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Ryan Finley era gets off to rough start for Bengals – Cincinnati Bengals Blog

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CINCINNATI — The evaluation of rookie Ryan Finley as the Cincinnati Bengals‘ franchise quarterback got off to a rocky start on Sunday.

Finley had some good moments but also had two turnovers that were returned for points as the Bengals were walloped by the Baltimore Ravens 49-13. In his debut as Cincinnati’s starting quarterback, Finley, a fourth-round pick out of North Carolina State, completed 16 of 30 passes for 167 yards, one touchdown and one interception.

When Bengals first-year coach Zac Taylor made the switch from veteran Andy Dalton to Finley, the move was partially made to figure out what they have in Finley ahead of the 2020 draft. After Sunday’s loss, the 0-9 Bengals remain the lone winless team in the NFL and should be in contention for one of the top selections in the April draft.

Finley isn’t competing against anyone on Cincinnati’s roster to be Dalton’s successor as the Bengals’ top quarterback. He will likely have to fend off Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa or LSU’s Joe Burrow, two potential options who could be on the board when the Bengals make their first pick.

Finley’s first start came hours after Burrow and Tagovailoa went throw-for-throw in LSU’s 46-41 victory over Alabama. Burrow, an Ohio native, was 31-of-39 passing for 393 yards and three touchdowns in the Tigers’ first win over Alabama since 2011.

Finley showed some elusiveness under pressure and made timely throws as he moved the Bengals’ offense into Baltimore territory on multiple occasions. But Finley also was intercepted by Marcus Peters, who returned it for an 89-yard touchdown in the second quarter. Finley also coughed up a fumble that was scooped up by Tyus Bowser and returned for a 20-yard score in the third quarter.

Looking good against the AFC North leaders was always going to be a tough task for Finley, especially given the Bengals’ current state. Cincinnati has struggled to defend the pass rush all season, and two of their top wide receivers, A.J. Green and John Ross, are out with injury.

Because Taylor and the Bengals made the switch early, Finley will have more opportunities to prove he should be the starter in 2020 and beyond. But to do that, he has to have better performances than Sunday’s outing against the Ravens.

Biggest hole in the game plan: As much as Lamar Jackson torched the Bengals’ defense, the Ravens used tight ends in their aerial attack. Of the Baltimore quarterback’s 17 targets, 13 of them went to a tight end. Mark Andrews caught six of his seven targets for 53 yards and two touchdowns. But it wasn’t just Andrews. Nick Boyle caught all four targets for 78 yards. Even Hayden Hurst notched two catches for 20 yards.

Silver lining: Running back Joe Mixon cleared the 100-yard rushing mark for the first time since 2018. Mixon had a career-high 30 carries for 114 yards, with a decent chunk of that coming as the Bengals tried to bleed the clock in the fourth quarter. But even at the beginning of the game, Mixon was effective and found small openings to pick up modest gains. It’s a bright spot for a Bengals rushing offense that entered Week 10 as the worst in the NFL.

Eye-popping Next Gen stat: The Bengals were credited with only three pressures, according to NFL Next Gen. Jackson’s only throw under duress was a 20-yard touchdown pass to Marquise Brown.

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Rams still alive in playoff chase after beating the Bears – Los Angeles Rams Blog

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LOS ANGELES — The Los Angeles Rams’ sideline erupted in celebration as running back Malcolm Brown plowed into the end zone late in the fourth quarter Sunday night, ensuring a 17-7 victory over the Chicago Bears and keeping their playoff hopes alive.

The Rams improved to 6-4, and they now turn their attention to the surging Baltimore Ravens, whom they will host on Monday Night Football on Nov. 25.

Playoff math and scoreboard watching have become part of the Rams’ game-day routine as they keep alive slim hopes for a wild-card spot. The Seattle Seahawks and Minnesota Vikings remain ahead in the race. The Vikings won Sunday to improve to 8-3, while Seattle, 8-2, was on a bye.

QB breakdown: Throwing clearly wasn’t part of coach Sean McVay’s game plan with receivers Robert Woods and Brandin Cooks inactive and an offensive line that featured three first-year starters. Quarterback Jared Goff completed 11 of 18 passes for 173 yards and an interception. On the Rams’ second possession, Goff threw a pass that was intercepted by Bears linebacker Roquan Smith. It was Goff’s 10th interception this season but his first thrown from outside of the pocket. Late in the second half, Goff completed a 50-yard pass to Cooper Kupp to set up a 1-yard touchdown run by Todd Gurley II.

