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Pats touchdown with five seconds left lifts them to 30-27 win

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It was not the kind of game you’d expect to see when Drew Brees and Tom Brady are the two starting quarterbacks, but it ended the way you might have predicted.

There weren’t a lot of aerial fireworks over the course of a physical, run-heavy matchup between the Saints and Patriots, but both quarterbacks made big plays in the final minutes. Brees hit Kenny Stills for a 34-yard touchdown with 3:29 to play in the fourth quarter to give the Saints a 24-23 lead over the Patriots. The Saints were able to add to their lead with a field goal when the Patriots tried and failed to convert a fourth down on their own 24-yard line with just under three minutes to play. Bill Belichick made that call despite having all of his timeouts.

Brady would then throw a pick deep in New Orleans territory and the Saints worked some clock before punting. The problem was that they left Brady just enough time to win the day.

A frustrating day for Brady, who was sacked five times and saw receivers make several drops, ended with a 17-yard touchdown pass to Kenbrell Thompkins with five seconds left on the clock to cap a 70-yard drive. That gave the Patriots a 30-27 win in improbable and exciting fashion. Brady’s final line — 25-of-43 for 269 yards with a touchdown and an interception — belies how difficult things were (and how well the Saints defense played before the final minute), but the win makes it much easier to swallow the continued struggles in the passing game.

New England did run the ball well, but there’s two steps backward for any one forward in the passing game. Tight end Rob Gronkowski’s return would surely help, but it might not cure all that ails the Patriots in that regard if Danny Amendola, knocked out on a massive hit by safety Rafael Bush, misses much time.

Brees finished the day 17-of-36 for 236 yards and a pair of touchdowns, so there was plenty of frustration for him on Sunday as well. If Jimmy Graham, who was held without a catch before leaving with an apparent ankle injury, is out for any extended period of time, it might stay that way for the Saints quarterback.

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Jadeveon Clowney boosted by position coach saying he has Hall of Fame potential

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After injuries significantly hampered his first two seasons in the NFL, Texans defensive end Jadeveon Clowney finally had the type of year in 2016 that was anticipated when Houston made him the first overall pick in 2014.

Entering his fourth season, Clowney is now much more confident in his abilities. Nevertheless, Clowney received some additional encouragement from Texans’ defensive line coach Anthony Weaver, who told Clowney he has Hall of Fame potential.

I told him he can be a Hall of Famer,” Weaver said, via Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle. “Now, there’s a number of things that have to happen. You’ve got to stay healthy, you have to be consistent and persistent. But he has all the qualities and athletic attributes in order to do that.”

Clowney was named to his first Pro Bowl after accumulating 52 tackles, six sacks and a forced fumble last year for the Texans. He managed to do so without J.J. Watt drawing double or triple teams for most of the season to make his life any easier either.

“It meant a lot to me,” Clowney said. “He sees the work I’ve put in from two years of being injured to the next year to the year after. All the guys around my team tell me to keep improving and keep getting better and come back for another great season this year.”

With Watt returning from injury, Clowney could be the biggest beneficiary. He could get more one-on-one matchups opposite of Watt and find his way into more sacks now that he’s healthy and has a full season of experience under his belt.

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NFL has no comment on Supreme Court’s decision to take up New Jersey gambling case

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Previously, the NFL had plenty to say about its opposition to efforts by New Jersey to legalize sports wagering. With the Supreme Court agreeing to take up the question of whether New Jersey’s attack on the federal law prohibiting the expansion of betting on football games and other sporting events, the NFL has nothing to say.

The league has declined comment regarding the development, which puts the controversy on the docket for the next Supreme Court term commencing in October.

The NFL currently is tiptoeing through a minefield of hypocrisy when it comes to gambling, given the decision to allow the Raiders to eventually move to Las Vegas. Despite insistence by the Commissioner that the league continues to oppose betting on games, more and more people connected to the league believe that the legalization of wagering is inevitable — and that the NFL can make billions in profit from it.

The first step toward widespread gambling will be the elimination of the federal law that prevents states from adopting sports wagering. That could happen either in the Supreme Court, or through the legislative process.

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Unsigned draft pick count down to just ten, including seven first-round picks

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After Jourdan Lewis signed with the Cowboys on Tuesday night, the number of unsigned draft picks across the NFL stands at just ten.

