Patriots hold off Jets after controversial touchback call

First, the qualifiers: Gillislee looked fine in short distance runs throughout the night. One cannot score three goal-line touchdowns without being an adept runner in tight situations. Also, both stops were tremendous collective plays from Kansas City’s remade defensive line. In both circumstances, the push up front was fantastic. Justin Houston bulled his way through a blocker on the second stop to bust up the Gillislee run.

I don’t think it’s time yet to make this an indictment on Brady’s age. On one of the fourth-down attempts, the broadcast crew jokingly mentioned not using the quarterback sneak anymore because Brady is 40. I would find it hard to believe that coach Bill Belichick would curtail one of the more successful parts of his offense because a player can’t do it anymore. Thursday night felt like Belichick was still feeling out the capabilities and limitations of his brand new fleet of running backs. While Gillislee was certainly worth the investment, perhaps nothing can replace Brady dipping below the line on fourth-and-inches.

Bucs general manager Jason Licht must feel like he’s cursed at the kicker position. Nick Folk, the team’s hand-picked replacement for draft bust Roberto Aguayo, missed three field goals in what could be his last game in a Bucs uniform. Folk has missed five kicks in the last two weeks.

Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston has been too erratic with his accuracy this season to take the next step in his development. The Bucs’ offense got off to a slow start, punting on four of its first five possessions. Winston flat-out missed a number of open throws that short-circuited drives. His final numbers (334 yards on 46 attempts) don’t reflect the struggles he had for much of the night. He and his receivers often weren’t on the same page, including on the final throw to rookie tight end O.J. Howard.

Well, I know from experience that coach Bill Belichick isn’t concerned about the number of targets each player gets. He’s concerned about winning (no surprise here), so whoever is open with the greatest chance to progress the ball downfield will get the look. After stopping at Patriots training camp in early August, I started to think about how this team might spread the ball around — though it’s nearly impossible to predict with Belichick calling the shots.

Last season, the Patriots passed the ball on 54 percent of offensive snaps and ran 46 percent of the time. Keep in mind that Brady, who was serving a four-game suspension, didn’t play until Week 5. With backups Jimmy Garoppolo and Jacoby Brissett under center through Week 4, the offense ran the ball 52 percent of the time, as opposed to 44 percent after Brady returned.

With 8:31 to go in the fourth quarter, a seemingly routine 4-yard Austin Seferian-Jenkins touchdown was reviewed and overturned, cementing a decision from the NFL’s team of replay officials that will be discussed all week long. Seferian-Jenkins, who appeared to momentarily bobble the football en route to the ground, was said to have fumbled the ball out of bounds in the end zone resulting in a touchback.

The masses did not seem to agree. CBS color analyst Dan Fouts called it “one of the strangest decisions on a call like that I’ve ever seen,” while Fox analyst Mike Pereira, the league’s former officiating head, said on Twitter there “does not seem like enough evidence to change the ruling.” Seferian-Jenkins was in disbelief and ran toward the officiating crew after the call was made. A shot of him sitting perplexed on the sidelines was a mainstay throughout the remaining broadcast.

On pace for the worst total defense since the 1970 merger, the Patriots have surrendered 400-plus yards in each game this season and currently rank 31st in points allowed per tilt. Why? It starts with a secondary that has utterly failed to live up to its summertime hype. Free-agent acquisition Stephon Gilmore was torched by the Panthers last week, allowing 71 yards and a touchdown off two Carolina catches. After signing a five-year, $65 million deal, the former Bills cover man has struggled to pick up Belichick’s scheme, acknowledging after Sunday’s loss: “It’s frustrating when it’s communication, it’s not really ability. I have to get better at the communication part. It’s my fault on the communication.”

What’s concerning is that Gilmore — who appeared to be benched for a spell against Carolina — is “communicating” with the likes of Devin McCourty, Patrick Chung and Malcolm Butler, on paper one of the best secondaries league-wide, but in real life a disjointed mess through the first month of play.

Mixon punched a female OU student in 2014 and was charged with acts resulting in gross injury. The case was settled with a plea agreement, and Mixon, who was suspended for the 2014 season, served one year of probation, counseling, and 100 hours of community service.

