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Seahawks receiver Sidney Rice is retiring

Seattle Seahawks v Detroit Lions Getty Images

The Seattle Seahawks will enter the 2014 season with one less player than they expected to have.

Per a league source, receiver Sidney Rice has decided to retire from football.  The source says that the 27-year-old Rice’s decision arises from his history of concussions.

More recently, Rice has been unable to play due to a knee injury suffered during the 2013 season.  A torn ACL caused him to miss eight games in the regular season and the playoffs.

Signed in 2011 after four seasons in Minnesota, Rice never came close to matching a breakout season third season in the league.  With Brett Favre arriving in Minnesota, Rice generated 1,312 receiving yards in 2009.  Since then, he has appeared in 16 regular-season games only once.

Cut after the 2013 season by the Seahawks, Rice rejoined Seattle in April after getting clearance from Dr. James Andrews.  Rice was due to earn a base salary of $1 million this year.

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Doug Pederson: “Not everybody” played hard on Sunday

CINCINNATI, OH - DECEMBER 4:  Head Coach Doug Pederson of the Philadelphia Eagles calls a play during the game against the Cincinnati Bengals at Paul Brown Stadium on December 4, 2016 in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Eagles lost for the third straight week on Sunday and the margin of victory for their opponents has gotten steadily larger over that streak, which isn’t a trend that coach Doug Pederson would surely like to stop as soon as possible.

His chances of making that happen will increase if he can get everyone on the roster giving their maximum effort on a weekly basis. Pederson said that wasn’t the case when he was asked if everyone was playing hard in their 32-14 loss to the Bengals.

“Not everybody. Not everybody, and that’s the accountability that I talk about,” Pederson said in his Monday press conference. “You know, I hold coaches accountable for that. I hold myself accountable for that because it all starts with me and I pride myself each week to make sure the guys are ready to go. But at the same time, it comes down to a mentality by each individual player. You know, this is a business where we have to be ready to go every single weekend because every team in the league — I mean, there’s some teams that are better than others, obviously — but for the most part, anything can happen each weekend.”

Pederson said at another point that he didn’t see any quit in the team, but that may matter less than the fact that some engines never turned over in the first place. Pederson said he doesn’t have any doubts about his job security and that “it’s been 100 percent support on everything” from owner Jeffrey Lurie and General Manager Howie Roseman, but there’s no quicker way for that to change than losing games with lackluster effort from the roster.

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Ron Rivera on benching MVP: “I knew it would be a feeding frenzy”

Carolina Panthers quarterback Cam Newton wears a black coat and hat as he talks with reporters during a post-game news conference after an NFL football game against the Seattle Seahawks, Sunday, Dec. 4, 2016, in Seattle. The Seahawks won 40-7. (AP Photo/Stephen Brashear)

Panthers coach Ron Rivera said Monday he’s disciplined players for dress code violations before, even though none of them were his quarterback and reigning MVP.

And he anticipated the reaction, after he benched Cam Newton for a series last night against the Seahawks for not wearing a tie on the team plane from San Jose to Seattle.

“I knew it would be a feeding frenzy,” Rivera said Monday.

Rivera insisted he’s done this to players previously, and that his goal was to “treat everybody the same.” And since Newton talked about it last night, Rivera declared the matter closed.

“There’s no underlying message, no feud, I’ve done it before,” Rivera said. “All I did was treat a player the way I did any other player.

“I’m done with it. We play the Chargers and we lost the game yesterday.”

Of course, the bigger question is why the tie signifies the respect and teamwork Rivera is trying to create. The turtleneck and jacket he was wearing yesterday were far more subdued than the clown pants he wore to the Super Bowl, but the tie is apparently important.

At least when you’re 4-8, I suppose.

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In the midst of an awful season, Todd Gurley looks in the mirror

FOXBORO, MA - DECEMBER 04:  Todd Gurley #30 of the Los Angeles Rams runs with the ball during the first half against the New England Patriots at Gillette Stadium on December 4, 2016 in Foxboro, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images) Getty Images

Last year, Rams running back Todd Gurley was the NFL’s offensive rookie of the year. This year, Gurley is one of the NFL’s biggest disappointments.

