Monthly Archives: September 2018

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LOS ANGELES — Jared Goff hit Cooper Kupp in stride with a 70-yard touchdown pass that was just as gloriously wide-open as Rams coach Sean McVay had predicted when they drew it up this week.

While his teammates celebrated, Goff ran to the sideline and pointed at McVay, who accepted the challenge with a celebratory chest bump.

“I was fired up for him,” Goff said. “I told him after, ‘I didn’t mean to knock you over there.’”

Although the big quarterback knocked the headset off his smaller coach’s head, both men were left smiling. With that throw and several more of similar brilliance, Goff turned a phenomenal first half into the biggest game of his career.

And it was still just barely enough to beat Kirk Cousins and the Minnesota Vikings.

Goff passed for career highs of 465 yards and five touchdowns, winning a scintillating duel with his Minnesota counterpart and leading unbeaten Los Angeles to a 38-31 victory Thursday night.

Goff hit Kupp with two of his four TD throws during a 251-yard first half in which the third-year quarterback flawlessly executed the offence created by McVay. Goff finished 26 of 33 with a perfect 158.3 passer rating for the Rams (4-0), who won their third home game in 12 days.

“It was just great command by him,” McVay said. “I think he’s having fun. No moment is too big for him, and it gives you confidence when you see him playing like this.”

But McVay then had to watch apprehensively while his former prize pupil nearly executed a comeback for the Vikings (1-2-1). McVay was Cousins’ offensive co-ordinator in Washington before he became Goff’s head coach on the West Coast last season.

Cousins passed for 422 yards and three touchdowns, but the Vikings lost when Los Angeles rookie defensive lineman John Franklin-Myers strip-sacked Cousins near midfield with 1:18 to play.

“It’s fun for us, personally,” Goff said of his duel with Cousins. “I don’t know if it’s fun for the whole team, but it’s cool. Kirk is a guy we watched on film forever last year. Got a lot of respect for him and the way he plays, and I just think he’s such a great quarterback. To get a chance to go against him like that and kind of duke it out, I told him after the game how much I appreciated the battle with him.”

Todd Gurley finished with 83 yards rushing and 73 yards receiving for the Rams. Gurley and Brandin Cooks had first-half TD catches, but the Vikings trimmed LA’s lead to 31-28 late in the third quarter with Adam Thielen’s 45-yard TD catch and a 2-point conversion.

Goff promptly surpassed his previous career highs for yards passing during a swift drive ending in Robert Woods’ 31-yard TD catch, and the Rams’ defence hung on while the offence went scoreless in the fourth quarter.

One week after giving up 27 points in the first half and getting blown out as 16 1/2-point favourites in Buffalo, the Vikings gave up 28 before halftime against LA.

“We did not play well defensively,” Vikings coach Mike Zimmer said. “Offensively we moved the ball well, but we had too many missed tackles, and too many people were left wide open. I’ve not ever had a team that’s been this poor in pass coverage. We are going to have to look at everything.”

A healthy throng of purple-clad fans turned out for the Vikings’ first game in Los Angeles since 1993. They saw a show from Cousins, who hit Aldrick Robinson for two first-half scores.

Goff found Kupp with two beautiful TD throws in the first half, the first hitting Kupp in stride on that 70-yard sprint , and the second eluding two Vikings and dropping into Kupp’s hands deep in the end zone.

“Jared put it in about a 6-inch box that only he could fit it into,” McVay said.

Less than 2 1/2 minutes later, Goff hit Cooks down the middle for a 47-yard score. Goff’s four TD passes were the most in a first half by a Rams quarterback since Kurt Warner did it in 1999.

GRIFFEN OUT

Minnesota defensive end Everson Griffen posted a message on Instagram expressing his gratitude for support from his team and family. Griffen has been away from the Vikings while undergoing a mental health evaluation, and he didn’t get to return to the Coliseum, where he starred for USC. Griffen said he doesn’t know exactly when he’ll be back in uniform, but he plans to “return as a much-improved person and player.”