He was barred from this year’s NFL Scouting Combine under a conduct policy, but has made the rounds since then, meeting with the Broncos, Raiders and Chargers, among other clubs. Lions GM Bob Quinn said at the combine that Mixon was on Detroit’s draft board.

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Titans’ Corey Davis ‘bummed’ about hamstring injury

Mariota missed last week’s loss to the Miami Dolphins with a hamstring injury and was questionable coming into Tennessee’s AFC South tilt.

The third-year mobile quarterback has completed 60 percent of his passes and thrown for 792 yards, three TDs and three picks on the season. He also has 116 yards and three scores on the ground.

Returning from a lingering hamstring injury that had dogged him since training camp, Wright erupted for 133 yards and a touchdown on eight receptions in Week 5. Rather than re-emerging as Marcus Mariota’s No. 1 receiver the rest of the way, he faded out of the rotation, even earning a Week 14 benching for tardiness.

After recording 94 catches for 1,079 yards in a breakout 2013 season, Wright’s role gradually diminished as the Titans cycled through Dowell Loggains, Ken Whisenhunt, Jason Michael and Terry Robiskie as play-callers.

Davis’ injury is disappointing, but we won’t freak out yet. We should remember that Odell Beckham Jr. missed all of his rookie preseason and the first four games of the 2014 regular season with a hamstring injury and still managed to put up one of the best first years in NFL history. While we aren’t comparing Davis and OBJ, the parallel helps put Davis’ injury in perspective.

Davis missing significant time would be a blow, but the Titans have upgraded the receiving corps to the point that they can withstand any elongated absence from the first-round pick.

Robinson saw enough. He showed conviction taking Western Michigan’s Corey Davis with the fifth overall pick in April’s draft, then doubled down by snatching up versatile wideout Taywan Taylor and athletic tight end Jonnu Smith in the third round. With erratic receiver Kendall Wright banished, Mariota finally has a group of pass catchers he can grow up with. Decker, last seen as one of the best red-zone receivers and No. 2 options in football, completes the group. It’s difficult to totally fix an organizational problem in one offseason, but Robinson’s track record with the running game last season should give Titans fans hope.

The reconstruction of the secondary was no less dramatic. Tennessee has two new starting cornerbacks in former Patriots spitfire Logan Ryan and first-round playmaker Adoree’ Jackson from USC, in addition to a new starting safety in free-agent pickup Johnathan Cyprien. The most exciting player of the group is second-year safety Kevin Byard, who flashed star potential in a part-time role as a rookie. After running out of defensive backs last season, the Titans look far more well-stocked this time around. Then again, the Titans aren’t buzzy because of their defense.

Probably the most important thing you will need to know about this franchise — you might need to take a seat for this — is that the Tennessee Titans used to be the Houston Oilers. Forgive me, because some of you knew that. But it’s funny to find people when I’m out on the road who never knew this. In fact, at the Super Bowl in Houston this year, I talked to a fan who didn’t know. I showed the fan the similarity between the old Oilers uniforms and the current Titans duds, and this dude looked like Terry Benedict when he finally realized that the video of the vault heist was actually staged in a sound studio on the other side of the I-15.

So there you go. From Elvin Bethea to Earl Campbell to Marcus Mariota, that’s some lineage with this club. Although I’m not sure how celebrated the old Oilers are in Tennessee. It reminds me of a time I talked to Jack Youngblood (you are pot-committed on my humblebrags and name-dropping now) and he said it was strange to be out on the field in St. Louis being honored with dudes he played against, like Dan Dierdorf. About the only time we really see a throwback to the past is when the Titans wear those rad Oilers jerseys from the way back.

Even as the rookie contracts become more boilerplate, there are still negotiating points. Agents working in their clients’ best interest can spend weeks hammering out details that might seem like worthless minutiae now but have a significant effect on a player’s career down the road. Offset language and bonus distribution are still important enough for some players to miss significant time during training camp, as we saw with Chargers defensive end Joey Bosa a year ago.

The Titans now can look forward to Davis, who has been compared to Dez Bryant and lauded as a potential game-changing weapon for ascending star quarterback Marcus Mariota, being a valuable contributor on the field in training camp.

