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Pittsburgh Steelers rookie Chase Claypool scores 10th TD with 31-yard catch vs. Jaguars



The air around Chase Claypool keeps getting rarer.

With a 31-yard touchdown reception from Ben Roethlisberger against the Jacksonville Jaguars on Sunday, the rookie has scored 10 touchdowns this season, joining Green Bay’s Bill Howton (1952), Houston Oilers’ Bill Groman (1960) and Chicago’s Harlon Hill (1954) as wide receivers with the most touchdowns in their first 10 career games in league history. Howton leads the pack with 11, while both Groman and Hill scored 10.

Claypool also now only trails Franco Harris (1972) and Louis Lipps (1984) for the most touchdowns in a season by a Steelers rookie. Harris and Lipps each had 11.

Claypool’s score came on a deep ball from Roethlisberger with just more than seven minutes to go until halftime, giving the Steelers a 10-3 lead against the 1-8 Jaguars.

To celebrate, Claypool presented the football as a cake to JuJu Smith-Schuster, who turned 24 on Sunday, while the rest of the receivers sang happy birthday and he blew out the candle.

Claypool, the Steelers’ second-round pick, has been all over the record books in his first 10 games of his NFL career. Earlier this season, his six touchdowns tied the NFL record for most touchdowns by a rookie wide receiver through his first 5 career games since 1970. He also scored four touchdowns against the Philadelphia Eagles, setting a Steelers’ rookie record. And he became the first rookie in NFL history with three receiving touchdowns and a rushing score in one game.

And he’s not showing signs of slowing down anytime soon.

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Baker Mayfield’s ‘We’ll be back’ should be Browns’ offseason mantra – Cleveland Browns Blog



BEREA, Ohio – Baker Mayfield said it. Then his teammates began to tweet it.

“We will be back.”

Sunday in Kansas City, Cleveland’s magical run finally came to an end with a 22-17 loss to the defending Super Bowl champs. The Browns nearly pulled off the biggest postseason comeback in franchise history. But Cleveland couldn’t get one final stop to give Mayfield a last chance at a game-winning drive.

“It sucks because so many people have sacrificed so much during this process and this very strange season and overcome adversity,” Mayfield said. “But trying to find the positive out of it, we’re setting a new standard here. Everybody was saying it in the locker room. … That we will be back.”

Cleveland’s breakthrough 2020 season will be memorable for many reasons. The Browns finally snapped the NFL’s longest playoff drought, punching their ticket to the postseason for the first time in 18 years. Cleveland then won its first playoff game since 1994, while also snapping a 17-game losing streak in Pittsburgh, despite playing — and coaching — short-handed. And though the Browns couldn’t deliver the upset Sunday against top-seeded Kansas City, they proved they belonged.

Given what they have coming back, the Browns are not going anywhere anytime soon, either.

“Y’all have seen that we have a hell of a team all around,” defensive end Myles Garrett said. “We showed that we can go to the AFC Championship [Game]; we were just one play away. We just have to make that play. They were able to get it done. But I like our odds next year, just because we have a lot of guys here that are young — and we can keep getting better.”

Indeed, the contending window for these Browns appears to be wide open for the foreseeable future, with former No. 1 overall picks Mayfield and Garrett anchoring an enviable young core that’s now playoff-tested.

“It sucks when you come up short, but you get that taste of it and realize you learned lessons,” Mayfield said. “This is going to leave a bad taste. … But we’ve come a long way since I first got here. We’re not done yet, either, and that’s the best part.”

The best part, moving forward, is what the Browns now have at quarterback and head coach.

For two-plus decades, Cleveland meandered through losing seasons without long-term answers for either. Until Mayfield, the Browns cycled through 29 different starting quarterbacks since rejoining the NFL in 1999. They also tore through 11 different head coaches, including three in Mayfield’s first two seasons in the league.

Cleveland, however, finally hit a home run in hiring first-time head coach Kevin Stefanski, who could very well win NFL Coach of the Year after navigating the Browns to their best season in 26 years despite facing unprecedented obstacles related to COVID-19.

Under Stefanski, Mayfield enjoyed a resurgent season, while emphatically quashing any lingering doubt about whether he’s Cleveland’s franchise quarterback of the future. Mayfield finished the regular season ranked in the top 10 in the league QBR, then shined in his first two playoff appearances. In fact, from the first-quarter play Odell Beckham Jr. was injured on in Week 7 through the Browns’ two playoff games, Mayfield tossed 20 touchdown passes with just two interceptions.

“He fought like he always does. He rallied,” Stefanski said of Mayfield’s performance in Kansas City, which wasn’t perfect, but definitely valiant. “That’s what he has done all season long steering this ship, being out in front and leading this group.”

General manager Andrew Berry is likely to rubber-stamp Mayfield’s fifth-year option this offseason, and all signs point to Berry attempting to lock up Mayfield long-term, a year after doing the same with Garrett. Keeping Pro Bowl running back Nick Chubb and cornerback Denzel Ward, also both extension-eligible this offseason, in Cleveland should be paramount for the Browns as well.

Though Cleveland has the goods to bring back the entire offense that started against Kansas City and ranked sixth in efficiency, the Browns will have decisions to make on a defense that struggled at times, even with Garrett and Ward.

Getting their last two second-round picks, cornerback Greedy Williams (shoulder) and safety Grant Delpit (Achilles), back to form after season-ending injuries suffered in training camp would help. But really, Cleveland could use a boost of talent at every level of the defense.

The Browns will enter the offseason with more than $20 million in cap space. And they’ll have the No. 26 overall pick in the NFL draft — to take place in Cleveland — to add another piece defensively.

