Tom Brady throws 600th career touchdown pass

Chicago Bears v Tampa Bay Buccaneers
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Tom Brady is the first player in NFL history with 600 career touchdown passes.

Brady threw two touchdown passes in the first quarter today against the Bears, getting him to the 600 milestone that no other player has achieved.

Only three other quarterbacks have surpassed 500 touchdowns: Drew Brees (571), Peyton Manning (539) and Brett Favre (508).

After Brady, Aaron Rodgers is the active leader, with 427 passing touchdowns. It seems unlikely that Rodgers will ever surpass Brady, given that Rodgers would likely need to play at least four or five seasons after Brady retired to do it, and Brady is showing no signs of slowing down.

Brady is also the NFL’s career record holder for postseason touchdown passes, with 83.

The Buccaneers currently have a 21-0 lead over the Bears late in the first quarter.

Packers improve to 6-1 with win over Washington

Washington Football Team v Green Bay Packers
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The Packers are continuing to show that they’re one of the league’s elite teams. And Washington is continuing to show that last year’s playoff appearance was a fluke.

Green Bay dominated today, with Aaron Rodgers spreading the ball around effectively and throwing touchdown passes to Davante Adams, Robert Tonyan and Allen Lazard. It was a 24-10 victory that was never really in doubt in the second half.

Although the Packers were obliterated in Week One by the Saints, they’ve gone on a six-game winning streak since then. They’re now preparing to face the Cardinals on Thursday Night Football in a game that could have significant implications for the all-important bye and home-field advantage throughout the NFC playoffs.

Washington, which falls to 2-5, has been a mess this season. The Football Team won the NFC East last year, but that was one of the worst divisions in NFL history. This year the defense has significantly regressed, and although Taylor Heinicke has been fine by the standards of an inexperienced backup quarterback thrust into starting, he hasn’t done enough to win many games.

Rodgers, however, has won a lot of games. And the season that may prove to be his last in Green Bay is looking like it could be a very special season.

Taylor Heinicke loses touchdown by diving head-first into the end zone

Washington Football Team v Green Bay Packers
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Before the 2018 season, we noted that a significant rule change wasn’t getting enough attention. That rule change will get plenty of attention today among Washington fans.

The rule change is that a head-first dive is now treated the same way as a feet-first slide, and so a quarterback who dives into the end zone is considered to have given himself up. And that’s exactly what happened to Washington quarterback Taylor Heinicke today.

On a third-and-goal in the third quarter, Heinicke ran toward the goal line and had a clear path to the end zone. He could have run in and scored on his feet, but he might have taken a hit as he crossed the goal line, so he decided to dive into the end zone.

But under the NFL rules, a quarterback who’s diving is treated the same way as a quarterback who’s sliding. Although the officials ruled a touchdown on the field, on replay they correctly changed it to Heinicke giving himself up inside the 1-yard line.

That was an incredibly costly call against Washington, because on the next play, fourth-and-goal, Heinicke tried a quarterback sneak and got stuffed at the line of scrimmage.

It’s a rule a lot of fans don’t know, and a rule Heinicke — who did a Lambeau Leap, thinking he had scored — doesn’t seem to know. And that was costly for Washington.

Ryan Fitzpatrick’s hip injury taking longer than expected to heal

Los Angeles Chargers v Washington Football Team
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When Washington quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick suffered a hip injury in Week One, he was expected to miss six to eight weeks. That now appears overly optimistic.

It’s already been six weeks, and Ian Rapoport of NFL Network reports that Fitzpatrick is still weeks away from returning.

Fitzpatrick won’t play today or next week against the Broncos. After that Washington is on its bye, and the earliest Fitzpatrick might return would be Week 10 against the Buccaneers.

But even that may be overly optimistic: Rapoport reports that while everyone is “hopeful” Fitzpatrick will return this season, it is not a certainty that he makes it back onto the field at all.

Taylor Heinicke is the starter in Fitzpatrick’s absence. It’s unknown whether Fitzpatrick will get the job back if healthy, and now it’s fair to ask whether Washington coach Ron rivera will even have to make that decision.

Lions, Texans GMs watched Oregon’s Kayvon Thibodeaux in person on Saturday

Oregon Ducks defeated the UCLA Bruins 34-31 during a NCAA Football game at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena.
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Two general managers who might own the first overall pick in the 2022 NFL draft scouted one of the top prospects in person on Saturday.

Lions GM Brad Holmes and Texans GM Nick Caserio were at the Oregon-UCLA game scouting pass rusher Kayvon Thibodeaux, according to the Oregonian.

Thibodeaux is regarded by many as the best player in next year’s draft. Although quarterbacks are usually the first overall picks, this year none of the top quarterbacks have separated from the pack as a No. 1 overall prospect, and so Thibodeaux could easily go first overall.

