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HipKat

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  1. ...that you actually like about America (And you have to actually WATCH it)
  2. HipKat

    MAGA

    MaGa Am Is SmArT... .derr
  3. Hell, I banged her twice before I posted the pic! Shame she'll never know it
  4. I dunno dude, I get a lot of people in the 'hood that see my Bills flag and start going on and on about them
  5. A pair of 2-0 teams. The betting favorite to win the Super Bowl. Stars all across the field, including MVP candidate Josh Allen. On first glance, you might have expected Jim Nantz, Tony Romo, and Tracy Wolfson to be at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami Gardens, Fla., to call Sunday’s Bills-Dolphins game. It’s a reasonable supposition. But here is what you likely don’t know: CBS Sports executives informed their NFL broadcasting teams in August where they would be for the first three weeks of the NFL regular season. “I think people think that we are throwing darts up at a board and putting broadcast teams wherever, but there’s a lot that goes into it,” said Kevin Harlan, who called the Bills-Dolphins game alongside Trent Green and Melanie Collins. “(CBS Sports executives) have multi-person meetings where they’re looking at (coverage) maps, trying to figure out where our games will go and what teams will draw the best audience. Clearly, when you have Nantz and Romo as our signature team, they want to put them with the best teams, as they should. The rest of the crews all kind of fall in line after that. CBS decided not to make a change. We’re thankful for that. But we would approach this game if was 0-2 versus 0-2 the same exact way.” I spoke to Harlan and game producer Ken Mack earlier this week, prior to Miami’s wild 21-19 win, about landing what I think most would agree was the signature CBS game this week. I was curious how a crew normally calling the No. 3 or No. 4 game in a given week felt about getting (at least in my view) the marquee game. (As it turned out, Nantz and Romo called a memorable Sunday game too — the Colts’ 20-17 win over the Chiefs.) “It’s just by luck and just by the draw that we got this game,” Harlan said. “I don’t know anyone could have forecast that it would be this kind of setup. It was determined before the season even began. We kind of got lucky, and that’s basically it. But sometimes it can be the reverse. We’d go into a preseason, they’d award our first four games, and we’d be like, ‘This game is going to be outstanding.’ Then you watch the first two or three games and it’s 0-3 against 0-3. The reverse has happened not just to us, but to every crew. When you have predetermined assignments, you kind of have your fingers crossed. I’d be lying to you if I didn’t think when I got on the plane after calling a game on Sunday and start thinking about your game the next weekend, you are always glad to see those teams win.” The group got an eventful game, including the awful images of Miami quarterback Tua Tagovailoa being hit in the second quarter and then stumbling upon getting up. Players dealt with cramping and heat issues all game. The cruelty was hard to watch at times. I thought Harlan and Green could have gone much deeper on whether Tagovailoa should be back in for the second half. The broadcasters were at their best on the botched snap by Buffalo at the end of the first half. Harlan initially thought the Bills had called a trick play — a la Dan Marino in 1994 on the famous fake spike play — but then he and Green acknowledged they did not see the fumble initially and dissected what had happened after replay showed the botched center snap. (I always like when a broadcast team acknowledges they missed something the first time.) The late moments of the game were memorable from Mack and the broadcast truck, including a safety on a team blocking its own punt and Buffalo offensive coordinator Ken Dorsey slamming down his notes and headset upon time running out on the Bills. Last week, the Harlan-Mack group called Miami’s wild 42-38 win over Baltimore, which included 28 points from the Dolphins in the fourth quarter. They opened the season with the Chargers’ 24-19 win over the Raiders. Thanks to the invaluable 506 Sports website, which posts NFL coverage maps weekly, you can see how the Nantz-Romo game (Chiefs at Colts) had the biggest coverage area for CBS versus Bills-Dolphins. “I think there was a lot of talk that Nantz and Tony would go to the Chargers-Raiders game that we did Week 1,” Harlan said. “In a lot of people’s minds, that might have been the best game in that window. But (Patrick) Mahomes is such a captivating player that, at least early in the season, people cannot get enough of him.” Mack has produced Harlan’s NFL games for the past three years and has worked with Harlan on the NCAA men’s basketball tournament for years. He previously produced NFL games with Greg Gumbel and Green, and prior to that, produced the team of Harlan and Rich Gannon. So there is a lot of familiarity with the crew. Mack said having the Dolphins the week before helps with the pacing of a broadcast from the broadcast truck end. But teams can also change week to week. So Mack, director Jim Cornell, and associate director Chris Burns had to be ready for whatever comes. “The job calls for being as professional and as prepared as possible,” Harlan said. “We work as a team. Our crew’s motto is, ‘Don’t let go of the rope.’ Everybody pulling on that rope is as important as the person in front and the person in back. If someone in our group of 40-plus people that we travel with lessens up on their grip, it affects everybody. Not to sound cliché or corny, but that really is true. If an audio guy messes up, it affects the broadcast. If our graphics person messes up, that affects the broadcast. We’re one of 16 crews doing NFL games, and that is enough of a badge of honor and responsibility that we all feel like we want to be at our best regardless of what the record says going into the game.” The broadcast team will be in Las Vegas next week for Broncos at Raiders. The strength of the AFC, particularly the AFC West, means most teams at CBS have a chance for a good broadcasting schedule this year. But. Harlan says, given the accessibility of the NFL, he thinks every crew is a national crew. “Every game is seen basically any place at any time that people want to see them,” Harlan said. “So some weeks, if a game is going to just five percent of the country, there’s still a ton of people across the country that are watching that game or getting updates on RedZone. I think all the crews feel the same. The percentage your game is going to is kind of irrelevant now.” • After this column was published, we received the viewership numbers for Amazon Prime Video’s second regular-season NFL game — Cleveland’s 29-17 win over Pittsburgh. According to Amazon Prime PR and Nielsen, the game averaged 11.03 million viewers including local markets. Amazon’s first-party measurement had the numbers at 13.6 million viewers when you include alternate telecasts, Twitch and other means. Last week’s Nielsen said Amazon averaged 13.0 million viewers for the Chiefs-Chargers game. My read: It’s another good number for Amazon. A decline was expected, but they held last week’s number pretty well. • Excellent deep dive by Tripp Mickle on Apple’s relationship with the NFL. Apple will sponsor the Super Bowl halftime show and continues to have negotiations with the NFL on Sunday Ticket. On this note: The league announced on Sunday that Rihanna will headline the Super Bowl LVII halftime show. • My colleague, Kalyn Kahler, wrote a piece last week following the Browns-Steelers game that examined something that regularly happens on NFL game broadcasts — the lack of specificity and depth when it comes to issues that look unfavorably on the league. There are fans who suggest that the game is not the place for such discussion. I’m not here to change your mind. But none of this should be surprising because at its core, the networks are partners with the NFL. They are in business together, especially on game coverage. Where Kahler focused on Deshaun Watson, I would highlight this question: How far can a media rightsholder partner go criticizing NFL owners on a game broadcast? That’s a question I posed recently to Sean McManus, the chairman of CBS Sports who has an extensive news background (he once ran CBS News) and comes from a family (his father was famed sports broadcaster Jim McKay) with journalistic bona fides. It’s from this column. Here is how McManus answered: “I don’t think we’ve ever pulled punches when there’s a storyline that we need to follow no matter how controversial it is,” McManus said. “I think the league expects us, and our audience expects us, to be objective. Obviously, you take these on a case-by-case basis, but I think if there were a story that reflected bad on an owner, or if one of our commentators had an opinion on that, he or she would be free to express it. Having said that, we don’t go out of our way to unearth dirt on NFL owners or players. But if that becomes part of the storyline, it becomes part of our coverage. We try to have our announcers, generally speaking, pay attention to what’s happening on the field, although if something happens off the field that we think affects the game or affects the team, I don’t think we’re shy about covering that.” As I wrote then: It’s a well-thought answer, and I appreciate McManus taking the question. But you be the judge: When is the last time you watched an NFL game where game announcers were critical of ownership? Not some cursory remark about “a troubled offseason” or “distractions” but an in-depth conversation on an issue of relevance involving an owner. Would a piece such as this one published last week by The Washington Post writers Mark Maske, Nicki Jhabvala and Liz Clarke ever be discussed during a Commanders game with depth? I’ve racked my brain and nothing has come up. If you can think of some, let me know in the comments. • Fox Sports executives said upon hiring Tom Rinaldi that they would provide the resources for Rinaldi to do the longform work that he became known for at ESPN. They lived up to that on Saturday with this piece on Meechie Walker, who is battling osteosarcoma, a rare bone cancer. Walker had offers to play college football from 10 Division-1 schools prior to the diagnosis. The piece, which aired during “Big Noon Kickoff,” was produced by Rick Thomas, edited by Joe Nargi, with production assistant Eron Iki doing a ton of work on it as well. • Nielsen said Amazon averaged 13.0 million viewers for its first regular-season “Thursday Night Football” game. Per Sports Media Watch, that includes 602,000 viewers on Los Angeles Fox affiliate KTTV and 555,000 viewers on Kansas City NBC affiliate KSHB-TV. My colleague, Bill Shea, and I discussed what the numbers mean in the present and down the road. I also did a podcast with Boston Globe media writer Chad Finn on Amazon’s initial numbers and what to expect later in the season. That podcast includes an interview with Fred Segal, the author of “Freezing Cold Takes: NFL. Football’s Most Inaccurate Predictions And The Fascinating Stories Behind Them.” • You might have seen posts on Twitter on Saturday claiming that Fox Sports was banning signs about analyst Urban Meyer for its “Big Noon Kickoff” show from Ann Arbor. Asked what the company’s policy was regarding signs brought to “Big Noon Kickoff” events, a Fox Sports spokesperson said, “Our policy is the same as it’s always been — no inappropriate signs. Pretty simple.” Asked specifically if there was a “no signs about Urban Meyer” policy at Michigan, the spokesperson said, “There isn’t a separate policy. It’s just no inappropriate signs across the board.” Something to watch as the season progresses.
