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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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LeSean McCoy “embarrassed” by 17-yard performance

McCoy Getty Images

After gaining only 22 yards on 19 carries against Washington last Sunday, Eagles running back LeSean McCoy scoffed at the notion that he’s struggling.  After gaining only 17 on 10 carries against the 49ers on Sunday, McCoy was singing a different tune.

“I’m embarrassed,” McCoy said after the game, via Jeff McLane of the Philadelphia Inquirer.

For the year, McCoy has 192 yards on 70 carries, for an average of 2.7 yards per carry.  It puts him on pace for 768 yards — well below his stated goal of 2,000 yards.

Injuries to the offensive line surely have made it harder for McCoy to find openings.  Even then, he doesn’t seem to be the guy he used to be.

If he doesn’t turn things around, we may all be saying next year at this time that McCoy used to be an Eagle.

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49ers shut down Nick Foles, beat the Eagles

eagles49ers AP

In a battle of NFC contenders on Sunday in San Francisco, the 49ers looked like they had a playoff-caliber defense and the Eagles looked like they had a last-place-caliber offense.

The 49ers won 26-21, but that score doesn’t indicate just how bad Philadelphia’s offense was. This game was ugly for Chip Kelly’s offensive attack, and raised big questions about what’s wrong with Nick Foles.

Foles, the Eagles quarterback who had a phenomenal season last year, struggled mightily today. He completed just 21 of his 43 passes for 195 yards, with no touchdowns and two interceptions. He made bad decisions, missed open receivers and generally looked like he didn’t know what he was doing.

The Eagles took an early 21-10 lead despite their offense doing absolutely nothing in the first half: Philadelphia’s first touchdown came when Brad Smith recovered a blocked punt in the end zone, the Eagles’ second touchdown came when Malcolm Jenkins intercepted a pass and ran 53 yards for a touchdown, and Darren Sproles later added an 82-yard touchdown on a punt return.

But those touchdowns on defense and special teams weren’t enough to beat the 49ers. Frank Gore had a sensational game, running for 119 yards and also scoring on a 55-yard reception. Colin Kaepernick picked up 58 yards with his feet and completed 17 of 30 passes for 218 yards, with two touchdowns and one interception.

Several players on both teams missed time with injuries, but the most noteworthy to keep an eye on going forward will be the back injury suffered by 49ers tight end Vernon Davis. If Davis is out for any significant period of time, that would hurt.

But right now, the 2-2 49ers are feeling good about where they stand. The Eagles are 3-1, but after their first loss they can’t feel good about their quarterback. This was a big game, and Foles laid an egg.

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Vikings get win while they worry about Teddy Bridgewater’s ankle

Atlanta Falcons v Minnesota Vikings Getty Images

The Teddy Bridgewater era started with a win in Minnesota, but there are going to be some worried folks in Minneapolis about when chapter two might take place.

Bridgewater threw for 317 yards, ran for a touchdown and led the Vikings on a nine-play, 87-yard drive to retake the lead after the Falcons pulled in front in the third quarter. That set the Vikings up for a 41-28 win that levels their record at 2-2 on the year.

That’s the good news. The bad news is that Bridgewater left the game with a left ankle injury in the fourth quarter, forcing the Vikings to turn once more to Christian Ponder. Initial reports are that x-rays were negative and that the injury is a sprain, but there will surely be more tests as to the severity of the sprain. With a game against the Packers in Green Bay on Thursday, everyone with the Vikings will be keeping their fingers crossed that they don’t turn up anything too serious.

The injury can’t take away all the good feelings about the offense. Matt Asiata and Jerick McKinnon ran for 213 yards on 38 carries and Asiata scored three touchdowns in a game for the second time in his career. The defense gave up some big plays, but Harrison Smith had a pick to seal the victory late and the Falcons didn’t put any points on the board after going ahead 28-27 late in the third.