New York Giants re-sign offensive tackle Will Beatty

Cruz was a wonderful player during his time with the Giants and helped the franchise win a Super Bowl. His story — coming from Paterson, New Jersey, getting lost in the shuffle at UMass, clawing his way onto the roster as an undrafted free agent — was inspiring. His outreach in the area to this day is essential for a young group of kids growing up there. In group and small setting interviews, he’s more than gracious with his time and insight — which is often quite valuable.

But if he is now surrounding himself with the kind of people who think the feelings he expressed Thursday are cogent — one that other people will take seriously — I feel quite bad for him.

Ever since the Giants made the consecutive acquisitions of Marshall in free agency and hybrid tight end Engram in the first round of the 2017 draft, pundits have salivated at the potential of the most dynamic receiving corps of Eli Manning’s career.

Shepard’s comments echo the expectations many have had about the Giants’ offense: the caliber of weapons on the outside will open up the middle of the field for Shepard, Engram and New York’s running backs. More open opportunities means less time in the pocket for Eli and fewer sacks surrendered by the offensive line, a position group that is arguably the Giants’ biggest hole on the roster.

Defensive tackle Brandon Williams (foot) didn’t make the trip to England and he’s been officially ruled out for the Ravens’ game against the Jaguars. The Ravens also listed corner Jaylen Hill (thigh) and tight end Maxx Williams (ankle) as out. Receiver Michael Campanaro (ankle), running back Terrance West (calf) and linebacker Za’Darius Smith (knee, ankle) are questionable.

Green Bay Packers coach Jordy Nelson (quad) is “progressing,” coach Mike McCarthy announced. The wideout practiced Friday and is listed as questionable. Receiver Randall Cobb (shoulder) and defensive tackle Mike Daniels (hip) are listed as doubtful.

There are still holes, though. And Beatty, who signed a one-year deal, will compete for the right tackle job. Second-year left tackle Ereck Flowers will stay in his position despite some struggles.

The team is currently rolling with a combination of Marshall Newhouse and Bobby Hart at right tackle. Newhouse has been deflecting speculation that the Giants would sign another veteran all offseason. The team was previously associated with Eugene Monroe before the former Ravens tackle decided to retire.

From his in-season tussling with a kicking net on the sideline to the overblown pre-playoff boat trip, Beckham is under the microscope more than any NFL player.

Throughout his career, Bryant has been just as misunderstood, including going through inflated sideline blowups. The Cowboys’ receiver believes any off-field outburst from Beckham stems from the desire to be a champion.

Jenkins injured his back during last week’s win over the Lions and was listed as a “game-time decision” heading into Thursday night.

In his stead, promising rookie Eli Apple will likely get more snaps, but Jenkins’ absence will be felt. “Jackrabbit” is allowing the second-best completion percentage in the NFL (46.3) and quarterbacks have a 58.1 passer rating when targeting him.

Free Agency Debrief: No team trades like the Patriots

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Clearly, the investment is safer for Belichick than going after someone like Texans cornerback A.J. Bouye, who was also in contention for the “best corner on the market” moniker.

Pairing Gilmore with budding star Malcolm Butler gives the Patriots undoubtedly the best secondary in the division and one of the best in the AFC. Gilmore also fits New England’s soft spoken, workhorse culture well.

Speculation that Butler could be shipped to the Saints all but died, though, after the draft. It’s a manageable fate for the fourth-year corner. Playing this season on a one-year, $3.91 million pact, Butler is slated to hit free agency next March. Until that happens, he remains locked into a starting role in New England across from talented free-agent pickup Stephon Gilmore.

If Butler felt destined to wind up with the Saints, New Orleans put that concept to bed when they selected rookie cornerback Marshon Lattimore out of Ohio State with the No. 11 pick in last week’s draft.

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Leader of the largest comeback in Super Bowl history, Brady was named the game’s Most Valuable Player once again, his fourth such honor. With the win, Brady is the winningest quarterback in Super Bowl history with five championships, breaking his boyhood hero Joe Montana and cheap jerseys and Terry Bradshaw’s record.

