Browns and Rams easing into the offense

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The Browns and Rams have the same amount of points (not many).

But the Browns are controlling the tempo of the game at least.

The longest drive of the night resulted in a 23-yard Austin Seibert field goal, allowing the Browns to tie this one 3-3 in the second quarter.

The 13-play, 75-yard drive chewed up plenty of clock, as Cleveland holds a 11:47-6:32 time of possession advantage.

The Rams aren’t exactly taking advantage, with both teams apparently content to throw jabs early in this one.

Pete Carroll had a “particularly bad day”

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Seahawks coach Pete Carroll’s day started off bad and didn’t get much better.

Carroll was hit in the face by a football during pregame warmups and he coached the game with a nasty looking cut covered by a bandage on his nose. Once the game began, the Seahawks looked sluggish and they lost a chance to get some points by failing to call a timeout at the end of the half despite having two in their pocket.

DK Metcalf caught a deep pass from Russell Wilson to put the Seahawks in field goal range, but time ran out while he was being tackled after the catch. That was one of many blunders for the team in the 33-27 loss to New Orleans and Carroll pinned blame for many of them on himself.

“I had a particularly bad day,” Carroll said.

The Seahawks were able to overcome some sloppy play against the Bengals and Steelers for a pair of wins in the first two weeks of the season. They turned the ball over, committed harmful penalties and squandered chances again this week and couldn’t overcome it.

Adam Thielen stays focused, despite reduced opportunities

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Through three games last year, Vikings receiver Adam Thielen had 32 catches and 338 yards. Through three games this year, Thielen has only 11 catches and 173 yards.

The reduced output “doesn’t matter to me, as long as we win,” Thielen told PFT via phone after Sunday’s 34-14 win over the Raiders. Thielen explained that he continues to focus on all the little things that go with running routes and getting open, and that he simply tries to make the most out of every opportunity that comes his way.

“It’s definitely not harder,” Thielen said regarding the change in the focus from passing to running. “It’s just different.”

The very different focus on running — led by the incredible skills of third-year running back Dalvin Cook — makes it easier to pass via play action. Which is exactly what the Vikings did in scoring their first touchdown of the day. With quarterback Kirk Cousins faking the handoff and rolling left, Thielen popped wide open. So open that it almost became a problem.

Thielen said it’s actually harder to catch a pass when he’s that open than when he’s blanketed, because there’s a chance he’ll loose his focus when he takes it for granted.

He made the catch. And he scored again on a short running play at the goal line, punctuated with a spike so aggressive that it almost seemed like he was sending a message. Was he?

“No,” Thielen said. “I just didn’t know what else to do.”

The Vikings have shown they know what to do to win games: Combine old-school offense with old-school defense. It was a fitting combination on the day they recognized the ultra-old-school 1969 Vikings, who won the last NFL championship before the merger.

Bruce Arians: I took late delay of game on purpose to move our kicker back

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When Jameis Winston hit Mike Evans for a 44-yard pass to the Giants’ 9-yard line with 30 seconds left in today’s game, it appeared that the Buccaneers were about to pull out a last-second win. But things did not go according to plan.

After spiking the ball to stop the clock, the Bucs took a delay of game penalty, then lost two yards on a play to center the ball. That’s when they tried the field goal and missed.

We’ll never know what would have happened if the Buccaneers had tried to score a touchdown, or tried to gain a few yards to make the field goal easier. But what we do know is that delay of game was no accident: Buccaneers head coach Bruce Arians told his team to take it.

“I just took it on purpose. He’s better back there. That field goal is easier back five yards,” Arians said. “We wanted to move the ball, put it in the middle and make it easier.”

That explanation doesn’t make a lot of sense. It’s not easier to kick a football farther. Buccaneers kicker Matt Gay had already missed two extra points in the game, so he was no sure thing to make a field goal from any distance, but the closer he was the easier it would be. Arians made an unwise choice to take a penalty on purpose.

Sean Payton “proud” of the way Teddy Bridgewater played

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Sean Payton has won a lot of games in a lot of ways during his time as the Saints’ head coach, but he found a new box to check off on Sunday.

