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Mark Walton cut by Dolphins; RB allegedly struck pregnant woman

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DAVIE, Fla. — The Miami Dolphins waived running back Mark Walton after he was arrested Tuesday morning on a charge of aggravated battery of a pregnant woman.

According to a police document released to ESPN, Walton is accused of pushing the woman into a wall and punching her several times in her face and head. Walton is currently being booked into Broward County jail.

The officer called to the scene observed swelling to the woman’s left eye. The woman is five weeks pregnant, and Walton is the father. She told officers that she had told Walton about the pregnancy on Sunday.

The alleged aggravated battery occurred at 4:15 a.m. Tuesday in Davie, Florida, after an argument.

A message to Walton’s agent for a response was not immediately returned.

Walton, 22, was through two games of a four-game league suspension for violating the NFL conduct and substance abuse policy relating to his three offseason arrests between January and March. He was released by the Cincinnati Bengals after these arrests, and the Dolphins signed him in May.

The Dolphins initially expected Walton back after he served his suspension, but they immediately released him when they said they were made aware of a police matter regarding the second-year player Tuesday morning.

“We hold our players to a high standard and take these matters very seriously. We will have no further comment at this time,” general manager Chris Grier said in a statement.

The Dolphins are now likely in the market for a new lead running back starting in 2020. Kalen Ballage has assumed that role in Walton’s absence with little success, averaging just 1.9 yards per carry. Patrick Laird and Myles Gaskin have received limited reps behind Ballage. The trio, along with De’Lance Turner, will carry the load for the rest of the season.

Walton, a 2018 fourth-round pick out of the University of Miami, leads the Dolphins with 201 rushing yards on a 3.8 yards-per-carry average. He also has 15 receptions for 89 yards. The league allowed Walton to be at the team facility and attend meetings during his suspension without pay.

Walton received six months of non-reporting probation as part of an August plea deal to resolve his three offseason court cases. Walton’s probation was later vacated after he met the court’s conditions. Walton’s attorney, Michael Gottlieb, said in August that his client had his most significant charge of felony for carrying a concealed weapon from his March arrest reduced to a second-degree misdemeanor open-carry charge after pleading no contest. Walton was arrested after a car chase with police. The plea deal decreased the maximum length of his jail sentence from five years to 60 days.

Walton also pleaded guilty to resisting arrest and reckless driving and had a misdemeanor marijuana charge dismissed from that March arrest. As a part of the deal, Walton also had a drug charge from a January arrest and a battery charge from a February arrest dismissed. Walton also had to attend driving school after the reckless-driving plea.

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Patriots-Chiefs rematch evokes best victories of New England’s dynasty – New England Patriots Blog

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FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — The New England Patriots host the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday in a rematch of last season’s AFC Championship Game, which was one of the epic wins of the era of coach Bill Belichick and quarterback Tom Brady.

“As usual, I’d say the Chiefs look pretty good,” Belichick said Wednesday, noting last year’s conference title game has some relevance in game planning. “Offensively, this is about as tough a team to prepare for as there is.”

While noting the Chiefs present challenges on defense and special teams, as well, Belichick said of Kansas City coach Andy Reid: “He’s as good a playcaller and game planner as anybody I’ve coached against.”

The Chiefs (8-4) have played some of their best football of the season as they enter Sunday on a two-game winning streak, while the Patriots (10-2) are coming off a disappointing loss to the Houston Texans, and their offense has come under some scrutiny for inconsistent play.

The return engagement (4:25 p.m. ET, CBS) provides a springboard to not only revisit that AFC Championship Game, but also place it in historical context among some of the great non-Super Bowl victories of the team’s dynastic run since 2001.

Best win ever? Not even in the top tier?

Such rankings are obviously subjective, but using what Brady said after last season’s game as a top part of the criteria — that it was especially sweet based on the odds being stacked against the Patriots, a high level of performance, the back-and-forth action and 70,000 people cheering against them — here is one view of the top six (for a touchdown, of course):

1. Patriots 38, Colts 34 (Nov. 30, 2003): Similar to last season’s AFC title game, it was on the road in a raucous, ear-splitting environment with high stakes as the teams jockeyed for the No. 1 playoff seed.

