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Freeman, Coleman run wild as Falcons overwhelm Saints

Atlanta Falcons outside linebacker Deion Jones (45) intercepts a pass from New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees, not pictured, and returns it for a touchdown, in the second half of an NFL football game in New Orleans, Monday, Sept. 26, 2016. (AP Photo/Bill Feig) AP

The Falcons scored touchdowns on five straight possessions, then turned to their defense to seal a wild, 45-32 win over the Saints Monday night.

Tevin Coleman ran for three touchdowns and rookie linebacker Deion Jones returned an interception 90 yards for a touchdown early in the fourth quarter as the Falcons blew it open.

For as good as Coleman was it was his Falcons backfield mate, Devonta Freeman who led everyone with 152 rushing yards. Freeman also caught a 13-yard touchdown pass, and Coleman produced 47 receiving yards and 42 rushing yards.

The Falcons move to 2-1 and are alone atop the NFC South. The Saints fall to 0-3.

Saints quarterback Drew Brees threw for 376 yards and three touchdowns. Tight end Coby Fleener scored his first Saints touchdown and had seven catches for 109 yards, but a depleted Saints defense just couldn’t get off the field and couldn’t get Freeman down.

The Falcons racked up 217 rushing yards and didn’t commit a turnover.

Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan threw for 240 yards and two touchdowns. Julio Jones had one catch, but Ryan and the Falcons were in charge of the game with the exception of the first 10 minutes.

The Saints moved the ball all night and outgained the Falcons but never seemed to recover from an early misplayed punt by R.J. Harris that turned into Coleman’s first touchdown and, even after rallying, couldn’t recover from the interception return by Jones that made it a 20-point game.

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Rookie linebacker returns interception for touchdown, puts Falcons up by 20

Drew Brees AP

Falcons rookie linebacker Deion Jones returned an interception 90 yards for a touchdown early in the fourth quarter, squashing a Saints rally and putting the Falcons up, 45-25.

Drew Brees had been moving the Saints, who’d finally kept the Falcons out of the end zone and were driving to make it a one-score game.

Jones is a New Orleans native, making his touchdown extra sweet.

On the ESPN broadcast, analyst Jon Gruden said Brees was fooled by the coverage, thought he was seeing man-to-man coverage and ended up chasing Jones to no avail. Brees was intercepted for the first time in 305 passes.

Tevin Coleman has three rushing touchdowns for the Falcons, who have been dominant when they’ve had the ball.

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Coleman, Falcons running Saints off the field

Tevin Coleman,Brennen Beyer AP

Falcons running back Tevin Coleman has three rushing touchdowns and the Falcons are routing the defenseless Saints, 35-17, in the third quarter.

Coleman had two career rushing touchdowns before tonight’s game.

The Falcons have scored on five straight possessions. It was 14-14 in the second quarter.

Drew Brees has two touchdown passes for the Saints, who have only scored via a 57-yard Wil Lutz field goal since early in the second quarter.

Julio Jones doesn’t have a catch but the Falcons still have an 18-point lead.

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Falcons scoring at will, hold 28-17 halftime lead

New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees (9) passes in the first half of an NFL football game against the Atlanta Falcons in New Orleans, Monday, Sept. 26, 2016. (AP Photo/Butch Dill) AP

A week after a strong showing on the road against the Giants, the bad Saints defense has returned.

The Saints have provided little resistance against Matt Ryan, Devonta Freeman and the Falcons. The Falcons lead the Saints, 28-17, at halftime.

A 4-yard shovel pass to Justin Hardy gave the Falcons a two-touchdown lead with 28 seconds left in the first half. The Falcons went 94 yards in eight plays and scored for the fourth consecutive possession.

Saints kicker Wil Lutz hit a 57-yard field goal on the final play of the first half.

Tevin Coleman’s second rushing touchdown of the game capped a 75-yard scoring drive to make it 21-14. Freeman had 61 yards rushing and 13-yard touchdown catch with more than five minutes left in the second quarter.

Drew Brees has thrown a pair of touchdowns for the Saints. Rookie Michael Thomas caught his first NFL touchdown pass to tie the game at 14, but the Falcons marched right back down the field.

The Saints are missing some key people defensively, and they’re playing like it.

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As expected, Falcons and Saints off to hot start

New Orleans Saints tight end Coby Fleener (82) celebrates his touchdown reception in the first half of an NFL football game in New Orleans, Monday, Sept. 26, 2016. (AP Photo/Bill Feig) AP

The Saints got the ball first Monday night, and they drove for a touchdown.

