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Patrick Mahomes’ 446 yards, 3 TDs not enough as Titans clip Chiefs

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Patrick Mahomes‘ return to the lineup wasn’t enough to prevent the Kansas City Chiefs from losing for the fourth time in their last six games.

Mahomes was 36-of-50 for 446 yards and three touchdowns but that wasn’t enough. The Tennessee Titans scored the winning touchdown with 23 seconds left and beat the Chiefs 35-32.

The Chiefs botched a field goal attempt late in the game that would have put them ahead by eight points with less than two minutes remaining. Holder Dustin Colquitt didn’t appear ready for the snap. He scrambled to his feet and attempted a pass that landed nowhere near a receiver. He was penalized for intentional grounding.

Harrison Butker had a 52-yard field goal attempt blocked on the last play of the game.

At 6-4, the Chiefs’ lead in the AFC West is down to a half-game over the 5-4 Oakland Raiders. The Chiefs and Raiders will play one another on Dec. 1 at Arrowhead Stadium.

Mahomes, the NFL MVP in 2018, missed the last 2½ games after dislocating his right kneecap but didn’t take much time in getting back to top form. He led the Chiefs on a touchdown drive on the game’s opening possession with the score coming on his three-yard touchdown pass to Travis Kelce. That TD pass was his 66th in 25 career starts, breaking Dan Marino’s record of 65.

Mahomes had another touchdown pass to Kelce called back because of a penalty later in the first quarter. He also threw an 11-yard touchdown pass that he perfectly placed to Tyreek Hill in the back of the end zone.

Mahomes’ final TD pass of the game was his most spectacular. In the fourth Mahomes beat the Titans’ rush by throwing a jump pass to Mecole Hardman, who finished the play by outrunning defenders to the end zone for a 63-yard touchdown.

Chiefs right tackle Mitchell Schwartz had his streak of playing 7,895 snaps broken in the second quarter when he left the game because of a knee injury. That was the longest current streak in the NFL.

Schwartz hadn’t missed a snap since arriving in the NFL with the Cleveland Browns in 2012. He returned to the game in the second half.

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How a (finally) healthy Dalvin Cook has ‘juiced’ the Vikings

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EAGAN, Minn. — Don’t put Xavier Rhodes on the spot about the NFL’s MVP race — not when it comes to choosing between two of his South Florida brethren.

“C’mon man, next question,” the Minnesota Vikings cornerback said with a smile.

The Baltimore RavensLamar Jackson has taken the league by storm as the most dynamic quarterback in years and has emerged as the front-runner for the award, but Minnesota running back Dalvin Cook is stating a strong case of his own.

Cook is putting into existence the things he once imagined. He has gone back and forth all season with Carolina running back Christian McCaffrey (and more recently Cleveland’s Nick Chubb) for positioning as the rushing and scrimmage yards leader. In his first 11 games, Cook ranks second in yards from scrimmage (1,472) and third in rushing yards (1,017). But the basis of his MVP candidacy is how he makes his entire team better.

“He envisioned himself being this way, living this way,” Rhodes said. “He always spoke on ‘I’m going to be one of the best.’ He always said, ‘I’m going to be the rushing leader. I’m going to run hard.’ He has great confidence. Believe me, if you’re around him, you’ll see his confidence.

“It’s a guy you want on your team. It’s a guy that you can depend on. Dalvin says, ‘Just give me the ball. I can make something happen.'”

Cook’s explosive playmaking abilities are the cornerstone of the Vikings’ system and have boosted quarterback Kirk Cousins‘ play. What Cook has accomplished in 2019 — his first healthy season in three — is what the Vikings envisioned when they traded up to draft him 41st overall in 2017.

As the Vikings travel to perhaps their biggest game of the season on Monday against the Seattle Seahawks (8:20 p.m. ET, ESPN), the Cook effect can be felt across positional lines. He has influenced every aspect of his team’s identity while restoring the Vikings to relevance in the NFC.


