took care of the rest themselves with a 37-10 triumph over the Kirk Cousins-less Minnesota Vikings. Before LaFleur & Co. start to think about that, they’ll have to decide how to handle Week 18 versus the Lions. The past two years, they needed the final weekend of the season to secure their playoff seed.

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Now, LaFleur faces the age-old NFL debate: Play the starters in the finale to keep them sharp or give them the weekend off to preserve their health. After the Packers watch wild-card weekend, their first playoff game will be either Jan. 22 or 23 in the divisional round.

Aaron Rodgers’ fractured pinkie toe on his left foot no doubt will factor into LaFleur’s decision.

The toe didn’t seem to bother Rodgers on Sunday night even in the bitter cold. It was 11 degrees at kickoff and got colder as the night went on.

“This is a first game that my toe got through the game without any issues,” Rodgers said. “No pregame painkiller shot. I’m feeling good. I’m happy about it.

There was definitely a time a few weeks ago when I started to project out and think if we can get the 1-seed, it could be two-plus weeks of rest. I’m going to play next week, and I expect Davante to play and our guys to play. So, we’re looking forward to finishing off the season on a high note and then getting the bye.”

Rodgers, who stated this week that he likes it “the colder, the better,” threw for 211 yards in the first half, 118 of them to Davante Adams. It was Rodgers’ highest first-half total since Week 4 of last season and Adams’ highest in a first half since Week 4 of 2019.

The Packers’ halftime lead of 20-3 should have been even bigger but for three failed red zone trips (two field goals and a turnover on downs).

They even ran the ball well, with their second-highest first-half total (88 yards) of the season, thanks in large part to Aaron Jones’ runs of 27 and 28 yards — the first time in his career he has had multiple 25-plus-yard carries in the same game.

Rodgers concluded 29-of-38 for 288 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions. It was his sixth straight game with multiple touchdowns and no interceptions, tying Don Meredith for the second-longest streak in NFL history. And Adams ended with 11 catches for 136 yards and a touchdown.

He’s 21 yards away from Jordy Nelson’s single-season record and half-jokingly offered that as a reason to play next week.

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AFC West rivals Chargers, Broncos face must-win situations

Two weeks ago the Los Angeles Chargers were feeling pretty secure about getting to the postseason for the first time since 2018.

After two consecutive losses though, their challenge is more formidable going into Sunday’s game versus the Denver Broncos.

“Now, it’s now or never. You don’t want to put it in everybody else’s hands; you want it to be in your hands,” Chargers defensive tackle Linval Joseph said. “We have to go out there and do what we have to do. We have to go out there and get it done this Sunday.”

The Chargers (8-7) got off to a 4-1 start under first-year coach Brandon Staley but have won consecutive games only once since mid-October. They have dropped their past two —a 34-28 overtime loss to Kansas City on Dec. 16 and an inexplicable 41-29 defeat at Houston last Sunday.

Staley’s message to his team this week has been about getting back to being consistent in practice and trying to approach things as normal as possible despite the evolving roster changes because of COVID-19.

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“You have to trust your plans and how you prepare. I think that’s what our approach is going to be this week, putting the focus on us and giving the Broncos their full respect by preparing each day the best that we know how. Regardless of the circumstances, treat each week like it has a life of its own,” Staley said.

The Chargers could get back into a wild-card spot with a win and losses by Miami to Tennessee and Baltimore to the Los Angeles Rams.

“Playoff games start now, and that’s the mindset,” wide receiver Keenan Allen said.

Denver (7-8) has won four of its past five against its division rival, including 28-13 on Nov. 28.

The Broncos started the season with three consecutive wins but have dropped three of their past four as their playoff hopes are hanging by a thread.

They need a win over the Chargers, coupled with victories by the Rams, Titans and Browns to go into next week’s regular-season finale against Kansas City with even a chance of getting back to the postseason for the first time since 2015, when they won their third Super Bowl title.

Another defeat would assure the Broncos of their fifth straight season under .500. Third-year coach Vic Fangio was on the hot seat going into the year and has tried to deflect talk about his job status during the latest slump.

“I’m not worried about do I have to win the next two to secure the job? That’s totally not in my frame of thought right now,” he said. “We’re going to do anything and everything we can to win this game this week.”

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Baltimore Ravens QB Lamar Jackson returns to practice with pronounced limp after missing 2 games with ankle injury

Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson returned to practice Wednesday with a pronounced limp as Baltimore heads into what is essentially a must-win match versus the Los Angeles Rams.

Jackson, who is dealing with a right ankle injury, is expected to have limited participation on Sunday, Ravens coach John Harbaugh said before Wednesday’s practice. Sidelined for the past two games, Jackson will get back on the field for the first time since hurting his ankle on Dec. 12, when Baltimore lost at Cleveland 24-22.