  6. The Philadelphia Eagles might not have led the NFL outright in offseason hype, but they were way up there with the Denver Broncos, Los Angeles Chargers and Miami Dolphins. None had won a playoff game in years, but all talked and acted like they were about to break through. There were reasons for skepticism. Three weeks into the season, the Eagles and Dolphins are both 3-0. The Pick Six column led last week with a look at Tua Tagovailoa and the upstart Dolphins. This week, we take a closer look at the Eagles, who have positioned themselves to make a run for the top seed in the NFC with an emerging young quarterback, ample weaponry and a coaching staff that already proved last season it could maximize talent. Their defense sacked Carson Wentz nine times Sunday while holding Washington to its third-worst statistical performance on offense in 37 total games with Ron Rivera as coach. How good are these Eagles, and how far can they go? They’re the only team favored in each of its remaining games, which doesn’t guarantee anything, but is still something. The full Pick Six menu this week: • Eagles favored to win the NFC • Bills still NFL’s best team, but … • Broncos’ odd game-management plan • Jaguars 38, Chargers 10 (true story) • Math on a napkin with Reid, Belichick • Two-minute drill: Final thoughts 1. It’s way too early to say the NFC likely will run through Philly, or is it? The Eagles are 3-0 after pounding Washington 24-8, and they are favored in all their remaining games, which no other team can say. While visiting NFC East teams during camp, I shared with some coaches and execs data showing their teams facing the easiest schedules of opposing quarterbacks, based on 2022 Quarterback Tiers results. Those schedules became even easier on paper for Philadelphia, Washington and the New York Giants once Dallas lost Dak Prescott to injury. Now, there’s a twist: Jalen Hurts’ continued development as the Eagles’ quarterback is giving Philly a better shot at maximizing that easy schedule. Hurts is averaging 9.4 yards per attempt and 0.29 expected points added (EPA) per pass play. Those are the best totals for any Eagles quarterback through the first three games of a season since at least 2000, according to TruMedia. The Eagles’ schedule — Detroit, Minnesota and Washington so far — is part of it. But teams other than Philly are averaging only 6.4 yards per attempt and 0.05 EPA per pass play against the Lions, Vikings and Commanders through Sunday. Advantage, Hurts and the Eagles. The Athletic’s Austin Mock, whose model has returned 5% gains against the spread over the past five years, provided point spreads for the Eagles’ remaining games. Those figures, listed in the table below, will shift slightly once data from Week 3 is considered, with Philadelphia likely to gain ground. WEEK EAGLES OPP POINT SPREAD 4 Jacksonville Jaguars -7.3 (H) 5 Arizona Cardinals -1.7 (A) 6 Dallas Cowboys -6.0 (H) 8 Pittsburgh Steelers -8.3 (H) 9 Houston Texans -7.9 (A) 10 Washington Commanders -6.9 (H) 11 Indianapolis Colts -0.8 (A) 12 Green Bay Packers -1.8 (H) 13 Tennessee Titans -5.3 (H) 14 New York Giants -5.3 (A) 15 Chicago Bears -6.3 (H) 16 Dallas Cowboys -1.0 (A) 17 New Orleans Saints -4.8 (H) 18 New York Giants -8.0 (H) The Eagles aren’t the best team in the league, but they are the only team favored in all of its remaining games, according to Mock, who has Bills-Chiefs in Week 6 as a pick-em game. The point spreads reflect a combination of Prescott and Cowboys backup Cooper Rush for the Week 6 game between the teams, and Prescott as the starter for the Week 16 rematch. Teams must get the head coach and quarterback right to win for the long term. The Eagles are notable on this front. Coach Nick Sirianni was a target for mockery early in his tenure, notably when he told reporters he showed players a picture of a flower sprouting through the ground to make a point about having strong roots. It didn’t stir visions of Lombardi, but Sirianni is 12-8 so far, putting Philly in the top quartile of teams for win rate since 2021. The Eagles feasted on an awful Washington defense Sunday, as a good team should, and their defense notched its fifth-best EPA game over the past five seasons. “They attacked their needs all offseason just like in their Super Bowl year,” an NFL talent evaluator said. “Even though they do have age in spots, they have generally kept their guys healthy, except for (Derek) Barnett. It’s interesting watching some of these teams like Buffalo and the Chargers with their injuries. I think an under-the-radar element for a head coach is keeping your team healthy.” There’s luck involved with injuries as well. Hurts wasn’t mocked the way Sirianni was last season, but he was doubted in the draft as a second-round choice and even after reaching the playoffs last season, because evaluators still weren’t sure how much he would progress as a passer. “When is the last time a team with a middle-tier quarterback was a legitimate Super Bowl contender?” an evaluator said when asked before the season about the Eagles, for a piece on what every NFL team should worry about in 2022. Teams can contend with mid-tier quarterbacks if they are good enough elsewhere. The 49ers proved that with Jimmy Garoppolo. Hurts adds a running threat Garoppolo lacks. Hurts is not yet a finished product, but his receiving targets provide a varied skill set, and if the defense can play half as well as it did Sunday, Philly could fare well in a battle of attrition in the NFC. 2. The Bills are still the best team in the NFL even after losing at Miami in Week 2. The circumstances surrounding the defeat were more promising than problematic, but one concern lingers beyond the injuries. First, the promising part. Buffalo during its 21-19 defeat at Miami was playing without its projected starting secondary against a Dolphins offense possessing elite speed and a play caller adept at finding mismatches. Buffalo fielded the eighth-oldest starting secondary in each of the season’s first two weeks. Average age: 27.2 years old. The group starting Sunday — Christian Benford, Kaiir Elam, Damar Hamlin, Jaquan Johnson and Taron Johnson — was the NFL’s youngest in Week 3 and the second-youngest started by any team this season (the Giants were younger in Week 2). Average age: 24.2, led by the 21-year-old Elam. The Dolphins put up 42 points on Baltimore last week, exploiting coverage busts. Tua Tagovailoa and Jaylen Waddle did convert a third-and-22 with a 45-yard gain at a critical time Sunday, but the Dolphins had a season-low four explosive plays, all of them passes gaining more than 15 yards. Buffalo dominated and lost. The Bills’ offensive line was reconfigured and featuring a third-string center against a Miami defense that, while vulnerable to the Bills in the recent past, has been the Dolphins’ strength for years. And still the Bills led through three quarters. According to Pro Football Reference, this was only the 15th time in 157 games since 1950 that a team lost with at least 31 first downs while allowing no more than 15. Miami ran 39 plays on offense, and won! Only three times since 1940 has a team won while running fewer plays, according to Pro Football Reference. The Bills will take their chances moving forward. Very good teams lose tough games occasionally. This was one of those for the Bills. No need to panic unless the injuries continue to mount. Now, the concerning part. The viral video showing Bills offensive coordinator Ken Dorsey throwing a tantrum in the coaches’ box after time expired on a potential winning field-goal try got lots of laughs outside Buffalo. Both halves expired on the Bills while they were hurrying to spike the ball in time to stop the clock. Josh Allen fumbled the snap before the half, which could have been a fluke occurrence working with a backup center. The end-of-game frantic rush wasn’t a felony, either. But for a talented team that lost a good shot at the Super Bowl last season by blowing a lead in the final 13 seconds against Kansas City, becoming elite in these end-of-half situations should be a high priority. Buffalo gets so many things right. Head coach Sean McDermott delegates defensive play calling to coordinator Leslie Frazier, freeing him up to handle the rest of the team. Let’s see how clean Buffalo can become in these areas when the stakes are higher. 3. The people NFL teams hire for game-management roles don’t get much scrutiny — until they do. For Nathaniel Hackett, hiring a good friend with no NFL experience might have left him exposed. When the Broncos added former long-time NFL assistant coach Jerry Rosburg in a game-management role heading into Week 3, they were attempting to put out a fire threatening to engulf Hackett’s entire operation. What is notable, in retrospect, is how little NFL experience Hackett’s preferred game-management specialist possessed when Denver hired him in the spring. Brad Miller, listed by the Broncos as football strategy analyst entering this season, overlapped with Hackett when both were graduate assistants at Stanford two decades ago. Hackett’s comfort level with him was Miller’s primary qualification. Miller had never worked in the NFL. He was assistant director for academics and business operations at the Florence, Italy campus for Marist College, and he worked in various roles for the Parma (Italy) Panthers American football team, including as head coach. Miller told Marist’s sports communications department for a Sept. 14 story that he has texted with Hackett regarding situational football after almost every game Hackett’s teams played over the past two decades. The table below shows the huge gap in overall NFL experience entering this season between Miller and known game-management specialists for the Broncos’ 2022 regular-season opponents. BRONCOS OPP ADVISER TOTAL NFL GAMES Kansas City Chiefs Mike Frazier 335 Las Vegas Raiders Matt Sheldon 326 San Francisco 49ers Brian Hampton 319 Arizona Cardinals Jeff Rodgers 297 New York Jets Dan Shamash 227 Indianapolis Colts George Li 182 Seattle Seahawks Brian Eayrs 161 Carolina Panthers Taylor Rajack 151 Houston Texans Frank Edgerly 145 Jacksonville Jaguars Ryan Paganetti 102 Baltimore Ravens Daniel Stern 101 Los Angeles Rams Jake Peetz 97 Los Angeles Chargers Aditya Krishnan 80 Tennessee Titans John Streicher 70 DEN OPP AVG 185 Denver Broncos Brad Miller 0 The number of games listed for these advisers encompasses all their time in the league, regardless of roles (289 was the total for Rosburg). Some have been position coaches, scouts, etc. These advisers have varying experience levels communicating directly with head coaches over headsets during games. Some work closely with other members of their staffs. Teams can be intentionally vague about their processes. Some of this is semantics. Head coaches are responsible for all in-game decisions. It’s not Miller’s fault he was marveling at the food available in the Broncos’ cafeteria in that Marist story two weeks ago, so new was he to life in the multi-billion dollar NFL. No one can know from the outside what kind of job Miller or these other advisers are doing, because head coaches routinely disregard advice they receive and follow their gut, as many of them have said. For Hackett, who had never been directly responsible for game management during his own 218-game NFL career entering this season, having a more experienced adviser could have helped. 