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Josh McCown expected to test thumb on Monday

Tampa Bay Buccaneers v Pittsburgh Steelers Getty Images

Mike Glennon led a game-winning drive in Pittsburgh on Sunday afternoon to give the Buccaneers their first win of the season behind their best quarterback play of the young season.

Glennon got the nod because Josh McCown injured his thumb during Tampa’s humiliating Week Three loss to the Falcons and, based on Sunday’s play, the switch could become permanent if McCown is out for an extended period of time. McCown will try to find out how things look on that front on Monday.

Adam Schefter of ESPN reports that McCown will throw the ball to see how well he can sling it and if the pain from his torn ligament is tolerable. If it isn’t, McCown will head for surgery that would keep him out of the lineup for six weeks.

There’s been no public discussion of the quarterback plans moving forward in Tampa, but Lovie Smith may have given a hint while discussing how one win can change things after a rough start to the season.

“I definitely believe in momentum,” Smith said, via ESPN.com. “Sometimes nothing good happens until you just keep going. Once you get that momentum, you find a way to win. You have to experience it first. We didn’t know how to win.”

Belief in momentum would suggest sticking with Glennon after a 302-yard performance that ended with a celebration regardless of what McCown’s status is come Monday evening.

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Fine coming for Geno’s four-letter fan outburst

Geno Getty Images

After Sunday’s loss to the Lions, quarterback Geno Smith roared a four-letter wordtwice — at a fan who was heckling Smith.

This week, Smith will get a letter from the league office informing him that a chunk of salary will be withheld from an upcoming game check.

Per a league source, Smith will be fined for unsportsmanlike conduct.  The concept covers any act contrary to generally accepted principles of sportsmanship.

The league ultimately will hope to ensure respect for the paying customers.  Even if the paying customer to whom the message was intended was disrespecting Smith.

Three years ago, Jets coach Rex Ryan received a $75,000 fine for telling a fan to “shut the f–k up” in response to a fan yelling that Patriots coach Bill Belichick is “better than” Ryan.

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Vernon Davis says he’ll be fine after suffering back spasms

Vernon Davis AP

The 49ers got tight end Vernon Davis back in the lineup for the start of their game against the Eagles after he missed Week Three, but Davis wasn’t able to make it all the way through the contest.

Davis was listed as questionable heading into the game with an ankle injury, but that wasn’t the injury that forced him out of the 26-21 Niners victory. Davis left after getting hit in the back by Eagles cornerback Bradley Fletcher following a catch and had to be helped to the back in what looked to be a fair amount of pain.

After the game, Davis said he experienced back spasms after the play and that he felt confident that all would be well enough for him to be on the field against the Chiefs next weekend.

“I’ll be good,” Davis said, via the San Francisco Chronice. “I’ll be fine.”

Davis had two catches for eight yards and helped the 49ers roll up some of their 218 rushing yards as a blocker before departing on Sunday. His status, along with that of right tackle Anthony Davis, will be closely monitored this week as the 49ers try to build on Sunday’s strong outing.

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NFL morning after: J.J. Watt for MVP

jjwatt AP

Andrew Luck threw for nearly 400 yards and Aaron Rodgers was almost perfect against the Bears and Steve Smith had a huge game against his old team on Sunday. But the NFL’s best player was Texans defensive tackle J.J. Watt.

And so I’d like to begin my J.J. Watt for MVP campaign right now.

It may be ridiculous to start talking about a Most Valuable Player when we’re just a quarter of the way through the season, but I want to begin this campaign early because as Watt’s self-appointed campaign manager, I’ve got an uphill climb. The overwhelming majority of NFL MVPs have been quarterbacks and running backs. The last defensive player to win the MVP was Lawrence Taylor in 1986, and the only time a defensive lineman won the award was when Minnesota’s Alan Page got it in 1971. The 50 MVP voters appointed by the Associated Press have a clear bias toward the offensive skill positions, and that bias is going to be tough to overcome.

