Mike Tomlin: We’ll be ready to match Ravens’ desperation

Getty Images

The Steelers and Ravens are heading into Thursday night’s game on very different trajectories.

Pittsburgh is 10-0 and coming off a pair of blowout wins while the Ravens are 6-4 and losers of three of their last four games. That leaves them on the outside of the playoff picture in the AFC at the moment and in pretty desperate need of a win over their division rivals.

Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin was asked on Monday about facing a team in that position and Tomlin’s response was to put his team in the same boat as the Ravens.

“We are desperate too,” Tomlin said, via the team’s website. “We are all desperate to win this week. I imagine they view us in the same way, or I would imagine it would behoove them to do so. That is our attitude each and every week. We respect everyone and the level of desperation and urgency everyone has as we step into the stadium ready to match it.”

Staying ahead of the Chiefs in the race for the top seed in the AFC and dealing a blow to their rivals’ hopes of making the playoffs are a pair of reasons for the urgency level to stay high for the Steelers on Thanksgiving night.

Carson Wentz leads NFL in interceptions, fumbles, sacks

Getty Images

Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz has melted down this season. No one is making more bad plays than Wentz.

Wentz leads the NFL in interceptions, fumbles and sacks this year, an ugly indication of how badly he has played.

Wentz has thrown 14 interceptions, while no one else in the NFL has thrown more than 11 (Kirk Cousins and Drew Lock are tied for second). His 14 interceptions equal a career high, which he set in 16 games as a rookie, and since his rookie year Wentz had never thrown more than seven interceptions in any season until this year.

Wentz has taken 40 sacks, while no one else has taken more than 33 (Russell Wilson is second). Wentz’s 40 sacks are already a career high, even with six more games to play this season, and his lack of awareness in the pocket and inability to get rid of the ball when he’s being pressured has been stunning to see this year.

Wentz has fumbled 10 times this year, one more than the second-worst, Joe Burrow. Fumbles have always been a problem for Wentz, who now has 58 career fumbles, by far the most of any player in the NFL since he entered the league in 2016.

The Eagles insist they’re not going to bench Wentz. Rarely in NFL history has a player had such job security while playing so poorly.

Trent Williams tested positive for COVID-19

Getty Images

49ers left tackle Trent Williams was placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list last week for the second time this season and he revealed that a positive test was the reason for this move.

Williams missed a Thursday night loss to the Packers after landing on the list as a close contact of wide receiver Kendrick Bourne. He went back on the list last Friday and told Dan Graziano of ESPN that he tested positive for COVID-19 this time.

Williams is considered to be in a high-risk category as a cancer survivor, but told Graziano that he is feeling OK.

The timing of the positive test makes it likely that Williams will miss the team’s Week 12 game against the Rams. The 49ers have seven other players on the reserve list, so Williams may not be the only player out this weekend.

Matt Patricia “trying to get ready for Houston” amid job security questions

Getty Images

The Lions fell to 4-6 on the season and head coach Matt Patricia fell to 13-28-1 over his tenure in Detroit in Sunday’s 20-0 loss to the Panthers.

Carolina had lost five straight games before Sunday and they had P.J. Walker making his first NFL start at quarterback, which only added to the ignominy of the loss for Patricia and the Lions. Questions about what it would mean for the coach’s future with the team came up immediately after the game and continued on Monday.

Patricia was asked if he’s had conversations with ownership about his job security in the wake of the loss.

“I mean, look, our focus right now is on Houston,” Patricia said, via Dave Birkett of the Detroit Free Press. “Any conversations that I’ve had with ownership, I always keep those private, you guys know that. So from that standpoint, we’ve just got a quick turnaround here, trying to get ready for Houston.”

The Lions have not improved in any meaningful way since firing Jim Caldwell after the 2017 season and it is increasingly feeling like someone else will be trying to push them in the right direction in 2021.

Bruce Arians won’t be taking over offensive playcalling

Getty Images

Coaches coach, players play, and Bucs coach Bruce Arians sees more issues with the latter than the former in Tampa Bay.

