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During the Patriots’ 27-0 win at home against the Texans last Thursday night, the Texans didn’t make it across midfield until the third quarter was almost up.
The Patriots defense deserves a lot of credit for that, but their effort got a big boost from the work of punter Ryan Allen. Allen put six of his seven punts inside the 20-yard-line over the course of the game and posted a net average of 47.6 yards per kick for the night.
That made him the choice for AFC special teams player of the week and part of an effort that got praised by coach Bill Belichick after the game.
“Tremendous, tremendous. Field position was phenomenal,” Belichick said. “It seemed like they had to go 90 yards every time they had the ball.”
Allen’s gross average was also 47.6 yards, so there’s some credit that has to go to the punt coverage team as a whole for consistently pinning the Texans deep in their own end.
Vikings defensive end Everson Griffen had a great game on Sunday in Charlotte, despite battling an illness.
With three sacks, three tackles for loss, and a whopping nine quarterback hurries against the Panthers, Griffen won the NFC defensive player of the week award.
The regular-season player-of-the-week streak stands at five. Griffen was defensive player of the week in Week 17 of 2015, and kicker Blair Walsh was the special-teams player of the week in Week 16.
Griffen still wasn’t satisfied with his three-sack day.
“The last play of the game when Cam threw the interception [Everson] had his fourth sack and that’s all he talked about the rest of the day is how he missed his fourth sack of the game but that’s just the kind of player that Ev is,” tight end Kyle Rudolph told PFT Live on Monday.
More sacks are surely coming from Griffen, and a four-sack game seems to be lurking.
The NFL doesn’t dole out weekly proclamations about the worst performances around the league, which means there won’t be a formal honor for Jets quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick after he threw six interceptions in last Sunday’s 24-3 loss to the Chiefs.
Fitzpatrick’s willingness to throw the ball to the opposition did bring an award to one member of the Kansas City defense, however. Cornerback Marcus Peters has been named the AFC defensive player of the week.
Peters intercepted Fitzpatrick twice during the proceedings. His first came in the first quarter on a pass intended for Jalin Marshall on a third down and set up the opening score of the game for the Chiefs. The second came in the fourth quarter when Peters reeled in a pass into the end zone. The game still within reach for the Jets at that point, but Fitzpatrick would go on to throw his final three interceptions to ensure it would not stay that way.
Peters also had two interceptions against the Texans in Week Two, putting him halfway to his league-leading total from last season after three games.
The Broncos began the season simply asking quarterback Trevor Siemian to not make a mess of things so their defense could win games.
Now, he’s becoming an active participant in the winning.
Siemian was named AFC offensive player of the week after his four-touchdown day helped the Broncos to a win over the Bengals to stay undefeated.
Siemian was 23-of-35 passing for 312 yards, and is showing an increasing ability to move the ball downfield.
Against the Panthers in the opener (which also marked his first NFL start and pass attempt), the Broncos kept things relatively safe for him. But as the weeks have passed, his yards per attempt have gone up (6.85 against the Panthers, 8.06 against the Colts, 8.91 against the Bengals), an indication they’re beginning to trust him more and more.
The Eagles haven’t been shy about comparing Carson Wentz to some of the best quarterbacks in the history of the NFL after a short time in the league, which may be hyperbolic but Wentz has certainly been playing well.
He led the team to an emphatic 34-3 victory over the Steelers in Week Three to move the Eagles to 3-0 as they head into their bye week. Wentz was 23-of-31 for 301 yards and two touchdowns in the win and ran his streak of throws without an interception to start a career to 102 before the day was over.
That was enough to make him the choice for NFC offensive player of the week honors for the third week of the regular season. He’s also made a strong case to be the offensive rookie of the month for September, although Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott is also likely to get some support for that prize.
Whether Wentz wins that or not, the Eagles are thrilled with their choice and Wentz looks like he’ll be running the offense in Philadelphia long enough to have plenty of other chances to win awards.
