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Calvin Johnson leads Lions to victory in an NFL classic

Dallas Cowboys v Detroit Lions Getty Images

These are the games that make us love football.

Unless you’re a Cowboys fan. Then these are the games that break your heart.

Calvin Johnson showed once again that he’s the best receiver in the NFL, catching 14 passes for 329 yards, and in an amazing back-and-forth game, the Lions won 31-30.

Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford scored the game-winning touchdown on a stunning play with 12 seconds left. After hitting Johnson on a deep ball down to the 1-yard line, Stafford screamed at his teammates to get into position to let him spike the ball and stop the clock. But once the ball was snapped, instead of spiking it Stafford simply lunged forward toward the goal line and picked up a one-yard rushing touchdown.

Turnovers were a huge problem for Detroit. Johnson lost a fumble, and so did Reggie Bush (who really needs to learn to hold onto the ball properly). Stafford threw two interceptions. But a tremendous fourth quarter by the Lions’ offense turned things around.

For the Cowboys, the heartbreaking loss featured two touchdown catches by receiver Dez Bryant (who boasted last week, incorrectly, that he can do whatever Johnson can do), and also featured a sideline meltdown by Bryant, who yelled at teammates and coaches alike. The Cowboys are still in first place in the NFC East, but they have some regrouping to do.

The Lions, on the other hand, head into their bye week feeling great. At 5-3 they’re playoff contenders, and with Megatron, they have the best playmaker in football.

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Falcons extend long snapper Josh Harris too

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Today is the day that the Falcons take care of all family business.

All family business as it pertains to their punt team, anyway. The team announced that they have extended long snapper Josh Harris through the 2018 season. The Falcons have also extended punter Matt Bosher through 2019, which leaves kicker Matt Bryant as the only kicking specialist whose contract will be up before the next Presidential election.

Harris signed with the Falcons as an undrafted free agent from Auburn in 2012 and is in his third year as the team’s snapper. The team is obviously pleased with the job he’s done in the role and he’s also made six tackles covering kicks.

Bryant, who has joined Bosher and Harris as a fixture on special teams in Atlanta, is in the final year of his contract. He’ll turn 40 next year, but has remained a consistent and reliable kicker so the Falcons may move to keep all the band together rather than let him depart after this season.

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NFL and NFLPA have agreed on new drug policy

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Well, this is a total coincidence.

The NFL has something positive it would like to announce.

According to Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network, the league and the NFLPA have reached agreement on a new drug policy.

The announcement is expected soon, the NFL needs all the other news they can muster to deflect from the shameful way they’ve done business lately with the Ray Rice, Greg Hardy and Adrian Peterson cases.

Now that the Is are dotted and the Ts are crossed, we can expect several players to be reinstated or have their suspensions reduced, among other changes.

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Peterson’s agent: This is the best possible outcome given the circumstances

Adrian Peterson AP

The Vikings changed their decision about running back Adrian Peterson’s availability following his indictment on charges reckless or negligent injury to a child early on Wednesday morning and placed him on exempt/commissioner’s permission list.

Peterson will not play for the Vikings again until his legal proceedings related to the case have run their course and Peterson’s agent Ben Dogra told the Associated Press that he and his client feel that the current arrangement is best for all involved.

“This is the best possible outcome given the circumstances,” Dogra said. “Adrian understands the gravity of the situation and this enables him to take care of his personal situation. We fully support Adrian and he looks forward to watching his teammates and coaches being successful during his absence.”

Ed Werder of ESPN reported that the NFLPA asked Peterson if he wanted to challenge the team’s decision, but, as Dogra’s comments make clear, Peterson accepted the move to the exempt list. The growing number of sponsors expressing dissatisfaction with the Vikings’ plan to play Peterson made it clear that Peterson wasn’t going to wind up on the field this Sunday and probably not until the case was resolved, which makes settling it as soon as possible the best way for Peterson to return to the football field. His first court date is currently scheduled for October 8 in Houston.

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Vikings owners finally set to talk about Adrian Peterson

Vikings Stadium Football AP

So far, the Vikings have been willing to let their employees take the bullets for them.

Now, we’re finally going to hear from the desk at which the buck stops.

The Vikings have announced that ownership will address the Adrian Peterson situation at a noon ET press conference.

It’s a good move, too late for Zygi and Mark Wilf.

Sending poor General Manager Rick Spielman out to take the bullets for the ridiculous decision to let Peterson come back after a weekend off was dishonorable. So was changing their mind in the middle of the night, as if no one would notice.

They’ll get a chance to address all that today.