Far from building on his impressive first season, Gurley has just 679 yards on 211 carries. Among the 24 NFL running backs with at least 120 carries this season, Gurley’s average of 3.2 yards per carry ranks dead last. There are 34 players in the NFL this year with at least two runs of 20 yards or longer, and Gurley is not one of them.

Asked after Sunday’s loss to the Patriots what’s going wrong with the 4-8 Rams, Gurley said he’ll look at himself, as he thinks all of his teammates will do.

“At the end of the day,” Gurley said, “you just have to look at yourself and say, `We’re not doing a good enough job.’”

Gurley still doesn’t have a 100-yard game this season, and he admits that bad week after bad week gets old.

“It’s hard,” Gurley said. “It’s repetitive, over and over every week. It’s crazy.”

A player with Gurley’s talent just has to go off and have a big game at some point. But that point may not be until 2017.

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AFC playoff picture: Divisional races remain tight outside of the East

OAKLAND, CA - OCTOBER 16:  Defensive tackle Stacy McGee #92 of the Oakland Raiders stops running back Spencer Ware #32 of the Kansas City Chiefs for a loss of two yards in the second quarter on October 16, 2016 at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum in Oakland, California.  The Chiefs won 26-10.  (Photo by Brian Bahr/Getty Images) Getty Images

Barring an epic flop, the Patriots are going to win the AFC East for the 14th time in the last 16 seasons.

There isn’t anything close to that much clarity in any of the other divisions in the AFC. The Raiders currently hold the top seed in the conference, but they are just a game up on the Chiefs with a Thursday matchup at Arrowhead Stadium looming as a major factor in deciding the AFC West.

Neither of the other divisions have a team with even that slim a lead heading into the final four weeks of the season. The Ravens and Steelers are both 7-5 with a Christmas Day game on the schedule while the Texans’ three-game losing streak leaves them with a 6-6 record. The Titans have the same mark and the Colts could make it a three-way dance by beating the Jets on Monday night.

In other words, there’s a lot to sort out in the AFC.

1. Raiders (10-2): More late heroics have Oakland on top, but it will be fleeting if they can’t win in Kansas City.

2. Patriots (10-2): The Patriots could end Week 14 with both a division title and a first-round bye.

3. Ravens (7-5): Four home wins in the last five weeks have righted the ship in Baltimore, but they’re closing out the year by going on the road three of the next four weeks.

4. Texans (6-6): Houston will be hosting the Super Bowl, but the Texans need to find themselves in a hurry if they’re going to have any shot of playing in it.

5. Chiefs (9-3): A win on Thursday gives them a big tiebreaker advantage with a season sweep of the Raiders.

6. Broncos (8-4): They survived in Jacksonville and will be in the playoffs if they win out, although that’s a big if with the Titans, Patriots, Raiders and Chiefs left on the schedule.

7. Dolphins (7-5): Their winning streak and their time in playoff position ended in Baltimore, so Miami will need some help from others to climb the ladder again.

8. Steelers (7-5): Three straight double-digit wins have the arrow pointed up for Pittsburgh.

9. Titans (6-6): A bye week offered some rest for Tennessee ahead of their final playoff push.

10. Bills (6-6): Blowing a 15-point lead in the final 24 minutes might have been the last gasp for Buffalo’s playoff aspirations.

11. Colts (5-6): If the Colts beat the Jets, they’ll be in position to make a run at the division crown. If they can’t beat the Jets, they probably don’t deserve a playoff spot.

12. Chargers (5-7): It was a long shot before they lost a home game to the Bucs.

13. Bengals (4-7-1): They looked better on Sunday than they have in weeks, but that has more to do with draft positioning than the playoff race at this point.

14. Jets (3-8): They can play spoiler on Monday night, but their own season was spoiled long ago.

15: Jaguars (2-10): When your quarterback calls the year “the biggest nightmare possible,” there’s not much left to say.

