PITTSBURGH — After the Seattle Seahawks scuffled their way to a 21-20 season-opening win over the Cincinnati Bengals, wide receiver Tyler Lockett channeled coach Pete Carroll and wondered aloud how good they might be when they’re at their best.
They’ll have to wait at least another week to find out.
It helped that the Steelers had their own set of issues, including an injury that sidelined Ben Roethlisberger for the second half.
Pivotal play: Chris Carson converted a fourth-and-1 run that allowed the Seahawks to kneel out their win. It was a gutsy call by Carroll from Pittsburgh’s 33-yard line, and it showed a lot of faith in Carson (15 carries, 61 yards) after two fumbles earlier in the game. The second came on a botched handoff that set up a Steelers touchdown. Another pivotal play was strong safety Lano Hill picking off a two-point conversion in the fourth quarter that preserved the Seahawks’ 21-19 lead. Hill, starting in place of Tedric Thompson, made amends for getting beat on a 45-yard flea-flicker. He might remain in the starting lineup even when Thompson returns from his hamstring injury.
Promising trend: Tight end Will Dissly caught touchdown passes of 14 and 12 yards, giving him four scores in six career games. The Seahawks have raved about how much Dissly crushed his rehab from the torn patellar tendon that ended his rookie season in Week 4 of last year, and it’s evident why. Dissly (along with cornerback Tre Flowers) was one of two players the Seahawks felt they had to have in the 2018 draft. They considered his blocking to be a perfect fit in their run-heavy offense. But he’s proving to be a complete tight end similar to Zach Miller, who played on the 2013 Super Bowl team.
Continuing to buy Tyler Lockett: We’re well past the point of Lockett breaking out — after all, he caught 10 touchdowns last season while nearly reaching 1,000 yards receiving — but his 10 receptions (for 79 yards) Sunday set a new career high. While you’re not going to see that type of volume every week in an offense that runs the ball as much as Seattle’s, he’s still the team’s No. 1 receiver now that Doug Baldwin is gone. Lockett’s two targets in the opener were more of a fluke than an indication of what his season will look like.
Troubling trend: The Seahawks trailed 10-7 at halftime despite nearly doubling the Steelers’ offensive output, 202-103 yards. Penalties were a big difference, as they often have been. Seattle committed seven accepted penalties in the first half and finished with 10 for 93 yards. Right tackle Germain Ifedi, who led the league in penalties in 2017, had three on Sunday, including one that was declined. Rookie receiver DK Metcalf, who committed two penalties that were declined last week, was flagged twice on the same play for offensive pass interference and a face mask at the end of the first half. That pushed Jason Myers‘ field goal attempt back to 58 yards, and he missed it.
QB breakdown: Wilson took four sacks in the first half. That was probably the reason Seattle went with more of a quick passing game in the second half. Wilson (29-of-35 for 300 yards) tossed his third touchdown pass to Metcalf on a perfectly placed deep ball from 28 yards out. Wilson’s legs (22 yards on six rushes) helped put the Steelers away at the end.
Cameron Jordan’s two sacks set pace as Saints D dominates again – New Orleans Saints Blog
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Drew Brees’ absence has led to some inspired football by the New Orleans Saints’ defense.
It was the second time in three weeks that the Saints’ defense carried the team to a slugfest win with a dominant performance. And it was absolutely necessary on a hot afternoon in Jacksonville, where the Saints’ offense was ice-cold for much of the game.
The Saints (5-1) are now improbably 4-0 since Brees suffered a thumb injury — even though quarterback Teddy Bridgewater didn’t have his best day Sunday. They’ll probably need more of the same from their defense next week against another top defense at Chicago.
“I told our defense if we would’ve played eight quarters today I don’t think they would have scored a touchdown, honestly,” Saints coach Sean Payton said.
Defensive end Cameron Jordan had two sacks, taking advantage of his matchup with rookie right tackle Jawaan Taylor. In the process, he tied Dome Patrol legend Pat Swilling for third place on the Saints’ all-time list with 76.5 career sacks. Jordan has five of them in the first six games this year.
And Fournette finished with 72 yards on 20 carries, meaning the Saints have now gone 32 straight games without allowing a 100-yard rusher, including the playoffs — the longest active streak in the NFL.