In Oregon’s win over UCLA, Thibodeaux had two sacks and 4.5 tackles for loss.

Kliff Kingsbury tested COVID negative Saturday, will coach today if he tests negative again

San Francisco 49ers v Arizona Cardinals
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The Cardinals don’t know if head coach Kliff Kingsbury will coach them today, but he took a step in the right direction yesterday.

Kingsbury, who missed last week’s game because of the league’s COVID-19 protocols, tested negative for COVID-19 yesterday, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL Network. That means if he tests negative again today, he can coach against the Texans.

Kingsbury is vaccinated and asymptomatic.

Last week the Cardinals had defensive coordinator Vance Joseph and special teams coordinator Jeff Rodgers split Kingsbury’s typical head coaching duties, and offensive line coach/run game coordinator Sean Kugler and assistant wide receivers coach Spencer Whipple split the offensive play calling last week.

Bears activate Damien Williams from COVID-19 reserve

Chicago Bears v Las Vegas Raiders
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The Bears’ first-string running back is still out, but they’re their second-string running back will return on Sunday against the Buccaneers.

Chicago announced that running back Damien Williams has been activated off the COVID-19 reserve list. He will presumably start on Sunday, although it hasn’t much mattered this season who’s starting at running back for the Bears. Williams has played fine in place of the injured David Montgomery, and last week rookie Khalil Herbert played well in place of Williams.

The Bears also announced that Akiem Hicks has been downgraded to out and won’t travel to Tampa.

And the Bears called up offensive lineman Dieter Eiselen and defensive lineman Margus Hunt from the practice squad.

T.Y. Hilton ruled out for Sunday night, Quenton Nelson activated

Houston Texans v Indianapolis Colts
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Colts wide receiver T.Y. Hilton will not play on Sunday Night Football.

The Colts have ruled Hilton out for the game against the 49ers. That was expected after Hilton suffered a quad injury last week.

The good news for the Colts is that their best offensive lineman, guard Quenton Nelson, has been activated from injured reserve. He should be good to go against the 49ers.

Indianapolis also elevated wide receiver Keke Coutee and safety Josh Jones to the active roster from the practice squad and put safety Julian Blackmon on injured reserve.

Cardinals favored by 18 points over Texans in biggest spread of 2021 NFL season

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The Cardinals aren’t just heavy favorites over the Texans on Sunday. They’re the heaviest favorites of this NFL season.

Arizona is now listed as an 18-point favorite over Houston at most sports books, which is the biggest point spread so far in the 2021 season. The previous biggest spread also featured Houston, as a 17.5-point underdog at Buffalo in Week Four. Buffalo won 40-0.

It’s not just that the Cardinals are 6-0; they’re also winning their by an average of 14.2 points a game. And the Texans aren’t just 1-5, but they have a league-worst point differential of -80, meaning in an average game they lose by 13.3 points.

According to the data at Pro Football Reference, an underdog of 18 points or more has only won outright once: Super Bowl III, when the 18-point underdog Jets beat the Colts 16-7.

Whitney Mercilus laughs off Randall Cobb saying leaving Houston is like leaving prison

Houston Texans v Indianapolis Colts
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When Randall Cobb was traded from Houston to Green Bay this offseason, he joked that it was like getting out of prison. This week Whitney Mercilus signed with Green Bay after being cut by Houston, and he decided not to wade into that particular comparison.

Mercilus acknowledged he heard what Cobb said at the time, but he laughed and said, “Oh, man, we’re not going to wander into that one.”

“Yeah, I heard. I heard because I was with the Texans,” Mercilus said. “I enjoyed my time there. The fans embraced me ever since I got in there. It was great. A lot of great players I got to play with during my time.”

Mercilus acknowledged that it’s a major change going from Houston to Green Bay, but he didn’t say anything negative about the Texans.

“Not each franchise is equal,” he said. “With that being said, I’m just grateful to be here.”

As Patriots honor Richard Seymour, Bill Belichick details how he did “everything” well

Patriot  Richard Seymour has a conference with Head Coach Bill Belichick during stretches.
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Richard Seymour is being inducted into the Patriots Hall of Fame today, and Bill Belichick — who drafted Seymour in 2001 and coached him in New England until trading him to the Raiders in 2009 — took the opportunity to detail everything that made Seymour one of the great Patriots players.

And Belichick stressed the “Everything.” That was the first word Belichick said when asked what made Seymour great, before giving several long and detailed answers about what kind of player Seymour was.

