Giants, Redskins trade field goals in lackluster first half

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The Washington Redskins and New York Giants traded a pair of short field goals in taking a 3-3 tie into halftime on Thanksgiving night.

Nine punts, a turnover on downs and two short field goals encapsulated the lackluster first half. The teams combined to convert just 4-of-17 third down opportunities in the half and just 236 total yards before the break.

The Giants took the lead late in the second quarter after a 16-play drive stalled out at Washington’s 12-yard line. Aldrick Rosas converted the 30-yard field goal try to give New York a 3-0 advantage.

Kirk Cousins hit Jamison Crowder for 38 yards on Washington’s ensuing drive to move into Giants’ territory at the two-minute warning. However, three incomplete passes later resulted in a fourth punt of the half for Washington.

The Giants would follow with a three-and-out and their fifth punt of the half that gave Cousins possession back on the Giants’ side of the field with 1:04 left before the half. Ross Cockrell was flagged for pass interference on a throw to Josh Doctson that resulted in a 37-yard penalty to move Washington into the Giants’ red zone for the first time on the night.

Nick Rose‘s 28-yard field goal with 13 seconds left in the half knotted the score into the break.

Jerry Jones: Full ownership to discuss Roger Goodell’s contract at December meeting

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While Jerry Jones confirmed he is standing down in his threat to sue his fellow owners, don’t expect the Cowboys owner to go away quietly in his fight over the process for extending Roger Goodell’s contract.

“The business of the standing down there didn’t necessarily mean that you’re not standing up someplace else,” Jones said after the Cowboys’ 28-6 loss to the Chargers on Thursday.

In other words, he expects the full body of owners to discuss an extension for the Commissioner, even though the six-member Compensation Committee received unanimous authorization in May to finalize a deal.

“The [Compensation] Committee is being responsive, and we’re having some real owner participation,” Jones said. “I just want to say that we really have had, are having a lot of owner participation. So that’s a part of it. It doesn’t mean at all that we’re not really pursing what we want to get done, and that is have the owners in a very positive way give input and make everyone, including ourselves, accountable.”

Jones is adamant that all owners will discuss Goodell’s deal in an owners-only session at the December 13 meetings in Irving, Texas.

“That’s for sure,” Jones said of the owners-only session. “And I don’t want to speak for the circumstances are, but it is going to be firm, solid, an owners-only session that was called specifically for these issues.”

PFT reported earlier this week that Jones plans to seek a secret ballot of owners in connection with Goodell’s contract. A majority of 17 owners is required to trigger the process of secret balloting. A 75-percent majority of 24 votes will be needed to rescind or to revise the resolution that owners adopted with a 32-0 vote in May.

Mike Zimmer bites tongue on officiating gaffes

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On Thanksgiving, the Vikings beat not only the 11 players in Honolulu blue and silver but also the folks in black and white stripes.

At least three horrible calls from referee Tony Corrente’s crew helped open the door for a potential Detroit Lions comeback. From a catch by receiver Kenny Golladay that set up a touchdown that cut the score at the half from 20-3 to 20-10 (the ball hit the ground and moved, and it was much more clear and obvious that the Zach Miller reversal from earlier in the season) to a horrific pass interference non-call when receiver Stefon Diggs was mugged as the ball was landing on what would have helped the Vikings stretch the lead to 30-13 or 34-13 to a goofy taunting call on quarterback Case Keenum for flipping the ball in the direction of Lions defensive end Ziggy Ansah, it almost seemed as if the officials were trying to give the game to the home team.

After the game, Vikings coach Mike Zimmer stopped short, somehow, of getting himself in trouble with the league office.

“We almost lost our composure a couple times,” Zimmer said. “We study each crew going into the game. I told them it could be like this today. They’ve got to play clean, smart football and (long, awkward pause] . . . I shouldn’t say anything else.”

I’ll say it for him. It was bad enough to trigger two thoughts. One, pass interference must be reviewable. Even though it’s inherently a judgment call, sometimes it’s clear and obvious that the judgment was applied completely incorrectly. Second, while I’m a firm believer that the fix is never in, moments like this make me wonder whether the ratings dip has resulted in an unspoken message to give calls to a team that is on the verge of getting blown out, in order to help avoid it. And if I’m wondering, other people are, too.

Several years ago, the Commissioner admitted that he always roots for the team that is trailing. At the time he said it, the league continued to be in unchecked growth mode. Now that the pie is shrinking, maybe it makes sense to find a not-so-subtle way to keep games closer.

That said, I still don’t believe it’s happening. Incompetence in these matters is always a more reasonable explanation than design. But with mistakes that are so obvious and with limited procedures for fixing them, it’s not crazy to at least wonder whether human error is being steered a certain way. To avoid that kind of thinking, the league needs to be committed to correcting all correctable errors.

