Category Archives: NFL

Titans rally from 10 down at half, edge 49ers 20-17

Coach Mike Vrabel heard that his banged-up Tennessee Titans were being written off after the left side of their offensive line was ruled out a day before hosting the streaking San Francisco 49ers.

Then they lost their backup left tackle to a positive COVID-19 test Thursday morning, forcing them to use their 52nd different starter and 88th player this campaign.

“We’re not dead yet,” Vrabel said. Alive and kicking.

Randy Bullock booted a 44-yard field goal with 4 seconds left and the Titans rallied from a 10-point halftime deficit to defeat the 49ers 20-17 Thursday night. The Titans (10-5) are a win or a Colts’ loss away from clinching their second consecutive AFC South title despite losing three of their past four games to drop from the AFC’s top seed to third. Indianapolis plays Arizona on Saturday. Tennesse moved to second in the AFC.

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Ryan Tannehill threw for just 40 yards in the first half but finished with 209 yards and a TD for Tennessee. A.J. Brown caught 11 passes for 145 yards hours after being activated off injured reserve, and his 18-yard TD catch gave Tennessee a 17-10 lead early in the fourth.

“It was all on us and we just had to make a play,” Brown said. “Then we had to make another play. That was the mindset. Just come out here and make plays, so that’s what we did.”

The Titans also picked off two passes, sacked Jimmy Garoppolo twice and forced the Niners to turn it over on downs once.

San Francisco had one final chance. Garoppolo completed a 16-yard pass to Pro Bowl receiver Deebo Samuel, who fumbled, starting three laterals before Jayon Brown finally tackled Brandon Aiyuk to end the game.

The 49ers (8-7) lost for the second time in seven games as they try to hold onto a wild-card berth in the NFC. Their loss ensured a playoff berth for Dallas, which can clinch the NFC East with a victory over Washington on Sunday night.

Garoppolo tied it with a 2-yard TD pass to Brandon Aiyuk with 2:20 left, a score set up by a 56-yard catch-and-run by Samuel down to the Tennessee 6.

This was the Niners’ first loss after leading by 10 or more at halftime under coach Kyle Shanahan — they had been 18-0 in the regular season and playoffs with those leads. They hadn’t blown such a lead since Week 14 of 2016 to the Jets under Chip Kelly.

Garoppolo knows the Niners had their chances.

“It’s tough when you let one like this slip away,” Garoppolo said. The Niners led 10-0 at halftime, their first time shutting out an opponent in the first half since the 2019 NFC title game against Green Bay. That also marked four straight scoreless quarters for the Titans.

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Las Vegas Raiders’ Johnathan Abram has season-ending shoulder injury

Las Vegas Raiders third-year strong safety Johnathan Abram suffered a season-ending left shoulder injury in the Raiders’ 16-14 triumph at the Cleveland Browns on Monday night and will undergo surgery, a source confirmed to ESPN.

NFL Network first reported the season-ending nature of the injury.

Abram suffered the injury late in the match and was replaced by Roderic Teamer, who figures to replace Abram in the starting lineup in the Raiders’ final three games —  versus the Denver Broncos (7-7), at the Indianapolis Colts (8-6) and against the Los Angeles Chargers (8-6) — as Las Vegas (7-7) tries to keep its playoff hopes alive.

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The Raiders also placed cornerback Brandon Facyson on the reserve/COVID-19 list Wednesday, joining cornerback Nate Hobbs.

The Raiders also placed cornerback Trayvon Mullen on injured reserve Monday.

The third of the Raiders’ three first-round picks in 2019 — Abram was selected at No. 27, behind defensive end Clelin Ferrell at No. 4 and running back Josh Jacobs at No. 24 — Abram played just one half of his rookie season as he suffered a season-ending injury to the same shoulder in his NFL debut.

After a mostly down second season, Abram benefited mightily from the arrival of new defensive coordinator Gus Bradley and was impactful as a box safety against the run.

Still, he remained a liability in pass coverage. Abram, whose 116 tackles ranks second on the team and who is tied for first with one interception, had not missed a snap this season before going down with less than eight minutes to play Monday.

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Buffalo Bills WR Cole Beasley on reserve/COVID-19 list, will miss game against New England Patriots

Wide receiver Cole Beasley was added to the reserve/COVID-19 list by the Buffalo Bills on Tuesday, becoming the fifth player on the active roster and seventh overall on the list.

Beasley tested positive, a source confirmed to ESPN’s Field Yates, and remains unvaccinated. He will at minimum miss the game versus the New England Patriots on Sunday and be out for 10 days. In an Instagram post Tuesday evening, Beasley said he was “feeling fine with mild symptoms.”

