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Former GM proud of his old team, while trying to beat them

628x471 AP

Next weekend, as the 49ers are preparing to play for a championship, one of the men who helped build them will be plotting their demise.

Former 49ers general manager Scot McCloughan now works for the Seahawks in the scouting department, and will be sitting in a pre-draft personnel meeting next Saturday, trying to figure out a way to get his new team where his old team is.

“There’s no animosity whatsoever,” McCloughan told Matt Barrows of the Sacramento Bee. “It’s the same as last year – I’m pulling for them. I have relationships up and down that organization, from the ownership on down to the players.”

Even the he left the team in 2010, the relationship he has with the team is strong, in part because he was responsible for putting much of it in place. Half the team’s starters (11 of 22) were acquired under his watch, including five of their nine Pro Bowl selections (Dashon Goldson, Frank Gore, Justin Smith, Joe Staley and Patrick Willis).

The team he’s helping build now has a strong base of young talent as well, which will make the NFC West one of the toughest divisions in the league for years to come.

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Antonio Brown is two catches away from the second-most ever

Pittsburgh Steelers v Baltimore Ravens Getty Images

Steelers receiver Antonio Brown is having an extraordinary season.

Brown has 122 catches through 15 games, which is tied for fourth place in NFL history. If Brown catches at least two passes in Sunday’s regular-season finale, he’ll have 124 this year, which would give him sole possession the second-most in any season, ever. (Herman Moore and Wes Welker are currently tied for No. 2, with 123 catches.)

Marvin Harrison’s NFL record of 143 catches in a season is safe — Brown isn’t going to catch 21 passes on Sunday — but Brown will almost certainly be in second place all-time when Sunday night’s game against the Bengals is over.

Brown leads the league by a whopping 22 catches over second-place Julio Jones, who has 100 catches this year. Brown is also leading the league in receiving yards, with 1,570. And he’s third in the league in touchdown catches with 12. (Dez Bryant has 14 touchdowns and Jordy Nelson has 13.)

It’s been an incredible season for Brown, who has established himself as perhaps the best wide receiver in the NFL.

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PFT Live: Dolphins talk with Armando Salguero, Bengals talk with Paul Dehner

Joe Philbin AP

The Dolphins took themselves out of the coaching change speculation after Sunday’s 37-35 victory over the Vikings when owner Stephen Ross announced that Joe Philbin would return for the 2015 season.

Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald will join Mike Florio on Monday’s edition of PFT Live to discuss that decision, including whether Ross would have made the same announcement had the Dolphins not blocked a punt through the end zone with less than a minute to play. They’ll also discuss the possibility that Philbin gets an extension before kicking off the final year of his current contract.

Paul Dehner of the Cincinnati Enquirer will also drop by the show to help us preview Monday night’s meeting between the Bengals and the Broncos. The Bengals can book passage to the playoffs with a victory, but they’ll be playing for the AFC North title in Week 17 either way and we’ll see if Dehner thinks that will impact their approach at all.

It all gets started at noon ET and you can watch it all live by clicking right here.

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Week 17 playoff scenarios

Cam Newton, Paul Worrilow AP

The Patriots, Broncos, Colts and Cowboys have all clinched their divisions. The Steelers, Seahawks, Cardinals, Lions and Packers have all clinched playoff berths. That’s what we know now.

What we don’t know is who the other three playoff teams will be. And we don’t know any team’s playoff seed. Here are the NFL’s official playoff scenarios for the remaining 17 games of this season:


New England – AFC East and a first-round bye
Denver – AFC West
Indianapolis – AFC South
Pittsburgh – playoff berth



New England clinches home-field advantage throughout AFC playoffs with:

1) NE win OR

2) NE tie + DEN loss or tie OR

3) DEN loss


New England clinches home-field advantage throughout AFC playoffs

DENVER BRONCOS (at Cincinnati; vs. Oakland)


Denver clinches a first-round bye

Denver clinches home-field advantage throughout AFC playoffs with:

1) DEN win + NE loss or tie OR

2) DEN tie + NE loss


Denver clinches a first-round bye with:

1) DEN win or tie OR

2) CIN loss OR

3) CIN tie + IND win

CINCINNATI BENGALS (vs. Denver; at Pittsburgh)


