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Griffin to start for Washington on Saturday

Griffin Getty Images

He’s back, as some (but not many) expected.

As a time when multiple reports from the D.C. market have suggested that Washington coach Jay Gruden wants to move on from quarterback Robert Griffin III, Gruden has moved Griffin back into the starting lineup.

Gruden announced Monday that Griffin will start Saturday’s game.

“Moving forward, this is Robert’s team right now against the Eagles,” Gruden said.

As PFT consistently has heard in recent weeks, Gruden, Griffin, and the front office are on the same page.  The goal is to get Griffin in the right mindset to succeed — and also to improve the team around him via the return of a first-round draft pick and a full complement of cap space.

Griffin looked good during Sunday’s loss to the Giants.  He now has a pair of home games against the Eagles and Cowboys to continue to build toward 2015, when the team and the player will have a chance to be a lot better than they are now.

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DeMarco Murray needs surgery on broken bone in hand

Dallas Cowboys v Philadelphia Eagles Getty Images

After Sunday night’s victory over the Eagles, Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray had x-rays on his left hand and said he would be fine.

As it turns out, there will be a little bit of an interval before Murray is totally fine. Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones said on KRLD Monday that Murray has a broken bone in his hand and that he is having surgery on Monday to deal with the injury. Jones said that Murray has not been ruled out of the Week 16 home game against the Colts, which the Cowboys need to keep their one-game lead on the Eagles in the NFC East.

Jones didn’t specify the exact injury, but Todd Archer of ESPNDallas.com reports that Murray broke the fourth metacarpal. That’s part of the ring finger and the Cowboys would appear to believe that there could be a way to protect Murray’s finger well enough for him to remain in the lineup.

We’ll see how that plays out, but losing Murray would be a blow. He had rough sledding on his way to 81 yards on 31 carries Sunday, but that’s just the third time he’s been under 100 yards this year and Murray’s ability to take on a heavy workload behind a strong offensive line has been a major part of Dallas’s offensive success this season.

Lance Dunbar and Joseph Randle are Murray’s backups on the 53-man roster. They’ve combined to carry the ball 60 times this season while Murray has had 351 attempts on the ground.

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Momentum builds for replay review of hits on defenseless players

Moody Getty Images

Sunday’s roughing the passer call in the 49ers-Seahawks game has a strong similarity to last Sunday’s unnecessary roughness call in the Patriots-Chargers game.  Both calls flow from the rule against certain types of hits on defenseless players.

For a quarterback in the pocket and a receiver in the process of making a catch, the relevant rule is identical.  No hits are permitted to the head or neck area, and no hits can be made elsewhere to the defenseless player with the hairline or crown of the defender’s helmet.

In the aftermath of the flag thrown on Patriots cornerback Brandon Browner for the hit against Chargers tight end Ladarius Green, PFT reported that the question of whether such hits will be subject to replay review could be placed on the Competition Committee’s offseason agenda.  In the aftermath of Sunday’s hit by 49ers linebacker Nick Moody against Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson, a source with knowledge of the situation tells PFT that the issue will be placed on the Competition Committee’s agenda.

But here’s the catch.  For the same reason the Browner penalty wouldn’t have been overturned via replay review, the flag thrown on Moody most likely would have been upheld.  The replays of the hit do not show indisputable visual evidence that the ruling on the field was incorrect.

Despite the hue and cry against the call from referee Ed Hochuli (including an admission by NFL V.P. of officiating Dean Blandino that a mistake was made), the rules expressly prohibit “[l]owering the head and making forcible contact with the top/crown or forehead/’hairline’ parts of the helmet against any part of the defenseless player’s body.”  It appears that Moody put the forehead/”hairline” of his helmet into Wilson’s chest.

Players, coaches, commentators, league executives, and/or fans may not like that, but the rule currently prohibits use of the forehead/”hairline” of the helmet against a defenseless player.  Perhaps instead of making such plays subject to replay review, the rules should be revised to permit use of the forehead/”hairline” of the helmet in a spot other than the head or neck area of a defenseless player.

