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Michael Pittman’s strong TD grab highlights Colts’ explosion

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INDIANAPOLIS — Michael Pittman Jr. continued to show why he is the Indianapolis Colts‘ No. 1 receiver when he went into tight coverage, didn’t let New York Jets linebacker Jarrad Davis jumping in the air or cornerback Bryce Hall being draped on his back stop him from snagging quarterback Carson Wentz‘s 11-yard touchdown pass with 12 seconds remaining in the first half on Thursday.

The only question about the play was whether Jets safety Marcus Maye knocked the ball out of Pittman’s hands before he got two feet down in the end zone. The play was originally called an incomplete pass, but was changed to a touchdown after it was determined that Pittman got one foot down and took two additional steps to complete the process of a catch.

It was the Colts’ fourth touchdown on their first four possessions. Running back Nyheim Hines started the scoring on their opening drive. He took the handoff and started right before bumping into center Ryan Kelly and cutting left. Hines, a former track athlete at N.C. State, broke to the outside, leaving Jets cornerback Brandin Echols flailing his arms in desperation trying to catch him.

Hines dove head first into the end zone to complete the 34-yard touchdown, giving the Colts a quick 7-0 lead. And to top off his career-long run, Hines did a flip in the end zone for a celebration.

The Jets responded on their next possession with a 19-yard touchdown pass from Mike White to Elijah Moore, tying the score.

But running back Jonathan Taylor added a 21-yard touchdown run early in the second quarter and tight end Jack Doyle caught a short TD pass as the Colts increased their lead before Pittman’s grab. Offensive lineman Danny Pinter even got in on the scoring with a short TD catch for the Colts.



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Dolphins rookie Jaylen Waddle establishing himself as a No. 1 receiver – Miami Dolphins Blog

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MIAMI — Jaylen Waddle was the last Miami Dolphins player to enter the news conference room Sunday after the team’s 33-10 romp against the Carolina Panthers. He was fresh off a nine-catch, 137-yard performance — and he was dressed like it.

Waddle wore a black-and-white checkered hoodie with a red shirt underneath, white designer jeans with red splatter on them and a spotless pair of Nike Air Force 1 shoes. He even kept his black Ray-Ban sunglasses perched atop his nose; when you play like that, you can wear whatever you want.

The Dolphins rookie has cemented himself as the team’s No. 1 wide receiver during its current four-game winning streak, compiling 346 yards and a touchdown on 29 catches. He has 77 catches for 759 yards and four touchdowns, and is one of seven players in the NFL with more than 100 targets. He is on pace for 109 receptions, which would surpass the only other rookie in league history with 100 or more catches — Anquan Boldin — who had 101 in 2003 with the Arizona Cardinals.

“Preparation, practice,” Dolphins coach Brian Flores said of Waddle’s emergence. “I think we worked at it and worked at it and worked at it, and we’ve been able to string some good weeks together from a practice standpoint, and you’re seeing that show up in the game.”

Miami traded up to draft him at No. 6 overall in this year’s draft, in an effort to rekindle some of the chemistry that made Waddle and Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa a potent tandem at Alabama. While the early results were promising — Waddle was the team’s leading receiver entering Week 12 — Sunday’s victory felt like an official arrival, of sorts.

And it surprisingly came against the NFL’s best pass defense.

The Panthers had allowed 174.2 passing yards per game entering Week 12, playing more man coverage than all but three teams in the NFL. Tagovailoa picked them apart underneath, completing 23 of 24 passes of 10 or fewer air yards for 141 of his 230 total passing yards Sunday.

The second-year passer said it was Carolina’s coverage tendencies that made his efficient day possible.

“They played a lot of man, and when they did play zone, we tried to take advantage of in-cuts, crossers, things like that, so it’s really what we expected, and what they showed us out there,” he said.

The chemistry between Tagovailoa and Waddle has been striking.

Since Tagovailoa’s return from injured reserve in Week 6, Waddle is the NFL’s third-most targeted receiver and leads the league in receptions with 50. His 528 receiving yards in that span trail only Los Angeles Rams receiver Cooper Kupp‘s 618.

“Jaylen has just been in the right place at the right time,” Tagovailoa said. “There’s times where he gets covered and he is still open, so you take a look at one of the third downs that we had. I think it was 26. Donte Jackson covering him. It was really good coverage. [Jaylen] still got open.”

Tagovailoa is hesitant to attribute their effectiveness to their time together at Alabama — that was two years ago, after all. But their experience in college laid a foundation to make them successful at this level.

Waddle said Tagovailoa has grown as a player, which has inspired him to try to do the same each week. Initially known as a field-stretching vertical threat coming out of college, Waddle has worked to sharpen his entire route tree during this recent stretch.

“I work extremely hard not to just be known as a speed guy or a vertical threat. I’m just going to continue to try to go out there every week and show I can actually run routes and do things that people don’t expect me to do.”

The rookie has also broken out a new touchdown celebration during this win streak, in which he pins his arms to his sides, palms outstretched, and waddles like a penguin.

He said he used to be laughed at for it, particularly by Dolphins defensive tackle Christian Wilkins, who now does it with him.

Maybe those who thought Miami made a mistake by drafting Waddle instead of fellow receivers Ja’Marr Chase (Cincinnati Bengals) or DeVonta Smith (Philadelphia Eagles) can take a page from Wilkins’ book and hop on board, as well.



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Dallas Cowboys haven’t asked me to sit vs. New Orleans Saints

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FRISCO, Texas — Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott does not want to take a game off despite a bruised right knee.

“No one’s came to me and asked me to rest,” Elliott said Sunday as the Cowboys opened up preparation for Thursday’s game against the New Orleans Saints.

If they do, Elliott said he would listen.

“I’ve just got to go with what they believe is best for the team,” he said.

Elliott said he has been dealing with the injury since banging it in the Oct. 3 win against the Carolina Panthers.

A day after the Thanksgiving Day loss to the Las Vegas Raiders, coach Mike McCarthy expressed concern for Elliott’s health after Elliott had just 25 yards on nine carries. The running back has not topped 51 yards in his last four games, the lowest-output of his career.

“It’s that time of year,” McCarthy said. “Zeke’s running style is ferocious. He gives a pounding and he takes some hits. We need to evaluate that and this week we’ll see what the preparation looks like for him.”

A source told ESPN the Cowboys will consider providing Elliott some time off to heal, including the possibility of holding him out of Thursday’s game. The source does not believe placing Elliott on injured reserve is a consideration at this time. That would require him Elliott to miss at least three games.

The Cowboys have scaled back Elliott’s snaps in the last four games to help manage the injury. He has played 164 of 280 offensive snaps (58.5%) after playing in 379 of 451 snaps (84%) in the first seven games of the season.

Elliott has missed just one game in his career because of injury (calf strain last December vs. the San Francisco 49ers). He was held out of the season finales in 2016 and ’18 because the Cowboys’ playoff position was set, and he was suspended for six games in 2017.

“He’s the ultimate competitor,” right guard Zack Martin said. “We see it on a day in, day out basis and I think everyone is seeing it. He takes great pride in being there for his teammates and doing whatever he can in his power to help this team win. For me, he’s one of the top competitors I’ve been around, and he’s going to keep doing that.”

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Follow live: Lamar returns for Ravens in AFC North showdown vs. Browns

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