Jimmy Garoppolo: Panthers were “one for the top couple” of trade possibilities this offseason

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The 49ers will be in Charlotte to face the Panthers on Sunday and their defense will tangle with quarterback Baker Mayfield, but there was a point this offseason where it looked like a more familiar face had a chance to be running the Carolina offense.

Before Jimmy Garoppolo signed a reworked contract with the Niners late in the summer, the expectation was that they were going to trade him to another team. The Panthers were believed to be a possible landing spot and Garoppolo confirmed that when asked about the Panthers’ level of interest during a Friday media session.

“I think we were advancing with a couple different teams,” Garoppolo said, via 49ersWebzone.com. “Nothing obviously came to fruition. Yeah, they were top of the list I would say — one of the top couple.”

Garoppolo’s shoulder surgery helped dry up the market for a trade and everyone with the 49ers is now happy that it did because it meant they could turn to Garoppolo after Trey Lance‘s season-ending ankle injury. There’s less enthusiasm about how things played out for the Panthers and a loss to the 49ers would push things closer to crisis mode in Carolina.

Kadarius Toney, Azeez Ojulari don’t travel with Giants; Tyrod Taylor makes trip

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The Giants flew to London on Thursday to start their final preparations for Sunday’s game against the Packers and they left a number of players at home for the weekend.

Wide receiver Kadarius Toney (hamstring) will miss another game after going from limited practice participation on Wednesday to sitting out Thursday’s session. Kenny Golladay (knee) was expected to be out this week and also remained in New Jersey. Rookie Wan'Dale Robinson (knee) did travel and could join Richie James, Darius Slayton, and David Sills in the lineup.

The Giants also have Marcus Johnson, Kalil Pimpleton, and Makai Polk on their practice squad.

Edge rusher Azeez Ojulari (calf) was also left behind. He played the last two games after missing the first two games of the year with the same injury.

Cornerback Cor’Dale Flott (calf) and defensive lineman Henry Mondeaux (ankle) round out the group of players who didn’t travel.

Quarterbacks Daniel Jones (ankle) and Tyrod Taylor (concussion) did make the trip. Jones’ back-to-back practices make him the likely starter on Sunday and having Taylor make the flight suggests the Giants think he could be cleared in time to serve as Jones’ backup.

Matt Ryan: Belief gets created when you find a way to get job done

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Thursday night was a miserable one for the Colts offense, but there was one saving grace of their trip to Denver.

They left town with a win. Despite turning the ball over twice, allowing six sacks, and punting seven times, the Colts wound up 12-9 winners in overtime when cornerback Stephon Gilmore knocked away Broncos quarterback Russell Wilson‘s final pass in the end zone.

When it was over, head coach Frank Reich said “isn’t it awesome that you can have a game like that and still win” in the NFL and quarterback Matt Ryan shared his focus on the final result. The final two offensive drives of the game ended in field goals and Ryan said they “showed a lot of guts” that will lead to increased confidence in the locker room despite how poorly the rest of the game went for the unit.

“We found a way,” Ryan said, via the team’s website. “And with the young group we have, particularly we had a lot of young players playing tonight, there’s belief that gets created, even though it’s ugly. There’s belief that gets created when you find a way to get the job done. And that’s what we’ve got to do right now. We’ve got to figure out how to get better, there’s no doubt about that, and try to play better, more consistent football. But you gotta win games. You gotta find ways to win games and I’m proud of the guys.”

Ryan’s not wrong about needing to find ways to win games when things aren’t working, but it remains to be seen if they can create enough belief to overcome the shoddy execution that has marked the majority of the first five weeks of their season.

K.J. Hamler: I could have walked in to the end zone if final pass had been thrown to me

Denver Broncos vs Indianapolis Colts during week 5 of the NFL season
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On the final play of Thursday night’s loss to the Colts, Broncos quarterback Russell Wilson threw an incomplete pass. Wilson never appeared to look to his right, where wide receiver K.J. Hamler was wide open for a game-winning touchdown.

After the game, Hamler acknowledged that he would have scored if Wilson had thrown it to him.

I could have walked in,” Hamler told James Palmer of NFL Network.