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Goodell “never intended” to hear Ray Rice appeal

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Two years ago, the NFL aggressively defended the ability of Commissioner Roger Goodell to handle the appeal of the suspensions he imposed on the Saints players accused of participating in Gregg Williams’ bounty program.  Eventually, Goodell handed the baton to former Commissioner Paul Tagliabue.  Who overturned the suspensions.

Now, the league won’t be fighting for Goodell’s right to run the Ray Rice appeal party.  According to the league office, Goodell “never intended” to handle Rice’s appeal.

This means that Goodell will grant the NFLPA’s request that he recuse himself from the appeal.  Which means that someone else will handle it.

Ultimately, Goodell has the right to designate a hearing officer.  For now, a decision hasn’t been made.

It could be someone from the league office.  But the NFLPA has asked for a truly independent arbitrator.

Maybe it should be Tagliabue again.

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Gus Bradley: “Far too many” mental errors by wide receivers

Marqise Lee, Chad Henne AP

The Jaguars haven’t had Cecil Shorts in the lineup for the first two weeks of the season, leaving them to roll with three rookies at the top of the depth chart at wide receiver.

As you might imagine, there have been a lot of mistakes from players playing their first games in the NFL. As you’d also probably imagine, those mistakes have agitated head coach Gus Bradley.

Bradley said that the number of mental errors that Marqise Lee, Allen Hurns and Allen Robinson made in the Week Two loss to the Redskins was in the “double digits.” He termed that “far too many” and said that the team has already pared back the playbook to a point where he feels the players should be able to handle what’s asked of them.

“Are we asking too much? Is there too much in the game plan? Or, in turn, do they need to be held accountable for what we’re asking them to do and they need to feel a stronger sense of accountability?” Bradley said, via the Florida Times-Union. “It’s a young group, but that’s no excuse. We’re all in the NFL now. The demands we place on them, they have to be able to handle that. We’ve already cut back quite a bit. I think at times we’ve got to teach some of the players that the responsibility falls on them.”

The Jaguars will have Shorts back this week if his hamstring allows and that should help, but it won’t suddenly turn rookies into savvy veterans who have everything down pat and the loss of tight end Marcedes Lewis makes it hard to take too much off of their plates. Throw in a very shaky offensive line and it is easier to understand why the Jags are hesitant to throw Blake Bortles into the lineup at this point in the season.

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Falcons sign punter Matt Bosher to five-year extension

Atlanta Falcons v Houston Texans Getty Images

The Falcons may not be whole on offense this week, but they’re making sure to take care of their special teamers.

According to Field Yates of ESPN.com, the Falcons have signed punter Matt Bosher to a five-year contract extension, which will keep him with the team through 2019.

The deal includes $5.95 million in guarantees, including a $2.5 million signing bonus.

The Falcons drafted Bosher in the sixth round of the 2011 NFL Draft, and he was entering the final year of his rookie deal.

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Wednesday morning one-liners

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The Bills have to get better in the red zone.

The Dolphins say they’re committed to the ground game.

The Patriots know their offense has work to do.

After a timeout cost the Jets dearly on Sunday, is it time to revisit the rules on timeouts in the NFL?

Ravens coach John Harbaugh is trying to put the Ray Rice-related distractions behind him.

Said Bengals LB Jayson DiManche of being an undrafted player who earned a roster spot, “I’m a realist, and I knew going into the draft that there was an opportunity that I wouldn’t get drafted. So I went into it with the mindset that it doesn’t matter if I get drafted or not.”

The Browns may have future training camps in Columbus.

Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger is still in pain after a hard hit from Baltimore’s Courtney Upshaw last week.

Texans WR DeAndre Hopkins is speaking up for the Houston Food Bank.

Colts QB Andrew Luck needs to be better than the ordinary quarterback he’s been so far.

Jaguars coach Gus Bradley wants his rookie receivers to get better.

The Titans’ 3-4 front is getting pressure on opposing quarterbacks.

The Broncos and Seahawks will battle Sunday for NFL supremacy, at least through Week Three.

Chiefs K Cairo Santos knows patience is thin in the NFL, and he can’t afford many more missed field goals.

Chargers pass rusher Dwight Freeney is off to a good start.

Raiders QB Derek Carr is athletic, smart and gets the ball downfield, according to Patriots coach Bill Belichick.

If the Cowboys run more and QB Tony Romo throws less, that’s fine with Jerry Jones.

Will Giants WR Odell Beckham finally play this week? Maybe.

Eagles S Malcolm Jenkins has made a difference in Philadelphia’s secondary.

Joe Theismann is standing by his preseason comments that Kirk Cousins was outplaying Robert Griffin III.