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Ryan Lindley will start for Cardinals

Arizona Cardinals v St Louis Rams Getty Images

Ryan Lindley got the call to replace Drew Stanton at quarterback for the Cardinals last Thursday night and he’ll get the call again this Sunday when Arizona faces the Seahawks.

Cardinals coach Bruce Arians made the announcement on Monday that Lindley will start over rookie Logan Thomas. Lindley completed 4-of-10 passes for 30 yards in the 12-6 victory over the Rams last week, with one completion coming when he moved the Cardinals back into field goal range on his first pass after Stanton was injured while being sacked.

Arians also said that there would be a package of plays for Thomas in the game plan for Sunday, so we may wind up seeing both Arizona quarterbacks on Sunday night.

Lindley has started four games in his NFL career, all with the Cardinals during the 2012 season. The results of his efforts, including a pair of relief appearances, weren’t pretty as he completed 52 percent of his passes while throwing seven interceptions and no touchdowns.

The Cardinals have clinched a playoff spot, which makes Sunday’s game against the Seahawks all about the division. Given how well the Seahawks Defense has been playing of late, it’s going to be a tall order for Lindley to lead the team to the win they need to lock up the division crown, although the same would be true with Stanton, Carson Palmer, Kurt Warner or Jim Hart getting the nod for the Cardinals.

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Hoge says whoever drafted Johnny Manziel should be fired

Manziel Getty Images

That homeless guy in Cleveland shouldn’t get comfortable . . . in the home he doesn’t have.

ESPN’s Merril Hoge has called for whoever drafted quarterback Johnny Manziel to be fired.  After the Browns traded up from No. 26 to No. 22 to get Manziel, owner Jimmy Haslam told ESPN’s Sal Paolantonio that Haslam became convinced Cleveland fans wanted the man known as Johnny Football when a homeless man told Haslam, “Draft Manziel.”

“[W]hoever drafted him in Cleveland, they need to be fired,” Hoge said on ESPN, via Mary Kay Cabot of the Cleveland Plain Dealer.  “Because it’s unfair to the kid.  He has sixth-round talent but first-round hype, and you draft him there and now regardless of what happens from here on out, he will be expected to play like a first-rounder and that’s unfair to him.

“He doesn’t have the skill set to withstand that expectation and that’s not his fault, it’s the Cleveland Browns’ for drafting him that high.”

Hoge doesn’t see things ending well for Manziel and the Browns.

“This will be the saddest, quickest ending we have seen in quite some time,” Hoge said in September, via Cabot. “It’ll be like a Tim Tebow.”  (Which really wasn’t “quite some time” ago.)

As crazy as it sounds, Sunday’s performance was bad enough to put all options on the table.  Appearing on Monday’s PFT Live, Cabot said the next two games take on extra importance because the Browns once again have two first-round draft picks.  Which means that the Browns could decide based on the next two games to go in a different direction.

Would it be fair to assess Manziel based on three games?  Maybe, but his inability to beat out Brian Hoyer in the first 13 games becomes part of the overall puzzle.  By the time the season ends, the Browns may know everything they need to know.  And if they know Manziel won’t become at the NFL level the guy he was in college, sticking with him will eventually give the homeless guy who said “draft Manziel” some company.

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Nick Foles not ready to come back this week

Nick Foles AP

Mark Sanchez said after last night’s loss he has to get better.

If the Eagles want to hang onto a playoff spot, he better be.

Via Reuben Frank of CSNPhilly.com, Eagles coach Chip Kelly told reporters that starter Nick Foles would not be ready to play this week, leaving the job to Sanchez.

Foles had tests on his broken collarbone, but they did not show the level of healing necessary to put him back on the field.

The Eagles are 3-3 with Sanchez starting, and he’ll get a chance to boost that record Saturday against Washington.

