CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Los Angeles Rams coach Sean McVay said before Sunday’s game that star running back Todd Gurley would not be on a snap count, but it became apparent Sunday in a 30-27 victory over the Carolina Panthers that the offensive game plan has expanded to include backup Malcolm Brown.
Gurley rushed for 97 yards on 14 carries, and Brown finished with 53 yards and two touchdowns on 11 carries, as the Rams held off a late surge from the Panthers at Bank of America Stadium. Sunday’s game provided a first look at the Rams since their loss to the New England Patriots in Super Bowl LIII after McVay elected to sit all of his starters and key reserves during the preseason. There appeared to be plenty of rust but also plenty of reason to think that a Super Bowl hangover will be avoided.
QB breakdown: Fresh off signing a four-year extension worth $134 million, with $110 million guaranteed, Jared Goff overcame a slow start — and a fourth-quarter blunder — to help the Rams improve to 1-0. Goff passed for 186 yards and a touchdown with an interception. In the first half, Goff overthrew a wide-open Robert Woods in Panthers territory on third down. In the fourth quarter, he was intercepted by cornerback James Bradberry. Goff settled in behind an offensive line that features two new starters in left guard Joe Noteboom and center Brian Allen — but it was far from a memorable performance.
Buying a breakout performance: The Rams signed outside linebacker Dante Fowler to a one-year deal worth $12 million with the hope that Fowler would continue the playmaking trend that he started last season. Fowler delivered, as he finished with three tackles and sacked quarterback Cam Newton twice. Before the opener, Fowler said his confidence had returned to the level he felt when he was a junior at Florida, before he was selected with the third overall pick in the 2015 draft.
Troubling trend: The Rams struggled to stop the run in 2018 and did not fare any better in the opener. Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey gashed the defense for 128 rushing yards and two touchdowns. He also caught 10 passes for 81 yards. McCaffrey averaged 6.7 yards per carry.
Pivotal play: Linebacker Cory Littleton intercepted a pass from Newton with under six minutes to play in the fourth quarter, with the Rams leading 30-20. The pick ended any attempt at a fourth-quarter comeback. Littleton, an undrafted free agent in the final season of his rookie contract, also forced and recovered a fumble in the first half.
Minshew — ‘Gotta make the most of’ opportunity
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Not only is Gardner Minshew capably filling in for the injured Nick Foles, the rookie sixth-round pick is beginning to show he might be able to carry the Jacksonville Jaguars‘ offense.
The Jaguars’ run game was essentially nonexistent Thursday night against the Tennessee Titans until late in the fourth quarter, so it was all on Minshew. He delivered with two touchdown passes and two other scoring drives to lead the Jaguars to a 20-7 victory at TIAA Bank Field.
“I think we’re all building trust right now,” Minshew said. “Whether it’s me and Flip (offensive coordinator John DeFilippo) … or me and the guys on the field, all I can do is try to earn that trust every day, and I think when you do that you get more opportunities to do fun things.”
Things like beat a Titans team that had won four in a row in the series and had embarrassed the Jaguars in their previous two national television appearances. It was Minshew’s first victory as a starting quarterback and the Jaguars’ first victory of the season, and it came on a short week filled with a massive distraction: cornerback Jalen Ramsey‘s asking the team to trade him.
Minshew completed 20 of 30 passes for 204 yards and wasn’t intercepted. He’s completing 74% of his passes in his three games, which is the highest completion percentage of any quarterback through his first three career games since 1970. Interestingly, No. 5 on that list is former Jaguars starter Blake Bortles (67%).
“A lot of people never thought I would get this opportunity, so now that I do have it, I make the most of it,” Minshew said. “I’m super grateful for it, but I know through everything I’ve learned in my career, with the situation I’m in, I know I may only get one, so you gotta make the most of it, so that’s what I’m trying to do now.”
The Jaguars’ run game has been a huge disappointment this season, mainly due to a lack of production in the middle of the offensive line. The Jaguars had 19 yards rushing through three quarters, thanks largely to Minshew’s 18 yards on four carries. Leonard Fournette had minus-3 yards on nine carries. He finished with 66 yards thanks to a 69-yard run late in the fourth quarter.
Minshew threw both of his touchdown passes in the first quarter, making him just the second rookie to throw two TD passes in the first 10 minutes of a game in the past 10 seasons. The only other to do so was Tennessee’s Marcus Mariota, who did it in his NFL debut in 2015.
Minshew has five touchdown passes and only one interception in three games, which also makes him the second quarterback in franchise history to throw a TD pass in each of his first three games (Byron Leftwich did it in 2003).
