September 24, 2018 / 11:28 PM / in 3 months

FLM All 32: Team-by-team NFL notes

AFC East

Sep 23, 2018; Minneapolis, MN, USA; Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen (17) celebrates following a game against the Minnesota Vikings at U.S. Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

Buffalo Bills: Rookie quarterback Josh Allen led his team to a victory for the first time in his career on Sunday. The Bills were a 17-point underdog. But there was no chest thumping from Allen after the game. He was 15-of-22 passing for 196 yards and a touchdown, but was far from content. “There’s still a lot of plays I’d like to have back from that game, a lot to learn from, a lot to improve on,” Allen said. And he refused to call a much-discussed leap over linebacker Anthony Barr anything special. “There was a guy (Barr) maybe 3 yards in front of the sticks and I knew we needed a first down there and I think we went on to score on that drive. Obviously it was a big play, but it was just another first down.”

Miami Dolphins: It will be a case of role reversal when the Dolphins meet the Patriots on Sunday in Foxborough. Who would have thought the Patriots would be struggling with a 1-2 record and the Dolphins would be undefeated? Miami coach Adam Gase said it means nothing. “I don’t look at records right now. It’s too early. Nobody cares. I mean, at the end of the day, nobody will give a s—- unless you win the last one. You’ve got to focus on one week, and that’s what we need to do. When we get to that, when we get to Wednesday, we’ll worry about them. Right now, our guys are going to get their things corrected from this game, and then, we’ll move on to New England when it’s time to move on.”

New England Patriots: Coach Bill Belichick discussed his team’s startling loss to Detroit and said New England’s rough start correlates to a lack of execution and not effort. “We’re just not having a lot of success in any area and I think as soon as we start having some you’ll see a difference, but it’s hard to have it when you’re not making enough plays,” he said. “We’re not making enough plays in any phase of the game, so we’ve just got to perform better. I think the energy and the effort and all of that — we’re trying. Everybody’s trying hard. We’re just not getting it done, which is all that matters.”

New York Jets: Could the Jets surround rookie quarterback Sam Darnold with one of the league’s brightest talents? According to the New York Daily News, the team has contacted the Steelers to kick the tires about a trade for holdout All-Pro Le’Veon Bell. The running back has refused to sign his $14.54 million franchise tag tender, and he won’t be on the sidelines when the Steelers face the Buccaneers on Monday night. The NFL trade deadline is Oct. 30, and the Jets have the cap space of about $17 million now and $90 million-plus next season to pay Bell, according to the Daily News. Bilal Powell and Isaiah Crowell currently are manning the position for the Jets, but they’re no Bell. In five seasons in Pittsburgh, he has rushed for 5,336 yards and 35 touchdowns.

AFC North

Baltimore Ravens: Red-zone opportunities have become points - specifically, touchdowns - for the Ravens this season. Quarterback Joe Flacco has six touchdown passes in the red zone and Baltimore has six rushing touchdowns in 12 red-zone trips. “We’ve got good playmakers, and we put a lot of pressure on the defense with the guys that we have out there,” Flacco said. “I think ‘Buck’ Allen has become one of the real legitimate players in this league - kind of quietly. He’s become a top-level player.”

Cincinnati Bengals: There was no update Monday on wide receiver A.J. Green’s groin injury from head coach Marvin Lewis. Green said Sunday afternoon he did not hear a pop but significant discomfort, forcing him out of the game. Cornerback Dre Kirkpatrick said he’s not fretting Cincinnati’s first loss of the season, because it occurred without Green, running back Joe Mixon and linebacker Vontaze Burfict. Burfict returns from a suspension on Oct. 1. “No panic. No panic,” Kirkpatrick said. “I haven’t seen a team go undefeated since ‘72. So, I’m not panicked.”

Cleveland Browns: Speculation that teams hit by injury might reach out to the Browns to acquire Tyrod Taylor was shot down by Hue Jackson on Monday. Jackson said the Browns are hopeful Taylor (concussion) is healthy enough to be the No. 2 quarterback at Oakland as Baker Mayfield makes his first NFL start. As for Taylor’s forgettable performance against the Jets, Jackson said there is plenty of blame to go around. “We put him in a tough spot - it wasn’t just Tyrod.” Worth noting, general manager John Dorsey traded the entire quarterback depth chart he inherited in the off season and continues to seek draft compensation for veteran talent. Most recently, the Browns dealt wide receiver Josh Gordon, a starter in Week 1, to the New England Patriots.

