Vontaze Burfict could be in trouble, again

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Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict could be looking at another fine or suspension from the league office.

Early in Sunday’s game against the Steelers, Burfict kicked at the head of Steelers fullback Roosevelt Nix following a play. While Burfict, who was laying on his back, made contact by kicking outward with both feet into Burfict’s helmet, Nix wasn’t injured.

But ultimately that shouldn’t matter. At a time when the league is more sensitive than ever to blows to the head, any unnecessary and deliberate contact surely will be punished. Although the officials apparently didn’t see it, the league office will, and Burfict (who was suspended three games this year and three games last year) probably should brace from some sort of sanction, especially since the NFL applies the concept of progressive discipline to cases of this kind.

For Burfict, it’s clear that multiple suspensions haven’t gotten the message through to him. It could be time for a third suspension.

Jeff Heath has longest kick by non-kicker since 1979

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Cowboys safety Jeff Heath, a former high school kicker, made two extra points Sunday. They were the longest successful kicks by a non-kicker in the NFL since 1979 when Packers linebacker John Anderson made a 39-yarder.

Wide receiver Wes Welker made an extra point for the Patriots in 2010, but that was before PATs were moved back from the 2-yard line to the 15. They now are 33-yard kicks.

Defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh missed an extra point for the Lions in 2010.

Welker was the last non-kicker to try a field goal, making a 29-yarder in 2004 for the Dolphins, and Doug Flutie converted a drop kick for the Patriots in 2005.

Heath was forced into double duty when Dan Bailey, the NFL’s all-time most accurate kicker, injured his groin in the first half. Heath made two of three extra points.

Linebacker Ted Thompson, now GM of the Packers, was the last non-kicker to make two extra points in a game. Thompson made his in 1980 for the Oilers.

Heath, who grew up playing soccer, made a 49-yard field goal in high school to win a playoff game for Lake Orion (Mich.) High School. He also hit a game-winner from 30 yards as a junior.

Last season against the 49ers, Heath nearly had to replace Bailey when the kicker’s back tightened up on him during pregame warmups. Heath warmed up but Bailey made it through the game.

Heath did kick during practice the following week, the first time he had kicked with a snapper and a holder since high school.

Heath’s side job, though, will come to an end. The Cowboys will work out kickers this week if Bailey can’t play against Washington next week.

Stephon Gilmore and Eric Rowe inactive for Patriots

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If the Patriots are going to reprise their Super Bowl result, they’re going to do it without a pair of corners against a healthy-again Falcons receiving corps.

Cornerbacks Stephon Gilmore and Eric Rowe are out tonight against the Falcons, who have wideout Mohamed Sanu back in the lineup after missing last week with a hamstring problem.

The Patriots will also be without linebacker Elandon Roberts, offensive lineman Cole Croston, linebacker Harvey Langi, defensive lineman Geneo Grissom, and tackle Cameron Fleming.

With the Patriots short-handed in the secondary, Johnson Bademosi and Jonathan Jones will have to play bigger roles alongside starter Malcolm Butler.

For the Falcons, the inactives are: Wide receivers Marvin Hall and Nick Williams, safety Sharrod Neasman, linebacker Jordan Tripp, offensive linemen Sean Harlow and Austin Pasztor, and defensive tackle Ahtyba Rubin.

Simultaneous possession in end zone works out for Seahawks again

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There weren’t any replacement officials on the field and Golden Tate is on a bye week with the Lions, but it was hard not to think about Tate, replacement officials and all the rest of the things involved in the 2012 game between the Seahawks and Packers in the fourth quarter of Sunday’s game between the Seahawks and the Giants.

Russell Wilson gave the ball to J.D. McKissic and then got it back on a flip from the running back before launching a pass deep down the field for Paul Richardson. Richardson and Giants safety Landon Collins both went up to get the ball and appeared to simultaneously possess it as they went down in the end zone.

Officials on the field ruled it a touchdown and the call stood after a video review. That leaves the Seahawks up 17-7 with just under 10 minutes to play.

Tate famously (or infamously, depending on your point of view) was ruled to have come down with a Hail Mary on the final play of a game against the Packers in 2012 while simultaneously possessing the ball with Packers safety M.D. Jennings. The league later said Tate should have been flagged for offensive pass interference, although plenty of people took issue with the ruling of simultaneous possession apart from that.

Sunday’s play looked clearer and pushed the Seahawks closer to a road win.

Dolphins still going through process with Cutler

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The news isn’t looking great for Dolphins quarterback Jay Cutler, but the process of evaluating him still isn’t complete.

The current belief is that he has multiple rib fractures. Diagnostic procedures currently are ongoing to determine whether there’s any other injury.

This preliminary assessment makes his ability to play on Thursday night unlikely, at best. It means that Matt Moore will be likely to make his 30th career start when the Dolphins face Baltimore.

Reuben Foster leaves with rib injury


49ers linebacker Reuben Foster‘s return didn’t last long. He left for the locker room in the second half with a rib injury.