“Each year is unique and different. Even among the best teams, there is turnover. There is high turnover year over year in the NFL,” Berry said last week. “But we think that we do have a pretty strong foundation in place with young players. That is something that we are looking forward to talking about and fortifying as we get into the offseason.”

Of course, whether that foundation includes Beckham will be the elephant in the room. There’s no avoiding how the Browns’ offense – and more to the point, Mayfield — excelled after Beckham’s season-ending knee injury Oct. 25. Then again, trading Beckham while he’s still rehabilitating could prove to be impracticable, especially with his $12.79 million base salary set to become fully guaranteed in March.

OBJ is still a fabulous talent, underscored by his three-touchdown performance in the Week 4 win over the Dallas Cowboys. But ultimately, Berry will have to decide if that talent — and contract — is a fit on this team going forward.

Either way, the Browns have many reasons to be bullish about the future. Mayfield, Garrett, Ward, Chubb, rookie left tackle Jedrick Wills Jr. and running back Kareem Hunt are all 25 or younger. The offensive line, which dominated the opposition this season, should return intact. Berry has cap flexibility to maneuver, as well.

The Browns should be back and primed to go even further.

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Houston Texans QB Deshaun Watson urges fans not to protest on his behalf



HOUSTON — Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson on Monday asked fans who planned a protest on his behalf to cancel the event “for the sake of public safety.”

“Although I am humbled I ask that whoever is organizing the march cancel for the sake of public safety,” Watson said in a tweet. “Covid is spreading at a high rate & I don’t want any fans to unnecessarily expose themselves to infection.”

The protest appears to be related to Watson’s unhappiness with the team after the process it used to hire general manager Nick Caserio.

The event was organized on Saturday night by a Texans fan who tweeted, “I’m off Monday, I’m down to protest in front of NRG. If we get enough people to do these things change could happen.”

The event, first marketed as a protest but later changed to a “rally,” was planned for Monday at 11 a.m. local time. The plan was for Texans fans to eat at Lefty’s, the cheesesteak franchise of which Watson is a minority owner, and then walk a half-mile to NRG Stadium for a “peaceful protest.”

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Dan Campbell might not be popular Lions’ choice — time will tell if he’s the right one – Detroit Lions Blog



ALLEN PARK, Mich. – He was not the expected choice or the overwhelming choice of the paying public, either. But none of that will matter if Dan Campbell ends up doing what hasn’t been done consistently with the Detroit Lions in six decades.


Campbell, 44, is expected to be named the head coach of the Detroit Lions now that the New Orleans Saints are out of the playoffs, according to ESPN NFL Insider Adam Schefter. It would complete a search that took less than two months and flips one regime to the next.

Before that happens, the Lions likely will want to bring him in for a second interview, but barring something unforeseen, this seems to be the direction Detroit is going.

Gone are head coach Matt Patricia and general manager Bob Quinn, with three straight last-place finishes in the NFC North. In are Brad Holmes, largely unknown two months ago as the Los Angeles Rams director of college scouting who impressed enough to land the Detroit general manager job, and Campbell, a former Lions player who spent the past five years learning under Sean Payton.

With these hires, something team president Rod Wood said when he spoke to the media two weeks ago continues to stand out.

“There’s going to be no surprise I don’t think at the end [with] who we end up hiring on both sides,” Wood said Jan. 5. “What we’re looking for is people that can work together and be partners, and not one working for the other necessarily.”

It’s not clear how the power structure will work and how this expected marriage of Holmes and Campbell will go. No one will truly know for at least a year. Maybe longer.

But Detroit stuck to its principles when it looked for a general manager, hitting a lot of the criteria it checked. And it seems to have done that with its likely head coach.

More than anything, the Lions appeared to search for leadership. That is probably Campbell’s biggest strength. He doesn’t have a ton of coaching experience — 11 years — but Campbell played in the NFL for a decade, including three years with the Lions. He doesn’t have any coordinator experience, either, which some teams chose to focus on.

He did, though, hold a Miami team together as an interim head coach for 12 games during the 2015 season, going 5-7 in an adverse situation. He inherited a 1-3 team and a roster that had not been over-.500 for the last three seasons prior to his short head coaching stint.

In a 2016 interview with the Globe & Mail, Dolphins owner Stephen Ross said he chose Campbell as interim head coach, in part, because “he’s a real motivator and I think that’s what you really need in running a football team.”

The Lions have clearly agreed. Everything Wood, special assistant Chris Spielman and owner Sheila Ford Hamp have said since firing Quinn and Patricia was about unity, inclusion, teamwork and working together.

Motivating people toward the same mission is one of the main jobs of any head coach — and they believe Campbell has the personality to do it.

Campbell also seems to grasp another thing the Lions were looking for — adaptability and flexibility. On “The LiucciCast,” a Texas A&M podcast, Campbell said he knows coaches have to adjust to today’s athletes — and he understands the need for it.

“You have to be willing to listen and I feel like there needs to be more of a working relationship with your athletes, certainly at the NFL level these are grown men that we’re dealing with,” Campbell said. “So I always approach it as we’re working together. Now rookies are a little different but once you’ve been trained a little bit, we are working together.

“Now, how do I make your job easier? That’s my job. How do I pull the most out of you? That’s my job as a coach. Your job is to use me as a resource, player, so what do you need from me? How can I help you?”

Campbell would come to Detroit with a certain level of understanding, too. He has been in NFL locker rooms — and specifically, he’s been in the Lions locker room as part of the team from 2006 to ’08. He’s seen how tough it is for the Lions to win and was part of the franchise’s 0-16 team.

So perhaps more than any other candidates, he understands the uniqueness of Detroit and the challenge it’ll be — and what it’ll mean if the team is able to turn around and win.

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