Colin Kaepernick is obviously skinnier now than he was during his best years as the 49ers’ starting quarterback, but in August he claimed he hadn’t lost weight. Now he admits he has, and admits he needs to get bigger and stronger.
“I think it’s the fact that my weight isn’t where it was,” Kaepernick said, via the San Francisco Chronicle. “My strength is still growing, developing. But, once again, I’m always going to be prepared. Always ready to put it on the line for this team.”
Kaepernick said his plan is to “Eat food. And a lot of it.” He did not say what kind of food, but he has said in the past that he became a vegan during the 2015 season. Because vegan diets tend to be low in protein, it can be hard to maintain the kind of muscle mass an NFL player needs while staying strictly vegan. (Former NFL tight end Tony Gonzalez briefly went vegan during his playing career but then went back to eating meat because of the loss of muscle mass.)
Although Kaepernick believes he’s ready to play as soon as he’s called upon, 49ers coach Chip Kelly — who obsessively monitors his players’ physical preparedness — has said Kaepernick still needs to add muscle mass to be as effective as he once was. Until Kelly sees Kaepernick do that, Blaine Gabbert will remain the 49ers’ starter.
Pro Football Hall of Famer Ronnie Lott continues to talk to Oakland government and Raiders officials about a way to keep the team where it is, and said he was “optimistic” about the chances.
Lott told Vic Tafur of the San Francisco Chronicle that he and former NFL quarterback Rodney Peete are still talking to Oakland mayor Libby Schaaf and Raiders owner Mark Davis about how best to do that, as pressure mounts from a Las Vegas bid.
“I have a lot of respect for Mark,” Lott said. “We have a great relationship. I think the city and county will find a way to get this done, and Mark and the Raiders can continue to be an important part of this community.”
Lott’s investment group has a contract that gives them 90 days to work out a deal for the Coliseum, which expires at the end of November. Lott said his lawyers wouldn’t allow him to reveal the specifics of their financing plan for a stadium. Oakland officials have been adamant about not pouring taxpayer money into a new building, though they have offered $90 million in infrastructure improvements to the area.
Contrary to previous reports, Lott apparently is not part of the group that made a $167 million bid for the Coliseum site recently, which the city rejected.
For Lott, who played for both the Raiders and the 49ers, the deal is personal after watching one of his former teams move to Santa Clara.
“People in San Francisco miss Candlestick [Park] and having the 49ers,” Lott said. “It’s affected a lot of people, and that’s before you even bring the economics into it.
“And look at the good a new stadium can do. The [baseball] Giants’ new ballpark created a demographic change to that area that was for the better. And that could happen to Oakland and the area around the stadium. . . . Oakland losing the Raiders again would be very, very, very tough. You lose all the economic impact that comes with it, and it would impact the whole community, even kids growing up who lose the chance to go watch a game.”
Tourism officials in Nevada have already recommended $750 million in public money be used toward a stadium for the Raiders in Las Vegas, though that would obviously have to be approved by the state legislature.
The Rams first-round pick has moved up to being the backup, after starting the season as the inactive third quarterback behind Case Keenum and Sean Mannion, but Rams coach Jeff Fisher said he’s unmoved by peer pressure as other rookies have success.
“No,” he replied when asked if the gains of others changed their plan, via Alden Gonzalez of ESPN.com. “I spoke on that. I’m happy for young quarterbacks when they have success, but we have our own sense of timing here with him.
“The quarterbacks are having success because of injuries. As I mentioned last week, had we not had the injuries that we did in the league, probably all four of those quarterbacks either would be inactive or backups.”
While that’s certainly true of Dak Prescott (Tony Romo), Jacoby Brissett (Jimmy Garoppolo) and Cody Kessler (Robert Griffin III and Josh McCown), the injury that got Wentz into the lineup happened in Minnesota, as the Eagles were able to trade Sam Bradford for a haul when the Vikings lost Teddy Bridgewater.