The 49ers list his return as questionable, but with San Francisco down 40-3, it seems unlikely Foster would play again Sunday.

Foster initially returned from his injury, which came on a tackle of Ezekiel Elliott, but he eventually left for the locker room. Foster had not played since spraining his ankle in the season opener Sept. 10.

He had five tackles, including one for loss against the Cowboys.

Brock Coyle replaced Foster at inside linebacker.

The 49ers also lost right tackle Trent Brown, who left to undergo a cognitive evaluation. His return was questionable.

DeShone Kizer’s late night out doesn’t sit well with Browns


Cleveland’s WOIO Channel 19 obtained video of Browns quarterback DeShone Kizer partying early Saturday morning. Coach Hue Jackson was taken aback when told about it in postgame interviews.

“A guy’s personal time is his personal time, but I still think that’s not what our guys do,” Jackson said, via Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer. “I think our guys work at what they do, and I would be surprised if that happened. I have never heard of that. I don’t think DeShone has that kind of character or personality that way. That is what it is.”

Kizer was shown with teammates at a downtown Cleveland establishment at 1:30 a.m. Saturday. The Browns had practice Saturday in preparation for Sunday’s game.

“It is not a curfew, but you are right,” Jackson said. “You said it. That is the first I have heard of it. I appreciate you guys sharing that with me. Thank you.”

Kizer’s late night out came hours after he called a players-only offensive meeting Friday. Although Kizer didn’t miss any team activities, his Friday night partying still didn’t sit well with the winless Browns.

“I don’t think I’d be doing that,” wide receiver Ricardo Louis said. “When you’re a young guy in this league, you have to [learn now to prepare]. He’s learning right now. Preparation for success is such a fine line.”

Kizer was pulled in the second half of the team’s 12-9 overtime loss to the Browns after throwing back-to-back interceptions. He returned from a one-game benching to complete 12 of 20 passes for 114 yards and two picks.

The rookie told reporters in postgame interviews that he wasn’t “here to talk about my personal life right now” when asked about the video. He vehemently denied, however, that his partying shows a lack of commitment.

“Absolutely not,” Kizer said. “I was out. I was at the facility the next day, preparing for the game and the game right before that. Once again, I am not here to talk about my personal life.”

Seahawks find the end zone in third quarter

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The Seahawks took another big penalty while closing in on the end zone in the third quarter of Sunday’s game against the Giants, but they were able to shrug it off and get six points this time around.

One play after an unnecessary roughness call on guard Mark Glowinski pushed the Seahawks back to the 22-yard-line, Russell Wilson floated a pass to Doug Baldwin for a touchdown. Blair Walsh‘s extra point put Seattle up 10-7 halfway through the third quarter. It’s now four touchdowns for Baldwin in five career games at the Meadowlands.

Wilson hit Jimmy Graham and Paul Richardson for big gains to set up the touchdown and is now 20-of-29 for 252 yards on the afternoon.

The Giants have gone three-and-out on each of their offensive drives in the third quarter. They’ve been outgained 303-56 and are now playing without right tackle Justin Pugh, who is questionable to return with a back injury, so things won’t be getting any easier for their offense.

Steelers moving the ball, but settling for field goals

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Steelers drives keep stalling in the red zone.

But they’re at least getting short field goals out of the deal, so they’ll take it for the moment.

The Steelers opened the third quarter with another near-miss drive, and kicked their third straight field goal for a 23-14 lead over the Bengals.

The early offensive fireworks slowed a bit, but the Steelers are still moving the ball well.

And with cornerback Joe Haden getting his first interception since coming over from the Browns, the Steelers are on the verge of opening this one up.

T.J. Ward “at wit’s end” about diminished role for Bucs

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After the Broncos released safety T.J. Ward prior to the start of the season, Ward signed with the Buccaneers and the thought was that he’d play a major role in the Tampa secondary.

Things haven’t exactly played out that way as Ward has been splitting time with others in the secondary. After Sunday’s 30-27 loss to the Bills, Ward expressed his distaste for that arrangement.

“You got to talk to coach Mike Smith and Dirk Koetter, but I’m at my wit’s end,” Ward said, via the Tampa Bay Times. “I’m tired of it. I mean, that’s not why I came here. I did not come here to rotate. I did come here to be a part-time player. I came here to make this defense better. Be on the field 100 percent of the time. I destruct offenses. That’s what I do. I need to out there. You got me in one minute, one minute. Last week, I didn’t even play the first half.”

Ward missed two games with a hip injury, but returned to the lineup for the Week Six loss to the Cardinals.

Ward was not on the field when Tyrod Taylor hit Deonte Thompson for a 44-yard gain to set up the tying touchdown in the fourth quarter of Sunday’s game. He was on the field and attempting to cover tight end Logan Thomas when the converted quarterback caught a touchdown from Taylor earlier in the game.

Matt Moore plans to prepare as if he’s going to play

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The Dolphins have another injured starting quarterback, and a short week to prepare for their next game. As a result, backup Matt Moore is proceeding as if he’s going to play on Thursday night against the Ravens.

