Tuesday morning one-liners

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Quarterback isn’t the only spot where the Bills have been struggling.

Dolphins linebackers have fallen short in pass defense.

No challenger emerged for the Patriots in the AFC East this season.

Jets DL Leonard Williams hopes better health brings better results.

Can the Ravens show enough consistency to make the playoffs?

The Bengals beat man coverage several times on Sunday.

Browns coach Hue Jackson is excited about WR Josh Gordon practicing on Wednesday.

The Steelers run defense has stepped up.

The Texans don’t know if WR Will Fuller will return this week.

Colts S Clayton Geathers is back to work after a long absence.

The players change from week to week, but the Jaguars offensive line keeps playing well.

The Titans have WR Harry Douglas back at practice.

Broncos players shared reactions to a change at offensive coordinator.

How did Chiefs TE Travis Kelce come to throw a pass in Sunday’s loss?

WR Mike Williams is working his way into the Chargers’ offensive game plans.

Raiders rookie CB Gareon Conley had surgery on his injured shin.

LB Anthony Hitchens expects to be in the Cowboys lineup on Thursday.

Giants QB Eli Manning gave a pep talk ahead of Sunday’s win.

The Eagles went for two on Sunday night after K Jake Elliott was injured, but should they do it regularly?

There’s another injury to deal with in the Redskins backfield.

Bears RB Tarik Cohen made an argument for more playing time in Week 11.

A call for the Lions to move on without RB Ameer Abdullah.

Should the Packers make a quarterback change?

The Vikings offense has been doing well in the red zone.

The Falcons moved to 5-1 in NFC games with Monday night’s win.

Panthers RB Jonathan Stewart tied the knot.

What will the Saints do to replace DE Alex Okafor‘s production?

Buccaneers coach Dirk Koetter said RB Doug Martin isn’t to blame for a sluggish run game.

The Cardinals are thinking about changes at wide receiver.

Sunday’s loss exposed some vulnerabilities with the Rams.

The 49ers made a change on the defensive line.

A couple of coaching decisions went the wrong way for the Seahawks on Monday.

NFC playoff picture: Falcons are in, Seahawks are out

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Monday night’s game was a big one in the NFC playoff race.

The Falcons’ win over the Seahawks gives Atlanta the sixth and final spot in the playoff picture, while Seattle is on the outside looking in.

Here’s how it all looks before Thanksgiving:

LEADERS
1. Eagles (9-1): The class of the conference.

2. Vikings (8-2): The Vikings have a two-game lead over the NFC North now, but if they lose on Thanksgiving the lead would drop to one, and the Lions would have the tiebreaker.

3. Saints (8-2): Surging ahead in the NFC South with an eight-game winning streak.

4. Rams (7-3): The loss to the Vikings may end up costing the Rams a bye week.

5. Panthers (7-3): The Panthers have a game lead over the rest of the wild card field.

6. Falcons (6-4): Atlanta owns the head-to-head tiebreaker over both the other 6-4 teams, the Lions and Seahawks.

OUTSIDE LOOKING IN
7. Lions (6-4): Golden Tate‘s overturned touchdown on the last play of the Lions’ loss to the Falcons is looking costly right now.

8. Seahawks (6-4): Injuries are taking a toll on Seattle’s playoff hopes.

9. (Packers (5-5): Without Aaron Rodgers it’s hard to imagine they make a playoff run.

10. Cowboys (5-5): The injury to left tackle Tyron Smith has been devastating.

11. Washington (4-6): Kirk Cousins is playing well, but injuries are taking their toll on the rest of the roster.

12. Cardinals (4-6): Just playing out the string, with Blaine Gabbert under center. 13. Buccaneers (4-6): Maybe the NFC’s most disappointing team.

14. Bears (3-7): Chicago has no hope.

15. Giants (2-8): Sunday’s upset of the Chiefs doesn’t change the fact that the Giants are going nowhere.

16. 49ers (1-9): Still have a chance of passing the Browns for the first pick in the draft.