Asked whether he’d consider taking over playcalling duties after Monday night’s 27-24 loss to the Rams, Arians said that offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich will continue to handle those responsibilities.

“I thought [Leftwich] called a good ballgame,” Arians told reporters. “We just have to execute better. When guys are open, we have to hit them and we can’t misread coverage. We have to protect a little bit better when we do have guys deep and let [Tom Brady] hit that guy instead of having that pressure that cost us an interception. As a collective, everybody has got to play better.”

Arians attributed the first of Brady’s two interceptions on the night to Brady getting hit and failing to get enough on the ball. “The last one was just a misread of the coverage,” Arians said.

The end result for the 7-4 Bucs, with the Chiefs looming before a Week 13 bye, is that the road to the playoffs is getting rockier.

“Very slim,” Arians said regarding the team’s margin for error. “This was a big one and the next one’s even bigger, so I think each and every one is going to be huge the whole rest of the way.”

The good news is that, barring a flex, the Bucs (now 1-3 at night) won’t play again in prime time. The bad news is that they may have to run to table after their bye, if they lose on Sunday to the Chiefs.

Tom Brady “disappointed” by inefficient performance Monday night

Getty Images

After Matt Gay’s field goal put the Rams up 27-24, the Buccaneers got the ball back with 2:36 on the clock and Tom Brady playing quarterback.

That scenario is a new one for the Bucs, but it has been a fruitful one for Brady over the years. It was not to be on Monday night, however.

Brady completed two passes leading up to the two minute warning, but sailed a pass over tight end Cameron Brate‘s head and into the waiting arms of Rams defensive back Jordan Fuller. It was Fuller’s second interception of the game and Brady called it “a bad read, bad throw, decision” that brought an end to a frustrating night for him.

“I think that’s a good word: disappointed,” Brady said, via Greg Auman of TheAthletic.com. “I have to do a better job, absolutely. Tonight was very inefficient, didn’t [do] a very good job during the second half. The defense played great, kept coming up with huge stops, getting us the ball back. Offensively, we just couldn’t make the plays that were necessary to be efficient, and we had plenty of chances. We’ve got to get them fixed.”

Brady was 26-of-48 for 216 yards and two touchdowns to go with his two interceptions. That wasn’t good enough for a win and they’ll have to be a lot better offensively this Sunday if they’re going to outduel the Chiefs.

Daryl Morey: An NFL team reached out about me becoming GM

Getty Images

Daryl Morey, who is viewed by many as one of the most forward-thinking executives in sports, recently left the NBA’s Houston Rockets and became General Manager of the Philadelphia 76ers. But between those two jobs, he also heard interest from an NFL team.

Morey said in an interview with Rich Eisen that after he left the Rockets, an NFL team reached out to gauge his interest in becoming its General Manager. Morey told them he doesn’t think he knows enough about football to do the job.

“I told them I probably don’t know enough, I’ll be honest,” Morey said. “It would be very presumptive for me to think I could help an NFL team, but they did reach out. I just figure my skills are just much higher and better in the NBA, with the experience. But it was an intriguing idea.”

But Morey acknowledged that even if he had been interested, it might not have worked out.

“They didn’t offer it, they just reached out to talk,” Morey said. “They could have met with me and said, ‘That guy’s an idiot’ and moved on.”

Morey is known for his expertise in the use of analytics, and it’s not surprising that some NFL team would think he could apply his knowledge of analytics in basketball to football, just as the Browns have hired Paul DePodesta, formerly known as a baseball analytics guru, to be one of their top personnel people. The analytics principles in one sport could be applied successfully in another sport.

Mike McCarthy smashed watermelons with sledgehammer to fire up Cowboys

Getty Images

In search of a way to motivate his team ahead of last weekend’s game against the Minnesota Vikings, Dallas Cowboys head coach Mike McCarthy elected to murder some produce to provide a spark.

According to Clarence Hill Jr. of the Fort Worth Star-Telegram, McCarthy packed a sledgehammer and an assortment of watermelons for the team’s trip to Minneapolis and then destroyed the melons in a team meeting on Saturday night

I think like anything in this game, it’s important to have fun,” McCarthy said. “You’re always trying to create emphasis in your messaging. That’s really where it came from. We were just using the approach to honor the great comedian Gallagher and it’s an idea that came up and we went for it. The players were into it.”