Everything. Yeah. Richard was a tremendous player,” Belichick said. “He had a tremendous skill set. He had great length. Explosive. Very quick for his size. He could do everything. He started his career at the nose, which was not really his best position, but he could play it for sure, and we needed him there in ’01. Then we moved him back to his natural position of five and three-technique. He played some on the nose in passing situations, but he was really more of a defensive end than a nose tackle, but he played there because we needed him, and then after we got Ted [Washington] and [Keith] Traylor and Vince [Wilfork], then he ended up outside. Again, long, athletic, very powerful. It was a tough matchup for the interior linemen. He could win with speed, and against some of the quicker guys, he could win with power. Smart player. Richard was very smart and had good awareness. He was a good situational player and certainly helped our linebackers a lot because he was either able to get penetration or able to draw blockers and tie up blockers that couldn’t get to the second level on some of our off-the-ball players. He was a very disruptive force. Good in the kicking game. Played in the punt return and had some big plays for us. Going back to ’01, like Troy’s [Brown] punt return against Cleveland. He had a huge block on that. He was an excellent field goal blocker. He had a lot of roles. He played in a lot of different situations. We won a lot of games with him. He was a great player. He certainly deserves to be in the Patriot’s Hall of Fame and the NFL Hall of Fame. Hopefully, that’ll be coming shortly for him as well.”

Belichick still remembers well the plays that Seymour made in his eight years with the Patriots.

“Oh boy. There are a lot of them. Again, we won so many big games, and he made an impact when he got here in 2001,” Belichick said. “Playing him on the center, which was kind of a new spot for him. He played defensive tackle at Georgia in kind of a four-man line, really more on the guard, but he adapted that quickly, and then his role shifted a little bit, but he was so consistent for the early part of his career when he was with us and through those championship years. On the defensive line, it’s not really about one flash play. It’s about down after down, being dominant. I just referenced the punt return play because you don’t see a lot of defensive tackles on the punt return unit, but I remember showing our team plays of that punt return unit being Troy Brown, who was obviously a starter, Ty Law, Lawyer Milloy, Mike Vrabel, Tedy Bruschi, [Richard] Seymour, and then you had some of the other guys like Larry Izzo and other players like that, Eric Alexander, and those guys that were kind of core special teams players, but there were plays on our punt return team where we had four or five starters and Patriots Hall of Fame players and NFL Hall of Fame players on the punt return unit, and Seymour is one of them. So, those plays kind of stood out for me because they are just a little more unusual.”

Seymour’s scored a 68-yard touchdown on a fumble recovery in 2004, and Belichick said Seymour routinely made big plays on turnovers.

“Richard could run,” Belichick said. “He could run not only on fumble returns, but on interception returns. [Rodney] Harrison and [Ty] Law and Eugene Wilson and those guys, Asante [Samuel Sr.], he was one of those guys that could go from defense to offense in a hurry and made some big blocks and honestly caused a lot of those interceptions, certainly some of them, just because of his penetration, length, and pressure on the quarterback that were force disruptive or errant throws. He was very, very athletic, and when you look at that defense in Georgia, he played with [Marcus] Stroud. If I remember right, he was on the right, Stroud was on the left, and you talk about two big-time defensive tackles on the same defense at the same time. That Georgia defense, the entire defense was drafted. I think from either 2000 or ’99. Whatever it was, it was [Boss] Bailey and all those guys. Anyway, yeah. He had a lot explosive plays, field goal blocks, fumble scoop-and-scores, strip sacks. He was really certainly a big play guy, but I think when you look at those defenses, the combination of multiple players, and he was the centerpiece of the front, but between [Mike] Vrabel and [Willie] McGinest and [Tedy] Bruschi and eventually Ty Warren and [Vince] Wilfork, there was multiple players there, Jarvis Green, that if you got one guy, it was hard to get them all. Again, he was the centerpiece. He was the most disruptive player, and that’s why he’ll be in the Patriots Hall of Fame, and that’s why he’ll probably eventually be in the NFL Hall of Fame. Hopefully, this year.”

The Patriots took Seymour with the sixth overall pick in the 2001 NFL draft, which is still the highest pick Belichick has ever had in New England. Belichick said it was obvious that Seymour was worth it.