Vance Joseph: Firing Mike McCoy about increasing passing efficiency

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The Broncos fired offensive coordinator Mike McCoy on Monday in a move that was foreshadowed by a report of dissatisfaction with his performance that surfaced before the team extended its losing steak to six games by falling to the Bengals.

When it came time for head coach Vance Joseph discussed the reason for the move on Monday afternoon, his explanation won’t come as a great shock to anyone who has been keeping an eye on the team this year. Whether it has been Trevor Siemian or Brock Osweiler under center, the Broncos passing game has fallen short and that’s why McCoy has been forced to fall on his sword.

“When we changed from Trevor to Brock, my goal was to stabilize the offense and not turn the ball over as much,’’ Joseph said, via KUSA. “It was more about the quarterback position and hoping to get a veteran guy in to stabilize the offense and not give the ball away as much. That hasn’t happened. Brock’s had three starts now and the same problems have occurred. And so I felt at this moment for our football team moving forward that a change was needed, going from Mike to Bill Musgrave, simply because I want to have a more efficient pass game. You have to have that. Our running game has been good. But our pass game has not been good in my opinion.”

Joseph went on to say that McCoy wasn’t fumbling, throwing interceptions or doing anything else on the field by way of saying the offensive issues go beyond the coordinator. McCoy also wasn’t responsible for picking the quarterbacks that are on the roster and that group includes Paxton Lynch, who hasn’t started yet but could after Joseph said he’d be discussing it with McCoy’s replacement Bill Musgrave.

If they do go that route and the results remain unimpressive, it seems clear that the next move can’t be to find someone else to call the plays.

Bill Belichick not a fan of international games, or volcanoes

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Some Patriots players were eager to take in the sights of a foreign country this weekend.

Coach Bill Belichick, as you might imagine, was not as enthusiastic about the disruption to his schedule.

Via Mike Reiss of ESPN.com, Belichick said during his weekly appearance on WEEI that the win over the Raiders was nice, but the bother of it was something he might have preferred to avoid.

“Personally I wouldn’t be in any big rush to do it again,” Belichick said. “It’s a long way to go for a game. There’s a lot in terms of all the logistics of it. They are not used to having an NFL team, so you have to go in there and handle a lot of the logistics. It took a lot of manpower, a lot of hours, a lot of energy out of our organization to do that. We are exhausted from the trip.”

The Patriots arrived home early Monday morning, and they were weary after more than a week on the road. They practiced last week at the Air Force Academy after beating the Broncos the previous Sunday night.

“It was a good trip but it took a lot out of us,” Belichick said. “It’s a lot. We spent a lot of time talking about altitude, about hydration, about food, water, training elements — much more so than, say, Denver. Pick another city that has some similarities, but it is quite a bit different.

“We dealt with it. Players did a great job dealing with all the challenges we had to deal with. I think we’re fortunate there was no volcano eruptions or earthquakes, or anything else while we were down there. You have two NFL franchises in an area that I don’t know how stable the geological plates that were below us [were], but nothing happened, so that was good.”

Of course, the league’s going back to Mexico City once a year through at least 2021. There were concerns about Estadio Azteca after a September earthquake in the area, but the building was deemed safe. And vulcanology and seismology are apparently things Belichick doesn’t want to have to worry about when formulating future game plans.

Pete Carroll: Fake field goal would have been a good call, if it had worked

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After Monday night’s 34-31 loss to the Falcons following a missed three-pointer at the end of the game, Seahawks coach Pete Carroll faced questions about a seemingly misguided decision that left three points on the field at the end of the first half.

Instead of a 34-yard field goal that would have cut the score to 24-20 at intermission, the Seahawks ran a fourth-and-one fake, with holder Jon Ryan flipping a short pass to tight end Luke Willson, who was quickly tackled.