Hamler also told Palmer that he wasn’t the only Broncos receiver who was open on the play, and that he has no answer for why the Broncos keep missing golden opportunities in the red zone. Hamler also said he didn’t hear the post game speech from Broncos head coach Nathaniel Hackett because he was still standing on the field “trying to process everything.”

Clearly, Hamler is frustrated. He’s not the only one. The Broncos, who had Super Bowl aspirations, are now 2-3 and keep losing games they have opportunities to win.

Frank Reich calls Stephon Gilmore “definition of a big-time player”

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Colts defensive back Stephon Gilmore had the two biggest plays of the game for the Colts on Thursday Night Football, intercepting a Russell Wilson pass in the end zone late in the fourth quarter, and breaking up a pass in the end zone on the final play of overtime. Colts coach Frank Reich loved what he saw.

“That’s the definition of a big-time player, making the plays in the moment, and he made the two huge plays. I mean massive plays,” Reich said of Gilmore. “He’s a pro, man. The guy’s a great player. Just lifted the defense. They were already playing great, then those big plays obviously helped win that game.”

Gilmore said after the game that the Broncos and Wilson kept trying him, and so he made them pay. Gilmore has done a lot of that in his 11-year career.

After getting traded from the Patriots to the Panthers a year ago, Gilmore hit free agency this year and signed a two-year, $20 million contract with the Colts. The Colts got their money’s worth on Thursday night.

Report: Garrett Bolles has a broken right leg

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Thursday night’s game may have had more total injuries than points. One of them will affect the Broncos for weeks to come.

Via Mike Klis of 9News.com, Broncos left tackle Garrett Bolles suffered a broken right leg during the loss to the Colts.

According to Klis, further testing will determine the severity of the fracture. The best-case scenario is that he’ll be back in six weeks. The Broncos, however, fear that he could miss more time than that.

Calvin Anderson is the backup to Bolles. Undrafted in 2019, he has appeared in 31 games with five starts for the Broncos since 2020.

Stephon Gilmore on Russell Wilson: “He kept trying me, so I made him pay”

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When offense is bad, it often means defense is good. On Thursday night, both defenses played well — too well, unfortunately.

Colts defensive back Stephon Gilmore had two critical plays for his defense. He intercepted a pass in the end zone late in regulation, and he broke up the pass in the end zone that sealed the win.

After the win, Gilmore explained the final moment to Kaylee Hartung of Amazon.

“They tried me like two times in a row, the play before,” Gilmore said. “I knew he was going to come back, and I had to make him pay.  He kept trying me, so I made him pay.”

Indeed he did. But for Gilmore, the Colts wouldn’t have won tonight. They may not have beaten the Chiefs without him, either. So for everything that’s currently not working well for the Colts, Gilmore is — and any team could have signed him in free agency.

Russell Wilson: “I let the team down tonight”

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Broncos quarterback Russell Wilson, after a lengthy delay following an overtime loss to the Colts, finally made his way to the podium. When he got there, he said the only thing he could have said.

“It’s very simple,” Wilson told reporters. “I’ve got to be better. I’ve got to play better. . . . Throwing two interceptions can’t happen. I let the team down tonight.”

He vowed to respond moving forward. “I don’t know any other way,” he said. “I’m always going to choose to understand that adversity is temporary.”

After rattling off the various problems that have hampered the offense, Wilson opted to view the glass as half full.

“When we eliminate those things, how great can we really be?” Wilson said.

He didn’t offer much detail regarding the two most important plays of the night — his red-zone interception late in the fourth quarter, and his failure to connect with receiver Courtland Sutton with the game on the line. The fact that receiver K.J. Hamler was wide open on the play didn’t come up during Wilson’s press conference.

If it had, Wilson surely would have found a way to spin it into a positive. Because that’s what he does.

“Nobody’s ever going to get me discouraged,” Wilson said.

He didn’t make any excuses, but he mentioned the shoulder injury that he suffered on Sunday and the short-week assignment to play again. He now has 11 days to heal and prepare to face the Chargers on Monday Night Football to cap Week Six.

Yes, we’ll be seeing the Broncos again soon in prime time. Over the next 12 games, four of the Broncos’ contests are scheduled to be stand-alone broadcasts.

Questionable late-game decisions plague Nathaniel Hackett, again

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Bronco coach Nathaniel Hackett is having a rough first year. At this rate, he won’t get a second.