“It was just all part of the messaging so we had a number of points of emphasis that we were trying to hit so a number of guys got to participate and once again I’d say it was a lot of fun. It was well received.”

.The melons represented various objectives the team was looking to accomplish against the Vikings. After taking out some of the melons himself, he gave some players the chance to hammer away as well.

The Cowboys snapped a four-game losing stream in a 31-28 win over the Vikings on Sunday. It was the team’s first win since losing Dak Prescott for the season to a fractured ankle in Week 5. It was also the first time the team had scored at least 20 points since losing Prescott as well.

Despite being 3-7, the Cowboys are right in the thick of the NFC East division hunt with a pivotal game against the Washington Football Team coming up on Thanksgiving. McCarthy didn’t rule out the chances of the team slaying more melons this week in hopes of keeping the winning ways going.

“That’s a great question,” McCarthy said. “We obviously have been fighting and scratching. The players have been great. So hey, if it’s not broke don’t fix it.”

Matt Gay on kicking game-winner against former team: “You can’t write it”

Getty Images

The first game Matt Gay appeared in this season after being released by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in September just so happened to be against his former team.

The newest kicker for the Los Angeles Rams ended up delivering a 40-yard field goal with less than three minutes to play that served as the game-winning points in a 27-24 victory over the Buccaneers on Monday.

You can’t write it,” Gay said of the experience, via Joey Knight of the Tampa Bay Times. “It’s one of those stories. You’re sitting on a practice squad, and then the first game, you’re going back to where you were last year and the place that you know you feel you should have been. Feels great.”

The Rams signed Gay off the practice squad of the Indianapolis Colts last week after Kai Forbath injured his ankle against the Seattle Seahawks and was placed on injured reserve. He appeared in all 16 games last season for Tampa Bay, converting 27 of 35 field goal attempts and 43 of 48 extra point attempts. The Buccaneers waived Gay in September and he landed in Indianapolis on their practice squad last month.

Gay converted two of his three attempts against the Buccaneers with makes from 38 and 40 yards and a miss wide right from 44 yards. He converted all three extra point attempts on the night.

“Kind of a crazy story coming back to Tampa,” he said. “Played here last year, and it was a lot of emotions. I thought I hit that (miss) good. Just drifted right on me, but I went to the sidelines and focused on what I did right and made sure I was focused on the next play.”

Monday Night Football: Jared Goff throws 3 TDs as Rams earn 27-24 victory over Bucs

Getty Images

Jared Goff threw for 376 yards and three touchdowns and Matt Gay converted a 40-yard field goal with 2:36 remaining as the Los Angeles Rams took the lead in the NFC West standings with a 27-24 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Monday night.

Jordan Fuller intercepted Tom Brady twice with the second coming inside the final two minutes to seal the victory for Los Angeles.

With a rushing attack that managed just 37 yards on the night, the game fell to Goff and his receivers to deliver. Robert Woods caught 12 passes for 130 yards and a touchdown and Cooper Kupp added 145 yards on 11 receptions on the night. The Rams are now 32-0 when leading at halftime under head coach Sean McVay.

The Buccaneers also couldn’t run the ball at all with just 42 yards on the ground. However, Brady had far less success in the passing game as opposed to Goff. The Rams held Tampa Bay to just 251 yards of total offense.

Goff and Woods connected on a 4-yard touchdown to cap a 13-play, 80-yard drive on the Rams’ opening possession of the night. A pair of 10-play drives for Tampa Bay followed as Brady and Mike Evans hooked up for a 9-yard touchdown and Leonard Fournette scored on a 2-yard run as the Buccaneers took a 14-7 advantage.

The Rams would answer again when Goff found Van Jefferson for a 7-yard touchdown, the first of Jefferson’s career, to knot the game at 14-14. Gay would convert from 38 yards on the final play of the half as the Rams took a 17-14 lead into the break.

