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The Patriots tied the game, 28-28, late in the fourth quarter, overcoming a 25-point deficit in the second half to force the extra frame.
The Patriots won the coin toss to start off overtime and received the ball first before completing an eight-play, 75-yard drive with a 2-yard touchdown run by James White that won the title for New England.
“Last year is finished,” Blank continued. “I’d say the franchise had a wonderful year, I mean that truly. Both on and off the field. We finished our stadium, the team had a wonderful year, competed at the highest level. It didn’t end the way we wanted to, we certainly didn’t conclude the way we wanted to. But we’ve learned from it, grown from it, I think we’re better for it.”
Yet this week, no doubt the flashbacks will come. They’ll look across the field and see the same Patriots as they saw in February. Different season, yes. The Patriots don’t look quite as invincible, while the Falcons have lost two straight after a fast start.
Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith knows the rap on him. He can’t throw deep. He pilots a station-to-station offense that is more efficient than exciting. One game doesn’t erase a career’s worth of evidence, but it’s hard to say this Chiefs offense is still boring under Smith. Coach Andy Reid pilots a creative offense which borrows liberally from the spread concepts Smith used to run in college. He wound up completing 28 of 35 passes for 368 yards and four touchdowns. It was the first time a Bill Belichick-coached team has ever given up two touchdown passes over 75 yards in the same game.
Smith benefited from a coverage bust and the incredible talent of his playmakers Tyreek Hill and Kareem Hunt, but that talent isn’t going anywhere. If the Chiefs can put up 42 points during a quiet night from tight end Travis Kelce, they are going to be difficult to stop.
Cleveland has acquired Patriots star linebacker Jamie Collins for a compensatory draft pick that’s slated to eventually be a third-round selection, according to NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport. The Browns confirmed the trade, but didn’t confirm details about compensation.
Currently the trade is for a 2018 fourth-round selection. Once the league designates the loss of former Browns center Alex Mack (who went to Atlanta in free agency) as a third-round compensatory pick for 2017, New England will receive that pick instead.
But when Patriots players talk about how terrifying Steelers outside linebacker James Harrison is, that’s something which comes from the heart.
“I’ve been a huge fan of him before I got in the league, and just to see and kind of have an idea where he came from, it’s unbelievable to show how hard he’s worked to get to where he’s got,” Patriots receiver Julian Edelman said, via The Boston Herald. “He’s a large man that is fast, explosive, and if he’s coming my way, it’s going to be a ‘get down.'”
It sounds daunting, sure, but beginning the campaign on the road also has its sneaky positives. As the road team, you get a chance to ruin someone’s home opener, their welcome back in front of their faithful. You get to play spoiler, and leave with the last laugh, a sweet way to begin your own campaign.
No one did this better than the Kansas City Chiefs, who were lined up as the New England Patriots’ intended sacrifice on opening night, placed on the table with an apple in their collective mouths as handshakes, high-fives and words of praise were exchanged among reigning champions. After all, it was the night the Patriots revealed their Super Bowl LI banner. The party was all about them.
I’ve seen an improvement in this cornerback group since the team cut veteran Perrish Cox, who played in 24 games for the Titans in two seasons. Cox recorded three interceptions this year, but he had issues in coverage far too often. McCourty, Blake and McCain are the team’s primary cornerbacks, with McCourty facing the majority of the targets. He’s given up a 53 receptions on 96 targets (55 completion percentage) for 668 yards (12.6 yards per catch) and a 78.8 passer rating, while posting a 3:2 TD-to-INT ratio. The eighth-year pro is a technician and plays well on and off the line of scrimmage. He’s having one of the better seasons in his career, but one thing that can help him make the leap to the next level is better tackling.
I got a chance to play with Blake and McCain in Pittsburgh, and I’m not surprised they’ve continued to play under coach Dick LeBeau. Blake (or “Zilla,” as we called him in Pittsburgh) hasn’t made a start this season but has played in 13 games, giving up catches on 48 percent the targets thrown his way (at 11.2 yards a pop). He always seems to be around the ball and positions himself well, but he just needs to finish and make more plays. McCain runs like a deer and has great feet. He reminds me of a younger Terence Newman and is another guy who puts himself in good position to make plays. For Blake, who’s somewhat struggled and given up six touchdowns this season, the key is tackling and finishing plays when he has the opportunity.