AFC South

Houston Texans: The club is one of three 0-3 teams in the NFL, and the players feel their poor starts are a big reason. “Every game this year we’ve started slow and we’ve lost three games by 15 points,” safety Tyrann Mathieu said. “It’s not like guys are just blowing us out. We’re really beating ourselves.” Mathieu said the leadership, passion and intensity must improve. Defensive end J.J. Watt sees a lot of inconsistency. “We need to start fast, and we need to finish stronger,” Watt said. “We figure it out for a little while in the middle, and we need to come up with a solution as to why and how we can get it going early and finish stronger at the end.”

Indianapolis Colts: Rumblings that quarterback Andrew Luck’s passing shoulder is still not at full strength picked up Sunday as he averaged 4.1 yards per attempt in the loss to the Philadelphia Eagles. Backup Jacoby Brissett was called on to throw a last-second Hail Mary pass — a decision Luck said was proper — as coach Frank Reich wanted to make sure the ball reached the end zone. Reich said he is pleased with Luck’s arm strength. “What I’ve seen is he makes all the throws,” Reich said. “There’s been plenty of throws down the field, in my mind ... I’ve seen a guy who is extremely accurate. I have no concerns about velocity.”

Jacksonville Jaguars: Defensive tackle Malik Jackson is ready to contest a lowering of the head penalty he received in Sunday’s loss to the Tennessee Titans. The call negated a Jacksonville fumble recovery as the officials determined Jackson used the crown of his helmet to hit Titans quarterback Blaine Gabbert (who sustained a concussion) in the head. “I hope once I kind of talk to them about it, they see what I see,” Jackson said. “If they can’t tell me what to do better or different, then I don’t think I should be fined. ... Nobody’s dirty on this team. Nobody’s going out to try to hurt people or get people out of the game.”

Tennessee Titans: Marcus Mariota is still experiencing elbow issues, but he will be back in the starting lineup for Sunday’s game against the Philadelphia Eagles. Blaine Gabbert is in concussion protocol after being knocked out of last Sunday’s game by the Jaguars, and his availability won’t be firmed up until later in the week. Mariota is bothered by numbness and tingling in his fingers that is affecting his throwing. “It’s what he feels like he can handle physically with his recovery, and what the trainers feel like is best for him,” Titans coach Mike Vrabel said of Mariota. “We’ll do what’s best for Marcus as he continues to come back. But we’ll give him everything he can handle, and he’ll tell us what he can handle and what he can’t physically.”

AFC West

Denver Broncos: Last week, head coach Vance Joseph said he was disappointed with the Broncos’ cornerbacks lack of aggressiveness by allowing easy completions. After Joe Flacco threw for 277 yards on 40 attempts Sunday, Joseph said Monday teams are following the same approach to beat Denver’s secondary. “It’s a blueprint on tape right now the last three weeks — throw it quick,” Joseph said. “Challenge the DBs and throw it quick and keep Von Miller and Chubb and those guys at bay by throwing the football quick.” Cornerback Chris Harris Jr. told reporters after the game Sunday that the defense is “making it too easy” on opposing QBs. “We gotta move and disguise better,” he said. “We’re not tricking anybody right now. They know exactly what’s coming.”

Kansas City Chiefs: With the offense soaring in a 3-0 start to the season, could the Chiefs look outside the organization to shore up a shaky defense? Reports emerged Sunday about possible interest in trading for Seahawks safety Earl Thomas, while NFL.com reported Monday the Chiefs continue to ask Seattle about Thomas. “Right now we don’t have anything and that’s not where we’re at,” head coach Andy Reid told reporters Monday. “I know the rumor is out there, but that’s not where we’re at.” Per NFL.com, the Chiefs’ interest in Thomas is not related to any concerns over Eric Berry’s health, though Berry has yet to play this season while battling a heel injury.

Los Angeles Chargers: The team’s loss in the “Battle for L.A.” was discouraging, but one positive was the two-touchdown performance from wideout Mike Williams, who beat Marcus Peters for a 42-yard touchdown and added a 20-yarder after halftime. Head coach Anthony Lynn told reporters Monday that he’s seen major strides from the 2017 first-round pick, who was slow to get going last year due to injury. “Last year he wasn’t healthy,” Lynn said. “He didn’t practice a lot, he was kinda learning on the run. This year he’s more comfortable, he hasn’t missed many practices. So he’s just been really consistent. I think his confidence right now is at an all-time high.” Williams leads the team in TD receptions (three) and is second in yards (189) through three weeks.

Oakland Raiders: Despite outgaining the Dolphins 434 to 373 and holding the ball for 38:31, the Raiders wound up down 11 points in the fourth quarter before a late field goal narrowed the defeat to 28-20. A major culprit for the defeat was field position, as the Raiders took four special-teams penalties and started their average drive at their own 20, including four possessions that began at the Raiders’ 10 or worse. “It’s been horrible,” head coach Jon Gruden said Monday of the team’s field position. It’s been the worst in football. ... It’s a credit to our offense, really, for moving the ball out of negative territory. But we have to get more out of our return game and we have to minimize penalties.” The Dolphins started their average drive at their own 31.