16: Browns (0-12): Four chances left to avoid a winless season in Cleveland.

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Bill Belichick never considered pulling Tom Brady with late lead

FOXBORO, MA - JANUARY 16: Tom Brady #12 and head coach Bill Belichick of the New England Patriots shake hands at the start of the AFC Divisional Playoff Game against the Kansas City Chiefs at Gillette Stadium on January 16, 2016 in Foxboro, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Maddie Meyer/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Patriots are missing enough firepower on offense, but coach Bill Belichick said he never considered taking his most important player off the field yesterday.

Tom Brady’s nursing a knee injury, and the Patriots were up 26-3 with five minutes and 52 seconds left against the Rams. But the idea of protecting his quarterback seemed foreign to Belichick.

“Well, after the game turns out, it’s easy to go back and make those suggestions,” Belichick said, via Mike Reiss of ” I’ve seen a few games in this league, seen those double-digit leads evaporate in a minute or two.

“I know that’s not a big concern when it doesn’t happen. [But] when it does happen, it’s a major crisis and a lot of second-guessing about what should have been done or shouldn’t have been done. Trying to win the game.”

The Rams, as presently constructed, would need far more than a minute or two to score 23 points. Weeks, perhaps.

Asked a similar question during his weekly appearance on WEEI, Brady said: “We’re playing for a lot here. I don’t think it’s ever right to take your foot off the gas pedal.”

Even with tight end Rob Gronkowski out and wide receiver Danny Amendola sidelined, the idea of staying out of harm’s way is not one that resonated with the Patriots, who have plenty to play for over the next month.

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Kapri Bibbs dealing with a high ankle sprain

JACKSONVILLE, FL - DECEMBER 04:   Kapri Bibbs #35 of the Denver Broncos runs for yardage against the Jacksonville Jaguars at EverBank Field on December 4, 2016 in Jacksonville, Florida.  (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Broncos offense didn’t do much in Sunday’s 20-10 victory over the Jaguars, producing just 206 yards while playing without starting quarterback Trevor Siemian.

It looked for a while like running back Kapri Bibbs might provide some spark as he put up 37 rushing yards on the team’s lone touchdown drive of the day, but Bibbs’ afternoon ended a short time later thanks to an ankle injury. After the game, Bibbs, who ran five times for 49 yards overall, was in a walking boot and said he suffered a high ankle sprain.

“It was going to be a real good day,” Bibbs said, via the Denver Post. “I can bring a lot to this team. I can help this team a lot and that’s all I want to do.”

The Broncos will surely be doing more tests on Bibbs’ ankle, but such injuries typically mean missed time for players. If that’s the case, the Broncos may need to look for help with Devontae Booker and Juwan Thompson as the only other running backs on the roster.

One option could be Justin Forsett. The veteran was dropped by the Lions on Friday and played for Broncos coach Gary Kubiak in both Houston and Baltimore.

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Rex Ryan: It just snowballed on us

OAKLAND, CA - DECEMBER 04:  Head coach Rex Ryan of the Buffalo Bills looks on from the sidelines against the Oakland Raiders during their NFL game at Oakland Alameda Coliseum on December 4, 2016 in Oakland, California.  (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Bills were up 24-9 against the Raiders after running back Mike Gillislee ran for a touchdown with nine minutes to go in the third quarter, but any thoughts that they’d win the game and rally to move back into the mix for a playoff spot soon disappeared.

The Raiders would draw within one point before the quarter was over and they’d tack on 15 more points in the fourth quarter on their way to a 38-24 victory. Everything unraveled at once for the Bills as the offense went three-and-out three times while the Raiders were driving for touchdowns and two fourth quarter turnovers sealed the deal for Buffalo.

Cornerback Corey Graham said he was in “shock” as things fell apart for a team that’s now 6-6 and looking at the longest of playoff shots.