4. The Jaguars’ 38-10 victory against the Chargers was a rare victory in all three phases. Brandon Staley’s decision to keep an injured Justin Herbert in the game shouldn’t overshadow that other QB on the field Sunday — you know, the one Jacksonville drafted first heading into its 2021 season from hell. This was the 164th game Jacksonville played since Shad Khan purchased the team heading into the 2012 season, but only the 10th time his Jaguars won the EPA battle in all three phases. They were plus-11.8 EPA on offense, plus 13.6 on defense and plus-2.6 on special teams, which means they dominated a projected playoff team on the road in all three phases. Yes, Justin Herbert’s damaged ribs were a factor. That is not the Jaguars’ concern. As for Jaguars quarterback Trevor Lawrence: A general lack of excitement in the league surrounding the 2021 No. 1 draft choice was one of the striking takeaways from conversations with 50 coaches and execs regarding QB Tiers voting this past offseason. Everyone gave Lawrence grace for enduring Urban Meyer, but many also hoped the quarterback would have shown more high-end traits as a rookie. The first three games have been more encouraging. The performance Jacksonville got from him Sunday — lots of short passes, career-high conversion rate on third-down throws, three touchdowns, no turnovers — and the winning context made for a cross-country flight home that even Meyer might not have skipped. “He is really coming on,” a defensive coach who studied Jacksonville’s first two games said of Lawrence. “Better decision making, less frenetic, throws the ball away when it’s not there, just doing a better job overall.” The Jaguars are 2-1 for the first time since 2018. They are averaging 28.0 offensive points per game, a Khan-era best for them through three games. They are allowing 12.7 points per game to opposing offenses, another Khan-era best through three games. It’s a long season, and Jacksonville did lose to Washington in the opener, but the Jaguars have outscored the Colts and Chargers 62-10 over the past two weeks. Post-Meyer normalcy is good for the Jags. 5. Mac Jones suffered what could be a high-ankle sprain during a home defeat in which he tossed three interceptions. It made me think about the long-term outlook in New England, including what the future might hold for Bill Belichick and the only active coach with a shot at catching him on the all-time wins list. The Kansas City radio host Soren Petro put me on the spot a couple weeks back by asking whether I thought Andy Reid could catch Belichick on the all-time wins list for head coaches. Both coaches lost Sunday, leaving Reid with 235 regular-season victories (fifth all-time) and Belichick with 291, which ranks third. I’ve done the math on a napkin, making a few assumptions. Reid has a shot. If Belichick plans to stick around long enough to pass Don Shula’s record 328 wins, he would need to coach four additional seasons, provided he wins 50 percent of his games (he is 18-18 since Tom Brady left New England). If Belichick did that, he would have 333 wins, five more than Shula. Does that motivate Belichick at this stage? Who knows? Reid has won nearly 80 percent of the time since Patrick Mahomes became his starting quarterback. If he were to win at a 75-percent clip moving forward, which could be ambitious, he would need to coach seven seasons beyond this one to pass our projected Belichick total. Reid would have 336 wins in that case, most in history. Four additional seasons for Belichick, 70, and seven more seasons for Reid, 64, seems like a lot of seasons. It could be difficult to imagine Belichick sticking around that long in the absence of sustained winning. We might wonder why either man might want to coach that long under any circumstances. On the other hand, what else are they going to do? Plenty of millionaires and billionaires keep working at careers not nearly as exciting as running an NFL team because they enjoy it and because they can. 6. Two-minute drill: Final thoughts The Colts beat the Chiefs 20-17 as a 6.5-point underdog, and somehow I don’t feel better about Indianapolis. This game, like the others for Indy this season, was such a grind offensively. The Chiefs didn’t just knock down Matt Ryan. They decked him repeatedly, sent him flying like he weighed 185 pounds. Ryan kept coming back for more, which was admirable, but not sustainable — same as this outcome for the Colts. Indy in this game recovered a muffed punt at the Kansas City 4-yard-line; benefited from the Chiefs missing a 34-yard field-goal try, which teams make 87 percent of the time; benefited from Kansas City inexplicably trying a fake field goal on fourth-and-11; and made its own 51-yard try by practice-squad call-up Chase McLaughlin. It all added up to this being the first time in 383 total Colts games since 2000 that Indy won while being this bad on offense (minus-10.3 EPA) and defense (minus-3.4). The Colts were 0-19 in those games previously. All it took for Indy to beat Kansas City was the best special-teams EPA game, by far, over that 383-game Colts run, and the 20th-best by any team in 11,850 performances since 2000. But, a win is a win. The Colts were 22nd in offensive EPA through three games last season. They are 32nd now. … Speaking of unproductive offenses, how about those depleted Buccaneers? They rank 31st in offensive EPA through three games after ranking 11th at this point last season and third when 2021 finished. The Packers, 14-12 winners at Tampa Bay in a game that featured Tier 1 quarterbacks but ended with Tier 4 final score, moved Green Bay to 27-2 under Matt LaFleur when the defense is above average by EPA. These teams are surviving at the moment. … Legendary bulldog news reporter Mike Wallace died a decade ago, but he would have fit in well at Brandon Staley’s postgame news conference, where reporters covering the Chargers grilled Staley unrelentingly for his decision to leave Herbert in the game while trailing 38-10 with five minutes remaining. By then, the Chargers had lost left tackle Rashawn Slater as well. Eight of the early questions for Staley hammered at the same point. Staley remained calm and deliberate, explaining that he and Herbert thought it was important for the quarterback to finish the game with his teammates, while noting that Herbert will be playing through the rib cartilage injury for weeks to come. The eight questions Staley answered: “Why was Herbert in the game down 28?” “Franchise quarterback, is there some point as a coach you need to step in and say, ‘You already have a significant injury?’ ” “Why take the risk then if that is at the front of your mind?” “Was there ever a part you thought about taking him out?” “You said he wanted to finish the game so badly and that you can appreciate that, but don’t you also have to look at the big picture?” “So what is more important, because those two seem to be contradictory: finish this game that you know you can’t come back and win vs. look long term. What wins out in that situation?” “Looking long term, is him finishing and sending that message to the locker room more important than the potential injury risk he was under on that drive?” “At what point will it come to where you step in and say, ‘OK, you need to back off”? … What more can Lamar Jackson do for the Baltimore Ravens after topping 100 yards rushing and tossing four touchdown passes to beat New England, a week after topping 100 yards rushing with three touchdown passes against Miami? Not much, but third down is one area to watch. Jackson ranks 31st among qualifying quarterbacks in third-down completion rate (34.8%), completing 8 of 23 attempts. He ranks 16th in EPA per pass play (counting scrambles) on third down, 24th in EPA per pass attempt and 27th in passer rating, but did toss two third-down touchdowns Sunday, offset partly by a third-down pick. Jackson dominates on early downs, when teams pay more attention to stopping the run, and passing windows tend to be more expansive. Here, he ranks first among qualifying quarterbacks on EPA per attempt, first in EPA per pass play, first in passer rating, fifth in completion rate, etc. … The Las Vegas Raiders are 0-3 under Josh McDaniels, who is now 11-20 as an NFL head coach. That’s the same mark through 31 games as Greg Schiano, Vance Joseph, Leslie Frazier and Scott Linehan, and a game worse than Jim Zorn. It’s not entirely relevant including McDaniels’ long-ago flameout with Denver, but we’ll hear about that situation plenty in the coming days, as the Raiders face the Broncos in Week 4. … The Chicago Bears are 2-1 even though Justin Fields has yet to complete more than eight passes in any game, is completing 51 percent, has 297 yards and twice as many interceptions (four) as touchdowns (two). Fields is averaging 99 yards passing per game, which is 33 fewer yards per game than Walter Payton averaged rushing in 1977. Fields completed 8 of 17 passes for 106 yards and two picks against Houston, and still won 23-20. This was an appropriate way to mark Lovie Smith’s return to Soldier Field as the Houston Texans’ head coach. Smith, who won with defense and special teams more than just about anyone, was 6-2 as Bears coach when his starting quarterback completed eight or fewer passes. That included a 28-21 victory against the Giants in 2004 with Craig Krenzel in the lineup. Krenzel completed 8 of 21 that day and still had a much higher passer rating than Fields had Sunday (78.3 to 27.7). … The Jets ranked 23rd in defensive EPA per game across the 20 games before Robert Saleh became head coach. They rank 32nd in 20 games under Saleh. Every situation is different, but for the sake of comparison, consider Carolina, which also hired a new head coach in 2021. The Panthers’ defense, 27th in EPA per game over the 20 games before Matt Rhule’s hiring, ranks sixth in 20 games since. Next up for the Jets: Pittsburgh, Miami, Green Bay, Denver, New England and, unfortunately, Buffalo. … The Broncos are 2-1 with Russell Wilson this season, while the Seahawks are 1-2 with Geno Smith, but Smith has been better by just about any accounting. Smith has the higher completion rate, passer rating, EPA per pass play, EPA per attempt, third-down conversion rate, sack rate, red zone efficiency, you name it. Pro Football Focus has Smith graded seventh-best in the league so far, while Wilson is 25th. Seattle ranks 12th and Denver 16th in offensive EPA per game. Denver has the better record because the Broncos rank 10th in combined EPA on defense and special teams, while the Seahawks rank 31st, ahead of only Arizona. …