Before the season, Minnesota recommitted to a running game that struggled in 2018. The Vikings ranked 30th in yards (1,493), 27th in carries (357) and 25th in yards per carry (4.18). This season, a revitalized zone-blocking scheme has produced the fifth-highest output in running back yards (4.80) and open-field yards, defined as when a team’s running back earns more than 10 yards past the line of scrimmage, according to Football Outsiders.

Cook is quick to credit his blockers for his success. But it’s his patience to see the play develop in front of him that makes his offensive line’s job easier.

“It puts a lot of confidence in us, just knowing that our block doesn’t necessarily have to be perfect,” Vikings right tackle Brian O’Neill said. “A lot of times if you’re just in the way, he’ll be able to break one, and not a lot of people can do that. He’s probably the best at that — taking a lot more than he’s necessarily given. He can make it into something a lot more so than I’ve ever seen anybody do or block for. All we need is one or two inches, and he can do it.”

Going into Week 13, Cook leads the NFL with 63 rushes this season on which he hit a maximum speed of 15-plus mph, per NFL Next Gen Stats. He also has the fastest average speed at the line of scrimmage among running backs on rushes (10.9 mph).

The zone scheme allows Cook to “literally go anywhere,” according to left guard Pat Elflein, forcing defenses to chase him to the perimeter on outside runs or whiff on tackles as he cuts up the middle of the field. Cook leads the league in scrimmage yards after contact (533) and receiving yards after contact (161), according to ESPN Stats & Information.

“Now that he’s healthy, he’s just such an explosive player,” Elflein said. “Every time he touches the ball, he can break two, three, four tackles, and he does it consistently.”


Cousins has benefited largely from Cook’s shouldering a heavy load.

The Vikings quarterback leads the NFL with 11 play-action touchdown passes, averaging 10.4 yards per attempt on such throws when Cook is on the field and 7.7 when he isn’t.

“The more I watch these defenses, the more I see defenses that want to prevent big plays,” Cousins said. “So what ends up happening is your running back becomes a primary target in the pass game because defenses are going to take away a lot of deep shots and make you have to earn it.

“How effective he’s been not only running the football but helping us in the pass game with screens and checkdowns and different things, it’s been a huge benefit as a quarterback. Great running backs tend to make the first guy miss. You can’t block them all, and the ones who are really good make the unblocked guy have to miss, and he’s done that time and time again.”

Much of the success in the passing game is a result of how effectively the Vikings run the ball. This season, Cousins is averaging an NFL-high 9.3 yards per pass attempt when the previous play was a run (minimum 50 attempts).

When Cook is on the field, the success rate for receivers Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen is greater.

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Lamar Jackson shows he can beat the best when not at his best – Baltimore Ravens Blog

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BALTIMORE — Baltimore Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson was asked how the rain affected the passing game, and he let out a sigh of frustration before collapsing forward on the podium at his postgame media conference.

“You seen the balls. You seen them,” Jackson said. “Horrible.”

Jackson’s run of impressive passing numbers ended Sunday, but his ability to lead the Ravens to victory did not. In a 20-17 win over the San Francisco 49ers, Jackson proved that he can knock off a top team when not at the top of his game.

This wasn’t like the last three weeks when the Ravens were in so control of the game that Jackson spent his fourth quarters putting on sunglasses or dancing on the sideline with running back Mark Ingram. This was a heavyweight fight, where Jackson had to rely as much on determination as his athleticism in the final moments.

Jackson finished with a season-low 105 yards passing and lost his first fumble of the season. But in leading his third career winning drive in the fourth quarter or overtime, Jackson completed all three of his passes for 27 yards to set up Justin Tucker‘s 49-yard field goal.

What did Jackson show his teammates in a performance such as this?

“Just the toughness. Just the grit,” linebacker Matthew Judon said. “This isn’t ideal football weather, and he got it done. As he goes, we go. We all know that.”

Jackson entered Sunday’s game on one of the best hot streaks by a quarterback. The NFL Most Valuable Player front-runner had played three straight games with at least three touchdowns and no interceptions. Only four quarterbacks have had longer such streaks in NFL history: Tom Brady (four straight in 2007), Peyton Manning (four in 2013), Aaron Rodgers (four in 2014) and Russell Wilson (five in 2015).

