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Browns’ Garrett fined $42K for two Siemian hits



Cleveland Browns defensive end Myles Garrett has been fined a total of $42,112 by the NFL for a pair of hits on New York Jets quarterback Trevor Siemian.

The Browns pass-rusher was penalized four times on Monday night, which included two calls for roughing the passer. The second resulted in a season-ending ankle injury to Siemian.

“You do not want to put anybody out for the season,” Garrett said earlier this week. “That is their job. That is something that you do not do unless you love it, and you do not want to take that away from anybody. I hope [Siemian] comes back faster and stronger than he ever has. I wish the best for him.”

Garrett was also fined $10,527 in Week 1 for hitting Tennessee Titans tight end Delanie Walker in the face mask.

Garrett leads the NFL with five sacks.

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Steelers’ Devlin Hodges passes for 132 yards and a TD in 24-17 win vs. Chargers



LOS ANGELES — For at least a moment, it felt like Ben Roethlisberger was on the field at Dignity Health Sports Park on Sunday night.

At least to Maurkice Pouncey.

Facing third-and-goal from the 2-yard-line in the third quarter of the Pittsburgh Steelers‘ 24-17 win against the Los Angeles Chargers, the veteran center had a miscue on the snap, sending the ball between the legs of quarterback Devlin Hodges.

The ball bounced dangerously away from the end zone, the potential for disaster mounting with each roll. But the rookie quarterback raced backward, taking a moment to peek around to see if he had time to pull off a save. He found that he did, picking up the ball, rolling back toward the end zone and firing a pass in the general direction of tight end Vance McDonald.

Hodges’ pass went out of bounds, avoiding catastrophe and setting up for three points on the next play.

“He looked like Ben,” Pouncey said. “I told him, ‘I appreciate you, man.’ I was up there, talking trash, and he hurried-up snapped it. I was like, ‘Oh crap.’ But he did a hell of a job of getting that ball and throwing it out. I honestly thought in my head, ‘That’s Ben.’ Ben would’ve done the same thing. It was awesome.”

In his first NFL start, Hodges helped earned his team its second win of the season by keeping his poise in situations like that one. He completed 15 of 20 attempts for 132 yards with one touchdown and one interception. For Hodges’ efforts, coach Mike Tomlin rewarded him with one of the game balls.

“We have a lot of confidence in him,” Tomlin said. “We haven’t been bashful about that. He has a lot of confidence in himself. I think that’s what makes people gravitate to him. We’re not getting over-excited. This is a guy that played good tonight, with very limited experience.

“We’re thankful to get a win, and hopefully it will be a good learning experience from him and us, collectively, as we move forward.”

The well-traveled Steelers contingent embraced Hodges, better known as Duck, in his first start, with some playing duck calls in the stadium and others wearing duck masks and carrying posters that said things such as, “Duck Season” and “Fear the Duck.”

After the game, Hodges conducted his postgame interview wearing a $5 T-shirt he bought the day before on Venice Beach with a cartoon duck that proclaimed, “I’m the boss, California.”

“Since I was 5 years old, since I threw my first touchdown pass, that’s always something I’ve kind of dreamed about,” Hodges said of his first career start. “It’s been a bumpy road, especially the past couple of months. It’s been wild to think about. I’ve always had belief in myself. I’ve had other people behind me, and it’s just amazing.”

Hodges, who came from an Air Raid system at Samford, didn’t have any eye-popping downfield completions — averaging just 5.1 air yards per attempt, according to Next Gen Stats — but he didn’t need to. The team protected him with a dominant run game and a defense that put the Steelers on the board early thanks to a strong first-quarter showing by rookie Devin Bush.

“We knew we couldn’t give Duck a lot of exposure to the defense,” Tomlin said. “So we had to do some things in some other areas. We talked openly about it last night. Scoring on defense is significant, quality special-teams play is significant, quality running game to minimize his snap exposure. And not just him, but anybody playing at the quarterback position with a limited amount of experience.”

Hodges’ first drive ended quickly with a 3-and-out and a negative net gain, after his first throw, a deep ball to JuJu Smith-Schuster, fell incomplete. But he didn’t have an incompletion the rest of the half, as the offense got going thanks to a boost in momentum from Bush’s scoop-and-score on the Chargers’ second drive and his interception to end the Chargers’ third drive.

