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Chicago Bears QB Justin Fields exits game with injury to ribs; initial tests show no break, per source

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CHICAGO — Bears rookie quarterback Justin Fields was ruled out in the second half of Sunday’s 16-13 loss to the Baltimore Ravens with an injury to his ribs.

Initial tests did not reveal any broken ribs, a source told ESPN’s Adam Schefter. Fields will undergo further tests Monday.

Fields walked back to the locker room early in the third quarter after first being examined in the blue medical tent. It’s unclear on which play he suffered the injury; the first-round draft pick was hit often by the Baltimore defense.

Fields took a sack on his final drive but stayed in the game for four more plays.

After the game, coach Matt Nagy said he was unsure whether Fields had broken ribs, or if the injury was a result of one particular hit or a cumulative effect.

“I have no idea,” Nagy said. “I’ll have to find out. We’ll start getting into some of that later on.”

Fields finished the afternoon 4-of-11 for 79 yards with a lost fumble.

Veteran Andy Dalton replaced Fields and promptly threw a 60-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Darnell Mooney. Dalton lost the starting job to Fields after he suffered a knee injury in Week 2 against the Cincinnati Bengals.

He also threw a 49-yard touchdown pass to Marquise Goodwin in the fourth quarter and finished the game 11-of-22 for 201 yards.

The Bears (3-7) have a quick turnaround and play on Thanksgiving Day in Detroit against the Lions (0-9-1).

Dalton said he’s prepared to start if Fields’ ribs render him unable to play.

“I prepare the same way I’ve prepared this whole year,” Dalton said. “So if I’m starting I’ll be ready to go.”

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Saquon Barkley expected to play for New York Giants on Monday Night Football against Tampa Bay Buccaneers

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New York Giants running back Saquon Barkley is expected to play Monday night against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers barring a setback with his ankle, sources told ESPN.

Barkley was officially listed as questionable for the contest after practicing all week. He has missed the Giants’ past three games.

Barkley was injured when he stepped on the foot of Dallas Cowboys cornerback Jourdan Lewis on Oct. 10. His ankle ballooned immediately.

The thought was that it was a low ankle sprain, and that he would have to miss some time. But even Barkley admitted last week that he ended up being sidelined longer than expected.

He said his return was perhaps pushed back by a false positive COVID-19 test the week before the Giants’ bye. Barkley returned to practice last Monday for the first time since suffering the injury, and after Friday’s practice, he said he felt “pretty good.”

Barkley had a 54-yard touchdown catch and ran in the game-winning score in overtime during his last full game in Week 4 in New Orleans. It was a sign that he finally seemed to be coming around following a torn ACL that sidelined him for most of last season.

“I still believe I’m capable of the things that I’ve shown on the field before, so when I’m able to make those plays, when those plays come to me, make those plays and don’t force anything and take it one day at a time,” Barkley said. “That’s really the only thing I can do. Those are my expectations. Take it one day at a time, be a leader that I am, and be the playmaker that I know I can be and know that I will be.”

Barkley, 24, has 195 yards rushing on 54 carries in five games this season.

Information from ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler was used in this report.

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‘Just trying to be a legend’ — Vikings’ Justin Jefferson channels Randy Moss with huge game against rival Packers

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MINNEAPOLIS — Before the conclusion of the first quarter Sunday, Minnesota‘s Justin Jefferson had already notched 100 yards receiving against Green Bay.

By the end of a wild back-and-forth game between NFC North rivals, the Vikings receiver had helped his team claw back to .500 for a second time this season in a dramatic 34-31 win.

Jefferson exploded against the Packers with eight catches for 169 yards and two touchdowns, following up on a Week 10 performance against the Los Angeles Chargers in which he caught nine passes for 143 yards. He now has 11 career 100-yard games, tying Randy Moss and Juju Smith-Schuster for the second most in a player’s first two seasons since the 1970 merger.

“I was telling them I’m not leaving today without getting in the end zone,” Jefferson said. “So, glad I got in there twice. I’ve been telling them to just throw it up to any one of us. We’re confident enough to make the catch, make a big play for the team, and I feel like we made a lot of those today.”

