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League has no comment on Spikes, Talib allegations against Patriots

aqibtalib Getty Images

Former Patriots linebacker Brandon Spikes and cornerback Aqib Talib recently ensured they won’t be Patriots in the future, by publicly accusing the Patriots of lying about injuries.

Spikes said that he was placed on injured reserve at a time when he was healthy enough to play.  Talib said his 2013 injury, listed by the team as a hip problem, actually was a quad injury.

On the surface, that should be enough to get the NFL to at least explore the situation.  And while in multiple past occasions the league has acknowledged that it will be looking into potential injury-reporting violations (most recently, regarding the back injury suffered by Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo), the league isn’t saying anything about this situation.

“We do not plan to comment on the claims,” NFL spokesman Greg Aiello told PFT by email on Thursday morning.

Over the years, we’ve developed the distinct impression that the NFL prefers to avoid shining too bright of a light on the irregularities of the injury-reporting system.  The procedure is aimed at creating the impression that there’s no inside information to be obtained by gamblers.  Obsessing over the various violations of the letter and/or the spirit of the rules would serve only to highlight that, indeed, the truth doesn’t reside on a piece of paper filled out by the team — and that it can possibly be obtained by offering small, green, rectangular sheets of paper to persons who are in position to pass along accurate information about who’s really injured, and who really isn’t.

The involvement of the Patriots serves only to complicate matters for the league.  As legend has it, the Spygate-related information given to the NFL by the Patriots that was destroyed by the league office consisted of evidence of cheating not only by the Patriots but also by multiple other teams in multiple other ways.  As the folklore also goes, Patriots coach Bill Belichick vowed to go public with chapter-and-verse detail about cheating throughout the league if the league were to mess with the Patriots again.

To be clear, it’s not known that Belichick delivered to the league office proof of cheating by other teams, but that would help explain the league’s curious decision to quickly destroy the evidence.  It’s also not known that Belichick threatened/promised to blow the whistle on league-wide cheating issues, but it would make plenty of sense for any team disciplined for violating the injury-reporting rules to be strongly tempted to point out that other teams routinely do the same things, or worse.

So whether it’s because the NFL doesn’t want to concede that the injury reports are far from perfect or because the NFL doesn’t want to pick a fight with Belichick that the league ultimately could lose in other ways, look for nothing to publicly come of this one.

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Patriots, Steelers trade turnovers early

PHILADELPHIA, PA - SEPTEMBER 25: Quarterback  Landry Jones #3 of the Pittsburgh Steelers warms up before the game against the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field on September 25, 2016 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Patriots turned the ball over on their first offensive play of Sunday’s game in Pittsburgh, but the Steelers weren’t able to turn Chris Hogan’s fumble into points.

Landry Jones hooked up with Antonio Brown to move the Steelers into the red zone, but a second try for Brown in the end zone on third down was thwarted by cornerback Malcolm Butler. Butler picked off the pass, giving the Patriots the ball on their own 20-yard-line.

Hogan fumbled on a hit by Steelers linebacker Jarvis Jones, who also recovered the ball, after a 10-yard gain on a pass from Tom Brady. Replays made it look like Hogan’s knee may have been down, but the call on the field was upheld after the customary review of a turnover.

Landry Jones is 3-of-4 overall, but that one miss could be a big one as the Patriots gave Pittsburgh a big opportunity at an early lead. The Steelers may also have to go without wide receiver Sammie Coates, whose return is called questionable after he aggravated his hand injury. Markus Wheaton is inactive for the Steelers due to a shoulder injury.

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Raiders win fourth straight on the road, beat Jaguars 33-16

Oakland Raiders running back Latavius Murray (28) celebrates with quarterback Derek Carr (4) after Murray's two-yard touchdown run against the Jacksonville Jaguars during the second quarter of an NFL football game Sunday, Oct. 23, 2016, in Jacksonville, Fla. (AP Photo/Phelan Ebenhack) AP

The Raiders are trying to make their way to Las Vegas for the long-term. But in the short-term, you’ll have to pardon them if they don’t want to go to Oakland anyway.