But that doesn’t take away from the salient point, which is a few of those guys are playing really well, specifically Wentz and Prescott.
The Rams finally scored a touchdown last week, which will only serve to embolden the Rams to stick with Case Keenum for the short term. But the longer you see other teams not fail miserably just because they’re playing a rookie, the Rams may eventually come to realize they’ve overthought this one.
Giants coach Ben McAdoo said Monday that wide receiver Odell Beckham still needs to do a better job of controlling his emotions after Beckham threw a sideline tantrum last Sunday that ended with tears in his eyes and a welt on his face as a result of a run-in with a kicking net.
Among the reasons why McAdoo wants to see Beckham check himself is because he thinks he becomes “a distraction to himself and his teammates,” but one of Beckham’s teammates disagrees with the coach’s assessment of the impact of Beckham’s activities. Left guard Justin Pugh said Tuesday that he has his mind on what he needs to do and not on watching to see if Beckham takes a swing at inanimate objects while stalking up and down the sideline.
“No, I didn’t find it distracting,” Pugh said, via NJ.com. “But, obviously, I’m also out there playing. I’m not sitting, watching what’s going on the whole time. I’ve got to worry about what I have to do. Obviously he’s one of the leaders of this team. He’s an emotional guy. We just have to make sure that those emotions are driven to going out there on the field and performing. I think he knows that, he knows that for sure.”
The far more damaging thing for the Giants would be to lose Beckham to another suspension or an injury generated by one of his gyrations. Pugh offered a reminder that Beckham didn’t play when the Giants lost to the Vikings last season as a result of his one-game suspension for his behavior in the team’s loss to the Panthers and they’ll certainly need their top wideout to attract notice for his play if they’re going to avoid another loss to Minnesota next Monday.
The Cardinals are 1-2 after getting thumped by the Bills last Sunday, leaving coach Bruce Arians to say that the “biggest thing is be honest and identify problems” with the team that can be corrected before the record gets any worse.
Arians made that comment on Sirius XM NFL Radio during an appearance with Alex Marvez and Bill Polian and he also revealed one of the problems that he’s identified with the team.
“We have some really, really good leaders,” Arians said. “But to be a good leader, the others have to follow you. We’ve got a lot of young guys. We have some new faces that are doing their own thing and not following the example set by these guys. And it’s a two-way street. They can only lead you to water, but you’ve got to drink it. And some of these young guys have got to get out of old habits and get in with the Cardinal Way.”
The Cardinals haven’t scored in the first quarter this season and they’ve also struggled coming out of the locker room in the third quarter in their two losses, two things that could be attributed to a lower level of focus than Arians might like from his team. There are more tangible things to point to, including an offense that might have too many eggs in the long pass basket, and working on both fronts will be the route back to a winning record.
The Bills have juggled their practice squad.
The Patriots are expecting a challenge from the Bills’ running game.
The Ravens lead the league with 10 blocked kicks since 2014.
Hue Jackson needs the Browns’ offense to sustain longer drives.
The Steelers have just one sack through three games.
The Colts think their young safeties will shape the defense for years to come.
The Broncos’ opponents are finding that there aren’t many ways to beat Denver’s defense.
The Giants have some important moves to make to replace three injured players.
Eagles defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz is bolstering his reputation with a big start to the season.
Bears coach John Fox is loyal to his assistants, maybe to a fault.
The Lions are improving the Wi-Fi at Ford Field.
Should the Packers be concerned that they only won by 7 points on Sunday, after leading by 28?
The Vikings deserve a lot of credit for the way they’ve approached the first three games of the season.
The Saints’ message after their 0-3 start is all about accountability.
The Buccaneers are using their backup offensive linemen as extra blockers in short-yardage situations.
Buccaneers coach Bruce Arians is feeling some heat.
Penalties are a concern for the Rams.
The 49ers’ defense is a work in progress.
While most of America seemed to be watching the debate instead of football Monday night, New Orleans clearly voted none of the above and watched their beloved Saints instead.