Cincinnati clinches AFC North with:

1) CIN win

Cincinnati clinches a playoff spot with:

1) CIN tie OR

2) BAL loss or tie OR

3) SD loss


Cincinnati clinches a playoff spot

Cincinnati clinches AFC North with:

1) CIN win or tie

Cincinnati clinches a first-round bye with:

1) CIN win + DEN loss or tie OR

2) CIN tie + DEN loss + IND loss or tie



Pittsburgh clinches AFC North with:

1) PIT win or tie


Pittsburgh clinches AFC North with:

1) PIT win



San Diego clinches a playoff spot with:

1) SD win OR

2) SD tie + CIN loss OR

3) SD tie + BAL loss or tie


San Diego clinches a playoff spot with:

1) SD win OR

2) SD tie + BAL loss or tie

BALTIMORE RAVENS (vs. Cleveland)


Baltimore clinches a playoff spot with:

1) BAL win + CIN loss OR

2) BAL win + SD loss or tie OR

3) BAL tie + SD loss


Baltimore clinches a playoff spot with:

1) BAL win + SD loss or tie OR

2) BAL tie + SD loss


Kansas City clinches a playoff spot with:

1) KC win + BAL loss + HOU loss or tie

HOUSTON TEXANS (vs. Jacksonville)

Houston clinches a playoff spot with:

1) HOU win + BAL loss + SD loss


Arizona Cardinals – playoff berth
Seattle Seahawks – playoff berth
Detroit Lions – playoff berth
Green Bay Packers – playoff berth
Dallas Cowboys – NFC East

DALLAS COWBOYS (at Washington)

Dallas clinches home-field advantage throughout NFC playoffs with:

1) DAL win + ARI loss or tie + DET/GB tie

Dallas clinches a first-round bye with:

1) DAL win + SEA loss or tie + ARI loss or tie OR

2) DAL win + DET/GB tie OR

3) DAL tie + SEA loss + ARI loss OR

4) DAL tie + SEA tie + ARI loss or tie + DET/GB does not end in a tie

DETROIT LIONS (at Green Bay)

Detroit clinches NFC North with:

1) DET win or tie

Detroit clinches home-field advantage throughout NFC playoffs with:

1) DET win + SEA loss or tie + ARI loss or tie OR

2) DET tie + SEA loss + ARI loss + DAL loss or tie

Detroit clinches a first-round bye with:

1) DET win OR

2) DET tie + DAL loss or tie OR

3) DET tie + SEA loss + ARI loss


Green Bay clinches NFC North and a first-round bye with:

1) GB win

Green Bay clinches home-field advantage throughout NFC playoffs with:

1) GB win + SEA loss or tie


Seattle clinches NFC West with:

1) SEA win OR

2) SEA tie + ARI loss or tie OR

3) ARI loss

Seattle clinches home-field advantage throughout NFC playoffs with:

1) SEA win + DET/GB game does not end in a tie OR

2) SEA win + DAL loss or tie OR

3) SEA tie + ARI loss or tie + DAL loss or tie + GB/DET tie

Seattle clinches a first-round bye with:

1) SEA win OR

2) SEA tie + ARI loss or tie + DAL loss OR

3) SEA tie + ARI loss or tie + GB/DET tie

ARIZONA CARDINALS (at San Francisco)

Arizona clinches NFC West with:

1) ARI win + SEA loss or tie OR

2) ARI tie + SEA loss

Arizona clinches home-field advantage throughout NFC playoffs with:

1) ARI win + SEA loss or tie + GB loss or tie OR

2) ARI tie + SEA loss + DAL loss or tie + GB/DET tie

Arizona clinches a first-round bye with:

1) ARI win + SEA loss or tie OR

2) ARI tie + SEA loss + DAL loss or tie OR

3) ARI tie + SEA loss + GB/DET tie


Carolina clinches NFC South with:

1) CAR win or tie

ATLANTA FALCONS (vs. Carolina)

Atlanta clinches NFC South with:

1) ATL win

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Marc Trestman: We’ll talk about whether Jimmy Clausen starts again

Jimmy Clausen AP

The Bears lost 20-14 to the Lions on Sunday in quarterback Jimmy Clausen’s first start with the team, leaving them with just one more week until a dismal season can be put to rest.

