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Week 10 NFL takeaways – What to make of the Saints’ and Chiefs’ upset losses



The Saints lost by 17 points to the Falcons. And even with Patrick Mahomes back under center, the Chiefs couldn’t outlast the Titans. The Jets got by the Giants in a Battle of New York, Baltimore’s Lamar Jackson piled on offense against an overmatched Cincinnati team and the Browns held off the Bills for their third win.

In the afternoon, Miami upset Indianapolis, and Green Bay made a late stand to beat Carolina in the snow.

All that and more in Week 10’s biggest takeaways from NFL Nation.

Jump to a matchup:

The Titans rediscovered the importance of using Derrick Henry as the focal point of the offense. Offensive coordinator Arthur Smith’s decision to stick to the run despite being down by nine points to Kansas City in the fourth quarter paid off. Henry finished with 23 carries for 188 yards and two touchdowns. Tennessee’s win keeps it in the playoff mix and allows the team to get healthy during the bye week. — Turron Davenport

Next game: vs. Jacksonville (4:05 p.m. ET, Nov. 24)

Even with Patrick Mahomes back in the lineup and on top of his game, the Chiefs won’t be able to outscore every opponents. If they don’t clean up their sloppiness on special teams and improve on defending the run, they won’t win the AFC West title for the fourth consecutive season. The Chiefs can be get caught by the 5-4 Raiders, who are a half-game behind and come to Arrowhead Stadium in Week 13. — Adam Teicher

Next game: at L.A. Chargers (8:15 p.m. ET, Nov. 18)

The Falcons, who had a league-low seven sacks coming into Sunday, generated consistent pressure against Drew Brees with six sacks and 11 quarterback hits. Defensive tackle Grady Jarrett led the way with 2.5 sacks and five QB hits. The coverage and communication from the defensive backs was solid, and the rushers up front took care of the rest. If the Falcons can rush with such consistency next week at Carolina and the rest of the season, they could be in every game, especially if the offense continues with long scoring drives. — Vaughn McClure

Next game: at Carolina (1 p.m. ET, Sunday)

New Orleans needs to figure out how to start faster. The Saints’ stunning loss at home to the Falcons feels like a bit of a one-off, since they won the six previous games. But Brees agreed afterward the Saints do need to be concerned about their uncharacteristic trend of slow starts on offense this season. They have scored a total of 25 first-quarter points in nine games. They need to start setting the tone more in a critical month with three more division games coming up, starting next week at Tampa Bay. — Mike Triplett

Next game: at Tampa Bay (1 p.m. ET, Sunday)

Bears coach Matt Nagy refuses to change. He opened the doors to Club Dub, the Bears postgame locker room dance party, after Sunday’s victory over Detroit, even though the team had lost four straight coming in and is 4-5 on the year. “I never considered not doing it,” Nagy said. “It’s who we are.” He recalled one year in Kansas City when the Chiefs were 1-5 and found a way to make the playoffs. “I keep reminding myself of that,” Nagy said. The Bears face long odds, but there is no quit in the second-year head coach. — Jeff Dickerson

Next game: at L.A. Rams (8:20 p.m. ET, Sunday)

Life without Matthew Stafford, as expected, was not kind to the Lions. While the stats might appear better than one would think in Jeff Driskel‘s first start with Detroit, the reality is it was a much different offense without Stafford playing for the first time since the start of the 2011 season. It will be a long season for Detroit, who is now close to needing to win out to reach the postseason, if Stafford can’t return soon. — Michael Rothstein

Next game: vs. Dallas (1 p.m. ET, Sunday)

The Bucs finally found a way to finish. After the Buccaneers surrendered an eight-point lead to the Seahawks last week — their fifth blown lead of the season — and having their secondary called out by coach Bruce Arians for a “disappointing” year, cornerback Jamel Dean made a touchdown-saving interception late in the fourth quarter. “I’m just really elated that we finished,” said quarterback Jameis Winston, who threw two interceptions but delivered three touchdown drives. “That was a really, really ugly win. That was an ugly win. But we found a way to do it.” Arians added, “I can’t be happier for anybody than Jamel Dean. He [won] the game. Last week he [was] the goat. He’s gonna be a hell of a player.” — Jenna Laine

Next game: vs. New Orleans (1 p.m. ET, Sunday)



Ronald Jones II, O.J. Howard and Peyton Barber all fine the end zone for the Buccaneers in a 30-27 win over the Cardinals.

