Category Archives: NFL

Bears hiring Joe DeFillippo as QB coach

Bears head coach Matt Nagy continued to remake his offensive coaching staff by hiring John DeFilippo as quarterbacks coach and promoting Dave Ragone to passing game coordinator, sources told ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

DeFilippo, whom Chicago interviewed for its head coaching spot two years ago before offering the job to Nagy, spent just one year as offensive coordinator of the Jacksonville Jaguars before he and the club mutually agreed to part ways on Monday.

DeFilippo also lasted only 13 games as the Minnesota Vikings coordinator in 2018 before being released.

The 41-year-old coached quarterbacks for the Philadelphia Eagles under Nagy’s close friend Doug Pederson in 2016-17. DeFilippo was part of the Eagles’ staff that helped win Super Bowl LII.

Prior to Philadelphia, DeFilippo was the offensive coordinator of the Cleveland Browns in 2015. He additionally worked as quarterbacks coach for the Oakland Raiders and New York Jets.

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Ragone — a rare holdover from the John Fox era — served as Chicago’s quarterbacks coach the past four seasons where he worked closely with former second overall pick Mitchell Trubisky.

Although Trubisky finished the 2019 season ranked 28th in total QBR, tied for 27th in touchdown passes, 21st in passing yards, 32nd in yards gained per pass attempt and 28th in traditional quarterback rating, Nagy frequently lauded Ragone’s work with the 25-year-old quarterback.

Lazor, 47, previously held the title of offensive coordinator for the Miami Dolphins (2014-15) and Cincinnati Bengals (2017-18).

Nagy and Lazor never coached together in Philadelphia, but Nagy considered Lazor for Chicago’s offensive coordinator job in 2018 until the Bengals informed they were retaining former coach Marvin Lewis for another campaign.

After Cincinnati changed coaching staffs following 2018, Lazor spent the past year out of the league but visited Bears’ OTAs for couple days as a guest.

Chicago’s offense ranked 29th in points, 29th in average yards per game, 25th in passing yards and 27th in rushing yards in Nagy’s second season.

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Cardinals WR Larry Fitzgerald back for 17th season

The Arizona Cardinals informed the receiver will return in 2020 for his 17th pro season, signing Fitzgerald to a one-year contract. He had been set to become a free agent.

NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reports Fitzgerald’s deal is worth $11 million with incentives, per sources informed of the contract.

Fitzgerald’s future has been the subject of speculation each season of the past couple of years. Yet the 36-year-old continues to produce.

Fitzgerald snagged 75 receptions for 804 yards and four touchdowns in 2019, all team highs.

Even as things seem to change often in Arizona, Fitzgerald’s production still as steady as a rock.

The veteran’s ability to get open on quick routes meshes well with Kliff Kingsbury’s offense and Kyler Murray’s lightning-fast release. Perhaps Fitzgerald will no longer burn past receivers, but he still owns the route-running ability to box out defenders and vice-grip hands to snag pigskins in close quarters.

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While the Cardinals hope someday soon one of their young guns overtakes Fitzgerald as a true No. 1 target, Kingsbury understands the vital role the veteran plays for his offense to move the chains consistently.

“I think he’s playing as good as anybody, honestly,” Kingsbury said at the close of the season. “You watch what he does week-in and week-out, the little things, the blocking and the toughness that he brings to the offensive side of the football. We missed him twice for huge plays yesterday. He’s just still creating separation. He does it all.”

The 11-time Pro Bowler and former Walter Payton NFL Man of the Year sits No. 1 in Cardinals history in catches (1,378), receiving yards (17,083) and receiving TDs (120). Fitzgerald trails only Jerry Rice in NFL history in catches and receiving yards.

The Cardinals wideout needs 171 receptions and 5,812 yards to tie Rice. It would take a few more campaigns to come close to those numbers, but Fitzy is at least inching closer to records that once seemed outlandish for any wideout to get near.

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Chiefs rally to beat Texans 51-31 in playoffs

Patrick Mahomes stalked up and down the sideline like a field marshal rallying his troops, the brilliant young quarterback imploring the Kansas City Chiefs to stay together even as the Houston Texans were on the verge of taking them apart.

The Chiefs already faced a 24-0 hole, bigger than any deficit they had overcome in franchise history.

”The biggest thing I was preaching,” Mahomes said later, ”was, ‘Let’s go do something special. Everybody is counting us out. Let’s go out there and play by play put it out there.’ And play by play, we did what we were supposed to do.”