The Bears are still searching for a replacement for Devin Hester in the return game.

Can the Lions get any thinner at cornerback?

Packers WR Randall Cobb got his work ethic from his parents.

Dealing with the media hasn’t been easy for Vikings players.

The Falcons’ run defense will be tested by the Bucs.

Panthers rookie WR Kelvin Benjamin is going through growing pains.

The Saints have made their mistakes at the worst times, which is why they’ve lost two close games to start the season.

Bucs RB Bobby Rainey has come up big in the early part of this season.

Cardinals QB Drew Stanton says there’s an art to being a backup.

Rams S Rodney McLeod is proving his doubters wrong.

The 49ers are missing Aldon Smith as a pass rusher.

In Seattle, 71 percent of TV viewers on Sunday afternoon were watching the Seahawks game.

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Silence on Peterson could hurt Commissioner more than Rice case

Goodell Getty Images

As the Vikings tripped and skipped and clumsily changed course while trying to balance the post-Rice reality of the NFL with the desire to get something in return for the millions to be paid to a face-of-the-franchise player, the league office had nothing to say publicly.

Well, not nothing.  The league office said over the weekend that the child-abuse charges against Adrian Peterson would be reviewed under the personal-conduct policy.  Other than that, crickets.

While in recent years the league office has been willing to empower teams to fashion remedies for rough situations, failure to say or do anything (other than to say the case would be reviewed) in the wake of the release of evidence making it obvious that (1) Peterson did what he’s accused of doing and (2) the pictures of the injuries to his four-year-old son were hard to look at, the league office stuck its head in the sand.

On one hand, it confirms that the league office has reacted to the Ray Rice fiasco by adopting a siege mentality.  On the other hand, it has created a reality in which the league office allowed the Vikings to bumble and fumble their way through a maze of mirrors, harming if not destroying the franchise’s credibility and creating a league-wide problem that, in the wake of the team’s initial decision to let Peterson return, eclipsed the coverup-is-worse-than-the-crime scandal that emerged last week when the Rice video surfaced.

Setting aside the question of whether the not-so-independent investigation by Robert Mueller or the Ray Rice appeal or some other vehicle will generate evidence that triggers a decision by the owners to change Commissioners, the lingering inability of the Commissioner to be the Commissioner could result in a decision by the owners to change Commissioners.

While obvious that Roger Goodell couldn’t attend the first regular-season game ever at Levi’s Stadium, it was nevertheless stunning that the Commissioner of the NFL couldn’t attend an NFL game.  Now, with no public words or actions from the Commissioner in connection with media, fan, and sponsor reaction that cried out for visible leadership, the owners have to wonder whether they still actually even have a Commissioner.

Ditto for the Panthers, who are grasping and flailing their way through the Greg Hardy case, with no public comment or action from the league office.  Ditto for the 49ers, who are forced to continue to defend their decision to let Ray McDonald play his way through a domestic violence investigation with no words of support from 345 Park Avenue.

It creates a clear impression that the Commissioner consciously is avoiding any situation for which he could be further criticized, especially where the facts have any similarity to the Rice case.  At some point, it could result in the owners realizing that, regardless of how things got to this point, a new Commissioner is needed simply because the current Commissioner can’t currently be the Commissioner.

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Despite hot start, Bengals facing blackout this week

Andy Dalton, Andrew Whitworth AP

The good news just keeps rolling in for the NFL.

One of the league’s good news stories — on and off the field — could be facing the league’s first television blackout of the season.

According to Richard Skinner of the Cincinnati Enquirer, the Bengals aren’t confident they’re going to get to the 85 percent threshold of tickets sold to get the game on local TV.

“Of course we would like see stronger sales and have the game be on TV, and we thought we gave a chance for all of our fans to see us that way by taking on the league’s threshold, but we have a way to go this week,” Bengals ticket manager Andrew Brown said. “We will be staffed accordingly the next few days and hopefully we have a strong [response].”

While there’s plenty of reason for fans to be dissatisfied in other precincts, the Bengals have been a ray of sunshine this year.
Not only are they 2-0 for the first time since 2006, but they’ve got one of the feel-good stories of the league, as people have rallied around defensive tackle Devon Still during his daughter’s fight with cancer.
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Steelers confident Marcus Gilbert will bounce back

Elvis Dumervil, Ben Roethlisberger, Marcus Gilbert AP

Several problematic issues have cropped up in the first two weeks of the Steelers season.

Some of them are widespread, like the defense’s problems stopping the run and the penalties that have plagued the team on both sides of the ball. Some are more specific, like the four sacks allowed by right tackle Marcus Gilbert.