Gurley tracker: Gurley had his most productive performance of 2019 with a season-high 28 touches for a season-high 133 all-purpose yards. Gurley lost a fumble, his second of the season, on the Rams’ opening play, but he found momentum on their second possession, as he rushed for 16 yards on consecutive carries and caught a 23-yard pass, his longest reception of the season. Late in the second half, Gurley rushed 1 yard for a touchdown, breaking the Rams’ streak of 23 possessions — dating to the third quarter of Week 8 — without a touchdown. Gurley rushed for 97 yards, tying his previous season high, and a touchdown on a season-high 25 carries. He now has gone eight straight games with fewer than 100 scrimmage yards, the second-longest streak of his career. Gurley’s previous high was 101 all-purpose yards, which included 97 rushing yards, in a Week 1 victory over the Carolina Panthers. He had 19 touches in Weeks 2 and 7.

Pivotal play: In the second quarter, cornerback Troy Hill, who took over as a starter when cornerback Aqib Talib was injured and then traded, intercepted a pass by Mitchell Trubisky. The Rams converted the turnover into a 1-yard score by Gurley to take a 10-0 lead in the second quarter. Hill had six tackles and three pass deflections in the game.

Missing in action: Woods was a surprise scratch and did not attend the game because of a personal issue, a Rams spokesperson said. That left Goff without two of his three starting receivers. Cooks was ruled out early in the week, as the Rams continue to closely monitor his recovery from the two concussions he suffered last month. The Rams also played without right tackle Rob Havenstein, who was sidelined because of a knee injury. Rookie Bobby Evans, a third-round pick from Oklahoma, started in his absence.

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How can Patriots get Tom Brady, offense on track? – New England Patriots Blog

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PHILADELPHIA — What might get Tom Brady and the New England Patriots‘ offense back on track? With the Dallas Cowboys (6-4) coming to town on Sunday, that is arguably the top question facing the 9-1 team.

Brady didn’t throw a touchdown pass in Sunday’s 17-10 win against the Philadelphia Eagles (5-5), as the offense sputtered for extended stretches. Receiver Julian Edelman threw the team’s lone touchdown, and this marks the first time in Brady’s 20-year career that he played the entire contest and didn’t lead the team in touchdown passes in a game. That covers 317 career starts, including playoffs.

Overall, this is just the fourth time Brady has started a game and didn’t lead the team in touchdown passes. The other three instances were cases when he left injured (2001 AFC Championship Game; 2008 season opener) or was pulled early (Week 17, 2006).

Coach Bill Belichick previously had made the point that with some players returning to action this week (WR N’Keal Harry and TE Matt LaCosse), more reinforcements expected next week (LT Isaiah Wynn) and the continued integration of recently added players (TE Benjamin Watson, WR Mohamed Sanu), it’s very much a developing picture.

It showed against the Eagles, as Brady didn’t look like himself for long stretches of the action.

Describe the game in two words: Defensive turnaround. The Eagles had a 95-yard touchdown drive that chewed up 9 minutes, 33 seconds from the first quarter into the second — which was the longest drive New England has allowed all season. But the Patriots’ defense responded in a big way after that, with a plan that featured a heavy emphasis on covering Eagles tight end Zach Ertz, giving the inconsistent offense time to generate just enough of the momentum it needed (going to tempo at the start of the third quarter provided a temporary spark).

Bold prediction for next week: With 2018 first-round draft pick Isaiah Wynn set to be activated off injured reserve and return to his spot at left tackle, the one-dimensional, pass-based offense will finally find its groove with some more balance in the run game. Wynn, if he can stay healthy, is the key piece because he can provide more comfort on Brady’s blindside. Veteran Marshall Newhouse has competed in his place, but Wynn is a decisive upgrade.

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Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray irked by loss — I’m used to winning

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SANTA CLARA, Calif. — Arizona Cardinals rookie quarterback Kyler Murray was visibly upset after Sunday’s 36-26 loss to the San Francisco 49ers, in which the Cardinals gave up a 16-0 lead in the first half.

It was the Cardinals’ fourth straight loss, dropping them to 3-7-1 as they head into their bye week.

When Murray was asked about the emotions of losing Sunday’s game like the Cardinals did — giving up a touchdown with 31 seconds left after Murray scored the then-go-ahead touchdown with 6:40 left in the game — he paused 10 seconds before answering the question.

“I’m used to winning,” Murray said. “I’ve always won, and then being in situations like when you go up 16 or you’re in position to win and you should win, it’s disappointing.”

Murray lost three games as a starter in college between his season at Texas A&M and his career at Oklahoma, and never lost a game he started in high school.

He lost three games in the NFL by Week 4 of this season and it has started to take a toll.

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Kyler Murray shows off the wheels as he gets into the end zone on a 22-yard run.

“I’m a competitor,” Murray said. “I love the game of football so every time I step on the field I’m going to do me. I’m going to go hard for the guys in the locker room. So, that’s really all I can do. Leave it all on the field and we just came up short.”

At one point while he was at his locker after the game, Murray let out a yell of frustration.

But when asked if this game hit harder than others, he said all losses are equal.

“Ah, s—, I don’t know,” Murray said. “A loss is a loss, and we got to get better.”

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