But if Watt isn’t an MVP candidate, then we might as well say no defensive player is ever going to be an MVP candidate. All Watt does is change games, week after week. On Sunday against the Bills, Watt picked off an EJ Manuel pass and raced 80 yards for a touchdown in a play that completely turned the game around: At the time the Bills led 10-7 and were driving deep into Texans territory, looking poised to take a 17-7 lead. Instead, Watt’s touchdown gave Houston a 14-10 lead over Buffalo, a lead the Texans would not relinquish the rest of the way. Watt also had another pass deflection, and he put constant pressure on, hitting Manuel a whopping nine times. (Quarterback hits are an unofficial statistic, but a pass rusher who gets two or three of them in a game is having a big day. Nine in a game is ridiculous.)

What’s really amazing about Watt is that he’s a great player every week. Even though opposing teams are constantly game planning to stop him, to double team him, to run away from him, to throw quick passes so the quarterback can get rid of the ball before he collapses the pocket, Watt finds a way to disrupt the game. He won’t have nine quarterback hits and an 80-yard interception return for a touchdown every week, but he’ll do something great every week. One week he’ll have a couple sacks, another week he’ll have a forced fumble, the week after that he’ll knock down three passes. And sometimes he’ll do things you’d never expect, like catch a touchdown pass. He’s already done that once this year, and the Texans’ coaches have said they’ll continue using him as a goal-line tight end. (Watt and former Patriot Mike Vrabel are the only players since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger to have both a touchdown catch and an interception return for a touchdown in the same season.)

So is it realistic to think Watt could win an MVP? It’s a long shot, but this might be the right season for it. It doesn’t look like any quarterback is going to approach the statistical totals that Peyton Manning reached last year, and although DeMarco Murray is off to a great start, I don’t think he has the durability to approach 2,000 yards. That means it’s a good year for someone at some other position to stake a claim to the MVP award. And with Watt being a disruptive presence on the defensive line while the 3-1 Texans occupy first place in the AFC South, there’s no better option than Watt.

Watt was my favorite player on the field on Sunday. Here are my other thoughts:

The Jets’ play calling makes no sense. On the first drive of Sunday’s game in New York, Chris Ivory was amazing: He ran nine times for 51 yards against a Detroit rush defense that previously hadn’t allowed any running back to gain 50 yards in an entire game all season. So, clearly, Jets offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg had found something that worked and would stick with it, right? Wrong. Mornhinweg instead abandoned Ivory and didn’t call for him to run the ball even once on the Jets’ next two drives, both of which would go three-and-out. In the end, Ivory ran the ball just eight more times the rest of the game after that phenomenal performance on the first drive. Lions fans know all too well how many blunders Mornhinweg makes because Mornhinweg was the Lions’ head coach for two years in which Detroit went 5-27. Now the Lions have benefited from Mornhinweg’s mistakes.

Celebration flags are cheap. NFL players need to know the rules about excessive celebrations, and Texans receiver DeAndre Hopkins should have known not to go to the ground to celebrate his touchdown on Sunday. Still, it’s kind of ridiculous that in the NFL, a minor celebration like the one Hopkins made after his score is a 15-yard penalty — the same penalty a player gets for a serious offense like taking a cheap shot that injures an opposing player. The NFL should cool it with the celebration penalties. Instead of giving 15-yard penalties for a quick celebration, make it a five-yard delay of game penalty if the player carries on with his celebration while the officials are trying to spot the ball for the next play, and if the celebration doesn’t delay the next play, then don’t penalize it. The rules of the No Fun League go too far.

Ryan Tannehill got what he needed. After a week in which Tannehill was threatened with the possibility of a benching, he responded with a big game, completing 23 of 31 passes for 278 yards, with two touchdowns, one interception and no sacks, in a 38-14 win over the Raiders. You might say he needed the threat of being benched to motivate him to play well. I’d say what he really needed was to play a bad team like the Raiders.

A game without a punt. Sunday’s Packers-Bears game was just the second regular-season game in NFL history without a single punt by either team. I still remember the first as one of the greatest games I ever watched, a 1992 Bills-49ers classic matching Hall of Fame quarterbacks Jim Kelly and Steve Young. This Packers-Bears game, however, wasn’t a particularly good one. Jay Cutler threw two interceptions that made Bears fans wish they had punted, and Green Bay blew Chicago out in the fourth quarter.