Goff’s two interceptions helped keep the Buccaneers in the game. The two turnovers led to 10 points for Tampa Bay as both came inside Los Angeles territory. A mix up on a screen pass led to Goff throwing a pass directly to Jason Pierre-Paul. Ryan Succop converted a 38-yard kick to again even the game up at 17-all.

After a missed field goal from Gay, the Rams managed to capitalize on Fuller’s first interception of Brady. Goff and Cam Akers connected for a 4-yard touchdown as the Rams took a 24-17 lead.

A fumbled snap exchange set the Rams back before Goff was picked off by Jordan Whitehead to set up the tying score. Brady connected with Chris Godwin for a 13-yard touchdown as the Buccaneers evened the game at 24-24 with 3:53 left to play.

But the Buccaneers couldn’t slow the Rams passing attack. Goff hit Woods for 23 yards and Kupp for 19 yards to move deep into Tampa Bay territory. Gay’s 40-yard kick would give the Rams the lead for the final time. Fuller then intercepted Brady on an overthrow for Cameron Brate and the Rams managed to run out the closing seconds.

Brady completed 26 of 48 passes for 216 yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions. Brady did take the all-time career passing touchdowns record from Drew Brees. Brees being out injured will allow Brady the chance to rebuild a little cushion to his advantage.

NFL Playoff Picture: AFC & NFC standings after Week 11

Getty Images

The Steelers remain the NFL’s only unbeaten team, the Packers are in the lead for the top seed in the NFC, and the wild card race is wide-open in the AFC but more settled in the NFC. Here’s how the playoff picture looks after Week 11:

1. Steelers (10-0) One-game lead for home-field advantage.

2. Chiefs (9-1) Three-game lead in the AFC West.

3. Bills (7-3) One-game lead in the AFC East.

4. Colts (7-3) Owns head-to-head tiebreaker over Titans in AFC South.

5. Titans (7-3) First among the wild card teams.

6. Browns (7-3) Closing in on a return to the playoffs.

7. Raiders (6-4) Owns tiebreaker over Ravens and Dolphins thanks to better conference record.


8. Ravens (6-4) Owns tiebreaker over Dolphins based on strength of victory.

9. Dolphins (6-4) One game out in the AFC East.

10. Broncos (4-6) Two games out of the wild card.

11. Patriots (4-6) Two games out of the wild card.

12. Chargers (3-7) Three games out of the wild card.

13. Texans (3-7) Three games out of the wild card.

14. Bengals (2-7-1) Out of contention.

15. Jaguars (1-9) Way out of contention.

16. Jets (0-10) Worst team in the NFL.

1. Saints (8-2) In the lead for home-field advantage.

2. Rams (7-3) Head-to-head win over Seattle gives Rams NFC West lead.

3. Packers (7-3) Two-game lead in the NFC North.

4. Eagles (3-6-1) Leading the NFC East.

5. Seahawks (7-3) The leader in the wild card pack.

6. Buccaneers (7-4) Will be tough to catch the Saints in the NFC South.

7. Cardinals (6-4) One-game lead for the final wild card spot.


8. Bears (5-5) Two games behind in the NFC North.

9. Vikings (4-6) Three games behind in the NFC North.

10. Lions (4-6) Three games behind in the NFC North.

11. 49ers (4-6) Two games behind in the wild card.

12. Panthers (4-7) No realistic chance in the wild card race.

13. Giants (3-7) Still not out of it in the NFC East.

14. Washington (3-7) Still not out of it in the NFC East.

15. Cowboys (3-7) Still not out of it in the NFC East.

16. Falcons (3-7) Dead last in the NFC.

Seahawks place Greg Olsen on injured reserve, promote Damon Harrison

Getty Images

The Seattle Seahawks have placed tight end Greg Olsen on injured reserve after he sustained a ruptured plantar fascia in his left foot in Thursday night’s victory over the Arizona Cardinals.

In Olsen’s place, the team promoted defensive tackle Damon “Snacks” Harrison to their active roster after playing the last two games for the team on practice squad elevations.

Olsen has vowed to make it back to Seattle this season from the injury, which is expected to sideline him at least four-to-six weeks. He sustained the same injury to his right foot two seasons ago with the Carolina Panthers. Olsen has 23 catches for 224 yards and a touchdown in 10 games for the Seahawks this season.

