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Lions’ defense steps up in big NFC North win over Packers

lionsd AP

It’s too early in the season to say there’s been a changing of the guard in the NFC North. But the Lions did just take a big step toward establishing themselves as contenders.

With the defending NFC North champion Packers in town, an injury-riddled Detroit secondary played surprisingly solid defense against Aaron Rodgers, Jordy Nelson and Co. and won a hard-fought game, 19-7.

The Lions were aided by Packers coach Mike McCarthy’s suspect play calling: Despite the big holes in the Lions’ secondary, McCarthy opened the game by trying to establish the run and getting the ball to running back Eddie Lacy. That didn’t work well at all, as a Lacy fumble was picked up by Detroit’s Don Carey and returned for a touchdown to give the Lions an early 7-0 lead, and Lacy was later tackled in the end zone for a safety to give Detroit a 9-7 lead.

The Lions’ offense struggled early on, with Matthew Stafford throwing two first-half interceptions and losing a fumble in the red zone on the first drive of the second half. But they eventually began to make things happen, and a Reggie Bush 26-yard touchdown run in the fourth quarter put the game away.

Bush’s run — and the Lions’ offense in general — was aided late in the game by the absence of Packers linebacker Clay Matthews, who left with a groin injury and did not return.

There are still plenty of questions in Detroit, especially on special teams, where rookie kicker Nate Freese missed another field goal — his fourth miss already this season. But the Lions played well and improved to 2-1 — a game ahead of the Packers for first place in the NFC North.

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DeSean Jackson ties game with 81-yard touchdown

DeSean Jackson AP

DeSean Jackson said he was looking forward to making an impact in his first game in Philadelphia as a member of the Redskins.

Mission accomplished.

Jackson hauled in a deep pass from Kirk Cousins, shrugged off a defender and made his way to the end zone. Jackson didn’t just stroll in, however. He turned back toward Eagles safety Nate Allen on his way over the goal line and then flapped his arms at the Eagles crowd in a gesture they would have appreciated much more this time last year.

The big play snapped a sluggish second half for the Redskins offense that saw them doing little to press the issue downfield. Cousins had loads of time to get the ball to Jackson on the touchdown, however, and dropped a pass just in front of him to make the six points academic once Jackson secured the ball.

The game is now tied at 27 late in the third quarter.

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Jared Cook drops touchdown pass, shoves guy who threw it

Cook Getty Images

A quarterback has gotten the treatment once supplied by quarterback Jay Cutler to a teammate.

In St. Louis, where the Rams had seen a 21-0 lead evaporate to 21-20, the offense moved to the brink of the Dallas end zone.  One third and goal, quarterback Austin Davis thew a pass to tight end Jared Cook, who dropped an easy score.

On the sidelines after the play, Cook walked toward Davis.  Davis extended a hand.

And Cook shoved Davis.

There’s likely more to the story.  Maybe it will surface after the game — especially since the Cowboys now have a 27-23 lead

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Lorenzo Taliaferro impresses in extended work for Baltimore

Lorenzo Taliaferro AP

A thigh injury to Bernard Pierce has given Ravens rookie tailback Lorenzo Taliaferro an extended chance at playing time in Sunday’s game at Cleveland.

And Taliaferro has made the most of that opportunity.

A fourth-round pick from Coastal Carolina, Taliaferro rushed for 91 yards and a touchdown on 15 carries in the first three quarters against the Browns, who hold a 21-17 fourth quarter lead.

When Pierce returns, the Ravens will have to decide how to parcel out carries between Pierce, Taliaferro and Justin Forsett, the latter of whom contributes well in the passing game. But Taliaferro has certainly made a case to be in the mix.

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DeAngelo Hall carried off field with Achilles injury

Hall Getty Images

As Washington tries to keep the Eagles under 30 points (and 40), they’ll be without their best cornerback.

DeAngelo Hall helped to the sideline with a lower leg injury.  He put no weight on his left leg; trainers had been checking the lower portion of the appendage.