The Cardinals blew an opportunity to inch closer to .500. Arizona’s offense looked impressive at times, with Kyler Murray setting a new mark for consecutive passes by rookie without an interception (211), per the Elias Sports Bureau. However, too many mistakes — including a pick by Murray late in fourth quarter — cost Arizona a win. After the demoralizing loss, the Cardinals now have to gear up to travel to San Francisco for their fourth road game in five weeks. — Josh Weinfuss

Next game: at San Francisco (4:05 p.m. ET, Sunday)

Lamar Jackson made his most complete statement that he’s the MVP in the NFL. He became the third player in the past 30 years to record at least three touchdown passes, one touchdown run and a perfect passer rating in a single game. But what everyone will talk about is his highlight-reel 47-yard touchdown run in which he faked out one defender and spun around another. Coach John Harbaugh said: “I said to offensive coaches on the headphones: ‘They’ll be watching that run for decades and decades. That’s one that everyone in the country is going to see by tomorrow afternoon.'” Thanks to Jackson, the Ravens (7-2) won for the fifth consecutive time, closing to within one game of the Patriots (8-1) and the top seed in the AFC. — Jamison Hensley

Next game: vs. Houston (1 p.m. ET, Sunday)

Almost everything that happened during the Bengals’ blowout loss against the Ravens was part of the bottoming out that comes with the rebuilding process. Rookie quarterback Ryan Finley had some positive moments but also had a couple of costly turnovers that were returned for touchdowns (one fumble lost, one interception). The Bengals went with rookies like Drew Sample and Germaine Pratt in an effort to make progress in their development. And while all of that is necessary to build for the future, it comes at a cost. Cincinnati needed a late field goal to avoid the biggest loss in franchise history. But it was Cincinnati’s 11th straight defeat dating back to last season, which ties the longest in franchise history. The ninth consecutive loss in 2019 makes this the franchise’s worst start since 1993. — Ben Baby

Next game: at Oakland (4:25 p.m. ET, Sunday)

After getting stuffed on goal-to-go on two previous possessions, Cleveland finally broke through in the final two minutes. Cleveland has owned one of the worst red-zone and goal-to-go offenses in the NFL, and those struggles continued Sunday. But with one final opportunity, the Browns kept their season — and faint playoff hopes — alive with a gutsy, 82-yard touchdown drive, concluding with a 7-yard pass from Baker Mayfield to Rashard Higgins. Too often this year, the Browns have found ways to lose. Sunday, they found a way to win. Now, in the span of five days, they have an opportunity to double their season win total, with Pittsburgh coming to town Thursday night. Beat the Steelers, and suddenly Cleveland’s season outlook quickly could begin to change. — Jake Trotter

Next game: vs. Pittsburgh (8:20 p.m. ET, Thursday)

This loss may go down as a pivotal moment in Buffalo’s season. The Bills made things interesting for the AFC’s potential wild-card teams after Sunday’s loss to the Browns, adding fuel to the critique that this team’s record is more a result of a weak schedule than anything else. Unfortunately for Buffalo, that “weak schedule” has come to a screeching halt; its next two games against Miami and Denver can no longer be overlooked before a four-game stretch against Dallas, Baltimore, Pittsburgh and New England. Now 10 weeks into the season, the Bills are 1-3 against their four toughest opponents and haven’t created any sort of confidence they can beat good teams. — Marcel Louis-Jacques

Next game: at Miami (1 p.m. ET, Sunday)

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Cowboys’ Mike McCarthy adapts to new learning curve during coronavirus pandemic



For most of the offseason, Mike McCarthy has been closer to Lambeau Field and the Green Bay Packers than his new team, the Dallas Cowboys, because of the coronavirus pandemic.

After being named Cowboys coach in January, McCarthy spent most of his time leading up to the pandemic in Frisco, Texas, where The Star, the team’s training facility, is located. He then spent all of the draft process in Wisconsin and conducted the team’s virtual offseason program from there.

“I don’t think any of us envisioned what’s going on in our society,” McCarthy said in a conference call Wednesday. “I think it just puts things in perspective. I have been with my family the whole time [since] maybe the first 10 days of the pandemic. I am anxiously preparing, frankly, to get back to Frisco as soon as possible. It’s time, I know, for me to get back.”

McCarthy has yet to have an in-person team meeting, and when he addressed the full team via Webex, he did not have the capability to see all 90 faces looking at him. He acknowledged feeling a little behind in the process because it is his first year with a mostly new coaching staff (only four holdover assistants from Jason Garrett’s staff), a new defense and a partially reworked offense.

“You really don’t have a true comparable, but I think it’s obvious to think if we started April 6, like we normally would as a first-year program, we would be in a different spot than we are here today,” McCarthy said. “I am pleased with the amount of work that we have been able to accomplish. I think our coaches have been very creative. I think the communication and correspondence with players have been excellent. The questions have been intuitive. I think it leans toward the veteran experience of our football team that we’re able to get this much work done.”