Pivotal play: Bridgewater’s 4-yard touchdown pass to tight end Jared Cook in the back of the end zone early in the fourth quarter was obviously huge because it was the only TD of the game. But it was also Cook’s biggest moment to date with the Saints. It was a gotta-have-it score on third-and-goal, and Cook went up high to snag it behind safety Jarrod Wilson. Cook caught three balls for 37 yards Sunday – all to convert third downs.
QB breakdown: Bridgewater wasn’t great outside of that throw in a disappointing dropoff from his breakout four-touchdown performance in Week 5. He completed 24 of 36 passes for 240 yards, one touchdown and zero turnovers. But he was more off-target than usual, missing receivers Michael Thomas and Ted Ginn Jr. a handful of times. The inaccuracy was uncharacteristic for Bridgewater, who had completed 75 percent of his throws in the previous three weeks.
Still, there won’t be any QB controversy heading into next week at Chicago, even though dual-threat backup Taysom Hill did provide one of the game’s biggest moments with a 19-yard run on third down late in the game. Bridgewater is still doing enough to win, and he is a remarkable 4-0 in Brees’ absence.
Promising trend: Saints punter Thomas Morstead, who was already named the NFC’s Special Teams Player of the Month for September, continued to pin the Jaguars back in a battle of field position. Five of his six punts were downed inside the 15-yard line.
Kicker Wil Lutz also continued to deliver. He tied Rian Lindell’s NFL record by making 34 consecutive field goals on the road, per the Elias Sports Bureau.
After rough time, all smiles for Kirk Cousins, Stefon Diggs
MINNEAPOLIS — Two weeks after frustrations between Stefon Diggs and the Vikings‘ offense headlined the NFL news cycle, the receiver was in perfect harmony with quarterback Kirk Cousins in Minnesota’s 38-20 win over the Philadelphia Eagles.
Cousins and Diggs connected on three touchdowns, which set a new career-high for the 25-year-old wideout, and they did so by igniting the deep-ball. Cousins routinely picked apart the Eagles’ porous pass defense, connecting with Diggs on back-to-back drives in the second quarter which resulted in 62-yard and 51-yard touchdown plays, respectively. On both plays, Diggs burned Eagles cornerback Rasul Douglas, whom he was matched up with on the outside.
Cousins was 2-of-4 passing with two passing touchdowns on throws that traveled 30-plus air yards down the field on Sunday. He was 1-of-5 with a touchdown on such throws in the Vikings’ first five games of the season. Diggs became the first Vikings player to haul in two TD passes of 50-plus yards in a single game since Randy Moss achieved that feat against Detroit in Week 5 of the 2000 season.
After a quiet start to the season fueled speculation over Diggs’ contentment with his role and rumors — which he did not fully dispel — over wanting out of Minnesota, the receiver credits staying patient and prepared for being able to capitalize when more targets came his way.
“I just look at it as [you] control what you can control, move forward that way,” Diggs said.
“The more comfortable you are out there getting into a rhythm, especially at the quarterback position, completing those passes and getting into a rhythm is huge. As a receiver, you want the same thing as far as catching a couple passes, getting a couple ones out of the way and then you can start feeling more comfortable and feeling the game. I feel like the more opportunities you make, you start feeling the game more.”
Diggs’ seven catches for 167 yards and three TDs sparked Minnesota’s passing attack in ways that hadn’t been seen in the Vikings’ five previous games. Vikings coach Mike Zimmer credits “pretty darned good” protection from the offensive line (Cousins was sacked just once Sunday) and an aggressive mindset as the catalyst on offense.
“[Diggs] got the ball a few more times,” Vikings coach Mike Zimmer said. “They left him singled a few times — the safety came out of the middle a few times and gave us some opportunities. Kirk made a great throw on it, too.”
Cousins completed 22 of 29 passes for 333 yards, four touchdowns, one interception and a 138.4 passer rating. Late last week, the quarterback was called out for his struggles by former teammate and current Eagles linebacker Zach Brown.
“Cousins, I think every defense is going to want that guy to throw the ball,” said Brown, who was teammates with the QB in Washington in 2017. “For me, that’s probably the weakest part of their offense, is him. Everything else is good. They’ve got a good running game, probably one of the best in the league. They have real good receivers.”
The Eagles, down to their second and third-string corners, don’t leave U.S. Bank Stadium echoing the same sentiments about Cousins, who helped the Vikings earn their second-straight win against a team considered among the favorites in the NFC.
After the game, Brown was asked to comment on Cousins.
“I’m here to talk about the game. Not about that,” he said.
