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Niners WR Emmanuel Sanders damaged rib cartilage in loss

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SANTA CLARA, Calif. — Already awaiting tight end George Kittle‘s return from knee and ankle injuries, the San Francisco 49ers will now also be monitoring the progress of their other top receiving option.

Niners coach Kyle Shanahan announced Tuesday that wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders suffered some cartilage damage in his ribs against the Seattle Seahawks on Monday night. X-rays taken at Levi’s Stadium were inconclusive, leading Sanders to have an MRI on Tuesday morning.

The results of further testing revealed the cartilage damage, which Shanahan said will put Sanders’ availability for this week’s game against Arizona up in the air but isn’t something the Niners expect to be a long-term issue.

“He’ll be day-to-day and probably end up being a game-time decision,” Shanahan said.

Sanders was hurt early in the game but attempted to play through it. Those efforts ended early in the second quarter when Sanders departed for the locker room and did not return.

The 8-1 Niners traded for Sanders on Oct. 22 with hopes that he could be the missing piece the offense needed to push them to Super Bowl contender status. Sanders wasted no time making an impact, posting 14 catches for 137 yards and two touchdowns in his first two games.

Sanders had a pair of catches for 24 yards before leaving Monday’s game with the injury. Kittle was a pregame inactive with his knee and ankle injuries and it’s possible he could be out again this week, as Shanahan said that nothing has changed about his status from last week.

Without Sanders and Kittle, the 49ers offense struggled to find a rhythm and the replacement pass catchers struggled with drops against Seattle.

“They’re our two best playmakers so it definitely takes a toll,” Shanahan said after the game. “We knew that coming in with George, we kind of realized that was going to happen today. And Emmanuel was out there battling, had that happen with his ribs. He tried to go a few more series longer but he had to go out. Other guys came in and some guys stepped it up at times. We just didn’t have the consistency there.”

In other, more serious, injury news, 49ers defensive lineman Ronald Blair III will miss the rest of the season with a torn ACL in his right knee. Blair has been a key backup, accumulating 14 tackles and three sacks while playing all over the line. The Niners plan to work out some free-agent edge rushers in the next couple of days as potential replacements.

Left tackle Joe Staley, who made it through his first game back from a broken fibula without any issue, has a broken finger and is seeking a second opinion. Shanahan said Staley could require surgery that would cost him a couple of weeks.

Defensive tackle D.J. Jones, who left Monday’s game with a groin injury, is expected to miss at least a week and linebacker Azeez Al-Shaair will be in concussion protocol before he can be cleared to return.

Like Kittle, kicker Robbie Gould will again be questionable throughout this week and a game-time decision as he works back from a quad injury. Running back Matt Breida also aggravated a previous ankle injury and will be considered day-to-day.

As for rookie receiver Jalen Hurd, who is on injured reserve with a back issue, he is eligible to begin practicing this week. However, Shanahan said they monitored his workouts last week and Hurd did not “meet the requirements” the training staff had set forth to open his practice window, so he does not expect Hurd to begin practice this week.

The 49ers do not have to decide on Hurd’s status in the immediate future as they still have both designations for players on injured reserve available.

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Darius Leonard ends Colts’ defensive TD drought with pick-six

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TAMPA, Fla. — Darius Leonard faced the right quarterback at the right time to help the Colts end one of the longest droughts without a touchdown in the NFL.

The Colts linebacker made his second interception of the first half when he baited interception-prone Tampa Bay quarterback Jameis Winston into throwing another pick by faking in, and then dropping back to intercept a pass intended for Buccaneers receiver Chris Godwin. Winston has thrown an NFL-high 22 interceptions this season.

That was just the start for Leonard. The linebacker, with the help of downfield blocks from safety Khari Willis and defensive end Justin Houston, returned it 80 yards for the first touchdown of his NFL career to give the Colts a 24-20 lead.

The Colts had gone 38 straight games without a defensive touchdown. That streak had tied the Cleveland Browns for the longest in the NFL.



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Broncos’ 70-yard fumble return TD has Denver thinking upset early

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HOUSTON — Now, that’s how to start a game against your former team.

Broncos safety Kareem Jackson, a former Texan, was credited with a 70-yard touchdown after taking a handoff from fellow defender Jeremiah Attaochu Sunday against the Houston Texans on an odd-looking play.

Late in the first quarter on a first-and-10 from the Broncos’ 37-yard line, Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson completed a 9-yard pass to wide receiver Keke Coutee, who was then hit by Broncos’ linebacker Alexander Johnson.

Johnson knocked the ball free and it was scooped up by Attaochu, who was in the grasp of a Texans player and handed the ball off to Jackson, who sprinted up Broncos sideline for the score. Several Texans players looked somewhat surprised that officials had allowed the play to proceed.

The fumble and return was reviewed, as is customary of scoring plays, and was upheld. It gave the Broncos a 14-0 lead in the first quarter.

By the end of the first quarter Attaochu had two sacks and the fumble recovery, while Jackson had also knocked the ball free from wide receiver DeAndre Hopkins with a big hit later in the quarter.

Jackson was a first-round pick by the Texans in 2010 who spent nine years in Houston and is in his first season with the Broncos. Jackson scored three touchdowns in nine seasons with the Texans, the second-most in franchise history. He now has a TD in his first game against Houston.

It was the Broncos’ first fumble recovery for a score since Week 17 of the 2017 season.



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Browns’ Denzel Ward races 61 yards for pick-six vs. Bengals

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CLEVELAND — Cleveland cornerback Denzel Ward delivered the first pick-six of his career Sunday against the Bengals, returning an errant Andy Dalton throw 61 yards for a touchdown to give the Browns an early 7-3 lead.

It was the first interception returned for a touchdown by a Cleveland player since Oct. 15, 2017, against the Houston Texans, when Jason McCourty returned a pick for a score in the fourth quarter of Texans rout.



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