Cowboys staff met with players first by position group before adding full offensive and defensive team meetings this week to help the learning process. He felt it would be better for the players to learn their specific job requirements in smaller groups to start and then get a bigger-picture schematic view.

“We just kind of flipped some things and the order of how we would normally do them,” McCarthy said. “It was more done with a focus on productivity, not just the detail but also get the volume of what we want to get done. Because our volume is obviously higher than a normal year because it’s our first year. That’s why we went with that approach.”

McCarthy said the coaches have put together a training camp plan if the Cowboys can go to Oxnard, California, or if they will remain in Frisco.

“We’re just trying to be ready for when the NFL and those big decisions are made that we’re not running around trying to adhere to a different schedule,” McCarthy said. “So we’ve spent a ton of time in our preparation of getting ready for that moment when we do get to be with the players.”

As for Dak Prescott, who has yet to sign the $31.4 million exclusive franchise tag in hopes of landing a multiyear contract by July 15, McCarthy said there has been communication with the quarterback even if Prescott has not taken part in the voluntary meetings.

“This is the way these business situations go sometimes, and you respect that,” McCarthy said. “I have all the confidence it’ll work out.”

Having spent last season out of coaching after a 13-year run with the Packers, McCarthy gained a different perspective. Now that he’s been back for nearly five months, the pandemic has offered another perspective.

“I think we’ve all been taught a whole different level of patience,” McCarthy said. “I think keeping things in perspective, thinking of the health of your community and your family, a lot of other things are secondary. I’m anxious to get back, frankly. My family’s probably anxious for me to get back. They’re not used to having me around as much.

“It’s definitely something I’ve prepared for, but frankly, it’s self-explanatory — you used to be able to have 60 days to get the job done, and everybody in our league will probably have more like 30 days, so I’m really focusing on maximizing the time and the meeting time and the most important things we need to get done when we get back together. Having the unknown out there causes more work on the preparation side.”

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Tom Brady the golfer gave us a hint at what’s coming with Tom Brady the football player



There is a decent chance, assuming the NFL plays games this fall, that Tom Brady‘s first season in a Tampa Bay Buccaneers uniform will end up reminding you of something you’ve already seen.

Not his 20 years with the Patriots but his golf swing.

At times, I predict, he’s going to be a mess, and the expression on his face will be a stony mixture of frustration and embarrassment. He’ll develop a 1,000-yard stare, and a gleeful social media pile-on will commence, the jokes flying fast and furious. I can already promise you, in Tampa, Brady will lead the league in memes created, if not touchdowns thrown.

As a culture, we delight in watching sports icons stumble, particularly the ones who seemed untouchable for so long, and when Brady’s decline finally (finally) arrives — seven years and several Super Bowl wins after people like me first said it was coming — it’s going to be merciless.

Yes, it’s been a few days, but as we transition back to Football Brady, don’t forget what you saw this past weekend, and perhaps what his golf game revealed. Just as you’re about to fire up a Simpsons GIF and dance on his grave, I bet Brady will respond by doing something miraculous, something inexplicable, that will make you want to eat your tweet.

That’s what happened when he spent six holes hitting shanks and blocks and duffs, only to hole out for birdie from the middle of the seventh fairway, easily the most memorable shot hit during a broadcast that included the two best American golfers of the past 25 years, Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson, plus former football rival Peyton Manning.

Whether you love golf or loathe what you think it stands for, it tends to reveal a lot about the people who play it, perhaps more than any other sport. There is no hiding in golf, no handing the ball to a running back or checking down to a receiver, when you’re nervous and anxious. You have to find the fix between your ears.

If The Match: Champions for Charity taught us anything about Brady, it’s this: He can still get extremely nervous and uncomfortable when he’s out of his element. He can also still summon something improbable, briefly reminding you that he’s one of the best athletes this country has ever produced. Then he’ll finish it off by splitting his pants as he picks up his ball, looking every bit like the awkward, overly earnest, 42-year-old dad he is.

Michael Jordan has been on everyone’s mind of late, for obvious reasons because of “The Last Dance.” It’s hard to explain — especially to someone who didn’t live through the ’90s — just how compelling he was at the height of his powers, a magnetic amalgam of grace, power and ruthlessness. Brady’s career with the Patriots was beginning just as Jordan’s career with the Bulls was ending, and it’s interesting how similarly wired they are when it comes to using grievances (real and imagined) to fuel their competitive mania.

But the version of Jordan we saw in “The Last Dance,” the version we collectively reminisced about during this unexpected quarantine, has never been my favorite version of Jordan. I’m one of the few who actually prefer to reminisce about the real last dance of his career, his time with the Wizards, when his knees were so sore he could barely dunk, when he was surrounded by teammates he didn’t know well or particularly trust, and when his fadeaway jumper was his only reliable weapon. It was rarely beautiful, but it was revealing in ways his Bulls career was not. Watching him struggle, watching him cope with the gradual deterioration of his skills, the failure and frustration of feeling mortal, made me admire Jordan in ways I couldn’t when he played basketball like a deity.

