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Matt Ryan’s ankle injury adds to implosion for hopeless Falcons – Atlanta Falcons Blog

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ATLANTA — Matt Ryan exiting the game in the fourth quarter with an ankle injury added injury to insult for the reeling Atlanta Falcons.

Sunday was supposed to be the game where the offense clicked with a fast start at home and the defense did just enough to survive against the Los Angeles Rams. Instead, the Falcons’ offense was stuck in park from the outset, managing just three points in the first half as the Falcons faced their fifth double-digit halftime deficit this season.

It led to a a 37-10 loss, Atlanta’s fifth straight, and a 1-6 record. According to ESPN Stats and Info, the 1970 Cincinnati Bengals are the only team in the Super Bowl era to start 1-6 and make the playoffs.

To make matters worse, the Falcons have MVP candidate Russell Wilson and the Seattle Seahawks coming to town next.

Falcons coach Dan Quinn’s seat just got a little hotter, although owner Arthur Blank still seems unlikely to make a change midseason to assistant head coach Raheem Morris, offensive coordinator Dirk Koetter or tight ends coach Mike Mularkey — all former head coaches. But you can’t blame Quinn for Koetter’s offense taking a step back against the Rams.

The offensive line play was horrendous, leading to Ryan getting sacked five times, including the final one by Rams DT Aaron Donald that led to the ankle injury.

The pressure on Ryan seemed to get him off his game. He missed some passes that he usually connects on. Mohamed Sanu, usually sure-handed, had a drop that led to an interception. The Falcons were just 3-of-12 on third down. They couldn’t get the running game going — finishing with 38 total rushing yards — especially after Devonta Freeman got ejected for throwing a punch at Donald and backup Ito Smith left the game with a head/neck injury.

Receiver Julio Jones said a few weeks ago the Falcons needed to average 21 to 28 points per game on offense. Well, it looks more like they need to average 35 to 55 to win these days. And it’s not happening.

Quarterback breakdown: Before exiting with the injury, Ryan completed 16 of 27 passes for 159 yards with no touchdowns, the interception created by the Sanu drop, and a QB rating of 60.6. The question now is whether Ryan miss any games. The Falcons have the Seahawks next then the bye before starting NFC South play against New Orleans. There’s no sense in taking chance with the health of your franchise QB, despite the desperate times facing the Falcons and Quinn.

Sideshow: The Julio Jones-Jalen Ramsey battle was about the only thing interesting to watch from a Falcons’ perspective. Ramsey talked trash to Jones every time, and Jones just seemed to laugh it off. Jones had six catches for 93 yards on nine targets, including a 39-yard reception with Ramsey on him. But Ramsey got the last laugh with the victory.

Sack-less: Quinn talked about ramping up the pressure this week, but he Falcons didn’t record a sack again and had just three quarterback hits. Vic Beasley, who is on the trade block, had two tackles and didn’t start the game. Deion Jones led the Falcons with 11 tackles, including three for loss.

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Dolphins’ turnaround a sign of Brian Flores’ coaching promise – Miami Dolphins Blog

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INDIANAPOLIS — As Miami Dolphins coach Brian Flores aggressively clapped as his team made a game-clinching fourth-down stop, Dolphins owner Stephen Ross stood on the sidelines smiling. It barely felt real.

The prospect of the Miami Dolphins looking like this, riding the high of a two-game winning streak, was laughable just a month ago. But the Dolphins are the ones laughing now as they recorded their second consecutive win Sunday with a gritty 16-12 victory at Indianapolis. They’ve already come a long way in a short time.

It’s still about the future for the Dolphins, who hurt their draft-pick stock with every win. The dream of picking quarterback Tua Tagovailoa took a hit Sunday. But two consecutive wins is a great sign of Brian Flores’ coaching promise. This team — from the players to coaches and everyone in between — have done a phenomenal job maximizing their talent.

A perfect example of the turnaround is cornerback Nik Needham, a relatively unknown rookie undrafted free agent who made a huge interception midway through the fourth quarter. Needham went through some significant struggles in preseason, but the team saw his potential, stuck with developing him, and his improvement showed up Sunday with the best game of his young career.

Needham is one of several young defensive backs who stepped up to force three Brian Hoyer interceptions and provide crucial blanket coverage on the end-of-game stop that sealed the victory. Steven Parker, a September waiver claim, and Bobby McCain, a tough, veteran defensive captain, made the other two picks.

Flores has a disciplined, hard-fighting team that doesn’t use lack of talent as an excuse. Creative playcalling by offensive coordinator Chad O’Shea is helping Miami’s offense look like a different group. Obtaining the top draft pick might be in danger, but the Dolphins’ long-term future is starting to beam with promise.

Pivotal play: Fourth-and-10 from Indianapolis’ 16-yard line with 45 seconds left. The Dolphins had lockdown coverage at the sticks. Hoyer found Eric Ebron short of the first down, and Needham — the game’s hero — made the tackle to finish off the victory.