Both the Jags and Titans boast former first-round picks with alliterative initials and high, if not overestimated, upsides in Blake Bortles and Marcus Mariota; they both boast defenses on the rise with star young players in Jalen Ramsey and Avery Williamson; and thanks to their weak division, both Jacksonville (2-4) and Tennessee (3-4) still have a chance to conquer the AFC South and live up to their pundits’ expectations.
For these rivals, the future is now, or at least it should be. An impressive showing on Thursday Night Football can introduce to the world the talent and potential of the Jags and Titans’ anonymous rosters and change the trajectory of both teams’ underwhelming 2016 campaigns. A division lead is at most two games away; why not win one this week?
Blake Bortles made his case to the next coaching staff to keep the Jaguars’ quarterback gig. The enigmatic signal-caller played his best game of the season, hitting quick strikes over the middle and finally finding the mark on several downfield tosses. Bortles finished 26-of-38 passing for 325 yards, one TD throw, and zero interceptions. It was his first time throwing for 300-plus yards in a Jags victory (had been 0-10 when throwing for more than 300 yards). Facing a bad Titans secondary that was missing top corner Jason McCourty certainly helped. Bortles’ wonky delivery still causes problems (see the first-half fumble), especially on sideline throws, but he was able to move the chains on third down and allowed his receivers to make plays. The quarterback even caught his first NFL pass, a 20-yard touchdown from Marqise Lee to ice the game.
Getting Allen Robinson involved early was key for Bortles. In his previous five games, Robinson compiled 105 total yards. Saturday, A-Rob went for 147 yards on nine receptions (12 targets). Robinson corralled receptions of 37, 28, 21, 18 and 16 yards. When Robinson is making plays for Bortles, the Jags can be a potent offense. Games like Saturday leave you shaking your head, wondering how the duo could post so many woeful afternoons this season.
I met Master Sgt. Woodward, who is in charge of one of the tanks that we toured. He was telling me about how he prepares the soldiers on his team and I realized how similar it was to football. Older, more experienced guys coaching younger ones. He was a leader and was taking the younger guys under his wing.
After he showed us the tank, he asked us if we wanted to participate in a re-enlistment ceremony. This is when a serviceman or woman decides to volunteer for more years of service. The unit lines up and each person repeats an oath. After this, they shake the Master Sgt.’s hand and then we were able to go down each line and shake their hands as well. We thanked them for their service and presented them with NFL Military Challenge coins.
“He caught a lot of balls today. This is the most reps he’s had since he’s been here, and he was very productive today, in a variety of routes. It was a good day for Corey Davis.”
Davis has the size, speed, and run-after-the-catch ability to become Marcus Mariota’s go-to weapon as a rookie. With the wideout’s injury seemingly in the past, the duo should ramp up their connection in training camp.
The 21st overall pick in this year’s draft was so far ahead of any defenders that he slowed down Usain Bolt-style near the 5-yard line and trotted into the end zone.
It was Houston’s first punt return for a touchdown since 2013 and he became the first player in franchise history to have a TD reception and a punt return for a score in the same game. Fuller’s 5-yard touchdown reception made it 14-0 in the first.
Foster is considered a first-round talent, and the Eagles’ top draft choice comes at No. 14 overall. Mock drafts from five NFL.com analysts suggested a wide range of possible landing points for Foster, as high as No. 9 overall and as low as No. 27 overall. He is the third prospect on Alabama’s stellar defense to visit the Eagles. CB Marlon Humphrey was set to visit the club earlier this week, as was LB Ryan Anderson.
The Broncos hold the No. 20 overall pick, but it’s unlikely they’ll need their first-round choice to acquire Mixon. He was barred from the NFL Scouting Combine under an NFL conduct policy, and a 2014 incident in which he punched a female OU student has made him undraftable for some clubs, according to NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport. As such, despite being considered one of the draft’s top rushing talents, his draft status remains a blurry picture.
The Eagles hold the Minnesota Vikings’ first-round selection, via the trade that brought quarterback Sam Bradford to Minnesota. The Vikings finished the season tied with the Colts for the No. 14 position in the draft order as both teams were 8-8 with identical strength-of-schedule ratings (.492), hence the need for the coin toss. As losers of the toss, the Colts will draft at No. 15.