After adding yet another member of the coaching staff to help Hackett make better decisions in key moments, Hackett made a couple of questionable decisions in two key moments during the 12-9 overtime loss to the Colts.

Let’s start at the end of regulation. The Colts were out of timeouts. There was 2:19 to play. The Broncos led by three. They faced third and four from the Indianapolis 13.

“We wanted to be sure that we were able to get a first down,” Hackett said after the game.

That’s fine. But they didn’t ultimately try to get the first down. Quarterback Russell Wilson went for the knockout, throwing the ball to the end zone, where the ball was intercepted.

If they had simply failed to get the first down, the Bronco could have kicked a field goal, forcing the Colts to do something neither team did all night long — score a touchdown.

The Colts instead drove down the field for a game-tying field goal. In overtime, the Colts took the lead with another field goal.

And then the Broncos, who continue to hit a brick wall in the red zone, faced fourth and one from the Indianapolis five. At one point, the Broncos lined up with Wilson under center. After a pair of timeouts, they opted for shotgun formation — signaling to the defense that a pass play was more likely.

It wasn’t fourth and goal. It was fourth and one. It was a perfect spot for a Melvin Gordon run for a possible first and goal, or maybe a creative play-action design that could have resulted in a walk-off game-winning score.

Instead, the Broncos basically told the Colts a throw was coming. So the Colts defended it. And the Indianapolis defense came through.

“We wanted to have a good pass call,” Hackett told reporters. “We wanted to put it in [Wilson’s] hands to win the game.”

That’s fine, if it works. But it didn’t work. There was reason to think it may not work. Wilson was off, all night long. Whether it was the shoulder injury or something else, there was no reason to believe with a high degree of certainty that Wilson would deliver a touchdown in an all-or-nothing setting like that.

There’s another question to be asked about the final play of the game. Why not kick the field goal, play defense, and try to get the ball back? Even if the game had ended in a tie, a 2-2-1 record would be better than 2-3.

In explaining the decision-making process with the game on the line, Hackett made an interesting — and perhaps telling — comment in his post-game press conference. He said he “got the go to go for it.”

From whom? Isn’t that the head coach’s decision? Whoever gave the head coach the go to go for it is the guy who should apparently should be the head coach, because that person made a decision that is always reserved for the head coach.

What it Jerry Rosburg, who was specifically hired to help Hackett make better decisions in those spots? Was it an analytics person who apparently has final say over whatever Hackett chooses to do?

At the highest levels of any industry, perception is reality. And the perception through five games is that the game is too big for Hackett. Even with another assistant coach added on the fly, he’s not making good decisions in key moments.

That won’t bode well when new ownership decides whether to bring back for a second year a coach they didn’t hire in the first place. The buyout is negligible, relative to the extreme wealth of the Walton-Penner Wal-Mart group. Frankly, if they were making the decision right now, it wouldn’t be a difficult one.

Over the next 12 games, Hackett’s primary challenge will be to change their minds. He has his work cut out for him.

Thursday Night Football: Colts beat Broncos 12-9 in ugly overtime affair

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The Colts beat the Broncos 12-9 in overtime in Thursday Night Football.

It was even uglier than the score might indicate.

The teams combined for no touchdowns, seven field goals, a blocked field goal, 681 yards, 15 penalties, 12 punts, six fumbles (though none were lost), four interceptions and 10 sacks. They were a combined 0-for-6 in the red zone.

Colts kicker Chase McLaughlin made a 31-yard field goal with five seconds left in the fourth quarter to tie it and then was good on a 47-yarder with 5:50 left in overtime to give the Colts their first lead of the night.

After the Colts kicked off following their OT field goal, Russell Wilson completed back-to-back passes of 24 and 37 yards to Melvin Gordon and Jerry Jeudy to get the Broncos to the Indianapolis 14. Three Gordon runs set up fourth-and-one. After timeouts by both teams, Wilson threw incomplete in the end zone on a pass that was intended for Courtland Sutton but broken up by Stephon Gilmore.

It was a perfect ending to an imperfect game

Many Broncos fans were so disgusted they left at the end of regulation, not waiting around for overtime.

Wilson completed 21 of 39 passes for 274 yards and two interceptions. Sutton had five catches for 74 yards and Gordon had 18 touches for 103 yards.