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Cardinals say they don’t know when Stanton will return

Arizona Cardinals v St Louis Rams Getty Images

The Cardinals don’t know yet when quarterback Drew Stanton will be able to return from the knee injury he suffered on Thursday.

Asked about a report that Stanton would miss four weeks, Cardinals General Manager Steve Keim said it’s simply too soon to say how quickly Stanton will heal.

“I think it’s one of those things with that type of knee injury, everybody heals different,” Keim said on Arizona Sports 98.7 FM, via ESPN.com. “And I know that ESPN and some other outlets have put a timeline on it. It’s extremely difficult to do. You can say it’s going to be four weeks — I’ve heard people say 1.5 weeks. Everybody heals differently. Drew will be here around the clock rehabbing, and I know he’ll be ready to go as soon as possible.”

The Cardinals are already down starting quarterback Carson Palmer for the season, and Stanton’s absence means they’ll be playing with one of their two co-third stringers, Ryan Lindley or Logan Thomas. Neither is a good option, but until Stanton can go those are the only options.

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NFLPA files suit challenging Peterson suspension

Minnesota Vikings v Houston Texans Getty Images

As expected, the NFL Players Association has filed a lawsuit challenging Friday’s decision to uphold the suspension imposed on Vikings running back Adrian Peterson.

The 74-page document, filed in Minneapolis federal court, does not request that the suspension be lifted while the litigation is pending.  While a separate motion for preliminary injunction and/or request for a temporary restraining order could be filed, a league source previously told PFT that Peterson has decided not to force the issue in order to return and play this season.

The goal via the litigation becomes securing reinstatement for Peterson as early as possible in the offseason, so that he’s not required to wait until April 15 for the NFL to revisit his status.  Likewise, Peterson hopes to minimize the number of game checks he’ll lose.

That number currently is six.  The legal action argues that Peterson’s punishment should be only two games.

At some point (possibly today), I’ll pick through the 74 pages in search of specific information, allegations, and/or tidbits of interest.  Until then, here’s the key information:  The NFLPA contends that the suspension reflects a retroactive application of a new policy, that the arbitrator was not impartial, and that the suspension imposes discipline not permitted by the labor deal (e.g., a requirement that Peterson be evaluated by mental health professionals).

Ultimately, the league is getting what it decided that it wanted back in September — Peterson won’t play in 2014.  But that won’t keep the league from fighting this one as hard as it ever does, which means that the league’s lawyers will have even more money to buy their sons the G.I. Joe with the kung fu grip for Christmas.

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NFL says Hochuli got 49ers roughing the passer call wrong

Ed Hochuli AP

A huge call went against the 49ers in the fourth quarter of Sunday’s loss to the Seahawks when linebacker Nick Moody was penalized for roughing the passer for hitting Russell Wilson. Now the NFL has admitted that call was wrong.

NFL head of officiating Dean Blandino admitted in an appearance on NFL Network this morning that referee Ed Hochuli should not have thrown the flag on Moody.

“It’s close, but when you look at it on tape, Moody’s head is up, he hits with more the side or the facemask to the body of the quarterback. So in our review, with the ability to look at it in slow motion, it is not a foul,” Blandino said.

San Francisco coach Jim Harbaugh said after the game that he thought Hochuli made a bad call, but Hochuli stood by his decision, saying that Moody led with the crown of his helmet.

“I felt that he hit the quarterback in the chest with the hairline, and that’s a foul unless he has his face completely up and would hit it face on with the facemask. It’s a foul, and that’s why I called it,” Hochuli said. “I felt that he hit him with the hairline. The facemask, after you hit him, the facemask comes up. But the first thing that hit him was the hairline of the helmet. . . . That is still a foul when you hit the quarterback with that part of your head.”