With 40 seconds remaining in regulation, the Peyton Manning-led Colts had four chances to win the game from inside the 2-yard line — and were stunningly denied. On fourth down, outside linebacker Willie McGinest charged into the backfield to tackle running back Edgerrin James, capping a back-and-forth game that is a notable chapter in the great Manning-Brady rivalry.

2. Patriots 37, Chiefs 31, OT (Jan. 20, 2019): In the rare spot of underdog, the Patriots couldn’t have played a better first half in the AFC Championship Game, leading 14-0, and it likely would have been more if not for an end zone interception thrown by Brady.

But it was only a matter of time before Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs’ offense would get cooking, which set the stage for a tense second half and overtime, with the Patriots converting three third-and-10s on the game-winning drive. As Brady said afterward when explaining why he jumped into the arms of Patriots linebacker Kyle Van Noy, “I was as excited as I’ve been in a long time.”

3. Patriots 38, Giants 35 (Dec. 29, 2007): Playing for history — the first 16-0 regular season — the Patriots hit the road in a playoff-type atmosphere.

Part of what made it special was that it was played on a Saturday night, and there were some questions as to how the Giants might approach the game because they were locked into the No. 5 playoff seed. New York coach Tom Coughlin went all-out, which further contributed to one of the NFL’s greatest regular-season finales.

There were five lead changes. When Brady hit Randy Moss for a 65-yard touchdown down the right sideline in the fourth quarter — one play after just missing the connection on a similar long bomb — it was an unforgettable moment because it gave the Patriots a 31-28 lead they wouldn’t relinquish and also set NFL records for most touchdown passes in a season (50, since broken) and most touchdown catches in a season (23).

4. Patriots 35, Ravens 31 (Jan. 10, 2015): The only game on the list played at home, the AFC divisional-round matchup finds its way here because the Patriots looked to be in real trouble — facing a 14-point deficit twice.

A touchdown throw from receiver Julian Edelman on a double pass helped provide a second-half spark, and the Patriots used an unusual tactic — declaring eligible receivers ineligible — that rattled the Ravens as the comeback was unfolding.

5. Patriots 24, Steelers 17 (Jan. 27, 2002): Although the Patriots had won seven games in a row, few figured they had much of a chance in the AFC Championship Game in Pittsburgh. Then they lost Brady to injury during the game, thrusting starter-turned-backup Drew Bledsoe into the game.

But as has become their signature under Belichick, they proved resourceful, with a Troy Brown 55-yard punt return for a touchdown and a blocked field goal that was returned 60 yards for a touchdown.

6. Patriots 24, Chargers 21 (Jan. 14, 2007): Brady throwing three interceptions in an AFC divisional-round game should have meant defeat, especially against a top-seeded Chargers team that had been undefeated at home and was led by league MVP LaDainian Tomlinson (31 touchdowns, 186 points, 1,815 yards).

The Chargers had nine Pro Bowlers and five All-Pros, as well. But the scrappy Patriots charged back from a 21-13 fourth-quarter deficit, with a key play coming when receiver Troy Brown stripped safety Marlon McCree on an interception return to set up the game-tying touchdown and 2-point conversion (direct snap to running back Kevin Faulk).

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How Rams coach Sean McVay is handling his biggest challenge yet – Los Angeles Rams Blog

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THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. — “Hold up!” a loud voice echoed inside the Los Angeles Rams locker room, after a celebratory postgame cheer.

John Fassel, the Rams’ special teams coordinator, stepped to the middle of the room.

“When you talk about adversity, we’ve got a great leader, who always carries us through the highs and the lows,” Fassel hollered in Rams coach Sean McVay’s direction. “When it’s time to work, he keeps focused on the mission.”

Fassel handed McVay a game ball. “For everything you do,” he said.

Ten months after McVay took the Rams to Super Bowl LIII, was hailed as an offensive genius and sent teams with coaching vacancies scrambling and reaching to hire anyone remotely connected to him, the Rams’ 33-year-old coach has drifted back to reality.