One of Wilson’s interceptions came with the Broncos facing a third-and-four at the Indianapolis 13 with 2:19 remaining. They led 9-6 when Wilson tried to hit Tyrie Cleveland in the end zone, and Gilmore picked him.

That provided the Colts with plenty of time to drive 67 yards in 10 plays to set up the game-tying field goal.

Matt Ryan went 26-of-41 for 251 yards and two interceptions. Third-string running back Deon Jackson had 17 touches for 91 yards and Alec Pierce caught eight passes for 81 yards.

The Colts improved to 2-2-1, while the Broncos fell to 2-3.

Garett Bolles carted off with leg injury

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Broncos left tackle Garett Bolles was carted off the field after being rolled from behind.

He was injured with 3:20 left in the game on a Mike Boone run behind him. Colts defensive tackle DeForest Buckner inadvertently landed onto the back of Bolles’ leg.

Bolles immediately grabbed his right leg.

He slammed his left hand against the side of the cart twice as he was leaving the field and wore a towel over his head.

Calvin Anderson has replaced Bolles.

Baron Browning questionable to return with a wrist injury; Josey Jewell out

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Broncos linebacker Baron Browning is in the training room after a fourth quarter injury.

Browning injured his right hand while tackling Colts running back Phillip Lindsay for a 2-yard loss with 7:50 remaining.

Browning ran off, holding his hand.

The Broncos list him as questionable to return with a wrist injury.

He has five tackles, 1.5 sacks, six quarterback hits and two tackles for loss.

The Broncos did get defensive end Dre'Mont Jones back after he was evaluated for a possible concussion.

Broncos cornerback Ronald Darby is out with knee injury as is inside linebacker Josey Jewell.

Kwity Paye carted off with leg injury

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Colts defensive lineman Kwity Paye put pressure on Russell Wilson that forced an ill-advised throw that resulted in an interception early in the fourth quarter. Paye, though, stayed down on the field after the play.

He could not put pressure on his right leg.

Paye went to the training room on a cart, getting well wishes from the entire defense before leaving the field.

The Colts list him as questionable to return with a leg injury.

Paye’s only stat was the quarterback hit, which came with 14:07 remaining. It led to a Rodney Thomas pick of Wilson. Thomas returned the interception 35 yards to the Indianapolis 39, but the Colts could not do anything with the field position.

The Broncos lead 9-6.

Russell Wilson entered medical tent

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Broncos quarterback Russell Wilson exited the Sunday loss to the Raiders with a shoulder injury that left him limited in practice. During tonight’s game, he entered the medical tent.

Wilson took a hit during a return of an interception that he threw in the fourth quarter of Thursday night’s game against the Colts. He appeared to take contact to his injured right shoulder.

It was a clean hit by the Colts defender who became a blocker, with no flag thrown.

Brett Rypien is the backup for the Broncos. Wilson emerged from the tent and appeared to be good to go.

That said, Amazon has shown sideline video of personnel reviewing video of the hit that Wilson absorbed.

Wilson has been booed repeatedly by the home crowd throughout the game. The Broncos are clinging to the three-point lead.

He is now re-entering the game.

Thursday Night Football: Broncos lead Colts 6-3 at halftime

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The punters and kickers have ruled the day in Denver.

In the first half, the Broncos and Colts combined for three field goals, 247 yards, five sacks, four fumbles (though none lost), one interception, seven punts and seven penalties. Simply put, the offenses have been offensive.

The Broncos lead the Colts 6-3 at halftime.

Broncos kicker Brandon McManus kicked field goals of 33 and 44 yards to complete drives of 49 and 40 yards on drives that ended at the Indianapolis 15 and 26.

With 49 seconds left in the half, the Colts had first-and-10 at the Denver 15 before the Broncos had back-to-back sacks of Matt Ryan. On third-and-38, Ryan hit Alec Pierce for 10 yards to get into range for Chase McLaughlin, who kicked a 52-yard field goal.

Ryan has gone 12-of-19 for 140 yards with an interception as the Colts have generated 144 yards. He has taken four sacks tonight, giving him 19 for the season. Colts receiver Michael Pittman has four catches for 55 yards.

Russell Wilson has completed 9 of 17 passes for 69 yards as the Broncos totaled 103 yards.

Broncos defensive back Ronald Darby has a knee injury and is questionable to return.