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Alfonzo Dennard due in court two days before Patriots’ opener

Dennard Getty Images

On Friday, September 6, while the Patriots are making their final preparations to face the Bills two days later, New England cornerback Alfonzo Dennard will be in a Nebraska courtroom.

Dennard, who was originally scheduled to appear in court this week on a probation violation hearing, had his court date moved to September 6, according to Lori Pilger ‏of the Lincoln Journal Star.

In April, Dennard was placed on probation and sentenced to 30 days in jail after he was convicted of assaulting a police officer. At the time, the judge agreed to put off the 30-day jail sentence until after the upcoming NFL season, and said that if Dennard kept his nose clean he would get the opportunity to avoid jail at all. But in July, Dennard was arrested on suspicion of DUI.

The worst-case scenario for Dennard and the Patriots would be that the judge finds that Dennard violated his probation with the DUI arrest and orders him to serve the 30-day jail stint immediately. Going to jail for 30 days starting on September 6 would keep Dennard out for at least the first five games of the regular season.

However, it’s also possible that Dennard’s court date could get pushed back again, and that he won’t even have to miss any practice. So far, Dennard has managed to avoid having his off-field incidents affect his availability to the Patriots.

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Broncos couldn’t help getting caught up in the moment

Peyton Manning AP

Because he’s so focused on the process, Peyton Manning’s Broncos teammates knew not to expect a big fuss last night when he broke the league’s all-time touchdown record.

But they also knew what it meant.

You kind of just know you’re part of something big,” Broncos tight end and former Colts teammate Jacob Tamme said, via Jeff Legwold of ESPN.com. “You know someday you’re going to reflect on it, think about it, but in the moment he wants to win games and we want to win games. But someday, yes, it’s going to be a good story.”

Even for defensive players, who were about to take the field again, it was hard to ignore.

“I wasn’t really paying attention, I don’t get to see him really, we’re looking at our sheets, talking about what we’re going to do on the next play, things like that,” linebacker Von Miller said. “But we were looking at our stuff, and all of a sudden it was like a concert, all the phones were up all over the stadium, you could feel it. We knew it was going to happen. And you had to watch.”

And those are the guys with ringside seats, so imagine what the fans in the stands felt.

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Jerry Jones thinks Sunday was the best game of Tony Romo’s career

New York Giants v Dallas Cowboys Getty Images

Last week, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said that he thought quarterback Tony Romo was playing the best football of his career and Sunday’s 31-21 win over the Giants gave the owner no reason to turn off his well-worn hyperbole switch.

Romo threw three touchdowns, including a strike to Terrance Williams that saw Romo scramble to avoid the rush before making a pinpoint throw, and completed 17-of-23 passes for 279 yards after taking a painkilling injection before the game to deal with rib and ankle problems. Romo didn’t throw an incompletion in the second half and Jones had more praise for the quarterback after the team’s sixth straight win.

“I’d have to say that may be [the] best game I’ve ever seen Tony Romo play,” Jones said, via ESPNDallas.com. “That was an outstanding game. He was pinpointing the ball, making the kind of plays and protecting the ball.”

If it was the best game of Romo’s career, a big chunk of the credit should go to wide receiver Dez Bryant for helping to make it possible. Bryant caught seven of Romo’s nine second half completions with five of them going for first downs and two setting the Cowboys up just outside the end zone for touchdowns that put the game firmly in Dallas’ pocket.

The commitment to and emergence of the running game this season has taken the pressure off of Romo to do everything for the Cowboys offense. That’s worked out to a balanced, efficient and versatile offensive attack, six straight wins and a more credible stream of hot air than we’ve been used to hearing from Jones in recent years.

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Doug Baldwin: Harvin trade made for an emotional roller coaster

Doug Baldwin, Alec Ogletree AP

Neither Pete Carroll nor Russell Wilson was willing to talk much about the departure of wide receiver Percy Harvin in the wake of Sunday’s loss to the Rams, but one of the players that Harvin reportedly had problems with during his time in Seattle was more willing to speak his mind.