Coach Mike Tomlin said Tuesday that he isn’t overly worried about Gilbert, who signed an extension through 2019 before the season, and credited Elvis Dumervil’s talent for some of the tackle’s struggles last Thursday. He also said he’s confident that Gilbert will bounce back.

“You play 60-plus snaps [in a game], if you give up two sacks it’s a bad game. It is what it is. That’s the nature of our business, and I’m sure as a tackle that’s a challenge that he embraces,” Tomlin said, via the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. “I’m not concerned about Marcus and his ability to rebound from that, his mentality in regards to that rebound. He was in the building yesterday [and] had a good day. I expect him to come back fighting like Rocky.”

Gilbert said he’s identified things that need to be corrected, which he called “nothing catastrophic,” and that he thought he played a “heck of a game” outside of the two sacks. Tackle is the kind of position where two bad plays can blow things up for the entire offense, though, so the Steelers need their faith in him to be rewarded for 60 full minutes in the weeks to come.

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Ravens hoping to get a break on Will Hill suspension

Baltimore Ravens v New Orleans Saints Getty Images

The Ravens are hoping for some good news from the league for a change.

According to Aaron Wilson of the Baltimore Sun, there’s “guarded optimism” from the team that suspended safety Will Hill will benefit from the league’s pending new drug policy.

Hill was suspended six games for violating the league’s substance abuse policy, after two previous suspensions, one for substance abuse and one for performance enhancing drugs.

The Giants cut him this summer after the third suspension, which he claimed was for “second hand smoke.”

If that’s true — and why wouldn’t it be — he could benefit from the increased marijuana thresholds of the new policy.

“I have no sense of that at all,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. “No one has spoken to me about that, and I don’t know a thing about that right now. I’m interested in it, though.”

Hill can obviously play, but that was never the issue. If he gets back on the field, the Ravens got a cheap boost, since he’s there on a one-year, $570,000 deal.

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Cowboys defensive tackle Davon Coleman hurt lifting weights

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Cowboys defensive linemen have injured themselves in a variety of ways this year and now you can add lifting weights to the list.

Defensive tackle Davon Coleman hurt his left calf while working out on Monday and was on crutches in the team’s locker room on Tuesday. Coleman explained that he was doing squats when he suffered the injury, but downplayed its seriousness.

“I’ll probably play this week,” Coleman said, via the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. “I’m happy it was in the weight room instead of the field because it’s nothing too serious.”

Coleman signed with the team as an undrafted free agent in the spring and got a start in the season opener with Henry Melton still making his way back to full speed. Coleman played a lot in Week Two as well, recording five tackles in the victory over the Titans, and has seen the fourth-most snaps of all Cowboys defensive linemen over the first two games.

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Peterson now has clear incentive to get his case resolved quickly

Peterson Getty Images

The Constitution gives all citizens the right to a speedy trial.  Vikings running back Adrian Peterson will want to have his trial today, if possible.

The Vikings, after bungling the situation on Monday and then finding a way out of the weeds late Tuesday, have created for Peterson a situation in which he now has an extreme incentive to resolve the criminal charges pending against him.

Peterson is gone until the legal process is resolved.  So he’ll try to resolve the legal process as soon as he can.

Of course, this now gives prosecutors extreme leverage.  With Peterson hopeful to put this behind him so that he can get back to football, he will be more likely to plead guilty to the current charge or a lesser offense in order to put this situation behind him and to return to the NFL.  While a suspension under the personal-conduct policy surely is looming once the situation ends, the sooner Peterson ends the situation, the sooner he gets suspended and returns to football.

When that happens isn’t known.  Where that happens is even more unknown.  The Vikings’ gross mishandling of the situation on Monday makes it hard to ever bring Peterson back.  It also makes it hard for anyone to bring him in.

Not long ago, the topic du jour focused on Peterson’s reported desire to play for the Cowboys after his time with the Vikings ended.  That seemed speculative and distant and highly unlikely.  It now seems prescient — assuming that the Cowboys would be willing to welcome him to the team.

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Bills buyer Terry Pegula meets with finance committee today

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The NFL gets to the the kind of business it would prefer to be doing today.

According to WGRZ in Buffalo, prospective owner Terry Pegula will meet with the league’s finance committee today, the next step in the process of his purchase from the family of the late Ralph Wilson.

Pegula has offered $1.4 billion in cash for the Bills.

The owner of the Buffalo Sabres is a popular choice locally, since he’s calmed concerns about the team relocating.

If his bid is approved by the finance committee as expected, the deal will be voted on by the owners at their October 7-8 meeting.

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