Payton won a game without Drew Brees at quarterback for the first time as Teddy Bridgewater piloted the offense in a 33-27 win over the Seahawks. It was the first time Bridgewater started in a win for his team since the final week of the 2015 season and Payton said he was “proud” of how Bridgewater, who suffered a severe knee injury in the summer of 2016, played.

Bridgewater was 19-of-27 for 177 yards and two touchdowns and said he had to get his emotions in check before the game got underway.

“I was just thinking about the process from the time I was injured up until now,” Bridgewater said. “Just thinking about all the ones who believed in me and just being back on this stage and getting to show how faithful God is, all my emotions were running at the same time.”

Bridgewater is set for another start against the Cowboys next Sunday night.

John Harbaugh: “Clear analytical decisions” to go for two three times

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Ravens head coach John Harbaugh went for two after three of the team’s four touchdowns in Sunday’s 33-28 loss to the Chiefs and the team’s failure to convert any of those tries led to questions about his approach after the game was over.

Harbaugh said the team made “clear analytical decisions” to both go for two and go for it on four fourth downs over the course of the game. They converted three of them, but the one failure left the Chiefs with the ball in Ravens territory.

Harbaugh said “absolutely not” if he second guessed any of those calls.

“I could just tell you analytically, like if you look at the numbers, it’s not even close,” Harbaugh said, via ESPN.com. “So you understand in terms of the percentage of chances to win the game. I’m just telling you. That’s what the analytics say. That’s what it says. That’s how it works. But it wouldn’t even matter. We believe in our offense, and we’re going to try and get as many first downs as we can. I think it led to a touchdown the very first time, did it not? We’ll keep doing it whenever it suits us, whatever makes the most sense. We’re not going into it blind. We got the numbers. We know what we’re doing. That was the plan.”

The Ravens couldn’t put up enough points to get a win in Kansas City, but it doesn’t sound like the outcome is going to shake Harbaugh’s belief in his process.

More tests for Saquon Barkley on Monday

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The Giants celebrated an improbable win on Sunday when Buccaneers kicker Matt Gay missed a short field goal as time expired in the fourth quarter.

Among those whooping it up was running back Saquon Barkley, who crutched his way across the field when the 32-31 comeback win was in the books. Barkley left the game with an ankle injury in the first half and wore a protective boot to go with those crutches.

The Giants told PFT that Barkley has been diagnosed with a sprain and that he will have more tests on Monday once the team is back at home.

Those tests will determine how much more time Barkley misses. No amount of time is positive for the Giants, but it will feel a bit more tolerable after watching Daniel Jones lead them back to a win after being down 28-10 at halftime.

Adam Gase: Offensively, we were atrocious

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The Jets lost for the third time in three tries with their third different starting quarterback of the year on Sunday.

While the quarterback names have changed, one thing that hasn’t has been the ineptitude of their offense. They couldn’t capitalize on four Buffalo turnovers in the opener and they’ve gone without an offensive touchdown in their last two games.

In the 30-14 loss to the Patriots, the Jets managed 105 yards while getting scores from their special teams and defense to keep it from being a shutout. There’s no lipstick for a pig of a performance like that and head coach Adam Gase didn’t try when he spoke to reporters at a postgame press conference.

“Offensively, we were atrocious,” Gase said. “As bad as you can get. We’ve got a lot to fix going into the bye. We’re going to have to address all of these issues that we are having right now.”

Wide receiver Robby Anderson said that playing without quarterback Sam Darnold as he recovers from mononucleosis is no excuse for “missed opportunities, lack of execution and no rhythm” when the team has the ball. They’ll be back in Week Five against the Eagles in an attempt to break the ugly trend from the start of the season.

 

Texans beat Chargers in another thriller

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The Chargers and Texans played today, so of course it went down to the wire.

Both teams entered today’s game 1-1, with one thrilling last-minute win and one heartbreaking last-minute loss each. And so when they met again today, no one could be surprised that it went down to the final minute, with a Philip Rivers fourth-down pass falling incomplete deep in Texans’ territory with 11 seconds left, sealing a 27-20 win for the Texans.

