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NFL rookie QB tracker – Examining the peaks and valleys of Week 6 for these young signal-callers



There are few things better than achieving a milestone for the first time.

That’s the case for this year’s top pick Trevor Lawrence. The young centerpiece behind the Jacksonville Jaguars‘ rebuild played a crucial role in snapping the second-longest losing streak (20) in league history on Sunday in his first career start in London.

Fellow rookies Justin Fields and Mac Jones had no such luck filing into the win column in Week 6, but that isn’t to say strides weren’t taken as these first-year signal-callers continue making their way at the pro level.

Zach Wilson of the New York Jets and Trey Lance of the San Francisco 49ers each had bye weeks. Lawrence will get his bye week rest in Week 7 as Jacksonville celebrates its first win since Week 1 of last season.

Before Lawrence’s well-earned break, let’s examine how he, Fields and Jones fared this past Sunday.

2021 overall pick: 1st

Game result: 23-20 win against Miami Dolphins

Stat line: 25-for-41, 319 passing yards, 1 passing touchdown, 0 interceptions, 53.1 QBR

Lawrence’s performance marked the second 300-yard passing game of his young career. His first such outing came in his regular-season debut against the Houston Texans.

Jacksonville’s victory across the pond is also the first with a rookie quarterback at the helm after five winless visits. Lawrence had a big game en route to the team’s relief-inducing win. Jacksonville won via field goal despite going 0-for-3 in Weeks 1-5.

Lawrence led the game-winning drive downfield and capped it by setting up Matthew Wright‘s kick to seal the deal. According to ESPN’s Stats & Information, Lawrence threw for 103 yards when pressured Sunday after totaling only 162 such yards in his first five outings.

After the game, Lawrence was plenty amped to celebrate his first official NFL win.

“Oh, man, it’s different,” he explained about getting in the win column. “We’ve had a rough start to the year. We’ve been through a lot of adversity in this game — just having to fight back, battle back and to find a way to win means a lot.

“And obviously, like I said, we’ve struggled a little bit, but to get this win and have this momentum going into the bye week, to do it here in London. I mean, it’s all just special — always, always remember this one.”

2021 overall pick: 11th

Game result: 24-14 loss to Green Bay Packers

Stat line: 16-for-27, 174 passing yards, 1 passing touchdown, 1 interception, 40.6 QBR

On a day Aaron Rodgers made no secret about his feelings toward the Bears, Fields did his best to keep Chicago close. His 12.3 air yards per pass attempt marked the highest figure by any Bears quarterback against the Packers in the last 15 seasons. However, Chicago’s rookie QB struggled connecting on them.

Fields went just 0-for-4 with an interception on pass attempts traveling over 20 yards in the air Sunday. Such downfield struggles have been constant for an offense ranked last across the league in total yardage (246.2 per game). Fortunately, Fields did show some flashes in leading Chicago to the end zone. He capped a 10-play drive with a touchdown pass to leading receiver Darnell Mooney.

Bears head coach Matt Nagy was asked about whether Fields benefits from playing against all-time greats such as Rodgers, Tom Brady and Lamar Jackson. He expressed confidence in his young signal-caller’s ability to stand his own ground.

“I don’t really think so,” Nagy said. “I think for him, the beautiful part about Justin is when he says that, or goes to that point, he’s real, you know, I mean he wants to be Justin Fields. That’s all he cares about. And you can respect those other guys, and I know he does all these great quarterbacks. … and what I like about Justin is, again, he’s not going to change who he is for a reason, and he can learn and get better in certain areas.”

Fields will have another opportunity to prove himself against a big-name quarterback when the Bears visit Tom Brady and the defending champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers this Sunday.

2021 overall pick:15th

Game result: 35-29 (OT) loss to Dallas Cowboys

Stat line: 15-for-21, 229 passing yards, 2 passing touchdowns, 1 interception, 46.3 QBR

Jones did his best to put New England in position to win Sunday, but costly errors led to the Cowboys and Patriots exchanging four lead changes over the final seven minutes of regulation and overtime.

With New England leading 21-20 as the two-minute warning neared, Jones threw an untimely pick-six to Trevon Diggs as Dallas regained the lead. For what it’s worth, there is very little shame in being picked off by Diggs, who became the fourth player in NFL history to pick off a pass in six straight games to begin a season (2003 Brian Russell, 1987 Barry Wilburn, 1951 Tom Landry).

Fortunately for the Patriots, though, their young franchise quarterback didn’t let the error shake his confidence.