The game against the Patriots will decide which team takes the lead in the AFC East race with the playoffs just three weeks away. “Just to be clear COVID is not keeping me out of this game. The rules are,” Beasley wrote Tuesday on Instagram.

“Vaxxed players are playing with Covid every week now because they don’t test. One of my vaxxed teammates is in the hospital missing games. I’m sure he didn’t get this same energy. Thank you for those who support. Everyone else, if you don’t get what’s happening then there is nothing anybody can do for you.”

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Teammate Jon Feliciano, who also is on the COVID-19 list, posted on Twitter Tuesday that he “ended up in the ER on Sunday.” He appears to be the teammate “in the hospital” Beasley referenced in his post.

Left tackle Dion Dawkins, guard Feliciano, defensive end AJ Epenesa and linebacker Tyrel Dodson have been placed on the list in the past week.

All four missed the team’s victory over the Carolina Panthers, although Epenesa was out due to an ankle injury and placed on the list Monday.

Beasley was previously placed on the COVID-19 list in August after being designated a close contact with a member of the team’s training staff, but tested negative at the time. He was also fined, along with receiver Isaiah McKenzie, for not wearing masks in the facility.

Beasley was outspoken on social media regarding the COVID-19 vaccine, but the slot receiver deleted his Twitter account during the season, calling it a distraction.

“When I first got here, I got away from [social media], and then things happen,” Beasley stated in October. “And the issues that we have at hand, and I just felt like I needed to take responsibility for the guys that couldn’t.

“But it’s good for me to get back to where I wanted to be, and it’s not on there. The real world is out here and not there. Most people say things on there that you don’t want to hear. And it’s definitely a weight lifted, and I feel like I did the right thing.”

Beasley referenced not having an issue with others being vaccinated, but instead aimed the response toward those who chose not to. He often got into conversations on Twitter with fans and even teammates, speaking out against the NFL and NFLPA’s protocols.

Despite Beasley’s absence, the Bills’ passing offense still has a plethora of weapons available. McKenzie will likely see increased opportunities in the slot against New England without Beasley on the field.

Stefon Diggs is the top receiver, and Gabriel Davis has emerged as a strong No. 2 option with touchdowns in each of the past three games, in addition to tight end Dawson Knox being one of quarterback Josh Allen’s top targets in the middle of the field.

Beasley has 76 receptions for 640 yards and one touchdown this year.

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Cousins throws for 2 touchdowns as Vikings beat Bears 17-9

The Minnesota Vikings have little margin for error and plenty of room to improve as they try to secure a playoff spot.

Not that Kirk Cousins needed a reminder. Or, for that matter, coach Mike Zimmer.

Cousins threw two touchdown passes, and Minnesota defeated the struggling and short-handed Chicago Bears 17-9 on Monday night.

The Vikings (7-7), part of a tight pack of teams vying for one of the NFC’s seven playoff spots, were in line for their most lopsided victory before Justin Fields threw a touchdown pass to Jesper Horsted on the game’s final play.

That score aside, Minnesota withstood several scoring threats by Chicago down the stretch coming off a win over Pittsburgh in which the Vikings nearly blew a 29-0 lead.

“I think we have work,” Cousins said. “I think there is a lot to improve upon. We’re playing three really good opponents up ahead. We’re probably going to need everyone, so there is not a lot of room for error and we have to tighten the screws here and play our best football down the stretch.”

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The Vikings’ final three matches are at home versus the Los Angeles Rams and at NFC North champion Green Bay before they host Chicago in the finale. The result in this one was hardly a surprise given the state of the Bears (4-10).

Chicago lost for the eighth time in nine games, and with 14 players on the reserve/COVID-19 list, that seemed inevitable. Receiver Allen Robinson was on it, as was the starting secondary.

The health issues also hit the coaching staff, with all three coordinators testing positive for the coronavirus during the week.

Defensive coordinator Sean Desai was cleared to return hours before kickoff. Offensive coordinator Bill Lazor was not cleared, so Nagy called plays. And special teams coordinator Chris Tabor was out.

Cousins, who struggled last week, didn’t exactly dominate in this one. He was 12 of 24 for 87 yards with an interception and got sacked four times. The two-time Pro Bowler also connected with Justin Jefferson for a 12-yard touchdown in the first quarter and threw a 7-yarder to Ihmir Smith-Marsette in the third.

Dalvin Cook ran for 89 yards, after going for 205 versus Pittsburgh in a sooner-than-expected return from a dislocated shoulder.

D.J. Wonnum had a career-high three sacks and the Vikings recovered three fumbles on the way to their second straight win after back-to-back losses.