The injury occurred without contact.

The Eagles lead Washington, 24-20.

UPDATE 3:14 p.m. ET:  The team has announced that Hall suffered an Achilles injury.  He’s done for the day.

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Injuries, Vikings D beginning to slow down Saints

Tennessee Titans v New Orleans Saints

The Saints were on a roll early, but the combination of an improved Vikings defense and their own missteps has slowed them considerably.

They still lead the Vikings 13-9, but they were up 13-0 after their first two possessions.

Their latest drive stopped when center Jonathan Goodwin was injured, and backup Tim Lelito promptly came in and launched the next snap through the hands of quarterback Drew Brees.

Goodwin was carted off with some degree of leg injury.

The Vikings are hanging around, and threatening to make a blocked extra point a very important play.

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Eagles extend lead, lose Jason Kelce

Philadelphia Eagles v New York Giants Getty Images

The Eagles opened Sunday’s action without right tackle Lane Johnson or left guard Evan Mathis.

They’ll end it with questions about whether center Jason Kelce will be joining them on the sideline next week. Kelce left the game on the team’s first possession of the third quarter and the Eagles quickly announced that he would not return after suffering an injury to his abdomen.

Johnson has one more week to serve on his suspension and Mathis will be out even longer after landing on injured reserve with the designation to return, which could mean the Eagles would be down three starters next week. With David Molk replacing Kelce, Wade Smith is the only remaining reserve.

At least the Eagles can deal with these problems with a lead. They extended the advantage they took just before halftime with a Cody Parkey field goal in the third quarter and then forced a three and out to hold onto their 24-20 lead over the Redskins.

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Blake Bortles replaces Chad Henne

Jacksonville Jaguars v Detroit Lions Getty Images

The Jaguars have finally made the move.

Yes, the move.

Trailing 30-0 after two quarters against the Colts, the Jaguars pulled veteran quarterback Chad Henne and replaced him with rookie Blake Bortles, a change met by enthusiastic applause by the home crowd in Jacksonville.

Bortles completed just 1-of-5 passes for 21 yards on his first drive, but a 14-yard scramble was nullified by penalty, and his arm strength and athleticism were evident. He also showed a willingness to stand in the pocket under pressure.

In all, it was a decent start for Bortles, who would seem likely to have every chance to keep the job, given how the Jaguars have struggled after a promising start in their season opener two weeks ago.

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Vernon Davis, Vance McDonald out for 49ers

Davis AP

The 49ers may need to call Brent Jones.

The team’s top two tight ends, Vernon Davis and Vance McDonald, have been scratched for Sunday’s game at Arizona.  Davis has an ankle injury; McDonald has a knee injury.

Both had been listed as questionable for the game.

Derek Carrier and Asante Cleveland are the only two tight ends on the roster.  Defensive lineman Demarcus Dobbs also has a tight end designation, as does long snapper Kyle Nelson.

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Colts roll to 30-0 halftime lead in Jacksonville

Indianapolis Colts v Jacksonville Jaguars Getty Images

The Jaguars couldn’t have peaked in the first half of the first game of the season.

Right?

Ever since taking a 17-0 lead at Philadelphia after two quarters in Week One, the Jaguars have fallen apart, and their fade has continued Sunday, where the Colts have run out to a 30-0 halftime lead.

In taking that 30-point edge after two quarters, the Colts outgained the Jaguars 330-55 — a 6:1 margin. Colts quarterback Andrew Luck completed 22-of-27 passes for 244 yards and three touchdowns, with the last of those scores a seven-yard TD toss to tight end Coby Fleener after a Jaguars fumble.

Overall, in the last eight quarters, the Jaguars have been outscored 105-10.

UPDATE 2:44 p.m. ET: The Jaguars began the second half by inserting rookie quarterback Blake Bortles, who entered the game to thunderous applause. More on this to come.

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Eagles grab 21-20 lead just before the half

Washington Redskins v Philadelphia Eagles Getty Images

There’s been a lot of discussion about the best ways to deal with the pace of the Eagles offense since Chip Kelly became the team’s head coach, but it’s hard to argue with the idea of just not letting them have the ball at all.