  7. Another week, another topsy-turvy round of action in the NFL. Six teams entered the weekend with perfect records, and by night’s end, three — the Chiefs, Buccaneers and Bills — had sustained their first defeats of the season. Meanwhile, six teams entered Sunday in search of their first victories of the year. The Colts, Panthers, Titans and Falcons escaped with wins, while the Texans and Raiders will have to wait at least a week longer. Parity reigns in the NFL, and now 30 of the 32 teams have at least one victory through three weeks for only the second time since 2002, and for the fifth time since 1970 (when the NFL and AFL merged). Dolphins 21, Bills 19 • So, Mike McDaniel and his Dolphins are for real. Miami delivered a stunner in upsetting the Bills to improve to 3-0 for only the fifth time in the last 20 years. • The Dolphins have received a lot of attention for McDaniel’s work with Tua Tagovailoa and the offense. But Miami’s defense deserves a lot of credit for getting off the field in key situations. Buffalo dominated in many statistical categories (497 yards to Miami’s 212, 31 first downs to Miami’s 15, 40:40 time of possession edge over the Dolphins’ 19:30) but Miami came through when it mattered, particularly in the red zone. The Dolphins denied the Bills on two of their four trips inside the 20, including a stand at the 2-yard line. • The Dolphins also largely held Stefon Diggs in check. Josh Allen spread the ball around to 11 receivers, but Diggs had seven catches for 74 yards and no touchdowns. Running back Devin Singletary led the Bills with nine catches for 78 yards and a touchdown. ________________________________________________________ If nail-biters are your thing, then you’re in the right place. Ten games were decided by one score (eight points or fewer). That brings this season’s total to 18 games, which is the most such outcomes through three weeks in NFL history. And 25 games have been decided by six points or fewer, the most in league history. But what did we learn Sunday? Here’s a game-by-game look at some of the brightest performances, most crippling transgressions, more intriguing (or, in some cases, troubling) trends around the league and what they mean. Colts 20, Chiefs 17 • Don’t say “just a kicker” ever again. The injury absence of Harrison Butker loomed large for the Chiefs, who suffered their first loss of the season thanks to struggles in the kicking game. A failed fake field-goal attempt and a missed 34-yarder by Matt Ammendola kept the Colts in the game and ultimately cost the Chiefs. (Ammendola also missed a PAT.) • Colts quarterback Matt Ryan, who along with coach Frank Reich entered Sunday under immense pressure, earned temporary relief. Ryan turned in two unsightly performances in Weeks 1 and 2, but rebounded from two early fumbles on Sunday to lead his team to victory. The Colts scored 10 unanswered points down the stretch and got an interception from their defense in the final seconds. • Patrick Mahomes can do a lot, but having him as your leading rusher (four carries for 26 yards) isn’t the recipe for success. Clyde Edwards-Helaire finished with zero yards on seven carries. Third-down struggles also will haunt the Chiefs, who went 3-for-10 on those money downs. The Colts did slightly better at 6-for-15 and also won the time of possession battle 33:32 to 26:28. Panthers 22, Saints 14 • Panthers quarterback Baker Mayfield was a rather pedestrian 12-for-25 with 170 passing yards and a touchdown. But the most encouraging offensive performance belonged to running back Christian McCaffrey (108 yards on 25 attempts). Run CMC just might be back to his old form after two injury-plagued seasons. Sunday’s 100-yard day coupled with last week’s 15-carry, 102-yard outing gave McCaffrey his first back-to-back 100-yard performances since Weeks 8 and 9 of the 2019 season. • Bend but don’t break would best describe the Panthers’ defensive showing. Jameis Winston and the Saints did put up numbers. Winston passed for 353 yards and a touchdown, and rookie Chris Olave and fellow wideout Tre’Quan Smith each went over the 100-yard receiving mark. But the Panthers did deny the Saints on eight of 13 third-down attempts and forced three turnovers (two interceptions and a fumble recovery). • Sunday was the 28th time Winston has topped the 300-yard mark. But … Winston also turned the ball over multiple times in 18 of those 300-plus-yard passing days, including Sunday. Vikings 28, Lions 24 • Busted coverages cost the Lions a chance to open the year at 2-1 for only the second time since 2017. The Lions, who entered the game as 6 1/2-point underdogs, opened the game with a 14-0 lead. Then a miscommunication in the secondary left Adam Thielen wide open for Minnesota’s first touchdown of the day. Later, with 45 seconds left to play and while nursing a 24-21 lead, the Lions had another coverage breakdown, leaving K.J. Osborn wide open for a 28-yard walk-in touchdown catch. • Cousins on Sunday extended his league-leading streak of consecutive games with at least one touchdown pass to 33. • This one will sting in Detroit for a while. The Lions outgained the Vikings 416-373. They won the time of possession battle 34:04 to 25:56, and they led the entire game until 45 seconds remained. But third-down struggles will haunt them. The Lions converted only three of 16 third downs while the Vikings were 2-for-9. Head-scratcher decision: Dan Campbell going for it on fourth-and-1 from the Minnesota 30 with 3:30 left rather than attempting a 45-yard field goal. Detroit got stopped on a loss of downs. On their next possession, the Lions missed a 54-yard field goal, and the Vikings cashed in with the Cousins-to-Osborn touchdown pass. Eagles 24, Commanders 8 • Jalen Hurts on Sunday continued his electrifying start to the 2022 season, passing for 340 yards and three touchdowns (and no turnovers) while leading the Eagles to a divisional win that wasn’t nearly as close as the score indicated. Hurts, who now has 300-yard passing outings in back-to-back weeks for only the third time, has the Eagles off to their first 3-0 start in six years. • Carson Wentz (traded from Philly to Indianapolis last season, and traded again to Washington this offseason) downplayed the significance of his first meeting with the team that drafted him second overall in 2016. But someone forgot to tell the Eagles faithful, who took over FedEx Field and rained down thunderous boos on their former quarterback. Wentz would no doubt like to forget Sunday’s performance. He had only 24 passing yards at halftime. His team mustered only 50 total first-half yards while punting on six possessions and fumbling on another. Wentz finished with 211 passing yards and a 71.0 passer rating. The Eagles sacked him nine times, but five of those sacks were on Wentz, who held on to the ball too long, trying to make something out of nothing. • Washington’s offense looked inept, but Sunday marked a continuation of the woes that have plagued the Commanders’ underperforming defense. Around the league, people are starting to wonder if defensive coordinator Jack Del Rio deserves a good bit of blame. Washington remains without top pass rusher Chase Young, but this unit still has plenty of first-round talent up front. Washington ranked in the bottom third of the league last season and this year is among the worst while yielding 383, 425 and 400 yards and managing just one takeaway through three games. Ravens 37, Patriots 26 • Lamar Jackson faced questions about his health when he was seen this week wearing a padded sleeve on his throwing elbow. But Jackson looked just fine, passing for four touchdowns in Sunday’s win. Jackson also rushed for 107 yards (his second straight 100-yard rushing day) and a touchdown. He joined Randall Cunningham (1990) to become only the second player in NFL history to record four touchdown passes and 100 rushing yards. He also became the first player in the league’s modern era to record 100 rushing yards and at least three passing touchdowns in back-to-back games. • The Ravens’ top wideout from 2021, Marquise Brown, requested and received a trade because he didn’t feel like Baltimore ran a wide receiver-friendly offense. But the Ravens haven’t missed a beat, and wideout Devin Duvernay is getting plenty of opportunities to make plays. Duvernay on Sunday hauled in his fourth touchdown catch of the season, which puts him among the league leaders. Meanwhile, Jackson increased his passing touchdown total to 10, which leads all quarterbacks this young season. • Baltimore’s secondary redeemed itself a week after getting torched by the Dolphins. Against New England, the Ravens DBs racked up three interceptions and a fumble recovery. Titans 24, Raiders 22 • Mike Vrabel and the Titans got a much-needed win and looked a bit more like themselves despite getting outscored 12-0 in the second half. • Tennessee struggled to get Derrick Henry going in Weeks 1 and 2 as he got hit at or behind the line on 16 of his 34 rushing attempts. So, on Sunday, they moved him around, got him involved in the passing game to help him get a rhythm while also making it harder for the Raiders to load up the box. The approach worked: Henry rushed for 85 yards and a touchdown on 20 attempts (producing a season-best 4.25 yards per carry average) and five catches for 58 yards. Before Sunday, Henry had recorded five receptions or more just once in his career, a six-catch outing in Week 2 of 2021. • Josh McDaniels and his team fell to 0-3 after their comeback bid came up short, a two-point conversion pass broken up with 1:18 left. The Raiders and their new coach remain in search of a complete effort and clean operation. A 1-for-12 showing on third downs had a lot to do with the Raiders’ offensive struggles. The self-inflicted wounds in the form of mental errors and ill-timed penalties also remain an issue. Bears 23, Texans 20 • This game could best be described as a display of growing pains. Both second-year quarterbacks (Chicago’s Justin Fields and Houston’s Davis Mills) threw two interceptions. Fields finished with only 106 passing yards and no touchdowns. Mills had 245 passing yards, but his late-game interception in Chicago territory positioned the Bills for the game winner • Had his team won, Houston safety Jalen Pitre deserved the game ball for two interceptions and a sack. Instead, that honor goes to Chicago linebacker Roquan Smith, who at one point this offseason had demanded a trade, but then decided to play out his rookie contract. Smith picked off Mills with the score tied 20-20 at the Houston 26 with just more than a minute left to play. • Lovie Smith had a chance to get some vengeance on his old team, which fired him despite a 10-6 campaign in 2012. But Mills’ interception foiled those plans. Bengals 27, Jets 12 • The Bengals got a much-needed win to avoid falling to 0-3, which would have severely hampered their chances of returning to the playoffs. Since the league merger, only seven teams have reached the playoffs after starting 0-3. • Cincinnati won, but some of the same issues that have plagued the Bengals remained. Joe Burrow was sacked only two times after getting sacked 13 times in the first two weeks. But he was still hit another nine times. The Bengals also have yet to truly get their rushing attack going. Lead back Joe Mixon managed only 24 yards on 12 carries, and Samaje Perine added 47 on nine carries. • The Jets again fell prey to self-inflicted wounds, turning the ball over four times and letting the Bengals off the hook on key downs (Cincinnati converted on 50 percent of their third downs). Falcons 27, Seahawks 23 • The Falcons entered Sunday as one-point underdogs but got their first win of the season, leaving the league with only two winless teams (Las Vegas and Houston). • Cordarrelle Patterson turned in a monster performance, rushing for 141 yards and a touchdown. It was only the fifth time of the converted wide receiver’s career he has topped the century mark. Patterson’s previous high was a 120-yard, 22-carry day two weeks ago against New Orleans. • Atlanta’s win spoiled a big day for Seattle quarterback Geno Smith, who passed for 325 yards, two touchdowns and an interception. But Smith and his unit didn’t