The Raiders cruised to an easy 33-16 win over the Jaguars Sunday, improving them to 5-2 on the season.

The win was the fourth straight on the road for the Raiders this season, which is great news considering they stay in Florida to play the Buccaneers next week. They’re camping out in Sarasota this week rather than going back west, and they’re doing so with an easy win in their pocket.

Latavius Murray ran for two touchdowns and their defense forced three turnovers, more than enough on a day when the Jaguars kind of rolled over.

The Jaguars had a number of problems, but lost defensive tackle Roy Miller to an Achilles injury, and he did not return.

That left them short in the middle, when defensive tackle Malik Jackson was ejected in the fourth quarter after his second unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. Cornerback Jalen Ramsey was also ejected (along with Raiders wideout Johnny Holton) after a late-game fight borne out of frustration.

And on a day when their offense couldn’t do a thing, those losses were more metaphorical than a reason the Jaguars lost to fall to 2-4.

Blake Bortles was 23-of-43 for 246 yards and a touchdown and two interceptions. And aside for a 42-yard gallop by Chris Ivory, the Jaguars only added 63 yards on their other 15 rushing attempts.

The game also featured a season-high 239 penalty yards, as referee Jeff Triplette got more screen time than either presidential candidate.

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Goodell cites “public misunderstanding” of domestic violence cases

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell on stage during an NFL Fan Rally at the NFL House in Victoria House, in London, Saturday Oct. 22, 2016. Los Angeles Rams are due to play the New York Giants at Twickenham stadium in London on Sunday in a regular season NFL game. (AP Photo/Tim Ireland) AP

What was lack of transparency in August has become an exercise in damage control in October, with a league office that wasn’t saying anything before Giants kicker Josh Brown received a one-game suspension saying plenty, now that public and media reaction has been loud and negative in the wake of the disclosure of information that the league could have/should have had before it disciplined Brown the first time.

Commissioner Roger Goodell recently attributed the bad optics not to bad decisions by the league or bad work by its investigators but, essentially, to bad brains on the part of those reacting to the circumstances.

“I understand the public’s misunderstanding of those things and how that can be difficult for them to understand how we get to those positions,” Goodell told BBC as part of the pre-Giants-Rams media push, via “But those are things that we have to do. I think it’s a lot deeper and a lot more complicated than it appears but it gets a lot of focus.”

Currently getting plenty of focus is the treatment of Brown, whose case has now been re-opened given the emergence of evidence that the league previously didn’t have.

“Well you have to go and get the facts,” Goodell said. “We have asked repeatedly for those facts and the information that’s been gathered by law enforcement both orally and in writing. And we weren’t able to get access to it. So you have to make decisions on whatever information you have. We take this issue incredibly seriously. This is something we’ve been working on with policy changes, to educating our players to make sure they understand how they deal with issues with their family, give them resources to be able to deal with this.

“But when it happens we’re not going to tolerate it. So we have some new information here, we’ll evaluate that in the context of our policy and we’ll take it from there.”

The problem for the league is that it believed something happened to justify a one-game suspension of Brown, but made no meaningful effort (or really any effort at the time) to explain why the NFL had deviated from its supposed baseline of six games for one incident of domestic violence. Which makes phrases like “when it happens we’re not going to tolerate it” sound hollow and meaningless.

Important questions remain regarding how the Brown case got to this point, and we’ll have some specific answers on Sunday night’s edition of Football Night in America on NBC.

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Geno Smith doesn’t think knee injury is “significant”

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - OCTOBER 23:  Quarterback Geno Smith #7 of the New York Jets looks on from the sidelines after their 24-16 win over the Baltimore Ravens at MetLife Stadium on October 23, 2016 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images) Getty Images

Jets quarterback Geno Smith left his first start since Week 17 of the 2014 season in the second quarter after being sacked by Ravens linebacker Matt Judon and did not return to action due to a knee injury.