Brady bounced back from a poor first half, during which he threw his first postseason pick-six, to lead New England on four second-half scoring drives, including two TD marches in the fourth quarter.jersey

Landing in New England, Floyd — set to become a free agent this offseason — will look to rescue a troubled 2016 campaign that has seen him post personal lows in catches (33) and yards (446) with a career-high in drops.

Still, Floyd gives the Patriots an intriguing target with the requisite speed to get downfield and stretch a secondary — the skill set he used to pull off five 100-yard performances over his final eight games last season.

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Belichick, like Cleveland’s Sashi Brown on Friday, is enjoying the flexibility that massive cap space allows. No team does a better job exploring every avenue to improve the team, something that showed up in the trade for Ealy.

There’s no need to throw a parade for the deal; he’s been inconsistent at best in his career. But the Panthers were clearly done with him and the Patriots picked up a potentially solid role player for moving down less than 10 spots in the draft. (They gave up their late second round pick in exchange for the Panthers’ third-round pick.) Belichick still seems to relish taking the calculated risks of player acquistion as much as he enjoys going for it on fourth down.

The Patriots signed Rex Burkhead and Mike Gillislee this offseason to join a bloated backfield with Dion Lewis and James White. The moves seemed to signal an end for Blount in New England.

This week’s decision by coach Bill Belichick is a cold-blooded calculation that could weaken Blount’s market. He’ll either remain with New England on the cheap or the Pats will get compensation if he signs with another team before July 22.

Tony Romo helps end Dallas Cowboys’ losing streak

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“I don’t believe the Dallas Cowboys will draft Joey Bosa,” Zierlein said on The Pick Is In podcast. “I’ve heard that they’re not in love with Joey Bosa. I don’t think Joey Bosa is going to be a Cowboy.”

Zierlein said it’s his understanding that some other top prospects appeal more to Dallas for the No. 4 pick, while opinions in the Cowboys’ building are more split on Bosa. The Cowboys coaching staff was in Columbus, Ohio, on Friday to conduct private workouts with some Buckeyes, and according to the Dallas Morning News, Bosa was among them. Zierlein’s latest mock draft projects Dallas to take a different Buckeye, running back Ezekiel Elliott, at No. 4.

Tony Romo had two Cassel-like interceptions on Sunday under pressure. But the Cowboys ended their seven-game losing streak because Romo — unlike his backups — can make up for his mistakes with terrific plays under pressure. Romo changed plays at the line of scrimmage to pick up third-and-longs. He hit big plays down the field. He improvised when under duress on the way to 227 yards on 28 attempts. In short: He looked like Romo and the Cowboys’ offense looked like it did in 2014 by holding the ball for 38:50.

Don’t pin this game on Ndamukong Suh or the Dolphins’ defensive line. Suh and cheap jerseys and Olivier Vernon dominated the vaunted Cowboys front for much of the game, especially when Romo went back to pass. The Cowboys smartly focused on the run game in the fourth quarter, and the Dolphins’ defense was gassed after being on the field for more than 90 plays last week. Dallas ran 27 more plays than the Dolphins.

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The road only figures to be rockier for a while. Receiver Dez Bryant — who could be seen shouting at an enraged Greg Hardy, apparently in an effort to calm him, after the Giants’ Dwayne Harris (a former Cowboy, which Jones admitted did matter) returned a kickoff return for a touchdown to secure the victory — could return from a foot injury as soon as next week. But Romo cannot return to the field until Nov. 22 against Miami at the earliest, which means three more weeks of Cassel. And it will be Cassel, Jones assured, despite three interceptions that doomed the Cowboys, who had otherwise managed to put up 233 yards rushing and hold the Giants to just one offensive touchdown.

“If you’re asking me if I’m confident Cassel can help us win several of the next ballgames, I don’t know that,” Jones said. “I saw him do some things out there today that could have helped us win this ballgame, and then obviously those turnovers are backbreakers.”jersey

The Cowboys offense was something to see last year. They finished fifth in the league in points per game (29.2) and Tony Romo, Dez Bryant and DeMarco Murray all enjoyed career years. Romo threw 34 touchdowns and just nine interceptions while posting a career-best passer rating of 113.2 (first in the league). Bryant had a franchise record 16 touchdown receptions and Murray led the league in rushing with 1,845 yards (which also broke Emmitt Smith’s single-season franchise record).