The Falcons punted after their first possession, but R.J. Harris didn’t field it cleanly and Falcons linebacker LaRoy Reynolds recovered it at the Saints’ 11-yard line.

Three plays later, Tevin Coleman scored from 2 yards out to tie the game.

The Saints had marched 75 yards in 11 plays on the opening drive and scored on a 2-yard pass from Drew Brees to Coby Fleener, who caught his first touchdown with the Saints.

Brees was 5-of-5 for 46 yards on the first drive. It might take a bunch of points to win this one.

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Saints, Falcons players link hands in pregame show of unity

NEW ORLEANS, LA - DECEMBER 27:  Drew Brees #9 of the New Orleans Saints leaves the field following a game against the Jacksonville Jaguars at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on December 27, 2015 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  New Orleans defeated Jacksonville 38-27. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images) Getty Images

All players from the Falcons and Saints stood for the singing of the national anthem Monday night, then they left the sidelines and headed towards midfield.

After the national anthem, players and coaches from both teams formed a circle around the 50-yard line and held hands for a show of unity and moment of reflection. Some bowed their heads, and after a few seconds the teams returned to their respective sidelines.

ESPN cameras followed the players and the circle, and play-by-play man Sean McDonough seemed to know it was coming. McDonough said players from both teams had discussed it and decided to go with a show of unity in light of last week’s police shootings and various demonstrations that have been going on around the NFL.

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Cowboys placing Collins on IR

ARLINGTON, TX - NOVEMBER 8: Cole Beasley #11 and teammate La'el Collins #71 of the Dallas Cowboys celebrate after Beasley scored a touchdown against the Philadelphia Eagles in the second half at AT&T Stadium on November 8, 2015 in Arlington, Texas. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images) Getty Images

Cowboys offensive lineman La’El Collins will be placed on injured reserve with a toe injury, PFT has confirmed.

Collins has a torn ligament in his toe. The Cowboys will place him on injured reserve knowing they could possibly bring him back in 8-10 weeks if he heals properly.

Teams can activate one player per season from the injured-reserve list.

Collins, who went undrafted in 2015 because he was linked to a murder investigation involving an ex-girlfriend, started 11 games last season at left guard and has started all three this season.

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49ers OL Anthony Davis officially retires

TAMPA, FL -  DECEMBER 15:  Tackle Anthony Davis #76 of the San Francisco 49ers sets to block against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers December 15, 2013 at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images) Getty Images

49ers offensive lineman Anthony Davis has informed the team that he’s retiring.

Davis had retired before last season, returned this season and had contemplated retirement before the regular season started. He suffered a concussion in practice following the season opener and isn’t planning to play again.

The team announced the news with a one-sentence statement.

A first-round pick in 2010, Davis started 71 of 72 career games at right tackle. He first retired after being limited to seven games in 2014.

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Julio Jones active, Kenny Vaccaro inactive on Monday night

OAKLAND, CA - SEPTEMBER 18:  Julio Jones #11 of the Atlanta Falcons scores a 21-yard touchdown against the Oakland Raiders during their NFL game at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum on September 18, 2016 in Oakland, California.  (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images) Getty Images

The Falcons listed wide receiver Julio Jones as questionable to play because of a calf injury kept him from practicing twice last week, but it won’t keep him from playing on Monday night.

As he predicted after getting in a limited practice on Saturday, Jones is in the lineup for the NFC South matchup. The Falcons will also have safety Keanu Neal in the lineup for the first time since drafting him in the first round this year. Neal had knee surgery during the preseason.

The Saints didn’t have the same luck with the players they listed as questionable. Safety Kenny Vaccaro won’t be able to play because of an ankle injury while, as previously reported, a toe injury will sideline wide receiver Willie Snead. Linebacker Dannell Ellerbe, defensive tackle Tyeler Davison and tight end Josh Hill also drew the designation before being ruled out Monday. Left tackle Terron Armstead and cornerback Delvin Breaux were ruled out on Friday.

Linebackers De’Vondre Campbell and Paul Worrilow were ruled out on Friday as well. They join safety Dashon Goldson, defensive lineman Courtney Upshaw, guard Mike Person, guard Wes Schweitzer and tight end Joshua Perkins on the Atlanta inactive list.

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Week Three ratings down, again

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Good news came Thursday night for the NFL, with an increase in ratings over the same spot in 2015, even though the Patriots bulled over the Texans. The rest of the TV viewership ratings for Week Three, in comparison to 2015, was not as good.