Smith did return to the sideline during the second half while wearing street clothes and watched as Ryan Fitzpatrick and the offense took advantage of two Joe Flacco interceptions to come back for a 24-16 victory. Smith said after the game that he expects to get an MRI, but doesn’t expect anything too bad from the results.

“I don’t think it will be anything too significant,” Smith said, via Rich Cimini of

Coach Todd Bowles wouldn’t answer a question about who would start if Smith is healthy enough to play, saying it’s “too early” to make such a determination.

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This time, Colts survive a wild fourth quarter

Indianapolis Colts wide receiver T.Y. Hilton celebrates after scoring a touchdown on a 37-yard pass reception against the Tennessee Titans in the first half of an NFL football game Sunday, Oct. 23, 2016, in Nashville, Tenn. (AP Photo/Mark Zaleski) AP

The Colts lost another fourth quarter lead Sunday. This time, though, they got it back.

Andrew Luck led a long touchdown drive to give the Colts the lead in the last two minutes, then Marcus Mariota was strip-sacked on first down and Robert Mathis returned the ball for a Colts touchdown to put the game out of reach.

The final score was 34-26. The Colts led, 20-13, at the start of the fourth quarter.

Luck played his best game of the season, throwing for 353 yards and three touchdowns. Tight end Jack Doyle caught the go-ahead touchdown with 1:55 left to make it 27-23.

T.Y. Hilton led all receivers with seven catches for 133 yards.

The Colts had blown a fourth-quarter lead last Sunday in Houston, but with this win they’re back to 3-4. The Titans lose a golden opportunity and slip to 3-4.

An unnecessary roughness penalty on Colts linebacker Josh McNary in the third quarter cost the Colts an interception and briefly forced Titans tight end Delanie Walker out of the game. Walker returned to catch a touchdown pass to tie it early in the fourth quarter.

DeMarco Murray ran for 107 yards for the Titans, but the Titans went flat after scoring easily on the game’s first drive. The Colts led 17-6 in the second quarter before a Murray touchdown run made it 17-13 at halftime.

Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota was 22-of-37 for 232 yards.

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Dolphins rally in second half, knock off Bills 28-25

Miami Dolphins running back Jay Ajayi (23) runs ahead of Buffalo Bills outside linebacker Lorenzo Alexander (57), during the first half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 23, 2016, in Miami Gardens, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee) AP

The Dolphins were down 11 points in the third quarter of a game that saw them getting the better of the Bills everywhere outside of the scoreboard, which would have made for another painful loss had things remained that way for the rest of the afternoon.

Things went the other way, though, and the Dolphins closed with a convincing win over their AFC East rivals. The Dolphins scored three touchdowns and their defense shut down the Bills for most of the final 20 minutes to emerge with a 28-25 victory.

Reggie Bush scored a touchdown with 14 seconds left to play to cut the Dolphins lead down from 11 points, but the Dolphins recovered the onside kick to ice their third win of the year.

Jay Ajayi did a lot of the heavy lifting on offense for the Dolphins as he ran for 214 yards and a touchdown while becoming the fourth player in NFL history to run for 200 yards in back-to-back games. Ajayi set up the go-ahead touchdown with a 14-yard run before leaving the game briefly, but came back before the day was out and appeared to be fine.

Ryan Tannehill put the finishing touches on the win by hitting wide receiver Kenny Stills for a 66-yard touchdown with a little more than two minutes left to play in the game. Tannehill was 15-of-25 for 198 yards overall and converted several key third downs through the air over the course of the afternoon.

Tyrod Taylor couldn’t do the same for the Bills. He hit Marquise Goodwin for a 67-yard touchdown in the third quarter and converted short fields into 10 first-half points, but the Bills couldn’t consistently move the ball. LeSean McCoy left after his hamstring flared up and the Bills ended the afternoon with 67 rushing yards and just 267 yards overall with 75 of those yards coming once the Bills were already down 11 in the fourth quarter.