Jefferson didn’t reach the end zone until the second half Sunday but was responsible for setting up two early touchdowns. On his third catch of the game, he took a 56-yard reception down to the goal line and Dalvin Cook punched in a 1-yard rushing touchdown on the next play to give the Vikings a 9-3 lead.

On Minnesota’s ensuing drive in the second quarter, Jefferson drew a 37-yard defensive pass interference penalty on a deep ball that moved the Vikings from their own 39-yard line to Green Bay’s 24-yard line. The Vikings caught another break three plays later when a Kirk Cousins interception was nullified by a roughing the passer penalty on a ball intended for Jefferson. Three plays after that, Adam Thielen found the end zone to put the Vikings up 16-3.

Jefferson’s first touchdown came in the third quarter with the receiver lined up in the backfield. He caught a 9-yard TD off an option route, a play Jefferson said he ran at LSU. This was his first career reception from out of the backfield in the NFL.

“Everybody knows he’s not in there for protection,” coach Mike Zimmer joked postgame.

Jefferson’s second score helped the Vikings wrestle the lead back from Green Bay when he caught a 23-yard touchdown pass in the fourth quarter. After successfully converting a two-point attempt with Cook, Minnesota took a 31-24 lead only to find the game tied up moments later when Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers hit Marquez Valdes-Scantling for a 75-yard touchdown on the first play of Green Bay’s ensuing drive.

Including Sunday’s game — that came down to Greg Joseph booting a 29-yard field goal to give Minnesota the win — the Vikings have had five games where the game-winning score came on the final play. According to Elias, that ties the most through 10 games since the 1970 merger.

“That’s why we’re in a rivalry,” Cook said. “I’ve come to learn about this rivalry since I got here. It’s special. There’s a relationship. We want to win, knowing the type of atmosphere it is, it’s fun. Going back and forth, we wanted the ball in our hands.”

Green Bay’s defense learned a hard lesson Sunday: Playing soft coverage against Jefferson just won’t cut it.

According to NFL Next Gen Stats, Jefferson faced off coverage (where the defender lines up 5-plus yards from receiver pre-snap) two-thirds of the time against Green Bay and produced 139 receiving yards, the second most by any receiver in a game this season.

As a whole, Green Bay’s defense couldn’t slow the Vikings’ wide outs. Minnesota’s receivers caught 69% of their targets for 277 yards and three touchdowns, with Jefferson and Thielen combining to catch 16 of their 20 targets. This after the Packers entered the day allowing the lowest completion percentage to wide receivers (56%) in the NFL.

Minnesota’s offensive identity found a boost of aggressiveness that carried over from the Chargers win to the Green Bay game and saw Cousins average 9.7 yards per pass on a day he threw for 341 yards and three touchdowns with a 128.4 passer rating.

“Certainly we’ve been fairly aggressive the last couple weeks and we’ll have to see week to week and game to game, moment to moment how we choose to attack, but certainly we feel good about the people we get to throw the ball to and that goes far beyond Justin and Adam,” Cousins said. “K.J. [Osborn], Tyler Conklin and Dalvin and Alex [Mattison] — there’s a lot of production to be had there throwing the football.”

Cousins had one of his best games of the season en route to Minnesota’s biggest win of the season. The quarterback came away with 131 yards and two touchdowns while under pressure, his second most yards and tied for his most touchdowns while pressured in any win of his career, according to ESPN Stats & Information research.

During pregame warmups, Jefferson wore a T-shirt paying homage to Vikings legendary receiver Randy Moss. After shattering Moss’ rookie records a year ago, Jefferson seems to up the ante every week while being the catalyst behind his team being back in position to contend for one of the final two spots in the NFC playoffs.

“That’s the same type of mindset that I have, just trying to be a legend,” Jefferson said. “Trying to make big plays. Why not carry after him? He’s one of the best in the game. I just love playing the game, love the rivalry and love these intense big games.”

