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Frank Reich has no problem with ending up Indianapolis Colts’ backup plan at coach



INDIANAPOLIS — Frank Reich is ready to embrace being the backup option again.

He spent the majority of his 14-year NFL playing career as a backup quarterback. And he’s the Indianapolis Colts‘ second choice for head coach after Josh McDaniels reneged on his agreement at the very last minute.

“The backup role has suited me well in my career,” Reich said as he drew a roomful of laughs during his introductory news conference at Lucas Oil Stadium on Tuesday.

Reich replaces Chuck Pagano, who was fired after six seasons, and McDaniels. The Colts announced that McDaniels had agreed to become coach of the Colts early on Feb. 6, only to have him call general manager Chris Ballard later that day to tell him he was remaining as offensive coordinator of the New England Patriots.

“We don’t always choose what happens to us, but what we get a chance to do is choose how we react to it,” Ballard said. “I really believe that’s what shows what we’re made of. I can’t be more proud of our organization, the city of Indy and how they’ve handled this last week. Can’t be any more proud of our new head coach Frank Reich.”

Ballard had Reich on his initial list of nearly 10 candidates back in December, but Reich didn’t make the general manager’s top-five list.

“I thought about it after I got done interviewing him. I go, ‘My Lord, what was I thinking?’ You talk to people,” Ballard said. “You make your list. You don’t panic.”

Having McDaniels back out of the job ended up helping Reich because he told his agent he wasn’t going to interview for any openings while Philadelphia was still in the playoffs. Reich wanted his focus to be strictly on getting the offensive game plan together so that the Eagles would be prepared for each playoff game. Ballard interviewed Reich on Feb. 9, the day after the Eagles had their Super Bowl celebration in Philadelphia.

“I want to first off acknowledge and thank the Philadelphia Eagles organization for allowing me to be part of a team and a journey that did something special for the Philadelphia Eagles,” Reich said. “But today is a new chapter. Today is a new chapter and I could not be more excited. … My first coaching job, first as an intern and eventually as a quality control coach and then as a quarterback coach to get my start. What better way to get started and there could not be a better way to finish it than right here in this great city.”

Reich spent the past two seasons as offensive coordinator of the Eagles. Philadelphia went from 22nd in offense during Reich’s first season to seventh this past season. The Eagles scored 41 points to beat the Patriots in Super Bowl LII despite not having starting quarterback Carson Wentz, who tore his ACL on Dec. 10, 2017.

Reich began his coaching career in 2006, eight years after he retired from playing. He spent two seasons as a coaching intern under former Colts head coach Tony Dungy. Reich progressed to being an offensive staff assistant with coach Jim Caldwell in 2008. Then Reich was Peyton Manning’s quarterback coach from 2009-10 before coaching Reggie Wayne and the rest of the wide receivers in 2011. Reich was also offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach with the Chargers and receivers coach with the Arizona Cardinals.

Reich, who will call plays on offense for the Colts, is taking over an Indianapolis team that finished with a 4-12 record in 2017 and has missed the playoffs three straight years. The Colts will have the No. 3 overall pick in the draft and face the uncertainty of not knowing when quarterback Andrew Luck will return from the right shoulder injury that caused him to miss the entire 2017 season.

“One person at a time, one detail at a time, one player at a time and one game at a time,” Reich said. “As the head coach, the vision is simple and it’s clear, that every time we step on the field to compete, there will be four marks that will mark our team. The first one is that we will be the toughest … both mentally and physically. … Secondly, we will be the most disciplined team. … Thirdly, we’re going to be the most prepared team. … Fourth, we’re going to be the most united team. We’re going to be a close team. It’s going to be built around trust, respect and love.”

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Drew Brees laughs off talk of decline, says out-of-sync Saints ‘not even close’ to full capability



Drew Brees chuckled when asked about the growing narrative that he might be showing signs of decline to start his 20th NFL season.

“Well, my job is to execute the offense. … My job’s not to have the most air yards or throw the ball down the field most or anything like that,” the New Orleans Saints quarterback said after his team flopped in several areas during a 34-24 loss to the Las Vegas Raiders on Monday night.

“I think I’ve always evaluated myself on being a great decision-maker. And so at the end of the day, I’ll throw the ball to the open guy, move the ball down the field, score points, help us win football games. So that’s my job,” Brees said. “My job’s to help us win. My job’s to help put everyone around me in the best position to succeed.”

However, the numbers do show a noteworthy trend. According to ESPN Stats & Information research, Brees’ average of 4.82 air yards on his passes this season are the lowest of any quarterback through two games since Brett Favre in 2009.

And as ESPN analysts Louis Riddick and Brian Griese pointed out after Monday’s loss, Brees has looked less comfortable in the pocket and hasn’t been as “surgical” as usual on those short and intermediate throws. Brees, 41, has completed just 44 of 68 passes this season (64.7%) after topping 74% in each of the past two seasons (the two most accurate seasons in NFL history).

He completed 26 of 38 for 312 yards, one touchdown and one interception Monday night. His first interception of the season was a costly one just before halftime — turning a potential scoring drive into a game-tying field goal for the Raiders.

“Are we totally in sync right now? No we’re not. We’re not even close to where we are capable of. Not even close,” said Brees — who was also missing his security blanket in receiver Michael Thomas, who missed his first game in four years because of an ankle injury. “We did some good things — early on — but it just wasn’t enough for the few opportunities that we had.”

The Saints (1-1) will have to try to get back in sync on a short week before hosting the Green Bay Packers (2-0) on Sunday Night Football.

To be fair, the deep ball has not been a big part of Brees’ arsenal in recent years — and he has still managed the two best passer ratings of his career over the past two seasons while the Saints have posted back-to-back 13-3 records.