Via SportsBusiness Daily, the overnight ratings were down for Sunday Night Football on NBC and the late-afternoon national window on CBS.

The Bears-Cowboys game in prime time generated an overnight rating of 12.9, a seven-percent drop over the 13.8 from Broncos-Lions a year ago. Steelers-Eagles in the 4:25 p.m. ET slot dropped by one percent from Bears-Seahawks a year earlier.

In the early-afternoon regional windows, CBS saw an 18-percent decline over 2015, even with Broncos-Bengals delivered to 65-percent of the nation. FOX realized a three-percent increase, however, with games like Vikings-Panthers on the docket.

The week surely will be ending on a sour note, with Falcons-Saints going up against a presidential debate that some are opting to refer to in South Parkian terms. Via SBD, the all-time low for Monday Night Football since the NFL switch it from broadcast to cable came in December 2007, with only 8.449 million watching.

Don’t be surprised if Monday night’s numbers are a lot lower.

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Report: Greg Hardy arrested for drug possession

05-greg-hardy.w529.h352 Getty Images

Former Panthers and Cowboys defensive end Greg Hardy has been arrested for drug possession.

NBC 5 in Dallas is reporting that Hardy was arrested in the Dallas suburb of Richardson on Sunday for possession of a controlled substance. He was taken to the Richardson City Jail, where he remained as of Monday afternoon.

There is no immediate word on the substance Hardy possessed, or any information about the circumstances surrounding his arrest.

Hardy was once among the best pass rushers in the NFL, but after the Ray Rice domestic violence incident put the NFL under intense scrutiny, Hardy became toxic for his own past domestic violence arrest. Although charges against Hardy were eventually dropped, he never played for the Panthers again after the Rice elevator video became public.

In 2015 he signed with the Cowboys, but this year no team has shown any interest in him. He was already a long shot to return to the NFL even if he stayed on his best behavior, and a drug arrest could end any hope he had of playing in the NFL again.

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Chip Kelly: Colin Kaepernick is still not healthy enough to start

SEATTLE, WA - SEPTEMBER 25:  Quarterback Colin Kaepernick #7 of the San Francisco 49ers walks off the field after the game against the Seattle Seahawks at CenturyLink Field on September 25, 2016 in Seattle, Washington. The Seahawks defeated the 49ers 37-18.   (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images) Getty Images

After 49ers quarterback Blaine Gabbert turned in a terrible performance in Sunday’s loss to the Seahawks, coach Chip Kelly said he didn’t think about benching Gabbert. That’s in part because backup Colin Kaepernick still isn’t 100 percent healthy after having three offseason surgeries.

Kelly said today that Kaepernick is still working himself back into shape and needs to get stronger before he’d be able to start week in and week out.

I don’t think he’s ready to go full time,” Kelly said of Kaepernick. “He’s continuing to work on it. I think he’s over there right now. And, Kap will be the first to tell you, if you guys have been around here before, I think his playing weight has been around 225 and he’s not at that right now. So, he’s going out there and continuing to work, continuing to get better. He had a serious layoff in terms of being able to medical rehab. To get the full Kap for what you need, the potential that he has, he needs to continue to just work on the physical aspect of things.”

Asked how close Kaepernick is to 100 percent healthy, Kelly answered, “I don’t know. That’s a good question for him. So, he’ll be able to tell you exactly where he is.”

Kaepernick is healthy enough to be the No. 2 quarterback, which means he’s healthy enough that he could play if Gabbert got hurt. If Gabbert keeps playing the way he’s been playing, Kelly may make a change even if Kaepernick isn’t 100 percent.

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NFL, AFCA agree on new guidelines, access for scouting underclassmen

INDIANAPOLIS, IN - FEBRUARY 29: Defensive back Eli Apple of Ohio State runs with the ball during the 2016 NFL Scouting Combine at Lucas Oil Stadium on February 29, 2016 in Indianapolis, Indiana. (Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images) Getty Images

The NFL and the American Football Coaches Association have reached an agreement on new guidelines that will allow NFL teams to meet, scout and test certain underclass draft prospects nearly a year before they declare — or choose not to declare — for the draft.

The new rules come after many top college coaches, including Nick Saban of Alabama and Urban Meyer of Ohio State, campaigned for greater access and possibly even an underclass combine to prevent young players from making poor decisions about whether or not to enter the draft.

The new agreement, which goes into effect in early 2017, does not include an underclass combine but will allow college programs to designate players eligible for extra scouting and, per the release on the new agreement, those players can be “tested and interviewed prior to their 2017 college seasons at the school’s senior pro day for 2017 draft-eligible players.”