“He’s really unlike any other player that I had coached up until that point,” Belichick said. “With the Giants, we had some good defensive linemen, Leonard Marshall, but Richard Seymour is 6’7″. Leonard was 6’2″, so it was just a difference in posture, length. When I was in Denver, we had [Lyle] Alzado. He was kind of more like the guys we had in Baltimore, John Dutton, Mike Barnes, a combination of a Barnes and [Joe] Ehrmann and Dutton all rolled into one, between length, explosiveness, athleticism, quickness, and those guys were really, really good players, but there just haven’t been many like him. Obviously, you talk about Hall of Fame players, so it’s not a long list of those guys, but I just never really had anybody like that. He was very smart. He could do a lot of different things; game plans, pass rush plays, playing certain plays a certain way. That was all really pretty easy for him because the game came easy for him in terms of intelligence and anticipation and communication along the line. With guys like [Tedy] Bruschi and [Mike] Vrabel and [Willie] McGinest and those guys, they all communicated well, Rodney [Harrison], Lawyer [Milloy]. If they saw something, they were able to apply [their skills] quickly and use them to make a play or to take care of a problem that we could identify pre-snap, so those were big-time strengths. It was really the whole package, but it jumped out pretty quickly. It didn’t take long to see that this guy was going to really be able to help us.”

Far from his reputation as a coach who only grumbles short answers to reporters, Belichick can be one of the NFL’s most eloquent coaches when he’s discussing a topic he wants to discuss. And Richard Seymour was a topic he wanted to discuss this week.

Matthew Stafford closing in on 300 career touchdown passes

Los Angeles Rams v New York Giants
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Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford may reach a significant career milestone against his former team on Sunday.

Stafford has 298 passing touchdowns in his career, so if he gets two against the Lions, he’ll have 300.

Sunday will be the 172nd game of Stafford’s career, and he would be the seventh-fastest player to reach 300 career touchdown passes.

The fastest was Aaron Rodgers, who reached 300 career touchdown passes in his 144th career game.

The others to get to 300 touchdown passes faster than Stafford were Peyton Manning (155 games), Dan Marino (157 games), Tom Brady (161 games), Drew Brees (161 games) and Brett Favre (167 games).

Stafford is exactly 300 career touchdown passes behind Brady, the all-time record holder at 598 touchdowns. The 33-year-old Stafford could easily play several more years at a high level, and if there’s any active player who could challenge Brady’s all-time touchdown record some day, it might be Stafford.

Broncos expect Jerry Jeudy to play next week

Los Angeles Rams v Denver Broncos
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After missing the last six games, Broncos wide receiver Jerry Jeudy should be on the field next week against Washington.

Broncos coach Vic Fangio said today that Jeudy was actually medically cleared to play last night, but the Broncos didn’t think he had had enough practice time to be back to full speed on Thursday Night Football.

Jeudy suffered a sprained ankle in Week One and went on injured reserve. He has been designated to return for practice but not brought back onto the active roster.

In 2020 Jeudy had a promising rookie season, leading the Broncos in receiving yards, and he was looking good in Week One before he got hurt. Getting him back on the field may help the Broncos end their four-game losing streak.

Antoine Winfield cleared but Bucs rule out Gronk, AB, Lavonte David, Richard Sherman

NFL: OCT 03 Buccaneers at Patriots
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The Buccaneers got some good news on the injury front but are still down some key players for Sunday’s game against the Bears.

The good news is that defensive back Antoine Winfield Jr. has cleared the concussion protocol and will be active on Sunday.

The bad news is that tight end Rob Gronkowski, wide receiver Antonio Brown, linebacker Lavonte David and cornerback Richard Sherman are all out Sunday.

This will mark the fourth consecutive missed game for Gronkowski, suggesting that the rib injury he suffered in Week Three was more serious than believed at the time.

After high-profile signing, Broncos have benched Kyle Fuller

New York Jets v Denver Broncos
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When the Broncos signed free agent cornerback Kyle Fuller to a one-year, $9.5 million contract in March, it looked like a perfect pairing: Fuller had developed into a Pro Bowler in Chicago when Broncos coach Vic Fangio was the Bears’ defensive coordinator, and now he’s reuniting with Fangio in Denver.

It hasn’t worked out. At all.

In Thursday night’s loss to the Browns, Fuller didn’t see the field. He and backup quarterback Drew Lock were the only players on the Broncos’ active roster who didn’t get in the game.

Last week, Fuller played only two snaps in the Broncos’ loss to the Raiders. That was the fewest snaps played by anyone on the Broncos’ defense in that game.

Fuller was not listed on the injury report for either game, so this isn’t a matter of him not being healthy enough to play. The Broncos just don’t think he’s good enough to play.

That’s a significant departure from the start of the season: Fuller started the first five games of the season and played at least 90 percent of the defensive snaps in all five of them. But after the Broncos’ loss to the Steelers in Week Five, Fangio expressed frustration with how poorly Fuller had played, and since then Fuller has barely played at all.

There’s been some talk out of Denver that the Broncos could trade Fuller, but realistically, why would any team want to trade for him at this point? If he’s not good enough to get any playing time in Denver, that’s not exactly a ringing endorsement for his ability to contribute elsewhere.

And so Fuller appears set to remain on the Broncos’ bench, and remain one of this year’s most disappointing free agent signings.