Atlanta has some injury issues of their own to sort out. They saw center Joe Hawley, left guard Justin Blalock and right tackle Lamar Holmes leave with injuries, leaving them with no choice but to play tight end Levine Toilolo at right tackle down the stretch. The offensive line had questions when totally healthy, so any long-term absences will make life even harder on that side of the ball.

The same is true in Minnesota, of course, but at least they got to taste victory before waiting to hear from the medical staff.

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Teddy Bridgewater out with ankle injury, Christian Ponder in

Teddy Bridgewater AP

Teddy Bridgewater’s first start at quarterback for the Vikings has been a rousing success for three-plus quarters, but there might not be a happy ending for him.

Bridgewater has been taken to the locker room on a cart halfway through the fourth quarter of the team’s game against the Falcons. He was getting his left ankle looked at on the sideline before being ushered off the field.

That means Christian Ponder, the last Vikings first-round quarterback, is in the game as the Vikes try to protect a 35-28 lead that they got on their previous possession. Bridgewater drove the team to the one-yard line and they went for it on a fourth down plunge by Matt Asiata for the touchdowns. Bridgewater appeared to get hurt on third down when he was trying to run for a touchdown, but remained in the game to throw a two-point conversion to Rhett Ellison.

Bridgewater has been brilliant in his starting debut, hitting on 19-of-30 passes for 317 yards and running for a touchdown. The Vikings hope it, and not Ponder running the offense, is a sign of things to come in the next few weeks.

UPDATE 7:31 p.m. ET: Bridgewater has returned to the sideline and KFAN is reporting that x-rays were negative on the ankle. It’s believed to be a sprain and the Vikings have extended their lead to 38-28 after a 55-yard Blair Walsh field goal.

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Falcons forced to use Levine Toilolo at right tackle

Levine Toilolo AP

The Falcons have grabbed the lead in Minnesota, but they may have to protect it with a skeleton crew on their offensive line.

Center Joe Hawley has been carted off the field with what looked like a potential right knee injury, forcing the Falcons to make more changes on the fly to an offensive line that already saw guard Justin Blalock and right tackle Lamar Holmes go out with injuries.

Those injuries had already forced reserves Peter Konz and Gabe Carimi into the lineup, but Hawley’s injury left them without another offensive lineman to turn to for the fourth quarter of the game. Tight end Levine Toilolo is now lining up at right tackle for Atlanta, which is likely to have some impact on their play calling the rest of the way.

Blalock hurt his back and Holmes hurt his foot. Both returns were deemed questionable, but it seems closer to doubtful if the team is going with four offensive linemen at this juncture of the contest.

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49ers lose Vernon Davis to back injury

St. Louis Rams v San Francisco 49ers Getty Images

The 49ers have had a rough start, and it got even rougher when one of their top players limped to the locker room.

Tight end Vernon Davis went down in the third quarter and injured his lower back. He got up on his own power, but he was struggling to walk back to the locker room. He looked like he was in pain, and the fact that the team’s medical staff quickly ruled him out for the rest of the game is not a good sign.

The 49ers also lost right tackle Anthony Davis to a knee injury. And Eagles left tackle Jason Peters also limped off the field as well.

In an injury-filled game, the Eagles currently lead the 49ers 21-13.

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Teddy Bridgewater’s first touchdown has Vikes up at halftime

Atlanta Falcons v Minnesota Vikings Getty Images

Vikings fans have been clamoring to see quarterback Teddy Bridgewater start at quarterback since the team selected him in the first round of this year’s draft.

He’s proven to be worth the wait through 30 minutes of his first start. Bridgewater completed 11-of-16 passes for 197 yards while leading the Vikings on three touchdown drives during the first half in Minneapolis. The last of those touchdowns was a 13-yard sprint into the end zone by Bridgewater, giving him his first NFL touchdown and the Vikings a 21-14 lead over the Falcons.