have many opportunities in the final two quarters. Seattle had the ball only three times in the second half and the outcome of those possessions were a field goal, a punt and an interception. Packers 14, Buccaneers 12 • The showdown between future Hall of Fame quarterbacks was not the offensive explosion one would expect, largely because the wide receiving units of both teams were decimated by injury, and in the case of Mike Evans, suspension. • Green Bay’s defense proved heroic and held Tom Brady in check, limiting him to one touchdown pass and then denying him on the two-point conversion attempt that would have tied the game in the final seconds of play. With Aaron Rodgers’ wide receivers dealing with both injury and growing pains, the Packers will need more outings like this from the defense. • One player to keep an eye on moving forward: Packers rookie wide receiver Romeo Doubs. The fourth-round pick out of Nevada — a 6-2, 200-pounder with 4.47 speed — seemingly is earning the trust of his quarterback. Doubs entered the game with six catches for 64 yards, but on Sunday caught all eight passes that came his way for 73 yards and a touchdown. Jaguars 38, Chargers 10 • Could Trevor Lawrence be finding comfort in new coach Doug Pederson’s system? It certainly appears so. The second-year pro and first pick of the 2021 draft turned in one of his best games, completing 28 of 39 passes for 262 yards, three touchdowns, no turnovers and 115.5 passer rating. It was the second straight week with multiple touchdown passes and no turnovers for Lawrence. • Third-year back James Robinson provided great support for Lawrence, rushing for 100 yards and a touchdown on 17 attempts. He also added 16 receiving yards on three receptions. Sunday represented the sixth 100-yard game of Robinson’s career and his first since Week 5 of last season. • Despite dealing with fractured rib cartilage (a painful injury that makes it challenging to even breathe without pain), Justin Herbert played. But he probably should not have. Sure, he logged 297 yards, but he completed just 55 percent of his passes (the third-lowest clip of his career and well below his average of 66 percent) and also lost a fumble. The Chargers got blown out anyway. Rams 20, Cardinals 12 • Sean McVay continued his dominance of the Cardinals, improving to 11-1 against the NFC West foes since he took over as head coach in 2017. With the win, the Rams — who saw Aaron Donald record his 100th career sack — improve to 2-1 and into at least a share of first place in the division. • Meanwhile, Kliff Kingsbury, hired by the Cardinals in 2019 because he was heralded as the next offensive whiz, continues to flounder. The Cardinals got off to another slow start and have now been outscored 56-6 in the first halves of their three games this season. • Kyler Murray did his best to put his team on his back, attempting a career-high 58 passes. He completed 37 of them for 314 yards. But the Cardinals never managed to score a single touchdown. Broncos 11, 49ers 10 • Nathaniel Hackett received much criticism entering Sunday night’s contest, and rightfully so. But opposing talent evaluators also wondered if some of Denver’s struggles had to do with regression from Russell Wilson. They pointed to a lack of explosive plays from the quarterback and a perceived hesitancy to both go deep and use his legs to extend plays or scramble as he did during his best years in Seattle. But late in the fourth quarter, Wilson looked like his old self as he bought time with his legs, completed five of seven passes for 58 yards (including strikes of 27 and 19 yards). He even scrambled for 12 yards while orchestrating a 12-play, 80-yard drive capped by a 1-yard Melvin Gordan touchdown run that gave Denver an 11-10 lead with 4:13 left. Wilson finished with just 184 passing yards on 20 of 33 attempts. But he provided the heroics the Broncos expected when they gave him $250 million, and earned his 25th fourth-quarter comeback (most in the NFL since 2012). • The 49ers weren’t perfect, but for the better part of three quarters, they remained a step ahead of the Broncos. Their fortunes changed midway through the third quarter when left tackle Trent Williams went down with an ankle injury. From that point on, Jimmy Garoppolo found himself under increased pressure and experienced a drop-off in effectiveness. It wasn’t immediately clear how extensive an injury San Francisco’s All-Pro left tackle sustained, but if the 49ers have to endure an extended stretch without him, their goal of keeping pace with the Rams gets that much more challenging. • After struggling with late-game decision-making, Hackett hired longtime NFL assistant coach Jerry Rosburg to help him in this area from the booth. The move may have raised eyebrows around the league while also sparking scorn within the fan base. But internally, the decision demonstrated to players that their head coach was willing to acknowledge his deficiencies and look for ways to improve. Hackett’s willingness to hold himself accountable also motivated the Broncos. Now it’ll be interesting to see what growth Hackett and his team achieve. With their much-needed win, the Broncos improve to 2-1 and into a tie for first place in their division with a date with the winless Raiders coming up.
  8. Doug Whaley once infamously said human beings aren’t meant to play football. After watching the carnage that unfolded Sunday at Hard Rock Stadium, it was hard not to think the former Buffalo Bills' general manager might have been on to something. Playing under the relentless South Florida sun, players for both the Bills and Miami Dolphins were going down seemingly every other play during Miami’s 21-19 victory before a raucous crowd of 66,206. At one point in the third quarter, 10 Bills starters were out of the game. That was because of a combination of heat-related cramping and a run of injuries the likes of which this team hasn't seen in years. After the game, nobody in the Bills' locker room – starting with coach Sean McDermott – wanted to blame the conditions or the injuries for the loss. "Just a little bit here and there," McDermott said after the game when asked whether the heat played a factor for his team. "I thought our training staff did a great job. Guys were going down, some heat related, some with other injury related there. Just really proud of the guys. I know we didn't get the result we were looking for." "A little bit" feels like a big understatement. At various times, the Bills were without three offensive linemen, tight end Dawson Knox, wide receivers Isaiah McKenzie and Stefon Diggs and cornerback Christian Benford – and that's before even taking into account the six starters who were declared inactive ahead of the game because of injuries. If you want the glass-half-full picture after being knocked from the ranks of the unbeaten by a division rival, Knox painted it. "I think it's just a testament to my teammates," he said. "Guys jumping up, playing positions they never played and showing that we've got some real heart out there, to have that many guys down and battle like that in an environment like this. It's hard to prepare for 90-degree humidity in Buffalo, but again, we don't want to use any excuses. I think there is a lot to learn on film and I think there is a lot to learn from this game. But also, it's kind of a positive thing looking at the type of heart this team has moving forward." Of course, if you're more of a glass-half-empty person, there was plenty to dwell on, too. For example, the Bills outgained Miami by a whopping 497-212, but couldn't finish the job. The Bills ran 90(!) offensive plays – just one short of the team record set in a 1996 overtime win against the Giants. Despite the injury hardships, the Bills were in a position to pull out the win with less than 2 minutes remaining, but the offense couldn’t convert. On second-and-goal from the Miami 1-yard line, quarterback Josh Allen was stopped for a loss of 1 yard on a run play. Allen then threw incomplete intended for Diggs on third down – a ball that was almost intercepted. On fourth down, Allen threw incomplete intended for McKenzie. The Bills got the ball back after the defense forced a quick three and out. The Dolphins actually punted the ball out of their own end zone when punter Thomas Morstead’s attempt hit teammate Trent Sherfield, bouncing backward and giving the Bills a safety that cut Miami's lead to 21-19. On the Bills’ final, desperation drive, right tackle David Quessenberry was flagged for holding at the Miami 43-yard line, setting up second and 20. Allen completed a pass to McKenzie, but the receiver was tackled in bounds and the Bills weren’t able to get off a final play and fell to 2-1. The Dolphins (3-0) are the last unbeaten team in the AFC. "We came down here to win the game," McDermott said. "I didn't get it done. I'm proud of the way the guys battled, the effort they gave. We used about everybody we could on the sideline there. Hopefully we can get some of those guys back and healthy." Game-time temperature in Miami was 89 degrees, but the real-feel temperature on the field soared to more than 100. Both McKenzie and Knox had to get IVs in the second half, and McKenzie said he threw up at halftime. "After halftime, I came out and I'm like, 'it's getting hotter,' " said McKenzie, who grew up in South Florida. "I was like, 'Ain't it supposed to rain today?' At halftime, I even threw up. I started cramping, I came in to get an IV. We was just fighting, fighting, best way we could, fighting." Allen said the Bills did the best they could in the week leading up to the game to prepare for the conditions. "Cramps are going to happen in this heat," he said. "You can do your best to prepare for it all week, drink as much water and Gatorade and this and that, but it's different when you're in game time and your adrenaline starts going. It gets pretty hot on the field. There's no way to really simulate that. We've got to do the best we can to just stay on the field." After the game, Allen was seen coming out of the X-ray room inside Hard Rock Stadium. Both he and McDermott quickly said that Allen's was fine. The quarterback appeared to hit his right hand (his throwing hand) on a helmet or facemask late in the game. "We're good," Allen told reporters after the game. 2. Center exchange led to a weird sequence in the second quarter. Center Mitch Morse was inactive for the Bills because of an elbow injury he suffered in Week 2 against Tennessee. Morse, who was listed as questionable on the final injury report, practiced on a limited basis, but was unable to play. With Morse out, Greg Van Roten got the start at center. Allen bobbled a snap from Van Roten on the Bills’ first drive of the game, and had to dive on the fumble. Costlier, however, was when Allen couldn’t cleanly handle a snap on what ended up being the final play of the second quarter. Because Allen didn’t grab the snap cleanly, the rules state he couldn’t execute a spike to stop the clock. Had he done so, the Bills would have been able to attempt a 52-yard field goal with kicker Tyler Bass. Instead, Allen fired the ball in the direction of Diggs, who actually caught it. By the time Diggs was pushed out of bounds at the Dolphins’ 25-yard line, the clock had expired. At first, it looked like Allen faked the spike, but he explained afterward what happened. "I didn't get the snap before halftime. I bobbled it, couldn't spike it," Allen said. "We would have gotten a loss of down, so I tried to spit one out there and get it out there." Van Roten left the game with 8:41 remaining in the fourth quarter because of an undisclosed injury. He was replaced in the lineup by Greg Mancz, who was promoted from the practice squad Saturday. "I appreciate the way 'Van' went in there and battled," McDermott said. "He went until the very end. I mean, he was hurting, and you saw it all game. It wasn't just at the end when he finally went down. I thought he really battled, and then Greg (Mancz) came in and did the same." The Bills lost right tackle Spencer Brown to heat illness in the first half and right guard Ryan Bates to a head injury in the second half, forcing David Quessenberry and Tommy Doyle into action. Additionally, wide receiver Jake Kumerow suffered an ankle injury and was unable to return. 