The Bills had been hot on the ground heading into Miami, but the Dolphins defense was in fine form Sunday. Ndamukong Suh had a sack and three quarterback hits, Mario Williams was active in both phases against his former team and Cameron Wake added 1.5 more sacks of Taylor

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Bengals roll up 559 yards, keep Browns winless

Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green (18) celebrates with teammates after catching a touchdown in the end zone in the first half of an NFL football game against the Cleveland Browns, Sunday, Oct. 23, 2016, in Cincinnati. (AP Photo/Frank Victores) AP

The Bengals and Browns played a wild one Sunday in Cincinnati.

The Bengals ended up having too much firepower and pulled away in the second half for a 31-17 win. A 48-yard Hail Mary on the final play of the first half to A.J. Green certainly helped, but the Bengals moved the ball pretty much at will throughout the game.

Andy Dalton had 308 yards passing and two touchdowns. Green had eight catches for 169 yards, and Jeremy Hill ran for 168 yards on just nine carries.

At one point in the third quarter, the Bengals were averaging 12.5 yards per carry. The Bengals finished the game averaging 9.0 yards per carry and rolled up 559 yards of offense. Their 559 yards and 31 points were a season high.

The Browns had to make another quarterback change after Cody Kessler suffered a concussion in the second quarter. Rookie Kevin Hogan became the sixth player to take snaps at quarterback for the Browns this season.

Hogan ran for 104 yards and a 28-yard touchdown, the longest by a quarterback in Browns history. But that run early in the third quarter was the last score for the Browns; Hill went 74 yards for a touchdown two plays later.

Hogan was 12-of-24 passing for 100 yards. He threw two interceptions and was sacked twice.

The Bengals moved to 3-4 and play the Redskins in London next week. The Browns fall to 0-7.

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Chiefs hang on for 27-21 win over Saints

Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver De'Anthony Thomas (13) is brought down by New Orleans Saints defensive back Ken Crawley (46) with wide receiver Albert Wilson, top left, watching during the first half of an NFL football game in Kansas City, Mo., Sunday, Oct. 23, 2016. (AP Photo/Colin E. Braley) AP

By Saints standards, it was a pretty good defensive day.

But this week, they were playing a team that could play a little defense of their own.

The Chiefs held on for a 27-21 win over the Saints to improve to 4-2, and they had to work to do it.

The Saints (2-4) entered the game allowing a league-high (and record pace) 33.6 points per game. They stiffened a bit, but still made mistakes at inopportune times. A Nick Fairley unnecessary roughness penalty just before the two-minute warning gave the Chiefs an extra few downs to waste time.

Kansas City was able to do it while not getting much from running back Jamaal Charles, who had just one carry as they ease him back from last year’s knee injury.

Alex Smith threw for two touchdowns, and an interception return for a touchdown by safety Daniel Sorensen gave them the cushion they needed.

Drew Brees threw three touchdown passes and had a chance with 28 seconds and no timeouts left, but ran out of time when Michael Thomas went down in bounds, eliminating a chance at a Hail Mary.

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Jets snap losing streak with 24-16 win over Ravens

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - OCTOBER 23:  Matt Forte #22 of the New York Jets celebrates his third quarter touchdown with teammate Brandon Shell #72 against the Baltimore Ravens at MetLife Stadium on October 23, 2016 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Jets have dug themselves a big hole to start this season, but they took one step in the right direction on Sunday afternoon against the Ravens.

The Jets defense shut out the Ravens in the second half and forced a pair of Joe Flacco interceptions that turned into 10 points that turned a 16-14 Ravens lead into a 24-16 Jets victory. The Ravens lost six yards trying to run the ball in the second half of the game and Flacco threw for just 32 yards over the final 30 minutes as Baltimore lost in New Jersey for the second straight week.