Seven of those 10 picks were selected in the first round.

The seven first-round picks yet to sign are: Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky (second overall), 49ers defensive lineman Solomon Thomas (third), Titans wide receiver Corey Davis (fifth), Jets safety Jamal Adams (sixth), Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes (10), Raiders cornerback Gareon Conley (24) and Browns defensive back Jabrill Peppers (25).

Safety Obi Melifonwu of the Raiders is the only second-round pick yet to sign. Defensive tackle Eddie Vanderdoes of the Raiders and Packers defensive end Montravius Adams are the remaining third-round picks yet to sign contracts.

First-round picks can sign a four-year contract with a fifth-year option while all remaining draft picks can only sign four-year deals.

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Jourdan Lewis tweets he’s signed with Cowboys, wraps up draft class

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After getting almost all of their rookies signed last month, the Dallas Cowboys had one last member of their nine-man draft class to get under contract.

Third-round pick Jourdan Lewis tweeted he signed his deal with Dallas on Tuesday night.

The former Michigan cornerback was selected by the Cowboys with the 92nd overall pick in the draft last month. He’s had issues off the field that continue to hang over his head, primarily a trial next month on misdemeanor domestic violence charges. Lewis has claimed innocence in the matter.

Per NFL rules, Lewis’ contract will be a four-year deal.

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Jared Goff’s appreciation of Derek Carr’s contract is premature, at best

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Many people have said many things about the contract signed last week by Raiders quarterback Derek Carr. On person who has said things about the deal perhaps shouldn’t, at least not yet.

“Awesome to see that happen to a guy like him in this league,” Rams quarterback Jared Goff said Tuesday during a conference call for the American Century Championship golf tournament, via Gary Klein of the Los Angeles Times. “Obviously, great for guys like myself and younger quarterbacks.”

If by “great” Goff means “premature,” he’s right.

Goff first needs to show that he won’t be a bust (roughly half of all first-round quarterbacks are) before he can even consider getting paid like Carr. Also, because Goff was a first-round pick, he’s signed for five total years. Which means that he’s four seasons away from the franchise-tag dance that could allow him to pile up cash and leverage by operating on a year-to-year basis. It also means that he’s probably three years away from getting an extension.

None of it matters if he doesn’t develop into the kind of quarterback the Rams would pay to keep. Based on his performance in 2016, the jury is out, at best. If the light doesn’t come on in 2017, there’s a chance the Rams will cut their losses and dig the hole for a tug of war with the 49ers, as both possibly try to land Kirk Cousins.

While that’s also premature, it’s equally as premature as Goff thinking about his second contract. His primary focus for now should be justifying his first one.

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Adam Gase already considered players’ coach

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Adam Gase has won only 10 games, but the Dolphins coach already has won over his players.

“Our relationship is unique, because of him, and he allows that with this team and with the guys on this team,” Kenny Stills said, via James Walker of ESPN. “I feel like that’s a part of this building being special. He really, genuinely cares about us and is looking out for us and wants what’s in our best interest. So it makes it easy to play for a guy like that.”

When Stills and other Dolphins players chose to take a knee during the national anthem last season, Gase offered support. When Stills became a free agent in March, he chose to re-sign with the Dolphins reportedly for less money.

Tight end Julius Thomas, obtained in a trade with the Jaguars, spent four seasons with Gase when both were with the Broncos. Thomas sees Gase as a good coach and a good friend.

“Not only is he a guy that I think is one of the best football minds — he’s really good at teaching and instructing — but he’s also somebody that I consider a friend and somebody that I trust in this game,” Thomas said. “To have that marriage is pretty good.”

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Hearing on Michael Floyd’s suspension was held last week

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Now that Vikings receiver Michael Floyd has clarity regarding his situation under Arizona law, he’ll next learn his fate under the NFL’s substance-abuse policy.

Per a source with knowledge of the situation, a hearing was conducted in Floyd’s case last week. Under the current policy, he faces a two-game unpaid suspension, at a minimum. Given that he pleaded guilty to extreme DUI, the penalty could be even greater.