“Well, it hasn’t happened a whole lot in my career, but it has happened before,” coach Rex Ryan said, via the Buffalo News. “Sometimes you feel that momentum shift and it just snowballed on us. Sometimes, I think we lose confidence. You can’t ever have that happen to you.”

Things may not play out like that very often for the Bills, but the story of Buffalo’s season has been one of finding a way to lose when matched with tougher competition. That’s not so different from the path they took to 8-8 in 2015, which leaves the team with an obvious area for improvement next season.

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Mike Pouncey doesn’t know if he’ll play again this year or not

LONDON, ENGLAND - OCTOBER 04:   Ryan Tannehill #17 of the Miami Dolphins awaits the snap from Mike Pouncey #51 of the Miami Dolphins during the game against New York Jets at Wembley Stadium on October 4, 2015 in London, England.  (Photo by Bryn Lennon/Getty Images) Getty Images

Mike Pouncey hasn’t played in the last three games because of a recurring hip problem.

He doesn’t know if he’ll play in any of the next four, either.

The Dolphins center admitted he wasn’t sure when or if he’d be back this season, deferring the question to coach Adam Gase

“You’ve got to ask coach Gase that one,” Pouncey said, via Adam Beasley of the Miami Herald. “I don’t know. We’ll see how it goes.”

He said he didn’t know how he re-injured the hip, but said it “feels good.” But he visited a specialist while the team was on the West Coast, and was told he didn’t need another surgery.

“Anytime you don’t have to get surgery, it’s the best news in the world,” he said.

The Dolphins started Anthony Steen in his place during Sunday’s loss to the Ravens, while Branden Albert and Laremy Tunsil were just coming back from injuries. The line as a whole didn’t hold up well, and could clearly use some stability in the middle.

Pouncey missed the first four games of the season, but then returned to the lineup before missing the last three.

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Woody Johnson under consideration for U.K. ambassadorship

ORCHARD PARK, NY - SEPTEMBER 15: New York Jets owner Woody Johnson talks on the sidelines before the game against the Buffalo Bills at New Era Field on September 15, 2016 in Orchard Park, New York. (Photo by Michael Adamucci/Getty Images) Getty Images

As the NFL continues to expand its presence in England, it may have an owner there on a full-time basis.

The New York Post reports that Jets owner Woody Johnson is under consideration for the position of ambassador to the United Kingdom. Johnson, who supported President-Elect Donald Trump, is a “leading contender” for the position, according to the report.

Steelers chairman Dan Rooney served as ambassador to Ireland from 2009 through 2012. He was appointed to the position by President Barack Obama.

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Mike Zimmer returns to Vikings, is expected to travel with team

SEATTLE, WA - AUGUST 18:  Head coach Mike Zimmer of the Minnesota Vikings looks on against the Seattle Seahawks at CenturyLink Field on August 18, 2016 in Seattle, Washington.  (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Vikings haven’t gotten much good news lately. They got some on Monday.

“Mike Zimmer has returned to his coaching duties and is expected to travel with the team to Jacksonville for this weekend’s game,” G.M. Rick Spielman announced.

The phrase “travel with the team” implies he’ll be flying from Minneapolis to Jacksonville. The phrase “is expected to” implies that plans could change.

Zimmer, who had emergency surgery on Wednesday to repair a detached retina, will need clearance to fly in a pressurized cabin. Otherwise, the Vikings would have to find another way to get Zimmer to Florida.

The 6-6 Vikings remain alive for the wild-card berth. They have a longer shot to win the NFC North; they’ll need to run the table and hope the Lions lose three of their final four games.

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NFC playoff picture: Buccaneers making a move

SAN DIEGO, CA - DECEMBER 04:   Jameis Winston #3 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers looks to pass under pressure from  Kyle Emanuel #51 of the San Diego Chargers during the second half of a game at Qualcomm Stadium on December 4, 2016 in San Diego, California.  (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images) Getty Images

If the playoffs started today, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers would be in. How many people saw that coming?

