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‘He’s managing the game well,’ says Pete Carroll

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SEATTLE – Pete Carroll isn’t making a change at quarterback after Geno Smith’s second uneven performance in as many starts as Russell Wilson’s injury replacement.

Carroll said as much on his 710 ESPN Seattle radio show Tuesday morning when asked if Smith is still the Seahawks’ starter for this week’s game against the Jacksonville Jaguars.

“Sure,” he said a day after the Seahawks fell to 2-5 with a 13-10 loss to the New Orleans Saints. “Yeah, he is. And we’re counting on him to just keep getting better and us to play better around him.”

Carroll said Smith has been “solid” and called it a “phenomenal accomplishment” to protect the ball as well as he has in the two-plus games he’s played since Wilson injured his finger in the second half of Seattle’s loss 26-17 to the Los Angeles Rams in Week 5. But he made it clear that the ninth-year veteran needs to do a better job of avoiding unnecessary sacks.

“He’s managing the game well,” Carroll said. “I would like him to get the football out, be more open to throw the ball away. We talked about it in the locker room after the game. Sometimes those situations happen so fast, and to make that declaration to give up on the play is something that takes experience. That experience for Geno right now, it’s not quite settled in the way he needs to be satisfied with, ‘I’ve got to throw the ball away, we’ve got to punt the football.’ And there’s nothing wrong with that. We took two or three sacks last night that we shouldn’t have taken.”

Wilson has to miss at least one more game before he’s eligible to come off injured reserve. With the Seahawks on their bye after the Jacksonville game, the earliest Wilson could return is in Week 10 at the Green Bay Packers.

The only other quarterback on their 53-man roster is Jacob Eason, a second-year player they claimed off waivers last week. Seattle has two quarterbacks on its practice squad in Jake Luton and Danny Etling. Luton, also a second-year player, made three starts as a rookie. Neither Eason nor Etling have started an NFL game.

Smith completed 12 of 22 passes for 167 yards, a touchdown and no interceptions Monday night. He was sacked five times, with two coming on consecutive plays during the Seahawks’ final drive. Another sack on third down earlier in the fourth quarter pushed them back 11 yards, leading to a 53-yard field-goal try that Jason Myers missed.

Since taking over for Wilson, Smith has completed 45 of 71 attempts for 507 yards, three touchdowns and an interception. That came late against the Rams, when Tyler Lockett fell down before Smith’s throw arrived. Smith lost a fumble in overtime of Seattle’s 23-20 loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers last week after helping the Seahawks rally from a 14-0 halftime deficit.

Monday night’s loss was the Seahawks’ third straight. In all three, they’ve had a chance to tie or take the lead in the final three minutes of regulation or overtime and have failed to do so.

They’re now five games back of the unbeaten Arizona Cardinals in the NFC West standings, and they’re three games under .500 for the first time since 2011.

“We have to keep battling because it’s so close,” Carroll said. “We have to just keep clawing and scratching and we’ve got to keep building the game around Geno and making sure that he can function at a high level.”

Carroll said defensive back Marquise Blair fractured his knee cap Monday night and will “have to get that cleaned up.” Blair had been splitting nickelback duties with Ugo Amadi, who figures to take over that role. Carroll said he’s counting on defensive end Darrell Taylor (neck) and left guard Damien Lewis (shoulder) to play against Jacksonville after both were inactive Monday night.

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Cincinnati Bengals’ Zac Taylor rewards team’s patience with first playoff win in 31 years

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CINCINNATI — The Cincinnati Bengals showed patience with Zac Taylor after just six wins in his first two years as their head coach.

Following Saturday’s wild-card win over the Las Vegas Raiders, Taylor said the opportunity to coach a third season, one that produced an AFC North title and the franchise’s first playoff win in 31 years, likely wouldn’t have happened elsewhere in the NFL.

“Personally, if I coached at any other organization in football, I probably wouldn’t be here right now in the third year,” Taylor said. “That’s the truth.”