Wide receiver Doug Baldwin admitted that he did have a physical altercation with Harvin earlier this year and suggested the other reports of backstage drama were correct, although he downplayed the significance of the moment as the byproduct of spending so much time together. Baldwin also said that he thought the timing of the trade threw the team off stride regarding their preparation for Sunday.

“Obviously the shock of the transaction and what took place there made for a bit of an emotional roller coaster. When something that drastic happens, right before we get on the bus [to go to the airport for the trip], there is going to be an emotional impact. I felt we handled it to the best of our ability, but I think it might have been a factor in some way,” Baldwin said, via ESPN.com. “There’s obviously a lot of things that went on this week that affected the team in numerous ways. As a competitor, you don’t want to admit those things. But as a human, it is human nature. It took us a little while to get on track. I’m just proud we responded the way we did and fought until the very end.”

The Seahawks outscored the Rams 20-7 in the second half, but that wasn’t enough to overcome the 18-point hole that St. Louis dug for them in the first half. While we can’t be sure, Seattle should avoid the emotional roller coaster this week as they prepare to face the Panthers and halt their losing streak at two games.

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Jeff Fisher on fake punt: We were having a hard time stopping Russell Wilson

Benjamin Cunningham AP

Rams coach Jeff Fisher has never shied away from fake punts and other such trickery, but punter Johnny Hekker was still surprised to hear that the coach wanted him to throw the ball from his own 18-yard line with just under three minutes to play in Sunday’s game against the Seahawks.

Hekker said his response was to ask if the coach was serious before heading onto the field to throw a pass to Benny Cunningham, who said he thought the team would have cut him if he didn’t reel in the pass. We’ll never have to find out because Cunningham did catch the ball and the Rams did hold on for the 28-26 victory. After the game, Fisher explained that he didn’t think his defense would have been able to stop Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson, who accounted for more than 400 yards of offense, before Seattle moved back into the lead.

“You guys saw the flow of the game, we were having a hard time stopping Russell,” Fisher said, via the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “There was too much time left on the clock right there, and I didn’t want to give the ball back to them. I thought it was our best chance to get a first down.”

Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said the team was prepared for Fisher to pull some stuff out of his hat, but that they didn’t think the fake would come in that situation. He called it a “very gutsy” call, which sounds about right for a decision that would have left Fisher to be hoisted up by his own mustache for handing the Seahawks a win if things had backfired.

As he said, though, Fisher thought his team would lose if they gave the Seahawks the ball with a conventional punt so he chose to go out fighting.

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Darnell Dockett teases Raiders fans with sign

Darnell Dockett AP

Though the winless Raiders showed some spark in Sunday’s game vs. Arizona, they couldn’t quite keep up with the NFC West-leading Cardinals, who secured a 24-13 victory in Oakland.

And as the Cardinals took care of business against the Raiders, injured Arizona defensive tackle Darnell Dockett wrote a message visible to Oakland fans facing the Cards’ sldeline.

Via a photo posted on Twitter by Darren Urban of the Cardinals’ website, Dockett wrote “WORST TEAM IN NFL 0-6” on a white dry-erase board.

In a devilish touch, the “0” had a smiley face in it.

After the game, Dockett, via his verified Twitter account, explained his message this way: “Raiders fans threw coins and ice at us, called us every name in the book. That’s what made me write the sign.”

In any event, the Cardinals got out with a win, improving their record to 5-1. The Raiders, on the other hand, are already approaching the doorstep of a 12th straight season without a postseason bid.

If there’s a silver lining, it’s that Oakland has picked up its play after an embarrassing Week Four defeat in London. Still, the Raiders opened seven-point underdogs for next Sunday’s game in Cleveland. They are assured of being underdogs in the bulk of their final 10 games of the season, with the Dec. 21 home matchup with Buffalo perhaps their best chance at being favored.

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Sunday night wrap-up: Broncos can play defense too

Denver Broncos vs. San Francisco 49ers Getty Images

Peyton Manning got to have his moment in the first half.

But beyond the greatest touchdown-thrower in the history of the NFL, the Broncos are also building a defense that might give him a chance to add some more hardware to his trophy case as well.

While the night will be remembered for Manning breaking Brett Favre’s record for career touchdown passes, it was also a staunch defense that helped the Broncos to a 42-17 win over the 49ers.