They built on that lead just before halftime when the Falcons used their timeouts to try to get the ball back, but Jerick McKinnon was able to run for a first down. That turned the Vikings into attack mode again and the switch led to a field goal after an apparent McKinnon touchdown was overruled on replay.

McKinnon’s runs were part of a great first half for the Vikings ground game. Matt Asiata has 52 rushing yards and two touchdowns while McKinnon broke a 55-yard gain that took the ball from the edge of the Vikings’ own end zone into Falcons territory in the second quarter. That drive ended with a Blair Walsh miss on a field goal attempt, but was another strong possession for a Vikings team that didn’t punt in the first half.

Atlanta has looked capable of turning this into a shootout from time to time, but they’ve just missed on enough offensive plays to keep them from matching the Vikings’ offensive output. That’s probably not what anyone expected given last week’s thumping of Tampa and the first start for Bridgewater, but it’s 24-14 Vikings and Bridgewater has them dancing in the late September sunshine in Minnesota.

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Brandon Marshall doesn’t speak to reporters

Marshall AP

Well, Bears receiver Brandon Marshall has something to talk about on this week’s edition of Inside the NFL.  Specifically, he can talk about why he didn’t talk to reporters after Sunday’s 38-17 loss to the Packers.

Via multiple reports, Marshall refused to speak to the media following a game that included Marshall failed to break off a route that resulted in an ugly interception from quarterback Jay Cutler.

Marshall has been playing through an ankle injury.  He caught two passes for 19 yards and a touchdown, giving him five scores in four games.

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Geno Smith apologizes for snapping at fan

Geno Getty Images

To cap a day that included “We want Vick!” chants at MetLife Stadium, Jets quarterback Geno Smith apparently got into a verbal altercation with a fan after the game.

According to Rich Cimini of Smith apologized for snapping at a fan after the game.  Smith said he lost his temper.

He should lose his temper.  But at himself.  Smith had two more turnovers on Sunday, pushing his season-to-date total to seven, with five interceptions and two lost fumbles.

The questions regarding Smith’s grasp on the starting job undoubtedly will continue, until he gets better — or until he gets benched for Mike Vick.

UPDATE 5:04 p.m. ET:  According to Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News, CBS 2 has footage of Smith saying “f–k you” to a fan.

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Mike Glennon leads Bucs to comeback win in Pittsburgh

Mike Glennon, Doug Martin AP

The Buccaneers are winless no more.

Mike Glennon threw a touchdown pass to Vincent Jackson with seven seconds left in the fourth quarter to vault the Bucs to a 27-24 victory in Pittsburgh. It was Glennon’s second chance to pull a rabbit out of his hat after the previous drive died with four incompletions into the end zone and he got it done with some unlikely help.

Wide receiver Louis Murphy, signed off the street last week, turned a short completion into a 41-yard gain to the Steelers’ 5-yard line. A spike and an incompletion preceded the strike to Jackson, which left the Buccaneers with a stirring first win of the season.

Glennon had a rough first half, but turned things around on the first possession after halftime. Glennon hit Mike Evans for 40 yards to make the first big strike of the game for Tampa’s offense exactly when they needed to stop Pittsburgh’s momentum. The Steelers had scored 17 straight points after the Bucs jumped to an early lead and the game looked like it could go downhill for Tampa at that point.

Glennon, who wound up 21-of-42 for 302 yards, stopped that from happening and the Bucs defense forced punts on the final three Steelers possessions of the game. The Steelers outgained the Bucs 401-350, but gave a lot of yards back by committing 13 penalties for 125 yards over the course of the day. They also clearly missed the three injured starters they lost last week as they allowed Glennon to come back in the second half while piloting a unit that often looked discombobulated when they weren’t hitting those big plays.

Still, the win was there and the Steelers will likely hear some questions about running with Le’Veon Bell on third down before punting the ball back to the Bucs for their game-winning drive. Antonio Brown and Heath Miller combined for 17 catches and 214 receiving yards during the game and some will wonder why the Steelers looked elsewhere with the game on the line.