Clausen went 22-of-39 for 181 yards, two touchdowns and an interception during the contest, which marked his first start since his rookie year with the Panthers in 2010. On Monday, coach Marc Trestman wasn’t ready to say whether Clausen will have a shorter wait before his next start.

“We’ll talk about it today,” Trestman said on WBBM Newsradio 780. “I thought he had a good performance. He needed some help. He didn’t get it — had a few drops along the way, had a couple missed assignments up front in the running game, where we could’ve had a little bit more yardage. But I thought he handled himself [well], for two practices and having not played [much] for four years. It was certainly a good performance.”

Based on that final assessment, it would seem likely that Clausen will be back in the lineup against the Vikings in Week 17. The issues that caused Trestman to turn away from Jay Cutler aren’t going to disappear in a week and Trestman said he has no regrets about the change, so going back to Cutler would be odd. Giving rookie David Fales some playing time might be an idea, but the Bears didn’t even dress him against the Lions and that points toward a visit from Clausen after Santa Claus visits this week.

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Cards have accounted for big Fitzgerald number, want to keep him

Seattle Seahawks v Arizona Cardinals Getty Images

Not only do the Cardinals intend to keep Larry Fitzgerald next season, they want to keep him much longer than that.

Following up on our report last night that the Cards are prepared to carry the veteran wide receiver next year even with his $23.6 million cap hit, Cardinals General Manager Steve Keim said he hopes it’s a much longer-range relationship.

We have to make good business decisions,” Keim told Arizona Sports 98.7, via Darren Urban of the team’s official website. “I don’t think it’s any secret that we said all along that it is our intent to have Larry Fitzgerald retire a Cardinal. I don’t want to get into it too deep, but with planning purposes and financially, from a cap standpoint and all those sort of things, we have Larry’s [cap] number already baked into our numbers.

“Now, any kind of business decisions moving forward, renegotiations with Larry and that sort of thing, we’ve had ongoing talks with [agent] Eugene Parker and we will continue to have ongoing talks. But again, the best I can tell you is that it is our intent to keep Larry and make sure he stays a Cardinal the rest of his career.”

Fitzgerald has the Cards in a unique position here. If they’re intent on not releasing him, he can sit tight on the big number by refusing to take a pay cut or restructure.

Of course, if there’s something in it for him (such as straight cash, homey) to do a longer deal, then Keim may get his wish.

But one thing’s for sure. Saying he hopes to keep Fitzgerald a Cardinal for life will be easier said than done for Keim this offseason.

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Falcons start selling playoff tickets today

Matt Ryan, Drew Brees AP

The Falcons could still end their season with a loss and a top-10 draft pick.

But they’re selling playoff tickets today anyway.

The team announced that tickets for a potential wild card game would go on sale at noon.

Of course, there’s the small matter of beating the Panthers in next week’s loser-leaves-town match, but Falcons fans can still roll the dice.

Any tickets purchased through Ticketmaster will be immediately refunded if the Panthers win, while the team is offering 25 percent off the single game rate for the playoffs to season ticket holders if the postseason tickets are bought through the team website.

Season ticket holders are also offered a “no risk” option with no money down.

As popular as the NFL has become, teams are finding out that selling early playoff tickets can be tough. And with a 6-9 team that lives in a town which will host bowl games in the coming days, selling tickets to a potential thrashing by a better wild card team is not without its challenges.

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Eagles will roll with Mark Sanchez to close out season

Mark Sanchez AP

The Eagles are out of the playoff race , joining a short list of teams that won nine of their first 12 games before falling short of the postseason.

There have been plenty of reasons for the three-game losing streak that has pushed the Eagles out of contention, including five turnovers by Mark Sanchez that have continued a season-long issue with giveaways from the team’s quarterbacks. With Nick Foles still out with a broken collarbone and Sanchez headed for free agency, some may have wondered if the Eagles would give Matt Barkley a look in the season finale in hopes of starting the offseason evaluations at the position.

It’s not going to happen, according to coach Chip Kelly.

“Mark’s our quarterback,” Kelly said on 94WIP. “Again, I thought Mark played a really good game. He goes 37-of-50. He was 37-of-49 before that last pass [an interception by Bashaud Breeland]. I’m sure he wants that pass back, everybody wants that pass back, but I think Mark played a good game and we’ll continue to go with Mark.”