Cam Newton is not the same. Newton, who has been dealing with ankle and rib injuries, just isn’t the same player as he was when healthy during his first three seasons. Newton averaged 677 rushing yards a season during his first three years. This year, Newton has just 33 yards a quarter of the way through the season. When Newton isn’t a threat running the ball it’s easier to rein him in as a passer, and as a result Newton is on pace for career lows in touchdown passes and passing yards as well. After Sunday’s 38-10 loss to the Ravens, the Panthers have now been blown out two weeks in a row. They need the Cam Newton of old, and they need him soon.

Devin Hester continues to amaze. Hester continued to show that he’s more than just a kick returner for the Falcons on Sunday, catching five passes for 70 yards and a touchdown. But the reason he’s a future Hall of Famer is that he’s the greatest return man in history, and even though he didn’t break any long returns on Sunday, he affects the game when he doesn’t touch the ball because opposing teams are so concerned about kicking away from him that they kick the ball short. Vikings coach Mike Zimmer told the FOX broadcast team, “We don’t want it anywhere near Devin Hester,” and the Vikings’ first punt went just 24 yards as a result.

The NFL continues to surprise. When the Eagles lost to the 49ers on Sunday, it left just two teams — the inactive Bengals and Cardinals — undefeated. It seems like we say this every year, but this might be the craziest NFL season yet. Maybe even crazy enough for a defensive tackle to win MVP.

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Chip Kelly: We got whooped up front

Philadelphia Eagles v San Francisco 49ers Getty Images

The Eagles ran for 22 yards in Sunday’s loss to the 49ers, the organization’s fifth-lowest total for a single game since 1950 and the second straight week that 2013’s best running team has failed to move the ball on the ground.

Running back LeSean McCoy said after the game that he was “embarrassed” by gaining 17 yards on 10 carries, but coach Chip Kelly looked in a different direction for the source of the troubles. He pointed to the team’s makeshift offensive line, which was missing three starters, and said that the unit’s failure to control the game up front made it “very tough sledding” for the Eagles offense.

“We got whooped up front,” Kelly said, via CSNPhilly.com. “We’re not very good up front right now. We’ve got a lot of guys banged up. That’s not an excuse, it’s just the reality.”

Kelly had so little faith in the offensive line that he called two passes from the 1-yard line as time ran out in the fourth quarter and explained that he didn’t think the team could punch the ball in from such an advantageous perch. The run game problems have been joined by struggles in pass protection as the Eagles offense short circuited across the board in Santa Clara.

Right tackle Lane Johnson returns from a suspension this week, but center Jason Kelce and guard Evan Mathis are still going to be out so it’s not likely that they’ll be able just flip a switch to get things back to normal in Philly.

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Ndamukong Suh flies home without answering NY questions

Green Bay Packers v Detroit Lions Getty Images

Lions defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh didn’t address reports of his interest in leaving the team after the season, which stinks on several levels.

According to Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press, Suh did not change in the locker room while reporters were present, and got on the team bus for the airport while still wearing the undershirt he played the game in.

That made to make for a fun flight back for the guy in the seat next to him.

He ignored any questions about reports he wants out of Detroit, with New York as his preferred destination.

That left Lions coach Jim Caldwell to not talk about it.

“I’m not going to even go there,” Caldwell said. “And the big thing is, I do think that we just played a heck of a football game and I think that’s what’s important. These guys played well, did a great job and we just hope we continue to get them better, got a big one next week. . . .

“I can’t answer or talk about any rumors or speculation or anything. I’m not going to answer those kinds of questions.”

At the moment, the Lions are 3-1 and playing well, but the possibility of losing one of their best players for nothing will loom over their season.

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Saints take the beating they’re used to giving Cowboys

New Orleans Saints v Dallas Cowboys Getty Images

This time, it’s the Saints who had to make one of the longest shortest flights in the NFL, the distance extended by the sheer weight of the defeat.