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CeeDee Lamb could join Amari Cooper on sideline for Cowboys’ Thanksgiving Day matchup vs. Raiders

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Coming off a 19-9 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday, Dallas Cowboys coach Mike McCarthy said he’s glad his team has such a quick turnaround by playing on Thanksgiving against the Las Vegas Raiders.

“I think the chance to get up and get going again is preferred any time you don’t play as well as you would like,” McCarthy said.

But the quick turn could mean the Cowboys are without their top wide receivers come Thursday.

Amari Cooper will not play against the Raiders, his former team, because he was placed on the reserve/COVID-19 list Friday and as an unvaccinated player cannot return until Nov. 28, at the earliest. And in the second quarter of Sunday’s loss to the Chiefs, CeeDee Lamb sustained a concussion, meaning he would need to clear protocols in short order to be available.

Lamb has not missed a game in his two years with the Cowboys. Sunday marked the first game Cooper has missed since he joined the team in a 2018 trade from the Raiders.

McCarthy did not have an update on Lamb’s status after the game, but quarterback Dak Prescott said he spoke to the receiver in the locker room.

“He’s going to be OK,” Prescott said. “I didn’t necessarily know what was going on, but that is the nature of this. You have to continue to move on and trust the guys we have. That is what I did. He will be fine. He will be OK.”

But whether he is OK enough for Thursday remains to be seen.

Lamb caught three passes for 14 yards before landing hard on a pass that was intercepted in the end zone late in the second quarter. He walked to the locker room at halftime with head athletic trainer Jim Maurer and was ruled out early in the third quarter.

Lamb leads the Cowboys with 50 receptions for 740 yards and six touchdowns. Cooper has 44 receptions for 583 yards and five touchdowns. While Cooper’s absence impacted the Cowboys’ offense Sunday, the timing of him landing on the COVID list 48 hours before kickoff was not that big of a deal, according to McCarthy.

“You have particular special plays for particular receivers, but we felt like we had enough time where we didn’t have to change our game plan a whole lot,” McCarthy said.

Prescott defended Cooper’s decision not to get vaccinated.

“It’s unfortunate not having him, but to say ‘the decision he made,’ I mean me [being] vaccinated, I could get out and be out two games, so let’s not try to knock the guy or put the guy down for a personal decision,” Prescott said.

The Cowboys have not had a vaccinated player return inside the 10-day window this season.

Linebacker Keanu Neal, who also was not vaccinated, missed two games earlier this season.

“That’s my teammate, that’s my brother, we’re going to support him,” Prescott said of Cooper. “That’s his decision as I said way back in training camp when you guys asked me this question. So yeah, unfortunate we’re not having him, but I know he’ll come back and be beneficial for us in the late part of the season.”

With Lamb and Cooper out, the Cowboys’ lead receivers were Michael Gallup (who played in just his third game this season because of a calf strain), Cedrick Wilson and Noah Brown.

“I’m ready whenever those guys can’t go,” said Wilson, who had two drops Sunday. “Sad to see CeeDee go down like that, and the shock with Coop, but I have to get in there for my team. Whatever they roll, I’m going in there, and I have to execute.”

Without Lamb and Cooper, Prescott threw for just 216 yards on 28-of-43 passing. He entered the game averaging 8.2 yards per attempt but averaged just 5 against Kansas City. He did not have a completion of more than 10 air yards until the second half.

The Cowboys entered Sunday with the NFL’s top-ranked offense in terms of yards and points per game, but Sunday marked the first game started by Prescott where the Cowboys have not scored a touchdown since Dec. 22, 2019, against the Philadelphia Eagles, a 17-9 loss.

“Not really discouraged but pissed off,” Prescott said. “Pissed when I don’t play well, the team doesn’t play well and the offense doesn’t play well. We had a great opportunity to come out and play against a team that has been in the Super Bowl the last couple of years and prove it to ourselves, prove it to one another what we are capable of. Short week [now], we have to put it past us. We have a stretch ahead. There is a lot we can learn from tonight. This is a resilient team. We are going to continue to fight and get better.”

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