3. Ja’Marcus Ingram made his Bills debut. Ingram, a rookie undrafted free agent from the University at Buffalo who was called up from the practice squad Saturday, entered the game in the first half to replace fellow rookie cornerback Christian Benford, who left the game because of a hand injury. Benford was able to return later in the game with a heavy wrap on his right hand, but was limited to work on special teams. That mean Ingram was opposite another rookie cornerback – Kaiir Elam – in going up against the Dolphins’ explosive receivers, Jaylen Waddle and Tyreek Hill. Waddle had a big game with four catches for 102 yards, but Hill was held to just two catches for 33 yards. "I appreciate the coaches and staff believing in me to go out there and execute," Elam said. "But not the result I wanted, so no moral victories. No happy ending. Just have to get back to work and keep striving." 4. Jordan Poyer wasn’t able to play. The Bills’ All-Pro safety was questionable on the final injury report because of a foot injury, but was unable to play. The Bills were down both of their starting safeties, after Micah Hyde was placed on injured reserve Saturday because of a neck injury. Jaquan Johnson and Damar Hamlin started in their place. The Bills had previously declared defensive tackles Ed Oliver (ankle) and Jordan Phillips (hamstring) out, along with cornerback Dane Jackson (neck). Nickel cornerback Taron Johnson came into the game with 36 career starts. The other four members of the secondary had combined for three – two by Benford this season and one by Jaquan Johnson. "I'm just proud of them, you know what I'm saying? I feel like they came out, prepared well and went out there ready to play," Taron Johnson said of the young players around him. "I feel like they did a really good job and I know they're going to continue to get better." 5. Allen set a franchise record. By completing 42 of his 63 passes for 400 yards, Allen set new franchise records for completions and attempts in a game. The old record of 38 completions was set by Joe Ferguson in 1983, also in a game in Miami, and matched by Kyle Orton in 2014 at Denver. The record for attempts in a game was 57, held by Orton in that game against the Broncos. “This is one game. We'll learn from this one tomorrow, take it on the chin and again prepare for next week,” Allen said. “That's all we can do. We can move forward. We're 2-1. I'd like to be 3-0, but 2-1, we can still accomplish everything we want to accomplish.” 6. Injuries weren’t limited to the Bills’ side. Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa came out of the game in the second quarter when his head slammed off the grass following a late hit by Bills linebacker Matt Milano. Tagovailoa got back to his feet, but then in a scary sequence, stumbled as he attempted to rejoin the huddle. That led to him being removed from the game with athletic trainers, and he headed to the locker room. After halftime, however, Tagovailoa was back in the game. According to a report from ESPN’s Adam Schefter after the game, the NFL Players’ Association wants to initiate a review of the concussion protocols in light of Tagovailoa’s return to the game. A separate report from NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport said that Tagovailoa suffered a back injury in the first quarter that was aggravated by Milano’s hit, and that the quarterback did go through a full concussion screening, which he passed. “On the quarterback sneak, I kind of got my legs caught under someone, and then they were trying to push back and then kind of felt like I hyperextended my back or something,” Tagovailoa said after the game. “Then on the next play I kind of hit my back and kind of hurt. Then I got up and then that’s kind of why I stumbled – my back kind of locked up on me. For the most part, I’m good. I passed whatever concussion protocol they had, so I’m good.” 6. An early challenge went the Bills’ way. On the first play from scrimmage, Allen completed a 28-yard pass to Diggs. After going to the ground, the Bills’ receiver lost the ball getting up, and it was recovered by a Miami defender. Officials ruled Diggs was down by contact, and thus, it was not a fumble. Miami coach Mike McDaniel challenged that ruling, believing Miami cornerback Xavien Howard failed to make contact with Diggs. After review, the call on the field stood. 7. Tight end Tommy Sweeney and wide receiver Khalil Shakir were the other inactive Bills. Sweeney sat for the second consecutive game, while Shakir was a healthy inactive for the second time in the Bills’ three games.
  9. Dude, Republicans have taken being corrupt to an entirely new level. The Dems are just hoping they could come close to being that fucked up
  10. The fins barely escaped with a 2pt win against a team that had their entire secondary and almost half the starting defense out on injury
  11. The Buffalo Sabres have completed three days of training camp practice and had their first preseason game of the year on Sunday. Hockey is back, and there’s a buzz about this team that hasn’t been present around the franchise in quite a few years. They opened the preseason against the Washington Capitals and came away with a 4-3 overtime win thanks to heroics from Jack Quinn and a solid all-around day from Dylan Cozens. Here’s what we’ve learned about this team through one preseason game. 1. The Sabres split their squad for the start of the preseason. Here is who was on the ice for Buffalo in this one. 2. Don Granato said the Sabres aren’t going to solidify line combinations until they get closer to the season opener on Oct. 13. For now, he wants younger players to get acclimated with older players and develop a long-term familiarity with one another. That said, here were the first-line combinations Buffalo used in the preseason. Forwards: Quinn-Cozens-Peterka Kulich-Krebs-Rousek Asplund-Savoie-Hinostroza Murray-Kozak-Sheahan Defense: Pilut-Fitzgerald Davies-Priskie Sova-Clague 3. When Cozens decided to play in the world championships after last season, GM Kevyn Adams wanted to make sure he wasn’t going over there just to play more hockey. He asked him specifically what his goal was, and Cozens didn’t hesitate. He told Adams he was going over there to score goals. “I know I can score goals in the National Hockey League,” Adams recalled Cozens saying. “I’m getting chances. I want to go over there and find my scoring touch.” Cozens did that. He tied for the tournament lead with seven goals in 10 games. Last season, Cozens had 13 goals and 25 assists. He scored only two goals in the final three months of the season. The playmaking was encouraging, but he feels like he can bring more to the table as a goal scorer. In his two seasons in the NHL, he has shooting percentages of 6.5 percent and 8.1 percent. If he can get that up over 10 percent, Cozens will be closer to the 20-plus-goal scorer the Sabres want him to be. Adams and Granato haven’t been shy about their adoration for Cozens. He came to Buffalo during development camp to support and lend advice to the Sabres’ prospects. He’s been a model leader and already looks like a strong defensive player. The only thing missing is the goals, and there are reasons to think they could come. In the preseason opener, Cozens provided more reason for optimism, scoring the Sabres’ first goal. He led the team in individual expected goals at even strength, according to Natural Stat Trick. He only finished one of the chances but could have scored multiple times in this game. His goal came on the power play with Cozens collecting a pass and showing off his quick release. He also added an assist, while leading all forwards in ice time and leading the team in shots with five. Few things could be a bigger boost to Buffalo this season than Cozens breaking out on the scoresheet. 4. Ukko-Pekka Luukkonen got the Sabres’ first start in net during the preseason. Adams said the Sabres’ primary objective is to get Luukkonen more starts, wherever that may be. Most likely, Luukkonen will get his minutes in the AHL this season. He could surprise and earn an NHL role out of camp, but the Sabres have prepared themselves for Luukkonen to be with the Amerks. They view Eric Comrie as a goalie who is ready for a bigger opportunity. Craig Anderson is in place as the reliable veteran who can round out the NHL tandem. Luukkonen would have to steal a job in these preseason games. He’s talented enough to do it. In the first exhibition, Luukkonen was solid. He allowed three goals, two on one-timers. One was a blast from Anthony Mantha on the power play, the other a two-on-one on which Luukkonen had little chance. The third goal came through traffic. Overall, Luukkonen stopped 24 of 27 shots, including stopping seven of nine high-danger chances, according to Natural Stat Trick. Not a bad start for Luukkonen. 5. With the Sabres trailing late, Quinn came through with the equalizer on the power play. After scoring 26 goals in the AHL last season, Quinn looks ready to make the jump to the NHL. He had four shots and led the team in individual expected goals for across all situations. He was around the puck and creating chances all afternoon, so it was fitting the puck was on his stick with the game on the line. He and J.J. Peterka played on a line with Cozens, and it was a productive group. Quinn and Peterka both got time on the power play as well, perhaps auditioning for a spot on the power play with the big club this season. 6. Jiri Kulich has stood out in every setting since the Sabres drafted him at the end of the first round in July. He was one of the best players on the ice at development camp, had three points in two games during the prospects challenge and now put together a strong showing in the preseason opener. He found himself with a golden scoring chance in front of the net early but couldn’t bury the shot. Later in the first period, Kulich had an unbelievable pass to set up Cozens with a scoring chance. He’s only 18 years old, but Kulich looks plenty ready to play in the AHL. The Sabres are deep enough at forward to allow him the proper time to develop in the minors, too. But this has been an encouraging start for Kulich. 