Pressed further, he said: “Any other questions besides about Kirk Cousins?” before finally relenting and saying: “He did a good job. He played good. Hat’s off to him.”
While Zimmer suggested that Brown’s comments may have “ticked off” Cousins, the quarterback said he wasn’t aware of the criticisms until he was asked for his reaction in an on-field postgame interview.
“I didn’t even know what he said,” Cousins said. “I really do stay ignorant, not read anything, and that’s for my best interest. But Zach was a teammate in Washington. He’s one of the better linebackers I’ve played with or against. Have a lot of respect for him, and if you’re trying to write a story about how it was a motivator this week, it wasn’t, because I didn’t know about it. Again, I say ignorance is bliss. I just put my head down and work and prepare the same every week and not try to ride the roller coaster.”
Sunday marked the third time in Cousins career where he threw three touchdown passes in the first half of a game. The quarterback opened the first quarter by connecting with Adam Thielen for a 6-yard touchdown to cap off Minnesota’s first drive. In the first five weeks of the season, Cousins threw three touchdowns total in the first half of games.
“He’s been the same quarterback,” Diggs said. “I guess Kirk answered all your questions. He went out there, he played his balls off and did everything he did. Putting that behind you, because every game is a statement game if that’s the case. You’re going to have to check the boxes every week, and that’s what we’re trying to do.”
Terry McLaurin’s huge day fuels Redskins’ first win under Bill Callahan – Washington Redskins Blog
MIAMI — When the Washington Redskins needed a big play in seeking their first win, they kept looking for one target: Terry McLaurin. And from their own 1-yard line late in the game, they found the guy they trust the most.
McLaurin’s 32-yard catch gave Washington breathing room when it needed a lot en route to a 17-16 victory against winless Miami — and its first game under interim coach Bill Callahan. It was McLaurin who kept coming up big. He ran a perfect route to score on a 25-yard catch in the second quarter; he added a 33-yard touchdown pass. McLaurin finished with four catches for 100 yards, his second triple-digit-yardage game. With his excellent route-running and speed he could have had one or two more already. Regardless, he leads rookie receivers with five touchdown catches and has 408 yards receiving in five games. McLaurin did have one drop, but he’s the top bright spot in a dismal Washington season. By far.
Not sold on running game yet: The Redskins were absolutely committed to the run Sunday, and they needed to be; they should also continue this trend. Adrian Peterson rushed 23 times for 118 yards and the team finished with 145 yards on the ground. However, it’s one thing to do it against the Miami Dolphins and another to do it against the next couple of teams on their schedule: San Francisco and Minnesota. The Dolphins could not put any pressure on Washington offensively, allowing the Redskins to stay committed. It’ll take another week against a good team before convincing anyone it’s a good idea to buy on this run game.
Promising trend: There were two, starting with the fact that Washington committed no offensive penalties for the first time this season. The Redskins entered the game having had the third-most accepted penalties in the league, and they did finish with five Sunday. But a bad offense wasn’t set back because of self-inflicted wounds. It’s a start. Also, the Redskins’ defensive front won more of its one-on-one battles up front, leading to five sacks. Four players recorded sacks, with two by Jonathan Allen. The Redskins even blitzed safety Landon Collins for one sack. They lined up Montez Sweat and Ryan Kerrigan next to each other on another pressure and sent inside linebacker Cole Holcomb off the edge once.
QB breakdown: Case Keenum completed the three passes he truly needed to, all to McLaurin. But he wasn’t always sharp in his first game back as the starter after missing one week with a sprained right foot. Keenum was off-target on a handful of other throws, notably to Chris Thompson that should have resulted in another touchdown. There were others as well; some were incompletions and others resulted in fewer yards after the catch. But a big key for Keenum was not turning the ball over. He threw only 25 passes, and if the Redskins want to have improved play in the final 11 weeks, the passing game will have to be sharper.
Pivotal play: The game shockingly came down to a two-point conversion after the Redskins blew a 14-point lead. Any thought that this game could serve as a turnaround should be out the window. They had a chance to cruise against a winless team and failed to do so. Miami drew within one point with six seconds left on a touchdown pass from Ryan Fitzpatrick to DeVante Parker. But Miami’s Fitzmagic ran out after his pass to Kenyan Drake on the conversion attempt — behind the line of scrimmage — was dropped, allowing the Redskins to escape with a win. Even if Drake had caught it, it did not appear he would have scored anyway.
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