Harrison has played on 45 total snaps for Seattle over the last two games and recorded one tackle.

Seattle also shuffled their practice squad following the promotion of Harrison. Running back Bo Scarbrough and tight end/defensive end Stephen Sullivan were placed on the practice squad injured reserve list. Scarbrough injured his hamstring against the Cardinals. Center Brad Lundblade and cornerback DeMarkus Acy have been signed to the practice squad in their place.

Cooper Kupp, Robert Woods have Rams leading Bucs 17-14 at halftime

Getty Images

The Buccaneers and Rams have two of the best defenses in the league. The Rams rank first in yards allowed and the Bucs third.

The offenses, though, are showing them no respect.

The teams combined for 31 points and 355 yards in the first half, with the Rams taking a 17-14 lead into the locker room on a last-play, 38-yard field goal by Matt Gay. The Rams are 31-0 under Sean McVay when leading at halftime.

Rams receiver Cooper Kupp already has 100 yards receiving. Bucs defenders Devin White and Shaq Barrett had offsides penalties on third down. Rams defensive lineman Aaron Donald and Bucs defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh have no stats. Rams cornerback Jalen Ramsey has two pass interference penalties for 38 yards on Mike Evans.

The Rams scored on three of four possessions, getting touchdowns from Robert Woods and Van Jefferson before ending the half with the field goal.

Jared Goff went 21-of-25 for 212 yards and two touchdowns, with Kupp catching nine passes for 109 yards and Woods five for 60.

Tom Brady was 16-of-24 for 119 yards and a 9-yard touchdown pass to Evans, who did all the heavy lifting by carrying two Rams into the end zone with him the final few yards.

Antonio Brown has six catches for 38 yards.

The Bucs have only 19 rushing yards and the Rams 5 as neither team was able to establish the run, though Leonard Fournette does have a touchdown run.

Seahawks will not allow fans for next two home games

Getty Images

The Seahawks announced Monday they will play without fans in attendance for their next two home games. The team hosts the Giants on Dec. 6 and the Jets on Dec. 13.

“Due to the current case counts of COVID-19 in our state, we will continue playing without fans in attendance at our home games on Dec. 6 (vs. N.Y. Giants) and Dec. 13 (vs. N.Y. Jets),” the Seahawks said in a statement. “We are continuing to work closely with local public health and government officials and are committed to following their lead to keep our community safe. We will keep fans informed as decisions are made for our Dec. 27 home game and beyond. We continue to urge all fans to remain vigilant with physical distancing, mask wearing and following all local guidelines.”

The Seahawks said they will reach out to season ticket holders if conditions improve in time for the home finale at Lumen Field on Dec. 27 against the Rams.

Robert Woods, Mike Evans trade touchdowns on Monday Night Football

Getty Images

Practicing at night didn’t get the Buccaneers off to a faster start. Of course, the Bucs are playing against the league’s top-ranked defense in yards allowed.

The Bucs took the opening kickoff and punted after only six plays and 16 yards. They had better success on their second drive but not before falling behind 7-0.

The Rams held the ball for almost eight minutes in going 80 yards in 13 plays on their first possession. Robert Woods scored on a 4-yard pass from Jared Goff, giving the Rams a 7-0 lead with 3:55 remaining in the first quarter.

The Bucs reached into the red zone as the first quarter ended, and they scored only 50 seconds into the second quarter as Mike Evans went beast mode. Evans caught a 9-yard touchdown pass from Tom Brady, but it was Evans who did all the work.

He carried the Rams into the end zone to tie the game 7-7.

Brady is 7-of-10 for 55 yards and a touchdown after two series, while Goff went 7-of-8 for 72 yards and a touchdown on his first drive.

Cooper Kupp caught five passes for 62 yards on the Rams’ opening drive.

The Bucs did get their left tackle back in the lineup after Donovan Smith was rolled from behind in a scary-looking injury on the first play. The team initially listed Smith as questionable to return, but he was on the field for the Bucs’ second drive.