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Lions swat away Jets comeback attempt to improve to 3-1

Matthew Stafford AP

In the past, defenses have been able to keep the Lions from doing much damage in the air when Calvin Johnson isn’t a factor.

That’s why the Lions signed Golden Tate this offseason and the move paid off on Sunday. Johnson was a non-factor because of an ankle injury, but Tate caught eight passes for 116 yards to help the team improve to 3-1 with a 24-17 victory over the Jets.

One of Tate’s best catches came when he juggled and then secured the ball on third-and-10 in the third quarter to keep the Lions driving after the Jets had closed within 17-10. Matthew Stafford would convert two other third downs to other receivers and then run the ball into the end zone from one yard out to build the lead back to two touchdowns.

The Jets closed again when Chris Johnson showed his first real spark of the season on a 35-yard touchdown run, but they squandered two other possessions when Geno Smith threw an interception and fumbled the ball away in close succession. That left them with one last chance from their own 16-yard line with 4:36 left to play, but they went three-and-out when Chris Ivory couldn’t hold onto a Smith pass on third down.

Stafford was 24-of-34 for 293 yards and two touchdowns, numbers that look all the better given the lack of Johnson and a strong Jets pass rush for much of the afternoon. In addition to his touchdown run, he iced the game after the two minute warning with a bootleg run for a first down that ended the hopes of a Jets miracle.

The Jets have now lost three straight games, all of them to NFC North opponents and all of them leaving the team with good reason to feel like they let a winnable game get away. The schedule isn’t getting any easier with the Chargers, Broncos and Patriots on tap, which could make things very ugly in New Jersey before the first trick-or-treaters put on their costumes.

Stopping those winnable games from getting away is going to take a lot more from the offense. Smith can’t be blamed for several drops during the day or for some disconnected play calling after a good start to the game, but those things also can’t wipe away the mistakes and bad throws that continue to be a major issue every week 20 games into his NFL career. Rex Ryan may not be back if the Jets can’t get some wins on this tough stretch, we’ll see if he keeps hitching his future to the chances of a rapid progression from Smith.

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Packers pouring it on in Chicago

Green Bay Packers v Chicago Bears Getty Images

The Packers and Bears are back to playing familiar roles.

And that is bad news for Chicago.

Capitalizing on a pair of Jay Cutler third-quarter interceptions and feasting on an overmatched Bears defense, the Packers have sprinted out to a 38-17 lead early in the fourth quarter at Soldier Field.

On the second of Cutler’s picks, it appeared he was not on the same page with wideout Brandon Marshall, who ran deep, while Cutler threw an intermediate route. The result was a Sam Shields pick, which set up an Aaron Rodgers three-yard TD pass to Randall Cobb.

The score was Cobb’s second of the game and Rodgers’ fourth TD toss of the contest. And it came after Bears linebacker Jon Bostic was penalized for holding on a Green Bay field goal attempt, giving the Packers a first down.

The Packers have won four straight games at Chicago. And win No. 5 in the sequence is right in their grasp.

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J.J. Watt makes a superlative interception, returns it for a TD

J.J. Watt AP

With his team trailing 10-7 in the third quarter Sunday against Buffalo, Texans defensive lineman J.J. Watt made a play that perhaps only he can make.

On a third-down play with the Bills in the red zone, Watt lined up at left end, then floated into the right flat, where Bills quarterback EJ Manuel was aiming. Manuel threw, and Watt snatched the ball like a tight end. From there, it was open field, and Watt was off to an 80-yard touchdown to give Houston a 14-10 lead.

The interception was the latest disruptive play Sunday for Watt, who’s given the Bills fits all game. According to the ESPN box score of the game, Watt has been credited with six QB hits. (He’s also been twice flagged for roughing the passer.)

But in the end, it’s his pass coverage skills that may have tilted Sunday’s game in the Texans’ favor.

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