“It’s not just playing better, it’s getting better,” Zimmer said. “It’s getting better in the run defense, getting better in the pass coverage, it’s getting better in protection. It’s getting better in running the ball. It’s all those things. We’re trying to get better so we can get to that spot where we’ve got to get to.”

For the Bears and their fans, it was another frustrating outing.

Fields threw for 285 yards and ran for 35 in his second game back after missing two with broken ribs. The rookie completed 26 of 39 passes playing behind a line missing both starting tackles, with right tackle Larry Borom on the COVID list and left tackle Jason Peters out with an ankle injury.

Robert Quinn and Akiem Hicks each had two sacks. Quinn has 16 this year, leaving him just shy of Hall of Famer Richard Dent’s franchise record of 17 1/2 in 1984. But Chicago committed nine penalties for 91 yards in a sloppy performance that had fans again booing at times and making their feelings about coach Matt Nagy known, chanting “Fire Nagy!”

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Green Bay Packers clinch third straight division title as Aaron Rodgers ties Brett Favre’s TD record

All Matt LaFleur does is win division titles. In his three years as the Green Bay Packers coach, they’ve won the NFC North three times.

All Aaron Rodgers does is throw touchdown passes. In his 14th season as the Packers’ starter, he tied Brett Favre’s franchise record of 442 touchdown passes.

And just about everybody in green and gold left M&T Bank Stadium on Sunday with what they wanted — a 31-30 triumph over the Lamar Jackson-less Baltimore Ravens.

The victory was secured after the Ravens failed to convert on a 2-point conversion that would have given them a 1-point lead with 45 seconds left.

The Packers (11-3) clinched the division title, giving them an automatic playoff berth, and stayed on track for the No. 1 seed in the NFC playoffs with three games to go.

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“You have to savor these a little bit,” Rodgers said. “These are special. It’s just the first step in our goals, but a lot of times the coach speak — I’m not saying that Matt did this — but a lot of times there might be coach speak that takes over and says, ‘Hey, you know this is just one goal and we have bigger goals and stuff,’ but I think it’s important to keep that perspective on how special accomplishing this is three years in a row and so just to enjoy it, to savor it, savor these moments. These are special moments.”

Rodgers also matched the man he replaced as Packers quarterback in 2008 on Sunday.

Greg Jennings caught Rodgers’ first touchdown 14 years ago in Dallas, and Marquez Valdes-Scantling caught No. 442 as Rodgers tied Favre.

Rodgers did it in 45 fewer games as he set the mark in his 210th game (203rd as a starter), while Favre needed 255 games (and 253 starts) over 16 seasons. Rodgers is in his 17th season but did not become a starter until his fourth year.

Rodgers has also thrown 193 less interceptions in his career than Favre threw as a member of the Packers.

Rodgers entered the match needing three touchdown passes to tie the record and four to break it. He threw his first of the game, No. 440 of his career, on a 3-yard out to Davante Adams to tie the game at 14-14 in the second quarter. It was also his 65th career touchdown to Adams, which tied Rodgers and Adams with Rodgers and Jordy Nelson for the most touchdowns by a quarterback-receiver duo in Packers history.

The second one, No. 441, came on the opening drive of the second quarter when he bought time and looped a 9-yarder to Aaron Jones for a 21-14 lead.

The third one, the record-tying No. 442, was an 11-yarder to Valdes-Scantling with 12:54 left in the fourth quarter for a 28-17 lead.

Rodgers nearly had a fourth touchdown pass for the outright record, but he and Allen Lazard just missed on what would have been an 11-yarder midway through the fourth quarter.

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Kelce’s OT touchdown gives Chiefs 34-28 win over Chargers

Travis Kelce, Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs have faced their share of challenges this campaign. The two-time defending AFC champions are peaking at the right time for another playoff push.

Kelce had a career-high 191 receiving yards and scored on a 34-yard pass from Mahomes in overtime as the Chiefs rallied for a 34-28 triumph over the Los Angeles Chargers on Thursday night.

Kelce caught a tying 7-yard touchdown pass with 1:16 left in the fourth quarter, then ended the game with his catch-and-run in overtime. On first-and-10, Kelce pulled in Mahomes’ pass at the 30 and eluded two tackles en route to the end zone, where he was swarmed by teammates.

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“I don’t think I’ve ever been part of a walk-off touchdown or anything like that, so to be in that moment, find him underneath and him making such a dynamic play where, I mean, he cut back, ran by people,” stated Mahomes, who completed 31 of 47 for a season-high 410 yards with three touchdowns and an interception. “You think he’s old. He can’t run by people. But he’s still running by people. And he got in the end zone.”