That’s what the Redskins have tried to do on Sunday afternoon. Washington had the ball for nearly 23 minutes of the first half as Kirk Cousins has moved the team on several elongated drives that helped the Redskins lead for most of the half.

Most isn’t the same as all, though, and the Eagles have shown that they don’t need the ball much to make an impact on the scoreboard. Nick Foles hit Jordan Matthews for a touchdown for the second time in the game with nine seconds to play in the first half to give the Eagles a 21-20 lead at the break. If not for a Darren Sproles fumble in the red zone, the Eagles might be up by even more even though they’ve had the ball only slightly more often than people who aren’t playing in the game at all.

Some of the time of possession issues are misleading because Chris Polk returned a kickoff 102 yards for the first Philly score, but the Redskins offense has done their bit to keep the team in front. They averaged nearly six yards per play and scored every time they had the ball, but the Eagles are averaging nearly nine yards a pop and they get the ball coming out of the half.

If the Redskins defense can’t step up at that point, the team will have very little to show for a strong start against their divisional rival.

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Giants offense clicks for 14-0 halftime lead

Houston Texans v New York Giants Getty Images

The Giants have made some of the confounding mistakes that marked their double-digit losses in the first two weeks of the season, but they’ve been able to overcome them on the way to a 14-0 halftime lead over the Texans.

New York saw tight end Larry Donnell fumble near the end zone and then watched long snapper Zak DeOssie send a field goal snap well past holder Steve Weatherford, but Eli Manning has kept the offense moving despite those blunders. Manning is 14-of-18 for 179 yards and a touchdown while Rashad Jennings has sprinted for 88 yards on 18 carries while also scoring a touchdown.

Manning’s touchdown pass went to Victor Cruz for his first home score since 2012 and the wideout, who had major issues with drops in the first two weeks, also had a 61-yard gain in his best showing of the season.

Houston’s offense has had no success without Arian Foster, however. Ryan Fitzpatrick has been intercepted twice on his way to a 4-of-13 first half and the Texans mustered just 83 total yards on offense before the teams went back to the locker room. Playing from behind will call for more passing from Fitzpatrick, which looks like a dicey proposition given his struggles and the spirited performance by the Giants pass rush.

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Matt Cassel won’t return with toe injury

Matt Cassel AP

Teddy Bridgewater is going to get an extended look as the Vikings starter.

Matt Cassel, who left the game with a toe injury, will not return. Third-stringer Christian Ponder was inactive.

Bridgewater actually gave the Vikings a bit of a spark when he entered the game, getting them in position for a pair of field goals.

They trail the Saints 13-6 at halftime, but Bridgewater has at least given them reason for hope.

He’s 3-of-5 for 46 yards passing, and added 23 yards on five rushing attempts.

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Johnny Manziel’s 39-yard catch nullified by penalty

Johnny Manziel AP

On Sunday afternoon in Cleveland, the Browns came oh-so-close to pulling off one of the more unique trick plays of recent seasons, but a penalty scuttled it, taking a 39-yard Johnny Manziel reception right out of the box score and into the footnotes of obscure football history.

The play occurred in the second quarter in today’s game vs. the Ravens. On the sideline, Manziel feigned a discussion with offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan and another Browns assistant, then stepped on to the field and caught a pass from Brian Hoyer.

However, tailback Terrance West was penalized for an illegal shift, nullifying the gain.

In the end, the Browns got an A-plus for creativity and an F for execution.

But it was fun to watch.

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Dennis Pitta carted off in Cleveland

Pitta Getty Images

Last year, Ravens tight end Dennis Pitta suffered a serious hip injury in training camp.  He has now injured it again.

Pitta’s right leg gave out after catching a pass in the backfield at Cleveland.  He stumbled to the ground, and he has been carted off.

Pitta had three catches for 12 yards.  The Ravens lead, 10-7.

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