After pummeling the Cowboys in recent years, they were the ones taking the beating Sunday night, losing 38-17 on Sunday Night Football to fall to 1-3.

We were disappointed and slightly embarrassed,” Saints linebacker Curtis Lofton said, via Katherine Terrell of the New Orleans Times-Picayune.

Having been there before, such as last year’s 49-17 loss in New Orleans, the Cowboys know the feeling.

“They got the ride home this time. I had it last time, and it’s not fun. It’s a long ride. I never knew,” Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said. “I’ve had New Orleans friends all my life, but it’s a long ride when you have a night like I had a year ago.”

The Saints made a brief run to close to within two touchdowns in the fourth quarter, but fell short in part after a ridiculous fake punt attempt.

“When you look at the final score, you see 38-17 and think ‘Man they didn’t have a shot,'” quarterback Drew Brees said. “But despite the 24-0 deficit coming out of the half, it still felt like something within our grasp. … It was there for us to take.”

Instead, all they took was a beating.

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Josh Brent’s suspension modified, can work out today

Josh Brent AP

The Cowboys might have lost another defensive regular for the season last night, but they’re moving closer to getting one back.

According to Todd Archer of ESPNDallas, suspended defensive tackle Josh Brent is expected to rejoin his teammates today.

The league and Brent agreed to a modified suspension Friday, which didn’t shorten his 10-game ban for the drunk driving wreck that killed teammate Jerry Brown, but will allow him to work out and take part in meetings with the team. That’s two weeks more than in the original agreement.

Previously, he was only allowed at the team facility to meet with counselors as part of his rehab. Now, he’ll be able to begin meeting and working out now, with a return to practice in Week Nine. He’ll also be able to travel to London on Nov. 3 in preparations for a game against the Jaguars.

He’s eligible to return as soon as Nov. 23 against the Giants, and having him around now will help have him ready for that now.

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Jerry Jones: Morris Claiborne believed to have torn ACL

Morris Claiborne AP

Cowboys cornerback Morris Claiborne could be lost for the season.

Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said Claiborne has been initially judged to have suffered a torn ACL in the team’s 38-17 win vs. New Orleans, multiple club beat writers reported on Twitter, including Tim MacMahon of ESPN Dallas.

“We did not MRI it,” Jones said of Claiborne’s injury, according to Drew Davison of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. “We simply examined it. But initial examination was not encouraging.”

According to ESPN Dallas and the Dallas Morning News, Claiborne will undergo an MRI on Monday.

The 24-year-old Claiborne was removed from the starting lineup early last week, which led to the cornerback leaving club headquarters and failing to show for a walk-through on Tuesday. However, Claiborne returned the next day.

The Cowboys’ first-round pick in 2012, Claiborne is in the third year of his four-year rookie deal. He’s dealt with injuries at points of his NFL career, especially last season, when he missed six games. But a torn ACL would be the biggest setback yet for the former LSU star.

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Sunday night wrap-up: DeMarco Murray leads Cowboys rout

New Orleans Saints v Dallas Cowboys Getty Images

DeMarco Murray needs to hang onto the football.

Because the Cowboys season hangs in the balance.

The NFL’s leading rusher gave a clear picture of his importance to the Cowboys offense, as they hung a 38-17 win over the Saints.

Murray ran for 149 yards and two touchdowns, but his biggest role might simply be making opponents defend Dallas differently.

If you commit eight to the box as the Saints were eventually forced to do, that means single-covering receivers downfield.

And with Tony Romo looking well, that means there are going to be guys open. Wide receiver Terrance Williams was the prime beneficiary early, but there were plenty of other options.

Single-covering a star like Dez Bryant for too long is asking for trouble, as the Saints found out in the fourth quarter with the game on the line.

But the way Murray was running the ball, it’s hard to come up with a viable alternative.

He’s had some problems with fumbling (three this year already), but as long as his grip is secure, the Cowboys can contend in the NFC East.

Here are five more things we learned during Sunday Night Football:

1. Two years ago, the Saints were the worst defense in the history of the NFL.

Last year, they improved to fourth in the league in yards allowed.