Tom Brady practices on a limited basis

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Patriots quarterback Tom Brady popped up on the injury report Wednesday after missing practice with an Achilles injury. Amid reports he’ll play on Sunday despite the injury, Brady returned to practice on Thursday.

He practiced on a limited basis, which is better than not practicing at all. But when it comes to the Achilles tendon, it’s better that it not be in any way impaired. As Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman learned two weeks ago tonight, playing with an Achilles tendon injury can result in a season-ending torn Achilles tendon.

Also returning to practice on Thursday was Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski, who missed Wednesday’s session due to an illness. Tight end Martellus Bennett (shoulder, hamstring) didn’t practice on Thursday after practicing on a limited basis on Wednesday.

The Patriots host the Dolphins on Sunday, the first time New England will face either Miami or Buffalo this year.

AFC playoff picture: Chargers moving up

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In early October, only an idiot would have said the Chargers looked like a playoff team. In late November, the idiots are looking pretty smart.

The Chargers’ Thanksgiving win over the Cowboys has them at 5-6, only half a game out in the wild card race and a game and a half out in the AFC West. That’s a shocking turnaround for a team that started the season 0-4.

Here’s how the AFC playoff race looks, through Thanksgiving:

LEADERS
1. Steelers (8-2): Pittsburgh has the tiebreaker over New England based on a better conference record.

2. Patriots (8-2): New England’s December 17 game at Pittsburgh is shaping up to be the game of the year.

3. Jaguars (7-3): Is America ready for the Jaguars in the playoffs? Because they’re a near-lock to make it.

4. Chiefs (6-4): Kansas City has stumbled mightily after a hot start, but the Chiefs are still the overwhelming favorites in the AFC West.

5. Titans (6-4): The Week 17 date with the Jaguars could decide the AFC South. Could a Jaguars-Titans game really get flexed into prime time?

6. Ravens (5-5): Joe Flacco isn’t playing well, but Baltimore’s defense is, and that may be enough.

OUTSIDE LOOKING IN
7. Bills (5-5): Sean McDermott made a huge mistake by benching Tyrod Taylor but the Bills aren’t out of it just yet.

8. Chargers (5-6): Los Angeles only has one game remaining against a team with a winning record.

9. Dolphins (4-6): It’s hard to believe an offense this bad is only a game out of the wild card, but here we are.

10. Jets (4-6): It’s hard to believe a team everyone accused of tanking is only a game out of the wild card, but here we are.

11. Bengals (4-6): Cincinnati’s offense is starting to pick up.

12. Texans (4-6): The Deshaun Watson injury probably cost the Texans a playoff spot.

13. Raiders (4-6): Oakland is a major disappointment.

14. Colts (3-7): If only Andrew Luck had been healthy.

15. Broncos (3-7): Denver may be the biggest disappointment in the league.

16. Browns (0-10): They actually haven’t been mathematically eliminated yet, but it’s probably safe to say the Browns won’t be in the playoffs this year.

Trent Williams, D.J. Fluker among several starting linemen inactive for Giants-Redskins

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The Washington Redskins and New York Giants will each be without multiple starting offensive linemen Thanksgiving night.

Washington declared left tackle Trent Williams (knee) and center Chase Roullier (hand) inactive. Those two are out in addition to guard Shawn Lauvao, who was placed on injured reserve this week due to a stinger.

For the Giants, D.J. Fluker and Jordan Pugh were each ruled out as well. Both players were declared out on Wednesday as Fluker is battling a toe injury and Pugh is out with a back injury.

Chad Wheeler will start for Pugh at right tackle with Jon Halapio getting the start at right guard in place of Fluker.

Additionally for Washington, safety Montae Nicholson, linebacker Martrell Spaight, defensive linemen Caraun Reid and Terrell McClain (toe), and tight end Jordan Reed (hamstring) were declared inactive.

The Giants scratched quarterback Davis Webb, wide receiver Sterling Shepard (migraines), cornerback Eli Apple and linebackers B.J. Goodson (ankle) and Calvin Munson.

Chargers dominate Cowboys 28-6

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The Cowboys, who haven’t made back-to-back playoff appearances since 2006-07, remain in the playoff hunt mathematically. But reality says they wrote their obit to this season on Thursday.

The Chargers dominated the Cowboys from start to finish, beating Dallas 28-6 in a game that wasn’t that close. The Cowboys have lost three games in a row, getting outscored 92-22, with only two touchdowns playing without All-Pro running back Ezekiel Elliott.

The Chargers, who never punted, missed chances to make it even more lopsided.