With yesterday’s win over the Chargers, the Bucs now have a 7-5 record and a half-game lead over Washington in the wild card race. Tampa Bay also has a good chance at catching Atlanta in the NFC South, although the 7-5 Falcons currently have the tiebreaker advantage.

Here’s how the whole NFC looks with four games to go:

1. Cowboys (11-1): With a three-game lead in the NFC East, Dallas has already clinched at least a wild card and appears poised to earn home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs.

2. Seahawks (8-3-1): The NFC West race is all but over.

3. Lions (8-4): Detroit has a two-game lead in the division with four to play.

4. Falcons (7-5): Atlanta is in danger of losing what looked like a comfortable division lead.

5. Giants (8-4): Sunday’s loss probably ruined any hope the Giants had of winning the division.

6. Buccaneers (7-5): Keep winning and they’re in the playoffs.

7. Washington (6-5-1): That tie game in London is starting to loom large.

8. Vikings (6-6): Currently owns the head-to-head tiebreaker over Green Bay.

9. Packers (6-6): If they win out they only need the Lions to lose once between now and the Week 17 finale.

10. Cardinals (5-6-1): Sunday’s win is probably too little, too late.

11. Saints (5-7): Losing to the Lions at home sealed their fate.

12. Eagles (5-7): Both the offense and the defense have declined significantly since a promising start.

13. Panthers (4-8): A blowout loss to Seattle ended the reigning NFC champions’ hopes.

14. Rams (4-8): Yet another non-winning season for Jeff Fisher.

15. Bears (3-9): At least they’re better than the 49ers.

16. 49ers (1-11): At least they’re better than the Browns.

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Doug Martin says he’s fine, but Bucs offense took some injury hits

SAN DIEGO, CA - DECEMBER 04:  Doug Martin #22 of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers  carries the ball while being pursued by Denzel Perryman #52 of the San Diego Chargers in the third quarter at Qualcomm Stadium on December 4, 2016 in San Diego, California. The Buccaneers defeated the Chargers 28-21.  (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Buccaneers closed out Sunday’s 28-21 win over the Chargers with running back Doug Martin on the bench, but it doesn’t look like the veteran is going to be out for another extended period.

Martin, who missed six games with a hamstring injury this year, watched while Jacquizz Rodgers made a big catch on the game-winning touchdown drive and then ran the clock out on the next Tampa possession. He said after the game, via Greg Auman of the Tampa Bay Times, that he was “bent back” before heading for the sideline and that he expects to be fine.

The outlook is less positive for wide receiver Cecil Shorts. Shorts had to be carted off with a knee injury and the team fears that he tore multiple ligaments while also dislocating his knee.

“I don’t know how he was conscious after that,” tight end Cameron Brate said. “That was one of the most gruesome hits I’ve ever seen.”

Tight end Luke Stocker left for the day with an ankle injury and wide receiver Adam Humphries was knocked out with a concussion. Freddie Martino stepped up at receiver and Brate caught the winning touchdown, allowing the Bucs to end the day with the same record as the Falcons with four games left to decide the NFC South.

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Sickness, Saints didn’t slow down Matthew Stafford

NEW ORLEANS, LA - DECEMBER 04: Matthew Stafford #9 of the Detroit Lions reacts during the first half of a game against the New Orleans Saints at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on December 4, 2016 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  (Photo by Jonathan Bachman/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Lions have made a habit out of playing nailbiters this season, but they went the other way against the Saints in New Orleans on Sunday.

Their defense held the Saints to 13 points and Matthew Stafford threw a pair of touchdown passes, including a 66-yarder to wide receiver Golden Tate that allowed them to breathe more comfortably in a 28-13 victory. It was a big day overall for Stafford, who hit on 16-of-17 passes to open the game and ended up 30-of-42 for 341 yards.

All of that came on a day when Stafford was feeling less than 100 percent. Tate revealed that Stafford showed up feeling sick on Sunday, “but just found a way.” Stafford downplayed any effect of the sickness, which coach Jim Caldwell said he didn’t even know about until after the game.