Before getting to explanation from the man who made the decision to green light the play, keep one thing in mind: Those three points, if not eschewed, wouldn’t have made the score 34-34 at the end of regulation. Instead, the entire second half would have had to be replayed with the score 24-20 at the outset of the third quarter, not 24-17.

And now for Pete Carroll’s philosophical commentary on the move.

“It would have been a really good call if we would have made it,” Carroll told reporters. “It was something we saw, that we wanted to do.  It was a terrific opportunity, right where we wanted it.  The defensive tackle made a better play.  He wasn’t supposed to be there.”

But he was there, Blanche. Which means it wasn’t a terrific opportunity. Which means they didn’t make it.

Which means it wasn’t a really good call.

The other question is what did the Seahawks hope to accomplish from the Falcons 17 with seven seconds left in the second quarter and one timeout?

“We had a chance to [score a touchdown],” Carroll said. “If not, we would run out of bounds to stop the clock.  We knew exactly what was going on.”

Except for the whole “defensive tackle wasn’t supposed to be there” thing.

“We figured we were going to break it, and it was a matter of giving ourselves another shot,” Carroll added. “If we score, we keep it, and if not we get out of bounds.”

That all makes it sound a lot easier than it is for Willson, who would have had to make some fairly important decisions with the clock ticking to six and five and four and you get the idea.

The explanation from Luke Willson didn’t make the situation any more understandable.

“It was kind of a look that we were waiting for,” Willson told reporters. “It’s something that they’ve done all year. I don’t know why, but for this game they changed it up and it was a first time thing for them so obviously it didn’t work. It is what it is I guess.”

Yes, more philosophical musings to start your Tuesday morning. It is what it is indeed; a call that would have been a good call. If only it would have worked.

Matt Ryan tried not to let bad thoughts “creep in” late in fourth quarter

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When the Falcons kicked a field goal to go up 11 points with 3:49 left to play, their win probability was about as high as it could get without a final whistle.

It doesn’t take the longest memory to remember a time when the Falcons were unable to close out a win under similarly rosy projections, however, and it was impossible to block out those memories when the Seahawks cut that lead to three points less than a minute later. A quick three-and-out gave Seattle the ball back and they began driving for another score.

Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan was asked after the game if there was a point when he felt like saying “oh no.”

“To me, I try not to let those things creep in,” Ryan said. “You can ask guys on the sideline, I’m always thinking situationally, so what is going to happen if they do this, if we do that. So you try not to let those things creep in and think about it and again, I’ve played long enough to know that you have no idea how things are going to shake out.”

Ryan said he was thinking about overtime as Blair Walsh readied field goal attempt that would tie the game. It fell short, giving Atlanta a 34-31 win and a second-straight win as they head home for the next three weeks. Ryan said that momentum is a good thing for the team.

“Yeah, I mean, it beats the alternative. You don’t have momentum going into it. So it is good for us. Obviously, winning games, finding ways to win, that is huge. Getting back is going to be great for us.”

The home stand starts with the Buccaneers next Sunday before the Vikings and Saints come to town in what will be a pair of marquee matchups in the NFC playoff race.

Zach Miller out of hospital after more than three weeks

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Bears tight end Zach Miller was back home Monday, after more than three weeks in the hospital following emergency surgery in New Orleans.

Miller suffered a dislocated knee during the game against the Saints, and surgeons had to repair arterial damage which threatened his leg.

Miller tweeted out the news of his recovery last night.

According to Colleen Kane of the Chicago Tribune, Miller was transported back to a Chicago hospital on Nov. 6 via private plane, and has been there since. He’s had multiple procedures on his knee.

While there has been no update on the football future of the 33-year-old tight end, he’s obviously in good spirits, tweeting at teammates and providing motivational messages.