The Patriots’ first-year quarterback tossed a 75-yard touchdown to Kendrick Bourne to help the team take a 29-26 lead on the very next drive. It marked the longest completion of Jones’ young career as he learned the value of a short memory in the NFL.

“Yeah, I think when I watch the film, I’ll always want to find ways I can do something better,” Jones said after Sunday’s loss. “And I’m sure there’s something I can do better on a lot of plays, and that play was one of them. You just got to play the next play, and you’re only as good as your last play, so at the same time, you got to move on, just execute the play that is called. I can do that better, and I will. We just can’t hang our heads.”

ESPN Stats & Information contributed to this story.

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GM Brandon Beane says Buffalo Bills will learn from ‘painful’ season-ending loss to Kansas City Chiefs



ORCHARD PARK, N.Y — Brandon Beane said he hasn’t been able to watch the full tape of the Buffalo Bills‘ 42-36 overtime loss to the Kansas City Chiefs, outside of the final plays. It’s just too soon, according to the Bills’ general manager.

“It’s painful and still going through it,” Beane said during his 71-minute end-of-season news conference Wednesday. “I’m not in a good spot. But I will review it and we’ll learn from it, I promise you that. There’s a lot of pain in this city and there’s a lot of pain in that building over there, and we’re gonna do everything in our power to not let that happen again.”

The divisional-round loss marked a second straight year in which the Bills’ season ended against the Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium; last year it was in the AFC Championship Game.

Making it even more painful this time around is that Buffalo — after allowing Kansas City to drive down in the final 13 seconds of regulation and kick a game-tying field goal — didn’t get a chance to get the ball in overtime.

The current rules allow for the game to end with only one team having possession in OT if it scores a touchdown on the opening drive. The Chiefs got possession after winning the coin toss, and walked off with the win when Patrick Mahomes hit tight end Travis Kelce with a touchdown pass.

Since the current overtime rules in the playoffs were adopted in 2010, the team that won the coin toss has now scored a touchdown on the opening possession in seven of 11 games, per ESPN Stats & Information.

Beane said Wednesday that he would be in favor of seeing the rules revisited.

“At the end of the day, we lost the game the other night. But of course we would’ve loved to, I think the TV audience would’ve loved to have seen Josh (Allen) and our offense get it back,” Beane said. “I would definitely love to see it brought back to the table.

“I’m not saying I have the exact idea, but I think there’s some ways to do it. Without getting into detail, I think there’s a way you can do it in the regular season that handles that, but let’s do something in the postseason when it’s all on the line.”

Beane said he has not yet had his end-of-season meeting with coach Sean McDermott and team owners Kim and Terry Pegula, where the topic likely will come up.

Games going on for long periods of overtime in the regular season isn’t necessarily practical due to the wear and tear on players’ bodies, but the playoffs are different. Beane noted how in the 2018 AFC Championship Game, the current overtime rule hurt the Chiefs in their loss to the New England Patriots, and that Kansas City tried to get the rule changed that offseason.

“So maybe there ends up being more ties in the regular season, but let’s make sure we give both offenses a chance when the season’s on the line,” Beane said.

“I’m sure even though it benefited (the Chiefs) the other night, I’m sure they would be in favor. If you’ve got Pat Mahomes, you’re always going to want to make sure he gets the ball, and we feel the same about Josh.”

With the game as close as it was and the teams seemingly more evenly matched than last year, Beane thinks the Bills are right there with the Chiefs, whom they beat in Kansas City during the regular season.

“I truly believe if we played them 10 times, it’s probably 5-5. And that’s my heart of hearts,” Beane said. “They may think different, that’s how I see it. If we had just finished that game the way we know how, we’re not sitting here right now, we’re preparing for another one. I think we took some steps in the right direction.”

The Bills finished 11-6 in the regular season and won back-to-back AFC East titles for the first time since winning four straight from 1988-91. They were led by another strong season from Allen and had the league’s No. 1 defense, which helped demolish the Patriots, 47-17, in the opening round of the playoffs.

The general manager did point out the other most painful loss of the season — a 9-6 defeat to the Jaguars in Jacksonville — and apologized to the fans, while thanking them for staying and showing them love, instead of booing them.

“I mean, I would have been booing us. I was booing myself,” he said.

Beane and McDermott often talk about game management, and they’ll need to learn from Sunday’s ending — specifically Kansas City’s game-tying drive with just 13 seconds left in regulation. Beane said he would “fix it” if he could, having thought about the ending “a million times,” but instead will focus on what they can take from it for the future.