“He got rolling,” Caldwell said, via “Things you know — he had two touchdown passes, whatever his percentages were, he earned a [111.3 quarterback] rating. But he does much more than that for us. This was a team that blitzed us quite a bit. Getting us into the right protections, giving us a chance to try to get some big plays as a result of pressures, getting runs, taking us out of bad runs, getting us into better run situations. He does a lot of those things, but not only that, just in terms of leadership on the field, he does a tremendous job. He seems to just get better and better every week.”

The Lions hold a two-game lead in the NFC North and Stafford’s been a big reason for that as he turns in perhaps the best season of his career. The Bears will get the next crack at slowing him down, but there’s been little evidence that either defenses or bacteria can find the right formula this year.

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Larry Fitzgerald glad milestones came in a win

GLENDALE, AZ - DECEMBER 04:  Larry Fitzgerald #11 of the Arizona Cardinals embraces teammate J.J. Nelson #14 after Nelson's touchdown catch against the Washington Redskins during the fourth quarter of a game at University of Phoenix Stadium on December 4, 2016 in Glendale, Arizona.  (Photo by Ralph Freso/Getty Images) Getty Images

Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald passed a pair of Hall of Famers on the all-time receptions list, and since his team won Sunday, he was able to appreciate that accomplishment for a second.

But the context of the list as a whole doesn’t escape him.

Fitzgerald caught 10 passes in the Cards’ win over Washington, passing Cris Carter and Marvin Harrison for third place on the list.

“The thing I’m most happy about is it came in a winning effort,” Fitzgerald said, via Kent Somers of the Arizona Republic. “A tough, hard-fought game at home that we definitely needed. It’s always nice to be able to climb up a little higher, but it is humbling to know that I am still 400 catches behind Jerry Rice.”

Rice’s 1,549 and Tony Gonzalez’s 1,325 are still seasons (plural) beyond anything Fitzgerald can reach (he has 1,106), but he’s put himself in a rare category. And he joked that at his age, the catch that pushed him past Harrison was a 3-yarder.

“They keep getting shorter and shorter,” Fitzgerald said. “But, hey, I am still getting it thrown to me, so that is all I can ask for.”

He’s also 10th on the all-time receiving yards list, with his 78 against Washington moving him past Andre Johnson. He now has 14,246 yards.

“Mind-boggling,” Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said. “I’ve been around some great receivers, but to see those statistics and the names he just passed is mind-boggling and hats to a great player and an even better person.”

The 33-year-old Fitzgerald may not be the same kind of downfield threat he once was, but he has proven himself dependable over time and could climb even higher (he’s 99 yards behind Reggie Wayne for ninth on the yardage list).

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Brock Osweiler: We’re close to exploding on offense

GREEN BAY, WI - DECEMBER 04:  Brock Osweiler #17 of the Houston Texans drops back to pass in the first quarter against the Green Bay Packers at Lambeau Field on December 4, 2016 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images) Getty Images

There have been plenty of games this season when the play of quarterback Brock Osweiler was a major negative for the Texans, but he turned in one of his better games of the year in Green Bay on Sunday.

Osweiler didn’t turn the ball over while completing 22-of-35 passes for 202 yards and a touchdown in the 21-13 loss. While that wasn’t enough for the team to get a win or score more than two touchdowns for the second time this season, it was enough for Osweiler to say after the game that he feels the offense is close to catching fire.

“I feel like we’re very close to exploding as an offense,” Osweiler said, via “We are three, four plays away from changing multiple football games. Because of that, I don’t think we can get discouraged. … We’re tired of being close. We really are, as a team. We’re all able to see it on the film. We see it on the film every single week that we’re so close to turning that corner.”

Sunday’s loss dropped the Texans to 6-6, which is the same record as the Titans and the Colts can join them with a win over the Jets on Monday night. The Texans are in Indianapolis next Sunday and close out the year in Tennessee, so it would be a fine time for Osweiler and company to turn that corner once and for all.

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