Bruce Arians changes course, rejects blame for fateful call

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After Sunday’s 31-21 loss to the Texans came to an end, Cardinals coach Bruce Arians said he “cost our team the game” by calling for an Adrian Peterson run on fourth-and-one from his own 34-yard-line while down three with over six minutes left in the game.

Peterson was stuffed and the Texans scored a touchdown on the next play to account for their final margin of victory. Arians said the team should have punted “in retrospect,” but Arians revealed on Monday that he thought better of that assessment after watching tape of the game.

“The fourth-down call, I take all that s–t back I said yesterday,” Arians said, via the Arizona Republic. “That was a damn good call, and we busted an assignment at the point of attack. That was an easy pickup. Goody [offensive coordinator Harold Goodwin] had a hell of a play designed, we called it and we busted an assignment. They did not whup us up there. We just turned them loose, the interior of our offensive line. So, I take everything I said back.”

Coaches often say they have to look at the tape before they offer any concrete assessments of how their team played, but, honest or otherwise, it’s unusual to hear a coach use a film session to take the spotlight off of them and put it back on their players.

Seahawks left even more banged-up than they began

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The Seahawks had to finish without three injured players last night, at positions already thinned dramatically by injuries.

Via Brady Henderson of ESPN.com, cornerback Shaquill Griffin’s early departure was because of a concussion.

Coming on the heels of star corner Richard Sherman‘s season-ending torn Achilles, it left them thin back there, and they had to rely on the just-reacquired Byron Maxwell. Oh by the way, their secondary was without some guy named Kam Chancellor as well, and he might miss the rest of the year with a neck injury, so it wasn’t a good situation to begin with.

“Fortunately, Maxwell stepped in this week and he went in there and played good football and did a pretty good job,” Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said. “I need to watch the film to see all of the plays. I think [general manager John Schneider] pulling him out of the ether for us this week worked out very fortunately for us, and we had an experienced guy to go against some big-time players, and he hung in there really well.”

The Seahawks also finished without running back Mike Davis (groin) and right guard Oday Aboushi (shoulder).

Davis had just been promoted from the practice squad to cover for injuries and some ineffective veterans. Aboushi has been part of a revolving door of linemen, and he was replaced by Mark Glowinski.

McVay: Robert Woods will miss a couple of weeks

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It initially wasn’t believed to be serious. It ended up being sort of serious. But not as serious as it could have been.

Rams receiver Robert Woods will miss some time with a shoulder injury suffered in Sunday’s 24-7 loss to the Vikings. Coach Sean McVay shared the news with reporters on Monday.

“It’s probably going to be a couple weeks on Robert, so that’s unfortunate,” McVay said. “It requires some guys to step up and fill in for the void left by Robert and he’s done a lot of great things. It’s an opportunity for some other guys to step up, and I know he’ll take care of himself and hopefully we’ll get him back sooner than later, but that’s what it is right now and we’ll continue to gather more information.”

McVay said that the strategy for replacing Woods is “something that we’ll discuss,” and that it will happen “kind of by committee.” The first-year coach mentioned Tavon Austin, Josh Reynolds, Mike Thomas, and Pharoh Cooper as players who will get more work.

The injury happened late in the game, and at first the hope was that it wouldn’t cause Woods to miss much if any time.

“I think we got good, positive news back on that and the optimistic approach is hopefully a couple weeks,” McVay said. “There was a chance that if it was something other than what it ended up being, that it was going to maybe require surgery, but it was nothing like that. So those are positive things and there’s a guy that he’ll do all the right things in the meantime to try to get him back on the field sooner than later.”

Even if Woods wasn’t injured, McVay hopes to get Austin more involved in the offense.

“The bottom line is Tavon is too dynamic of a playmaker for our offense to not try to get him involved a little bit more than yesterday,” McVay said. “You can sit here and make excuses that we didn’t have enough snaps and things like that, but it’s on me and I’ve got to do a better job of getting a feel for the flow of the game and finding a way to get him involved, especially when that was part of our plan and we kind of went away from that.”