Hochuli appeared to be in a bad position to make the call because Wilson’s body was blocking Hochuli’s view of Moody, making it hard for Hochuli to see whether Moody was leading with the crown of his helmet. Blandino acknowledged Hochuli’s view may have been obscured.

“Certainly, if he doesn’t see the whole action we don’t want him to throw the flag, and Ed was getting into position, and he saw him — or what he thought he saw, ducking the head and making the contact. He wouldn’t throw the flag if he didn’t see it, but it obviously happened quick at full speed, and he didn’t have the benefit of the slow-motion replay that we all do after the fact,” Blandino said.

Wilson threw incomplete on the play, which was a third down, so the Seahawks would have had to settle for a field goal attempt on the next play. Instead, the Seahawks got an automatic first down and scored a touchdown two plays later, effectively sealing the win. It was a costly call for the 49ers, and the wrong call according to the NFL.

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Scrum coming for top seed in NFC

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With two games remaining, five teams remain in play for the top seed in the NFC.   For some of the five, like the Cowboys, there’s arguably a better chance of missing the playoffs completely than securing home field advantage throughout the playoffs.

Here’s a look at how the various tiebreakers will apply to the teams in contention for the top seed.

First, there’s no way the 9-5 Eagles can get there.  If they win the last two games, they’ll at best be tied with the NFC North champion (since the four-loss Packers and Lions play each other in Week 17) and/or the NFC West champion (since the three-loss Cardinals and the four-loss Seahawks play next week).  Philly lost to the Packers and Cardinals, which would cause them to lose a head-to-head tiebreaker with either team.  And with a best possible conference record of 7-5, the Eagles would lose out to every other NFC contender on that measurable, even if the Eagles win their final two games.

Second, the Cardinals simply need to beat the Seahawks and 49ers.  With a 13-3 record for Arizona, there can be no ties, with anyone else in the conference.

As to Dallas, two wins would result in a 12-4 record, which would give the Cowboys a tie with the Seahawks (if Seattle wins their last two games) and the top seed if the Cowboys and Seahawks finish in a two-way tie.  For that to happen, both Green Bay and Detroit would have to finish 11-5, meaning that the winner of their Week 17 game would have to lose next week (the Lions play the Bears and the Packers face the Buccaneers).

Dallas would lose a two-way 12-4 tie with the NFC North champion, since Dallas can have an 8-4 record at best in the conference.  The Packers would finish 9-3 in the conference, if they end up 12-4.  The Lions would have a 10-2 record in the conference, if they win their last two and finish 12-4.  (The Cowboys also would lose a two-way tie with the Cardinals, if Arizona loses one of their last two but still wins the division; Arizona beat Dallas earlier this year.)

For the Seahawks, beating the Cardinals would give Seattle a head-to-head sweep over Arizona, vaulting the Seahawks into the division lead and leaving them a home win against the Rams away from 12-4.  It also would position Seattle to win a three-way tie with the Cowboys and the Packers, if they each finish 12-4.  The Seahawks would have a 10-2 conference record, the Packers would be 9-3, and the Cowboys would be 8-4.  The Cowboys would drop out first, and the Seahawks would win the remaining head-to-head tiebreaker based on its Week One win over Green Bay.

Ditto for a three-way tie between the Seahawks, Lions, and Cowboys.  But the tiebreaker between the Seahawks and Lions would have to be decided based on common games, since Seattle and Detroit will be 10-2 in the conference, if both win their final two games.  If that happens, Seattle will be 5-0 against the Packers, Panthers, Giants, and Cardinals (twice), and the Lions will be 3-2 against the Packers (twice) Panthers, Giants, and Cardinals.

For the Packers and the Lions, it won’t be easy to get the top seed.  They need to avoid a tie entirely with the NFC West champion, which means the Cardinals must lose to the Seahawks and 49ers, and that the Seahawks must lose to the Rams.  As to Green Bay, it underscores the importance of Sunday’s deflating loss to the Bills.  If the Packers had won and moved to 11-3, they’d be two wins and an Arizona loss to the Seahawks away from nailing down the top seed.