Taylor said he gave a game ball to team president Mike Brown, who stuck with Taylor after two seasons filled with losses. The third-year coach said he and the coaching staff owe so much to Brown for the patience he exhibited despite 26 losses in their first two campaigns.

After the Bengals went 4-11-1 in 2020, Brown issued a statement offering a vote of confidence in Taylor and said the franchise was “bullish” on Taylor’s future.

“We are not discouraged, but instead feel motivated and confident that next year will reap the benefits of the work that has been done to date,” Brown said in the January 2020 statement. “We must capitalize on the opportunities in front of us.”

Taylor rewarded that patience by leading the Bengals to their first playoff berth and AFC North title since 2015, followed by Saturday’s wild-card victory.

Cincinnati’s fortunes were bolstered when the Bengals drafted quarterback Joe Burrow with the first overall pick in the 2020 draft. After the Bengals clinched their playoff berth with a win over Kansas City on Week 17, Burrow said his pre-draft meeting at the league’s scouting combine solidified his belief in the coach.

“I knew exactly what kind of coach that we had and I knew exactly where I wanted to be,” Burrow said. “He’s a great offensive mind and a great leader of men. He does a great job, and I couldn’t have asked for a better situation.”

Before he left the interview room after Saturday’s win, Bengals tight end C.J. Uzomah made it a point to praise Taylor. Uzomah said the culture that Taylor and the staff have created in Cincinnati played a key role in the turnaround.

Uzomah said it’s up to the players to show why Taylor should win the NFL’s coach of the year award.

“We’ll have to prove it and win a Super Bowl,” Uzomah said.

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Buffalo Bills make playoff history with 7 touchdown drives in blowout win vs. New England Patriots

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ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. — The Buffalo Bills didn’t just beat the New England Patriots. They made a statement to the entire NFL.

The Bills dominated the teams’ third meeting in 41 days, winning 47-17 at home to move on to the Divisional round of the playoffs. Buffalo scored a touchdown on all seven of their possessions, becoming the first team in the Super Bowl era to score a TD on each of their first seven drives of a playoff game, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.

With the win, the Bills have beaten the Patriots twice by double-digits in a single season (33-21 in Week 16), becoming the first team to do so since Bill Belichick became head coach.

Dating back to that game in Week 16, the Bills’ last 13 drives against the Patriots have yielded 11 scores (10 touchdowns and one field goal). During that stretch, the only thing that stopped the Buffalo offense was the clock.

Not only did the offense put up an impressive performance, but the Bills continued to show improvements in areas that have caused issues throughout the season. The running game was effective and the offensive line that has had a rollercoaster year set the tempo.

But the most impressive part of the game for the Bills was the performance of quarterback Josh Allen. Coming into the game, one of the big questions was if Allen could step up in freezing temperatures. He did far more than that with temperatures below 10 degrees throughout the game, putting together one of the best performances of his career.

Allen continued his stellar performance against the Patriots from a few weeks prior, completing 21/25 passes (84%) for 308 yards and five touchdowns, in addition to six carries for 66 yards. It is the highest completion percentage in a playoff game with 25 or more attempts since Aaron Rodgers in the 2010 Divisional Playoffs (86.1%)

He became the third player in the Super Bowl era with at least 150 pass yards and 50 rush yards in a single half of a playoff game, per Elias, and joined Drew Brees (2009) and Russell Wilson (2020) as the only quarterbacks to throw for five touchdowns against a Belichick-coached team.

Allen’s performance included two touchdown passes to tight end Dawson Knox and one to wide receiver Emmanuel Sanders. The score was Sanders’ first touchdown in the postseason, coming in his 14th career playoff game with his fifth different team.

Allen’s fifth touchdown was a one-yard throw to reserve offensive lineman Tommy Doyle. All five of his touchdown throws came in play-action, the most by any player in a regular-season or playoff game since 2006 when ESPN began tracking play-action. He has gone four straight games without being sacked.