The Chiefs were 3-4 at the end of October but have won seven consecutive to improve to 10-4 and go up by two games in the AFC West.

Kelce had been held to six total receptions the past two games, but he broke out in a big way.

He had five of his 10 catches for 142 yards in the fourth quarter and overtime. He also had a 69-yard reception that led to Tyreek Hill’s 1-yard touchdown and a 2-point conversion that tied it at 21.

Mahomes bounced back after a costly fourth-quarter interception led to Austin Ekeler’s touchdown and gave the Chargers a 21-13 advantage. He was 10 of 16 for 197 yards and three TDs after the turnover.

“Obviously it (stinks) in the moment. I mean, I promise you I felt as bad as anyone about that throw and that situation, and knew how bad it looked. But you will get another chance and you better be ready for that moment,” Mahomes said.

Justin Herbert gave the Chargers a 28-21 lead with 2:19 left on a 8-yard TD pass to Keenan Allen, but couldn’t make it hold up. It is the second straight season the Chiefs have come to the Chargers’ Hollywood Park home and won in overtime.

“The goal is always to score. We needed to put up points, and we got in the end zone, and that was our mission,” Herbert said. “We would have loved to have been able to run the clock down and not have any time, but this is the NFL, and you have to get in the end zone.”

The Chargers fell behind 10-0 early in the second quarter before scoring on two straight drives to take a 14-10 lead at halftime. Herbert scored on a 1-yard keeper off left end and then connected with Jalen Guyton for a 4-yard TD on the next drive.

The Chiefs benefited off Chargers’ mistakes for their first 10 points. After Los Angeles turned it over on downs, Kansas City went 95 yards in 11 plays, culminating in Michael Burton’s 7-yard run up the middle.

The Chiefs then turned Anthony Hitchens’ interception of Herbert into points on Harrison Butker’s 30-yard field goal.

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Steelers try to keep playoff hopes alive as Titans visit

Ben Roethlisberger still considers the Pittsburgh Steelers have what it takes to be a playoff team.

Time is running out, however, to prove it.

“We’ve got to make a run,” Roethlisberger said.

At this point, one step in the right direction would be considered progress.

The Steelers (6-6-1) have been spinning their wheels for more than a month heading into a visit by AFC South-leading Tennessee (9-4) on Sunday, mired in a five-game funk in which they’ve won just once and been bullied in a way they haven’t been bullied in decades.

A defense that concluded third in the league last season is now in danger of finishing in the bottom 10 for the first time in 30 years.

While Roethlisberger and the rookie-laden offense have had their fair share of issues, it’s what’s happening on the other side of the ball that’s been far more alarming.

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Three times in the last month the Steelers have found themselves trailing by at least 17 points.

Twice they put together rallies to make it respectable, but respectable margins don’t count in the win column — though it’s telling of how wide open the underwhelming AFC North is that Pittsburgh finds itself in the mix as Christmas looms despite just two victories since Halloween.

“You can’t spend a lot of time looking at big-picture perspective,” Tomlin said.

Maybe because the smaller picture is so daunting. The Titans are in a position to win their second consecutive division title even without star running back Derrick Henry, who hasn’t played since October due to a foot injury. Tennessee has found a way despite having 50 different players start at least one game. Only New Orleans has had more.

Tennessee’s success is a testament to its depth and the steadying presence of coach Mike Vrabel. “Things haven’t been perfect for us up until this point, but we have ourselves in a good situation,” Tennessee quarterback Ryan Tannehill said.

“Coach Vrabel has talked about this last two weeks and that is that we are just getting started. Have a lot of football out in front of us and we want to play our best football here down the stretch.”

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More testing shows Washington’s Logan Thomas does have torn ACL

Washington Football Team tight end Logan Thomas faces a longer recovery after further tests revealed a torn ACL, a source told ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

Thomas is expected to undergo surgery this week and be ready for the start of the 2022 season.

Washington initially feared that Thomas had torn the ACL and MCL in his left knee in a Dec. 5 game vs. the Las Vegas Raiders. However, more tests the following week revealed knee damage — but not to his ACL.

The organization breathed a collective sigh of relief, knowing his recovery would be a lot easier without a torn ACL.

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But even last week, after Thomas was placed on injured reserve, coach Ron Rivera said doctors were going to “keep an eye on it. They’re going to have one more doctor look at it.”

Before putting him on IR, Washington had debated keeping Thomas on the active 53-man roster in case the team made the playoffs and could use him at some point in the postseason.

Because it was his second stay on IR, it ended his season.

At the time, Rivera said they didn’t want to rush Thomas back.