“Absent aggravating circumstances, discipline for a first offense will be a suspension without pay for two (2) regular or postseason games,” the policy provides. “If the Commissioner finds that there were aggravating circumstances, including but not limited to felonious conduct, extreme intoxication (BAC of .15% or more), property damage or serious injury or death to the Player or a third party, and/or if the Player has had prior drug or alcohol-related misconduct, increased discipline may be imposed.”

Floyd’s blood-alcohol concentration was measured at 0.217 percent when he was arrested last year, putting him above the threshold for enhanced penalties.

There’s a separate question as to whether Floyd’s recent violation of the terms of his house arrest, arising from a positive alcohol test, constitutes a second offense under the policy. If it does, he’ll be subject to a separate suspension of eight games.

While that would seem excessive (and thus likely wouldn’t be the outcome), the 0.055-percent reading generated by the in-home testing procedures could be regarded by the league as a violation of Floyd’s treatment plan, assuming he was in the league’s substance-abuse program at the time of the positive test. Depending on his precise status, the incident could potentially trigger separate discipline.

The good news for Floyd is that, once he completes his house arrest, he will have no further obligation to avoid alcohol. This doesn’t insulate Floyd from consequences under the substance-abuse policy, if his treatment plan prohibits alcohol use.

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Jason McCourty: All three Browns QBs showing confidence

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The Browns have Cody Kessler. They have DeShone Kizer. They have Brock Osweiler. Do they have a starting quarterback?

Browns cornerback Jason McCourty thinks they have three.

“Confidence,” McCourty told NFL Network when asked what he has seen from the three quarterbacks competing for the job. “I think that’s big. Just at the quarterback position, there’s going to be ups; there’s going to be downs. But just to see how confident those guys are when they’re taking the huddle [is big]. Obviously our defense is an attacking defense, so they’re getting multiple looks each and every time we step foot on the field, and they keep coming back and responding with big throws, checking the offense at the line of scrimmage. So I think it’s going to be fun just to watch how it unfolds between those three and how they all compete going into training camp.”

Osweiler has the most experience of the three with a 13-8 record as a starter in five seasons. He has completed 488 of 815 passes for 5,083 yards with 26 touchdowns and 22 interceptions. But he might go into training camp third in the pecking order with the rookie Kizer having made up ground on Kessler during the offseason. Kessler went 0-8 as a rookie last season, completing 128 of 195 passes for 1,380 yards with six touchdowns and two interceptions.

McCourty, in his first season in Cleveland after eight seasons in Tennessee, wouldn’t name a favorite to earn the starting job.

“Man, I wish I knew,” McCourty said. “I’m going to try to sneak into some of those offensive staff meetings and try to see Hue [Jackson] and the rest of the staff is thinking over there.

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Report: Scott Fitterer’s interview set with Chiefs

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The Chiefs will interview Scott Fitterer, the Seahawks co-director of player personnel, today or early tomorrow, according to Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network.

The Chiefs are in search of a new General Manager after the surprising decision to fire John Dorsey last week.

Fitterer, whose emphasis is on college scouting for the Seahawks, interviewed for G.M. openings in San Francisco and Indianapolis earlier this year.

The Chiefs also have Ryan Cowden, the Titans director of player personnel, on their list. Cowden is a former Panthers scout who left Carolina last year for a better job in Tennessee.

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Brandon Marshall says goal is Super Bowl, not statistics

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Brandon Marshall accepts his role with the Giants.

In fact, the veteran is more than OK with not being the feature receiver for the first time since 2006 when he was a rookie with the Broncos.

“They were clear with me we have a No. 1 receiver that’s not even in his prime yet, and that we also have a freakin’ stud in Sterling Shepard, so there’s only one ball,’’ Marshall told The New York Post. “I want this to be my most efficient year. It may not be my best statistically, but when it comes to the standpoint of efficiency, I really want to dominate in that category.’’

Marshall, 33, had 109 catches for 1,502 yards and 14 touchdowns in 2015 with the Jets and has 1,000-yard seasons in eight of the past 10 years. He doesn’t expect a repeat of 2015 after signing a two-year, $11 million deal with the Giants, but padding his career statistics isn’t why Marshall picked the Giants.

“I know I could have gone to another team and caught 100-something balls and put up 1,500, 1,600 yards, but that’s not the mission right now,’’ Marshall told The Post. “That’s not the goal. My goal is to touch that Lombardi Trophy. Sometimes you got to sacrifice. There’s gonna be times where I may think I’m open or may be open and not get the ball, and it might hurt. I understand I’m in a great place, and the only thing that matters is bringing home that trophy.’’