Kicker Nick Novak missed a 35-yard field goal and an extra point before leaving with a back injury. Punter Drew Kaser went 1-for-3 on his extra-point attempts as the emergency kicker. The Chargers also passed on a chance to kick a chip-shot field goal, going for it on fourth-and-13 from the Dallas 16. Los Angeles also settled for a field goal after reaching the Dallas 4.

The Chargers ended the game inside the Dallas 5-yard line taking a knee three times.

Philip Rivers completed 27 of 33 passes for 434 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions. It was his most yards passing since he had 503 yards against the Packers on Oct. 18, 2015. Keenan Allen caught 11 passes for 172 yards and a touchdown, while Hunter Henry made five catches for 76 yards and a touchdown.

The Chargers, who had five interceptions of Nathan Peterman last week in a 52-24 victory over the Bills, had two more Thursday. Desmond King returned a fourth-quarter pick of Dak Prescott 90 yards for a score.

Opponents have outscored the Cowboys 72-6 in the second half of the past three games.

Prescott completed 20 of 27 passes for 179 yards and the two picks. He has thrown three pick-sixes this season, and last week against Philadelphia, Prescott lost a fumble that was returned for a touchdown.

The Chargers are headed in the opposite direction with two consecutive victories, putting pressure on the Chiefs in the AFC West. They outscored the Bills and the Cowboys 80-30 and appear to be rolling.

Cowboys break touchdown drought to draw within 16-6

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Stop the presses: The Cowboys finally scored a touchdown. They had gone 26 consecutive drives without a touchdown before Rod Smith ran it in from 2 yards out with 12:48 remaining Thursday.

It cut the Chargers’ lead to 16-6 after Dak Prescott overthrew Terrance Williams on the two-point conversion.

The Cowboys’ last touchdown before Smith’s came two weeks ago against Atlanta, with 6:19 remaining in the first quarter. The 21-yard drive followed an Xavier Woods interception. Since then, opponents had outscored the Cowboys 80-9 before Smith’s score.

The Cowboys went 81 yards in nine plays, getting help with a 36-yard pass interference penalty on cornerback Trevor Williams.

Dallas, though, has not forced a Los Angeles punt today, and Philip Rivers already has passed for 370 yards.

Zack Martin in concussion protocol, will not return

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Cowboys right guard Zack Martin will not return. He entered concussion protocol after a hit late in the first half.

Joe Looney replaced Martin on the final series of the first half.

Martin, center Travis Frederick and left tackle Tyron Smith made the All-Pro team last season. Only Frederick has made it through the season without an injury.

Smith returned Thursday after missing the previous two games with a groin injury. He also has dealt with a back injury.

Smith was called for a holding penalty, negating a 34-yard touchdown run by Dak Prescott in the third quarter.

Chargers go up 9-0 on a Hunter Henry touchdown catch

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The Chargers finally cashed in with a touchdown, though they continue to give away points, missing the PAT.

Hunter Henry caught a 3-yard pass from Philip Rivers on the first possession of the second half. Nick Novak, who injured his back in the first half but returned to kick a 22-yard field goal with 1:56 remaining in the second quarter, missed the extra point. It was wide left. He missed a 35-yard field goal wide right in the first half.

Los Angeles has four drives, not counting a kneel down at the end of the first half, and could have scored on all four. The Chargers have 305 yards, with Rivers passing for 270.

Henry has five catches for 76 yards and a touchdown, and Keenan Allen has seven for 85.

The Cowboys, who have gone 26 consecutive possessions without a touchdown, now have been outscored 73-9 since their last touchdown. Dak Prescott ran for a 34-yard touchdown on the team’s first possession of the second half, but it was negated by a holding penalty on left tackle Tyron Smith. The Cowboys ended up punting.

Chargers have dominated Cowboys, lead only 3-0 at half

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The return of Tyron Smith did not help the Cowboys score. The All-Pro left tackle is playing — though the Cowboys lost All-Pro right guard Zack Martin in the second quarter to a possible concussion — but the Cowboys came up empty in the first 30 minutes.

Dallas has now gone 25 consecutive possessions without a touchdown. The Cowboys’ last touchdown came two weeks ago against Atlanta, with 6:19 remaining in the first quarter, a 21-yard drive that followed an Xavier Woods interception. Since then, opponents have outscored the Cowboys 67-9.

The Cowboys are lucky to be down only 3-0 at the half, as the Chargers have dominated Thursday’s game. Los Angeles has 228 yards to the Cowboys’ 84. Dallas has allowed two more sacks after giving up 12 the past two games combined.