INJURY REPORT

Vikings: RB Dalvin Cook had 20 yards on 10 carries after missing last week’s game with a hamstring injury. … Goff’s third and fourth TD throws beat CB Trae Waynes, who missed the second half with a concussion.

Rams: TE Tyler Higbee injured his knee early on. He returned later in the first half. … CB Marcus Peters played after injuring his calf last week.

UP NEXT

Vikings: At the Philadelphia Eagles on Sunday, Oct. 7.

Rams: At the Seattle Seahawks on Sunday, Oct. 7.

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CLEVELAND — For the first time in 635 days, the Cleveland Browns found a way to win.

Baker Mayfield showed them how.

The No. 1 overall pick replaced injured starter Tyrod Taylor and sparked the Browns, who got two 1-yard touchdown runs from Carlos Hyde and beat the New York Jets 21-17 on Thursday night for their first win since Dec. 24, 2016.

And so ends Cleveland’s 19-game winless streak, the NFL’s second-longest since the 1970 AFL-NFL merger.

The Browns (1-1-1) trailed 14-0 in the first half before Mayfield came in for Taylor and led four scoring drives while winning an unexpected matchup against Jets rookie quarterback Sam Darnold. Cleveland passed on taking Darnold in the draft and instead chose Mayfield, the Heisman Trophy winner from Oklahoma.

Mayfield finished 17 of 23 for 201 yards in a little more than a half after coming in after Taylor suffered a concussion.

Darnold had one last chance, but was intercepted by Terrence Mitchell with 11 seconds left.

When the final seconds ticked off the clock, Cleveland fans, who had endured a 0-16 season and waited nearly two years to see their Browns win, erupted in celebration.

Refrigerators around the city stocked with Bud Lights were finally unlocked, and there figured to be more than a few beverages consumed in the hours ahead.

This was just one win, and while it was an ending, it also felt like a beginning — because of Mayfield.

Isaiah Crowell had two touchdown runs for the Jets (1-2), who seemed in control when they took a 14-0 lead and knocked Taylor from the game.

Newly signed Browns kicker Greg Joseph made field goals of 45 and 27 yards after being signed just three days ago.

Browns coach Hue Jackson got just his second win in 35 games since being hired by owners Dee and Jimmy Haslam, and this win will ease some of the pressure he’s been feeling to get Cleveland turned around. Jackson could also be faced with a difficult choice — either stick with Mayfield or go back to Taylor when he’s healthy.

The decision might not be as tough now.

Mayfield made his NFL debut with 1:42 left in the second quarter, replacing an injured Taylor after Cleveland’s starter was sacked for the third time. Taylor struggled getting to his feet after being dragged down by linebacker Avery Williamson, but he had absorbed several hard blows before that — and had been ineffective.

With Cleveland’s crowd roaring, Mayfield completed a 14-yard pass to Jarvis Landry on his first pass as a pro and then found tight end David Njoku for 17 yards. Mayfield drove Cleveland into field-goal position and Joseph, who signed with the team on Monday following a tryout, drilled a low line drive to pull the Browns within 14-3.

Cleveland’s plan was to have Mayfield watch and learn this season.

Taylor’s injury may change everything.

For Darnold, a promising start ended with his second loss in three games. He completed 15 of 31 passes for 169 yards, but threw two picks late in the fourth as he tried to rally the Jets.

Hyde’s 1-yard TD run pulled the Browns within 14-12 and Cleveland tied it with a trick 2-point play.

Mayfield shifted to the left and the ball was snapped directly to running back Duke Johnson, who ran right and gave the ball to Landry on a reverse. Landry then lofted a pass into the end zone to Mayfield, whose conversion tied it and sent Cleveland fans into a frenzy.

Crowell scored his second TD with 7:54 left in the second quarter, and was flagged for excessive celebrating when he squatted and wiped the ball on his backside before flinging it into the crowd.

Crowell’s untouched 7-yard run TD run came five plays after Jets linebacker Kevin Pierre-Louis got a hand on Britton Colquitt’s attempted punt and New York took over at Cleveland’s 28.