7. Tyson Kozak has been the star of the month for the Sabres. He had a four-goal showing at the prospects challenge and carried that over into the preseason with a goal on Sunday. He was drafted in the seventh round of the 2021 NHL Draft but had a 69-point season in the WHL last year and has significantly boosted his stock. Amerks coach Seth Appert sounded like he was expecting to have Kozak in Rochester this season when he spoke at the end of the prospects challenge. The goal scoring is part of the reason why, but Kozak is also proving to be the type of player who does the little things in all three zones. Appert described him as someone who plays “winning hockey.” He’s showing that can translate to this level, too. Against the Capitals, he played on a line with Brett Murray and Riley Sheahan. That trio was Buffalo’s strongest defensive line, not yielding a single high-danger scoring chance. 8. Peyton Krebs had a strong afternoon on the penalty kill. He has an obvious offensive upside to his game given his playmaking skills, but his talent stands out in his own end as well. His passing is sublime, and it helps him flip the ice efficiently. In two penalty-kill shifts, he wasn’t on the ice for a single high-danger chance. He also had a team-best two takeaways. Those are encouraging signs for Krebs as he enters his first full season in Buffalo. Regardless of how his offensive game develops, the way Krebs plays away from the puck raises his floor as an NHL player. 9. The Sabres brought back Lawrence Pilut this offseason after he spent two seasons in the KHL, and he’s already been impressive early in camp. He got a chance to pair with Rasmus Dahlin during the first practice of the week, and in the preseason opener, he led the team in ice time. He got work on the power play as well. Pilut had two assists, including one to set up Vinnie Hinostroza’s game-winning goal in overtime. There could be ice time available on the Sabres’ third pairing this season, and Pilut is making his case. 10. You don’t have to watch long to see why Matt Savoie was a top 10 pick. His speed is apparent no matter who else is on the ice. He’s not just a quick skater, but he thinks the game fast and never hesitates to compete for the puck. He had two giveaways in this game, but that’s hardly surprising for an 18-year-old in this setting. 11. The Sabres are planning to name a captain before the start of the season, but Kyle Okposo, the most likely candidate, wasn’t in the lineup Sunday. That paved the way for Cozens to be among the players wearing the “A” for this game. Defenseman Casey Fitzgerald and Hinostrova were also wearing the “A.” Granato told reporters after the game that Cozens is among the young players on the team who have future captain potential. Earlier this week, Granato gushed about the way the young core was developing as leaders. “That was one of the biggest things when we did a real deep dive and asked ourselves questions and even talked to others, that we have a lot of guys in that room that are becoming leaders and better leaders everywhere,” Granato said this week. “We want to make sure we clear the way, that that process keeps happening.” 12. Spencer Sova is getting quite an opportunity with the Sabres. After a strong showing as an invitee to the prospects tournament, the undrafted, 18-year-old defenseman got a lot of run in the first preseason game. He had just over 15 minutes of ice time against the Capitals. He’s not yet adjusting to the speed of the NHL game, and was on the ice for 11 shots against and two goals against. But he had plenty of moments that show why the Sabres have been interested in him. “He’s a player we watched very closely going into the draft,” Adams said this week. “Our scouts had quite a book on him. Character person, elite skater, athlete, that type of player, so he’s someone we’ll watch close. But we were really impressed with him during the rookie camp on and off the ice. And, you know, it’s why he got an invite.” What’s next? The Sabres practice again Monday and then have a home preseason game against the Flyers on Tuesday. They hit the road to play the Blue Jackets on Wednesday and have another home game against the Penguins on Saturday.
  12. When the Bills entered the season with heavy expectations for 2022, they quickly reminded everyone that teams go through adversity each year. The adversity comes in many forms, but most commonly, it’s tied to players missing time due to injury. Even with the knowledge these tough times would hit them, the Sean McDermott Bills have never seen anything like the monsoon of injuries and players impacted by the heat for Week 3. With injuries affecting almost every position on their roster, the Bills still managed to give themselves a chance to win. They ultimately fell short to the upstart Dolphins 21-19 and surrendered the AFC East lead to Miami in the process. “Adversity like this truly reveals character,” defensive end Von Miller said. “I’m excited to see how we respond.” But the Bills’ loss wasn’t only injury-induced. The Dolphins sufficiently took advantage of opportunities the Bills simply did not. So where did it go wrong, and where do the Bills go from here? Here are seven observations from the Bills’ first loss of the season. 1. Injuries aside, the Bills were defined by way too many missed chances to claim the game In a game like this one, with as many injuries as they suffered, the Bills had a prime opportunity to pull off one of their more impressive regular season victories under McDermott. The win against a good Dolphins team would have been a way to send a message to the rest of the NFL that even without their best players available, they can still pull off a victory. And they nearly did so. But they didn’t, and a huge reason for that was not just the injuries and the adverse effects of the heat, but the self-inflicted mistakes that robbed them of a 3-0 start. Throughout the game, there were six different moments in which the Bills denied themselves of the points that would have put them over the top. Some were direct scoring opportunities, while others directly impacted the Bills’ ability to score a few plays later. So here’s the chronological list that will surely have the majority of Bills fans nodding. Play 1: 2nd quarter, third-and-3, 0:03 remaining — The spike that wasn’t. With a tie game and a clear opportunity for points at the end of the first half, all the Bills had to do was get to the line, snap the ball and have Allen spike it into the turf to stop the clock. The chance came after quarterback Josh Allen and receiver Stefon Diggs connected for a 7-yard gain, setting up for a would-be 52-yard field goal attempt for kicker Tyler Bass. Instead, as it’s been happening the last two games, the exchange between backup center Greg Van Roten and Allen wasn’t clean, the ball went through Allen’s hands and hit his chest, then dropped toward the ground where Allen barely caught the bobble. By rule, without a clean exchange, had Allen clocked it, it would have been an intentional grounding penalty with a subsequent 10-second run-off, so Allen had only one choice in his mind. He tried to make something out of nothing, and nearly got picked off. Potential points lost: 3 Play 2: 3rd quarter, 2nd-and-goal from the 11-yard line, 3:55 remaining — The Bills were in the process of delivering a soul-sucking drive to the Dolphins after taking a drive from their own 2-yard line to the brink of a touchdown. On the drive’s 18th play, Allen feathered a pass into receiver Gabe Davis, who rose up over the defender and snapped the ball out of the air while getting two feet down in bounds in the end zone. But while getting his feet down, Davis did not secure the ball tightly to his body, which gave the defender a last-ditch effort to break up the play. It succeeded, as Davis watched his touchdown get ripped from his hands. The Bills had to settle for a field goal on the drive. Potential points lost: 4, total points lost: 7 Play 3: 3rd quarter, third-and-2, 2:16 remaining – With the Dolphins facing a quick third down after the Bills’ big drive, Tagovailoa motioned receiver Tyreek Hill to his left and threw a quick slant immediately after taking the shotgun snap. Tagovailoa mistakenly stared down Hill the whole way, allowing Bills linebacker Matt Milano to jump the pass. Milano read the play so well that the ball hit his hands at the Dolphins’ 35-yard-line while almost in full stride, only for the ball to go through his hands and hit the ground. The Dolphins didn’t keep a back to block for Tagovailoa, so only the quarterback would have had a chance to prevent Milano from scoring a touchdown. But with the linebacker’s head start, it most likely would have been a touchdown and a 10-point Bills lead. Potential points lost: 7, total points lost: 17 Play 4: 4th quarter, fourth-and-4, 14:12 remaining — After a stalled drive, the Bills wanted to salvage some points and sent the usually reliable field goal unit out to give the Bills a 20-14 lead. The attempt was partially tipped at the line of scrimmage, leading to a wobbly miss wide left. Potential points lost: 3, total points lost: 20 Play 5: 4th quarter, fourth-and-2, 1:49 remaining — Down 21-17, the Bills were at the Dolphins’ 2-yard-line and on the 17th play of a nearly nine-minute drive. Isaiah McKenzie broke open to the front right corner of the end zone, only for Allen to have the ball slip. The ball one-hopped toward McKenzie, turning it over to the Dolphins on downs. The route was a clear win by McKenzie, and with an on-target throw, it’s likely the game-winning touchdown. Potential points lost: 7, total points lost: 27 Play 6: 4th quarter, 2nd-and-10, 0:22 remaining — Down only 21-19 thanks to the Dolphins’ safety, the Bills already found themselves at the Dolphins’ 43-yard line, in range for Bass. All the offense needed was a slight gain, and either to get out of bounds after the catch, or to run up and spike the ball to stop the clock. Even an incompletion would have brought on a third down and another chance to gain some yardage. But on the second down, backup right tackle David Quessenberry was beaten to the outside by pass rusher Emmanuel Ogbah. Rather than allowing the sack, Quessenberry grabbed Ogbah from the front of the jersey for an obvious holding call. The Bills lost both time on the clock and were sent back to their own 47-yard line. If Quessenberry maintains his block, the Bills at least get an attempt to kick the game-winning field goal. Potential points lost: 3, total points lost: 30 So, while you have to credit the Dolphins for taking advantage of their opportunities, you can’t help but think the Bills beat themselves repeatedly in this contest. They had ample chances to put more points on the board but fell woefully short almost every time it mattered. Regardless of who was missing, the Bills will likely watch the film and think about this game as one that got away. 2. Allen played the part of a horror movie villain to the Dolphins Although the Bills blew plenty of chances to win the game, you can’t help but be impressed by how Allen constantly refused to allow the game to get away from them in the second half. Outside of his mistake that missed McKenzie in the end zone, Allen continued to keep drives alive even when it seemed like the Dolphins were finally about to get him off the field. It was quite reminiscent of a stereotypical horror movie villain. Regardless of all the times a viewer thinks the villain had perished — even in the most definitive of ways — the main character would turn around to see the villain standing right behind them, waiting to strike once again. Unfortunately for the Bills, that villain script remained accurate right to the end, as eventually Allen and his team fell short and lost. It was a remarkable performance by Allen, and one deserving of a victory in most games. Despite three separate offensive linemen leaving the contest due to injury, Allen was mainly unflappable against the Dolphins’ pressure. He threw for 400 yards and rushed for 47 more. Allen converted on eight separate third downs in the second half alone, and all eight were by his doing. The running game, outside of a random 43-yard gain by Zack Moss, was inoperable for long stretches of the game. Allen completed a pass to 11 different Bills receivers, the full amount of running backs, receivers and tight ends the team made active for the game. Heck, it even looked like he was injured at one point, only for him to come back on the field for the final offensive series and got into Dolphins territory in five plays. And while the Bills had a rotating cast of characters almost everywhere on the field, Allen remained the constant all day. Now it certainly wasn’t perfect, and there were a couple of questionable throws from Allen during the day, this loss does not fall on him. He did almost everything he could for a win. To help Allen, the team needs to figure out what’s going on with their rushing attack and how they fell short so many times during the contest. But one thing is sure, Allen is a special player who nearly served up a Bills victory despite an unusual number of injuries around him. If he plays anywhere close to how he did against the Dolphins most weeks, the Bills will have an opportunity to win every game they play this season. 