The approach is to “prepare like you’re gonna go,” Moore told PFT by phone after Sunday’s come-from-behind win over the Jets, realizing that, if he does play, Moore will be “cramming a lot in a short time.”

If Moore plays Thursday, it will be a chance to show everyone (including his head coach) that maybe Moore should have been the guy all along, after original starter Ryan Tannehill was lost in training camp with a knee injury. Asked whether he had a chip on his shoulder when he entered the game on Sunday, Moore said, “I don’t know. I’d like to say no. But when you get out there and things go well, maybe you think that way.”

Moore wasn’t thinking that way when Cutler joined the team. Though Moore said it was “natural to be disappointed,” he understands that his “role is defined.”

“That’s my role,” he said. “It was what it was and it is what it is.”

What it may be in only four days is the 30th career start for the team’s 2011 MVP. And an opportunity to take the Dolphins to a fifth win in seven games by beating the beleaguered Baltimore Ravens.

Ezekiel Elliott gets third TD; Jeff Heath kicks extra point


The 49ers needed a judge to stop Ezekiel Elliott, because they can’t.

Elliott scored his third touchdown of the day, going 72 yards with a pass from Dak Prescott. It was only the third receiving touchdown of his career. He had an 83-yard touchdown reception against the Steelers last season and a 10-yard touchdown catch against the Rams earlier this season.

Elliott followed the kickout block of All-Pro guard Zack Martin and tip toed down the sideline, avoiding the diving tackle of Reuben Foster.

Cowboys safety Jeff Heath kicked the extra point, with his kick hitting the right upright and going through. Kicker Dan Bailey left in the first half with a groin injury.

Elliott’s third touchdown and Heath’s extra point gave the Cowboys a 27-3 lead.

In the first half, Elliott had touchdown runs of 1 and 25 yards. He has 15 carries for 89 yards and one reception for 72 yards.

Seahawks get on the board, but Giants still lead at halftime

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The Seahawks got some points after a heated exchange on their sideline in the second quarter, but they are still trailing the Giants at halftime of Sunday’s game at the Meadowlands.

Eli Manning hit Evan Engram for a five-yard touchdown a few plays after Landon Collins recovered a Thomas Rawls fumble and returned it into the red zone and the Giants lead 7-3 as a result. The Seahawks were finally able to get on the board with a Blair Walsh field goal with 46 seconds to play in the first half.

Even those points came with a side of missed opportunities for Seattle. Russell Wilson hit Tyler Lockett for a 27-yard touchdown on a third down play, but the score was wiped out due to an offensive pass interference penalty. That was the eighth penalty of the afternoon against the Seahawks, who have also dropped passes and wasted 10 plays from goal-to-go territory on the way to their four-point deficit.

The Giants, who gained 44 yards in the first half, were happy to let the clock run out once they got the ball back after Walsh’s field goal and send both teams to the locker room. There doesn’t seem to be much they are able to do offensively other than take advantage of any good situations the defense may put them in, but that might be enough to get things done based on the way the first 30 minutes played out.

T.Y. Hilton points finger at offensive line

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After a playoff loss to the Steelers more than a decade ago, former Colts quarterback Peyton Manning made waves by suggesting that the offense had some “problems in protections.” Today, a current Colts player wasn’t nearly as subtle.

“We need to take some pride up front and block,” receiver T.Y. Hilton told reporters after the 27-0 home loss to the Jaguars, via Charlie Clifford of WISH. “What if we put them back there to take those hits? We need to start up front.”

The Jaguars sacked Colts quarterback Jacoby Brissett 10 times on Sunday.

The offensive line has been a constant problem for the Colts in recent years. Indeed, starting quarterback Andrew Luck continues to be unable to play due to a shoulder injury that resulted in part from being back there to take those hits.

Cowboys lead 49ers 20-3 at halftime


The Cowboys began the week thinking they wouldn’t have Ezekiel Elliott. They found out Tuesday night a federal judge granted the star running back a temporary restraining order.

The 49ers wish he wasn’t playing.

Elliott has 15 carries for 89 yards and two touchdowns. He scored on runs of 1 and 25 yards.

Dak Prescott has completed 9 of 17 passes for 120 yards and a touchdown. He hit Jason Witten for an 18-yard score. Dez Bryant has four catches for 53 yards.

The Cowboys lost their kicker, Dan Bailey, to a groin injury, and went for two after Witten’s touchdown. Prescott’s pass was incomplete. Safety Jeff Heath, a former soccer player, kicked off.

The Cowboys defense got its first takeaway in 244 snaps without one when DeMarcus Lawrence had a strip sack of 49ers rookie C.J. Beathard. It gave Lawrence his NFL sacks lead back. He now has 9.5.

The Cowboys have three other sacks, and special teams forced a turnover when Kavon Frazier forced Trent Taylor to fumble on a punt and Xavier Woods recovered.

Beathard, making his first start, has completed 9 of 14 passes for 125 yards and has two carries for 20 yards. Carlos Hyde has eight carries for 43 yards.