While it might be unlikely that the two clubs target the same player, the Eagles and Colts do share a position need in the draft: running back. If both look to fill that need in the first round, the result of the toss could have all the more impact.
With nothing on the line, the Cowboys rested their star players. Ezekiel Elliott dressed but never left the bench (dashing Jerry Jones’ claim Zeke could go after the rookie rushing record). Linebacker Sean Lee also dressed but was tied to the bench. Dez Bryant and Jason Witten both started but didn’t make it to halftime before being yanked (Witten finishes the regular season 17-yards shy of the Cowboys’ all-time receiving record). Dallas’ offensive line started reserve left tackle Emmett Cleary and backup left guard Joe Looney. With a bye before hosting a playoff game, Dallas hopes to get healthy ahead of their Super Bowl run.
Rod Marinelli deserves the Assistant Coach of the Year Award. Even with a bevy of players injured or held out, his defensive line had its way with the Eagles’ offensive line.
The Philadelphia Eagles might have found an eventual replacement for diminutive RB Darren Sproles with another back in the same style: Donnel Pumphrey.
The Eagles took the former San Diego State star with the No. 132 overall pick of the fourth round Saturday in the 2017 NFL Draft. He was one of college football’s most prolific rushers over the last three years, and he did it on a 5-foot-8, 176-pound frame. Last year, he capped his career with 2,133 yards on 349 carries at SDSU, and broke the NCAA’s FBS record for career rushing yards with 6,405. He’s also the first FBS player to compile 5,000 rushing yards and 1,000 receiving yards in a career, so while size is a concern, his production isn’t.
The defensive end was drafted with the 14th-overall selection out of Tennessee. NFL.com’s Gregg Rosenthal projects that Barnett will start on Philadelphia’s re-worked defensive line in Week 1.
With Fletcher Cox back at OTAs after a brief absence and Barnett locked and loaded for the next four years, the Eagles’ front seven can finally visualize its potential for the upcoming season. If the early reviews are any indication, Barnett should thrive under defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz’s guidance in 2017.
The Eagles crowd at the draft knew that Jones was an intriguing value pick. Expected to be a surefire first-rounder because of his competitiveness and ball skills, Jones tore his Achilles tendon at his pro day. The Eagles front office chose to take the long view, knowing that Jones will help them eventually even if he’s not a huge factor this season.
NFL Network insider Ian Rapoport reports that Jones will start the season on the Non-Football Injury List and could be back on the field by October, if needed. Jones has been compared to his friend Marcus Peters in playing style. Former Eagles cornerback Asante Samuel also comes to mind as a ballhawking, undersized cornerback.
Barnett is one of the more natural pass rushers we have in this draft class. He’s not explosive in testing, but you see him win with speed and he can really bend around the edge.
Kamara can be an electric playmaker out of the backfield for Andrew Luck. He has the speed to take it the distance in the running game and is also a crafty route runner with strong hands.
With Moncrief out of the lineup, the Colts signed former Cowboys draft pick Devin Street off the Patriots’ practice squad. Street will likely vie with Quan Bray and undrafted rookie Chester Rogers for snaps behind Hilton and Dorsett.
Luck was the best quarterback we saw in Week 1. He regressed in Denver last week, though, with Moncrief sidelined, Hilton and Dorsett unable to shake free of physical coverage and the offensive line overwhelmed by a superior Broncos front seven.
Luck really does seem to be in good spirits. Despite not being able to participate in any offseason training activities or mandatory minicamp practices, both the quarterback and the organization have maintained a pretty incredible atmosphere of calm throughout the process. Luck’s shoulder is by far the most underrated storyline of the season given that we still aren’t 100 percent sure when he’ll return to the playing field. Owner Jim Irsay said the season opener is in play, though that would mean seeing progress quite soon.
Much like Drew Brees in New Orleans, the Colts derive almost their entire identity from the quarterback position. New general manager Chris Ballard is trying to change that by bolstering Indianapolis’ defense, but in the meantime, Indianapolis could use some good news soon regarding Luck’s shoulder.
And on paper, he’s right — this is probably the best defensive line and defense as a whole that Pagano has had since at least 2013. Hankins adds a different element in the middle than Pagano might have ever had. General manager Chris Ballard also attacked the second and third tiers of free agency to complement those players with capable pass rushers.