Marshall praised Eli Manning. He texted his new quarterback in the past few days, requesting a FaceTime session to review what he learned in the offseason program.

“That’s one of the reasons we have a great opportunity, because everyone knows where they’re supposed to be and knows where the ball’s gonna be and when it’s coming,’’ Marshall told The Post. “That’s something I never had to deal with my entire career. I never had a quarterback be so precise with his preparation and also just ball placement and getting the ball out quick. That’s been the biggest adjustment for me.’’

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Drew Brees admits Saints are dealing with “some tough circumstances”

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The Saints have Super Bowl aspirations. To get there, someone will have to step up at a couple of key positions.

“We’ve got some tough circumstances we’re dealing with right now,” Brees told Larry Holder of the New Orleans Times-Picayune.

Starting left tackle Terron Armstead will miss several months after injuring his shoulder during offseason workouts. Quarterback Drew Brees provided a blunt assessment of the situation on Tuesday.

“Listen, that’s a big blow. I’m not going to lie,” Brees told

Teammate Zach Strief recently pegged Ryan Ramczyk as the frontrunner to replace Armstead. Brees spoke in more guarded terms.

“Hey, everybody gets thrown into the fire at some point,” Brees said. “I don’t know if that’s going to be Week One with [Ramczyk]. But he has to be ready to play. No question.”

Brees also suggested that former tackle Andrus Peat could slide back outside from the guard position.

The franchise quarterback also lamented the loss of defensive tackle Nick Fairley, who’ll be out for the year after a heart condition prompted the team to place fairly on the non-football illness list.

“This is so unfortunate,” Brees said. “I know how hard he worked last year to put himself into a position to be one of the mainstays on our defense. To lose a guy like that on something that’s kind of just of a freak thing, I know he’s heartbroken. We are as well to not have him.”

Nearly every team must deal with injury issues at some point in the year. The Saints are facing multiple issues already, and the hitting hasn’t even begun yet.

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Vince Young expresses lingering bitterness toward Jeff Fisher

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The Titans made Vince Young the third overall pick in the 2006 NFL draft, and he played five seasons in Tennessee, all for coach Jeff Fisher. Young doesn’t think Fisher did much to help him develop as a franchise quarterback.

Young detailed for Sports Illustrated all the ways he felt mistreated by Fisher, who declined to comment for the story.

“I’m going to expose his ass,” Young said of Fisher, detailing the following issues between them:

1. Fisher leaked private discussions the two of them had to the media.

2. Fisher told the pilot of the team plane to take off without Young the day before a road game during Young’s rookie year, even though Young told Fisher he would only be a couple minutes late to the airport and Fisher had held the plane for other players in the past.

3. Fisher falsely told people that Young was suicidal.

4. Fisher banned Young from team meetings the week after Young walked off the sideline after Fisher pulled him from what turned out to be the last game Young ever played for the Titans.

5. Fisher didn’t respond years later when Young sent him a letter apologizing for his role in their strained relationship.

None of those issues reflect well on Fisher, but on closer scrutiny it’s hard to justify putting all the blame on Fisher for those issues, either.

1. Young is now doing the same thing he criticizes Fisher for doing, telling the media about private conversations the two of them had.

2. Young was late for a team flight. That’s on Young.

3. If Fisher really told people that Young was suicidal to discredit Young, that’s a terrible thing to do. But context matters here: At the same time that Fisher was allegedly telling people Young was suicidal, early in the 2008 season, Young’s own mother was telling the media that Young was “hurting inside and out” to such an extent that he might not want to play football anymore. It’s entirely possible that Fisher was telling people Young was suicidal because Fisher was genuinely worried that Young could hurt himself and was trying to get him help.

4. Young threw his shoulder pads into the stands and stormed off during a game. Fisher is hardly the only coach who would tell a player not to come back after that.

5. Fisher could have been the bigger man and responded to Young’s letter, but Young’s own account of the letter suggests that he realizes he bears some of the blame for his strained relationship with Fisher.

Young sounds like he still blames Fisher for his failures in Tennessee. Perhaps Young should look in the mirror when he wonders who to blame for his subsequent failures in Philadelphia, Buffalo, Green Bay, Cleveland and Saskatchewan.