A pass-rush that was augmented by the addition of DeMarcus Ware and the return of Von Miller has energized a group that pestered the 49ers throughout the night.

Both had sacks in the first half, extending their own personal streaks. The team combined to sack 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick six times on the night, with Ware getting three of them.

Ware’s second of the night moved him into 15th place on the all-time list, with Hall of Famers Derrick Thomas and Rickey Jackson easily within his grasp this year.

It also marked five straight games with at least one sack for Miller, the third time in his career he’s had such a hot streak.

But the Broncos did a solid job against the 49ers across the board. Frank Gore was limited to 20 yards on nine carries (only partially because the score was out of hand early), and the pass coverage was good throughout the night. Cornerback Aqib Talib gets the money and the attention, but fellow cornerback Chris Harris might be playing as well or better this year.

The night belonged to Manning, but having some balance on the other side of the ball might help him have a shot at another title.

Here are five more things we learned during Sunday Night Football:

1.The 49ers have problems, which go beyond the coach-front office drama which has threatened to obscure their season.

They’re simply running out of parts on defense, playing with a skeleton crew that was without a pair of Pro Bowl inside linebackers Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman, pass-rushing threat Aldon Smith and several others.

Manning was going to get his record regardless, but the 49ers don’t have the personnel remaining to play the kind of defense they’ve become accustomed to.

Getting Smith back — perhaps sooner rather than later — will mean a great deal, but there’s more wrong with this defense than one man can fix.

2. Manning is the quarterback, but John Fox is still the coach, so you know all that dangerous throwing stuff makes him nervous.

So it must have pleased him to see running back Ronnie Hillman run for a pair of scores (thankfully after Manning broke the record).

Hillman has shown himself to be more than just a change-of-pace back, running with good power inside. With Montee Ball on the shelf with a groin injury, he’s going to get plenty of chances, and he made the most of them Sunday.

3. The 49ers have been able to withstand offensive line injuries, but this next-man-up thing is getting ridiculous.

Losing center Daniel Kilgore to an apparent broken leg/ankle (trainers don’t break out the air cast for no reason) in the third quarter was a blow. His replacement, rookie Dillon Farrell, limped off the game in the fourth quarter, but he was able to return.

They drafted Southern Cal center Marcus Martin in the third round this year, and clearly hope he could develop there for the long term. But they had just developed Kilgore to replace Jonathan Goodwin, and gave him a contract extension.

They were able to get through without right tackle Anthony Davis since they had Jonathan Martin on hand, but with Mike Iupati out with a concussion, they’re stretched thin. Martin had to go in at guard, when Looney shifted inside to be the third center of the night during Farrell’s absence.

4. The Broncos sent out a collection of quotes from many of the quarterbacks Manning passed tonight, one of whom has some unfinished business.

“Congratulations, Peyton on your touchdown record, a great achievement,” Patriots quarterback Tom Brady said. “We’ll see you in a few weeks.”

The Broncos go to New England on Nov. 2.

Brady has a meager 372 career passing touchdowns.

5. As impressive as Manning’s record-setting performance was, watching the reactions on the sidelines before and after the record tell you plenty about him as well.

When he finally broke the record in the second quarter, his teammates gleefully played monkey-in-the-middle with the ball, leaving Manning looking flustered for a moment before they let him have it back.

He’s the resident prankster, but the fact they were willing to mess with him a bit speaks to the respect they have for him.

But his reaction to the record-tying touchdown might have been the perfect Manning moment.

While others were celebrating, Manning was on the sideline studying photos of the 49ers defense, trying to find his next advantage.

It’s the kind of work he’s always put in, and much of the reason he was able to break the record.

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Daniel Kilgore carted off with leg injury, won’t return

Denver Broncos v San Francisco 49ers Getty Images

The 49ers weren’t deep on the offensive line to begin with.

Now they’re about to get even thinner.

Center Daniel Kilgore is being carted off after getting his leg rolled on, and trainers immediately brought out the air cast.

That’s usually a sign of a broken leg.

He was replaced by rookie Dillon Farrell.