The turnover problems started with Foles and the two quarterbacks have 25 turnovers between them this season, leaving the Eagles with some things to sort out before the start of next season. They’ve also got issues to work on in the secondary after struggles there did a lot to take the 2014 season from promising to painful in Philadelphia.

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Marshawn has a very polite media availability

Lynch Getty Images

Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch has now completed the press conference trifecta.

From a media availability consisting mainly of “yeah” answers to one filled with “nope,” Lynch opted for good manners after Sunday night’s win over the Cardinals.

Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times has posted the transcript of the session, with every question containing an expression of gratitude.

On his 79-yard touchdown run:  “Thank you.”

On how his stomach was feeling:  “Thanks for asking.”

On what he saw on the long touchdown run:  “Thanks for asking.”

Asked again about the touchdown run:  “Thanks for asking.”

“What’s that?” the reporter said.

“Thanks for asking.”

“Can you talk about the run?” the reporter said.

“I know.  I said, ‘Thank you for asking.’  I appreciate it.”

The “thank you” routine continued a bit longer before the reporters gave up.  Which clearly is what Lynch is trying to get them to do.  Eventually, they simply won’t try to ask him any questions at all.

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Packers had to adjust play calls with Aaron Rodgers ailing

Packers Buccaneers Football AP

Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers battled the flu all week, so they knew he’d be somewhat less than 100 percent.

But when he strained a calf muscle early in yesterday’s win over the Buccaneers, they had to make some adjustments.

“He didn’t want to come out,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said, via Wes Hodkiewicz of the Green Bay Press-Gazette. “I was probably more affected by it than anybody with some of the play calls. Really, really a gritty performance by Aaron.”

With Rodgers unable to move as he’s accustomed or able to, the Packers used him in more pistol formations to keep him from having to move. But after the second series, Rodgers was largely untouched in the pocket, a testament to his offensive line and the punchlessness of the Buccaneers.

“The game plan that we had for it, we were able to stay with the majority of it,” McCarthy said. “Frankly, I probably struggled with it more than anybody and probably should have just cut him loose.”

Rodgers was able to do enough to keep the Bucs at bay, but getting him well before next week’s game for the division title against the Lions is another matter.

“It’s too early to give a 100 percent guarantee,” Rodgers said. “But it would definitely take a lot to hold me out of that game.”

Backup Matt Flynn popped up a few times and grabbed a helmet, but it was clear Rodgers wasn’t coming out, which is a good sign for this week.
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Bills still haven’t won in Oakland since 1966

Bills AP

My favorite fact of the last week came from Oakland, where the Bills hadn’t won since 1966.  Picked by everyone to end that streak in 2014, the Bills still haven’t won in Oakland since 1966.

Peter King of shares some of the details regarding the last time the Bills won in Oakland.

The 31-10 Buffalo win happened on Thanksgiving, with Jack Kemp at quarterback for the Bills and Tom Flores at quarterback for the Raiders.  Troy Aikman had been born three days earlier.  The Beatles convened that same day for the first recording session for Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.  The very first Super Bowl (which wasn’t even known as the Super Bowl at the time) was still 51 days away.

Here’s the box score of the game.  Buffalo desperately needed a repeat performance, 48 years later.  Now it’s time to wait until next year, both for a chance to play at Oakland (based on the schedule) and more importantly for a chance to break a playoff drought that has now reached one third of the 48-year failure to win in Oakland.

Based on the scheduling formula, the Bills won’t be playing the Raiders at all next year.  If they move in 2016, the Bills failure to win in Oakland could linger on a lot longer.

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Charles Woodson: Tony Sparano “made his case” to stick around

Buffalo Bills v Oakland Raiders Getty Images

The Raiders won for the third time under interim coach Tony Sparano on Sunday, knocking the Bills out of playoff contention and running their home winning streak to three games in front of an appreciative group of fans.

With Oakland on the road next week, it could have also been Sparano’s final home game in charge of the team. The Raiders are expected to look elsewhere for a permanent head coach, although Sparano can rest assured that his belief that he should be considered for the job is shared by several of his players.