The Rams are 7-5, and after winning back-to-back division titles are hoping, at best, for a wild-card playoff berth. As they prepare for a Sunday Night Football matchup against the 10-2 Seattle Seahawks (8:20 p.m. ET, NBC), the Rams have a 17.7% chance of making the postseason, according to ESPN’s Football Power Index.

From the outside, it’s easy to ask what has gone wrong, as McVay’s signature offense has unexpectedly and repeatedly stalled. Last season, the Rams’ offense was among the highest-scoring units in the NFL, averaging 26.5 points, but this season it has dropped to 17th, averaging 21.2. The defense, while often stout behind two-time NFL Defensive Player of the Year Aaron Donald, showed gaping holes in losses to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Baltimore Ravens.

“I would be lying to say that this [season] hasn’t been more challenging,” McVay said. “But that’s also why there’s a motivation to make sure to do right and to use this as an opportunity to try to respond in the way that you challenge your players and everybody else to.”

McVay received a game ball after earning his first win as coach in 2017. He received a second game ball last season, after leading the Rams to their first playoff victory in 13 years.

But when Fassel stopped the celebration to acknowledge McVay, it wasn’t a historic milestone — it was merely Week 11 of the regular season, moments after the Rams delivered a gritty, much-needed win over the Chicago Bears.

That night, in front of a prime-time audience and coming off an inexplicable loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers, McVay started an offensive line held together by threads, he lost receiver Robert Woods, who three hours before kickoff notified the team he would miss the game, and McVay utilized a game plan that departed from anything he’d previously shown, as they committed heavily to the run.

“The team basically gave him a game ball because he keeps pointing them in the right direction,” defensive coordinator Wade Phillips said. “He’s done a great job with that.”

Through the ups and downs, which for the first time in McVay’s career have included a plethora of injuries and personal issues that have affected the team, Rams assistants and players continue to point to what McVay is doing right.

The culture he established that helped turn around a team entrenched in mediocrity practically overnight remains intact, several players said.

“The foundation is still set,” cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman said. “Our chemistry is still on point.”

Players continue to dash from the locker room to team meetings, fearing arriving even a second late could result in a fine. And attitudes throughout the locker room remain upbeat, despite sitting at five losses — tied for the most in a single season since McVay’s arrival — with four games remaining.

McVay often has appeared as his energetic, upbeat self. For better or worse, he has kept to his way of shouldering blame for the Rams’ shortcomings, especially on offense.

“You go through those first two years with all the success in the regular season and then, you kind of think, ‘Man, what’s it going to be like if we are not riding high at all times?'” said quarterback Jared Goff, who has passed for 13 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. “Now, we’re not exactly doing that, but he’s been the same guy.”

“Your normal self’s a lot easier when you’re winning every game and everyone’s telling you you’re a genius,” said offensive line coach Aaron Kromer, when asked how McVay has handled the uneven season. “He’s just as much of a genius, or just as good as a football mind this year.”

In McVay’s third season, though, he has shown a vulnerability off the field that’s a reminder that despite the overwhelming success early in his career, he’s still a first-time head coach with plenty to learn.

Days after a stunning Week 4 loss to the flailing Tampa Bay Buccaneers, McVay spoke about his stress in a way he never had before. “I’m stressed because I’m always stressed out,” he said. Days before a Week 10 loss to the Steelers, McVay appeared out of character, as his voice sounded hoarse and his eyes appeared wide. “It’s been an exciting week,” McVay said. “A lot of yelling.”

Perhaps, it shouldn’t have come as a surprise when the Steelers upset the Rams 17-12 two days later.

What did come as a shock was the 45-6 shellacking delivered by the Ravens on Monday Night Football. It was the worst loss of McVay’s career. “There’s not anything good to take away from this,” McVay said. “Other than the fact that I did feel that our team continued to battle.”

Six days later and amid the chaos of a short Thanksgiving week, the Rams bounced back to deliver a drubbing of their own in a 34-7 win over the Arizona Cardinals (3-8-1).

