EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — As if there wasn’t enough cloud cover Sunday over MetLife Stadium, New York Jets defensive lineman John Franklin-Myers provided plenty of shade after his team lost 24-17 to the Miami Dolphins.
Franklin-Myers’ comments focused on Dolphins’ quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, who completed 27 of 33 passes for 273 yards and two touchdowns with one interception — notably that Tagovailoa threw up “prayers” throughout the game.
“Sometimes prayers are answered,” Franklin-Myers said.
Those prayers have been answered a lot more often during Miami’s current three-game winning streak.
The Dolphins were one of three teams not to record any plays of 50 or more yards during the first eight weeks of the season, during which they compiled a 1-7 record. But they have done so an NFL-leading three times since Week 9, including a 65-yard touchdown pass from Tagovailoa to Mack Hollins that ended a drought of five straight scoreless drives.
It was Miami’s longest play of the season and the longest play of both Tagovailoa’s and Hollins’ careers — and it wasn’t even drawn up for Hollins.
“The first progression on that play was [tight end] Mike Gesicki, and when I came off of Mike, there were about three people, including the safety, that were on him,” Tagovailoa said. “It turned out Mack was wide open, so I threw it down to him and he made the play. We came back to the sideline and realized how open he was.”
Elijah Riley (33) and Isaiah Dunn (27) both converge on Albert Wilson, leaving Mack Hollins wide open.
— Marcel Louis-Jacques (@Marcel_LJ) November 21, 2021
Miami scored on its opening drive but Tagovailoa threw his sixth interception of the season on the third play of the following drive. He and the offense struggled to get things going from there, mustering just 85 yards on 24 plays over their next five series.
But Hollins’ message to his quarterback after the long touchdown pass was simple — three words: “I told you.”
They knew the play would be there eventually, despite the lapse between scoring drives. That’s been a microcosm of Miami’s offense the past two weeks, when it has hit on plays of 52, 64 and 65 yards; take away those three plays, and its offense has averaged just 4.5 yards per play.
But catching your opponent sleeping is part of football, particularly in a league where games often come down to a handful of plays. It’s something the Dolphins kept in mind during Sunday’s win.
“It was definitely a big sigh for us offensively,” Tagovailoa said. “We really wanted to find our rhythm in the game, obviously the interception kind of stopped us but I would say that’s what I’m most proud of [regarding] our offense. We continued to put our heads down, continued to fight.
“We had some mishaps but it didn’t matter.”
Here comes the a dose of reality though — the Baltimore Ravens and Jets, the teams Miami beat the past two weeks, entered their respective games against the Dolphins with the league’s second-worst passing defense. The “prayers” Tagovailoa threw up Sunday might fall on deaf ears next week against the Carolina Panthers (1 p.m., ET, Fox), whose defense entered Week 11 allowing an NFL-best 174.2 passing yards per game and owns the fourth-best pass rush win rate.
But it’s not about racking up yards against a stingy defense — it’s about making that defense pay for any mistakes.
“At some point, it’s going to hit. When they make a mistake, we have to capitalize on it,” Hollins said. “Because if they make a mistake and we don’t [capitalize on it], that might’ve been the one drive where we could’ve had a good rep.”
San Francisco 49ers WR Deebo Samuel, LB Fred Warner out 1-2 weeks, coach Kyle Shanahan says
SANTA CLARA, Calif. — The San Francisco 49ers breathed a collective sigh of relief Monday after receiving important injury news on two of their best players.
Niners coach Kyle Shanahan said Monday that receiver Deebo Samuel and linebacker Fred Warner suffered groin and hamstring strains, respectively, in San Francisco’s 34-26 victory Sunday over the Minnesota Vikings.
The bad news is that both will miss at least Sunday’s game against the Seattle Seahawks. But Shanahan was more pleased by the fact that both players aren’t expected to miss more than a game or two as the 6-5 Niners make their push for an NFC playoff spot.
“That’s what I was kind of telling you guys last night that I hope for that it was just a strain,” Shanahan said. “And strains usually [last] anywhere from one to two weeks. I think it was very good news considering what it could have been.”
According to Shanahan, both Samuel and Warner could return as soon as the Dec. 12 game against the Cincinnati Bengals. Barring a setback, both would be expected back in time for a Dec. 19 home game against the Atlanta Falcons.
While the Niners got relatively good news in the big picture, the loss of Samuel and Warner even for one week is significant.
Samuel has been the team’s most productive offensive player, establishing himself as the league’s premier multidimensional weapon.
On Sunday, Samuel became just the third player in NFL history to record 1,000 receiving yards, five rushing touchdowns and five receiving scores in the same season.
Without Samuel, the Niners will look to second-year receiver Brandon Aiyuk to continue building on his recent surge, as well as the likes of tight end George Kittle, wideout Jauan Jennings and a burgeoning running game.
“He’s been a big part of our offense,” Shanahan said. “But I think we’re in a spot right now that we can overcome that.”