Defensive tackle Antonio Smith said that Sparano has done “so many things to change the mindset of this team” and quarterback Derek Carr also threw some love in Sparano’s direction. Safety Charles Woodson, who said that he’d like to see his position coaches back with the team regardless of other moves, said he thinks Sparano made a strong impression.

“I think he’s done a strong job for us,” Woodson said, via “Of course I’m not privy to those decisions, but up until this point, he’s definitely made his case.”

The Raiders held onto Tom Cable after he finished a season well as an interim coach, but he went 13-19 over two seasons as the permanent coach and there are several other examples around the league of sticking with a successful fill-in only for things to go south down the road. How much that history or the players’ feelings will impact Raiders owner Mark Davis is unclear, but the Raiders have likely helped whatever chances Sparano has of keeping the job with their efforts in recent weeks.

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Russell Wilson deserves MVP consideration

Wilson Getty Images

Various debates have emerged in recent weeks regarding the looming MVP vote.  You know, the one that will be taken after the season and not announced until the night before the Super Bowl, when we no longer care very much about the MVP award.

From J.J. Watt to Aaron Rodgers to Tom Brady to DeMarco Murray to Tony Romo to Le’Veon Bell, different points and performances in the season have justifiably sparked discussion and/or fascination about the biggest individual prize in the NFL — even though the process for determining it remains flawed and far from perfect.

When it’s time for the clique of 50 Associated Press voters to cast one vote in a rules-are-there-ain’t-no-rules process that permits them to split votes if the spirit so moves them and that cries out for a Heisman-style system with more voters and a first-, second-, third-place ballot, Russell Wilson deserves consideration.

Wilson deserves consideration not just for what he has done all year long, but for what he did on Sunday night, in a game with enormous stakes.  The Cardinals, with a win, would have nailed down home field advantage throughout the entire postseason, given the site of the Super Bowl.  The Seahawks, with a win, would become a Week 17 home victory against the Rams away from winning the division and possibly seizing home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs.

In a rousing Seahawks victory, Wilson led the Seattle offense to a franchise record 596 total yards, accounting for 427 of them himself (339 passing, 88 rushing).  Wilson had a 55-yard run and an 80-yard touchdown pass in the same game.  He engineered an offense that put 35 points on one of the best defenses in the NFL.

For the year, Wilson now has 26 total touchdowns and only six turnovers.  He has thrown for 3,236 yards and added 842 on the ground.

It’s easy to dismiss Wilson as a glorified game manager, benefiting from a great defense and the presence of Marshawn Lynch, who perhaps deserves a little MVP consideration of his own.  It’s easy to do that, if you don’t watch the Seahawks play.

At a time when the league has caught up with mobile quarterbacks, no one can catch Wilson.  He buys time being the line of scrimmage, darting and spinning and accelerating away from defenders.  He finds the open man from the pocket and outside it.  And when he decides to run, run he does — at all times protecting himself from the kind of hits that have put other mobile quarterbacks on the sidelines.

There’s still a game to go, and the final playoff tree and season statistics should have a lot to do with the final vote.  For now, Wilson at least deserves a spot in the conversation.  A week from now, it’s possible he’ll deserve the prize itself.

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Dolphins owner says he never considered Jim Harbaugh (this time)

Baltimore Ravens v Miami Dolphins Getty Images

Dolphins owner Stephen Ross cleared the schedule for Miami reporters by declaring there would be no coaching search this year.

Of course, Ross has gone looking for coaches when he had one before, but as he retained Joe Philbin, he said that wasn’t the case this time.

I didn’t put out any feelers,” Ross said, via Adam Beasley of the Miami Herald. “I did not talk to Harbaugh.”

That would be soon-to-be available Jim Harbaugh, whom Ross once wooed while Tony Sparano was still under contract.

But the Ross stood firm behind Philbin, saying he like the direction of his team even before yesterday’s comeback win.

“I believe in this team, I believe in the coach, we are building something,” Ross said. “I have looked at the whole situation, as I have been looking at it all year. I think the coach has a year on his contract, we are bringing him back and, you know, what else can I tell you? I think we are building something great here. He is the right guy for this team, and we are building something.”

Of course, even as Ross made it clear he was keeping Philbin, that comes with conditions.