I suspect the same will be true of Brady this year.

Most of us think it’s sad to watch a once-great athlete play out the string. Willie Mays falling down in the outfield, in a Mets uniform, has become the shorthand for what we don’t want to see. It makes us uncomfortable, reminds us that we’re all mortal, even the greatest. We’d much prefer they walk away too soon than too late, lest they harm what we think of as their legacy. There is a reason “The Last Dance” ends with his sixth championship — the shot over Bryon Russell — and not his actual final NBA game, when he scored 15 points in a 107-87 loss to the Philadelphia 76ers. It’s not cinematic.

Great athletes, however, don’t think about their lives in terms of story arcs and narratives. They want to compete until their bodies are so broken that someone has to drag them from the game. That’s why Brady is trying to reinvent himself one last time in Tampa. In every aspect of his personal life, he is excessively cautious, but in his athletic career, he’d rather risk looking foolish than quit.

Years from now, if we end up mulling Brady’s legacy the way we’ve just mulled Jordan’s, there is a good chance we’ll skip over the final chapter in Tampa Bay, other than to crack a few jokes. But I like to imagine his golf game just gave us a preview of how it might go.

True, he wasn’t great, and there were stretches when you couldn’t help but cringe just watching him, but there were also moments when he found something. With Mickelson playing the role of Bruce Arians, serving as both a coach and in-game therapist, Brady scraped his way around Medalist and made the competition riveting, rolling in an eagle putt on the back nine and firing a dart at the pin late in the round.

On the 18th green, the light was fading fast, but you could tell Brady wasn’t ready for it to end. He would have loved to play a few more holes, anything to delay the inevitable sunset just a bit longer.

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Pittsburgh pro teams given green light by PA Gov. to practice, play; Philly still week away



Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf issued a new guidance Wednesday permitting the play and practice of professional sports in counties that are under the yellow and/or green phase of reopening.

But that doesn’t mean that all professional teams in the state can start gathering right away.

Located in Allegheny County, which is currently ‘yellow,’ the Pittsburgh Steelers would be allowed by local laws to practice, once the NFL permits. The Eagles, though, located in the ‘red’ Philadelphia region, would not be until their county moves to ‘yellow’ on June 5.

The Pittsburgh Penguins and Pittsburgh Pirates would also be allowed to resume practice and play under Wolf’s guidance, as would the Phillies after June 5.

The Philadelphia Flyers and 76ers, which practice in New Jersey, were given the green light by New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy on Tuesday. Wolf’s guidance would allow them to hold games in their home arenas, as long as there were no fans in attendance.

Earlier this week, the NHL announced a plan that would reopen team facilities and resume training in June.

And, because Monroe County will move to the ‘yellow’ phase on Friday, the NASCAR races at Pocono Raceway from June 25-28 will be allowed to go on as scheduled.

There have been 69,417 cases of COVID-19 and 5,265 deaths in Pennsylvania, with the Philadelphia region being the hardest hit. There have been more than 17,000 cases in Philadelphia County, while Allegheny County has had 1,828, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Health.

“Professional sports, defined as any sporting event at which the participants are paid by a league or team, or at which individuals or teams receive prizes or purse, are allowed to practice or play in the yellow and green phases of reopening without on-site or venue spectators if the team (or league on behalf of the team) has developed a COVID-19 safety plan,” Wolf said in a statement.

Wolf added that the plan must be approved by the Pennsylvania Department of Health, and must include testing or screening and monitoring of all on-venue players and personnel. Spectators will also not be permitted on “interior or exterior venue property.”

The Steelers put single-game tickets on sale last week, but held back 50% of available tickets in preparation for potential social distancing guidelines for fans at Heinz Field.

The Steelers’ facility opened on May 19, abiding by the league’s reopening plan, which allows no more than 50% of staff — and no more than 75 people — in the facility. No member of the coaching staff is allowed in the building, though the strength and conditioning coach can be there if he or she is rehabilitating an injured player. Players are also not allowed, unless they are injured and receiving treatment.

The Steelers are currently conducting virtual OTAs as a part of the virtual offseason, and coach Mike Tomlin has advocated for “competitive fairness” in allowing personnel back into the facilities.

“I prescribe to the approach of competitive fairness within our game, and that is everybody gets an opportunity,” Tomlin said earlier this month. “Our game is extremely competitive. It’s one of the things that make football at this level so attractive to our fans. I’m committed to preserving and protecting that, and so all teams getting an opportunity to start on the same footing is a core element of that.”

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