Running back Devin Singletary ran for two touchdowns behind an offensive line that dominated the line of scrimmage throughout the game.

The defense limited rookie quarterback Mac Jones throughout the game, including forcing two interceptions.

The Bills will now head to the Divisional round of the playoffs for a second straight season with a perfect record in home playoff games under McDermott. With a Chiefs win on Sunday night, the Bills would head to Kansas City, the site of last year’s AFC Championship loss.

Buffalo is 0-3 in road playoff games since McDermott became head coach (0-3). With a Pittsburgh Steelers win, the Bills would host the Cincinnati Bengals next week.

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Derek Carr, Maxx Crosby want Rich Bisaccia back as Las Vegas Raiders’ head coach

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CINCINNATI — Raiders quarterback Derek Carr and Pro Bowl defensive end Maxx Crosby both heartily endorsed Rich Bisaccia retaining the head-coaching job permanently following Las Vegas’ season-ending 26-19 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals in the opening round of the playoffs on Saturday night.

Bisaccia was promoted from special teams coordinator to interim head coach following Jon Gruden’s resignation on Oct. 11.

“I think we can all think that he’s the right guy,” Carr said of Bisaccia. “He’s proven that people listen to him. Our team listens to him. And I love him so much, I’m thankful for him. All those things will be decisions that I don’t make; I don’t get to make. I just play quarterback … but with everything that went on, if you really look at what happened, all the pieces missing, everything that changed, yeah, he held it together.”

Carr referenced the Raiders losing starting guards Richie Incognito and Denzelle Good to injury in the preseason and opener, respectively. He also talked about receiver Henry Ruggs III being cut following his involvement in a high-speed car crash that left a woman dead. Carr also cited Pro Bowl tight end Darren Waller missing five games down the stretch; Pro Bowl running back Josh Jacobs being dinged up and unavailable at times; and losing versatile running back Kenyan Drake to a knee injury in Week 13.

“You go on and on and on and on, and that’s just offense,” said Carr, who had driven the Raiders to the Bengals’ 9-yard line before being intercepted at the 2-yard line on fourth-and-goal with 12 seconds to play Saturday night. “The fact that that staff kept everything together and kept us competitive and kept us finding ways to win football games, I think that’s what our organization is about, right? So, we’ll see what happens. We know what we want to have happen. But, again, we’re Raiders. We’re going to play football, but we just hope it, obviously, we hope it’s for somebody special.”

Carr also said he would stay out of direct conversations when it came to his future with the team. He has one year remaining on the five-year, $125 million extension he signed in 2017.

He said his agent and the Raiders have a good relationship.

“Lord knows there’s been a lot of things to communicate about, right?” Carr said. “When the time comes, I never want a face-to-face. I’m going to play quarterback, but my message will be talked about.

“I’m not going to go to dinner and say, ‘We have to do something.’ I’m not that guy. I’ll let my voice be heard, but in a different way.”

Crosby, who was just named second-team All-Pro, called Bisaccia a “great leader” for the Raiders.

“If it was up to me, I think everyone in the world knows what my decision would be,” said Crosby, who had a sack among his six tackles on Saturday. “I love Rich. You know, I’m biased, obviously, but he’s, he’s a great coach … he came in and got us to 10 wins. We came on the road, on a short week, and gave Cincinnati everything they could handle.

“One of the best people I know. One of the most honest dudes I know. And I’ll go to bat for him any day of the week. I love that dude to death. He knows that. I appreciate everything he’s brought to the table. I hope we keep doing it.”

Raiders owner Mark Davis has remained silent on the team’s head-coaching search, as well as on the futures of Carr and general manager Mike Mayock.

Bisaccia, meanwhile, laughed when asked if he thought about being elevated to the full-time job.

“I’m just thinking about those guys in that locker room that played the game with their heart and soul out there like that,” he said, “and had a chance to win at the end.”

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