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Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones was in and out of the game during the final quarter of Sunday’s 29-28 loss to the Chiefs while getting attention from trainers for what appeared to be a leg injury.
When Jones was in the game, he wasn’t moving with his usual ease and served as a decoy after playing a major role on offense in the first three quarters of the game. Falcons coach Dan Quinn called it a lower body injury after the game and Jones said he’d be fine for their Week 14 trip to Los Angeles.
“It’s football,” Jones said, via ESPN.com. “You’re going to get banged up. You’re going to get little nagging injuries here and there from the game. I’m OK. I’ll be good to go.”
The Falcons also had left tackle Jake Matthews and wide receiver Mohamed Sanu depart with injuries during the game. Updates on Matthews’ knee and Sanu’s groin are expected when Quinn meets with the media on Monday.
The Cardinals still aren’t .500, but showed signs Sunday that they’re still going to be a tough out for the rest of their schedule.
Led by running back David Johnson’s 175 yards from scrimmage, the Cardinals held off Washington at home for a 31-23 win, moving their record to 5-6-1 and showing they still have some degree of a pulse.
Of course, they need help, but they showed they can be a dangerous team down the stretch.
The game went back and forth in the second half, with Washington taking the lead twice. But each time, the Cards answered, with Carson Palmer’s 42-yard touchdown to J.J. Nelson providing the final margin, and Patrick Peterson’s interception of Kirk Cousins sealing the win.
Palmer finished with an even 300 yards passing and three touchdowns, and Larry Fitzgerald caught 10 passes to move into third on the all-time receptions list.
Washington fell to 6-5-1, leaving them on the fringes of the Wild Card chase, but trailing the 7-5 Buccaneers for the final spot at the moment.
And while they turned the ball over more than they’re accustomed to, the fact they made multiple runs on the road suggests they’re far from finished.
The Giants came into Pittsburgh with a six-game winning streak despite some sputtering performances from their offense in recent weeks, but they couldn’t overcome the unit again this week.
The Steelers intercepted Eli Manning twice, sacked him twice and held the Giants to 234 yards of offense in a 24-14 win that moved them to 7-5 on the season. That’s the same record that the Ravens have after beating the Dolphins on Sunday and leaves things tightly knotted at the top of the AFC North with four games left to play.
Lawrence Timmons had the first interception of the game, thwarting a Giants scoring chance and setting the Steelers up for their first touchdown after a long return into Giants territory. Antonio Brown scored that touchdown on a fairly quiet day that saw tight end Ladarius Green lead the team in receiving yards.
Green caught six passes for 110 yards and a touchdown to fill exactly the role that the Steelers had in mind when they signed Green this offseason. Injuries kept him out of the lineup for the first half, but it looks like he’ll be a major part of the offense down the stretch.
Le’Veon Bell chipped in 182 total yards and Ben Roethlisberger completed 24-of-36 passes for 289 yards. Both players turned the ball over in the second half to give the Giants some hope of climbing back into the game, but their offensive ineptitude proved to be too deeply seated for the team to muster much fight as the game wound down.
They’ll need to find their footing this week because a loss to the Cowboys next Sunday will end any hope of contending for the division title while several other teams remain in the hunt for Wild Card spots in the NFC. The Steelers will be in Buffalo and Cincinnati the next two weeks before returning home for a matchup with those Ravens in Week 16.
Vikings coach Mike Zimmer missed Thursday night’s home game againt the Cowboys. It’s still not known whether he will be available for next Sunday’s visit to Jacksonville.
Per a source with knowledge of the situation, Zimmer’s recent procedure to repair a detached retina ended in a “good result.” However, follow-up appointments with his physicians will determine whether he’ll be able to coach on Sunday, December 11.
The first question is whether he’ll be able to coach in the game at Jacksonville. The second question is how he’ll get to Jacksonville.
It’s “all to be determined,” the source said, with Zimmer flying to Jacksonville in a pressurized cabin (which could negatively affect the healing of his eye), in a non-pressurized cabin, or by car. Driving would be a major ordeal, with a trip of nearly 1,500 miles each way from Minneapolis to Jacksonville.
If a team is judged by how it bounces back from adversity, this Raiders team may be something special.
After falling behind 24-9 midway through the third quarter today against the Bills, the Raiders turned things around with a late-game surge that saw them score four touchdowns in 12 minutes and turn what looked like an ugly loss into an easy win.
With the victory over the Bills, the Raiders improved to 10-2 on the season, tied for the best record in the AFC. Not many people would have predicted before the season that the Raiders would be in contention for home-field advantage throughout the AFC playoffs, but that’s exactly where Oakland is.
On a good day for the Raiders on both sides of the ball, the best player on the field may have been Khalil Mack, the pass rusher who first hit Bills quarterback Tyrod Taylor to force an interception to set up a Raiders touchdown, then on the next possession knocked the ball out of Taylor’s hand and recovered the fumble, clinching the win. Mack is perhaps the most talented of the very good nucleus of young players the Raiders have acquired in the last few years.