On the first play of the second quarter, Crowell took an inside handoff and raced into the end zone before firing the ball into the stands in celebration. Crowell spent four seasons with the Browns before signing a three-year, $12 million free agent contract with New York as a free agent in March.

LONG AUDITION

Joseph stayed on the field and kicked by himself during the opening coin toss, and each of his makes drew a rousing ovation from Cleveland fans. Just a few days ago, Joseph was relaxing in South Florida with friends while Gonzalez missed four kicks in New Orleans and then got booted by the Browns.

RADIO SILENCE

The Browns suspended radio reporter Nathan Zegura eight games for his conduct on the sideline during last Sunday’s loss at New Orleans. Zegura, who also co-hosts the team’s in-house radio broadcast, can’t work a game until Nov. 25. He has also been removed from the team’s afternoon show for two weeks.

INJURIES

Jets: CB Trumaine Johnson left in the first quarter with a suspected head injury, but returned. …. WR Charone Peake sustained a hamstring injury. … CB Buster Skrine injured his knee in the first and did not return. … WR Robby Anderson injured his nose in the third quarter, but came back.

Browns: S Jabrill Peppers hurt a shoulder in the first half, and Landry replaced him on punt returns.

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COSTA MESA, Calif. — The Los Angeles Chargers face a familiar scenario for the second straight game, preparing for an athletic but inexperienced quarterback.

After facing Kansas City’s Patrick Mahomes last week, the Chargers will go up against Buffalo’s Josh Allen, who will be making his first NFL start Sunday.

Coach Anthony Lynn and members of the Chargers secondary say they don’t see much alteration of the game plan with the Bills going to their rookie, who was the seventh overall pick in this year’s draft.

“When preparing against someone like that, you are not going to change too much. You watch the tape, look at the tendencies when making certain throws and go off on that,” safety Adrian Phillips said.

The Chargers are preparing for Allen the same way they did with Mahomes, which is breaking down his college tape and preseason game.

Safety Derwin James said the biggest thing that surprised him watching Allen was that he was better than he thought as a runner. Allen was sacked three times in last Sunday’s 47-3 loss to Baltimore but did have four rushes for 26 yards.

Lynn said he expects a healthy amount of run-pass option plays for Allen.

“He can run the zone read. Two of those were designed quarterback runs so he can move. You are going to have some of the same issues (as last week),” he said.

The Chargers are hoping to have better success than they had last week, when Mahomes threw for 256 yards and four touchdowns in a 38-28 Chiefs win. A big reason for Mahomes’ success was that the Chargers were unable to get much pressure up front. Los Angeles had just one sack and seven defensive hurries on 29 drop backs last Sunday.

Los Angeles is likely to be without two defensive line starters again. Defensive end Joey Bosa is seeking a second opinion on his injured left foot and defensive tackle Corey Liuget is serving a four-game suspension for violating the NFL’s policy on performance-enhancing drugs.

“I think you have to pick your moments in the game where you want to make him uncomfortable,” Lynn said. “It’s a chess game there, when you pressure and when you don’t. But we definitely want him to go through some of his progressions.”

The Chargers allowed four pass plays of 20 yards or more and a league-high 249 yards after the catch last week. James said a huge emphasis this week will be on preventing long completions.

“He has a big arm and likes the deep ball throws. We will have to stay back and do a good job of playing the ball in the air,” he said.

The Chargers are 3-0 since the 1970 merger when facing a rookie first-round quarterback who is making his first start. The last time they faced a Bills first-time starter it also went well as they picked off Nathan Peterman five times in the first half in a 54-24 win in Week 11 last season.

“We were hitting on all cylinders that day, getting good pressure on the quarterback and turning the ball over,” Lynn said. “But that was last year. We’re both 0-1 and need a win.”

Notes: This will be Lynn’s first game in Buffalo since he was the Bills’ running backs coach for two seasons (2015-16). He also was the interim head coach for the final game in 2016. “I feel good about going back there but it’s just another game,” he said. … Besides Bosa, offensive tackle Joe Barksdale (knee), wide receiver Travis Benjamin (foot) and cornerback Craig Mager (hamstring) did not practice.