None of this would’ve been possible, though, without the stellar play of their offensive line. With Pro Bowlers Tyron Smith, Travis Frederick and Zack Martin as offensive stalwarts, the Cowboys’ O-line conjured up memories of The Great Wall of Dallas and names like Mark Stepnoski, Erik Williams and Nate Newton.

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The Lions (9-6) entered the night embracing the possibility of ascending to the NFC’s No. 2 seed with a pair of wins and a Falcons loss to close out the season. The flip side of that scenario, however, is a chance to fall out of the playoffs entirely with a pair of losses and a Week 17 victory for the Redskins over a Giants squad already locked into the No. 5 seed. Detroit must hold off the white-hot Green Bay Packers next Sunday night to enter the postseason by virtue of the NFC North title.

The Cowboys’ victory keeps the Buccaneers’ hopes on life support; Tampa Bay is praying for an unlikely Washington tie to slide into the final wild-card spot. Already in control of home-field advantage for the conference’s road to the Super Bowl, Dallas has a chance for the best record in franchise history (14-2) with a victory at Philadelphia in the season finale.

On Monday, Dallas fell behind a Lions team looking to clinch a playoff berth — and to take some pressure off next Sunday night’s showdown with the Green Bay Packers for the NFC North title — and got after it with a vengeance, playing with a greater sense of urgency than the vanquished visitors.

And even after their 13th victory in 15 games was assured, the Cowboys maintained a foot-on-the-gas (and foot-on-the-throat) approach to the finish, keeping rookie quarterback Dak Prescott and most of their other starters on the field.

Buffalo Bills make offer to free-agent RB Reggie Bush

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The move also likely is tied to a guarantee in Taylor’s contract that would put Buffalo on the hook for nearly $30 million if he had a serious injury. However, Taylor likely will pass a physical before the Bills would have to exercise their option on him by the March 9 deadline, Rapoport reported Thursday on NFL Total Access. If he passes his physical, the Bills would not have to pay out the injury guarantee in Taylor’s contract.

Speaking on Good Morning Football, Rapoport said Taylor’s future likely isn’t over in Buffalo, even though he lost one of his biggest supporters in ex-coach Rex Ryan, who was fired Tuesday. Rapoport said the Bills simply are interested in seeing what Manuel is capable of one last time before the season ends. Lynn said Wednesday it would be interesting and “good” to see Taylor in the Bills’ offseason program.

It usually goes like this: Successful band/solo artist releases first best-of compilation that’s a huge unit-shifter. Artist releases several more albums in subsequent years, the hit output slows considerably, but a loyal fan base remains, not to mention the ironclad terms of your major label record contract. So, you release “Greatest Hits: Vol. II” or a similar title, a collection of less beloved singles to go with some live tracks and the obligatory “new song” to pad the running time.

That’s pretty much how I view Rex Ryan’s second go-around as a head coach. If Rex’s Jets tenure was a record filled with enduring classics, Ryan’s Bills run was an entertaining, but more modest affair. The hits not quite as big, the collection not as essential, but a retrospective still worth owning if you’re a fan.

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Ryan, of course, never had a quarterback like Brady and cheap jerseys and the strength of his résumé is the back-to-back runs to the AFC Championship Game with the Jets’ Mark Sanchez under center. He was able to win there with a ground-and-pound offense and a stellar defense — and for his first few years with the Jets, he was the perfect fit, as he was early on in Buffalo. His bluster instilled confidence in a perpetually beaten-down franchise, changing expectations and attitudes. And his press conference antics were often designed not only for laughs, but to deflect pressure and blame from his players.

But while his over-the-top enthusiasm initially galvanized supporters, it also helped set Ryan up for failure when his teams could not match the outsize expectations. In Buffalo, he was saddled, again, with less-than-stellar quarterback options and that certainly hurt Ryan. It also might have put him at irreparable odds with Whaley. This season, as the Bills struggled, Ryan stuck with Tyrod Taylor while Whaley and others in management wanted to try EJ Manuel, a former first-round draft pick by Whaley. As soon as Ryan was fired, word emerged that Manuel will start in the season finale.cheap jerseys china

Williams’ four-game suspension was announced on Friday. Rookie running back Jonathan Williams was arrested on suspicion of driving while intoxicated last week — while he could be subject to the personal conduct policy, those cases generally aren’t resolved until the subsequent season.