NFC East

Dallas Cowboys: Running back Ezekiel Elliott said he is to blame for Sunday’s loss to Seattle. He carried the ball 16 times for 127 yards, but he said his errors — a dropped wide-open pass, a penalty the nullified a 31-yard touchdown and a fourth-quarter fumble — outweighed the good. “That loss is on me,” he said, via the team’s official website. “I had a poor performance today. Did well in the run game. But overall, I dropped the ball.” Of the fumble, he said: “When you’ve got that ball in your hand, that’s the team in your hand. Me being a leader on the team, me being a better player on this team, I’ve got to do a better job taking care of the ball. That cost us the game.”

New York Giants: It’s amazing the difference a win can make. The Giants had love and smiles all around in the locker room after their 27-22 win over Houston on Sunday — their first victory of the season. Head coach Pat Shurmur started off the postgame celebration by praising his team. “I’ve always known you’re tough. I’ve always known you’re gritty,” Shurmur said. “And now we made enough plays through the course of the game to beat a pretty good football team. And this feeling that we have, it’s got to be this weird drug you can’t get enough of — because that’s why we do this thing.” Shurmur followed by presenting the first game ball to general manager Dave Gettleman; captain Eli Manning presented Shurmur with one of his own.

Philadelphia Eagles: Coach Doug Pederson finally got his starting quarterback, Carson Wentz, back from injury. Now, Pederson said Wentz’s top target could be back soon. The coach said Monday afternoon that wide receiver Alshon Jeffery hasn’t been cleared for contact but that his shoulder injury is improving and he is getting closer to a return. He added that running backs Jay Ajayi (back) and Darren Sproles (hamstring) are day to day and should practice this week. Pederson said the offense isn’t operating at full speed yet. “But it’s OK because defense and special teams kind of carry the load early in the season, and our offense kind of plays catch-up just a little bit,” he said. “And when the offense catches its stride, then you’ve got a good thing going.”

Washington Redskins: Members of the Redskins’ defense felt good about their effort in their 31-17 victory over Green Bay on Sunday. “We’re not here to play games, man,” safety D.J. Swearinger Sr. said. “This is not your old Redskins that, you know, is something to laugh at.” The Redskins held the Packers to 100 yards rushing and 340 yards on 66 plays. Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who has a lingering knee injury, completed 27 of 44 passes. “Yeah, he’s not [100 percent]. But, he’s still Aaron Rodgers,” cornerback Josh Norman said. “His 60 or whatever percent he is, 65 percent, is still better than, out of the quarterbacks there’s 32 in the league, I’d say 30.”

NFC North

Chicago Bears: Down 14-0 at Arizona, Bears head coach Matt Nagy said there was no finger pointing on offense or defense, which was his highlight takeaway from the 16-14 win. Upon review of the game film, Nagy said quarterback Mitchell Trubisky was more willing to attack deep. But when the field shrinks in the red zone, Nagy came away frustrated. “Red-zone wise wasn’t good enough. We need to be better in the red zone,” Nagy said. “We need to get to the point we’re putting touchdowns up and not field goals.” Nagy said when Trubisky threw the ball on time, the Bears were “unstoppable.”

Detroit Lions: Quarterback Matthew Stafford bumped head coach Matt Patricia from the podium in the postgame locker room and awarded the first-year Lions coach with the game ball after beating the New England Patriots. Patricia deflected the emotional gravity of the win and of receiving the game ball. His players did not. “It was great,” receiver Marvin Jones said. “We were jumping up and down. It was just a great moment because we know how hard him and all the coaches worked to prepare the game plan and, us to just go out and execute it. It was big for him. And you could see it in his face.”

Green Bay Packers: While the NFL is using the Clay Matthews-Kirk Cousins hit to educate referees, the Packers are asking the league for language to instruct the players on what constitutes a legal hit on quarterbacks. Matthews has been flagged for roughing the passer in each of the first three games. “You’ve got to make sure you look at all the variables when you are applying definition to an emphasis,” McCarthy said Monday. “For the officials to apply it to the play in the game, they have to have indicators.” McCarthy, who came unhinged when Matthews was flagged at Washington on Sunday, said his animated explosion on the sideline was a direct correlation to a conversation he had with his own quarterback, Aaron Rodgers.

Minnesota Vikings: As Buffalo left town having controlled the Vikings with its front seven, attention shifts to the star-studded Rams and a matchup on Thursday night. “Moving forward, definitely we have a lot to prove,” center Brett Jones said. “This Thursday night game is a good chance for us to prove that.” Jones said the time change playing in Los Angeles and on a Thursday night is a double whammy. “Everything is just crammed in there,” Jones said.