Now, not.

Confused?  You should be. I am.  But it will all become more clear by next Monday, after the Colts play the Cowboys, the Lions play the Bears, the Packers play the Buccaneers, and (most importantly) the Seahawks face the Cardinals.

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“Premature” to say whether Cam Newton can return this week

Cam Newton, Ron Rivera AP

It wasn’t the prettiest outing you’ll ever see, but the Panthers got the win they needed against the Buccaneers on Sunday.

They now have a 5-8-1 record and control of first place in the NFC South pending the result of the Saints’ Monday night game in Chicago, a result that looks all the better for coming with Derek Anderson piloting the offense days after Cam Newton suffered a back injury in a car accident.

Newton sustained two transverse process fractures and a similar injury kept Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo out of one game earlier this year, but it will be a little while before coach Ron Rivera makes any decisions about who will start in Week 16.

“I’m not making any decisions until I get the opportunity to watch him on the football field, listen to what the trainers and doctors have to tell me, and then we will make our decision,” Rivera said, via the Associated Press. “But to make any judgment right now would be premature and would be a mistake.”

The Panthers host the Browns next Sunday before wrapping up the season in Atlanta in a game that could wind up being the finale for the entire regular season if the NFC South still hangs in the balance.

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Johnny Manziel: I’m not using the rookie excuse

Cincinnati Bengals v Cleveland Browns Getty Images

If NFL seasons played out like fairy tales in Cleveland, Johnny Manziel would have led the Browns to a dramatic win over the Bengals on Sunday before winning the final two games of the season to lead the Browns to a division title and playoff berth in his first three starts as an NFL player.

As anyone with a sense of history could tell you, though, there are no fairy tale endings for the Browns. Manziel’s first NFL start looked uncomfortably like Brandon Weeden’s as Manziel threw for 80 yards and two interceptions in a 30-0 loss to their cross-state rivals. After the game, Browns coach Mike Pettine said Manziel “looked like a rookie,” although the rookie didn’t use that as an excuse for his dud.

“It’s tough to come out there and lay an egg like that and I put a lot of that on me,” Manziel said, via the Cleveland Plain Dealer. “I’m not using the rookie excuse – it’s not me. Yeah, I’m a rookie but that’s out the window. I needed to play better. I felt coming in to today that I was absolutely prepared for today. Being out there, I never felt overwhelmed or that it was too much for me, but when it comes down to it, football is football. You need to make more plays than the other team and we didn’t do that.”

Manziel said he wasn’t “going to be written off forever” because of one bad start and that’s certainly true. He’ll get a couple more chances this season to get things pointed in the right direction before 2015 rolls around and then he’ll have an offseason to work with the team’s staff on growing as a quarterback. There’s plenty of room to do that with nowhere to go but up.

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NFL morning after: Bucs should quit the quest for a quarterback

joshmccown AP

With Sunday’s loss, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers dropped to 2-12 and remained in the lead for the first overall pick in the 2015 NFL draft. If the Bucs lose the next two games, we’ll spend months speculating about whether they’ll choose quarterback Marcus Mariota or quarterback Jameis Winston.

Here’s my advice to the Buccaneers: Draft neither.

Instead, the Bucs should try something truly radical to turn their franchise around: Give up on the whole idea of a franchise quarterback altogether. While the 31 other teams value quarterbacks above all else, Tampa Bay should do something completely different and make quarterback their last priority, while building a great defense and a good running game.

First, Buccaneers coach Lovie Smith should make a firm commitment to building a team with a great defense (something he’s done before in Chicago) and making the offense revolve around the running game, not the passing game. Smith should hire an offensive coordinator from a college with a run-heavy offense like Georgia Tech, which is the No. 12 team in the country this year using an offense in which the quarterback runs more often than he passes. The Bucs should aim to run the ball 50 or so times a game.