The 49ers were already without guard Mike Iupati, and right tackle Anthony Davis just got back this week.

Kilgore’s a promising young player, who took over for veteran Jonathan Goodwin. But now it looks like the 49ers are going to be without him for a bit.

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Brandon Marshall called out everyone, not just Cutler

Marshall AP

After Sunday’s third home loss in three home games, the Bears came a little unglued.  The situation was particularly stressful for receiver Brandon Marshall, who saw the Bears soundly beaten by the Dolphins, the team that traded Marshall to Chicago in 2012.

After the game, Marshall told reporters — multiple times — that the team’s 3-4 record is unacceptable.  Before Marshall spoke to reporters, things got heated in the locker room, with Marshall yelling loudly during a rant that was heard in the hallway outside.

A report from ESPN.com indicates that Marshall called out quarterback Jay Cutler during the diatribe.  And that’s true, primarily because Marshall called out everyone for having a lack of heart.

The Bears currently have a troubling lack of wins, with only three in seven games.  Meanwhile, the Packers and Lions are running away with the division, leaving the Bears in the dust with the Vikings.

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Peyton Manning breaks NFL’s all-time touchdown record

San Francisco 49ers v Denver Broncos Getty Images

Demaryius Thomas got to do the honors.

But Peyton Manning brought the house down.

The Broncos quarterback just threw his third touchdown of the night, and the 509th of his career, as the Broncos took a 21-3 lead over the 49ers.

Thomas caught the third-and-goal pass and got his feet in, although it might have sparked a riot if they had replayed it.

Manning’s on the kind of roll tonight that extending the record seems entirely possible. He tried to keep everything at bay, but was clearly moved by the ovation and the moment of history he just created.

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Report: Kyle Fuller suffers broken hand, hip pointer in loss

Kyle Fuller AP

One of the NFL’s top defensive rookies is reportedly on the mend with two injuries suffered in defeat on Sunday.

Bears cornerback Kyle Fuller sustained a broken hand and a hip pointer in Chicago’s 27-14 loss to Miami, Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports reported Sunday evening. Veteran Sherrick McManis filled in for Fuller on Sunday.

The 22-year-old Fuller stepped into a bigger role when long-time Bears standout Charles Tillman suffered a season-ending injury in Week Two, and the first-round pick from Virginia Tech quickly proved ready to play. Fuller has intercepted three passes this season, notching 33 tackles.

The Bears (3-4) play at New England next Sunday.

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Aldon Smith could be back a little early

Aldon AP

Before the start of the regular season, 49ers linebacker Aldon Smith received a nine-game suspension for multiple violations of league policies.  The seventh game comes tonight.

Per multiple league sources, there’s a chance that the suspension will be lifted a game or two early.

Of course, there’s a chance that plenty of things will happen, including but not limited to the emergence of winged primates from a place from which winged primates don’t normally emerge.  With Smith, a lifting of the suspension would be a major surprise, given that the possibility of the suspension being lifted early wasn’t mentioned when Smith’s nine-game suspension was announced.

Then again, other aspects of Smith’s suspension weren’t announced, or explained.  For example, Smith had appeal rights that apparently were waived by the player.  Likewise, the league twisted its policies regarding player banishment from the team facility to allow Smith to continue to show up during his suspension, even though players suspended under the personal conduct policy always are ordered to stay away until fully reinstated.

It’s possible that the league office dangled a different carrot for Smith, encouraging him to go above and beyond his expected behavior with the hope of possibly being allowed to return a little early.

After San Francisco’s Week Eight bye, they host the Rams and then visit the Saints in New Orleans.  Both of those teams would probably be unhappy with a reduced suspension.

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Peyton Manning ties TD record, as Broncos off to hot start

San Francisco 49ers v Denver Broncos Getty Images

Peyton Manning looks like he wants to hurry up and get this record thing over with.

After a review, Manning’s second touchdown of the night was upheld, allowing Wes Welker to be the trivia answer for scoring the touchdown which tied Brett Favre’s all-time record.

Manning’s playing sharper than normal — even for him — completing 7-of-7 for 111 yards and two touchdowns.