The change marks progress from an antiquated system that basically had scouts pretending like they weren’t evaluating players who weren’t seniors.

Information is good,” Meyer said in July. “[The players] are getting their information somewhere, so why not get it from the experts — the scouts, the general managers, people who have the right information? They’re getting it from agents and they’re getting it from wannabes, and that’s not good information.”

In 1994 the NFL established an underclass advisory committee that works with the NFL’s two sanctioned scouting organizations to provide pre-draft grades on eligible players who are facing a draft decision. Among the gripes Meyer and other prominent coaches have had with the current system are a lack of time from the end of the college season to the deadline and the lack of access players have had to real opinions from league scouts and executives.

Beginning in February, each school can designate up to five players eligible for additional scouting and will have the opportunity to designate more than five players in certain situations. It basically means that on the 2017 pro day circuit, scouts will also get to evaluate top prospects for future drafts.

“The more information our college advisory committee has, the better evaluations they can make for student-athletes who are at a critical juncture of their lives,” NFL executive vice president of football operations Troy Vincent said in the statement. “While there is no question that obtaining a college degree is a transformative experience for so many people in society and a goal to which we encourage everyone to aspire to, for those talented few individuals that have the ability to succeed in the NFL prior to exhausting their college football eligibility, this new agreement will ensure they have better information with which to make their decision. We appreciate the efforts of our partners at the AFCA in making this new agreement a reality.”

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Fox calls Cutler “day-to-day,” says there are “no givens” when he returns

GREEN BAY, WI - NOVEMBER 26:  Quarterback  Jay Cutler #6 of the Chicago Bears celebrates after the Bears scored against the Green Bay Packers in the second quarter at Lambeau Field on November 26, 2015 in Green Bay, Wisconsin.  (Photo by Mike McGinnis/Getty Images) Getty Images

Bears Coach John Fox told reporters Monday that quarterback Jay Cutler is “day-to-day” with the thumb injury that kept him out of Sunday’s loss at Dallas.

Fox also gave an interesting answer when he was asked if Cutler will return as the starter when he’s healthy.

“I don’t think there are any givens,” Fox said. “And that’s not an indictment on anybody.”

The 0-3 Bears play the Lions on Sunday. Brian Hoyer started vs. the Cowboys with Cutler out.

Fox said Hoyer “made some good decisions, not all of them” but did some good things vs. the Cowboys. The Bears lost, 31-17.

Fox said running back Jeremy Langford suffered a sprained ankle in the loss to the Cowboys. He didn’t offer a timetable or any more details on Langford’s injury.

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Ben McAdoo: Odell Beckham needs more control of emotions

EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ - SEPTEMBER 25:  Odell Beckham #13 of the New York Giants looks on in the fourth Quarter against the Washington Redskins during their game at MetLife Stadium on September 25, 2016 in East Rutherford, New Jersey.  (Photo by Al Bello/Getty Images) Getty Images

Giants wide receiver Odell Beckham didn’t do anything to get himself suspended in Sunday’s matchup with Redskins cornerback Josh Norman as he avoided running shots to Norman’s head and anything else that would have run afoul of the pregame warnings delivered to both players.

While Beckham kept things together on the field, he didn’t avoid meltdowns altogether. He put on a show on the Giants sideline after an Eli Manning interception in the fourth quarter that saw him take the metal frame of a kicking net to the head after it recoiled from being hit by Beckham.

A FOX camera caught a close-up of Beckham’s face at the end of the tantrum and he appeared to have tears coming out of his eyes. On Monday, Giants coach Ben McAdoo said the wideout needs to do a better job of keeping his emotions in check.

“Emotionally on the sideline in between the series, he needs to do a better job,” McAdoo said, via NJ.com. “That’s all of our responsibilities, mine included. But he needs to control his emotions better and be less of a distraction to himself and his teammates. It’s our job to help him with that process. It takes a village. Communication, having a variety of different people, different coaches, staff members that he can talk to and communicate with, just help him direct his focus.”

Manning did speak to Beckham on the sideline after his tirade and agrees with McAdoo, saying everyone needs to “stay calm” at that point in the game.

Complete emotional detachment is neither reasonable to expect nor a good mindset for a competitive athlete, but the Giants saw the damage that Beckham losing control could do last season. It didn’t have the same on-field impact Sunday, but it was enough that McAdoo felt the need to remind the wideout that it’s not what the team wants to see.

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