“I’ve learned the most in my life and the most in the five years I’ve been the GM about the things I did wrong,” Beane said. “And so we have to learn from not only this game, we got to learn from some of the games we lost in the year. Because as I said, I want to play every playoff game (at home). And you always ask yourself, ‘What if Kansas City would have had to come here? What would that have been like?’ The advantage to playing at home in January, coming up here in the cold, the elements, whatever it is.

“We’re definitely going to look at everything that went right this year, but we’re going to look hard at everything that went wrong, including the last 13 seconds.”

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Kansas City Chiefs fans, in nod to Bills Mafia, donate $255,017 to Buffalo children’s hospital



BUFFALO, N.Y. — Just days ago, the Kansas City Chiefs handed the Buffalo Bills one of the most heartbreaking losses in franchise history.

Chiefs fans, inspired by the fundraising spirit of Bills Mafia, have decided to turn their team’s big overtime win Sunday into a positive for the Buffalo community, raising $255,017 for Oishei Children’s Hospital in Buffalo as of late Wednesday afternoon, per the hospital.

Beginning Tuesday, donations in increments of $13 began being sent to the hospital from Chiefs fans in honor of the 13 seconds it took for the Kansas City offense to drive down the field to tie the divisional-round playoff game at the end of regulation. The Chiefs went on to win 42-36 on the first drive of overtime.

The original idea from a Chiefs Kingdom Facebook group was to donate in $13 increments to quarterback Patrick Mahomes‘ charitable organization, the 15 and the Mahomies Foundation. That changed when Chiefs fans heard more about the Bills fans’ tradition of giving back to other teams; they instead direct their efforts to their opponent’s charity of choice.

The Oishei Children’s Hospital became closely connected with Bills quarterback Josh Allen after fans donated in $17 increments, totaling $1.1 million, in honor of Allen’s grandmother, Patricia Allen, who died last year. There is now a Patricia Allen Pediatric Recovery Wing in the hospital and the Patricia Allen Fund to benefit the critical care team and provide support for equipment, training, education and programs.

One of the most noteworthy examples of the Bills fans’ tradition came in 2017 when Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton and wide receiver Tyler Boyd connected for a game-winning touchdown over the Baltimore Ravens that led to the Bills clinching a playoff berth for the first time in 17 years.

In $17 increments, fans raised $442,000 for the Andy & Jordan Dalton Foundation. This year, Bills fans have led donation efforts in honor of cornerback Tre’Davious White tearing an ACL, giving back to the Food Bank of Northwest Louisiana in his hometown, among others.

Last year, Bills fans donated to Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson‘s foundation after a playoff win over the Ravens.

While 13 seconds likely will never again have a positive association in Buffalo, fan bases turning a tough ending into a positive for a different community is an uplifting tradition.

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Cleveland Browns QB Baker Mayfield taking break from ‘all social media for foreseeable future’



CLEVELAND — As he recovers from shoulder surgery, Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield plans to rest his thumbs as well.

Mayfield said he’s going to take a break from “all social media for the foreseeable future.”

Ironically, the polarizing QB went on his Instagram page Wednesday to announce his hiatus from tweeting and posting.

“Gotta do what’s best to focus on me, my family and loved ones,” Mayfield wrote. “Appreciate all the support. Time to get right.”

Mayfield concluded his message by also including a contact for anyone making business or marketing inquiries.

Mayfield recently concluded a dreadful, injury-filled fourth season with the Browns, who were among the NFL’s most disappointing teams. Cleveland went 8-9, missed the playoffs and dealt with drama, much of it involving Mayfield.

Late in the season, Mayfield went on Twitter to dispel a story about issues between him and coach Kevin Stefanski. He called the report “clickbait” and added that “many other Cleveland local media continue to be drama stirring reporters with no sources or facts.”

Mayfield’s wife, Emily, also used her Twitter platform to claim he received death threats. Mayfield downplayed those and described his attackers and critics on social media as “keyboard warriors.”

The 26-year-old Mayfield injured his left, non-throwing shoulder in Week 2 while trying to make a tackle and struggled all season. He recently underwent surgery in Los Angeles for a torn labrum and is expected to need more than four months to recover.

The team said he should begin light throwing in April.

Following the season, both Stefanski and Browns general manager Andrew Berry publicly supported Mayfield by saying they believe he will bounce back next season as their starter. However, it’s likely the team will at least explore other options at quarterback during this offseason.

Mayfield is under contract next season for $18.9 million after the team exercised his fifth-year option.

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