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Houston could renovate Astrodome

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The Oilers last played in Houston in 1996, and their stadium, the Astrodome, was declared unfit for occupancy in 2009. But the Astrodome, as dilapidated as it is, still stands in the parking lot of NRG Stadium.

And it might reopen in three years after a proposed Astrodome renovation took another step forward Tuesday. According to the Houston Chronicle, Harris County Commissioners Court voted to seek a construction manager at risk for the project. Commissioners Court will vote on the construction, which would cost roughly $95 million to raise the Dome’s floors and install two levels of parking underneath, next year.

The Astrodome has been a source of debate in the city and appeared on the verge of demolition in 2013 when voters rejected a $217 million bond proposal for renovations. A renovation would open the 550,000-square-foot building for festivals and conferences with potential commercial uses, per the Chronicle.

The Astrodome, opened in 1965 as the world’s first multipurpose, domed sports stadium, was dubbed the “Eighth Wonder of the World.” It was home to the Oilers and the Astros and hosted other major sporting events, including Muhammad Ali’s fights, the “Battle of the Sexes” tennis match between Billie Jean King and Bobby Riggs in 1973 and the “Game of the Century” basketball game between the University of Houston and UCLA in 1968.

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Eli Manning has no doubt Odell Beckham will be ready

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Giants receiver Odell Beckham skipped voluntary workouts this offseason, but quarterback Eli Manning isn’t concerned about the two of them being ready to go when the season starts.

“Odell and I, we talk constantly, and he’s up front with me about what his plans are, when he’s going to be there and what he needs to do to get better,” Manning told Jim Rome. “So hey, I promote him in doing whatever it takes for him to be at his best, and for that he thought he needed to be training on his own in California to get his workouts to make sure he’s healthy and ready to go for the upcoming season.”

Some players may skip voluntary workouts because they don’t enjoy putting in the work, but Manning said Beckham is definitely not one of those players.

“The guy’s a workhorse. He’s loves the training, he knows his body, he knows what he’s got to do to get ready and so he felt this was the best way for him to get prepared,” Manning said. “Sometimes as athletes, you know your body better than anyone else. You know what you need to do to get in the best shape and get the most work and that’s what he felt, and you have to support the guy, because he is working. He is doing the right things, and he is trying to get better.”

Beckham’s absence was the biggest story of the offseason for the Giants, but Manning sounds convinced that by the time training camp is open in a month, it will be a non-story.

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It’s still too early to come to any conclusions on Kirk Cousins

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The never ending news cycle abhors a vacuum. So when nothing is going on generally, specific situations in which nothing is going on get dusted off from time to time. Enter the Kirk Cousins situation, which periodically will become the focal point of #breakingnews as the true pay-or-get-off-the-pot moment arrives.

As noted last week, anything said about Cousins is “noise” for now, and nothing is going on between himself and the team. The question becomes whether breakthroughs happen as the July 17 deadline approaches.

The safer guess at this point is that a deal won’t get done, primarily because Washington has done nothing over the past two years to show a willingness to get a deal done on the player’s terms. With Cousins now having more leverage than ever, it’s unlikely that Washington will throw great money after good, given the annual missed opportunities to extend Cousins for much less than it would cost now.

In this regard, last week’s Derek Carr contract means nothing. The numbers for Cousins are and have been simple; he has $23.94 million in hand for 2017, and for 2018 he’ll have: (1) $34.47 million under the franchise tag; (2) $28.7 million under the transition tag; or (3) a clear shot at the open market. Coupled with the $19.95 million Cousins earned a year ago, he holds all the cards when it comes to cobbling together a long-term deal based on 2017 and 2018.

Absent a sudden decision by Cousins to make a concession against his leverage or an epiphany by Washington that causes the team to forget that it could have had Cousins for less a year ago and even less in 2015, stubbornness and pride will keep the clock ticking toward Washington having to spend even more to keep Cousins — or watching him walk away.

Either way, the answer won’t come until at least two weeks from now. And if a deal isn’t done, don’t be shocked if Washington leaks the last offer rejected by Cousins, since the magnitude of the number in comparison to the stature of Cousins will make the team seem reasonable and fair, and the player neither.

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