That wasn’t going to happen in a constant downpour with winds that reached 15 mph. Jackson went 0-of-4 passing on third down. He entered the day completing 69% of his third-down passes, second-best in the NFL. Jackson was 3-of-6 for 18 yards when targeting wide receivers. That’s the fewest passing yards to wide receivers by a starting quarterback in a win this season, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

Jackson completed just four of 11 passes for 20 yards without the aid of play-action. That made it his worst passing game (completion percentage and yards) as a starter without play-action.

This isn’t the first time the weather has affected Jackson. In his other rain game this season, against the Seattle Seahawks, he connected on only nine of 20 throws.

“I was throwing passes behind my receivers,” Jackson said. “I hit Hayden [Hurst] on the sideline on the corner behind him [and] Seth [Roberts] on a drive route behind him. It was ticking me off. A lot of passes were getting away from me. It messed with me a lot.”

Where Jackson really hurt the NFL’s top-ranked defense was with his legs. He ran for 101 yards and one touchdown, including a 7-yard run on which he faked K’Waun Williams so badly that the cornerback fell to the ground.

Jackson’s biggest run was a 3-yard sneak on a fourth-and-1 from Baltimore’s 44-yard line. Eight plays later, Tucker hit the winning kick.

“I was a little nervous, but I wasn’t surprised,” wide receiver Willie Snead IV said of the fourth-down decision. “Coach [Harbaugh] gives us the green light. He has full confidence in Lamar and our offense.”

Jackson has now won eight straight starts. The only quarterback in the Super Bowl era with a longer streak before he turned 23 years old is Ben Roethlisberger, who won 13 straight in 2004.

Unlike many of Jackson’s previous wins — the double-digit margins against the Seahawks, Patriots, Texans and Rams — Sunday’s game was a grind. His first three drives in the second half ended with a fumble, a punt and a deflected pass on fourth down.

But when given the ball for the final time, Jackson found a way to win. He marched Baltimore into field goal range on a 12-play, 34-yard drive that took the remaining 6 minutes, 28 seconds off the clock.

“Him being a serious competitor, he puts a lot of pressure on himself,” guard Marshal Yanda said. “Great players that want to be great, they have that.”

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First-class treatment — Team plane perks help Seahawks become road warriors

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RENTON, Wash. — With an ear-to-ear smile on his face and a spring in his step, defensive end Jadeveon Clowney strolled through the visitors locker room at Mercedes-Benz Stadium like a man who couldn’t wait to get where he was going.

The Seattle Seahawks had just hung on for a seven-point victory over the Atlanta Falcons to improve to 6-2. Clowney’s strip sack at the end of the first half was one of the highlights, and what awaited him on the other end of a bus ride to the airport was another reason for his upbeat mood.

“First claaasss,” Clowney shouted to teammates on his way out.

Here’s the deal for coach Pete Carroll’s Seahawks: Win on the road and veteran players get to supplant coaches and team executives in first class on the flight home. It’s an incentive that dates to the middle of Carroll’s tenure in Seattle. His players have been cashing in more than ever this season with a franchise-best 6-0 record away from CenturyLink Field, where they host the Minnesota Vikings on Monday Night Football (8:15 p.m. ET, ESPN).

Not that Carroll minds taking a back seat.

“I don’t know what I like more: the good part of the players getting moved up or how much the coaches are pissed about having to move back,” Carroll said. “That’s a good tradition. I love sitting in the second class.”

‘Night and freakin’ day’

No one seems to know exactly when it started, but linebacker Bobby Wagner remembers how. It was either the 2015 or 2016 season when Michael Bennett, ever the squeaky wheel, raised a stink during a team meeting.

“I remember Mike B complaining about how the coaches were flying first class,” Wagner recalled. “But he was like, ‘We put all the work in.’ Pete was like, ‘All right, well, if you wanna fly first class, you win on the road, you can fly first class.’ So then we won the game, we got first class, and then from that point forward, it was like, all right, we can’t go backwards from this.”