NFC South

Atlanta Falcons: Safety Ricardo Allen suffered a season-ending torn Achilles tendon during Sunday’s loss to New Orleans, joining safety Keanu Neal (season-ending ACL tear) and middle linebacker Deion Jones (foot surgery) as key defenders hurt through the first three games. Atlanta coach Dan Quinn said the team will look for a backup safety but strongly believes in Damontae Kazee as a starter with Jordan Richards possibly lining alongside him. The Falcons also are hoping for progress from injured defensive ends Takkarist McKinley (groin) and Derrick Shelby (groin) as well as running back Devonta Freeman (knee). “I would say probably Takk is the closest,” Quinn said. “And then with Devonta and Derrick, we’ll get them better steps through the week.”

Carolina Panthers: Quarterback Cam Newton has thrown five touchdown passes over the past two games and is completing 67.4 percent of his passes on the season. He also has been intercepted just once, and Panthers coach Ron Rivera likes what he is seeing. “Very consistent is a good word for it,” Rivera said. “His play has truly matured, and by that I mean he’s learning to take what’s being given. In the past he may have tried to force some things downfield. He was a little high early in the game (Sunday), and once he kind of got the ball down and went through his reads quickly, he was getting the ball where it needed to be. He was very efficient that way.”

New Orleans Saints: Quarterback Drew Brees is the new record holder with 6,326 completions — he passed Brett Favre (6,300) during Sunday’s game against Atlanta — and also is just 417 yards shy of matching Peyton Manning’s all-time yardage mark of 71,940 passing yards. “I hope there’s a lot more coming, but I just think about all of the people that had a hand in that,” Brees said of the completions mark. “A lot of hands have caught those passes, and a lot of guys have blocked to make those happen. They all are a part of this, absolutely.” Brees has a league-most 104 completions this season with receiver Michael Thomas making an NFL-leading 38 catches and running back Alvin Kamara ranking third with 30.

NFC West

Arizona Cardinals: It might have seemed odd that the Cardinals had rookie quarterback Josh Rosen make his debut late in the fourth quarter while needing a game-winning field-goal drive, but that’s not how coach Steve Wilks saw it. “It looked like Josh was thrown in the end, but he wasn’t,” Wilks said, adding that he would have put Rosen in sooner if the Bears’ previous drive hadn’t taken nearly seven minutes. “He can handle those types of situations. I think he handled it well. He went in, commanded the huddle, did a great job of moving the ball. We just, as an offense in the end, didn’t work well together.” Wilks named Rosen his Week 4 starter on Monday, while lauding the youngster’s approach. “His demeanor is what you want at that position,” Wilks said. “I don’t think it’s too big for him.

Los Angeles Rams: The Rams’ specialists are well known, as kicker Greg Zuerlein, punter Johnny Hekker and returner Pharoh Cooper (currently on injured reserve) each were first-team All-Pro last year. But don’t forget about linebacker Cory Littleton, who might be the NFL’s best punt-blocking specialist. After stuffing Chargers punter Drew Kaser in the end zone Sunday — which Blake Countess recovered for a touchdown — Littleton has three blocked punts since the start of 2017. “Basically, with any blocked punt, you just have to believe in the plan and hope everything works,” Littleton said. “Trust in it. I believe in it and launched out and got the block.”

San Francisco 49ers: With Jimmy Garoppolo lost for the season with a torn ACL, the 49ers will turn to C.J. Beathard, who coach Kyle Shanahan has plenty of confidence in. “C.J. is a gamer,” Shanahan said after Sunday’s game. “Everyone in here has a ton of respect for C.J. and how he handles himself. He is a man out there and he is a very good quarterback. We are fortunate to have him.” As important as Beathard’s play will be, Shanahan expects him to play a big role as a leader, too. “Keep these guys together, keep leading them,” Shanahan said. .”..It is just a matter of our psyche and keeping everyone in it on the next week and staying positive.”

Seattle Seahawks: After running the ball a total of 38 times through two weeks, the Seahawks pounded the ball repeatedly on Sunday against the Cowboys, racking up 39 carries. Coach Pete Carroll indicated afterward that he wants that approach to define Seattle’s offense moving forward. “We talked about it all week, we’ve been talking about it for some time,” Carroll said. “I was really disappointed that we didn’t come into the season in that mode. ...This is where we want to be, so we’ve righted it hopefully. It won’t mean anything unless we come back and do it next week.” The Seahawks’ efficiency on the ground, however, could use some work, as they averaged just 2.9 yards per carry, including 3.2 for starter Chris Carson.

—Field Level Media

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