Beginning with the first of his five touchdown passes, Mahomes and the Chiefs slowly chipped away at Houston’s seemingly insuperable lead. They continued to pick up momentum, outscoring the Texans 28-0 during the second quarter alone, and eventually reeled off 41 consecutive points before cruising the rest of the way to a 51-31 triumph Sunday that propelled Kansas City back to the AFC championship match for the second consecutive season.

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The Chiefs (13-4) became the first team in NFL history to win a playoff match by at least 20 points after trailing by at least 20.

They matched the fourth-biggest comeback in playoff history while winning a postseason game in back-to-back seasons for the first time. 

Travis Kelce and Damien Williams scored three touchdowns apiece, joining the 49ers’ Jerry Rice and Ricky Waters in Super Bowl 29 as the only teammates to score that many times in a postseason game.

Meanwhile, Mahomes led by example as much as by voice. He ended with 321 yards passing, becoming the first player in postseason history with at least 300 yards passing and five touchdowns while running for at least 50 more yards.

”You saw him going up and down the bench, he was talking to everybody, – ‘Just settle down,”’ Chiefs coach Andy Reid said. ”As a head coach, you can’t ask for more than that. When he’s the leader of your team and he’s going, ‘Hey, we’re going to be fine. Let’s not wait for the fourth quarter. Let’s go!’ And he did that.”

Now, after losing to the Patriots in overtime in last year’s conference title game, the Chiefs are back on the brink of their first Super Bowl appearance in 50 years.

They will host Tennessee next Sunday in a rematch from earlier this season after the Titans upset Lamar Jackson and the top-seeded Baltimore Ravens on Saturday night.

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Niners get kwon Alexander, others back for Saturday

Linebacker Kwon Alexander will be back on the field Saturday when the 49ers open the playoffs, but he likely won’t step into his old every-down role quite yet.

Alexander is just nine weeks removed from surgery to repair a torn pectoral. He returned to practice last week and still on IR.

The 49ers plan to activate him to the 53-man roster to play Saturday versus the Minnesota Vikings at Levi’s Stadium in the NFC divisional round.

The 49ers know what to expect from Alexander. But they also do not know exactly what to expect.

“I know Kwon will fly around,” 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan told NBC Sports Bay Area. “He’ll hit. He’ll be energetic. He’ll get everyone going. I think everyone will feel his energy on the field. And we’ll see how it goes.

“We’re not going to throw him out there, just down-in and down-out. But we don’t have a plan, where it’s only going to be ‘this’ amount. He’s looked good in practice, but we’re also not laying people out in practice.”

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Rookie Dre Greenlaw played the weakside linebacker position during the second half of the season in Alexander’s absence.

Greenlaw made the big defensive play of the season in Week 17 when he stopped Seattle Seahawks tight end Jacob Hollister just inches short of the goal line on a late-game fourth-down play.

The tackle preserved the 49ers’ 26-21 victory and wrapped up the NFC West and home-field advantage in the playoffs.

The 49ers’ three linebacker positions are similar, so the team will have some decisions to make on how they want to use Greenlaw and Alexander alongside middle linebacker Fred Warner.

Shanahan said a lot of the team’s in-game decision-making will be in reaction to Alexander’s effectiveness.

“You got to wait to see how the tackling goes and how he feels,” Shanahan said. “(He is) someone we’ll be communicating with throughout the game.”

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Vikings´ Adam Thielen suffers ankle injury

The Minnesota Vikings wide receiver corps is dealing with some problems heading into their Divisional Round matchup with the San Francisco 49ers. Stefon Diggs has been a DNP the past two days with an illness, and now Adam Thielen is dealing with an ankle injury.

The Vikings released their second practice participation report of the week, and Thielen was listed as limited. He was not on the team’s first report Tuesday afternoon.

There is no word on the severity of the injury, but head coach Mike Zimmer is certain to get questions about it on Thursday. Downgrades are never good, but limited participation is still better than a DNP.

The Thursday report will be something to keep an eye on.

That being said, the Vikings receiver corps is not going to be 100 percent coming into this game. Diggs seems likely to play barring a turn for the worse with his illness, but he and Thielen will be coming in off a limited week of work.

One or both should be high volume targets if active, but if they’re limited, it hurts Kirk Cousins’ potential output to at least a modest degree.

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“I got a little tangled up at practice, but I’m going to do whatever it takes (to play), it’s playoffs,” Thielen told NFL Network on Thursday.

This is Thielen’s second injury this campaign. He hurt his hamstring in the first quarter of a Week 7 victory at Detroit and made a brief return in Week 9, only to reinjure himself early in a beat at Kansas City.