Accuser says Brown sent ‘intimidating’ texts
The lawyer for a woman who earlier this week alleged sexual misconduct by Antonio Brown reached out to the NFL on Thursday night after the New England Patriots‘ receiver apparently sent what were described as threatening text messages to her client, Sports Illustrated is reporting.
Attorney Lisa J. Banks wrote the NFL asking it to stop alleged conduct by Brown that she deemed as “intimidating and threatening to our client, in violation of the NFL Personal Conduct Policy,” according to the report. The NFL responded quickly, setting up a phone call between league investigators and the woman’s attorneys.
The woman told SI that, on Wednesday night, she received a group text message that appeared to come from the same phone number Brown gave to her in 2017, when she was hired by the receiver to paint a mural in his suburban Pittsburgh home. The text chain had four other numbers on it, SI reported.
The woman said she believes it was Brown encouraging others in the group to investigate her, describing her as a “super broke girl” and asking someone he refers to as “Eric B” to “look up her background history.” He then sent a screenshot of an Instagram photo she had posted showing the faces of her young children, adding “those her kids… she’s awful broke clearly.”
The texter accused the woman of fabricating her account of the 2017 incident for cash.
The woman’s allegations were first included within a larger Sports Illustrated piece published Monday that detailed multiple domestic incidents involving Brown.
According to SI’s initial report, Brown had hosted a charity softball game in Pittsburgh to benefit the National Youth Foundation, a Pennsylvania-based volunteer group of women that promotes inclusion and gender equality, as well as developing academic skills in kids. The event had an auction that included artwork, and Brown agreed to purchase a portrait of himself before befriending the artist who created it.
Brown invited the artist to come to his home to create another painting of him, according to the report, arranging for transportation from New York to western Pennsylvania. The artist told SI that she was thrilled by Brown’s willingness to share her work on social media, but on her second day, things changed.
According to the report, which did not include the artist’s name, she “was in a kneeling position while painting and turned to find Brown behind her, naked, holding a small hand towel over his genitals.” The artist said she didn’t stop painting and that “after that, it all ended abruptly.”
Brown paid her $2,000 for the mural, according to SI, and didn’t contact the artist thereafter.
The artist is not pursuing charges or remuneration, according to SI.
After SI published its story Monday, Brown’s attorney, Darren Heitner, tweeted that his client denied that he ever acted inappropriately.
Messages sent by SI to Heitner and Brown’s agent, Drew Rosenhaus, were not immediately returned Thursday, according to the report.
The woman’s allegations are separate from those of Britney Taylor, Brown’s former trainer who filed a civil suit in Florida earlier this month. In the lawsuit, she alleged that Brown — in three separate incidents, two in June 2017 and another in May 2018 — sexually assaulted her.
NFL investigators met with Taylor on Monday, and a source previously told ESPN that there are “more interviews and information gathering being conducted now beyond Taylor.” It remains unclear when or if Brown will interview with the league.
The receiver, who was signed by the Patriots on Sept. 9 — before Taylor’s lawsuit was filed — and made his season debut Sunday against the Dolphins, spoke publicly Thursday for the first time since the allegations came out. In the brief media session, Brown was not directly asked a question about his reaction to Taylor’s lawsuit and deflected a question on whether he’s heard from the NFL about being able to play throughout the 2019 season.
Rookie Minshew II leads Jags to 1st win of season
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. — Not only is Gardner Minshew II capably filling in for the injured Nick Foles, the rookie sixth-round pick is beginning to show that he might be able to carry the Jacksonville Jaguars‘ offense.
The Jaguars’ run game was essentially nonexistent Thursday night against the Tennessee Titans, so it was all on Minshew, and he delivered with two touchdown passes and two other scoring drives to lead the Jaguars to a 20-7 victory at TIAA Bank Field.
Minshew completed 20 of 30 passes for 204 yards and wasn’t intercepted. His only interception this season came when one of his passes bounced off Leonard Fournette’s face mask in the season opener against Kansas City.
It was his first victory as a starting quarterback and the Jaguars’ first victory of the season. And it came on a short week and with a massive distraction when cornerback Jalen Ramsey asked the team to trade him.
The win snapped a four-game losing streak to the Titans, who embarrassed the Jaguars on national television last season.
Minshew threw both of his TD passes in the first quarter, making him just the second rookie to throw two TD passes in the first 10 minutes of a game in the past 10 seasons. The only other to do so was Tennessee’s Marcus Mariota, who did it in his NFL debut in 2015.
Minshew has five touchdown passes to his one interception in three games. He’s the second quarterback in franchise history to throw a TD pass in each of his first three games (Byron Leftwich did it in 2003).
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