That hasn’t often happened in the NFL, but the Jets tried that strategy on a Monday night this season against the Dolphins, and it actually worked fairly well — by the Jets’ standards. They ran 49 times for 277 yards and would have beaten the Dolphins had Nick Folk not missed two field goals. If a terrible team like the Jets can find some success employing a run-heavy offense only after realizing that their quarterback situation is a disaster, think what some smarter team could do if it built a roster specifically tailored to that approach.

Such a commitment to running the ball would liberate the Bucs from having to go through the growing pains of a rookie quarterback, or having to spend a fortune on a starter in free agency. Instead, the Bucs should sign run-first quarterbacks like Terrelle Pryor, Vince Young or Tim Tebow, all of whom can be had for the league minimum salary. The Bucs have two good wide receivers in Vincent Jackson and Mike Evans, but they should be traded for draft picks who can help build the defense. The wide receivers who remain in Tampa Bay should be good downfield blockers who can be had for the league minimum. Even at running back the Buccaneers shouldn’t spend a lot of money because they’ll be running these guys into the ground. Go for depth at running back instead of one expensive star.

The only spot on offense where the Buccaneers should spend a lot of money is on the line, but even there they shouldn’t spend a fortune. They don’t have to out-bid other teams for great pass-blocking left tackles, they just need five above-average run blockers.

With all the savings on offense, the Buccaneers would have more cap space available for defense than any other team in the league. That means they can sign good free agents who fit in Smith’s system to add to an already talented defense that includes Gerald McCoy, Jacquies Smith, Lavonte David and Alterraun Verner. The Bucs could also add a bounty of picks by trading the first overall pick next year to a team that wants Mariota or Winston, as well as trading Evans and Jackson. They could use all of those picks on bolstering the defense. They should be able to build the best defense in the NFL because they’re devoting more resources to defense than any other team in the NFL.

Do this right and the Buccaneers will have the No. 1 defense in the NFL, to go with an offense that has an unconventional approach that NFL defenses aren’t accustomed to playing against, and aren’t built to stop. This could work.

Maybe you think the NFL is a quarterback-driven league and a team is doomed to failure if it writes off the quarterback position. But I say there are a limited number of great quarterbacks, and the teams that are really doomed to failure are the teams that devote the draft picks or cap space to a quarterback they hope will be great who turns out to be something less than great.

I hesitate to use the term “Moneyball” in the NFL because revenue sharing and a salary cap makes football fundamentally different from baseball. But there’s something to be said for looking at what everyone else values (building a great passing game) and trying to do the opposite. That’s what the Buccaneers should do. Smith is the right coach to lead a team to a Super Bowl with a great defense and a mediocre offense. He’s done it before in Chicago. But when Smith was the coach in Chicago, the Bears were trying to build a conventional NFL offense, they just didn’t do a very good job of it. In Tampa Bay, the Bucs should make a specific point of saving resources by building an unconventional NFL offense, and reaping the benefits on defense.

Would it work? Maybe, maybe not. But the Bucs have tried and failed to build a team the conventional way with quarterbacks like Josh Freeman, Mike Glennon and Josh McCown. It’s time to try something different.

Here are my other thoughts:

The best play of the day didn’t count. Colts receiver Donte Moncrief had a sensational touchdown catch on Sunday against the Texans, diving to snare a deflected ball out of the air on a pass on which he wasn’t even the intended receiver. It was a phenomenal play by Moncrief. Unfortunately, Colts offensive tackle Anthony Castonzo was holding Texans defensive end J.J. Watt on the play, so the whole thing got called back on a penalty. Still a great play by Moncrief.

Watt is the NFL’s best player. Speaking of Watt, he remains the best player in the NFL. Although the Texans lost to the Colts on Sunday, Watt was the best player on the field. He had five solo tackles, two sacks, one pass defensed, two quarterback hits and forced that holding penalty that negated a Colts touchdown. There’s no way a defensive lineman on a .500 team will win the MVP award, but he’s the best player in football.