Bush, 31, would add insurance behind starter LeSean McCoy while the team waits out Williams’ suspension. Bush played in just five games in 2015 before suffering a season-ending knee injury. Bush’s injury history is a concern in itself. In 10 NFL seasons, the veteran has played a full 16-game slate twice.

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Which takes us to Orchard Park, where the start of the second half of Sunday’s Steelers-Bills game was delayed when a buildup of rubber pellets left the field unplayable. The pellets accumulated as the New Era Stadium grounds crew attempted to clear snow from the field at halftime.

The technology of modern day artificial turf has always inspired a touch of mistrust on this end. Like, for instance, why so flammable? And if you’re green, why the black rubber pellets in moments of distress?

In 2014, taxpayers and the Bills invested $130 million in new renovations at Ralph Wilson Stadium. Stadium upgrades included larger concessions stands, a sports bar, better access into the stadium and wider concourses. The team’s stadium lease with Erie County runs through 2022.

While it’s unknown if Bills fans are clamoring for a new stadium, the organization and its fan base could find some inspiration from the Cleveland Cavaliers’ NBA title victory. Pegula admitted that he stopped watching the series once the Golden State Warriors went up 3-1 in the series.

Julio Jones’ rise paying big dividends for Atlanta Falcons

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This represents a risk in the NFL; a guarantee that, for more than a decade to come, fans will respond to a product, general managers will respond to the rapid trends and variations of the league and players will respond to coaches, leading to wins. The risk heightens when that new coach is hired on a five-year deal that will bridge the gap between a legendary old stadium and the next one to come.

On Monday night, that coach, Dan Quinn, stood on the sidelines after knocking out the Eagles in a hard-fought 26-24 victory and tried not to cry. Safety William Moore approached him in a quiet moment and offered his heartfelt congratulations, something Moore had wanted to do since the moment Quinn walked in the door and lifted the Falcons out of an emotional cellar.

There is no denying the results thus far. Jones had nine receptions for 141 yards and two touchdowns in a season-opening win over Philadelphia, then followed that effort with yet more monstrous numbers against the Giants (13 catches, 135 yards) and Dallas (12 catches, 164, two scores). He’s been so outstanding that it was stunning to see Houston limit him to four receptions and only 38 yards last week (largely because the Falcons dialed back their attack once their eventual 48-21 victory got out of hand). It’s reached the point that it’s hard to remember that the man — who has been nursing a hamstring injury — is still human, after all.

It’s a simple mistake to make when you’re talking about a 6-foot-3, 220-pound specimen who runs the 40-yard dash in less than 4.4 seconds. But Quinn believes people too often think Jones is dominating solely because of his freakish skill set. Falcons offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan also does a great job of lining Jones up in places that make it hard for defenses to contain him.

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The Falcons hold training camp at their expansive year-round headquarters in Flowery Branch, Georgia, not far from Lake Lanier north of Atlanta. The grounds are so lush that Gil Brandt noted the Falcons might have the best landscaping in the NFL. The Falcons hosted their first Military Day on Sunday, with 25 children of fallen service members accompanying players on the walk from the locker room to the practice field.

Quinn — a first-time head coach — runs a very efficient, highly specific practice. Sunday’s edition was focused on first downs: the goal of the offense was to get 4 yards on first down, and the goal of the defense was to stop it.cheap jerseys

“He’s given us the confidence to believe in ourselves,” safety Ricardo Allen said. “The first day he walked in here, he talked about three things: competing, giving effort and cheap jerseys and finishing. That’s why we don’t go into games worrying about depth charts. We all have a role here and we worry about doing it.”

It’s a simple philosophy, one that all NFL head coaches espouse on a regular basis. The key here is the buy-in from the Atlanta players. They’ve believed in what Quinn has been selling since Day 1 and it’s led to an accountability that they all feel.