It was also their fourth straight loss overall, which was the same position the Jets were in when Sunday’s game got underway. Geno Smith started the game and hit Quincy Enunwa for a 69-yard touchdown before hurting his knee and handing the offense back over the Ryan Fitzpatrick. Fitzpatrick led a touchdown drive in the second quarter and used short fields to get those 10 points in the second half.

Any discussion of who will start for the Jets against the Browns next weekend will likely wait for word on Smith’s condition. Fitzpatrick went 9-of-14 for 120 yards and didn’t turn the ball over, although the Jets clearly opted for a conservative approach by running Matt Forte 29 times over the course of the afternoon. Forte ran for 98 yards and a touchdown and also scored on a reception during a strong day overall for a player who’d been losing time to Bilal Powell in recent weeks.

The Ravens will have a bye next week and it’s a good time for it as the team is racked by injuries on both sides of the ball. Cornerback Tavon Young and safety Lardarius Webb were added to the list during Sunday’s game and we’ll see if there’s been any recurrence of Flacco’s shoulder problem after another rough day at MetLife Stadium.

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Cousins scores, Stafford answers as Detroit beats Washington

Detroit Lions wide receiver Marvin Jones makes a diving catch defended by Washington Redskins cornerback Josh Norman (24) during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Oct. 23, 2016 in Detroit. Norman was injured on the play. (AP Photo/Duane Burleson) AP

Kirk Cousins did it with his feet. Matthew Stafford did it with his arm.

Cousins and Stafford had a great quarterback duel in the final minutes of today’s game in Detroit, and it was Stafford who came out on top: Cousins surprised the entire Lions defense with a 19-yard rushing touchdown on a zone-read play to give Washington a 17-13 lead with a minute to play. But then Stafford methodically marched the Lions down the field and hit Anquan Boldin for an 18-yard touchdown with 16 seconds left, giving the Lions a 20-17 win.

Both quarterbacks saved their best for last, as the first half of the game featured some ugly offense and a 3-3 tie at halftime. In the second half, both offenses came alive — aided in part by the fact that both teams lost their top cornerbacks to injuries. Josh Norman suffered a concussion and Darius Slay suffered a hamstring injury.

The Lions’ win means both teams are 4-3, and both teams are in the thick of a tight NFC playoff race. It wouldn’t be surprising if this game turns out to have an impact on that playoff race, and if so, that was a huge last-minute performance by Stafford.

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Jay Ajayi is fourth player to run for 200 yards in back-to-back games

Miami Dolphins running back Jay Ajayi (23) celebrates a touchdown during the second half of an NFL football game against the Buffalo Bills, Sunday, Oct. 23, 2016, in Miami Gardens, Fla. To the right is Miami Dolphins center Mike Pouncey (51). (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee) AP

Running back Jay Ajayi has done something only three other men have done in NFL history.

With a 14-yard run in the fourth quarter against the Bills, Ajayi went over 200 rushing yards for the second straight game. He joins O.J. Simpson, Earl Campbell and Ricky Williams as the only backs in history to pull off that feat in back-to-back games.

Ajayi stayed down at the end of that 14-yard run and then went to the sideline after a check from the trainers. Ajayi walked off under his own power and now has 212 yards on 28 carries after going for 204 yards last week.

Damien Williams took over for Ajayi in the backfield and ran for a 12-yard touchdown a couple of plays later. That leaves the Dolphins up 21-17 with 3:56 left to play in Miami.

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League believes Vontaze Burfict stomp was “clear and obvious,” Bengals don’t

FOXBORO, MA - OCTOBER 16:  Vontaze Burfict #55 of the Cincinnati Bengals sacks Tom Brady #12 of the New England Patriots during the game at Gillette Stadium on October 16, 2016 in Foxboro, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Billie Weiss/Getty Images) Getty Images

Last Sunday’s pair of questionable plays by Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict resulted in no suspension for the player who missed the first three games of the 2016 season. A $75,000 fine for one of the two maneuvers — an apparent stomp on Patriots running back LeGarrette Blount — is pending on appeal.