Austin, a top-10 pick in 2013 and the recipient of a four-year, $42 million deal in 2016, has seven catches for 43 yards on the year, along with 36 carries for 171. Woods, who signed a five-year, $34 million deal with the Rams as a free agent after four years in Buffalo, has 47 catches fore 703 yards and four touchdowns.

Sammy Watkins and rookie Cooper Kupp already have significant roles in the passing game; they could end up getting more looks, too.

The Rams host the 8-2 Saints on Sunday, followed by a visit to the Cardinals and a showdown with the 9-1 Eagles.

Falcons hold on for 34-31 victory over Seahawks

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They — whoever they is — say that football is a game of inches. “They” on Monday could be Seahawks kicker Blair Walsh.

Walsh’s game-tying field-goal attempt with seven seconds left fell just short of the crossbar. Instead of celebrating a 52-yard field goal to send the game into overtime, the Seahawks were left to ponder “what if.”

Walsh’s miss allowed Atlanta to hang on for a 34-31 victory in one of the most entertaining games of the season.

Seahawks coach Pete Carroll will have to answer postgame questions about two curious decisions.

With seven seconds left in the first half and facing a fourth-and-one at the Atlanta 17, Seattle inexplicably tried a fake field goal. Tight end Luke Willson was tackled for a 4-yard loss by Grady Jarrett. Then, early in the fourth quarter, Carroll challenged an obvious incompletion to Doug Baldwin, losing a timeout that the Seahawks needed in their comeback attempt.

Russell Wilson gave them a chance anyway.

The Seahawks quarterback had seven rushes for 86 yards and completed 26 of 42 passes for 258 yards with two touchdowns and one interception. The Seahawks trailed 34-23 with 3:49 remaining, but scored a touchdown and a 2-point conversion in only 49 seconds. Wilson scrambled for 16 yards, threw to Jimmy Graham for 11 yards, threw to J.D. McKissic for 4 yards and got 15 yards on a late hit out of bounds by Keanu Neal before an incompletion and a 29-yard touchdown pass to Baldwin. Graham caught the two-point conversion.

The Seahawks got the ball back with 1:46 remaining after forcing a three-and-out and Wilson, who has 19 career game-winning drives in the fourth quarter or overtime, drove them from their own 25 to the Atlanta 34. With no timeouts and seven seconds remaining, Carroll initially left his offense on the field. Then, he thought better of it and sent out Walsh.

Walsh, who had a career long of 56 yards and a season long of 49 yards, came up just short . . . to the relief of the Falcons.

The Falcons of 2017 finally look something like the Falcons of 2016. After back-to-back victories over the Cowboys and Seahawks, Atlanta has sent a message not to count it out just yet.

The Falcons (6-4) are two games behind the Saints and one game behind the Panthers in the NFC South.

Matt Ryan completed 19 of 27 passes for 195 yards and two touchdowns, and Julio Jones caught five passes for 71 yards. Adrian Clayborn, who had six sacks of Dak Prescott last week, scored a touchdown on a 10-yard fumble return in the first half.

NFL has no response to latest Trump tweet

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The Commander-in-Chief has turned his attention back to the anthem controversy, and the NFL isn’t taking the bait.

During a Monday media briefing, NFL spokesman Joe Lockhart had no comment in response to President Donald Trump’s tweet regarding the decision of Raiders running back Marshawn Lynch to sit for the American national anthem but to stand for the Mexican national anthem on Sunday in Mexico City.

Great disrespect!” the President said on Twitter. “Next time NFL should suspend him for remainder of season. Attendance and ratings way down.”

Lockhart did respond to the allegation regarding attendance and ratings, pointing out that the TV numbers are down by five-to-six percent for the season to date, and that ticket sales are down two percent.