It adds an interesting dynamic for the head coach this year. For the first time in almost five years, something is expected of a defense that is getting a heavy facelift. For years, Pagano could eschew blame by subtly pointing at what many believed was an underperforming offensive line assembled by former general manager Ryan Grigson. Malik Hooker is the only defensive first-round pick on the roster, though Ballard spent picks in the first, second (Quincy Wilson), third (Basham), fourth (Grover Stewart) and fifth (Anthony Walker) rounds on defense this year.
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At just over 5-foot-11 and 213 pounds, Mack offers the size, speed and explosiveness to push for playing time immediately.
NFL Network analyst Bucky Brooks recently suggested Mack is the best candidate in this year’s class to follow in Bears power back Jordan Howard’s footsteps as the late-round pick who will outperform his draft slot as an instant-impact rookie.
At 6-foot-2, Aiken is a solid route runner with good hands and decent enough speed to gain separation. He also comes with the versatility to play in multiple spots in the formation. In his breakout 2015 campaign, Aiken lined up 78 percent of his snaps out wide and 18 percent in the slot, per Next Gen Stats. Last season, with the Ravens adding outside receivers, Aiken shuffled inside, spending 70 percent of his snaps in the slot and 26 percent wide.
Aiken joins a Colts receiver corps led by star T.Y. Hilton, Donte Moncrief and former first-round pick Phillip Dorsett. Despite the trio in place, Aiken adds size to a mostly small unit. He should battle a disappointing Dorsett for playing time and adds needed depth to a unit shown to be wicked shallow after injuries struck last season.
Terrelle Pryor was a big question mark in this free agency pool, as we wondered if teams would be willing to sign the converted quarterback to a longterm deal after a single (albeit breakout) season as a wide receiver. Instead, it appears Pryro is betting on himself by signing a one-year deal with the Washington Redskins, reportedly turning down a longer-term contract with the Browns. With DeSean Jackson and cheap jerseys and Pierre Garcon already out of the picture in Washington, Pryor will have big shoes to fill as one of the top pass-catchers in a pass-happy offense.
Walking out the doors of FedExField with Jackson and Garcon are also 214 targets, roughly 35 percent of Kirk Cousins’ attempted passes in 2016. Pryor saw 140 looks last season, bringing in 77 for 1,007 yards and four scores, so volume shouldn’t be an issue in his new home. As a size-speed freak, Pryor should help replace the downfield element lost with Jackson, while simultaneously improving the team’s struggles in the red zone. With Jamison Crowder primarily playing in the slot and last year’s first-round pick Josh Doctson still a health question mark, Pryor should start Week 1 as the No. 1 option for a passing attack that put up 9,189 yards and 55 touchdowns over the last two years.
Still just 27 years old, Brown is a solid run defender and good covering in space. He should be an upgrade over incumbent inside linebacker Will Compton next to Mason Foster on the interior of the Redskins D.
Brown is a needed addition to a Washington defense that struggled against the run for long stretches last season, allowing 119.8 yards per game on the ground.
Cousins’ camp understandably insists on negotiating from the starting point of his $23.94 million salary for 2017. To this point, though, the team’s best offer was $20 million annually with “low guarantees,” ESPN.com’s John Keim reported.
If the sides can’t find common ground in the next month, would the Redskins simply draft his replacement and allow him to walk as an unrestricted free agent in 2018? Cousins isn’t banking on gaining his freedom next offseason.
Pryor’s stats down the stretch of last season waned as he dealt with a hand injury, but it’s fair to wonder if some teams viewed the struggles as defenses catching up with the new receiver.
Rapoport reported on NFL Network’s Free Agency Frenzy on Friday that $8 million per year is around the amount the Browns discussed with Pryor on a multi-year deal, but when talks broke down they moved on to Kenny Britt — who they paid around $8 million per year on a four-year pact.
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Jones skipping OTAs feels like the first step in the third-round pick’s eventual release. Whether the Redskins grant him that discharge now or make him wait remains to be seen.
Given his youth and natural talent, Jones should latch onto another squad once he’s cut loose. If he can’t fix the fumbling problem, however, his second chance won’t last long.
An improving talent, Moses started each game the past two seasons, solidifying Washington’s offensive line opposite All-Pro left tackle Trent Williams. Moses ranked as Pro Football Focus’ No. 17 offensive tackle last season.
With both Moses and Williams locked into contracts through at least 2020, Washington has taken care of its tackle positions for the next several seasons.