Replacing Warner also won’t be easy, especially since it’s something the Niners haven’t had to do at any point in his three-plus seasons. When he misses Sunday’s game against the Seahawks, it will be the first contest Warner has missed since he came into the league in 2018, snapping a streak of 59 consecutive regular-season starts.
How that plays out this week will depend on the status of fellow linebacker Dre Greenlaw. Greenlaw also left Sunday’s game with what Shanahan described as an “irritation” of the core muscle injury that had kept him out since Week 1. Greenlaw is considered day-to-day this week.
And with strongside linebacker Marcell Harris in the concussion protocol, the 49ers figure to enter the Seattle game woefully thin at linebacker. That puts even more onus on Al-Shaair, who had an interception and a fumble recovery in the win against Minnesota.
“Azeez has been ready for anything we’ve asked him to do,” Shanahan said. “He always runs around and plays like his hair is on fire and he loves playing the football game. That’s not changing, but he’s just getting more and more confident of where to be, what to anticipate … He’s been playing at a high level all year and whether he’s inside or outside, I expect it to continue, we need it to continue, because he’s one of the reasons we’re playing pretty good right now.”
Elsewhere on the injury front, running back Trey Sermon suffered an ankle sprain that Shanahan said will keep him out “for a little while” and makes him a candidate to head to injured reserve with a chance to return later in the season.
Green Bay Packers QB Aaron Rodgers not expected to have surgery to repair broken toe during bye week
Packers coach Matt LaFleur said Monday that Rodgers is “gathering other opinions, so we’ll see where that goes,” but a source said those opinions are not expected to lead to surgery during this week’s bye.
The Packers (9-3) are off until Dec. 12, when they’ll face the Chicago Bears in a Sunday night prime-time game.
“The most important thing is healing and taking care of my toe,” Rodgers said Sunday when asked about his bye-week plans.
NFL Network reported earlier on Monday that Rodgers does not plan to have surgery.
Rodgers said he fractured the toe during his COVID-19 quarantine earlier this month, and he has played in the past three games since with almost no on-field practice preparations.
The only full-fledged practice he took part in during that stretch was on Nov. 19, two days before the Packers’ loss at Minnesota. He said he received a pain-killing injection at halftime of the game against the Vikings but did not need one to play in Sunday’s win over the Los Angeles Rams.
“The difference is I didn’t have to get shot up again at halftime, so definitely the healing this week not practicing [helped],” Rodgers said after he threw for 307 yards and two touchdowns in Sunday’s 36-28 win over the Rams.
“Last week, I tried to do some stuff on Friday, felt like we needed maybe a little jolt and that kind of impacted Sunday a little bit from a pain standpoint. This week, I just did a walk-through on Saturday and obviously all the walk-throughs during the week, but no practice time, I think really helped. It definitely helped looking at the scans. The healing, kind of get to a better spot, so I’ve definitely felt better, but third quarter, late third, early fourth and I got stepped on early in the game, there was definitely some pain I was dealing with.”
Rodgers even had a rushing touchdown on Sunday, beating Rams cornerback Jalen Ramsey around the edge for a 1-yard score. In the past two games combined, Rodgers has thrown for 692 yards and six touchdowns without an interception.
He said after Sunday’s game that he would make a decision about surgery after additional tests on Monday.
“The toe felt good most of the game,” Rodgers said. “Was just actually in talking with the docs. Not sure at this point; we’re going to do some more testing in the morning and get a better view of what’s going on in there, and then make a decision at that time.”
LaFleur said previously that he would leave the decision up to Rodgers and the medical staff.
“I’m not involved in any of those decisions, so I just take any information and hear it,” LaFleur said. “I don’t have ‘M.D.’ after my name. So I’ll let them handle that.”
Dallas Cowboys DT Trysten Hill suspended two games for punching Las Vegas Raiders OG John Simpson
The suspension was issued by NFL vice president of football operations Jon Runyan for violations of unnecessary roughness and unsportsmanlike conduct rules.
“After the Las Vegas Raiders-Dallas Cowboys game on November 25, you engaged in conduct that this office considers unnecessary roughness and displays a lack of sportsmanship. Specifically, as both teams were shaking hands, you waited more than 50 seconds for your opponent at the 50-yard line. When you located him, you then walked toward him in the opposite direction of your locker room. You both engaged in a verbal chest-to-chest confrontation which you escalated by throwing an open hand punch to his facemask, forcible enough to cause your opponent’s helmet to come off,” Runyan wrote in the letter to Hill.
Hill is appealing the suspension, a source told ESPN’s Todd Archer. Derrick Brooks or James Thrash, who are jointly appointed and paid by the NFL and the NFLPA, will issue a ruling on the appeal.
If Hill’s suspension stands, he would be eligible to return to the Cowboys’ active roster on Monday, Dec. 13. He would miss games against the New Orleans Saints this Thursday and against the Washington Football Team on Dec. 12.
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