Playing with a lead the next time he stepped on the field, Hodges directed the Steelers on a seven-play, 40-yard scoring drive anchored by running back James Conner to go up 14-0.

Conner touched the ball on every play of the drive, covering two third downs and capping it off with a 12-yard touchdown run.

“Anytime the defense scores first — anytime the defense scores when I’m on the bench — that’s big time,” Hodges said. “That takes a little pressure off. As far as converting the third downs, I mean James Conner. Checking down the ball to him sometimes and a couple of other third downs. We just did the game plan we had planned and just executed it.”

Conner got in the end zone one more time a drive later, this time turning a short pass from Hodges into a 26-yard touchdown, shaking off a defender en route to the end zone for Hodges’ first career touchdown throw.

It wasn’t all good, though, for Hodges in his debut as a starter. He threw an interception in the fourth quarter that turned into seven points for the Chargers as L.A. tried to mount a fourth-quarter comeback. His two drives after that both ended in punts and went for just 30 yards.

But that’s when the defense again came up with a big stop to boost the offense. Cameron Sutton intercepted Philip Rivers with less than a minute to go, sealing the win and giving the ball back to Hodges for the victory formation.

As Mason Rudolph continues to recover from the concussion sustained against the Baltimore Ravens, the Steelers won’t have to worry about answering the starting-quarterback question for at least another week, as the team enters its bye. After Sunday’s win, Tomlin shrugged off questions about the team’s future at starting quarterback. Hodges did the same.

“I don’t know,” Hodges said when asked if he thought he did enough to get another start. “All I care about is the game today. We got the win, and we have a bye week next week, so we’re going to enjoy the bye week.”

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QB Jared Goff says Rams will ‘get right back on track’ after 20-7 loss to 49ers



LOS ANGELES — Behind a large contingent of fans chanting, “Let’s go, Niners!” at the L.A. Memorial Coliseum on Sunday, the San Francisco 49ers defeated the Los Angeles Rams 20-7, delivering the Rams their third consecutive loss of the season.

It’s the first time since Sean McVay was hired as coach in 2017 that the Rams have lost three straight games. The skid comes a season after McVay led the Rams to an NFC championship and a Super Bowl appearance.

“Was it a humbling day for us? Absolutely,” McVay said after the game. “But it’s something that we’re going to learn from. We’re not going to let it demoralize us.”

Quarterback Jared Goff passed for a career-low 78 yards, completing 13 of 24 passes. He was sacked four times. Goff’s previous low was set in 2016, his rookie season, when he passed for 90 yards in a 22-21 loss to the 49ers.

“It’s a gut check,” Goff said about the losing streak. “Are you who you say you are? I know who this team is. … We’re going to get right back on track.”

The Rams played Sunday without running back Todd Gurley, cornerback Aqib Talib and outside linebacker Clay Matthews, who were all inactive because of injuries.

Running back Malcolm Brown started in place of Gurley and rushed for 40 yards on 11 carries. Rookie Darrell Henderson rushed for 39 yards on six carries. He also lost a fumble on the Rams opening drive of the second half.

The Rams took an early 7-0 lead on a 7-play drive, as Brown rushed for 40 yards on five carries and receiver Robert Woods rushed for 16 yards on 2 carries, including an 8-yard touchdown run.

But the 49ers scored 20 unanswered points behind a 2-yard touchdown run by Tevin Coleman and a 1-yard run by quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo.

The Rams had the chance to cut into the 49ers’ 20-7 lead with 8:49 to play when defensive tackle Aaron Donald strip-sacked Garoppolo, and linebacker Cory Littleton recovered, then tossed a lateral to cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman, who stepped out of bounds at the 49ers’ 36-yard line. But the Rams were unable to convert the takeaway into points, as they were stopped on fourth down.

“It goes back to the consistency I always talk about,” Goff said. “It’s something we are struggling with offensively.”

“This is tough,” said Woods, who did not record a single catch. “We’re competing, battling, going out there and just not executing.”

The Rams went 0-for-9 on third down. It was their first game without a third-down conversion since they went 0-for-11 against the Philadelphia Eagles on Sept. 7, 2008.

And their offensive inefficiencies didn’t stop there. The Rams also went 0-for-3 on fourth down. The last time they went for it on fourth down at least three times with no conversions was against the Seahawks on Dec. 15, 2016, when they went 0-for-4.