Everything new is old again.

Rob Ryan was able to put lipstick on a pig last year, using emotion and blitzing to cover up the fact he didn’t have very many good football players.

Now that the blitzes aren’t getting home as often, that reality is setting back in.

In addition to not having nearly enough pass-rush, the Saints can’t tackle very well. They have some impact players at safety, but they don’t have enough players in their front seven to consistently stop good offenses.

2. Of course, part of the reason the Saints looked so bad and the Cowboys looked so stout up front was the recent emphasis on drafting offensive linemen.

Three of their five starters were drafted in the first round within the last four years, giving them a stable base to build on for years to come. They’ve already locked up left tackle Tyron Smith to a long-term extension, and 30-year-old right tackle Doug Free is the graybeard of the group.

But being willing to use first-rounders on Travis Frederick and Zack Martin (instead of, say, Johnny Manziel) takes a certain persistence and patience the Cowboys aren’t necessarily known for.

OK, it’s probably putting too fine a point on it to give Jerry Jones credit for doing something he’d probably prefer not doing, but they have a lot of good linemen, for whatever reason.

3. The Saints needed a fourth-quarter touchdown to Josh Hill to protect an incredible streak.

Quarterback Drew Brees and coach Sean Payton have never been held without a touchdown in a game since they linked up in 2006.

Granted, they’re much better in their own building than they are anywhere else, but their ability to read off the same page of music has kept the Saints competitive for an extended stretch.

4. That being said, Sean Payton is a football coach.

And football coaches, as an industry, overcomplicate things.

On fourth down in the fourth quarter when the Cowboys were doing their dead level best to cough up a lead, the Saints tried the most obvious fake punt ever in the history of ever.

On a team with so many offensive weapons, they elected to put the potential pass of the game in the hands of punter Thomas Morstead.

As I tell my kids about a dozen times a day: “It doesn’t have to be that hard.”

But Payton, like my kids, probably won’t realize it until it’s too late.

5. They might have benched him last week, but the Cowboys could ill afford to lose cornerback Morris Claiborne for any extended amount of time.

Even though they gave his starting job to Orlando Scandrick (probably rightfully so), Claiborne was still going to play plenty of snaps.

Now, they’re scrambling for a solid third option behind Brandon Carr and Scandrick.

They’re not deep enough or good enough in the secondary to sustain those kind of losses.

Of course, that might also explain why they were willing to take him back after he went AWOL last week, also.

Coupled with the quad injury to linebacker Bruce Carter that kept him from finishing the game, the Cowboys took a pair of hits at a time when enough other guys were coming back to make their defense almost competitive.

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AP reporter apologizes for tweeting Dennis Allen is fired

Cleveland Browns v Oakland Raiders Getty Images

An Associated Press reporter created a stir on Sunday evening by writing on Twitter that Raiders coach Dennis Allen had been fired. Then the reporter deleted his tweet without explanation. Now the reporter has apologized.

Terry Collins, who identifies himself on Twitter as “Veteran award-winning journalist,” initially tweeted that Allen is already fired and that an announcement could come as soon as Tuesday. Collins does not have a history of breaking news in the NFL, and no other reporter had confirmed the report, so there were immediately questions about it. Soon Collins had deleted his tweet, and later Collins tweeted an apology saying that what he had previously called a report from sources were just unconfirmed “rumors.”

Allen is on the hot seat after his Raiders lost to the Dolphins today, dropping to 0-4. It wouldn’t be surprising if Allen really does get fired this week, with the Raiders on their bye.

But that firing hasn’t happened yet.

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Coach’s challenge could include personal fouls by 2015

Flag AP

Patriots coach Bill Belichick believes that coaches should be able to use the red flag to challenge any and all rulings on the field.  While the NFL isn’t ready to go completely in that direction, coaches could soon be able to challenge one specific type of play that isn’t currently reviewable.

Per a league source, momentum is building for allowing coaches to challenge personal fouls.

The thinking is that personal fouls would become reviewable only via the coach’s challenge, and not automatically.