The Vikings shut Thielen down for the next six weeks until he returned versus the Los Angeles Chargers on Dec. 15.

Thielen’s breakout performance versus the Saints — seven catches for 129 yards — came after totaling 109 total receiving yards in the last five games he played in 2019, including a Week 16 loss to Green Bay in which he was held without a catch.

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Rams part ways with defensive coordinator Wade Phillips

The Los Angeles Rams had a disappointing post-Super Bowl season, and that has inevitably led to a coaching shakeup. Gary Klein of the Los Angeles Times reported that defensive coordinator Wade Phillips will not be retained for next season, which Phillips confirmed on his own Twitter account.

Phillips, 72, joined the Rams in 2017 as part of head coach Sean McVay’s staff. McVay was just 30 at the time and had experience as the offensive coordinator for the Washington Redskins, but had never been a head coach. McVay handed the defensive keys over to the more-experienced Phillips and the move paid off in a big way.

The Rams made it to the wild-card game in 2017, and then all the way to the Super Bowl in 2018. With the Rams’ battles in 2019, it makes sense that McVay and GM Les Snead would want to make a change or two.

A 9-7 record might be good enough to win the NFC East, but it’s a huge comedown for a team that was so successful just a year ago.

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The Rams are Phillips’ 10th NFL team, and he’s had an impresive career. He started with the Houston Oilers in 1976 when his father was the head coach, and has been steadily employed in football ever since.

He’s been the defensive coordinator for eight different teams and had head coaching jobs with the Denver Broncos, Buffalo Bills, and Dallas Cowboys — and that is not counting his three stints as an interim head coach.

As Phillips said in his tweet, he’s not done. He still wants to coach. McVay has talked about him in glowing terms in the past, which will only help his résumé despite the end of his Rams tenure.

“He’s always had a great perspective based on his experience, whether it be as a head coach or as a coordinator,” McVay told the OC Register in late December.  “But it’s never pushed on you. He’s always willing to share. [Players] love him. He’s got a consistency that you can’t help but appreciate.”

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Kirk Cousins delivers for Vikings in Overtime to pick up first playoff victory

It will be the Minnesota Vikings, and not the New Orleans Saints, moving on to the Divisional Round of the NFC playoffs.

After letting the Saints to tie up the game late in the fourth, the Vikings were guided down the field by Cousins and stunned the home crowd with walk-off touchdown to Zach Rudolph.

Cousins, who has been criticized throughout his entire career–including during his tenure in the nation’s capital–for not being able to deliver when the team needs him most, booked the Vikings a trip to San Francisco for a date with Jimmy Garappolo and the San Francisco 49ers. 

The 31-year-old Cousins lost his only previous playoff start — during the 2015 campaign with the Washington Redskins — and came up short of a playoff berth in the Vikings’ final game last season.

He also struggled in a handful of other high-profile matchups in prime time in 2019, but he delivered in Minnesota’s first road playoff victory since Jan. 9, 2005, when the Vikings defeated the rival Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field in the wild-card round.

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“I’m just happy we won,” Cousins said. “It was a great, great game, two good football teams.”

New Orleans fans surely begged to differ after seeing the NFC South champions’ season end in overtime at home for a second straight year.

The latest disappointing end for the Saints (13-4) came the year after they lost in the NFC championship game to the Los Angeles Rams in a matchup marred by blatant penalties not being called against the Rams late in regulation.

This time, replays on video boards showed a possible push-off by Rudolph against defensive back P.J. Williams moments before he jumped to snag the winning catch.

NFL president of officiating Al Riveron said the league reviewed numerous replay angles, and though officials saw contact by both players, “none of that contact rises to the level of a foul.”

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Redskins hire Ron Rivera as new head coach

Over Daniel Snyder’s time as the Redskins’ owner, Washington is where good coaches land to die. Since 2000, when Snyder made Norv Turner the first coach he fired, not one coach has left Washington with a winning record. Even coaches with great résumés like Marty Schottenheimer, Mike Shanahan and Steve Spurrier couldn’t do it.

Rivera is up next. The two-time NFL Coach of the Year with the Carolina Panthers agreed to be the next coach of the Redskins, per Ian Rapoport of NFL Network.

Rivera’s career with Carolina started slowly, but he eneded 76-63-1 as Panthers coach. He won NFL Coach of the Year in 2013 and 2015. In 2015, his 15-1 Panthers made the Super Bowl, only to come up short versus the Denver Broncos. Rivera was fired during the 2019 season as the Panthers slumped without quarterback Cam Newton.