The deal came about as the Seahawks were getting ready to play on the East Coast, Wagner recalled. Thus they were dreading the five-plus-hour flight back.

With 25 of the NFL’s 32 teams located east of the Rockies and Seattle tucked away in the Pacific Northwest, long flights are common for the Seahawks. According to the team’s media guide, the 33,216 miles they will have traveled by the end of the regular season are the third most in the league behind the Oakland Raiders (40,188) and Los Angeles Rams (36,186), both of whom had a game in London. Including preseason, eight of the Seahawks’ 10 return flights will have lasted at least three hours, five of them at least four hours and two of them five-plus hours.

No wonder “guys went crazy,” in quarterback Russell Wilson‘s words, when Carroll first presented the deal.

“Sitting in first class definitely means a lot to us throughout the season when we’re traveling and playing,” Wilson said. “Our flights are long. Our flights aren’t two hours. … We usually get back at 12, 1 in the morning. Then we’ve got to get up and go back to work starting at 8 in the morning. We’ve got to get our bodies ready to roll again. I think that it’s definitely one of the most popular [Seahawks traditions], for sure.”

The Airbus A330 the team charters from Hawaiian Airlines has 18 first-class seats, so the 18 players with the most years in the league get first dibs after road wins.

“It’s night and freakin’ day,” K.J. Wright said of the lay-flat seats in first class compared to those in the main cabin, which recline only a few inches.

Because the Hawaiian A330s are typically carrying vacationers across the Pacific Ocean, they’re not equipped with Wi-Fi. That’s a sore spot among players, but it means more interaction with one another.

The flights out of Sea-Tac Airport begin with a cash raffle in the main cabin. Any player who wants to participate will write his jersey number on a $20 bill and put it in a bag. The pots can reach several hundred dollars depending on the number of players. After takeoff, a flight attendant will reach into the bag and draw a bill. Tight end Luke Willson has the hot hand, with three wins since he was re-signed in Week 4.

After road wins, Al Woods sits next to fellow defensive tackle Jarran Reed in one of the middle rows of the 2-2-2 configuration in first class. Wagner and Wright are to their left.

“So a lot of times me and K.J. are talking about the game, what we did, what we should have did, that was a good play, that’s bad play, ‘OK, I need to work on that this week so I don’t have a tell’ or whatever the case may be,” Woods said. “And then we just talk about life, talk about kids and the next step on the other side of football, what we’re going to be doing. After that, we sleep. We may sleep for two, three hours and by that time we’re getting ready to land.”

It’s more lively in the back of the plane, where veterans such as fullback Nick Bellore, cornerback Neiko Thorpe and receiver Jaron Brown choose to sit among the younger players even though they’re tenured enough for a first-class seat.

“You try to sleep usually, but it’s always hard after a game,” Bellore said. “Usually there’s enough guys yelling and carrying on nonsense that it’s hard to sleep. Guys play all sorts of games. We play cards. Some were playing like a movie quote game and they did that for like six hours when we were coming back from Pittsburgh. I don’t know how they did that.”

Long-snapper Tyler Ott‘s most memorable experience didn’t happen in first class. He was sitting up front after a road win last season when former kicker Sebastian Janikowski told him they were going to sit in the cockpit for takeoff. Janikowski knew the flight crew from his years with the Raiders, who also chartered Hawaiian planes. So Ott and SeaBass strapped into their jump seats, then watched the captain and his co-pilot go to work.

“It was cool,” Ott said. “It was at night, so we didn’t get to see a whole bunch, but it’s crazy all the stuff that’s going on up there. We just sat there and tried to be as quiet as possible.”

‘What am I doing sitting back here?!’

Which assistant coaches gripe the most about getting displaced from first class?

“I’m not going to throw them under the bus like that,” Carroll said. “Use your imagination.”

Except Carroll had already outed his defensive coordinator as one of them, evoking a visual of Ken Norton Jr.’s screaming voice cutting through the din of both cabins the same way it cuts through the music that blares during training camp practices.

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