And it’s not even the second quarter, which means John Fox can’t possibly take his foot off the gas.

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Manning feared he couldn’t coexist with Harbaugh

Manning Getty Images

So why didn’t the 49ers’ evaluation of quarterback Peyton Manning become a full-blown pursuit and ultimate acquisition of Peyton Manning?

Per a source with knowledge of the situation, Manning ultimately chose not to make the 49ers a finalist for his services.  Apart from Manning preferring to stay in the AFC, the wind and precipitation at Candlestick Park (where Manning would have played for two years) were factors.  Another factor was the potential for friction between Manning and coach Jim Harbaugh.  According to the source, Manning feared that it would be difficult for a pair of ultra-competitive men to coexist.

In Denver, Manning enjoys a high degree of autonomy on of the offensive side of the ball, especially since coach John Fox worked as a defensive coordinator.  In San Francisco, Manning and Harbaugh each would have wanted to run the offense.  And they each would have been willing to argue aggressively in support of their ideas and preferences.

Seth Wickersham of ESPN The Magazine recently repeated a story that had made the rounds in 2012 regarding the interactions of Harbaugh and Manning.

“Harbaugh and Manning were throwing the ball, so it goes, when the coach couldn’t help but remark that his passes had more mustard on them than the still-rehabbing future Hall of Famer’s did,” Wickersham wrote. “You can guess how that went over.”

In the end, Manning decided not to go over to the 49ers.  Eventually, the finalists were the Broncos, Titans, and Cardinals.  Other teams that wanted a seat at the table didn’t get one, including the Seahawks and the Chiefs.

The official story from the 49ers is that they weren’t pursuing Manning at all.

“There’s a perception out there and it’s an erroneous perception that we were flirting with Peyton Manning,” coach Jim Harbaugh said in May 2012, more than two months after Manning picked the Broncos.  “I keep hearing it over and over.  It’s silly and it’s untrue. It’s phony.  Even the perception that we were pursuing.  We were evaluating.  I’ve said all along that Alex Smith has been our quarterback.  There’s no scenario, other than Alex choosing to sign with another team, that we would consider him not as our quarterback.”

Of course, there was another scenario in which the 49ers would consider Alex Smith not their quarterback.  It unfolded during the 2012 season after Smith suffered a concussion and Colin Kaepernick emerged.  The 49ers then traded Smith to the Chiefs.

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Peyton Manning gets No. 507 as the Broncos take early lead

Peyton Manning AP

One to go.

Peyton Manning moved within one touchdown of tying Brett Favre’s all-time touchdown record, hitting Emmanuel Sanders for the score and a 7-0 lead over the 49ers on Sunday Night Football.

Fans in Denver seemed dismayed that they actually ran the ball once entering the red zone, delaying the inevitable record.

Now we have to see if Peyton rounds up or down on his 2.9 touchdown per game average.

It’s hard to tell what the 49ers are going to do, after going three-and-out on the opening drive and then yielding a long scoring drive.

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Judge Jones is expected to rule this week on Goodell testimony in Rice appeal

Goodell Getty Images

Commissioner Roger Goodell has said former U.S. Judge Barbara S. Jones will decide whether Goodell will be testifying at the Ray Rice appeal hearing.  Specifically, Judge Jones is expected to make that decision soon.

Per a source with knowledge of the situation, Judge Jones has informed the NFL and the NFL Players Association that she will be resolving the dispute on whether Goodell will testify this week.  The league and the union have submitted written arguments in support of their competing positions.

The NFL contends that Rice, who was suspended for two games in July, received an indefinite ban because his version of the events consisted starkly with the elevator video that was published on September 8.  Goodell appears to be a highly material witness regarding the story Rice told, especially since Rice told it directly to Goodell — and since Goodell made the decision that Rice had essentially lied.

The NFL has offered, we’re told, to make executive V.P. Adolpho Birch and general counsel Jeff Pash available to testify.  The union and Rice still want to question Goodell.

It seems obvious that Goodell should be required to testify.  Beyond the direct relevance of his testimony to the outcome of the appeal, Goodell’s reluctance to testify creates the impression that the NFL has something to hide.

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