During the half-hour media viewing, Jackson didn’t move around much when throwing to his receivers. When Jackson went from drill to drill, he had trouble jogging. He was officially listed as a limited participant.

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Harbaugh stated Jackson’s availability for Sunday’s game will depend on how he progresses throughout the week. If Jackson can’t play, Baltimore could turn to Tyler Huntley, who is expected to be activated off the reserve/COVID-19 list Thursday.

“I’m really hopeful,” Harbaugh said. “I’m hopeful for all our quarterbacks, starting with Lamar. I really want to see him out there on Sunday. I know the fans do, and I know most of all, Lamar does. He’s going to do everything he can to be out there. You can’t make a promise because we don’t know what tomorrow is going to bring.”

The Ravens (8-7) have lost four consecutive games and are currently No. 8 as they try to make the seven-team AFC playoff field. If Baltimore loses to the Rams, its chances of reaching the playoffs will plummet to 8%, according to ESPN’s Football Power Index. The Ravens’ postseason chances would increase to 59% with a victory.

The return of Jackson could provide a boost when the Ravens need it the most. Jackson is 37-12 (.755) as a starting quarterback and has led Baltimore to the playoffs in each of his three seasons in the NFL.

Before the injury, Jackson was mired in the worst slump of his career. Since Week 10, Jackson has thrown three touchdowns and six interceptions for a 34.3 Total QBR, which ranks 25th in the league over that span.

But Jackson remains one of the most dynamic playmakers in the NFL. In his previous game versus the Rams, Jackson threw for five touchdowns and ran for 95 yards in a 45-6 rout in Los Angeles in his 2019 NFL MVP season.

Jackson’s injury has been described as a sprained ankle, but a source told ESPN’s Adam Schefter that Jackson is dealing with a bone bruise.

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Indianapolis Colts put unvaccinated starting QB Carson Wentz on reserve/COVID-19 list

The Colts have placed starting quarterback Carson Wentz on the reserve/COVID-19 list, the team revealed Tuesday.

The NFL and the NFL Players Association on Tuesday adopted the new Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines that would reduce the quarantine time to five days from 10 days for all players, counting those who are unvaccinated, if they are asymptomatic or at least demonstrating that their symptoms are improving, according to a memo obtained by ESPN.

Wentz tested positive, a source told ESPN’s Adam Schefter. Wentz would still be able to play on Sunday versus the Las Vegas Raiders as long as the positive test took place Monday and he is asymptomatic or demonstrates his symptoms are improving under the new protocols. Wentz has not shed light on why he remains unvaccinated.

He missed some time before the start of the regular season because he was a close contact to someone who tested positive in the Colts’ organization.

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“I’m not going to go into depth on why, but I will say it’s a personal decision for me and my family,” Wentz said in early September.

“I respect everybody else’s decision, and I just ask that everybody does the same for me. I know that’s not the world we live in, not everyone is going to equally view things the same, but yeah, no one really knows what’s going on in someone else’s household and how things are being handled. It’s a personal decision. That’s just where I’m at on it and with the protocols and everything the way they are, really for us, it’s about understanding them clearly and making sure that we are dotting our I’s and crossing our T’s.”

If Wentz can’t play, rookie Sam Ehlinger, barring the Colts bringing in a quarterback from the outside or going with practice squad quarterback Brett Hundley, will start versus the Raiders.

Ehlinger missed the start of the regular season because of a knee injury suffered in a preseason game at Detroit. His most extensive playing time has been in the final minutes of games that have already been decided.

The Colts, like many other teams around the NFL, have been hit hard with players going on the reserve/COVID-19 list. Wentz is the 15th player currently on the list for the Colts. Linebacker Darius Leonard, guards Quenton Nelson and Mark Glowinski, right tackle Braden Smith, safety Khari Willis and cornerback Rock Ya-Sin are other starters currently out because of COVID-19. Leonard, Nelson and Smith were all unvaccinated as of earlier this season.

The Colts (9-6), winners of eight of their past 10 matches, are currently the fifth seed in the AFC playoff race. Only one game separates the fifth and 11th seed in the AFC. The Colts can lock up a playoff spot with a victory over the Raiders on Sunday.

“The playoff race is close, and I feel like the teams that can handle the COVID-19 situation are going to be the ones that are gonna be able … to get into the playoffs,” Colts defensive lineman DeForest Buckner said after Saturday’s victory over Arizona. “Key players all around the league are out. It’s all about depth.”

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San Francisco 49ers QB Jimmy Garoppolo has torn UCL, fracture in right thumb

The San Francisco 49ers resumed practice Monday after a long holiday weekend without starting quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo.

That’s because Garoppolo suffered what a source told ESPN’s Adam Schefter was a torn ulnar collateral ligament of the right thumb, as well as a fracture in the same thumb, early in Thursday’s 20-17 loss to the Tennessee Titans. His status for Sunday’s match versus the Houston Texans remains unclear.