Houston quarterback Deshaun Watson was excellent, completing 25 of 34 passes for 351 yards, with three touchdowns and no interceptions, and he was only sacked twice after taking 10 sacks in the first two games of the season. Watson is playing great football.

Chargers quarterback Philip Rivers was good, too, but really only when targeting wide receiver Keenan Allen, who had an amazing game. When Rivers targeted Allen, he went 13-for-17 for 183 yards and two touchdowns. When Rivers targeted all other Chargers, he went 18-for-29 for 135 yards and no touchdowns.

It was a back-and-forth game that saw the Chargers take an early lead but the Texans take control in the second half and then withstand a furious Chargers comeback attempt. The Texans’ last defensive stand was a fantastic finish, just as both of these teams have grown accustomed to.

The win makes the Texans 2-1, and they appear to be the class of the AFC South. At 1-2, the Chargers are going to have an awfully tough time catching the Chiefs in the AFC West.

49ers have five turnovers, win anyway, 24-20

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It’s not everyday that a team with five turnovers and a minus-three turnover ratio wins a game, but the 49ers did just that.

Dante Pettis caught a 5-yard touchdown pass from Jimmy Garoppolo with 1:15 remaining to give San Francisco a 24-20 victory. The lead changed hands five times in the second half.

Yet, the Steelers end the day 0-3, while the 49ers move to 3-0.

Pettis’ score came seven plays after James Conner‘s fumble at the Pittsburgh 24-yard line and two plays after Mark Barron was penalized for defensive holding in the end zone on third and 11.

The 49ers had six red zone possessions, another that ended with a fumble at the Pittsburgh 27 and ended the game at the Pittsburgh 20. They couldn’t get out of their own way, with two interceptions, three lost fumbles and five penalties.

Garoppolo had three of the giveaways, throwing two interceptions and losing one of two fumbles. He completed 23 of 32 passes for 277 yards with a touchdown.

Jeff Wilson Jr. scored two rushing touchdowns.

Mason Rudolph went 14-of-27 for 174 yards with two touchdowns and an interception.

Saints knock off Seahawks 33-27 in Seattle

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Pete Carroll took a football to the face before Sunday’s game and things didn’t get any better once the Seahawks and Saints took the field.

A heavy dose of Alvin Kamara and big plays by the defense and special teams helped spur the Saints to a 33-27 win over Carroll’s Seahawks. The win moves the Saints up to 2-1 on the 2019 season and showed that they can survive without quarterback Drew Brees as he recovers from a right thumb injury over the coming weeks.

Teddy Bridgewater was 19-of-27 for 177 yards and two touchdowns. One of those scores came on a screen to Kamara, who then took the ball 29 yards into the end zone. It was one of several plays during the game that saw the Seahawks struggle to tackle the talented New Orleans running back. Kamara also ran for a touchdown in the fourth quarter and ended the day with 161 yards on 25 touches.

The Saints defense put points on the board via a Vonn Bell fumble return and they also got a punt return score from Deonte Harris, although Harris also muffed a punt to set the Seahawks up with prime field position in the third quarter. An incomplete pass on fourth down ended the drive without points.

That was one of many frustrations for Carroll, who sported a deep cut and bandage on the side of his nose as a result of the errant football. Chris Carson lost a fumble for the third time this season and the team consistently failed to convert third down tries.

Russell Wilson did throw for 406 yards and run for two touchdowns, but that wound up being of more value to fantasy teams than his actual team as much of the compiling came once the Saints were up by three scores.

New Orleans returns home for a Sunday night date with the 3-0 Cowboys. The Seahawks will try to rebound in Arizona.

Giants get comeback win in Daniel Jones’s first NFL start

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The Giants kept Mike Evans under wraps for most of the second half, but he came through when his team needed him most.

Matt Gay didn’t.

Evans scored three touchdowns in the first half, but was shut down in the second half until less than a minute remained in the game. That’s when Jameis Winston found him for a 55-yard gain to the Giants’ 10-yard-line.

Matt Gay got a 34-yard field goal try a couple of plays later, but Gay, who also missed two extra points, pushed it wide right and the Giants won 32-31 in a game that looked like it might be over at halftime.