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Ryan, who has been regarded as a borderline top-10 quarterback since being picked third overall in the 2008 NFL Draft, could cement his status as an elite player directing the Falcons’ high-powered offense under Shanahan. The creative offensive coordinator has installed a quarterback-friendly scheme featuring a number of concepts that ideally suit Ryan’s skills as a quick-rhythm passer with superb accuracy, anticipation and timing.

From the dynamic “quick game,” which features a host of bubble screens and slants, to the exotic play-action passing game, which comprises an assortment of run-action fakes from stationary and moving pockets, the cleverly designed passing game has put Ryan in his comfort zone by allowing him to quickly sort through his reads and deliver the ball as soon as he hits the top of his drops. Most importantly, the diversity of the passing game has prevented opponents from honing in on Ryan’s whereabouts within the pocket, helping the offensive line provide better protection for the veteran.

And we saw exactly that Monday. We saw it in the creative ways Shanahan deployed Matt Ryan, utilizing play action and a fast pace to turn an offense that has been so inexplicably boring into one that actually pushes the potential of its skills players. It is a reminder of Shanahan’s schematic brilliance.

How did we not see this coming? How did we so quickly forget what Shanahan did with Matt Schaub in Houston? Why didn’t we recall the transcendent rookie season Shanahan fostered from Robert Griffin III? Give the guy Ryan and Julio Jones and Roddy White, and you’ve got 2016’s front-runner for upcoming head-coaching vacancies.

Notes: Eifert encouraged; Fisher eyes opener; Quez, Ced on rehab field

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The grant helped install artificial stadium turf, new goal posts and asphalt in necessary areas at the Deer Park Jr./Sr. High School stadium. This allows for additional use of the field for more football games, as well as other sporting events, physical education classes and band usage.

The grant was the latest in an ongoing program in which the Bengals and the NFL have coordinated to distribute $1.5 million to local schools for new football fields. Other schools include Clinton-Massie High School, Covington Catholic High School, Lockland High School, Oak Hills High School, Taylor High School, Withrow University High School and cheap jerseys and Midway Elementary School.

“The news of Darian’s passing is tragic to the entire Bengals organization, and also I know to his colleagues with Hamilton County,” said Bengals public relations director Jack Brennan.

“Darian was not only a very hard worker, someone who had earned high honors for his work, he was a great individual — enthusiastic, helpful, fun to be around. He will be missed in a very personal sense as well as a professional one. He had been with the County in the PBS groundskeeper position for more than 10 years. Our sympathy goes out to Darian’s family and to his many friends.”jersey

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Tyler Eifert (ankle) and Tyler Kroft (knee) said they would try to jog outside after running on various apparatus indoors. No timetable has been set at they try to return as close as they can to the Sept. 11 opener in New Jersey against the Jets, but Eifert says the ankle he injured in the Pro Bowl “feels pretty good,” and he says he has had no setbacks in his return from May surgery.

“I’m not ready to practice. I’m not ready for change of direction,” Eifert said before practice. “But I’m doing multiple treatments a day and doing lifting and conditioning multiple times a day. I try to do as much as I possibly can so when I’m ready to play I’m in shape.”

Before a standing room-only crowd of about 6,300 LaFell lined up with the first team and wide receivers coach James Urban said they’ll start monitoring to see if he’ll be able to handle starting duties with the injury in the Sept. 11 opener.

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“That’s why we’re doing it now to see how things go,” said Urban after practice. “Tomorrow I would expect him to be considerably better as far as alignment, assignment, and get-off and shaking off the dust of running routes again. I saw a little bit of rust he has to shake off. Hopefully he’ll be better tomorrow than he was today.”

“I feel like I’m a coach on the defense. I know all the spots, especially linebackers,” Burfict said. “If somebody messes up, either Coach G or me is the first one to correct it on the sidelines. I’m trying to be like an assistant coach … If he’s talking to the safeties, I’m talking to the linebackers. Sometimes I talk to the D-line. It’s just a chain reaction.”

That’s what happened on the sidelines in last Friday night’s pre-season opener at Paul Brown Stadium against Zimmer’s Vikings. With linebackers coach Jim Haslett and assistant David Lippincott in the coaches booth, Burfict helped out with young guys like the last two third-round picks, Nick Vigil and P.J. Dawson, while wielding an iPad.