Nationally, ratings for the Monday Night Football game between the Saints and Falcons were way down, with a 36 percent drop from last year’s Week Three game.
But in New Orleans, the combined ratings for football exceeded those for Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump.
According to the New Orleans Times-Picayune, the combined ratings for the debate on numerous channels was 32.7, while the Saints game on ESPN (12.8) and local affiliate WDSU (26.3) did a combined 39.1.
The game was only shown on ESPN in Atlanta, as local affiliates carried the debate instead, with ESPN carrying a 14.1 rating there.
Matt Ryan’s thumb seems to be OK. His pride, on the other hand, might be a little sore.
The Falcons quarterback said his left thumb was no issue, after finishing Monday’s game with a glove on it following a hit from Nick Fairley.
“I’m good,” Ryan said on his weekly radio show on 680 The Fan, via the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “It just got banged up kind of in the pocket. I wanted to make sure so I threw a glove on there so I could have a good grip, but I feel good this morning.
“I’m good to go. I’ll be ready to go out to practice on Wednesday.”
And when he gets there, he’ll probably still be hearing it from his friends and teammates about the flop he took late in the game, when he was in position to block Fairley on a cutback run by Devonta Freeman, but instead either got his feet tangled up or made a business decision and went down before the 308-pound Fairley could destroy him.
“That was bad,” Ryan said with a laugh, via ESPN.com. “Free did such a good job. I didn’t really anticipate the ball coming back that way. And when he did, I just kind of wanted to get in the way and make sure he could outrun him. And I caught an edge on my cleat and fell. It probably ended up for the best because [Fairley] was kind of eyeing on me pretty good. He would have hit me pretty good. Not my finest moment, but a good play for us nonetheless.”
Freeman gained 16 yards on the play, no thanks to Ryan.
The Patriots coaching staff, particularly Bill Belichick, has gotten plenty of credit for getting the team through three quarters of Tom Brady’s suspension without a loss.
But they wouldn’t have been able to do it without LeGarrette Blount.
The veteran running back’s actually leading the NFL with 298 rushing yards, and particularly in the last two games, has shown he can still be the kind of bell-cow back a team needs when there’s uncertainty at quarterback.
“I know what people say, but you still have to be able to run the football in this league,” Blount told Karen Guregian of the Boston Herald. “When it’s an obvious run situation, and a lot of teams know it’s an obvious run situation, you’ve got to be able to run the football. Some of our runs have come on missed tackles and bad run reads on the defensive side, but if you do everything right, like we’ve been doing, you’re going to get a couple of good plays.”
He’s had more than a couple. He’s gone for over 100 yards each of the last two weeks, carrying the load when Jimmy Garoppolo injured his shoulder midway through the Dolphins game and then when Jacoby Brissett started last week against the Texans. For a guy who was no lock to make the roster out of training camp, that’s pretty impressive.
“I didn’t know. I just did whatever they told me to do and made sure I stayed prepared,” Blount said. “I just did everything I could to make sure I stayed ready for the moment. Whenever my number is called, I just go out there and make the best of an opportunity, and do whatever the team needs to make us win.”
That’s meant being ready to carry the ball, a lot, with 20 or more carries in each of the first three games. And without knowing who will be under center this week against the Bills, it’s reasonable to assume that streak will continue.
Giants center Weston Richburg became the first player to be ejected from a game for picking up two separate unsportsmanlike conduct penalties under the new league rule requiring disqualification for such offenses.
The latter of the two penalties Richburg incurred has now led to a fine as well.
Richburg was flagged for unsportsmanlike conduct for loudly and profanely (the interaction was clearly heard on the TV broadcast) disagreeing with a holding call against him. Then in the fourth quarter, Richburg blocked Norman from behind on a catch and run by Odell Beckham. He then turned around and stood over Norman, which drew the second flag and the ejection.
Richburg felt the umpire was out to get him. Now the league is out to get in his wallet.