And there are plenty of reasons why he and the Saints’ offense might be a little off to start this season — including the abbreviated offseason and the ankle injury that Thomas suffered in the final minutes of New Orleans’ Week 1 victory over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

Brees and new Saints receiver Emmanuel Sanders have yet to get in sync consistently, with Sanders catching just one pass for 18 yards on three targets Monday.

Brees and coach/play caller Sean Payton both described their performances as “awful” in Week 1 as well, despite the 34-23 victory over Tampa Bay.

“Again, I think we just need to be more efficient,” said Brees, who blamed himself for a bad decision on his interception — pointing out that he should have settled for the check-down on that throw instead of rushing it under pressure.

“We called a shot play or two today — and just got the wrong coverage on both of them. So what could’ve been big-play opportunities, what could’ve been throws down the field, unfortunately had to be checked down,” Brees said. “But I think both of those [resulted in completions for about 10 yards]. At the end of the day, our job is to move the ball and score points, however we have to do that.”

As Brees pointed out, the Saints had the ball for just 23 minutes, 42 seconds on a night when their defense also struggled to stop Raiders tight end Darren Waller. And for the second week in a row, New Orleans led the NFL in penalty yardage with 129 yards on 10 accepted flags.

“We didn’t possess the ball enough offensively, and defensively … we couldn’t get off the field,” Payton said.

“We gotta do a better job coaching. I don’t think it’s gonna be a real pleasant film to watch for some of our star players as well.

“We have to be precise with what we’re doing. The last two weeks, I think it’s been average at best offensively. We’re not functioning well enough.”

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Las Vegas Raiders lineman Richie Incognito aggravates Achilles injury, leaves win in first half



LAS VEGAS — Raiders left guard Richie Incognito, a four-time Pro Bowler, left Las Vegas’ Monday night victory over the New Orleans Saints with an Achilles tendon injury.

Incognito, 37, was listed as limited in practice on Friday and Saturday with the injury. He was replaced by rookie John Simpson in the second quarter. Incognito stood on the sidelines, hands on his hips and a ball cap on his head as he talked with injured and inactive right tackle Trent Brown in the second quarter.

Through just six quarters of the 2020 season, the Raiders had lost Incognito, Brown (calf) and Brown’s replacement, Sam Young (groin), to injury. Denzelle Good, normally a guard, started at right tackle after replacing Young, who had replaced Brown, in Carolina last week.

Short-handed or not, the line has produced. The Raiders amassed 375 total yards in the 34-24 victory over the Saints, and quarterback Derek Carr was not sacked in a performance that included three touchdown passes.

Incognito has been one of general manager Mike Mayock’s best free-agent signings since coming to the Raiders after the 2018 season, a year after Incognito took a one-year retirement.

Incognito, who has had his share of both on- and off-the-field issues, has not been a distraction for the Raiders since signing a “prove-it deal” and then getting a two-year contract extension worth up to $14 million, with more than $6 million guaranteed.

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Saints’ Drew Brees acts his age in off-target loss to Raiders – New Orleans Saints Blog



Drew Brees looked his age, and the rest of the team followed suit as the New Orleans Saints went bust in Las Vegas on Monday night.

Brees, 41, had his second straight lackluster performance in the Saints’ 34-24 loss to the Las Vegas Raiders, completing 26 of 38 passes for 312 yards, one touchdown pass and his first interception of the season.

Brees has averaged 4.82 air yards on his passes so far this season, according to ESPN Stats & Information research. That’s his lowest through two games as a member of the Saints, and it’s the lowest by any QB through two games since Brett Favre in 2009.

But he was hardly the only culprit in an ugly loss that put a serious damper on the Saints’ role as a top Super Bowl contender. Their offense couldn’t generate much while star receiver Michael Thomas was sidelined with an ankle injury. Their defense couldn’t stop Raiders tight end Darren Waller (12 receptions, 103 yards) all night. And the team had 10 penalties for 129 yards Monday night, including two costly pass interference penalties and three personal fouls by the defense.

“I don’t think it’s gonna be a real pleasant film to watch — for some of our star players as well,” said Saints coach Sean Payton, who pointed to the struggles from the offense, defense and coaches included.

Now the 1-1 Saints will have to try to get their groove back on a short week before they host the sizzling-hot Green Bay Packers (2-0) on Sunday Night Football next week.

QB breakdown: They were whispers last week, but they turned into shouts on social media under the Monday Night spotlight: Are we seeing the begin of a steep decline in Brees’ 20th NFL season, a la Peyton Manning in his final year with the Denver Broncos?

The jury is still out on that after such a small sample size. Remember, Brees wasn’t throwing the ball downfield much the past two years either, and he still found a way to post the two highest passer ratings of his career and the two highest completion percentages in NFL history.

But Brees is barely taking any shots down the field. And what’s more disturbing is that he is showing uncharacteristic inaccuracy on short and intermediate throws, as well.

Brees looked fine throughout training camp after working with longtime throwing coach Tom House on adding zip to his deep throws this summer. But he’ll be the under the microscope — with defenses shrinking the field on him — until he proves otherwise.

Biggest hole in the game plan: Newly signed Saints safety Malcolm Jenkins looked a step behind for most of Monday night. And while we’re picking on the older players, newly signed Saints receiver Emmanuel Sanders hasn’t found his groove yet with his new team, either. He caught just one pass for 18 yards on three targets with a drop and a penalty.

Silver lining: At least Alvin Kamara looked healthy. The Saints’ running back provided the team’s only real spark with 13 runs for 79 yards, nine catches for 95 yards and two TDs. He has already paid big dividends with four TDs in the first two weeks after signing a five-year contract extension the day before the season opener.

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