Promising trend: The Dolphins led at halftime for the fourth consecutive game. It’s another sign of their in-season turnaround and proof that this coaching staff is consistently coming up with good early game plans to get ahead. Second-half struggles continue to be a significant issue, but their 10-point lead at halftime was the biggest of the season and a promising trend moving forward.

QB breakdown: Ryan Fitzpatrick wasn’t perfect. He threw an interception, and his play dropped off a tad in the second half. But he led the go-ahead field-goal drive with toughness, pocket presence and precise accuracy.

Fitzpatrick is the perfect quarterback for this young Dolphins squad, and he’s another huge part of this turnaround.

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Giants running back Saquon Barkley banged up in career-worst game

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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. — New York Giants running back Saquon Barkley‘s struggles reached new depths Sunday when he had a career-low one rushing yard on 13 carries in a 34-27 loss to the New York Jets. He also failed to effectively block Jets safety Jamal Adams on a pair of sack/fumbles in the contest.

Barkley’s previous low in a game he played from start to finish was 28 yards, which occurred last week against the Cowboys and Week 2 of his rookie season. His longest run against the Jets went for three yards. Barkley had four rushes that went for negative yards in the contest.

Barkley was “banged up” in Sunday’s game, according to coach Pat Shumur. He was seen by reporters entering the X-ray room following the loss.

“Jets played a hell of a game. They’re a hell of a defense,” Barkley said. “Going into the game they were only averaging [allowing] 3.1 yards per carry. They did an amazing job. I reached out to [defensive coordinator Greg] Williams. Shook his hand and said, ‘good job.'”

When asked about whether the injuries were affecting his play or about the X-ray, Barkley responded: “Next question.”

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Jamal Adams wrestles the ball away from Daniel Jones with authority and takes off the other way for a 25-yard touchdown.

It has been a struggle for Barkley ever since returning from a high ankle sprain suffered in Week 3. He’s averaging just 2.6 yards per carry in the four games since.

There was a moment early in the second quarter when Barkley grabbed at his left leg after an incomplete pass thrown in his direction. He was taken off the field for one play, then returned without a limp.

Barkley’s previous injury was to his right ankle. Regardless, the Pro Bowl running back isn’t passing the eye test at this point. There may be reasons beyond the struggles of the Giants’ offensive line, which finished the game with three backups on the field.

“[Barkley] got banged up a little bit [Sunday], so I don’t know,” Shurmur said. “I’m sure that contributes. We’ll look at it as we go. He got banged around pretty good.”

There were moments when Barkley was on the field that he was ineffective. It showed up on two costly plays with his blocking.

Barkley was dominated by Adams on the sack/fumbles, with the second resulting in an Adams touchdown.

“Jamal Adams beat me. Simple as that. He’s a heck of a player. All-Pro,” Barkley said. “Didn’t really want to switch jerseys with him after the game. Jokingly told him that. One of my good friends. One of my boys. Hell of a player. Much respect to him. I got to be better there.”

Barkley and the Giants (2-8) are entering their bye week sputtering and not at 100 percent. This gives them time to heal.

Starting wide receiver Sterling Shepard, tight end Evan Engram, right tackle Mike Remmers and center Jon Halapio all missed Sunday’s game because of injury. Left tackle Nate Solder exited in the second quarter with a concussion.

“Only thing I got to focus on is just coming in and trying to be the player I can for my team,” Barkley said. “Just focus on the bye week. It’s a week where everyone can get a chance to get healthier, not only myself but the whole team. We get to reflect on our season so far. Just try to be a better team than we were in the first half.”

The Giants enter their bye week on a six-game skid. It has everyone searching for answers.

“I mean, like, I don’t know. Yes, frustration, disappointment, anger. Everything you said,” Barkley said. “No one wants to be 2-8. No one wants to have a losing record. I don’t know, yes. Everyone is upset. Everyone is frustrated.”

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Minkah Fitzpatrick’s defensive touchdown gives Steelers the lead

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PITTSBURGH — For the second week in a row, Pittsburgh Steelers safety Minkah Fitzpatrick made his way to the end zone.

This time, Fitzpatrick made the heads-up play to scoop up a loose ball from Jared Goff as the Los Angeles Rams quarterback was drilled by Javon Hargrave. Hargrave sacked Goff before he threw, forcing a fumble. Fitzpatrick grabbed it on the bounce and ran it into the end zone from 43 yards out.

With the score, Fitzpatrick becomes the first Steeler to have multiple defensive touchdowns in a season since William Gay had three in 2014, per ESPN Stats and Info. He’s also the first Steelers player to score defensive touchdowns in consecutive games since Sam Washington did so in 1984. The score gave the Steelers a 14-7 lead late in the second quarter.



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