The Raiders also have a talented quarterback in Derek Carr and talented receivers in Amari Cooper and Michael Crabrtee, each of whom caught touchdown passes from Carr. Latavius Murray scored two rushing touchdowns on a day when the Raiders got a complete team effort.
The Bills got solid work from LeSean McCoy and Mike Gillislee in the running game, but otherwise it was a rough day. The loss drops them to 6-6, and realistically it’s hard to see Buffalo making the playoffs. Rex Ryan may not have much of a future with this team.
Jack Del Rio’s squad, however, has a bright future. This is a team that can contend for a Super Bowl.
The league’s top defense held Kirk Cousins in check for a half, but he’s back to November form now.
The Washington quarterback has rushed for a touchdown and thrown another in the third quarter, leading his team to a 20-17 lead over the Cardinals despite a turnover.
Cousins threw for just 89 yards in the first half, but things have loosened up since then, as the lead has bounced back and forth three times already in the second half.
The Buccaneers took their first lead of the game after Lavonte David returned an interception for a touchdown with 4:25 left in the third quarter.
That drive covered 75 yards in five plays in under three minutes. So, the stage is set for a wild finish.
Both teams need the game badly. The Chargers are 5-6. The Bucs are 6-5 and can catch the Falcons in the NFC South standings with a win.
The NFL made a point of promoting today’s “My Cause, My Cleats” day, which allowed NFL players to wear shoes with special messages on their shoes. But in Miami, there are questions about whether some players put on the wrong footwear.
Dolphins coach Adam Gase said after his team lost at Baltimore that several players fell down and that the team needs to examine whether it had the right cleats for each player.
“We have to go back and look at that, because we really can’t have that happen. We had a couple chances to make some big plays, and we’ve got guys falling down. . . . We just have to make sure that we have the right equipment,” Gase said, via Adam Beasley of the Miami Herald.
Gase did not blame the special cleats, but it’s fair to wonder whether some players were wearing shoes they weren’t accustomed to, or the wrong length of cleats for the field conditions, because of the “My Cause, My Cleats” campaign. One player who wore the special shoes, Jarvis Landry, changed his shoes during the game. Two other players who wore the special shoes, Andre Branch and Jay Ajayi, said they were having problems with footing, but both of them said that was the result of the field in Baltimore.
“The grass was terrible,” Branch said. “We knew that coming into the game. It’s no excuse at all. But that’s the atmosphere we played in. Those were the elements we had to work with. They played on the same surface as we did.”
Ajayi, who gained 61 yards on 12 carries, agreed.
“It was slick out there. You saw some guys sliding around,” Ajayi said. “There were definitely some people losing traction out there.”
Whether the problem was the cleats or the problem was the quality of the field surface in Baltimore, either way, it’s a problem the NFL needs to monitor.
Chiefs safety Eric Berry grew up in Georgia and returned to Atlanta for treatment after he was diagnosed with lymphoma in 2014, but he never played an NFL game in the state until Sunday.
It was worth the wait. Berry returned an interception for a touchdown in the first half and then became the first player to return an interception for two points when he picked off Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan on a fourth quarter conversion attempt. That turned a 28-27 Atlanta lead to a 29-28 Chiefs win and was part of a day that saw Berry “shed a few tears before the game … shed a few during the game and … shed a few after.”
“The last time I came home during the season, it was to get chemotherapy and then this time it was actually to play the game,” Berry said, via ESPN.com. “I was just thankful for the opportunity. I take pride in a lot of things people take for granted so when opportunities come my way I cherish them and try to make the most of them.”
Berry did just that on Sunday and the Chiefs are 9-3 as a result.
[Editor’s note: On Sunday morning, multiple reports surfaced regarding a two-year contract extension for Rams coach Jeff Fisher. Fisher confirmed the extension after Sunday’s loss to the Patriots. The questions and answers from his press conference on this subject, as prepared and circulated by the Patriots, appear below.]
Q: Jeff, some news broke today that you got a contract extension, and I wonder if you’ve done enough to warrant a contract extension?
JF: You know, the discussion started at the end of the year, last year. Then they moved into the offseason, so I agreed with the organization well before the season started.
Q: Was there a contract extension during the summer?
JF: Yes, sometime in the offseason. It’s not my personal position to go ahead and release that stuff, so I was very appreciative with respect to Stan [Kroenke], knowing what we were going through. And you know, it somehow got out. So, I am expecting to be the coach of the franchise; however, I fully understand that the wins and losses fall on my shoulders. You know, that is the fact of our business. And I get that. And as I said, I’m not looking over my shoulder, I’m doing everything I can, on a daily basis, to get this team to win football games.
Q: What would you say to fans in Los Angeles who are kind of scratching their heads asking how they could give Jeff Fisher a contract extension?’
JF: Well, I would tell them the truth, that this was done well before the season started. It was done well before we had 90,000 people in the [Los Angeles] Coliseum for our first preseason game. And you know, we’re just moving forward, that’s what we are doing. Trying to put our product on the field, we’ve lost some close games, you know, and we are struggling offensively. That’s where it is at. That stuff is out of my control.