“We came out and started fast, but it comes down to consistency,” Woods said. “We look like a good offense sometimes, look like a bad offense. Just not being consistent.”

Rams left guard Joe Noteboom left the game in the first quarter because of a knee injury, and safety John Johnson was sidelined in the second half because of a shoulder injury.

The Rams were upset in Week 4 by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers 55-40, then fell to the Seattle Seahawks 30-29 after Greg Zuerlein‘s 44-yard field goal attempt missed wide right with 15 seconds to play in Week 5.

The Rams (3-3) are in third place in the NFC West behind the 49ers (5-0) and Seahawks (5-1), putting their run at a third consecutive division title in jeopardy.

“I trust that this is a mentally tough team,” McVay said. “We have mentally tough people in our building. This is a real opportunity to be what we say we are, and we are just going to go to work. We are going to stay together. We’re not going to let the outside influences create a divide with us.”

The Rams now will play a host of teams with losing records as they travel away from the Coliseum for the next month. They are scheduled to take on the Atlanta Falcons (1-5) next Sunday at Mercedes-Benz Stadium, then will travel to London to play the Cincinnati Bengals (0-6) in Week 8 before a Week 9 bye. In Week 10, the Rams return to the East Coast to play the Pittsburgh Steelers (1-4).

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Broncos showing defensive growth, record first shutout in two years – Denver Broncos Blog



DENVER — In a season that has been short on style points, the Denver Broncos are doing what needs to be done to slug their way out of a 0-4 start as the defense did the heavy lifting Sunday in a 16-0 victory over the Tennessee Titans.

The victory was the Broncos’ first shutout win since a 23-0 victory over the New York Jets in 2017 and nudged them to 2-4 with a potential season-saving type of matchup Thursday night in Denver against the Kansas City Chiefs. The Broncos held their second consecutive opponent to fewer than 50 yards rushing and finished with seven sacks on two Titans quarterbacks.

The game in two words: Grind it. It was certainly not suitable for framing, but for a team that had lost two games on the last play in the first month of the season, any win, even a teeth-grinding, scraped-knuckle affair like Sunday’s, was a welcome sight.

Especially for a defense that seems to continue to grow into coach Vic Fangio’s system — the Titans had just 122 total yards when they took over with 4 minutes, 53 seconds left in the game for a stat-padding drive.

Troubling trend: The Broncos have had more than their share of special-teams troubles in recent years, especially the previous two seasons, and while they appear to have repaired plenty of what has ailed them, they still have their moments.

They surrendered a punt return for a touchdown last week against the Chargers and Diontae Spencer fielded two punts inside the Broncos’ 10-yard line — Vic Fangio said “he’s not doing what he’s been coached to do.” Their special-teams missteps on Sunday cost them two timeouts.

The Broncos had to call a timeout in the first quarter on a Titans punt because they only had 10 players in the formation. They had to use another timeout in the second quarter on a 53-yard field goal attempt by Brandon McManus because there was just one second left on the play clock and they weren’t ready to snap the ball.

McManus did make the kick after the timeout.

Biggest hole in the game plan: It’s not that they didn’t try — quarterback Joe Flacco’s interception came on a deep throw attempt that Noah Fant didn’t look for — but the Broncos largely missed out on what had worked for all of the other Titans’ opponents this season.

Coming into the game, four of the eight passing touchdowns Tennessee had surrendered had been caught by opposing tight ends and the only 100-yard receiving game the Titans have surrendered this season was also to a tight end.

The Broncos played plenty of two- and three-tight end looks throughout the game, but Fant had the only two catches from the group by the end of the third quarter.

QB breakdown: Flacco’s interception was not his fault — Fant did not turn his head to track the ball — and he largely kept the offense out of trouble on what was obviously going to be a game with a significant defensive tilt.

He did hit one downfield shot — a 41-yarder to Courtland Sutton in the second quarter — but it was the defense’s day. While Flacco did not have the splash plays the Broncos continue to search for, he kept the Broncos away from the game-changing mistake on a day when that was enough.

Pivotal play: It wasn’t a play per se, but wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders did not play in the second half because of a knee injury. Sanders was on the field for most of the first half — he had one catch for no gain — so initially it wasn’t known what play he was injured on, but if he’s going to miss time, an offense already struggling to make things happen will be without one of its most impactful playmakers.

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