Of course, there’s a difference between ticket sales and actual attendance. There’s also a difference between actual attendance and perceived attendance; in stadiums with indoor clubs and/or large concourse areas, fans have an alternative to sitting in their seats, and their absence from the plastic chairs that correspond to their tickets creates a bad look, especially when people are looking for a bad look.

Mike Davis out with groin injury

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Running back Mike Davis waited a long time to make his Seahawks’ debut. It didn’t last long.

Davis, promoted from the practice squad last week, had six carries for 18 yards and two catches for 41 yards before leaving with a groin injury. He sat on the bench, a towel over his head and became emotional as teammates offered their condolences.

He will not return.

Davis, a fourth-round pick of the 49ers in 2015, played eight games for San Francisco last season. He had 19 carries for 50 yards and three catches for 25 yards and a touchdown.

The Seahawks claimed him off waivers in May, and he had 106 yards on 24 carries in the preseason.

Falcons lead Seahawks 24-17 at halftime

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Russell Wilson continues to lead the Seahawks in rushing; Adrian Clayborn continues to deliver big plays; and Tyler Lockett continues to get chances returning kickoffs.

It’s added up to a 24-17 halftime lead for the Falcons in one of the more entertaining halves of the season.

The Seahawks had a chance to add three points, but on fourth-and-one from the Atlanta 17 with seven seconds left in the second quarter, Pete Carroll inexplicably called for a fake. Luke Willson was tackled for a 4-yard loss by Grady Jarrett.

Seattle also had two turnovers in the first half, both by Wilson, as he threw an interception and lost a fumble. Both led to Falcons touchdowns, including a 10-yard fumble return to the end zone by Clayborn. Clayborn had six sacks of Dak Prescott last week.

Matt Ryan completed 9-of-15 passes for 98 yards and a touchdown in the first half. Julio Jones had two catches for 22 yards. Tevin Coleman rushed for only 9 yards and a touchdown on 10 carries.

Wilson, who has three carries for 30 yards, completed 13 of 21 passes for 123 yards with a touchdown and an interception.

Lockett has four kickoff returns for 172 yards and also leads the Seahawks with four catches for 37 yards.

Falcons take 21-7 lead as Adrian Clayborn scores touchdown in encore from last week

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So far, the Monday night game has delivered everything it promised, including hard hits, great catches, long kickoff returns, touchdowns and more Adrian Clayborn.

The Falcons lead 21-7 early in the second quarter.

Clayborn scored the latest touchdown, scooping a Russell Wilson fumble, forced by Takk McKinley, and running 10 yards with 56 seconds gone in the second quarter. Clayborn had six sacks of Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott last week.

Atlanta used a 50-yard return on the opening kickoff to set up a 52-yard touchdown drive that culminated in Tevin Coleman‘s 1-yard run with 11:59 remaining in the first quarter.

Tyler Lockett answered with a 57-yard kickoff return for the Seahawks, but on Seattle’s second play from scrimmage, Wilson threw a pass intended for Lockett that Desmond Trufant intercepted. Trufant returned it to the Seattle 35 before Wilson tackled him.

Julio Jones made a highlight-reel catch between and over Bradley McDougald and Jeremy Lane, somehow managing to keep both feet in bounds for a 16-yard gain to the Seattle 19. Mohamed Sanu‘s 2-yard touchdown catch six plays later was another play of the day. It gave the Falcons a 14-0 lead.

But the Seahawks answered, getting a 37-yard kickoff return by Lockett to set up a nine-play, 65-yard drive. Jimmy Graham scored on a 4-yard post-up.

Wilson completed 5 of 7 passes for 47 yards with the touchdown and the interception in the first quarter, while Ryan was 7-for-11 for 62 yards and the touchdown.

Both teams lost a defensive back in the first quarter. The Seahawks listed Shaquill Griffin as doubtful to return after he was taken to the locker room for a concussion check, but Falcons strong safety Keanu Neal returned in the second quarter after he was cleared from a concussion check.