“Patience is a virtue, you know,” Ross said, “but I’m expecting big things next year, I’ll tell you that.”

Leaving things as they are is a hard lesson for owners to learn, but Ross is taking an important step, by refusing to play with the shiniest toy of the offseason.

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Roddy White to Keenan Lewis: We just woke up out of the grave

Atlanta Falcons v New Orleans Saints Getty Images

After the final gun in Sunday’s 30-14 Falcons win eliminated his team from playoff contention, Saints linebacker Junior Galette said it felt like “a funeral” in the locker room.

It was an interesting choice of words. During the week leading up to the game, Saints cornerback Keenan Lewis said that the team planned on sending the Falcons to their funeral, a bit of trash talk that the Falcons didn’t answer when meeting with the media. They saved their response for the field and the postgame meetings with reporters instead.

Wide receivers Roddy White and Harry Douglas both pointed out that Lewis had to come out of the game to get an IV at one point, with Douglas saying that you “can’t send us to a funeral you’re not showing up for.”

“If you’re going to go out there and be talking about funerals and arranging funerals and bringing in flowers and doing all that stuff, you’ve got to finish the game,” White said, via “Unfortunately, he didn’t even play the whole game. … Today, at [3:48 p.m.], we just woke up out the grave. So right now, we’re going to get ready for next week.”

For his part, Lewis tipped his cap to Atlanta and said they deserved to move on to a Week 17 date with the Panthers that will decide the race for the NFC South crown. That means there will be another funeral with the Falcons trying to again send the wreath rather than receive it,.

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Monday morning one-liners

Khalil Mack, Sio Moore AP

RB Fred Jackson set a new personal best for single-season receiving yards as the Bills lost in Oakland.

Dolphins players were happy to hear that coach Joe Philbin will return in 2015.

WR Danny Amendola stepped up with Julian Edelman out of the Patriots lineup.

Said Jets G Willie Colon of coach Rex Ryan, “I honestly wanted to win for him more than anybody.”

Current members of the Ravens who once played for the Texans didn’t get the homecoming they wanted.

The Bengals will play for the AFC North title next week regardless of what happens on Monday night.

WR Josh Gordon’s quiet return to the Browns continued in Sunday’s loss.

Steelers coach Mike Tomlin called a taunting call against CB William Gay “ridiculous,” but Gay said he respects anything the officials call.

K Randy Bullock had a big day as the Texans knocked off the Ravens.

The Colts didn’t look ready for the playoffs in Dallas on Sunday.

If Marqise Lee has five catches in Week 17, the Jaguars will be the first team with three rookies that caught at least  40 passes.

The Titans feel G Chance Warmack has improved this season.

Is the Broncos defensive line the best in team history?

The Chiefs haven’t authored a strong finish to this season.

Raiders LB Khalil Mack is closing his rookie season on a high note.

Saturday’s big Chargers comeback was fueled by the defense.

Said Cowboys RB DeMarco Murray of his injured left hand, “It affected me a little bit, it was hurting throughout the game. But I made my mind up a long time ago that I was going to play. I was happy to be out there and happy to do whatever I can to help this team win and it’s awesome with the win.”

Giants WR Rueben Randle had his best game of the year.

How much have the Eagles missed WR DeSean Jackson this season?

The Redskins Defense has started picking up more turnovers.

QB Jimmy Clausen’s fire on the field was appreciated by the Bears.

The Lions were sloppy on Sunday, but they survived.

Sacks just kept on coming for the Packers.

Vikings coach Mike Zimmer wasn’t pleased with his defense’s play on Sunday.

Falcons KR Devin Hester took a moment to offer an official a shoulder rub during Sunday’s win.

RB Jonathan Stewart came up with a big game for the Panthers.

A frame-by-frame look at what officials ruled was a crucial fumble by Saints TE Jimmy Graham.

The Buccaneers Offense was hard to find in a 20-3 loss to the Packers.

Cardinals defenders had one sack Sunday night after picking up seven in their first meeting with the Seahawks.

The Rams were left to lament their mistakes after losing to the Giants.

49ers T Anthony Davis tried to get under Chargers LB Manti Te’o’s skin on Saturday.

TE Luke Willson had a breakout game as the Seahawks romped in Arizona.

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