An injury to kicker Nick Novak kept the Chargers from scoring more in the first half. After Novak missed a 35-yard field goal wide right on the Chargers’ first possession, the team announced Novak was questionable to return with a back injury. Punter Drew Kaser warmed up on the sideline.

The Chargers reached the Dallas 16, where they faced fourth-and-13. They went for it and Austin Ekeler gained 12 yards on a pass from Philip Rivers.

Los Angeles settled for short Novak field goal after reaching the Dallas 4 before the half, with the 22-yarder the only points scored so far.

Rivers has completed 15 of 19 passes for 219 yards, while Prescott is 9-for-10 for 46 yards. Neither team has established the run with the Chargers rushing for 9 yards and the Cowboys 49.

Chargers wide receiver Mike Williams (knee) will not return. The Cowboys list Martin as questionable, and he was riding a stationary bicycle on the sideline during the Cowboys’ final possession of the half.

Matthew Stafford hobbles after Lions loss

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Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford somehow was able to finish the game on Thursday. The question now becomes whether he’ll be able to play in 10 days, when the Lions face the Ravens in Baltimore.

Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press has posted video of Stafford hobbling away from the podium, thanks to a right ankle injury suffered during the 30-23 loss to the Vikings.

Per Birkett, Stafford said he’s not 100 percent, but the “ticker’s ticking so I’ll be OK.”

The Lions may not be OK after falling to 6-5. They now trail the Vikings by three games with five to play.

Stafford originally injured the ankle in a Week Five loss to the Panthers. He missed no time due to the injury.

His backup is Jake Rudock, a sixth-round pick in 2016 with no regular-season game experience.

Mike Williams out; Nick Novak questionable to return

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Chargers wide receiver Mike Williams was carted off with a knee injury. The team downgraded him to out after initially listing him as questionable to return.

Williams was limited in practice this week.

He did not catch a pass in the first quarter before leaving.

The Chargers also are without a kicker, which explains why they have gained 167 yards but have no points.

Nick Novak injured his back in the first quarter, missing a 35-yarder wide right on the team’s first possession. The Chargers went for it on fourth-and-13 from Dallas 16. They gained 12 yards.

It marks the second consecutive week the Cowboys’ opponent has lost its kicker early in the game. Last week, it was Eagles kicker Jake Elliott, who made the tackle on the opening kickoff, and exited for the locker room for a concussion check after missing a 34-yarder in the first quarter. He did not return and the Eagles went for two after every touchdown with linebacker Kamu Grugier-Hill kicking off.

Punter Drew Kaser is kicking into the net for the Chargers.

Vikings hang on to beat the Lions, for their seventh straight win

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For all the talk about quarterback Case Keenum — and there should be plenty — the Vikings won this one they way they anticipated.

In the end, it was the defense making plays when needed, as they hung on for a 30-23 win over the Lions.

Cornerback Xavier Rhodes intercepted Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford to seal the game, after the Vikings let the Lions hang around far too long.

They led 27-10 after the first possession of the second half, but Stafford kept them in the game, despite getting his right ankle rolled and re-taped and stayed in the game late. But there was no comeback Thursday, with Rhodes making the play to allow them to kill enough time.

The win was the seventh straight for the Vikings (9-2), keeping them on pace for a top-two seed in the NFC playoffs. The NFC North is a foregone conclusion, as they’re three up on the Lions (6-5) with five to play.

Keenum was 21-of-30 for 282 yards and two touchdowns, and no one will be asking about his hold on the starting job (for a week anyway). Wide receiver Adam Thielen had eight catches for 89 yards, pushing him over 1,000 yards for the season.

Lions hanging around, but Matthew Stafford goes down

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The Lions are doing everything they can to hang around.

They’re getting some help from the officials, but got a huge scare as they were making things close.

Matthew Stafford just threw a 43-yard touchdown pass to Marvin Jones to cut the Vikings lead to 27-23 early in the fourth quarter, but had to be tended to by athletic trainers after the play.

Stafford’s legs were rolled on by a Vikings defender after the launched the touchdown, and he walked gingerly off the field. They re-taped his right ankle on the sidelines.

The score kept them in a game with a number of dubious calls (a flimsy taunting call on Vikings quarterback Case Keenum, a non-call on a clear pass interference by Lions safety Tavon Wilson).

The Vikings opened the second half with the kind of drive that can crush spirits, running four times for 75 yards and an immediate touchdown and a 27-10 lead.

It appeared the Lions responded with a touchdown of their own, but they dragged their feet getting the extra point up and it might have cost them.

Darren Fells‘ reception was initially ruled a touchdown, but with the Lions slow to kick the ensuing extra point, the play was reviewed and reversed (correctly) since Fells pinned the ball against the ground as he was trying to control it.