Garoppolo did not participate in the Niners’ Monday “bonus” practice, which came after the team went its separate ways for the three days following the loss in Nashville.

Rookie quarterback Trey Lance took all of the work with the starters in Monday’s session, which coach Kyle Shanahan described as a walk-through. According to Shanahan, Garoppolo suffered the injury when Titans defensive tackle Denico Autry sacked him for a 7-yard loss with 3:56 left in the second quarter.

Garoppolo finished the game but struggled with a pair of costly interceptions and missed a would-be touchdown throw to open fullback Kyle Juszczyk in the first half.

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Shanahan indicated that Garoppolo was hampered by the thumb on the Niners’ first offensive play of the third quarter, a pass intended for receiver Deebo Samuel that sailed into the waiting arms of Titans safety Amani Hooker for an interception that Tennessee turned into the game-tying touchdown.

Garoppolo concluded 26-of-35 for 322 yards with a touchdown and two interceptions for a 44.4 QBR.

“We knew his thumb was hurting him,” Shanahan said. “We thought he jammed it sometime in the game, so he tells us right when he comes to the bench.”

With Garoppolo considered day-to-day, Lance could be in line for his first extended work with the starters since before a Week 5 loss to Arizona. And if Garoppolo is unable to heal well enough to play Sunday, Lance would make his second career start versus Houston.

Shanahan indicated the decision will come down to not only how Garoppolo feels but also how he looks throwing the ball if he progresses to that stage. As for Lance, Shanahan stated the No. 3 overall pick in this year’s draft has made good progress while running the scout team The coach pointed to improved decision-making and accuracy, among other things.

“This last month of Trey has been his best consecutive four weeks at practice since we’ve had him,” Shanahan said.

“He’s had a number of good days and he’s had some bad days like most guys do, but as far as his consistency and stuff, I feel this last month has been his best.”

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Los Angeles Rams overcome Matthew Stafford’s three picks to secure playoff berth with victory

The Los Angeles Rams are returning to the playoffs for the fourth time in Sean McVay’s five seasons as coach after clinching a berth Sunday with a 30-23 triumph over the Minnesota Vikings inside a lively U.S. Bank Stadium.

“It’s one step,” McVay said after the game. “To be able to get into the playoffs, it’s something you never take for granted.”

With the triumph, the Rams improve to 11-4 and move into first place in the NFC West over the 10-5 Arizona Cardinals with two matches remaining in the regular season.

The Rams travel next Sunday to Baltimore to face the Ravens (8-7) and close out the schedule at home against the division-rival San Francisco 49ers (8-7), who have defeated the Rams in the teams’ past five meetings.

“We’ve obviously guaranteed ourselves a spot,” said quarterback Matthew Stafford, who will be making his first playoff appearance since 2016. “Would love to make that spot as good as we can make it from here on out and control where we sit in the seedings, and I think it’s important to go into it playing good football.”

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After a difficult November that saw the Super Bowl-hopeful Rams trend in the wrong direction during a three-game losing streak, they rebounded to sweep their four-game December schedule despite a trying set of circumstances.

Ahead of a Week 14 Monday Night Football showdown versus the then-division-leading Cardinals, the Rams started moving players, including in the hours ahead of kickoff, onto the reserve/COVID-19 list.

At one point over the past two weeks, the Rams had 29 players unavailable, which caused the NFL to reschedule a Week 15 matchup against the Seattle Seahawks from last Sunday to Tuesday, which also resulted in a quick turnaround to face the Vikings (7-8).

When it appeared that the Rams were on track toward some normalcy, rainstorms that moved through Southern California forced alterations to practice plans, and in a final twist, starting left tackle Andrew Whitworth was placed on the reserve/COVID-19 when it otherwise appeared that all starters would be available against the Vikings.

Behind an offensive line that had to adjust without Whitworth and lost center Brian Allen in the second quarter to a knee injury, running back Sony Michel produced his second 100-rushing yard performance of the season as he ran for 131 yards and a touchdown on 27 carries, and Kupp continued his NFL Offensive Player of the Year-worthy season with his 11th straight game of producing more than 90 receiving yards. Kupp caught 10 passes for 109 yards and a touchdown.

The defense held the Vikings to 2-for-12 on third down, as quarterback Kirk Cousins went 27-for-38 with a touchdown and interception, which was snagged off a tipped pass in the end zone by backup linebacker Travin Howard on the same series he entered the game due to an ankle injury suffered by starter Ernest Jones.

“The defense was outstanding,” McVay said. “T-Howard’s pick was big. They made [the Vikings] earn everything.”

On special teams, returner Brandon Powell provided a needed spark in the second half after Stafford threw interceptions on back-to-back series. Powell returned a 40-yard punt 61 yards for a touchdown, marking only the second punt return for a touchdown in the NFL this season and the first for the Rams since 2015.

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