Q: Jeff, why do you think they announced it?
JF: I don’t know, it is out of my hands. You know, we had a lot going on this offseason. A lot of stuff going on, so I don’t know. It’s not my place to make that announcement.
Q: Was it difficult for you as we were asking you week after week and you told us there was an understanding with the owner? Were you getting anxious that no one has announced this at all?
JF: No, I wasn’t at all. Again, it was not my place to announce it. And I don’t know where it came from and how the timing, it just ended up coming out today. Yes, I am confirming it. And again, I am excited about this opportunity. Stan knows what we have been through and he knows the direction we are headed as a franchise.
Q: Is it signed or is it still just an agreement?
JF: I’m not going to go into detail. OK?
Q: I mean, if it’s not signed, then it’s not done.
JF: It’s been signed.
Q: Jeff, do you expect to be the coach in 2017?
JF: Yes, I do. I’ve got some work to do here to finish up strong. You know, we have some personnel issues to deal with and get better. And we have some issues to deal with from an offensive side of the ball.
Much was made this week of the comment from NFL executive V.P. of football operations Troy Vincent that the league may hire up to 17 full-time officials. The reality is that, for four years, the league has had the power to do it.
Per a souce with knowledge of the situation, the labor agreement finalized at the end of the 2012 lockout permits the league to hire up to 17 full-time officials. There was an attempt to do so a few years ago, but the NFL and the NFL Referees Association were unable to agree to terms.
The fundamental problem, as it relates to making a part-time, seasonal employee a full-time, year-round employee, is providing the employee with enough compensation to entice the employee to ditch any other employment. Complicating matters is the fact that having other employment gives the official financial security in the event that the officiating assignment evaporates due to poor performance.
The Giants are losing to the Steelers by 14 points in the third quarter and they’ve lost one of their best defensive players.
Defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul, who was the NFC defensive player of the week for Week 12, will not return after sustaining a groin injury late in the first half. Pierre-Paul needed to be helped off the field and went directly to the locker room with the help of the Giants medical staff.
The Giants also lost defensive back Coty Sensabaugh, who has been taken to the hospital for further evaluation of a rib injury.
The losses on the defense won’t help the Giants, but they won’t matter if the offense doesn’t get in gear. The Giants had five first downs in the first half and their first drive of the third quarter didn’t add to that total after a James Harrison sack on third down forced a quick Giants punt.
The Steelers got their first two points of Sunday’s game when the Giants committed a penalty in their own end zone and they got their first touchdown shortly after Eli Manning made another mistake near the Steelers’ end zone.
Manning tried to fit a pass to tight end Larry Donnell for a touchdown, but Steelers linebacker Lawrence Timmons‘ arms were a bit longer than the quarterback anticipated. Timmons picked the ball off at the goal-line and then returned it into Giants territory to set up a short field that the Steelers would ride to an Antonio Brown touchdown catch. A two-point attempt failed, but the Steelers would add more points just before halftime.
Ben Roethlisberger completed passes that turned into four first downs, including a screen to Eli Rogers on third-and-17 that went for 18 yards and kept the Steelers offense on the field long enough to get Randy Bullock his second field goal try of the game at the end of a 15-play, 64-yard drive. That leaves the score 14-0 at the half.
That leaves the Giants with work to do in the second half. They may not have defensive end Jason Pierre-Paul’s help as he left just before halftime after going down with a groin injury. He’s being called questionable to return and the Giants offense has been AWOL outside of the drive that ended with Timmons’ interception.
The Steelers offense hasn’t had the same trouble with 228 yards over the course of the half. Another touchdown would have made for a more comfortable lead, but the Steelers should like how things have unfolded for the most part.
The Cardinals haven’t been able to match their opening drive, but they haven’t needed to either.
Arizona is hanging onto a 10-6 lead over Washington, allowing its defense to do most of the work.
The league-leading Cardinals defense has held Washington to a pair of field goals, playing tight when they needed to to hang onto a slim lead.
Quarterback Kirk Cousins has been well off his recent pace, with just 89 passing yards at the half. But part of the reason their offense hasn’t been productive is their play-calling. They’ve only run the ball nine times total, which isn’t nearly enough to enable the play-action offense which suits him.
And after an opening-drive touchdown, the Cardinals were also held in check, with just a 28-yard field goal by Chandler Catanzaro to add to it.
Chargers running back Melvin Gordon keeps scoring touchdowns.
Gordon’s 10th rushing touchdown of the season early in the second quarter Sunday gave the Chargers a 14-7 lead on the Buccaneers. That remains the score at halftime after rookie kicker Roberto Aguayo missed a 31-yard field goal late in the first half.
Gordon became the first Chargers player to have 10 rushing touchdowns in a season since Mike Tolbert did it in 2010. He is on the verge of becoming the first Chargers player to have 1,000 yards rushing since Ryan Mathews in 2013. Gordon also has two receiving touchdowns on the season.
Gordon did not score a touchdown last year as a rookie.