Thomas had signed a three-year extension worth up to $24.065 million in August. He caught a career-high 72 passes for 670 yards and six touchdowns in 2020 and became one of the NFL’s best red zone targets at tight end.

This season, Thomas was limited to six games — he missed five games with a hamstring injury — and caught 18 passes, three for touchdowns, and 196 yards.

Ricky Seals-Jones took over as the No. 1 tight end with Thomas out. Seals-Jones has caught 24 passes for 238 yards and two touchdowns in 10 games.

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Green Bay Packers QB Aaron Rodgers says fractured toe ‘feels worse’ after record-setting win vs. Bears

It seems that Aaron Rodgers still owns the Chicago Bears but unfortunately for the Green Bay Packers’ quarterback, he also still has a problem with his fractured pinky toe.

Rodgers and the Packers beat the Bears for the sixth consecutive time and Rodgers ran his record as a starter against them to 23-5 — settling milestones and records in the series along the way. But he indicated that whatever healing took place with his toe during the Packers’ bye was wiped out, and then some.

“It feels worse,” Rodgers said after Sunday’s 45-30 victory at Lambeau Field. “I don’t know what kind of setback that I had tonight but we’ll look at it tomorrow. Definitely took a step back tonight.”

Rodgers’ suffered the injury last month during his COVID-19 quarantine and has barely practiced despite not missing any significant game action since he hurt it. It had improved enough last week to the point where he actually practiced for the first time in three weeks.

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During the bye, Rodgers stated surgery was an option and even though he was told it could be done without him missing a game, he elected not to have it. He said Sunday that he was still hoping to avoid the procedure, which would immobilize his toe, but that a decision would be made after he undergoes tests on Monday.

“That would be last resort, for sure,” Rodgers said. “But I’ve got to see what kind of setback it was tonight.”

There was no setback when it came to the Packers’ dominance over the Bears with Rodgers at quarterback.

Two months after Rodgers celebrated a touchdown at Soldier Field by screaming “I still own you” to fans in the stands, Rodgers threw for 341 yards and four touchdowns without an interception.

This was Rodgers’ seventh four-touchdown, no interception game versus the Bears, the most in NFL history against a single opponent. Rodgers is the only quarterback who also has six — against the Vikings. Next closest is Tom Brady with five such games against the Bills.

Rodgers’ final touchdown of the game — his second of the night to Davante Adams (10 catches for 131 yards) — gave him 61 career touchdowns against the Bears, passing Brett Favre’s 60 for the most all time against Chicago. All of that prompted Packers receiver Allen Lazard to wear a shirt that read “I still own you” — Rodgers’ exact words on Oct. 17 — to his postgame news conference.

At first, only the words, “I still” were visible on Lazard’s shirt but when asked if it said what everyone thought it said, Lazard stood up to reveal the “own you,” portion and said: “It most definitely does.”

Running back AJ Dillon had them made shortly after the first game this season versus the Bears and while Rodgers said he has one, he did not feel compelled to wear his on Sunday.

“I’ve already said what I’ve said,” Rodgers said. “I don’t need to double and triple down. I’ll let those words stand for themselves.”

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Las Vegas Raiders agree to 4-year contract extensions with kicker Daniel Carlson, punter AJ Cole

Las Vegas Raiders place-kicker Daniel Carlson, who tied for the NFL lead in scoring last season with 144 points, has agreed to a four-year contract extension, his agent tweeted Wednesday.

The deal is worth $18.4 million with $10.2 million guaranteed, a source told ESPN’s Adam Schefter. It makes Carlson the league’s third-highest-paid kicker.

Raiders punter AJ Cole also received a four-year extension Wednesday that will make him one of the league’s top-four-paid punters, his agent told NFL Network. Cole’s new deal is worth $12.4 million, including $5.9 million guaranteed, a source told Schefter.

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Cole leads the NFL with 51.1 yards per punt. His 42.8-yard net average ranks seventh.

Carlson, 26, was initially a fifth-round draft pick of the Minnesota Vikings in 2018 but was cut after two games when he missed three of his first four field goal attempts. The Raiders signed him Oct. 23 of that season.

With the Raiders, Carlson has made 95 of 108 field goal attempts, including 12-of-15 from 50 yards or longer, and 120 of 126 point-after attempts. His 104 points scored this season — 27-for-30 on field goals, 23-for-25 on extra points — are tied for third in the NFL with Los Angeles Rams kicker Matt Gay, behind New England Patriots kicker Nick Folk (128) and Indianapolis Colts running back Jonathan Taylor (108).

Carlson’s combined 60 field goals the past two seasons are the most in the NFL, while his 92.3% conversion rate over that time frame ranks fourth in the league.

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