After the Bengals finished up their last public session of training camp in a Tuesday morning walk-through on the Paul Brown Stadium field before a group of season ticket holders, head coach Marvin Lewis indicated he doesn’t expect injured starters Cedric Ogbuehi and Brandon LaFell to miss the Sept. 11 regular-season opener in New Jersey against the Jets.

LaFell, a seven-year veteran wide receiver who reportedly has ligament damage in his right hand, went through individual drills Monday after not playing Friday night in the pre-season opener against the Vikings. Lewis didn’t rule out LaFell for the next one, Thursday night (7:30-Cincinnati’s Channel 12) in Detroit.

Bengals at Steelers Postgame Quotes

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On the last one, with the Bengals trailing, 17-6, late in the third quarter, they had a first down at the Steelers 1 and couldn’t get in with the last two downs going to tight end C.J. Uzomah.

Uzomah, a second-year pro trying to replace a Pro Bowl red-zone target, has plenty of potential but he’s developing in the harsh glare of an AFC North race. On Sunday he was targeted eight times and had two drops to go along with three catches. On second down from the Steelers 3 he got his hands on it at the back end line but was muscled out of bounds on a play the Bengals didn’t challenge because there wasn’t enough evidence that he stayed in.

The problem is they couldn’t remove Roethlisberger from the situation. As he always does he made his coaches look good by bailing them out of loads of trouble. He completed just 19 of 37 passes and tried to force feed it to Brown on 11 targets. But when he had to, he threw lovely balls to guys you may have not heard of, such as tight ends Jesse James and cheap jerseys and Xavier Grimble and wide receiver Sammie Coates.jersey

It was a long ball to Coates that Kirkpatrick turned into a leaping interception with 48 seconds left in the first half for the Bengals’ best field position of the day and the offense turned it into a huge last play field-goal that cut the Steelers’ lead to 10-6.

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I thought he played well. I thought he did a lot of good things. He can’t focus on the fumble. Obviously it was a big play in the game, but he has to move past it. That’s the way it is. We have another really good team we’re going to be playing this week, so you have to move on from it and learn from it. I think he will.

There were different plays, and at different times, calls to go to different guys. That’s just how it was today. There were times when A.J. Green would catch 12 balls and there are other times when other guys will get involved. That’s just how it is.

“Definitely,” Boyd said when asked if he thought his knee was down. “The guys did a real great job having my back. Telling me to keep my head up. I felt real bad because there was (1:50 left) and we were in great position to go down and score. Once I saw it on the screen, I just felt we were going to have another chance, another snap at it. But it didn’t go our way.”

The Bengals did a superb job of holding resident Steelers superman Antonio Brown to four catches for 39 yards and no TDs, his lowest yardage total with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger since Dec. 30, 2012, long before he was “AB.”

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Hampered all day by a Steelers defense that basically took away the deep ball with a two deep safety zone and a four-man rush most of the day, Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton, en route to a career-high 54 passes, hurried up underneath the zone trailing, 24-9, with a seven-for-seven drive capped off by running back Giovani Bernard’s 25-yard catch-and-run for a TD that cut it to 24-16 with 3:23 left.

And with the Bengals driving for a chance to tie it from the Steelers 39 on the first play after the two-minute warning, Bengals rookie wide receiver Tyler Boyd suffered a nightmare for one of the greatest high school and college players ever from Pittsburgh. After having a solid six-catch game for 78 yards, Boyd fumbled the last one, a six-yarder over the middle with 1:50 left, on a play the Bengals thought Boyd’s knee was down at the Steelers 33 as James Harrison hit him before the ball came out.

The two local beat reporters, Jay Morrison of The Dayton Daily News and Richard Skinner, the digital sports columnist for Channel 12, are in on the Steelers for a variety of reasons. Morrison thinks the Bengals might have a tough time shortening the game on the ground and Skinner goes with the home team on what he sees as a 50-50 ball in the air.

Gerry Dulac of The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette goes Steelers because of the ease with which they put up 38 points Monday night in Washington without three weapons in Le’Veon Bell, Markus Wheaton, and Ladarius Green, two of which they won’t have Sunday.