Eventually, one of the two persons hired by the league and the NFL Players Association will decide whether the fine will be upheld. Until then, the league and the Bengals will be at sharp odds over whether Burfict did anything wrong.

Per a source with knowledge of the league’s thinking, Burfict entered the fray and committed a clear and obvious step on Blount.

From Burfict’s perspective, the evidence is inconclusive. Per a source with knowledge of the team’s position, Burfict was stepping in to pull a Patriots player off of an Eagles player, and that Burfict was looking forward, not down at Blount. Also, at least one official was watching the entire exchange but did not throw a flag. Although Blount’s reaction suggests that something happened, the Bengals and Burfict insist that any contact (at best a brushing of the calf) was inadvertent.

As to the controversial low hit on Patriots tight end Martellus Bennett, the league concluded that Burfict was reacting to a pump fake from quarterback Tom Brady, and that the low hit was the last resort to getting beat on the play. Based on all available angles and the progression of the play, the NFL decided that there was not enough evidence to take action.

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Saints turn it over in red zone, as Chiefs hang onto lead

Kansas City Chiefs wide receiver Tyreek Hill (10) makes a touchdown catch against New Orleans Saints defensive back Ken Crawley (46) during the first half of an NFL football game in Kansas City, Mo., Sunday, Oct. 23, 2016. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson) AP

The Saints looked like they were going to be able to move the ball.

But against an actual NFL defense, they don’t have much margin of error.

The Chiefs lead 24-14 midway through the fourth quarter, after the second Saints turnover of the day. Cornerback Ron Parker punched the ball out of the hands of Saints running back Mark Ingram in the red zone, killing what might have been their last best chance to stay within striking distance.

The Saints actually opened the second half with a 14-play, 75-yard drive which chewed 8:03 off the clock, cutting the lead to 21-14. But even with their own defense doing something resembling defense, they couldn’t take advantage.

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Delanie Walker leaves game, returns and catches TD pass

NASHVILLE, TN - DECEMBER 27:  Delanie Walker #82 of the Tennessee Titans runs with the ball against the Houston Texans at LP Field on December 27, 2015 in Nashville, Tennessee.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images) Getty Images

Titans tight end Delanie Walker left Sunday’s game in the third quarter after taking a big hit from Colts linebacker Josh McNary.

Early in the fourth quarter, Walker returned and caught a touchdown pass to tie the game at 20.

Walker was running a pass route, and the ball was in the air when McNary leveled him. McNary was penalized 15 yards for unnecessary roughness. The penalty on McNary negated an interception by Colts cornerback Patrick Robinson.

The Colts led 20-13 at the start of the fourth quarter. They led 17-6 at one point in the first half.

Titans running back DeMarco Murray is having another big game. He’s over 100 yards rushing and scored a touchdown late in the first half.

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Eagles extend lead against listless Vikings

PHILADELPHIA, PA - OCTOBER 23: Carson Wentz #11 of the Philadelphia Eagles runs the ball into the end zone for a two point conversion in the second quarter against the Minnesota Vikings at Lincoln Financial Field on October 23, 2016 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images) Getty Images

In their first two road games of the season, the Vikings rebounded from 10-0 deficits. If they’re going to run their record to 6-0, the Vikings will need to dig their way out of a 15-point hole.

The Eagles lead 18-3 in a game full of turnovers, with three from each team’s starting quarterback.

Minnesota eventually became the first team to score, with a 48-yard field goal by kicker Blair Walsh. The ensuing kickoff was returned 98 yards by Josh Huff for a touchdown, thanks in part to Walsh impersonating a matador a full eight days before Halloween.

The Eagles added a field goal before halftime, thanks to a nifty run by Carson Wentz on fourth and two after he mishandled the shotgun snap.

The home team then drove 77 yards in nine plays with its first drive of the second half to extend the lead.

Minnesota’s offense has been consistently stymied by an aggressive Eagles defense, which has consistently pressured and confused Sam Bradford.

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