Rivera’s abilities as a leader might give him an opportunity to succeed in Washington. He was a great representative of the Panthers franchise, especially during the Jerry Richardson scandal that led to the Panthers’ founder selling the team.

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When Snyder announced he had fired team president Bruce Allen, he said Washington would “reevaluate our team leadership, culture and process for winning football games.”

If anyone can reshape that in Washington with Snyder still owning the team, maybe it’s Rivera. It’ll be a big job, and he’s reportedly going to bring in the big guns to get it done.

ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported that Rivera is expected to target Jack Del Rio as his defensive coordinator, who has proven results in defensive improvements when he was the head coach of the Jacksonville Jaguars and Denver Broncos.

Washington went 3-13, which wasn’t fun, but it means they get the second pick of the 2020 draft. Expect that to be Ohio State pass rusher Chase Young, who looks like a phenomenal prospect. The rest of the roster has a few interesting players. A key is if 2019 first-round pick Dwayne Haskins can develop at quarterback.

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Seahawks LB Mychal Kendricks out for rest of season with torn ACL

Seahawks coach Pete Carroll confirmed Monday that strongside linebacker Mychal Kendrick tore his ACL in Sunday’s loss to the 49ers and will miss the playoffs.

Kendricks suffered the knee injury in the third quarter of the game. He came up gimpy after a blown coverage on Niners fullback Kyle Juszczyk down field, which ended in a 49-yard gain and eventually led to a San Francisco touchdown drive.

The NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported earlier Monday that Seattle believed Kendricks had a torn ACL, even before his MRI results came in.

“Mychal looks like he’ll need surgery,” Carroll told reporters. “He’s going to be out for a while.” Losing the eighth-year linebacker is a huge blow for the Seahawks’ defense as it gears up for the postseason.

The team already has little margin for error on that side of the ball — with the blown coverages and breakdowns that seem to happen a handful of times each game for Seattle’s D. Losing Kendricks doesn’t help that cause.

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The former Cal standout played a critical role in the Seahawks’ heavy dependence on 4-3 base defense this campaign.

He was one of the team’s more athletic players, and Carroll was confident in his coverage skills — indicative in the fact that he’s frequently kept on the field for passing downs over nickelback options.

Kendricks finished the regular season fourth on the team with 71 tackles and tied for third with three sacks.

With Kendricks out of the picture for January (and potentially February), rookie third-round pick Cody Barton is the starter at SAM backer moving forward. The Seahawks could also look to employ more sub packages on third down.

Kendricks is the fourth Seahawk in the last four weeks to suffer season-ending injuries. Running backs Chris Carson (hip fracture) and C.J. Prosise (broken arm) were lost for the year in Week 16 versus the Arizona Cardinals, while tailback Rashaad Penny (ACL) got hurt vs. the Rams on Dec. 8.

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Ravens set record for rushing yards in season

The Ravens ran their way into the record book Sunday.

Baltimore set the NFL single 16-game-season team rushing record, breaking a mark that had stood for 41 years. The 1978 New England Patriots rushed for 3,165 yards, during an era when running the football was much more prevalent.

Baltimore needed 93 yards Sunday to set the record, and players and coaches entered the match aware that the mark was within reach.

Running back Gus Edwards set the tone, exploding for a 38-yard run late in the first quarter, and Baltimore ended the first quarter with 89 yards rushing, just four yards short of the record. Then early in the second quarter, Edwards broke the record on a 9-yard rumble up the middle.

In today’s NFL, a team rushing for over 3,000 yards in a season is unheard of Nobody had come close to the Patriots’ record in the years since.

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Baltimore’s rushing attack and the innovative schemes used by Offensive Coordinator Greg Roman are also unique.

The Ravens had two players who rushed for over 1,000 yards, Lamar Jackson and Mark Ingram II. Jackson set the NFL single-season rushing record for a quarterback (1,206 yards), running behind an offensive line that featured two Pro Bowlers in left tackle Ronnie Stanley and right guard Marshal Yanda.

The Ravens also have a Pro Bowl fullback (Patrick Ricard) and one of the league’s best blocking tight ends in Nick Boyle.

Jackson, Ingram, Stanley and Yanda were all inactive versus the Steelers on Sunday, but Baltimore’s rushing attack kept rolling. Sunday was the latest example of why Baltimore’s rushing attack is one for the ages, and the best in the NFL by a wide margin.

The Ravens entered Sunday’s match averaging 204.9 yards rushing, more than 59 yards ahead of the next best team, the San Francisco 49ers.

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