The Bucs led 28-10 after two quarters as Evans was dominating through the air and the Giants couldn’t get much going offensively. As Evans faded out of the spotlight, Jones took over.

Jones threw two touchdowns and ran for two others, including a seven-yard sprint up the middle with 1:16 left to play in Tampa on Sunday. That score gave the Giants their first lead of the day and it improbably held up.

It wasn’t a perfect start for Jones as he lost two fumbles and took some time to get going, but the destination certainly made it worth the bumpy journey. Jones finished 23-of-36 for 336 yards and both Evan Engram and Sterling Shepard had at least 100 receiving yards with the rookie running the show.

That will lead to questions about why the Giants thought playing Eli Manning at all was a good idea, but they’ll likely be content to just celebrate their first win of the season while hoping running back Saquon Barkley isn’t going to be out for long.

Jones was also sacked five times, with Bucs linebacker Shaq Barrett coming through with four of them. Barrett had three sacks last week and joins Mark Gastineau as the only players with eight sacks in the first three weeks of a season since 1984.

Neither Barrett nor anyone else could stop Jones when it mattered, however, and that left the game on the foot of a kicker who wasn’t up to the task.

Ron Rivera: Cam Newton is the starter when healthy

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It’s almost amazing that this needed to be said out loud, by and to serious people.

But because we have to spell things out, Ron Rivera provided clarity Sunday night.

Via Joe Person of TheAthletic.com, the Panthers coach confirmed that former league MVP Cam Newton would be the team’s starting quarterback when healthy, but that they’re “rolling” with former undrafted (and unemployed last September) backup Kyle Allen for the moment.

Allen threw four touchdown passes in Sunday’s win over the Cardinals.

Newton stayed home to get treatment on the mid-foot sprain he suffered in the preseason then aggravated later. Coupled with his recovery from a second shoulder surgery, Newton was abysmal against the Buccaneers in Week Two, and not as sharp as normal in Week One.

Whether Allen’s hot hand causes them to reconsider Newton’s level of wellness remains to be seen, but the foot injury is one which was likely to keep him out for multiple weeks anyway.

Report: Ankle sprain for Saquon Barkley

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The Giants lost running back Saquon Barkley to an ankle injury in the first half of Sunday’s game against the Buccaneers and it looks like he avoided broken bones.

Barkley is in a walking boot and using crutches on the sideline as the Giants and Buccaneers play out their game in Tampa. Jordan Raanan of ESPN.com reports that Barkley has been diagnosed with a sprain and that x-rays showed no break.

Given the way Barkley looked as he left the field, it wouldn’t come as a surprise to hear that it’s a high ankle sprain that will keep him out of the lineup for a while.

Wayne Gallman replaced Barkley at running back for the Giants, who are trying to pull out a late win after trailing 28-10 at halftime.

Kyle Allen leads Panthers to first win of the season

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The Panthers have had receivers open in other games this season.

Having a quarterback who was physically able to get it to them apparently makes a difference.

Replacement quarterback Kyle Allen was very good in relief of the injured Cam Newton, leading the Panthers to a 38-20 road win over the Cardinals to move them to 1-2.

Allen was a sharp 19-of-26 for 261 yards and four touchdowns. Of course, it helps throwing against Not Patrick Peterson and Not Robert Alford and a bad Cardinals defense, but for a Panthers team that had lost nine of their last 10 games, they’ll take it. That slide coincides with the shoulder problems that cropped up after Newton led the Panthers to a 6-2 start last season.

Allen also won the other one during that span, a meaningless Week 17 game last year against the Saints. And while the Cardinals defense might not be any better than the Saints backups that day, Allen did what needed to be done. He spread the ball efficiently among Christian McCaffrey (188 yards from scrimmage), Greg Olsen (two touchdowns), and the receivers (Curtis Samuel and D.J. Moore with a touchdown each). Newton wasn’t able to the first two weeks, coming off offseason shoulder surgery and a preseason foot injury which is going to keep him on the shelf for more time than the Panthers have been willing to admit.

The Cardinals introduced more of a running element by quarterback Kyler Murray (a team-high 69 yards), but he threw two interceptions to Donte Jackson, was sacked eight times, and averaged just 4.0 yards per pass attempt.