3. But you can’t brush off the injuries too much While it’s true that the Bills left a lot of potential points on the field, the number of injuries they incurred before and during the game is uncanny. Bills injuries vs. Dolphins PLAYER POS. STATUS NOTES Micah Hyde S Injured Reserve Jordan Poyer S Inactive Ed Oliver DT Inactive Jordan Phillips DT Inactive Mitch Morse C Inactive Dane Jackson CB Inactive Jake Kumerow WR Left Game in 1st Q Did not return Christian Benford CB Left Game in 2nd Q Returned to Special Teams, not defense Spencer Brown RT Left game 2nd Q Did not return Dawson Knox TE Left game in 3rd Q Missed 11 straight plays Isaiah McKenzie WR Left game in 3rd Q Missed 11 straight plays Ryan Bates RG Left game in 4th Q Did not return Greg Van Roten C Left game in 4th Q Did not return The group accounts for nearly 25 percent of the team’s active roster, but it doesn’t even account for all the different players that they had to keep rotating due to the heat. Wide receiver Stefon Diggs looked especially exhausted, was cramping up and had to keep taking plays off to regenerate. The running back rotation likely would have favored Devin Singletary far more had the heat not been unbearable. And with three in-game injuries to the offensive line, the Bills had to go through the final 22 snaps of the game without a single backup available. They were also down to an undrafted rookie practice squad cornerback in Ja’Marcus Ingram, who took 55 percent of the team’s defensive snaps. It was the perfect storm of pre-game and in-game injuries. I don’t think we’ll see anything quite like what unfolded on Sunday, and it had a legitimate impact on the game, but somehow, the Bills still almost won. While the injuries, Allen and some of the missed opportunities will be what everyone talks about, you have to give a lot of credit to a handful of players that helped the Bills stay afloat through the ridiculous heat. Left tackle Dion Dawkins and left guard Rodger Saffold played every single snap — all 93 of them — while the other six active offensive lineman had time on the sidelines. Wide receiver Gabe Davis, who came into the game with an ankle injury, wound up playing 96 percent of the snaps due to injuries. That was likely not the plan for him coming off an injury, but he stepped up when the team needed him. On defense, the Bills basically boiled down their defensive tackle rotation to DaQuan Jones (75 percent) and Tim Settle (66). Jones is their biggest defensive tackle, but they needed him, and Settle came in recovering from a calf injury. The Bills will have to hope some reinforcements and cooler temperatures are on the way for Baltimore. 4. The Bills have a backup center issue For the second week in a row, it was quite clear the drop-off from starting center Mitch Morse to backup Greg Van Roten is enormous. Van Roten struggled in the snap exchange for the second straight week, while also falling short in holding the point of attack adequately enough. He’s experienced, but he has been nothing more than a replacement-level player. Some wondered why the Bills didn’t put Ryan Bates at center and have someone else play right guard rather than putting Van Roten in the lineup, but the team likely wanted to avoid switching two spots for one absence like they have in past seasons. Plus, Bates has also been a bit inconsistent through the first two weeks in his new position at right guard, so they likely didn’t want to uproot him as he’s still trying to find his footing at that spot. Regardless, the Bills have some internal questions they need to answer with that spot. We’re seeing the result of the team neglecting the interior offensive line position for two straight drafts. They valued a third defensive end and a third running back more than starting to build that interior depth internally. The Bills have mostly been able to get by to this point, but their interior depth is lacking this year far more than it has in previous seasons. When the film comes out, I’ll be most interested to see how practice squad center Greg Mancz performed relative to Van Roten, and whether the Bills may benefit by giving Mancz a full-time promotion. However, that’s just a temporary solution. They desperately need Morse in the starting lineup and Ike Boettger to return from the Physically unable to perform list sooner than later to help this dire situation. 5. Rousseau continues to shine The Bills are certainly on to something in the early stages of the season with their pass rush, and young defensive end Greg Rousseau is showing all the signs of a breakout season. Now in his second season, Rousseau is not just the static left-side rusher he was as a rookie. He’s moving all across the line, mixing in on the left side and inside at defensive tackle. He’s varying up his moves, keeping offensive linemen off his pads and finding his way into the backfield every game. While Boogie Basham deserves a good bit of credit for taking out both the left tackle and left guard for Rousseau’s stunt to the inside, Rousseau finished the play with closing speed to Tagovailoa to secure the sack. Rousseau has also been a tremendous asset against the run, proving to be a player they can depend on regardless of the situation. It’s early into his second season, but all the signs for Rousseau are promising moving forward. 6. The single-biggest backbreaking defensive play The Bills kept giving themselves chances to win the game, but the one play that let the air out of the balloon is when the Dolphins converted their third -and-22 opportunity to Jaylen Waddle right down the middle of the field. It’s the one play where the inexperienced secondary, who had played good team defense for much of the day, showed their youth. The Bills dropped back enough to keep everything in front of them, just as they always do in third-and-long situations, but the play was well-schemed, and one receiver took safety Damar Hamlin’s attention to the deep left. That left Jaquan Johnson effectively alone in the deep middle, and he got caught staring just a touch too long, enough for Waddle to split the safeties for a 45-yard gain. The Bills were still leading at that point, had just sacked Tagovailoa and stopped a run for no yards on back-to-back plays. Despite the missed field goal on the previous drive, it felt like if the Bills could get off the field, they would be able to finish off the game. Instead, the Dolphins executed and used the Bills’ inexperience against them. 7. Signing multiple DBs should be the early week priority The Bills likely never expected the sheer number of injuries they had to one group in a matter of six days, but that’s the situation they’re facing now. With Hyde done for the year, and Poyer’s foot injury leaving his status uncertain, the Bills have nothing behind Johnson and Hamlin at safety. Cam Lewis served as the team’s backup safety, but he only began playing the position for them in the second preseason game. Even with Lewis, the Bills need another player to add to the system. They did not have a practice squad safety working with the team through the first three weeks but expect that to change. An obvious candidate to sign to the active roster might be Josh Thomas, who is currently on the Cardinals practice squad. Thomas spent all the past two seasons with the Bills, but the team did make him one of the early cuts in August. It could make them want to look elsewhere and trust their pro personnel department to fill the void at safety. The same goes for cornerback, where they cannot trust the likes of undrafted rookie Ja’Marcus Ingram to play legitimate snaps moving forward. It would not be a surprise to see the Bills go after an experienced cornerback to get by at least until Tre’Davious White is ready to play. Bills MVP: QB Josh Allen – He did almost everything for the Bills, and nearly helped them win a game where the odds were against them. Bills LVP: Injuries – Since I began covering the team in 2010, I haven’t seen a Bills team be decimated by injuries this much in one week, and it certainly impacted the game’s outcome. Up Next: The Bills (2-1) hit the road again to take on the Ravens (2-1) on Sunday, October 2. Final Thoughts Although the Bills faced an uphill battle in many different ways, their overall performance was impressive despite losing the game. They were their own worst enemy at times, and very well could have flipped this game enough to claim a 3-0 record. But, whether it’s due to self-inflicted errors, the injuries up and down the roster or a combination of the two, the Bills get to learn a valuable lesson from this one. Their season is not derailed, and they aren’t ceding the AFC East to the Dolphins despite the temporary setback. And though it is a slight concern that they haven’t won a one-score game since Week 8 in 2020, I don’t think this specific outcome against the Dolphins is indicative of an organizational flaw to win close games. What this game indicates more is that this Bills team nearly pulled off a game that, on paper, should have had no business winning. The Dolphins are a talented team and one that will likely contend for the playoffs this season. But the Bills, despite all of their injuries and errors, were a few yards from stealing a win on the road, on a short week and in unbearable heat. It’s a weird thing to be impressed by a loss, but that’s exactly what Sunday represented. It all comes back to Allen, who gave the Bills a gargantuan effort. He is the best quarterback in the league right now and nearly delivered a win that fans would have talked about for a long time. Most of the injuries will heal and they won’t be this injured forever, but if Allen keeps this level of play up, the Bills can beat any team, regardless of the situation.
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