“It’s been pretty much the same approach,” running back Todd Gurley said about McVay’s demeanor throughout the year. “Just trying to stay positive and just keep taking it game by game.”

The Rams probably need to win their next four to advance to the playoffs for a third consecutive season. It won’t be easy with games against the Seahawks, at the Dallas Cowboys and San Francisco 49ers before finishing at home with the Cardinals. With McVay leading the way, there’s confidence it can be done.

“That dude is steady,” Goff said. “We feed off him.”

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Bears’ Eddie Jackson honed skills covering Cowboys’ Amari Cooper at Alabama – Chicago Bears Blog

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LAKE FOREST, Ill. — Chicago Bears safety Eddie Jackson doesn’t need a copy of the advance scouting report on Dallas Cowboys receiver Amari Cooper.

“He’s really the one that [helped me learn] my coverage skills,” Jackson said of Cooper. “He helped me build [as a player] and got me polished.”

Both Jackson and Cooper were four-star high school football recruits who played together at Alabama. Cooper finished his career as the Crimson Tide’s all-time leading receiver. Jackson, a year younger than Cooper, got to face him every single day at practice.

“There was one time in practice he was killing me,” Jackson said. “I was a freshman. I looked back at coach [Nick] Saban, and he said, ‘Don’t look back at me, Eddie, I’m not going to take him off you.’

“Going into spring ball after my freshman year, that’s when everything came and I got him. We were going one-on-one. It used to be Amari, Amari, Amari. Then it became, like, tit for tat. Now it was Amari, Eddie, Amari, Eddie.”

Fast forward six years and Cooper is a force to be reckoned with. A three-time Pro Bowler and No. 4 overall pick by the Oakland Raiders in the 2015 NFL draft, Cooper leads the Cowboys with 64 catches for 971 yards and seven touchdowns.

The Bears (6-6) host the Cowboys (6-6) on Thursday night (8:20 p.m. ET, Fox) in a game with serious playoff ramifications.

“Cooper is definitely at the top [of the list of the league’s best receivers],” Bears coach Matt Nagy said. “He’s one of the best route-runners in this game. Again, I’ve had the unfortunate familiarity of going against him for years and years in Kansas City. I’ve seen him have some good games at times, but he’s a guy that can win the one-on-one matchup. He has great hands, he’s smart and he’s a football player.”

Barring something completely unforeseen, Cooper will top 1,000 receiving yards for the fourth time in his career. Cooper was traded to Dallas last season but remains unsigned beyond 2019.

“He’s just an elite competitor,” Bears defensive coordinator Chuck Pagano said on Monday. “He’s got all the intangibles. The athleticism is there. The speed is there. The strength, his route-running ability.

“… He’s well-coached, I know that. He’s got strong hands. He runs great routes. He’s very, very precise. He understands coverage. He knows how to get open. And he’s going to win a bunch of 50-50 balls, and him and the quarterback have great chemistry.”

Jackson describes Cooper’s versatility as the veteran receiver’s greatest strength.

“Oh, man, he can do a lot of different things,” Jackson said. “Route running. He’s fast. He can stretch the field vertically. Good release guy. Knows how to drop his weight and shift in-and-out of routes pretty good.”

In the mind of Bears offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich, the head coach of perennial powerhouse Oregon when Cooper dominated at Alabama, the 25-year-old receiver is, “a dynamic, dynamic guy.”

“He’s a fabulous player,” Helfrich added.

But something has to give Thursday night. The Bears enter Week 14 with the league’s ninth-ranked passing defense. Two members of the Bears’ defensive backfield were voted to the Pro Bowl last year (Kyle Fuller and Jackson). This season, Chicago has allowed only four players to reach 100-plus receiving yards in a game (Stefon Diggs, Michael Thomas, Zach Ertz and Kenny Golladay).

But Jackson knows if the Bears aren’t careful, Cooper can easily become the fifth player to inflict heavy damage on Chicago’s secondary, which features another former Alabama player in safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix.

“[Amari] is a guy we’ve got to bring it [against] every play,” Jackson said.

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