Aaron Rodgers is human after all. Rodgers had an ugly stat line against a good Bills Defense on Sunday, completing just 17 of 42 passes for 185 yards, with no touchdowns and two interceptions, for a passer rating of 34.3 — the lowest passer rating for any game in his career. Rodgers may still win the league MVP, and the Packers remain the favorites to win the NFC North, but Sunday’s loss makes it tougher for the Packers to earn home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs, and gives hopes to other teams that Rodgers can be stopped.

Johnny Football was terrible. The Browns gave Johnny Manziel his first career start on Sunday, and he did not rise to the occasion. Manziel completed 10 of 18 passes for 80 yards, with no touchdowns, two interceptions, three sacks for a loss of 26 yards, and a passer rating of 27.3. I think the Browns did the right thing by giving Manziel the start over Brian Hoyer, but that loss showed that Manziel has a long way to go, and the Browns have a long way to go.

Tom Brady can run! Who knew that Brady still has wheels? Well, he’s not exactly Russell Wilson, but he showed on Sunday that he can still move on occasion. On a third-and-11, Brady dropped back, didn’t see anyone open and decided to take off running. He picked up 17 yards and was feeling so exhilarated that instead of sliding he lowered his shoulder, took a hit and got up yelling and screaming. That was Brady’s longest run since 2007, the year before he suffered a torn ACL.

When you’ve got a quarterback like Brady, you don’t want him running very often. But there aren’t many quarterbacks like Brady. The teams that don’t have a quarterback like Brady would be better trying something different. C’mon, Tampa Bay. Do it.

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Jim Harbaugh expects meeting on future, fight from players in coming weeks

Jim Harbaugh AP

The 49ers aren’t going to the playoffs, but coach Jim Harbaugh doesn’t expect them to fly the white flag over the final two weeks of the regular season.

Harbaugh said after Sunday’s 17-7 loss to the Seahawks that his team will “keep fighting” with “every ounce of energy” despite the disappearance of a chance to compete for a title because “that’s what a professional does.” The results of games that will affect only draft order wasn’t really the chief thing on anyone’s mind after the game, though.

It was the future of Harbaugh as the 49ers coach. Harbaugh said he expects to sit down with Jed York and Trent Baalke “at some point” to sort out what just about everyone expects to be his departure from the team.

“I’m always available to sit down with the owner and the general manager, absolutely,” Harbaugh said, via the San Jose Mercury News.

With the Niners out of playoff contention, the topic of Harbaugh’s future was a popular one. Quarterback Colin Kaepernick was among the members of the team thinking about a future with a new head coach.

“That’s something I can’t fully wrap my mind around why that would be the situation,” Kaepernick said. “But he has my full support, no matter if he’s here or somewhere else. I hope he’s back here and I think he’s a great coach.”

No one knows exactly how things will play out, but Kaepernick’s hope is unlikely to be realized as the bitter end of the line for the 49ers in 2014 foreshadows the bitter end of a winning Harbaugh run with the organization.

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DeMarco Murray says he’s OK after late hand injury

Dallas Cowboys v Philadelphia Eagles Getty Images

The Cowboys got the job done in Philadelphia on Sunday night, giving themselves a major leg up in the race for the NFC East title and setting themselves up for their first playoff appearance since 2009.

A happy night for the Cowboys didn’t end without any concerns, however. Running back DeMarco Murray has remained free of injury despite a heavy workload this season, but he injured his hand late in the proceedings and needed to have x-rays done after the game. Murray revealed no concern to reporters after doctors took a look.

“Good, good. I’ll be all right,” Murray said, via the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.

Murray found running room tough to come by on Sunday night and gained just 81 yards on 31 carries. He scored twice, though, and continued to avoid turnovers after an early season problem with fumbles, all of which played a big role in the 38-27 win.

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