The potential expansion would come in the offseason, most likely at the annual meetings in March or during the May ownership meetings.

Both New England and Washington have been lobbying aggressively for coaches to have the ability to challenge more rulings via the red flag that gets thrown onto the field.  At some point, coaches perhaps would indeed have the ability to challenge anything and everything, with maybe another challenge or two to be used per game.

Don’t be surprised if, as an initial step, the coaches have the ability to challenge personal fouls.  Eventually, that could expand to other types of currently non-reviewable calls.

UPDATE 1:17 p.m. ET 9/29/14:  NFL Network reported earlier on Sunday that personal fouls could become reviewable in 2015.  While the report lacked some of the details mentioned above, including the likelihood that personal fouls will be reviewed only by coach’s challenge and not automatically, the NFLN report served as the starting point for our reporting.  So I should have mentioned the NFL Network report last night, even though NFLN, ESPN, FOX, CBS, and the Associated Press routinely use our reports as the starting point for their own reporting without giving us proper credit.  We’ve always tried to apply a higher standard than the standard that is applied to PFT.  On Sunday night, I failed to do that.

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Dennis Allen says he’s not worried, but report says he’s fired

dennisallen AP

After his team dropped to 0-4 with a blowout loss to the Dolphins in London, Raiders coach Dennis Allen said he’s going to stay the course. Even amid talk that today’s game could be his last.

Allen said after the game that he’s not worried about losing his job and expects to remain the head coach.

But Allen may simply be in the dark about the plans of Raiders owner Mark Davis. In fact, Terry Collins of the Associated Press tweeted on Sunday night that Allen is fired and an announcement could come as soon as Tuesday. There was no elaboration on that report, and it raises some questions — including why the Raiders would wait until Tuesday to make the announcement if the firing has already happened. About 45 minutes after he tweeted the news, Collins deleted the tweet without explanation.

Collins apparently decided not to stand behind his reporting, but it wouldn’t be surprising if Allen does get fired. In fact, it’s been reported for weeks that the Raiders could fire Allen during their bye this week and hand the job over on an interim basis to assistant coach Tony Sparano.

Several Raiders players were asked after the game whether they think Allen’s job is safe, and most of them said they didn’t know. Right now, no one knows, except for maybe Mark Davis. And he isn’t saying anything publicly. At least not yet.

UPDATE: The AP reporter has retracted his report.

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Cowboys rolling, up 24-0 at halftime over Saints

New Orleans Saints v Dallas Cowboys Getty Images

Break up the Cowboys.

Not only is Tony Romo healthy and spreading the ball around, but the Cowboys are making plays on both sides of the ball, and they lead the Saints 24-0 at halftime of Sunday Night Football.

Terrance Williams has a pair of touchdown receptions, and they’re basically making it look easy on offense, with 290 totals yards at the break.

But the Cowboys are actually playing some defense, too, limiting the Saints to 114.

With a number of injured starters back (including pass-rusher Anthony Spencer making his first appearance in a year), the Cowboys are actually playing competent defense.

The Justin Durant interception (off a Bruce Carter tip) was the highlight, but they’re playing the Saints solidly.

New Orleans is also dealing with some injuries, as left tackle Terron Armstead is out for the rest of the game with a concussion.

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X-rays negative, Bridgewater heads for MRI

Bridgewater Getty Images

Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater sprained ankle on Sunday against the Falcons in his first career start.  X-rays were negative, as Peter King of TheMMQB.com noted during Football Night in America.

Next up, an MRI.

Per a league source, the MRI is being conducted tonight.  It’ll give the Vikings a clearer picture as to whether Bridgewater will be available when the Vikings face the Packers in only four nights, on Thursday Night Football.

Bridgewater completed 19 of 30 passes for 317 yards.  He added 27 yards on the ground, including a 13-yard touchdown run.

If Bridgewater can’t play on Thursday night, Christian Ponder will get the start for the 2-2 Vikings.  The Vikings have no other quarterbacks on the roster.

And it’s not as if plenty of experienced quarterbacks are hanging around right now.

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